Monthly Archives: September 2018

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PLUS7dní – Jojo’s trip over Europe and Asia: An injury and hospital visit

That day Jojo had 900 kilometers behind him. On his trip across Europe and Asia he’s currently driving through Russia.

“Autumn in Siberia is fantastic. The colors slowly shift between yellow, green and orange on those trees is just a treat to the eyes and you cannot see enough of it. This doesn’t happen in Slovakia. Where did our Slovak autumn go? The last few years I just don’t see it. One day it’s hot, and on another I have to grab my winter coat. Here in Siberia, we’re catching up this Autumn, it’s an experience,” he begins his consistent announcements from his trips.

“We were on the road for nine – ten hours when we realized that we haven’t eaten yet. So we stopped at a gas station.” From the tone of his voice we can assume that things seemed a bit rough. If there are complications on the road and Jojo begins to talk about it, he kind of quiets down a little. He did the same just now. “When we finished eating, we were going back to our car. And that’s when I stepped wrong on my foot and sprained my ankle…” We already can guess that driving in this state won’t be easy. We would already tell him all sorts of home remedies or suggest visiting an ER, but try to think about it when someone is thousands of kilometers away from home and that said person is determined to finish something they’ve started. “I sat in my car and I knew it was going to be painful. The next closest hotel was about 160 kilometers. With cruise control, though, it was bearable,” he explains. We’re pretty sure this requires the eye of an expert, but Jojo wasn’t that sure in that moment. Caught up by his trip and mission that he gave to himself, he won’t let a single injury break him.

“We stopped at the most nearby hotel, which was about 160 kilometers away. It wasn’t hotel Broadway, but a small little hotel that had Turkish symbols at the front. A young man was standing at the entrance, who gave us his attention right away and gave us a beautiful room. In our standards it isn’t luxurious, but in Russia’s, it definitely is. The bathroom is just as big as the room itself. Huge toilet, bidet, sink, plus another room with a bathtub and a huge shower. This hidden Turkish hotel was really nice.”

We ate dinner in the hotel. We ordered a salad when suddenly a huge dish with a large melon was set before them and a beverage from figs, the table ended up slanting just a bit. “The owner of the hotel sat down at our table, who lived in Budapest for a year. From yesteryear’s regime he serviced in the army. We got a debate going, sort of. We tried to gesture our thoughts with our arms and legs due to our language barrier. We spoke with all the languages we knew… He put a bottle of vodka in front of us, on the house. We didn’t decline after all those hours on the road, so we drank with the owner for old memories. And suddenly we were sitting in between people who were interested in who we are, where are we from, where are we going, and we asked about their families, work, life…”

A lot of questions and a lot of answers later, Jojo with Zoli stood up that they’re going to sleep. They of course start their road five in the morning, so they need to gather strength for the next kilometers. The owner did notice that Jojo was limping, and so he didn’t let him back into the room. He decided to help him and took him to a local hospital right away. “And that’s a whole story on its own that stumps one’s mind. I took my needed documents, money just to avoid surprises. The first shock was when we were entering the building with metallic doors. The environment looked so akin to a jailcell, not a hospital. Behind the doors was light, security and through the whole waiting room was a low ceiling and thin doors. Old, including equipment. Scratched benches… I couldn’t take pictures, because my phone stayed hidden. The hotel owner was holding it with my other documents and kept an eye on it, he kept an eye on me and tried to help me. Soon enough he would start carrying me on his arms. He was really kind and helpful. Everything was being solved right away. In a moment I was inside the doctor’s office, it had a door, but they weren’t closing. The whole process where they’re looking into your documents and have to write down your name, trying to pronounce “Jozef”… Samek is a complete absurdity that they cannot even read it. It looked like we have just woken up the doctor. His interest was woken up by the fact that I wasn’t a local. He looked at my ankle. Marked a spot with a pen and sent me for an x-ray. Just a few meters you walk past three doors. It was a horrible feeling of anxiety. As if when you’re watching a movie where you’re being taken to a prison. It felt horrible, I would never take kids there. The whole environment was from a B-grade horror film.” Jojo went through the x-ray. A horrible sound, a clap, and another sound – x-ray from the 80’s. Three minutes and the doctors looked at it for a second, and said that he doesn’t see anything, but it definitely needs a plaster. “I instantly declined, a plaster on my foot is a no go. In the pharmacy they just put a wrapping on my foot and ankle and gave us medicine. I was really thankful and went away as quick as I could, because I really didn’t want my foot to be plastered at all. I have cruise control so it’s definitely bearable.”

