Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Bellybutton of Europe
"Pawlak: Poland Can Be Normal." Say what you will, Poland is an exceedingly normal, sometimes boringly normal place these days. The Deputy Prime Minister's headline caught my attention last year and reminded me of the desperate need we all have, to fit in, to be one of the gang, to be, in other words, normal. "We're a normal country now," my Polish friends tell me. "I always wanted to live in a normal country and now I do." I'm not always sure that normal is really all it's cracked up to be but I get the point. It is a good thing that Poland now has the same kinds of problems and issues and successes, too, that other European countries experience. Witness today's news from Poland. E! Entertainment Television is being offered free to analog viewers this month. Normally it is only available to digital subscribers. E! Get your gossip here folks. Level 3 Communications are expanding their network in Poland. Level 3, that's a Denver company. Level 3. Wow. The little village of Podkowa Lesna, near Warsaw, where I lived during my first stay in Poland in 1980, had the highest percentage turn-out to vote in the European Parliamentary elections on June 7 -- 50.86% -- and has been awarded the title, "Bellybutton on Europe." The European average was only 24.5% so I'd say the good folks of Podkowa did themselves proud. And for this they get a commemorative plaque. I can't wait to see it. "Bellybutton of Europe." How can you get more normal than that? Ernst & Young -- yes, that Ernst & Young -- reports from their offices in Poland that foreign investors continue to find the country an attractive place for their investments, even during the recession. The price of mushrooms decreased last week. But the price of tomatoes went up. Newspapers are having a hard time. And you'll find lively discussions about cooking, sex, patriotism, money and banks and finance, and poets. Poland, thank heavens, is normal. And perhaps, we can hope, almost cheerful.