This is a position paper I wrote last year for a class on globalization. I wanted to post this on my blog for serious comments, critique and advice. I welcome any additional sources which may help me further develop this argument. Please be honest and let me know your thoughts on this topic. Thank you.

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Burqa Ban in France

                        Citizenship and Islam, Extremism and Choice: How French Nationalism, Women’s Rights and Secularism Negate Religious Freedom

            In this paper I will examine the very recent controversial subject of the burqa, or full-face veil worn by some Muslim women in France. I argue, that while the politicization of women’s bodies, specifically Muslim women’s bodies is not a new issue in the world or even in Western Europe, this new discussion of the full-face veil is purely Nationalistic and Islamophobic, as well as directed by the state itself.  According to my findings, I will dispute the popular rhetoric employed by some state officials as well as French citizens (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) such as claims that women who wear the burqa are: extremists, devout Muslims, forced by male family members to wear the full-face veil, and are not French.  [1] Due to the lack of scholarly research on the burqa ban as it is a very recent phenomenon, I look at a few works on the hijab or headscarf ban which first appeared in the French public debate in 1989 (Giry 2006, 91).

The last two presidents of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac and Nicholas Sarkozy have taken the idea of a secular state to a new level, revealing new bans on “religious symbols” which disproportionately affect both Muslim women and Sikh men.  What began as a ban of wearing religious symbols in schools, has now expanded into the public realm.  As stated earlier, the politicization of Muslim women’s bodies is nothing new, as it has been practiced since before the time of Prophet Muhammad (over 14,00 years ago). However, I will show that due to globalization, the French government has seen it necessary to re-assert its Frenchness and to chose a scapegoat for the slowly disappearance of “French culture,” which generally means secularism and whiteness.  France has been playing this game for quiet some time, with its infamous discrimination against the Roma, and the racism against African migrants which still prevails in its society today.

In connecting this issue to globalization, it is evident that the emerging cosmopolitanism of France, due to mass immigration from North Africa, The Middle East, and Eastern Europe has been unfortunately paired with xenophobia and religious discrimination against Muslims.  According to the report, Unveiling the Truth: Why 32 Muslim Women Wear the Full face Veil in France, the first controversial affair concerning a French resident wearing the full-face veil was in July 2008 after Le Monde reported that France had refused citizenship to Faiza Silmi, a Moroccan resident on grounds of a “deficiency of assimilation” and her alleged “radical practice

of Islam (2011, 28).  While this may be the first case in France of denying citizenship based on Muslim garb, this issue may be viewed even further back as in 1870, when Algeria had a two-tier system under which local Catholics and Jews could become French but Muslims could not (Giry 2006, 92).  It is obvious that Islam was seen as a barrier to Frenchness even then, but the feeling has been even more evident in a post-911 society. According to a report by Joel S. Fetzer and J. Christopher Soper, attitudes in France on issues such as the hijab and Islamic schools changed dramatically from July 2001 June 2002 when respondents were asked the same questions.  Surprisingly so, the amount of individuals who identified as Muslim also went down significantly from this time.  While terrorism is a legitimate global concern, it has been used as a reason for further marginalizing Muslims in France, and in the recent burqa ban we see this manifested in the guise of women’s bodies.

Because France is beginning to emerge again with political importance in the EU and other international bodies, it is choosing to pinpoint one very visual and symbolic threat to its very secular existence: the full-face Muslim veil that a small portion of its population choses to wear. While this is just one physical example of the hyper secularization of the state, we see the mirror effect occurring in Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, where women are forced to cover their bodies (to a lesser extent in Iran) by the state. With nation states effectively deciding from the highest level of government how its citizens must dress, and especially with a religious connotation is a dangerous ideal which unfortunately is practiced in many countries today. However, the example of the French burqa ban is unique in that it is a very recent controversy and it holds little validity for its existence besides vague claims of nationalism and framing the ban as a legitimate way to stop radical Islamist ideology and therefore, terrorism.

