Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pustelnik and Pawlikowska

Because of my cool job working with cool people, I get invited to cool events where I can meet even more cool people. Such was the case last night. I was invited to hear 2 very cool guest speakers: Piotr Pustelnik and Beata Pawlikowska.

[I will take a moment here to mention that the hostess of the evening was one of the coolest of all. She was really witty and clever and made the whole evening flow smoothly with a big dose of intelligent humor. Ms. Agata, thank you for the invitation.]

Piotr Pustelnik is a Polish alpine and high-altitude climber. He holds the Himalayan and Karakoram Crown otherwise known as the Eight-thousander. That means that he has reached the summit of all 14 mountains that reach an altitude of more than 8000 meters. This feat took Mr. Pustelnik 20 years starting in 1990 until 2010 when he reached the final summit at the age of 58. That has to be the definition of cool.

He talked about his many expeditions, the mountains that “like him” and the ones that don’t. He described some of his achievements and failures throughout the years and his motivations for continuing his climbing career. When I asked what pushed him to go on, from his first expedition to the second and from the second to the third and so on, Mr Pustelnik explained that “the first time is like no time” and with each time, we need to prove to ourselves that we can actually do it.

Beata Pawlikowska, as she describes herself on her business card, is a traveler, a journalist and a hunter. As she explained she is a hunter of experiences. And what many interesting experiences she has had! I don’t even know how to describe her career in just a few sentences because it seems she has done it all. Radio, television, journalism, publishing and of course traveling around the world, especially to her beloved jungle. The world according to this Blondynka is a very exciting place. (Blondyka is used in many of her book titles)

Ms. Pawlikowska talked a bit about her career and how she saved up for her first big trip abroad. She talked about the practicalities (or rather the impracticalities) of life in the jungle, at the same time one of the most beautiful and inhospitable places on the planet. She shared with us some of the dangerous, humorous, and rewarding experiences she has had through her travels and the conclusions she has drawn in her life.

I got the sense that Ms. Pawlikowska has got travel is in her blood and that podróż (travel) is her life. It seems that the challenges and isolation of the jungle have allowed Ms. Pawlikowska to get an insight into herself and our world that we, stuck in the daily grind, are unable to achieve. She describes the jungle as one place on our planet where we one can be truly oneself, where truth exists. This is in contrast to the lives we are used to where pozory (appearances) are such an important part of how we relate to each other, so much so that we may not really know or understand who we actually are. This collision of cultures and the subsequent culture shock that she describes works both ways – first when entering the jungle and then when returning to Poland, to civilization.

While it would be nice if we could all experience reaching the highest mountain summits or surviving months at a time in the jungle, we all know that it is just not going to happen. For some of us, that may be disappointing, but I look at it another way. I am on my podróż all the time, every minute of every day of my life is a wielka wyprawa (big expedition). I am climbing my mountain, facing new challenges, succeeding, failing and moving on, I hope, a bit wiser. My life is my podróż and at the moment, Poland is my jungle.

Where’s your jungle?


czarownica said...

Reading your blog occasionally, but don't like to keep missing entries, so I'm starting to follow:)

Pawlikowska used to be the wife of Wojciech Cejrowski - the right-wing nationalist and the host of (in)famous "WC kwadrans".
This might explain why she preferred to stay away from home travelling all over the world.
And then it became a habit.

My jungle is, where the heart is - currently a small village on Yorks/Lancs border in the UK.

robin153 said...

How COOL to read about it. My big jungle right now is my office ( a few blocks from the White House) where I am trying to end some work-related drama. ( I am so ready to move on to another jungle, maybe outside human emothions. Let's this one be more physical!
Loving your blog!

kasia.eire said...

I met Beata Pawlikowska in Koszalin (my home town), where she was born and lived for the first 20 odd years of her life. Even then, when she hadn't dreamed about those trips and life of explorer yet, she was a fantastic and interesting woman. Each year she gets better, like wine

kasia.eire said...

I forgot to say what is my jungle - at the moment it's Ireland with people who never say what they really think. First I thought it was very false but now I think it's very wise. Only sometimes I am very tired of 'small talk', I would be grateful for someone to have a very 'juicy' but still 'safe' conversation (I don't mean talking behind someone's back or gossip)

Lois B said...

My jungle is also Poland - where I struggle to pick up bits and pieces of the language. I'm very grateful that so many people speak English; thanks to Chris, Misiu, and my brother, Dennis, who taught English here 20 years ago,

girri said...

My jungle is Berlin :) even with very good german skills and a language degree...

madkasia said...

Loving the post!
Long time ago I used to read mountaineering books.
And although I know I'm not going to climb the Crown of the World, climbing Kilimanjaro is on my list of things to do at some point.
For the time being I'm getting ready to navigate through my new "hospital jungle" - since later this week I'm starting working as a surgical intern.

Chris said...

czarownica - Welcome from Poland all the way to the UK! You know, Misiu said almost the same thing about Pawlikowska and her ex-husband being enough reason to hide in jungle ;) Well, his assessment of Cejrowski was a bit more vulgar than your version.

robin153- Greetings from Poland all the way to the White House (well, down the road from the White House at least). I'm glad you found my post as COOL as I did. I go to those kind of parties pretty regularly, but this is the first time I was really so impressed with the guests to write about them.

kasia.eire - Greetings from Poland all the way to Ireland! And about Pawlikowska - those legs! I usually have a rule that women over the age of 30 should not wear mini's but for her, I will make an exception. She shouldn't wear anything but mini's. And that is coming from a woman, so you know her legs must be really, really good.

Lois B- Greetings from "down South" to "up North" in Poland. Once one of my husband's students from years ago set up an appointment with him just to catch up. The student (all grown up) had moved to America and married an American woman. When we met, the wife expressed her gratitude to Misiu for teaching her husband English which allowed him to study in the US and for them to meet. Misiu really felt good that day :)

girri - Welcome from Poland all the way (well, the short way) to Berlin. If you get homesick, just jump on the train and visit us :)

madkasia -I heard that Kilimanjaro is a good place to start. Good luck in your new position or maybe I should just say "break a leg".

dwakoty said...

My jungle is the Japanese tax code - I'm totally and utterly lost in it!!!

Vaernil said...

I read your blog (love it btw) every now and then (I mean I've read all of the entries but I don't do it regularly) so I apologize for commenting after 8 months and I hope you are getting notifications because it would be a shame to write all that for nothing :)

As for Cejrowski.
I really dislike his political views, his attitude and all that but I have to admit that his books and his style of writing is very good.
You should read "Gringo wśród dzikich plemion" or "Rio Anaconda"
maybe you will like him a little more.

Best Regards,

Chris said...

Hi Oskar- Thanks for writing and thanks for the compliment. I get notifications for comments older than 2 weeks. Sometimes people send me secret messages that way ;) They go to old posts, send me a message and then ask me not to publish it. Funny.

I have to say that I haven't even read the book by Pawlikowska which I received at no cost at the lecture. But for fairness, I will put Cejrowski on my "intend to read" list.

Drop us a comment from time to time so we know you are out there :)