Sunday, May 31, 2009

Marching straight through Spring

I haven't updated everyone in a while.  I forget that while I get to talk with many people through Facebook, there are those who aren't on there.

It has been a busy Spring.  We have taken a few trips to visit places such as a Monkey Mountain and a reconstructed prehistoric village built on the Bodensehe (a lake).  The Monkey Mountain was interesting, but kind of weird.  All these little monkey's were wandering around, as they aren't caged up.  You could feed them, but I had a difficult time doing that.  When you're so close to these animals, you really see the human-like features and it seems strange to be treating something that looks so human as an animal.  I can see how evolutionists think we evolved from monkeys.  

The village was also quite interesting.  Those who had rebuilt it decided to do somewhat of a reality television series, putting several families and a few single men together to live in this village for a certain period of time.  They were required to live as they were in the time period these villages were found to be in.  I watched a little bit of the show, and I found it interesting that what the children enjoyed most about the experiment was having everyone sleeping together in one big room.  I know as a child I loved to have sleep overs with my cousins, or even just have my brothers and sisters all in one room.  The highlight of being at my grandparents cabin is having all the cousins sleep in the loft together.  Children desire unity.  They don't want to be alone.   And yet we think it's the end of the world when we aren't able to give each child their own bedroom.  

This last week we went to visit the Flossenburg concentration camp which, among other things, was the camp where Deitrich Bonhoeffer was hung.  This camp memorial is hardly as difficult to see as the larger ones, such as Auschwitz, but it was still an intense experience.  To see the area where it's at, you would never think that something so horrific could happen in such a beautiful area.  There are trees and hills all over, looking very similar to the scenery in the third Harry Potter movie.  When the war was over, people immediately started tearing down the camp and building over it so there are very few original buildings.  However, the place they called "Death Valley" was intact enough to be sickening.  There was a mound where bones and ashes were and part of the wall where scores of people were executed.  The most chilling part of this area was the crematorium with the original oven and dissection table still in the building.  Walking on the ground where so much hatred and suffering happened felt nearly surreal at times.  

Over the last month or so, a few families including our own have been discussing starting a church.  We would use my home since it's so large.  It has been really exciting to get this started from the ground up.  My family church planted for years as I was a child and we had experience doing home church as well.  We have a pastor now as of about two weeks ago and will hopefully get started with services in the next month.  The pastor lives three hours away and will be bringing some people from his other church to help get things going, so the logistics of how they will regularly be getting here will take a little bit of time to work out.  But we are all excited to see what God does!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Inoculating our youth

As I have mentioned before, the family I work for home schools.  If you were living in the U.S. or likely any other part of the European Union, this wouldn't be considered a big deal.  However in Germany, this is something that is completely unheard of.  Parents are handed fines, thrown in jail, and have their children taken away if they refuse to put their children in public school and instead educate them at home.  The number of home schoolers in Germany is in the mere hundreds.

Home schooling in Germany was outlawed by Hitler in 1938.  One would think that because of this act being associated with Hitler, Germany would immediately make it legal once again.  This is not how they have chosen to go about it.  The powers that be have made the decision to continue with this law, saying that it is because they want to create a plural society and in order to do so they must keep all children in the public school system (or a private school, which is also heavily influenced by the government) in order to "properly" educate them about the rest of the world they live in.  This is also to create "acceptable" citizens, those who are aware and tolerant of the different societies in the country which they live in. states cultural pluralism as: a condition in which many cultures coexist within a society and maintain their cultural differences.  So the question is begged to be asked.  Isn't tolerance of home schooling and other "cultures" a part of pluralism?

An article on home schooling in Germany featured in the Jan/Feb 2009 HSLDA magazine is quoted saying, "Those who would shape society know that in order to do so, they must control education, because the children of today are the culture of tomorrow."  The German government (along with the rest of the world) knows that children are extremely vulnerable at such a young age and can be taught and molded into exactly how the they would see fit.  Hitler said it himself, "The youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow.  For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled." 

