Liz's Spot






About Me

O satisfy us in

the morning with

Your lovingkindness,

That we may sing

for joy and be glad

all our days.

Psalm 90:14


Monday, January 31, 2005

Monday, Monday

Why hello. I'm writing this on Tuesday for Monday.

Fast pass: Monday was alright. The problem with blogging the next day is that I can't remember the previous day. They seem all the same, somehow. (At least the weekdays.) What I do remember, however, is that Justin and I had a talk as we watched the sunlight fade from the mountain that dominates the sky in front of the mountain we live on. We talked about being stewed up and about having no goal in life any more. The thing is, I know I'm supposed to have a goal. I believe that Jesus gives me a reason to live my life. I don't know exactly what it's supposed to look like right now, if I'm really doing what I'm supposed to be doing, but if I really believe He's in control then I guess I need to trust that I am okay and just need to keep trying and keep my eyes open. Other things we did... had a long Italian quiz, had English class and finished discussing the book we were reading, and went to a mixer thing given by the architects who now also live and study here. I like them. :) They're a little more serious than some of our original crowd, and pretty nice (they bought us chocolate for the mixer! And soda, which is pretty generous of them!).

Monday's feature: The windows. The windows around here are interesting. As a rule, European windows tend to have more decoration and functionality than American windows. A large percentage of windows, especially windows of taller buildings with otherwise bland faces, tend to have windowboxes, many of which have flowers even in January. As for functionality, the Europeans actually use their shutters. How intelligent. :) And there are also these unsightly but very functional roll-down shutter things that work like industrial garage doors. You roll them down and they keep out all the light and some of the cold, making it hard to realize when it's morning.

Yes, well, you already got a lot of what my day was about. In English, we learned more about characterization. The most useful thing I got out of it, that is, what I remember without effort, is that to have a story you must have a character who has possibility for change. If you have a flat character who is always the same, they won't drive the story. In a good story, the plot and character are interwoven and inseparable. Isn't that great? :)

I also worked on my paper due Tuesday, but didn't get it done. Justin and I, during our time talking on the porch and our time talking downstairs in the Pabiana, and then somewhat during our time working on our papers, were able to talk about some things we hadn't figured out before really and get to be better friends again. We are friends, but Riva has brought us to times we've never had before, like being more critical and competitive, and as a result, we're both more on guard around each other even though we want to be friends. Being friends is much nicer.

I really enjoyed the thing given by the architects. It has taken me a while to feel very comfortable with the people here because I feel different from them in many ways. The architects tend to be quieter and more thoughtful, plus there are fewer of them, so they aren't as intimidating. Also, Justin thinks maybe he knows one of them from before, and she may be a Christian, so that would be really cool. I also really appreciated the food. It isn't like we don't have enough food available here, but stuff like sodas and chocolate are a treat, and I appreciated them making some effort to have refreshments and show us their drawings and get to know us a little.

Personally, I learned... augh. Um, well, I worked on being thankful. I wrote a lot of stuff I'm thankful for in my journal, and I realized some of the things that are wrong with me and are contributing to my problems with perspective right now.

Then, Da DUM: I went to bed earlyish at 11:15. Yay.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Finally, Sunday!

Well. My head is tired! Today... Justin and I got packed up and hustled off to catch a train to Bern for our way home. That train was cancelled (how strange--two problems back to back after having none!), so we caught another and went to Bern, which is the capital of Switzerland. Because of the way Switzerland's government is set up (the people have huge power), the capital isn't even that big.

To make it back to Riva by dinner, we had to leave about 3 hours after we got there, so we had to hurry. We walked around and found the state building, crossed a cool bridge, and found a museum. We decided to check it out, and found out it was free entry and they gave us a ticket for free refreshments! We walked around and tried to get something out of the museum experience, but really couldn't, as there were hardly any exhibits (turns out they were all downstairs), and most of the labels were in German. So, we got our refreshments. This was great. There was a slice of excellent bread, and several chunks of some really good cheese. It tasted like American "Swiss cheese," but was kind of more brittle and had funny little crunchy spots in it. Very good. And I had orange juice. This solved our problem of having to buy food at a store or restaurant, (plus breakfast was free at the hostel) and saved us time as well. Then we left and went to a cathedral you can see for miles around. It had massive supports on its outside walls, and very elaborate stonework and decoration. Then we climbed the tower. Man, oh man. It was really, really high. My legs were so tired. And it was in a spiral. You could see for so far. When we thought we got to the top, turns out you can go another 90 steps to get to the tippy top. So we did that. Then we hurried down (train leaving in roughly half an hour) and looked at the inside, which was amazing too. There was a very massive organ, among other amazing things. Then we hurried so fast to the train station, barely remembering (thank you Lord!) to get our luggage out of the lockers before catching the train to Lugano. My goodness. I'll sleep well tonight. We made it home in time for dinner (third free meal!) and I have been on the computer nearly ever since.

Learning. Academically... I felt like I learned something from the cathedral. I'm not sure what it was, and I don't really think it was pleasant. It seemed very harsh, somehow. Maybe the extreme height and decoration or something. Or our rush in seeing it. I don't know. Also, I finished my book for school, which I also didn't like. There was one chapter that was kind of worthwhile in it, and that not very. Personally... I learned something about how to move forward. I'm not sure yet; I hope I can keep going better for a while.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Catching up on Saturday on Sunday

Saturday Justin and I went to Lucerne. We left with the group, since they were going home then by way of Lucerne. We got there about noon, and found out by looking at a sign that for some reason, there apparently was only one train going back to Interlaken that evening, which was contrary to what our printed schedule said. So we only had till about six o'clock.

