Orphanages in Poland

wiosna

Yesterday I did something that was absolutely heartbreaking but encouraging at the same time.

I visited an orphanage about an hours drive outside of Wroclaw. As a mother, my heart was breaking in to a million little pieces. How can someone just abandon their baby? And even worse, an older child! A child who on some level understands, asks questions and wants to know why? It took me the whole day to try to get back to “normal”. The women who work in the orphanage must all have super powers, many are mothers themselves, and their hearts must be breaking on a daily basis.  They all deserve a medal. On a positive note, I was really surprised at how clean it was, the abundance of toys and happy colours, I had expected the place to be like something out of those pictures you saw from Russia in the 80’s or the pictures coming out of Romania after its fall. Far far from it. The children are well looked after, 51 children, 50 staff. They are in nice clean surroundings that look like a modern nursery or pre school. There are many many kitchens and children are split in to smaller groups for meals and activities with an “auntie”.

I also felt encouraged, because I really think we can help them. By we, I mean my children’s school, the expat community and people around us.

I felt compelled to offer this home my help many months ago, some of the children were at a school event concert and I couldn’t take my eyes of them. Gorgeous beautiful lovely kids, and someone gave them up! I cant adopt them all, but I sure as hell can try to contribute to making their lives easier in any way I can.

I am not rich, I cant do this on my own, but I have a voice and Im able to ask others for help!

There are hundreds of orphanages in Poland, with an estimate of 80 000 children being in care today. Some orphanages are large, like the one I visited, others are smaller family homes. The children in these orphanages are not necessarily orphans per se, some have been given up, some have been taken from their homes by police or social services, others are in state care while parents are in prison. Some parents just cant cope and their children go to stay in an orphanage for a short while before going back home.

Many of the children suffer emotionally, not just from abuse of course, but the older children from knowing that they were given up.

In this particular orphanage children stay on average 6 months to a year. Some however stay only weeks, and one of the longest staying residents stayed 3 years. The orphanage has children from birth up to 12 years old. Once children turn 12, they must go to a youth home. Siblings are kept together as much as possible. Sometimes they get 4 kids from the same family! In other cases they will get a new baby every few years from the same family….. heart breaking, and social services just cant keep up.

Adoption is under strict regulation in Poland. Law states that children put up for adoption must go to Polish families first. If a child is unsuccessful in being adopted in the first year, then the adoption goes global with people from other countries being eligible to adopt. Catholic families have priority, and then Christians (many of the kids adopted internationally are older and already familiar with religion and Polish tradition, so I guess this makes sense for them to do it like this). Children with health problems or developmental delays often end up being adopted to foreign families, as most Polish families simply aren’t interested or cant support a child with special needs.

There are also age restrictions. If you are below 40 you can adopt a baby, but each year after 40 is the age that the child can be, so if you are 42, a child must be minimum 2, if you are 44, minimum 4 etc. You can be 47 and apply to adopt a 5 year old, and they will look at your case, but generally the rules are not broken.

In the orphanage right now, there is a 10 year old boy with his 7 year old sister. They have been there for two years and have been up for adoption this entire time. They must be wondering what is wrong with them that their real mum and dad left them and now no new mummy and daddy want them either. There is also a very small baby with a cleft palate, (given up because of this??) and a newborn baby girl. HEART. BREAKING. 51 children. Fiftyone.

Generally the children WANT to be adopted, a child who is “not ready” to be adopted would never be adopted against his or her will. The match is made in Warsaw in the central adoption place, then the child and new parent meet a few times before everything goes through. Single women can adopt in Poland, but not men.

The orphanage gets a government grant every month, this money must pay wages (fees for speech therapists and special therapies, psychologists etc) as well as bills, water , electricity and so on. They also must buy anything they need with this money. Food, clothes, school equipment and so on. I asked if it was enough, if they ever worried about being able to meet the children’s needs, and the answer was yes. All the time.

Anyway, less of the heart breaking stuff and more of how we can help these kids!

Many church groups and organisations get in touch with orphanages and help them. They receive many many toys and books, sometimes people just show up and drop stuff, other times its sent in the mail. Clothes are needed at times, but at the moment they have what they need. Christmas was recent and apparently people are very generous at that time of year. I also dropped off a ton of clothes and shoes at my visit, thanks to those who helped me collect those.

