Monday, 24 February 2014

Roma, Italia

So I'm apparently the worst blogger in the world. I just haven't been in a very "bloggy" mood lately but before my mother and sisters decide to virtually throw something at me I'll post!
The last that you all heard was that I was flying into Rome and going to spend the weekend there. Let me just say that Rome is an amazing and beautiful city full of friendly people (a nice change to London)  and that I will without a doubt be returning to it someday. After all I threw coins into the Trevi Fountain and now its my destiny to return to the eternal city ;). Getting to Rome was definitely a bumpy experience. Everything from having our car to take us to the airport be 45 minutes late, to one of our friends having her entire suitcase searched at Heathrow security, and then finally not speaking any Italian to explain how to get to our hotel to a cab driver, we made it!

On the plane from London!

However, I will say that we did get a ride to the hotel from a sketchy shuttle driver outside the airport (maybe not our best decision ever and if you're my mother then I'm lying and that didn't happen...) but no worries, we made it and the grace of God abounds even as far as Rome, Italy! Once we finally got to the hotel we had to hunt down someone to let us in the door and then we got to settle in for just a little bit. We all decided that when in Rome one cannot sit in a hotel room! So we went out to explore the city a little bit and see if we could find some genuine Italian food. We are 4 American girls trying not to get lost in the middle of Rome so naturally we stuck out like a cat in a tutu but after a few wrong turns, kind strangers, and almost giving up we found where we were supposed to be to pick up a ticket for the next few days adventures to be less expensive and let us cut the lines. Victory! Dinner was at a small restaurant and on the first night in Rome you bet your left foot I got spaghetti!

These are my lovely traveling companions! (from left to right: Ally, Lanna, and Jacey)

I am so grateful for these women who God so perfectly placed in my life for this semester, whether its a hug when I miss my mom or a huge laugh, they always know what I need. After dinner (which was crazy expensive, the exchange rate to Euros is terrible plus I am so tired of paying for water) we headed back to our hotel, Casa Di Fiori, and got directions to a few key touristy places in Rome. We headed out with a map (or 3) in hand and confidence that we would not let Italian master us anymore! Lanna had given up on leading us places so Jacey and I took over and got us safely around that night and back home in one piece, score! We went to Pizza Narvona, the Pantheon, and the Fontana Di Trevi all in one night. I'm telling you, we were bound and determined to make the most of our very short time in Italy. There was a moment out on the streets that night that I knew I could handle being an adult. It may sound silly as I am 21, almost 22, and living in a foreign country currently but it was dark, Italian, and a little sketchy but I knew where I was, where I was going, and how to get there. I literally said out loud to Jacey "I can do this! I can survive in an unknown place and figure it out! I can read a map!" See adults, my generation really can survive without GPS and Siri, I have a brain and I used it. Score! The rest of the night was spent just being in awe of the city, as it looks so very different in the daylight, and getting gelato. 
Full Day 1:
The day started out with an open bus tour and we decided to get off and explore THE COLISEUM.
Yes, I have been there and yes, I freaked out when I first saw it. It was off in the distance but I knew what it was and I stood up on the bus and practically shrieked! When we first got off the bus it took everything in me not to run and just touch it, I had waited so long to see this place and here I was, this really is what dreams are made of! (That was a Lizzie McGuire Movie reference, for those of you who got it: props, for those who didn't: carry on, I won't judge.) 

So in all honesty there isn't a whole lot to do at the coliseum, its really just the experience of being there with your own two feet and being a part of history. People have been standing where I was standing for thousands of years, crazy! The coliseum was the first stone amphitheater of its kind and was built from 70-80 AD and was used as one of the main forms of entertainment for ancient Romans. They would hold fights between animals of all kinds many of them were imported form Asia and Africa, gladiator competitions, and it could even be flooded to hold naval battles. It was really amazing to be there and to just imagine all of the things that had taken place in this open air building. While we were there I said that I never wanted to leave! Except for its stairs that are practically at 85% angles and the no roof part I could just live there and bask in its glory. 

