I made it!

Welcome to Russia, the country where the roads are dusty, the women dress up for everyday life as if they’re going to a party, where no one smiles at you, where those you know will feed you endlessly.

I made it, darlings. This year, I made it. I could barely believe it when I got out of the plane. It was already really dark, I had been traveling all day, so when I got out of that thing, I was just smiling weirdly. Isn’t this one of the weirdest thing I’ve ever done? Going to Russia all alone? But I can tell you: I’m doing very well. I managed to slice my feet by wearing new shoes, but next to that it’s going well. People tell me I talk well in Russian, that I barely have any accent, and so far I’m not impressed by their lack of smiling or effort to be nice to strangers.

The amount of strange things here is quite great. Everything is in Russian style, but that makes it so interesting. Also, strange things can be very cool. Since last night I can add drinking apple juice at 3 am while eating a good salad after having danced like crazy in a pub to my list of Weird Stuff That Just Seems To Happen. Now that’s the kind of thing I like – random, absurd, but absolutely good.

In Poland it took me about a month before I seemed to do something, for real. But here I dived into it and now it feels like I’m making the most of it already. I’ve been drinking beer with friends, I’ve gone dancing, I’ve gone to my classes, everything seems to go faster.

And that is good.

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Once upon a time in a coffee bar

Once upon a time, when I still lived in Poland, I was working in a very atmospheric little coffee bar close to my home. The coffee was very good and very cheap as well, in comparison to my country and other cities. Of course I didn’t live in Warsaw. There were bikes hanging at the wall, even better, bikes cut in half. The menu was taped on vinyl plates. It was a great and quiet place, perfect for work.

So I sat there, trying to do something useful though I couldn’t focus – nothing new. Then I noticed that the music was getting quite 80s. There is some special beat about this music, which makes it easy for me to put songs into categories. It’s such a “danceable” beat, you know. Take any 80s song and you’ll know what I mean.

So they put on this cd with the unmistakable 80s beat, and modern as I am, I shazamed it. (For those who are like I once was: shazam is an application that recognises music. Sometimes. Anything but classical in my experience.) It turned out to be SoKo.

SoKo? I’ll kill her SoKo?

Exactly. Apparently she has this 80s inspired cd now, which was just perfect to put on when I was packing all my things on the rainy last day in Poland. The catchiest (apparently this is not a word, but I’m keeping it anyway) songs are Who wears the pants? , My Precious and Temporary Mood Swings. Then I stumbled upon the white raven, as we say here. One of the songs on the cd wasn’t like the others. It was a quiet, sad break up song. I played it almost on repeat.

From then on, I have been stumbling on more songs of her, which without exception were played almost on repeat. I don’t know what it is, but something about those songs catches my eye, or rather, my ear, and makes me addicted. After Keaton’s song, as described above, there was Don’t you touch me, which has this beautiful sad anger about it. It beautifully builds up to a climax. Great song when you are struggling with liking someone who doesn’t like you back.

On a quiet, not peaceful evening before the exam I still had to take here, I put on I’ve been alone too long, and immediately had a new target to play on repeat. It fitted the situation a bit. I was almost all alone in the city of my university, where I dramatically didn’t want to be. As soon as I arrived in that city, I felt everything overwhelming me. Everything I had been through there flushed over me and fucked my mind up. I was happy to stay over at my brother’s place there, so I wouldn’t be confronted with more memories. While revising, I put the song on repeat. It has this calmness that I need when I revise.

The exam went well, and I spent a great day there, with friends, beer and sun. I crawled out of the wave of memories, luckily.

I’m still not free, because I have to finish my bachelorpaper. Since I write on a computer, modern as I am, I play music all the time. It’s extremely boring when you work without music, isn’t it? So I clicked on yet another SoKo song, Why do you treat me like you do? , which is a cover. It has a sort of country thing to it, although it’s not country. Lovely to sing along, I can tell you that. Catchy, but in a very different way than the 80s style songs. But catchy still!

Right now, my latest crush is Treat your woman right, which is an equally sad song about loving someone who doesn’t like you back. (Okay, I may have issues, what about it?) Above all the haunting humming makes this so very touching for me. It’s hard to explain what it is, but it has this feeling to it, this atmospheric sad feeling. I try not to kill it by playing it too much, but that’s hard. I could hear it all day. And I am hearing it all day. I can’t stop it.

