March 29, 2010


I'm supposed to be working on my article as I'm once again shamelessly late, but unfortunately in no mood to research expat literature. The nightmare of translating Monster Love is not over yet although I do see the light at the end of the tunnel and I have way too much homework for my Portuguese class. And there's another project which is spectacular in every way, although it might be too much of a challenge, but I'll make the announcement here soon, once I'm sure I can handle it. Then again, wasting my time especially when I have none to waste is an art that I need to bring to perfection.
So instead of doing what I should be doing, I'm busy planning my next vacation, looking for flights and putting together a list of concerts and festivals that can't be missed this summer. I also came across this: a shooting signed Karl Lagerfeld and art director Olivier Zahm, paying homage to photographer Helmut Newton, who is famous for his nude studies of women.

photos: trendhunter
I kept staring at the pics and in the end decided they were equally artistic and disturbing. Especially if connected with one particular Givenchy collection, can't remember which one, but I do remember very manly men wearing skirts and shiny leggins. Also, it is rumored that Bryan Boy will soon be collaborating with Vogue and H&M intend to sell skirts for men starting this spring. I'm not sure if this is a sign of freedom, experiment, an artistic statement, a revolution of trends or just a sample of plain stupidity. I wonder if normal men will become obsolete. Then again, we did claim our right to trousers more than one hundred years ago, so maybe there is no better time than the present for cross-dressing.

March 28, 2010

City doping

One weekend was all it took to fall back in love with Warsaw, which seems to have gone through a metamorphosis overnight. Only two weeks ago it was snowy, greyish and not particularly active. And then all of a sudden it blossomed. After all these months spent here, I can now see I was not crazy when I decided this was a wonderful city to live in. I'm beginning to recognize my Warsaw and to regain my enthusiasm. Sure, it helps if a good old friend is around. Giving her a tour of the city has helped open my eyes and reestablish a connection I feared was lost for good.
In just four days, we explored Warsaw and fully enjoyed its cultural delights, from exhibition openings to conferences on literature and immigration to late night parties and early morning afterparties.
This is not a review of the hottest, newest or smartest places and events in Warsaw, but a few highlights are worth mentioning.
The Centre for Contemporary Art is currently hosting an exhibition about prepositions, which I found so fabulous I actually wanted to move in one of the rooms. I know I'm a fool for grammar and languages, yet seeing them play the leading part in an exhibition made me utterly happy for the rest of the day. This is the kind of art I'd love to own:

As always, Praga district is the best place for very pleasant surprises, although some might claim it's neither safe nor pretty. They are so wrong it almost makes me feel sorry for them.

Since we tend to live our lives on fast-forward and up to date with everything and anything from unpublished books to exhibitions that are still work in progress to crappy celebrity gossip which we do enjoy in small amounts, it was only natural to hang out in a coffee-shop-open-house-hipster meeting point that's not even officially open yet. While checking out the art galleries in Praga, we discovered this place run by Kasha & William, two of the nicest people I've met in Warsaw, so full of positive energy and radiant, they almost seemed to be from another reality. Their open house is, by far, my new favorite place in Warsaw - it looks like a very eclectic living room where no two pieces of furniture match, yet the overall sensation is of perfect harmony and coziness. They have a rat and a raven, make the best Turkish coffee ever and are talkative, open and smiling all the time. After an hour spent there, it felt rather like visiting some old friends than having a cup of coffee in a place that is one month away from its official inauguration.

Even the Brave New World, the socialist-intellectual-ideological pub seems to have given in to the idea that work and play go hand in hand. Sure, they still have a very busy schedule, lots of conferences, debates and meetings, yet on a Friday night socialism can wait. And we can dance. I'm not a big fan of DJs and electronic music is not my favorite thing on the menu, but I'll order it from time to time and with the right company, it might turn out to be loads of fun.
This morning we went to say goodbye to one of the few gay clubs in Warsaw. We decided we could skip the party on Saturday and just show up at the afterparty, fresh and rested and wearing perfect make-up. Which is exactly what we did, I can't remember the last time I woke up at 5 and it was definitely the first time I was up at that hour because I was going clubbing.
On our way back, Warsaw was sunny and buzzing, old ladies were on their way to church, everybody else is either running or watching the marathon.
Except for us. We don't do church and we just decided biking is about ten times cooler than running. Which is why next week I'm planning to buy the most adorable bike on the planet (found it in Praga, obviously). I'll need to move fast as to keep pace with the city. And I have a feeling I'm going to love every minute of it.