It seems apparent that there is a heavy amount of socialism placed upon the government system in Germany.  However, I would challenge those living in other areas of the world to take a deep look into the education system put into place by their government system.  While it may not be as outright of an attack on individualized education as in Germany, they are there.  We see a heavy amount of government control placed upon the education systems in America.  The NCLB Act created a way for the government to place not only a foot, by an entire leg into the doorway of the United States education system.  Curriculum is not allowed unless it is passed by a series of government officials and there is a heavy amount of pressure put upon scholastic testing.  Because the government grants so much funding to schools, if the testing is not up to par, under the NCLB Act the government has the right to go into a school and do whatever is deemed necessary to get things back to where they need to be.  This allows little to no room with individuality for teachers, or students.  Not only this, but California state is attempting to put a ban on home schooling right now. 

Pay attention to what is going on around you. 

Our future could look terribly bleak otherwise.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

3 1/2 Weeks Spent Back in the World of Responsibility

It's unbelievable to me that I've been living in Germany for nearly a month now.  The routine has been established in my life and now things are just moving along as they would be if I were living anywhere else.  So much has happened throughout the last 2 months that it's difficult for me to comprehend at times.  I just traveled all over Europe, flying 6 different times, taking 3 trains and only God knows exactly how many bus/metro/DLR/taxi rides.  Not to mention the many hours I spent being driven by Jason through Italy.  I wish I had a pedometer so I knew how many miles I walked.  It's only now beginning to sink in exactly what I experienced, what I accomplished.

When I first arrived in Germany, I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into.  I had spoken with Yvonne on the phone and sent several e-mails back and forth, but that wasn't a guarantee that she was legitimately a genuine person.  I look back on it and realize how absolutely crazy I was to just get on a plane in Dublin to Munich to meet a family that will hopefully be waiting for me.  But, as we all know, I am safe and nothing terrible happened :).

The week spent at the ski resort was wonderful, but I greatly desired to be back at the house in Eschenbach, trying to get some order back into my life.  After traveling so much, I so terribly wanted to be done.  It's a curious thing to realize that you have had too much vacationing and it's time for real life again.  I attempted to learn how to ski while I was there.  I never want to do it again.  I have never fallen so many times in my entire life.  That evening while laying in bed, I still had the feeling of flying down the mountain... and it terrified me!  I am hoping that perhaps snowboarding may work better for me.  However I have never been athletically incline, so it may be the case that I can't master either one and I'll just snow shoe.

As for the job, I am enjoying it very much.  I mainly watch over the two youngest children, Israel and Isaiah.  They bring such joy to me!  While they are obviously young children (and boys to top it off) and can get whiny and exhausting, I still enjoy looking after them.  Because Israel is nearing pre-school time, I do a little bit to help him with colors, letters, and writing.  I don't think I could ever want to be a pre-school teacher, but with one child it's not that bad.  I can see how I relate to children differently now than I did when I was 14 or 15 and looking after all my siblings or babysitting.  It's nice to be able to recognize personal growth, even in something as simple as how one relates with children.

Many have asked how the language works in the home.  Because Ray is in Iraq right now, Yvonne speaks to the children in more English than she would if he was here.  But, there are many times when she will speak German with them.  They are all fluent in both languages, and Yvonne speaks superb English.  Her accent isn't nearly as heavy as I've heard and she has a great vocabulary built up.  As for the children, you would never guess they were half German as their English is very American.  But they also speak excellent German and I've had to have the older children to help me speak with people on a few occasions.  I dislike answering the home phone here because I'm never sure if I'm going to be stuck on the line with someone who doesn't speak English.  I'm slowly but surely learning some German... but very very slowly.  I'm getting into a class as soon as there are enough students to get one started.  Unfortunately, one had just started a few weeks ago and it was just a little too late to put me in.  Oh well, I will just have to wait.

It's difficult to find ways to meet people at the moment.  We had to get all this paperwork done so that I could be on base, get my visa, etc. and I still don't have an installation pass to get on Post by myself!  It would be helpful even to go to the gym and be around people other than young children, and better yet they speak English so I could actually talk with them.  Eschenbach is a very small town so it offers few opportunities to get to know people.  But it's only been a few weeks so I still have plenty of time.  And I have taken this time of not having much to do to read and write as much as possible.  It also offers extra time to get to talk with family and friends.  Some have even said (and I would sadly have to agree) that I didn't communicate with them this much when I was living in the U.S.  Apparently it's a time to build relationships back up, as well as go through more personal growth.  

