*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!