Monthly Archives: August 2009

Poland – Part 9: The Halfway Point

June 22, Morning

During breakfast, I found out that it was another free day – once more, Wroclaw was our playground to romp around in independently, followed by another version of Hamlet (HAMLET. SILENCE FROM THE BODY by Roberto Bacci) that night.  It was also our last night in Wroclaw – we were going to leave for Krakow early the next morning.

The deal was even sweeter when Tamara handed us a 250z cash-infusion.

So what did I do?  Did I hit the town, and eat at restaurants?  Did I go sightseeing?  Did I go shopping?

Actually, I did laundry.  Yep, I had accumulated quite a collection of dirty laundry at this point, so I stayed back at the hostel, and slammed some dirty clothes into the washing machine.  While waiting for my clothes to get washed, I hung out in the hostel kitchen with Chantelle.

While talking with Chantelle, I learned that a few of the ladies in our group had noticed that men in Poland were a lot more obvious when “checking out” the women around them.  Chantelle told me that a few of them had even felt uncomfortable at times, and that it was almost as if some men wanted them to notice.  I told her that I wondered if it was just a European thing, and she said that she didn’t know.

I also took a time out to play with the Hostel Dog:



With my laundry air-drying on a clothing rack in the hostel, I eventually left to go exploring on my own.


It was chilly, rainy and grey out.  I also wasn’t sure where everybody was – we seemed to be all scattered about.

I eventually bought some postcards and a calling card – I was going to call Em later on that day.


I ran into Tara, Tom, Alex (or was it Alexi? My writing is a bit sloppy), Sonia, Ryan and Jiv at the milk bar we had originally seen during our tour of Wroclaw.  I had something to eat, and then we all left together.

Eventually, Ryan, Jiv, Alex (Alexi?) and I split off and walked through some of the small artisan shops.  We talked with a shopkeep, who told us about a major flood in Wroclaw that had happened about a decade before.  Apparently, flooding in the area was quite common.

We thanked the shopkeep, and left.


Somehow or another, I had gotten back to the hostel, and started writing postcards.  I also took the opportunity to call my girlfriend Em, and tell her how I was doing.

After the phone call, I felt a little Wroclaw-ed out, and felt I needed some downtime to recouperate.  I went into the common room and watched some BBC News.

Finally, I got up, and went out again for something to eat with Tom, Tara, Ryan, Alex, Una, and Linn.


If it hasn’t become clear already, the bunch of us became expert restaurant-hoppers.  Choosing restaurants, however, could be a bit of a chore.  Often, there were times where we’d travel the entire square several times before deciding on something we could all agree upon.

And for that night, the restaurant was a Greek place called “Ready’s”.  This is what my guidebook says about that restaurant:

Paper napkins and plenty of plasticky bits and bobs greet you in what rates as a very poor man’s Sphinx.  Eating is just a means to an end here, with plates of kebab meat, fries and chicken being the core dishes.  You may enjoy Ready’s, but only after a dozen beers.

Maybe it’s my attraction to no-frills stuff, but I enjoyed this place.  I’d eat there again.

In fact, we were enjoying our meal so much that we lost track of time!  We paid our bill, rushed out, and tried to figure out how to get to the theatre to see Bacci’s HAMLET.


After a failed attempt at walking to the theatre, we decided as a group to try to take a cab.  Eventually, we were able to hail one down, but only four of us were able to take it.  After a quick discussion, Ryan, Alex, Una and Linn hopped in, and the rest of us tried to hail another cab.  Tom, Tara and I were doubtful that we’d make it.


Luckily, we were able to hail a cab.  After flailing some arms, and gesturing wildly at our maps, we were able to communicate to the driver where exactly we wanted to go.  I think he knew we were in a hurry, because he floored it.

He pulled up right to the theatre entrance.  We paid, hopped out, and rushed into the theatre.

HAMLET. SILENCE FROM THE BODY Directed by Roberto Bacci

When we got inside the theatre, the show was just about to begin.  There was no seating left, so I sat in the aisle.

The lights came down, and the show started.

This version of Hamlet was spoken in rapid-fire Italian.  There were English and Polish subtitles projected on a surface above the stage.  Half-way through the production though, the English subtitles stopped.  They just stopped coming.

I think this was a good thing though, since it allowed me to focus on what I was seeing and hearing on stage, as opposed to flicking my eyes up to the screen every few seconds to get my place in the story.

