|"A faithful friend is a
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth."
"The whole object of
travel is not to set foot on foreign land;
it is at last to set
foot on one's own country as a foreign land."
The Riddle of the Ivy
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)
Catholic apologist, essayist, novelist,
Dominican Republic, summer 2006.
The handsome guy second from the right is me, (of course).
The others are, from the left: Alfredo Colon Archilla, Luis O.
Nieves, Pedro Genaro Rodriguez with his son Pedrito, Enrique
Ureña, Miguel Angel Landestoy, and Mel Jose Rivera (a.k.a.
(Photograph courtesy of Mr. Pedro Genaro Rodriguez).
Et Verbum Caro Factum Est
There is one expression in the Bible, tied in the
depth of its implications to those that attest to the Resurrection
of Jesus the Christ. It is the beginning of the 14th verse of the
Gospel of Saint John the Evangelist: "And the Word became flesh...".
became one of us, and experienced all the conditions and weaknesses
proper to our fallen nature save for sin itself. This Best Friend
continues to incarnate Himself in all true friends, and through each
of them the Adventure of Divine Friendship pervades our existence,
calling us to communion, and heroism and life. And that may happen
in every place where we find a true friend, in whose heart we behold
a small incarnation of the place Where Farewells Have no Meaning.
During the years since I began the ongoing
enterprise of developing this website, I have repeatedly experienced
the adventure of traveling to places which I never thought to visit
when I was younger. Each one island, and even region within an
island, has a particular and unique "personality". And visiting the
diverse West Indies is something that I intend to keep doing until
the Lord calls me Home.
Additionally, my ministry as both a civilian
Catholic priest and as a military chaplain entails traveling to many
regions of the World. I have spent months at a time away from Puerto
While I sometimes travel alone, at other times I
enjoy the pleasure of doing so with people with interests similar to
mine, some of which have become very good friends to me. I have also
made friends in the places that I visit.
A few persons have suggested to me (for years)
that I include in my site a section dealing with my travels and the
people that during them have honored me with their friendship,
companionship, help, and insights. The reasons why I have not done
so until now have to do with my personality. Surprisingly to some
(given that I am a Catholic priest), I am an almost quintessential
introvert, sometimes even shy (though they are different, if
outwardly similar, traits). I do not like crowds and feel very
confortable being alone.
But none of that means that I do not appreciate
my friends and travel companions dearly. And to a great degree this
section has been created in their honor, as well as in order to
document some of the journeys that I have taken.
Juan H. Sánchez, my closest friend and Confirmation
godfather, and often my conscience outside my head.
Here with his guitar. I have always envied his musical talent.
So far, the only friend I have who has ever convinced me of
going to a rock concert... and after years of trying, too.
This is perhaps the most difficult section for me
to elaborate on. While organizing plants and animals systematically
is rather easy for me, I do not know how to do the same thing with
cultures and people. We
are far too complex for that. The richness and complexities of human
beings, together with angels, are the highest reflections of God's
own richness. So, this part of my website will not follow a defined
order but will, rather, show several unrelated subjects.
A note regarding the legality of what I am doing
here: I have lost contact with some of the persons shown in this
section. In fact, some of the photographs shown here are theirs. If
you are one of such, and upon finding this website prefer that I do
not show photographs depicting you or your work please let me know
immediately, and I will delete them as soon as possible.
In any case, here I go:
Peoples and Places in the Caribbean
Growing up in an island tends to develop in
one a rather provincial view on the affairs of the World at large. I
remember being a boy and thinking, at the time, that I would never
feel comfortable traveling abroad. I became [relatively] fluent in
English quite late in my life. I gained mastery of the language at
first by watching cable TV programs and movies. That turned out to
be a rather dangerous way of learning any language, as I realized
later that some expressions that sound funny in a movie are not the
kind you use when trying to be friendly to a stranger... especially
if she happens to be a cute tourist girl. There are no examples that
I can remember which are dignified enough for me to use here in
order to better explain myself.
