Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Walking in Xenia

I drove two days from Saint Paul to a hotel in Beavercreek, Ohio in order to do a walk in Xenia, Ohio. I only had X left in my Walking the USA from A-Z. By the rules of this I could have substituted any other walk for X, but really wanted to do the X. I really wanted to do this walk in April when the weather was cooler, but those days got away from me. Instead I found myself in Ohio in the midst of a heat wave in that part of the US.

Sunday morning was to be in the low 80s so I set out by 9 AM or so to do the last few miles to Xenia. I found the hotel where the walk box was held and was graciously helped. However, I was so very glad I did not stay there as the hotel smelled badly of cigarette smoke.

In reading before the walk I found out Xenia got its name at the suggestion of an early visitor/settler who said he felt the people there were very hospitable and Xenia is the Greek word for that.


Other reading I had done revealed that the Shawnee Indians called this area "the land of crazy winds." In fact, I learned that Xenia has been hit by tornadoes  29 times. The most devastating on occurred in 1974, the most recent in 1970. Thus I was surprised to find a historic district early in the walk.

I liked the above one very much.

And down the street I found these houses.


It was clear that the combination of the heat and arthritis was not a good one. I was grateful to find Xenia is a city of rocks. I could sit down frequently and relieve the discomfort in my back.

Along the main street of Xenia I came upon a couple of store fronts that now had new businesses.

I am sure readers can figure out what now is sold in this building.

And a bit further up the street I discovered a cat.

The cat was curious about a pedestrian but otherwise appeared to be very comfortable. Obviously the building was air conditioned.

I had to cut the walk short, but found that is legal as long as I am honest about the distance I walked. After returning to my car I drove the route to get the exact kilometers figured out.

Glad I did this. It was an interesting drive back and forth between Minnesota and Ohio.





Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Visit to the Janow Podlasie Stud Farm

My blog has been silent for a long time. When I got to the place where I would teaching English my computer stopped working. I tried to turn it on for two days without success. Then I had it taken to good computer shop and they thought perhaps the part that mediates between the electrical charge entering the computer and the battery was faulty. They decided not to try to fix it because they thought doing anything with it might void the warranty on my computer. I didn't try the computer again until I was ready to pack it up. It worked just fine then. I wonder if something became loose and taking the back off the computer and then putting it back on jiggled something back in place.

So now I'm back in Minnesota and thus far the computer has been working OK.

Now to get the horse stud farm. I had no idea what this might be like. I expected to walk through barns of horses, but instead we did most of our walking outdoors, which was fine, because the weather was lovely. I used my cane for this walk.

As soon as we parked I saw this group of horses grazing in a pasture in front of us. In a little bit a guide from the farm joined us and we walked to another pasture to see horses. First I learned a bit of history here.

I learned this horse farm will be 200 years old next year. It was started after the Napoleonic wars. These wars were so hard on horses that horse numbers were very low and declining. This part of Poland was under Russian government at this time and permission had to come from Russia.

In 1863 after the Uprising, Russia removed all the horses to Russia. Another tragedy for the horses here was World War 2. The Nazi army had moved all the horses to Dresden. There only 8 lived after the bombing of Dresden. Recently there have been some political problems here after the new government took control in Poland is late 2015. I decided if the horse farm could withstand these other tragedies the farm can handle political problems, too.

Horses here can be all Arabian, all English, or a cross between the two.

These horses are about one year old and are being considered for entry into championship contests. I was surprised to see a white horse. I thought the Arabian horses were black or brown. The guide said the color didn't manner. What would be judged is how they hold their head and neck, how they walk and run, and how they carry their tail. I am sorry this picture doesn't show it very well, but I learned that Arabian horses carry their tails different than any other horse breed. This is because they have some extra bones in their spine.

Next the guide wanted us to see the mares come back from a pasture with their colts. This day was the first time they had been out to a pasture for this spring season.

video
 If you look carefully at this video you may notice how the horses carry their tail. Each colt stays very near its Mama.

In the photo above you can see how the colts stay very close to their Mama. You may able to see too how the Arabians carry their tail with a curve at the top.


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Some were highly curious about the people along the fence.

Here we learned that when the colt is old enough to separated from the mare is branded with a number on one side. It is branded  on the other side with the coat of arms for the stud farm. It is also given a name. By tradition the name begins with the first letter of its mother's name.

