13 August 2009

Summertime Blues

Well, the summer isn't technically quite over yet - it's still pretty hot outside; but the hustle and bustle of groups coming in to do various service projects is. Since that hasn't allowed me much time to update, I get to bombard you with some of my favorite photos from the summer. I hope that you will make it through and read some of the stories, even if it's not all at once.

To start, of course, a sunset from my balcony. Yes, these seriously are the colors that showed up that day. I just couldn't believe it. I had a number of people over for my birthday just to hang out and they all got to see how gorgeous it can be. The last people left at 1:15am. Fun times :)
One of the things we did this summer was help at a kids camp in a neighboring town. A father and son came from the States to help teach the kids American sports. We taught them baseball, kickball, ultimate frisbee, disc golf, etc. On the last day, the kids went to a local castle for the day. The theme was fairy tales, so they acted out their stories on the castle grounds. The kids had a chance to dress up in baseball gear and/or football pads. I took portraits of whoever wanted one.
The very next week, we took our English Club to Zakopane, the mountains in Southern Poland. We had a blast. I had been in 2005 for a week, but we did almost entirely different hikes this time. One of my favorites was to a glacier lake, Morskie Oko. It means Sea Eye.
My friend, John Mark took this one of me. It was getting a little chilly and started raining right after this was taken. I'm actually surprised I managed this smile. I think I just finished exclaiming how cold it was!
So I grabbed my jacket. At least we had a little fun before the drops came down though.
This is a view with the waterfall that feeds the lake. It was such a magnificent view and the perfect breather half way up to Black Lake. God truly is creative in His beauty.
On one of the latter days, the Americans copped out of a hard hike and took the "easy hike" to Black Lake - above Morskie Oko. (Where these 3 pix are taken from) Needless to say, it wasn't necessarily easy. Just easier than the hike our Polish friends took to Five Lakes. Here's what part of the trail up to Black Lake looked like. I think half those steps up my knee made a right angle. At least the end was rewarding! A dip in cold glacier water will certainly numb any pain in your feet. So, off came the shoes...then the socks... followed by an "OOOOHHHH!!!! that's cold!"Not only did we have a relaxing time at the lake, but we had a few "cultural moments" too. It's not uncommon to see women hiking in their bra, bikini top, etc. and men in just shorts. Well, apparently one guy was quite hot...and I turned my head in time to get a full, bent-over shot of his olive underwear. My teammate, Joe got the best shot expressing the situation I think. My face says it all. We laughed for days at this!
We had barely a week before the next group came in to work. The team of 8 was helping to clear brush in a Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw. However, before they began working we took them around the city to various areas of Jewish importance. Included were part of the Ghetto wall, the only surviving Jewish Synagogue in Warsaw, the "train station" where Warsaw Jews were loaded into cars and taken to Treblinka, Treblinka itself, and finally the Warsaw Uprising Museum.
As it would happen, we planned to go to the museum on the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. I had one of the coolest experiences ever. We stood in line to purchase commemorative coins and they closed the window for a moment of silence. One of the Americans walked up and pointed to a gentleman sitting on a bench and said that he was a survivor of the uprising. His daughter, standing in front of us said it was her father and to go talk to him. So we did!
84 year-old Wladsylaw Mazur was shot 3 times, twice in the neck and once in the arm. He worked in a machine shop in Warsaw before the war. Recalling what happened, he explained that he laid very still at first and they thought he was dead until they noticed he had moved closer to a puddle of water. After shooting him again, they left. Still alive, somehow he managed to crawl to a place where he was rescued. As his brother had always told him, beautiful nurses took care of him until he was well and then transported to Flossenburg concentration camp in Germany for 8 months. Mazur made his way to Italy and eventually England where he met his wife and lived for 4 years before moving to the USA in 1951 where he lives in New York to this day. Talking with this man made the walls of the museum come alive. I've always walked down the streets of Warsaw's Old Town with some understanding of what had happened so many years ago. To hear it from the lips of someone who survived was a treasure I will hold to for many years.

We took the group back across the Wisła river into Praga to their hotel behind this church. I just had to dig my camera back out when I saw the golden light make the bricks seem to glow.
It only got better that week. We drove home in time to see the sunset over Warsaw. I didn't have my long lens with me, but the tall building near the center is the Palace of Culture and very much in the heart of Warsaw's center. It was a "gift" from Stalin, showing his power over the people.Now for some fun stuff. The group worked in the Jewish Cemetery clearing off gravestones so they can be photographed and documented before the jungle of weeds and trees grows back up around them. The cemetery covers over 70 acres (33 hectares) of land. The longest stretch of Ghetto wall still stands, separating the Jewish and Catholic cemetery. A bunker and tunnels in back sections were used to enter and exit the Ghetto.
The stories continue...
But, this is what struck me most this time. These are photos of the most harmless yet most interesting of the bugs and icky things we found in the "back 40". I sadly discovered that ticks like me, that snails make sad crunching noises if you accidentally step on them and that orange slugs aren't as gross as they are fascinating.The light hit just perfectly after clearing off the stones. Then you get some beautiful images.At the end of the week, we took the group to Treblinka and to Sucha - the Wood Architecture Museum. This is of some of the buildings at the museum by a lake where some guys were fishing. It was quite relaxing after visiting such a hard place to see like Treblinka.On their last night, we went back to Old Town for some last minute shopping. I grabbed a cup of coffee and started people-watching. The evening grew darker and things got interesting. I noticed spotlights not normally there but didn't think much until we were bombed with poems on bookmark type flyers. Thats when we noticed the red mood rising.It's the best I could do but you can actually make out the shapes in the moon when I pull it up a little larger.After catching the moon, I photographed the flyers falling into the Old Town streets. One hundred thousand fell; red or black with poems in Spanish and Polish on the back. Warsaw is the 4th city to take part in The Bombing of Poems. Cities that have experienced ariel bombings in the past have taken part in this. We found something about it on facebook explaining the event. Here's a link - it's in Spanish, but there's a few videos of the event. I was right there near the flame throwers. http://www.loscasagrande.org/
People scurried about the streets trying to catch them in the air and gathering as many as they could. I think it's a neat concept. I can't really read what is on the back of my flyers, but I will probably keep them as a reminder.

Anyway, sorry if this was long, but I hope you enjoyed the new photos from the summer!