Monday, August 24, 2009

Soar with the eagles, Don't plop with the pigeons!

Day 19. The last few days in Europe have been incredible. A great way to end the Europe part of the expedition to say the least.

Grimmelwald, Switzerland. Our second and final day in Switzerland consisted of the general theme: flying. The evening before I was determined to be counted among the few we had seen the previous day paragliding through the Swiss Alps, thus the next morning I found myself on top of one of the nearby peaks attached to a pilot and a parachute looking down a green slope on which several cows ringing their bells were enjoying their breakfast. After a quick run and a leap over the cows I found myself soaring through the air, and wishing for a minute that if I ripped off my shirt I would find a big S. It was pretty incredible to say the least, and I learned a great deal from my pilot about Switzerland and Paragliding. Drew finally decided to follow suite later in the day. That evening we took the train into Interlaken and had a pretty expensive dinner, but were entertained by "The Garden Band," which was a mini orchestra. Pretty awesome is what it was.

Paris, France. Getting in later in the day, our only mission for the evening was to experience the Eiffel Tower and enjoy a Parisian dinner. After finally finding our way to the famous site, we were at first stunned by the disappointment we felt. The tower itself is a brown color, which came off as rather dull during the day. Though after standing under it and then riding to the very top, the height restored its splendor to us. While we were on the top, evening came and the "City of Lights" came to life, which was quite spectacular. Quickly getting down we turned around to see the beautiful show the tower puts on at night, sparkling 10 minutes after every hour. The next day we hit as many sites as we could in one day, which ended in satisfaction. We first toured Notre Dame, which was really cool, because you could walk around inside while mass was beginning. It was fun to watch many tourists taking pictures with items such as balls in their shirt on their back. We continued to tour the 2 islands in Central Paris, which included some beautiful architecture and a couple musicians. From there we went to Luxembourg, which is not just a palace, but a massive park, which includes a garden, a place for sailing mini sailboats, tennis, picnics, and playgrounds. It was clearly the place to hang out on a nice sunny day. Next was the Louvre. Awesome! Of course starting with the Mona Lisa, I went on to explore the French Art on display and was pleased to find several of the original pieces I learned about in Artistic Expression. It was great knowing the history behind some of the pieces. Very very cool. From there we went up to Montmartre, which is this super artistic hill that overlooks central paris. It was a great place to enjoy the evening and enjoy the native gypsy music and art. We bought a couple cd's from a couple gypsies that were playing when we first got there. Pretty good stuff.

London, England. So here we are, the last day of our European adventure. We spent all day preparing to live in Uganda, which included washing all of our clothes, mailing home things we wouldn't need, showering, and getting all of our pictures onto our laptops (there is no guarantee how soon these will be uploaded to facebook, because captions should be included with several of them). Tomorrow we get on a plane at 630am :( to meet the rest of our program in Amsterdam :), where we will all fly to Uganda!

Thus ends this segment of the journey and begins the next. Thank you all so much for your prayers. I miss you all dearly, and I hope and pray life goes well for you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

2 weeks down. 17 weeks to go.

Day 15. After 2 weeks...the adventure continues. I would say that the last few days have been some of the most relaxing so far, and though not nearly as many sights, equally if not more enjoyable.

Rome, Italy (cont.)
Day 3. After hitting the main sights in Rome pretty hard the first two days, we took day 3 considerably slower. Waking up a bit later, we walked through the actual city encountering a castle, the Trevi Fountain, The Pantheon, and The Spanish Steps. The Castle was pretty sweet. Drew made the appropriate comment that it looked sorta like Helm's Deep, just without the mountain behind it. It was built progressively by the Pope(s) interestingly enough. During the time of the Papal States, the Pope would use this castle to protect its borders. I thought it oddly ironic that the Catholic Church participated in a significant amount of warfare. Following this sight, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain, which was cool, though not nearly as big of a deal as it has been given off to be. There were these newlyweds on their honeymoon that Drew got to take a picture for though. The Pantheon, I'm sad to say was closed. But we did stand in this line to look through the crack in the door, heh. It looked like it would be pretty awesome on the inside though. Finally, we made it to the Spanish Steps were we took some pictures and had gelato on the steps. Thus ended our leisurely stroll through the city of Rome.