The photo below shows coat of arms for the Janow Podlasie Stud Farm. It is shown under the center window.

  We also walked by stones that remember horses that have died. According to EU regulations a large animal such a horse cannot be buried, but rather must be cremated. Thus a brass plate is fastened to large rocks found on the property, left there by long ago glaciers.



Walking down the road towards the car we passed this memorial to a previous farm director.

This man arrived at the horse farm as a stable boy and spent his entire life there, rising to be the farm director for many years.

I am so very glad that I got to visit the horse farm. It truly is a Polish treasure.




Saturday, May 7, 2016

Day Trip Event # 2 -- A visit to Janów Podlaski Village

About an hour after we left the Flying Fortress Monument we arrived at the outskirts of Janów Podlaski. This is a village in the county (powiat) of Biała Podlaska in the voivodeship of Lublin. It is very near the Bug River, which in this area marks the boundary between Poland and Belarus.


Much of the time spent in the village of Janów related to religious history, so I will write about the odd thing first. 

In this village there remains two gas pumps from the 1920s. 

Notice it says CPN on the top. My guide told me that even though officially the CPN company no longer exists (I think it's Orlen now), people still say they go to the CPN. 

 The picture above shows the inside the pump. One literally had to hand pump gas into the two glass cylinders before being able then to use gravity into a hose to fill the gas tank of a car. 

Now back to the religious history -- and on May 5 I saw the buildings but had to come back and do some internet research to understand the story and implications of what I saw.  The first mention of this geographic area dates back to about 1326. 

The first Roman Catholic diocese was established here in 1404. Over time the church has changed back and forth between Roman Catholic to Orthodox or Uniate/Greek Catholic. My understanding of Greek Catholic is that religious practices of the Orthodox Church were used but allegiance was to the Pope rather than the head of the Orthodox Church. The changes largely related to whatever country had political control of the geographic area.

At times it was known by the diocese name of Lutsk, even as recently as 1925. One Bishop of Lutsk decided there would be more physical safety on the west side of the Bug River and so built a palace there. I believe when it was built it was in Ukraine, but as most know borders have moved back and forth in this part of the world.

That palace deteriorated over time and now is the site of new hotel. 

We went inside and were graciously given a tour that took us to the cellar area of the building where we could see the  brick walls of the Bishop's Palace. And also we could see how elegant are the rooms. I took no photos of rooms, but did take a photo of the bar. 

 Notice how elegant this is. We had coffee there.

Outside there are newly constructed buildings that look like horse stables. Everything about

Janów is "horsey" because of the famous horse stud farm there. More about the horse stud farm will be in the next blog post. These buildings hold additional hotel room for guests, not horses. 


Above is the sculpture on the wall above the reception desk for the hotel. 

A third part of this complex is a building that houses the swimming pool and the spa facilities. I was told there are actually underground tunnels that run between the buildings so guests may dress in a robe and travel to the pool or spa without having to go outdoors. 

Now back to buildings that still exist. 

 This church was the Cathedral with the diocese of Lutsk was active. The priest who gave us a tour said the church now has collegiate status.

Above is the main altar of the church, a church that is now 300 years old. I thought I could see  how it had changed in its affiliations over time, for it had been a Polish Roman Catholic Church all that time the walls would have been decorated as well. 

The priest giving us the tour called my attention to what looks like a balcony window on the left. Notice in the exterior picture of the church there is a building contiguous to the church. This was housing for the bishops and other priests associated with the cathedral. The Bishop could use this window to pray towards the altar or simply see what was happening inside the cathedral without having to leave his room. 

In what was somewhat a small church, there are many side altars. The priest explained this was  so several priests could say Mass at the same time, doing so in whispers. This photo too gives a good view of something unique about this church. It has a wooden floor. The Bishop who led construction of this building thought wooden floors would be warmer than stone floors. The oak we walked on had been there 300 years. 

At one time there had been a seminary attached to the cathedral as well. 

 
 This building now houses a high school with an agricultural emphasis. 

Also in the village is the Church of St. John. 


Its architecture is unique -- square with two columns in front. We could only drive by this church as it is closed for renovation. 

Thus, you can see I had a marvelous hour in this village, with yet more to come during this day. 




 




Friday, May 6, 2016

Day Trip Event #1 -- the Flying Fortess Memorial

On Thursday, May 5 I took a guided day trip to places east of Siedlce, Poland. I have been to many places in Poland, but never east of Siedlce and to places one can't reach unless having car transportation. My adventures on this day went from from early morning to bedtime, so I'm breaking this into several posts.

