Thursday, December 30, 2010

A day on the beach

Today's been a very laid back one. Also, I've decided not to go out anywhere in the evening in order to catch up on some reading and gather the necessary strength for tomorrow, as it's going to be craaazy.

Where are you guys spending the last evening of 2010? 

I wanted to go to Goa even before I landed in India. Then some arrangements didn't seem to be working out, so I backed out. About three days later I met a girl who was heading to Goa with her cousin and his friend (with whom I had been hanging out for a while) and said I could crash with her in her hotel room and get a ride in the car with them. It seemed like a heaven's gift, as plane tickets were already expensive and accommodation prices? I didn't even wanna go there.. So Goa was back on. But then my friends started persuading me not to go there, as it would be crowded beyond imagination, full of drunk and drugged people, so totally not my scene.. And so, again, I decided to stay in M-city.
There are a couple of parties I've been invited to and didn't know where to go, but I think it's pretty clear now - I'll be welcoming the new, most exciting 2011 in Azok, which looks amazing!

Yesterday was supposed to be rather quiet but ended up with my going to Trilogy Club in Sea Princess Hotel and later a delcious burger in Novotel's restaurant at 3:00 am.
I woke up indecently late and was ready to work, but my boss was in a hurry for some meeting, and as we were supposed to go over some things together, I was left with a free day (well, afternoon more so, as I woke up at noon...). Was wondering if it still made sense to go downtown, it would take about 1,5-2hrs, then figured - why not spend the day at the beach? So I got ready, found myself a riksha and set off to Juhu Beach.

It's so cute that my Indian friends are worried about me whenever I want to go somewhere on my own :) Sure, I do get bugged, beggars, street vendours etc., but it's a part of this country. Besides, my previous trip has prepared me for it in a way. When I said I wanted to go to the beach, it was suggested that I go to some hotel, enjoy a sunbed etc, because it would be very crowded. Actually, there's only one spot that got crowded at round 4pm, but other than that, the beach's long and wide, and there's plenty of space. So I strolled around for about 2,5 hours taking pictures and enjoying the free time. Of course, there were a couple of people who bugged me a bit and tried to sell me stuff, everyone was staring, some asking to take pictures of/with me. But then again - I was doing the exact same thing, lurking around with my camera!

I had one guy literally follow me for half the beach, trying to take a good pic. Whenever I realised he was pointing his phone at me, I would turn my head around and pretended the water was looking extremely interesting. I thought he'd get the point, but people in here can be very persistent. So there I was walking along the shore with this dude a bit behind me to my right, following my every step. At one point I had to ask for direction, so he passed me, stopped 2 meters away and this time it was him who was finding the sky extremely appealing. I decided I'd had too much and called out to him saying that I wasn't blind and could see him follow me the whole time, so maybe he could drop it already. The guy had the nerve to ask me for a photo but when I looked at him angrily and said no, he finally left me alone.

I was meeting a friend and decided to sit down and write in my journal a bit. Almost nobody tried to speak to me but every 5 minutes I would lift my head up just to find 2 or 3 men standing a meter away and staring at me. Some would even come from behind and try to read what I was writing hehehe

The thing is, it might get annoying after a certain period of time, but there's no reason to worry, no danger. I've heard of girls who got felt up or grabbed from behind, but I guess it's some luck and a lot of good attitude that is needed. What I mean is that I never try to 'hide' in such places, but never mean to stand out, or feel 'special'. Trying to be as positive and respectful as I can. And believe me, people sense it somehow. I always smile at women and children, bow my head when I see elder people and try to very quickly estabilish a kind of a boundary when it comes to men. It has always worked so far and that's why I never think twice about going to 'local places', don't feel at danger. A tourist attraction? Sure. But not unsafe. Let's be honest though, if you were by the Polish seaside and suddenly saw an Indian woman in a colourful sari walking down the beach, wouldn't you stare and wonder what she's doing there? I for one definitely would.