"Guys, I'm touching it!!!"
Thank you iPhone for panoramic mode!! 

I told you I was crazy excited!

Once my group practically dragged me out of the coliseum we headed over to the forum. Basically just a lot of ancient ruins, suh-weet! We hung around for a little while, looked at ruins of the temple of Saturn, the arch of Septimius Severus, the temple of Titus and you guessed it... more old rocks! Needless to say I preferred the coliseum to the forum but it was still pretty cool. We left and met up with another group of our students from London who had also come to Rome for the weekend and all went to see the Trevi Fountain in the daylight! 

Sitting on some Roman ruins at the forum with my girlies! (Chloe, Ally, Me, Jacey)

We didn't want to pay for tours so I had a nifty book and would just read about whatever we were looking at and would answer questions as they arose, haha! I spent much of our time in Rome like this.

When we got to the Trevi, via open top bus again, we all got gelato and just spent a little time people watching and of course made wishes! There is a legend that any foreigner who throws a coin into the Trevi with their back facing it over their shoulder is destined to come back to the Eternal City! Being at the Trevi was one of my favorite things to do while in Rome, I passed by it about 5 times in our 2 1/2 short days but I loved every time I got to see the beauty of it. On valentine's day we even saw a proposal there! What a special place to be asked that question! 

So apparently my wishing face is really dumb. Enjoy, while I go bask in shame.
Fontana Di Trevi!

The day ended with Ally and I going off to do a little bit of shopping and a quick pit stop inside the pantheon. Its not a far walk from the fountain so we moseyed on over, making a few pit stops on the way and enjoyed our time together. Once we saw the pantheon in the day time I was awestruck! It is, like the coliseum, huge and pictures will never and I mean never do it justice. 

The inscription reads: "Marcius Agrippa, son of Lucius, third time consul, made this temple." It was originally built in 27-25 BC and was dedicated to Mars, Venus, and the Divine Julius. However, what we see today dates from the early years of Hadrian's reign, between 118 and 125 AD. 

The rest of the day was very slow and we ended up getting pizza somewhere and taking things slow, we were all so tired after this day!
Full Day 2:
The morning began with a beautiful Italian breakfast at our hotel and typical confusion as to what bus to take to get to the Vatican. Once we figured out how to get there and got inside, holding our purses tight I might add, we began a very long traipse through the smallest country on earth. I'm not going to lie to you, I was pretty bored and unimpressed with the whole shindig but tried to make the best of it! The whole time I was there I just kept thinking of my great grandmother, the sweetest, sassiest, most precious woman that anyone could ever have had the privilege of loving. She was a devout Catholic and I know that she would have loved every minute of being there but because heaven has taken my hero, I will tell her all about it someday. 

We had such perfect weather all weekend! Time to break out the shorts and sandals (well almost). 

