Let’s get it cleared: I'm of Filipino descent with a dash of Spanish (my grandfather is from Barcelona, Spain, hence my last name, though both my parents are from the Philippines).
It wasn't long when I decided, last minute, to attend the annual Polish Festival of Los Angeles. Over the years, I've attended the Filipino and Chinese festivals; Two years ago—2012—I attended the Korean Festival; Last year—2013—I attended Nisei Week, or the Japanese Festival. Not bad, huh?
What am I doing at a European-laden festival? I've jumped back to self-teaching in foreign languages and I decided to tackle languages in Europe. Funny, the only book I still had saved up for purchase later was learning the Polish language (the others I saved were Swedish, Danish and Ukrainian). The ones I've bought are Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Russian, Greek, Hebrew, French and Czech. (Why so many? I doubt I'll ever be fluent on one language besides English, Tagalog and written Korean, but my main, yet personal, goal is to read and write.) Without basic preparation, except knowing "Dzie∇ dobry," I got up and drove to the Polish festival.
I was there with a meetup.com group dedicated to the Polish culture but found and met no one! From there, it was just myself lugging my video camera weighing in at four pounds. I tried free samples of their authentic Polish sausage, and also tried their Polish donut which I snacked on. Oh yes.
Took some video and the live performances onstage. The Polish band, featuring two female singers, sang very much from traditional Polish songs to American hits such as those from Lady GaGa and Madonna.
(The video I shot will be released this week and posted on YouTube and Showsotros.com.) I wasn't able to film it, but I actually enjoyed the polka music dance number.
While waiting to see if I run into other members of the group (never was able to), I got in a great conversation with an Italian(?) man in attendance with his Polish wife and their two kids. Liking my passion for video production, having complimented my video camera, already the man pushed me into diving deep into the culture telling me this:
"I'm from New York and met my wife when she did some traveling here in the US, where she was living back in Poland at the time. She smiled at me, I approached her, she promised she'll keep in touch having gone back home, we then moved to Los Angeles, she learned [American] English within 3 months and the rest is history!
Honestly man, get to know the Polish culture. Polish women are the best women you can get with their beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair. They're family-oriented and total sweethearts. You can't go wrong man, I'm just sayin'."
That was quick. Heh!
Culture shock? Nope. To what I've grasped thus far, I found general similarities compared to my own Filipino heritage. They're so in tune with their Christian beliefs that a brief prayer service was done as an "intermission" to their live performances. Like Filipino folks, although dating within your race is a given, dating/marrying outside doesn't seem frowned upon—it really shouldn't be anyway (one of my aunts married an Irish[?] guy). In fact, at the festival, I saw a Polish guy holding hands with his Filipino girlfriend!
Adding to that married man's input, as quoted above, Polish women are clean dressers—very feminine and sleek complying with “modesty is the best policy.” His wife admitted to me that the Polish language is tough to study, but learning about their culture and customs makes the people like her happy already. Very cool!
Other than beer, pierogi and sausage, the closest Polish heritage I was exposed to was from former high school friend Heather. Yup, that's it.
There's more to it that meets the eye, but I had a wonderful time at the festival. Those Polish folks were very welcoming! Sure my little-beady eyes are too “asian” for me to blend in but the folks didn't seem to care, nor did they judge. I became so excited about the people and culture that I went and bought a large flag of Poland from the vendors:
Viva Poland! I love you all!
This is Kris speaking for Food For The Saints.