Who knows what else may happen?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Unexpected plans in Germany

Well, I cannot believe I am telling everyone this. We always joked about me staying somewhere in Europe for a while, but I never thought it would actually happen.

I was offered a position as a nanny with a family in Germany. There are four children, Kenny, 11 Tyrel, 9 Israel, 4 and Isaiah, 2. I have spent since Friday with them up in a ski resort spending vacation time with them. Yvonne home schools her children, but needs someone to look after the two youngest ones while she is schooling the older ones. Also to be able to run errands, go to the gym, etc. Ray is in the Army and is stationed in Iraq for the third time so this is when she especially needs help. I have really enjoyed them so far and I think it will be an incredible experience for the next year. I have to learn German while Im here, as that is how a work visa works for a nanny in Germany. You have to take a basic skills of German language test after three months of being in the country and then you can stay as a nanny for up to 2 years. However I dont plan on being here for that long, just up to 1 year.

I will miss everyone terrible, as I already do. Ive begun to feel a bit homesick already. My friend Jason in Pisa was talking with me on the phone the other day and he said its probably due to the fact that its sinking in that I wont be home for a year. I really cant wait to be off vacation and get into a work routine.

I would like to keep in touch with everyone as much as possible and it should be easier since I wont be on vacation all the time anymore and will have more time to sit down and email. For those of you who dont know it, my email address is I welcome any emails from everyone and will do my best to reply quickly! Also, my cell number is 01737734124, for those of you who feel brave enough to make an international phone call. I will use skype to make most of my phone calls since its cheaper for me that way but I can receive phone calls from this cell and it doesnt cost me anything...just an arm and a leg for you!

I love you all so much and have appreciated all the support you have given me throughout this trip, and for those of you who have been involved in my life so much, I appreciate you being there for me as much as you have.

I look forward to hearing from you through emails and phone calls!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Enjoying a lovely latte outside a cafe in London
Luke and I out in Central London the night before I left London
Piccadilly Circus
The London Eye

In the Land of the Leprechauns!

Wow, Ireland really is beautiful and green like they say! From what I'm told, it's actually not nearly as green as it gets in the summer, but from a girl who comes from southern Idaho... it's definitely green!

I spent the weekend with a family friend, of whom I had only previously remembered meeting three of this seven member family.  They lived in Ephrata for about seven years and left when I was four.  It was such a nice time!  They live in Dungannon, which is just a small town kind of off the beaten trail a bit.  They drove me around, giving me bits of history about the areas we were seeing and whatnot.  And they knew from my grandma that I am originally vegan (as most of you know, I tried to keep it just vegetarian for while I was traveling.  It's too difficult to have such strict dietary rules when you're traveling... I'm lazy :) ) so I got to enjoy vegan food for two days!  Oh how I loved it.....  Clive (the dad of the family) is a pastor of several churches so I had to opportunity to go to church with them, which was lovely.

On Monday I met up with Luke in Belfast.  He's on midterm break from teaching and decided to head to Ireland for the week!  We spent the first two nights in a hostel called "The Linen House."  I don't think I've been to a more dodgy hostel.  Kind of dark, the staff was a bit unfriendly.... and I swear there was mold everywhere!  There were nice wood floors in the rooms, but after looking around a bit one time, I noticed there was a whole in the floor.  But...... this is the life of poor teachers and students.  And we had it to ourselves, so that was a bonus!  You never know who you might meet at the hostels.... :).  

We toured around all the Northern Ireland area on Tuesday.  We took a tour bus that went to Derry, the Giants Causeway, and just kind of drove around a good portion of Northern Ireland.  It took up the entire day just driving around to those areas, but it was so worth it!  In Derry we took a walking tour and learned a great deal about all the political stuff that went on for years until just recently.  The guy who was guiding us had been heavily involved in it as well, so we really got a lot of information from someone who had actually been there and knew what it was like.