This is a serious music crush, as you can see. I like the way this music is intertwined with my life though. It’s not important whether I relate to the lyrics or not, although I do for a part of course, because the music in itself is enough to make its way into my head and heart. Next to that it reminds me of the time spent in the coffee bar, of the rainy day I spent packing, the strange evening spent in the city of my university, and everything that came after. Life is unexplainable and unpredictable. And life needs a soundtrack. For the moment, mine is SoKo.

Home is where the heart is, they say

Life just keeps going.

In about two weeks I moved my life back from Poland to Belgium, and I’ve done my last exam here. For this year, at least. As soon as I settled down a little here, I had to start studying again. Let’s just say I jump from one thing into the other without catching a break. Right now, I’m working on my bachelor thesis as well – because that thing has to be finished as soon as possible, before I start working.

I’m one busy creature. Maybe it’s for the better, so I don’t get all too nostalgic to Poland. During the last weeks, I felt as if my life there had finally become the life I wanted to have there. Leaving that country was not something I was looking forward to. Things were going well, my Polish was improving, life looked good, but then I had to return home.

Which of course isn’t so bad either. I’m happy to see my family again, that’s for sure! And when I was at a cafe with friends, I had to admit that life in Belgium has its very, very good sides. The biggest downside is that everyone speaks Dutch. What am I doing here if I can’t improve my other languages? I’ve never felt so sure that I want to go to Russia. Despite all the effort and stress and waiting, I have to go to Russia. I want my Russian to become even more fluent than my Polish, and I know that it’s possible. Also, I know that after two months here, I will be longing to something different again.

I can notice that I have changed these past months. (Luckily – what is the point of doing something like this if you don’t notice any difference?) In short, I think it is independency. I don’t need people to feel at ease, I don’t need people to cook for me. It’s very much appreciated if I have them around, and having my parents helping me out is great, it’s awesome! But my point is, if they wouldn’t cook and wash and do stuff for me, I would be able to do it for myself. That is a great feeling. Also, try to impress me – I speak Polish and Russian and traveled on my own with two heavy suitcases to Poland. You won’t knock me off my feet all that easily!

If home is where your heart is, then I will have many homes. I think my heart will be shattered all over the world. I went to Poland and made it mine. A little piece of my heart is still there.

And that’s how I like it. These five months have made me more independent and more fluent in Polish, and at the same time they made Poland like a second home for me. It’s not always been easy and fun, but in the end it was worth the effort. This is an experience I will always carry with me.

Now who wants some pierogi!

Going solo

Loneliness is a scary thing. As much as I like being on my own sometimes, I need people around me. They don’t even necessarily need to talk to me. Just being surrounded by people is sometimes sufficient. So when my flatmate/friend said she was leaving way earlier than I thought, I was a little scared at first. So I will have to live here for two weeks on my own? Completely alone? Also, I wanted to travel still, and I thought we can do that together. But it seemed that those plans were no longer in the running.

It took me a few days to get used to the idea, and to even look forward to it a little. When my flatmate left, I felt at ease. Not because I don’t like her company, because I do, but suddenly I could do whatever I wanted. The flat is mine now. Each and every sound each and every piece of rubbish is mine. There’s no one to blame but myself. I can play music as loud as I want, I can dance around the house if I want to, I can sing out loud and so on. There are no limits.

It’s not like much has changed. I just barely use headphones anymore, and you can regularly hear me sing ‘we built the pyramids!’. (If you don’t get this: Big Bang Theory…) Maybe it’s mainly the idea of freedom that makes me happy. However nice it was to have her as a flatmate, you always have certain limits when you are not alone.

I took it a step further when I decided to travel on my own. Which sounds very spectacular, though it’s not. I didn’t want to spend an entire week just at home, so I traveled to a city in Poland where some of my friends were still studying. I did spend eight hours on a train on my own, slept in my hostel alone, and walked around alone half of the time. In the evenings I still had my friends to hang out with. It was a partial solo trip, which I enjoyed a lot. I even felt good, walking around with my map and figuring everything out. Who knew I wasn’t that bad at reading maps? I even noticed that I knew way better what I was looking at. And never, not a single second, not even while eating on my own, I felt uncomfortable.

Now this is something I really like. I’ve never really liked doing things on my own, because often I thought people would think I don’t have friends, they might mock me, and so on. Doing this trip on my own showed me that I no longer think that. Now I even subconsciously realise that it’s no one’s business, and that most people don’t really think about why you are alone somewhere. Why would they? Rationally I’ve known this for years, but now I even felt it, in a way.

