Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Everyone should go to Prague.

Thanksgiving: just okay. SACI (my school) provided a dinner for us at a fancy hotel; pasta, turkey, and potatoes. Definitely not home but I got through the day. That marks my first Thanksgiving away from family and I'm hoping it's my last. Though, I have no complaints, I am thankful for my experience here and what I have.

On Friday all of Italy decided to go on strike, the day Meg and I were headed to Prague. Not just a little strike in one little town...the whole country- trains from 9-1, planes from 12-4, buses from 4-8, and whoever else that wanted to, whenever they wanted to. The result: a delayed plane and 7 extra hours in the Milan airport. Finally we arrived...it was 11pm and thanks to a hotel with an amazing heater, we defrosted and fell asleep. Saturday was spent walking over 23,000 steps to the Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, and Old Town. I found some sweet Christmas gifts for some sweet family members and enjoyed the historic and romantic city that we call Prague. As it started to snow, Meg and I decided to be adventurous and see a black theater show. Originally we wanted to see the marionette show but the sales lady convinced us that the show we went to would be 13 times better than the marionette show...so off we went. It was the weirdest hour and ten minutes that I have ever been entertained by and I'm not sure if entertained is the right word. Between the Tetris and Enya music, the black lights, and the whole show based on mythology (something I know little about), I couldn't help but giggle to myself. It was ridiculous, so ridiculous that I'm not even going to waste your time writing about it.

Sunday was spent at the Jewish Quarter, quite an amazing place. At some point in history, the Pope had declared that Jews and Christians shouldn't live together which resulted in a walled in ghetto of about 11,000 Jews. Later discrimination was decreased as the walls were torn down but soon after, the Jewish Quarter was annihilated by Hitler. The two places that impacted me the most were the Pinkas Synagogue and the Old Jewish Cemetary: The Synagogue's walls are covered with 77,297 names of Czech Jews who were sent to concentration camps. Though Katz is a common Jewish last name, my heart still hurt to see my name on that wall. The cemetery is filled with 12,000 tombstones stacked on and around each other due to limited space and the Jewish belief that the body shouldn't be moved once buried. The Jewish Quarter is worth visiting, so much history belongs in that small area.

Prague was unforgettable and beautiful. Ahh! I almost forgot. The Czech Republic is where beer began, so I had a beer. I hate beer, but I "had" to try it...so for about one Euro, I had a pint and probably drank 5 sips. Here are my three phases to drinking beer...cheers!

Stay tuned for Brussels, I leave on Thursday...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jenna and 1-2-3-4 days.

Some time has passed. Nothing worth posting about until now... two weekends ago I was in Florence instead of Paris and this past weekend Jenna Johnson came from Switzerland. Jenna graduated from Westmont (1.5 years ago) and we have someone in common: her sister, Carissa, who I like to call my best friend. Jenna is a missionary working for Youth for Christ and had the opportunity to take a weekend away and come to Florence...it was very relaxing and comforting.

1 day until it's really cold in Florence, oh wait, that was today and probably still tomorrow. It's okay, I love the cold.
2 days until it is supposed to snow in Florence...too bad it won't stick.
3 days until my family will sit around a table being loud and crazy to celebrate the North American holiday that we call Thanksgiving. I will probably get a call and be put on speaker phone. Then I will hang up the phone and sit on my bed and think about being in California. Then my eyes will get teary and I will probably cry as I spend the first Thanksgiving away from home. I haven't thought much of Thanksgiving until today; an American holiday that is a good excuse for family to get together... it sounds so good right now.
4 days until I hop on a plane for Prague. I am so excited.

Side note: I'm not homesick, I just have a lot to come home to... Christmas, wedding in Colorado, brother's wedding in San Diego. Holy cow..brother's wedding. 23 year old brother's wedding. When did he turn 23? Rather, when did I turn 21? It was just yesterday that we were on our farm shooting a super soaker at a stray dog which led to the 3 inch scar on my left hip. Marriage. Crazy, really. Am I losing a brother? No. I am gaining a wonderful, beautiful, and talented sister. WoooHooo!

After the wedding I need a place to live and a job, any ideas?

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Dinner, Cake, and Friends

This past Wednesday, Westmont's Europe semester made their way to Florence. Europe semester is a group of 40 Westmont students and 2 professors traveling through twelve countries for a whole semester... It was so good to see them and spend time with familiar faces; we ate together (a lot!) and even made a cake, which turned out AMAZING.

