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That’s it for Freetime Posts!

This is the end
Hold your breath and count to ten

Adele – “Skyfall”

As you have noticed (or rather not), not much has happened at Freetime Posts. Passing last exams, writing thesis and graduating takes time and my desperation to graduate this year is higher than ever. On the top of that, I am also working part-time. I cannot complain, I really like my job, but I also need to finish all my assignments there, as I will leave the company after the year full of adventures.

This implies little time is for spending time with friends and having fun with them, especially they also want to graduate, or did so already and left for far far away. This fact cuts out the main inspiration for Freetime Posts. I am not going to be worse than them – I am also going to leave for far far away soon, but will keep you up to date!

However, the formula of Freetime Posts does not fit what I want to cover in my new posts. For this reason, this blog will be no longer developed. It will be still available online, however for optimisation purposes, it will be merged with grabara.eu domain, instead of having its own. You will be still able to look it up here and recall the Couch Story – my contribution to the world’s cultural heritage ;).

Freetime Posts would not exist without an inspiration provided by the people of Erasmus Debating Society. In this place, I want to thank Sezen de Bruijn for motivation by regularly asking about new posts. I want to thank all other members, these who became my friends and those who I have not known too well, but recommended me to join Cracked.com. I am still wondering, whether it would be a good idea to do so. Maybe, then I would make such big career on internets, as Cracked contributor Cezary Jan Strusiewicz, who happens to be from the same country as me. Who knows?

I also want to thank all the readers who have not contributed any BTC. It is my duty, as an accounting major, to share information that blog has not generated any revenue, but some little costs. Having this blog taught me a lot about web design and choice of hosting, thus how to save money in the long run. I can say then that the experience with HTML and CSS helped me at my current job and indirectly influenced my move to the new project.

I mentioned accounting major? Well, not much will of it will be used in the coming years. I have been accepted for Computer Science MSc and currently work in IT as technical support. I am taking a gap year soon and begin new fascinating episode in my life, once I land at Vancouver International Airport on September 12th, 2017. The purpose of my new life project is a transition from hobbyist IT guy into a pro, and I will try to achieve that during my time in Canada. Everything will be reported on my new blog, available here. You can be sure, it will be not just another WordPress site!

Features of my new blog, grabi.tech:

  • tech-oriented
  • micro section for short posts and live coverage
  • written in informal English
  • made in Canada
  • kittens!

As you see, this is not a farewell, but more “visit my new place” post. Hope you will like grabi.tech!

Credits for the featured image go to the author of Liv Loves Laughing.

The SGH Student Dilemma – Is A Cheater The Worst Person Out There?

Polska wersja artykułu jest dostępna tutaj. Nie jest ona dosłownym tłumaczeniem poniższego wpisu, ale ma za zadanie przekazać tą samą treść.

This entry aims to dispute cheating in general and events at Warsaw School of Economics, as they are described in press and social media, are just a starting point for this dispute. I am not judging university, its students, neither employees, just comparing the possibilities to solve the problem of cheating students.

At the time of writing this text, summer exam session is now coming to the end at all Polish universities. Warsaw School of Economic (SGH, for short), the top Polish university of economics, is no exception.

During one of them, students had to prove their fluency in German language. Sounds like nothing unusual, but this particular, and seemingly not interesting, event was a source of a nation-wide debate about university education.

What has happened?

During mentioned exam, a female student was cheating using her smartphone. The other male student, known as Kamil, noticed that and decided to publicly report this fact to the exam supervisor. According to sources close to SGH, he started loudly pointing a girl who was helping herself with a smartphone. Obviously, the cheater failed an exam.

What is the problem?

The female student was cheating, which is clearly against the rules of university (not because she is a female, only because she is a student). She got caught, she failed, however still has chances to pass the course during resit session in September (known in Polish student slang as “September Campaign”). It is not really a harsh punishment, compared to what she could expect at West European universities, which often just expel cheating students. However, different culture, different climate, different punishment. Personally, I think that the fact of gaining, not necessarily positive, media attention is worse punishment than being unable to continue with the study at the university (even if, she could probably still be able to transfer to another university, at least in Poland).

Although situation with the cheater is clear, the main debate is about Kamil.

On one side, the student who reported the another did the right thing. Cheating is definitely wrong… wait, is it?

Why students cheat?

I know cum laude and honours class students who become such because they cheat, or opposite – once they managed to make it to the faculty’s top, they feel pressured to maintain this position by cheating.

Aim of the exam is to check one’s knowledge about the subject. This is a reason why they are organised. However, it is not the reason why people sit them. Usually, it is all about getting a piece of paper, certificate, diploma that is needed in other spheres of professional (and not only) life.

High school students need high grades in their final exam to get to the best universities. In the Netherlands, university students with high GPA are more likely to get better job after graduation. At Erasmus University Rotterdam it is easier for top scoring students to get positions of teaching assistants or university ambassadors during their study.

