Monday, February 27, 2006

two years....

today is jason's and my second anniversary (just dating!). It's fun to have that somewhere memorable, don't you think? Cairo fits the bill, except of course we're a little Cairo-d out most of the time so we headed to Zamalek, an upscale neighborhood on an island in the Nile, populated or frequented mostly by either Western people, tourists, or wealthy Egyptians. Good times were had by all--a trip to a vegetarian-friendly (formerly vegetarian-only!) restaurant for a three course meal--vegan lentil soup (amazing), "mushroom quartet with mashed potatoes" (what I had--mushrooms prepared four ways, served around a center of very good mashed potatoes--what's better than mushrooms and mashed potatoes? Jason had some kind of beef fillet thing with veggies, and he said it was good.), and a shared strawberry crepe!...then a visit to the very cool bookstore with most of the stock in English--this place even has a cafe, it's nice and clean, it's organized, well-lit, and is mainly patronized by Westerners. It was kind of a nice haven, actually. We had a really wonderful evening eating and looking at books that were much too expensive for the YAV budget. And now...time for bed because tomorrow's a school/work day!

going vegan

today is the beginning of the Orthodox Lenten fast. All the Coptic Orthodox Christians are abstaining from animal products for the next 55 days--no meat, no fish, no dairy, etc. They are pretty hardcore about this. Luckily, the usual Egyptian foods don't have any of those things, so they can still eat the cheap food from the street vendors.

kind of puts the average american's "i gave up jelly beans, which i don't even like, for Lent" into perspective.

I haven't decided how to observe Lent yet...protestants in Egypt don't observe the liturgical seasons, and to do so is to basically declare yourself Orthodox so I have to be careful. I will definitely NOT fast like the Orthodox do, but there will probably be something. Maybe I'll actually go to worship in different churches or something. hmm....

but i'm still going to eat chocolate and stuff. so there!

blank stares

Egyptian women have a way of walking, a way of looking, that seems to (for the most part) keep the men at bay. I can tell I have adopted this way of moving about in public, because i haven't been actually touched in a couple of months now. (I hope it stays that way...knock-on-wood, insha'allah, etc.) Also, the number of obscene comments has been lower than it was before. All of this is good, except:

today I saw the look on a woman's face as I passed her. Normally I don't look at people's faces, because eye contact = an invitation to harassment. But I saw this woman's face, and what I saw there was...


She had a completely blank, basically unfocused stare, straight ahead (not turning to the right or to the left) and yet at the ground--a stare that didn't make eye contact with anyone, didn't welcome anyone, didn't express anything, and yet was likely taking in everything around her.

I know that I too walk around with this stare, even when I have my sunglasses on. Last tuesday I nearly walked right past a friend--who I wasn't expecting, obviously--on the Metro platform. It wasn't until he called me by name that I turned my head or moved my eyes. Sometimes I catch myself doing it at school--a safe place staffed by women and attended by girls, a place where I should be making eye contact because these are my students and my colleagues!--or even at home, of all places. I also found myself doing it in Italy. I walked straight by people on the sidewalk, not listening, not looking, basically being completely indifferent to all the people around me.

And this makes me wonder--how long will it take before I am not like that anymore? Will this element of fitting into the culture wear off? I don't like acting indifferent to people, pretending they aren't there, acting like all these other children of God either don't exist or are so awful they need to be ignored. And yet it seems necessary here. What's the deal?

my color...


You give your love and friendship unconditionaly. You enjoy long, thoughtful conversations rich in philosophy and spirituality. You are very loyal and intuitive.

Find out your color at Quiz Me!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Friday Five: Friends

Okay, so it's Saturday here. But half a time zone away from my "home home" it's still Friday for 30 more minutes. So there.

It's funny that this is the theme for this week, because it's also the theme for my English class at the Coptic Cathedral next week, working from the story at the beginning of Mark 2 about the friends who take the roof off Peter's house to get a paralytic in to see Jesus. Hmm...