There are many things that are always needed and rarely get given. I will give you a list in a minute.

I am getting the PTA in my school involved, and Im hoping we will be able to deliver them a monthly food delivery. Non perishables obviously. This should take some pressure off. If you are in Wroclaw and want to help, get in touch using the message function on my facebook page.

Things they need on an ongoing basis are:

  • Underwear (new)
  • Socks (new)
  • Bedding / blankets / towels
  • Nappies
  • Baby wipes
  • Baby toiletries, such as cream for sore bottoms, talcum powder etc
  • Pacifiers (dummies)
  • Washing powder
  • Cleaning products
  • shampoos and soaps for children
  • tooth brushes and toothpaste

then they are slightly short of and would need the following:

  • Dictionaries english / Polish
  • Books for learning in Polish, text books, not blank ones
  • paper for drawing A4
  • Colouring books

They do not currently need any paints, crayons etc, as they are overflowing, they also have more toys then they can store.

For foods they would like:

  • Pastas
  • Rice
  • Beans / lentils / pulses
  • Tinned foods
  • Baby food in jars
  • Baby formula
  • Long life milk
  • Other things that don’t expire to fast can also be added.

If you can help, let me know, I will be going at least once a month, possibly more.

If you want to help the orphanage directly you can, they have a website.

there is also a Facebook page

Do let me know if you can help! Thank You!!

-Linda

(And yes, I asked if they had any Celiac kids, if the answer had been yes I wouldnt have left without them!)

Edit to add: If you are interested in adoption in Poland there will be many steps to go through, adoption is free but there will be some fees involved in the paperwork process. A family is checked thoroughly before being matched with a child. Orphanages have no say in which family adopts a child as they do not deal with the actual adoption process.

1. Wojewódzki Ośrodek Adopcyjny w Warszawie ul. Nowy Zjazd 1 02-018 Warszawa tel. 22 621 10 70 22 622 03 71 22 622 03 72 e-mail: woa.warszawa@mcps.com.pl

2. Krajowy Ośrodek Adopcyjny TPD Krakowskie Przedmieście 6 00 – 325 Warszawa tel. (0-22) 425 46 77, 425 46 88 faks: (0-22) 827 78 13 e-mail: adopcja@tpdzg.org.pl

3. Katolicki Ośrodek Adopcyjny ul. Grochowska 194/196 04-357 Warszawa tel.: (22) 618 92 45 e-mail: katolickiosrodek@interia.pl

Catching cold in Poland (totally = death)

96-flower_slippersYes, its true. Ask any Babcia! If you forget to wear slippers in winter or socks in summer on the floors, then you will surely catch pneumonia pretty much instantly. If your child does not wear his or her jumper you are a very very bad parent. Its true. Really.

It doesn’t matter how many times you tell a babcia (a grandma / older lady) that pneumonia or a sniffle is caused by viruses or bacteria, they know better you see, and the answer to all evils is to wear slippers at all times.

I think these babcias would have a heart attack and die on the spot if they knew that we in Sweden allow babies to sleep outdoors all year round. We also sleep with windows open and often leave windows open in such a way as to create a draft. Yup, even in winter. Air you see is good for you. In Sweden at least. In Poland a draft can result in imminent death almost as fast as not wearing slippers. (Read about the killer draft here on my friends blog)

Its not only babcias, also well meaning aunties, random strangers, and believe it or not, doctors! One would think that slippers is the answer to the entire worlds problems. Perhaps if we all wore slippers we could close down 50% of hospitals…. at least!

I have had well meaning stranger babcias stop me in the street to tell me to put more clothes on my kids. NO JOKE. The more polite ones just tut and shake their heads while giving me one of those babcia looks.

Now, lets not even start on the cold milk in the cereal in the morning…… (instant killer)

Linda

Dzien Dobry! Saying hello in Poland, and you MUST! 

say-clipart-11971028791107470649FunDraw_dot_com_Cartoon_Kid.svg.hiIn Poland you say hello. To everyone! I mean really, you do! I used to think my husband was super embarrassing when he walked in to shops in Dubai and said a bright and chirpy ‘Hello’ to the sales assistant or any worker who happened to be nearby. Now, after a little over a year in Poland I get it, and I also do the same!

