Friday, November 21, 2008

Roma, oh Roma...

Wow, it is truly difficult to imbibe the history that sets above (and below) this city. We have had the amazing oppotunity to see the Colossium where so many lost their lives for another's entertainment, the Catabcombs that housed so many who died but also extended the lives of the many Christians who sought refuges in its mazes, the Vatican, and the incredible Sistine Chapel. Saint Peter's Basilitca - which served to remind me how we, as humans, so easily get caught up in exanerating other humans whne the real purpose of the church is to worship the God to whom it all belongs anyway. We also saw so many beautiful fountains, piazzas, ancient ruins, and tasted the fresh water fountains that run drinkable water throughout the city. The Pantheon, the Fourm, and even Paul's supposed prison were also on our list as the ancient history of it all is still so sureal.

Don't worry thought, we managed to get in gelato and pizza as well. (Note: this wa not all accomplished in a single day. Id on't care who you are but you would be absolutely insane if you thought you could see it in one day trip :) - the Vatican tour, which we managed to receive for free (thanks to Sarah) was a bit over 3 hours alone!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bartered Brownies…A Place in My Heart

Let me tell you a story about Franco and Anna, an amazing couple. A stellar example of a model Italian family, Amanda’s Italian “mom and dad” extended their welcomes to us on a number of occasions during our stay. I knew we were “in for it” :) when I first met Franco. I had the opportunity to go with Amanda to a Bible study on the night of our arrival to her home. It was a woman’s Bible study at Anna’s home and it was in total Italian. My limited Spanish was stretched to maximum capacity as I attempted to fine-tune my hearing to the few similar words that the languages share. After I had personally ready through Hebrews 12 at least 6 times on my own, the Bible study was over and I felt assured that we all walked away from that passage with a different message.

On our way out, Amanda and I stopped upstairs so she and Anna could settle some plans that they had - as Anna had agreed to teach us all how to make her homemade lasagna. (can we say a huge yum-o). In Italy, unlike in the land of Carrie, recipes are passed down in the family and Never changed. Each family has their own distinct way of cooking and making certain dishes and variation is not an option. Well, it was at this same time that I got the opportunity to meet Franco, one of my favorite Roman, Sicilian, Italian men. His lively humorous eyes didn’t need the verbal communication that would prove relatively difficult for us to connect on. He soon took some comfort in poking fun at me (I don’t know if the Barbie comment was a complement or what) and all four of us went downstairs to meet more family members - the son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law Fernando and Roberta.

Somewhere along the way in the planning of “Lasagna-Fest” we were pegged with making desserts and Franco wanted chocolate. On a previous occasion, he had missed the opportunity to partake of the American delicacy of brownies and wanted that problem to be fixed. My eyes lit up at the newly discovered calling I had, and I assured him with broken Spanish that I would make sure he had his brownies. Soon enough he wanted Me to make them for him. As this fun challenge and compliment set into my mind, I reflected on the resourcefulness I had learned baking in Malaysia - hey, if I could do it there, I could do it anywhere. Well, in the end, Carries “Italian” brownies succeeded with a fudgy brownie of heavy-handed amounts of chocolate and chocolate chunks, espresso (it’s Italian, right), and a secret ingredient were plated and delivered to Franco’s delight - a memory I will not soon forget.

Thursday, November 13, 2008 my picture tilted? picture's crooked, wait, ha ha, it's the leaning Tower of Pisa - yep still, leaning, still getting worse, still the only thing in Pisa (minus the dark chruch that doubled as our hostel the night before).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Suprise, Switzerland!!

Yep, we did end up i nthe beautiful Swiss Alps. Dijon (where we had thought to stay in the south of France) was less than what we expected. So...we bullet shot straight through to the center of the Swiss Alps where extreme sports and chocolate, knives, banks, and watches reign supreme. We stayed in a quaint but popular little town at yes, the Funny Farm hostel. So there, I completely opened myself up to all jokes, comments, remarks, cracks (too bad you don't have that feature on this blog :) ). It was fairly desolate at the time, which I have enjoyed as a great perk to fall travel. The people were friendly and helpful. After a morning walking through the town, we enjoyed a gorgeous train ride through the alps - even the overcast day that it was the alps were impressive.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Aaahh, Pari!

Romance, character, art, crossants, little dogs, and tourism. We conquered the Louvre, saw Mona Lisa, The Thinker, The Kiss, The Eiffel Tower, The crepes, The bread, and The cheese (thanks, Scott - an Alaskian chef we met on the ferry - for the recommendation), walked, walked, and walked. You know, after the Eiffel Tower climb, I can't say that I felt any more romantic, though after I saw the Kiss, I was amazed at how much romance a beautiful stone sculpture can have. With all the culture above ground we saw the heart of the city in our time below the in the metro. From serrinades to a man who would do just about anything for food. Though not as friendly as it's name illudes to, the Young and Friendly Hostel - even with the shampoo theif and free not free internet was a great location for amazing atmosphere, new friends - Zak and Andrew, and great food treats. Now on to Pisa we go....

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hostelling is fun!

