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(Overnight in Kuala Lumpur due to  6 am flight to Hanoi)
It was not a good start of the day ….3.5 hours of napping with breaks, getting up at 3 am and of course! The taxi didn’t show up at all. Fortunately, the Malaysian manager seemed particularly nice and carrying and called for another taxi. The guy was driving like a maniac, and suddenly I saw an animal jumping right in front of the car and shortly after heard a dull hit-noise. DEAD! The driver didn’t even get a chance to notice it coming….I kept thinking, was it a dog or something else? It run out of the forest… I felt guilty of not staying at the airport Tune hotel and taking that damn taxi! Poor animal.

The flight to Hanoi was not full, thanks God I got the entire raw for myself. I listened to forest music on my iPad and had a dream about being in a jungle…when I woke up there was a fresh coconut in front of me! It confused me first, as I totally forgot I ordered it on line. It was more than delicious! Young coconut for a breakfast on the flight! I wish united airlines could serve this type of breakfast….(or any eatable breakfast would be just fine.)
The emigration took forever. The airport was empty, the air was static. The colors were grey….very grey. The communism was undoubtedly in the air. The emigration officers acted powerful and enjoyed intimidating people. I knew that “game” from my childhood well… Mr. J was waiting for me with a driver, and I was very grateful for not having to deal with the taxi drivers again! As we were getting closer to the center, it became clear to me that Vietnam is poorer than Indonesia but richer than Nepal. The presence of communism was evident and present on the streets. But the colonial architecture and vivid colors of some houses brighten the mood up.

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It was 9 am and I was exhausted after short night, and a week of teaching. Well… I had to handle several hours of practice in the afternoon, tv interview and preparation. I was starving! But all my snacks were gone. It was week number something 6 perhaps… I ordered some unknown soup and even less known green vegetable, which was delivered to the Embassy. The Embassy guest suite was spectacular. I also needed to get my hair done for the interview and went to a local salon.
I was asked if I want a mask, which I assumed was a hair mask, like in Indonesia. But to my surprise I was shown cucumbers and yogurt as my choices. I thought it was just coincident that cucumbers were laying next to shampoo. Shortly after I heard the hair stylist grinding the cucumbers and soon I was all covered in cucumbers! My face that is. I was hungry, and considered eating it for a moment, but most likely they were unpeeled.
The stylist started her work, without stopping to chat with her friends. Unfortunately for me she had long nails and kept hurting my scalp. I told her a few times to be more gently, but her memory lasted for maybe 5 seconds. My head was on fire.

The TV interview was enjoyable. I was also asked to perform, but hoped they would only play the images, as the piano was very run down and terribly out of tune. I got a chance to talk a little bit about program and my mission to promote classical music around the world.

I woke the next morning in my down jacket…. I forgot to check the weather and wrongly assumed it would be warm as it was in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia… Bad idea! I was glad I didn’t sent all my warm clothes by mail from Indonesia so I still had my jeans, wool top and hiking long pants and a wind breaker. It was gloomy and foggy but not terribly cold, just 15c down from Kuala Lumpur, so my body was in shocked.

I had to do two more TV interviews. And of course they want to record the concert live and use on their programs . I agreed to partial recording but made it clear that there is no on stage filming or moving permitted. To my surprise, during my concert! I see THREE men with cameras walking on the stage DURING my second piece and setting up the equipment, making terrible noise and smiling to me at the same time. I almost stopped! And I was furious. I looked at them between the pieces and gave them no sign waiting for them to get off the stage. They moved to the center of the stage! And kept starring at me. I was not going to play until they got off the stage. Finally they did. The stage was mine, but they continued making noise and walking around…. I knew there were several ambassadors in the audience so I tried to be diplomatic. I was not happy!
The concert was very successful, the theater was packed. I managed to forget during the performance about uneven stage ( piano was leaning downwards creating weight imbalance in my arms and spine ) and a horribly run down Petrof piano. That said, I really had fun on stage. How strange!

