Holy Land – Day 5: Bertie and Me

I shuffled out of my tent-room as the morning light began to brighten the eastern sky.  A hush engulfed our groggy group as we shuffled through the camp and out into the dryness of the desert.

Bertie and I noticed each other immediately, eyes catching from across the crowd awaiting us for our morning adventure.  Of course, Bertie was coy and pretended that I was nothing special.   For me, I couldn’t help be drawn to her colorful adornments and accouterments. Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie

This week’s photo challenge from The Daily Post @ WordPress.com is all about being “eerie.”    Obviously, this is in keeping with the now-passed Halloween holiday.

This weekend I was visiting the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina for a wedding.  The railroad crossing from which this photo was taken is very close to the hotel in which I was staying. North Carolina is resplendent in its fall colors, but this shot converted to black and white, becomes particularly eerie.

What I  like is that the far distance of the shot leaves a lot to the imagination.  Just what is it that is seemingly coming towards you from the shadows?

I’ll give you a hint – it’s not the Waffle House restaurant that is just to my left as I take this shot!

 

Eerie tracks in the middle of Durham, NC

Eerie tracks in the middle of Durham, NC

Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV

I’ve been vacationing in New Mexico this week, in the areas of Santa Fe, Taos, and Abiquiu.  I was born in New Mexico and next to Oklahoma, it’s my favorite state.

This was the perfect place to try this week’s photo challenge from the folks over at The Daily Post @ WordPress.com.  This week the challenge is “An Unusual POV“, (point of view, that is):

Challenge yourself to rethink your ideas about what subjects are appropriate, and then challenge yourself again to find an unusual perspective on your subject.

Go out and take photos and share a shot that reveals a new and different POV.

 

Part of my time was spent in Santa Fe, thanks to a free place to stay courtesy of my good friends Matthew and Tracy Pepper.  A free place here is not an insignificant thing, especially since my visit coincided with Las Fiestas, a 300+ year old annual event that celebrates the peaceful return of the Spanish after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.   I’ll write about that in another post, but let’s just say that it added to the iconic opportunities to take photos for this challenge.

I also spent a few days at Christ in the Desert Monastery, deep in a canyon near Abiquiu.  The area, famous as the home of painter Georgia O’Keefe, is absolutely stunning in its natural beauty, solitude, and spirituality.

I took a lot of photos during my week here, trying to keep an eye out for “unusual points of view.”  The photos you’ll see on this post are the best that I could come up with.  I have to say that this really did challenge me.  What I saw in my head was in many cases not realized by the photo.  I still have much to learn.

The one that I think is the best is the one at the top of this post.  I gave it the title “Take My Hand.”  You can also see it in the gallery below.  It is the statue of St. Francis of Assisi that stands just outside the Cathedral Basilica, just off the main plaza in Santa Fe.

Vote for the Runner-up!

The shots in the gallery below are some of my other attempts at unusual points of view.  I encourage you to pick your favorite as the “runner up” by leaving a comment on this post.  Be sure to let me know what in particular you like about it.  I think it will help me improve my technique for these types of shots.

John and Matthew on the Bismarck Sea

Last week I had the really great honor to welcome two of my very good friends to PNG for a visit.  Matthew Pepper and John White were two of the first students I met when I was introduced to the St. Philip Neri Newman Center at the University of Tulsa in August 1998.  They had a great impact on my decision to leave the corporate world and begin working as the campus minister there for the next 8 years.

During their time at the Newman Center and the volunteering they each did after college, we’ve had several opportunities to travel together over the years.  Now that they are both married and have children, those opportunities are more limited, but they were both eager to visit me in PNG and support my missionary effort here at St. Fidelis Seminary in Madang, PNG.

We can now add Papua New Guinea to the list of countries that we’ve seen together, which includes Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France,  Czech Republic, Guatemala, and Peru.  John and I also visited Greece and Turkey.

Their trip here started off in true PNG fashion – they were delayed overnight in Port Moresby when their flight to Madang was canceled for “operational necessity.”  Nonetheless, they arrived first thing on June 28th.