I'm only human.
Be it as it may, eventually I finished my last
two years of seminary studies in the continental United States and
that did help me to polish my skills. In truth, languages are doors
to a wider universe.
Being at first ordained a priest for the Diocese
of Saint Thomas, United States Virgin Islands, I eventually had the
opportunity to travel through some of the Lesser Antilles. Part of
the reason for that is that the culture of the people of the Virgin
Islands is far closer to those of the islands to the east and south
than to that of the physically closer Puerto Rico, my home island.
From that flows the fact the the Episcopal Conference of the Eastern
Caribbean (which includes the British Virgin Islands) is also
closely tied to the United States Virgin Islands. I met many people
during the 9 years I belonged to the Diocese of Saint Thomas. It was
during such time that I began dealing with photographic equipment
and taking pictures. Those were truly awful ones that I am glad do
not exist any more, yet that is why I am not able to show much from
that time in my life.
Bishop Elliot Thomas (center) was my first ordinary, in the
United States Virgin Islands. He is now retired.
I have known Monsignor Michael Xavier Kosak since1992,
after my arrival in the Diocese of Saint Thomas in the Virgin
In spite of the fact that before I really knew him I once caused
a severe dearth of steaks in his refrigerator, he has always
been a kind and loving friend to me.
That he is still a
good friend after years of been driven up the wall by my
idiosyncrasies speaks of the strength of his character.
He is presently the pastor of Saint Ann's, Saint Croix. He was
the first diocesan Catholic priest to be ordained for the
And just so that you know, he has been the main inspiration
in helping me decide to create this section in my website.
Semper Fidelis, Marine.
I celebrated the Holy Mass on the high altar of Saints Peter and
Paul Cathedral many times. Saint Thomas, United States Virgin
My home for nine years.
Some of the members of the Virgins Islands Catholic community
that I shared time and experiences with when I lived there:
Father Neal Scantlebury (center), Daniel Turbe (left) and
Clement Danet (right) during the celebration of the Easter Vigil
in Saint Anne's Saint Thomas, United States Virgin Islands.
In February 2013 Father Mitchell Pacwa, S. J., directed for the
priests of the Diocese of Saint Tomas an awesome spiritual
Deacon Clement Danet serves in Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral,
in Saint Thomas, United States Virgin Islands.
Henry Quetel has been the keeper of Saint Anne's Chapel in Saint
Thomas, United Sates Virgin Islands, for a very long time.
Mr. Axel Magras is a member of the Saint Anne's Catholic
assembly in Saint Thomas. He makes an awesome guavaberry rum
drink which I have enjoyed many times in his home.
Father Rafael Alvarado and Father Julio Vera, Puerto Rico Army
National Guard Chaplains. Good friends to me for many years.
Camp Santiago, Puerto Rico.
Another good friend: Reverend Billy White, Baptist minister. Camp
south-eastern Puerto Rico.
Father Julio Vera during his promotion to the rank of Major.
On the left, Major General Vicens, Adjutant General, Puerto Rico
On the right, MAJ de Santiago.
The Holy Redeemer Retreat House in Dominica belongs to the
Redemptorists Fathers of the Eastern Caribbean Province.
I have stayed there several times, and on this occasion I was
the retreat master for this deeply committed Christian
Petroglyphs near Reef Bay Trail, Virgin Islands National Park,
Saint John, United States Virgin Islands.
The ancient Taino inhabitants of the Greater Antilles carved
these figures with religious overtones on rock.
For a couple of years while I was living in the Virgin
Islands, I was the administrator of
Saint Anne's Chapel, in Saint Thomas. Here are some of the
parishioners during Palm Sunday's liturgy.
Stained-glass window in Saint Anne's Chapel, depicting the
mother of Mary Most Holy and grandmother of Jesus the Christ.
Saint Georges, capital of Grenada.