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I had only two days left in Vietnam after the concerts and all interviews. It was a really difficult decision what to do. I wanted to see the mountains and go to the North-land, but there was not enough time…. I decided to go to the touristy Halong Bay and bought a rather expensive two day tour with Glory Cruises, with the overnight stay on the boat. Everything was great except for the weather. It was still nice to be cruising along the beautiful picks and green water, but it was a bit grim and gray. The food was fantastic though , plenty of seafood, fruits and deserts. All kind of drinks could be purchased on board and the cabin was luxurious. Money well spent!
On the last evening I saw the Temple of Literature and went to buy a few souvenirs. Passing by some street food vendors I noticed  a women selling some strangely looking white balls of different sizes. I asked two white women who were eating them what those were. They said they had no clue but recommend trying it . I joined them and ordered the mysterious balls with ginger syrup and we started to talk. They asked me if I was the famous Polish pianist who gave a concert couple days ago.. Apparently it was well advertised. I was with my osprey backpack and in jeans, nothing like Anna Kijanowska from the publicity photo and I was glad! The evening ended with the delicious pho soup  and a  fresh coconut, bought on the street and shared with the locals. The locals stared at me and smiled and I hoped they didn’t know I was that famous pianist in town…

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Indonesia- one of my favorite oasis!!!

I can’t even remember how many times I have been to Indonesia….maybe 4-5 times. I remember clearly the first visit and my first Festival run by the ” famous” Dr. “Queen Pin”.
Well, it was not a good introduction! Doubled work load, bad food, and shared accommodations ( we were promised private rooms) Fortunately, my lovely roommate happened to be a fantastic violinist ( now the first violinist in the leading american quartet and a professor in one of the top music school in the USA) who would get up every morning and talk to her Stradivarius first before the two lazy pianists where up. There was something very meditative about those mornings… I had so much respect for her and she never missed a day… Well almost! She did, when we all got poisoned ( food) on our excursion. In fact, she ended up in a local hospital with running cats. I didn’t get to see the running cats or the hospital, because I got sick 12 hours later ( I am bigger) and by than The Queen realized it is less work to get us medicine than to have us all go to the hospital. I had such a high fever that don’t remember much of the two days.
This was the first time moments in Indonesia Hot summer, bad food, too much work ( in fact it felt like a work camp) and food poisoning at the end….
Fortunately, there is always something good coming out of every bad situation and diverse experience…. Most of the parents seeing the faculty sick, weak and unhappy towards the end of the festival, felt quite ashamed. One of them in particular, a mother of one of the most gifted student attending the festival, invited some faculty over her place and decided that she wants us to show the real Indonesia and the real Indonesian culture. Luckily for me, I gave it a chance and fall in love with the country and the people. I always stay with the same generous and loving family, and I know that I can just call a week before and there will be a driver waiting for me at the airport (even in the middle of the night) as it was the case this time. But what’s even more important there is a grand piano I can practice on and a kitchen full of fruits.

I have arrived really late at night this time, exhausted after what I thought would be an easy day…. Well. I forgot about 4 h time difference between Sydney and Jakarta, I didn’t notice 5 hours lay over in Kuala Lumpur and there was an hour delay, so I arrived after 1 am! But as soon as I let out of the aircraft in Jakarta I smelled the country, its warmth, fruits and diversity…I was happy.
To my surprise my friend was still up waiting for me to arrive home. In the morning I was surprised by a welcome massage at home!, and a beautiful breakfast. Some several tons of fruits were bought, clothes beautifully washed and ironed. I could ask for anything at any time and I am sure it would be all brought to me.

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This visit was devoted to master classes and I was very busy teaching, but I manage to squeeze in some amazing massages, body scrubs, hair spa, facials etc…I felt in heaven! In the USA I would have to work more than an hour to get an hour massage. In Indonesia I can get more than 6 massages ( Jakarta price) for an hour of teaching. Hm….
The students were fantastic. I gave 50 sessions ( from 45-90 minutes each) over 5 days and in three different cities: Jakarta, Medan and Surabaya. I have taught in 5 different schools, students of all ages ( 6-30 yea old) I was very happy to see much higher level of playing and understanding of music than several years ago. The repertoire also got more diverse, students were respectful and eager to learn as always.It was a really fantastic experience! IMG-20130117-00414

Each host would invite me for a lunch and dinner and they would send their drivers to pick me up. ( Note, traffic in Jakarta and Indonesia is one of the worst in the world. I have driven in Los Angeles and Washington, but there is just nothing like Jakarta. to get anywhere, you must have an hour, to get to the airport, usually at last 2, not it’s not far, it just takes forever).
The food in Medan was spectacular. I especially enjoyed delicious lunch in a small, local restaurant, where dishes were spicy and genuine, not altered for tourists. The baked giant crab at a seafood restaurant ( which I almost ate by myself) was quite an experience.
I was sad I didn’t have enough time to travel and see more places in Indonesia. I am ready to come back and see Papua…I think its about time!

