it's all grace

a journey with the Thomason family

Tag: Poland (page 1 of 5)

Trying to Escape the Heat

It’s really hot right now. According to a Czech news Web site, we’re experiencing some of the hottest days on record in Czech Republic. That wouldn’t be a problem except for one big factor: no air conditioning.

Now I want to make sure I’m really careful about what I say and how I say it. I know, for instance, of missionaries who live in intense heat all year round. They have to live with constant warm air in their house with very little relief. That is not the case for us whatsoever. To those friends and missionaries that serve in unbearable heat week in an week out, God bless your ministry. I mean it. Just little taste of the heat this past week is reminding me to think and pray for you, wherever you may be. That being said, I do want to comment on what we’ve been trying to do to escape this heat.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

Our apartment just holds heat in. With concrete walls and no air conditioning, we’re just stuck trying to get air to move through the house. Over the weekend we just couldn’t do it anymore and decided we were leaving town to a large mall in Poland to find some AC. On Saturday we basically the entire day there, walking around, eating meals and letting the kids play in the air conditioned play area. Judging by the number people there I think they all had the same idea we did. Above is a photo I got of Karis while Bethany looked around one of the Polish stores.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

When we got to the mall, the first place we decided to go was to Pizza Hut (shown above). For you American readers, you’re going to have to lay aside all your preconceived notions of what Pizza Hut is and allow me to tell you about Pizza Hut in Poland. To compare it, it’s more like California Pizza Kitchen. It’s a fancy, sit-down, restaurant (at least this one was). We had heard they were nice, but we were shocked. They had waiters, lots of salads and pasta on the menu, and really good pizza! We all ordered pan pizza, except for Titus because he wanted spaghetti. Everything tasted it great and we even decided to go for the Chocolate Chip cookie dessert which was an oversized cookie with vanilla ice cream on top. It was a lot of fun and here’s a picture of Avery’s pizza.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

After food we did some shopping and eventually grabbed some coffee. The mall we went to is huge and we eventually made our way to the kids play area. You pay a few bucks for an hour of play time and they have staff there to help the kids and there’s a ton for them to do. Why America hasn’t jumped on this money making machine is beyond me. I sat and read a book while the kids played and Bethany did a little shopping with Karis. Here’s a photo of Titus with the playground behind him.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

Since we were going all American on the food we decided for an American class, Burger King, for dinner. We wanted to get the food to go and head to the hardware store to look at little air conditioning units. Titus went with me to order the food and we got those Burger King crowns which I wore through the mall with Titus all the way back to the car. At points their were Polish people tapping each other on the shoulders and pointing at me because I’m sure I looked ridiculous. Bethany and the girls were in the car and when we got there Bethany was just laughing at me and said, “You’re a good daddy.” Thanks, babe. I’m sure you were laughing WITH me and not AT me.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

We tried six different stores to find a little air conditioning unit that was both powerful and affordable. This is no easy task in a place that doesn’t really have AC. What we ended up finding and buying was a little unit that was around $160 (US) that we currently have sitting in our window sill. It’s a swamp cooler that uses water to cool down the room and it’s been a pretty big help the past few nights. Here’s a photo of it in the store (the price on the side is in Polish currency). I’m calling it R2-D2.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

The next day we basically did the same routine, only this time we went to a Czech mall instead of Poland. Essentially all we did was go there for lunch, walk around, and let the kids play. There was a bench near the kids area with Ronald McDonalds so I took a little photo of the kids next to him. Quite honestly I’m a little jealous that Ronald gets to sit there all day, enjoying the air conditioning looking all happy.

Escaping the Heat (8/10/15)

We’re trying to have a positive attitude, but it’s been rough. Right now I’m sweating, we have six fans running, and we’re sleeping in the living room because it’s just too hot in the bedroom. Every time I get hot I just go and take a cold shower which really does help. The weather is supposed to be like this for at least the next week so we’re buckling up for more heat. If you think of it, pray for us, especially our kids. It’s hard to sleep when you’re sweaty and hot and we’re all trying to just make it through until cooler air comes our way.

A Tooth Tale

Stuck in the Middle (6/16/15)

Ever since I got hit in the face with a baseball while warming up for a Little League game when I was nine, my teeth have never been OK. I’ve had multiple root canals to fix problems, oral surgery, and my front teeth are only half real. I brush, I floss, I get regular cleanings and checkups, but even this past January I had to have another root canal on one of my front teeth that was damaged when I was nine. It’s not my favorite by any means, but it’s just reality.

