Friday, April 21, 2006

Some things are the same; Some things are different

I went into the city yesterday and it was just lovely. I wore a sweater, but had to take it off because it was so warm. How pleasant to walk around in my shirt-sleeves! I saw other people dressed in winter coats, scarves, and hats, and one girl in a tank top, but most everyone else was like me--in light jackets or shirts, enjoying the long-delayed arrival of warm spring weather.

The forsythia is finally blooming, and I saw a few--just a few--trees with their first blush of spring green. I saw one magnolia tree in full bloom, and another only covered with buds. But spring is definitely here and not a moment too soon!

Nice weather aside, I saw two things yesterday that really struck me.

As I hopped off the tram at my favorite outdoor market (Hala Targowa), someone handed me an "ulotka" or flyer. Little printed ads are often handed out in the streets this way--it's a very cheap method of advertising. This is the phrase that caught my eye:

"kredyt konsolidacyjny"

Even if you don't speak Polish, you might be able to make out that the ad is referring to credit consolidation. I was truly astonished. Credit hasn't really been available in Poland for very long. Most business is handled with cash. For as long as we have lived here (nearly nine years), we have conducted all business in cash, although we occasionally use our debit card to make purchases. But rent and utilities are always paid in cash, and we don't even have a bank account in this country.

I've seen advertisements offering credit at different stores, but I am amazed that enough people have sunk themselves into debt so that a business is offering consolidation loans. This is a very bad sign, and another indication that everything Poland has adopted from the west isn't really in the best interest (no pun intended!) of the Polish people. And you know what's really scary? This loan business has three locations in the city!

You may see plenty of ads for consolidation loans, but the second thing that caught my attention is something that you aren't very likely to see in the US. Huge posters have been pasted up around the city with this attention-getting banner: Stop the influence of homosexuality in Krakow! That was interesting. I'm not sure who is responsible for putting up those posters, but I suspect they engender more support from the general population here than they would in the States. In the smaller text below the headline, homosexuality was called a sin outright.

What would happen in the US of someone posted banners like that all over a city? I bet it wouldn't be pretty. But Poland is a very religious country, and any kind of disturbance by the handful of people who might protest those posters would be quickly squelched.

Some things are the same. Some things are different.

At least we are all enjoying the spring!


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