Curiouser and Curiouser.

10April 2016
  I’ve been seeing this symbol all over Warszawa. 

At first I thought it was a tag, a signature maybe some random logo of a local graffiti artist or propaganda.

  
Today while wandering Old Town Warszawa, I learned something powerful, in regards to that symbol.

  
It stands for the Warsaw Uprising. 

Adam explained to me that during WW11 when the Germans had occupied Poland an underground army formed to retake Poland. WP was used throughout the resistance to bring hope and was a symbol that strengthened the Polish people. 

This was literally an underground army because they used the sewer systems to communicate and disrupt German occupations.

  
The other highly interesting thing Adam taught me, was that the Warsaw Uprising consisted of mainly youth (most likely between the ages of 11- 17). The ones that were too young to fight in the war or the ones left behind because they were not deemed as a threat to the German installations. 

  
It was through these youth insurgents that after a 63 day struggle, beginning on aug 1, 1944 the liberation of the city of Warsaw was achieved. 

  
So when I see this sign around now, I know it’s more than just a tag or some kind of brand – it’s a symbol and reminded to all, of the bravery and cost of freedom. 

W Szkole! 

To school! For the next two weeks I’ll be incorporating 15 hours of intensive Polish language lessons into our trip with Po Polsku – Polish for Professionals

  
My regular instructor’ name is Mateusz. He’s 26 years old, originally from South Poland and is currently studying Polish philology (the study of the history of Polish language.)  

  
Pierwszy (First), when learning Polish from an English speaking background, one must unlearn a lot of the English phonetic tendencies. For myself I found the most effective way of doing this is to establish a strong understanding of the Polish alphabet and pronunciation of word clusters.
For instance “w” in polish is pronounced with a “v” sound. Eg. Violet = Wiolet. 
That is one of the easier transitions to understand.

   However, if you wish to proceed with learning the Polish language, you’ll begin to learn that sz, dz, and rz sound a lot like j in “raj” and that there’s a difference between z, ż, and ź. Even though to my anglicized ear… They pretty much all sound the same. Let’s not even get into cz, c and cy! 
All is not lost and like learning how to tune an instrument it will come over time. Luckily for me having a background in intonations from Cantonese and playing guitar it’s a little bit easier for me. A little. Trochę. 

  
We began with a recap of what Wioletta covered with me in the first one hour lesson last Friday. Piątek. I think Mateusz was surprised by my ability pronounce and retain the Polish language, even though to me I sometimes feel like I sound like I’m butchering a cat. Kot. 

By the end of the lesson, even though to my Polish family it didn’t seem like I learned a lot, I feel as though I have a much better understanding of concepts and articulation. Ultimately my goal is to eventually become fluent and have full comprehension,  versus simply just regurgitating phrases and participating in basic conversation. 

Cooking in Poland! Jajka Faszerowane. (Stuffed eggs)

Day 4 April 8 

  
One of my passions when traveling is learning about as many aspects to the countries culture. This includes languages and cuisine.

Before I met Adam my knowledge of Polish cooking was pretty much limited to pierogi, kiełbasa , cabbage rolls And borscht. In the last few years I’ve learned a couple more dishes from his mother.
Today I’m going to show you one of the classic breakfast dishes of the polish people. 

Stuffed eggs! Jajka Faszerowane.

This is one of Adams favourite ways to prepare eggs and if made right you will experience a fresh, tangy, crispy and eggy delight.
As mentioned in my previous recipes like those who play by ear, I cook by palate. Meaning I don’t actually have exact measurements of ingredients but rather I rely on my senses to recreate dishes and I challenge you to do the same! 

I also practice in efficiency and practicality so my recipes are written in the way that, whatever takes the longest is done first. It may seem I jump around a bit but read it first to avoid confusion and all will be clear! 

