Greetings from Poland. For the most part, the weather here has been quite agreeable, and the people even more so. The days are filled with reckless relaxation, interrupted only by copious amounts of great, fresh food and the occasional trip to the closest city, Koszalin, for some shopping or for a sampling of excellent ice cream (or beer).
In the six days we’ve been here, I’ve read close to 1,000 pages, something I could never muster with all of the distractions of home. Yesterday, I discovered a mountain bike in one of the outbuildings, and plan to mount up and wander the countryside. (My father-in-law insists that I will get lost; I insist that, really, I don’t care. I am, after all, on vacation.) Sadly, my trusty digital SLR–a five-year-old Canon EOS Digital Rebel–is apparently on the fritz; I’m not certain whether it is the memory card which is corrupted, the sensor which has gone bad, or the glass which needs replacing, but at any rate one of my favorite vacation pastimes, photography, seems out the window for now.
On the political front, I must admit that we have been quite isolated. English-language news broadcasts are available, like this Internet connection, in Koszalin, but in truth I have been wont for motivation to seek them out. Within a few hours and a few days of arriving, however, we did receive two pertinent lessons — the first an intriguing lesson regarding matters of energy and commerce, the second a sad and unfortnuate reminder of the fallacies of government-run health care.
With regard to the former, upon arriving in Gdansk we were met by extended family in their minivan, a 12-year-old Plymouth Voyager manufactured in Austria. The van, not much to look at, had a manual transmission and, interestingly enough, ran on either gasoline or natural gas, the latter being about half as expensive as the first. Now, I’ve known for a while that a great proportion of vehicles here have operated on natural gas for many years now, but it was the first time I encountered one that would run on either natural gas or gasoline, using the same engine.
What does it say about our own country’s commitment to energy independence that we are consistently told that natural gas–which is abundant in America–is not viable as a source for powering our nation’s cars and trucks, the very conduits and catalysts of our economy? The necessary technology to embrace our vast natural gas stores is here in old Europe already, has been for years, and was evident in a perfectly-running 12-year-old vehicle . . . produced by Chrysler, no less! It only further underscores that, for those like Barack Obama and the Democrats who talk the talk with regard to energy independence but refuse to walk the walk with solutions rooted in reality (namely, a Don Quixote-like fascination with windmills), neither the environment nor national security is the true motivation of a political left that insists upon being concerned with both.
With regard to the perils of government-run health care, our lesson was an unfortunate one, stemming from the passing of my wife’s uncle, Jerzy Szulc. On Sunday, walking a few blocks to a Mscice church for a Mass to honor his late sister-in-law–who, like his own wife, had succumbed to cancer within the past year–Jerzy (pronounced “Yeh-SHIK”) collapsed on the sidewalk and died. My in-laws, en route to the same church, spotted several people tending to and performing CPR on someone on the ground as they approached in a car, only discovering that it was Jerzy as they passed by.
I learned in the days since that Jerzy had visited a local doctor on several occasions, the last as recently as Friday, when he complained of shortness of breath and swelling and bloating of his legs, feet and hands. Each time, he was dismissed with water pills and told that he could have kidney problems. My wife, a nurse, spoke to him on Saturday and immediately upon hanging up the telephone stated that he was likely in the throes of congestive heart failure, that his heart muscle was not pumping rigorously enough to bring the blood back up from his extremities.
Point being, a simple EKG could have discovered and confirmed this but, with every doctor’s visit, Jerzy was sent home without the necessary tests. In America, because of an overabundance of caution due in large part to trial lawyers and litigious patients, someone coming to even a local family doctor with shortness of breath and swelling will be subject to a host of different tests. But here, largely because of the cost and availability of such procedures, the patient is sent home and told, as insane as it sounds, to “watch your kidneys.”
Despite the misgivings of the health care system, this part of Europe has many wonderful characteristics. The pace of life is desirable. The countryside is beautiful. The care taken in religously maintaining the many cemeteries shows a heartfelt commitment to and respect for elders and ancestors alike. Even the everyday luxuries available are catching up to those in the United States — the house across the street in little Biesiekierz (right next to the slaughterhouse that brings phenomenal bacon and kielbasa to our breakfast table each morning) is outfitted with a wall-mounted LCD television that would make most any sports-loving American jealous. Even the vehicles here are worthy of praise — among the small, lawn-mower-engine-driven Maluchs of Nancy Pelosi’s dreams and the vehicles driven on American roads each day are attractive and interesting cars of all sizes, some of which are made by American manufacturers and yet are unavailable stateside.
More than anything else, though, it is the esteem with which the Poles hold America and, verily, independence in general which causes me to pine for the freedom and liberty of the America of old. As much as I am enjoying the relaxing days as they crawl by, I look forward to returning to the land of my birth, and to bringing with me renewed spirit, perspective and motivation.
I hope this finds all of you in good health, and look forward to conversing again when I return in two weeks’ time.
Blissfully–though temporarily–ignorant to everything political,