The French media as well as many state officials have caused up a large stir with the burqa ban, even though barely 1900 women wear the full-face veil in France. According to one study which interviewed thirty two women who wear the burqa in France, twenty nine of these women were born in France (Unveiling the Truth 2011, 24). This is not meant to generalize all Muslim women who wear the full-face veil, but this study provides incredible insight into the reasons why some women chose to wear it such as the fact that none of the women interviewed wear it to please their husbands and fathers, and also all of the women were willing to remove the burqa for security reasons. It is my opinion, that this ban is unlawful and although it may be attributed to France’s law of laïcité, or official state secularism which became a law in 1905 (Giry 2006, 87) it has now been used to fuel the fire of Islamophobia which plagues France and most of Western Europe.

Bibliography

Fetzer, Joel S., and J. Christopher Soper. “The Roots of Public Attitudes Toward State      Accommodation of European Muslims’ Religious Practices Before and After September            11.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42.2 (2003): 247-58. Web. <http://   www.jstor.org/stable/1387840>.

Giry, Stéphanie. “France and Its Muslims.” Foreign Affairs 85.5 (2006): 87-104. JSTOR. Web.             <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20032072>.

Unveiling the Truth: Why 32 Muslim Women Wear the Full-face Veil in France. Open Society        Foundations. Apr. 2011. Web. 20 Apr. 2011.

<http://www.soros.org/initiatives/home/articles_publications/publications/unveiling-the-

            truth-20110411>.


 [1]

Agnes Karoluk Sep 26, ’12, 11:00 PM

If you know me at all you know that I love working with children.  This is something that is obvious if you ever see me with kids, or if you ever hear me talking about my two and a half years working with JumpStart Chicago (an AmeriCorps program). In my years working with JStart, I was placed in a Head Start center in Chicago (one in Ukrainian Village and the other in Lincoln Park) and worked with 2-5 year olds. Every morning when I woke up to go to work, I was incredibly excited for the challenges ahead. I went to bed at night thinking of the children in my classroom, what I need to work on with each child, and the lessons they taught me that day.

As I am approaching my graduation (hopefully by June 2013) with a BA in Geography from DePaul, the time has come to decide on “what I want to do” after I am done with school. For a while, the answer was easy: go to grad school, get an MA and a PhD in Geography and begin working on research/traveling/teaching.  The problem was, the answer was too easy. Graduate school would be the easy way out for me. I realized, I can still love geography and read and write and do research later in my life. What I really miss, what I really want to do: is work with children.  I knew there was only one option: get certified to become a Lead Teacher at a Head Start program (or a similar program at a community center).

I made this decision last weekend, after a lot of eternal debate, tears, and excuse-making.  I am proud to say that I have already met with a Lead Teacher who I worked with at one of the Head Start centers I was placed in back in 2009.  After our meeting, I felt both scared and excited.  She told me that I would face a lot of challenges, thanks to the cuts in financing to Head Start programs, education programs (at universities and colleges) as well as funding for teachers.  “This is literally the worse time for you to be getting into this…” she told me, as we both awkwardly laughed. She also told me that she could tell I had passion for teaching and that I was one of the few who “got it” during my time at Head Start.

I have an appoitment with an advisor for UIC next week to discuss financial aid and a timeline for me to apply to their masters in ECE program. The biggest hurdle for me right now will be funding. The teacher I spoke with from Head Start said that when she went to UIC for her MA in Early Childhood Ed, it was 100% funded by the government. DePaul used to have a similar program, fully funded. These programs do not exist anymore.

I have a lot stacked against me right now, honestly I have already had two minor anxiety attacks about this since I have started to move forward with these plans. What I really need right now is support from friends, families, loved ones, etc.  This will be an extremely tough next two years or so, and I could use all the hugs and kind words and encouragement that I can get. I hope you all understand my decision and will be there for me.

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I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell

me what is happiness

And I went to famous executives who boss the work of

thousands of men

They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though

I was trying to fool with them

And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along

the Desplaines river

And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with

their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.

- Carl Sandburg, 1916 Chicago Poems

Growing up in an Eastern European immigrant household in Chicago forced me to ask a lot of questions. Why does my mom work as a nanny for a rich family in Riverside if she has a Masters Degree? Why does my dad have to change his name in order to find work or make connections here? What does it mean that the food I eat looks different than the food of my neighbors? Why do people call me “Agnes” when this is not the name I was given at my birth? Am I really so different?