This morning I was flossing (yes, flossing!) and the floss got stuck. As I gently tried to remove it, the floss tore and was literally stuck between my teeth. It started hurting instantly because of the pressure it added and I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to get it out. Eventually I ran to the store to find some kind of tooth to try and fix it, but what I ended up buying just wouldn’t work. Finally, I gave up and called a friend to see if they could suggest a dentist. He pointed me to his dentist, I called, and I got an appointment for 7pm this evening.

Stuck in the Middle (6/16/15)

I didn’t even consider driving (OK, maybe for a second, but that’s just because I’m lazy). It took me 9 minutes to walk to the dentist. I crossed the border into Poland and while literally standing on the border there was a car with a camper trailer. The camper was parked in Poland and the car was in Czech. Below is a photo I got during the walk. It’s a ridiculously beautiful 9 minute walk.

Stuck in the Middle (6/16/15)

While walking up the street towards the address I had this is what I saw (below). The dental office sign is the gray one in the foreground on the right.

Stuck in the Middle (6/16/15)

I don’t know what I expected when I got inside, but it was super nice in there. Only about one human can walk down the hall at a time, but here’s a photo of the entry / waiting room.

Stuck in the Middle (6/16/15)

The dentist finished up with another patient and saw me in. Thankfully, he spoke great English and was able to start working on me right away. It actually took a lot longer than I thought. Little by little he worked away until he got all the floss out. I didn’t even know floss could do that. When he was finished I asked him if I should floss tomorrow and he said, “Well, if you want to?” Maybe I misunderstood because his first language is Polish, but for me that translated to: A DENTIST TOLD ME I DON’T HAVE TO FLOSS TOMORROW! Cue “We Are the Champions!”

I really wish there was a moral to this story, but alas I have none. In fact, even telling a tooth story is a bad idea. That’s why on today’s post I leave you with this four minute video clip and words of wisdom from comedian Brian Regan.

On Visiting Auschwitz

Editor’s note: As much as I have enjoyed writing about baby Karis this past week, I must take today’s post to break away and talk about something different. For regular blog readers this will be a departure from my usual tone and focus, but I felt I needed to write about what I did today=. This will not be graphic, just simply getting my thoughts down on paper so to speak. I will return tomorrow to our regular scheduled programming.

Today I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp (1940-1945). Even though it’s only a one hour drive from our house here in Czech, I don’t think I’ll be going there very often–maybe even once is enough. It was something that my father-in-law and I had been talking about doing, but since it would just be he and I we weren’t sure if we would have the time. An opportunity presented itself this afternoon and we decided to go and take a standard 3.5 hour walking tour. It’s a sobering place, but looking back on today I am very glad we were able to go.

Auschwitz-Birkenau (6/9/15)

In his travel book, American travel-guide, Rick Steves, answers the question “Why visit Auschwitz?” He writes,

Why visit a notorious concentration camp on your vacation? Auschwitz-Birkenau is one of the most moving sights in Europe, and certainly the most important of all the Holocaust memorials. Seeing the camp can be difficult: Many visitors are overwhelmed by a combination of sadness and anger over the tragedy, as well as inspiration at the remarkable stories of survival. Auschwitz survivors and victims’ families want tourists to come here and experience the scale and the monstrosity of the place. In their minds, a steady flow of visitors will ensure that the Holocaust is always remembered— so nothing like it will ever happen again. Auschwitz isn’t for everyone. But I’ve never met anyone who toured Auschwitz and regretted it. For many, it’s a profoundly life-altering experience— and at the very least, it will forever affect the way you think about the Holocaust.

After visiting the sight today I can only agree with his assessment. To walk the grounds, visit the buildings, and hear the detailed history is humbling, overwhelming, and saddening. It’s only as a Christian who knows that the Lord is sovereign over history that I could really make sense of it. Within the first few minutes I found myself pondering Ecclessiastes 7:2, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” Auschwitz is a house of mourning and today I laid it to heart.