Everywhere you go, bank, post office, small shop, you walk in, you say Dzien dobry. When you have paid, you say Do Widzenia. Yes, even in the bank!

The post office one is crazy, you actually walk in and say hello to the other people in the queue, not to the person working there. If you are not the talkative type you may get away with a nod. Its weird how courteous people in poland are, yet if you smile at someone they will think you are totally bonkers.

Im a smiley kinda girl, I guess its what I do, I smile at everyone (ok, maybe not everyone, but lots of people), and this seems to almost frighten polish people. I guess its a bit like the ‘no eye contact rule’ in London on the tube! But say hello you must!

So here I am, like a total lunatic. I happily say hello to the other customers when I walk in to the post office or a bank, I say hello to the security guard at the door of any building, and bye when I leave. I say hello to the joggers outside of school every morning, and the old lady who walks her dog. I say hello to the ladies at the till and the other patients in a doctors waiting room. I say hello to pretty much everyone. Not in Tesco though, its to big, to many people to say hello too! Only the security guard and the till person gets a hello in there. I also say hello to anyone before addressing them. So if I need help in a shop I would say, ‘Dzien Dobry, do you speak english’, rather then ‘Excuse me, do you speak english’? Unless its someone very young, then chances are they know english well and wont be offended at the lack of a hello!

And with that I bid you Do Widzenia! Im off to IKEA where I will say hello and goodbye to a ton of strangers 🙂

-Linda

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Blood tests, ambulance rides and extra oxygen.

Well, I guess I knew it already as I was writing my last blog post…. we got to the clinic and they wanted to call an ambulance to send us to hospital straight away (in my opinion a slight over reaction on their part). I refused the ambulance (why scare the children more then needed?) and drove home to grab bags and iPads and food. Dropped son at neighbours and went to hospital where we were admitted.

This latest hospital stay was actually the smoothest one yet, maybe because I am getting so used to them? Or because I know exactly what we need? I actually have a bag thats always partly packed in a wardrobe, likewise we have a small bag partly packed for son. After this latest stay the bags will be improved further, but they sure do help a lot, especially if someone else has to go to my house to get stuff.

The hospital stay in itself was eventful…. Every test they could think of and then some has been done. It seems Celiac kids haemoglobin is high, her body responding to oxygen levels that are too low and trying to adjust them….. clever on her body’s part, but not good for her. The pneumonia was also a bit of a mystery, a strange kind, very severe, not the kind of pneumonia ‘normal’ people get. Well, my daughter is anything BUT normal, haha (that haha is mildly hysterical by the way). Its almost as if she enjoys playing games with science, because her test results are always a bit strange and baffling.

We were sent to a different hospital to be tested for Cystic Fibrosis. Its a sweat test. Above 60 is positive and below is negative, but a negative should really be below 30 or it needs to be investigated further. Celiac kids result was 49.

I am calm. Hubby is stressed. And I remain calm. Sortof. Celiac kid is super exited because the trip to the other hospital was by ambulance, and the super cute ambulance guy gave her both lights and sirens the whole way after she asked to hear them! Haven’t seen a smile like that in ages!

Normal people don’t GET this many pneumonias. Is it still her RSV as a baby giving us crap or is it the celiac and the crappy immune system being silly? At this point I think we need more answers, because if my counting isnt completely off we are now at something like 11 pneumonias, a handful of bhronciolitis and countless upper respiratory illnesses.

I actually think we struck gold at this latest hospital visit, because they are as concerned as I am, and I didn’t have to be assertive (read bitchy) in the slightest to get some action.

We were admitted on monday evening and they finally let us go Saturday evening after some straight talking to from hubby. They just cant feed a celiac kid in a hospital here, and if you really want someone to get better they need proper food! Thankfully her oxygen levels weren’t super low so she was only on 1-2 litres until Friday then she managed ok without.