Ingredients

Equal portions of :

Fresh dill

Fresh chives (or green onions) 

Many Eggs
Salt

Pepper

Fresh lemon

Much Butter 

  

Method:

The secret to crispy Jajka Faszerowane is to ensure you have soft-medium boiled eggs. You want a little bit of the yolk to still be soft so that when you mix the stuffing it will stick together as it cooks.
1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and then add your room temperature eggs. Set a timer for 7-8 minutes. (Factors that can affect this time; elevation, humidity, “room temperature” whatever that means). 
While the eggs are boiling it’s time to prepare the stuffing.

    
2. Finely chop the dill and chives. I usually bundle both these together and chop it all at once. Place in a medium mixing bowl.

3. Add salt and pepper and a healthy splash of lemon juice. Mix well. 
*** 4. Once the timer goes off remove the eggs from heat and pour out the water and rinse with cold water to arrest the cooking process.

  
5. Using a sharp knife cut the eggs IN THE SHELL, in half, lengthwise. We’ll be using the shell to hold the shape of the filling.

  
6. Gently scoop out the egg, without breaking the shells and put the boiled eggs in the mixing bowl with the dill and chive mixture. Set aside the empty half shells for now. 

7. Mash the eggs well with the dill and chive mix. Taste to see how you like the balance of salt to pepper to lemon. Should be a little tangy but not sour. 

8. Once you’ve happily and thoroughly mashed the eggs, gently fill and pack the stuffing back into the shells. 

  
9. Heat a medium sized frying pan on low- medium with enough butter to lightly coat the entire pan.

  
10. Place the stuffed eggs on the frying pan with the shell up and filling down. 

11. Cook the filling until golden brown (10-15min).

  
12. Serve with a touch of mayonnaise and mustard. (Don’t eat the shells !) 

  
I hope you enjoy this little bit of Poland and please let me know what you think! 

Być Batmanem!

Whenever I travel, one of the first things I make a habit of doing,  is to find a journal. 

The trick is to not just pick any old lined notebook but find one that will remind you of the place you’ve been. 

  
In this case. I found Batman. Written on the cover of this particular journal are these words. 

“Zawsze bądź sobą, chyba… Ze możesz być Batmanem!” 

“Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman!”

Those that know me best, know I strongly pursue the mantra of being true to oneself. Those who know me better, know I also look to Batman for major decision making. 

Needless to say I think I found the perfect travel journal for this trip! 

  
I’m a very meticulous person and I think if the world ever came to an end (besides saving all my friends and family) I would most likely end up as the historian.

I always log my entries by date, time and location. I’ll usually even include a calendar that summarizes the daily activities in case I don’t have time to write and wish to recall what events occurred that day. 

  
I’m not much of a scrap booker but I take the time to keep ticket stubs, plane tickets and business cards and staple them chronologically in my journals. 

It may seem a little overboard but it really doesn’t take much time. Plus, years down the road it’s often rewarding to look back and be able to reminisce pretty accurately all the things I experienced.  

 
My journals are by no means “pretty,” or visually appealing but they carry a lot of energy. On more than one occasion I’ve had people be drawn to my journals and comment on their richness just by merely being in proximity. (I attribute some of this to my tendency to also spill food and random things onto my journals so they really engage multiple senses …) You can “taste” the experience … Literally. 

My Warsaw Batman journal, so far has recipes, foods I’ve eaten, places I’ve been and things I’ve done and want to do. 

  
I believe it’s important to track – not only in your travels but in your life – where you are now, where you were and where you want to be. It keeps you accountable for your progress as a human and serves as a way of inspiring yourself to get off your butt and do something. Or maybe serves as a way of reminding yourself that you are worthwhile and have grown and should be content with your own achievements. 

  

Dzień dobry Warszawa. 

Day 2 April 6,2016 
Good morning Warsaw! Okay it’s not exactly morning, more like early afternoon. Today is day 2 of experiencing Poland with me as a Noob! 

I had a hard time adjusting to the jet lag especially since I’m still getting over a chest infection. 

  
I found some homemade perogies in the freezer at around 2am and found myself drinking NesQuick and reading Harry Pottery and the Deathly Hollows until 6am. 

  
Adams grandfathers condo is quaint, and history and memories seem to seep from the walls. The building itself was probably erected sometime around the Second World War and even the key is reminiscent of time that seems unreal.