So what did I see?  This version of Hamlet had the cast (with the exception of Hamlet himself) dressed in fencing armor – masks and all.  I thought the masks helped them pull off some nice sleight of hand, since it allowed them to “dissappear” characters into the anonymous chorus, and have them re-emerge elsewhere.  Actual fencing was performed on stage as well, which was exciting to see.

The stage was panelled in wood, giving it a very red, and earthy tone.  The major set piece was what appeared to be a large, rusty frame or scaffolding, somewhat like a jungle-gym.  This apparatus was climbed upon, walked through, and even had “drawbridge” doors on either side of it.  It was a neat contraption, though I was worried for the actors safety when they were climbing it at some points, since it seemed to have a very high centre of gravity.  I also wish they had used it more – it seemed to have a lot of potential.

The acting was decent.  I had a conversation with Tom about the show afterwards, and we seemed to agree that this was a pretty “meat and potatoes” Hamlet.  It did the job of telling the story, and it told it pretty well, but nothing blew our socks off.  Tom said that Bacci’s Hamlet was “like a Soul Pepper production, if they had hired a kind-of experimental director.  Pretty strong, but nothing special.”

We talked about Hamlet for a bit, and then walked back to the Hostel.  I hung around in the common area for a bit, and then I went to sleep early – we had to wake up around 5:30AM to get ready for our bus trip to Krakow the next day.

Click here to go to Part 10:  Journey to Krakow, Wawel Hill, and The Dragon

Click here to go back to Part 8:  A Boat Ride, Eating, Videos, AJAX, and More Eating

Courses for Graduate School

With summer coming to a close, my upcoming school year is starting to piece itself together.  I’ve been assigned my research supervisor, and I just selected my courses:


  • CSC2125F:  Topics in Software Engineering: Government 2.0
  • CSC2526F:  HCI: Topics in Ubiquitous Computing


  • CSC2431S:  Topics in Computational Molecular Biology
  • CSC2511S:  Natural Language Computing


Poland – Part 8: A Boat Ride, Eating, Videos, AJAX, and More Eating

June 21, 10:00AM (Father’s Day)

After I woke up, had breakfast, and cleaned up, Tamara offered us the opportunity to go on a boat ride down the section of the Odra River that runs through Wroclaw.  I was interested in going, so I watched some European music videos while I waited for the others to get set.

It was going to be Yev, Jiv, Chantelle, Ryan, Tamara, Peter, Alexi, Sonia, Una, and myself on that boat.

A few minutes later,  and we were underway.


It was an absolutely gorgeous day – sunny, warm, and beautiful.  Perfect for boating around Wroclaw.


We chugged down the Odra, and then turned around.  It was very pleasant.

We also took the opportunity to ask Tamara about the racial/cultural tension that we thought we had picked up on the night before.  She told us that she thought it had much to do with the racial monolithicism of Poland.  Not sure if I mentioned this before, but Peter Brook said that the Polish audience was the most racially monolithic crowd he’d ever seen.

The boat trip finished.  We docked, and the group conversation eventually sizzled out until it was just Tamara and I talking, as we all walked down the streets of Wroclaw.  I mentioned how I have never really had the business-end of racism in my face before, and have never had the experience of being the “other”.  Tamara responded by telling me that I was very lucky to have grown up in Canada.  I agreed with her.

Deciding that we were all hungry, the group split off into smaller groups to find something to eat.  The group I was in eventually settled down at a very nice crepe place.  I got a crepe with chicken, cheese, spinach and corn.  Totally hit the spot!


After eating, we had the rest of the afternoon to do whatever we pleased.  As had become custom, we spent our time hopping from restaurant to restaurant, sampling this and that, and watching the locals.  Una, Sonia, Chantelle, and I eventually found ourselves at “Pomazanka”, which our guidebook promised would provide the “widest selection on ice cream, cakes and pastries on the Rynek.”

Sonia had apple cake.  Chantelle had chocolate cake.  Una had marzipan cake. I went for strawberry gelato, and we all decided that our choices were very good.



Had an interesting conversation with Sonia about the gay culture in Poland.  When asked for her impressions, she told me that from what she saw, since Poland is highly religious, it stands to reason that the gay culture is probably carefully hidden from plain sight.  I told her that I agreed with her – at least for Wroclaw.  Warsaw seemed a bit more relaxed.

There’s a lapse in my journaling for a few hours here…from memory, I know I eventually went back to the hostel and phoned my Dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day.

