Traces of Poland

in Sanur, Bali, Indonesia
371 words, 2 minutes to read

I wasn’t expecting to find any. We’re almost as far from Poland as physically possible while still remaining on the surface of Earth. I was expecting getting mixed up with Holland, which to the untrained ear sounds just the same, and then blank stares once we repeat “no, PO-land”. And I was wrong.

We’ve been asked by pretty much every single person we encountered “where are you from?” Casually, just like that, second or third sentence uttered. I always made a point of carefully stressing the pronunciation: POOOland, to make sure we’re distinguished from the omnipresent Dutch (and don’t get charged like we were Dutch—we have been offered better prices more than once after answering the question).

Reactions we received surprised me every time:

  • “your flag is just like ours, upside down”,
  • “Robert Lewandowski! The football player?”
  • “Podolski, he’s Polish, right?”
  • “the previous pope was Polish, wasn’t he? Ah, no, the one before him?”

All true. (Well, Podolski partly so, but let’s not be picky.)

The best part came when we visited a meeting of Magical Bali Toastmasters, with the theme “One World, One Family” (in celebration of United Nations Day), and the word of the day “Solidarity”. Made me laugh, as I immediately thought about the Polish trade union and what it meant in the history of our country. I thought that’d be a good story to tell during the Table Topics session or chatting with the club’s members.

Then I was floored, as the Toastmasters of the evening began to explain the theme, then the word of the day, and proceeded to introduce the Polish organization! I thought I would be telling the people here a bit of history of Poland, instead I was the one being told.

None of these are obscure facts, mind you. They’re widely known names linked with major events—at least we think so in Poland. But then every continent and region has its own affairs and I didn’t think these facts would travel this far. Especially since so few visitors from Poland seem to visit here—we only encountered our fellow citizens three times over the course of three weeks.

Turns out people in Bali know more about Poland than the Poles know about Bali.