  
Our goal today is to get Adam a Polish account set up and acquire a Polish ID. Since he was born in Warsaw and immigrated to Canada at 6 years old, Adam is Polish citizen.

  
Our main reason for coming to Poland is to deal with some family business. Being an opportunist I also see this as a chance to improve my Polish and broaden my understanding of the Polish culture. While we have family stuff to do, I’ve also made it my priority to enroll into daily Polish language lessons.

  
Luckily for me, on our way out to run errands today I saw a Lingwista sign and inquired to Adam about whether we should check it out and see if they teach Polish. 

Funny thing, and I’m noticing that it’s something particular to my situation, but for the second time since I started pursuing the Polish language, that I have heard the response “this is unusual because we don’t get people asking to learn polish. Usually it’s Polish people wanting to learn English.” 

  
My Polish tutor in Calgary said the same thing and had to ask me to twice to make sure she understood that it was Polish that I actually wanted to learn. 

Here we are now. Waiting for Adam to get his ID and I’m taking this time to write. 

Tomorrow – jutro (you-tro) (if all goes well with the Polish school) I begin my Polish lessons. 
Do widzenia. Goodbye

Running In Poland 

For the next few posts I’ll be bringing you all to Poland! Join me in a crash course on what it’s like to experience Poland as a Canadian traveling with my partner, a native Polaki.

   
We arrived late last night in Warsaw. There’s an 8 hour difference from Calgary, so for all you Albertans it’s 6pm where you are and 2pm where I am, the next day. Needless to say, I’m tired.

We were greeted by Adams ciocia (Aunt) pronounced “Cho-Cha” in English phonetics, and his cousin Piotr (Peter).  They gave us a quick driving tour of downtown Warsaw showing us the main historical structures and landmarks. Adam was following along marvelously with the details and descriptions, I on the other hand was having a little bit of difficulty.

  
You see everyone only speaks Polish. 

I’ve mostly travelled in Spanish speaking, Asian speaking and English speaking countries and this is the first time I’ve been to a country that was Slavic based in language. 

Trust me it’s culture shock.  From being used to reading things in French or Spanish with Latin based words, it’s always been easy to derived roots and meanings. 
Now I’m faced with something completely foreign altogether exciting and intimidating. Now I really understand how scary it is for people to travel when they only speak English. 
Even so I am not completely unprepared, over the last couple years I’ve taken the initiative to take a few polish tutoring lessons and sought out resources to aid my learnings. I have a coarse grasp of the alphabet and pronounciation and I understand some words and nouns. 

  
We ended the evening at Adams grandfathers condo close to the downtown core of Warsaw. His grandfather moved to Canada last year but this is where we will be staying during our month long visit. 

Ciocia and Piotr remind me of my family. They had a basket of food and wine and beer ready for us because they knew we’d be hungry after our many hours of travel. We toasted a sweet red wine and I stuffed my face with cold cuts and rye bread as the dialogue continued around me. 

When I first arrived I was intently watching facial reactions and trying to Matrix my way into understanding the language but by now I was exhausted and no longer able to concentrate on trying to translate. 

Tonight I sleep. Tomorrow I will awake in Poland. 

Potrero Morning Mountains

Potrero Chico Day 2 – 26 Dec 2015

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Due to the fatigues of traveling the day before I ended up sleeping in until 09:00hrs. Like a child on Christmas morning I couldn’t wait to open up the tent and soak in my surroundings. I had only seen photos of the limestone Spires of Potrero Chico and there’s nothing more magical that waking up in a totally foreign geographical location. Continue reading

Adventure Begins Upon Arrival in Monterrey Mexico: En Route Potrero Chico

Potrero Chico Day 1: 25 Dec 2015

Christmas Day in Mexico!

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Arriving at interpret airport we were already pretty exhausted but with the anticipation of entering a whole new place a childlike excitement began to stir in our hearts.

Continue reading

John Bachar Memorial Face Problem

Talk about a mouthful for a name.