On December 2006 I visited the island of Grenada, where the
diocese graciously hosted me. Only then I found out that the
Hurricane Ivan had ravaged the island while I was deployed in
Iraq. Sadly, the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady was
destroyed during the event.
Church of the Conversion of Saint Paul. Windwardside, Saba.
The lighthouse at Point Morant, easternmost tip of Jamaica.
Port Antonio, north-eastern Jamaica.
View of Kinston, capital city of Jamaica. The foothills of the
Blue Mountains are seen in the background.
During one of my trips to Jamaica a group of young students of
nature joined us to learn about the riches of their own island.
The Atlantic Ocean seen from southern Saint Christopher.
Rainbow near Saint Christopher, Lesser Antilles.
The Point Udall Monument at dawn. This sundial is located at the
point of the United States of America, in Saint Croix, United
States Virgin Islands.
Charlestown, Nevis, Lesser Antilles.
Brimstone Hill Fortress, north-western Saint Christopher, Lesser
Although he is not closely related to the Caribbean, this is one
of the first friends that I made in the Washington, D. C., area
after my admission
to Mount Saint Mary's Seminary, in Emmitsburgh, Maryland. Juan
Antonio Rivas Romero is from El Salvador
and presently lives in the United States. Our friend in common,
Elba Cuevas, was accompanying us on that day.
This was in Cabral, Dominican Republic. I'm afraid only Spanish
speakers among you will understand the implicit humor.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception, Isabel II, Vieques.
Civilian in Puerto Rico
After living in the Virgin Islands from 1992 to
2000 I returned to Puerto Rico, previous understanding between by
then bishop, His Excellency Gorge Murry, and the archbishop of San
Juan, His Excellency Roberto González. My first formal assigment in
my home island was to be the chaplain to one of the largest Catholic
schools in Puerto Rico.: Colegio María Auxuliadora.
Student retreat in María Auxiliadora, 2004.
Some of the senior students of María Auxiliadora, during Holy
Mass in the school's chapel.
During Holy Week, the students at María Auxiliadora elaborate
plays conmemorating the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of my first explorations with some of the school's students
was to some of the caverns in northern Puerto Rico.
Meeting people with like interests is always an
opportunity for me to learn. A whole lot of what I know today I owe
to the persons who have gaciously lent me their own expertise about
subjects that I initially knew nothing about. Here are some of them.
For several years now I have enjoyed the kind company of
Luis Nieves and Mike Morel. Here we are at the Guanica State
Forest, Puerto Rico.
Dr. Luis Nieves and some of his students at the end of a
successful field trip.
Doctor Miguel Angel "Papo" Vives (the One and Only), self-taught
botanist extraordinaire, in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico.
If it were not for this kind, patient and generous soul the
sections on higher plants in this website would be a disgusting
Going to a field trip with him is an unforgetable experience.
Four good friends, with whom I have traveled extensively in
search of that next photograph: Miguel Angel Vives, Alfredo
Colón Archilla, Luis O. Nieves and Willie Hernandez.
Quebradillas, Puerto Rico.
S. Blair Hedges, herpetologist, whom I joined for a trip to
Jamaica. His DNA studies on West Indian
reptiles and amphibians keep enlightening us about the
relationships among diverse species.
Richard Thomas, herpetologist, holding an Amphisbaena caeca.
Michael Schwartz and Susan Koenig, of the Windsor Research
Two tireless naturalists who spearhead the efforts to save the
karstic ecosystems in the north of the island.
Here they perform minor surgery on a Jamaican boa in order to
place a transmitter that will allow them to track is movements.
Sugarbelly is the cook at the Windsor Research Centre. And, man,
can he cook.
Robert Rattner is a wildlife filmmaker. I had the privilege of
accompanying him last time
I was in Jamaica, and learned that filming animals requires much
more expertise than I had thought.
Here he shoots a juvenile Jamaican boa.