The highlight of their visit was the 2 1/2 days we spent on Karkar Island, a fairly large island off the north coast of PNG in the Bismarck Sea, across from the village of Megiar about an hour north of St. Fidelis.

The local parish priest is a diocesan missionary priest from Poland, Fr. Bogdan.  Another Polish priest, Fr. Adrian, pastor of the Holy Spirit Parish in nearby Alexishafen, suggested that I call Fr. Bogdan and invite ourselves over for a visit.  It seemed brazen to me, but I’ve learned that it’s the thing that expats do when they need a break.  Everyone loves visitors it seems.

Fr. Bogdan picked us up early Saturday morning, June 29th for what was one of the most harrowing road trips I’ve ever taken.  Flying up the North Coast Highway at breakneck speeds, barely braking for ravenous potholes and meandering villagers, somehow we made it to Megiar without any accidents.

There we met Fr. Bogdan’s boat for the 1 hour open sea trip over to Karkar.  It was a rainy day and the island was obscured by heavy clouds.  Taking off from the shoreline, it seemed like we were heading off to Jurassic Park, barely glimpsing the top of the island’s huge volcanic cone.

Fr. Bogdan’s parish, near the village of Tumel, is just a few yards from black sand beaches on the islands western side. Nestled amidst coconut groves and cocoa tree farms, the island is peaceful and idyllic.   Originally colonized by German Lutheran missionaries, there are now a fair amount of Catholics on the island for whom Fr. Bogdan is the only priest.

Although Fr. Bogdan’s living quarters are sparse, he did his best to host us, showing us around the island, taking us snorkeling, and spent time with us in the midst of his busy Sunday Mass schedule (three Masses in different parts of the island).

Fr. Bogdan introduced us to Paul and Barbara Goodyear, owners of several coconut and cocoa plantations on the island’s west side.  They very graciously welcomed us to their home, spent quite a bit of time showing us the plantations, the processing facilities for copra and cocoa, showed us great places for snorkeling, and fed us a scrumptious German dinner.  Barbara came to PNG from Germany as a volunteer, where she met Paul, a local who was educated in Australia.

I never thought I would travel to Karkar and be feasted with roast pork with mango chutney, sauerkraut, German dumplings, and several wonderful desserts including cherry cheesecake.

Paul and Barbara could not have been better hosts and it gave all of us a wonderful experience.

Returning to St. Fidelis on Monday afternoon, July 1st, Matthew and John were able to see some of the life at St. Fidelis.  Unfortunately, my winning streak during our nightly games of Hearts came to a crushing end that night.

John and Matthew felt so bad at beating me that they insisted in helping out with the never-ending grass cutting chore at the school.  I think they learned quickly how tough the grass is here and how the turf is fiercely defended by “the Formics.”    (Somehow they managed to avoid being bitted even once while in PNG.  I really don’t understand it).

That evening, their last night at St. Fidelis, we celebrated John’s 36th birthday with cake, mint chocolate ice cream, and a little “something” that they had picked up at the duty free shop on the way through Australia.

The last day of their adventure was spent at the Madang Lodge.  Matthew and John wanted to treat me to a night in a luxury resort (with air conditioning!) and relaxing with a wonderful ocean view.   We had a great time there, swimming in the fresh water pool, eating pizza for dinner, etc.   Earlier in the day, we met Fr. Adrian, another Polish priest, who is the pastor of the parish in Megiar.  He gave us a ride back to St. Fidelis after the return boat ride from Karkar.  Definitely not the usual life of a missionary, but I’ll take it!

John and Matthew have left PNG now and are working their way home today after a stopover in Melbourne.  It’s hard to express how lucky I feel to have friends that would travel more than 16,000 miles roundtrip to visit.    I can’t wait to return the favor someday.

I know that some people get bored looking at vacation photos, but here they are if you choose to view them.