Let me tell you, it was cold. I mean, cold. Oh yes, and--COLD. We hadn't seen much in the guide book about Lucerne and heard there were museums, but didn't have much time or anyone to interpret the significance of things to us, so we walked around the city. Lucerne is on Lake Lucerne, and the train station is right by the lake. We walked for a while and bought some salami and cheese at a Migros (as Justin says, a European Walmart), and went upstairs to their cafeteria to eat it with the good bread we bought the day before in Lauterbrunnen (you may picture us as little ragamuffins carrying our worldly belongings--a good part of which is bread and cheese--in a sack on a stick as we wander). Anyway. So we make these great sandwiches--the cheese was Gouda, the salami was in the shape of large pepperoni, and the bread was deLISHus (we cut it ourselves)--then the manager comes by and says a lot to us in German. Then I pointed to the cheese and meat and pointed that we bought it downstairs, and he waved it was fine and let us stay. Whew. :) It was a great sandwich.

Then we kept walking and discovered the older part of town, where the streets were sort of cobbledy, and the shops were fancy. We ran into a big festival thing, with lots of loud oompa-ish bands and all the band people were wearing ludicrously large masks of old-timey Swissish people. We watched that for a bit and went further up the hill to explore this wall with several towers all along it. It was beautiful. We couldn't go inside, so we followed it to the end (my fingers were about to break off from the cold) and headed back to the station. Lucerne was cool. I enjoyed walking around it (we also walked through an industrial part and a cool residential part down by the lake) and finding some neat things on our own, like the wall and the cool, old part of town.

Our train, unfortunately, was deathly ill. It kept stopping between stations, sitting for a while, then going. All bad. We wanted to get back, were cold, tired, and getting tense because of the train issues. Finally they transferred us to a good, new, fast train, and we weren't too late getting back. Then we ate the second round of our delicious sandwiches (oh, and split the other half of an excellent chocolate bar), and read some chapters in a book about wisdom in relationships. Then bed. Yay!

What I learned on Saturday... academically, I learned more about Swissness. Lucerne is different from Interlaken is different from Lugano... and I feel like I learned about dealing with travel issues better. (Into personal learning now) Traveling a lot by train has helped me get more comfortable with working in an unfamiliar language, in unfamiliar places, to do unfamiliar things. It's been good for me. Until now, we'd never really had a problem with Swiss trains either, so I'm thankful for that. Also, I learned that I've been thinking of myself too much lately. In Riva, there's nobody I normally serve or relate with much, except Justin. It's kind of gotten me out of the habit, and I realized that that is a big source of my discontent. What a revelation.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Catching up on Friday on Sunday

Friday we were in Interlaken. We had to be out of our rooms for the day by 9:30, so we got going pretty early. A group of us went to where we were supposed to be picking up our tickets for the main event of the weekend, night sledding. Justin and I had to make a second trip, though, because we didn't have the whole group we had made reservations with. After we got our tickets, Justin and I decided to explore this great place nearby with trains, buses, cable cars, and hiking to get to the top, where there is a fantastic view. It ended up that we weren't going to have time to do it all before heading off with the group for sledding, so we just took the train partway and walked for a while.

The place was called Lauterbrunnen. It was a long, thin valley with Alps on either side and beyond the ends. The valley is famous for its waterfalls, but they were frozen and so there were places along the cliffs where there was lots of ice, but no big waterfalls. We walked a long time. It was very quiet, and the mountains just rose up out of the ground in cliffs, and beyond the cliffs were actual mountain-shaped mountains. Everything was covered in snow. It was beautiful. We had time for hot chocolate at a cute hotel restaurant before heading back to Interlaken to meet the group for sledding.

We headed off on a tour bus with them, winding through breathtaking (no kidding--at the top where it was more level, it wasn't even cleared fully!!) roads with no shoulders up a mountain. Then we rode gondolas (enclosed hanging ski lift cars) up to the tippy top of an Alp. You guys, it was cold. I mean, cold. Then we were all herded into a big long room with a ton of other people and were fed fondue. I was really pumped about the fondue. I like it. But it felt like we were being processed, and then I got sick of the winy smell/taste of the fondue. Plus, nobody seemed like they planned to give us any directions on what to do. I mean, we're about to sled in the dark and extreme cold down an Alp! You'd think they could at least talk to us about what to do! Anyway, we headed out and started to sled. It wasn't that bad. The path wasn't too too steep, and there were lanterns to show the way. You wouldn't believe how fast we went at times, though. WOO! Anyway, it was very memorable. And fun. And I didn't freeze to death, and nobody got hurt, though one guy did temporarily lose a sled over an edge (it was recovered by a German dude). Then we went back to Interlaken and I went to bed promptly (veerrryy tired).

What I learned... academically: more about the Swiss mentality, I guess. Observing their homes and towns and culture in a different area of Switzerland was interesting. We saw many homes with writing along over the windows, below the roof. Couldn't read it, of course, but wondered what it said. The Swiss are very precise. Their trains leave ON THE SECOND of the appropriate minute. Very nice and predictable. Personally... I learned that God is good. I was pretty concerned about the sledding deal, especially as I saw how it was turning out, but everything turned out fine. No problems, and had a lot of fun.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Catching up on Thursday on Sunday

I feel my readership may be overwhelmed with the high volume. Comments, anyone? ;)

Justin and I were packed for the weekend trip to Interlaken when we left for class Thursday morning. We were to catch the 12:17 train to Lugano, so we left class as soon as possible and scooted to the station. From Lugano, we went to Lucerne. At Lucerne, it was snowing, and my fears of the cold were confirmed. It was cold. But the train was warm. :) Also, everyone spoke German... I can kind of function in Italian, but not in German! It was a little unnerving at first. From Lucerne, we headed to Interlaken. We went past amazing scenery. There was more and more snow as we went on (fallen, not falling), and it was just poofed up everywhere. The trees were mostly very tall evergreens, and they held the snow so it was beautiful. We kept going higher and higher in the mountains. Wow. You'll have to see the pictures (when I get them up--or you can see Justin's,

When we got to Interlaken (we were ahead of the group), we walked to our hostel (quite a place, Balmer's Herberge--it apparently has been around a long time and has memorabilia of every sort with its name on it--pins, shirts, hats, bottles, etc.). Then we ate our bag dinners and talked until everyone else showed up.