Also, Erasmus University has quite strict binding study advice – students who fail to get 60 ECTS credits during their first year of study in most of the cases drop out and are unable to apply again for their programme during the next three years.

Many parents put pressure on their children to get the highest possible degree, often in a very specific field. These children, who become university students have very serious problem. They might have different passions or even completely be unaware what they want to do with their life.

You might ask, how is that possible not to become passionate about anything during 18 years of life? Children, more and more often pressured to not only perform at school but also extracurricular piano, tennis, swimming and language classes chosen by the parents. Recently I have even heard of parents hiring personal coaches in competitive debating for their children!

All these young people do it often to please their families and not necessarily become passionate about such activities. Children usually trust their parents and often consider following what elders say as the best way to go. However, one day they might realise that all of this, what they thought was a right thing to do, deprived them of their personality. In such moment, they have no longer idea what to do with their life, but pressure still exists. Families say, e.g.: graduate this degree, not that, and then you can continue our family business or get a full-time job, your parents can arrange for you, in these difficult, post-crisis times of rising precariat.

Once you get involved in your family's business, this would no longer be shocking for you.

Once you get involved in your family’s business, this would no longer be shocking for you.

Do you already feel sorry for these people? Maybe you think they lack willpower to oppose and follow their own path?

Our own families usually try to take the best care of us. Also, most people prefer having peaceful life rather than strive for every single thing one wants. For these reasons, revolution and turning back to everyone might not be the best solution. However, you have bigger incentive to ease your suffering and have more time for things you like, whether it is painting, building robots or just getting drunk at parties.

One of methods to achieve this was discussed by British media some time ago, and the case is also known in the Netherlands – drugs. Some of them increase study efficiency, ability to focus and general mental capability. Drugs, which might cause health hazard, are used for studying, not just before exams, therefore such “supporting material” cannot be detected by university invigilators.

Other method, which is not connected with health risk but with accusations of fraud, is cheating, either using smartphone, copying answers from a neighbour, given you have good eyes (otherwise you need good glasses), or any other method. Many of them have not changed since introducing public schooling in Europe.

It is not true that cheating is only a thing everywhere but Western Europe and North America. In my opinion, the only difference is that in Western Europe cheating on exams is a taboo – everyone pretends it does not exist. Students that live on the eastern bank of the Oder do not have problems discussing it in public.

The truth is clear: in every place in the planet there are students who cheat and most of these, who do, probably never gets caught. For this reason, it is not as useful to discuss what to do with these who commit frauds during exams, only how encourage students not to cheat at all.

This gives background to ask important questions: Are not these pressured young people justified when using forbidden material during their exam? Is that worse than using drugs, only because university is unable to punish people who use Modafinil or Aderall when they study? What actually cheating says about the cheater?

Cheater – the b*ass?!

Now, it is clear why students cheat in general, so we can think of what kind of personality is the cheater.

It might be the person who just wants to have an unjust advantage over others and such kind of behaviour I find wrong. This is a kind of people who later work for the call centres trying to sell as much stuff as possible, even if we really do not want it.

However, many of cheaters are just desperate and brave. Desperate because they do not see other option than using illegal material during the exam and brave because they are able to act against the system, which otherwise might harm them (and still does, when they get caught). They have also to be creative in order to successfully hide their source of information from the eyes of invigilators.

People I discussed in the previous section might also have an attitude to satisfy wide-array of agents with mutually exclusive interests. This is useful in professional life, when they have to deal with different interests of customers and managers. They are even able to gain profit for self. Is this not a thing that is expected by employers in 21st century corporations? If we take away the personal profit part, does not the cheater look a bit like a superhero?

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin might be the biggest badass of the 21st century, but still not a superhero.

Trust

It is an argument that is often raised when discussing such issues, but it can also backfire.

One party, organising the exam, agrees with another party, the people who take the exam, on certain measures to guarantee high value of the exam. The value of the exam is increased, when more of the high scores go to people who actually possess required knowledge and skills, while lowest scores go to these who lack them.

However, is it the case for universities? I know cum laude and honours students, who do not know how to write a scientific paper. I know people, which are considered by the university as top students, but during their tutorials, they have serious problems explaining course material to others. On the other hand, there are students who get awards at international scientific competitions, but find it hard to pass the regular exams.

Such observations uncover the low value of the exam and cause its further devaluation. Students seeing how others achieve their position in an unjust way, start doing the same thing. Exam administration, which notices the higher number of high scoring students, asks lecturers to prepare more difficult exams. Exams, that are harder to pass, discourage next cohorts of students to be fair, because at certain moment they realise the effort they need to put in their work is just too high for their capabilities.

Representative of exam administration.

