Sunday, 17 September 2017

Turin


Ventured to North Italy in business earlier this week. The very decision of the senior management to fork out money and command me to take this (truth be told) useless business trip has taken aback many in my department, as our budget for travels to clients is rather tight. But then out of the blue it transpired splurging nearly five thousand zloty for a three-day foray was absolutely doable and coming by all sign-off despite strict cost savings turned out achievable.

The total cost was quite absurdly high (for five thousand PLN you could arrange two-week holidays in Italy for one person, provided they travel with a companion and share accommodation) because flights and the hotel had been booked less than a week in advance. Hence… Failing to plan is planning to… pay over the odds. But who cares if no one’s money is spent (if the travel budget is not fully spent, someone will cut it next year, so it is better to expend money foolishly than to pursue savings). If you can get a foray for free (or actually earn on it as you receive foreign travel allowance) who would not seize an opportunity to some nooks and crannies of a distant country?

Since there are no direct flights to Turin from Poland, one option to get there is to take a flight from Warsaw to Milan and then take a fast train which runs between the cities, or, arguably more conveniently, buy tickets from Lufthansa and catch a connecting flight in Frankfurt or Munich – we opted for the latter. “Catch” is the apposite word, since on the itinerary my imprudent workmates from sales department booked, the transfer time between connecting flights in Munich was 40 minutes.

Needless to say, after a delay in take-off from Okęcie airport on our way to Munich, we were late for a flight to Turin. Lufthansa kindly rebooked us for a flight three and a half hours later and equipped us with a snack voucher for 7 EUR (try to buy something reasonable to eat on the airport for such amount of money!!!). We ended up then flying with a cheap airline one hour later than planned (in total four and half hours later), missed a dinner with a client and checked in to hotel at 10 p.m. On our way back the first flight from Turin to Munich was delayed, but to our luck, the flight from Munich to Warsaw was even more delayed, therefore we landed in Warsaw mere 45 minutes later than scheduled.

The agenda of the visit was stuffed with meetings morning-till-evening and I only managed to take one brisk, long (15-kilometre) walk around the city in the evening the day before flight home. I need to confess for the first time since many years I ventured somewhere abroad without getting familiar with stuff such as local transport, local sights to be seen and other knowledge coming in useful while travelling (logistics was taken care of by the workmates).

Forgive me the quality of photos. I did not take the camera with me, all pictures snapped with a smartphone. To the right, Piazza Statuto, one of more famous squares in Turin, but I have no idea why (pardon my glaring ignorance).

I stroll (no, I rush) towards Pad river (with hindsight I have learnt it is Pad, not “some river”) and pass by a building which resembles a town hall. In fact, this is Madama Palace, now playing host to senate of Italy. So inconspicuous…

Less than half a mile closer to Pad, I stop by at Veneto Victory square. Should look like a life-bustling place on Tuesday around 6:30 p.m., but few tourists roam around, some local teenagers hang out, besides the place is quiet.

The day I turned up to Turin, a friend advised me to climb up the hill on the other side of the river to take delight in panorama of the city. Here, having ascended the viewing terrace outside Santa Maria del Monte church. It’s before 7 p.m., nearly one hour before sun goes down. Splendid.

Then I scrambled even further up the hill, to Villa del Regina (my sneakers from Lidl, bargain purchase for 27 PLN did not withstand the two-kilometre steep ascent) to stare at the sunset. The smartphone definitely proved inferior to even a compact camera which would have rendered far better how marvellous sight it was. I grabbed the moment, made it perfect, immortalised it, but with an imperfect device.

On my way back to the hotel (one night per 115 EUR, cheapie, but who cares if your employer pays) I cross the river again. Boulevards are anything but full of people. Conversely, nightlife does not seem to exist in Turin during the working week. On the other hand, I have not spotted any potentially dangerous immigrants, yet saw many homeless sleeping on the street, a disturbingly frequent sight, just as in Madrid.

While moving between meeting across the city and beyond we took taxis (too little time to use public transport). Driving in Italian cities proves to be governed by the law of the jungle, but Italian drivers have got accustomed to chaos well and excel in avoiding accidents (if inexperienced in driving in such traffic conditions Poles were behind wheels, prangs would happen all the way).