For my learning for the day... in class I learned about Switzerland's instruments of government--their parliament and its houses. I also learned more about Switzerland's geography and could see the distinct boundaries in language and scenery as we went from one part to another. I'd heard about that but not seen it. Personally, I worked on not being afraid even though I felt really concerned about the cold and felt kind of helpless in the German-speaking area. Justin helped me be thankful instead. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

*sigh* :)

Hi, friends. It's been a long time. I really appreciated all those birthday emails and comments and cards. :) I think I'll try to do one big blog catch-up now, beginning with Saturday. But first, the summary of the day (just today's, Wednesday) and tonight's feature. Warning...this is the longest blog entry you'll ever read. Sorry, but it's all rolled into one.

Day say: Today was tense and stressful, but it (as always) has gotten better with time. I took a walk up a cool path I discovered, prayed, and came back with a better perspective. Also, tomorrow a huge group of us is headed to Interlaken and Lucerne, Switzerland, where we'll freeze, sled, and see beautiful country. :)

Tonight's feature: The hallway in Maderni. Maderni is the big house where we eat, have class, where the offices are, and where several students live (I am not one of them). Most of the floors in Maderni are made of a fantastic tile that is swirled in the colors of terracotta and a lighter creamish color. The stairs are made of stone slabs, and the staircase is very very wide. Between each floor there is a wide landing with doors to other rooms, and the staircase reverses direction. There are three floors. I admit with shame that I have not yet been up to the third floor. Maderni's entryway is a large room with four columns in the interior of the room. In the very center is a large wooden table which I really like. That is all.

Alright, to continue from the last weekend...

Saturday, January 22nd, my 21st birthday!

I woke up in a crusty mood because I was sleep-deprived AND I missed seeing the sunrise with Justin (after all, you should be able to get one or the other, it seems). But I worked on it, and met Justin for breakfast. After breakfast, Justin and I had a Bible study down by the waterfront and then went to Saint Mark's Square to meet the group wanting to see the Basilica. We went inside, and were awed by the incredible inside of this church. The entire ceiling and upper walls (very high) were covered with pictures of people--all MOSAIC. To comprehend this, you mush imagine covering the ceiling of a large gym with intricate pictures made of centimeter-square tiles. The background for the entire thing was gold mosaic, which was very striking. We paid a euro fifty to go back and see the altarpiece, which was a large gold thing covered with jewels and pictures. After we left the Basilica, Justin and I went to see the Doge's Palace. It was very impressive, but I don't know that I ever would want to go back. Everything about it was evidence of extreme, almost brutal power.

After seeing the palace, Justin and I had no time for lunch before meeting the group going to Murano, which is an island kind of part of Venice, which is famous worldwide for glassblowing. The Taylors and some other guys came, but the other guys left right after we saw a most magnificent display of glassblowing. The guy made a little rearing horse out of a blob of glass! Amazing! The Taylors and us wandered around Murano for an excessive length of time, looking for a place to eat. You would think there were hardly any people on Murano, for the number of absolutely empty streets we walked through, trying to find a birthday pizzeria! We finally found the "downtown"--i.e., a canal instead of a street, lined with lots of shops and restaurants, but they were all expensive, so we finally left late in the afternoon for Venice. I really loved Murano. It had quite its own culture and was such a nice break from the crowded streets of Venice with buildings so high you didn't often see the sky.

By the time we got back, Justin was so hungry he mentioned starving to death as a likely event, and we finally found the GREATest little place. The wise merchant had placed his cheap and appetizing wares (sandwiches and Italian food things of various types) in boxes in the window with price signs, meaning that hungry people walking by would be forced to stop and buy said wares. We stopped and Justin and I gratefully scarfed down food things. Mine was a piadina, a sandwich on funky pita-ish bread with cheese, ham, and mushrooms, and Justin's was a calzone. I dropped mushrooms on my coat sleeve and made grease spots. Then we made a quick stop at the hotel before heading back out to find a gondolier. I am a horrible haggler. I hate doing it. But because women apparently get farther in Italy when haggling than men, I was sent. We walked away at the inordinately high price the guy originally quoted, and he came back with a better offer, which we took. So the Taylors and Justin and I set off on our gondola ride. Gondolas are very smooth. We glided (glid?) through the water as the sky darkened, sliding under bridges and around corners as the gondolier said "oi, oi!" to make sure we wouldn't crash into other boats going around corners. We had a nice long ride, in which time we passed a bunch of famous places like Marco Polo's house and the Rialto. There weren't very many other gondolas out at this time of evening, and it was nice. While we were on the water, the church bells (Venice has 120 churches) went off, and that was also very cool. We finished our ride just in time to walk to the restaurant to meet the group for dinner. After dinner, Justin and I hung out with the peeps at Bar Orange again, but left in time to get back to the hotel at a decent hour (it is a long walk!), and then I called my parents to chat. After that, Justin gave me my birthday present, which was a beautiful diamond heart necklace. Thanks, J! Then I went to bed. :) What I learned personally Saturday was about being thankful for good things. I felt stressed out for various reasons, but I worked really hard on just being thankful for being in such a beautiful place with a great guy, and for the great things we got to do. I really enjoyed my day so much better than I would have otherwise.

Oh boy, this was really really long. And not done yet! The next will be shorter.