After his treatment they went back into their room where they gathered their strengths for the next trip. Lake Baikal was waiting for them, where they are planning to rest for a little, swim and slow down.

Author: Janka Fialová

PLUS7dní – Jojo’s trip over Europe and Asia: Belarus drama is just an uncomfortable memory, Russia an uplift

 If 1st of September wasn’t a Saturday,

children would’ve begun their ten month adventure, new school year.

Despite it being Saturday, Jojo Samek has begun one adventure.

 

During it there are new people awaiting him, new sightings and experiences.

The bad ones are preceded by the good ones, hopelessness preceded by euphoria.

His adventure will take 60 days and during those he’ll go thousands of kilometers.

 

Drama in Belarus

Hard to tell what feelings are stirring up inside a person who went on a 60 day adventure after their dream and their first negative experience is a possibility of their adventure ending. To get into a situation where you start something and immediately put to a stop can affect one’s self-esteem, digs presumptions and launches an avalanche of questions in one’s head. The only answer in that situation, in which you hope for, is freedom. Jojo has got it. The Belarus drama is only a memory now and he’s currently going through Russia. But entering Russia wasn’t all without some problems. “After my experience with Belarus customs I was putting a lot of effort into not going through any scenic routes, my only goal was to get into Russia,” he mentions. “Two hours in a sleeping bag have given us enough sleep and we went towards Smolensk, straight through all of Belarus. When we arrived to the border, a uniformed Russian armyman came to us. He asked for our visas, looked at us, took the visas to check them. He came back with a smile that it’s all alright, no problem, but we cannot go through here. So he sent us to another border where we could pass into Russia without any problems.” By the armyman’s words it sounded like Jojo had to go just a few kilometers to finally get into a place where he could go through into Russia, a place he has always dreamt of visiting.

“On paper it only looked like a small distance, Jojo was smiling a lot throughout the conversation, and so we have turned and went a little further. We stopped at the closest parking lot and have studied the paper we got and I understood that we need to go another three hundred kilometers to the place where we’ll get through into Russia. After the question of if we’re taking any medicine with us, there wasn’t any mistaking that they already knew about us. Thank god, they have let us through without any problems. It surprised me that on the Russian side, there’s no one who would help you, give you advice, no information. Everything’s in cyrillic, so if you aren’t knowledgeable about their alphabet, you have a problem. I have a service car with full permissions – government approved in Slovak and English. The problem is that there isn’t a Russian version of those papers,” Jojo stumbles yet across another problem. Permission to use the car wasn’t enough in English, it was required for it to be translated into Russian, through government officials.

So they “jumped” another 90 kilometers to find somebody to translate it. “Night time Ukraine is horrible…. Just warnings, ramps and raised gates. A weird atmosphere envelops the whole country. On the next day at dawn, I understood why we didn’t see any houses. Even though the roads are just as wide as in Slovakia, houses are at least thirty meters away from the roads. In Slovakia they’re closer. In the dark you just watch the road, nothing else. The fact that you went through a village that was marked, you don’t even notice it. The whole place has an effect of being abandoned,” Jojo talks about the road for the translation. In the morning they found someone in Chernogode, and they had to wait until the evening. “It’s not a good idea to visit the customs at night, so we returned back to the town maybe thirty kilometers from the border…” After waiting around in the queue line about three hours they went through all the security checks, got the important stamps, showed them the translation – and got an answer: “It is a translation, but it’s in Ukrainian, not Russian!”

 

Suspicious

So they went back into the car back into Chernogode. The lady who translated it apologized, she forgot to pin a Russian translation to the papers. The delays were pretty stacked, so Jojo went right back to the customs. “At the Ukrainian customs, there were problems as soon as we arrived. Our attempts at crossing the border became suspicious. The two times translation was also suspicious…” And so the crew got in contact with the person who translated the papers and admitted that the fault was on her side that caused these problems. It started looking like Jojo had to wait yet another few hours. The situation got saved by another person of a higher ranking at the customs who explained that the dogs didn’t find anything, everything is alright and the crew can carry on their way.

