Sunday, March 30, 2014

Love the traveling:)

Happy birthday to sister Phyllis!  On a whim last night I face timed to Mom/Dad and they answered (a miracle) and then I saw Phyllis as well; she had been in John Day for a couple days.  So that was great to see her face, hear her voice and be able to wish her happy birthday!  Late last week I think it was, I was able to Skype with my sister Susan so now I've seen and talked to my immediate family all within the same week - woo hoo:).  My Dad has knee replacement surgery on Tuesday (April 1st) so that was good to chat with him about all that going on etc.  He is ready for much less pain in the near future!  Mom is doing very well - she got a great report on her follow up appointment a couple weeks ago so now she plans on helping Dad with his re-hab on his knee.  My parents are awesome.

I'm sitting here at the river today; beautiful spring day here in Poznan!  People are out boating, running, walking, biking, bar-b-queing...all good.

So since my last blog - I have been gone mostly...Berlin, Prague and Warsaw.  Berlin was amazing - we made reservations (apparently required so they can check your background) to the Reichstag - German goverment building.  That was awesome - really old building of course but they have built a glass dome and you wind your way up the 360 degree dome with headsets explaining the city of Berlin that you can see out of the dome.  Very interesting.  Then we walked over to the Brandenburg Gate - which was part of the Berlin Wall so we walked to and from what was East/West Berlin...amazing.  The next day we went to Check Point Charlie and that was quite surreal.  Unbelievable really to me...what it must have been like.  The last time Colleen had been in Berlin was while the Berlin Wall was still up so it was very interesting to her - she had been through CheckPoint Charlie and now just to walk on the street where it had all been was overwhelming.

Prague was amazingly beautiful (see side picture).  The last time I had been there was in January 15 years ago and the St. Charlies Bridge was so packed with snow - there was nobody on it.  I think Bob, Michael and I had the bridge and streets to ourselves!  This time; great weather and pretty packed with people...good stuff.  We found a free walking tour the first day and the guide was awesome.  So full of stories and history and information - it was great.  In fact, we signed up for another tour the next day with the same guide as she took us through the castle at Prague...great!  70% atheism in Czech Republic.  They have had so many wars due to religion; people are just fed up.  That was quite the fact to learn...sad to me.  Josh's concerts were amazing - the high school choir and string orchestra sang in a church that was fairly new (built in 1910) with amazing acoustics so no microphones, no electronic anything.  They did a great job - Josh got to do a reading before one of the songs and he did excellent (says the oh-so-proud-Aunt)!

Then this past week several from Sweet Surrender Krakow and Poznan headed up to Warsaw for the Polish 'Coffee Olympics'.  Again, folks take their coffee pretty seriously.  A bit much for me but it was all interesting to see and experience.  There is an actual competition - all timed at 6 minutes long;  best latte art, making Irish Creme, number of 'good' espresso shots, and identifying the strongest coffee in six different groups brewed.  Sweet Surrender Poznan had a guy competing for the first time; he did alright!  Not stellar but it was good and fun to support him.  We all took the train and stayed at a hostel so it was good to have some 'team' time. The coffee roasting company that supplies coffee to Sweet Surrender are based in Warsaw so we did get to go to their location and see the roastery and their training room etc - that was quite interesting.  Serious about coffee!
So now comes April which means Easter...I'm very excited to experience Easter here.  Everybody tells me the city really shuts down...so we shall see.  The Monday after Easter is called 'Dyngus Day' here in Poland.  The youth throw water on each other out in the streets!  It's funny to hear Polish people tell stories of when they were in high school etc...it's basically a time for romance - ha!  The history apparently dates back to 966 AD when a Polish princess was baptised...indicating cleansing, fertility and purification.  How things change :).

I must admit I have missed being on FaceBook for Lent...but I have been doing much more reading so that is a good thing.  I kind of 'keep up' with people on FaceBook though so I feel very out of the loop.  Ahhh well - so goes the short term sacrifice.  Hopefully it will make me appreciate the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus and once I return to FB to enjoy catching up with friends and family:).  And...I have a LOT less hits on my blog without FaceBook...odd?...