The Giants Causeway was beautiful because it was along the coast and you have all these awesome rocks all over the place!  I loved it!  We had lunch there as well, and that was nice after working up such an appetite hiking around the rocks and such.  Some nice Irish stew.... without the meat :)  

The next morning we got up and decided to head as south as possible and get along the coast.  We ended up at a little town called Tramore, where we had booked the only hostel in the place and ended up staying in a B&B!  It's about the most luxurious place either one of us has stayed during our entire time that we've been traveling, so over a month.  It's so nice to have you're own room and bathroom that no one else is in.  I've enjoyed traveling and the hostels and staying with the boys on base and at Lauren's house and everything but it's nice to just have a quiet room to yourself once in a while!  The coast is beautiful here and the air is wonderful.. it feels so nice and clean and fresh!  

If only we could live life at the coast of Ireland forever.. :) 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rome Pictures

Pretty terrible picture of us, but this is the fountain that you are supposed to throw coins into.  I cant remember what it's called at the moment though.
Vatican City
These water fountains are everywhere, you just have to go through a series of exercises to get to the water!
My touristy Colosseum photo
Some boys playing soccer in the park

Finally figured out how to upload pictures!

Here are some photos from Barcelona.  I'll get some of Rome and Pisa up too.

Too many cities in too short of time!

It has been a ridiculous week and a half!  I apologize for not updating anyone sooner, but there simply has been no time!

Barcelona was not planned into my trip whatsoever (although, what actually has been planned? Things have been changing at the drop of a hat nearly every day!)  The night before we (Lauren and I) left we were chatting with out friends in Pisa from the Air Force.  I was telling them how I absolutely had to see Rome before I left.  I could not live with myself being so close and not going to see it (I guess that was one thing I actually made a plan to do :) ).  So he suggested we take the train on Saturday to Pisa, leave Sunday morning for Rome and spend the day there.  Sounds like a great plan, yes?  Now let's consider that we get  back from Barcelona Saturday evening around 6:00p.m.  Jason finds a train that leaves at 8:50p.m. and we decide that this sounds like a grand idea and we'll see him on Saturday.  

Oh good grief.

Spain was great!  The weather was quite warm (at least it felt like it when compared to London on a good day) and we went to a Tapas bar, which is pretty much a nice appetizer/cocktail bar.  Very delicious!  However, the cost for a place like this adds up rather quickly because you think, "oh these are only 4 euros, no big deal" and you buy 5 of them.  Not to mention the price of drinks as well, even water.  Pretty much I decided this was going to be my only nice meal for the rest of Spain.  Oranges and bread sound pretty good to me!

When spending the day sightseeing, it was extremely frustrating trying to get around the downtown area.  It reminded me a lot of London, with it's curvy roads that seem to make absolutely no sense.  The difference between London and Barcelona, though is that I can speak English, so I don't mind just wandering around getting lost in London.  You don't really want to do that in Barcelona.  We also didn't have as much time (only a day) to see everything, where I had a week and a half to roam around London.  The map was horrible as well!  We had a pretty seasoned map reader with us and she was having such a difficult time!  But we did end up getting to see pretty much all there was to see, and all that we wanted the see.  There is a lot of Gaudi architecture in Barcelona which is just nearly the coolest, most unique looking works of art.  The Cathedrals are incredible as well, however they were under renovation, so it was difficult to see everything.

I once wrote a blog on how familiarity tends to be a comfort to us.  How finding someone who lives in Idaho while you're traveling around other parts of the states suddenly makes you feel as though you're best friends, and how seeing familiar license plates and businesses just make you want to take that car or building, scoop it up, and give it a great big hug.  We experience this in Barcelona with Starbucks.  Now, as the manager of  Moxie Java Tuscany, I really shouldn't be admitting to how much I was so pleased to find one of these.  But there are none in Italy!  While I have enjoyed every single second of this adventure, there are times when something familiar (Like the English language, perhaps?) is sooooooo welcoming.  I enjoyed that tall soy chai with every fiber of my being.