 

Russia

“It’s been ten days since the departure. So far there have been some complications but it’s alright, we’re just a bit behind.” The whole problem in Belarus caused Jojo’s trip to be a bit behind the schedule, and he’s behind by two days. By his words, Russia is pretty European. At the beginning he was surprised at people’s uneasy behavior. Suspicious detachment but careful nonetheless. Going in a bit further, the situation has completely changed. “Today, wherever we stop, we raise interest. Russia is a huge land. Places, corners that we had the chance of seeing – everything is majestic. To cross five hundred kilometers means nothing here, though.” They didn’t manage to avoid Moscow’s traffic jams: “To sit in between five lanes, surrounded by trucks and cars is pretty stressful… Russian don’t use their turn indicators. It was an adrenaline rush for about 4 – 5 hours…”

The roads during the day are pretty packed. On improving communication people also work on Saturdays and Sundays. There is construction everywhere. It’s not the Russia like it was back a few years ago. “At some customs I lost my bag with chargers and a backup harddrive. I stopped in Moscow and went into an electronics store that had everything from almost anywhere. Everything. From PC’s that were disassembled, iPhones, Lenovo, Motorola, motherboards from all sorts of companies – from known names to unknown. And so I wonder, where is Russia heading? People are smiling, police patrol is completely calm… Where are you going? Vladivostok. They just smiled, go. I’m surprised from Russia, it’s all nice. From the tense beginning, the further I go, the better it is, and I’m starting to like it here. There are about ten, twelve, maybe sixteen days ahead of us until we arrive to Vladivostok. Three days at the border customs, four days of loss – we’re still behind. We’re missing two thousand kilometers that will be very hard catching up to. From tomorrow, we have our alarm clock set to 4:30, cramps in my legs are going away, so it shouldn’t be that bad catching up anymore. But it’s pretty tough. At least Zoli and I aren’t getting enough of eachother, but I think it’ll arrive in ten, fifteen days. So far we’re just enjoying it and I hope it stays that way.”

 

Socialism in Kemerovo

“Greetings from Siberia!” Jojo announces his current position. Exhaustion from timezone changes and roads has caught up to them, and so from Novosibirsk they have only gone through three hundred kilometers, when they decided to take a break. “From the roads to today – hands down. The biggest pulls that we went through were fantastic. Evidently, it’s a job for a lot of people. This city is socialistic, nostalgia echoes throughout the whole place. Some buildings are unkempt, some have been given a make over. I’m standing opposite to a school that is beautifully repaired, and on the other side is a hotel in which we are staying. Three star hotel that breathes through the 80s. It’s screaming socialism from the inside. And the people, the further we go, the more friendly and talkative they are. But they don’t like having a picture taken of them. I spoke to a soldier yesterday that showed me his work, guard, where he works, what does he do… It’s a welcome change to them, they aren’t no longer so detached from strangers. They’re trying to communicate in English. It’s a weird feeling, it’s as if I was traveling in time. It’s magical. I’m standing in their downtown, walking around. Parents are taking their children to places, it’s Saturday, despite a lot of places still being open. Children were in schools. This morning a man stopped me and asked us where are we from, where are we going and gave us places to check out. He just spoke as if it was just a little departure. But when I checked the map, that it’s 580 km, that would take about ten hours – and we’re not even counting destroyed roads, traffic jams and colonies. It would definitely be worth it, but we’re behind by two days and we’re not having the best luck catching up.

 

Happy birthday, все лучшее, všetko najlepšie, Jojo!

On his adventurous expedition behind the wheel, Jojo has also celebrated his birthday. We couldn’t not ask if his idea to spend sixty days traveling through Europe and Asia hasn’t come across thoughts of regret, if he hasn’t gotten homesick or if he had a thought about just staying home! He responded without hesitation: “The further we go into Russia, the better it gets. People are much more friendly, considerate… Despite being tired we’re really enjoying this, it’s still fun. This trip is an experience every passing minute. I’m glad that I went and that it’s with Zoli, we’re a great duo.”