Price-wise, I was surprised basic goods in local discount stores were more expensive than in Madrid and Berlin which I visited this year, although I can boast about running across a restaurant where we ate medium-sized pizza and washed it down with mineral water for mere 7 EUR.

Finally, a foregone conclusion that Italy has seen its better days. Every time I travel abroad I appreciate how Poland has moved on and how in many aspects it has not just caught up with Western Europe, but often outshines the “old EU” countries.

Flying to Malta for eight days on Tuesday, next post in a fortnight.

By the way, any gee-up from readers after a few months without a single comment and seepage of inspiration since getting busy with more interesting stuff than blogging?

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Stressed-out, but why?


Psychologists, also those home-grown, excel at compiling seemingly useless rankings of most stressful events in life. The lists are usually based on surveys and top picks such as spouse’s death, divorce of job loss tend to repeat on all of them.

Oddly enough, when you speak of stress factors, traumatic events, such as bereavement, break-up or some other manifestations of losses naturally spring to mind. As it turns out, both trauma and joy can bring about serious anxiety. Nearly all life events which rank among top10 most stressful situations have one common denominator – they entail a noticeable change in life, which might be either positive or negative. If your close relative passes away, if you divorce, if your offspring fly the nest, the change is (in most instances) irreversible and you have get over it. On the other hand, birth of a child, taking up new job, getting seriously involved in a relationship (especially after years of living on one’s own), or moving to a new place, are considered to be positive changes in life, yet for most people cause some degree of tension.

The rankings also contain nerve-fraying events one has to live through, such as family gatherings during Christmas, meeting girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s parents for the first time, public speeches (for individuals affected by stage fright), job interviews, visits to a dentist or just doing something for the first time (travelling abroad, etc.).

Definitely stress should be tamed, yet since humans vary between among one another, there is no suitable-to-all prescription for coping with it. Personally, I strive to rationalise what exactly can cause anxiety, i.e. dig down to reach the roots of my anxiety and overpower them directly. I cannot claim to be successful all the time, but I am proud to have brought under control stress at workplace and to have learnt to keep safe distance towards things which wind up but are beyond my control.

Finally, I posit people get stressed-out every time they walk out of their comfort zone, which leads to a foregone conclusion stress is in many situations positive and natural since it accompanies making your dreams come true. As my friends says, everything you dream of is on the other side of you fears, the fears you need to overcome. In other situations, i.e. those categorised as traumas, experiencing stress proves we are humans and cannot get over some events in life devoid of feelings. 

Off to Italy in business next Sunday, so the next posting (photo coverage of the trip) around 17 September.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The gender


The Polish language has just one noun (płeć) to distinguish between females and males. The differentiation it brings in corresponds with the English word sex, which pertains to physical characteristics of humans, leaving out the psychological traits typical for either females or males. The concept of gender dwells upon all non-physical aspects of being a woman or a man and in Poland is usually associated with political or ideological debates. Sadly, participants of those discussions rarely touch the concept of what marks out differences between females in males in terms of roles they take, how they (are expected to) behave and what has been instilled in them.

Some roles have been entrusted by nature (e.g. a woman must give birth to a child not a man), some configurations have been precluded by nature (e.g. only people of the opposite sex can become biological parents), some types of behaviours run in the genes or are driven by hormones, but not all. I have taken the trouble to write out a few most vivid dissimilarities between women and men I happen to observe.

Men are straightforward; in the way they communicate, formulate thoughts, interact with other people. If my male friend and I disagree, we have no problems speaking it out, if we find each other’s behaviour unacceptable for some reasons, we share our discomfort with the other one, if we are to bear a grudge, we do it for a short time, since we do not hold off on giving vent to our feelings. Women put their messages between the lines, give hints, send non-verbal signals, which is exciting, but hey… it hampers straightforward communication. And the way women quarrel generally differs from the way men argue, and so I prefer to squabble with men, since it is more… civilised, less emotional and the outcome is predictable.