March 25, 2010

The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs

Just watched the newest SP, awesome and insanely funny. One of my top 10 episodes ever, without a doubt. It's got all the right ingredients: banned books, interpretation & overinterpretation, vomit, Sarah Jessica Parker, murder and The Catcher in the Rye. Definitely a must see.

March 24, 2010

New role model

Met a girl today who likes Italian food, Italian cars, spends her holidays in Dubai and finds reading unnecessary. She can't imagine going through life wearing anything else but high heels, miniskirts and massive golden earrings. Today was no exception, but I'm still confused about the scrunchie holding her hair in a ponytail - can't tell if it was an accident or a statement that attention to details is also unnecessary.
Anyway, I think her life is smooth and uncomplicated and when I grow up I want to be just like her.

Something wrong in this picture

This morning I thought hell broke loose right in the middle of my apartment. The phone was ringing off the hook and my cell did its best to accompany it, my neighbors were drilling holes - in their walls and apparently in everybody else's, that's got to be the only logical explanation and an ambulance pride parade seemed to be taking place right outside my window. As it was only 7:10, I didn't bother to pick up any of the phones, I ignored the mayhem and went back to sleep until my laptop started squealing, invaded by about one hundred trojans and worms in less than five minutes. This was already too much. And the phones were still ringing. I had to take things one at a time so coffee was definitely a priority. Armed with an extra-large cup of searing hot coffee, I went back to check on my laptop. Keeping my eyes open was a real torture, but I managed to stay focused. And just when I was about to fix the problem, the doorbell rang. And rang. It occurred to me that somebody might have died with their finger stuck on my doorbell, then again I couldn't care less about them. The sound had scared the hell out of me and, as a result, I spilled half of my extra-large cup of coffee all over my laptop. Trojan problem solved. For good, I guess. Turns out the guy who was so impatient to pay me a visit before 8 was just checking if the lights were ok. It was already so surreal, I didn't even feel like making any comment. The people calling were a sales agent who wanted to know if I was familiar with a brand new line of pressure cookers and a woman from my bank making a survey about the quality of their services.
As I walked to work, I noticed Warsaw was unbelievably quiet. I almost felt embarrassed when my phone started ringing. I had the impression that all heads were turning in my direction, as if we were in an open-air museum where the only acceptable sounds are the singing benches. Yes, Warsaw's gone Chopin crazy.
After about ten minutes of serenity it was back to chaos all over again, as some of the offices in the building are being refurbished. If things go on like this, there's only one option left: increasing the nicotine intake and the number of cigarette breaks out in the sun, on a singing bench.

March 23, 2010

Monster task

I am currently dealing with a literary nightmare of epic proportions. The fact that I have to translate it only makes it about one hundred times worse.
Carol Topolski is a psychoanalyst who, I assume, woke up one morning and decided to be a writer. So she came up with a plot that's sick and disgusting in every conceivable way, not to mention far from being well written. Brendan and Sherilyn are madly in love, their visceral attraction quickly transforms into a form of interdependence and they are so wrapped up in each other, that no one and nothing can come between them. Not even little Samantha, their daughter. After the first few pages, we know for sure that Samantha is dead, because her parents locked her in a cage and left her there. That's what Monster Love is all about. Definitely, story-telling is not Topolski's thing, so for the remaining two hundred and something pages, she experiments with all sorts of different voices, all bringing new perspectives upon the young couple. The way I'm writing about this book might actually make it sound ok, experimental, brave, challenging and thought-provoking when in fact it is as lame as can be and there's about as much experiment in it as there was in the rule of the three units back in the 17th century.
Now everyone who knows me - and I don't mean those people who know me really well, it doesn't take years to figure this out, knows I'm not exactly a child-person. I tolerate them because society forces me to be in the same room with a child from time to time, but that's as far as I'll go. Still, locking a baby in a cage and leaving it there to die is where I draw the line.
I want literature to invent worlds, to make me believe in them, to allow me to lose myself in fiction. And I don't even expect a fairy-tale every time. I can deal with really hardcore-mind-blowing-heartbreaking-devastating writings, as long as they're well written, imaginative and powerful. I'll also enjoy writings inspired from true stories and I have nothing against a journalistic approach, however I do have one demand: if you're going to tell me a story about something I read in the newspapers just the other day, you'd better make it a f***ing great story. If you're not going to show me that reality in a brand new light, from a perspective I wouldn't have normally thought of, I'll go back to reading the news. And then back to real literature.
And whatever you do, don't ever say such things in an interview:
Well, I'm not at all mystical when it comes to writing, but having spent much of my professional life rummaging around in the unconscious, I have to say the story - or a character at least - popped up quite unbidden one day when I was writing something else. I can only think she emerged from the dark side of my mind. I was experimenting with a first person voice in another story and suddenly found myself writing two sides of A4 in the primitive voice of a little girl whop appeared to be in a cage.
If there's a heaven for translators, there'd better be a reward waiting for me.