My guide picked me at the hotel at the Warsaw airport at 7:30. After the trouble with flying I was somewhat amazed I was actually walking around. I had enjoyed a good breakfast at the hotel.  I was carrying a bag with a new computer for the Poland Country Manager for Global Volunteers so our first stop was Reymontówka where I met her. My guide was seeing this place for the first time so I showed up around a bit, especially showing him all the wood carvings there. We enjoyed coffee with Dorota and the Reymontówka director. Then soon we were on our way towards Siedlce. Every time I've been in Poland I go into the central part of the city. I didn't even know there was a highway bypass to go around the town. We drove for perhaps 45 - 50 minutes when we pulled off the main highway near the village of Woroniec, Poland.

I saw this. 

In the photo one can easily see the number 38202. On the right is text engraved which can't be read on the photo. It explains U.S Army flight 38202 coming back from a mission in the Ukraine was downed in this area. The pilot and two other airmen were taken prisoner by the Nazi forces, but the remaining crew somehow escaped and were embraced by the Polish Home Army. They served with this group for about 45 days until they could be taken somehow back to the American military. 

On the reverse of monument is a statement from the Polish people. 




The script on this side is done in both Polish and English. It recognizes the 42,802 airmen who died in the quest to bring freedom to occupied Europe during World War 2. 

Someone obviously cares for this monument regularly because yesterday there were fresh flowers at the monument. 

If one steps away a bit, then one can see a representation of a plane on the ground 

And yes, it is May and the grasslands are covered with dandelions.

What a Misadventure!!!

I left the MSP airport about 10 PM on Monday, May 2. I was happy to see that I had an entire row to myself and thought I would be able to sleep. Well, that surely didn't happen again for a very long time.

We were finished with the evening meal service about the time we left the eastern border of Canada and I could see the tip of Greenland appearing on the flight map. Then suddenly the map showed the plane flying south instead of east. My first thought was did something terrible happen again at an airport in Europe. Well in a bit the pilot announced we were flying to JFK in New York to fix a problem with the temperature in the plane. We got there at 3:30 AM New York time.

It took another 1.5 hours to get to JFK. We were told we could get off if we wanted and that the fix would take 1 hour. Well, I tried, but there was such a pile up at the top of the ramps leading to the terminal that I went back to my seat. About 1 hour later we were told we all had to get off because we would be going to Amsterdam on a different plane. When we got into the terminal the digital signs said we were going to Amsterdam at 7:30 AM. Then in a bit the signs changed to 6:00.  We boarded again and I found it was the same plane, only now my in-flight entertainment center had been changed to Italian and there was a neck sleeping pillow in the seat that didn't belong to me.

I dropped off to sleep for a bit and then next thing I knew everyone was getting off again. I had missed the announcement and had a hard time figuring out what was happening. Well the parade of people let to Delta customer service, where we all stood in line for a very long time waiting to have our flights totally rebooked. There were 4 Delta staff to help and it took forever to deal with each party for rebooking. While standing in line I used my phone to cancel my hotel reservation in Amsterdam for it was very clear I wasn't going to be there by 6 pm Amsterdam time, since Central Europe is 6 hours ahead of New York and I still wasn't on a plane.

When it was my turn I was told, not offered, the 6:30 PM flight to Amsterdam. I slightly protested saying that would mean no sleep for nearly 48 hours. The staff person gave me two meal vouchers and arranged for me. I explained I'd never been in that airport before and didn't know where anything was. She arranged for me to be taken via wheelchair to a restaurant for breakfast. When eating breakfast a 1-800 number popped up on my phone. It was Delta calling to say they would be sending me a check for $100 for the inconvenience. I didn't think that was enough to cover the stress and inconvenience, but what can one do??

The nice  young man who escorted me asked when to return and I told him about in one hour. About thirty minutes later he came back asking if I indeed I wanted the other 30 minutes and I said yes.

My breakfast with coffee and tax came to a bit more than $17.00. The restaurant staff had called the number on the voucher and found it would only honor $15.00, so I had to pay the difference.