Have a great week - I certainly intend to since life is good and God is waaaaaay better!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Old Town Squares and elderly people

Old Town Squares - I just love them!  There is a very pink church off the old town square of Poznan (Fara Church).  It was started by the Jesuits in the 1600's...was demolished in the 1700's and rebuilt again.  It is now considered a 'city' church and it has a huge pipe organ.  So every Saturday at noon there is a concert there and I have gone a couple times now.  The church is absolutely beautiful!  HUGE marble columns on each side leading up to the alter area so it is very awe inspiring.  The perfect thing about this church?  I went today with a girl from the shop and her boyfriend!  After the concert each week is an opportunity to take a tour - of the crypts, the upper level of the church and of the sacristy...where the priests get ready etc.  It was excellent!  I enjoyed that very much....it was a cold, windy and rainy day so what a perfect day to be inside.  We have had spring like weather this week so to have a rainy day again is kind of a bummer.  But so is spring I guess!

The orphanage didn't happen for me this week; I was out of commission for a few days due to being sick.  I feel better now, still some to go.  But I must get better for this week is Joshua's spring break!  He is going to Prague to sing...selected kids from schools several countries gather and practice together for 3 days and then on Sunday they perform two concerts.  Sounds awesome to me and Josh invited me to go!...he knows that all he has to do is ask...I'll be there :).  Really...all my niece and nephews have me wrapped around their little fingers...just ask and I will be go, do, give, whatever!  Being an Aunt is the best thing ever!!!!  Anyway - bonus that Bob and Colleen are going as well so that will be fun.  Actually - Bob needs to come to Poznan for some business so he did the route from Poznan to Prague on Google Maps and the fastest route is through Berlin.  What a shame right?!!!  So - Bob and Colleen will come to Poznan on Tuesday...Bob will do his business meeting etc Wednesday morning and then we are off to Berlin!  We will hit Prague on Thursday when the other volunteers from Poznan will join us and we will all enjoy Prague for a couple days ending with amazing concerts!  I'm looking forward to it all.  And then I will take the midnight bus (hmmmm...should be midnight train - isn't that a song?) home to Poznan.  FYI - Poznan to Berlin - approx 2 1/2 hours, Berlin to Prague - approx. 3 1/2 hours.  Not bad!

There was one observation that was funny to me this week.  When I arrived in Poland and was part of the 'public transportation' crowd - I noticed so many people running to make the light at an intersection - to get across to the tram stop.  Or...even better...running to make the light becasue the tram was already at the stop and they wanted that tram!  Well...I was feeling all 'mature' or some crazy thing because I was thinking that I wasn't in that big of a hurry - I could wait until the next light, the next tram or whatever.  Well I found myself over the past few weeks running to make those lights and those trams!  It was classic - not that I was late getting anywhere or in that big of a hurry but I just didn't want to stand and wait for the next light or the next tram!  So I am sure there is some kind of life lesson in that isn't there?  Or is it just that I'm basically an impatient person and I've adjusted enough to feel 'at home' and to my normal self here to not want to wait?  Not sure if that is good but it is happening, I can see that.  One thing about the trams etc that kind of breaks my heart is the elderly people.  Of course it is proper to give up your seat for an older person (there is a definite tram riding etiquette that exists but that's another story!) - but when they have a hard time getting up and down those steps to get on and off the older style trams...that hurts me.  I feel their pain.  They certainly aren't running to catch the light or tram but they are part of the public transportation crowd and I give them cudos for that!  The older couples are the best - helping each other, sitting with each other, many holding hands.  Awesome.

I trust you are all enjoying this spring, Lent and life in general.  I'm sitting here in a food court area of  a mall called Stary Browar (old brewery) by the street that I live. It is a great atmosphere and nice old brick building that really was a brewery.  So...as you can read...life is good and God has certainly proven to be waaaay better yet again this week!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ashes, flowers and backpacks...

