For My Sister Ewelina
Jakub Rojek is a Polish-born, left handed! classical pianist, composer and occasional writer. He still has memories of being very happy and reckless, and in the retrospect, it seems like it could not have gotten any better given the circumstances ( he was born in a middle size industrial, remembering socialist realism town, with no aspirations of being cultural Mecca, somewhere in the midst of 1979). Hence, having been a son of a self-taught musician had instilled in him, from an early age, both, a love and hatred toward the instrument known as fortepian. For, his long musical journey could have been dubbed a journey of torment and ecstasy, with a constantly fluctuating ratio between the two. If it was not interesting enough already, he happened to have a sister, whose destructively inspirational temperament, and imposed upon him on a daily basis and expressed with a occasional sarcastic tinge in her face, hegemonic oppression caused him a great deal of mental and physical desolation. The only common ground between attending the regular battle field was making music together; and again ...music unites, music is for pacifists, music is an alternative for emotionally unstable etc. It was though more, because they were both at the same music school (she is a flutist herself), and by default were obliged to fulfill somewhat “sick” ambitions to become a cohesively operating piano-flute duo. It was not though till a little later when they both, with a maniacal dedication, decided to continue their musical quest and took up flute and trumpet and later on even happened to accompany themselves on the piano, as it was initially tackled by them instrument and the one they managed to get around on with a blatantly precarious manner. As time has passed, they have realized that music was not merely a tentative educational/cultural stint they had undergone to prevent their, yet innocent souls, from becoming self-employed, small time crooks prevailing on their block (some less so more disillusioned about their future), but to makes them believe in the power of the education and instill in them a consciousness, and notion of life as an open-ended process of hard work and discipline, which notabene was not a most recently acquired quality of theirs. It was not until they were nineteen, when high school exerted trauma, involving an early morning, or we shall say middle of the night awaking routine called in Eastern Europe education, seemed to be the water under the bridge of the past, and they agreed to move on with their quite impressive records of juvenile delinquency to the next level. Thus, forgetting their enemies all excruciating experiences, and permanent damages to their psyche ordained by such pseudo-authoritative, frustrated individuals with anger management malfunctions, became desideratum per se. Having said that, throughout the heyday of their "rebel without a cause" personality exposure, they have maintained meticulous, and consistent portrait of an overzealous, obsequious pupillage, whereas deep inside their agenda rarely conformed to officially established order of things and authorities surrounding them, perceiving them as a necessary ballast on the way to the promised land. Those were the days! Anyhow, interestingly enough the story of our inextricably bound up characters continues, but in a totally different milieu; cultural Mecca knows as Krakow. Soon enough, the prime time of the big metropolis was to satisfy their most inner and insatiable desires of an underground night life, and at the same time met their expectations of crossing paths with the most depraved personalities, (in approximately similar group age, and leaders of the day!), making it an encounter of a lifetime, leaving behind and surpassing all the "grandma's" stories from the past.
Road Is A Battle Field
If you have ever been to Lima, or Cusco you know that to drive the car means to have special skills...or special nerve endings. The stuff happens too fast and I had not regret not having my driving chops tested on the holly land of Incas. You may be a savvy driver, but that does not guarantee you are going to survive your first day here. Instead, you'd better flag down the taxi and enjoy your first ground-level roller-coaster ride ever (it would help if you were blindfolded first too.) Taxis are cheap
here and the cab drivers sure make it clear for the passenger that he'll get to his destination in a flying speed. Before you get off the airport though remember to get rid of all the "tails" who sure look like your prospective drivers and offer to pull your luggage on the street for a duration of the pleasure, but are, to your final astonishment, not the lucky owners of the vehicle, which still may be not quite a size to carry even part of it. Make sure though you walk far enough so they eventually get tired of following you. Cab drivers are probably most self-assured professional group of Peruvian society, meaning they would not pass on opportunity to charge you three times as much for a ride to the center, if you're not awake at all time.
is a whole another story. I cannot live without a bargain and they simply cannot give you one; that is just something to bear with upon arrival. Do not be discouraged though, you can always try to lowball they prices to the point when they get pretty touchy and start having an "argument" with you as a prospective customer...unheard of right? Once you hit the road bargaining will instantly become a full time job for the duration of your stay there. And you will get pretty serious about the whole game of trying to outsmart fake alpaca products peddlers looming all over you like ghosts. This is still, if you forgot, the land of Inkas and of very genuine inhabitants of contemporary Peru, which are neither overtly excited nor disappointed to see your white face grinning at them from the distance.