The walk ended with an awfully sweet (howcome their sweet is so much sweeter than ours??) and delicious moccha, and I was ready for my yoga class. I've recently joined those in the park right next to my place. I go there 3 times a week for an hour, and a month of such classes costs me 1 500 IND, roughly about 35$. The teacher's a sweet 20 year old, whose father's been teaching her yoga since she was very little. I've seen him do freezes on his fingertips today...
After yoga it was time for jogging. Today I did 13 laps, which I have to add to every day. I started with 12 last evening (4, strech, 4, strech, 4) and promised myself to add one more every day. I was talking to a friend today and she started laughing, asking if the park was more of a little garden. So no, it's not :P Maybe the laps aren't kilometers long but I think it's still not so bad, seeing how I'm just beginning.
I think I'll have to take a day off from running on Saturday, though..

Wow, my internal clock's so messed up that I don't even realize how late it gets anymore. I was supposed to add some pictures from the last trip, read a book and go to bed early, but it's already 0:45! It means the last day of 2010 has already begun.. I'de better use it wisely.
And so should you my dears!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Movie trivia

Everybody who's ever seen a Bollywood movie knows that they always have two parts. Or rather, an intermission in the middle. It's kind of logical, seeing how the movies are usually about 3 hours long.

The interesting part is that they have those even during Western movies! 
Yesterday I went to see Megamind and when the movie paused, my first thought was that something'd gone wrong.. Today (The tourist - a lot of fun!), I welcomed the intermission with a huge smile on my face, and a full bladder ;) It's also a good time to get some delicious ice-cream or more popcorn & soda, without missing out on a part of the movie. Me likes!

The second thing is Indian censorship. Again, anyone familiar with B-town productions knows that there are no steamy sex scenes, not even steamy kiss scenes. What do they do when such a scene appears in a foreign project? (And let's be honest, they do in 99% of foreign films) 
They cut out a part of the movie. As simple as that.

First India thoughts

I have no idea why it has taken me so long to sit down and start writing. Evenings and nights sure have been crazy, but I had plenty of time during the days.. Anyways, I'm back on track :)

  • Economic disparity
You cannot escape the fact that the income differences in this country are huge. Alarmingly so. The rich are getting more $ as I write, and at the same time there are more and more people literally living on the streets. 
I haven't been anywhere near the slums yet, or the bigger slums I should say, as there are homeless people everywhere. Women with babies on the pavements, children playing on the streets centimetres away from moving cars, people whose 'houses' are little areas of cement between the lanes.
The crowd I've been hanging out with in M City is very well off. Luckily, I've heard some people mention voluntary work or charity donations they make
throughout the year. I've also heard one or more of them make a remark on a civil war or social revolution, which is bound to happen in this country.

The disparity is seen everywhere. Let's say that normally you have 3 or 4 price ranges in European countries. Cheap, affordable, expensive, luxurious. In here there would be about 10 of those. I haven't eaten on the street yet, and have been strongly advised not to do so, but I guess a dinner at a food cart would be around 30 IND (0,70$). In an eatery somewhere in Colaba (most southern part of M City, where all the backpackers hang out), it might be around 50-60 IND (1,5$). In Juhu, one of the three most expensive neighbourhoods, pasta in an Italian restaurant will start at 600 IND (14$), a salad in a nearby cafe will be around 300-400 IND. No idea how expensive the 'expensive' places in here are, but they are completely and utterly out of reach for the vast majority of the Indian population. Just to give you a little background - the affordable snacks at 300-450 IND are a couple of days worth of salary to the staff at my house, as they earn 100 IND a day.
  • Begging
Is everywhere. 
I usually take a riksha if I need to go somewhere alone and I don't really mind the noise, the smell (only sometimes will it really hit me), the wind ruining my hair, the bumpiness of the roads or the fact that people stare at me whenever they realise there's a white girl inside. The part I hate about it is the moment we stop at traffic lights. Why? Because within 10 seconds I will have at least 2 little girls, more often than not with a small baby in their hands, touching me and asking for money. How do you learn to say no? And if I ignore them and not give in, does that mean I'm an insensitive, ruthless person? Because it sure feels so.
I don't know the exact numbers of homeless people in Mumbai, but remember having read in some guidebook that it was about 8 mln or so. Horryfying, if correct. It's more than 4 Warsaws living on the pavement! You can try to imagine then, that wherever you go, aparat from the rich parts of the town, you'll have people allover you, trying to get at least 10 IND. And when you're a tourist? A white girl? Exactly my point.
  • Cars and other luxuries
A thing that has really caught me by surprise is how long it takes people to get a car here. The waiting period can be anything from 2 up to 6 months! And I'm not talking about the high-end personalised ones, but your regular Honda Civic.
The next thing is the tax they pay here, which is outrageous from what I've heard - they pay double the price we do. And still there's so much waiting time - what does that tell you about the poverty in here?
In Poland we also have a high luxurious products tax, which makes f.e. make up more expensive than in Western Europe. But in here, in a good restaurant you'll have to pay 1/4 more - yup, the tax on drinks is 25%. Etc.
  • Family
I've already mentioned family in my previous post. I've attended two family dinners, of about 20-25 people each, a surprise birthday party for one of my boss's cousins, been to a 5 000 m2 family bungalow with 30 family members under one roof.. Family is THE word in here.
And looking at aunties chat and gossip with their nieces, brothers hugging and being most caring about their younger sisters, uncles partying with nephews; being drawn into their circle, although nobody knows me, being asked if I was happy, hungry, sleepy, healthy, glad - about a million times; seeing how lovingly they look one at another.. It has been both depressing and very much uplifting. 

