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Archive for June, 2010

Walking the Seam

Well, with five minutes of internet time to spare, Ill just give you a news flash on where I am and have been in the last week…

Venice! Another place where I definitely felt the seam between east and west. It even has a name in Venice–Venetian Gothic. Buildings that blend European Gothic styles (pointed arches and four leaf clover windows) with Byzantine arches.I loved Venice–it just felt magical when our bus drove onto the highway and all that surrounded us was water. It really felt like checking our culture at the door when the bus parked and our only options were bridges and boats! The whole city just feels like a fantasy, a gelato dream of masks and canals and delicious Italian food and sunsets over the ocean.

And now were in the Cinque Terre, Italy, our last stop on this trip, and possibly the most beautiful place on earth. Yesterday I swam in the Ligurian Sea, ate mout-watering gelato and focaccia, wrote stories on a rock by the ocean, walked the Via dell Amore, and watched the sun set in coral and gold over the sea…I feel like Ive accumulated a lifetimes worth of life experience in these last 3 months…chock full of experiences, challenges, delights, obstacles, and joys (and lots of beautiful views!) I cant wait to get home and hug you all, but its just been the most amazing adventure. I wish I could pack a suitcase of gelato for you, but what I do have a lot of is pictures…ask me about them when Im home and Ill be happy to pull out more images of adventure than you ever thought existed!

I love you all…will be home the evening of the 19th, God willing!

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Dear friends-welcome to the Slovenian keyboard. And welcome to Slovenia! Just a brief update in between adventures–

Prague finished up wonderfully. A really unique city, not as tourist-blitzed as many of the more western European cities, with lots of charm and cool nooks and crannies to explore. I really, really enjoyed the Strahov Monastery Library, with amazing views of the city and lots of old things-books, but also mummified sting rays, giant conch shells, and a 12th century coat of mail! Also really enjoyed getting to hear a classical music concert–so, so beautiful.

Next was a blitz stop of Vienna–arrived late one evening, ate Thai food courtesy of a jolly Austrian proprietor, and had just the next day to see the Singing City–where music was being perpetually played, memorialized, or advertised for later that night! We got cheap standing-room tickets for Madama Butterfly at the Vienna Opera House, and enjoyed the 1st half of the performance before deciding we would expire in the wave of un-air-conditioned humidity and body odor if we watched the end. A lovely, grand building, though. Another highlight was Wiener Melange–delicious Viennese coffee. Goes excellently with Sacher Torte (more chocolate than I care to tell you about)!

And now, Lake Bled, Slovenia! I spent a bleak Winter Quarter fantasizing about a turquoise lake with a pointy-spired church on an island in the middle (please, do yourself a favor and Google Image Search it…I spent 3 months doing it, and it is quite an effective daydreaming technique) and… today I went swimming in it!!! I walked along the lakeside, admiring the distant green hills, the church on the island, and the swans sailing the turquoise waters (they really are turquoise!) and then laid down my towel and waded in! I feel like I am dreaming! It is glorious, and now I really need a shower.

1 more week left of the Grand Adventure–after here, Italy is the final country! After doing 4 countries in a week, that sounds like a stroll in the park! It is truly lovely here, though, and nice to have a secluded lakeside town in which to relax after that massive bombardment of cities. Met an American couple on the bus who were from San Francisco. It is a small world…but not that small. I also saw men walking around the train in lederhosen today. Never a dull moment.

Well, the strange kezboard sazs, ĆGood night!Ć Donćt ask me how to saz that in Slovenian…

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Aaaaack!

So, I’ve been so busy living the last 2 weeks that I’ve had no spare moment to write about them. But I’ve been a lot of places since then, so this is going to be a panoramic post, covering snapshots of the 4 different countries I’ve been in since bank holiday weekend (Memorial Day weekend in the U.S.).