Sunday, January 23rd

This time I DID get up early enough to see the sunrise. It was cold, but a beautiful sunrise. I got some great pictures--very nice. Then Justin and I had a great study on part of 1 John. Then we headed out with the Taylors to mass at the Basilica di San Marco. I really didn't get much out of the service itself, but I really benefited from some time to pray (almost nothing said was in English), and the ceiling was much more beautiful in the better light. The gold really shone. Unfortunately, the priests did not realize we were supposed to be at the hotel, ready to leave with the group at 11:45... so we hurried, sometimes ran, back to the hotel at the first good time to leave. Then we left Venice on a boat, just like we had come in. We got back to our bus, and rode for several hours. Both Justin and I felt yucky on the ride home. It was sort of a combination of emotional and physical, brought on partly by dehydration and too little sleep. But we scarfed down some food at an Autogrill (we saw about five on a four-hour ride on the same road!), and felt some better. We got back to Riva and had dinner, got settled back in, and sort of worked on schoolwork. It was very stressful because our group of thirty-two people was trying to coordinate a trip to go skiing/sledding this weekend in another place in Switzerland, but without communicating with each other. What I learned for Sunday, academically--I guess that would be the service. I saw a different kind of religious service from what I'm used to, and for part of the time, worked on following along in whichever language they were using (Italian or Latin). Personally... I learned about strain. I felt really beat on the ride back, and then really beat with all the strain of trying to make plans and work with Justin on stuff and having nothing come through as expected. I'm not sure I handled it well, so I don't know that I really learned anything--just experienced another aspect of stress in a very vivid way.

Monday, January 24

At this point Monday sort of blurs for me. It wasn't that great of a day. If you read Justin's blog, you'll see that he didn't have a good day either. Anyway, the two big things I remember about it are that Justin went on a really long walk and missed dinner, which surprised me, and I worked on my paper for Political Science for a very long time. I learned a lot academically... I could tell you a lot about essay part a: parliamentary versus presidential systems, part b: how countries determine the constitutionality of acts, c: federalism, and d: first-past-the-post electoral systems verses proportional representation. Wow. Personally... I learned more about dealing with stress and realized some new feelings about sometimes needing to be independent from Justin.

Tuesday, January 25

Tuesday was the day Justin and I had planned on for going out on a date! A date! (Weird to you, perhaps, but the fact is, we're together all the time and that's a lot different than going on dates. you married people must know.) So... I worked on my paper and finally finished it about 3:30. Then I left Maderni, desperately needing some down/personal/quiet/rest time at my room in La Pabiana, always now (affectionately?) abbreviated "the Pab." The Pab is where I live. It's a smaller house built in the sixties, high up the hill (mountain) behind Maderni (which was NOT built in the sixties).

So at 5:30, Justin and I walked down to the train station and left for... not Lugano, as we planned, but Italy! After all, we're told everything is cheaper in Italy. So, we got on at Capolago, having paid just a little for a ticket to Mendrisio (about five minutes by train). At Mendrisio, we got our Eurailpasses validated, meaning we can travel exactly anywhere (heehee, almost) by train in Europe, whenever, for however long we want, until April 24. With some caveats. Anyway, so we got back on a train and went to Chiasso, right on the border between Switzerland and Italy. There we had to change trains. We were going to Como. Unfortunately, we didn't see the signs saying the name of our stop in time to know to get off. So we got off at the next Como stop... which, unpleasantly, was a freezing cold, windy platform in some industrial area, with no Italian restaurants around. :( The nice man helped us know which train to get on, though, and in a little while (late as predicted by experienced travelers in Italy), we headed back to Como. Walking along in Como, God had us happen upon the epitome of the kind of restaurant we wanted to go to (and had indeed been wanting to go to since my birthday lunch). It was a lovely little pizzeria. Justin and I had a lovely dinner of Coke (first one for a long time!) and this absolutely fantastic pizza. We ordered it for two, so it came out on an oval wood thing, and the pizza was an oval! The crust was very thin (like thinnish crispy--thinner than pie crust) and was hammish, cheesish, and mushroomish. Very good to our hungry stomachs. We had a quality talk about current issues for a long time, and left to catch our train. We rode back to Chiasso, where we changed trains. At Chiasso, we caught our train, which was an express train. What we didn't realize was that express trains go to their destination nonstop... meaning we were going to pass Capolago and go down to Lugano! That wouldn't normally be a big deal, but I thought I'd heard that the trains stopped running at 11:00... and that was minutes away. Anyway, there was a train heading back the other way, but we had to wait an hour for it. Until we saw the timetable at Lugano, we were really concerned we'd be stuck in Lugano with little or no (inexpensive means....there's always taxis) means to get home. Anyway, we did, and I dropped into bed about 12:45. What I learned... academically: how the trains work. :) Also, about some history and geography of Switzerland Personally... I learned more about keeping a relationship functional and working on my character and habits to make my relationships better.