Depressing, because my family's pretty small and we don't get to have that kind of gatherings, they're not filled with so much touch, laugh and joy. Because my cousins and I don't talk on the phone every second day, we don't go out together, haven't been bonding our whole lives.

Uplifting, because it can be done. Of course there's drama, people don't always agree, there are catfights between sisters and aunties, children can be naughty and siblings might fight. But the vibe is different, warmer, somehow more cordial. Uplifting, because I can build that as well.
  •  Friends
I think friends are made fairly easily in here. Of course, it all depends on the level of intimacy and trust we're talking about. But starting the foundations for a future friendship seems not as hard as in Europe. Then again - it's all about the openess and warmth this nation has. 
The great thing, from what I've seen, is that people take care of their relations. Call and see each other often, are in touch with BFFs from junior high long after getting married. I've noticed more 'bonds for life' between friends here, than anywhere else.
  • Food
Is so varied! Veg and non veg, spicy and mild, the kinda sweet I cannot handle and the kind of sweet I adore. Tons of rice, potatoes, dal, my beloved dosa, roti, papad, naan, paneer, in curry or spicy or sweet or salty or whatever else. Plus all the meet stews/sauces or however they should be called. 
The family I stay with is Jain, but not the most orthodox ones - those don't eat anything that grows below the ground, plus no onion or garlic. That's why my khana (food) at home is all veg, and that's why whenever I'm out everybody makes sure I eat some meat. They seem more determined on it than I do hehe
Unfortunately, traditional Indian food is very oily and fatty as well.
  • Colours
All the colours of the rainbow.
In clothes. Although the people I hang out with wear mostly western outfits, the less wealthy part of the society is all about sari and salwar kameez. I love it! And can't wait to dress up Indian style the first moment I have an opportunity to do so. I'll be attending a wedding in Jan, and am literally counting down the days!
In food. Green, yellow, orange, red, brown - you name it!
  • Households
Mumbai's land is one of the most expensive out there and still all the flats and houses I've seen were amazing. Spacious, with terraces, on the top floors, two stories etc.
One thing that I didn't know before coming here is that every Indian needs a bathroom. The ones who can afford to have bigger flats, cannot imagine having to share that piece of space. So for example, the flat I'm staying in has 5 bathrooms. Quite a change from Polish standars, huh?

As to the staff - everybody has staff here. A cook, a helper, a cleaner, a driver.. For Indians it's totally normal not to open a window in the room they're in, but to call on a helper to do it. For me, it's bloody difficult to get used to not even peeling my own fruit. To someone doing my bed, bringing me breakfast, getting me a pen when I can't find one. I guess it sounds amazing, and were I at home right now, I'd probably think "so what is she complaining about?". I don't mean to complain, simply stating my feelings. In Europe, we're told to be independent and self-efficient from a very young age. If your mum cleans your room when you're over the age of 10, there's something wrong with you. You're spoiled and can't take care of yourself. In here, it's ok to be a 30 year old and have a helper get you a fresh towel, so that you don't have to get up to open the closet's door..
On the other hand, I'm all pro-staff in India, 'cause it gives that many more people a roof over their head, good food on the plate and a feeling of belonging somewhere else than on the street. If you live in with a family and are a good employee, they help you and your family out. If there's a weeding, a sudden expense, a funeral that needs to be taken care of - it will be.