Pompeii, Italy. This was my favorite place up to this point. I mean, c' entire city brought to its demise by a volcano, and so amazingly preserved (people included) much better does it get? So the night before we decided to take a day trip to either Pompeii or Naples, and this girl we had met, Anna (who is an Aussie traveling through Europe for 12 weeks for her graphic design job!), was going to Pompeii, so we went with her. And it was sooo much bigger than I thought it would be! We walked almost around the whole thing, and saw ruins such as the basilica, temples to Apollo and Venus, stadiums, ampitheaters, and preserved victims of the volcanic eruption! That was a little creepy, no doubt, but it was so much cooler than looking at those mummified Popes. Following this incredible visit, we had some lemonade from these mammoth lemons and headed to Naples.

Naples, Italy. If there was ever a city that was the opposite of what I thought it would is this one. Hearing that it was such a tourist place, I did not expect how dirty the city would be. Anna wanted to go to the beach, which Drew and I had no problem agreeing to, so we walked forever down the coast, which was mostly a marina for cargo ships and cruise ships. Along this walk we encountered numerous homeless sleeping near the sea, including this roasted cat on the sidewalk. This was the first time we had really seen an abundant homeless population in Europe, and my heart fell. Not only for the people in Naples, but for the homeless back home in Tulsa that I wouldn't get to help during this crazy time of transition with the YMCA moving and all. Anyhoo, we made it to the "beach," which turned out to be a bunch of big rocks on the coast that people were sitting on. Then the Anna lost her shoes to the great abyss...unfortunate. She ended up just riding in the train all the way back to Rome in her bare feet, refusing Drew's chivalry.

Florence, Italy. Our hostel here was way on the outskirts of the city, but in its own park/foresty area, which allowed for some nice quiet walks and lots of thinking/discussion and frisbee time. The Duomo area, which is the central part of the city, was pretty cool. There was one of the world's largest cathedrals, which had this big 'ole dome, the Duomo, which we scaled. The journey up the 432 steps was rough and congested with people, but the sight at the top was incredible. We also saw the baptistry, where Dante was baptized, and Dante's proud Mrs. Pile. On the second day, we leisurely strolled through the city and went shopping, major market places in Florence, then at like 7pm my dad's texts came in, really delayed for some reason telling us to check out this historic bridge. So we did, and it was incredible. We got there right as the sun was setting, so both Drew and I have like 30-50 photos each of the bridge and the sunset.

Cinque Terre. Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful. On the advice of Calley, Drew's cousin for those who have not been reading, we took a day trip to Cinque Terre, which after the unfortunate train events that occured, ended up in like a 2 1/2 hour stay, but it was still amazing. Essentially, Cinque Terre consists of these 5 villages along the coast of Italy, that are dazzling. So we spent the little time there at the beach, finding colorful rocks, swimming, and relaxing. Then we hurried back to catch our night train to Switzerland.

Night Train from Italy to Switzerland. This deserves its own paragraph. A) We paid extra for the sleeper coach, excellent idea. B) The host was super nice...100x nicer than the first one we had. C) We had the opportunity to share our faith with our roommates. This guy and girl, Gabriel and Jordan, respectively, were couch surfing there way through Europe, which including sometimes sleeping at the beach. Jordan was from Canada, and had gone to a "religious" school, she called it, and didn't really enjoy how Christians told her she was bad and going to hell. Gabriel was this guy from small town Germany, who I guess had done like foreign exchange at Jordan's school in Canada, and now they were just hanging out enjoying Europe together. Anyway, we ended up having this like 2 1/2 hour conversation about religion and our faith. It was a really cool opportunity that just plain got me excited. It was cool to see Gabriel's face perk up everytime one of us said something he thought was valid. Be praying for them that the seed we planted landed on fertile soil.

