I find myself in Krakow, Poland, leading a summer study abroad program for six students (5 MA, 1 undergrad, plus my program assistant / TA). I'm no Central Europeanist -- more of a Germany specialist, I guess -- but there are fascinating identity issues being played out here, so it seemed a logical place to go for a time. And as yet I speak no Polish; hopefully that will improve in time.
But I have to say that I have a renewed appreciation for certain aspects of globalization. The last time I was in Europe two years ago, InterNet access was a bit dicey. This time, I have a broadband connection in my small apartment. Last time, cel phones were unable to work outside of their areas; this time, I got off of the plane, turned on my regular US cel phone, and dialed home. No problem, once I figured out that the long-distance code in Poland is 0-0 and not 0-1. Yes, the roaming charges are somewhat excessive for daily use, but the convenience is marvelous.
And the 'Net connection in my apartment allowed me to watch extended highlights of last night's marathon, marvelous Yankees-Red Sox game -- won by the good guys, of course :-)
So globalization has an upside, too. And since this is an official academic program, my cel phone is now a business expense.
Went for a walk around the city last night with one of the CES guys, trying to stay awake long enough to get on a normal schedule after the long flight and jet lag; about six times during the walking tour he made reference to the difference between the "real" or "authentic" Polish (and sometimes "Central European") practice of some activity and the touristy, commercialized version of the same activity. Case in point: absinth, which is not "really" supposed to be lit on fire (apparently, this custom was started by backpackers in Prague, and then caught on). My TA commented that she wanted to light and drink some absinth in Prague because that's the thing that you do now, which was a great post-modern moment: a desire for the authentic experience of inauthenticity, as produced by misunderstandings and commercial deployments. The CES guy shook his head, continuing to insist (in a friendly way) on doing things "right" as much as possible. Fascinating stuff all around.
[Posted with ecto]