July 30, 2009

All the papers you can fit in one bag

Landed in Bucharest few days ago. Need to catch up on my writings and my readings, since the last days in Kato have been mostly about working, saying goodbye, drinking, working, making promises and rememorating those first days of October, when I showed up out of the blue and was intorduced to everyone as the new bartender. Very much like camp.

Meanwhile, I've developed a theory about destiny and Kato and my future, it's rather cheesy but on the other hand quite accurate, that's why I'll be posting it here as soon as I'm done with the marathons in the city: (1) the ordeal of coming back after a scholarship and convincing the University that I did come back with a full pack of ECTS and (2) the selection process for my possible future job. As part of this process, yesterday I had to write a formal statement, according to which I did not collaborate with the Secret Police back in those years when communism was still around in both theory and practice. The thing is, I was 5 when communism became history, at least theoretically. And yes, my parents, my grandma, my aunts and family friends keep telling me what an exceptional kid I was, but I was no genius, so the odds for the Secret Police to have roped me in were... zero?! Yet, to some people, this makes perfect sense. After all, that's what the law says - and we can't fight the law, can we?

Later on that day, taking some papers from one office to another, I got stuck in the elevator at the Faculty of Letters. The elevator is probably older than the building itself, and the building does have a history of more than a century. And there, trapped behind bars and with a dim light above my head, I smoked and waited for somebody to rescue me, while trying to make this moment a special one - a time of reflection, of developing a life-changing philosophy. Instead, I was just standing, waiting and dragging on my cigarette, with my head empty like a baloon. Very special indeed. 

And now I'm off for the second part of the marathon, anxious to see what this day has in store for me. 

July 21, 2009

Twist of events

I have a job interview in Warsaw.
I'm also trying to come to terms with the fact that I'm leaving my job in the tent.
I'll be in a book.
My own book is a mess and seems to have a life of its own. I'll have to take some time off and deal with it.
On Monday I'm flying back home.
Warsaw is gorgeous and I am very much in love with it, nothing has changed.
I'm still undecided about the MA. And this job thing makes the decision even more complicated.
I'd like to take a week off and go to Italy, which is very strange since I don't like Italy.
Two nights ago I dreamt we were serving raspberry-and-sand cocktails in the tent.
Don't forget to vote.

July 16, 2009

A questionably nice surprise

Two days ago, I met Asia and her friends in the tent to celebrate her birthday. My good mood, knowing I was about to meet some people I hadn't seen for quite a long time, and that I was about to enjoy a fun night out at the workplace, did not predict in any way the melodramatic and somewhat embarrassing outcome of the night.
The bomb exploded the minute I set foot in the tent. I wanted to turn around the very next minute, leave the bar without any further explanation and never come back. By some sort of magic, I managed to control my emotions. For a while.
There she was, sitting behind the bar, pretty, young, with her beautiful brown locks: the new bartender. It should've crossed my mind that with the new bar soon to be open for business, with me leaving Kato in two weeks, there would be someone new showing up, sooner or later. I just didn't expect it to be that soon, and I certainly didn't expect to find her there, without some kind of previous warning. So I did what any sane person would do. I sat down with Asia and her friends and kept staring at the new girl, while trying to run a decent conversation. Of course this only lasted for about half an hour, after which I was incapable of any kind of conversation, decent or not, smart or completely idiotic. There I was, having beers with some of our regulars, while the new girl was pouring us the beers. Well, not me, because whenever I wanted a refill, I'd make sure Magda took care of that. I was sad and disappointed and I couldn't hide it. The one place that had really felt at home, that gave me the feeling I was part of something and I belonged somewhere, in a city I disliked and had nothing in common with, had slapped me in the face so hard that my eyes filled up with tears almost instantly. For a while, I managed to hold them back. Unfortunately, a few hours and several beers later, having observed the new girl in the tiniest detail, I couldn't control my tears. The tent has witnessed a lot, but I somehow doubt it's seen any of its bartenders crying because of it. Which was very frustrating, in the end, for several reasons. First of all, Sanchez would have never ever cried in the Tapioca. Second of all, I'd rather be caught wearing no perfume than be seen crying in public. And third of all, I had no real reason, except my oversized ego which just couldn't tolerate the thought that I was replaceable. Not even replaced, just replaceable. The good part of the story is that most people in the tent are normal and nice and tolerant. Top of the list is Pan Janek, who in the end explained the whole situation, which was in fact a matter of the obvious (they really, really need new people), gave me a hug and sent me home, telling me he expects me to show up the next day and to train the new girl.
And that's exactly what I did. Having calmed down and with a more rational approach to the whole situation, I showed up at work yesterday. For two hours, I did nothing but talk to people, occasionally selling beer to my favourite clients, and let her do the rest of the work. By midnight, I was alone behind the bar and happier than ever before to be there.

July 13, 2009

My perfect weekend

On Friday, after being kicked out of the library, Asia and I decided it was time for some cultural delights. So we adventured to the northern part of Kato, ready to explore the workers' district and planning to visit the art museum. After a trip that seemed to take ages and to take us out of the city, we reached our destination. Like the neighbourhood itself, the art museum was deserted, so we practically had the naive art exhibition all to ourselves. And then we voted our favourite artist. There's a voting fever in the air, wherever I go, whereer I turn, I can vote for something. Not that I actually do it all the time, but I have this option. Unless spent somewhere by the sea, summer can really suck, so maybe that's why we spice it up with votes and charts and statistics.
The houses in Nikiszowiec look identical, and there's nothing but houses in the entire district, except for the market which has a post office and a church. It used to have a bar, too, but something really odd must have happened, since the bar was closed and it seemed to have been in that state for quite some time. So on our way back to Ligota we stopped for a beer at a very optimistic bar, one that wishes you "happy holidays" in the middle of July. I was hoping we'd get presents, too.