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Four Days to Madang

I have flown hundreds of times, more than I could count; across the country, to Central and South America, and to Europe. I’ve learned see airline travel as sort of a pipe that you enter at one end and have to just wait and endure what comes along until it spits you out at the other end.

There’s always a measure of frustration of some sort, either with security checks, bag fees, bad food, weather delays, crying children, or … something.

All previous experiences pale in comparison to my trip to Madang. The actual flying itself went off as best could be expected under the circumstances. It was the experiences on the ground at most of the airports that became an unforeseen type of torture for me.

I left Tulsa at about noon on December 18th and finally touched down in Madang, Papua New Guinea just after noon on December 22nd. Four days of traveling that felt more like six. I was never so happy as when I was finally spat out of the pipe in Madang, only 24 hours later than planned.

You might not find this interesting, but for my own recollection, here’s a rundown of my journey.

  • Tulsa Airport – after my farewell to Alex, I passed through security, and walked down the concourse like I’ve done so many times before. Weirdly, this didn’t feel all that different from all the others.
  • Boarded a United Express Embraer RJ135 for a 90 minute flight to Houston. This is one of those small jets with very limited storage space. I’m already questioning the size and weight of my carryon bag and backpack. Nonetheless, the flight goes off as scheduled. As I watched Tulsa recede into the distance, I was already praying for a safe return to my home city at some date in the future.
  • Arriving at Houston IAH airport, I had to pass through the infamous Terminal C, the one that I had to spend 48 hours in during a tropical storm in 2000. My previous worse travel experience, this was a premonition of things to come.
  • Boarded a brand new and pristine United Boeing 787 for the next leg of my journey, Houston to Los Angeles. This plane is awesome! So comfortable and has a terrific AV system and a large selection of programs to watch. These were the best 3 ½ hours of my trip. The only downside was that there was no food served unless bought for an extravagant price. Luckily, I had some snacks to tie me over.
  • Landing at LAX, I entered a land of confusion, delays, and disbelief that things could possibly be this unorganized.
  • My next flight was on Air Pacific from LAX to Nadi Fiji. A recent typhoon near Fiji had thrown Air Pacific into utter chaos. My flight #911 was listed on the departure monitors twice. I finally figured out that the 911 leaving about the time I was scheduled to leave, was actually the flight for December 17th, which had been delayed 24 hours because of the typhoon. My flight 911 had been postponed until the morning of the 19th.
  • I made my first mistake here by not taking the free hotel room being offered, opting instead to stand in line at Air Pacific to see if I could get on a different flight to Fiji.
  • After 2 hours in line, I was booked on another Air Pacific flight to Nadi, a charter that they had arranged to help with the backlog of passengers. I was told that it was leaving soon and that I should get to the gate as soon as possible.
  • Have you ever seen the security line at the international terminal at LAX? Horribly in need of a renovation and modernization. Another frustrating 1 ½ hours in line, anxious to know if I would make the flight.
  • Eventually, I make it through security and discovered that there was been a gate change, just around the corner from the original gate. And therefore, another hour delay for the charter flight to leave. So, really no need to rush at all.
  • The charter was handled by Ajax Air, a company that doesn’t fly it’s own flights, but flies charters for other airlines in situations such as these.
  • Our plane was an ancient Boeing 747 that looked to be 1980’s original. Everything was a dingy tan color, all very well used and with a minimal AV system. It was going to be a very long and uncomfortable flight to Fiji.
  • By this time I was so completely exhausted that I think I slept about 5 hours and I have to say the food was OK for what it was.
  • We arrived in Fiji after about 10 ½ hours from LAX. As the 747 bounced down the runway during a pretty hard landing, I seriously wondered if this plane had seen it’s last flight.
  • Air Pacific doubled-down on the LAX experience with the situation we found in Nadi.