When the young man came back he took me to customer service where I got my boarding pass for 6:30 and then told me he had a surprise. He went and knocked on a door that had no signage, and I found myself in an area called Delta Sky Zone. The staff there asked if I wanted to watch a movie. I said no I'd like to read a bit and then fall to asleep. They made me a bed, and I did sleep until I heard what sound like an alarm. I thought I had by mistake left an alarm to ring on my phone for Wednesday, but when I looked at it, it was blank for alarms. Staff cell phone ringing I guess. I remained in that room until some children were escorted in and then figured out this must be the special place for children flying alone who need to transfer. The children were well behaved, but talkative.

I used the Delta app on my phone to track my luggage. Yes, it showed it loaded onto the 6:30 PM flight. Love the app service!!!

I took my boarding pass to the staff and asked them to tell me where I was and where was the gate for the flight. I yet had no idea of what terminal we were in and knew I had to be in terminal 4 for an international flight. Well, it turned out we were in Terminal 4 and the gate for the flight was just a short walk. Got some Snicker Bites to eat and sat there to read until it was finally time to board. While waiting I saw a whole parade of Delta flight attendants and wondered what was happening. Turns out they were posing for a picture. That is not something one sees every day.


Again we had an evening meal on the plane and again I had a whole row to myself. I did manage to sleep a couple hours on the flight. We landed in Amsterdam about 7:00. I stopped before at a bench before the passport line to get a dose of Ibuprofen to cover the walking at Schiphol airport. The passport line was a bit long but moved fast.

Then it was a long walk to the luggage belt used by Delta. Right out of passport control are luggage belts 1-8, 15-24 are a long way from there and Delta always used 16. Got my bag -- it's purple paisley so I don't have to inspect a number of black bags to know if I have the right one, and then enter the arrival area. It was now around 8:30 and I had a flight to Warsaw at 2:30 PM.

Found Starbucks and got a cappuccino. Then went to find a comfortable place to sit for awhile. The departure screens were only displaying info for flights through 12:30 PM. I was quite certain I needed to be at Departure Hall 1 since I have taken this flight to Warsaw so many times before. Finally thought I would try obtaining my boarding pass at one of the kiosks, and that worked, it popped out my boarding pass. Then I went up one level to check my bag.

Had a long time yet for the flight. Wandered by a restaurant called Het Palais. Looked like an interested menu so I went in and had a Toasti. This is rather like a grilled sandwich with cheese and ham along with catsup for dipping. Had a coffee along with this.

Then took the trip through security and the long walk to Gate D60. This is in an area called Airport Park. The seating there is comfortable and I was so scared I'd fall asleep that I did set an alarm on my phone. Here I am at Airport Park thinking I didn't too bad for someone with 4 hours of sleep in two days.


Took a walk to Gate D60 and found we couldn't enter it, door locked. Went back to the comfortable seating again for awhile. Went back to the area again and found a whole group of people seated on an escalator edge. I asked if they were going to Warsaw and when heard yes, decided to join them.


The magic boarding area has finally arrived. People with special status where let through, and the gate attendant invited a family with a small baby to board. Then appeared about 6 quite disabled men in wheelchairs along with their caretakers. Everyone was stopped from boarding while these people boarded, the disabled me were seated and their wheelchairs taken off the plane and stored in the cargo area.

We departed Amsterdam about 30 minutes late. The day brightened with the approach to Warsaw. The clouds lifted and I could see beautiful Poland below. Got my luggage without difficulty and then headed to the bankomat. They weren't there. Walked back to a cafe where I often go and asked, Gdzie bankomat. The staff pointed to a new location. Got some money for the day trip I was taking the next day, and then walked across the street to the hotel. Took my luggage, the big bag weighing 21K, because of special things I was asked to bring to Poland by the Global Volunteers office, to a hotel luggage cart, and then checked in.

Went downstairs again for a bite to eat.
Got the tomato soup and asked what ice cream was available. When chocolate chip was offered, I said yes, but much to my delight after this trip, it turned out to be chocolate, chocolate chip. Went up to my room and crashed out until 1:30 or so. Looked at my e-mail on my phone and found a new offer from Delta -- I will get a refund for the whole flight from MSP to Amsterdam, but I surely do hope I get mile credits for flying the route 1.5 times!!

Left a wake up call for 6 AM since I had to be ready for a day trip I had organized while thinking on Tuesday night I would have good sleep in Amsterdam and another good sleep on Wednesday night in Warsaw. Missed out a night there, but I did make it to breakfast, and had a great day trip. But that's a whole another story.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Layette Adventure

First I know there are people from many different countries that read my blog. Thank you, thank you. But because of this fact, I thought before writing more I should explain what the word, layette, means. It is the term given to clothing one assembles when a new baby is expected. A layette may also include other necessary items such as blankets as well.

