Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy." --Bertrand Russell

Ah, spring.
Birds chirping, sun shining, barefoot, park-filled days.
I think my soul waits all year for this time.

Italy has never failed to give a me a stellar spring experience.
Bertrand is right. No gloominess here.
This past weekend I think I managed to clock more hours outside than in my apartment.
Just as it should be.

Since it is almost May, my heart and head are full of "next step" thoughts.
So many decisions to make, so many goodbyes to say, so much change ahead.
I am equal parts deeply sad and anxiously excited.
Depending on the day (or the hour, really) I want to either crawl back in bed under the covers and turn my brain off and hide from the overwhelming-ness of America or I want to burst through my front door and embrace the glorious uncertainty of what lies ahead.
I am more of a rollercoaster emotionally than I want to admit.
I think I keep it fairly concealed, but my teammates might have a different opinion.

With the end of my time in Italy, I am inevitably thinking everyday what I will miss and what I can't wait to get away from.
These likes and dislikes fit in very well with my current schizophrenia.

Here's the lastest brutto/bella comparison that I experienced this weekend.


I already mentioned how happy spring time makes me.
But what really sends me over the edge is outdoor antique markets--in the spring.
I adore strolling aimlessly up and down aisles and aisles of junk/treasures.
I love the possiblities.
I love to look at something and think of what I could use it for, how I could change it, etc.
I love seeing things that we spend fortunes on in the US because it comes from "oooh Italy..." and seeing it here piled in with other junk for 5 euro.

Plus, I just really love beautiful things. I do.
When they are displayed in the sunlight with a light breeze blowing--it's just about perfect.
I can think of no better way to spend an afternoon.


For the past two years I have tried to adapt to the culture here.
Mostly that means having to endure delicious food, long meals, weekend strolls, and coffee breaks three times a day.

But there are some cultural "rules" that are still so hard to get used to.
Italians obey the seasons.
Seasons dictate everything.
What you eat, what you wear, where you go.
Usually--no big deal. Each season has something in it to look forward to. I enjoy the change.

But one Spring time rule is that you don't dress for Summer when it is Spring.
Summer does not start until the end of May.
Even if it is 95 outside in April, you should still be wearing pants, closed toe shoes, and at least have a light jacket with you.

This past weekend I decided to rebel.
I wanted to sit in the park and prendere il sole (take the sun) and it was so hot.
So I wore a tank top and shorts with tennis shoes.
That's right--I went all the way.

I didn't care that everyone else was laying out in their jeans.
I felt comfortable and I fully enjoyed reading a good book on my blanket in the grass.
It was the way home that was strange.

I missed the bus and thought to myself that the 25 minute walk home would be enjoyable.
I was wrong.
You know that dream when you somehow accidentally go to school naked?
Yep, it was that bad.

It's like people had never seen shorts before. Or legs for that matter.
I felt so exposed.
I had to give myself a pep talk.
I kept telling myself that shorts are very normal, I am not scandalous, and that they are the crazy ones.

Non si fa.
It means, "one doesn't do."
I totally non si fa-ed.
I have never felt so uncomfortable.

I can't wait to wear flip-flops in December in Texas this year.

I will secretly enjoy the idea of how rebellious I am being.
And I will adore the fact that no one will be staring at my liberated toes.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ketchup...costs 10 cents extra

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. Too much has been happening and the internet is far too slow to keep up.
Lucky for you I've had a relaxing Saturday with enough free time to wait for pictures to load.
So, now as I sit in my favorite chair in our living room I will attempt to catch you up on the past few weeks.

Let's start off with a little roommate (plus Drew) trip down South.
We had been planning this for a while and despite unfavorable weather we trained 6 hours to Salerno on Friday afternoon.

Life in the South works on an entirely different schedule and we learned that right away.
We arrived at the train station at midnight, dropped our bags off and headed back out to party like Italians.
We crashed at 4 am.
This is a rare occassion.
I don't think I've even known that 2 am existed for months.

In the morning we headed out to Positano on the Amalfi coast.

One very rainy and windy ferry ride later we ended up in one of the cutest towns I've seen while being in Italy.

I'm in love with boats.
We had Mario and Nate to show us around.

We played games on the beach and met some guy who works for Spongebob on the ferry back.
Wonderfully unexpected perfect day. We were very sad to leave.

But the goodness wasn't over.
We went to this fantastic restaurant that night.
Drew had been telling us about this place for a week.
It didn't disappoint.
Three hours of constant food. Plate after plate of yumminess.

Drew was in heaven.

In the words of Kelly, "best meal I've ever eaten."

Back in Tuscany the next week, ministry was really fun.
Kelly and I have started to look at the Bible with our friends, Eni and Blerta.

These girls are so excited to understand more about Jesus.
The Gospel is new to them and I can see the wheels turning as we explained how Jesus did it all. We do nothing but hear and believe. The idea of not working your way to salvation is freeing but it takes time to process. We will continue to meet with them on Thursdays--so keep praying for the Truth to sink in.

We also took a team trip to Umbria.
We rented cars and headed out to see the sights.

I think we racked up 6 towns in two days.
Lunch in Perugia, touring Gubbio, dinner in Assisi.
We got a little crazy in St. Francis' hometown.

I wonder how he felt about cheerleaders?!
Then we drove to Collepino--the tiniest town ever with one restaurant.
Of course, it was closed on Thursdays--the one day we were there.
So, we drove on. Starving at this point to a town called Spello.
Spello was a ghost town too.
All of our stomachs were growling but the boys were on a mission to find food.
Ryan even ran ahead to check out some windy roads.

What a guy.
We finally ate and then checked out Spoleto before heading back to Florence.
I'm telling you--we saw Umbria. All of it.
And to top of the road trip, we stopped and got Burger King.
So strange, but such a treat to us.
The whole "auto-grill" experience is still very foreign and paying for ketchup is a rip-off, but...

French fries in a car!
Feels like America!

Last on my crazy agenda was my sweet friend Ilaria's graduation.

She finished what we would consider undergrad on Friday by presenting her thesis.
Lea Anne and I were able to experience a truly Italian celebration.
Spumante immediately after her presentation, a laurel wreath for the graduate, silly games, aperitivo for all the guests, and of course the mandatory graduation balloon launch.

Crazy afternoon!

I love the spring in Italy.
It may not include a ton of free time, but it's always full of surprises.