I began to question ideas of race, class, and religion at a very young age. The building I lived in in Des Plaines alone had almost exclusively immigrant residents, my babysitter was an elderly Jewish Ukrainian man, my best friends were Colombian and African-American, and I of course lived with my two very Polish parents.

It was not until I was in the 7th grade when my honors English teacher Mr. Shea introduced me to Chicago poet Carl Sandburg, that some of these questions began to be answered. At the time, I was living in a majority- White Anglo-Saxon town in Northwest Illinois. There was little intellectual stimulation in that town, so when I was introduced to Sandburg my world was turned upside down. When I read his most famous poem, “Chicago“, I immediately fell in love. After learning about his life, this affection grew deeper and stronger. At a time when I thought socialism was synonymous with the Occupation of my home country and the horror stories I heard from family members about my Great Uncle who was sent to a work camp in Siberia by the communists, my understanding of Sandburg’s politics was limited by these views. However, once I began to read more about his work organizer in the Labor movement in the 1920′s, and the very obvious connections to immigrant rights/communities in Chicago, I began to see things more clearly.

I began to wonder, why is it that both Sanburg and Sinclair (Upton), two writers whom I admire so much, self-identify as Socialists? What does this really mean? This was the begining of my political awakening. Age 12, already out to change the world. I came home from school, and immediately began to write. I wrote short stories, poems, essays, anything I could about my world and my experiences. One poem I wrote about a close friend who had just passed away, made my teacher and a few classmates tear up when I read it aloud. And the feeling of reading my own poems out loud, what a RUSH! When all of the words and ideas I had inside my head for so long materialized into sounds and sighs and noises that could permeate into the minds and souls and memories of my classmates, that is when I knew I was in love.

I began to escape to Chicago as often as I could, examining the people passing by, just as Carl had done in the 1920′s when he escaped Galesburg, his home town. I began to follow current events and politics much more closely, tying together all the different questions I had growing up to more complex, systematic issues and sources of oppression. When the time came to apply to colleges, I knew there was only one place for me to go: New York City.

Fast forward to August 2008, I am moving into my new apartment at 5 W. 8th street, in the heart of Greenwich Village. I frequently walked the one block distance to Washington Square Park, where poets and jazz musicians and dreamers often performed in the square. It was there that I met some of my dearest friends I have today, artists, playwrights, musicians, and dreamers like myself. I began to study the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca, who I like to think of as the queer-Spanish-New York version of Carl Sandburg. I was lucky enough to study Lorca’s book with one of the editors/translators himself! Mark Statman helped open up a part of me I did not know existed, a continuation of my love and adoration for poems about cities, about immigrants, about labor, about eploitation. Mark Statman had us write a poem which corresponded to Lorca’s poems about New York each week, and go on “Field Trips” to different locations which Lorca wrote about.

These exercises were very influential on my love affair with New York, which had me feeling like I was cheating on Chicago a little bit. I began to study immigrant communities in New York; working with a synagogue in Chinatown on developing a historical tour, learning about the history of Jews in the Lower East Side, Visiting museams in Brooklyn featuring Carribbean artists, and reading various books on West Africans in Harlem, South Asians in Queens, and Mexicans in Brooklyn. These studies were coupled with my experiences in all these neighborhoods, I was more than just a student- I was living in these stories!

I remember during one of my classes at the New School, I was told the history of the university. In 1933, it was called University in Exile founded by scholars freeling Italy and Germany’s fascist regimes. Notable scholars who had taught there include Erich Fromm, Max Wertheimer, Aron Gurwitsch, Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, and Hans Jonas. One of the founders, or scholars, I don’t remember which one, had said that “New York City is a social laboratory”. I took this to heart, and began to use the city to my advantage- not just academic but personal as well.

I continue to grow and learn from this education- just the introduction to Sinclair and Sandburg at the age of 12, the intense graduate courses on social theory, or the field trips to immigrant communities and analysing Lorca’s poetry with one of the top Lorca scholars in the world- also the wandering and living in both Chicago and New York- is the result of who I am today. From the surprise dixie-land New Orleans jazz musicians, to the Marxist activists with whom I barricaded myself into a building in the New School in December 2008 and made headlines with our refusal to back down from our demands.

