“Well that’s the great thing about real friends…”

… you can go without talking to them for six months and the next time you talk you just pick up where you left off.

It’s true, you know. I’m visiting my friend Beth in England right now and it’s like harldy anytime has gone by since I saw her last. It’s been lovely, walking around Cantebury, seeing the Archbishop’s home, the old cathedral, the Roman wall. Beth and I have had great conversations just the two of us, and we even let her husband Jonathan pitch in when he’s home from work.

I have to admit I was a bit nervous before arriving. I hadn’t seen Beth since Christmas at her state-side wedding reception. And we really only saw each other for a few minutes as she was so busy. So I was a little anxious that perhaps it would be awkward after not spending much time together in probably over a year. Not to mention she’s married, and that seemed to present some adjustment issues. I mean, there’s a man at the house, and she sleeps in the same room as him! That’s just ridiculous! But Jonathan and Beth are perfect together. The way that they tease each other about the new big tele that’s to arrive today that he bought with birthday money. Or how she tackled him last night to try and steal the remote to watch more House, and him yelling “woman! I have to go to bed to go to work!”  Or how they are sweet when they are affectionate and I never feel uncomfortable. Or the way they argue about moving to America, and how Jonathan has terrible reasons not to (I’ll get fat from eating too much fast food. They drive on the wrong side of the road, etc.) Or even just the way they look at each other. I know it sounds chick-flick-ish, but these two really were meant to be together. It just seems natural and easy, they fit each other.

I hope I’m like that someday.

I have so much else to say about being here, about the trip over. I almost didn’t make it thanks to a cranky immigration officer. But he finally let me on the train, and despite my roommate Caitlin’s concerns, the Chunnel did not  collapse and we crossed safely under 23 miles of water. I had a Kosher meal on the train–definitely the way to go. I think I’m ordering Kosher from now on whenever it’s an option. I had fish, bread, lima beans, potatoes, mushrooms, chopped liver and a lemon tart for desert. Everything but the liver was delicious. They were very very nice too, which was wonderful after that nasty customs man. I don’t know why we stereotype the French as being rude and impolite. Except for a few run-ins while ordering ice cream and crepes, I have had entirely pleasant experiences with the French. We actually have good laughs with each other while I’m trying to communicate with hands and Spanish infused French.

But it is lovely to be in England with English again. Everything is much pleasanter in an English accent. I heard the people uspstairs last night having a heated discussion, but it didn’t sound so bad as the ones I experienced with our apartment neighbours this year. Somehow, the British intonations made the argument softer, almost laughable… We had curry last night. That was great fun: Indian food in Cantebury, England. We might go out again this week and get pub food. It’s too bad it’s not football season, or we might have been able to watch a match. Jonathan’s a Fullham fan. He said it’s okay that I like ManU, it isn’t my fault that they only show the Big Five in America. And besides, he added cheerfully, ManU has more of their stuff sold all over the world, especially in Asia, so really, it’s no one’s fault by Sir Alex Ferguson’s that ManU popularity is spreading like a virus. (and yes, I know that was a terrible run-on sentence)

I am very glad to be here with Beth and Jonathan. I told Beth that I was disappointed in the Euro when my last 12 only transferred as £9.50 and then I had to spend £6 on the train to Cantebury from Ashford. She just shrugged, “well you’re home now, so you don’t need to worry about that. We’ll take care of you.”

Now, if only the sofa bed felt like home…

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Dear Grandma, Please Don’t Write Me Out of the Will

Tonight I smoked on the Left Bank. It seemed like a very French, Parisian thing to do. So I took a couple “drags” on someone else’s cigarette. It was… interesting. I didn’t cough, but I think I did inhale. So that’s something to be proud of?

Today was my last day in France. Tomorrow I leave for England. And I’m actually kind of sad to leave. I haven’t entirely enjoyed my group always, but I am sad to say goodbye to so many people. It was hard this morning when three people left early. I almost teared up.

I did tear up.

Today I went up L’Arc de Triomphe. Mum, I am so proud of you doing those steps with your hip. I hardly know how you did it. You are amazing. It was the most beautiful view, the Champs-Elysees, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Cure. I loved it. I think tonight was the first time that it occured to me where I was.

