poniedziałek, 27 maja 2013

A Meh Week and "when was the last time you smelled manure?"

It has been raining for days. You know, one of those pranks of summer, when first you get few days of Cuban heat, you do an inspection of all you summer dresses and start making plans about those wild bonfires on Vistula river beaches. 

And then the rain comes. 

And it rains cats and dogs for weeks. And all your summer days become Meh Days. And you know that you should be doing something constructive, that your tasks are piling up, that you should at least learn some Norwegian or practice playing ukulele if you can't do something REALLY important and urgent, but well, it's a Meh Day. You're craving for something or someone who'd give you a kick of inspiration, motivation and energy, but the only thing that's actually coming are rainy clouds outside your window. 

So this is pretty much how my past week looked like. Has been looking like, to be precise. A Meh Week. There is a golden advice saying "If nothing works, cook a soup, a soup always works". So yeah, I put my purple wellingtons on and went to our local grocery store, to get some spinach leaves. Mainly because I want to believe that my decreasing level of energy and motivation has something to do with a lack of iron in my diet, so even if it's gonna be a placebo, I'm gonna make myself a magical green spinach-iron elixir. I'm pretty sure that this is what Panoramix used to fix in his cauldron. I went out and on my way to the shop I could smell: wet soil, wet pine forest, wet, freshly sawn boards in a sawmill, wet wool and acacia blossom. Because, I must tell you, I kinda live in a countryside. It's still within the city borders but it's more like a little village, all my family lives here, we have pine forest, hedgehogs and wild boars, so you gotta be careful when you're choosing your night run route. 

We have bambis too. I wonder why aren't the prices of real estate a bit higher in my neighbourhood. Come on people, a bambi in your garden! And fierce wild boars on your running route. 

The other thing is that I'm sensitive for smells. My great-grandmother could smell sulphur from the other side of a house when my mom and her cousin were playing with matches. I think I'm the one from all ten of her great-grandchildren, who inherited increased olfactory acuity. 

Today, when I was walking to the shop, I realized I haven't been smelling real smells for a long time. Right now I'm in my room, I can smell coffee and a cinammon candle. I'm (and you're too) closed in a bubble of civilisational smells. A smell of a bus. An artificial smell of cinnamon candles. Toothpaste. Coffee. Printed book. Plastic-y smell of new clothes in H&M. Leather in a shoe shop. Parfumed lady passing by in a shopping mall. And then you go out and smell soil and pine trees and it's something unusual. When was the last time when you smelled freshly-cut grass? Manure? Water in a lake? A tomato? Yeah, I mean real tomato, not this Spanish watery crap you buy in Carrefour. (Sorry Spain, I believe that you grow awesome tomatoes, sadly the ones that you export to Poland are crap.). I love the smell of coffee and a printed book, I don't think I'm alone here, but gee, I love also freshly cut grass and pines and it's better to know where is the exit in my civilisational bubble of parfume and new clothes.

I've no idea how did my brain work during that quest for spinach leaves, and how did it happen that all those smells generated a huge longing for going somewhere I've never been to, but my brain works in mysterious ways sometimes. (Like when I wake up after a super weird dream and I'm all like "WTF brain, seriously!?"). What's more, it also made me listen to a prehistoric music and wear a lumberjane checked shirt. But this is a story for another blog post. 

sobota, 4 maja 2013

It's been a year!

When I left home today, I was going to find some peaceful spot in the downtown and a cup of coffee, so I could focus on perfectioning my job application. I ended up cooking delicious Thai food and drinking wine with two strangers. You know, strangers who become your friends in a split of seconds, because something just clicks and suddenly you realize that it's almost midnight and you are passionately discussing about rockabilly skirts and Prussian doctors. That's the magic of CouchSurfing I guess.

I found them on the steps of church in Plac Zbawiciela. First we were proof-reading my job application and then Cole asked Justyna if I can join them for a dinner. I guess that it's the adult version of "she followed me all the way home, can we keep her?"

When I was leaving the apartment of our lovely host Justyna, I felt something. Maybe I felt it just because I just had a great meal and a decent wine in a brilliant company. Maybe it happened because it was one of those balmy nights, when air smells with magnolia and cherry blossoms and birds are singing like crazy. Maybe it happened because it's Friday night and a colorful crowd was filling the streets. Or maybe it's because of a bottle of cat tranquilizer, that my other CS stranger, Cole, claims to always carry on him (he was a chef, I was just chopping, who knows what he poured into coconut milk). I don't know. But I felt like suddenly everything got to where it belongs. That things are going into the right direction, that I'm young, I'm (I like to think so) pretty, and I have whole life ahead of me. Yay.

