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Summer Postcards 2008

Pot of Gold

Celebrating Independence Day in Poland

By Ellen C. Bryson

Rózan, Poland — Aside from a few stores that marked Independence Day with sales of American-themed items, consisting mostly of hamburgers and marshmallows, the Poles are not terribly interested in the Fourth of July. When I tried to explain the holiday and its history to my English classes, all I got were blank looks. So at six in the evening of the 4th, it was looking like this would be the first time I'd let the holiday pass completely uncelebrated. When my host sister Kinga and I walked outside after dinner, however, the sky in front of us was graced by one of the brightest rainbows I'd seen in a long time. The entire arc and a fainter, second arc were visible against the clouds above the open fields that stretched from the edge of town. One end terminated near a red-brick church spire atop what might be the town's tallest building—over six hundred years old, according to Kinga. I turned to Kinga and asked if she knew the legend about rainbows. She didn't, which was unsurprising. Although Winnie-the-Pooh and Disney princesses are popular, American legends like the one about leprechauns apparently haven't made it here. The northern Polish towns I've visited—Maków Mazowiecki, Ostroleka, and Rózan—have pizza parlors, ice cream stores, and coffee shops, and most of the teenagers I've talked to are quite similar to their American counterparts. However, some things provide sharp reminders that this is a foreign country. The food isn't terribly strange—kebabs, hamburgers, and open-faced, toasted subs called zapiekanki are popular—but Chinese food is generally regarded with suspicion and distaste, and Mexican food is unheard of. In the U.S., passing on a two-lane highway is a skill; here, it's a way of life, and darting in and out of the opposite lane is not at all unusual. And of course, I'm constantly reminded how far away from home I am when I can only understand pieces of conversation and see signs with familiar pictures of hot dogs and swimsuits but with unfamiliar text. As I explained leprechauns and pots of gold to Kinga, I saw the rainbow end distinctly at the edge of a forest that might have been a kilometer away. I wondered whether to go after it, but I reasoned that leprechauns probably don't hide their gold in places where no one has heard of them. So instead, I just watched the rainbow slowly fade into the evening sky—not the same as a fireworks display, but still a pretty good show. —Ellen C. Bryson '11 is a history concentrator in Cabot House.

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Summer Postcards 2008