A high of -15

Chicago, post-Christmas break

The noises coming out of my radiators tonight are truly incredible.  More incredible, in fact, than the cold steam coming  through my bathroom window.  They are incessant tonight, which is abnormal.

Usually, there is a 15 to 20 minute break between this hissing, banging, gurgling sounds of my radiators in the winter.  At least enough of a break to get some sleep (as I write after 2am.)  They’ve now heated my apartment so fully that my friend’s comment earlier on my complaint of the severe cold in Chicago does seem correct,

“Well at least you’re apartment is 10,000 degrees.”

I opened my shades to let in a little air.  There’s ice on the inside of the window.  I turned on my fan.  Everything can be managed by a good fan.

It is, really though, great to be back in Chicago.  Christmas break, despite my first two buses back to Chicago getting canceled, despite being de-friended on facebook by someone who days earlier gave me earrings–was restful, and filled with friends, family and love.  It was hard to leave Nebraska, to realize I was going back to a lot of hard work and many very busy days.

The adjustment reminded me of my days of travel, the days of absolute torturous loneliness and sadness when I left home or friends or family.  Transition always broke open new possibilities though, and I don’t think it’s possible to grow without it.  I always hate saying goodbye to Peter and Rooney and the Mollys, and I always will.  And I’m painfully lucky to get to experience those kind of familial bonds of love.

My last night in Omaha, after two haphazard nights sleeping on my brother’s futon after canceled buses, I got to spend several wonderful hours with my mom, shopping and then eating French food and drinking wine.  Then, we met my best friends one more time–friends with whom I’ve never felt more fully like myself, more content in the moment.

Before 10p.m., Mom and I sped off and then waited for nearly an hour and a half for Megabus to finally arrive.  It was enough time to befriend a fellow Nebraska-to-Chicagoan who was game for drinking on the night bus.  The two things I discovered from this adventure were 1: don’t buy Sangria-flavored red wine even if it is the only twist-off bottle in the store and 2: I finally found someone who has a boat! (and offered to let me ride on it!)

I have been back, alone and content, in my apartment in Uptown for a few days now.  I’ve been given time to organize this semester’s classes madness and to think a little bit about the break, about relationships and friendships and various holiday packages I still need to send around the  world.

I’ve been reading a lot too, which has been a comforting reminder of how I  feel so much more human when I’m reading works by James Martin or Murakami or whoever.  The more I read the more I want to write and the more I write the better I feel.

My best friend in Chicago, Nina, called 2013 the “Year of Sophie” but I’d like to continue it on into 2014.  New plans, new friends, new love and adventure.

And hopefully, by the end of this winter, a tolerance to my miserable fucking radiators.

Hello 2014

New year, resolved intentions, Woody Guthrie/Bridget Jones style for 2014:

#1 Graduate with MA

#2 Create great media project for DEON.pl

#3 Go back to Poland this summer (and Balkans. . .)

#4 Find fabulous job in Chi or abroad

#5 Be in beach shape by March

#6 Start Jesuit examen et. James Martin

#7 Make deliberate, sober, honest men decisions

#8 Write more letters

#9 Visit Rachael in Indy

#10 Start travel writing again/keep up blog/edit old travel stories

#11 Work on feet calluses before they become unmanageable

#12 Create new recipes with lentils and other legumes

#13 Try harder at work, patience. . .

#14 Work on photography skills and learn video editing

#15 Read more non-school or news

#16 Avoid beer

#17 Spend less money on booze in general

#18 Grow out hair a bit

#19 Find a church and time that are attainable to attend

#20 Thoughtfully be a part of MASJCD battle

#21 Send package to Australians

#22 Write regularly in new journal

#23 Plan trips more than days in advance so as to avoid repeated Megabus disasters of 2013

#24 Don’t let the 4:30pm darkness of Chicago winter get me down

#25 Sleep earlier and more



Krakow, oh Krakow!

Talking to the trees

Today I walked through St. Boniface Cemetery because the trees were turning and it is a bright fall. I was in a fine mood, as I’d had a very successful meeting with my advisor who told me I could graduate in 1 ½ years. And we spoke of travel for the summer and I saw my future like a crystal ball.

I looked up into the trees in the park and heard the Dr. Zhivago music in my soul.