Here I am at Poznan Glowny (means 'main' and say it with the 'w' as a 'v' of course!).  It is right by the main bus/train, thus the reason for 'glowny'.  There is a mall right here and it has everything...really.  My backpack fell apart this past week and that was noooo good - so I headed to TK Max (nope...not a typo...not TJ Max here).  Sitting outside Toys R Us sipping on a fruit smoothy from a little kiosk thing since my cold seems to keep coming back!  Yuck.  My next stop is the Piotr and Pawel (Peter and Paul) grocery store.  Cooking up a bit of chicken for dinner tonight...yummm!

This past week has been great - and I did get to go to an Ash Wednesday service at a church here in town.  Ada from the shop took me with her so that was awesome.  The priest put ashes in my hair...not with oil and not on my forehead or hand.  Ada said he spoke of the oil in his homily or sermon but they do not use it.  Ash Wednesday - the ashes used this year are to be from the palm branches from last years Palm Sunday.  Not sure if that really happens but I like the concept anyway.  So the Lenten season has begun and I love that....mostly because I love spring and Easter is the most amazing holiday!  Such a 'renewing' day - literally, what could be better than knowing the reason for this holy holiday?

The Nazarene Church (who I am volunteering for here in Poland) have an opportunity for people from all over the world to sign up for 'Work and Witness Teams'.  Groups of people that spend approximately 2 weeks going to the different countries doing work for the ministry going on there.  Well, this week we learned that 3 groups are coming to Poznan this summer/fall!  Pretty awesome actually - they will be working at odd jobs around the shop and we have a big project of putting in new windows at the coffee shop.  The cool part of this is that I get to work on arranging things for these groups as they come to Poznan.  And the even more cool part about is that the first group in June is from my home town in Oregon - John Day!  The not so cool part is that I will be gone already but its fun to prepare things for them knowing that they will be right here where I am now:).  So fun with that finding places to stay, places to eat, some 'touristy' things etc.  Good times.  The other 2 teams are from Texas and Michigan.

Oh...I finally opened up a bank account here in Poland.  I had to pay some bills for items in Krakow and it just became quite the hassle so...I bit the bullet.  I had heard it was very complicated when I first got here but I walked in and about 15 minutes later walked out with an account.  Easy peasy....so that was nice.  Anybody want to make an international transfer of money?...hit me up - my account is open!

Yesterday was International Women's Day...and our Saturday morning group walked around the block handing out flowers (tulips and daffodils) to young, old and in between ladies.  It was fun.  There were 4 of us handing them out and some people actually refused them.  That surprised me but there were some ladies that were just soooo grateful and seemed really touched that somebody gave them something.  It was awesome, I loved it.

Before the breakfast and flowers; Marybeth and I got up early and headed out to the antique market.  It is held outside by the old slaughter house here in Poznan every second Saturday and every Sunday.  Oh man - I loved it all.  You could tell some of the stuff was really old and antique - not fake.  I could have spent all day there and furnished a house - but, alas...we bought an old suitcase that we will use to display magazines in the coffee shop.  We got a deal too...that is part of the fun!  10 zloty...so about $3.30.

I must say that I like this Saturday night church thing.  Makes Sunday a true day of rest...I woke up at about 6:40 this morning like normal and then went back to bed and sleep and the next thing I knew it was 11:40.  Now that is awesome.  I do like sleeping:).

So - I guess that is all I know for now.  This next week brings a trip to an orphanage in the Poznan area.  That should be interesting.  We are going with a lady that has been going there each week for a while so it should be good, I am looking forward to it.  Work at the shop as usual and getting to know more folks.  Life is good, God is still proving himself waaaaay better:).  Take care to you all.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Baltic Sea, pancakes and donut day:)

It is March 2014!  How awesome is that?!  Time marches on and spring is in the air!  Even here in Poland people have spring fever.  There was a guy in the coffee shop the other day wearing shorts!  Now - I'm not a big fan of jeans and jackets etc but it was even a bit cold for me to be wearing shorts.  But I say bring on spring!  I saw some pictures from Sacramento and trees are in full bud etc etc - oooooh....it looked so pretty!  Not quite yet in Poland but I'm looking forward to experiencing spring in this beautiful, historical country.