My favorite thing that we did while at the Vatican was meet the Pope! Juuuust kidding. The Sistine Chapel was breathtaking. I had heard so much about it my whole life, about Michelangelo timing his painting on fresco perfectly and about his contemporaries hoping he would fail because he was primarily a sculptor. To see The Last Judgement and the famous paintings of God reaching for Adam and Adam and Eve, among so many others I was literally awestruck. I stood there for a good 15 minutes with my eyes glued to the ceiling, my mouth probably hanging open, and my heart so engulfed in the images that they became engraved in me. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the chapel and honestly I'm glad. I think knowing that I couldn't pick up my camera and look at it through a lens made me appreciate it more. All I had was my eyes and whatever my heart could carry. Once we had finally escaped the maze that is the Vatican we opted not to climb up St. Peter's Basilica (the huge dome building) or "The Greatest Church in Christendom", well I don't know about that...have you seen Tallowood's stain glass and new sanctuary?! ;) But decided that we would rather go to St. Peter's prison. Too bad that it took us the better part of 2 hours to find and then when we did find it, it was a one room cell that may or may not have been where they kept Peter one time in Rome. Cool beans. I guess? Although, anonymous travel buddy: "Why is everything named Peter? Who is he anyways?" Everyone else: "Ummmm. You know like the disciple..." ATB: "Ohhhhh, I knew that!" Uh huh, sure you did. It was a hilarious moment for all of us who go to small Baptist colleges in Texas! After our small let down of the prison we began a new quest: The Spanish Steps. We found them! and with not nearly as much trouble as the prison. They were ya know...stairs that were covered in people. Cool. I can see that at the mall in the US, haha. But really, they were pretty neat and if I knew the significance of them I'd tell you but I have no clue so here's to doing research! We met up with everyone from London and just hung around the pantheon like no big deal right?! I happened to have great wifi signal and got to FaceTime my dad and make him super jealous so that's a plus! The rest of the day was spent eating more carbs (seriously how do these people survive?!) and packing for our journey back to London. Our flight was set to leave Rome at 6:20 am which meant that we were being picked up to go to the airport at 4 am...Lanna and I just ended up pulling an all-nighter for fear of not waking up at all. Perks of freakishly early flights though:
Sunrise over Rome, God really does have the whole world in his hands.

My girls and I at the coliseum. <3 
The past week or so in London has been uneventful although full of homework and writing papers, but I cannot believe how blessed I am to be here and to be having this experience. More blogging to come later but this has taken me almost 3 hours! 
Missing you all,

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Plane Writing

I'm so sorry that it's been so long since I've blogged (Kellie is harassing me about another post) but to be frank, I've been too tired and nothing that crazy has happened. I'm actually writing this on a flight to Rome and figured that I should write down some of the past week before I get bombarded with more! I think the last thing that I told you guys about was the globe and seeing
Oh What A Lovely War so let's see how well my memory serves me because that was over a week ago. Last Saturday our group took a day trip to Bath, an ancient Roman settlement of...wait for it... baths! I know that was shocking. The baths that we looked at (you aren't allowed to swim in them) are a natural hot spring that ancient Romans thought would make a good hot tub I guess, haha. But in all seriousness the baths were used for religious cleansing and healing. The people came from all over the country to seek relief from various illness and ailments. They have been in existence and used for over 2,000 years! (Did I make that number up?) Our tour guide was hilarious and said that she wasn't surprised that Romans came to Bath because if they showed up in the winter of Britain in nothing but their knickers that are skirts and sandals they would be very cold! There was one large bath that in its heyday would have been covered and very architecturally sophisticated. Around the top of the bath house were statues of Julius Caesar and Herodian (did I make up that too?) among other prominent Romans of the day. The city itself was a quaint little town that provided a touristy atmosphere and lots of shopping opportunities. And since you asked yes, I did finally get my British tea set and a cat scarf :) not a scarf made of cats...just for clarification. You'll have to wait until I get back to London for pictures, I didn't bring my laptop with me to Italy. I know that the anticipation will be mounting for the 3 days that I'm here but you can make it!
Sunday we went to a tiny little Baptist church in the heart of London called Bloomsbury Baptist, we more than doubled the congregation but it was a great experience to get to worship with them! We were greeted warmly and asked to remove our ten gallon hats. ;) After church Emily and I set out to enjoy a quiet lunch just the two of us, I love spending time with that girl! We ended up getting crepes and window shopping around the jubilee market in Covent garden. Of course by then we had to be getting back to the flat for homework. Sidenote: now that I'm a senior I feel like I've actually got the hang of college, perfect timing right? Like I know how to study, set time goals for reading and writing papers. Also my mother was right...if I had read everything that I was actually supposed to read for high school and college I would be 1,000x smarter. Oh well, I guess that'll make me a better graduate student! (HBU and Baylor if you're reading this...I'm just kidding I was always a perfect student!) ;) 
Monday was, how do I phrase this nicely...gross. We had our British Life and Culture class first thing Monday morning but once our walking lecture was over about London Bridge, Shakespeare, and Dickens we headed off to an old operating theater. Sounds cool right? Yeah I guess so... The brain, kidney, and other specimines were enough to make my stomach churn not to mention the crazy medical equipment that looked more like torture devices than things used to help people. This may be tmi but you clicked on this link, there was a cervical dialiator that literally looked like a metal spider of death that is used to rip women inside out. We then had a demonstration of how surgeons would have amputated limbs. With no anesthesia, no pain meds, and no sterilization. A good surgeon would have had a limb off in under a minute and a half, a great one in under 30 seconds. Napoleon had a surgeon in his army that could take an arm off at the shoulder in 17 seconds flat. I have never and I mean never been so grateful for modern medicine. I salute you all who are in that profession and am grateful that it isn't me. 
The rest of the week was spent going to class, finishing a book for class and starting another one,  writing a few papers, not blogging, going to a theater show and getting ready for Rome! Speaking of, we're starting our descent now!! 
Missing you all,