We have an hour and a half to get ready(this includes showers, hair, make-up, repack) get phone minutes, take a trip to the store, then get back to the train station, which requires a walk to the metro station and a little ride.  And we did it!  We didn't realize, but somehow we ended up on sleeper cars.  Wow, never doing that again.  Tiny room with 4 old, large Italian men all sleeping.... it felt as though we were in a sauna.  They were relatively friendly though, and not obnoxious like the others we encountered.  Lauren was having quite the conversation with them, in fact!  We were sooo thankful when we got there though... At 1:00 a.m.

And then Rome in the morning.  We had to leave pretty early because it's a 3 hour drive to get there from Pisa.  We decided that pretty much everyone ended up with about 3-4 hours of sleep (not including the "pretend sleep" Lauren and I had on the train).  Once we got there, it was immediate site seeing everywhere.  I can't even name to you everything I saw.  It was beautiful though!  So green, and all these old ruins everywhere.  The Colosseum was incredible.  I felt pretty cool standing right inside it!  To imagine that it was actually used constantly thousands of years ago, and it was still there so I can stand in it!  The Vatican was breathtaking.  There are simply no words, and pictures could never do it justice.  All I wanted to do was stand and slowly turn so I could see absolutely everything.  

Apparently my body decided it didn't appreciate being shoved too and fro at ridiculous speeds, so I ended up getting sick that night.  I figured it would have been a cold, but no, just some terrible flu.  Of course I didn't end up stopping.  I did on Monday, since Jason worked all day and we weren't leaving until the evening to go to Torino.  But we had an All That Remains concert in Milan Tuesday night that I could not miss out on!  Probably a really dumb idea, but it was soo worth it.

What's really weird about American bands having concerts in Italy is they end up playing in fairly small venues and not many people come.  What I found slightly humorous was all these people looked like emo kids from Twin (not being said in a rude manner, just trying to explain) but the second they open their mouths, definitely not from Twin Falls.  When we asked about tickets, this wonderful British guy went to ask and when they found out we were American, they just put us on the guest list!  And once ATR was on, I was seriously right up in the front at the stage with the lead singer standing no more than a foot away (probably more like inches) grabbing my hand and letting me sing!  It was an incredible concert, to say the least!

Now I've basically just been trying to rest up and get better before I head to Ireland for a while.  I'm so excited to go!  And I will so appreciate people who speak English much more than I ever did before.  

I know I told a lot of people I was going to try to send out postcards, but it's just not going to happen for most of you.  I apologize, I've just had no time to do it.  I have bought a lot with good intentions!  

Now it's time for a nap :).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Non parle Italiano part duo

I apologize for the abrupt end to the last blog.  I was suddenly informed that I had to leave right that moment, with no chance to finish what I was writing.

In continuation.. so we saw the Duomo, and the rest of Florence for that matter.  It was beautiful and I loved it.  The rest of the evening was spent in purchasing my first taste of gellato (pistacchio and tiramisu) and celebrating Lauren and I's 20th birthday all over Florence and Livorno.  It was an excellent evening.  Lauren ended up purchasing several euro's worth of pastries while we were sitting at a bar/bakery along the beach.. it was quite wonderful.  I definitely enjoyed my birthday to it's full extent.

As a side note, you should know that nearly any cafe, restaurant, bakery, etc is basically a bar as well.  For Europeans, drinking really seems to be a part of their culture.  Like the British, where they have pubs, these people have cafes.  And alcohol is everywhere, but as I think said before it doesn't seem as though they have the alcoholism problems the Americans have.  Also, children do not get ridiculous when they end up drinking simply because this is their culture and it isn't as big of a deal as the U.S. makes it.  

The next day was the Super Bowl, and considering I was on an American military base, of course we are going to have a party for it.  The only issue was, for us here in Pisa, it didn't start until midnight!  But we definitely made up for the time.  It was fun because most of these people were older than myself and it made me a lot more comfortable than those whom are my own age and having a party.  We played poker, and I actually stayed in for quite some time!  I was awfully proud of myself.  We spent the evening just hanging out and bull shitting for the entire evening, not going home until the wee hours of the morning.  It was quite nice, and just a bit of a taste of America right in the middle of Italy.  While this was what I was attempting to get away from, I did enjoy it.

