November 4, 2012

TGI Friday's on a Sunday

So here we are, waiting for our flight once again, in the same place - the only one that will give us food, drinks and Google under the same roof. As I previously said, we're wiser and better prepared this year - we have discovered the wonders of technology and so, instead of spending our time reading or sleeping or planning, we are taking silly pictures, which turns out to be a lot more fun than any of the above.

It's time to travel, it's time to go

As always, trapped between the temptations and the promises awaiting for me and the ones I'm leaving behind. There is no doubt about the perfect symmetry of my state of mind - I am sure that upon leaving Cuba I will be just as trapped as I am now, before leaving Warsaw. But growing older apparently does make us wiser - I am now wise enough to refrain from questioning my moods and my mixed feelings and from trying to put everything in order. I'm taking my mixed feelings and my confusions with me and I have no intention of solving any of my dilemmas while away from home.
The only certainty I have is weather-related and I am more than happy to leave the snow behind, looking forward to overdosing on sun and light. And dancing, but that goes without saying.

October 21, 2012

The unbearable blurriness of being

The underlying theme of the story of my trip to Elblag, where I ran away for the weekend to watch a dance competition, was the continuation of my "explore Poland like a backpacking hippie without actually looking like a backpacking hippie" plan. 
Even though I spent most of the time staring at the dance floor, taking pictures and recording the dances and updating my blog, I did have an hour to walk around the Old Town which supposedly is very pretty, not that I could tell because the fog was so dense I thought I was having eye problems again, luckily I knew I didn't because I'm fresh after seeing the eye doctor who said I was fine so it must have been the fog. There. Bottom line, it was foggy. So foggy you could see the fog coming at you. 
And here comes the best part of my explorations in cities about which I only have very limited knowledge. They somehow always manage to match my mood. I don't know how that happens and I'm not saying it's something that works as a general rule (I'm definitely less  gloomy than Polish weather is) but in key moments in my life or in new places in this country, there has almost always been a perfect match. 

The rather unpredictable near future in regards to which I'm quite optimistic but then again unpredictability has never been my favorite dish on the menu, the growing enthusiasm over the results of a very wise decision I took this summer and the perspectives it opens, a slight concern over the possibility of very unexpected, out-of-nowhere butterflies for which I don't have the time nor the energy yet for some reason they insist to stay, the upcoming trip to Cuba and all the mixed feelings emerging from it, they all add up and generate the confusion and fogginess in my head. I think chronic lack of sleep also helps. 
But just like the city's morning fog, which had nothing dark and depressing about it, the one in my head does not make me insecure, nor does it lower my spirits. There is a kind of relief in not seeing clearly, in projecting (great) expectations over the things to come, even in accepting the unexpected as a natural part of life, giving the type A control freak in me a well deserved break. Because beyond all of the above lies the certainty that things will become clear and settled once again. 

September 19, 2012

What makes Torun so cool

Except for the obvious attractions to be found in any guide (gingerbread included): it is probably the only town in Poland where you can meet really beautiful girls working with stained glass in a small shop hidden on a narrow street among other red brick buildings that look medieval and very inviting, going along perfectly with gingerbread (the town's trademark) and impossibly sweet wine. The entire town has a fairy tale feeling to it so I guess it's only natural for some of its inhabitants to look like princesses. 

It has unicorns! Makes sense if you think about the "once upon a time" atmosphere of the city so no surprises  here, but the unicorn fanatic in me just couldn't help an inner shout of joy at just how pretty this particular one was.

Also, it was a relief to discover that I have no more hidden talents. I think I'm done, at least for the time being, which is indeed good news, as I doubt I'd have had the time for anything that is not already included in my routine. But at least I tried and my rather unfortunate involvement with traditional art resulted in a ceramic chicken that looks like a duck with scales instead of feathers, a painted egg that I am too embarrassed to show, as it stands proof for just how shaky and not suited for drawing my hands are, and some wood scultpure that was very close to becoming finger sculpture. 
But at least I finally got my city break. And a huge pack of books from les parents so there will be no more complaining for a while. I'm pretty sure about it.

