Friday, October 2, 2009

Conversation among the Ruins




Romantic neighbors in Wrocław-Śródmieście - it seems that my neighborhood has quite a few fans of subfenestral grafitti. (I have another example of this that so far has only found its way to the German version of my blog, just like the canine digestive literacy from the last entry here has not yet been re-used in a Germanified version.)

So - yeah, ever since I moved here, I must admit that on my way home, I have had this melody playing somewhere at the back of my head, "Gentrify.... gentrifyyyyy meeee" sung to The Doors by, I assume, some part of my subconscious that feels safer when walking through streets with painted facades. The effect is really quite surprising and not too reasonable: Gentrification has very suddenly reached Śródmieście, with a new restored facade unveiled almost every week. Stucco heads smile down benignly at passers-by, roses bloom anew even now that autumn is here, and I walk down feeling much more relaxed than when everything was still in a state of decay. Interestingly, even though the crumbling balconies were quite a real danger, there is a greater atmosphere of threat, especially in the dark, and even more so in the rain. Somehow, even to the calm and confident mind, there seemed to be dark creatures lurking in every crack and badly patched hole in the wall.

Now, examining the people on my street and their love for spending their time urinating into doorways and yelling at pedestrians, the threat may not have been all that imaginary. Also, the reflex to feel safer after a few buckets of paint and plaster have been put to good use along the street does not seem all that wise if life behind the facades has not changed...

And lastly: That facade poetry above - it just does not have the same effect on a freshly-painted wall.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In Which I Wonder About My Four-Legged Neighbours

My neighbors here have long been the cause for many a confused moment - why, lady across the yard, do you scream each night? Is it really all in Polish? Why does the number 33 play such a crucial role in your nocturnal rants? Dear vodka aficionados in the backyard, where do you congregate now that last summer's red velvet couch next to the trash containers has found a death of rot and decay? And lady of the lime green acrylic wool skirt and the pink child's jacket and blue hat and the tennis socks in sandals, where do your baby steps lead you each morning?

One thing that I do not have to speculate about, however, is why this lady stares to the ground with such concentration: I do the same, as does everyone else in this street. There are some unexplained holes, yes, but mostly, it's our canine neighbors who adorn it with their digestive products. And they do it with great joy and productivity. (I have tried to find it endearingly similar to my old Berlin home. I failed.)

(At this point I have to add: Should you be reading this through a facebook note, I don't think you can see the accompanying photos, so I might not be making much sense. Please click on "Read original post" or whatever it says below to get the full experience.)

So: One and a half years here, and I thought I had seen all there was in the dog poo market nowadays. How very wrong I was! I was walking there, lost in thought, thinking "Oh, look, an 'F'!" but actually having my mind on other things, when I realized that letters on the sidewalk are not a common sight outside Sesame Street. So I turned back.

I must say, I am impressed. Domestication has reached new levels! Literate dogs! I sense a whole new target group for advertising. Someone should do a market study.

[Excuse the public display of feces above. To make up for it, have a prettier sidewalk catch below.]

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Salt and Pepper Romance

Ok, trying again - the first video never loaded beyond 2 out of 3 seconds. So I added "a few frames" as the youtube help forum suggested, magically expanding the length to 22 seconds. But who needs content when you can have credits? ;)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Overliteral service

Odd moment:
I only had one set of keys, which can cause unnecessary logistic complications when you have visitors. So I set out to get copies. Hala Targowa seemed like a good place to go: It's pseudo-ancient outward appearance houses many different stands and services under a bravely curved concrete roof.

I had a helpful native speaker with me - anything to appear respectable and deflect all uncomfortable questions about security and permissions and certificates necessary to receive a legal copy.

But there were no questions asked. Instead, I received a 1:1 copy of my keys. Upon closer inspection, the new set gives the same instructions as the originals: "Nie kopiowac" - "Do not copy".

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gigantic Pixels

I somehow didn't manage to go in person but Tomasz documented the event for posterity:
A student dorm, transformed into a giant screen! (More videos are in his youtube channel.)

This is a really, really cool idea. :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Welcome to the (sur)real world

There is something to be said for living in an environment where language barriers mean that sense routinely escapes you to some extent. My idea of what there is to be said for it varies, depending on how exactly I fill in the gaps of understanding and how much I like my resulting interpretation. On some days, I will happily assure you that it is inspiring and amusing and surely boosts your creativity and/or repertoire of anecdotes with which to bore potential grandchildren. On other days, I just silently plot my escape.


1. Today. I walk home from a bit of shopping, the sun slowly setting, a park across the street, through the nice part of my neighborhood. An old lady moves toward me, she has trouble walking despite the cane, and from her toothless mouth, she tells me "Niech pani SOUND SOUND SOUND SOUND nie tak czysty!". I detect a certain level of urgency but I have no idea what she is trying to tell me, except that she advises me to do SOUND SOUND and if I don't, something runs the risk of not remaining so clean.
Well, I have been monitoring my surroundings for sudden dirt since. Nothing so far. But I still wonder which dangers I am so blissfully unaware of.