Life is going along; work at the shop is busy and learning life in Poland is going pretty well.  Last Thursday was 'donut day' here in Poland...aka 'fat Thursday'.  Thursday instead of Tuesday...ok!  Ash Wednesday is coming up this week and I would like to go to a service here so I've asked if anybody working at the shop is going.  We shall see!  It would be interesting to me.

Bob was up in Poznan this past week for work and of course that was great to see him.  It is crazy to me how close Bob/Co/Josh are now and how often I get to see them!  I think I am a bit spoiled...going for so many years 6,000 or more miles apart.   Josh has a choir festival/performance deal over his spring break and he invited me to go as well!  It is in Prague...only 5-6 hours drive from Poznan.  Do you think I'm going?...yes!  Really cheap to get there on a bus and then staying in a hostel - can't beat the price for a couple days.  So that is coming up in mid-March.  Should be a good, new experience.  Bob, Michael and I were there 15 years ago for about 24 hours but this time hopefully we can explore a bit more.  Woo hoo!  I'm excited.

Oh yeah...Bob and work - we drove to G'Dansk for the day (4 hours from Poznan).  There is a Sweet Surrender shop up there but it is currently closed so we went up to check out the property etc.  It is a small shop - but set up nicely and right down the street from an apartment that is owned by the Nazarene organization as well.  So that was interesting.  And...G'Dansk is on the Baltic Sea so we got to go there...and I HAD to put my toes in...brrrrrr it was cold!  Awesome experience.  Had lunch on the water front in the old town area...it is a major port city of Poland and so they had this old ship loading area that was built in 1455!  Amazing.  (See side picture).

Saturday there is an American pancake breakfast/Bible Study at the coffee shop so I was there.  Actually I went in a bit earlier to do some month end stuff (can't get away from it apprently!) so I stopped by Starbucks on my way.  Well, others came in and saw my Starbucks cup and one lady said 'you brought wood to the forest'!  I love that idiom...that's a good one!  It made me laugh.  So where am I sitting on this sunny Sunday writing my blog?....yep - Starbucks :)!!!

Speaking of idioms; I led English conversation this past week on Wednesday night!  The shop was really busy and Marybeth (other volunteer) helped on the bar (waaaay faster than me) so I got to talk with some Polish folks.  Great time - there were 7 people there so it was a good size and it went fairly well I thought.  We end with idioms so that is why it reminded me (in case your are wondering).

This may sound like a silly thing but I'm getting used to the money here...the bills are easy...they have big numbers on them with 10, 20, 50 etc but the coins are my challenge.    Polish money is called zloty and groshen instead of dollars and cents.  So when you pay for something and it is 5,15 (commas are used instead of decimal points) and digging for those 15 groshen takes me a while.  And yes...if I pay with 20 zloty I am always asked for the 15 groshen.  So it goes.

I got my tram pass for Poznan!  Also may sound silly but it is sooooo much more convenient to just jump on a tram and go instead of having to make sure I have tickets and punch them once on the tram etc etc.  It's awesome:).  Sure came in handy last weekend when the church had a progressive dinner and we rode the tram to our last stop which was at Sweet Surrender for dessert, coffee, tea etc.  Good times!

The situation in Ukraine is still very tenuous...the Russians are stepping up their game for sure - even bringing in troops 'to keep peace' and busloads of Russian people to present to the media that people in Ukraine are pro-Russian.  Craziness.  The East is more pro-Russian than the West but still it is skewed.  It seems that BBC News has updates that are staying fairly consistent with what I hear from friends in Ukraine.  Please continue to pray - for peace, consensus and integrity.  It is a tough road when going against such corruption.  The President that was impeached is in Russia and collaborating with Putin is what I understand.  Not good.

Well...I think that is about it.  I suppose March being here means that June is going to come sooner than I think and I have no plans as of yet.  Ethiopia does not seem to be coming to fruition so we will see what happens.  I will be in America from June 10th for a couple months for sure since I have a family reunion at the end of July but not so sure after that.  Poland is certainly an option to return but I'm just enjoying actually being here for now.  I am trusting the future to open up like it did for me last October!  Appreciate your prayers...that I can 'not worry about tomorrow'.  Life is good and yep - you know it - God is waaaaay better and I trust he knows my 'tomorrow'.