Wednesday, January 26

Wow. I'm so tired and I need to go pack. Today in class I learned about the book we're reading, Conversations in Sicily. I'm out of the literary habit. I don't pick those things up like I used to; I have to be told. Later in the afternoon, I went to the Co-op (a grocery store) and bought stuff I needed, like thread and body wash. Then I took a walk up the hill to I don't know where. I would like to finish going there later, however, I didn't have time today. I used my legs and got warmed up and saw some country and worked on getting myself straightened out. It was good, and beautiful. Then I came back down and ate dinner and have now been blogging for just about ever. :) But I'm glad to be caught up finally. My personal learning for the day has to do with... dealing with when people don't do things the way I think they should. It brings out my character, to be sure. :-/ But it's getting better now. Well, I shan't blog for a few days... Justin and I and a large group are headed to Interlaken then Lucerne this weekend (finally got some planning done). We're leaving tomorrow after class. We plan to be back Sunday. Talk to you later!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Cold windy night

Hi all. Here I am, back in Riva. I’ll be blogging about the weekend over the next few days in increments, probably. I’d like to do it all now, but I’m too tired and I have a paper due tomorrow. So first, Friday. In fact, I see now that I don’t have time to blog for tonight either, so all you faithful fans will just have to hang on and read day by day, looks like. :) By the way, to the dear people who sent me mail for my birthday (that'd be Mema and Dr. and Mrs. Oliver), THANK YOU!!! :) :) :)

Friday, January 21, 2005

I woke up at 4:45 to get ready. I had to get me ready, finish getting my stuff ready, get down the hill to Casa Maderni, and grab something to eat in time to be on the bus at 6:10. So… I was tired, but managed it. We headed out in the bus in the dark toward Italy, to stop first at Verona, then Venice. I slept part of the way and missed a beautiful sunrise, Justin told me. The land changed as we drove from Alps to Appennines, and the mountains receded so there were hilly vineyards then level fields as we got toward Verona. I dozed off again, but Justin woke me up to see a beautiful little town toward Verona. I don’t know what it was called, but it was really cool. I think I could live there. The houses were clean and well kept, and all seemed really loved, with laundry hanging out the windows. Then we got into Verona.

In Verona, the bus let us off in the town square, where you could see remnants of the original city wall. There was a Roman amphitheatre there that looked kind of like a miniature Coliseum. Justin and I, the Taylors, Ed Falco and Eva Vadilonga (our political science, English, and Italian teachers respectively) went inside and walked all around and up to the top. The top afforded a fantastic view of the whole area. I got lots of pictures, which you will someday see on my site or the Europe blog. The amphitheatre is still used in the summer for operas. Justin and the Taylors and I then went to find Giulietta’s (that’d be Juliet) balcony. :) We got off track, though, and ended up in Piazza Erbe, I believe, which had a big tower, nice cafés, lots of vendors, and lots of people. The Taylors went inside a café and got a snack while Justin and I sat under a massive winged lion statue and ate our bag lunch early. We got some great pictures of the windows in the piazza, which were very beautiful with windowboxes and flowers. Then we all went and found the courtyard with Giulietta’s balcony. It is not what you would expect. The little walkway leading in, and then much of the courtyard, is absolutely covered in written messages, gum, and love notes stuck to gum. I got pictures of that too. Justin and I left a note. :) Then we went to the Duomo, which is a church; the word kind of means the main church of a city. It was very magnificent. Of course, now I’ve seen so many churches since that I don’t remember without looking at the pictures what it looked like. We went inside too, and walked around for a while. It was really magnificent. It was good to be with Dr. Taylor, too, since he could tell us all about the significance of the different parts of the church. Then we were kind of running close on our three-hour time limit to be back to the bus, so we speed-walked back to the main piazza, passing a cool castle, Castelvecchio, and a river, on the way. We did make it to the bus in time, and headed off toward Venice.

When we first drove up to Venice, it reminded me of the area around Charleston, South Carolina, since you have to cross a long bridge to get to the city. We eventually had to park our bus and walk to a dock where we waited for a boat-bus (I believe also called a vaporetto) to take us to a point closer in to the city so we could walk to our hotel. The canal water is a beautiful murky teal color. I thought it would be grayish, but it’s very beautiful. Not to say it isn’t polluted, but… So. As we rode up, we could see various magnificent buildings from the Grand Canal. It turned out they were the Doge’s palace, and the tower in Saint Mark’s Square (and another church, of which I never found out the name). When we got all unloaded, we just had a short walk to get to our hotel, which you would have missed (and I did pass it accidentally a few times later), if you didn’t know what you were looking for. It was as wide as a double doorway on the street, then opened up after you went up stairs. It was about four o’clock and we had to meet for dinner at 7:15, so we headed out to explore. Justin and I started out with a group, but they stopped because the guys were starving, so we kept going on our own. We walked around and took scads of pictures, then headed down to the waterfront to see the sunset. It turned out to be probably one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in my life. The sun was a huge orange ball against a pink and purple sky. It was amazing. I got great pictures. Then we just sat there and talked until it got so cold it was ridiculous. Then we walked around until time to meet everyone at the hotel for dinner. We all walked as a group to our restaurant, where they already had a meal planned and ready for us. It was good—alfredo on noodles, and some meat (veal, I’m told) in an unusual tomato sauce. Afterward we all headed out to find a bar/club that everyone was dying to check out. It was okay, but not that great. Finally, four of us walked back in time for me to collapse in bed.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Fast blast: Whew... hm. Today was kind of... I'm not sure yet. The morning was good, then I started working on stuff and am not sure what I've accomplished, but I'm pretty sure it's not enough. That's how I feel.

Tonight's feature: My birthday cake and the desserts in general. :) Tonight they brought out a birthday cake and sang to me for my birthday (which is on Saturday)! It was really nice. They had a card and everything! The cake was really cool. It was a spice cake in three layers, with creamy white stuff between the layers and chocolate icing. :) Gaetano and Luigi made it. In general, the desserts are extremely beautiful, but not extremely sweet. I think it's probably better that way, though it's always a surprise when I take a bite. We've had different desserts every evening since we've been here.

Okay.... today I learned a lot about parliamentary versus presidential systems and what federalism is. We watched a movie Dr. Taylor made in the seventies. That was entertaining. Kind of. It was about voting in parliamentary systems. I learned a lot, but... the most entertaining aspect was that the very young Dr. Taylor we saw on it is our teacher now. We talked about a lot of European politics today, and I read a lot about them, and now I'm trying to write a paper about them. I'm about European politicked out.


