About how for the one day I was an American / New York City

For the one day I was an American.
That one day I was walking on SoHo and watching the mannequins with my eyes wide open, I was riding on the Wall Street and observing with disbelief how true is what they say, “slow down” said noone ever on the Wall Street.
I was eating a creamy chocolate ice cream of the size of my two fists together in the Central Park and laughing at the tiny dogs struggling to follow their jogging owners along 8th Avenue, five minutes walk from Broadway.
I was smiling to the massive billboards on the Times Square, and they were smiling back, and while listening to the Nat King Cole singing Smile, what’s the use of crying, you’ll find that life is still worthwhile If you just smile I thought,
the life is great.


This journey has started a bit different from all the others.
Once a year I have a reserve month. This means that I get no roster for the following month and have basically no idea where am I going next, how long for, and whether I’ll sleep in my own bed or in the one thousand miles away.
I suppose it does sound exciting, but believe me, it costs a lot of nerves too. My bag is lying on the floor packed: half filled with sweaters and jeans, the other half with bikinis and flip flops.
I pray that once I’ll pick up the phone the voice in the speaker will say “hi Emilia, you are going to San Francisco”. Or something like that. Or at least somewhere with grass. And trees. After all these days spent in melting Dubai, that is more than enough to keep me happy.

So I’m lying in bed, watching Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco and feeling like a proper New York gangster. I feel so much like an American wise man that if I had a cigar I would be sitting there smoking it in my bed. If you know what I mean.
The phone is ringing like stupid and when I pick it up mechanically what I hear is that in four hours I’m going to the New York city. It feels great. It actually feels so great that I put Louis Armstrong’s What a wonderful world and we sing together when I’m putting my clothes on.
It is okay that I’m tired,
I’m leaving today
I want to be the part of it
New York, New York

The first thing I remember is the view of the old cemetery. All the concrete crosses looking the same, a bit too tall and a bit too grey, set into the long rows measured with mathematical precision contrasted with the background of all the tall buildings in any possible shape and size you could imagine, smiling to you with the promise, if you make it here, you can make it anywhere. This view had something powerful in it, the contrast of the dead cemetery and the city more alive than anything I have ever seen in my life kept my eyes wide opened for the whole New York morning traffic journey.
And the New York traffic is the real deal, I’m telling you.



It hasn’t even crossed my mind to get into the bed after twelve hours flight. The New York city is not a place to sleep. It doesn’t matter how tired you are: every street forming another square filled with another high building, carrying another yellow taxi that sound merged into one melody with thousands of others will call you to come and become a part of it.
The thing about New York is, that the moment you get there, you don’t feel like a tourist or outsider anymore. You are a part of it. It doesn’t matter whether you are black, or white, or Asian, or whether you wear funny pants, or your dog is wearing funny pants. It makes you fit.
The moment you step out, you become the part of the picture.


As much as I like going out and exploring with others, I couldn’t wait to be in New York by myself. When you are on your own, everything gets more vivid. You know where you want to go and what you want to do there. Strangers are more friendly. Shop assistants and homeless people talk to you, people on the streets smile when you’re passing by. The possibility of getting lost makes your brain draw a map, and constantly fill it with new nooks and crannies. This is how you make friends with a place.
And I really wanted to make friends with New York.

I think a lot of what makes New York, is what you have already seen and it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been there or not yet. If you have a little bit of imagination and you’re able to see Frank Sinatra singing in the old style jazz club on Broadway filled with a smoke from long, thin cigarettes, or a man playing a solo on his golden saxophone from the little balcony above the street on SoHo, if you can see with your eyes how Jay Gatsby crosses the Brooklyn bridge in his car, how Marilyn Monroe presses a dress to her knees on the Times Square, how Al Pacino walks down with Johnny Deep on the streets of Little Italy wearing dark glasses and heavy coats, it doesn’t matter whether you’re there for a day, or forever, you will feel like the happiest person on the globe, just like I did.


So that would be all that I wanted to say about the New York.
And if you are wondering whether Downtown and Central Park look the way they show them on the movies, and all that fuss about America is there for any reason, and if you’re curious whether it’s worth to fly around the North Pole to see it all, I suppose I’m too much of a dreamer to give you the right answer.

Unless you are thinking about selling your fridge and buying a plane ticket.
Than listen, sell your fridge and get a ticket,
if you know what I mean

Osaka, Japan

Where to start?

I remember it was a summer two thousand and five. It must have been August, because it was raining everyday and the Sun was going down pretty early. My mum was on holidays with my little sister and I was left home alone with dad, pretty cool time. We both have always been horrible cooks, so I didn’t have to come back home at any certain time for a dinner. Instead I was getting some twenty zlotych to get myself a pizza and was let free. Twenty zlotych is not a bad money for a fourteen years old, who reminds more of a bony boy than a girl, and can survive a day on big cup of hot chocolate. These days twenty zlotych felt like you got a freedom.

That summer they opened the big shopping center in the town, twenty minutes walk from home. It was a pretty big thing and a great first step in forming my generation of consumers. I remember how after school we were all going there and window shopping all the things we couldn’t afford. Anyway, that end of summer two thousand and five was particularly boring. So I was taking my twenty zlotych and going to this shopping center. I remember they had a big book store. It was a proper thing: with all the CD albums you could think about, rows of books and red sofas, so people could sit down and read a book. I remember it was a pretty cool thing.

I went around that bookstore and grabbed some books with nice covers. When you’re fourteen you only want to read books with nice covers. I got to the sofas hoping that any of these pretty books wasn’t totally boring so I could sit there still for a short while and look smart. These sofas were always full of people looking smart, especially these days.
There was one book looking particularly interesting. The cover was pink, the kind of Japanese cherry blossom pink, with the name of the author written down to up. It was Murakami’s Norwegian wood.