Another trust issue relates to the idea of student solidarity. While people usually agree on what should happen to the student that cheats during the exam, the discussion group on Facebook about SGH event, is more fiery about the student who reported the other one. Whether one should report the fraud and whether Kamil should do it in a slightly more discrete form than he has allegedly done (I have not been there, so I am the last person that can make judgements).

It can be argued that on one side he has done right thing – uncovered the fraud that was happening and reported it to the proper person. It is commonly agreed that when one sees a person drowning in the water or having heart attack, one should react. One should react when one witnesses robbery that is happening or someone torturing animals. The sources that justify the reaction relate to value of humanity, but also law that forbids certain acts, like murder.

The exam cheating example shows however, that most people do not consider law or rules as relevant. They rather justify their reactions using empathy, mutuality and no-harm principle. We, as the people, are willing to help the tortured animal because we can at least imagine how much physical and mental pain it causes. We are willing to call an ambulance to the person having a heart attack, at the same time hoping that someone will do that once we get into the trouble.

This also explains our approach towards exam cheating. We are willing not to report the student cheating at the exam knowing, that we might once need illegal support during an exam as well. We empathise and are aware that circumstances of such behaviour might be complex and not necessarily related to this person’s desire to gain unjust advantage.

This gives logic behind explanation of the anxiety towards the person that reported the student committing the fraud. The unwritten contract between the students, which includes clauses justifying certain kind of behaviour under certain circumstances, is ruthlessly broken. This results in other students less trusting the one who denounced the other, but also less trust among each other. Once such a thing occurs, no one knows whether someone will do it again in the future. It also relates to other spheres of life. How do we know that this or other person will not denounce us for other offence we can commit outside university?

What motivates to report the fraud?

It is virtually possible that the idealistic student does that because of the principles. However, there is also possibility of personal issues that these two have between each other, so generally desire to revenge. If the reason to report the fraud is related to possibility of obtaining personal gains, then generally it should not be approved.

Apart from causing harm to the students that cheats, in terms of failing grade at least, it seems there is nothing to be gained from reporting the fraud, unless university has student ranking lists. If it is said that the top students get scholarships or other benefits, there might be an actual profit for the denouncing student in form of higher place in the ranking list.

At the same time, it can be argued why the student needs to do such a thing in order to maintain higher place at the ranking list? Why the students cannot study hard enough to get to the top but do cheat or do report others cheating? Is the student reporting the fraud better from the student cheating? This question can be answered using the idea of the false loop of devaluation of exams, described earlier in the text.

Any solutions possible?

The dilemma is virtually possible to solve by changing the attitude of the whole society, to the one that includes possibility of failure from time to time. Right now, we live in times when everyone is required to strive for perfection: in beauty, education, income, family model etc. The mass media try to shape everyone to look alike, not leaving much space for independence.

However, this requires giant move from multiple parties in the society, which might involve a lot of time and effort. Easier thing to do, which can be also treated as a step in that direction, is strengthening the student community. Students can solve such issues on their own – it can react when they notice that someone abuses the system for personal gains or abuses the “right to cheat”. It is up to the community, represented e.g. by student organisations, to determine what kind of instruments they will use to achieve this goal. Organisations have also higher bargaining power when discussing such things with lecturers and university administration.

I also think that approach Polish universities show towards cheating is more just than the one showed in Western Europe. People deserve the second chance. At the same time, universities should either condemn recidivists or find the reason of their behaviour and try to solve it. What might help is wise counselling that might result in student changing the programme to the one he or she is more passionate about. Due to high work-load, students might also suffer from burn-out and become unable to find motivation for studying.

In no way I say cheating is good, either at the university or generally in life. However, I believe that instead of punishing students who cheat, universities, but also all other public institutions, should understand and convince everyone that cheating is bad for all of us in general. The policy of second chance, in a wider sense than the one Polish universities currently practice, would convince the whole society that it is better to fail sometimes rather than commit a fraud.

P.S.: I know a university professor who has never failed a student. At worst, he gave a pass during the resit. As he says, “life will verify, whether he or she is competent enough, not me”. Maybe this is the way to go? No one is harmed by the universities, but everyone has an opportunity to excel.

featured picture: Warsaw School of Economics C-Building
source: foreignersinpoland.com

A Brief Guide To Polish Politics: Part 1 – The Office of the President

It is my first political text I decided to put online. The reason for that is to give my non-Polish friends some idea how things are done in my country, because it is a bit hard to frame it in terms of Western democracies. There is nothing strange here, since our democracy is just 26 years old, therefore only slightly older than me, and due to environmental reasons it must have evolved in different way as it did in Western Europe.

The aim of this text is to explain way Polish politics operates currently. Since we had presidential elections recently and its second round is due to next week, I decided to begin with the head of the state – The President of The Republic of Poland.

In this part, I am going to introduce the voting process, who can become the President of the Republic of Poland and what are his/her most important (super)powers.