Although I do not share his passion for tofu (I am a carnivore),
we did share great stories with each other.
Near the Windsor Research Center, Dango always waited for me
with a cold beer
at the end of a long day spent chasing after snakes in the
What a great character.
Some of the students of María Auxiliadora Catholic School,
(where I was chaplain for a time), on a trip to the Toro Negro
State Forest, Puerto Rico.
You can tell it was cold at that altitude.
Another good friend and travel companion. Joseph Burgess has the
blood-curdling gift of stepping onto the edges of vertical
cliffs while looking at his camera, instead of looking at his
While I abjectly crawled
on the ground in Saba to approach the precipice (and more than
once turned back at the last moment) his nerves of steel allowed
him to take the kind of picture that he then lends me for my website.
Some men are simply so much more courageous than I will ever
And after climbing Mount Scenery this is the closest that I
dared to approach and stand up at the same spot Joe is standing
My flexed knees clearly indicate that I still wanted to remain
as close to the ground as possible.
(Photographs courtesy of Mr. Joseph Burgess).
During my last trip to Saint Lucia, I was accompanied by Mel,
Joe and Luis.
Mel with one of his findings. Saint Lucia.
Joseph and Mel in Saint Lucia.
The city of Puerto Plata, northern Dominican Republic,
Hispaniola. Seen from the summit of Isabel de Torres Nature
A statue of the Jesus the Christ looks upon de city of Puerto
Plata. Isabel de Torres Nature Reserve, northern Dominican
Lawrence Millman is a mycologist with whom I have hiked in El
Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico, while looking for fungi.
Here he is NOT contemplating drinking a whole liter of rum in
order to drown out the pains after the hike but is, instead,
showing me some fascinating specimens growing on the bottle.
The group of scientists at Guana Island in October 2008.
The gentleman sitting down in the white shirt and the lady in
pink in across from him are the leaders of the group,
James "Skip" Lazell and his wife Wenhua, who have kindly invited
me to join them on several occasions.
Then seated, left to right: Barry and Buena Valentine, James
Cokendolpher, Luis Nieves, Tracy Estabrook, Clint Boal and Tom
Standing, left to right: myself, Faiz Rahman, Matthew Gifford,
Robert Powell and Gad Perry.
Jeremy Huff, arachnologist, explains some Dominican youngsters
that whip scorpions are harmless and there is no need to fear
During one of my trips to the Dominican Republic, Doña María and
her family invited Jeremy and me to have some coffee.
Some of the kids who helped Jeremy look for scorpions in the
Luis de Armas and Antonio Pérez Asso are Cuban biologists with
whom I spent some time in the highlands of Puerto Rico.
The Cuban biologists Julio Genaro and Orlando Garrido. I've
spent some great times collecting snails with Julio in Puerto
Julio Genaro at the Desembarco del Granma National Park,
Edgardo, Luis, Gerardo, myself, Mel, and Alfredo.
Guajataca, north-western Puerto Rico.
Presently I am the Joint Force Headquarters chaplain for the
Puerto Rico National Guard. Such has been my main ministry for the
last three years and I truly enjoy it.
My trusted friend and assistant, Staff Sergeant Edgardo
Reyes, on his way with me
to Vieques Island to lend support there after Hurricane Maria in
At least once a year my unit trains to avoid or react to
diverse circumstances, like natural disaster.
Christmas celebration at the
Joint Force Headquarters.
Christmas celebration at our gym, Joint Force Headquarters.
Christmas run 2008.
The gentleman giving directions in the first photograph is a
colleague and good friend, Chaplain (MAJ) Alexis Rivera, Baptist
Lieutenant Colonel (retired) and Chaplain Father Rafael
Rodriguez. He has mentored me many times in the minutiae of
being a good chaplain.
Chaplain (Captain) Jesús Muñoz. Until recently the Catholic
priest of Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, he is now in the active
Another Catholic priest whom I have had the privilege of
meeting, Chaplain (Brigadier General) Donald Rutherford.