We have been back to the hospital daily since. She is having her last antibiotics today. Next week we go to a mountain town that has a specialist hospital to be admitted for a few days, there they will check her lungs properly and hopefully before they let us go we will know more definitive answers as to why she keeps getting this sick.

We did the Cystic Fibrosis genetic test too, Im guessing they will repeat the sweat test next week also. The genetic test only checks for the more common genetic mutations but around 90% of Cystic Fibrosis should show up in this. To be honest I don’t really trust the sweat test anyway because I’m so used to my daughter having results that aren’t ‘normal’.

I wasn’t really going to write about this at all, but then I figured that its probably good to write about it, because no matter what the results are eventually, our story can probably help others. Much of the information about cystic fibrosis is pretty scary, but to be honest, if she does have it, then we already lived with it for 5 years anyway, so putting a name to it (whatever it may be) can only be a good thing so that we can help her. We are obviously hoping its something else, but lets see.

Trying to explain now why we are going to hospital without being particularly sick has been harder. Then the question ‘will they poke me?’, which breaks my heart, because obviously they will but I so don’t want to tell her this and make her cry! By poke, she means needles. She is still bruised black and blue on her arms from the IV going in last week, her veins kept bursting and it was only attempt 5 that was ok!

Anyway, thats whats going on with us. Hopefully you are all having a better month then us.

I have decided to stay as positive as I can, feed the kids the best and most nourishing food I can think of and just breathe deeply as much as I can. Me losing the plot is hardly going to help.

– Linda

The walkabout purse

So, we finally went to Sweden, in a rental car, a baby car (Long story).

We drove to Kiel and stayed in a lovely little hotel, then the morning after we went shopping. Germany has ALOT of gluten free stuff! Think I will need to do a Germany shopping run once a month. Anyway, shopping done, we drove on to the ferry. Went to our cabin, unpacked some stuff and decided to check out the ship. Went to grab my purse so we could have a drink…. but THERE WAS NO PURSE IN MY BLOODY BAG!!!!! My blood almost turned to ice in my veins and in my head I can see myself paying in the food shop and leaving my purse on the counter while digging for euros in my second purse……

We are on the ferry. We drove on first. The purse is 1-2 hours away, ferry leaves in 3 hours. Neither of my mobile phones work, one has no battery, one has no credit. We cant get off the ferry (car is impossible to get off).

Mad race begins, to car to get charging cables, back to cabin to make hysterical phone call to hubby in Dubai. I remember screaming to him to call the shop and get them to put my purse in a taxi…. poor guy was in a meeting! Hubbys meeting all got involved googling for the shop… big dramas.

Herr Zimmermann found my purse! We asked him to put it in a taxi, but no, taxis wont go to the ferry port, so we ask him to send it with DHL receiver pays. He sent it DHL… but DHL as in German post.

1 week in Sweden passes, I have no money, no cash cards, no driving licence…… still no purse. It was sent express and we were tracking it the whole way….. in the end I had to extend my ticket, and then… the day before we HAD to leave, finally, my purse arrived! Nothing has ever looked so beautiful…

I am so grateful!!! Thankful for Herr Zimmerman for being a real honest guy, for having a hubby who (once again) drops everything to ‘rescue me’. For a family who with NO HESITATION gave me a debit card to use freely until my purse arrived.

-Linda

We have the muppets.

Sometimes I think to myself, if I wrote about ALL the stuff that happens in our life, people would think I made it up. So I wasnt going to write about the last few days, but I will anyway. Because Im laughing now, and its funny in a comedy movie sort of way. Short version.

Thursday afternoon going home from school A (Celiac kid) says her cheek hurts ALOT. I think maybe she has a small sore in her mouth, maybe she got contaminated. With clean hands I check the inside of her cheek. Nothing there.