Grindelwald, Switzerland. So you know how I said Pompeii was my favorite up till that point? Well, here is where that changed. Drew hardly got any sleep on the train, because he offered to take the top bunk, which was crazy hot, so when we got to our hostel, which is in the Swiss Alps, he took a nap...which left me to explore and catch the incredible views. First off, the cool air was a delight compared to the hot sun we had been encountering in Italy. Secondly, I could've satt and looked at the mountains all day...well, i guess we did that anyways. So while Drew was napping, I had like 4 hours where I just sat on this super comphy lawn chair overlooking the city and at eye-level snow-capped mountains writing in my journal and reading the Bible/praying. It was an incredibly refreshing morning, which I suppose any morning is when spent soaking up God and all His splendor. After Drew got up, we decided today would be just a chill day, so we walked through the town a little some lunch and chocolate ;). And then later we went to an outdoor pool and laid out on the soft, brilliantly green grass. Dinner was not as good as one would hope, but the view makes up for it. Tomorrow will hopefully bring an incredible day, we'll see what happens!

Uganda in less than a week!!!

Peace and Love,

Friday, August 14, 2009

When in Rome...

Day 9. (for those few counting along and totally confused...we're counting Aug. 6th as Day 1.) (oh, and every keyboard I've used so far has been different, talk about aggitating. This one for instance, most of the letters are worn off...good thing i know how to type!) So the last four days have been pretty action-packed.

Dachau, Germany (concentration camp). Woah. It's really hard for me to describe what I felt as I walked through the Dachau Concentration Camp, I think paritially because I went numb. With audio guide thingamajigs in hand, Drew and I stepped into what would be the most breathtaking thing for me thus far. I ended up walking through pretty much all of it alone, because in the midst of listening to my audio guide and taking pictures, I lost sight of Drew (actually has happened a lot). It was pretty mindblowing actually seeing what they were forced to endure in this camp. When I get the chance, I will upload some pictures of the camp, though they will certainly not do it justice. The way the bunks were laid out changed from year to year, and only got worse. The medical experiments peformed were unbearable to hear about. And certainly the most horrid thing for me was the crematorium. As I walked through the gas chamber (which they told the prisoners were showers) and stepped into the furnace room, my heart fell. There were several different religious monuments and chapels, which I thought was interesting. I still don't really know how to react to that experience.

Salzburg, Austria. From hell on earth to heaven on earth! Salzburg was absolutely beautiful! The mountains were breathtaking, and all of the buildings were of the brightest colors. And of course the castle/fortress (which of course I forget its name right now), which is the most preserved castle/fortress in Europe, was incredible. Drew, instantly set us on a course to fullfill his lifelong dream of visiting the sights of The Sound of Music. It was really cool getting stand and take pictures at a couple of the locations, but Drew was a little disappointed with Nonnburg Abbey, because we only got to the back, and the movie shot scenes from the front...i still thought it was cool though. My favorite part about Salzburg though was getting to see Mozart's birthplace, now that was legit. His house has been turned into a museum full of his early compositions and some letters he wrote to members of his family. Overall, Salzburg got an A+.

More train stories, hooray! So super long night train to Rome...which came with a super long night. We reserved seats early this time (didn't want to make that mistake again!), but we didn't get sleepers, because it was sooo much more expensive. Bad call. Our seatmates were really cool, and all spoke English, so we got to talk with them for awhile. By the time we were going to bed there were only 4 of us in our little coach, so we could all lay down and it was perfect. Then in the middle of the night, one of the official ladies burst into our coach telling us to sit up and shoved 2 more girls into the coach, who had been standing outside since the previous stop (at least half an hour). So anyway, out of the 6 seats, there now sat 6 No place to rest a head (except for Drew, who laid on the floor under the seats), it is needless to say neither of us got much sleep.