Women find it easier or have been taught to show emotions openly. For me the utmost evidence is that women are generally allowed (by cultural and social norms) to cry when other people see it, while men are brought up not to shed their tears in public as this is perceived as a sign of weakness. Obviously, you could point out in some situations crying men a natural sight, yet boys over the course of upbringing are taught not to cry and to be less effusive, in terms of showing emotions and talking about them.

Women traditionally have been more inclined to care more about how they look and what they wear. Not long ago a man was expected to be clean, shaved, have his hair combed and look neatly, while a woman needed to devote more time and energy to spruce herself up. Today’s men tend to pay more attention to what they wear and to their overall look. I believe the key difference between approach of females and males is best illustrated by an anecdote about a couple who stare at the contents of their wardrobe. Wife gazes at them and sighs: “nothing to wear, no room to put anything more” (nie ma co włożyć, nie ma gdzie powiesić), while her husband intreats: “don’t throw it away, it’s still good, I’ll we wearing it” (nie wyrzucaj, to jest jeszcze dobre, jeszcze będę w tym chodził).

I am in two minds about this very difference, but statistically, women are more responsible than men. They are less likely to take risky decisions, less often do dangerous things, before making a choice are more likely to think twice and use their imagination to conjure up negative scenarios or anticipate consequences of their behaviour. Responsible approach to life has many aspects and might be hard to define, but if you confront it with carefree attitude, this one is more often represented by males, I guess.

The piece above naturally intertwines with practical approach to life. Whatever you do, you may treat it as a task to complete or make it a feast or source of pleasure. Men who furnish their dwelling are more likely to simply choose finishing materials, fittings and furniture and get the job done; women will focus on each detail, will care which very item is chosen. Men who buy clothes go to a shop, try on, if they fit, pay and walk away; for women shopping venture is an adventure and a ritual. But on the other hand (big) boys are more fond of gadgets and the regularities above do not apply to some purchases, for instance a car – women would rather seek a vehicle with four wheels to be set in motion, while men would focus on what the vehicle has under the bonnet and elsewhere.

Differences between genders, though still noticeable, have faded away over time and conceivably will continue to wane. While I am far from judging gender ideology to be the oracle of evil, I am of the opinion dissimilarities between women and men spice up their relationships and because they keep the flame burning, they ought to be nurtured.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Depression


Once in my confession (one of the posts I saved for posterity and I will revert to as long as content of my blog is not erased from the Internet) I held forth that problems with mental health are the aftermath of attempting to remain strong for too long. Over five years I have studied more on the topic and that very assertion appears now simplified to me since it narrows down to only some circumstances in life that may wreak havoc to one’s psyche and leave there scars for years to come.

The popular belief that people who need to consult a psychiatrist to get their health fixed are mental jobs, wackos, or have a screw loose is now on the wane. More and more individuals realise they have fellows afflicted by mental diseases around them who are not dangerous for anyone around (though life with them is anything but carefree) who fight what haunts them and strive to live normally.

Much contribution to understanding the nature of mental illnesses has been made by public confessions of famous people who have been struggling depression and told stories of what it has felt like, in Poland the best examples are Justyna Kowalczyk and Tomasz Jastrun.

Just as the world is not black and white, but painted with different shades of grey (when colours are gone), depression and other mental illnesses can have different intensity which may vary from being on the verge of committing suicide (but being short of enough energy to take the ultimate step) to functioning seeming normally, yet doing things mechanically, not drawing pleasure from activities which should bring pleasure. Joylessness looms as the mildest form of depression, creeping in cunningly, wiping smile off a human’s face, slowly poisoning one’s life. Joylessness is the most difficult to cure, since actually a doctor does not need to bring a patient back to a state of being able to function normally.

Such consideration brings forth the question of apposite therapy for individuals affected with mental disorders. Generally speaking the two cure methods usually combined are pharmacological and psychotherapy. The former bring quick relief and help patient live quite normally, while the latter is geared at long-term effect and improving quality of life to make patients live without pills at some moment in time.

