Friday, February 26, 2010

…Of prostitutes and runners Friday 26Feb, 00.03 a.m.

…Of prostitutes and runners
(Friday 26Feb, 00.03 a.m.)

(Where am I now: Lying in my bed in Geneva.

What am I listening to: Self Control” Laura Branigan)

Thank you.

Thank you for the first kind words and feedback on yesterday’s long-due post on Kostas Around The World. It’s wonderful to see people actually reading the stuff I write…

As I move closer to the big trip (it’s still 2 months away) I’ve decided to write a few things about Geneva daily life and the other traveling I will be doing in the next couple of month to Turkey, Sweden, Greece and who knows where else…

I woke up this morning quite early. Well technically to wake up you need to be asleep so I guess it doesn’t qualify as such since I woke up at 4 a.m and was unable to go back to sleep. I think buying a ticket to a place 12 time zones away already gave me the feeling of jet-lag. I decided to watch a film from my little laptop – yes, my trusted friend from my previous trip is still around and working and getting ready to join me in the next big adventure. As I was about to fall asleep again around 5 am I received 3 calls the one after the other from a Geneva number I did not know. The guy didn’t talk the first two times and the third when I actually shouted at him he said ah sorry, wrong number. Well idiot, let me tell you something, no matter how many times you try, I’ll still be the person that will be picking up the damn phone. It doesn’t change. It's my damn number, “Madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” used to say my friend Albert (Einstein).

It doesn’t end there: an hour later at 6am, while I was slowly falling back asleep I get another call from the same number- this time I am gonna scream, I thought to myself-and it's a woman voice on the phone telling me in French in a shitty Portuguese/Spanish accent: “Sorry, my husband made a mistake before, I am sorry to have woken you up” Well, GUESS WHAT? You just did. AGAIN! Who the hell calls you to say they are sorry to have woken you up by waking you up again!?!?!

I fell asleep at 06.30 only to be woken up at 06.50 from my alarm…And this where the first part of the title comes in: I had arranged with Niko to go out and run this morning. I don’t know what masochistic idea got into me but after all this non-sleep this was one of the toughest runs to get started. Did I tell you it was me running towards the lake, only to be escorted by garbage trucks and looked upon by the prostitutes in my neighborhood – who is looking for a “trick” at 7am on a Thursday morning?! Apparently no one because they were all out…looking at me run in my shorts and gloves and bonnet in the freezing cold dark night. Light was just starting to break out…Welcome to Geneva...!

Our runs usually lasts about 50 minutes and we cover about 8-9km, a decent distance to build up some cardio and sweat. Why? Why on Earth do you have to wake up to run in the freezing cold? I hate gyms, I never enjoyed the confined feeling the give you and despite the fact that one can really exercise much easier and more effectively in one of them, especially if it's bad (Geneva) weather, for me it has always been about running outdoors. It started more than 4 years ago when I decided to run a marathon before I turned 30 years old and it has gone on like that since then. I think one of the biggest appeals of Geneva for me is that you can enjoy an unobstructed, safe running route around the lake without worrying about cars running you over and motorcycles blocking your way: Pedestrians and runners, RULE!

The scenery is quite rewarding at that time of day: Magic colours and light transforming from the dark blues and purples to the light greys and violet sunrise colours, birds flocking over the lake and the swans and ducks with their heads folded in their sides slowly stretching out. Just like them, the city was slowly waking up and turning into a bustling living creature, with its commuters and traffic – undaunted we ran on the pavement on the side of the road that circles the lake looking at the people in the cars, talking on their phones, putting lipstick using the rear view mirror, lip-synching to a radio song…

My favourite part is coming back, running over Mont-Blanc bridge, the last stretch before I turn and sprint to “my side” of the city where I stop to stretch and catch my breath…

I walk back the remaining 500-800 meters to get to my place cutting through the “red light” district and the sex-shops, surprisingly active even for a Thursday morning…It’s strange with the prostitutes, each of them carrying her own story, all different shapes and colors (even genders some might argue...!) they all react the same way when I fast-pace next to them: “Come, hey, hello” whatever, even if I politely decline and speed-up next to them slightly embarrassed.

But today was special. The new girl on the block, a surprisingly young and beautiful African girl, seeing me wearing my gloves, cap and running shorts in the cold, red cheeks from running and the temperature differnece, shouted from the other side of the street: “Viens cherie, je vais te rechauffer” (come darling and I’ll heat you up)

Lowering my gaze out of embarrassment, slightly amused, music in my ears and with a big smile on my face, I got home and hit the shower to get ready for work…

The city was waking up…Goodmorning.

PS: Obviously the pictures here were not take by me - so all the rights go to the respective photographers - however these images are something you would see if you ran with me through the lovely district of Paquis...!

Local Laundromat (with non-runner waiting for his clothes)

Shopping facilities...

Colours at the time of the run

My favorite: The photographer named it: "Rencontre" (Encounter)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Unfinished business… (Wednesday, 24 February 2010)

(Where am I now: Sitting at my desk in my apartment in Geneva.

What am I listening to: “All that she wants” from Ace of Base)

It had to happen again. It is unavoidable. But what does it really take to pick up the virtual pen (or the keyboard in this case) and type away after more than a year of absence, after more than a year in the “fridge” of “immobility and daily routine? Don’t get me wrong, it’s been more than a year since I came back from my dream trip and even by those standards I have still managed to travel a lot: Sweden, Turkey, Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal to name a few. It’s been a year full of travel – mostly with work – but at the end, only tonight did I get that same feeling, that rush I felt constantly from the moment I booked my round-the-world ticket in August 2008. Only tonight do I get this exhilarating feeling that there’s something out there to be discovered. It looks like it was ages ago… It has been.

So tonight it was. Sitting at my desk in the office at work after 7pm, I took out my little paper with my self-made calendar and counted the days, double-checked the destinations, triple-checked the connection flights and timetables, took out my credit card, typed in the magical number and pressed “BUY”.

I have it. The last part of the trip, my “unfinished business”, my last stop in the sabbatical to fulfill the promise I made to myself to touch all continents and see the few cities I’ve always dreamt of. I am going to San Francisco in May. The last stop. The new beginning.

And so it starts all over again. It was bound to happen and I hoped for it sooner than later but this is how things are so it took more time than I thought. When I came back from my trip I had promised myself: “one big trip every year”. So here it is.

Frisco, was the one place I didn’t manage to visit during my trip. Lack of time and also another continent on the ticket made it too expensive, I vowed to visit in the near future. And the future is in May. I will be away for 12 days, a tiny amount of time compared to the big trip but I am determined to do it the “Kostas way”: Cover long distances, experience different places and people (more in the plan for both than I can say now) and just remind myself how important travel is in my life. Mind you, I never forgot it – it’s work and daily life that make some things fade away, move to the backseat of the priority vehicle when at the end they were never more important, never more relevant! I promised not to forget.

I don’t know if this is a return to the blog but I know that today I’ve felt good enough to come back to this and type away my thoughts and share them with whoever is out there.

So many things come to my mind from the previous trip and so many expectations for the one that’s coming up, for the past 4 hours I’ve had this constant grin on my face like someone that knows a big secret not to be shared with anyone.

It’s not a secret.

Kostas Around The World… is BACK! (and lovin’ it!)