Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Far and Away...

This is the comparison I get most often.

Maybe its an obsession with American pop culture.
Or maybe its that movies are the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about America.

It could be the blue eyes or the blonde hair.
Or the fact that I just look so different from them.

Whatever the reason may be, all Italians agree:

I look like Nicole Kidman.

One Italian boy doesn't even call me by my real name.
He keeps asking when I am going back to Australia and if he can be in my next movie.

I got this reaction three years ago.
I thought maybe time would take care of the apparent resemblance.
But no.
I am foreign, I have blue eyes, so naturally I must be Nicole Kidman.
Perfectly logical.

So, yea, Days of Thunder, Moulin Rouge, etc.
That was me.
You've all been Bewitched.

Monday, October 23, 2006

the black gates of Mordor

I haven't even seen Lord of the Rings.
I know- gasp!

But I have come to understand the meaning of Mordor.

Welcome to Philosophy and Letters.
The black gates are super welcoming--don't you think.
Plus the graffiti adds just a little something special.

This is my ministry field.
And home to the druggies, homeless and interesting.

I like to call them the "gray people."

Their dreads are gray.
The smoke from their joints is gray.
Their seldomly washed clothing is gray.
And they have very gray lives.

It fits, don't you think?

Now, inside the black gates is a little courtyard where all the hanging out happens.
One little square of intimidation.

This is the place my lighter would come in handy.

Granted, there are very normal people who go to school here.
They just don't hang out in the square of smoke and scariness.

They go home.
To safety.
I wish I could follow them....

Instead I get these lovely interactions:

Me: Excuse me. Do you speak English?

Italian: Only a little. (what a wierdo).

Stupid American: Can I sit with you?

Innocent Girl: Sure. (now you're freaking me out).

Idiot: I'm American.

Patiently-enduring Person: Oh really. (duh.)

Wanna-be Euro: Can I practice my Italian with you?

You will never be as cool as me: Okay. (this is gonna be good....)

And several mistakes and awkward pauses later, we get to Jesus.
Its a wonderful way to do ministry.
In stupidity, you stay humble.

I have come to love Mordor and the gray people.
But I still have afternoons when I want to go running far, far away and call my Momma.
Its a lot of give and take.

After a bad day at Mordor, we tend to watch Alias.
We've already gone through about 15 episodes.
I'm afraid we're gonna go through 'em pretty fast.

But then there's always Gilmore Girls.

"if you're out on the road, feeling lonely and so cold, all you have to do is call my name and I'll be there on the next train...."

Once I am Lorelai-witty in Italian, Mordor doesn't stand a chance!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

a trip for the taste buds

There is a little town in Italy called Perugia.
Once a year alot of people come to this city.
Why? you may ask,
Is it for the ancient city?
For the wonderful art?
A little history lesson?

They come for chocolate.
Plain and simple.

Milk, semi-sweet, dark and extra dark.
It all comes out for one week in October.
Its the European Chocolate Festival.


Ryan and Lea Anne love chocolate.
They decided that the chocolate festival goes on the pro/con list of re-stinting.

And it gets better.
They give out free stuff.

One more time....

FREE samples!

chocolate, coca-cola light, nestea, barbies...
They had it all.

Regina sweet talked our way inside the gigantic Baci house.

And this was our reward!

Then we met the bouncer at the Lindt exhibit.
His name was David.
And apparently he is sweet like candy.

After he let us in, we got to sample all kinds of chocolate.

And I met a cute server-boy.
I asked to take his picture, and he gave me extra candy.
Its like trick-or-treat for adults!

Here's the team as we savor the rewards and add to the candy headaches.

My favorite thing I ate all day was a chocolate and whip cream pastry!
Whip cream is hard to find over here--so I was thrilled.
As I sunk my teeth into this luxurious "i'd beat a donut blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back" pastry, I was pretty happy.

