Monday, January 28, 2013

Just across the way

I have an imaginary friend. Hmmm. I should probably clarify what I mean by that because otherwise, it sounds a bit bizarre.

It's not that she's imaginary; she's quite real. I have known her since I moved to Rome. I say hello and good night to her almost every day while I am in Rome. It's just that she just doesn't know that I exist. Yeah, that still sounds bizarre. Let me clarify further....

At the end of the my hall is a window. This window looks out over and across the back garden to nearby apartments. In the apartment building directly across from me I see a woman almost every day in the same place in her apartment between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm. Every day. Our "friendship" began slowly. I would glance out the window as I was leaving the building or on my way to the bathroom and see her sitting on her couch in the living room facing the window. After several months of catching glances of this woman I began to wonder about her. Who is she? What's her story? Does she work? Is she married? Why in the world is she always in the same spot in her apartment?!

So, I have taken to making up stories about her. I will forever wonder who she is, but for now..she's the woman who lives across the way and there's nothing to stop me from imagining all sorts of things...think Audrey Hepburn in "Wait Until Dark"...just sayin'.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Harvest time

This past October found me in the hills of Rome crossing another "must-do" activity off of my "Europe To-Do" list. Olive picking.

My friend, Laura, has a friend, Marti, whose husband works for a seminary just about an hour outside of Rome. The seminary is located in a lovely villa with lots of property. On this property: olive trees. Every October they pick the olives and deliver them to a local man to press the olives for olive oil. This year, though, they didn't have any students in residence to help the harvest. So, Marti called Laura for help and Laura called me. And I said: "Heck yes, I'll help!" And that's how I came to pick olives in the Roman countryside one day.

It was a great and somewhat unusual experience for this city girl. The men who helped with the harvest laid down net-like coverings on the ground around the trees to catch the olives. Then, we would come along with these tools that I can only describe as rake brushes. We would then, quite literally, 'comb' the trees. The tines of the rake would catch the olives and they would drop to the ground only to be caught up into the net. It was dirty, tiring, and all around wonderful! I had a great time and wouldn't mind helping next year. Crossed this off on my on to grape harvesting!

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Saturday, January 19, 2013


As you know, I arrived back in Rome on Tuesday night. Despite the frigid temps and rain, I forced myself to go out on Wednesday to the grocery store as all I had in the house in terms of food was white rice, black beans, garlic salt, and coffee. And while I like all of those things, I thought they didn't really work in terms of a complete meal. So, I ventured out to the store and picked up a few things to get me through for a couple of days plus some supplies for at least one dinner for myself and the Doyles when they arrived. Well, due to weather issues in the States, the Doyles didn't arrive until yesterday. Needless to say, they were pretty tired when they got in and didn't want to go to the store. Then, today the weather was just nasty---cold and raining again. Once again, they didn't get to the store. But that was ok for the most part because I'd had enough sandwich makings that they could eat lunch and I'd made them pasta the night before. Dinner tonight though was a different story. Since they didn't have any food and they didn't want to go far because they were tired and it was, you guessed it, cold and rainy, they invited me to join them for Chinese at a place just down the street. I hadn't been out of the house since Thursday afternoon, so I joined them.

We've been, or at least I have, been going to this particular Chinese restaurant for 3+ years now. The people and the woman who runs the place know me by now. I wouldn't call those who work there or the lady particularly nice or warm people. They get you in, get your order, get your food, get your money, and get you out. They're not ones for conversation or niceties. At least not with us.

When other patrons, ie. Italians, come in the door, they're overly nice and accommodating. So accommodating that they always give the Italians these free appetizers that we've come to refer to as "elephant ears" because that's what they look like. They're these rice puff thingys in the shape of elephant ears and are served with sweet and sour sauce. In my 3+ years, I have only been the recipient of these twice. Twice. Now, it's not that big of a deal to me because I don't really like them, but it's the principle of the matter...the principle. So, when Sean, Joy, and I noticed that every table around us had these...and I mean every table...well, we weren't too happy. What's wrong with us that we don't get the same kind of service? We order in Italian. We speak to them in Italian. Why aren't we given free stuff? Joy and I were dying laughing at the situation because it seemed so ridiculous. Of course, I thought it was funny, but she was legitimately scandalized.

It may seem like a very minor issue, and it is, but c'mon...who doesn't like free stuff? What does a girl have to do to get free elephant ears!?

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Not the end of the story...

When I wrote my previous post I was certain that my friend's brother wouldn't come thru for me. I had another hour until my flight would board and I didn't see how it would happen. So, I sat there in the terminal, wrote my blog, bought a magazine, and made one last trip to the bathroom. And that's when it happened.