Though I have been warned not to watch the movie until I‘m home, I have really had a ton of fun in the hostels that we have stayed at. This cheap dorm-style hotel boasts it‘s own unique culture of people. Where else can you be excited about the free shelf in the refrigerator or sit down and have a crazy conversation with your roommates for the night - from Germany, Spain, Canada, and Austria. As we exchange our adventures and travel schedules, you have an immediate sense of comradeship. These are the true travelers - the ones who watch out for each other at least to a degree, and know how to really visit a place - no always through the eyes and means of a typical tourist.


Oh the pubs of Dublin. I have never seen so much alcohol and friendly people in one place. From Guinness to Bulmer’s I guess it is all made here. Ironic how two alcoholic impaired J young women ended up in Dublin, but we did enjoy the other parts of the city. George Fredrick Handle’s Messiah was first played inches away from our hostel, the Christ Church Cathedral, a beautiful site was nestled within one of the few remaining medieval areas of town, beautiful intercity rivers and even a free museum made Dublin worth it. Our goal for Ireland was to head out of town to see the green that God has blessed this county with - so off we went to Killarney - to see the country’s largest national park, a castle, and an amazing manner called Muckrow House - which boasts of secret lakes and beautiful spaces via the bikes we were on. Killnarney also lead us to the coast via the peninsula of Dingle. Though showers met us on and off, the view of green spilling into the crashing ocean waves was breathtaking - which apparently Hollywood would agree as we saw the areas where Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman‘s Far and Away was filmed.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Ryan Air - a hated airline with a loving story

My concerns for the Ryanair flight were well-justified. So I couldn’t sleep much the night before but I got my luggage whittle down to just about nothing. I finally decided on a “Por Donacion” sign for the clothes and toiletries I left in my cabinet. I love the train to the airport in Madrid - everything went well and Friedricke and I found out that I actually had tons of extra time because I read my flight time wrong (military time). We hung out at the airport for a while but I could check-in very early and Friederike ended up having to go through security. However, when Friedrike had checked in with Lufthansa, I popped my bags up on a scale and was both astonished and proud of myself for one large bag being 13.5kg and the other 12kg - I was only allowed (or so I thought at the time 13kg for each bag). All of my books and heavy belongings were in my carry on and I had on 7 shirts, a sweater, 2 pairs of pants and two coats. After saying goodbye to Friederike, I asked a British couple whether or not the airline had opened the line for the London flight. They said no and we got to chatting and I told them my story of having to leave many of my clothes behind because of the weight quota. They then mentioned that it was even trickier than I though because what the rules in the very fine print say that each person gets 15kg - no matter how many bags you have. Not to mention that each 1kg over that weight was about a $26 when converted. As my eyes grew wide and I choked back a tear, they encouraged me to double check with the irritable check-in attendants. Then it happened, teary eyed, I approached the desk and they confirmed. A kind young clerk encouraged me to put anything I could in my carry on but that I was 10kg over (or about $260 of possible fines. I went back to John and Sue (the British couple) and my head was spinning but I knew God had to have something up his sleeve. Then, (and way before then), the God I was expecting appeared. They offered to take as much as they could possibly fit in their own luggage - checked and carry-on. We dwindled my luggage to only 5kg over and the clerk forced me to weight my 11.5kg (I was allowed 10kg) carry-on as well. The clerk told me if he was allowed to check me in he would only count it as 1 or 2 over, but he didn’t think he would be the one to check me in.

I knew deep down inside that God was directly in this situation - I ran into this couple who were perfect strangers to me and yet they were so willing to help. Sue had shared with me that her daughter had almost run into the same situation the first time she flew this company as well. Then the London line for check-in opened. As we stood there in the line, the manager - an intense and bossy blonde - hovered over the check-in clerks and charged people right and left for fractions over the allotted weight. I felt helpless, but prayed and still knew that God was so completely in this. He wanted to show me something in this and I needed to learn something. I thought to myself about how it is ultimately God’s money not mine. As those thoughts floated through my heat, the blonde manager walked away from the line I was in,. The younger guy who initially checked my luggage weight walked over and was quite friendly with the girl who was ultimately responsible for Sue, John, and my check in. I took my chance and walked up to the guy and asked if he would tell her of his promise to me. Ass my turn undoubted came I, I walked up to the young woman who was not to far from my own age and she looked at me and said “Put your bags back here”. I never had to weigh them! We looked at each other and I assured her of my thanks with one grateful looked. I walked away with a subtle smile and rejoiced with my new British companions. As we walked to get something to renew ourselves from the stress, they asked me where my final destination was. I told them Gatwick, and they proceeded to tell me that they had their car waiting at the airport and that was on their way home - all the way across London - something that would have cost quite a lot for me to find public transportation! John slipped away and came back with our reward - refusing my payment he had bought coffee and chocolate pastries for us all.

As we settled in to our seats on the plane, we felt as though we had conquered the world and my level of gratefulness was (and still is ) unspeakable and inexpressible. These were truly Good Samaritans. They drove me all the way to meet Susie and Ian (my final London destination). It was amazing to see how God had taken care of every detail.