Friday, February 22, 2008

Drunk Drivers & Don't Doubt Thomas

Hello from Nowy Brzesko in southern Poland. I began the week on schedule, had an unscheduled rest day half way & I'm now 2days ahead of schedule! That basically means that I've walked the sole off my boots this week with some huge distances. The beautiful sunshine & consequent lack of snow plus having walking poles again has made it possible to get to where I am. I hadn't planned to be here, it just sort of happened. I left the fantastic hospitality of the Lukasik family in Lublin last Wednesday & only made it 20km before I was set upon by 3 journalists - the kind of highway encounter that's welcomed. They had received a phone call from Fr Bogumil in Biala Podlaska & driven over 300km trying to find me. They were pretty pleased to have spotted me after so much driving & I was pleased to hear that they represented the national Catholic magazine & were looking to spread the call to pray for unity a lot further than my legs can carry it. We sat in a hotel for an hour & talked before I continued walking & they followed me at a distance trying to get a good photo. The next day I was walking 35km to a town called Anopol but with no hospitality on offer & the motel bankrupt I had to walk off into the twilight to a hotel some 15km further on. I bought a new head lamp in Lublin along with the poles so the night was a little tamer than previous weeks. I arrived at Orozow at 8pm but the hotel there was full. The next hotel? Well, it was another 26km on at a town called Sandomierz. I was really looking forward to a bed & feeling so tired that the thought of walking 26km on top of the day's 50km thus far wasn't particularly nice. I sat in the restaraunt there & ate a large meal, re-stocked my food & water supplies & started walking at around 9pm. It was a quiet, narrow country road to Sandomierz & the full-moon was so bright in the night sky that the head lamp made no difference, I could see at least a km up along the road. It was very peaceful walking & I took the opporunity to spend an hour in prayer. While praying & thinking about our Lord carrying the cross up Calvary I was joined along the fence line of a small cluster of houses by a group of dogs who barked & snarled at me for a good 100m. I thanked the Lord for the help in visualising the ugly path up Calvary but asked if it be ok if we skip the visuals & audios for the crucifixtion. I was only joking but I was soon lamenting my joke when a man drove past me very slowly & pulled over up ahead. I was well passed the houses by now & out in open space. As I drew near he crossed the road & started saying something to me. He walked straight up to me & put his hand on my chest. After the past few weeks of 'encounters' in Russia & Belarus I was ready for anything. I backed away a little & he just kept talking. It was at that point that I got a whif of his toxic vodka breathe & realised he was more than a little under the weather. He could speak a little english & so managed to get his question across; he wanted me to get in his car with him & go back to his place for a drink. It wasn't exactly a tough decision but he wouldn't take no for an answer. He knew how to say please & so he just kept pleading. I told him what I was doing (the only thing I can say in Polish) & that I had to keep on moving & praying. He suddenly became quite excited & 'really' wanted me to go back to his house so that he could take a photo of me & call his friend form the Gazette. A few more minutes of "Pleeeeeasse!" from him & I wished him well & said goodbye. I extended my hand to & asked what his name was. He shook my hand & said, "Thomas". I walked on quickly & turned my head lamp off in case he decided to drive after me. And he did. About 3km later he flashed past me but not having seen me until the last minute he pulled over a good 200m ahead of me (reactions time from alcohol was probably a factor as well). I couldn't be sure if he was still alone or had picked up friends & I was in a patient mood so I just stepped off the road & sat behind a bushy tree. I'd either wait until he left or passed out & then continue. After a few minutes he staggered out of the car & looked up & down the road, probably a bit confused, & then hopped back in, turned around & drove back to whence he came. I stood up & walked on out across the moon-lit country side. A car would come from Thomas's direction every now & then so I'd step off the road until they'd passed by & then resume. He didn't ever come back but a car from the other direction spotted me & pulled over (I wasn't stepping off for the north-bound traffic). He was driving a brand new white hatchback, which for some reason comforted me (I've since come to the conclusion that gansters don't drive new white hatchbacks). He wound down his window & in perfect english asked, "Do you need help? My friend Thomas called me & said you are walking around the world?" The man's name was Michael & would you believe it, he was a journalist for the state's newspaper. Thomas actually did want to help. Michael wanted an interview the next day but was concerned about me walking along that particular road at night. I assured him that it was actually a nice road to walk along & the only problem I'd had was a drunk Thomas. He looked at me sharply, "He's drunk?" At that moment none other than Thomas rang on Michael's mobile & Michael started to get into him a bit, "You're drunk! You are. I can't believe you're drunk!" Michael was very friendly & after he'd given Thomas an ear full he appolgised, gave me his business card & headed back to Sandomierz. I arrived there at around 1am & as I hobbled down the main street looking for a hotel, the new white hatchback re-appeared & Michael was back to make sure I was ok. He offered to take me on a tour of the town & so off we went at 1am around Poland's oldest township. It was great. I was struggling to stay awake but it was great none the less. There was a church there that first opened it's doors in the 700's & is still in full use. All the modern buildings where erected in the 1400's. It was incredible. Michael had a side business as tour guide during the summer months so he new the place well. He dropped me off at a hotel at 1:30am & I finally slept. The next day we met & spoke about the mission & Raphael, the newspapers photographer, took some shots. It was over 40km to the next hotel & with it being close to 3pm (I sleept in a lot) by the time we finshed talking I decided to stay there a 2nd night. I walked on to Polaniec (with people waving at me the whole way having read Michael's article in the paper) & then to Opotowiec last night. Around 15km from Opotowiec I stepped over a number plate & for the sake of something to do, memorised the number, repeating it over & over as I walked on. 5km later I detoured into a petrol station to re-fuel my water supply. A brand new BMW was roaring out of the exit but the driver caught sight of me, slammed on his brakes, ripped it into reverse, lit up the tyres & swung around up beside me. I wasn't wuite sure what to expect. The man driving jumped out of his car, "I have a problem! I saw you walking this morning. I've lost my number plate, have you seen it?" I can't tell you how smart I felt when I reeled off his number & told him exactly where it was. He nearly hugged me. He asked me to come with him to show him where it was & without a second thought I jumped into the hotted-up BMW. My pride soon disappeared though as we took off down the road & I realised that this guy was also drunk. I don't think I need to point out that alcohol & fast cars don't mix. I was holding on for dear life. Thankfully the plate was only 5km away. As we approached the plate I told him to stop & stop he did - as fast as anti-lock braking will allow you when you slam your foot down on the brake at full force. He jumped out, grabbed the plate & kissed it, holding it aloft like heavy-weight champion of the world. I was a little more concerned about getting back to the petrol station alive. We took off back down the road as fast as his traction-control would allow when you slam your foot down on the accelerator (are you getting the picture of how this guy was driving?). He had an un-nerving habit of turning to me when he wanted to say something & his hands would follow. Twice in 1min he had to swerve back onto the road. I almost fell out of the car when we pulled up at the petrol station as fast as anti-lock braking allows when... you get the idea. From now on I am not even going to look twice at a number plate as I step over it. I have a feeling that fellow might be putting his BMW safty features to the test pretty soon. So, the sun is shining, my knee is feeling a lot better, the country side is spectacular & the walk continues. The reception at the churches I've past hasn't exactly been pleasant. Some have welcomed me but others have actually pushed shooed me off the property like a rabid dog. One priest even threw my calling card back in my face & closed the door. I was very thankful to meet Adam, the pastor of a church in Sandomierz. He came & visited me at the hotel & we spoke for a while & prayed together. Please continue to pray for unity & hopefully I'll be logging in from Slovakia next week. God bless! Sam.
"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap." Luke 21:24


