"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth."

    Sirach 6: 14-15

"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, and poet

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. "Pelempito").
(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...".

    The Logos 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 Rico.

    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. May he rest in the peace of the Lord.

I have known Monsignor Michael Xavier Kosak since1992, after my arrival in the Diocese of Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
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 diocese.

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 Islands.
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 retreat.

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, south-eastern Puerto Rico.

Another good friend: Reverend Billy White, Baptist minister.
Camp Santiago, 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 National Guard.
On the right, MAJ de Santiago.

Some of the religious support personnel, Puerto Rico National Guard.
Camp Santiago, south-eastern Puerto Rico.

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 community.

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 year before,
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. Lesser Antilles.

San Fernando de Monte Cristi Catholic Church. Monte Cristi, north-western Dominican Republic, Hispaniola.

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 easternmost
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 Antilles.

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.

Naturalists, Biologists, Geologists, Explorers...

    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 graciously lent me their own expertise about subjects that I initially knew nothing about. Here are some of them.

My uncle, José Muñoz, with whom I have spent so many good times exploring forests and caverns, since I was a boy.

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 taxonomic mess.
Going to a field trip with him is an unforgettable experience.

Father José Israel Santos emerging from the rain forest, happy to have taken good photographs of the local waterfalls.

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 Centre, Jamaica.
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 Jamaican countryside.
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 footing.
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 be...

And after climbing Mount Scenery this is the closest that I dared to approach and stand up at the same spot Joe is standing on, above.
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 Reserve.

A statue of the Jesus the Christ looks upon de city of Puerto Plata. Isabel de Torres Nature Reserve, northern Dominican Republic, Hispaniola.

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 Willard.
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 them.

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 Dominican Republic.

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 Rico.

Julio Genaro at the Desembarco del Granma National Park, south-eastern Cuba.

Edgardo, Luis, Gerardo, myself, Mel, and Alfredo.
Guajataca, north-western Puerto Rico.

Army Chaplain

    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 2017.

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 minister.

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 service.

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 ministry.
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".

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 Victory.
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 Purgatory,
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 objects.

My entire 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.

That is 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 deployment.

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 Victory, 2005.

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 attached.

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 Bradley Shields.

CPT Andy Shepherd (middle) before boarding the bus to Munich one morning in Hohenfels.
This guy is an outstanding chaplain, and a good brother in Christ.

Views of Munich, Germany.

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 2012.
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 master.

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 recently again.

    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.

    And here are some photographs taken at these places.

During my deployment in Kosovo I received the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
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 15)
assumes command from the KFOR 14 leadership.

Part of our KFOR 15 primary staff during the Tranfer of Authority ceremony.
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 Detachment.

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 other bases.

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 highest peaks.

The outskirts of Pristina, capital city of Kosovo.

Mitrovica, northern Kosovo.

The village of Letnica, Kosovo.

The Church 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.

Myriam Krug Lettenmeyer, KFOR supervisory chaplain, hosted us in Prizren.

CPT (Chaplain) Andy Shepherd, delivers the sermon during an ecumenical religious
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 chapel.

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 Camp Bondsteel.
To his left in the first photograph, Father Augustyn Rosly (Chaplain, Polish Contingent) concelebrates the Holy Mass with us.

CPT Aloysius Rohmeyer as a lector during Holy Mass at the chapel.
"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 in Kosovo.

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 Bondsteel.
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, Montenegro.
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.

Saints Cyril 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.

In Macedonia, a cemetery, first ancient Roman and then Christian,

still has 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, Macedonia.

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 really bad.

    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 ciconia ciconia). Kosovo.

Common mynah, Acridotheres tristis. Qatar.

Asilid fly. Iraq.

A brightly-colored beetle, perhaps a chrysomelid. Iraq.

Hooded crow (nominate race, Corvus cornix 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 garzetta. Iraq.

I think this is a Persian leaf-toed gecko, Hemidactylus persicus. Iraq.

And I think this is a female danaid eggfly, Hypolimnas missipus. Qatar.

An insect. No idea. Iraq.

Damselflies, Ischnura viridis. Iraq.

Damselflies, species undetermined. Kosovo.

  The species that names its whole order: the praying mantis, Mantis religiosa.
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 aurata. Iraq.

Freshwater turtle, Mauremys sp. Iraq.
Extremely bad-tempered, and one of my hands found out.

Dragonfly. Iraq.

Himalayan bulbul, Pycnonotus leucogenys. Iraq.

Dragonfly, Trithemis annulata. Iraq.

Iraqi babbler, Turdoides altirostris. Iraq.

Eurasian blackbirds, Turdus merula.
First photograph: Dachau, Germany. Second photograph: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs coelebs, male.

European common frog, Rana temporaria. Hohenfels, Germany.

White wagtail, Motacilla alba, male. Kosovo.

Crested larks, Galerida cristata. Kosovo.

Great tits, Parus major, juveniles. Kosovo.

Red-backed shrike, Lanius collurio, male. Kosovo.

A red fox, Vulpes vulpes, prowls our military base in search of scraps after a barbecue. Kosovo.

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; caryophyllacean; ranunculacean; dandelion, Taraxacum sp.

And yet more: Salvia sp.; green-winged orchid, Anacamptis morio; Merremia sp.; legume; unknown species.

Common rock centipedes, Lithobius forficatus. Kosovo.

Common wall lizards, Podarcis muralis.
First two photographs: male.
Last three photographs: females.

Podarcis sp. Mount Lujboten, Kosovo.

Balkan lizard, Lacerta trilineata, female. Kosovo.

Turkish snails, Helix lucorum. Kosovo.

Araneid spider. Kosovo.

Rose chafer, Cetonia aurata. Kosovo.

Flies. Kosovo.

Pyrrhocorid bugs. Kosovo.

Bug nymph. Kosovo.

Long-horned grasshopper, Kosovo.

Scarce swallowtail, Iphiclides podalirius. Kosovo.

Mating pair of lycenid butterflies and another lycenid of a different species. Kosovo.

Two species of satyrine butterflies. Kosovo.

Bumblebee. Kosovo.

Long-horned beetle. Kosovo.

Beetle. Kosovo.

Weevil. Kosovo.

Green tiger beetle, Cicindela campestris. Kosovo.

Crane flies. Kosovo.

Crane fly, Ctenophora festiva, male. Kosovo.

Balkan frogs, Pelophylax kurtmuelleri, male and female. Kosovo.

Adult female and male, and leverets of European hare, Lepus europaeus. Kosovo.

Green toad, Bufo viridis, male. Kosovo.

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.