If you are planning on staying in the hostel you have never been before to you'd better look it up on google earth otherwise you may be greeted by a road construction (or no road at all!) when you arrived there, not to mention that hot water may not be the most common perk included in your package. As per our stay, everything turned out fine once we decided to barge out of the place as fast as we barged in (we're talking here the no road destination somewhere way up high on the hill.) The new place, and we're talking Cusco now, was a real treat and quite massive looking at first glance. Advanture brew, as it was the very name of this mention was situated in not the sketchiest area of Cusco, but definitely holding a top position in the competition. That in fact, did not convinced me to refrain from shooting my camcorder at any place and time of the day however dangerous it might be. Instead, it became a real psychological game with a potential pickpockets and the like. I would say that it didn't look like someone was about to snatch my camera and neither it would have ever looked like until it actually would have gotten snatched...if you know what I mean. So do not worry and do not get paranoid over something so inevitable and which will happen too fast to even react in any reasonable way; quite scared? Do not be. It's common to see Peruvian steeling from Peruvian as well. On one instance, I have witnessed a guy jumping over concrete wall separating the two sides of the highway with a freshly acquired purse, which nota bene, did not look like a gift he has just purchased for his girlfriend. Following him were two policemen popping from behind the wall with an acutely determined look on their faces to catch the culprit. It may sound somewhat odd to see two cops running over the concrete wall, but local small time crooks don't seem to leave them a benefit of a doubt. Well, Peru's dreadful reality and poverty did not seem to wear on me, at least not during this visit. You look at all this with eyes of an independent observer and that's as much of a glimpse into the things as you're going to get. The time passed too fast for the most part and we had to stay on top of the things to make best out of it. I was determined to have my days filled with all kinds of activities and leisure..and to have a steady three meal schedule every day of the trip. Although, it is worth mentioning that eating at high altitudes is no necessarily helping to sharpen your appetite, it did not stop me from devouring ceviche for the first two days straight. Later, I even moved to consuming what it used to be considered a pet where I come from; a cuy...guinea pig! I must declare here with all honesty that it was quite a ride and it would definitely be worth eating instead of patting again...whatever that means...Before Cusco, we were in another charming destination known as Arequipa, where I had a pleasure to be immersed in a silent getaway of San Lazaro which was our lodging place. Arguably the best situated place to stay on this trip and with very slippery floors getting polished probably everyday when we were not around. It was very quiet and cozy place with few employees that knew their trade a little better than an average Joe shmoe on the street. Canyon del Colca, which was until very recently considered the deepest canyon in the world, was our prime out of town destination, to which I was admitted for free upon surrendering all my dollars and which nota bene proved to be of no use to the person selling tickets in a little booth. To our astonishment she even went as far as refusing to accept the fair paid in local currency by our tour guide on behalf of me. Nuff said. I got in for free and enjoyed the rest of my sponsored excursion by watching beautiful vicunas leaving in the wild
(oh yea! condors...but it was a relatively short enterprise.) Our everyday routine consisted of an early morning awakening after approximately six hours of sleep (more than you'd ever need in your entire life) and having 'on the run' breakfast at the hostel.
I landed in China on Sep. 24th 2010. Little have I known about what kind of enterprise it is going to turn into. The whole trip started by an unexpected?! Seven hours delay at the Toronto airport during which we didn't quite know what to do with ourselves. When we finally arrived at Pudong International Airport some 24 hours later I knew that it's going to be something else. Well, to be honest I couldn't quite answer basic questions I was being asked at the airport (not that they were in Chinese or anything) to begin with and sincerely doubted that my ex-girlfriend was going to be waiting there seven hours (given that she never got my skype message about the flight delay.)
