The Polish Oprah and Perfect Potatoes

Here I am getting ready to be interviewed on the Polish talk show Rosmovy W Toku (Talk is in Progress). I had hoped that they’d give me that dramatic eye makeup I’ve come to associate with Slavic femme fatales, but they did a disappointingly tasteful job.

Once I had the earpiece fitted so I could hear my interpreter, I walked out onto the set and was surprised to find that there was a studio audience. The host, Ewa Drzyzga, the “Polish Oprah,” had a warm, casual manner, dressed in jeans and sitting next to me on a couch. The lag that occurs with translation is interesting. It interrupts the usual rhythm of conversation and you’re forced to just sit there and pause as you try to stay poised and maintain eye contact, in front of four cameras and an unreadable audience. I made it through the interview and the producers seemed happy. It went by fast and almost seemed like some kind of David Lynchian dream. I kept the eye makeup for the rest of the day.

In the picture with me is me with my new buddy Teresa Fortis, a Swiss woman who wrote a book called Lockruf Saudia (originally in German, unfortunately not translated into English yet), about her years living in Saudi Arabia and working for Saudi Airlines in the 80s. Along with the segment producer who brought us over, we wound up having a couple of lovely dinners that lasted late into the evening, as if we’d known each other for years. Fast intimacies are one of my favorite things about international travel. Another favorite thing is, I believe, one of life’s great pleasures- a meal eaten alone in a foreign city.

At a café overlooking Market Square in Krakow, I ate (sorry, mom) the best potato pancakes I’ve ever had in my life, while the other patrons drank vodka and talked passionately- about what I have no idea. Because I don’t understand a word of Polish, the language was just music weaving through the air around me

In these moments, I achieve a deep kind of noticing, a sensation of settling into myself. They almost always happen when I’m traveling alone. I wonder if there’s somehow a way to bring experiences like this home. They don’t take long. They just take a genuine detachment from the to-do list. They take a certain internal silence. I have tried meditating a million different ways and never seem to stick to it, never seem to get the peace I’m looking for. Instead, I achieve it over a perfect potato pancake, looking out over the flower market’s wild splashes of color against the grey day, the people hurrying by in dark coats, leaning into the wind.