I am getting laundry done--do you know we ran our laundry through the dryer TWICE and it still wasn't dry! Tomorrow morning at 6:15 a.m., we're rolling out on our way to Venice... and I definitely need lots of the clothes in the wash! I hope they get dry in time. And I'm trying to get my work started pretty thoroughly before we go so I don't have a stressful Monday. Wouldn't that be nice, to be done.

I guess the other really important personal news of the day is that I cried for a long time this afternoon. I feel weird putting that on my blog, but that is the real news of the day. My emotions just get walled up in my heart for long periods of time, and I'm so glad they came out today. It felt really good to cry. Lest you dear ones worry, lots of it was in response to good things that struck a deep chord with me today--reading some really tender verses about God, finding out something neat in someone else's life who I care about a lot, and realizing that some things I haven't liked about myself are changing. w00t!!! :) I just want to not lose what I realized today and use it instead to keep going. Buona notte, amici.

P.S.--I won't be blogging for a couple of days, since I'll be in Venice... :) But I'll be back Sunday night. :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Clear and cool

Ciao, i miei cari amici. :) I think that's right.

Zippy line: The day ended better than it started. It was beautiful and clear outside, so after English class and lunch Justin and I went exploring by having a lovely walk to Mendrisio.

Tonight's Feature: My lovely bed in La Pabiana. My bed is comfortable in the extreme. It is low, and the frame is made out of wood. It has convenient rollout drawers underneath it. But best is that it is firm but soft, with a massive European pillow that covers the whole width of the bed, and has a marvelous down comforter. All of that is white. It is a wonderful bed.

Today was up and down. But more up toward the end, as has been the pattern. We had English today, and we discussed our short story, "Death in Venice." I had picked up some themes as we read, but the most fascinating thing I learned in class about it was that the whole book portrays a "descent into passion"--an intellectual northern European becomes more and more ruled by his passions until he allows them to come before protecting his own life. As for Italian, I believe I have derived the most benefit and enjoyment so far by observing our teacher and listening to her wise and gracious perspectives on culture. She is great. She has a very tactful way of communicating the differences between European and American culture and how we should act accordingly.

After class Justin and I walked to Mendrisio. Several other people also went, but they rode the train. The weather today was ABsolutely lovely, especially considering how foggy and chilly the past few days have been. Today the air was pleasant and you could see the huge mountain in front in perfect sharpness. So we walked. There was a bike path we followed, and it went beside a lovely, clean little canal thing a few inches deep with water. In Mendrisio we found a cool mall and ate our first Italian gelato, or ice cream. :) It was so good for us to get out and move and breathe fresh air, since we sat still and worked all day yesterday. It was also good for our hearts to be outside in the beautiful day and to have time to talk together. I think it takes a lot of talking to keep a relationship healthy. :) We dealt with a lot of "stew" and both feel better for it. Good stuff. Now I am going up to Pabiana to do homework and laundry.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Livin' in the Alps

Buona sera!

Quick bit: Today we had the first political science class. After class and lunch Justin and I worked on homeworky and computer maintenance stuff all afternoon, and I am really glad to have gotten so much done. Tonight we hung out with some peeps here and I learned about past American presidents. :)

Tonight's feature: The ceilings in Maderni are vaulted, with magnificent scrollwork on the ceiling and at the tops of the walls--all painted on, though it looks like actual wood or marble. There are pictures painted on the ceiling as well. Our classroom ceiling is a blue sky with fluffy clouds, and our computer lab looks like a Roman garden, with pedestals and urns, leafy scrollwork, and little plants in nooks and crannies. Very cool.

Today took mental effort, but got better with time. I have gotten my morning schedule more under control and made it on time to breakfast and class. Today's class was political science. We talked about parliamentary versus presdential governments. I learned what a "vote of no confidence" is, and learned that when Europeans talk about "the government," they really mean something more like the American "Administration."

After class, we had lunch and then Justin and I took a chill/homework day. We went back up to the classroom and worked until dinner. We read more of our English assignment out loud, we worked on our political science reading, we studied our Italian numbers, we researched a little on Venice, and uploaded a ton of updates to my dejected little laptop. He feels better already. I think.

At dinner Justin and I had a great talk (the pleasantness of the day took a rapid increase). Then later we headed out to join the group for a bit at a homey little bar. For an hour over peanuts and great raisin bread I learned more about American history than I have learned in a few years, and then we headed on back. Like I wrote yesterday, I have been learning that my preformed opinions of how people are have been wrong on several counts. At first I felt like I had little in common with many of the people on this trip, but as I have relaxed and gotten to know them, I've really begun to feel more comfortable. I am glad. Oh yeah! It snowed this evening! It was beautiful!! The flakes came down very big and soft. The snow was GREAT for making snowballs--I don't think I've ever seen better. :) Good night, friends.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Val-de-ri, Val-di-ra!

I'm introducing a two new features on my blog. One is a summary of the day, for all you people who don't have time to read a novel every night. I'll decide on a catchy name for it eventually. :) Here it is.

Snappy chatty: Today was our first class day--English and Italian. I think both classes will be fun. Later we went for a hike up a big mountain (that's the only kind they have). It was pretty cool, except for when part of our group tried scaling the non-path part and one person slid a ways. He's okay though. Now I'm tired but it was a good day.

Second new feature: a topic about my trip to emphasize. Here it is.