March 21, 2010

Games people play

There are few things more entertaining on a Sunday morning than labeling all the objects around me with their Portuguese names. As usual, an adequate soundtrack is required and the best songs for improving pronunciation and enriching vocabulary are those really, really cheesy songs that nobody admits listening to because they are way too embarrassing. (Yet everybody knows them and whenever there's enough alcohol involved, especially during a family reunion or a wedding, everybody ends up singing them really loud and really badly).
I tend to think of these songs as highly efficient language-learning tools and they did wonders for me while learning Polish. Back in those days when it was still surprising that people can pronounce so many consonants without choking, I was more than happy to learn songs about pride, courage, the homeland, wine and/or vodka, melancholy and sufferance - major historic events seemed to have the same heartbreaking effect as unaccomplished love.
Having moved on, I can now fully understand why nobody openly admits they enjoy these songs, although from time to time I'll listen to them just for the sake of those wonderful first days when a grammatically correct sentence was more of an achievement that an academic essay and every conversation was a personal victory. I am however looking forward to attending a Polish wedding (it's one of this year's highlights, Polish weddings are said to be really spectacular and thanks to my friend Kuba this event will have more than just anthropological potential, as I will not be a mere observer, I'll be maid of honor).
With Portuguese songs, the story is quite different. They speak about falling in love in the blink of an eye, dancing, pounding hearts, lust, playing games and burning fires. As I still don't have first hand experience with Portugal, it's tough to say whether these songs are as accurate as Polish songs in summing up the country's culture and the spirit of its people, but I'm not that far away from that experience, either. By the end of May I'll have a pretty clear picture. And if my intuition is right, this culture will be a lot easier to understand.

March 16, 2010


Whenever things seem to go awfully wrong, there's something out there that puts them back in order without requiring any effort or, for that matter, any contribution from my side. True, I'm very lucky to have some of the best friends a girl could ever hope for so that makes everything a lot easier. After an extra-crappy Sunday evening with loads of snow, which alone could have been enough of a reason to make me feel down, the week started with some great news and with two early Christmas presents. I was expecting books, but was pleasantly surprised to discover they were delivered with chocolates & jewelry. A classical combination that works almost every time, except maybe on those days when I can't stomach any food and don't really feel like wearing anything else but a pair of worn-out jeans and a hoodie. But those days will soon be over. And although I felt like staying in and trying to focus on work as to avoid interacting with too many people, apparently it's not an option. With the release of (yet) another magazine and a fabulous party to celebrate it, the opening of an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art and a concert organized by the people at my favorite art gallery, in a building that's soon to be demolished, things suddenly look a lot brighter than they did on Sunday. And the best part is that Big Brother is flying in from Paris next week, which requires very careful planning and a selection of the best cultural attractions Warsaw has to offer. Focused on out-of-Katowice events in the past few weeks, I almost didn't notice we were only two months away from this year's Taczka Runners and I still don't have a wheelbarrow. I think I'm running out of time.
Staying on the run. With the appropriate soundtrack (one of my most amazing friends reminded me of just how right these guys are when it comes to life issues)

March 13, 2010

Bruising made easy

1. invent an implausible story
2. take your time convincing yourself it's not only plausible, but also probably the best story you'll ever come up with
3. do your best to force reality to fit into the pattern
4. ignore all the signs that it doesn't
5. open your eyes and assess the damage
6. blame yourself for everything but the implausible story you started with

March 9, 2010

Better late than never

Eight months later than expected, it's finally time for my summer holiday. The one I still owed myself. Last year was quite a good one if I don't take into account the fact that I was working like a dork while everyone else was having fun, so now it's my turn :) And because I was rather traumatized by the lack of a decent vacation in 2009, I've already planned another trip in April and one in May. That should be enough of a compensation.
As for this trip, there's a beach involved, but that's about the only thing it might have in common with my usual summer holidays.