Fast forward to two hours later, I’m lying on the sofa playing some game on my iPad, kids are watching TV. I turn around to look at A who is whinging about her cheek and I literally FLY up and in to action. Her cheek, on the side, slightly below the ear, has swelled up to golf ball size! All Im thinking is airway! What if the swelling is inside too! Call our doctor who says she cant see us straight away but to take her to the emergency room. We already had shoes on! GO! Mad drive through the city. Get to emergency room. 2 doctors and 4 nurses then spend ten minutes arguing about how to do our paperwork, kids are Polish, but have no pesel numbers (long story). Im thrusting my credit card at them saying it doesnt matter we arent asking for free care, we will PAY, just please LOOK at her. Finally another doctor looks at A while the others argue with her that its against the RULES (people in Poland are very concerned about rules and the right way to do things – at times, its infuriating – because while they all argued, A had swelled up further). She reassures me there is no threat to the airway, but because we are paying we must go to another part of the hospital. Off we go, its far enough that we need to drive around.

We get to the gate I think we are meant to go in, and the man speaks no English, I refuse, REFUSE to give up, so I shout at him in English, Im tired of being ignored (in general, not by this man), its a hospital, my kid needs to be seen and I cant understand you and LET ME IN GODDAMMIT! Barrier opens. Jenki bardzo! (later I realise we actually parked in the doctors only parking, poor guy, but at least shouting in english sometimes works. I need to send the poor guy flowers or something, I thought he was just being difficult because I was speaking english – oops!)

In this part (of the hospital) we are helped instantly. The hospital is huge, clean and very empty. A doctor and a med student see us. After a while the Dr calls for all the english speaking med students to join. Story of our lives, A is an interesting case, but hey, the more the merrier 🙂

The doctor is very concerned that it looks like mumps, and although A has been vaccinated we are at that point again where we wonder, does A’s immune system know she has been vaccinated? I call my husband, tell him it may be mumps, he’s like a gigantic question mark, SWINKA I say. Because Im getting really good at Polish disease names and hospital lingo.

Because its suspected mumps we need to go to another hospital. Some infectious disease place. The couple behind us warns me in english the place looks awful and not to be frightened, its not as bad as it looks. I think in my head it must be like the Poznan place and smile and say thank you.

GPS and me and kids drive to the other hospital. Well. GPS takes me to allotments in the middle of nowhere, I reverse, go around. Search. Eventually hubby has to help by phone, him and his Polish friends all get involved. We need to go to opposite the graveyard! but opposite the graveyard there is something that looks like an old deserted asylum, the kind of place horror movies are made in, you go in…. but NEVER come out….. I drive around, many times. I find a door, hubby says, ‘Go in and ask’. I sit, in my car, thinking NO WAY. Im laughing pretty much the whole time, I actually started laughing already in the first hospital, because these things, they only happen to us.

I take photos, because Im thinking no one will believe me. They are all iPhone photos, not great quality, but I have to share them…..

 

So, hubby calls them, and they explain exactly in which part of this huge complex they are. By this time its getting dark, and the feeling that Im in a scary movie is hard to shake off.

I park, away from walls and shadows, haha! And walk towards the building. A nurse nods and smiles and points to some chairs under a tree. Wait there she says. Im not kidding. Under a tree.

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Part of me now thinks Im in some joke show, you know where they pull a prank on you and someone will jump out in a minute and explain its just a joke.  That doesn’t happen. Instead a dr. opens the door and lets us in. She doesn’t look like someone from a joke show OR a scary movie, she speaks english and she’s lovely. She examines A and says no tests needed. She believes its an infection of the salivary gland and not mumps. She goes to type some forms for us and I cant help it, I have to snap some more photos, because  feel like Im in a time warp of some kind and Im in the wrong decade… possibly even century!

I get my paperwork and get in the car. My phone beeps and I look, its from hubby. ‘So, is it muppets?’.

-Linda

A note, I have now been to 5 different hospitals in Poland and although two of them were extremely old buildings the staff have all been great. Most medical facilities in Poland look nothing like the one above so don’t let this post put you off. 

Celiac, Dubai, School and another Pneumonia!