Opinions on what causes depression among laymen vary. Those more familiar with the topic would say “damages in the brain” play a vital role in seeding depression. Others in turn claim traumatic or stressful situations in life bring about the disease. The former are closer to the truth, since had it not been for something that goes wrong at the back of your head, people whose lives are enviable would not fall victim of depression. Obviously, adverse circumstances, such as family conflicts, stress at work, loneliness, financial troubles, increase the risk of being depression-stricken, yet some genes which predestine one to come down with this mental disease intensify impulses which send one’s spirits down.

What lifts spirits in turns is the growing awareness and tolerance to people struggling mental problems. It should be borne in mind they are like somatic diseases – may affect anyone, though there are individuals more prone to it on account of their lifestyle or what fate has bestowed on them.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Wounded by fear, injured in doubt



It has been an affection, it has been a both-sided, reciprocated affection. It’s been longing and yearning, hoping and trusting. But each affection, each fascination must evolve into a friendship if two people are to share the daily life without going mad under one roof. And after all, two people must really fit each other, share the same values and, arguably, exhibit the same approach to down-to-earth stuff. Some say if not, burning-hot romance ends in an ice-cold break-up…

Once I have been told at the age of nearly 30 after half a year of relationship you should already know whether your girlfriend or boyfriend is a potential life companion or not. At such time you cannot wait for years, enjoying the carefree going out until it gets really serious. When you are 30 there is little time to waste, so either you keep it going forever or let it burn down in flames and walk separate ways to give yourself more time to find a better opportunity (out of those already scarce).
We have decided to keep it secret. Under the current circumstances hiding us from some part of the world seems an optimal solution, but I am sick of concealing the joy you bring out in me.

But joy is not the only feeling that haunts me because of you. My closest friends realise it is not as rose-coloured as it ought to be on such early (fourth month) stage of relationship when butterflies should still fly in a stomach and a girlfriend should be idealised.

Since between the lines you suggest one day we would get married, I need to ask myself whether I would imagine daily life with you, running a house, sharing household duties and particularly, raising children. Admittedly I have doubts and wonder how to share them with you, mindful after all you are very sensitive and you care much, though you show it so peculiarly…
So what fills me with so much dread…?

Firstly, your nutrition habits. No, not that you are vegetarian, but that you eat so little, not because you are not hungry (I wonder how often you actually are hungry), but because for some reason you do not come by food. If somebody arranges you the food and puts a plate under your nose, you eat with alacrity. In the long run not bringing enough calories to your body would be to the detriment of your health.

Secondly, fending for yourself, or rather not doing it. I was shocked to learn one day when you had your period you cycled 120 kilometres without changing your sanitary towel, ate one bar of chocolate and ice-cream and drank less than a litre of beverages along the way.
Bringing back the above, I cannot imagine you being pregnant (I would worry you miscarry) or looking after our children.

Thirdly, what turns you on (not in bed…) when it comes to spending free time, where and how you would like to travel, what you would spend money on and what to save on…

At times I wonder whether you have not painted an idealised picture of me in my head and whether you are not confronting it with reality. If I am to be happy with you, I need to be myself and you have to embrace me the way I am, with all my shortcomings (not meaning I would not fight them). I could strain myself you live up to your expectations, but pretending to be someone else would lead us nowhere. Maybe if I do not fit your notion of your ideal life companion, breaking up should be an option and little room for compromise should be left.

Yes, I am afraid of breaking up. But I should strive to seek reasons to keep it going. To have somebody to copulate with (recently even this gives little pleasure)? To have somebody to spend my free time with? To avert loneliness and returning to sad, yet stable life I led before we met? I heard sticking to a lousy relationship and making concessions not to let it terminate proves one’s low self-esteem…

My friends tell me to give it up. They claim since the onset of this relationship I have been emotionally mangled, instead of bursting with joy, I have been apathic, not a typical symptom of infatuation… Someone who has spent some time with you told me if I am to carry on, I should be prepared for rough rides just like parents who decide to adopt an orphan who might be genuinely good, but with a burden of past harms and hurts, might turn out to be a problem child. Another friend has told me I should not delude myself I would shape you or teach you things your parents failed to teach you. They might all be right, but I have invested too much time and emotions into this relationship to take the path of least resistance and break it up. No one promised an easy deal…