Thursday, 6 February 2014

If Music Be The Food Of Love

The past 2 days have been very very busy! There has been a tube strike for the past 2 days and its forcing millions of Londoners (and us) to walk, cram on busses, and ride bicycles among other forms of transportation I'm sure. That said, the city has seemed more crowded with all of these people above ground! The strike is supposed to be settled tomorrow and hopefully there will be some sort of agreement or else this strike will happen again next week. This city is so dependent on the underground and I am grateful. All that to say the getting to class on Wednesday was not only cold, drizzly, and crazy windy but it was virtually impossible to get anywhere in any rush. A journey that would have taken 20 minutes on the tube took almost 2 hours. Pray for our patience! Wednesday started off with a tour of the globe theater! When we first got to the theater I was, in all honesty, unimpressed. Ya okay, its an old theater with no roof and its round. Big deal? YES. Big deal!
Once we walked into the theater it was like Shakespeare himself was sitting next to me, whispering the words of Othello or A Midsummer Night's Dream (two of my personal favorites) right into my very being. It's really hard to describe what happened when we entered, I was giddy literally giddy and couldn't help but grin. This was Shakespeare's theater (rebuilt and moved but still). Pardon me what?! Our tour guide was one of the actresses of the company that preforms there and she had such a passion for this theater and for the genius behind the words spoken there that it made me fall in love with him all over again. She sat us down in the audience and explained all about how the theater would have worked in Shakespeare's day.
There is so much in the his plays that dealt directly with how the theater, this theater, was built. Actors making references to heaven and hell, could visually play to that area of the stage. Juliet's balcony is there, the sets of his plays are so minimalist that architecturally the theater itself had to be built to accommodate such scenes. Plays would have started at about 2pm, because it would have been too hard and dangerous to light a theater at night, and they ended near when the sun was setting. Shakespeare is littered with repetitive statements and with obvious articulation. Modern audiences are thinking "You don't have to tell me that she died...I can see that." Our culture is so visually stimulated that nothing surprises us anymore, we pick up on visual clues very easily. This was not the case more than 400 years ago and the people had to be told what was happening on stage, not to mention some of them probably couldn't see after cramming 3,000 people in the building! Our tour guide then took us on stage! It was the most amazing feeling to stand there and look out, to see the audiences seats, the sky that would have not always cooperated with weather, and to feel only a tiny fraction of as much anticipation as the actors would have felt, and still do!
After our quick rush on the stage we were hurried inside for a brief lesson on understanding Shakespeare's words, definitely helpful! We discussed how when a Shakespearian character speaks in prose they are generally speaking "from their head" when ones speaks in verse it "comes from their heart." The plays are littered with literary clues as to what is happening on stage. My favorite tool that this remarkable genius uses is called iambic pentameter. It is a sort of beat that each line of a play receives and is counted out in syllables. For instance when Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night says "If music be the food of love, play on" his phrase is a balanced 10 beats while Hamlet in Hamlet says "To be, or not to be, that is the question-" is an uneven 11 beats. These beats can be compared to a characters heartbeat and Shakespeare is telling his audience (albeit very sneakily) that uneven beats often mean that a character is under emotional or psychological stress. I'm telling you, genius. There is something about a play that connects us with story and with narrative, a characteristic of humanity that runs in our veins and makes us alike and yet beautifully different. Theater, with story, with movement, and with passion makes that come alive. Being part of an audience is one of the most real things that you can do, a show will never be the same 2 nights in a row and unlike film you can use all of your senses to let go of reality and envelop yourself in another. The story may not be yours exactly but at the heart of every story is a heartbeat from which we all come.
Once we left the theater to which I have now lost my heart in, it was time to weave our way through the crowded streets to my afternoon class which was yes, London Theater. Long story short I was almost an hour late to class and very cold and wet by the time a few of us sulked in looking like drowned rats. Class was short because we then headed wayyyyy across town to Stratford East Theater and saw Oh What A Lovely War. It was terrible. It was supposed to be a satirical expression of WWI, I guess it was funny. I just felt like it made light of war and of the millions of lives that were lost.
On another note today was great! Class was held at the Churchill War Rooms and Museum and we spent about 3 hours there exploring Winston Churchill's life and work, talk about a cool man! I would talk about it more but the history of war isn't really my speciality...or interest. So I'll just let you all come to London and see it for yourselves! Then I took a NAP. It was the most glorious hour of mid-day sleep that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I drudgingly climbed out of bed to get ready to see Les Miserables!! It was the most amazing show that I have ever seen. I've seen it before but something about this time hit home with me. I cried with Eponine died, I was moved when the rebels fell, and I sang with them that "to love another person is to see the face of God". Tonight I left part of myself in that theater and I'm so glad that I did.
Tomorrow we're going on an all day trip to Bath. Better get some sleep!
Missing you all,

