Friday, June 6, 2008

I almost pulled a Dodi and Diana today!

Seriously, it was just like their high-speed chase through Paris, except it wasn't Paris, and no one wanted to take my picture. And I'm not blond. But other than that, it was exactly like it. We had been dining, and wanted to head back to our hotel (gasp! just like Diana!) except we'd been eating at the Hard Rock Cafe. See, I'm ready for some good 'ole American food by now. No more of this pickles and horseradish for breakfast. Anyway, we got in this taxi, and the driver had really wild eyes, desperate eyes. Eyes like he was bent on self-destruction. Eyes that burned with a fire that no taxi driving in Warsaw could put out. Those kind of eyes. He doesn't say a word to us, no attempts at conversation. He just takes off like a bat out of...well, he takes off fast. He's weaving in and out of cars, reaching speeds that I didn't know were possible on those narrow clogged streets. That's when I start thinking about Diana. I was sitting right behind him, so my legs were a little cramped. I realized that I had my legs crossed, and that when (not if) we crashed, I would turn into a pretzel. I have to get my knee up by my face to uncross, and I have a firm grip on my husband's hand. A muscle in his jaw keeps twitching and he later told me the guy was going 120 kph in places. I don't know exactly what that translates to, but the speed limit was like our 30 mph. The good news, is that we made it back to the hotel alive, and in record time. Whew! I guess I'm not a candle in the wind after all.
I've had a busy couple of days! I can report that I think I have seen every school-age child in Poland now. It seems like this week is field trip week wherever I go. It was really bad in Sandomierz though. Kuba's dad, his driver, and Kuba took me to the village of Sandomierz about a three hour drive from Warsaw. It was where Kuba's parents got married. It was a beautiful village, completely spared by the war. They had a castle, cathedral and amazing churches from the middle ages there. The cathedral was cool, and had some interesting art work. There were twelve huge paintings, one for every month of the year. Each painting had a martyr for every day. Yeah, there was a gruesome death depicted for every day of the year! My personal favorite was a guy whose intestines were flying out of him like live snakes. We Mormon's really need to get in on the action. Can you imagine a nice big Haun's Mill mural in our foyer?
The church was really pretty though, don't get me wrong. A few years ago, houses in this village just started getting swallowed up by the earth, and no one could figure out why. It turns out, that there were huge cellars underground that no one knew about. Miners went in and shored them up, and connected them so people can tour. We went down this dark staircase, and I was joking around about something in a not very quiet voice. At the bottom of the stairs, was about 50 kids in total silence. As I came into view and saw them, any sound died in my throat. I was so embarrassed. The kids just stared and stared at me. I was quite the side show, apparently. So we spent about an hour following these kids around underground.I got to climb another tower, but this one was pretty tame. No cold sweats and shaking here. I got to go on a nature trail that used to be the favorite of the Queen of Poland.

I went to this insanely cool mall.

Oh, and one last thing you may find interesting. As we were on the long drive to Sandomierz, Kuba laughingly told me about the symbol of Polish highways. He said every couple of miles or so, a prostitute will hang out by the side of the road. When an interested trucker will drive by, they'll just complete their 'transaction' in the forest a few feet away. I couldn't believe it. I looked and looked but never saw one. Then on the way back, I was dozing of when they all started calling out and pointing. Sure enough, there she was, a lone woman standing there all alone in the middle of nowhere. How long do you think she would last on an American freeway?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Finally, some real pictures!

I've had a really big day. Our camera was still dead, so you'll have to use your imaginations for some of it. I visited a medieval torture chamber, yeah, a real one. I got to run my fingers over markings prisoners scratched in the wood inside their cells. All the illustrations from torture manuals in the middle ages made me sick. They had cells made up to look like they did back then, with creepy sounds playing and everything. It was just a little too vivid for me.
Then we switched venues and toured the largest brick building in the world, a cathedral. Massive doesn't even begin to cover it. The brochure said it will fit 25,000 people. It has soaring ceilings and a crazy tall tower. They let you climb up, and I made the mistake of being game to try it. First of all, I don't like heights. Let me just say that. We climbed up this tight, tight brick spiral stairway that was completely enclosed. There was an entire elementary class moving really slowly ahead of us. There were students on our heels behind us. I tried really hard not to think of what would happen if we had to evacuate the building. We climbed for the rest of my natural life. Then we emerged from the spiral to find ourselves above the ceiling, looking down on it. Up above us we could see the tower continuing up soooo high. My heart was pounding, my knees hurt from nerves, but I didn't cry. We finally made it to the observation platform on top of the pointy roof, crammed with a bunch of middle schoolers messing around. It took me a little bit to be able to enjoy the view, but it was really beautiful. I made it back down in record time, and it took me about an hour to have my nerves settled again. Phew! Here are some pictures of what I told you about yesterday.