 

I have been going to the Green Mill these past two weeks, which on Sunday is the host to the ORIGINAL poetry slam. I had been to the Green Mill probably a dozen times or so, usually on Thursday nights to hear the swing band, but I have been very inspired by the poetry slam these past two weeks. I plan on returning every Sunday for as long as I live in Chicago. Ideally, I would like to have the courage to perform one of my own poems on that stage, despite the fears of finger snapping or foot-stomping (signs that the audience does NOT like the poem being read). But the first step for me was to reflect on, and write about what inspires me as a poet, an activist, an immigrant, a student, a daughter, a friend.. many poets cite Allen Ginsberg in their perfomances- and no doubt I have been shaped by him and his work as well. But no one can compare to the influence that Carl Sandburg has had on my life.

 

 

 

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I get this question a lot. I have been getting it almost weekly if not multiple times a week since about last fall. Most of the time, it comes from Muslim friends- who are joking (I think)… or non-Muslim friends who are completely serious. This question usually comes right after, or before: “What got you interested in Islam? Why are you so involved in Muslim civil-rights? Why do you always post things about Muslims or Islam on facebook?”

These are all questions I don’t mind answering, but for both my sanity and the sake of not wanting to repeat my answers over and over again, I have decided to write this post addressing all of these concerns and inquiries.

To the point of what got me “interested” in Islam, I can honestly say I don’t think there was one defining moment or event. I know that my involvement in all things Islam-related and my passion for advocating for Muslim-American rights, stems from my involvement in activism around Palestinian rights. I had always known there was a “thing” called Palestine, a people called Palestinians, and the infamous “Palestinian/Israeli conflict”. Growing up in a Polish Catholic household, in a disproportionately white suburb, the idea of Palestine or occupation by Israel never came into conversations in my childhood or even young adulthood.  Even as I was being radicalized politically and involved in the anarchist punk scene, I don’t ever remember anyone mentioning Palestine. I was first introduced to the concept of Palestinian self-determination in December 2008, during the seige on Gaza. I had two anarchist friends staying with me from Portland, and they were discussing Operation Caste Lead, and the murder of hundreds of Palestinians, including children. I remember going to St. Mark’s Bookshop in Greenwich village where I was living at the time and looking at the newspapers… the images of death, destruction, and occupation. It was then that I decided I needed to be more active in advocating for Palestinian rights, to be in solidarity with those suffering at the hands of such obvious yet hidden oppression (hidden to folks like me, and many others in the U.S. who chose to ignore it or never hear of it).

Still, I had no interest or particular questions about Islam. I joined Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at DePaul in the fall of 2010, and got heavily involved. Some of the members were Muslim, and I befriended many of the folks organizing with SJP but still.. I didn’t really have questions about Islam. It was not until I took a class my winter quarter of my junior year at DePaul “Islam in America” where everything started to come together for me. Between organizing around Palestinian rights, learning about the history of Islam in this country, and strange encounters and bizarre turn of events, I was all of a sudden very interested in Islam. I was simultaneously taking a class titled “Geopolitics of the middle east and north africa” with a professor who is ironically Iranian, but very secular. For some reason, I was very interested in Iran, and specifically the Green Movement and youth. While writing each paper for this class, I realized it was IMPOSSIBLE to study Iran and its socio-political movements without studying Shi’ism. And of course, it was impossible to study Shi’ism without having a foundation of an understanding of Islam. I had this foundating from the “Islam in America” class, and the study of Shi’ism happened on my own (again, this professor didn’t really push the idea of shi’ism on the class despite the many articles and books we read on Iran).

I was also VERY inspired by Leila Ahmed’s “Women and Gender in Islam”. This book really changed my life. I was never one to think Islam was inherantly oppressive to women, nor did I have many negative views on the religion itself, but Ahmed’s book opened my eyes to a whole history that I never knew existed. Through her very detailed historical analysis of women’s rights through the lens of Islam, I was able to learn the nuances of this category of “women’s studies in Islam” and see the real role of patriarchy and State oppression which caused many of the issues we think of today, as opposed to the religion itself.