Second half of the Spain trip was spent in Granada, another Andalucian town with a strongly Moroccan flavor since it’s so far south. It was a really interesting junction of Europe and the Middle East; one of those seams you sometimes find when 2 different parts of the world crash into each other. I loved it; it was a darker, more intense flavor than Seville, with a Moroccan quarter where you could get Moroccan Mint Tea (see photo) served in Arabic-style tea rooms with glittery curtains and padded benches for reclining 🙂 It’s also the home of the Alhambra, made famous by Washington Irving’s (poem? story? I have to admit I haven’t read it, but there’s a big statue of him out front.) It’s a combination of fortress-on-a-hill, fairy-tale sugar palace in the Moorish style of architecture, (see other picture) and lavish, huge formal garden that just overflowed with roses, grapevines, jacaranda, orange trees, bougainvillea, and every other kind of tropical flower you could imagine 🙂 It was gorgeous. Getting back from Spain was a little hairy, though: we took 5 forms of transportation plus our feet, braved 113-degree weather, and got back to our student apartments at 1:30 AM…we were relieved to speak English again and be back in time for class the next morning!

Then it was 3 days of London to wrap up British Isles Quarter 2010 😦 It’s been an incredibly wonderful trip, and seeing it end was sad. It meant saying goodbye to 24 friends, most of whom I didn’t know at all 2 1/2 months ago. I hope we’re able to stay in contact as we go our separate ways. We had a farewell picnic in Russell Square Park, eating things as diverse as baguettes, sushi, grapes, and ‘hobnob biscuits’ (a British brand of cookies :P) and doing short scenes from Shakespeare in small groups–part of our final for the class. It was fun to get a taste of being the actors whose work we’ve so admired on this trip. See the group picture for the variety of faces that shared this quarter together 🙂 Also blitzed away the 3 days pumping out 4 essays, braving the British post office to lighten my load of stuff, and visiting Westminster Abbey–I’d seen it before, but after a few years of higher education, it was cool to see how many more of the historical and literary graves I recognized.

Friday the majority of the group headed for home, and four of us–Cathy, Heidi, Ali, and me–taxied away from London at the ungodly hour of 3:15 AM to catch a short flight to Berlin! We’re beginning 2 weeks of travel on the Continent that promises to be very different from our time in Britain–but full of intense and diverse learning experiences! I’m learning that we come to know God more through his word and through his world–by walking through the long, long gallery of this Artist’s works, I’m coming to understand more facets of who he is. One of my favorite things about Berlin was getting to go to an international church, with attendees from 48 different countries, where I met girls from Australia, Germany, and Singapore in one morning 🙂 It was really cool to see how the family of God stretches all over the world! And of course, Berlin was a great experience for its history: a city that has existed in its present form for fewer years than I’ve been alive, and yet has existed in some form since the 1200s. I stood in the parking lot that’s paved over Hitler’s bunker, and laid my hand on the Wall that cut the world in half and fell only 21 years ago (see the last picture). It was sobering; a terrifying history made very real. Walking through the Jewish Memorial, an acre of standing stones of irregular height in a public square, was overwhelming–realizing that, had I lived a few decades ago and on the other side of the world, their doom would have been mine. I think Berlin should be a required field trip for students, so that the horrors that happened here may never happen again.

Phew. And now we’re in Prague, in the Czech Republic! It was a little intimidating to change currency and language to something so far removed from our own, but I’m loving the city–such varied architecture and so many old buildings, many of them weathered black. Last night we ate goulash and watched the sun set from Charles Bridge. Today we walked the city with a young British guide (her accent sounded so good after a few days of being away!) and learned more of the history of this little-studied but rich location. So many bloody battles and military suppressions have happened here. And yet it’s so vibrant, another seam on the boundary between East and West–with kings named Wenceslas (yes, think Christmas carols…but the one in the song was actually a duke :)) as well as Virgin Mary sculptures on the street corners (as landmarks to help illiterate people give directions around the city :)). It’s really cool to be here.

Now I’m going to go be here a bit more. Just wanted to let you know I’m still alive and fill you in a bit more on what I’m up to 🙂 I’ll be home in about a week and a half! Looking forward to seeing (some) of you soon! I’ll post again before then if I can!

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Pictures!

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