I met him for the first time in Iraq during my deployment there
(he was then a Colonel).
Master Sergeant (Retired) Fernando Cabreras. This kind and
professional man has helped me many times to fulfill my military
Here he is at the 2010 PRNG Family Day, Camp Santiago,
south-eastern Puerto Rico.
From late 2004 to late 2005 I was deployed to Iraq as part of
Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was attached to the 1/92nd Infantry
Battalion of the New York National Guard. Those were outstanding
men who courageously worked day in and day out, (and often all
through the night) to carry out a difficult mission. It was an
honor for me to share joys and hardships with them for almost a
year with the "boots on the ground".
I was honored to serve under the command of (then)
Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Slack. Outstanding officer, and I
must admit that sometimes I got on his nerves.
I seem to recall that his exact words at this point in the
photograph were "Father, if you don't get that camera off my
face I'm gonna *%#&^%** break it". God bless you wherever
your are, sir.
On the left, the battalion's Executive Officer, (then) Major
Crosby seems to realize: "There's no salad bar in this joint!"
2005 Iraqi general elections.
On the left is one of my fellow chaplains during my deployment
to Iraq, (then) Major Michael Gillete.
The unit ministry teams (chaplains and their assistants) in Camp
The man in the middle of the back row is Chaplain (Lieutenant
Colonel) Robert Baker. He was a loving and attentive father to
all of us during our deployment.
The Major to his left is Chaplain Jim Lucas, Lutheran minister
(Missouri Synod, thank you very much), with whom I enjoyed
fascinating theological discussions about justification by Grace
and in whose kindest company I enjoyed exquisite cigars, wines,
and liqueurs upon our return to the United States.
Celebration of Thanksgiving in Camp Taji, 2004.
Nearing Thanksgiving, some of the local citizens
presented our batallion with a turkey which became our mascot.
Sadly, a fox ate it one night.
Various Christmas celebrations in Camp Taji, 2004.
Captain Daniels, then commander of the Headquarters
Company, 1/92nd Infantry Battalion, New York National Guard.
While our Lord Jesus had the alarming gift of walking on water,
CPT Daniels possessed the almost equally alarming gift of
walking with his eyes closed among live ordance and sharp
brigade was mobilized in late 2004 to offer support during next
January's elections in Baghdad.
My battalion occupied an abandoned shopping mall.
There was an awesome view of Baghdad from its roof.
me in the picture on the right.
Lieutenant Colonel Grossman and Major Dudziak enjoy a warm fire
at night during the 2005 elections.
View of Baghdad before the 2005 general elections. Flying in a
helicopter over the city in order to reach places
where I had to minister could be alarming at times, considering
there were people below sincerely wishing to shoot us down.
Sergeant Robert Flores, my chaplain assistant during the
Views from the roof of our occupied building during the 2005
Iraqi general elections.
After the elections, my unit moved to Camp Victory. There I got
the happy surprise of finding (then) Specialist Aaron Thomas,
former altar minister in Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral, in
Saint Thomas, United States Virgin Islands. Small world...
Lieutenant Colonel (Chaplain) Baker, Lieutenant Colonel
Grossman, and Captain Warring during a Seder celebration in Camp
Some of the local children. I have never seen anyone so be happy
with a sheep as a pet.
In Camp Victory I was formally granted the rank of Major by
Brigadier General John Peter Paul Basilica. (Three apostles and
a whole temple... you cannot get more Catholic than that).
He was then commander of the 256 Brigade Combat Team, Louisiana
National Guard, to which the 1/92nd Battalion, NYNG, was
Monument to Victory, erected under orders of Saddam Hussein
after Iraq's defeat of Iran in the 1980's.
The Blue Mosque of Baghdad, during day and night.