I learned about the life of the Prophet Muhammad’s first wife Khadija, through discussions with friends, my class, and Ahmed’s book. I was astounded at her bravery, the fact that she was the FIRST Muslim, the first believer… she was older than the Prophet, she was his boss, she asked HIM to marry her.. it just seemed to contradictory to everything I thought about that time period, that region, and this religion. To this day, Khadija inspires me in many ways. As does Fatima, a daughter of Muhammad and Khadijah, wife of Ali and mother of Hasan and Husain.

Back to why I haven’t converted… the real reason is, I am not ready! I am not ready to accept my own Catholicism which I struggle with every day and have struggled with in many ways since the age of 12, when one of my closest friends passed away and I began to question the existence of God. Furthermore, I began to question why I am a part of this faith- this oppressive, heirarchal, faith which has a terrible history and a frightening contemporary history as well. Since then, I have learned many wonderful things about Catholicism, the various saints, Catholic social teacher, Dorothy Day, liberation theology… etc.

This year alone, I have been to services of worship at a Sikh Temple, Hindu Temple, a few mosques (Sunni and Shia), Catholic church, and a Shabbat service at a synagogue.  I don’t want to give the impression that I am one of those “shopping for religion” types, I’m not. I have a diverse group of friends who I love and when they offer to take me to their place of worship, I feel very honored. I have learned something each time I have gone to one of these various services. I have cried at a few, I have felt slightly uncomfortable, bored, sad, excited…. they have all been emotional events in my life.

All I know for sure is, I believe there is a God. I don’t feel particularly comfortable with the idea of Jesus as his son, and a few other important details seem questionable to me. I still call myself a Catholic when people ask, although I know it is more cultural than anything else. I still have a desire in my heart for my children (assuming I have children) to be raised with some Catholic traditions… baptism, having a Godfather and Godmother, celebrating certain holidays, hearing the stories, etc. I want them to be amazed by the gems of my Polish Catholic heritage and the struggles and joys of my relatives and ancestors.

I love Islam and I will continue to read as much as I can about this faith, read its scriptural books, and participate in services and discussions. Will I ever convert? It’s hard to say. I’ll stick with “no” for now, not because I don’t embrace Islam or I am embarrassed or scared or something is holding me back. As I said before, it is too early for me to determine anything in regards to my spirituality and faith. I may stay every-questioning and searching forever, or you never know.. maybe I will embrace Catholicism again as I make new discoveries and have new experiences.

Thank you for reading.

This is an exact transcript copied from a “book” I wrote at age 9. I found it in my parent’s house, and I wish I could scan the pages here for you but the scanner is broken. Anyways, here it is: PS I did not correct any spelling errors, it adds to the effect :)

Front Cover:

“This book talks about friends! My Awesome! Cool! Life fom Babby to-teen! This talks about me! A fact story By: Agnieszka Karoluk!”

Introduction

Before I read you this story, I must tell you about myself. First, when I was born I had blue eyes but now I have brown. I’m 10 years old in fourth grade. At school my three favorite subjects are: readng, writting and Art. I like ballett and I love to dance and sing. My favorite colors are purple, pink and blue.

Chapter 1: Cute, Little Me!

A Baby

I was born in Lidzbark, Poland. I was very tiny, I weighed 7 pounds. My dad brought my cusin to the Hospital my cusin was 7 then. Poland is in EUROPE. I lived on a far, a dairy farm that is. My farm had LOTS of cows on it. Mymom says that when ever we had to go to church or just leave the farm to go somewhere I used to cry because I missed the baby cows! Isn’t that weird? It is. My Polish name is Agnieszka but everyone calls me Agnes, even on my name tag it says Agnes.

Chicago

The months past and I was 1 and a half. I moved to America, we lived in Chicago. I was two then and I lived across the street from a girl Annettee she was my age and Polish to. She is now my best friend. It was cool in Chicago we lived by the highway my dad and I used to walk in the grassy area right next to the highway. We also lived by a … I forgot I lived in a SMALL apartment. We lived by a nice polish Lady. She had two cats one was named Tiger,,I think. One day I went to our friends house I tryed Root Beer and I trough up, But now Root Beer is my favorite drink. I love it.