Auschwitz-Birkenau (6/9/15)

I took very few photos and even the ones I did take aren’t too heavy. Mostly I just wanted to listen and take it all in. The tour is well planned and very informative while not being overly emotional. I’ve been to the Holocaust museum and memorial in D.C. twice and I think it was way more intense than Auschwitz is, at least by design. Our Polish tour guide was very calm, quiet, and that’s how it should be. Even the lighting inside isn’t so intense. What struck me was that even though we live in a digital age and we love to take photos, I could tell that generally people were limiting their use like I was. And really, other than a few snaps for this blog, I’m not exactly sure what I would do with a bunch of photos of a place like Auschwitz.

Auschwitz-Birkenau (6/9/15)

There are two parts to the tour. The first takes you through Auschwitz I which was a Polish army base that the Nazis converted to a concentration camp. The second part takes you to Auschwitz II which was built completely by the Nazis using prison labor. Like most Americans I had to study this horrible place in school, but today as we entered Auschwitz II I was overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the facility. No picture will do justice to just how big the camp is. The electric fence lining the perimeter just seems to go on forever, along with the railway which runs right down the middle of it. Below are two photos I took from the guard tower which give a little context but still the scale is hard to capture.

Auschwitz-Birkenau (6/9/15)

Auschwitz-Birkenau (6/9/15)

In the second photo above, if you were to follow those tracks to the very back (more than 1/4 mile–far!) there is a memorial that was erected for the more than 1.3 million lives that were taken at this place. On the ground beneath an artist’s sculpture are large placards written in every language that was represented at the camp (there must have been 10-12 of them). Below is the one in English.

Auschwitz-Birkenau (6/9/15)

For the sake of my wife and others who might read this, I’m leaving out any details about the buildings and actions taken inside. If you know the history, then you know what happened. But I just wanted to say that standing in the rooms and seeing what the Nazis did caused me more than once to consider the sinfulness of my own heart. As much as it is right to be angered by the atrocities that took place at Auschwitz, it was the work of men just like me who did these things. They were just like me in the sense that they have the same sinful heart that I do. Mark 7:21-23 records the words of Christ when he said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” I guess that’s what I meant when I said earlier that I was taking it to heart. How could I not?

Auschwitz-Birkenau (6/9/15)

One of the last things that we heard today was about the liberation of the camp on January 27, 1945 (for some perspective, my own dad turned one year old on Jan. 28, 1945). The Russians were able to free the camp and about a week before this the Nazis (knowing the Russians were coming) began to destroy as much evidence of their crimes as they could. They blew up buildings, burned things to the ground, etc. and then fled. As I sit here tonight and ponder those events I’m actually thinking about the glorious and wonderful gospel which liberates our hearts from the penalty of sin. I don’t have to run from the Lord in fear like the Nazis did from the Russians, but my soul is liberated by the horrific death of Christ on a cross. The Nazis may have outrun the Russians (only 10% were convicted of their crimes), but unless they knew Christ and trusted Him in faith, they were never (or are never) able to outrun the God who judges their souls. It’s only in the Gospel that I can make sense of Auschwitz. Christ died for the men, women, and children who were murdered there as well as the men and women who ordered their deaths. He also died for my sin and your sin. As overwhelming as a place of death like Auschwitz is, I am equally overwhelmed by the place of life given to me and many others through the work of Jesus.

As Rick Steves said, “Auschwitz isn’t for everyone,” but the Lord used it today to remind me of His amazing work. For that I’m eternally thankful.

Nana’s Birthday

Today is Nana’s birthday! We celebrated with her in Krakow again today and it was a blast. The day started around 10:00, not because people weren’t awake, but because Bethany and I just had a bit of a rough night with Karis. Karis is doing awesome, but she just decided she wanted to be awake from about 3am on. Not too unexpected for a six day old, so no complaints on our end. But when we did make it out of our rented apartment the first thing on the agenda was a carriage ride through Krakow with the whole family! Below is a photo that Nana took of our new family of five while we were riding the carriage through the Old Town. It’s one the second photo ever taken of the five of us!

Nana's Birthday (6/7/15)

As you may have guessed, bringing a six day old on a mini vacation has it’s challenges–the main one being that she has to eat often. This brings challenges to trying to plan the day, so we mostly let Nana and Papa explore on their own today and enjoy the parts of the city that they wanted to see. But that wasn’t before our good man, Rick Steves, led us to a great pizza place via his tour book on Krakow. We had his book out while we grabbed fruit smoothies before lunch and found a place called “Cyklop” which serves incredible, gourmet pizza. The pizzas were being made literally in an oven next to our table and it was a great experience.