In the next entries, I will try to give a picture about Polish political scene, which might be useful if you want to follow general elections coming this autumn.

I am also not going to focus on the history further than the history of the Third Polish Republic, so if you want to know historical facts about the office of president or any other topic covered, just use Google. You know how, right?

How is the President elected?

Poland is one of not too many countries, where people vote for president in direct elections. So everyone who has voting rights (i.e. is a Polish citizen above 18 years old) can go and vote for one of the candidates in a voting station closest to the place of residence. You are out of the town on that day? You can still vote wherever you are, if you ask your municipality for the proper certificate enough in advance.

You live abroad (like I do)? Then you can either register online to vote in one of the stations established abroad by Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They usually operate in Polish embassies and consulates, but not only. Since recently one can also register for mail voting. Then, wherever you live, you can receive your ballot by mail, fill it in and send it back. In the country this is also convenient option for elder and disabled people.

The winning candidate must have support of more than half of the voters. If this does not happen, top two go to the second round of elections, organised two weeks later.

All the elections in Poland are always held on Sunday, probably to allow largest amount of people to vote, since usually they are not busy with work. Also voting stations take some rooms at schools and other public institutions, so during working days, some of these institutions might just become paralysed. Is it right approach though? I have no idea. In Netherlands people vote on working days, voting stations require much less space.

"I have no idea why they don't vote online yet." ~T. H. Ilves Source: delfi.ee.

“I have no idea why they don’t vote online yet.” ~ probably wonders T. H. Ilves
Source: delfi.ee.

Who can become the President?

According to the Constitution, “Only a Polish citizen who, no later than the day of the elections, has attained 35 years of age and has a full electoral franchise in elections to the Sejm, may be elected President of the Republic. Any such candidature shall be supported by the signatures of at least 100,000 citizens having the right to vote in elections to the Sejm.”. Easy? So in simple words, the potential candidate must be a Polish citizen, not deprived of voting rights (e.g. due to mental illness), at least 35 years old and collect at least 100 thousand signatures of supporters, which must have voting rights for lower house of the parliament (we call it Sejm).

The President’s term lasts five years (the Polish parliament is elected every four years!). During that period he lives in the Presidential Palace which is the one I put as a featured picture. President can be elected only twice in his life, which makes it impossible for our politicians to make it longer in “Putin-style”. So far, only Aleksander Kwaśniewski managed to be elected twice (in 1995 and 2000), and he is also the only president of the Third Polish Republic elected without the second round in 2000.

 

It says: “I used to win in the first round before it was cool”. Source: facebook/Hipsterski maoizm.

It says: “I used to win in the first round before it was cool”.
Source: facebook/Hipsterski maoizm.

What are his/her powers?

Since the President is directly elected, he is usually supposed to have something more to do than representing the country in fancy institutions, like Council of Europe, United Nations, OECD, OSCE etc. Indeed our Constitution gives him/her some superhero features and I will focus on these most significant.

“I don’t want to be a president in his country. Just too much workload.”

“I don’t want to be a president in his country. Just too much workload.” ~ probably thinks J. Gauck
Source: politik-digital.de.

Apart from some regular things, like leading the army, giving orders (I mean distictions, not executive orders), “appointing and recalling the plenipotentiary representatives of the Republic of Poland to other states and to international organizations” and “receiving the Letters of Credence and recalling of diplomatic representatives of other states and international organizations accredited to him” (you do not know what does it mean? do not worry, these are just things all heads of state usually do), the main superpower of Poland’s president is veto power.

President is able to veto bills voted by parliament, by just not signing it within 21 days since voting and does not need to explain his decision to anyone. The veto can be turned down “by the Sejm by a three-fifths majority vote in the presence of at least half of the statutory number of Deputies”, which means 3/5 majority vote with at least half of the all members of Sejm present during the voting. In multipartisan system, like one we have in Poland, this seems very unlikely to gather such majority, so presidential veto is quite strong instrument. Veto power also applies to international agreements ratified by the parliament.

If (s)he is unsure whether the bill violates the Constitution, (s)he can also ask Constitution Court for help. If the Court says it is fine, President cannot turn the bill down anymore. Constitution Court needs some time to make its mind, so it happened that president used this power just to delay implementing laws for even months, infuriating government, MPs, public and generally…

Everyone!

Another constitutional right given to President is right to give Polish citizenship. Another laws define who and how can be naturalised as Polish citizen, however President is fully able to override this and give Polish passport to anyone (s)he likes or decline giving it to a foreigner (s)he does not like, without giving any reason. This is not a thing that happens often, but some football or table tennis players enjoyed the express way of acquiring Polish nationality after proper lobbying from sport federations.

Did President just give me a reason to start cheering for our national female team in table tennis? If you do not know how to use Google’s image search, I will tell you: her name is Qian Li.