AK13-347-2I was honored to have one of the most amazing violinist and musicians, Wanda Wiłkomirska, to attend my last two concerts in Sydney in 2010 and 2011. I was sad to learn that she left Australia. We used to wonder at Bondi beach, eating fish and chatting about Music and life. I loved every minute of the time we spent together. I though my visit to Sydney would never be the same without her company. To my great surprise she came again to my recital last night! I felt so previladged and happy to see her again. She was visiting Sydney….Just like Christian Zimmerman a few heard ago during my recital at the Merkin Hall in NYC. He just showed up, stayed for the entire concert and came to congratulate me afterwords.
The recital was very well received. In fact it was overbooked and only because of the 40C weather, we had enough space in the hall. It felt great to be welcomed and appreciated. It has always been wonderful in Sydney.

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It’s the second day of my island retreat on the Rottnest, squeezed between the recital in Perth and Sydney. It’s been fantastic! The beaches are amazing,2013-01-05 001 2013-01-05 003

biking spectacular and waves as wild as they get. I am about to witness another breath taking sunset, from the Salmon beach this time. I have biked across the Island reaching the very west tip, where Ospreys and eagles lay eggs and Seals and see lions rest. Whales visit the cape in as well. I got to see playing Dolphins today, and spent most of the day on dozen quiet ( mostly empty) beaches. It has been close to 40C but pleasantly windy, which made the biking even harder. Delicious organic green mango, kiwis, smoked salmon and white greipfruit made a delicious lunch. I hope Delphines will join me for the sunset!

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I am not sure if I prefer to be too cold or too warm, but I am sure I would rather not have to adjust from minus 20C to plus 40C. I have performed a Christmas Recital, in my goose down jacket, Marino wool pants and pashmira just a few days ago and today I was forced to practice half naked…. The AC was not working properly, it was 40C outside and I needed to get work done. The security officer at the University of Western Australia looked a bit shocked when he opened the door…I needed to practice. Welcome to Perth!

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The PolArt Festival is a fascinating phenomenon and one of the largest polish festival outside Poland. PolArt showcase Polish folkloric dance, theatre, music, fine arts, film and literature. It has been fun to be surrounded by dancers and actors and share the stage with visual artists and poets. The New Year Ball was another thrill, with 800 people attending, live band and some intense dancing. I am very much looking forward to my performance in two days and hopefully to an escape to the Rottnests Island the next day.

Traveling between different countries might feel sometimes like traveling between different worlds or planets. It’s fascinating, but it is also confusing. We realize that time, borders, customs and even centuries are all relative…literally ( different calendars, for example in Nepal it is 2069 but it feels like 1969 or before)
Malaysia.
I flew with some 300+ Napali men to Malaysia last night, who were treated like animals on the arrival to Kuala Lumpur, and ordered to kneel on the stone floor in front of the emigration officers. Everyone else was allowed to stand, but those men who left their families for months if not years, who were frightened and in most cases flew for the first time in their lives, who were unable to communicate, were treated like dogs. The emigration officer did not even use words to communicate he just waved his hand down, the way I order my dog to SIT.
Nepali spent most on their fly time in the… Toilets. They must had been very nervous. They also did not know how to open the toilet door, or lock the them inside, they were frightened and uncomfortable. But they were helping each other and eventually I saw a few smiles…

Malaysia was hot and humid. I had an early flight to catch so I decided to stay at the airport hotel, which I almost never do. The Tune hotel in Kuala Lumpur was a cell, you open the door and walk into a bed and a toilet with shower. It was hot and humid and I started
to miss the Himalayan dry and super cold weather. The morning with freshly squeezed juice (passion fruit with pineapple and kiwi) and flat white made the morning successful.

Singapore….airport next. Yes, it’s so clean and it’s so boring. ( sorry) And the music !!!! I wish they could just stop it. It’s either Pop classical piano hits or Christmas music (THE CHRISTMAS is OVER by the way). I have 4 hours to kill so I try lobster soup
(disgusting) and cheesecake ( fake taste) and I sit next to couples glued to their tablets and phones, not even looking at each other…..not exchanging a one word for hours. I see women walking proudly in their design clothes with beautiful bags and perfectly done hair
and make ups. I see hours and hundreds of dollars spent on appearance and impressions. And than I think about the Nepali men in their smoky, tired clothes, who had to leave their
country to be able to feed their families…who were just asked to kneel down like dogs,
because their hair were unwashed and their clothes were not in fashion, and who were unfortunate to have a passport from a poor country. It reminded me of my past…

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I flew over Siberia yesterday, on my way from Washington DC to Japan. I was astonished! Amazed and glued to the window. The view was serene: endless, covered by snow mountains and valleys. There was no end or beginning…It was an ocean of virgin nature and beauty! Must visit one day!