Conversations with Strangers: Pabloski from Wrocław

About him:  Paul, who goes by Pabloski because he is half Mexican and half Polish (Pablo-ski get it?), manages Funky Cycle, a rickshaw business in Barcelona. He has been living in Spain for about 16 years now, and his hidden talent is guessing what country people are from.

How we met: My friend, Kristi, is visiting from Istanbul and after a whole day of walking we decided to treat ourselves to a rickshaw ride. I came up to a group of rickshaw bikers and began fiercely negotiating when Pabloski approached me and began arguing with me about prices. Then, through a hot mess of English, Spanish and Polish we somehow ended up on his bike bonding and having a great time.

Coolest experience: The coolest thing Paul has ever done was move to Barcelona. He loves the people, the atmosphere, the climate and his lifestyle in general. But, can you blame him?

Life dream: Pabloski’s big dream is bike around the world. Aside from biking people around all day on rickshaws, he bikes competitively, so I think he could totally do it.

Just riding around with Pabloski
Just riding around with Pabloski


Pauline Ran Away

So I ran a 10k for the first time.

Since I have never ran more than about a mile without taking a break, I happen to be pretty damn proud of myself for running over six miles continuously. I didn’t train for it at all. In fact, in the days leading up to the 10k, I did the opposite of training. I went out too much, drank too much and ate too much.

I’m not naturally a runner, nor am I particularly fit. No, the only reason that I was able to run for ten kilometers nonstop without any preparation is because I am stubborn. When I decide I want to do something, I do it. And I had decided to run a 10k.

I happen to think that stubborn and determined are the same thing, just spelled differently. I suppose determination got me started, and stubbornness is what fueled me when I thought I couldn’t run any further.

You see, my friend Caroline was running as well. About four kilometers in, we started going uphill. Caroline, of course, was way ahead and her long legs were gliding at a steady pace while I huffed and I puffed my little lungs out desperately trying to keep moving forward. Running was hard and I was tired, and I began questioning my decision to even run a 10k in the first place.

But I kept running, because Caroline was running. And then I ran because the hot guy in front of me was running. Then, I ran because I had already ran too much to stop running. And lastly I ran, because I saw the finish line.

And that is how I ran a 10k without any sort of preparation. If I can do it, anyone can. The body is a tool that carries out what your mind sets out to accomplish. If you want to reach a goal, sometimes all you need to do is get in the right mindset and let your body do the rest.

The only advice that I can give, unsolicited per usual, is: Go ahead. Be stubborn.

Caroline and I at la Cursa de Corte Ingles

A Will and a Way

I have spent an incredible last two nights in Cinque Terre, a cluster of five coastal villages in Italy carefully built on cliffs that overlook the sea. All of the villages can be reached by train. In fact, from the first village to the very last one, it’s only a fifteen minute ride. But, where is the fun in that?

Instead, I decided to do the coastal hike between all five towns. It’s an easy eight miles doable in five hours, including the time it takes to stroll through each town eating gelato.

Once I decide to do something, it needs to be done. So you can imagine my disappointment when I was told that the hiking trails between three of the five villages were closed due to damage. But, if there’s a will, there’s a way.

You see, when the Italians tell you that you cannot hike all five villages because the trails are closed, you say, “I ain’t no bitch,” and you lace up your hiking boots.

I knew that aside from the scenic coastal trails, the easy winding roads that hug the sea, there were also secondary routes between the villages. These routes went up and down through the hills of Cinque Terre. So, I turned my back to the ocean and began my steep ascent up, not knowing just how exhausting and exhilarating this hike would be.

You climb and climb, and you pant and you sweat. Then you stop and laugh because it’s impossible to be unhappy in such a beautiful place. Just when you think you need Jesus, a church appears on the trail, and when you’re dehydrated and dying, a stream is there to quench your thirst. You chase lizards the entire way, because you miss being ten years old with your brother and you miss the feeling of having a lizard slink across your hand.

Along the way, when I started doubting that I could do it, I met a quirky and wonderful girl named Fiona and the two of us pushed each other to make it to the end. After a grueling seven hours of climbing up and down fifteen miles of steep hills, I was sweaty and exhausted, but most of all, proud.

I came to hike the Cinque Terre trails, and that’s exactly what I did. Granted, I had to do it in fifteen hilly miles instead of the original eight, but hey, it was worth it.

I have bought many shoes in my lifetime: cute heels, flats, wedges and sandals. But between them all, this has to be my favorite.

On Strength and Weakness

I set out on my 11 day adventure to Italy hoping that I would learn something about myself, because that just seems like something people do on this kind of trip.

In these last few days, I’ve learned about my strengths and weaknesses.

