28 January 2009

Castles and Snow covered mountains

Hey everyone! Sorry for such a late update... 

Happy 2009! I know it's almost Feb and I haven't updated this thing in forever. I apologize. Time just gets away, especially over the holidays! They were good though! It was my first Christmas away from home, so I decided to treat myself to a little vacation to Romania to see a friend. We had a lot of fun and it was a great time to fellowship and catch up!
We traveled a few hours away to the mountains. There were beautiful snow-capped mountains that we were able to enjoy for the day! My teammate went to see his friend, so the 4 of us hung out for the day and just enjoyed some of God's creation. 
We went part way up one of the mountains in this cable car. It was a gorgeous view (through the dirty windows) but a little frightening. They cram it full of people and I don't do so well with heights anyway.
You could see where the snow stopped, almost in a perfect line part way down the mountain. I had never seen snow covered trees like I did there... I had no idea they actually existed outside of movies!!!

New Years was also an adventure. They shoot off fireworks much like we do for July 4th, but they go off all over the city rather than just one show like we often have in the States. Imagine over 2 million people shooting off fireworks at the same time! We stood and watched the sky light up in every color. It was quite beautiful and although cold, definitely worth standing on the balcony for almost an hour. They continued shooting them off for 2 solid days and were shot off as early as 11am.

Just recently though, I had a chance to travel a little more through Southern Poland. We went to Częstochowa, a place that many Catholic Poles will pilgrimage to in order to worship in a church that has the Black Madonna, a portrait of Mary and Baby Jesus. This is a picture of it found outside the church in an arch way.
People will fill every empty space surrounding the church in August when the protective covering is taken off once a year. It was definitely an eye-opener into the culture here to watch the attitudes of people coming in such reverence to Mary. The church was packed, considering the time of year and we watched as people flooded in and knelt down at the beginning of Mass.

After that, we took back roads on our way to Kraków and stopped at a few castles. We did the same route coming home and stopped to see more castles. We saw 7 castles in 3 days! It was totally awesome. We would drive down the road, stop at a castle for a little while, drive a few more kilometers, turn the corner and there was another one. Some were rebuilt, some were original and some were in complete ruins. It was amazing to see how they built level buildings on top of uneven rock faces. I didn't realize how huge they were until you stand at the bottom and stare up this rock face that turns into a tower and walls. It totally rocked!

we had the chance to climb up some of the rocks surrounding the castle and got a great view of the courtyard side. This thing was huge and we spent all afternoon there! 

This was one of the castles we saw on our tour home. Thats me with 2 of my teammates.

The lighting was just so great that I couldn't resist doing some cool portrait shots with me and my teammates. We stood in one of the holes in the wall with one of the main towers directly behind us. You can see how the tower looks like it comes right out of the rock.

Yet another portrait... Im teaching my teammates how to use my cameras :)

Of course, I just had to have a shadow shot when we were climbing all through the rocks behind the castle!

This one had a cool legend where a priest apparently asked for a stone to be put in the ground like that. I'm not entirely sure of the legend or if that's even correct, but we referred to it as the "toothpick castle" ... you know, the one with the big toothpick rock sticking out of the ground next to it!

So those are just some of the adventures I have had in the past month or so. I have another one tomorrow morning with the Visa office. I will be going to ask for another extension. I turned everything in at one time; or so we thought. Then I go back to receive my decision of whether they will approve a 2 year visa so I can legally stay and they said I was missing 3 or 4 documents. We have turned everything in except 1 letter which is somewhere in the mail. I have to go tomorrow and ask for more time and pray the letter arrives quickly!

On that note,
- for my continued adjustment in Poland
- to stay grounded in God's Word daily
- opportunities to build relationships
- opportunities to share my faith
- Visa issues - I'm asking for the extension tomorrow, however they could at any point decide not to approve it and I would have to leave the country for 3 months. I have faith that God knows what he is doing, but please still lift it up!!!