Ending Winter & Airing Thoughts
A life update since I've been busy.
It’s been over three months since I’ve written anything here so I figured I ought to write something sooner than later. I’ve been writing and reading my ass off the past three or so months but I’ve had no chance to publish or finalize much of anything yet, especially in regards to my ever looming thesis.
Back to Kraków & A New Job
In mid-January I returned back to “normal life” and university work in Kraków. While I was in the US I was lucky enough to coordinate a job teaching English to a few students that need assistance with English language in the classroom at an international school in the city. I had already been teaching English privately for a few months before I was contacted by the school to help out a student in particular. Even though there is only a few particular students I’m supposed to be directly teaching, you end up teaching everyone at the end of the day. Fortunately enough the university scheduling is so backwards that I was somehow able to get all evening classes and block classes, which was never an option before. So I’ve achieved a near perfect work-school balance, but that also leaves me with sparse time for my personal life. Along with thesis work it can be messy somedays. Ultimately I prefer not being broke so there’s not much use in complaining.
February and March have been medical nightmares for me. In the middle of February I had a freak one-off partial seizure while teaching an English lesson. I did an MRI and an EEG the following week. Everything presented normal, meaning it was just a freak occurance. Then, I’ve spent almost half of March in bed with a sinus infection that I cannot get rid of for the life of me. Of course I had more doctors visits and was given a long list of medications to take. Overall the end of winter took its toll on my health. I’m tired of being sick all the time and hoping the changing seasons will help with that.
What I’ve Been Listening Too
When it comes to music I’ve been listening to a mix of jazz (of course) and some dance-pop. I’ll start with the dance-pop before I continue with my jazz recommendation.
Caroline Polachek’s album “Desire, I Want To Turn Into You”
Polachek was a new artist for me, as I hadn’t listened to anything close to this since I obliged in buying Grime’s “Visions” album on vinyl when I was a high-schooler in 2016. This is one of those albums that has insane hot girl energy but in a weird overpriced shared apartment in Brooklyn type of way if that makes any sense at all.
Christian McBride’s album “Live at the Village Vanguard”
I’ve had this album running on repeat for about a month now. I don’t tend to listen to a lot of recently published jazz musicians. Somedays my music taste are like that of an old man fiddling with a cassette of Charlie Parker in their beige 1996 Mercury Sable. But this album caught my attention almost immediately because of the speedy and upbeat opening track “Sweet Bread”. The band keeps its upbeat pace until slowing to a tribute song for the late great Maya Angelou twenty minutes in. Afterwards the band flows up and down between upbeat and more downbeat pieces until finally ending almost comedically with a dueling drum & bass solo in “Stick & Move”. Overall fantastic album.
I Can’t Bear to Read Anymore But I Must
Since it’s my last semester of graduate school I’m slowly running out of time to finish writing my thesis. I’ve been reading mostly academic articles and books, but I’ll share one of each with you, one pleasure reading and the other academic.
Ian Frazier’s “Travels In Siberia”
In Frazier’s book has been my long term pleasure for around a year now. It was a book that I had little devotion too until around the holidays in December where I picked it back up. Frazier’s book is a long travel book about multiple trips into Siberia in the late 90’s and early 2000’s in a very transitional time in Russia’s history. His ability to explain his fascination with Siberia without ever actually spelling it out in front of you is a unique method of writing that dragged me into the book even more. You believe you are going to be given the answers to his fascination, but instead you’re taken on the journey with him and left to sort out your own thoughts and ideas about it with him. Although it can be tedious at times, its often funny in its tediousness because what banality or excitement he describes is so relatable that it feels like you’re having a conversation with an old friend or family member. His focus on Imperial Russian history in the book also greatly sparked my interest as well. If you’re interested in Russian history and long road trips this is the penultimate book for you.
Stephen Shore’s “Modern Instances”
I had this book on my reading list for a fair amount of time and was lucky enough to happen across a copy at a book store in Ljubljana. In this mix of memoir, narrative, history, and observation, the venerable Steven Shore talks about his life and his lifelong foray into photography. Filled with anecdotes on living and seeing, it’s a book that makes you reconsider a lot on how you physically see the world and how you understand it as well. He manages to effortlessly blend life into photography and extract the lessons and ideas from each of these instances. The book is of course full of color images of his own pictures, Renaissance paintings, sculpture and geography. It’s a truly engrossing book and phenomenal read that I think everyone should read.
To Cap it All Off - My Eastern Poland Train Roulette Trip
Last month I spent about a week playing a game of “train roulette” in Eastern Poland. Train roulette is a game I play when I have a lot of time and a tight budget. It’s where I make no plans at all and go to the train station and buy a very cheap ticket to somewhere that morning and usually book a hostel or hotel on the ride there. I usually pack camping gear incase roughing it is necessary. I played train roulette last summer for a full month when I traveled to Bosnia & Herzegovina from Kraków all by train and bus. None of that trip was planned at all except for the long stay Airbnb I had reserved in Sarajevo which was my end destination. So I decided it was time to see what Poland had to offer east of the Wisła. I first traveled to Warsaw and visited Eliza, whom I traveled to Croatia with last summer, as she’s originally from the area. I spent the night in Warsaw, waking up early and heading to the Warszawa Wschodnia (Warsaw East) train station to find a train heading east. The next major train terminal heading east in Poland before you hit the border with Ukraine is Lublin. By 8am I was on a train to Lublin and booked at an old hostel outside of the downtown area. Lublin is a nice little city but there’s not much to do there. It has a very small old town, perched on a hilltop above the Bystrzyca River that lazily crawls through the countryside. A gothic-revival style castle to the north-east is connected by a bridge to the hilltop. The city slowly sprawls out mostly westward from the old town where many universities are located. Although Lublin is a smaller city, it has a very disproportionate amount of universities, making it a well known college town. This evening is also when I decided that I should go to Zamość, which is a small town about an hour from the Ukrainian border that was designed completely in Italian Renaissance style in the 1600’s. The next morning I took the smallest intercity train of my life, one engine, one carriage, to Zamość. If you stand in the gigantic plaza of the town you can see the potato fields in the distance. The architecture was a crazed mix of Renaissance Italianate designs, traditional Eastern onion domed churches and socialist designed housing on the edges of the old town. It was truly an eclectic and oddly rural experience. Although it’s hard to get too, I think you should visit if you’re ever given the opportunity.
That’s pretty much it for my hefty update. Stay healthy, stay safe, maybe we’ll see each other soon.