As I was washing my hands I heard over the loudspeaker: "British Airways is paging London passenger Kristen S----. Please come to the desk to speak to an agent." What?! I quickly dried my hands and went to the desk where I was informed that Leon (my friend's brother!!) wanted me to go the Executive Club and speak with him. I made my way to the EC where I was greeted by Leon. Now, the funny thing is because I fly this route 4 times a year I was fairly certain I knew who Leon was without having ever met him. I mean, it's not as if British Airways has a ton of staff in Phoenix. I was right! The person I thought he was was indeed who he is. Aha! We greeted one another and he told me that he was working on getting me the best seat for my flight--woo hoo!!---and I had a couple of options. 1) He could upgrade me to World Traveller Plus which would give me an extra couple of inches in leg room and Business Class-type meals, or 2) he could put me in a row of four seats all to myself so that I could stretch out and sleep. What to do? I opted for #2 because my mom, grandma, and I had already gone to dinner, so the food wasn't that big of a deal to me.  So #2 it was. He then told me to please make myself comfortable in the EC. The manager of the club took me in and showed me around. She showed me the lounge where I could help myself to any of the snacks, sodas, beer, wine, teas, coffee, hot chocolate, hot apple cider...well, you get the picture. I could have whatever I want. So, I sat back with a hot mug of apple cider and a snack. My how the other half live!

My flight back to Rome was quite comfy as I had all of that extra space to myself. I was able to sleep (something that almost NEVER happens) and the flight literally flew by...pun intended.

So here I am back in Rome and thankful for the gift that God gave me in Leon and his generosity. It was a great experience and I am so grateful. Of course, I'm still holding out for first will happen!

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Monday, January 14, 2013

So close....

I fly between the US and Rome four times a year. That's a lot of time spent in a tiny (well, 747s are not tiny....but their seats and space sure are!) little plane. It takes me about an average of 15 hours to get from one city to the other. That's a lot of time in one space....a lot of time. So, naturally one of my goals has been to get upgraded to first class for free. How to do this? How! I've tried asking nicely...I've tried batting my eyes a bit and smiling a little wider (hey, I'm not above using my God-given charm to get an upgrade)...and I've tried just going to the edge of polite begging. All of this to no avail. And then...a ray of hope. A pocket of sunshine.

I made the acquaintance of a guy whose brother works for British Airways (I typically fly the BA flight between London and Phoenix because it's a great flight and a good airline). So, I asked this gentleman somewhat jokingly...maybe 99% serious and 1% jokingly...if he could ask his brother how I could get upgraded to first class. Well, he asked his brother and he said that if the flight wasn't full.....he could upgrade me. WHAT?!!? Shut up! (Insert Elaine Benes push here) Can we talk about how excited I was at the possibility of this? Anyways, my friend sent his brother all of my information and said he'd be in touch. So, I waited, and waited, and waited....and when I didn't hear anything I just figured the matter was forgotten. Then, last night I received a text from my friend telling me that he didn't forget me, but that he hadn't heard from his brother, but that he'd remind his brother and I would probably see him when I checked in for my flight. There was still hope! And that's how I went to bed last night...with hope and dreams of not being cramped, but being able to lie all the way down in my own little pod while flight attendants catered to my every whim! Whoa...let's not go overboard.

So, I arrived at the airport (buoyed by hope), went the check-in counter, and saw.....all women. Yep. The brother wasn't there. Still, I hoped that there would be some sort of note on my record. I approached the check-in desk, handed the woman my passport, and waited with bated breath as she looked at my passport intently....could it be?? No. She said nothing about an upgrade. So, I asked her if there was a chance for one. Yes, she said. YES! For $300, she said. Noooooo!!! I'm not about to pay $300.

Now, I know that you were hoping for a happy ugraded ending to this story, but's not meant to be....yet. :0 I fully intend, and hope, to be upgraded sometime....somehow....someway.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Prepping for departure...

It's Saturday night and I am getting ready to head back to Rome on Monday for the spring 2013 semester. (How in the world did I manage to drain my bank account in just 30 days?!) Once again, this will be a semester of transition as I prepare to say goodbye to my colleagues as they complete their two year contract. Still, there is a lot to look forward to---getting to know new students, travel (plans already include a return to Spain, but this time small towns outside of Madrid; a trip to France; and perhaps Ireland or Scotland with the folks), my parents' visit at the end of the semester, and time with Sean and Joy in the months of May and June before we return to the States.

I have a feeling that the Lord has big plans for my life this year. I don't know what those include---new relationships??, new adventures??, fluency in Italian?? (please!!!)---but I know that I am excited to see what He does in my life.

I've said it before (and I have no doubt that I'll say it again in January of 2014), but I want to do better at posting to this blog as I travel along with Jesus and what He has for me in Rome, Italy, and Europe. we go!!

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