This reminded me the last April. The time when I started Ten Awesome Years. I was staying at my friend's apartment, cat-sitting. I was alone and the cat was vicious. I was scared, I was overthinking, I felt like my carefree life ended and like I'm trapped in a life I didn't want. All newspapers were writing about crisis and unemployement, particularly unemployment amongst young people, especially those educated in humanities. I was struggling to keep a relationship that had no chance to survive, I had panic attacks and I was PARALYZED with fear. I was so terrified, that for weeks I was having breathing problems, I felt like there is something constantly sitting on my chest, not letting me take a deep breath. If your body tells you that there's something wrong with your mind, you better take it seriously. In the middle of this I decided, that crap, I'm not gonna live this way. No way. I'm not gonna let stupid newspapers itimidate me, I don't agree on having a low quality life.

I didn't know what to do with my life. I knew what I didn't want to do with my life. I sat down and I wrote down all the things that I wanted to do before I die. And then I thought that since I work well under the time pressure, and a whole life is a terribly long time, I should make it shorter. Like... ten years. Ten awesome  years. And that there is a chance that if I make it public, I'll feel like a looser quitting it at some point. And here we go! After I made a decision to have an awesome life, things started to work again. I owe you guys a brief summary of what has been happening in the past year, but it has to wait till the morning. It's 3:32 am, I'm super sleepy and those goddamn birds are still there, singing like there's no tomorrow.

środa, 1 maja 2013

"When one man dies, it is a tragedy, when thousands die, it's statistics"

Okay, so maybe you've noticed, but I had a writer's block in the past ummm... month. Not that I'm a writer. I had like gazillion  things to say, but somehow it didn't look good written down. In past weeks I went to visit my friend in the University of Essex and I came back super stoked, I started planning how to achieve my goal numer four, I had some really cool interviews for my thesis, I even made a short video as a part of my job application. But seriously, none of those things seemed worth sharing. Or they did, but sounded corny either in English or in Polish. (Does any of you experience this? You write a piece of a witty, brilliant text in Polish and when you translate it to English it all sounds like "I be potato". Or the other way round).
But there is one thing that got stuck in my mind and I just must write about it, otherwise I'll explode. Now focus, and think about the most important thing that happened last month and got a worldwide attention.
Mesdames et monsieurs, now my assistant will pick a card, and I'm telling you that first thing that you thought about was Boston Marathon bombings. Did you?
Allright. So, Boston Marathon bombings, 5 deaths in total: 3 spectators at the Marathon, 1 police officer and one suspect. Add to it 281 injuried people. We all know about Dzokhar and Tamerlane Tsarnaev, about their mother, about Chechnya, pressure-cookers, about that eight-years-old boy, who died, about that brave man, Carlos Arredondo, who ran in the marathon to protest against the war and ended up rescuing people.

Nine days later a factory building in Bangladesh collapsed. Now, ask yourself: a) how many people died? b) where exactly did it happen? c) who is responsible for this?
Can you answer these questions? I couln't, I had to google it. 401 people died, 1000 are injuried, it happened in Savar Upazila in Dhaka and companies, which employed those people (and didn't make sure that the factory building meets safety norms) were Benetton Group, The Children's Place, Primark, Monsoon, DressBarn and probably also WallMart. Inspectors discovered the cracks on the walls of the building just a day before. Some of employees were immediately evacuated, but the managers threatened to withhold the monthly pay from garmets workers who refused to enter the factory. Don't get me wrong, every death is a tragedy, what happened in Boston is just wrong and terryfying, but how come that I knew so many things about marathon bombing and so little about Savar Upazila?
Probably, I wouldn't really bother to check anything about what happened in Bangladesh, but I found this on Facebook and I can't stop thinking about it:

This photo just left me speechless. You can watch documentaries, read tons of reports and articles and then a picture like this comes and you feel a lump in your throat, even though you aren't particularly emotional person. And you can't help thinking that  she is a person, she has a name. Maybe it was Chaitali, maybe Devangi. The skin on her arm is smooth, she's young, could she be your age? Or maybe she was your little sister's age? Who gave her this golden bracelet? And him? Maybe he fancied her? Did he try to rescue her or just embraced her because he knew he's dying and just wanted to hold someone? The lump in your throat is still there and you can't get rid of this image and erase it from your head for the rest of your day. The jumper you wear is made in Cambodia, your T-shirt was produced in China and out of sudden they don't feel that comfortable anymore. But on the other hand you know that voting with your (very thin) wallet won't make a change. Will it?
I saw this picture in the morning, now it's 5:35 pm and I keep thinking about it. Yeah, Benetton is guilty, Mango is guilty, Inditex is guilty for using other people in different parts of the world. I am guilty and you are guilty too because you're buying their products. But do you really have a choice?