  • Partying
Now the good stuff!
There's some crazy partying in Mumbai in December. I've been here for 11 days, and haven't gone out twice. I normally come back at 4, although have had nights out till 6, or 8 on Xmas Eve.. Some cool clubs, fancy bars on the beach; rich, young and beautiful all around.

Kino Cottage in Versova, Xmas Eve

Plus, who knew bollywood mixed up with electro could be so much fun? :D

BTW, a bolly song everyone's going crazy for at the moment.
What's my name? ;)

A bit more on my time in Slovakia

It turns out that one of my tasks here will be writing about the experiences offered by our company. I was asked to think of a little something about the couple of days we spent in Slovakia two weeks ago. I hope the piece serves its purpose. Would you like to travel with us after reading something like this?

Who ever knew that such a small country could be so full of life and offer such unique experiences.. A nation of less than one forth of Mumbai’s population has created numerous opportunities for enjoyment and royal treatment.
Stubborn that I am, I arrived in Bratislava not expecting too much, although the Elan team had been informing me of the luxury that awaited. The moment I stepped into the hotel, I was in a different world. The first word that comes to mind is.. Verona! Every time I was in the lobby, I found myself expecting one Juliet Capulet to sneak a peek at me from above and to see her beloved Romeo rush in from the outside. Simply amazing. Also, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone marvel at a soup the way my friend did in the hotel’s restaurant. His taste buds where satisfied to such an extent, he literally wanted to go into the kitchen and hug the chef!
It got even more magical when one early afternoon I was taken to a petite island, a short drive away from  the capital. I had not foreseen how unique the trip was going to be– a small piece of land was filled with numerous spa resorts and hotels! On my way to the main courtyard I passed a little water drinking spot and it was no normal water, but some 60 degrees Celsius spring water that is said to heal your body, if drank regularly. If it is true, I cannot tell you. But the atmosphere of that place itself sure heals your soul. Imagine one of those quiet, friendly little towns that you must have seen in at least one of the Christmas holiday period ‘feel good about the world’ American movies. The difference being that the beautiful houses around me where not lived in, but they are hotels, where one gets pampered with spa treatments and hot springs baths. I happened to be in Slovakia in December and all was white with snow. There’s a fountain in the middle of the courtyard and I found myself joining a small crowd gathered around it to listen to a choir of traditionally dressed girls and women, beautifully singing Slovak carols. So there I was, standing in the middle of a river, surrounded by local families – parents holding hands, children playing in the snow, listening to a language I couldn’t understand but which filled me with such peacefulness, I honestly didn’t feel the need for any spa treatments anymore. And then, when I thought it couldn’t get any better, believe it or not, it started snowing! I was absolutely enchanted. With that fairytale feeling I entered one of the hot springs resorts and chose to get a mud bath. I prepared and was led to the first of two pools I would be entering that day. I spent 10 minutes in the 38 degrees water and was taken to a 40 degrees one. I didn’t quite know what to expect, as I’d never had a mud bath before. The moment you step into the pool, you feel the softness of mud under your toes. What a funny feeling! I sat there for about 15 minutes enjoying the smoothness of my skin wherever I’d left the mood dry. A member of the staff would come every couple of minutes to check if everything was fine, as it really is rather hot in there. After I went out, I was given a glass of cold water to cool myself down a bit and was led to the relaxation room, where I lay wrapped in a blanket and started getting rid of all the toxins in my system. Quite an evening, if I may say so!
Another great experience awaited just a couple of hours away and was most picturesque – I was driven to High Tatras, the Slovakian mountains, and what a drive that was! Imagine a curvy road leading you up and down the hills covered with trees and snow, in the light of lanterns.. The hotel we reached was beautifully decorated and very stylish. The lobby and the restaurant were nothing, though, when compared to the rooms I’ve seen. The Honeymoon suite? I’ve had my friends tell me they suddenly wanted to propose, just to have an excuse to take their wives there! Custom made furniture, carpets and lamps by Italian designers, and those stairs leading to the rooftop whirlpool.. My second favorite space in the property was definitely the spa area. The scent, the colors, the staff – everything to my taste. But what captivated me most, was the view stretched out in front of the eyes of anyone who comes here. There’s a glass wall outside of which you see a lake, behind which proudly stand the peaks of High Tatras. Outstanding!
After visiting the hotel, we set off to be amazed again, this time with a delicious salad in a restaurant inside a 16th century castle. Yes, you’ve heard me right – there’s a castle turned into a most amazing hotel, partially dating back to the 13th  century! The place breathes history. Its rooms and bathrooms are very spacious and decorated with antiques, so you might find yourself washing your hands above a 300 years old sink! The evening on the way back to Bratislava was yet another hot springs experience, this time in completely different, and unexpected, settings. We parked in front of a modestly looking building and what a surprise it was to discover that I was going to be enjoying spring water inside a cave!  A quarter of an hour inside is enough to make your head spin. Quite literally, at that :) Then it’s time to relax with soft classical music in the background, to be later treated to a massage. I did not feel like leaving this place.. But Bratislava’s nightlife was calling, and I readily obliged. And let me tell you that The Club for sure is THE Club for having fun!