Soon, I was informed that she has spent her leisure time by beguiling older gentlemen (do not be deceived that it could have been the other way around), and that she has hardly noticed time passing by (what a fantastic time management.) After taking off from the airport we headed out to little known to me kind of teenage "getaway" retreat, in which I have instantly observed coloristic tendencies pointing towards red district of New Orleans and which had completely transparent shower door in the room (so much sacrifice just to be 150 yards away from her parents apartment.) Nevertheless, I had a great night sleep and was on the way to meet my, never to be, parents in law. All I have to say now is that I wish all ex-boyfriends to be greeted and treated the way I was during my stay there, even despite an inevitable disaster which happened towards the end of my trip. Nuff said. Her father, who's a musician like myself, didn't seem to be discouraged by the fact that we were speaking two completely different languages at all time, maybe with an exception when I spoke few learnt ahead of time Chinese phrases, and seemed to be just as comfortable as you could be in your own house; wouldn't you? I on the other hand, tried to fit in but not in the way foreigner would, but by filling the void of not having had to speak at all (what a relieve.) Quite frankly, we communicated better than some people speaking the same language. It was the purest way of learning the language and without an ability to immediately translate the words into your own, which made it more direct and effective. I would say, I didn't learn enough considering the real gravity of my anticipated travels. The real challenge of my trip wasn't lying so much in the lack of spoken Chinese, but the mere fact that it was supposed begin during major Chinese Holliday. Trying to get out of Shanghai was a first obstacle and hearing at he train station that I could not possible get on any train within the next three days was a real bummer in the siuation when I just couldn't wait any longer and postpone my trip. Shockingly enough, after few hours of perturbations with airline representatives I was under way to long awaited Beijing. The first, and very stupid thing I did upon arrival was to get inside of a "cab" with grotesquely grinning guy who commanded three times the fair to be paid!? I, on the other hand, surprised him with an unprecedented chivalry by trying to jump out of a driving car right in front of toll plaza and without paying. The whole thing wasn't as half as funny as you may think right now and soon I was standing in the middle of the highway with my suitcase waiting for somebody to pick me up. That happened to be merely seconds later and I was again headed to my friend's apartment, which to my new driver wasn't a completely well known area.
Ok, I'm finally there and after I announced I'm about to reach for money the driver has jumped out of the car and ran around to my door making sure I would not be able to get out?! At this point, I was a little baffled, but given that he did not understand the last sentence I had assumed he was just protecting himself from a crook who's last intention was to pay the actual fare. It's been quite amusing to watch him making a scene out of simple barter exchange (money for a ride.) I had to call my dear friend and make her come down to have me released from the back seat of the cab. Now, we're having a special moment, after not having seen each other for some two+ years. We sit down at the table and it's just hard to start a normal conversation...a lot of laughing I guess and then we're off to sleep. The next morning I am being instructed about the keys, entrance gate gourds etc. and about making phone calls to local tour guides about prices, dates and such. My friend soon had left the town to go on her vacation and I was left in her room in the beautiful apartment in the north of Beijing...with her parents, and what i was soon to find out about, a little crying baby next door. Having been treated so well, and having a place to stay for free for few days was truly a blast, except the baby and quite a far distance to the centre of the city. Subsequently, I have decided to move to a hostel near the Tiananmen Square, which proved to be an excellent move. This was the first attempt at hostels in China and a good joint. I have spent five days in a co-ed mix dorm room boasting around 8-10 bunk beds. Almost every day, we had new people coming in and out of that room, including quite frequent visits from the cleaning lady. Everybody got around the city on their own and after a long day out we all met at the bar, which was an ultimate meeting place for all party backpackers. The place itself was nicely situated at the back ally and quite hard to find. It was quiet though and just down the street in that ally you could get one of the best fresh yogurts in the entire Beijing! During those five days in town a lot of things happened, not to mention I have gotten lost quite a few times. One time, which was towards the beginning of my stay in the charming capital of China, I have come across three lovely Chinese students and pretended I wanted to interview them waving my camcorder in front of them. They agreed of course, at least one of them who spoke very good English, and we became quite a sensation for bystanders for the duration of some 20 minutes. I could not get their real names...that's just never happens, but I have them somewhere in my classic photo collection.