March 4, 2010

Spring collection

The following is a theory I developed some time ago, back in those days when I still had time to develop theories, now I'm rather scenario-oriented. Learning foreign languages can sometimes resemble wearing high heels. It's pretty, every tiny step is a tiny victory, at least until the shoes become comfortable enough, but it can also be annoying, painful or even not worth it.

photo: stylediary
Polish was definitely my first pair of stilettos and it followed the pattern: seen 'em, loved 'em, bought 'em - now what? During those first weeks of Polish I was very impatient, I wanted more, I couldn't wait until I'd finally be able to speak fluently, but it was too much of an effort. Much like high heels, it was gorgeous, it made me happy, but it was uncomfortable and tiresome. I was relieved when I could switch to English. The faithful, adorable and colorful pair of Chucks. The ones I'm likely to choose over anything else, no matter how sensational and eye-catching. Even if they don't always fit in the picture or match the outfit- it's a sin I'm happy to commit whenever I have the chance (and I do, very often).
Back in high school I had a thing for Spanish. Which was much like a kitten heel. Comfy, sweet, reliable and pretty without much effort. Not necessarily spectacular, still one of my favorites. But after getting used to wearing stilettos on a daily basis, a low heel feels odd and not entirely wearable. French was similar to a cone heel. Might look good but I never knew what to wear it with and how to make it look good on me. I'll speak French if I have to, but I need to be in the mood for it or to miss speaking it and that hardly ever happens.
As high school was a time for experiments of all sorts, I took a Japanese class for about a year. Totally a prism heel. Very unusual and so not me, the reasons for my attending that class are still unclear but it's ten years now and I might as well let it go. In the same fashion, several years later I had a rather disappointing encounter with German. I felt like one of those runway models falling flat on my face, in shoes that don't fit me at all but that look just perfect on other people.
Yesterday I added a new piece to the collection. Portuguese. Or a really nice and original pair of wedges, with a cosmopolitan - laid-back - sexy look. It has the huge advantage of being closely related to Romanian and that helps a lot. After all, this is the only pair of shoes that's entirely comfortable.
I'm still muzzy about all the Brazilian / European Portuguese differences (especially when it comes to pronunciation) and I think the time has come to have my tongue pierced. Hell, I moved to Poland in order to improve my Polish, what's a tongue piercing compared to that? It's the least I could do, a small step towards a perfect Portuguese pronunciation. It would be great if I could stick to that. Unfortunately, I can already see the pattern: it's going to take me about two years (or less) to decide I just have to move to Portugal, that it's the best place for me, I'll find a job or some studies or both, a house, make new friends and get used to a new city which will eventually not suit me anymore.
Sometimes walking in my shoes can be really exhausting.

March 1, 2010

One of those days

Today I successfully managed to block all my Polish cards. Numbers might not be my thing, but this is just too much. How hard can it be to remember a few digits in the right order, especially when it comes to the cards I use on a daily basis? I don't even want to try using the Romanian cards. Apparently, I'm dealing with a memory-loss situation that might turn out to be more serious than I thought.
The Portuguese course was supposed to start today but the teacher got lost on the way so after 20 very uncomfortable minutes of staring at the walls and at each other, my colleagues and I were told we'll start on Wednesday. Probably.
Came back home to find a poster downstairs informing that one of my neighbours died. I find it very disturbing and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do - if anything. And how do you ignore a poster that delivers such information?
Last but not least, I think I'm coming down with a cold, as Polish spring is never what it seems to be - if it's sunny and warm in the morning, that's hardly a reason to dress accordingly.
By the end of the day, I was frozen, soaked to the skin and grumpier than I've been in a very long time. I'd dye my hair but I'm afraid I'm not ready to deal with the consequences in case I make the tiniest mistake, so instead I'll just wait and see what tomorrow brings.