Going solo isn’t that big of a deal. It gives a certain amount of freedom. Sometimes it’s easier when you are the only one who has to decide something. All you need is company every now and then. When you have the right balance, you can enjoy both to the max.

Isn’t that quite the life lesson I just got here?

Home and away

Studying abroad is some busy business, let me tell you that. Since my last post I have been busy visiting cities, making tests, and being ill. The travels were really good, it’s always nice to visit places that are very different from your own city. I’ve been to the sea-side at Easter Break, and in Łódź. That last one has so many nice restaurants and cafes, it’s really a young city, as we say! Also, we went to a Balkan party there, and god, what a party…! It’s been a while since I’ve had such a lovely party. They really played Balkan music, all night long, and everyone was dancing, and it was so nice. I had the greatest time, so great that I had muscle ache the next day because of dancing so much. But it was worth it! Just perfect.

The only downside to the travels was that it was often quite cold… Together with the busy week of an exam and three tests and tiredness, it caused me to pay the price – I fell ill. The last time this happened, I was 15, so I didn’t really expect it anymore! Yesterday I almost didn’t leave my bed, because I couldn’t stay upright, or even sit up, for longer than 5 minutes without falling down again. Such joy… But today things are already way better, luckily. I don’t have my voice back completely, but hey, at least I can walk around again!

Also, if that is the price I have to pay for that Balkan party, than I’m willing to pay.

Next to that it gives you a new look on your priorities. Now I’m so happy that I can look down without my head aching, I’m happy that I can walk around without falling, and that I don’t feel knives in my head the entire time anymore. Life is so pretty now!

As for the guy from this post, well, it seems that I’m getting good at cleaning the mess I’ve made. Of course the situation is somewhat more complicated than I told you, but last week I decided that the best way to get an answer is to ask for it. So I sent him a text asking why I didn’t hear anything from him anymore. (Then I shut down my phone in a flash of nervosity. Then I realised how stupid it was, turned it back on and put it in the kitchen so I wouldn’t hear the sound of a text message coming in.) He gave some lame excuse about thinking I was home for the holidays (I wasn’t of course) and something about being drunk. I didn’t fully get it, so I asked what he meant by that. Maybe that sounded a bit aggressive, because he texted back that we will meet some day and then he would explain it.

Eh, okay. I’m not convinced this will actually happen, for some reason (guess which one). At least I tried, I have proven to be the more adult one by trying to have a normal, rational conversation. If he had told me straight away what the real reason was, even if it would have been that he wasn’t really interested in me, then I would just have understood it. But oh well, I can’t be bothered with it anymore. I might be heading towards more adventures, so this one is ready to be the past.

As for the ‘I thought you’d be home during the holidays’, I must say there’s a strange tendency to think that here! No one asked me what I was doing during Easter break. They always asked if I was going home during Easter break. Errm no, I have only been here for two and a half months now, why would I go home already? I didn’t go studying abroad just to run home as soon as I have the chance. I surely miss some people and some things about Belgium, but despite that I feel like this is my home now. This is my town. I noticed how true that was when I was walking around in the cities I visited. I started saying things like ‘in my city it’s like this or that’, or ‘oh, we have the same thing over at us!’. Next week , my parents will visit me, and I already look forward to showing them around here, because I’m proud of my city, I think it’s pretty and full of good things. We have a lovely old town and a lovely big park right in the centre of the city. It’s just a good place to live, and I can’t wait to show them around in my new world here. This is my home. I feel it every time I arrive at the train station again. This is what I know best and this is what returning home feels like. I will surely be happy to be back in Belgium and to see my friends again and to go to a real good Belgian cafe again, but until then you can leave me here!

Worry not…

… I haven’t decided to go living under a rock! However appealing that may be sometimes, I still prefer a duvet. My absence here is actually not because I’ve been hiding from life, but because I’ve been living very much. The past week I went on a skiing holiday, which was so awesome. We were part of a group, though we didn’t know a lot of people of this very group. But it’s entertaining to have all these new and kind people around you. It gives some variety, you know. Next to that, the snow was brilliant. Amazing. Perfect! I can’t remember ever having had suchgood conditions. Temperatures slightly below zero, ‘fresh’ snow, sunlight – it was almost too good to be true.

Well, actually, some people had bad luck, but overall I think for me this holiday was very, very good. It made all my worries about going to Poland and about my grades disappear like snow in the sun, as we say it here. (See what I did there?) As soon as I got home, it started again though.

snow

SNOOOOW source

 

On Monday I traveled to Poland, on my own. I’ve never traveled alone before. And it wasn’t just taking a plane, it was also taking a taxi and a train, with two heavy cases, and all in Polish. Huzzah! But with the help of the very kind and helpful Polish man, and people in general, all went well. Also, on the plane I had a very kind neighbour girl. We talked in Polish for the full two hours. She was so very kind, a lot of good karma must come her way!