Did President just give me a reason to start cheering for our national female team in table tennis?
If you do not know how to use Google’s image search, I will tell you: her name is Qian Li and she is a Polish citizen.
Source: info.sport.pl.

It is important to remember that each new citizen is a new voter as well. It is hard to change the election results significantly by just giving citizenship to new people, if the population is already 38 million, but who knows what will happen once it shrinks due to aging society? What if naturalised citizens’ fertility rate will be higher than native Poles? It might still affect the political scene in the coming decades.

Other, not that unusual though, power is pardon. Constitution limits it however to everyone except those sentenced by Tribunal of State. This means: You are in prison for (state) treason? No mercy!

President obviously can make use of pardons to implement his domestic policies. Imagine that President of the Republic supports legalisation of marijuana, so why would (s)he not release all pot criminals from prisons?

Also, I almost forgot: insulting President in public is forbidden. Why (s)he gets more legal protection against insulting than other citizens? I have no idea…

Wrap-up: Is there a point in being a President?

I showed that being a President of Poland gives much more rights than secured income, car and bodyguard for lifetime (however these benefits are not resulting from the Constitution) but actual power to shape the policy of the country by directly interacting with legislature’s decisions using constitutional powers.

There are also other rights given to the President, however they are either not written in the Constitution, but defined in regular bills, or Constitution delegates other officials to limit them. Some of them include awarding the professor’s title to scientists filtered out by Polish Academy of Sciences, promoting soldiers chosen by Ministry of Defence, etc. In mentioned cases President has also right to reject these nominations.

This shows that President is an important person in the state and this is why there are always many politicians trying to run for this office. Even not mainstream parties try to push their candidate. These powers also might explain the point in electing him or her in direct, common elections, rather than being elected by the parliament, as it is done in many countries. The authors of the 1997 Constitution apparently see the head of state as independent supervisor of other sources of power.

Governmental power, not electricity.

Governmental power, not electricity.

P.S.: If you want to check other rights Poland’s Constitution gives to the President, you can look it up here.

Post-DAPDI trip to HaHa…

…hahahah

Introduction

Last week in Rotterdam, Netherlands there was an international debating event called DAPDI. It ended on Friday, but due to the maintenance on European rail tracks, I could book my train ticket home for not earlier than Monday.

Although DAPDI was an interesting, however exhausting event, I experienced the influx of new energy when my friends, Julia and Ali, invited me to their place. This very place was Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, HH for short.

I have never been there before, so I could not miss this opportunity. I could not miss any opportunity to visit new places in general. Until I can afford it or someone pays for that. However, the latter almost never happens.

Since I am only a poor student from Eastern Europe, everything had to be planned in a way that will meet very strict budget constraints. The masterplan was to go to HH, spend weekend there in a cheapest place possible. Unfortunately, Ali couldn’t provide me crash at his own place, so I had to look around for something on my own. I wanted to have possibly most fun and afterwards, somewhere in Germany, catch the train in the sole true eastern direction. Otherwise, I would not have utilised my €29 I have spent on the train ticket in saver’s early booking offer two months ago.

This little piece of paper was the main factor determining how big is the timeslot available for the trip to HH.

This little piece of paper was the main factor determining how big is the timeslot available for the trip to HH.

Arrival

So on Saturday, 26th of June, at 4am, I have left MJHQ (Mark-Jan’s Headquarters) and followed towards Rotterdam Central Station, despite the fact, taking the train was not my aim at all. For some reason, main train stations in most big cities in Europe, are also main bus and coach terminals, or at least they are located somewhere nearby. And there was my Eurolines coach waiting to bring me to the desired destination in about nine hours.

The coach itself was quite interesting. It was operating the route from Rotterdam to Oslo. The coach’s licence plates were Czech, as well as the crew. When one lady asked the driver in Dutch, he responded “Ja ne rozumi, speak English”. Sadly to say, only I was laughing, since for me, as a native speaker of one of Slavic languages, basic communication with other native speakers of Slavic languages is of little difficulty.

The bus was surprisingly well equipped, with electric socket, very slow, but working enough to send e-mails, Wi-Fi and headphones socket in each seat. The last one seemed the most surprising feature to me in times, where everyone keeps music on own devices, so I immediately decided to plug in, and using the built-in Blaupunkt control panel, I wanted to find out what is the offered audio content.

Each second channel worked. All of them offered music, but one channel was providing an audiobook in Czech. Decided to listen to it for something like 20 minutes, surprised that I am able not only to get the main plot of the book, but enjoy the funny (because of language, content or both; hard to say) description of the book’s world.

Later I switched to my own kindle and managed to read another 30% of the second Witcher book in its native language, not because I am that smart, but because for some reason me and Andrzej Sapkowski happened to be born in the same country and speak the same language. Although I have read it before long time ago, I do not remember it at all and back then I have not found it interesting. It seems I was too immature to understand and enjoy many explicit parts of it. Yes, this book is definitely not for kids, although I know many people claiming opposite. They have probably never read it. But the biggest advantage of having the re-read of the saga is possibility to annoy Haralds, who currently knows only the video game, with spoilers because why the hell not?