Before arriving in the Balkans, Europe, in late 2011 I spent some
time training in Camp Atterbury, Indiana, and in Germany. To this
last I returned for a few days in order to attent a spiritual
retrat. Here are some of the photographs of those periods.
During the KFOR 15 mission these are my Commander and
senior Non-Commissioned Officer,
Colonel Jeffrey Liethen (in the back) and Command Sergeant Major
Shepherd (middle) before boarding the bus to Munich one morning
This guy is an outstanding chaplain, and a good brother in
An itinerant ochestra in Munich.
The Dachau Memorial Museum there testifies to the cruelty that
man is capable of inflicting on his fellow man.
One of the cells in the Dachau Prison was destined for clergy
and contained an altar for them to celebrate worship.
Views of the River Neckar, Heidelberg.
The Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg.
I had the privilege of sharing a spiritual retreat with fellow
Catholic chaplains in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in May
The first photograph shows Bishop Richard Spencer, Auxiliary of
the Archdiocese for the US Armed Forces.
The last shows Father Gerard Mcglone, S.J. Awesome retreat
The stunning landscapes of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. One could get
used to this.
The Benedictine Abbey of Ettal, Germany.
At the Linderhof Palace, Germany.
This lovely lady is Elaine Berkowitz, retired Lieutenant
Colonel, whom I met in Kosovo and who visited me in Puerto Rico
Now I am deployed in Kosovo. Interesting
mission. This country broke away from the former Yugoslavia after
the Kosovo War of 1998-1999. A multinational force is currently in
place there in order to preserve peace and help that nation to
finally stand on its own. The vast majority of the population is
Muslim, with a sizeable Serbian Orthodox group (especially in the
north), and minorities comprising Catholics, Roma, and others.
During my time in Kosovo, I have also visited
nearby countries in missions related to the main one that my unit
was carrying there.
here are some photographs taken at these places.
During my deployment in Kosovo I received the rank of
The Deputy Commander, Colonel Richard Kumlien, pinned the
rank on me during the ceremony.
The Unit Ministry Teams of KFOR 15. From left to right: my
Chaplain Assistant, SSG Mark Sward, myself,
CPT Andy Shepherd, and his Chaplain Assistant, SGT John Howard.
At the Transfer of Authority Ceremony, COL Jeffrey Liethen (KFOR
assumes command from the KFOR 14 leadership.
Part of our KFOR 15 primary staff during the Tranfer of
In front, LTC Kerry Morgan.
Behind him: Majors James Sandomierski, Jon Russell, Timothy
Skelton and Charles Hartley.
On the left, COL David Floyd, then Commander, Medical
Major General Donald P. Dunbar, Adjutant, Wisconsin National
Guard, visits us in Kosovo.
MAJ Daniel Hanson joins me in the helicopter in order to visit
Majors Berlye Middleton and Robert Vandergrinten in the Church
of the Black Madonna.
A group of American soldiers listen to a lecture on local
Christian history in the Church of the Black Madonna.
COL Richard Kumlien, LTC Adam Luzynczyk, Father Augustyn Rosly
and LTC Kerry Morgan. Kosovo.
The Sar Range, in Southern Kosovo. Much of the center of the
country is a plain, surrounded by mountains on several sides.
The two photographs on the right show Mount Ljuboten as
seen from Camp Bondsteel.
The Kopaonik Range, on the north of the country, includes its
The outskirts of Pristina, capital city of Kosovo.
Mitrovica, northern Kosovo.
The village of Letnica, Kosovo.
of the Black Madonna, Letnica.
The Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Gracanica.
The city of Prizren, in southern Kosovo, is perhaps the most
picturesque of the urban centers in the country.
The Cathedral of Mother Teresa, Prizren.
During a visit to Prizren the rector of the local Serbian
Orthodox seminary kindly explained to us some of the history of
the place and showed the beautiful chapel.
The seminary has been rebuilt after being all but destroyed
during the violence of the Kosovo War.
At an international chaplain meeting in Prizren.