When I think about it, it is actually quite funny that this was the first Murakami’s book I bumped into. Even thought I think he has many greater novels, this is the one that has made him famous in Japan and all over. Apparently you can find t-shirt and pens with that title in Japan. It is the only one of his books ever filmed. I am not a particular fan of it now, but that day I was miles miles away, and hardly even noticed how it became completely dark outside. By that time I was the only person reading on the red sofas.

That was my first trip to Japan.
It was a first trip to many other things in my life too. It was my choice of later studies and many other choices too. But let me tell you about Japan.

After Norwegian came all the others: South of the Border, West of the Sun, Dance, Dance, Dance, Sputnik Sweetheard – from this one I still have a picture of a woman imprisoned on a top of a still Ferris wheel in my head and I remember it every time I look at one, 1Q84, later Tony Takitani, Wind-up bird Chronicles which is still my favorite book, Kafka on a shore, Sleeping woman and blind willow in a hard cover that I got from my childhood best friends for eighteenth birthday. All of them.
I used to be pretty obsessed about Spirited away which was the beginning of my romance with Hayao Miyazaki movies. When I remember Howl’s Moving Castle it makes me want to get into bed and watch it over and over again. At uni I discovered Kazuo Ishiguro.

Saying all that, I had a pretty vivid picture of Japan in my head when I was boarding on my Osaka flight. It probably doesn’t make me the best person to tell you about Japan. I have pretty much loved it, long long before I even knew I will ever get to see it.

I must have looked pretty stupid using my both hands passing the tiny chopsticks, bowing million times saying “arigato” and doing all that just to be at least a little bit Japanese. Japan is a good lesson on culture.

First thing that made me smile once I got to my room was a toilet. I know it sounds ridiculous, but Japanese toilet is the highest art of technology. I don’t want to tell you too many details, but once a European person sits on the heated toilet desk and see around four or five buttons with other toilet shower options, it feels a bit confusing. A light shower, spraying shower… let’s not go into the details.

Osaka is busy. If you don’t know where are you going, you will be lost after passing two crossings. Hundreds of people run somewhere, they all look like they knew where they are going. Heads up, look straight. They wear white shirts inside the black office trousers, some of them have surgical masks on the faces. Women hide their white skin under umbrellas. Some people look straight into my camera. Later on I find out how empty these looks are.



The trees are singing. Everything is Japan is living. Streets are full of people, grass is full of grasshoppers. Osaka is loud, but not noisy.

After getting lost in the massive underground train station and struggling with buying a ticket we went to Arashiyama, the bamboo forest. Arashiyama is a small place. It looks exactly how I imagined Japan when reading all these books. It is green and quiet. You can hear the birds singing, it is green everywhere around. Ice cream shops sell two types of ice creams: milk, white one, and a green tea. Everything is a bit smaller than in Europe, the ceilings are a little bit lower, you take smaller steps on the stairs. Seventeen meters high bamboos give a misty light to the path. It feels very spiritual. Girls in kimonos walk slowly in their high Japanese shoes looking like they were some forest creatures. Some of them hold the phones in a pink cover and text somebody. Geishas must be texting somebody too.

In the middle of a forest there is a wide river. Maybe fifteen meters wide and maybe forever long. It has the colour of the trees. The forest is so dense you can’t see it properly at the first sight, but it is there, surrounded by the mountains. When you look at the water you can see it’s moving in all the different directions. It is full of fish, turtle. There is a three meter snake sunbathing with half of the body out. Pilot is running around trying to take a photo of it from every possible angle. It makes me laugh. The little girl in kimono covers the face with both hands when I try to discretely point my camera at her. I feel like I discovered the sense of sight for the first time in my life, that is how beautiful this place is.


After the walk we catch a train to Kyoto. There is a boy and girl sitting on the opposite side, I can see them taking photos of us and laughing. Me, pilots and the other girls must look for them like some crazy creatures from a different world.

Kyoto is much much older and quieter than Osaka. Have you seen Rob Marshall’s “Memoirs of a Geisha“?

Imagining little geishas running between old Japanese houses for their music lessons comes pretty easy. Me and another girl went to the tiny hidden local sushi place for a dinner. Even though we probably have made the older lady who was serving us a little bit uncomfortable, you could see we were a bit of an entertainment. There were only us and an older local lady eating something from her tiny bowl with chopsticks. I ordered sushi and the other girl tried to communicate with a lady and order a same thing, but at the end it didn’t work quite well. The older lady tried to talk to us, and the fact we could not understand each other at all gave her a great laugh. The place was tiny and very tidy. There was a quiet traditional Japanese music in the back, and it all smelled like a seaweed and a green tea. I loved it so much that I almost left a tip, which is a rude thing in Japan. Yes, that’s right – no tips.


My impression of Japan is just the same as it was nine years ago when I read the first serious book in my life sitting in the bookstore.
It sounds like Claude Debussy’s Clair de lune and smells of million scents. It is full of helpful hands and kind-hearted, focused faces.
Everything goes smooth like a wide river.
If you lost your cat than you probably should go on a walk to find it and if it takes five years, it doesn’t matter. If you decided to invent planes, you go to school and invent planes.
Life is so easy – This is how I feel in Japan.
The cherry tree blossoms, people run to work. If it starts at eight, be there at seven. Some people hold hands. Their skin is very fair. Girls are very skinny, they hide their doll-like faces under colorful umbrellas. There is a man with an electric guitar playing on a street.
I buy two bottles of sake in a local market and go back to the hotel.
It’s time to go back.