brendan said...

Happy Birthday Sam from Wendy and Brendan Harty Milk River Alberta. Your first stop after crossing Montana Border. Will never forget the nite you spent at our house and Church talk you and your brother gave us. Playing and singing with the guitar.Keep strong man and wish we could help more . Greetings from Anne as well.Think and pray for you and unity often ,please keep and stay in touch. The Harty,s.

brendan said...

Sam Greetings from Brendan and Wendy Harty Milk River Alberta. First stop after you crossed Montana border. Hope you remember us and we think and remember you also in our prayers. Dont give up and we will always remember the nite you stayed with us and your brother as you spoke at our church and sang and played the guitar.Our friends and Anne ask about you often and keep on walking for UNITY and keep in touch.. The Harty,s

michal77w/rower-pl said...

Hi Sam! Im Mike from Slupia. (On pics, another trekker on push bike) So take care, have a safe journey. I will always remember You. cheers

Oliver said...

Thanks for what you are doing Sam. I can't say enough how inspirational it is.

Stay safe and i hope little comforts continue to come your way.


basia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
basia said...

i go with U sitting 8 h in office. don't give up and catch all good feelings.

Magda said...

We are amazed by your journey. My mum read an article about you in the polish national catholic magazine "Gosc niedzielny". It gave her a lot of joy, happiness and hope and thats pretty important to her right now because she's strugiling with cancer for the 3rd time. We are really sorry for the bad expierience you had with polish drunk and fast drivers. Wish you luck. Going to pray for you, your journey and for unity.
Magda and family.
God bless you.

hiob said...

700 hundred people died in car crashes in first two months of 2008 in Poland. Alcohol was a factor in many of them. Years of hopeless situation in Poland is certainly a factor, but that changed. Let's pray, that young people will be smarter and more sober then their parents.

I quit drinking totally 10 years ago and you now what? I can live without it. We all can. God bless. Piotr.