2. A while ago. One of the little Zabka supermarkets down he street from my house. They are open until 11pm, as the windows announce in bold letters. It's around 9:30 but the door is locked, and an elderly couple stands in front of it, banging on it. One of the Zabka ladies emerges, unlocks the door, looks left and right, lets the couple and us inside, and locks the door behind us. There is no explanation. As we wait by the cash desk, one guy who was already locked in the cupboard-like shop stuffs his pockets with candy that he clearly has no intention to pay. We leave. They lock the door behind us. Why?!


4. A few months ago. I have a note from the police stuck to my door, asking me to contact them immediately. A coworker calls them for me as I assume correctly that they will not speak English. I am informed that my neighbor has complained about me: I am too silent! He thinks I am just imaginary! Someone only told him that he had someone living next door when in fact I am never there!
I met him once, and he did not actually seem too concerned for my well-being but just went right at it again: How I'm never home! How I haven't been around in months!
The police had suspected the same because they never found me at home when they checked on me. "She works during the day. She's only home in the evenings", my coworker explains. They remain incredulous. (Truly, what an odd thing for me to do, "work"!). But I do not hear from them again - despite the loud SLAM when my neighbor closed the door on me, after I explained that I could not quite follow his monologue because of my limited Polish.

5. Seems that there are some fans of Düsseldorf right around the corner in my neighborhood! Now, the fact alone that you might like Düsseldorf enough to spray it anywhere seems surreal to me >;). On a house somewhere in central Wroclaw, above a third-floor window, this seems even less likely.

6. Jehova's Witnesses fleeing my door. The fact that I couldn't follow their speech (and that I pretended to know even less Polish than I do) did not lessen their enthusiasm one bit: The young man ventured boldly out into the world of spoken English. He was going to save me! Only that I, unknowingly, still had the power of making them flee in an instant: Upon discovering that I was Not Catholic but in fact Lutheran Protestant, they left within seconds. They were back a week or two later. When I opened the door, the young man just mumbled something about "Oh, I remember you!" and dragged the lady by his side with him, away from the... what? Am I a threat? Never before have I felt like I was perceived as a member of a dangerous cult! Heh.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Creative Androidery

My phone needed a home: All this touch-screen fanciness made it seem quite vulnerable to the rough life inside spacious handbags. But of course, it couldn't be just any home - little Androids are vain and have a strongly developped fashion sense. So an Android portrait it had to be, of course, and just to amuse myself, I used a "Teach yourself Java" book during its creation in order to attach the little feltbot to the corduroy, pre-stitching.

I'm ridiculously fond of this.

I also have (robot-free) plans for a skirt (that has been half-finished for over a year now) and a dress (not yet started, but I did bravely enter a fabric shop for it and managed the entire transaction from explaining what I wanted to the lady's recommendations to the actual purchase in Polish. So no matter the result, I'm already proud.)

Only that now, the evenings are mild and warm and beg to be used for walks and open-air beer consumption! I'll have to try and squeeze in some time...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dublin: Palm Trees in the Snow

The main thing being discussed here, unsurprisingly, is the recession, what with Dell leaving Ireland and tens of thousands of jobs lost. More surprising is the speed with which small tourist traps adjust to it. I like their attitude. And the visual punk music reference.

For a few days, however, the recession was boring compared to the really big news: The Snow Chaos. For proper chaos, including a complete airport shutdown, one inch is plenty. And when the entire snow of a whole lawn combined is enough to make a knee-high snowman, taxi drivers will still find enough fun facts about snow to fill the long ride from the airport to the center. Our driver was around 60, but she seemed to share her grandchildren's excitement for this fascinating weather phenomenon. Amazingly, snow that melts a little and freezes over makes a crackling sound, and snow that melts more and freezes then makes... well, ice. "You have to be extra careful, dear, it is like... like... like walking on glass!!" She was excited that her grandchildren could finally do all the things they knew only from TV, and all around Dublin, children were hunting for remaining snowballable bits of snow.

(Let's digress. Small foray into Polish backyard discoveries: If you have a backyard the size of a medium suburb and everyone in the large multi-story houses around it owns a dog, winter weather and snow that is closer to 10 than 1 inch means that all resulting feces will find a nice, cozy bed, where they will be nicely preserved by the frost, and covered by the next snowfall to give an impression of complete cleanliness.
Until the snow melts. And leaves a whole month's combined digested dog food on the ground.)

Back to Dublin! The snow made way for glorious sunshine, and now for something halfway between rain and slush that still provide the frequent meteorological variations that every visitor to Ireland expects (and can do without, I would have been fine with lasting sunshine).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Winter Wronderland

I am quite fond of my new desk - our teams switched desks recently, and this move changed my view of an unexciting, yellow-brown Polish town house to a view of Wroclaw's skyline, including a bit of Odra river, several Odra islands and a couple of church steeples.

The sudden frost (-20°C!) adds some extra beauty, especially if you can admire it from the +22°C office!