one down

So this adventure is about over. I leave tomorrow morning to head back to the States. It has been grand. We have a farewell dinner in about fifteen minutes (meaning I should leave five minutes ago), and then our last night on the town. Today, I decided to vacation. This morning I took a long walk away from the square (the city centre) to get away from the tourist scene and into the everyday life of Krakow. I discovered this huge park, and then this architecturally cool public library, the university, another park, and some other sites. I even took a nap today. Even while I type, I am serenaded by wonderful classical music that is flowing from the square (public concert) into an open window. Today is a good day.


Whew! We finished pouring the topping slab to the second floor flat, and got a good way through the first. I had some pulley fun on our last day. We had the pulley the last two days to make it easier to bring the buckets of concrete up to the top. I was convinced that I could pulley myself up to the balcony. I put my booted-foot on the hook, my other foot on top of the first and started pulling myself off of the ground. About a foot off of the dirt, I found myself flat on my back. My center of gravity was lost, and that was that end of that. The people that witnessed my humorous attempt thought that I would have learned my lesson ... but they were wrong. I tried again; I failed again - though I did get further. So my back is a little sore and I have odd bruises, but that is the price one must pay to work toward achievement. I never got my third try because the pulley was disassembled since we finished the top flat. One day, though ... one day.


So this one picture from the monastary that we went to last Tuesday (June 19). It was very gilded and packed with people. We went because there is an icon there that is revered by many Poles, and there is much history to be told. We had a monk as our tour guide. He was hilarious. He spent some time in the States so he could make great puns. One of the last ones that he said (which I thought my sister would enjoy), was, "Do you know how we get our holy water? We boil the hell out of it." Well, there you go. Then he gave us a blessing and a benediction. Nice man; nice church.


last in Gliwice

This is our last day in Gliwice. We worked hard and heavy today to finish as much as we could - doing at least 5 full batches of concrete (something like more than 40 wheelbarrows full). There is still more to do, but I know that is the point when there is another Habitat Global Village group coming on Sunday. Any way, to celebrate our departure and more importantly, our past adventures here, me and a couple of new friends are going to this amazing lody (ice cream) place. Wow, it is truly amazing. Then there is the packing and preparing to leave for Krakow in the morning. Tomorrow afternoon, we are going to a salt mine that is suppose to be spectacular. I have pictures of many things (ex. we stopped by a monastery and castle ruins yesterday; my luge expereince from last Friday, everyday life in Gliwice, site pictures, etc) but the computer that I am on seems to be on the fritz, so later. Hope all is well with everybody.



So little time. I have very little time here at the internet cafe in Gliwice before I need to head back to the hotel conference room for a meeting and to celebrate a teammate's birthday, who also happens to be my roommate (but shhh, it is a surprise for her). Briefly, this is what has been happening: Friday, we were 'on holiday' (we took the day off), so that we could go to Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. I am not ready to post any pictures from there yet because I do not know how best to show those places in pictures without losing the atmosphere and feelings that should accompany a place with so rich a history. On our way back to Gliwice, we stopped by a ski resort. Of course there was no snow on the ground (the high has been in the lower nineties with short afternoon showers). we rode up the ski lift (tram) and some people walked to the Czech border while others, including myself, did the "luge". That was awesome. Think bob-sled without ice and just singular rider. So that was Friday. Saturday, we did a half-day at the site, had a cook-out with Habitat people, and then left at about 2pm. Today (Sunday), we had time with a soon-to-be Habitat homeowner (some groups with different families). I will fill in the holes later with more picture to come. Have blessed Sunday (ours over here is almost over - seven hours ahead).



After dinner, we visited a church a couple of blocks from the square. I had been seeing a sampling of different churches while wandering about in the evenings or on the way to the site, but this is the first one that we entered. There was mass going on when we arrived, so we waited until they finished before stepping inside. Beautiful place. My eyes started to tear up when I thought how my dad would have loved to see it with me.
The current construction project;

The past construction projects; completed and occupied homes


Today we finished pouring the topping slab for the top flat, removed debris from the next Habitat build project, moved loads of wood from one spot to another to make way for a road, and hauled about two-hundred clay bricks from the ground to an upstairs flat. What a day! I chatted with two high school kids from Krakow that are here for community service hours (can be a part of the curriculum). One of them, a girl that grew up in the Ukraine, enjoyed practicing her English with me. Uh oh; that cannot be good.