Friday, December 24, 2010

A Merry Little Christmas

Especially to all the friends that are already in my life, but also to those who no longer play a part in it, or have yet to come into the picture -

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas!




Thursday, December 16, 2010

Welcome to India!

Wow, so I'm finally here!
The tiring journey from Europe has ended today at 4:20am, when I landed in Mumbai. Some time to get through immigration (no questions asked, thank God ;), get the luggage and off I went to wait for the driver.
The part of Mumbai I'm staying in is called Andheri West, or Middle Town. Not the most luxurious part of the city, but still one of the best places to be living in. Unfortunately, tourist-wise, it's pretty far away from all the landmarks and attractions, and with the traffic they have here, going downtown is a real hassle. However, it's a really comfortable space that I'll be occupying, have my own room and bathroom. But most of all, the family I'm staying with is of the best kind. Very cordial, welcoming and loving, can't wait to become a part of this household!

It's most heart-warming to see how the members of this family communicate and interact, how close all the aunties, cousins and friends are. I've always wanted a big family, but being an only child, never had one. I'm sure some of their affection will be transferred on to me, so I feel totally reassured.

Because we arrived very late into the night/early in the morning, there was not that much traffic or people on the streets. Didn't get to smell Mumbai either, as from the airport I got straight into an AC car, and was brought home. I'm very happy, as there's a big park 5mins walk away from the flat, so I'll start jogging in the mornings - no excuse that there's no place for that! :)

Work-wise have already some tasks pointed out, but I guess today's still adaptation and rest time. Will start full on tomorrow. That's also when I'm attending my first function- a Christmas party organised by a networking platform for expats, InterNations. What do I wear? ... ;)

Oh, this will be a most exciting time!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Real life education

You know how everyone says how educational travels are?
If I might have had any doubts about that before, then the last 5 days would have proven me totally in the dark.

I am not talking about different cultures, languages, cuisines, not even about other mentalities or views on life. And we do know these are learnt by osmosis while abroad and socializing with foreigners. But the amount of geography and history I have gotten to know is simply amazing. Travelling with two very well-travelled companions (one of whom is very keen on what is what, how it was and why it is now so), chatting people up at airports and in restaurants was worth as much as reading 2 or 3 school books. More, actually.

The feeling I get while listening to their stories, as well as about the world's history or about the countless cities and countries they'd visited, is amazing.
And it really makes me wonder why is it that during geography lessons we have to learn the names of all the world's capitals, but never get to listen about how life looks like in them. That we need to be able to give the exact dates a certain king was in power, but do not put emphasis on the fact how similar the experiences of different nations are, and how close we should be because of that. How much empathy and understaning we should have one for another, 'cause we've all been there, seen and done that. 
Why don't we have travellers, globtrotters come and give lectures at schools?

Just a quick thought review after a tremendously interesting and informative conversation I've had over dinner with a Parsi gentelman I'd met at the airport earlier during the day. One of less than 100 000 members of this ethnic community, of which more than 60 000 live in Mumbai. A very well off and well educated accountant, who's a fan of Lech Walesa and JPII. Amazing knowledge about world's, his region's and, surprisingly enough, Polish history. An evening chat with him has been one of the best history lessons ever.