The train ride back to Torino was ridiculous.  Six hours, but only because that was the cheapest one I could find.  This was the first time I had taken such a long train ride on my own.  I discovered that these are not necessarily the safest places to be, and not to sit where no one else can see you.  Italian men are ruthless!  They seem to have no boundaries whatsoever and it's a good thing I have no problem getting up and walking away.  Or smacking the man.  Good grief.

Today I spent time walking around Lauren's apartment.  I also felt the need to do some sort of exercise, since I spent the entire weekend doing nothing but consuming solids and liquids!  It really is frustrating to not know how to communicate with the majority of people around you.  At times I feel that all I want to do is hide in apartment and not go anywhere.  But I know that this is not the point of the trip and refuse to have spent the money to get here and only hide out.  I went to a supermarket today, and even with British supermarkets they were more difficult than what you would find in the U.S. until you get used to their system.  But good grief, let's add a language barrier.  I had forgotten that when you buy produce you had to place it on a scale and put a little sticker on there.  I felt bad because the woman was asking me how much they weighed and I didn't know how to tell her, so she got up and took care of it herself.  Ahhhhh....... at least I know how to say "I'm sorry" and "Thank you."  Now I'm safe at home, cooking up the pasta I bought trying to get some food into me in order to have more energy to go out and do more exploring!

As a good deal of you may know, I really enjoy red wine.  Of course, it's difficult to get a good red wine without it costing an arm and a leg.  Today I bought a bottle for just under 3 euros, which is probably around $4 or $5 and it's better than bottle's I've had that cost four or five times that!  I was told it was like this here, but I didn't believe it until I had actually experienced it.

It is difficult for me to think of coming back.  It's not that I'm having the vacation experience of a lifetime, because half the time I don't even do the "tourist" kinds of things.  I just enjoy experiencing the culture, soaking it all in.  Half the time I think I just don't belong where I'm at right now, that I can definitely fit in but that eventually I am meant to move on to greater places.  I have realized a lot, and gone through a great deal of experiences that have made me come to more clear conclusions about who I am and what I require from life, what choices I need to make.  I know right this second that I could never spend the rest of my life in the U.S. in one place.  Perhaps eventually, but I have got to spend time traveling and seeing the world.  I need the constant influx of new experiences, of places where I'm uncomfortable to make me an even more educated and open individual.  

Just as a quick ending note, I'm headed to Barcelona, Spain tomorrow and will be back on Saturday.  Lauren and a few of her friends are going, so I decided to just go on ahead with them.  I appreciate all the support everyone has been sending!  Miss you all!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Non parle Italiano

I never realized how difficult it would be to travel in a place that doesn't speak English as it's native language.  It's a good thing I've been with Lauren so far, who is only a beginner but a lot better at speaking Italian than I am.  I feel as though I need a crash course...  However, I have learned a few phrases in order to get me by.  And thanks to Zeb, I have a book that is basically survival Italian.  I have learned now though; definitely try to learn a bit of the language before you get there!

Arrival into Torino was interesting.  Because the airport I was flying out of in London was a good hour and a half away from where I was staying in Greenwich, I had to get a Bed and Breakfast for the night before.  Unfortunately, it was just the bed that I got to enjoy since my flight was at 7:00 a.m.  This portion of the trip marked another first for me; taxi rides.  For me, the idea of essentially putting all control into the hands of a total stranger is far too frightening to even think about doing (also, it costs a lot more than a bus fare).  However, I had no choice.  As I took my deep breath and headed over the the line of taxis, I went to the one at the front of the line, thinking to myself that he seemed like he may be okay.  Thankfully, I was right.  He got me straight to where I needed to go with no side trips to the middle of nowhere in the woods.  

The B&B was so cute!  Just like a little English Cottage.  Because I have been staying with several people to a room and sharing bathrooms, I was so pleased to finally have a single quiet space to myself, even if it was just for a few hours.  There was a slight sigh of relief I could feel inside myself as I walked into that room.  I soaked up as much of this time as possible to be alone, taking time to let my mind go wherever it felt it needed, nothing to tell me to stop because someone else was in the room.  I needed this time to let it be okay that I was overwhelmed.

