I am not a very musical person, I just listen to whatever my wife puts on for me (she's pretty good at that), as I find making my own taste too much work and I find looking for new music a terrible chore, however I was just browsing some stuff on reddit or whatever (I honestly usually don't know how I end up at some page when I start madly interneting) and somehow got to this track, which I liked to an unusual extent, so you might as well put it on to get into the right mood for this reading. Yep, it's the guy who made "Down under" with an acoustic guitar and the sound is marvelous. Why he wouldn't do stuff like this in the first place is beyond me.
It's almost a year since I "moved" to Warsaw. I am not a newcomer to traveling, but back then, it seemed like a pretty major journey when we packed everything into our car and went for it. Now I can't even count the number of times I went back and forth and I must say that I am beginning to enjoy it. I have mostly ditched the buses and try to take the train whenever possible. It takes eight hours, but it never really feels that long. If I can get a good seat (that is, in a large-space carriage, not these silly cramped compartments), I can turn the journey into the most productive time of my month (I have written an 8-page article like that once). Or I can just look outside, impress some tourists with my local knowledge or just browse nonsense online - since I got my new 4G phone, I actually have a better connection at most times on mobile than I have at home. And with today's end of the roaming in EU, I can finally use my polish data plan (which costs next to nothing) all the way to Prague. I really don't understand why I didn't buy a new phone years ago, because it's so much fun to have everything working again, but at least by waiting I probably made the phone that much better.
There is something inexplicably cool about traveling by train. I know that people find old trains romantic, but what I really like the most are these new, comfortable and fast trains that we are getting now. Moving relatively quietly (from the inside) in a nice environment at 160 km/h is just ... nice. There is still even this weird touch of romanticism in meeting all the other trains from faraway places. And sometimes interesting things happen, such as today when we stopped in a small station to pick up some passengers from an earlier train which we saw being disassembled on the other track (probably a carriage breakdown). It's now listed at 99 minutes of delay which may be just the maximum value of that counter The most amazing thing to me is however just the thought that this whole huge infrastructure is there every day, whether I am looking or not, hauling people around tirelessly.
Since I got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, my life has been a weird roller-coaster of ups and downs. Learning that I have drawn the short straw was really the biggest disappointment of my life. However after getting through the beginning (which I still believe was made much worse by the useless steroid medication) it didn't seem that bad - after all, I had a good chance that nothing is gonna trouble me for years before new symptoms appear. So I went snowboarding to the Alps, got a throat infection on the way, and spent half of the trip laying in bed, but at least with a pretty good view - because I have to be reasonable now and try to deal with all infections properly so that my immune system doesn't act up too much.
Then I got the shiny modern medication, in the form of pre-filled syringes that I have to apply myself every other day. After learning (the hard way) how to do it properly, it's now not more than a nuisance. However some weird things started to with me - my face would be becoming stiff, my hands wouldn't open fully, my fingers would randomly feel like they were swollen. My doctor told me that it's probably not a direct manifestation of the MS, gave my some magnesium which seemed to really help ...
... and then, out of the blue, my leg went stiffer than I would be comfortable with. That was really the low point of it all, because not only I felt like things are getting bad much faster than it was promised, I had also big trouble actually reaching any doctor on phone. Apparently, having MS isn't that big of a deal ... I finally decided to go back to Prague to show myself to the doctor in person - and the other morning, as I went to the bus station, the leg went back to normal. After 6 weeks, I am still having weird and completely random pains in both legs and the funny episodes of "myokymia", when small parts of my muscles fire randomly, producing slight tingling and a very freaky-looking spectacle on my skin, but I am somehow back to walking normally, without any medical action.
But enough about the stupid disease. Spring is here! Since we moved in to Poland, I dreamed about enjoying the spring here, with the flooded meadows and new life. Not being able to walk properly for a couple of weeks didn't exactly help, but nevertheless we made some pretty fun jaunts into the wild, wading knee deep through clear sandy overflows amidst endless flocks of waterbirds with the occasional moose here and there. It turned out that the right time between late-winter rains and early-summer hordes of mosquitoes is pretty short, but we moreorless hit it perfectly.
The highlight of the season was definitely our Great Snipe project. We knew that those birds can be seen somewhere in NE Poland, but information on the internet is pretty scarce, for a good reason - to limit the number of people that disturb them during their spectacular lek. We managed to find out on some forum that there is a well-known site near the village of Narew, but that was a rather general description. However, digging deeper, we found a Polish article about an observation platform being built at the location and an English trip report, where the author claims that the place is impossible to find without a guide, as they had to go by car from the back of some local factory, through a lot of forest and through many left and right turns.
Guess what - this description is exactly enough to find the place after a couple of minutes with satellite maps and about half an hour driving around the forest! When I finally saw the platform, that victory feeling was just awesome. We didn't really see the Snipe very well, but we had a great evening in the marshes, surrounded by exciting sounds and enjoying a great sunset. Most importantly though, we found it on our own.
The NE Poland landscape might seem monotonous at first sight, just a huge swath of flat land with some rivers, marshes, mud and mosquito-infested forests. But the fact that the interesting things aren't usually visible at first sight is a big part of the mystique of the area. One day we pulled up in a random forest parking and met some Dutchies who told us they have just seen a wolf, another day we were able to catch a glimpse of a Barn Owl right in the Goniadz village and yet another day we spent on a boat navigating channels in reed wide just enough for us to get through.
Speaking of birds, we managed to make two short (Friday evening to Wednesday) birding trips to more distant lands. Ryanair's offer in Warsaw-Modlin is just irresistable and they even offer a car rental slightly cheaper than rentalcars.com, so for just a couple of hundred euro each, we did Madrid in April and Athens in June. The first trip had some really great spring atmosphere (spring in northern Andalusia is just out of this world, feels like another planet), the second was a tad too warm, but had a little more great birds, finding 12 out of 14 target species, and the warmth could be easily washed away in the sea which was never too far from us.
I also bought a bike, which was one of the greatest things I could do, as Warsaw really begs to be explored on a bike as it is completely flat. On first sight, there is not much to explore, but it's really the same story as with the NE Poland in general: if you look carefully, so many small interesting places pop up everywhere. I really can't wait for another random drive around.
During some time between enjoying the spring and lying hopelessly in bed hoping for my leg to get better while watching GoT analysis videos, I managed to "write my PhD thesis", which actually meant about a week of real work, mostly putting existing articles together and writing some small pieces to make it into a naturally flowing text. However, between all of the things happening and my natural laziness, I needed three months to get myself to finish it. If everything goes well, it will be doctor opisska in September.
In the meanwhile, though, big plans await. Korea in July, and the US in August. All with the "hopefully" asterisk added, from now that will be the case until I die I guess, because things can get very bad very fast. But for now, I am all about the hope.