This morning I went to Saint Chapelle. The little chapel has the most gorgeous stain glass. It used to hold relics from the Passion. But in the lower chapel today, instead of Thorns from the Crown, or pieces of the Holy Cross, there were postcards, pillows, gargoyles for sale. I could have screamed watching the people buzz around and sell their cheap wares for far too much. I know now how Jesus felt when he entered the synagogue and found money changers and swindlers. But I’m one of the biggest hypocrites I know, so I didn’t feel like I could honestly turn over the booths and shout at people to leave.

I bought more stuff today. Mum, got you something awesome. Joshua, I got something for you too. Hehe. I love saying that, becuase you have to wait until Christmas!

I need to go as my friend Becca would like her computer to check about her reservations on the ferry across the Channel.

so much love to all

sara

Thank God for Macs

Or I’d be paying 10 Euro cents a minute on a crappy machine to type this out. But thankfully, Kaitlyn’s mac is getting internet from somewhere.

Hostel is great. It’s wonderful, basically a hotel with rules. Who knew there could be such nice places?

I saw the Arc de Triomphe last night. I sprinted across town to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle. I went to Notre Dame and onto the Left Bank. Walked the Champs-Elysees.

I’m off to breakfast in a few minutes and then Mass at Notre Dame. It will be great, I’m sure. Then we’re going to try and find our way to the Lourve. It’s wonderful riding the Underground again. The wind howling through the tunnels, being jostled by the waiting passengers, watching people be pickpocketd, it reminds me of London. And then there’s all the smoking, the homeless, the painting, the dancing, the kissing and everything else that is entirely Parisian.

I don’t have anything else to say. We’ve had some ridiculous-ness going on in the group. This is why I’m bored with France, mum. I am tired of some people. I’m kind of tired of college students. But the Eiffel Tower makes it worth it.

I wish that Caitlin was here though.

Tonight is a party and I’ve nothing to wear. Which is funny, because it’s normal. It’s lame because of the girls I’m with who are going crazy with their hair and makeup. But it will be all around good tonight.

This trip has changed a lot of first impressions. I told Taylor last night that I thought he was an arrogant little bas—d when I first met him. He said he thought the same of me except I wasn’t “little” I was “older.” And last night, we had the time of our lives running to the Eiffel tower, jumping out on the wrong side of the metro, me and Jesse taking headcounts like a mom and the military man we both want to be (separately of course). I used to think Jesse was a punk. Which he is. But a nice one all the same.

And now I need to run to breakfast down in the courtyard before we run over to the island for Gregorian Chants and Mass.

Scattered Internet, Late Nights, Talent Shows, Health and Finals

Hi all,

sorry I have been unable to update for a while. The internet here was out for about 2 days, and when I finally got to check last night it was late and I wanted to sleep. Of course, I should have known that with the boys on this trip, sleep was not going to come easily.

We decided to sleep on the pool deck last night, lay out under the stars, enjoy some good conversation, cool night air, a breeze blowing over us. It was great. People came and went and finally it settled down to those of us who wanted to sleep and others went inside to their own, more comfortable beds. It was wonderful. I was actually comfortable, snuggled deep in my quilt, wrapped around my floppy square pillow. And I was totally out.

I didn’t hear the laughter, or the scuffle with the chaise-lounge-chair. I hardly even heard the splash. But I did wake up to Laura’s screams as she hurtled through the air, into the deep end of the pool. The boys were gone before I had rubbed my eyes awake. All I knew was Laura was climbing out of the pool, yelling, or cursing, or something. Hanna was grabbing their stuff, Chelsea was standing startled beside her own cot, Tully had disappeared long ago. Two boys, slightly tipsy, had decided that it was the perfect evening for a midnight swim.

Thanks for your prayers. Anthony has Type 1 Diabetes. A pain, but manageable.

Tomorrow, early in the morning, I leave for Paris. I’m a bit nervous, I think because there won’t be a “house” to come back to and I already feel more displaced than normal. It has been too long since I’ve had a real home. But I’m excited too. it’s going to be great to walk the streets of the old city, run wild and crazy with new-found friends. And I’ll probably have internet when I get to Beth’s in England.