Eating at Riva: The food here is good. I'm very excited because it's very healthy. I eat good veggies and salad every day. Also, the food isn't excessively salty, nor are the desserts excessively sweet. Not only this, but there is always more than enough, provided at regular times, fixed by someone other than me. And I can get juice, coffee, hot chocolate or fruit (including kiwi and pears!) any time I want! Interestingly, my appetite seems to be greater. I think it's partly due to having to walk up hills a lot. The other part may be because I'm eating more and thus have a bigger appetite...guess we'll see over time, since I don't have a scale to judge! ;P

Ciao. This morning was our first day of class. We had both our English classes (which is more like one long class with a 30-minute break in the middle) and Italian. Italian will be not everyday, as we thought, but Monday and Wednesday. We're breaking up into two classes so we get more interaction. I'm glad because I thought we would have it four days a week. Both classes were a lot of fun. I'm excited about them, and I'm excited that I'm excited about them. :) We learned about how to write descriptively today--two main points were, write describing for all five senses (not just visual) and choose one central characteristic of what you're describing and emphasize that. In Italian we reviewed the numbers and learned a little about Italian culture. Our Italian professoressa is very cool.

This afternoon we went on a hike. We walked through town then followed a path up the mountain to a beautiful old church very high up on the mountain. On the way back down, some of our party tried moving about on the extremely steep, gravelly slope below the path. It wasn't a good idea, but everybody's pretty much okay. Then we walked quickly home and all ate a lot at dinner, being very exercised. I think I'll go to bed early tonight. My personal learning for the day was probably learning to respect the people on our trip more. A couple of them showed some neat character today, and I was really impressed and appreciated them a lot for it. I also am trying to figure out the balance between being serious about serious issues and not stressing out so much. Let me know if you have any ideas. :) Bye, E

Down day

This post is written on January 17 for Sunday, January 16. After going to bed around 1 Saturday night, I woke up at 11:15. Nice!! :) I was a little surprised to have slept so late, but glad to catch up a little. I had some lunch, and headed back up to my room for some personal recharge time.

A little before 3 I knocked on Justin's door, since I hadn't seen him yet... and he had just woken up at 1:30! We went on a nice walk then around Riva. I feel like I learned a lot about the people and how they think by walking through Riva. It's hard to describe, since there are so many little impressions you get at the time that are hard to put into words. But for example, lots of people drive really fast. There weren't too many cars out, but on the medium size roads they really whiz along! I say medium size because there are many very small roads that don't quite look two-way but are. There were also several houses that had gnomes in the windows or gardens, and one house even had a whole Snow White and the Seven Dwarves set in the yard! We passed a cemetary and noticed that all the graves had flowers on them and many have pictures attached to the gravestones. We also passed a little open shed with a picture of Mary on the wall and some candles burning next to a man's portrait. Many people had doghouses in their yards. We even saw a green one with pink hearts on it. I felt like I came to know the people of Riva much better by observing their homes.

After dinner almost everybody watched Napoleon Dynamite, which was fun. We were all spread out all over the floor in Pabiana. After the movie Justin and I read the first two chapters of our English assignment, "Death in Venice," and then talked for a while. That was my favorite part of the day.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Coming back to earth

Hiya. Wow, today was much better than yesterday. Last night I called my ‘rents and then felt much better. I slept like a log in my lovely white warm firm comfy Swiss bed and got up (regrettably) about six-something hours later.

Today was extremely busy. The schedule was:
orientation (9:30-10:30am)
walking tour of Riva (10:30-11:30am)
break and lunch
head to Lugano for a few hours (1:20pm)
head back to Riva (5:00pm)
break and dinner
Swiss jazz at a restaurant in Riva (8:30-10:00pm)

So…I felt much better this morning. Breakfast, though not warm, was good, with chocolate cereal and chocolate gooey stuff for toast. Lunch was a nice veggie-full salad and what I assume was the famous “risotto” from our Italian book—a “creamy rice dish.” The orientation was helpful, but alas, my concentration was divided between listening and keeping my head upright and eyelids up. ***Learning tidbit: The people in Riva San Vitale and the area around it once made themselves into a republic which lasted…24 days. That’s right, days. There’s a statue to commemorate it down by the lake. It’s small. We decided that’s because the republic was so short.***

The walking tour was great. It was pretty cold, really, but Riva is very beautiful and has lots of really cool artistic buildings close together. I saw tons of places I want to come back to and take pictures of. I would like to know Riva well by the time I leave. The cold definitely is a drawback, though. I wear layers, but it still gets me. I’m a little concerned about the sledding trip coming up. ! :)

The trip to Lugano was super-cool! (That said with a ditzy accent and flip of the hair) It was really beautiful. The squares were my favorite part. They were often cobbly or brick, and many of the shops were set back under the rest of the building, so there was more walking space and it was more attractive to the eye. The walls above the shops were beautiful. There were many many flower boxes with flowers, even though it is January, and many of the windows have wrought iron pieces covering them or making up the window boxes.

We came home and chilled out for a while and ate dinner, then headed over to a neat little restaurant within walking distance to hear some jazz, but I was so tired I kept dozing off. :-/ Anyway, the day was good, and much better than yesterday. I feel like I got some balance back by slowing down in Lugano. It was great and much needed. Goodnight, all. :)

Friday, January 14, 2005

On the road my friend

Hi. Here I am at Riva San Vitale. My feelings are mixed, to be honest. I had a pretty cool day for most of the day, but then got discouraged later on and haven’t totally recovered yet.

The plot of the day is that early Friday morning (1am Eastern time, 7am London time), we arrived in London. We got to see the sun rise on a new continent and a great adventure, as Justin said. It was beautiful. We waited around forever to hear what gate we were supposed to go to for the flight to Milan, and at long last they told us. We hustled over, and waited. Then one of our group discovered that she had lost her passport. This is no good. So she looked and people did what they could to help, but no one could find it. It was getting pretty dire and looked like we would have to leave her there by herself, and she would probably have to fly back to the States. I was praying so much that she would find it, and I know Justin was too. We had talked to the British Airways people and they were doing what they could, when the lady at the desk received a call that they had found it! It was in the terminal we had just come from, and if they could get it to her before the plane left, she could leave with us. And amazingly, they did. :) It was an awesome answer to prayer. God is so good.