In the meantime, back at the tent, we're in business with the new bar. Well, almost, since it's still a few weeks to go until the grand opening, but the new tent is in our back yard, raising a lot of questions about the kinds of drinks we'll serve, the heating system, the inauguration party - questions we obviously answer with an evasive "you'll have to wait and see", as we also have to wait and see. I'd suggest putting bourbon on the menu. The new bar is quite controversial among the old bartenders: Titior claims he won't ever work there, Magda thinks the scond bar doesn't really fit in the backyard of the first bar, Jacek is wondering how we're going to split the shifts and Pan Janek is busy trying to keep everything under control. As for me, I'm quite happy and enthusiastic with our new baby, mostly because now I really feel I'm part of this from the very beginning. I've heard so many stories about how the tent began 10 years ago, but it is only now I am able to tell a story of my own, from the very beginning. So yes, if I'll be around, I'll work in the second bar, even though rumour has it this bar will be a non-smoking place, and my fellow workers keep teasing me about it.

Sunday morning I took myself to the movies. Nothing compares to having the whole cinema to yourself, so that you can fully enjoy the life of Mademoiselle Coco avant Chanel. I wore my mother's pearls and later on went shopping for shoes and boxes. As I started packing, I realized I was starting to say goodbye to the city. After almost a year, I'm not expecting anything more from Kato. If, however, something is going to happen, I'll consider it a nice surprise. But as far as I'm concerned, I have no expectations. And for the first time in my life, I have no idea what the future holds. And I'm sort of enjoying this freedom, for I know it won't last forever.

July 9, 2009

Voting time

As you may or may not know, but hopefully by now you do know, I'm learning Polish. So is Bilus. And since we love it so much, we have a blog where we share our learning experience and the wonders of Polish grammar. A few days ago, our blog has been nominated for the "Top 100 Language Blogs 2009" competition. Voting is now open and will close on July 27, leaving you enough time to follow this link and vote for us :)

July 7, 2009

Hearts and stars over Bucharest

Today I took the Internet out to lunch. Since we cannot hang out in my room anymore, we're meeting daily at the library, which is kinda cute because it reminds me of the days when I used to have an office and a schedule I needed to stick to. After four hours of bliss we were kicked out of the library, so we had to move to the pub. And finally, having taken care of all urgent matters, I give you Bucharest.

During the last days of my stay there, I understood what's so special about the city. Nothing. There's something special about us and the city. It's the perfect playground. Ever since college, we've been planning stuff, reading, writing about what we read, later on we started writing our own novels and short stories, and this whole time we felt there's still so many things to do, to discuss, to plan. We founded two magazines, one that died before we graduated and another one that's still alive and kicking and it pretty much resembles a display of our personal obsessions in terms of literature. Some of us got lost on the way, others are just temporarily unavailable, but something tells me in a few years we'll be back together, and something spectacular will come out of all our plans. There's no other explanation for the energy we have, for our power to reinvent ourselves and our world, to start over, fresh and enthusiastic. I used to think I need to take some time off and find inspiration in some faraway lands, when all it took was some time with my friends. In the city where it all began.
While Ana was trying to put together the last bits of a project, I was trying to put my passion for The Book and its author in a theoretical framework, reading stuff about Giddens, Calvino, intimacy and interpretation. Didn't draw the conclusions yet, however one thing's certain: this is a perfect example of over-interpretation, so maybe I should stop obsessing over it. Then again, it's probably a bit too late.
Before I left, she gave me the yet unpublished novel of a guy I vaguely knew, but from what I remember he was ok and so is the novel, too bad our publishing houses are acting strange and somehow seem to have an inclination for communism-related writings, so if you don't write about it you should be preapred to wait. A lot. So I got to thinking about my own book, about the options I have once I'm done writing. The good news is my book can be better defined as a salad at this stage, so there's still a lot of work before I seriously consider choosing a publisher.
And of course let's not forget the beers and the perfect lazy afternoon, on the roof of the National Theatre:
And the heat:
And the pile of stuff in our office, where I found a booklet that gave me a wonderful idea for a new column. And a few other ideas :)

July 5, 2009


I have no Internet. And I won't have any, for the rest of my stay in Katowice, because apparently people don't need it in the akademik during summer holidays. However, down the corridor there's this small room, which I suspect used to be the detention room, lurid, damp and cold, which is called "sala komputerowa". There's six computers at our disposal, they look shiny and neat and they supposedly have Internet. I couldn't really tell, since I couldn't plug any of them in, as they have no wires. Luckily, the library is still open until the 16th of July and there's one pub downtown where you can connect to the Internet. Maybe I can move there.
This morning I woke up to discover we also have no electricity or hot water. It's probably one of the unwritten rules of the student dorms in Katowice: if you decide to spend your summer here, you're in for a spiritual experience, even though you didn't ask for one. Spending quality time with yourself, with no connection to the world, hearing the birds sing once your laptop is out of battery, drying you hair in the sun and staying away from the guilty pleasure of fresh made coffee in the morning- is there anything more I could wish for?
It's still a good thing nothing's changed in the tent, we have coffee and electricity, I have friends who live nearby, they have Internet, so somehow everything will be alright. The best part is I got a good dose of energy and enthusiasm back in Bucharest, and I can only hope it will last.

Coming up soon: the untold stories from Bucharest.