I have nothing very deep or exciting. I just took one of my last two finals ever. We had a talent show that finally brought everyone together and we all jumped in the pool afterward for a great time. I’m doing well. Getting ready to be “home” again, even if only for a few days. It will be wonderful to be with people who love me and I feel comfortable with again.

And of course, my own bed. 🙂

But at the same time, I’m not actually homesick. Just bored over here.

Well I guess that Prayer Works

because Eric isn’t dead after having a bull trample him. last night we went to an event in Uzes where they stand in a ringith a bull, try to put rings on his horns, play soccer with the bull running around, and then sometimes they just taunt the beast until he chases them. Then they jump over the fence and stand in the runway around the ring. or they lay down in the pool of water at the center of the ring–becuase bulls don’t like water.

usually.

they also don’t usually jump over the fence.

but last night they did both. They jumped in the water and stomped a couple kids pretty good as well as head butted them. But the most dramatic one was when the bull went after Eric and followed him over the fence. And then kocked him down when Eric couldn’t climb the concrete wall fast enough. And then stepped on him before he somehow managed to scramble away, or someone pushed the bull onwards. But he jumped up, ran back into that rign and made 13 euros for his “bravery”.

I haven’t sworn so much in a very long time. But I was jumping up with the rest of our group, screaming Oh my God, oh my God, when we saw that bull chase him over th fence and take him down. But he’s okay, so all our prayers at devotions for the safety of the group have been heard.

So here’s another one. My “ex” Anthony is sick. He’s lost 20 pounds in a month and has no idea why. He’s going to the doctor today and that’s all I know. Please please pray for him. I’m kind of freaking out. First my mum, now Anthony. But it’s okay, irght? Because Eric is suntanning by the pool and he hardly has a few scratches. So if Jesus put angles around him, surely he can take care of Anthony too.

The Mediterranean…

Well here’s to topless beaches which are taken advantage of primarily by old and sagging women.

Today, after some wandering through the south of France, and after contemplating a road trip to Barcelona (383 km) those of us in the directionally challenged van belonging to Dr. Davis stumbled upon a white strip of the Mediterranean’s shore.

I have wanted to see the Med for a long time. Probably since the time my dad went to North Africa, and promised to take me with him if I got a 4.0. Well four AP classes with straight A’s later and still no Blue Mediterranean from the shores of Muslim Africa. That’s okay though, because I went today. And topless beaches in France are obviously more exciting than fully covered women in Africa. I mean, really.

We waded out from the white fluffy sand to the blue water and shivered our way in, up to our knees, our waists, our shoulders and finally a few of us went under entirely. We walked along jetties that kept the water calm and tranquil. They reminded me of Oceanside, and the salty air tasted fresh and clean. The water burned my eyes, but only for a few minutes. Eventually, I was back at home, in a sea I’ve never enjoyed but somehow knew in the same way I’ve always loved the world’s salty water. Not to mention, Jesus could have touched some of the same water molecules that I swam in today. The little waves that lifted us gently over the smooth ground below might have once sped Paul’s ship onward to Rome or roared over the deck and crashed him onto Malta. But in some ways, despite the religious implications, I was happy just to be in an ocean again.

Oh Russia, I’ll miss the ocean blue when I come. That has always been my great disappointment with Colorado, the landlocked mountainous beauty has beach.

In other news… I am in need of prayer. I like it here, but I also don’t. I don’t think I ever want to travel with people in a group setting like this. It’s fun, I enjoy the “grown ups,” the cooking, the sites. But this group is full of students who are (obviously) here for no reason other than themselves. It makes total sense. I’ve just never been in a group of people whose only purpose is to worship the sun and eat food that they complain about cleaning up. It’s quite challenging. If I make it through five whole weeks without snapping in my self righteous little way it will be an honest-to-God-Miracle. I am reading through the NT and today was James. Mmm. Lots of stuff about works and controlling your tongue. A message? Okay, yeah, I’ll listen. But I could use a little help, here, Jesus. And this isn’t purely irreverant sarcasm.