Lettenmeyer, KFOR supervisory chaplain, hosted us in Prizren.
CPT (Chaplain) Andy Shepherd, delivers the sermon during an
service at the International Chaplain Conference in Prizren.
And SGT John Howard sang like there was no tomorrow.
Major Doro Stubs, of the German Army, sings at the
Chaplain Johannes Muller hosted us during another chaplain
meeting at near Prizren.
In March His Excellency Richard Spencer, auxiliary bishop of the
United States Archdiocese for the Armed Forces, visited us in
To his left in the first photograph, Father Augustyn Rosly
(Chaplain, Polish Contingent) concelebrates the Holy Mass with
CPT Aloysius Rohmeyer as a lector during Holy Mass at the
"No, no, no! Don't take my picture!"
His Excellency Richard Spencer joins Father Shan Zefi and Father
Roc Gjonlleshaj at the local bishop's residence in Pristina.
One of our hosts in Pristina: Father Albert Sadjak (standing).
Father Michael Lindsey (second from the right) guided us to
several places in Pristina before KFOR 15 took over the mission
His Grace Jovan Culibrik, Patriarch of Pec, Kosovo (Serbian
Orthodox Church) visited us in Camp Bondsteel.
Here he is with our Commander COL Liethen and SPC Minutolo.
Bronislaw Komorowski, president of Poland, visited his troops in
Kosovo in April 2012.
Behind him, in the first photograph, are representatives of the
the Catholic, Orthodox, and Lutheran communities of his country.
Mr. Neritan Hysa was our organist for the worship events at Camp
A very talented musician, he became part of both the Catholic
and Protestant communities at the base.
During a mission to Bosnia and Hercegovina, some of us drove
through several other countries.
The word "karstic", which I so often use elsewhere in this
website, is derived from the Slovenian province of Carso,
north of where these photographs were taken.
The formation is in reality common throughout the Balkan region.
These limestone hills are in Montenegro.
Montane lake, Montenegro.
Part of the Tara River Canyon, Durmitor National Park,
This geological feature is the second largest canyon on Earth,
after the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Unites States.
The bridge was built under the rule of Joseph Stalin. That is
one pretty old bridge.
The city of Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Hercegovina.
Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Sarajevo.
and Methodius Catholic Church and Seminary. Sarajevo.
Orthodox temple. Sarajevo.
Muslim worshipers at a mosque in Sarajevo.
The embassy of Iran. Sarajevo.
Some gentlemen share in a chess game. Sarajevo.
A day of white-water rafting. Bosnia and Hercegovina.
While trying to leave the city of Sarajevo, we ended in a
one-way street ending in a staircase. It took a little dexterity
to get ourselves out of that.
And the mountain roads can be very narrow, as well.
Making way for this tourist bus approacing from the opposite
direction took us 15 minutes.
Approaching the inmigration checkpoint between Montenegro and
Albania, we drove by Lake Skadarsko and associated wetlands.
Ruins of a Roman aqueduct, Macedonia.
a cemetery, first ancient Roman and then Christian,
human bones protuding from its earthen walls.
Near the Central Square in Skopje, Macedonia.
The statues are of Alexander the Great, Emperor of Macedonia,
and Saints Cyril and Methodius, the two brothers who first
evangelized the Slavic peoples.
A happy moment in a puddle. Skopje, Macedonia.
Maj Vandergrinten and SSG Kasupsky in Skopje, Macedonia.
A group of cute exchange students and their teachers in Skopje,
A cavern in Macedonia.
On August 15th, Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady, a group
of soldiers of different nations
participated in a short pilgrimage and then the Holy Mass at the
Black Madonna Vurch, Letnica, Kosovo.
Father Augustyn Rosly celebrates the Holy Mass with his soldiers
on the occasion of the Polish Army Day.
Climbing the summit of Mount Lujboten, Kosovo.
Fireworks during our Fourth of July celebration in Kosovo.