Rome, Italy.
Day 1. After our long painful ride to Rome, we instantly set off for the Vatican. Being suckered into a tour, which actually was pretty good and offered a lot of information we didn't know, we explored St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel. We were also pointed out where the Pope lives, but apparently he lives out of the country during the summer, figures. Regardless, it was gorgeous. Everything was beautiful. Oh, and we saw a couple mummies! When the Pope dies, he is mummified (aka perfectly preserved) and put on display in St. Peter's Basilica. Crazy gross, yet strangely cool. Interesting thing we learned about the Basilica was that there was only 1 painting in the entire building. Everything else were mosaics...couldn't even tell until the tour guide pointed it out! The Museum and Sistine Chapel were awesome too. They changed tour guides on us, and this guy seemed to know a lot more stuff, and was full of dry humor. The Sistine Chapel was a little different than I thought it would be. I was expecting it to be a little longer, I guess...but it was still absolutely incredible. It was the only thing we couldn't take pictures of though, because this chinese organization restored/cleaned a lot of the paintings up and when they had finished they had spent 100 million dollars! The Vatican sold them the copyright to the images in the Sistine Chapel for 200 years rather than paying, crazy huh? But it was pretty awesome, regardless. One interesting thing I didn't know was that the crazy famous one with God reaching out to Adam is that the red cloak surrounding him enclosing Eve and the children behind God, is actually in the shape of the cross'-section of a brain! (sorry for that long run-on sentence). Michelangelo, apparently was inspired by the human anatomy, so that panel is showing that God always had Eve and the future generations in!

Day 2. So we woke up a little later, after having gone to bed early the previous night, trying to make up for that crazy night train. And we set off for Ancient Rome. Spending the whole day there, we took our time visiting the entirety of Ancient Rome. How grand must it have been back in the day! Probably the coolest place I have seen thus far. Chariot races, forums, stadiums, temples, basilicas, arches, and most certainly the Colosseum, it was all fantastic. Not to mention, Rome's current capital building blows ours out of the water...just saying...In some places it was hard to imagine how it must have been like, but in other places, it seemed to pop right out. I realize none of this is actually very descriptive, but you will see pictures eventually ;). For the moment, you will just have to deal with my outburst of amazement. The Colosseum was pretty incredible, and certainly lived up if not surpassed Hollywood's protrayel of it through Gladiator. Though I can't tell you how much I want to see that movie right now. On a side note, since this day was fairly relaxed, just walking through Ancient Rome and all, there was plenty of time for thinking and discussing for Drew and I. Discussions such as good vs. evil and such, all very beneficial and probably life-changing. Something I hope will continue throughout our travels together.

Also, I guess it finally occured to me today that I am going to be gone for a really long time. Drew and I had been talking the other day about how it would be weird taking this Europe excursion and then not seeing friends and family before living in Uganda for a few months. This kinda hit me today. I really do love you guys and wish I could watch each of you grow these next few months, but I am very excited to see what God has already started to stir up and is going to do in my heart and life. Reading Crazy Love in my free time has been very helpful in this transition actually, and would suggest that others read it. So far it hasn't really said anything new per se, but it clearly defines what your heart is trying to pour out, and uses a lot of scripture to back it up!

Two more days in Rome, than off to Florence on Drew's 20th birthday!!!


Monday, August 10, 2009

It's Like A Remake of Bill & Ted's...

Day 5. Crazy. So much has happened already and so much is left to come. I don't even know how it came to be really; planning our trip through Europe or catching all of our trains! So gather around the campfire (or brightly shining computers), it's storytime!

London, England. First it should be known that I had an excellent daz spending last minutes with incredible friends back in the States. I appreciate you guys so much. The flights to London went smoothly, getting to see the Halzmers at our gate in the Tulsa airport was a great way to start off our trip! Plus, I got to watch the new Star Trek on the plane (excellent, though would probably be much better with some sound system other than plane-provided earbuds). Anyway, Drew and I encountered our first struggles pretty quickly in London. First off, the place to store our luggage was literally on the other end of the train station from where we were boarding to go to Brussels. Second, the cost to store luggage was crazy high, so Drew and I crammed our stuff into as little bags as possible, so we each ended up only paying for 1. After that, the Chunnel was very cool though.