After nine hours of listening, reading, sleeping and being controlled by Bundespolizei at the German border (what somehow happened to be my first document control within Schengen zone I have ever experienced), with half an hour delay, I have finally arrived to Hamburg.

Immediately after getting out of the vehicle, I could not miss the big and shiny building of the hostel I have my room booked at, for as little as €21 per night with breakfast(!). It looked more like 3+ star hotel rather than youth hostel. I had to wait quite some time in a queue at the reception desk, but couple of minutes was enough to notice a guy dressed like a penis and girls dressed like bees in T-shirts with slogan “Beee, beee, beee, today we bee without men!”, whatever it was supposed to mean. Meanwhile, one could notice a tent with a caption “Lampedusa in Hamburg”.

As it comes to the weather, it actually was Lampedusa in Hamburg.

As it comes to the weather, it actually was Lampedusa in Hamburg.

Having checked in, happy that nice lady at the reception desk understood my German, I moved into my room, I could be possibly sharing with up to 7 other people.

But remember, this is Germany. Once I had to spend a night in the hostel in Eindhoven, I have just got instruction how to get to my room and was asked to take any bed that is not occupied yet. Of course, room was always open. But here it was not an issue. I got my key card, to enter the room and the building. This room could be entered only by people with the right key card. It was also equipped with own bathroom and toilet, which were clean at least as the whole building was opened for visitors just yesterday. With the latter thing, I was not that wrong though. The whole hostel was opened just year ago.

Having refreshed myself, in a dwarf-sized but clean bathroom, and put my staff in a chest under my bed, I went out to meet my hosts of the day. They were waiting outside.

Day 1

Hopefully happy to see me, Julia and Ali took me around the city. We passed again by strange creatures described in the previous part, but at that time they were demonstrating on a street. There was also another anti-Israeli protest nearby. Regardless of the part of the city one was in, it was really hard not to hear all the noise caused by the users of right to freedom of expression.

Having bought public transport ticket in a machine, which was not willing to accept my Dutch Maestro card (similar to Netherlands, forget about paying with any other types of cards) and announcing that only true German Maestros are accepted, we decided to take a boat trip. As in Rotterdam, there are boats that are part of public transport system. Therefore, 1-day ticket for just €5.90 allows you to take subway, fast rail, busses and ferries as much as you want.

We decided to take round trip with a ferry. So we took it to the end stop and then returned. It seems like Russian tourists also discovered this fancy way for having a boat trip for little money.

Later we went to the Hamburger Dom. If you hear about “dom” in Germany, you probably think of this one.

Yes, this is Kölner Dom itself.

But HH is a place where some things do not reflect their names. And this is the first case. Hamburger Dom is far away from the place of Christian cult.

And yes, this is also Dom. Hamburger Dom.

And yes, this is also Dom. Hamburger Dom.

I was quite lucky to see it, since Hamburger Dom takes place only twice a year, each time it is one month long.

We have together enjoyed some attractions, Ali managed to successfully struggle for winning a minion for Julia.

Although it looks nice, the adoption process was quite difficult.

Although it looks nice, the adoption process was quite difficult.

Dom is just next to the St. Pauli subway station. This name reflects though to a district that completely has nothing to do with holiness. It would be rather compared with Red Light District in Amsterdam, but it is better. The variety of services available in both places is similar, however Hamburg does not offer windows with ladies advertising themselves behind them. In my opinion, it is more genuine place of meeting for many subcultures, dressed in, at least, interesting way, sometimes stinking, but surely sitting on the pavement and drinking from bottles of unknown content. Sorry to all Dutchies, but you do not get both such people and bottles with unknown content in Amsterdam.

Having taken pizza for a dinner, this was the end of the day and end of my interaction with Julia and Ali. On Sunday, I wanted to discover city on my own, given that now at least I know the most important places, which is quite important for not getting lost.

Day 2

Second day began with a, surprisingly good for this price, breakfast at the hostel. Later on, visit at the ATM to have some cash, given that my Maestro card is not working everywhere here.

At 10am, it seems I was the first visitor of “Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe” that Sunday. It is very close to the main rail station, therefore my hostel as well. For this reason it was my first destination for this day.

Proof photo to make you believe I am not lying.

The general idea behind the museum resembles me British Museum I visited in January, during totally crazy trip to London which I will maybe describe in another post, another time.

There are many exhibitions at the same time, organised by periods and regions or particular artists. The difference is though, that in HH, you need to buy a ticket, while Brits allow you to see stuff they probably mostly robbed from own colonies but not only for free. I have also noticed The Sign.

Do you see The Sign?