MY CLASS AND THE KIDS IN IT

Bla, Bla, Bla

I can’t tell you about all the kids in my class. But I’ll tell you about a few. Ashley WAS rude to me ALWAYS. But now, she’s nice to me. Kristen is always nice but when me Kristen and Kaitlin get in fights usually Kristen stoppes it. Kaitlin is very nice too but like I said when we get in fights sometimes the next day Kaitlin says hi, to me we’re friwends again. Laura is usually qiet but she;s loud when she can’t talk and she’s quiet when she has to talk.

My class

My class is pretty normal bt the coolest thing abot it is that if you’re student of the week you get to sit in a special desk and you can move it were ever you want (I always move by my best friends so we can talk) well thats about it, Bye!!!!!!!

If you know me at all, one of the first things you will know about me is that I am Polish. I usually make that known within the first few minutes of meeting someone, mostly because of my name, which sounds strange and is incredibly hard to pronounce for most Americans but is actually pretty popular in Poland. My relationship with my culture and homeland is a complex one, and I will attempt to tell the story and some contemporary issues with my identity in this blog post.

I guess I’d have to start at the beginning.. I was born on July 30, 1990 in Lidzbark Warminski, Poland.  I don’t expect you to ever remember the name of my hometown, let alone be able to pronounce it. I really love when people  ask me “what part of Poland are you from?” because I know they expect me to saw “Warsaw” or “Krakow” or maybe even “Gdansk” which are arguably the three largest and most well-known cities where tourists go. Whenever I give them the answer of my hometown, they give me a blank stare. Again, why even ask?

Anyways, I lived in Lidzbark for a bit before moving to a small cattle farm in Klutajne (literally a stone’s throw from Lidzbark) with my parents. When I was about one and half, my parents (who were 26 and 28) decided to try to move to the states to make some quick cash and then return to Poland. The only reason we were able to leave Poland is because a) the Soviet occupation was over, many restrictions were lifted and b) my paternal grandfather was born in Chicago, therefore we were able to obtain a Green Card through my father to go to the US. This last bit of information is interesting, because I tend to forget that I am not the first batch of Karoluks to emigrate to Chicago. The story behind my grandfather is that he and his family moved to Chicago somewhere around the 19teens and left during the Great Depression only to encounter the World War 2 when they arrived. No luck with the Karoluks in the early 1920s.

Anyways, this fact brings into a bit of a question of privilege in my emigration to the states. My parents and I came over legally, because we had the ability to obtain a piece of paper which constitutes us as legal immigrants, thanks to my grandfather’s birth in this country (although as I said, he and his family did not stay very long).  As a child, I remember learning English at the same time as my mother. I still don’t know how it happened, but despite never attending pre-school I was reading fully (in English and Polish) by age 4. I remember in the first grade my elementary school tried to put me in an ESL program, because my parents barely spoke English, had accents, and I had a strange name. My mother fought it, and eventually the teacher saw that I was perfectly capable of learning at the same level as my All-American peers.

Since my parents both worked full-time during my childhood (and still do to this day) and we could not afford after-school care, an older Ukrainian man would babysit me after school when we lived in Des Plaines, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago near Niles). I remember playing with his two granddaughters, who were either Ukrainian immigrants or children of immigrants. They both had accents and spoke Ukrainian to their families. Everyone who lived in our building were immigrants; Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Colombian.. the list goes on. It was very multi-cultural and it made me feel at home to hear all these languages, smell all the different kinds of foods, etc.

Once my parents began to make a bit more money, taking English courses, and getting promotions at work, we moved to the real suburbs. I felt incredibly isolated in this place, Crystal Lake Illinois (a bit more Northwest, near Algonquin and Cary). There were hardly any Poles, let alone immigrants in this town. In school, I had few friends and oftentimes spent my days reading- novels, short-stories, playing an Encyclopedia Britannica computer game (something with a jester where you had to walk through a medieval castle and at each corner was a question from the encyclopedia). I was a complete nerd, but I valued creativity- such as writing poetry and my own short stories, over real relationships. It probably didn’t help that I was also the only child and had little experience at home with interacting with people my own age.