So all went well, and now I’m not scared of anything anymore. (In theory, at least. But still. I feel a little badass.)

I got my grades on that very same Monday, but needless to say I thought all the travel stress was enough for one day. The next day though I couldn’t escape anymore. There are some reasons as to why I couldn’t postpone anymore, and there are some reasons why a failed class would be a giant problem. You see, I don’t have a room in the city of my university anymore, because I rented one of another girl who was gone for the semester. So technically the room was always hers. But when you fail a class, you have to retake the exam, so you have to be in the city of the university.
Which only adds to the joy of looking at yout grades, am I right?

But no stress was need, ’cause I passed them all! And some with flying colours. Especially my languages, which are very important to me, were very good. Oh the happiness, the relief! My friend and now flatmate and I opened a bottle of ‘something’ to celebrate. She got the bottle from another friend and didn’t know what it was. It turned out to be a sort of sweet bubbly wine thing. Lemonade with alcohol basically. But hey, it was good to celebrate!

So that’s what I have been doing for the last week(s). Also, I started a new blog, in my own native language this time, to keep my family and friends updated on what’s going on in my life. (For privacy reasons I’m not sharing the link.) This means though that all my wild adventures (that are hopefully yet to come!) will be posted there and not here. You will get to hear some things about Poland, but mainly this blog is going to be the same as it was. I don’t know if that’s good or bad news to you, but hey, I hope you’re at least happy that I’m still gonna be here 😉

That’s Too Bag

As a woman, I don’t understand how men survive without bags. This might have something to do with the size of ladies’ wallets and pockets. I have a giant wallet and yet that is not because of all the money in it (unfortunately). Next to that I know own a smart phone – almost the smallest you can find, but still too big for the pockets in my jeans and other trousers.

Long story short: I carry bags with me wherever I go. And I’m okay with that. It means I can carry tissues with me, and lip balm, and sun glasses, when the sun shines. A bottle of water, some food, a book. A vest. You know – stuff. Wherever I go, I need stuff. And hence, a bag.

I like bags though. I like seeing beautiful bags in a shop, or hanging from my arm. Not that I own many, because a good bag is expensive, but still. I have one little black bag which my mother had bought when she was my age more or less. I’m still using it often – so very useful. Next to that I have a few other bags, but truth be told: they suffer. They suffer because I use them to stuff things in. The bag I used to take with me to class (and to cafes) has died. So recently I bought another bag to sill have one for school.

Say hello to my new love, the Cowboy Bag. It’s pretty giant, but that’s okay, since I will use it as hand luggage on planes too. You can stuff it, it all fits. It’s my new partner in crime when I go out for the day too. When buying this, I imagined myself traveling around with this bag, sitting in trains and airports and going to class with my bottle of water (1,5l).

Sometimes it feels like  a bag is more than a means of transport. Sometimes it feels as if it’s a partner in crime, a mate who accompanies you everywhere. A reliable one. So yes, I can kind of fall in love with them, and get all enthusiastic about the topic.

Do you like bags? Do you carry them around and love them? And if you’re a man: how do you manage without them?

Badassness (with Irene Adler)

It seems like the stream of bad news hasn’t come to an end yet. As things turn out, I will be going to Russia on my own, with a delay of a month. On my own! A month too late! I’m only a little bit completely terrified.

There is a big upside though. If I survive this, nothing can scare me anymore. Without a doubt this will be the most badass thing I’ve ever done, maybe even the most badass thing I’ll ever do. Being badass is something good. I mean, the real badassness. Not the ‘look I can drink two bottles of vodka in an hour’ kind of badass. No, I mean the ‘I’m just going to do this shit’ kind of badass.

According to the Urban Dictionary, there are a few explanations as to what this ‘badass’ thing is. (I guess that counts for every word you can think of.) Here are some rules the dictionary presents us:

Unspoken Rules of Being Badass:
1. First rule of being a badass. A badass does not talk about being a badass. Period.

2. Second rule of being a badass, a badass does not try to be a badass or look tough. A badass simply is a badass.

3. A badass stays true to themselves, always. This means being themselves for themselves, and not being fake to impress others.