Andy Warhol’s works exhibition was claimed to be the biggest attraction of the museum. However, I thought that such well-advertised event would take more than just one room of the whole huge building.

As a person with some music education, I spent some time in rooms with old and currently obsolete music instruments. I have also enjoyed the exhibition of industrial design works of the previous century.

The next place was “Deichtor Halle”, and in particular “Haus der Photografie”. In my opinion, it was the most interesting place of all. There were current artistic, press and social campaign photos as well as illustrations (it was said “Photografie” only, right?) organised in one big hall.

Just another proof photo.

Just another proof photo.

Some of them attracted my attention more, like “The Astonishing Tales of The Time Travelling Woman” comic, which featured Angela Merkel travelling backwards in time to visit the greatest economists of the past and ask them for the solution to the Eurozone crisis. Unfortunately, I could not find full version on the net, I can only provide you with this poor spoiler (German only). Germans are really good in protecting their copyrights and they do it at any price.

Other one was “iDemo” (German only) campaign organised by “Die PARTEI” (“The Party”), which happened before the most recent elections to the European Parliament in May 2014. It featured a group of people manifesting at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin against or in favour of quite random motions. It actually made me think a lot about the role and status of the civic society in Europe.

The most hilarious thing though is the fact, that what seems a satiric group, is an actual party and won exactly one seat in last European elections.

All the descriptions under other photos and illustrations, as well as their content itself, were only in German. Also, the museum I have visited before had most of the information available in English, but still significant part of it was only in German. So one would not fully enjoy it, if does not know the language of Goethe and Schiller. If you suffer for this reason, I will be happy to be your guide and interpreter. Then, you will be able to enjoy up to 90% of the stuff.

Each of these places took me about three hours. After that I decided to walk through the boulevard along the Elbe river, then headed towards St. Michael’s cathedra, where I bought some postcards and decided not to enter the tower. I went back to the boulevard and took the subway to St. Pauli, where I started looking around for The Beatles monument, we could not find together yesterday. And after walking the main street twice, asking three people, finally found it. And was disappointed.

Have you noticed it? No? Don't worry, me neither. Look again.

Have you noticed it? No? Don’t worry, me neither. Look again.

Well, there is a principle behind it. You can take bunch of friends, stand here and take photo as you were The Beatles. But this should be more a thing for Hamburger Dom and one could make nice business on it, rather than putting such installation on the street and claiming it to be a monument. But it is still important, that Hamburg episode of the band was commemorated somehow.

But did I explain, what guys from Liverpool have been doing in Hamburg, in St. Pauli? Seems like not. So it turns out, they have spent years 1960-1962, at the beginning of their career, performing in local clubs. For me, it is not surprising at all. The genuineness of this place may be inspiring for all kinds of artists. The atmosphere could be even improved by ongoing reconstruction of the city after the World War II.
Being quite tired, forgotten to visit Kunsthalle, which was already closed, I have returned to my place of temporary stay to have some rest.

Walking back, still in St. Pauli, I have noticed The Second Sign.

Yes, it is right in the middle. Is Oktoberfest endangered?

Yes, it is right in the middle. Is Oktoberfest endangered?

Day 3 And Epilogue

Well, not much happened during day 3.

Kunsthalle is closed on Mondays, so I still could not visit it. Therefore, I had really nothing to do till 10pm, when my bus was departing to Hannover.

I was really happy. I am afraid it is my first day in very long time, when I did not have to hurry anywhere. I could walk around, if I wanted. I could read a book, if I wanted. I could sleep, if I wanted. I could write postcards, if I wanted. And actually I did all of it.

After writing all the postcards, I went to the Deutsche Post office at the rail station. Sir, who was in charge that day was quite surprised with wide-array of destinations I was sending postcards to. I am sure, he never saw a United World College student/alumni because they have much more friends in fancier places. Unfortunately to me, I have not studied at such.

But returning to my constructive, postcards have been sent to two continents, including, but not limited to highly rural area in “Poland’s Wild East”, very urban area of Hong Kong, and perhaps even more urban area of Russian capital and some places in Chinese mainland.

These are only some of them, so don't be sad if you can't see yours.

These are only some of them, so don’t be sad if you can’t see yours.

For some reason, sending each postcard cost exactly the same, regardless how far away was its destination.

In the evening I went to the bus station. And I noticed Signs. Signs of proceeding colonisation. Colonisation of former colonisers.

 

I appeal to all, who this may concern, please stop imposing our culture on poor Germans! They really have right to their own busses, beer, visual arts and other stuff! I definitely condemn islapolonisation of Europe! But actually, I am really happy you are doing better and better and you probably even owe this bus station. Poland stronk!

I appeal to all, who this may concern, please stop imposing our culture on poor Germans! They really have right to their own busses, beer, visual arts and other stuff! I definitely condemn islapolonisation of Europe! But actually, I am really happy you are doing better and better and you probably even owe this bus station. Poland stronk!