I bless these moments of divine presence in the city.

At least the poetry of the trees is a constant in this funny season. I so wish it would be a real excuse for not doing homework or inexplicably not going to work.

“Where were you?  Why didn’t you call?”

“Don’t you know? I was talking to the trees.”

What did I do this month?  I re-kindled my romance with cafes and the post office.  I danced around a few landmines of love confessions.  I tried not to listen to too much Jewel.

I may be sentimental to my detriment, but it sure does make for a fine afternoon now and then.

With God on our side

Elzbieta in Krakow

Elzbieta in Krakow, fall 2010

Every now and then I hear a song that feels like three glasses of wine and looks like nostalgia:

The country I come from is called the Midwest. . . 

me in a Prague hostel, 2010

me in a Prague hostel, 2010

Every day is like new and I’m very present because the stakes are high.  I try to see the forest among the essays about inner-city Chicago and graphics of affordable housing stats for the Governor.

There are so many characters these days.  New friends, old friends, coffee dates, drinks after class, drinks before class, weekend tea and feelings parties.  North side–I stay on the north side on the weekend.  Don’t plan to see me unless you’re between Wilson and Devon.

But I miss this:

Erik sleeping on the train to Warsaw

Erik sleeping on the train to Warsaw

There have been many fine moments this fall, and now that I’m in my reflection phase of the season my focus has moved back toward my international sensibilities.  The thought of moving back, of working toward a job, of living abroad (in Poland) again.

The question always arises. . . why do I want to go again?  Why do I think of leaving while I love establishing myself in Chicago, a place near my family, that has plenty of Polish people anyway?

US has folk music, but Poland has the gypsy.

Traveling lady stay awhile

Me and CA on Montrose Pier

My E. Euro travel buddy CA and I on Montrose Pier.  

It’s fall, so I can listen to Leonard Cohen again.

I love fall.  The air is so fresh and my favorite music only really fits in this setting.  Laura Marling, Neko Case, all-things-gypsy. I missed fall last year being in Cochabamba, so this year I’m really soaking in the season.

The light is getting minimal for my lake-bicycling, so I am putting it on a stand in my apartment and decorating it with purple Christmas lights today.  I’m hunkering down for the winter with new boots and a lot of home-made soup.  And I’m trying to get through each new week of school (which is awesome, and would be pretty flawless without god-help-me endless group-projects), work which has morphed into new levels of professionalism/the pretty awful reality of the cubicle-job, and my free time has been turned into reading academia on the train and Wednesday night gypsy jazz.

I’m not sure if I know yet how to not do homework all the time, or stop thinking about it, at least.  It’s good stuff we’re studying.  Basically, all the issues I already read about as far as current events/social commentary go.  But it’s heavy.  It’s the social injustices of the world.  I cry all the time still, but it’s fine, it’s healthy.

Sometimes it seems strange that I am so overwhelmed still by watching videos about Haiti or people getting shot on the South Side.  .  . it still feels like it did back in Nairobi, like an overwhelmingly painful reality of injustice and pain.  By the way, Nairobi: Gunmen kill dozens in terror attack at Kenyan mall

I don’t really know what to say about this other than I spent my last morning in Nairobi at ArtCaffe, the Israeli café in the mall that became a war zone thanks to Al-Shabab.

In other international news I care about a lot, it is surreal the things Pope Francis says.  Every time I hear an interview with him I feel like I’m sitting across from my favorite Jesuit having a drink.  He says: America Magazine Pope Interview

So, while I stay in touch with the world, I’m also learning more about my ‘hood thanks to a project for one of my classes.  I have discovered the Vietnamese bakeries sell both delicious “moon cakes” and for the more unique palate, “pork cookies” (yes.)

I got to play tour guide again, as last week, my dear friend Christi Anne came to visit on her way back from a summer in Russia.  We hadn’t seen each other since my last trip to Ukraine—a last-minute midnight border-run, as I documented in “Impulsive Adventure: Chicago/Lviv”. Oh we had a GOOD time together.  It was fantastic being with someone again who fit in with my other random lives I’ve had abroad, alone.  So many summer camps and night buses and crazy reunions.  We’re making plans for Eastern Europe.  We will both be back soon, no doubt.

