Thursday, October 29, 2009

Siena and beyond...part 1

Well, first, let me say this: JUSTINE IS HERE!!! Ahhhhhh!!

She got in EARLY on Tuesday morning and I found her at the airport...conveniently waiting for me at the large pillar with "Meeting Point" painted on it. Hmm, what a novel idea! I practically ran to her, ok, not practically...I did run to her...and gave her a big hug. Hugging Justine is always interesting considering that I am close to 5'10'' and she's 5 feet. So, Anywho, we headed for the train and arrived 20 minutes early. Much to her chagrin I "forced" her to have a cappuccino. She was in heaven! Yes, the caffe here is that good, but she's also something of a coffee connoisseur. After our delicious and much needed coffee, we boarded the train bound for Roma. It was fun watching her expressions and hearing her excitement. It's like reliving it all again! After a not-even-crowded-but-crowded-for-Justine bus ride, we made it to campus, dropped her stuff off, went to the store, and picked up lunch at the tabacchi. Then, after some yummy panini we met Lynda at the bus stop as we began our adventure to...Siena!! and Pisa!!!

We took the bus up north and quite honestly I wanted to jump out of it after an hour. It's a 3 hour bus trip. God Bless Justine for going along with that idea after having been on an airplane for too many hours.

We arrived in Siena after dark, but...WOW. What an amazingly beautiful city. It's medieval in its architecture and layout, so imagine lots of stone and frescoed buildings. We checked into our hotel (so great by the way!! Our room looked out at the duomo and you could see the tower at the Campo). After we rested for a bit we headed towards the Campo to enjoy a glass of Chianti and the view. We were, after all, in Chianti country and when you're in Chianti country...well, you just have to have some! So, we had a glass of wine and marveled at the Campo. I can't believe that it's the same place where men compete in the highly dangerous and competitive Palio horse race. If you don't know what that is...check it out here:
After our wine we made our way to Osteria Nonna Gina's. According to Lynda, the food was supposed to be amazing. And can I just say this? I was not disappointed. I even went so far as to remark that if I were to be hit by a moto on the way back to the hotel then that was ok because I'd just had one of the best meals of my life. We started with an antipasti platter that was super yummmy with marinated and roasted veggies: eggplant, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, onions, and black olives. I had the penne all'arrabbiata. It was like a spicy bite of heaven. The sauce was amazing. Seriously. Justine had the gnocchi with a creamy pesto sauce and Lynda had her favorite, ribolitta. For dessert, we each had tiramisu. Oh.My.Gosh. Again...a sweet treat that could only be described as heavenly. Finally, we were blessed by an offering from the restaurant...amaretto. Sigh...remembering it all now makes my mouth water. As Justine said, every other restaurant will pale in comparison.

There's lots more to share, but it's almost time for dinner. So, just wanted to whet your appetites. Here are some great pics, too!

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

39 hours....

until Justine gets here!!!!!! I cannot wait!

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Va bene

One of the things that I appreciate about Italians is their ability to take life as it take it easy. I like that about life here...until of course it impedes my ability to live my life and do my job. In those moments, those moments I say: get moving!!

The bank. I finally got an account set up last week. It only took us 6.5 weeks. This was because the banker we initially contacted was on holiday in August. Then, he went on holiday in September. Finally, after having everything he needed for 5 weeks he told us they couldn't help us. So, we turned to a colleague and she helped me to set up the account. The college sent their first wire for the account yesterday. I still don't have access to those funds. The banker told me to would get there. Va bene. My students leave today for their fall break.

Phones. After the debacle with the phone guy in August, it was decided that we would purchase cell phones for students to rent from us. I ordered them nearly 3 weeks ago. Nothing. I was told they were on their way. Va bene. My students leave today for their fall break.

It seems that at times Italians take their laid back lifestyle too far, but what ends up happening is it creates unnecessary stress and frustration at times for those who are counting on and relying upon the "system" to be in place and for it to help. Va bene means "it's ok" or "no worries." I've heard it a lot and frankly...sometimes I want to shout and say "No! It's not ok. Stop messing around and get with it!" In those moments I refrain and remind myself that I am a guest in this culture and as a guest I must tread lightly.

All I know is that as I navigate this languid country it is only by God's grace that things work. By His mercy I was able to get money for students and by His mercy the phones came in this morning. Thank God for His grace and mercy...with it life here in Rome really is va bene.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's what....

Wow. I can't believe how long it's been since my last post. Guess that means life in Rome is good!

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks with lots of activity. I kind of wish I could say that it's slowing down, but the truth is it's probably only going to get busier. Such is the life of one living the dream...hahaha.

So, here's what's been going on:
1) Bike ride on the Appian Way. Students and I went on a little adventure to the Appian Way 2 weeks ago. Sadly the website that claimed that this was a park with lots of open space and lots to see lied. Yes, it's the oldest highway. Yes, there are ruins to be seen. But! I didn't see lots of open space nor did I see lots of picnic spots nor is it a totally bike-friendly road. There are lots of cars on the road...driven by Italians! (Trust me when I tell you that I'd rather drive in downtown LA or NYC during rush hour before I'd ever drive here) Still, it was fun to get on a bike...even though it's been years!!! Ahhhh....

2) Students began to travel: 2 weeks ago our students ventured outside of our little nest here in Rome for parts beyond. Some went to Budapest, some went to Ischia, some went to find their family's castle...while a couple of other students went to Milan/Lake Como. Needless to say, it was quiet around here. It was great the first night, but by the second...well, I was missing some of the noise.