The only interaction I had with other Poles while living in Crystal Lake was through my parents’ large group of friends who were all Polish and all had children. Unfortunately, I was the oldest so a lot of my time was spent babysitting the younger children but I became very good friends with Anna, who I now refer to as “my cousin”. Besides this group of children, I also attended Polish school every Saturday. For me, Polish school felt like a chore, something I never felt like going to and I wish I could spend my Saturday mornings sleeping in or playing soccer like the rest of the kids my age.

I went through a period of my life hating my own culture, embarrased by my Polish-ness, my name, my mother tongue. I never knew why this was, but I wanted to be fully American. I yearned for “normal” parents without accents, with normal American lives who cook American food, etc. And then something happened, I visited Poland for the first time since I had lived there in 1999 at the age of 9, and there was a change which occured. The next time I went, I was 12, and I have gone back three more times, the last being in 2010. Each time I return to Poland I feel closer to my homeland, my family, my culture, and my language. I have embraced my ethnic roots and celebrate them everyday. I love Polish music, poetry, writers, films, and I get very excited when I meet someone Polish in an unexpected place (like besides the deli, Jefferson Park, or a family-friend gathering).

Why I made this turn to embrace my identity, I have no idea. This blog was just a small attempt at explaining the history of my Polish-ness, my Polish self. The fact that I am an immigrant from this Eastern European country affects me in more ways than I can imagine. People often underestimate the amount of emotions which I have towards missing my homecountry, my family, and my culture. I hope to one day be able to put all these random thoughts in some sort of order, and tell my family history in a more eloquent and detailed way. Thanks for reading. Image

me at age 1 in Poland

I think I sort of missed a day or two in here somewhere, but that’s ok. I essentially spent an entire day sleeping at one point, because my jet jagg seems to come much later than most people’s and I always spend the second or third day of my travels in Europe sleeping 12+ hours. Also, I had no obligation of going to work and THAT was really great :) 

Two nights ago I met up with some Edniburgh anarchist kids I had emailed weeks earlier due to my anxiety about being in a city alone, with no friends. The two individuals came and met me at a bar called Brass Monkey which was thankfully just down the way from my hotel. We talked about mutual friends, experiences, travels, etc. It was very pleasant and nice to be around some like-minded folk while I was across the ocean in a “foreign” city :)

The following morning, I was awoken by a very LOUD bunch of bagpipes and people chattering outside my window. I went outside, and quickly found out it was THE QUEEN coming to visit for her diamond jubilee. I had known she was in town two days prior, but was under the impression that she was off to Glasgow for further celebrations. Anyways, there were all these amazing bagpipe and folk dancing performances on the street, but no queen! I was wondering where she went and the police were saying she would be back down around 2:15 pm. LE SIGH, I wanted to see her…..

The best part was all the Scottish seperatists with their Scottish flags and posters saying “Democracy not Monarchy” and “Scotland for Scots” or something along those lines. Folk in Scotland who want Independance are so interesting to me, because a lot of times they form their struggle along the same rhetoric as any other country which is colonised under the British/English empire. I’m also extremely ignorant to this cause and to Scottish government/politics/history overall so I won’t write too much on the topic until I actually read up on it. 

So I meander my way down the Royal Mile to a place I had wanted to visit since I heard about it a month or so ago- the Carson Clark Gallery. It’s a gallery… full of OLD MAPS. That’s all it is! Old, old maps which you can buy. Now these are not just ANY maps, these are old maps and town plans and political maps and physical maps and agricultural maps and cultural maps, oh my god so many beautiful maps and you can imagine how freaked out I got when I walked inside. I told the owner straight away how excited I was, and I ended up spending about two hours in there, mostly talking to him about cartography. He told me it was his life-long dream to have “the letters” referring to belonging to the Royal Geographical Society (which is the organisation who hosted the conference I presented at this week).

 

He was so helpful, friendly, and funny.. I ended up getting an 1800′s town plan of Edinburgh for half off because he liked me :)  

 

OK time to run to the airport to fly to London. I will finish posting more on this day when I get to a place with internet. Cheers! 

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