Nana's Birthday (6/7/15)

After the kids took naps, I told them we could go to the castle in town. Avery said, “Daddy, can we go to the castle where the princesses live?” to which Titus added quickly, “And the kings!” These kids have seen more castles in a few short years than I’ve seen in my life! As were leaving for the castle (just me, Titus, and Avery–Bethany stayed back to rest with Karis), Papa and Nana were arriving from their excursion and decided to join us. Instead of making the big walk with the kids to the castle, Papa saw a little golf cart service that would drive us up there so we did that. It saved buckets of time and definitely helped our tired legs. We made it to the castle in time to walk around, but were just a little late for tour tickets. Either way it was fun and here’s a few photos.

Nana's Birthday (6/7/15)

Nana's Birthday (6/7/15)

Nana's Birthday (6/7/15)

Nana's Birthday (6/7/15)

We wanted to do something special for Nana, so on our way back from the castle Bethany gave me instructions to pick up some cupcakes from a little shop we had visited before to celebrate Nana’s birthday. I was hoping to keep it a secret, but because Nana and Papa joined us I let them in on it and allowed Nana to pick a few for herself. We got a dozen cupcakes and took them back to the apartment where we all sang “Happy Birthday” to her. It was a great way to end our time in Krakow before packing up and heading home. Here’s just a sampling of some of the flavors we got (in the photo below).

Nana's Birthday (6/7/15)

Since I struggled to get us to Krakow in a timely manner yesterday (e.g. we took the “scenic route”…aka: we took a LONG route), I made sure I thoroughly checked the map before leaving today. Thankfully, the route I chose was the right one and we got home in no time tonight, just around 10pm. We had a bit of a pause at the border because the Czech police were doing mandatory checks, but they checked my passport and documents and let us go. The kids had fallen asleep by the time we got home, so Bethany, Nana, Papa, and I enjoyed another cupcake together! It was a lot of fun celebrating this weekend and letting Papa and Nana see a little more of Europe since they had flown so far. We have another week with them before they head back to the States and we’ve got lots more to see even still!

But as the clock strikes midnight, I think I’ll sign off. We’re heading tomorrow to a government office to start paperwork for Karis’ birth certificate, so please be praying for that. Until then, good night!

Krakow With Family

We took a five day old on a road trip to Krakow, Poland. I know…we’re crazy.

Krakow With Family (6/6/15)

Tomorrow (Sunday) is Nana’s birthday and I guess we were having one of those “when in Europe” moments and decided kind of last minute to get everyone in the car, rent a small apartment in the Old Town and head to Krakow. It was kind of a dream last week but we just didn’t know how Bethany would be feeling and if we could make it work with a newborn. But that’s in the past now because I’m sitting here in Krakow and we’ve made quite the trip today.

Krakow is only about two hours from where we live so it’s completely in driving distance. To my knowledge there aren’t any good trains, so driving makes sense. At least it makes sense until you take the “scenic route” like we did today and added about 45 minutes to our driving time. I would rather not discuss how that happened because 1) I don’t know how it happened and 2) it’s probably still a sore subject in my heart. We did finally make it here and after getting everyone settled in to our little apartment we hit the Old Town!

It was really fun showing Nana and Papa around Krakow and to get to experience it again ourselves. This is my second time here and Bethany’s third, so we’re definitely not pros but it’s a lot easier after you’ve done it once. Europe is just overwhelming in some sense. Everywhere you look it’s old, incredible, and full of history. Today it was really warm here, especially in the town square where you the heat just kind of sat in the middle and baked us, but we made it work by finding shade and eventually grabbing dinner and dessert.

A photo posted by Shay Thomason (@shaycam) on

We left Nana and Papa after dessert and they went for a carriage ride through Krakow. Our new family of five made our way back to the apartment which was surprisingly cool thanks to the rare air conditioning units this one has. Avery and Karis did alright considering that Karis was just born on Monday! Karis slept a lot and we tried to find places to rest as we walked around and enjoy the town. Tonight I ran to the grocery store to stock up on water and juice as we just felt a little dehydrated with all the heat. We should be set for day two tomorrow and we’re excited to see what else this beautiful city has to offer.

Here’s a couple more photos from this afternoon.

Krakow With Family (6/6/15)

Krakow With Family (6/6/15)

Krakow With Family (6/6/15)

Krakow With Family (6/6/15)

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