Why was I having dinner with him, though? I was scheduled to fly to Mumbai from Vienna today at 10:30am. However, at around 10 we'd been informed that the flight was being delayed till further notice, at about 11 it had been cancelled. We were asked to make queue in order to re-book the tickets. It took them 5 hours to get to me. No snacks, no seats. In the beginning, I was trying to be cool about it - joking about spending the night in a hotel in Vienna, taking a walk around, enjoying the Christmas market near the town hall. However, at around 3 pm, I started being very annoyed and even more tired (as most people on that flight, I'd had a very early start - came from Bratislava and had been at the airport since 8:20am).
Finally, when I was at the desk, the lady offered me two connections: 1) Vienna- Frankfurt Frankfurt-Delhi Delhi-Mumbai, and 2) Vienna-Munich Munich-Delhi Delhi-Mumbai. Both of which meant no rest during the next 24 hours and stretching what would normally be a 7,5 hrs journey to two days on the plane and at airports. Luckily, we'd heard that some people got layed over in Vienna, and given tickets for a Vienna - Istanbul and Istanbul-Mumbai connection, so my boss insisted we are given the same ones. 
In a case like this, the airlines have to provide you with a hotel and food vouchers, as well as a car transfer back and forth. Great that they did, but I didn't reach the hotel before 7 pm, by which time I had been completely exhausted. The Parsi gentelman was one of the people whose company made the waiting time a bit less boring and unpleasant. We are on the same flights tomorrow and I pray we have some more time to talk.

As to staying one more night in Vienna - I was actually quite happy about it, till the time I realised my coat had been checked in and with the minus temperature that we have, there was no way of leaving the hotel with only a sweater on. But maybe it's for the better, as I would have gone out, and wouldn't have had the pleasure of talking to my Parsi interlocutor.

I hope it won't be too cold in the morning, as I'm meeting with a guy I'd met when out clubbing in Bratislava on Saturday. The hotel I'm staying at is really central Vienna, so would hate to loose the opportunity of at least a short stroll around. We're meeting at 9 am and I've a taxi come fetch me at 11am.

Am really knackered, so this is good night!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Living up to the tittle

If this is how my job and life are going to look like in the following months, then I've found my professional heaven.

The last 48 hrs have seen a wine and cheese evening, clubbing like nobody's business with a crazy international crowd, 5* hotels' inspections, mud baths in spas, restaurants in hotels and dining at a château.  

Tonight is the cherry on top, as I am staying in a luxurious hotel in the middle of Slovak High Tatras.

Simply, living the dream.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

And she's off..

After a very stressful day thanks to the company that's in charge of issuing Indian visas in Poland, I am finally ready to leave.

A backpack on by back, a suitcase in one hand and my passport in the other, I'm setting off and singing the second song that's been on my mind lately.

Monday, December 6, 2010

All this time

I am sure that from time to time everyone hears a song that really speaks to them. Lyrics they feel they can relate to, however cheesy that might sound. There've been two on my mind recently, though I just want to mention one of them today.

I guess everyone has different complexes and most of them have started somewhere in primary school, as this is the time when the awareness of ourselves and our environment begins. For the first time, it really matters what we wear, whom we befriend, how others see us and if we fit the crowd. I think it's also the time we want to fit in the most, and the feeling continues in junior high school, maybe a bit of high school. But it's in primary school that we get labeled and experience the power of popularity, as well as being laughed at and rejected, if we're the less lucky kind.

The images and ideas we have about ourselves in correlation with others, which have been imprinted on our minds, tend to stay with us for a very long time. They did with me, anyways.
I grew, I developed and I changed, but still whom I mostly saw was a girl who's been laughed at one too many times, who's struggled with the way she looks and behaves, and who's been very low on self-confidence for way longer than she should have.

And then suddenly there comes a day when things really change. Or is it more that we finaly see the change that'd been happening all the time? We realise what's in the past is in the past, and that there's nothing stopping us from what we want here and now. Also, that it's the others who should fit our taste and that we have a say in how our world is constructed. And in a way that's the moment we start our lives anew.
That push can be anything I suppose. From the boyfriend who's our self-esteem booster, to a book that inspires us, to a conversation with a total stranger we have on the bus one day.

At the same time, it is true that we sometimes get to meet some of the people whom we'd let make us miserable, and see them for what they really are. Which is nothing more than human. And honestly, a lot of times less fortunate than ourselves. At least that's the case with me and the mean girls who used to tease and criticize me years ago. They might not be homeless nor surrounded by babies, but I wouldn't want to be in their shoes, not for a day. Even if you paid me really good money.