One of the things I noticed while in London was that the culture is one of drinking.  And not really drinking to get drunk, but more of sitting in a pub with your friends and/or family and having a few pints.  Because I lived on top of one, I enjoyed many times sitting down there visiting with people and building some excellent relationships.  I went into one that was across the road from this B&B and had the opportunity to bull-shit with a group of old men.  What a great time that was!  And this pub was old... 400 years old!  Tiny and with a fireplace as it's heater, it truly is what you would imagine an old pub would look like.

Once in Torino, Lauren and I had to figure out exactly what we were doing for our birthday, which was the next day.  We knew we wanted to meet up with a friend of mine who is stationed with the Air Force in Pisa, but I didn't have his phone number and the internet at her house wasn't working.  We knew he had her number, because I had given it to him before I got a phone for here, but no idea whether or not he would get a hold of us.  So we went to the train station and looked up a bunch of different places and how many euro's it would cost to get to each one.  We decided Pisa would be a good idea, since that's where Jason is at and thought if all else fails, we can just find a hostel when we get there.  We buy the ticket, run back to her place to get a weekend bag put together, purchase a pizza and a bottle of wine and away we go.  While my entire trip has been kind of like this, it hasn't been to this extent.  I did enjoy it though.  To have no plans whatsoever.. it's a pretty interesting way to go!

Thankfully, we did hear from Jason while we were on the train.  He picked us up from the station and we ended up spending the entire weekend staying at places all around.  A few nights were at the military base and a few others were at an apartment in Livorno.  Livorno is a beautiful place along the Mediteranian and the apartment was overlooking it so we had a great view.  We spent time in Florence, climbing to the top of the Duomo, which is a huge church in the middle of the city.  It's quite the hike, but the view is gorgeous.  Part of climbing to the top includes getting to be right underneath this beautiful ceiling that is basically a huge painting of biblical scenes.  It was amusing when we got to the top because I had not seen so many Americans in one spot until this building.  They were everywhere!  But, instead of thinking how wonderful it was, I got rather annoyed.  Americans really can be obnoxious in comparison to other European societies and you see it when they are side by side.  

Now I'm headed to the train station to get back to Torino.  I'll update more later!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The first portion

I have been terrible at keeping people updated.  It wasn't my plan to be kept occupied by new friends the entire time I was here, however that appears to be what happened.

The flight went relatively well.  I was so exhausted though, that it was difficult for me to not feel emotional the entire flight.  However, as I have learned from an author whom I greatly admire, you cannot let yourself fall apart otherwise it becomes habit to do so over and over.  So I was attempting to successfully put that idea into practice.  

Once I arrived though, I found that my bank card wouldn't let me withdraw any money, so I had a few hours of complete internal panic.  Not only did this affect myself, but my family since they were trying to do things for me.  Since I don't yet (although I'm getting one today) have a mobile phone that works, I wasn't able to tell them I had eventually made it to the hostel (even though it was nearly 3 hours later).  

Speaking of getting to the hostel... I have never rode on any form of public transportation in my life.  And here I am, going off just a few hours of brief napping on planes over the last 2 days and trying to figure out the transportation system.  I thank Clive from the bottom of my heart for the excellent directions he gave me.  I did not once get lost.  I did learn you have to ask questions a bit right at first.  This I hated doing, because you open your mouth and people know exactly where you're from.  But I eventually made it with little problem.

I've never been so friendly in my entire life.  It does help that where I'm currently living is on top of a pub.  All I have to do is go sit down at the bar, chat with the bartender for a bit and suddenly there you are talking with three total strangers.  It has been quite the experience, of which I have made some incredibly fantastic memories.  It's funny because I really haven't done much touristing things.  I prefer having a slow morning, laying in bed spending time waking up, then getting a little breakfast and eventually going out to have a look around at things.  What I find really fun is to get a coffee a newspaper, and spend the 40 minutes it takes to get to central London just chilling out.  It makes you feel as though you're a real Londoner.

I've spent a lot of my time hanging out with this lovely Australian guy name Luke.  We met the second night I was here, first night for him.  Found out through visiting with others that he is also an elementary teacher, but actually has his degree and has taught before.  That's actually what he is doing here for right now, before he earns enough money to go do more traveling all over.  It's been nice having someone to pass your time with.  While at first I thought this wasn't accomplishing exactly what I thought I would, how could I expect that I was going to keep completely to myself the entire time.  This is a time to meet new people and spend time with them having grand experiences together and making memories that will last a long while.