In January 2015, while digging through some boxes of donated materials at the Mano a Mano warehouse I found nearly 75 items for babies. I brought these home and laundered them and then tried to figure out what I had. Most were garments a new baby would wear, although I did find a beautiful sweater for an infant girl  and a couple of dresses. I decided to take these and turn them into a layette project.A layette packet is given to the new mothers in Bolivia served by the clinics built by Mano a Mano.

Research shows that both infant mortality and maternal mortality decreases when a baby is delivered by a skilled birth attendant. Note this doesn't mean a hospital birth, but a birth attended by someone who is knowledgeable and part of a system to get assistance in those instances when something goes very wrong. The layettes in Bolivia are used to celebrate each birth that is part of skilled birth attendance. They usually consist of blanket, an item of clothing for a baby, and a baby toy.

While visiting my friend in Nebraska in that same January I asked if she would help me with this project since she is a quilter with many sewing supplies and a couple of different types of sewing machines. I knew purchasing up to 75 blankets from a store would be quite expensive, and we decided we could buy flannel and make blankets somehow.

Then life intervened for both of us, and we never got back to this project until this March. I drove there with my car trunk full of the flannel I had purchased more than a year previously.

My friend set up her kitchen island as the first preparation area. We measured out the lengths of flannel using the board shown in the picture.


 

My job was then to fold each blanket in half and cut rounded corners.  Then we off to the surge sewing machine. 
 
Wow are these machines amazing! They cut off a bit of the edge, maybe 1/4 inch or more if one wants, and at the same time puts a hemmed edging all the edge. When the thread is cut, then a length of cut threads need to be pulled through a few stitches and then covered with a substance called Fray-Check. Doing this final check was my job. My friend assured me the Fray-Check doesn't wash out and now I know this is true. I happened to spill a drop of it on my slacks while working on the project -- and yes, it doesn't wash out. 

Sometime last year I did have enough blankets purchased from a thrift store to put together about 10 layettes and these went in the shipment to Bolivia last September and are now presently being unpacked and distributed throughout the various clinics and hospitals that receive donations through Mano a Mano Bolivia. 

The work we did in Nebraska in March came home with me and ended up all over the dining room table and nearby chairs. Then I started on the puzzle of putting together garments with harmonizing blankets and toys. 

Here's an example of one. This is the one that unusual because it is the little girl's sweater rather than a sleeping garment.

 

Today I delivered the last layettes and also we had blankets left over. 

  Altogether we put together 47 layettes and 19 blankets for new babies. They hopefully will be part of a shipment that leaves Minnesota for Bolivia in May or June. 

I was told the doctors can always use blankets so perhaps next winter we will have another sewing party. 


Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Wisdom of a 14 year old

In the previous blog post I wrote briefly about the Jesse James gang. A reference to the Jesse James gang always brings back a very special memory.

In 2005 I did the Global Volunteers program in Pelican Rapids, MN -- a program that no longer is available. I chose to do this program because I was aware that Pelican Rapids was a community that was highly accepting of immigrants and refugees. I was interested in what made this community different than others.

Well, that didn't take long. At the public library there was an exhibit about the newly arrived immigrants and refugees in the town. One resident wrote, "These people tell the same stories as did my grandparents about why they came to the United States and Minnesota." That was the piece of wisdom but not the one I referenced in the title.

On the last day of the program, there was an outdoor picnic. A Somali young man, one of the teens provided by the Chamber of Commerce, approached me and asked very politely if he could join me for lunch. He had spent the week with a boy who had been in the community only 3 days, telling the volunteer teacher who had this student, "I know what he needs."

He wanted to talk with me to ask questions about Minnesota. He started out by asking me to explain about Jesse James. He had heard something about this, but didn't understand. Then he asked me if he was right in thinking the Minnesota Wild Hockey team played in Saint Paul. He went to ask if he was correct in his thinking that professional hockey players did get not paid as much as professional football players or basketball players. I told him he was correct, but that the amount professional athletes were paid seemed ridiculous to me compared to what we paid professionals such as teachers or nurses.

He looked at me with his 14 year old life history as a refugee and said, "You know Ma'am, life is not fair." I have never forgotten this.