Brussels, Belgium. Can you say lost? Our first real trek on foreign land, and we had no idea where anything was, much less our hostel! We ended up touring pretty much the whole city in search of our hostel, which completely turned into a great experience. We walked through a carnival, a couple parks, the Palace of Justice (freakin' awesome), and a massive dance party! Finally, we were approached by this wonderfully nice French lady, who noticed our state of confusion and helped us find our hostel. This first hostel experience was good, though our roommate, Andrew, came in late, drunk and muttering. He turned out to be a cool guy the next morning though. That following morning, we had our first eurail train ride, which again produced some confusion. We didn't realize we needed our passes validated until 5 minutes before the train was supposed to leave, so Drew flew through the station coming back with a minute or 2 to spare.

Amsterdam, Netherlands. We arrived to Amsterdam with only the knowledge that we would be meeting up with Drew's cousin, Calley. After a run in with a bathroom attendant, we got ahold of Calley, and upon her arrival with Drew's friend from JBU, Liz, off we rode on rented bikes fearing the weight of our packs would overturn us. Calley is researching possible Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in women who are trying to get out of prostitution in the Red Light District (how cool is that?). Anyways, because of that and her connection with YWAM, we were able to stay at the YWAM base. We had a great time touring the city, enjoying a park, Van Gogh museum, and other excited events such as clubbing! This wonderful tour was made possible by our lovely tour guides Calley, Liz, and their roommate Lauren. We also got to witness a wedding Sunday morning at church at YWAM! It was there in Amsterdam that I encountered a great deal of conversation with God, and both Drew and I thank you and continue asking for your prayers. Thanks again Calley, Liz, and Lauren for your incredible hospitatilty! It was truly a blessing to meet you.

Munich, Germany. So wanna here more train difficulties? Once again soon to board the train, we discovered that it was necessary to reserve seats/beds on night trains...who knew? So Drew, who is a pro at this now, grabbed our reservations just as the train was pulling in. We ended up sleeping in a coach with some new-age hippies from Brussels, which was great and sparked interesting conversation. Arriving this morning with no real agenda, we were surprised to be inspected by undercover police searching for drugs being smuggled from Amsterdam. After that, we randomly met some kids from Montana at Burger King, where we acquired some German phrases from one of the girls who spoke the language. Our aimless journeying proved to be quite the tour of Munich! We saw the Olympic Park, the BMW Museum, St. Peter's Cathedral (and climbed its crazy high tower!), another massive cathedral, and many other sites. We also walked through the Englischer Garten, which was an incredibly massive park...Tulsa should take notes. We ended the daz with going to a German restraunt, where we randomly ordered meals, because we couldn't read the menu. Turned out pretty good.

You all are caught up for now, more to come! I hope everyone is doing well, miss you all already!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

And so it begins.

Hey friends and family! It is upon this very day that Drew Duffy and I leave for an adventure including both Europe and Uganda. Both excitement and nervousness fills my very core. First off, I want to thank everyone for supporting us in your prayers; I hope that you find words to speak over us through the stories of our journey I will post on this blog. For those who don't know, we will be attending Uganda Christian University for the Fall Semester '09 in Mukono, Uganda. Studying Bible, Missions, and African Culture, here we hope to seek Christ's love in a country so far from our own. On my own behalf, I am going to learn and experience how to live cross-culturally. Both Drew and I will be staying with host families in Mukono, a village in between 2 major cities in Uganda, Jinja and Kampala. Though I certainly do not know what to expect, I know God will be my guide, and as Rob Bell shares, I will strive to be "covered in the dust of the Rabbi."

On top of this fantastic adventure in Uganda, Drew and I decided to first backpack Europe, so we will be touring several countries in Europe for these next 3 weeks. These countries we plan to include are England, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France!

I look forward to this grand semester, but will miss all of you so very much. Keep us in your prayers as we will keep you in ours. Though we have no idea how much internet access we will have, both Drew and I will try to keep you updated on our journey. Drew's blog is We would love to hear from you, so comment away!