My journal picks up again here:


At this point, I was in the middle of watching one of the optional films for that day – MADAME DE SADE directed by KRZYSZTOF WARLIKOWSKI (yep – the same fellow who directed CLEANSED).  Yikes.  Granted – this was a videotape of a theatre piece, so it was weakened right off the bat.  Anyhow, the camera was too far away, so the audience never got to see the actor’s faces, and the sound was just awful. If theatre is a medium for communication, this video fell way short.  I fell asleep.  Instantly forgotten.


It was a double feature for videos that day – the next video was a version of MEDEA by ANATOLIJ WASILJEW.  It was a one-woman piece…the video was from a presentation that looked like it happened in an art museum.

How to describe this piece?

Two words:  Enraged, and Naked.  Props to the woman for the effort and the work she was putting in.  She was clearly committed, and working hard.  However, watching a naked woman yell at me from a chair for an hour is not how I like to spend my time.  I just wanted it to stop.  If it wasn’t so loud, I’m sure I would have fallen asleep there too.

Video recordings of theatre pieces always fall flat for me – even if they’ve been edited well, and recorded with video in mind.  There really are some things that only live theatre can do.

Why didn’t I leave?  True – there was nothing keeping me in the theatre.  However, I hate leaving bad shows halfway through – I always have this little bit of hope that maybe they’ll save themselves towards the end.  Still, I’m usually let down.

Anyhow, we shook off the two videos, and walked back to the hostel to pick up our tickets for that nights live show:  AJAX, THE MADNESS by THEODOROS TERZOPOULOS.


Here are some dark and blurry photos of the whole gang getting ready to see AJAX:


AJAX was a heavily ritualized Greek performance/meditation on the Ajax myth.  The show promised murder, guilt, madness, and war satire.

Like I said: heavily ritualized performance/meditation.  It was like a 20 minute mantra that was repeated 3 times.  There were 3 actors, each taking turns leading the mantra, and each putting their own spin on it.

The first guy was my favourite.  Total commitment the entire way.  The mantra involved lots of repeated physical actions, and this guy put his whole body into it.  I knew he was working hard.  How did I know?  Because he was sweating buckets.  And he never swallowed – saliva just gushed out of his mouth for his entire 20 minutes.  The man must have lost 2 litres of body fluid over the course of the show.  It was unbelievable.  I was blown away by the energy and commitment of that guy.

It went downhill for me from there.  The second guy had this highly reflective knife that he kept shining into the audience, and it was really annoying.  By the time the third guy went up, I think I had the mantra under my belt.  It was nice to see the little differences that each iteration had on the last, but it didn’t really grab me.

And the war satire was kind of weak – at least for me.  It almost seemed tagged on, like an afterthought – jetfighter fly-over soundcues, and this image of a processional of coffins.  I think I heard a Roger Waters tune tucked in there too.

Anyhow, it was OK.  Not great, not terrible.  It was awkward for the curtain call though.  The audience gave the cast some real good applause, and they were bowing, and that was fine.  But then they wouldn’t leave.  And because they wouldn’t leave the stage, the audience felt compelled to clap more.  So they stayed.  And then the director came out, and we clapped for him too.  And I could feel the applause dying down, but then they’d come up to centre stage and bow again, and people would keep clapping in an attempt to avoid awkwardness.  It was almost like they were drawing applause out of us, as opposed to letting us give it to them.

Somehow, the vicious cycle eventually ended.  We left.

Saw some interesting sculptures on the street on the way out:


Not sure what time it was, but from the photos, it looked like it was starting to get dark out.

On our way home, some of us decided to get some midnight snacks at the grocery store.  I got some orange juice (a respectable kind, with an expiry date that I felt good about), and some waffle cracker things.  Our shopping finished, we walked back to the hotel to eat what we bought.

While eating, we watched David After the Dentist:

and some more Dave’s Farm.

Then, because we weren’t tired yet, we went to Wizard Hat for an hour or so, and then went back to the grocery store for more midnight snacks.  I got orange filling Jaffa Cakes, and shared them with Sonia.

Finally, we went back to the hostel for the last time that night.  We chatted for a while in the common room, and then I had a shower and went to bed.

Click here to go to Part 9:  The Halfway Point

Click here to go back to Part 7:  An Official Tour of Wroclaw

Still Alive

Where have I been?  My last blog post was over a month ago!

I’ve been pretty busy.  MarkUs is getting close to deployment, I’m about to move to a new apartment, and The Johnson Report has been playing quite a few shows.

So I’ve had my hands full!

But don’t despair – I didn’t forget about Poland!

And on that note, allow me to publish a new chapter…