I have some bad news... Meg and I have decided not to go through with our trip to Paris this weekend due to awful rioting (read about it here) and a lack of funds. It's a bummer that I won't see the Eiffel Tower and experience Paris, but not going ensures that I eat for the rest of the semester...and I think I will be back to Europe someday soon. My favorite big sis (Jenn Yerkey, my RA on the Urban program) comes tomorrow- yay, a sleepover! So for now, have a good evening.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

England: You changed my life.

On Friday (10/28) at around 7am I got on a train from Florence and went to the Pisa Airport. From the airport, I flew to Glasgow, Scotland because Ryanair was offering a flight for 10 euro. Once I arrived in Scotland, I was there for approximately 7 minutes as I ran to catch my train where I would spend the next six hours traveling South throughout the United Kingdom to Bath, England. At the train station I was greeted by Val Coyne, Kieran's mom. Kieran was my brother's roommate at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City two summers ago. They did "Fire in the Night," which meant they were praying from 12am-6am nightly. I had only met Kieran twice before arriving in Bath...once in Kansas City and once in California where I told him I was coming to Europe and asked if I could see Bath...I don't think he took me seriously, but through email, I was in Bath for 3 days.

Paul and Val were wonderful; I was staying with them as Kieran lives in a house full of guys in the center of town. Of course, when we arrived at the house they offered me tea and we chatted for a good hour (Kieran was at a 'gig' in Bristol) about anything and everything- their other kids, politics, the geography of the UK and how they thought I was crazy for sitting on a train for 6 hours...I tried to explain to them that to get from San Francisco to Santa Barbara is 6 hours so it was no big deal! Anyway...

Saturday morning I woke up nice and early (7am!!) and Val took me down to Kieran's house where we got in a car and drove to London. Kieran, Ben and I went to different parts of London and had a lot of fun. I definitely saw things I wouldn't have gone to on my own, so it was great (ie: Camden Town = punk rock/goth city). Kieran insisted I eat an English meal: pie & mash (lamb) Sounds gross but it wasn't that bad. I'm not going to go searching for it or find a recipe, but I had to experience it. After London we went back to Kieran's and just relaxed as we were exhausted.

Sunday was amazing. Kieran and I went to his parent's church...in a house, like in Acts. Four families that get together on Sunday and throughout the week to meet with Jesus. Then we went back home for lunch and then to a housewarming party at 3...teas, scones, cakes...all wonderfully English. After the party we went to BURN, the youth group that Kieran helps with. If you are from Visalia and you are reading this, his youth group was pretty much the same as Savior's old youth group...I didn't think anything like that existed besides in Visalia...newsflash, there are other cool/passionate people besides Visalia kids! Not being a part of a church since I've been in Florence has been difficult, but this service filled my hunger- it was incredible.

Monday I packed up my bag and went down to the restaurant where Kieran works...I had my first flap jack (AMAZING!) and did some strolling around Bath. Soon after, I got a train into London. I'm not going to be corny and say that Bath took my breath away, but when you experience a city with someone who lives there, you aren't really a tourist...I saw things differently. I actually only took a few photos because we were so busy doing other things, but I'm not worried as I think I will spend more than 3 days there at one point in my life. Everyone was welcoming, everyone was friendly...I would like to be back there soon. Later in the day I met my roommate, Marcy, in London and we walked around and got show tickets..she saw Blood Brothers (a musical, not the band) and I saw The Producers. I thought it was okay. Tuesday, I went into Oxford and strolled around, what a beautiful city. I'm partial to Bath but Oxford was phenomenal. After, I went back into the city and saw the things you have to see...Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, etc. Then I got a ticket for We Will Rock You, a show with music by Queen. I absolutely loved it! Went back to the hostel and got up soon after to catch my plane...I'm exhausted as I write this, but Westmont's Europe Semester is arriving to Florence in 2 hours- I'm pretty excited. I have the rest of this week off, it's my fall break. Fun, huh.

So when I left the UK I was quite sad..a little teary eyed..I really fell in love with that country. I know I didn't see that much but everything about it was so good. The culture, the accent, the beauty..I guess I'm choosing not to think about the States as a whole and all that I have there. I'm going to go back...hopefully soon.