The first week

Thursday, April 24, I got up late. Even though I went to bed early, it was quite hard to sleep. I was on my bed for ten hours and couldn’t sleep even half of them. I didn’t sleep well the last two nights also. I was really nervous.

At 10am I got up and went to eat something. While I turn up the pc I eat something. My bags are all over the living room, upside down on a mess. I knew everything was there already, but still I couldn’t close them and say “now I’m ready”. Something should be missing. There’s always something missing.

Anxiety rises. My father arrives at noon and we have lunch. A friend comes up at the last minute to say good bye. The farewells, that were lasting a week already, are over. I hug my friend, kiss my sister on the cheek and start to put my bags in the car.

It would be only five months, but still the feeling of “the last time” for everything was odd. I lock the door and catch myself wondering when I would be doing it again. Something so silly like that, but that at the moment had a big impact on me. I remembered four years ago when I did the same before moving to Lithuania and I saw Peter, our dog, for the very last time before he died, a month after I left. It wasn’t the same, but at the same time it was a little bit.

I think about my girlfriend. My parents. My grandmother, uncles, aunties, cousins, friends, former work colleagues, enemies. It would be just five months, why should I be so worried?

We are on the street, towards the airport. We stop to pick up my mom in the city center and the way to the airport had never been so fast.

We arrived. It was a quick good bye, but took me some tears. Now it was me and my destiny. “I feel an empty on my chest and I actually feel my chest empty”, it’s what Cartola, a Brazilian singer, says in one of his best songs. I couldn’t help but sing it when I entered the airport and started to check-in the bags.

Thursday afternoon, airport is crowded, the queues are huge to go through the immigration. “I wonder how it will be during World Cup”, I thought to myself ironically. “Fuck the World Cup”, I whispered. Someone must have heard it, I’m not sure. Fuck it. Sorry for my swearings. I was nervous.

I ask an employee of the airport if with my italian passport I could take the queue for the foreigners, that was completely empty. She said yes and I could see the angry faces of the other people looking at me. I would be angry too. I hated myself a little bit, but I never played the good guy.

As soon as I got through the Police Control, that politely told me my attitude wasn’t wrong, making me like myself again, I am stopped by an Argentinian girl who’s completely lost and doesn’t know where to take her flight. In less than an hour I was already speaking with my world renowned portunhol – a mix of Portuguese with Spanish. I found out that she was in the wrong gate and it made me like myself even more. I was still nervous, but starting to get relaxed.

I sit down and call my girlfriend. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it. But I would probably regret forever for not doing it. I cry a little and turn off the phone. Even though I was still in Brazil, I was feeling abroad. It makes no sense to keep the phone on.

I enter the airplane and it looks full. My seat is in the corridor and I wanted to kill the employee that got me this seat. I asked for the window, dammit. Window, always window!

I wait to see who will sit by my side. I was never really worried about who would sit by my side and this time wasn’t different. The door closes and no one would sit next to me. I didn’t hate the employee anymore.

Ten hours of flight, three movies watched, at least thirty songs listened plus two sitcoms watched. Sleep? Nope. I arrive in Madrid at 6am.

I try to entertain myself in the airport until 9am. Then I decided to go to the city center. I ask, now with my spanish from Madrid accent, how to get where I wanted to go. I found out a cheaper option than the one I found in internet. Go by train instead of the Metro. The ticket was 2,50 euros and not the 4,50 euros for the Metro. I bought two tickets and get to the train. There I found out that the train doesn’t stop in the T1 terminal, where I would take the other flight. I felt the dumbest person in the world.

I got to Nuevos Ministerios station, found the shop where I was researching for prices before in Brazil and the prices are slightly cheaper than I was expecting. I wasn’t feeling so dumb anymore for losing the 2 euros of the train ticket.

I had done what I had to and I still had plenty of time before my next flight. I took a walk around the station. I saw a lot of homeless people, mostly foreigners, but I also saw a few homeless spanish. Two ladies stop me to make me a few questions for a research and I tell them I’m not spanish. They say I could speak spanish very well and that would be enough. I was happy to hear that and accepted to answer the questionnaire, but I had to be living in Spain for that, unfortunately. At least my accent was praised.

I buy a snack, bread and jamón. After all, I was in Spain. I throw everything in my bag and go to the airport. I still had 3 hours before my flight. I sit in front of the check-in place, waiting them to call, and I had my lunch.

I see muslims going to Morocco. Then I see French going to Paris. Mallorca, Pisa and finally “Cracovia” is on the screen for the check-in. It was time. I check-in my bag and go towards the gate.

The flight departures a little bit late, but the pilot made it to land on time. At 8pm I’m in Polish land. On the 3 hours flight I could sleep. But it that kind of sleep you have when you are completely exhausted. It wasn’t a good sleep.

At 9pm I got to the Hostel, left my things, took a shower and sent a message tom y parentes saying I was alive. After 28 hours of travelling I can finally sleep properly.

