Saturday, September 3, 2011


I’m not sure exactly when it was that we crossed the border over into Poland, but somewhere at or near that last bathroom stop, we were there.

Landscape and architecture changed slightly, and we left the highway for a serpentine two-laner that brought us through increasing elevations of some mountain range that I must Google.

One turn brought us over cobblestones and into a stunning, almost 360 degree panoramic view of mountain and pine forest. Curling through colorful and active villages, we were soon staring out of the car at Poles staring in at us. Village upon village, tourist crowds beginning to develop, wedding parties emerging or entering churches, and soaring pines, waterfalls, and a baby traffic jam… we kept winding our way towards Wisla, our destination.

No photos of this journey either, sorry to say! I went weak in the presence of beauty: a mountain wonderland which, I was to learn later, is one of Poland’s premium vacation regions.

Eventually we entered Wisla, to a folk fair being set up. Funny to see an American stagecoach from the 1800’s parked by the side of the road! One more curve over a river, up one more incline, and we were at the entrance of the Hotel Golebiewski, which took away whatever breath I had left in me.

After weeks of hostel living, this was entering the sublime from the ridiculous.

Wondering who I would still know in GEM, after four years off the field and three years since my last conference, I waded into the crowd of tourists and missionaries. Could I find a good conference buddy, since my usual one had since resigned the mission? I didn’t have long to wonder: as I entered the doors, there was Allison, my dear friend from France and Camp of the Peaks. We spotted each other at the same moment, let out a war whoop each, and hugged. From the vantage point of that hug, I spotted another friend, and another…and then a family I forgot had moved to France…and then there was the couple I used to work with in Lille…

Well, eventually I had to extract myself from hugs and happy reunions and check in. Disheveled from heat, hours of traveling and lack of sleep, I found my hotel room, flopped a moment on the bed with the goose-down pillows, then opened the doors to the balcony overlooking the pine forest. Yep, this is why I do this stuff.

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