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  • I can only guess that this chartered flight, added at the last minute, took their staff in Nadi by surprise.  None of the passengers transiting to other international flights, including me, had boarding passengers for their next flights.
  • The International Transit desk, with just two agents, was tasked with rebooking several hundred passengers.
  • Three hours stuck in the “no man’s land” of the arrival area, neither in Fiji nor in the departure terminal, there was no food, drink or bathrooms available. This was the first time that I thought passengers might riot.
  • The agents tried to organize the passengers by the next departing flights with only minimal success.  My ticket was for Brisbane, Australia.  Most of the passengers were trying to get to either Syndey or Melbourne.  Thus, I was of a lower priority.
  • I finally made it to the Transit Desk, one of the last passengers to be served.  It was then when the frazzled but apologetic agent informed me that I had no Australian ETA visa.  Since my arrangements were to fly to Brisbane, spend the night at a local hotel, and then fly from Brisbane to Port Moresby the next day, I had to enter Australia as a tourist.  This requires a tourist visa (aka ETA).
  • I could file for the visa online very quickly.  Unfortunately, wireless internet was only available in the departure terminal, which I wasn’t allowed to enter without a boarding pass.  Of course I couldn’t get the boarding pass until I had the ETA.
  • Luckily, I was able to get Margaret McIntyre, the CapCorps volunteer coordinator on the phone and she was able to get someone in the US to file for the ETA.  About 30 minutes later, all was well and I was given my boarding pass.  I still don’t know if I called Margaret in the middle of the night or not.  Either way, she was a trooper in helping me get this done.
  • By this time, I had missed my original flight from Nadi to Brisbane, so I was booked on an Air Pacific flight to Sydney, with a Qantas connection to Brisbane.  Sydney would then become the furthest south on the planet that I’ve every traveled.
  • I think I made a comment to the transit agent about being really hungry, which I was, so she happily gifted me a $20 voucher for food in the departure terminal.
  • With only about 45 minutes until boarding the flight to Sydney, I made a dash to a food kiosk and ordered a piece of grilled chicken, French fries, and an orange soda called Sprint.  Of course it arrived just as boarding was beginning, so I was forced to wolf it down quickly.  Still, it was rather wonderful at this point.
  • Oddly, I don’t remember much about the flight to Sydney.  I know it was a large plane, probably a modern 747.  I was so dazed at this point that I barely remember seeing glimpses of Sydney Harbor and it’s famous bridge as we landed.
  • The transit agent in Nadi told me that they would “try to find my luggage and have it transferred to the Sydney flight.”  So, I wasn’t surprised to find it missing when I tried to pick it up for Australian Customs.
  • I have never learned to plan for this possibility.  While my carryon bag had toiletries, I had not packed any fresh clothes, an oversight that would be important in the next few days.
  • Looking rather lost in baggage claim, I found an Aussie baggage agent who was absolutely great in helping me file a report on my lost bags.  Although it made going through customs quite easy, I was convinced that I wouldn’t see my bags or all my clothing again.
  • After a short wait, I boarded my flight to Brisbane.  So uneventful at this point that I really don’t remember much about it.
  • Arriving in Brisbane, my plan was to take a taxi to the nearby Comfort Inn, where a reservation has been made for me.
  • I remembered to get some Australian dollars for this, so I was off relatively concern free.  I’ve always had concerns about taxi rides in unfamiliar cities.  Nothing bad has happened yet, but you hear stories.
  • Arriving at the hotel, dead on my feet and having trouble putting words together, I learned that the hotel had no record of my reservation.
  • The hotel had never confirmed the reservation, made through Hotels.com, as they were fully booked.  Hotels.com dropped ball by not making other arrangements for me and passing that information along to the Comfort Inn.
  • As I staggered about the lobby of the hotel, the desk clerk attempted to get things straightened out.  Ultimately, the clerk heroically gave up the room she had set aside for her use so I could have a place to sleep.  She volunteered to sleep on a couch in the back office.  This was the second time today that an Aussie had come to my rescue.  When I can figure out how, I’m going to send a message to Choice Hotels in Australia and tell them about the great service of their clerk Johanna in Brisbane.
  • After a hot shower, a little TV, and a few hours sleep, I was ready to tackle the final legs of my trip.  Or so I thought.
  • I arrived at the Brisbane airport, hungry and jet lagged.  Breakfast was a lemon chicken sandwich, with salt and vinegar “crisps” from Subway, and a mocha coffee from the barista next door.  That pretty much used up the remaining Australian money that I had, but it was enough.
  • The free internet at the airport was a nice find.  It may have been the last time I was online, up to the time of this writing, or about a week ago.