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

New Year, New Friend

It has been a few days since I've blogged, apologies. Since I spoke with you all last, I haven't been up to a considerable amount, mostly just everyday class and hanging out in London. Sunday Jacey and I went to Chinese New Year in Chinatown, supposedly it is the second largest celebration outside of China...I don't buy it. After a parade of 2 dragons, white kids doing fake karate, and people dressed in horse costumes (it's the year of the horse), it was over as quickly as it began. A real let down after all the hype we had heard around town! Nonetheless, I've been to Chinese New Year in London and if that's not cool to check off a list then I don't know what is! After our somewhat disappointing morning Jacey and I went home, to Starbucks that is! Sad as it might sound Starbucks is one of the places in this city that actually feels like home, no one is rushing you or yelling for a taxi, people just sit in oversized armchairs and relax. If I close my eyes it feels like I'm at Starbucks on Buffalo Gap in Abilene with Kayla, Corinn, and Rebecca. Miss you girlies by the way! Anyways, we ended up spending the better part of 2 hours in there just talking and getting to know one another. Jacey is a super sweet girl who has such an amazing outlook on life. Her testimony is amazing and I love how Jesus rescued her, seriously I love how good God is!
At New Years!

With my sweet new friend :)
We then went to the afternoon service at Hillsong United Church London. Hillsong is a church that was started in 1983 in Sydney, Australia and now has hubs all over the world. For those of you who have been to Passion it felt like that! It was so crazy that that much passion for Jesus and His name was in one place, to be a part of something bigger than myself. The rest of Sunday was spent doing homework and watching Princess and The Frog with my roomie, its okay to be jealous, she's pretty great. Monday was an uplifting class on the Black Plague, endearingly called the Black Death, and the Great Fire of London in 1666. Seriously though, everything in this city has burned down multiple times. JUST PUT OUT YOUR FIRE AND THE THATCH ROOF WON'T CATCH. Or at least get a fire extinguisher, geez 17th century Londoners get it together. Other than that miniature rant, I have nothing to report!
Missing you all,