As far as the more touristy places go, I have seen the National Gallery, the British Museum, Trafelgar Square, and Buckingham Palace.  It's been so much fun seeing all these little places seeing how old everything is!  The British Museum was just so excellent seeing all the Ancient Egypt things and knowing that thousands of years ago other people were really using those things and have touched them and everything.  It's just incredible the feeling you get when seeing these objects.  

This entire experience has felt surreal.  I can't seem to get it into my head that I'm in Europe, in London with all these old buildings surrounding me.  I wouldn't give this back for the world, it has been amazing so far.  I don't know how I'm going to go back.  I love it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

In Detroit

Here I am, in the Detroit airport.  I get to chill out here for the next 4 hours.  I haven't slept in a bed since I woke up at 6 p.m. from a three hour nap I had.  As difficult as it is to do though, it's nice to be able to sleep on the plane.

I've got to say, I feel like a ridiculously stupid person going through security.  They don't tell you what to do with everything, just expect that you know.  It's a good thing the woman was nice about it.. I would have felt rather impatient with myself if I were her.

I can tell you all right now, I'm very nervous.  The end of this next flight will have me in London where I don't know my way around one bit.  I am thankful I get there at 7 a.m. when there will be plenty of daylight available.  

Then I will sleep for hours.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm leaving tonight!  It will actually be more like very early Monday morning.  It's crazy to think that the time is here, after all the planning and discussion that I'm really getting on that plane and will be in another country in a little over 24 hours.

I want everyone to know (if I haven't told you already) that I love you all so much.  I will miss everyone terrible.

People have asked about postcards.  I want to send them whenever I can, so if you could send me your mailing address I would love it!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

How can preparing be so difficult?

I have known that I will be going on this trip for a long time.  Months, in fact.  I've had more than enough days to get ready, but I seem to find it virtually impossible to do so.  You would think my level of motivation would be a great deal higher, but all I can do is think about all the things I should be doing.  

Good grief, I'm going to europe!  This should be something I'm packed for weeks in advance.  

However, I do enjoy going to the store to get things.  

I have never experienced something people refer to as "short timers" until this moment.  Every day to get up and go to work is simply next to impossible.  I don't want to be there, I'm anxious to get out.  I can only think of the joy of not having to work for six weeks.  I don't enjoy driving and relish the day when I can walk or ride a bus/taxi/tube/train/ferry to get wherever I must go.  I more than willingly will give up the responsibility of moving a vehicle around.  

You know what I look forward to the most?  No alarm clock.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Loose Itinerary

So many people have inquired as to where I will be when they are told I will be traveling in Europe.  For a while, there wasn't even a tentative plan.  All I knew was that I would be flying into London with little planned past that point.  This seems a frightening idea for most, including myself.  While there is the possibility for a great amount of excitement, it's scary to not have things planned.  I think it is human nature to at least have some sort of plan, that way there is less room for the unknown to creep in and cause potential damage.

Just so you all know, here is what I have planned so far.  It is likely I won't know any more until I actually get there.

I fly out of the U.S. Monday January 19th 2009 and arrive in London, England Tuesday, January 20th 2009 (To make all aware, I will be traveling 8 hours forward in time).  I will spend those next 10 days in London.  

After that on Friday, January 30th 2009, I will move onto Torrino, Italy (Northern Italy area)where I will join Lauren to celebrate our 20th birthday's, which will be the following day, Saturday, January 31st.  I am unsure as to how long I will be in Italy.  I will likely be there anywhere from 1-2 weeks, however if I feel the need to move on any sooner or later, I will do so.

Eventually I will end up in Northern Ireland area where I will be staying with an old family friend for a while.  Again, I could be there anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.  It just depends on what happens.

The joy of being on such a trip alone is the flexibility of coming and going however you feel would be best for yourself.  Considering that is the goal of the journey, I find the great amount of loose planning to be welcoming instead of frightening.  There are times with I wish real life could be this way.