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  • The next flight was Air Niugini from Brisbane to Port Moresby, just a few hours away, with a 1 hour flight from Port Moresby to Madang as the last step.
  • Oh, it should have been easy, but it wasn’t.  A cruel introduction and a reminder of what third world travel is all about.  I should have steeled myself better for this, but I was naïve.
  • The flight to Port Moresby really wasn’t that bad.  Some decent food and a movie, as I recall.  Sitting on an aisle, I didn’t get to see much of PNG as we approached, but the flight was relatively comfortable.
  • We arrived at the terminal, passed through immigration and customs, and found myself in the terminal with absolutely no idea what to do next.
  • I had a couple of hours to wait for my flight to Madang but I had to ask around to find out where the gate was.  I discovered that the international terminal only has information about international flights.  It does not have any information about domestic flights, or the fact that domestic flights fly out of an adjacent terminal.
  • “Go outside, turn right and follow the sidewalk to the next building, where you’ll find the domestic terminal.”  Right, that’s just what I’ll do.
  • Except, I have to fight my way through an unruly crowd trying to enter the terminal, through a cordon of heavily armed security guards, through a line of people waiting to go through metal detectors, and finally into the terminal.
  • Since I have a boarding pass, I bypass all the check-in counters, another security checkpoint, another set of scanners and finally find myself in the single departure area for all Air Niugini domestic flights.
  • This place was chaos!  Full of people waiting for flights, rows upon rows of dirty and dingy furniture, unintelligible announcements screamed through over modulated microphones, and very little accurate information being supplied to passengers.
  • I arrived in Port Moresby around 12:30pm.  My flight to Madang was scheduled for 3:30 pm.   I probably arrived in the departure area around 1:15 or so.
  • And the waiting began.  I struck up conversations with some ex-pats waiting to go to Madang.  A great conversation with a Chinese Australian college student.   But then flights started to get cancelled.  Not a good thing for a small airline with limited numbers of aircraft.
  • It doesn’t look good for our hero when the flight to Madang is cancelled.  We are advised to go to Customer Service where we will be given a voucher for a hotel and meals for the night.  We will be rebooked on the  next day’s morning flight to Madang.
  • So, off we all rush to Customer Service.  Another totally unorganized and overwhelmed operation.  After several hours of waiting, we were told that they were going to put on another flight that afternoon, leaving at 6pm for Madang.  So we all left the line, headed over to one of the ticket counters where they were rebooking passengers.  Things looked good.

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  • After making it through ticketing, back through security and scanners, and into the departure area, we shortly learned that our flight to Madang had actually been cancelled again.