Why? I might not be writing pop songs, but I am beginning to live my dreams and travel the world.  And I thank those girls 'cause they helped me become who I am today, by showing me whom I never want to be.

When I think how it all came to be, I find no other answer than : " All this time, I've had it in me."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


A little something I'm over the moon happy about at the moment.

Some background might come in handy.
I spent a year in Brussels trying to learn French (along with other very useful things, although irrelevant to the story at hand).
In my French class I had two good friends, both of them happened to be Austrian, none of them living in Vienna.
B I haven't seen for almost two years now! I think she left the city somewhere in December 2008. We stayed in touch for a while but then, as it unfortunately happens all too often, we didn't talk. Fortunately, we've found a way back to each other (blessed be fb!) and do update each other once in a while.
D was in Belgium almost as long as I was, which means we haven't seen each other since June 2009. Also here fb turned out to be civilisation's great gift.

The plane that's going to fly me all the way to India takes off in the Austrian capital. I've been meaning to somehow meet with B & D for quite a while now, but it wasn't in meant to be. Decided their coming to Vienna would be a lot easier than to Warsaw, so sent a message asking if they'd be willing to take the train ride and see me there. I'm meeting my future boss on Dec 10th and wanted to take the morning train to have a couple of hours in this beautiful city. Also considered going a day earlier and finding a host to have the opportunity to get to know the place a bit better.
Got the reply from D - it so happens that she's got an errand to run in Vienna on the 10th.
Got the reply from B - it so happens that she's got a long weekend, 9th thru 12th and can definitely come. We can even stay at her relative's place.
What a coincidence, huh?

Oh, another thing from today. 
I was looking for my flight using skyscanner but got redirected to opodo for the booking operation. Got my ticket confirmation and all was peachy. Till someone from opodo called me today in the morning to inform me that they couldn't sell me the ticket afterall. It's operated by Air India and they'd missed the fact. If they sold me the ticket, they'd have to pay a fine (don't ask me). So in short, they told me they would give me back my money, and I was screwed (they could sell me a ticket for the same flight but from Austrian's ticket pool and it would cost me about 250€ more). I went on expedia, my second choice search engine, and managed to find the same flight, only about 15€ cheaper than the one I'd originally bought.
Go figure.

By the way;
What is your take on a thing called "coincidence"? Do you believe in such a concept?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Luck and expectations in life

I've said it more than once and it has also been noticed by others on numerous occasions - I'm one lucky gal.

Granted, I've had my ups and downs, hit a couple of bottoms (not that deep, fortunately!) but also got to see some pretty amazing things from up above (the last one being sunrise from the summit of Rinjani). However, I've always somehow gotten to be in the right place at the right time, meet just the person I needed or say that one little thing which would make everything work out.

The last couple of months have been a crazy period in my life, seeing my graduation, attitude alterations, first backpacking trip thousands of miles away from home, expectations met, expectations crushed, amazing people (and not so many not amazing ones) along the way. Whatever my view on an exeprience while it was in course, the effect has always been somewhat positive. Or maybe that's just thanks to the beforementioned attitude alterations.

The luck I'd had during my whole univeristy career ran out the day of my thesis defence. By luck meaning somehow passing all the exams, with not too bad a note most of the time, without almost any work at all. By the running out part - getting a question I had no idea how to answer during the last exam ever. But I think that's not bad for 3 years of studying, am I right or am I right?
But honestly, that's the only so-called meaningful occasion I recall that my lucky star wasn't guiding the way.
As to the positive coincidences, lucky situations and fruitful random meetings? Tons.

Starting with all the little things that make your everyday life pleasant, like making it for the bus there was no way of making it for or getting two drinks in price of one during the happy hour they somehow don't advertise anywhere, to all those little things that seem to save your life in extraordinary times. Like someone finding a pair of clean, warm socks in your base camp during a three-day volcano trek that you weren't prepared for at all, having the total of one pair of constantly wet and dirty ankle-length socks you had on you, to doing the island hopping somewhere in the middle of Indonesia, having no place to stay upon arrival to your destination and meeting three lovely girls you'd previously chatted with a week beforehand on one of the small, almost deserted islands, and together managing to rent out a nice clean room in a cool homestay you wouldn't want to pay for if you were there by yourself, to later going out with one of those girls so that you can steal her clothes in a club to take part in a dance contest (that you happen to win some $ in). Not to mention getting to know all those great people and hosts (a huge CS fan!) who make your trip all the more worthwhile.