Well, that was a highlight for a long time. It was a good thing, too, because I was really pooped and didn’t feel like thinking much anymore and also our plane was delayed because of “technical difficulties” and extreme fog in Milan. Anyway, two hours later, we finally left. We had a nice uneventful flight to Milan, except for seeing the Alps, which are not, as someone once said, “trivial.” They were awesome, another testimony of God’s incredible creativity and power. Justin and I took many, many pictures of the Alps and finally began to get ridiculously giddy from being so tired. After we were completely worn and laughed out, I fell asleep and we landed.

The drive from Milan to Riva San Vitale was not what I expected. I guess I think of Italy as a rich country full of beauty and rich people and green hills. I forgot that it has winter and never thought of it as having as many old, sad, dilapidated deserted buildings as we saw on the way up. But I did like all the happy little wrought iron porches with pretty plants and laundry hanging out, and all the pretty bell/clock towers, which were everywhere. Most of the buildings we saw were yellow. We finally got to Riva, and the mountains were magnificent. It’s amazing, how high and straight up a mountain can rise out of the ground. I mean, really. Looking out our door, your eye thinks at first it’s seeing clouds, when it’s really just seeing light patches on the mountain, and there’s no sky in sight.

I did have fun this evening, in some ways, but it was actually really stressful because we have several problems to work through with trying to get our electronics to work. We planned pretty well, but still didn’t understand exactly how converters and adaptors and different things work together. That was extremely frustrating and annoying because so much that we tried to plan for didn’t work the way we expected, and it was for things we were counting on, like our laptops. We have kind of gotten them to work since, but it felt like such a waste to have lugged it across the ocean and through all the airports when it looked like we shouldn’t have even tried. *sigh* I’m not sure what I really “learned” today, except maybe to persevere. Things are usually not the way you picture, and sometimes it’s hard.

Well, anyway, it has been a pretty good day nonetheless. I don’t think any of it was wasted, though it has been stressful. Tomorrow I hope to stroll around Riva a bit and get a little more comfortable with where I am. Goodnight, all.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Last lullaby here

Hello all. Today I’m at Justin’s house in Sterling. We got here yesterday afternoon, and had dinner with his family and then went to his sisters’ basketball games. Tomorrow we fly out of Dulles, which is pretty close to his house.

I am excited about the trip. That has been the answer for quite a long time to anyone who asks. However, my deeper feelings about the trip are being anxious (for now—I want to change that :). I am concerned about getting there in one piece with all my stuff and about doing okay traveling around in Europe and keeping up with schoolwork.

However… :) God is good and it’s incredible that I actually am going to Europe. I’ve wanted to my whole life. And to be going with Justin… amazing. :) I’m thankful for a family that supports me in what I want to do and who will miss me while I’m gone. And I’m thankful for all the good friends who want to keep up with me and hear about the trip.

The things I’m most excited about right now are… resting from the hectic schedule I had last semester, enjoying the beauty of the mountains and the other incredible places I’ve always wanted to go to in Europe but never thought I’d see, getting back into shape by walking and hiking and jogging, and getting used to new people, schedules, and ways of thinking.

I hope and think I will change and grow a lot while I’m in Europe. When I thought I was going by myself, without Justin, I felt it would be really hard without any really close friends to help me through being homesick and getting used to things. My perspective is a lot different now that Justin is coming and I’m much closer to leaving. I know I will learn things in class, but as far as what that will actually be, I’m content to just wait and find out. I think what I will really learn [as in, take away from the trip and remember for my whole life] has more to do with seeing things new to me but incredibly old, and meeting people who carry on their lives much differently from how I do. I am really excited about learning new ways of looking at life and new ways of doing things. :) Also, I know I will learn a lot by coexisting so closely with Justin and my roommate and the other people on the trip. This trip will be a great opportunity for Justin and me to learn to work better as a team and work through problems and conflicts. I hope when it’s over I look back and see definite things I learned and ways I changed for the better. I’m excited about having a roommate and hope we enjoy spending time together. I’m glad to be doing something new.

So, for now, goodbye all, and I’ll update again sometime soon. :) Please comment and email and stuff. :) If you need to get in touch with me, you can get my address and email address from my parents.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Titles are hard to write.

Hello all.

This morning I got a haircut. I like it pretty well, but it never looks the same the second day because I can't ever style it the way my hairdresser does. I told her it was okay if she didn't dry it all the way (for that very reason) but she did anyway. Oh well, I do like it. :)

Then I had lunch with Rebecca. It was very fun. We had a great talk and I'm so glad to have the chance to catch up with her before I go to Europe and she goes to California. It was great to catch up on her life and hear the special things going on with her. And eat at El Rodeo. :)

Then I came home and did random stuff for a while. I need to do lots of stuff like pack, write some letters, do some sewing repairs, and get my finances squared away before I go, but I felt pulled in a million directions so it was hard to get anything done at all. Now I will go do the other things I need to do. :)


Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy January 2005

Hello all. Today is the first of January. I'm excited. The weather was incredibly beautiful and warm for January today. I washed my car (Draeco was very happy to be so squeaky clean again) and played golf with Justin. I wouldn't say my round was amazing, but it was nice to be outside and actually moving again. My muscles have been underused lately.

The trip is coming up soon. I have twelve days left in the country, and about ten left with my family. Wow. I'm going to miss my family a lot. The coolest thing, though--for the first time in many months, the other day I had a sudden feeling of desiring adventure and living my life in a new place. I haven't felt that way in many months, as I said.

Goodnight, friends. Happy worship day tomorrow; I hope you use it that way. :) Me too, actually.