I have taken my coach to Hannover. After arrival, I hanged for an hour in the middle of night, bouncing between still open Burger King and McDonald’s open 24/7. Bored with walking here and there, I went to my platform, where the coming train was already announced.

Yay!

Yay!

Entered it at 2:40, as planned. Everyone was sleeping.

Everyone!

Everyone!

At 12:20, without a delay, I have arrived to the land rich in onions, garlic and apples #eatpolishapples

I would like to thank Julia and Ali, especially Ali, since he was the main host there, for their hospitality during my stay in HH.

Featured picture from: http://www.maph.nl/media/media/hamburg_2.jpg

The Epic Couch Journey (an episode from the life of EDS)

On Friday, 23rd May 2014, the Erasmus Debating Society Spetsnaz forces conducted a peaceful operation for the Greater Good of the Society. And the comfort of its honourable Board.

The operating area included the significant part of the territory of city of Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Everything began few days earlier with the post on the Society’s Facebook group where an owner of the certain piece of furniture published a decision to hand it over to anyone within the EDS.

Exactly this one. This is a picture of it in status quo.

Immediately after noticing this statement, Madam President herself expressed a will to make the couch a piece of Boardroom’s equipment. With the support of the whole Board, the decision was made so quickly, that all world’s legislatures should learn the decision-making process from our Board.

The later discussion (or more properly: debate) in this thread regarded the logistic issue connected with bringing the couch from its current place of residence to the Universe’s Control Centre, also known as the Boardroom.

Lack of the resources within EDS Board and members, made me and comrade debater Harald, as prepared for all circumstances East Europeans, to solve this problem on our own, what was stated by the latter one to the other members and had been approved by Madam President.

On the mentioned day, at 5 pm CET, we left the Woudestein campus to reach the current geographical position of this very artefact, which turned out to be Marconiplein in Rotterdam. Operation began with taking the object of interest out of the house, using Traditional Dutch Narrow Rounded Stairs (TDNRS, for short), what is a bit of engineering challenge.

6:04 pm, Marconiplein. Me testing the quality of the couch just before beginning of the next stage of the journey.

After having this done, we proceeded to the metro station Marconiplein in attempt to use RET (Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram – the public transport company of Rotterdam) services in order to safely deliver it to the destination. Unfortunately, despite the fact of getting through the gate, RET stuff, probably being jealous of how awesome piece of furniture was handed over to the EDS, or just corrupted by the enemies of the Society, absolutely did not allow us to bring it on the carrier, regardless of our positive attitude and will for negotiations (we are debaters after all!).

The only solution that was left, however had the lowest probability of failure, unless the weather would change (what actually was not predicted for that day), was taking it using our bare hands. And this is what we have undertaken.

As students of Econometrics and Economics, we decided to plan the most optimal way to carry the desired object to the desired place which would not take us more than one day.

And this was the result of our planning.

We proceeded in the proper direction, and stopped at the first pub to enjoy a Heineken beer, while sitting on the couch.

Moving in western part of the city, we have noticed at least two girls who cheered us up and made inquiries about the fate of carried by us piece of furniture. Thank you!

Later on we moved few hundred meters, regularly changing positions until finding the optimal one. One has been found, the next longer stop was at the Subway in Westblaak to charge our batteries.

8:00 pm, Blaak. Enjoying ourselves all the time, for the sake of documentation, comrade Harald also had an opportunity to enjoy the views of the city, while relaxing. Everything, of course, only to test the quality of the couch and ensure Board’s satisfaction from using it!

Our last stop before reaching the destination was at Voorschoterlaan, where we enjoyed the second beer. This time it was Trappist Dubbel.

I find it also important to mention that we have not been left completely on our own! The hot line with Madam President was maintained and the Board demanded regular information about our position, condition and estimated time of arrival.

The object was delivered to the N building on Woudestein campus around 8:20 pm. No damage to the couch, us and random civilians, including hipsters, has been reported.

At the destination, we were welcomed by no one else, but Secretary General of the Communist Party of… sorry, just Secretary of the Erasmus Debating Society, who opened us the door to a “place where there is no darkness”, i.e. the Boardroom, since the light is always on there. She was really enthusiastic about offering any help while dragging it upstairs, although the N building does not have TDNRS.

After placing the couch in the random place in the Boardroom, which turned out to be exactly in the middle of it, we were offered to have one of the drinks which were present in the Boardroom. The only drinks that were noticed by us, were alcoholic ones, so Harald finished the bottle of Glen Talloch, which he bought himself for the Membersweekend, as far as I remember, and I enjoyed a cup of Czech Slivovica, which was still there since Membersweekend.

This was exactly what we needed to enjoy the feast at the Kralingse Plas lake, which was organised by other members of our Great Society. Welcomed with proper honours, we enjoyed the rest of the evening.

This is how the feast looked like.