August 21, 2012

City break

I think I'm down with the lack-of-holiday disease because I keep having dreams about suitcases, packing and cake. Two months left and I'm off to Cuba again but something tells me I might have trouble waiting that long and I'm fidgety and eager to go somewhere even for a few days just to hang out without having about 5 to do lists and a list that organizes my to do lists. I need a city break. Like last year's trip to Krakow: fresh fruit, books and nice people, I'm really not that demanding. 

And speaking of travel and Poland, I came across this text I wrote three or four years ago about Warsaw, back in the days when it was not home, but my number one tourist destination, and I thought I'd share. 

August 15, 2012


This is not at all how I imagined my comeback. But a while ago a very wise friend of mine told me that he knew I was happy and serene because the blog was so quiet and apparently people tend to write more when they are sad and nostalgic. I wasn't sure I agreed with him, but I guess he did have a point because the past two days have been anything but happy and serene and here I am, back to writing.
On the 13th of August, El Santino was stolen and - the horror! - he was stolen from my block, where he was safely fastened and quietly waiting to take me to dance practice. As if this wasn't enough, gone were my wonderful red dance shoes and my panther dress. 
Luckily my dance partner was around and somehow managed to prevent a nervous breakdown, which inevitably took place a few hours later, while we were at the police station, waiting for someone to pay attention to us or to pretend to be doing their job. I don't know why, maybe because it was late, maybe because nobody cares about stolen bikes worth 50 euros, there are probably countless reasons why I had to deal with the most incompetent policeman I have ever met. Not that I met so many, but this guy was beyond all jokes and folklore about policemen. Not only did he not know that Romania was part of the EU, he looked at my passport and claimed he couldn't read Cyrillic, he could not handle simple calculations and was unbelievably rude, but in the end it turned out he could not even spell right. He kept asking if I could speak Polish and if I understood what he was saying and then printed out the statement he had written which was so full of mistakes it would have made a 10 year-old blush. And then he sent me home, telling me to go look for my bike on the Internet, maybe someone will eventually sell it or check out the flea market on Sunday and call the police if I find anything. 
I'm pretty sure El Santino is gone for good and no matter how heartbreaking this is I have to accept facts. 
To the one who dared touch him and take him away, with his pretty basket and his Cuban registration plate, I hope La Regla de Ocha comes biting your ass without you ever knowing what hit you, I hope you find out his brakes were broken only when it's too late and most of all I hope you never ever in your life experience what a good compañero he was. And whoever tries dancing in my perfect Latin shoes, I hope you won't even do the basic right.
As for me, I'm lucky enough to have good friends who are willing to give up their plans in order to go shopping on a cold and rainy and moody day. And so, I am pleased to present Santiago: 

June 13, 2012

The Polish-Russian war

It is a well-known fact that in Romania the media have a soft spot for drama and exaggeration. Sometimes when reading the morning news I have to double check with family & friends back home to make sure that the country is not on the brink of extinction or civil war. 
In Poland, however, the media are far more reserved and less dramatic, that is until the Russians and their football team are factored into editorial decisions. Then all sanity goes out the window and suddenly we are dealing with a Polish-Russian war, occupation, nationalism, historical grievance and some wounds that are too recent to close. Yes, both Poland and Russia have some hardcore fans, battles in the streets are not uncommon during the domestic season and incidents have been reported since the beginning of Euro 2012 in some Polish cities. Still, that doesn't really count as a war, and chances are, talking about it and making such a fuss will only add fuel to the fire and transform football into a pretext for other issues that don't necessarily have much in common with it. 
Earlier today, having overdosed on stories and editorials on the most ardent topic of the day, I went out to get coffee and had to fight my way through massive crowds of overweight men eating kebab and drinking beer, with their bellies exposed in the mild Warsaw sun, probably getting ready to go to war. I'd say accuracy is crucial in times like these. 
Which reminds me: Tango 12. No matter how much I liked football (this month), I have some major objections to mixing tango into it. Even if it is a tribute to the World Cup in 1978, organized in Argentina. Even if it is faster, rounder and more resistant than any other official ball. Apparently the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation has the explanation: "It's a great ball. It's got a special name, Tango. It's the dance of a couple and has a great connection to football". All it takes to make the war complete is an army of semioticians, and even then I'd still have my doubts about the symbolic meaning of tango in the complex and elaborate structures of football.
Adidas Tango 12
P.S. Who didn't see this coming?

