16 Jan 2006

Stamp of Approval

It seems here in Poland that everything needs a stamp. It's like the more stamps the more official it is or something. This first occurred to me when i went to the insurance claims office after some bandits made off with my car radio. The whole process took about 2 hours to fill out forms in Polish and then have the lady photocopy every paper related to my car in my possession. After that she proceeds to stamp each of them with about 3 stamps. And after 2 hours of stamping they still couldn't give me my money back.

But it also comes to mind whenever i go to the post office, or poczta, to pay my bills or mail a letter (yes you pay your bills at the post office, not the bank in Poland). The ladies there are old, kind of grandma like characters. Unfortunately many of them are unhappy. I often wonder what they have lived through- how many of their family member the Germans hauled away to concentration camps, or how many times they have gone hungry after waiting in line for endless hours with their food stamps under communism. I don't blame them for being unhappy, i just often wonder what their stories are. Anyways these poczta babcias (grandmas) seem to have a stamp complex. It's like they were born with them in their hands and they use them with such force you swear they could kill a man with one.

It got me thinking you know, what really does make a paper official? Does a stamp on it with a date validify it as true and bonified? Surely one could by a likewise stamp and do the same thing at home as the ladies do at the poczta- then how would anyone know it wasn't real? We saw one such stamp (from communist days) the other day at the market. We thought about buying it and inquired about how much it cost- it was out of our league but we almost went home with it anyways because those guys who sell antiques you swear they were trained by those darn sales people in the west that work on commission. I think about going back and buying that stamp. Not because i would really use it but because it symbolizes something, something Polish. Like something they cling to for some form of power in the midst of foreign occupation- that still remains this symbol of power even today... i don't know if i've ever seen anyone in Canada/US ever use a stamp in such ways...

My dad told me last night that one of the girls planning on coming to Poland lost her passport and that i should pray for her. It is strange, without ID countries won't let you in. I should pray for her. It's like somehow a passport is the human stamp of approval. Like I am who I say I am. But after carrying that thing around with me for the past 4 years somehow deep down there is this feeling that even my passport with all it's 'officialness' doesn't quite encompass who i am or where i've been. I guess i'm just glad that God has given me his stamp of approval. It's really only in him i'm verified, validified and bonified.