4. A badass does not give up. Badasses will always push themselves for the better, no matter how hard it gets.

It seems that they aren’t so unspoken anymore, but okay. I’ve broken the first rule already, unfortunately. Does anyone else notice the movie reference I suspect here?
I’m doing a good job on the second one though. I don’t want to be badass! I’d much rather go together with a friend and on time to Russia! This is just a case of ‘I didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose me’.

And, if I’m bragging anyway, the fourth rule definitely fits as well. I have spent quite some time trying to get this shit done. If I get to go, it will be because of me, and not because of anyone else. I arranged it. I found out what we needed to do, and I did it. And even with the delay and sudden loss of company, I will still go. I don’t want to give up now. Not now, after everything I have done.

Luckily there are always examples when you need them. After recently having re-watched Sherlock Holmes, I have found Irene Adler a fitting example of old school badassness. Look at the clip, note this catchy soundtrack and enjoy the powah.

Oh the Panic

Have you ever been in a situation where you really, really wanted something, and then, when it got real, you got a panic attack because you’re not completely sure?

I’m in that position now. I’ve been saying I want to study abroad for quite a while now, but we finally got a list with possible destinations, and suddenly I would love to stay at home and stay here and not go away. As soon as I saw the list, panic rushed through me.

Shit’s getting real! Fuck! But I’m not really sure about this! I don’t know anything about this!

It’s true that there is still a lot to be done before I can really go studying abroad. Lots of documents, lots of stuff, lots of everything. That kinda scares me, because I’m always afraid of doing something wrong. Next to that the deadline to send all the documents needed to actually have a chance is really soon. Communication has been hard, so we were informed about this very late and now suddenly everything has to happen in a hurry.

It’s not the moment to hesitate. I’ve been saying I want this for quite a while now. I’ve been hearing stories of people liking it. But now suddenly, I’ve come to realize I will leave my family and friends behind and now it scares me.

It’s a great opportunity though, for a language student. I know I have to do it. But I really hope the panic will be replaced by enthusiasm soon…

Why libraries are like swimming pools

My concentration span is ridiculous. Pathetic. Disastrous. My priorities are good, but not good enough – when I’ve got Internet, music becomes my priority, and nothing else. Or writing. Or checking 9gag. I know very well what to do in case I don’t want to work – which is often. I thought it was impossible to change that, until I made a radical decision:

I would go studying in the library.

Now, that was radical. Normally I like to eat and drink whenever I want, or I need music, or… No. I threw all excuses overboard and grew some balls. There I went, straight to the library, where it was bloody warm, but I sat near the window and put my books in front of me. Strangely enough, this actually worked. Or rather, I actually worked. By the time I left the library, I had seen quite a big part of what I still had to see that day. Without a break. I managed to keep on going for four hours straight, only looking up to see what other people were doing. Because, yeah, I still needed to know what was happening around me, you know. These things are important as well.

Then one day, I went to the library, fully prepared – not dressed all too warm because it’s really hot in there, but with a scarf and a big bottle of water. I sat down, put my books in front of me and suddenly felt something weird.

It felt like holiday. It smelt like swimming pools.

It took me a few minutes to figure out what this was. How can studying feel like being on a holiday? This wasn’t meant to be fun at all. So how could I smell swimming pools?

Is this a library?

Then I realized what it was. I don’t know if you, reader, have had the pleasure of going to hotels while on vacation? And if yes, did those hotels have swimming pools? Or did your camping place have one nearby? Because then you might know why I felt this weird way. You know, when you go to a hotel, there are many people you don’t know. In fact, you probably don’t know a single one of them (though sometimes you do – I’ve been there). But after a while, you recognise them and they start to feel so familiar. Even though you haven’t talked with them, it still feels as if they’re some kind of friends, or acquaintances. When it comes to the swimming pool though, you become enemies – everyone wants a good place there. Sometimes people put their towels on a sunlounger in the morning already, so their place is safe for the afternoon. You have to be in time to have a lounger there.

And that’s exactly how the library worked. I couldn’t study at my floor because there was too little space, so I sat in between people I didn’t know. After a while, after a day more precisely, they started feeling familiar. If you weren’t on time though, you might not have a seat where you normally sat.

Very swimming pool.

I like studying in a library. Because there are still people, because it makes you put on nice clothes, because there is barely anything else to pay attention to. Okay, I have to admit I saw every movement around me, and I mostly knew what the others were wearing, but next to that, I would really pay attention to my books. It made me feel better to actually do something. And it smelt like swimming pools. In some twisted way, that made it lighter…