First, I discovered that taking what life throws at me and making the most of it, is one of my biggest strengths.

I arrived at the train station in Bologna and headed straight to my Bed & Breakfast. I had booked it all in Italian and was rather proud of myself. Upon arriving, I learned that the confirmation was just that of my request to book, not an actual reservation and there were no available rooms for the night. In retrospect this was all very valid, because I don’t speak any Italian and have no business booking things in a language I do not understand.

But, it was all okay because at that moment I remembered that I had an orange in my pocket. So I ate it, and it was really good. Then I strolled through the city, taking it all in, until I stumbled upon a hotel.

I got there and took my pants off, because wearing jeans is the actual worst. That brings me to my lesson on my weaknesses.

I looked at my calves and was horrified at how big they were. I mean, have you seen my calves? They’re ridiculous. Then I looked lower, and was disgusted to find that my usually perfectly pedicured feet were beaten up, calloused and missing a toenail.

It was right then that I realized that I need to be more grateful for my amazing body. These two legs just carried me about 26 miles in the last three days. That’s about the distance of a marathon! My calves are big because they are strong, and my feet are beat up because they work hard to keep up with everything my eyes want to see.

I still have about a week to go on this journey and lots more to learn, but I think this is a pretty good start.

Just going to leave this here to save you the effort of scouring my Facebook for a picture of my calves.

Liverpudlians, Big Cats and Canceled Trains

During my weekend in London, my best friend and I took a day trip to Liverpool to visit my friend, Ryan, who was an exchange student at U of I last semester.

The first night, we only saw the bottoms of bottles, glasses and a few pitchers. But the next day, we visited Albert Dock and The Beatles Museum. Granted, I was hungover all day and was trying not to vomit on John, Paul, George and Ringo.

I really enjoyed Liverpool, but I suppose it has something to do with Ryan’s adorable puppy dog eyes and British accent. I’m not quite sure how he put up with me interrupting him every two minutes to repeat British things like, “I reckon,” or “cheers”. But then again, I’m not quite sure how most people put up with me, anyways.

After Liverpool, it was time to make my way back to Barcelona, which was a mess of buses, trains and planes.

It was 3:30 am on Monday and I was standing at a bus stop in London, beginning my arduous journey to the airport, when I was suddenly approached by a rather large cat. I realized it wasn’t a cat, but actually a fox. He proceeded to prance around me, and I stood still because I was not versed in man-fox interactions. Like, do they bite? Are they territorial? I just don’t have the time for rabies, so I made no sudden movements until my bus came.

I arrived at the train station to see that all of the trains to the airport were canceled for the next hour. After about five minutes of panic, I decided to roll with the punches. The only place to sit at the train station was an empty information booth, so I took a seat and pretended I worked there. It was all rather sadistic, as people would come up to me with hope in their eyes to ask about train information, and I would crush their spirits by telling them I don’t have a clue about the trains.

I made it safely home to Barcelona, but learned a very important lesson that day: If you’re out and about in a foreign city at 3 am to catch a flight, you should probably call your mother once you arrive at your destination.

I checked my phone around 4 pm that day to find about 17 missed calls and texts from my mother asking where I was and if I was alright. As well as emails. On all my email accounts. So for next time, note to self: tell Mama Kulka that I have not been taken.

Albert Dock, romantic don't you think?
Albert Dock, romantic don’t you think?

How I survived a total of 24 of travel (And unsolicited advice on how you can too)

Be polite to airline personnel.

At the airport, they are god. Do not underestimate them. Ask them how their day is, say please and thank you. I got a free upgrade to business class on my connecting flight, an extra bag checked for free, unlimited international phone calls and a ride across the expansive airport just because I was nice to everyone that I came across.

Smile often. At everyone. Always.

I got an extra Belgian waffle at the café I was eating at because the clerk liked my smile. Smiling is pretty much the secret weapon to getting whatever you want.

Refresh, I guarantee you smell.

Nothing feels better than freshening up after hours on a plane. Wash off your makeup and reapply it fresh, change your shirt and reapply deodorant. Also, change your underwear; it’s a total game changer.

It’s okay to cry.

If the world is falling apart around you and you are tired and you are hungry and you missed your connecting flight and you don’t know what you are doing or where you are going and no one is picking up the phone and you do not have Wi-Fi and all of your bags are too heavy and your arms hurt from carrying them and you are sweaty and gross and really need to take a shower and you have a wine stain on your shirt: CRY. Cry for a minute, then quit being a bitch and get your shit together.

Call mom.

Just do it. She’s probably worried about you and needs to know you haven’t been abducted. Also, she’ll talk you through your mini 18 hours of traveling break down.

Belgian waffles are clutch.
Belgian waffles are clutch.