This is one of Joshua Tree’s “classic” boulder problems. Rated a V5 and the hardest boulder problem I’ve worked on at this point. What is bouldering? Well it’s a form of climbing where no ropes are used and climbing problems or routes or puzzles, are completed through a series of intricate and/ or powerful movements. These are typically low height problems where “crash pads” (mats for protecting a fall) are used. However, that being said there are some boulder problems that seem like they should climbed with rope!

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I haven’t bouldered a lot in the past few years, primarily because I have to travel a lot for work and it doesn’t leave much time to work on a boulder problem. When one does have the time to commit to working on a  problem – it’s called “projecting.”

I find there’s a completely different form of meditation and focus required for bouldering. You have to work at problem over and over and over again before you solve it. Sometimes it takes hours, sometimes weeks, days and even years. When you finally get to the top of a problem it’s called “sending” it. Or you “sent it,” in past tense or you’re going to “send” it.

In the short amount of time I had in Joshua Tree, the John Bachar Memorial Face Problem became my project. Over the course of my trip I was able to work on it on three separate days and I came so close. I really believe if I had one or two more days to let my fingers heal I would have gotten it…

The Process

This was the first day I had met Karl, and we looked over the guidebook and settled on going to the Hidden Valley Area.  It’s common practice for climbers to kind of scope out a new partner and see how much you trust them, and bouldering was a good way to start our relationship.  Even though you can boulder alone (and many people do) it’s nice to have a spotter and an extra pad or more if you’re working on bigger problems., or problems with sketchy landings.

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When I saw the climb “JBMFP” in the guide book my heart instantly fluttered and my hands began to sweat. “This is such a Melba problem,” I thought. For many climbers, there’s a certain type of climbing that we excel at. Some love climbs with tiny crispy holds, or steep overhanging features, and others may love climbs with no holds and just gently sloping surfaces that only spiderman climbers can somehow stick to.

We started off  with Karl warming up on some high ball boulders (really high climbs, that I would rather be on a rope for). Then we migrated to the John Bachar Memorial Boulder and tried out a V3 arete which was going no where, so we moved around to the face and started working on JBMFP.  I think I intentionally steered Karl over there with a  “Oh hey, would you look at that? This one it looks good!” Fully knowing exactly what kind of climb it was.

Day 1:

I guess I over estimated my skill. We didn’t get very far.  Maybe 2 or three moves. But it was progressing and we decided it was worth trying again another day. And besides, it looked like such an awesome problem, I KNOW I can get it!

Projecting JBMFP V5 Karl

https://youtu.be/teSPisvzQv0

Day 2:

While I was away at my cousins wedding in Palm Springs for the weekend, Karl had met up with a couple of other climbers and they gave him some “beta” (411 or key moves on the climb… secrets!) and he was happy to walk me through it and we progressed even more. Well Karl, the bugger, actually sent it!  When I gave it a go…I remember how excited I was to see Karl get to the top and there’s something about seeing someone get a send, it makes you want it so much more.

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I hopped on it a few times and each time I got a little higher and the last attempt… I made the mistake of looking down at my pad. My drained when I realized how far it was and my hand started to slip, karl was bending over and moving the pad. Then all I remember was Karl’s head lined up between my legs and as I fell and I thought for sure I was going to sit right on his head and kill the guy.

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When I finally contacted the pad and I was checking all my resources to see if I was still in one piece and I’m I had a dead body on my hands, all i could hear was ringing and this muffled voice of a brit cursing at me for letting go. Karl was so mad that I didn’t keep going, he yelled at me like he would his daughter – “Bloody this,” “bloody that,” I felt so bad… I let him down!  I tried it maybe one more time to appease him and then I couldn’t muster up the guts to get up any higher than the last time.  I look down and my knuckles are bleeding.

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Battle wounds of JBMFP

It was Karl’s last day and he told me. “YOU better come back tomorrow and get this. Go find a spotter and an extra pad and come back tomorrow morning.” I sheepishly looked down at my feet and said “yes, sir.”

When a man like Karl tells you to do something you do it. Did I mention he was a retired Principal? Yeah. Well… imagine.