When I am in a military mission, I still try to
set some time aside to photograph the fauna of the places where I
am deployed. Since I am not familiar with these biota, I am not
sure of what some of these are. In such cases I do not travel with
my full photographic equipment, so some of these pictures are
Regardless, here they are, in no particular order:
Amelia Earcat visits me in
my room. Kosovo.
A little skink, Ablepharus
pannonicus, was outside my trailer one morning. Iraq.
White stork (nominate race, Ciconia
Common mynah, Acridotheres
Asilid fly. Iraq.
A brightly-colored beetle, perhaps a chrysomelid. Iraq.
Hooded crow (nominate race, Corvus
cornix). Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina.
A hooded crow (middle-eastern race, Corvus cornix capellanus), prepares to land on
a date palm. Iraq.
Rough-tailed geckoes, Cyrtopodion
scabrum. The generic name alludes to the bent joints of
the toes. Iraq.
Little egret, Egretta
I think this is a
Persian leaf-toed gecko, Hemidactylus
And I think this is a
female danaid eggfly, Hypolimnas
An insect. No idea. Iraq.
Damselflies, Ischnura viridis.
Damselflies, species undetermined. Kosovo.
Mantids, possibly Mantis
First two photographs, male. Last two photographs, females.
Hundreds of kilometers away from the sea, a flock of gulls and
terns rests near a temporary winter pond. Iraq.
Levant skink, Trachylepis
Freshwater turtle, Mauremys
Extremely bad-tempered, and one of my hands found out.
Himalayan bulbul, Pycnonotus
Dragonfly, Trithemis annulata.
Iraqi babbler, Turdoides
Eurasian blackbirds, Turdus
First photograph: Dachau, Germany. Second photograph:
Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs
European common frog, Rana
temporaria. Hohenfels, Germany.
White wagtail, Motacilla alba,
Crested larks, Galerida
Great tits, Parus major,
Red-backed shrike, Lanius
collurio, male. Kosovo.
A red fox, Vulpes vulpes,
prowls our military base in search of scraps after a barbecue.
Two half-grown kits play in our volleyball court, under mom's
watchful eye. Kosovo.
Mute swans, Cygnus olor.
Linderhof Palace, Germany.
Rather ill-tempered birds.
Spring flowers in Kosovo: Aster
sp.; gesneriacean; Ophiopogon
sp.; Colchicum sp.; Oxalis sp.
More spring flowers in Kosovo: orobanchacean; asteracean;
And yet more: Salvia
sp.; green-winged orchid, Anacamptis
sp.; legume; unknown species.
Common rock centipedes, Lithobius
Common wall lizards, Podarcis
First two photographs: male.
Last three photographs: females.
Podarcis sp. Mount
Balkan lizard, Lacerta
trilineata, female. Kosovo.
Turkish snails, Helix lucorum.
Araneid spider. Kosovo.
Rose chafer, Cetonia aurata.
Pyrrhocorid bugs. Kosovo.
Bug nymph. Kosovo.
Long-horned grasshopper, Kosovo.
Scarce swallowtail, Iphiclides
Mating pair of lycenid butterflies and another lycenid of a
different species. Kosovo.
Two species of satyrine butterflies. Kosovo.
Long-horned beetle. Kosovo.
Green tiger beetle, Cicindela
Crane flies. Kosovo.
Crane fly, Ctenophora festiva,
Balkan frogs, Pelophylax
kurtmuelleri, male and female. Kosovo.
Adult female and male, and leverets of European hare, Lepus europaeus. Kosovo.
Green toad, Bufo viridis,
Nymphalid butterlfy. Kosovo.
Nymphalid butterfly. Kosovo.
One of the most widespread insects on Earth: the painted lady, Vanessa cardui. Iraq.
When I saw these I felt a poignant emotion at finding myself
face two face with
an organism that is also found in the mountains of my home
island, thousands of kilometers away.