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  • So, we all headed back to Customer Service, our little band of ex-pats now bonding quite well with this shared experience.
  • Finally, with vouchers in hand, I boarded a hotel shuttle for the Gateway Hotel for free food and an overnight stay.  I checked into the hotel about 8pm after being at the airport for the best part of 8 hours.
  • The Gateway was a nice respite from a hard day.  The restaurant had a Chinese buffet with some decent food on it.  I thought about staying in the bar for a little while for a beer, but gave that up when I realized that I dozed off while I was deciding what to do!
  • So off to bed for a fitful night’s rest.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 11:55am, with check-in at 9am. None of us thought we should wait until 9 to arrive at the airport.
  • I got up early, had a decent buffet breakfast at the hotel, and took the 7am shuttle to the airport.
  • The chaos at the airport was tripled from before.  Somehow, by flashing my boarding pass and US passport, I made it back through the cordon of guards, the entry scanners and into the departure terminal ticketing area.
  • I have never seen anything like this before.  The check-in counters are flight specific.  That is, everyone for a particular flight checks in at one counter.  However, there is very little rhyme or reason to how they organize this, inform the people, or control the crowds.
  • There were easily 1500 people all crowded up to a security line, most with a luggage cart piled high with bundles.  People were crammed in shoulder to shoulder.
  • Not knowing which counter would handle the Madang flight, I took a best guess and headed for the middle of the crowd, slowly inching my way forward little by little.
  • 8am passes, 9am passes, 10 am passes.  Word passes through the crowd that Madang, with connection to Wewak would be handled at counter 6.  Luckily, I was close to counter 6.
  • Then the crowd begins to move with something like tidal forces as one group or another convinces a security guard that they need to go to one counter or another.
  • By this time, I have hopes of making my flight if I just bide my time.
  • At 11:15, I realize that this tactic won’t work.  I see some of my fellow ex-pats having some success at counter 2, so I manage to get a security guards attention and convince him that I need to go to that counter.
  • Some of those packed in around me are helpful in letting me through to the barrier so I can cross over to counter 2. Others are grumbling and upset that I’ve managed to cross over, but at this point I just keep going.
  • A different, larger security guard stops me to ask what I’m doing but let me pass, thankfully.
  • At counter 2, I slowly inch my way forward as a few people are served up valuable boarding passes.   It’s now well past 11:30 when I finally get to speak to an agent.  Since I have a boarding pass, she checks in one of my bags and tells me to go to the departure desk to get a seat assignment.
  • Fine.  I pass through security and scanners for the 3rd time and go to the departure desk.
  • They cannot give me a seat assignment because their computer has crashed.  So, I waited to see what would happen.
  • Finally, they told me to board the plane and have the flight attendant give me any open seat.
  • With immense gratitude, I climb aboard the very nice, air-conditioned plane, grab a seat and try to find some peace.
  • A short, 60 minute flight later, I land in Madang.    I spent 24 hours in Port Moresby.  Twelve of those hours were spent waiting in one line or another  at the airport. I pray I never have to go through that grinder ever again.
  • Arriving at Madang, I am finally (mostly) spit out of the pipe and met by Br. Jim Mungovan, Rector of St. Fidelis Seminary.  I had been texting him while in Port Moresby to keep him up to date on my flights.  A friendly face at last!
  • But no luggage.  I was still wearing the same clothes that I left Tulsa in.  Air Pacific had called me to let me know that they had found my luggage in Fiji, were forwarding it to Brisbane and would put it on the next available flight to Port Moresby and Madang.
  • I last saw my luggage in Tulsa on December 18th.  I arrived in Madang on December 22nd.
  • For the next several days, Br. Jim and I were assured that the bags would be on the next flight, each time to be disappointed.
  • Finally on December 24th, Christmas Eve, one bag arrived.  I finally had some clean clothes and my own toothbrush (I had a tiny temporary one)  after 6 days.  The second bag arrived on December 26th, 8 days after leaving Tulsa.  Miraculously, nothing was broken or missing.

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Looking positively at this, I am happy to be in Madang, happy to have traveled safely even though piled high with anxiety and frustration, and happy to have received all of my luggage.

I have a new-found aversion to any airline called “Air” – something.  But I’m sure I’ll have opportunity to let them redeem themselves in the future.

And I’ve learned a few new lessons on what to pack in my carryon bags.   I will never assume that things will go as planned, again.

 

(PS:  Many thanks to the Archbishop of Madang, Steven Reichert, for allowing me the use of his satellite internet.  )

Prelude to PNG

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As I write this, it has been 13 days since I left my home in Tulsa for Papua New Guinea. So far, the internet has been a very elusive animal, creeping about, giving the briefest of glimpses but never making itself useful for any length of time.

So, I’ve decided to write blog posts as simple documents, waiting the time when I can cut and paste them into my blog.

If you’re reading this, I guess I finally managed to tame the beast for at least a short while.