And did anybody see this coming?

June 10, 2012

Euro 2012: first weekend in Warsaw

I've never been much of a sports fan and sport events have not exactly ranked high on my "to do" / "to see" lists. Not even when faced with my obvious obsession with dancesport, which I have always labeled as art rather than sport, despite all evidence that points otherwise.
But every two years I get into this football frenzy which I can't really explain or fully understand, not that I'm making any effort in this direction. I just sit down and enjoy, occasionally wondering how is it possible that something I am not normally interested in keeps me focused for an hour and a half.  
Obviously I got really excited over Euro 2012 taking place in Poland and I was looking forward to seeing Warsaw go through a major makeover, becoming loud, colorful, wrapped up in a bubble of energy, the kind of energy that's only perceptible when mass events are spiced up with competitive tension.

What happened on the day of the opening match resembled a ritual performed by the book, following all rules and etiquette from flawless organization to massive mobilization, dress codes, slogans and face paint. This is in fact one of the things I admire most about Poland and Polish people, their ability to get together and support any cause as long as it's a matter of Polish pride. All of Europe was watching, so they had to display a sea of white and red outfits, supporting their team and making the name Lewandowski probably the most uttered word in Poland for one night. To put it in my words, it looked like a perfectly executed choreography, with great technique but no sparks or feeling, and even though from an objective point of view I have to admit they were praiseworthy, the subjective indicators of a good performance were far below my expectations. I remember the matches I saw in Croatia in the main square in Zagreb, the nights out in Bucharest when our schedules revolved around football even though Romania wasn't even playing or the surreal match between Czech Republic and Turkey in 2008, which I watched with C. in a small pub in Brno where I swear the roof was about to collapse from all the screaming and jumping and somehow I expected Warsaw to be ten times better and that's probably why I was so disappointed. Because in the end it all looked like yet another pretext to get senselessly drunk and lie on the sidewalk in the otherwise very posh and exquisite Foksal street which after the opening night smelled like a gigantic open-air toilet.
Then on Saturday the city was back to normal, as if nothing had ever happened, as if people had come out of their houses for an impeccable white-red performance and returned to their lives the next day, oblivious to any other games, results or teams, the only thing that reminded there was something going on were the helicopters and the few Portuguese fans cheering for their team in the pubs that did bother to turn on their TVs. By Sunday I could have easily said that Friday night never happened, as if I was so eager to witness a football championship in my city that I hallucinated one. And if I didn't, then I surely did project all these unreal expectations over it, but that is just another proof that I never learn anything from my previous experiences and never seem to remember that note to self that says "stop expecting things to look the way you thought they would". 

June 6, 2012

Let the great world spin

One year later, we're anxious to go back, with improved dancing skills, emotions under control, a plan to save our bodies from demineralization, ready to avoid some of the mistakes we made last year and looking forward to repeating some others. 

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range.

Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.
(Alfred Tennyson, Locksley Hall)

May 9, 2012

5 p.m. on the corner of Krucza and Wilcza

El Santino and Miss Piggy chillin' in the afternoon sun, waiting for snow in Havana.
In the meantime, we were talking plane tickets, research plans, robots, dance, work and chocolate cupcakes. Spring afternoons in Warsaw, when the air smells of fresh energy and endless possibilities, have always been one of the main reasons why I love this city so much. And today was no exception.