After we left the work site (and showered!), the Habitat Gliwice coordinator set up a radio interview with us by a local Christian radio station and a representative from the International affiliate of many Christian radio stations throughout Europe. We were also shown yesterday's local newspaper that had An article titled Habitat for Humanity: Practical Christianity. Wow. How amazing to be able to witness at that level to so many by really doing so little. We were told that people are watching us to see if this serving is shallow like people anticipate it to be or if it is real and substantial.


habitat build

I figured I should actually mention the work that we are doing, instead of just the evening tours, foods, and such. (I was going to post some pictures of the site and the buildings that are already built along with the building that we are working on, but I forgot to bring my usb memory card transfer device ... so later.) We are working on the seventh of eight potential housing units on the site. The other six are completed and have families moved into them. There are six units on the bottom floor and six units on the top floor with attic space for extra rooms for larger families. We went inside one of the flats yesterday to see the finished product. Today we walked by a complex of Soviet area housing to get a feel of what these families are coming from - or more often worse. What a difference extra square footage, good neighbors, and owning your own home (as opposed to rented when you can be kicked out for any reason) can make. All of the buildings are out of concrete block and vermiculite block (lighter weight with great insulating value). They have central heating and one flat chose to have radiant floors added. We are making concrete - the old school way, hauling it over to the flats in wheelbarrows, carrying it up the stairs in buckets, and then dumping it for the topping slab. There it is leveled, and the process continues. To get a sense of how much concrete it takes - six buckets of water, thirty shovels of sand, two bags of cement, twenty shovels of sand, more water, and ten more shovels of sand. That makes about eight wheelbarrows full of concrete. Another task that we are working on is clearing the site from piles of wood (riddled with nails sticking straight up) from the future site of the eighth Habitat house. We will later be digging for the footings and the slab once the Habitat office receives the building permits. Any way, that is enough information for now, and pictures will be included later.



Poles walk everywhere. Cars are becoming more and more prevalent within the city centers, but still mainly walk. So, with all of the walking that we have been doing (and of course the manual labor), I figured that we would all loose weight or at least get really trim. But the foods ... Meat and potatoes are really their staple foods. They use a lot of dill, red pepper, and peparika as spices. They also fry seemingly everything! Fried potatoes (along with french fries), fried cheeses (multiple types), fried meats, fried veggies, etc. One of my favorite foods so far is called 'pierogi', and more imporantly, the potato pierogi. Ummm! I have figured, more for my south Texas friends, it is something like an empanada, but different - but very good. We have also discovered a wonderful cafe in Gliwice that specializes in types of icecream (a.k.a. 'lody'). I suppose it is some what sad that before we even knew how to say 'hello' or 'Where is the bathroom?' we knew how to say 'icecream'. Good eat'n had by all!



We were told during dinner last night that there is no term for the word 'volunteer'. The closest translation they have is the word for 'compassion'. But I think that they have it just right. We were told by a Habitat person that the greatest question asked is "why". Why come so far away, pay money to build and come to them? Compassion.


we arrived in Krakow yesterday (Sunday) and toured the city a bit before all of our information sessions begun. The sounds from the city caught my attention more than anything else. Music from the streets (brass quartet, accordian quartet, violin duet - very young girls, older gentleman playing the recorder, drum set keeping time for a group of break dancers), chatter form the outdoor cafes. A choir was practicing for the city's birthday celebration; they were singing masses and you could hear them from blocks away. We were just trying to follow the sound (without getting ourselves lost. Beautiful!


amazing times

These are truly amazing times. Life just keeps going and working itself out. In just a little less than an hour from now, I will be going to the airport to head off onward. Wow. Let the games begin!


moving forward

What a time. I leave for Poland in just over a week (have I even thought about starting to pack?). I was selected from however many entries to be a part of the design/build studio in Mexico (what an amazing opportunity). I am still on schedule to graduate in December of '07 (then there is grad school). We just moved my sister into her apartment in Austin as she begins her work as a pastor (still interning, but very close to being free from school). My church had the planning/info meeting for the Guatemala medical mission trip in October of this year (of course I am trying to get back a day earlier to listen to my sister preach). I really need to finish my study abroad in Berlin paperwork so that I can secure a place for next Jan. '08. And my dad died just over two weeks ago in a car accident. How do these even go into the same paragraph? Whatever the circumstances, this should prove to be a great summer because every day is a new day and a good day. So, watch out world; I am coming to change the world by introducing hope - nothing more, nothing less.