Image Boy do I owe you all an update, its been a month! Admit it, you couldn’t sleep at night for missing me? 😉 Right, so we went to Dubai, had an awesome awesome holiday. Got a sunburn, went to Wild Wadi, splashed around on the beach. Celiac kid had a wheeze by day 3, so once again it just reconfirms how right our decision was! Being in Dubai was so ‘normal’, felt like we never left, so comfortable being around those people we have known for so many years. I miss having friends like that here. It will come, Im sure. Anyway, back to Wroclaw, picked up our puppy and then Big kid started school. 1 week in he says he loves it JUST AS MUCH AS HIS SCHOOL IN DUBAI!!! Woop Woop! RESULT! After the horrid experience in the last school he deserves the best school we can possibly give him. I need to know that my kids are happy and loved whilst in school. Fingers crossed and touch wood this school keeps on delivering 🙂 Celiac kid had her birthday! She’s 5, FIVE! How the hell did this happen? My baby is a big girl? Then yeah… the crappy news. Celiac kid coughed a few days ago, just one cough, but I looked at her and I just knew what was around the corner…. the day after I ended up taking her to our landlord’s clinic (our landlord is a gastro and knows Celiac well, what luck!?), he helped me find a good Dr who speaks English and works with kids. I must say, so far the Dr is wonderful. The same afternoon we saw her, and although Celiac kid just had a slight cough and no fever (yet) the Dr listened to me and believed me. Examination confirmed a bad right lung, and by evening her fever was reaching close to 40. Thank God we acted so fast. Saw the Dr again yesterday and the entire right lung is very bad, but luckily her left lung is clear and because of this her oxygen levels have managed to stay high enough for her not to be admitted. Obviously any other kid would be admitted, but again, the Dr has listened to me and agrees Celiac Kid is better of at home. We have remained in phone contact by texting every few hours. Best part though, this Dr is already sitting at home doing Celiac research and learning more then she knows now, and is finding us a string of expert so we can investigate every avenue there is and make some kind of plan. Its not fair to keep having these pneumonias. I am no longer able to tell you how many she had…. awful. Anyway, once she is better there will be testing for other allergies, lung scans etc, Im actually at this point thinking finding something may not be so bad, because at least then you can try to treat it! Im glad I decided to not let her start school til September, this time was meant to be spent growing and getting stronger, not having pneumonia number 6 or 7, but hey ho. Im feeling positive despite all. How can I not? A great landlord, a great house, a great and understanding Dr, ok oxygen levels, a puppy!  We choose our reactions to some extent, and I am truly grateful for what we have and that I haven’t lost the plot. Every time the sh**t hits the fan and Im able to stay with my feet firmly on the ground is a victory in it self. I have blog posts waiting to be written, Celiac Awareness one with some great links from lovely blogging friends, and also an Airplane food one. Soon, One day InshAllah! -Linda

Moving time! (again)

What a week!

Friday morning last week we were in Poznan, Friday evening we were in Wroclaw. By Sunday I had somehow magically managed to unpack everything! Then a frantic whizzing from place to place to sort out the school, kennels for dogs for our trip, food shopping, food shopping research (gluten free peeps know exactly what I mean!) etc etc.

We somehow managed to pick a great area for ourselves without ever having visited (thats how we roll, haha). Its great with tons of greenery, kids and barking dogs.

Im not sure what it is with barking dogs here…. if my dogs bark they get told off, but it seems here many people have dogs to deter from break-ins, and a quiet dog sleeping indoors obviously doesn’t deter much, so dogs are left stood in gardens barking. Drives me slightly bonkers, but it is what it is. At least I feel totally warranted to smile smugly at all these dog owners that MY dogs are so well trained and don’t bark.

We found a great little shop that sells organic produce and some freshly baked gluten free goods. I was to scared to get any of the baked stuff because even though the lady assured me it was baked in a gluten free kitchen you just never know. I need my hubby to go and ask her all the tough questions in Polish. But the produce! Gigantic organic apples that tasted like the apples from my childhood, I cant wait for summer when all the locally grown berries will come!

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The shop is called Awokado – delikatesy ekologiczne, they have a facebook page (opens in new window).

Slightly further up the same road there is yet another eko (organic) shop, a family farm and the produce is sold in someones garden! Eko eggs and veggies. Im in HEAVEN 😀

I have yet to find where the shops selling all the breads are hiding, so far its all schar. Im guessing I need to find another delikatessen. In Poznan we found most of the breads in normal supermarkets. Im sure I will find all what we need eventually.