3) Firenze, part 2: Last weekend we took students to Florence. It was such fun to see the city thru their eyes and re-experience it. We of course went to the Accademia and saw Michelangelo's David, went to the Uffizi gallery, the Baptistry, and up to Piazzale Michelangelo for a great bird's eye view of the city. Lynda and I managed to track down La Spada for another amazing meal and we stayed at a great establishment. All in all, it was a good trip. I even got quite a bit of Christmas shopping down. Hooray!

4) One-on-ones: I have been meeting with students individually for the last couple of weeks one-on-one in an effort to get to know them on an individual basis. I love being able to sit down together and just hear about who God created them to be and listed to their stories. It's such an honor to participate in this journey with them and to bear witness to what God's doing in and thru them here. I look forward to continuing these after break as well.

Overall, it's been craziness. But good! I can praise God because we finally have a bank account. Of course I am also praying for His help and strength as I go to withdraw money tomorrow for the first time in a language I don't speak. Please let there be someone who speaks English! After the bank, I am meeting with a student and then I am facing down Ikea again, hopefully sans any emotional turmoil.

The next several weeks will go by in a haze as they'll be even busier. Here's what's coming up so that you can prepare for what lies ahead:
--Justine visits ONE WEEK from today for 5 days
--Jeff and Nancy arrive a week from Thursday for a week
--I go to London for the weekend the first weekend of November
--I take students to Cinque Terre the second weekend of November
--I take students to Venice (!!!!!!!!) the third weekend of November
--Family arrives the last week of November for Thanksgiving
--Students leave Dec. 10
--I leave Dec 15.

WHEW! Tired yet? Well, hold on because the next couple of weeks...or month really...look like it's going to be g0-go-go...after all, there's no rest for the weary!

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Saturday, October 10, 2009


I went to Ikea today with Lynda to help her pick out some stuff for her new apartment. Normally, I love Ikea and all of their fun wares. Today, though, was a different story.

Who would have thought that Ikea would conjure up feelings of homesickness? Who would have thought that while I stood in the midst of kitchenwares that I would want to cry? Everywhere I turned I saw something that had once occupied my house in coffee table, my side table, TV stand, planter, decorative items....all reminders of home and what I've left behind. I miss my belongings because they were mine and they made up my home, but I think that what I miss most about them is that they occupied space where I spent time with friends and family. And right now I don't have that...I don't have any friends here and my family is an ocean and many states away from me. I know that eventually I will make new friends (in fact, I had coffee at some girls' home on Thursday night. It was great!) and my family will come to visit, but I think for's best if I just avoid Ikea all together.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Guess what!?

22 days till Justine comes for a visit! I CANNOT WAIT!!!!

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Favorite hideout

I discovered a new hideout for myself today. On my way home from church I hopped off the bus at the stop before ours and made my way to the park at Villa Torlonia, formerly the residence of Mussolini.

I wandered the lush green landscape for a bit, taking turns sitting in shaded grassy spots, on sun baked benches, and beneath a green canopy of tree branches. I'd never been to the park or the villa before and was surprised by how big the area was. It was so beautiful and peaceful. Granted there were lots of people there, walking, running, playing with kids, picnicking, and enjoying the great Rome fall day, but somehow it still felt secluded and if it were my very own sanctuary. I did my Bible study and listened to my iPod. The perfect way to spend a Sunday and some much needed time alone with God.

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Lynda and I managed escape to Florence this weekend. Ok, we didn't escape per se. We had a meeting for a professional organization that we belong to. I have been to Florence once before, but it was an extremely short trip mainly due to a torrential down pour and horrendous thunder storm that forced us back to the safety (and dryness) of the villa we were staying in. So, I was really looking forward to getting back there...even if only for just a night. (Plus, and let's be honest about this, one of the other reasons I was really looking forward to going was because I needed a break from work...I needed a night away!)

We arrived just after noon so that we could have a couple of hours to relax before our meeting began. We grabbed a quick lunch and walked around the city and ended at Piazza Michelangelo, which overlooks the entire city. I forgot how much I really do like Florence. In fact, I love that city. First, it's incredibly beautiful. The buildings are charming and rustic. There are frescos all over the place and it's just a really clean city compared to Rome. Second, it's a slower-paced city. It takes its time. It knows that life is meant to savored rather than rushed. It reminds me of the difference between Tucson and Phoenix in terms of size and atmosphere. I love that mountains sit all around Florence and the green of Tuscany envelopes the city.

The meetings that we attended were very beneficial and we made some great contacts, but what really stood out was the food. Oh my stars! We went to a dinner for new directors at an amazing restaurant! It was a true Italian meal in that there were 4 courses and it lastItaliced nearly 3 hours. We started (appetizers are called antipasti) with three kinds of bruschetta, mussels, and a seafood salad. Then, it was time for primo piatto, typically pasta. We had an amazing spaghetti dish with clams, ravioli, and fabulous funghi (mushroom) risotto. For secondo piatto we had cinghale, wild boar, with fried polenta (I've never had boar, but this was excellent!!) and bistecca alla fiorentina, steak. The meat was followed by the most incredible roasted potatoes. For dolci, we had a light custardy-type cake. It was good, but then again Italians aren't known for their sweets outside of gelato. The meal was incredible. Students have asked if we can tell them where it is because we're taking them there in 2 weeks for a weekend.

Overall, it was a great trip and I feel refreshed. It was such a blessing to be able to get away and entrust the students (and house) to my RA. He did an amazing job and I trust him immensely.

If you ever get to visit Italy you must do two things: 1) come see me! and 2) do not miss's an incredible city that holds many hidden treasures and will cause you to fall deeply in love with its charm and culture.

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