Now, time to study again.

Long hair: $25

I feel like this photo needs a cup of coffee in it.

I should have posed with a coffee mug. 

I got my hair cut today.  Jack, my new neighborhood barber, owner of Klassy Cut, gave me a super fun new do, and I thought it warranted a blog.  That, and to document that there is a place to get your hair cut in Andersonville that has a sign up reading:

Men: $15
Women: $18
Long Hair: $25

Doesn’t quite follow my professor’s comment last week when describing how bougie and hip Andersonville is: “Calling Andersonville gay is an understatement.  Culture follows the gays.”

It cracked me up.  Reminded me of when I had my hair cut in La Paz, in Krakow, and by my roommate in Prague.  Jack definitely had an accent too, but didn’t say his ethnicity, and I didn’t ask.  All I know is I can walk-in, just around the corner, and get a good haircut on the cheap.

And next time it will only be $18!

Weeknight fire-escape


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I’ve started and stopped several blogs recently.  Alas, I had to fully commit to my first summer intensive grad-class while hanging on by my fingernails at work, and hosting 4 lovely people since last writing. Now class is over, my grade is in, and I can breathe again.

It’s a beautiful night when all I have to do is sit on my fire escape and sip Gato Negro and think about the summer.

This is mostly what I’ve been up to:

Murphy girls 2.0

Beach babes from Nebraska

Spending every free moment at the beach with visitors: Caroline and Mom, Emily, and Erik.

“Girl from the North Country” (This week’s theme song)

Exploring Uptown. Got to experience gypsy jazz at the Green Mill the Wednesday before the 4th of July.  It was magical, though there wasn’t enough room to dance like Kazimierz.

Old Capone joint

Old Capone joint

Writing excessive marathon-letters to girlfriends from college on the train.  Chicago is full of raw impressions.

My train stop in Little Vietnam

My train stop in Little Vietnam

Continuing to obliterate sad thoughts with Eastern European art, including my favorite Czech short story: The Sweet Weekend

And my favorite new band: If you need violin and accordion in your life

Speaking of the old country. . .

I found the most amazing Polish bar on West Belmont:

Bim Bom Lounge

Bim Bom Lounge. . . Na Zdrowie!

Emily and I had to beat off the Polish men with a stick.  I was being called Zosia again and bought Lechs, Zywiec’s, Becherovka’s and a whole lot of other hangover-inducing drinks.

Molly sent me a package via Vatican post. God bless the Italians.

Additionally, I read at least an article per day about Pope Francis, and am ever-so-excited about his impact on the Church.  He is a joy to read about.  Finally someone confident enough to address the world.  And he hangs with Adolfo. . . or “Nico” as Molly said the Australian Jesuits call him.  It’s like my best friend just became Pope.

Finally, soon, now. . . I’ll be updating.  Summer is bright.

I have become a lake-dweller

Yesterday I woke at dawn, feeling the bottle of wine I’d stopped drinking only 4 or 5 hours before.  I couldn’t stand lying in bed so I went to Michigan Lake, with no plan but to see the water.

At the early hour many people still flanked the beaches where the low sun glittered on the water.  I went out to the pier north of Foster Beach and sat and looked at the rocks and the gulls and thought about the pier that I was on the day before up in Rogers Park.

It was painting day at Pratt Street Beach.  That’s the day when everyone in the neighborhood comes out to paint a long bench along the beach.  There was band playing on the grass near the water and  kids played together in the sand and fished off the pier.  It was a blissful afternoon, a rare moment in time — fleeting in its magnificence — like days I spent abroad, when I knew the time and the person and the place would only last until the clock ran out, until the bus left.

I used to compare these broken-heart feelings to the loneliness that comes when traveling abroad alone.  This morning I woke up thinking I was back underneath a mosquito net, far away and alone.  In the tight grasp of imminent, irreversible change.

I was asked this morning in the bathroom if it was my allergies again.  I said it was.  It’s lucky I don’t have too much work today.  It might be irresponsible to even be here, since I can barely speak.

It is for the best.  It is sensible.  If it didn’t happen it would have ended with frustration, bitterness.  Rather, it ended with a beautiful day at the lake and a *maybe in the future.

It is tragic though.

It was better when it was just the mosquito net.


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