Why all this talk here?
Because my going to India is nothing more but another 'lucky' thing. I wasn't looking for a job  and I happened to stumble across a possibly perfect one. One, which could be the beginning point of a very satisfying career. Which I wasn't meaning to start at the moment, either.

And here comes the second part - expectations. Should we have, feed or try to escape them?
I do generally trust my gut feeling and instincts but I have been known to make some mistakes. The last one before a trip I came back from three weeks ago.
The thing is, I tend to trust people too much, to the point of naïvety. And naive I was, thinking that things would just magically work out without much talk or thought. It was so not the case. In the end, the whole trip turned out to be amazing, but definitely not thanks to the circumstances I'd previewed.

As much as I don't want to think about the internship too much, I can't escape the results of all the commotion that had been taking place in my head just a few days ago. And by results I mean the E-word.
I mean, they do cause you trouble, right?
You sit in the comfort of your own room, imagining, and what is more important - convincing yourself, what things will be like. All the wonderful things you'll see, the opportunities you'll be presented with, the people you'll have a blast with. It is fine, to a certain point, as that's what mainly drives us - the promise of a dream come true. However, if, upon arrival, the reality doesn't fit the frames you'd so meticulously prepared, you're dissapointed. The views might still be beautiful but you won't care for them much, as the weather's not as perfect as you'd want it to be. The food might be delicious, the people around you friendly and most welcoming, but you'll be down because the one person you want to be this way, isn't so.
If you're lucky enough, you'll realise that thanks to that cold and rainy weather during your hike, you've proven to yourself just how hardy you are. That because your travel companion isn't good company, you meet people whom you befriend and find comfort in. But there always is that moment of pain, of emotional distress, when regret enters your thoughts.

At the same time, if only you'd figured out a way to NOT have expectations. You couldn't help but be happy. You would take life as it comes and accept everything that's being thrown your way. You'd know  - this is how it IS, so this is exactly how it SHOULD be. Afterall, if it shouldn't be like this - it simply wouldn't.

So that's exactly one of the goals - approach everything with a clear and open mind. Try to escape frames and check lists, make those up as I go. That way you can't go wrong - they will always be a perfect match.

And so the countdown begins..

Exactly three weeks from now I'll find myself standing in the middle of a busy crowd of people somewhere in the middle of the huge metropolis that is Mumbai.

It seems the most unusual thing, seeing how I'm at home in Warsaw and was meaning to stay here till the beginning of April 2011. It has been proven to me many times over how true the saying "God laughs when people make plans" is. Luckily, this time it turned out to be a very merry and loving chuckle that is taking me on yet another adventure. Hopefully, a very successful one at that. 

It was all very random and spontaneous but the decision to leave was far from reckless. 
However, meeting a person over a drink and taking an internship offer on another continent within a couple hours of having met one another might sound a bit ... hotheaded. I guess this is why whenever I tell my friends about how the whole thing went down they look at me stupefied and call me crazy. But they mean positive crazy. 
I assume.

As I've quite recently found out, the best things in life are the spur-of-the-moments we stumble across while making our way through everyday routine. The only question here is whether we are willing to jump in and see where the current of life, and our decisions, takes us. Seeing how Ganga is the sacred river for millions of Hindu I can only hope the current will be a generous one.

I've once had this big crush on Bollywood, which later turned into a crush on India itself. I had been planning a backpacking trip around the country a couple of years back, but ended up not going there. Not seeing the Taj, not trekking the Himalayas, nor acting in one of the movies I used to enjoy so much. As far as last month, while sitting in a room my best friend's renting on Java in Indonesia, I was reminiscing about how I once yearned for a trip to India and how that had somehow gotten lost along the way. Sometimes life's got this funny way of reminding us of what we had once dreamt of and giving us a second shot at whatever craziness it might be. So my time's up, and India awaits.
It will definitely be nothing short of exciting!

However, now it's the time to arrange all the formalities, bank accounts etc., pack a part of my room into boxes so that my folks have a bit more space at home and throw a kickass farewell party ;)