Someday

I want to be driving in a rainstorm, with someone. And I want for them to pull the brake, throw open the door, drag me outside and dance with me, the radio blaring behind us.

please.

I Can Drive a Stick. Again.

Dr. Davis taught some of us how to drive stick. Apparently, I’m a car athlete and I can be very proud to tell my brother that I’m practically an expert. We would get up to 40km and be in 3rd gear when Dr. Davis would say with sheer delight “We’re flying! Look at you! Stay on your side of the road when you shift! We’re flying now!” He told us that secretly, he builds up four years of the barrier between students and professors only to break down and teach us to drive an automatic and willingly admit that it’s his favorite thing to do. So, one year after I was originally taught, I now know how to drive a stick even better than the first time.

In other news, the south is hot. The sun is brilliant. I’m tanning somewhat. The wasps are incessant. I have curly hair. And the dishes are never ending. But by now, Sabrina, Becca, Susan and I have helped so much in the kitchen taht our names for dish duty routine have been torn up and let loose in the santa-anna-style wind. But there are such great rewards. Everyone is so thankful (Maggie [Mrs. Davis], April, Seth and Alex [the ‘grown up’ helpers]). And we get to have extra portions sometimes. I get free sorbet, and last night Sabrina and i enjoyed our shrimp crowded around the kitchen table with too much laughter, too much butter, and too much goodness all around.

Today I had to be the hero and pick up the kitten from next door as Matt and Brittany went running yelling about allergies. WHich is funny. I never liked cats. But this grey mangy excuse for a kitten has caught my heart. Maybe the way its chest was pounding furiously in terror when I took it home (three times!) has something to do with my compassion for the poor creature. But it certainly has to do with Anthony, Jonathan, Teresa, Jared, and a million other Indo people who love cats.

Yesterday was perhaps one of the best so far–in a miserably hot way. We went to Arles. First, we waited for Dr. Davis while sitting outside an Arena. The Arena is still functioning, they have bullfights this week. We sat on the steps, while people drove by taking postcard photos of us. And then we wandered inside with our single group ticket and barely ten minutes to walk the steps that are taller than the length of my calf. But this isn’t just an arena. This arena was built in the first century after Jesus Christ.

I walked on stones that are Two. Thousand. Years. Old.

I walked on stones that people sat on to watch lions and gladiators fight. I took pictures there and absorbed a view of the sand where people probably saw early Christians executed. Do you know what this means? There are great lives of saints that may have ended there. And I stood in it. I stood on something that might have been built while Paul was still scribbling out his letters to Thesaloniki.

Just down around the corner is a little catholic chapel. Beatiful, with thin Romanesque windows high in the walls that curve overhead into a ceiling style that would eventually give way to the gothic masterpieces like Notre Dame and Chartes. There were frescoes that have nearly vanished. There were pews, smoothed and worn thin by the faithul. Or the tourists. And behind a wrought iron gate there were dozens of golden boxes that reminded me of the gifts the magi brought to Jesus and his parents. But there was no incense, gold or myrh in these delicate cases. There were relics.

I saw a man’s skull in its own alcove. St. Antione of the Desert–in Egypt. He gathered hermits together for instruction, fellowship and prayer. He encouraged saints who were on their way to the arena–like the one I stood in–and exhorted them to hold fast, to be strong in the Lord. He was wise and gentle and kind. He lived to 106, he cast out demons and forever kept the faith. He is sitting or standing or dancing in heaven right now. And I saw his skull.

The dark interior of the church smelled like every Catholic chapel–mildew, crevices that absorb water from somewhere, wood, incense and old age. There were saints over the door to guide our entrance. There were sinners being dragged to hell, and Stephen being stoned to death while his soul escaped–through the mouth–to heaven. There were tombs, the names worn away by the feet of the saints who have walked over them for hundreds of years. And all this religiosity down the street and around the corner from an arena built by the Roman Ceasars who called themselves god and had a cult to worship them. All this just five minutes walk from a place where Christians likely died for the faith that the monumental church is dedicated to.

And some people don’t appreciate history…