Perugia, thank you for being a lovely host.
Europe, thank you for being so cool as to have a chocolate festival.

Cheers to you and to all that free stuff!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A little anniversary present

Many of you have never seen the face pictured above with me.

But many of you have heard about her.

Look carefully, she is one of the reasons I came back to Italy.

She is the one person that I have ever felt super connected to without even speaking the same language.

Everyone, meet Marina.
My Marina.
We met 3 years ago.
We knew each other for one month and cried when I had to leave.
She gave me a coffee pot.

And since I got here we have been trying to meet.
Text messages have been very frustrating.
I actually called her one time, feeling very confident in my language ability.
That was a funny phone call.
I was quickly humbled and we've stuck to texting ever since.

When I was assinged to the Architecture faculty team, the first thing I thought of was Marina.
She's an architecture major.

So the other day--my one month anniversary of being in Florence,
I was sitting in the cafe with my two teammates,
and guess what....

Marina just waltzed on in.
We were both speechless.
It was a combination of being so suprised and having no Italian words to express my joy!
What a great way to finish one month!

We had lunch and she told me I got prettier since the last time I was here.
She's so my favorite Italian.

Divine appointments really make my day.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Got a light?

Ministry in a foreign country is an interesting mix of emotions.
As a human, I want to blend in and be liked and be cool.
Italians are the epitome of cool.
They are trendy, European people who wear sunglasses even in the dark.
I have met some students who are very nice and friendly.
But on the outside, they are super intimidating.
When I walk on campus, I immediately feel out of place.

I am blonde.
I am unnecessarily tall.
I don't speak Italian.
I don't smoke.

Now, those of you who know me well, remember the days I tried to change the first fact.
Brunette was not a good look for me.
We won't go back there.

I have tried countless times to shrink.
But alas, I have come to embrace all five feet, eleven inches of me.

I am working on the Italian thing.
I think I am getting somewhere.
I feel like a total idiot, but people tell me that's a good thing.

So onto the last item.
Now don't freak out.
I'm not going to start smoking.
Although the thought has crossed my mind.
Ministry would be so easy.
Smoke break=conversation.

Anybody remember that Friends episode?
Rachel did it.
She started smoking to be included.
Her smoking kick didn't last long though.
Plus, she coughed all the time.
Not cool.
I would doubly stand out if I coughed all the time.

So here's my solution.
I think I might carry a lighter with me.
Italians are always asking each other, and total strangers, for a light.
Granted, I don't want to encourage thier habit.
But believe me, there is no use in trying to discourage it.
Its a way of life here.

So I will be there for them in their time of need.
Tall, blonde, American lighter-girl.
That's how I'll be known.

I'm gonna start working on how I can transition from,
"Got a light?" to "Jesus is the light."

Culturally relevant ministry.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mi chiamo Sara.

I am no longer allowed to be Sarah.
What I thought of myself, must be erased.
Italians don't do H's.
My name is wrong.
Sorry Mom.

So just call me Sara.
But with a long A sound.
The other way means night.
That's no good.

This learning a new lanugage thing is hard.
Besides having to change my identity, you have to study!

I just finished my first two weeks of intensive Italian language study.

It was a mix of fun and frustrating.
We had a wonderful teacher, Maria.

She spoke only in Italian....
She liked to call on people and make them answer stuff....
Most of the time we didn't understand the question....
Nothing like having a cute Italian woman raise her voice at you....

Most of the time I made up very impressive sentences like:
"i like spaghetti."
"the boy kissed the girl."
"my grandma is old."

Maria reprimanded me for the last one.
Apparently there are several words to choose from when describing age, and I chose poorly.

After the time we put into language boot camp, we got a reward!

That's right.
A mini vacation.
Go ahead, jealousy is the correct emotion in this case.

We rented cars and drove (more stories on this fact later) to a town outside of Florence and then took a side trip to the beach.
So, needless to say, I love ministry in Italy.