Karl and I shared a lovely meal together at CrossRoads in Joshua Tree and I was rejuvenated. I spent all night planning on when and how I was going to find a stranger to build an instant bond and convince them to spot me for an attempt for the send. I posted new notes on the message board and actually was able to pay it forward with a couple of Polish guys that were out of luck for a campspot so I invited them to join mine. It was nice to have some company for my last night in the desert.

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Rafal and Piotr just came from Yosemite and small world being as it is, they happened to meet the one asian in Hidden Valley Campground that also happened to speak a little Polish. Needless to say we had some awesome conversations and hopefully they’ll be visiting Adam and I in Canada next year!

Day 3:

I was up before sunrise, due to some unwavering nervous energy. I spent the night dreaming of JBMFP. Playing out the beta and over estimating the height so when I would get on the face it wouldn’t be a factor.

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It was a quiet morning. But why wouldn’t it be? It’s 6 in freaking morning… I read my book, made some coffee. And as the sun rose I saw another climber (with a  crash pad) camping across from me and I decided that this was the first guy I would approach to see if he would spot me.

I’m funny this way, even though at times I’m a Cassanova at conversation and social skills, there’s times when I’m a stuttering idiot. This was one of those times.

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I recall saying “Good Morning,” and asking if he was climbing today. And before he even answered I think I just blurted out this pleading paragraph of how it was my last day- my friend just left – I don’t really boulder much but i’ve been working on this problem- today is my last day to send it – I really need a spotter because i’m scared of heights and I might die – but if he was busy with his friends I totally understand. And started to back away slowly and dismiss the idea before he even has a chance to say “oh hello there.”

I’m crazy like that. But Jay, being a super awesome nice guy and friendly as most climbers are, simply said “No,problem. Let me just make some tea and we can go.”

Wow that was easy. I’m such a dunce.

I discovered that Jay, was a theatre tech and that instantly resonated with me because of my love of community theatre. We had some great conversations and my awkwardness quickly dissipated.  We we got to JBMFP it was game time.

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The Final Attempt.

I had gone of the moves in my mind numerous times. I played it over and over in my head. Right hand crimp, left hand crimp. Left foot smear on black crystal, right foot step onto thin edge. Left hand bump to sloping nub. Left foot move to chalked crystal below  the bulge near my knee. Slowly step up – big move to right hand thin side pull. Cross left foot to edge next to the right foot. Step up and smear on a  dark scoop with the right foot. Adjust the right side pull and bring up left foot to sloping nub while maintaining body tension because this is where it’s dicey and vulnerable. Solid. Step up and grab the next slopey nub on the top left. Feeling really thin right now. THROW for the INCUT! Stick it. Keep it! Reach to the left edge, now I’m just 7 inches below the top out!

At this point it’s the highest I have even been on this climb. But I was focussed. I just didn’t know the beta. I haven’t been here before. My right foot tests an edge. Nope I feel like I’m going to swing out (Barn Door.)  I bring it back. Uh.. this feels better…. but I only have three point of contact and my right foot is useless… I test that edge again. “Fuck NO… that’s SUCKS.” …. I bring it back. Again. It’s so close.. but I am so stretched out I’m like a broken record, repeating the same move over and over but not moving forward. I HAVE to move my feet – I start to fall. Only inches away from my send. And I’m grasping at the air thinking “NOOOOOO, KARL IS GOING TO GIVE ME SHIIIIIITTT.” I felt like I fell for a long time, but Jay’s got my back.  That feeling, of moving so many moves in this first attempt was unreal.  It the feeling that combers live for. Some call it adrenaline, I call it passion. Love. Climbing.

I gave it a couple more go but my fingers were done. There was no more skin left and I just couldn’t get any higher than the first couple moves. The sun was coming out and the air was getting hot. I missed my chance. This time.

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And, thus ends my epic trip to Joshua Tree. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Okay maybe actually sending JBMFP but at least this way… I have a story of the fish that got away.

I’ll be back fishy. I’ll be Back.

To see the video of my fall click here: JBMFP V5