This was our view outside our hotel room in Gdansk. It's a fascinating archaeological dig! Apparently, the land was marshy and those wooden beams holding up the foundation are centuries old. The city was first mentioned in the 1300's. Crazy, huh? We had a fantastic time peeking at the their work.
After walking though a lovely wooded town, I doubted that the Baltic Sea was even there. Then all of a sudden, this view opened up. The salty tang of the air, the crashing waves, the soft sand between my toes, I was so excited I could hardly stand it!
There I am, miss brave and crazy.
A yummy lunch at a shack on the beach.
Love that architecture.
We ate pierogi in a traditional Polish restaurant, and it was here that I had a serious inner struggle.
They love English music here, and the song "I will always love you" by Whitney Houston came on. I'm terrible at restraining myself from bursting into song at inappropriate moments. I once had a checkout guy at the grocery store have to void and rescan my entire cart because I distracted him by serenading my son with "the sound of music". So as the strains of " And I......EeeeIiiii..... Will Always Love Yoooooo woo woo wooo" wafted over me, I had to seriously clench. Okay, I did sing a little, but I kept it quiet.
The four of us walked all over old town, in Warsaw. It was so fun to watch Kuba with my husband. I'd forgotten how goofy they get together, they were speed walking around, looking like freaks. Then Kuba's cell phone rang and my sweety answered it for him and really confused the caller. Good times, good times.

Here are some pictures of my project for the Polish Young Women:
I put all the letters, loot, and the dvd from the young women in a binder.
Here is the mission president, his wife, and some missionaries accepting it. He is, by the way, from Denmark, so I was right. I had a fun time rubbing that in.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Greetings from Gdansk!

After a long flight, for me a long nap, we made it to Warsaw. The first thing we did upon arrival was to look up the church mission office. We took a cab there, and made good friends with the driver. He told us all about his country home and even drew pictures of it for us during the red lights. We left with his home address and phone number and an invitation to his home next time we come. He told his girlfriend on the phone that we were 'beautiful people' so that means he's my friend forever! We made it to the mission office and got to meet the president and his wife. They are from some nordic country that my husband and I can't agree on right now. He says Germany, or Austria but I say it's Denmark or the Netherlands or something like that. Anyway, they were nice, and loved the package the girls and I made for the Polish young women. One of the missionaries in the room we gave a ride home from church last time we were here. It was fun to see him again.

At 4 something in the morning, we took a train north to the Baltic sea! We walked this beach today. The water was pretty cold, but woo hoo, I actually went in. Up to my knees, which is more than I can say for my daring husband. He moistened his feet, nothing more. It was so beautiful! I did have a little trauma though, at the train station. See, I had to pee. I saw the sign for bathroom, and I dashed in and accomplished my task. On the way out, I met the potty nazi. She was a stern battle axe of a woman. Apparently, I was supposed to pay for the priviledge of using said toilet, and I was in the uncomfortable position of having no Polish money on me at all. She didn't speak English, and was in no mood for a ditzy American girl that had already peed. Luckily enough, I scrounged in my pockets and found a dollar bill that had been through the wash many times. I offered it to her with my most winning, humble and appologetic smile. She took it grumbling, and I made a break for the door. Whew!

We rode the train back to our hotel and crashed. We only meant to sleep for a half an hour, but we awoke long after that. I must have slept really hard because I emerged from sleep convinced that the man laying next to me was not my husband, and I was too embarrassed to get up and use the bathroom around him. After a while, I was awake enough to realize that it was indeed my husband next to me and then it was his turn to wake up kind of weird. He stumbled out of bed and called my attention to a major sleep wrinkle on his forehead. He stopped halfway though, realizing that is was useless to call attention to his face because he was invisible. Yeah, he had a dream where he was invisible and could fly. I assured him that I could indeed see him, and that his wrinkle was impressive. We've spent the evening prowling the old city of Gdansk, which during wwII was the German city of Danzig. It was so beautiful and amazing that it was almost overwhelming. I can't wait for tomorrow to go explore some more. We strolled down this street today, in front of this actual boat. I know, it's a lot to take in :) The architecture is very different than Warsaw, or even Krakow. We decided it has a lot more German influence. We stood at the foot of this statue of Neptune, and I want to reassure you all that this guy is tastefully covered. He has the good fortune of riding some sort of sea creature whose tail just happened to be covering him strategically. There's this amazing, massive cathedral here. We got to peek in the doors, but we won't be able to go in until tomorrow. We're cursing our mistake of leaving our camera charger back in Warsaw, and I'm hoping that we can work a little magic on the camera to squeak out a few more picture before we head back tomorrow afternoon. I hope to be able to post our real, actual photos from Warsaw. Until then, think of me as you're cooking, tending children and cleaning. Cause I'm not! Yeah, baby!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

We're Off!

Well, we've driven two hours, flown to a certain rainy city, and we're in for a loooonnnng layover. Longer than church, and that's sayin' something. Then we're winging our way to a certain windy city for another lovely layover. After that, we'll spend the night/morning/early afternoon crossing the Atlantic. Woo hoo! I'm hoping we're flying lufthansa, because their food rocks. And there's a lot of it. Ah well, if we don't, I'll take a cue from my little 6 year-old. His favorite saying is "You git what you git, and you don't throw a fit." Amen