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Wednesday, December 06,1995, 1:36 PM Stephen Larsen writes:
Ben -- with Kasia's parents here there have been plenty of dishes to do. Then again there have been more people to do them, so being off my nightly routine, I was feeling a little out of balance. After dinner every evening Halina would say, "Ja pozmywam" (I will do the dishes). But I've learned that getting to the sink first spares us any outright disagreements over the matter. Which is a relief because Halina helps cook every night, too. Recently she has discovered an ingeneous, but labor-intensive method for making a delectable squash soup. Eugeniusz is having a difficult time knowing how to fit into the domestic routine, since he has been known to say, and perhaps himself believes, that men are excluded by their gender from kitchen work. I have suggested that he said this with regard not to himself but to male guests in his own house, who, by the rather strict standards of Polish hospitality, should never be allowed to do the dishes -- not because they are men but because all guests in Poland are sacred. Traditional hosts have sometimes to resort to extreme statements in order to dissuade less traditional guests from transgressing their sacral duties of quiescence and repose. Then again one of his first days here Eugeniusz offered to paint the house. We are continually discovering that the handling of domestic duties is far more complicated than the simple issue of generosity it might seem to be. It demands care, guesswork, and a hefty portion of gestural communication. At least the photograph will be a relatively simple matter. Yours, Steve.

Tuesday, December 19,1995, 11:59 AM Ben Kinmont answers:
dear steve, how wonderful to hear from you. yes, the ins and outs of domestic decisions are never as easy as they seem; if fact, they almost dwarf the decisions of a pedestal or an action. anyway, i'm glad to hear that you're holding up under the strain of polish in-laws. i can imagine that it is both a "discovery" and a lesson in patience. it is wonderful that you and kasia have the time and space to accomodate them. so far the project has been both eye-opening and a chore. at this point i am really looking forward to making the photographic pieces and giving them away. i suppose it has something to do with starving for some more hands-on activity in this strange exchange; and longing for the direct interaction too. anyway, i look forward to speaking with you over the holidays and a big kiss to kasia and your family in south dakota. love, ben.