The two weeks leading up to my departure were two of the roughest I’ve face in a very, very, long time. My level of anxiety was off the charts as I tried to make arrangements, pack my house into storage units, figure out what I would take with me, and most importantly, try to take leave of my family and friends, at least for a little while. I’m usually a good planner but I was not really prepared for this.

I could not have done it without the support of my friends, particularly those in Tulsa but also those from around the country and the world. Even though I told some of you very late of my plans to come to PNG, your advice and encouragement has been wonderful.

Three guys, in particular, really stepped up and went beyond what I should have asked them to do. Jim Fox, Brandon Pollet and Alex Carroll, each in their own way, assisted me by helping to move my house into storage, cleaned it to ready it for renters, helped me find solutions to unforeseen problems, assisted with repairs at my family’s lake property, and then they asked to do more. I don’t know how I’ll ever make it up to them!

Tuesday, December 18th, was my day of departure. With only 2 ½ hours of sleep, it was full of last minute things to be done before leaving for the airport. A quick breakfast at Village Inn with Alex, a haircut, a last trip to Goodwill and one more look at my luggage.

I knew there wouldn’t be much of a send off, it being a work day and all. Thankfully, Alex wasn’t working that morning so he drove out to the airport to see me off.

Nonetheless, I was grateful for a warm December day, clear skies and time to see some last views of Oklahoma as I winged south to Houston, the first leg of what was to be a remarkably tough trip to PNG.

Strange and Wonderful

This week I’ve been traveling through Indiana, making my way to South Bend for a wedding tomorrow morning.

I’ve been doing a little sightseeing along the way, visiting family grave sites and other points of interest.  I’ll write more about that later, but today’s visit to the Kosciusko County Museum and Research Library deserves special mention.

My g-g-grandparents Charles F. and Mary R. Nelson lived in Kosciusko County 150 years ago, so I made a special effort to visit Warsaw, Indiana, the county seat.

The museum is housed in the old county jail, which in itself is a fun visit, but it also contains a research library for genealogical purposes.

A portion of the Nelson related materials

I never expected to find hundreds of pages of research – charts, letters, newspaper clippings, obituaries, marriage and birth notices for the Nelsons of the area going back almost 200 years.

Over a couple of hours, I had a great time looking through the materials and talking with the museum staff.

If you follow my “Civil War Diary of Charles F. Nelson” blog, you may remember that it’s based on my g-g-grandfather’s war diaries.  At one point, we went on a hunt of the museum’s war collection for the original diaries, of which I have a copy.    A reference in one of their catalogs lead us to believe that they are there at the museum, although we could not find them.  It would have been awesome to actually have held them.

 

 

A letter from my grandfather!

Among the files, I found a handwritten letter from my own grandfather – a correspondence with the distantly-related Iva Nelson, who collected most of the research and donated it to the museum.

This letter mentions my parents, my cousins,  my siblings and me!    Who would have thought?

 

It’s a strange and wonderful feeling to visit an ancestral hometown and find yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baseball & Aliens

I spent two days last week in Dallas working on arrangements for the upcoming Catholic New Media Conference.    

While there, I had the opportunity to attend a Texas Rangers baseball game at the stadium next door.  I’m not the most knowledgeable baseball fan, but I do look forward to at least one professional baseball game each summer.

It was a nice evening and an enjoyable start to the game.  Texas Rangers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks.  Neither are my team, but this is baseball, so who cares?

A few innings into the game, this storm showed up.  It was a bit angry at not being invited to play.  It decided to rain off and on for awhile, dropping some lightning and hail just to concern the stadium folks.

This crazy tarp showed up all of a sudden, so it was a sign to go in search of dollar hot dogs.  You see, it was Dollar Hot Dog Night.  Five was the limit, which was five too many when it comes to dollar hot dogs.

Play resumed after the angry storm moved off.  Everyone was glad, except for the grounds crew which had to spread all that fresh dirt in the infield so it wasn’t muddy for the players.

That was when the alien ship from “Independence Day” showed up.  They had the best seat in the house and were much talked about by the fans.