Vladivostok is in their plans in a few days. More information from Jojo will arrive soon!

 

 

 

Author: Janka Fialová

Translation: Jozef Samek Jr.

PLUS7dní – Jojo’s trip over Europe and Asia: Prestige photographer’s surprising drama in Belarus

Do people at the bottom have dreams? Yes, they do. They can even make them come true. Jojo Samek is a proof: From the streets he has become a prestigious photographer and today he’s on a 60-day trip around the world.

Jojo has begun his trip on 1st of September from Dunajská Streda. The whole start was wholesome and surprising to the crew – Jojo Samek, who came up with the whole idea, and the driver, and his cameraman Zoli – a lot of people attended their departure to wave and say their goodbyes. On these long 60 days, Jojo lives his dream.

Sleeping bag in sand

“I don’t even know where should I begin…”, Jojo says after his first week on the road. In his voice you can hear how tired he is, but it swaps between euphoria, too. His humor doesn’t leave him despite the hardships he went through his first few days.
“Seven days have passed. Seven special days. The first few were more than amazing. We laughed, met a whole variety of people, and we were just enjoying it. It was great. The road was problem-free, people waved to us, everyone was interested, they asked about our expedition,” Jojo talks about the first moments since the start. “We went through Slovakia and arrived to Poland, and even the police helped us find a place to stay.” By that, though, he doesn’t mean a 5 star hotel. Jojo has his priorities: the important thing is to relax, not to sleep in luxury. And so, by Poland’s policemen’s advices, they went the way they were told to. They managed to fall asleep at 1 in the morning in their sleeping bags.
“When I woke up in the morning, I found out that we slept in the middle of a playground. Our sleeping bags were covered in sand, we slept in a sandbox,” says Jojo, laughing about his first night. That morning they packed their belongings, cleaned after themselves and went to the Belarus border.

On the edge

In Belarus they were left perplexed at the sight of barbed wire and armed customs. “When you live in the heart of Europe, you don’t really realize it that there is still a huge barrier with barbed wire, that should work in protecting our children’s sleep,” Jojo describes his first impressions from another country that awaited him. They didn’t welcome them with open arms, despite how it may have seemed before. “Going through the Polish checkpoint was a breeze. On the Belarus border however, we started signing immigration papers and declaration about our vehicle. They took out completely everything out of our car… And between our medicines that we took with us, they found two boxes of a certain type that’s considered a drug in Belarus,” Jojo adds to his adrenaline inducing experience.
They put their car to the side, and then into a garage. “We use a special kind of wheel-lock, that if you try and move it, it’ll puncture your tires.” The customs took Jojo’s keys, and they separated both him and his cameraman apart and now came long hours of waiting. “I started regretting that we took the medicines with us. Why did we even take them?… Cough syrup. We’ve got something for everything. Chosen cautiously. Even stuff for neurosis. They were there, and when they asked for who they were, I said that I got them as a sponsors’ support,” says Jojo, and it sounds like this experience will still resonate in his voice for a long time. “Between the customs, who slowly started bullying us and treating us like terrorists, came an older, bearded man. Really nice and friendly, tried to understand Russian. When I told him how we came across these things, he apologized and said that these are their laws, and have to wait for other investigators who are already on their way. I’ll be most likely held here until the whole situation gets resolved. And that can be a day, two, a week, if it went to court, even a month. In that moment I was covered in cold sweat. I realized that I didn’t even leave, and was already finished.”
An unlucky turn of events put the trip to a pause, and the joy from the beginning was replaced with hopelessness. The crew went through a physical exam, the car was x-rayed and investigators wrote notes. After a long while of uncertainty victory finally came across, but it didn’t taste pretty well.
“We’re continuing on our trip, the story has a continuation. The medicines in question were confiscated and sent to a laboratory, and then they’ll be sent to court. Hopefully it’ll be sorted in a form of a fine, otherwise this bad luck could’ve locked away the rest of the world to us,” Jojo sadly notes. The test results will be sent in a month and for now he can only hope the rest of the trip won’t be in danger.

Jojo’s trip continues to Russia and about when and how he arrived there, and what he experienced will be revealed to you soon.

Author: Janka Fialová

Translation: Jozef Samek Jr.

link: www.plus7dni.sk