On the second day I woke up early. My friend, Tomek, who I met four years ago in Lithuania, is sleeping on the bed beneath mine. He arrived while I was sleeping and didn’t want to wake me up. One by one, everyone in the bedroom wake up and he gets up. We said hello to each other, a hug and went to breakfast.

We discussed what we would do in Krakow and about my plans for the car and the trip. We left the Hostel at 11am and went walking to the city center. There we met Kasia, another friend from Vilnius’ times.

At the restaurant we decided to go I can, finally, order my first beer. It was later than noon, so I didn’t feel bad ordering it. A little bit  later, Gosia and Beata arrive, more friends that I haven’t seen in the last four years. We stayed there for a while and decided to take a walk and eat Zapiekanka.

We went to Kazimiersz, the Jewish neighborhood of Krakow. We ate the delicious zapiekanka and then went to a boat-bar at the Wisla river, right next to the Wawel tower. There we met with Samuele and Asia, also friends we made in Lithuania. The meeting was complete and we started to drink more.

Some Tomek’s friends I didn’t know started to arrive while my friends started to leave. It remained me, Tomek and his friends. More beers and an invitation to go watch Klitschko fight in one of his friend’s Flat, Lukas.

More beer, polish pizza and boxing. It was already 2am and I didn’t know what was going on anymore.

Back to the Hostel, at 3am, we slept. The next day we would go to Zabrze, Tomek’s hometown, where I would buy the car.

I woke up with hangover, but I didn’t have time to feel sick. I had a shower, coffee, eat something, took my things and we run to the bus station. 1pm and we are already in Zabrze. Charming, especially on a sunny Sunday.

Already off the touristic area of Poland, people started to look more at me. I wasn’t just one more tourist between so many.

We got to his flat, at a traditional communist building. Small but really cosy flat. I met his parents, Grzegorz, gym class teacher and running coach, and Krisztina, math teacher. I ask for some time to rest before lunch and then the hangover, that was hidden somewhere, reappears. I start to feel a bit sick.

Tomek brings me a tomato soup with rice that was delicious. So sad I wasn’t feeling good. I try my best to eat, but the hangover didn’t allow me to eat everything. I decided to take a shower and rest more. At 3:30pm we left to meet the Lada.

The place where the Lada was is Ruda Slaska. In 20 minutes we were there and it was impossible not to see that green car parked on the street. Before we call the owner to come meet us, we took a look at the car. It wasn’t as good as it looked like in the pictures, but still it was in a very good shape. Some rust here and there, something missing here, but ok. It was time to take a look inside.

We called the owner and a tall, strong Polish guy, not older than 35, arrived. Said hello to everyone and Grzegorz started to make some questions while Tomek was translating to me.

The car was given to him as part of a payment for a service he had done it to the previous owner. He had never really used the car and he wasn’t so sure about his real situation. We entered the car and took a ride around the block. To me, the car looked like brand new. Soft, no shaking and noises. I liked it.

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We got back to the starting point and discussed the car conditions, price and documents. The owner said we would have to change the oil and also the car should be revised by the authorities in order to get the documents. We decided he would do it the next morning, Monday, and we would meet him after it to make the deal. He offered a discount quite interesting and I was happy about the idea.

Back to the flat, I laid down to rest more. Grzegorz then started to search for other cars in internet and tried to change my mind about buying a Lada. I explained him that the trip wouldn’t be the same with a “normal” car and that if wanted to travel in the most comfortable and cheapest way, I should go by bus or train. He laughed and said ok.

Tomek’s sister, Anja, and her boyfriend, Arek, arrived at the flat, bringing Zula, their dog. I told them a bit about my trip and, after the initial surprise, they thought it was an interesting idea. Soon Tomek told me his friends wanted to meet us for a couple of beers and my brain said yes even though my stomach screamed no.

We met his friends, Adam and Kasia. I had my first beer and regretted to do so. I donate my second to him, who doesn’t think twice to take it.

At midnight we came back and went to sleep. The next day would be really important.

I woke up really anxious in the next morning. I was still very tired from the trip, from the hangover and the few hours of sleep. But no time to feel sick again. This time Tomek had to go to work. After all, it was Monday already. His father took me to meet one of his students to help us with translation.

We picked up Monika in Zabrze’s city center and went to Ruda Slaska. On the way I explain her about my trip and, once more, after the initial surprise, she seems to like the idea.

The negotiation was quick. Lux, the owner, filled some papers while was talking to Grzegorz about documents and insurance. Meanwhile, Monika was translating to me, even though she had no idea what they were talking about. The deal was made, the documents and keys were mine now and I could, finally, drive the Lada for the very first time.

I started having some troubles with the Keys. Then with the seat adjustments and, at last, to put up the back gear. But everything went ok.

I am not really experienced with old cars, as I said before. When I first tried to steer the steering wheel, I felt like I was opening a shrunk submarine from the Second World War. Suddenly, the 1973 Beetle I had felt like a Ferrari. At least the Lada wasn’t so noisy as the Beetle was.