Few more days now then its Dubai time! Cant wait. Also cant wait to come back and for kids to start their new international school where people speak only english. Happy happy happy! 😀

-Linda

 

Life in Poland – pretty awesome at times :)

People are often asking me about life in Poland, and by the way they ask I kindof know they expect it to be terrible. Then I reply to them and say, fine, great actually, and I can hear the surprise in my own voice! Not because I expected to not like it maybe, but I didn’t really expect to like it either. So fine, we have had some teething issues, Ive had stroppy people refuse to serve me in shops as I don’t speak Polish, and the security guards stalking my every move in shops drives me bonkers (do I LOOK like a thief??), but I’ve also met a whole ton of AWESOME people. In 6 months Ive already made friends for life! Lois from Polish Housewife, an American expat here in Poznan (go check out her blog!). I met Lois while searching for Poznan International Ladies Club. Great to meet a fellow blogger and have someone to speak native english speaking english with! Then the PILC ladies who have all been awesome as well. I never thought I was a ladies Club kindof girl, but I guess I was wrong! What a great and fast way to make friends. Then there was a note sent home in my sons school bag, ‘Hi we are Mrs I and Mr P, our sons like each other and want to play, CALL US, we speak english!’, possibly the awesomest note I ever received!

Then the random strangers in the post office line who overhear the cashier saying ‘Nie’ to my question of whether they speak english and offer to help translate. The lovely people in shops who speak not a word of english but who go out of their way to help you in any way they can! The awesome insurance guy who filled out all my claim forms for me as it had to be done in polish, and even got me coffee while I waited! All these people, they make Poland great. On top of that, the air, the trees, the green, heck, even the RAIN makes Poland pretty darned awesome at times.

Yes there are minor culture shocks, the old historic buildings which wow me, and makes my son – who has yet to learn to appreciate the beauty of old things – wonder why they aren’t torn down, ‘they are so old and dirty’ he says! The graffiti – everywhere- the blatant poverty in some areas. The drunks on the street (Don’t get that in the Middle East!), but I am discovering, liking, enjoying.

Im looking forward to summer, to exploring the different areas and going for a stay in the gluten free hotel in the mountains. An article in a Swedish newspaper the other day stated Poland has some of the best beaches in Europe, I cant wait to see those too!

Yes, I know I used the word awesome an insane amount of times in this post, but I just wanted to share some good stuff along with the bad 🙂 now, back to house hunting for me!

-Linda

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Gluten free food in Europe is not always gluten free…..

We learned to be gluten free in Dubai, we learned to be gluten free in a place where there was no bread available to buy in the shops (at that time), hardly any biscuits or crackers or cereals available at all, and what WAS available (back then) was gluten free, gluten free as in as close to 0 gluten as you can get, in european terms, ‘naturally gluten free’. The sucky thing is, many countries now produce gluten free foods using wheat starch. Yeah, I know, makes zero sense. Wheat = gluten, so why the hell are you putting it in my gluten free food? I don’t care how hydrolysed and processed it is, to me its still gluten, and you know what, it IS! Its STILL gluten, just happens to be below 20 ppm. But think about it… if its 15 ppm, and you eat it every day, and then eat crackers and bread and pasta and a few other things then holy CRAP are you really eating gluten free at all?

In our case the choice is made easy, because our celiac kiddo reacts to wheat starch, she reacts to traces, she reacts to things that are not as close to 0 gluten as you can get, and why shouldn’t she? She has CELIAC!? All those people who eat the pretend gluten free foods and feel great, I wonder how they would feel if they ate only 0 gluten free food….?

Anyway, back to why they put this gluten free wheat starch in food. Heres the deal. Gluten means GLUE in latin, and thats how it works, when you bake or cook with gluten, gluten is what binds things together, the glue that makes your bread not fall apart (like a gluten free bread might..). Wheat, is CHEAP. So for manufacturers it makes sense to use GLUTEN in our gluten free foods, because the alternatives are far more expensive. But who is paying the price… really? Will research in a few years come far enough to ban wheat starch in gluten free foods? I hope so!

Please note, there is wheat starch and there is gluten free wheat starch, so if you are a celiac wheat starch eater, make sure you ONLY eat the one that is labelled as gluten free, its not 0 gluten, but it is at least below 20ppm. 

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