The aliens stuck around for awhile but when the Air Force didn’t come and attack, they got bored.  From what I hear, they moved over to Grapevine, Texas and dropped big chunks of ice on people’s houses.  Not what I call fun, but I’m not an alien.

The game continued, the Rangers eventually won the game in the last 2 innings, which was nice.  If you look closely, though, you can see that the pitcher was a little bit sad that the aliens left.

Eventually, all the people wearing red, white or blue shirts were told to go home.  The bright yellow people didn’t know quite what they were supposed to do, so they walked up stream just to be different.

Where did the week go?

Does this happen to you?  Do you get to the end of the week and wonder where it went?

I’m not much of a blogger obviously, so I’m going to resist the shame of having two consecutive posts called “7 Quick Takes.”  So, pretend that this is something else.  (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

A.

I have a boarder.  My “godson” Alex is staying with me for a few months as he transitions into the next phase of his life.  He’s not technically my godson, but I did sponsor him when he joined the Church five years ago.   It’s fun having him here and he’s promised to do all the mowing.  Deal!

B.

The mail just arrived with an invitation to the priestly ordination of one of my former students from the Univ. of Tulsa Newman Center.   Rev. Mr. John Grant will be ordained on June 30th by Bishop Edward Slattery at Tulsa’s Holy Family Cathedral.  You should check out his website:  frjohngrant.com.  His “wishlist” on Amazon.com is also interesting!  Just what do you get a newly ordained priest?

This is very exciting and I hope to go. He’s going to be such a blessed asset for our diocese.  Unfortunately, it’s also the wedding day in Denver for a very close friend.  I’m conflicted.

C.

I recently re-committed to an hour each week at our perpetual adoration chapel.  Tuesday morning at 1am.  I’m finding it difficult to adjust to this new timeslot.   A few years ago, I  had a 4am Thursday morning slot, which I found much easier to manage from a sleep perspective.

This week, rather than taking a nap beforehand, I just stayed up for it.  It worked out much better and I was more focused and alert.

I like having this commitment and would encourage anyone to give it some consideration.

D.

I’ve signed up for a retreat.  I’ve worked many, many retreats for college students, but this is the first personal one for so long that I can’t remember the last one.   It’s a two day drive to get there, but I’ve never been one to turn down a roadtrip.  Besides, I’m a proponent of having time before and after retreats as transition periods.

E.

I had the best time last Sunday afternoon.  For Mother’s Day, another “godson”, if I can still use that term, asked me to take some photos of his wife and kids at Tulsa’s Woodward Park.  The kids were great, so darn cute, and I really like spending time with them.   I’m definitely not a professional photographer, but I do think some of the shots came out well.  I really need to practice more with my camera.

F.

Most of the week’s work was focused on the upcoming Catholic New Media Conference.  We announced the speakers for the International Catholic Bloggers’ Summit, which is the theme for the final day of the 3-day conference.  It’s going to be great fun and so many good things are happening with it.  Another big announcement is coming, so keep an eye out for it.

G.

I rediscovered the blog of another former Newman Center student.  Her name is Sarah and she’s got a great sense of humor and a quick wit.  If you like perusing other people’s blogs, check out Just a Brown-Eyed Girl.

That’s it!  I’ll really try to find something interesting to write about next week.  Heaven forbid that I have to resort to politics.  We both really don’t want that to happen!

 

Saint Patrick’s Day

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On behalf of Saint Patrick’s Day, and since I’m Irish, and because I had the privilege of touring the northern part of Ireland with a group of Newman Center students in 2005, here are some photos we took that show just how idyllic the country really is.

If you can, go there.  Immerse yourself. Visit the holy places.  Visit the historic places. But most importantly, meet the people and share a pint with them.

Before you go, read this reflection, “Praying St. Patrick’s Breastplate”, by my buddy Pat Gohn on Patheos.com.

NewAdvent.org has the whole prayer and whole bunch of information about St. Patrick here.