I follow Grzegorz and Monika to the car shop. We buy oil, the oil filter and then we head to a gas station. The fuel red light was already blinking and who knows since when it was like that.

After filling up the fuel tank, we went to the mechanic, near Tomek’s flat. When Grzegorz announced to the mechanics that an 1981 Lada was there to change the oil, everyone started to laugh. When they knew about my trip then, there was one that almost pissed on his pants. I felt like a completely crazy dude.

They lift the car, take out the old oil. Meanwhile they check under the car. Everyone said that for a 33 years old car, the situation was quite good. But a small bump in one of the back tires was found and they decided to change it for the spare tyre.

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They put the car back to the ground and the step tyre was in a better shape than the other one. They open the hood and start checking the engine. Zbginiew arrives, an older and more experienced mechanic.

He checks here, there, everywhere. And he founds a small leak on the carburetor. Doesn’t make a nice face and tells me in English “change it”. Then the question we all made was “where the hell could we find a 1981 Lada’s carburetor?” He tells me he would try to fix this one while searching for a place to buy a new one. And we could go back home. Monika was bored and had no idea what was going on and why she was there after all. I tell her sorry.

Once more in the flat, Grzegorz leaves us with Krisztina and goes to work. I, she and Monika started to talk about the car, my trip, traditional polish food and many other things. I say that Zapiekanka and Pierogi are my favorites and soon there were three different kinds of Pierogi on the table. I felt very welcomed.

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Grzegorz comes back and this time is Krisztina that has to go to work. Teachers never have a regular schedule, in Brazil or in Poland. After a while we got a call asking us to go back to the mechanic and there we go.

Zbginiew shows me the carburetor and its inside. He changes the filter, clean properly the rust on the pieces and tells me “now, good, no change”. He notices I was interested about a small white car parked near us and invites me to go inside.

The car is a Syrena. Made in Poland during the 1960’s and 1970’s. I ask if the car is his and he tells me that is not. But he had one and used to go every summer to Varna, in Bulgaria, 1500km away from there. “Simple engine, breaks, easy to fix”, he tells me in his interesting English accent.

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Tomek’s back from work and comes to the mechanic. His father and Monika leave. It was already 4pm. I ask about the breaks and if it was possible to test them. They say yes, but only in the next morning.

Zbginiew teaches me a lot about mechanincs before we leave. I say thanks, pay for the services and leave. Tomek was starting to be nervous. His football team was going to play soon and he didn’t want to miss it for nothing.

We run to the flat, left the Lada and got up. We ate something quickly and went downstairs again to meet his friends at the bar. There we met Kasia and Adam again.

The bar was a former Brazilian restaurant. There was a Brazilian map in limestone at the entrance but it was completely odd with the new decoration. We got some beers and the match starts.

The match was between Górnik Zabrze and Pogón Szczeczin. It was a tough match and the final result was a draw, 2 x 2. It was an away match for Górnk and Pogón has been playing better in the championship, so it wasn’t a bad result. We leave.

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We decide to do the same thing we did last night, buy some beers and drink them in front of the flat. This time I wasn’t feeling sick and could drink a bit more. They ask me to see the car and Adam tells me “what a huge bottle opener you bought”. We laughed a lot, took some pictures and found a place to sit down and drink.

The next morning, the fifth day, we woke up early and took the car back to the mechanic to test the breaks. This time was another guy that could speak English. I leave the keys and Tomek and I go back walking to the flat.

There, Grzegorz waits for us and Tomek goes to work. Soon Grzegorz also has to leave and I stay alone in the flat for a couple of hours. I lay down on the couch, get my computer and start to write and check how much I had spent already. The internet doesn’t work properly so I can’t open the blog. I decide just to write.

Grzegorz comes and goes from the flat while I’m on the couch writting and watching some Polish TV. I think about the car a lot.

In late afternoon, Tomek comes back from work and we decide to go to Gliwice, a near city, to watch the Real Madrid and Bayern Munich’s match. There we met Anja and Arek again and had a nice, long talk.

It’s already the sixth day and the car isn’t ready yet. Tomek goes to work early and told me he would warn me if the car was ready. I keep the hope to go to Poznan this same day, even though the next day would be holiday and wouldn’t help me to get the documents.

The time passes and the car isn’t ready. Tomek tells me to go there myself, after all, the new mechanic could speak English. I do that and when I get there I meet Grzegorz, who had the same idea. The car was finally ready.

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We go back to the flat and while I was packing my things, Krisztina asked me to go only in the next day, to avoid driving at night. I didn’t have to think twice and said yes.

In the evening we go to Katowice, the silesian capital. There we met Olia, an ukranian girl that lives there for a while. We talked about the ukranian situation, my trip and many other things. I knew I had to drive the next day, but I couldn’t resist and had a few beers.

The next day I woke up a bit later than expected and it’s time to leave Zabrze and go to Poznan. The first real adventure with the car. But this one I will tell you next time.

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