From the RGBP prompt by Songbird:
I've been reflecting this week on the gift of friendship, of people who will be there no matter what you need or when you need it. Sometimes a friend accompanies us through a dark place or dances with us through a joyful time or simply walks down the road of an ordinary time beside us.

Name five friends who have been there when you needed them.

I have so many friends who have been there when I needed them at so many different times, I barely know where to begin. In no particular order..

1. Rachel, who not only was an incredible Christian witness when I was "seeking", but who also showed up at my house, unannounced, bearing all kinds of gifts (snickers, three musketeers, m&m's, mango juice, and those stress-relieving chinese balls that make pretty noises...with pandas on them!) just when I arrived home after my mother's death. Always one who gives good advice, reads enough to keep up with me (or maybe i read enough to keep up with her?), and has a great sense of humor. Not to mention caring and wonderful, etc etc etc.

2. Jason. Jason and I are pretty much always there for each other. I can't even begin to describe the ways Jason is wonderful, so we'll just leave it like this: Thank you, God, for Jason.

3. Noell. I love Noell. She's smart and funny and talented and wonderful, and whenever I need to do something, she's there motivating me, and whenever I have a crisis, she's there reminding me that she loves me and God loves me and it will, eventually, probably be okay. We have cooked together, eaten together (even the secret cheese grits), played together, previewed the Passion movie and then sat in stunned silence over Brick Store food together, written essays together, cried together, worried about other friends together....I hope we keep doing those things. Also, Noell sends me mail in Egypt and I love that. :-)

4. Amy. I love Amy. Again with the, studying, Buffying, not studying, pride-and-prejudice-ing, playing Buffy hangman, crying, fighting, getting over it, etc etc etc. Whenever I have needed someone, Amy's been there--even if it's by email (since I live across the ocean and all that).

5. Martha. I don't know how to describe Martha either...she's great. Whenever I need a self-confidence pick-me-up, Martha's there. Whenever I need advice, Martha's there. Whenever I need an extra mom, Martha's there. Whenever I need anything, pretty much, there she is. Complete with healthy food to boot. Amazing woman.

Friday, February 24, 2006

something I'm very protective of...

I have something very beautiful: a prayer shawl, knitted for me by a member of the church I served as an intern and then as a director of youth ministry. The woman who knitted it is chronologically quite old but is incredibly young and sprightly. She is also wise beyond any years humans can achieve. When she heard my mother had died, she knitted this shawl for me and asked Martha to get it to me. It turned out that I visited Martha (and the church) on my way back to Egypt and was able to pick it up for myself, as well as deliver thanks and hugs in person.

This shawl is where I turn when I feel sad, lonely, lost, or pretty much any way, actually. It's strange to be an extrovert and to live in community and still to feel lonely, but sometimes I do. and I wonder what to do next, and feel lost and sometimes so excruciatingly sad that i wonder if it's still daytime out. And I doubt I've had a completely "good" (emotionally) day in a long time, but this shawl always makes me feel better. I wrap it around my shoulders and the soft yarn and wonderful stitches remind me that people pray for me everyday, and that someone cared enough to pray with every stitch of this shawl. It's like being wrapped up in the cloud of witnesses, enfolded in love and prayer. It's wonderful. Many days it is my consolation. It has absorbed many tears, heard many psalms, seen many a kleenex miss its mark on the way to the trash basket. And there are still many prayers left in it for the days to come--thank goodness. Thanks be to God for wonderful older women, for people who can knit, for people who can pray, for friends, for hugs (whether from a shawl or a person), and for the cloud of witnesses that brings hope--in this case through really soft cushy gorgeous blue-grey-purple yarn.

my cat answered this meme....

1. What's your favorite food?
milk from a cereal bowl...preferably while humans are still eating the cereal.
2. What is your favorite toy?
my feather on a stick. they all think i don't know it's on a stick, but i know...
3. What is your best trick?
coming "from nowhere" to get outside whenever the humans leave the house.
3. What is your favorite human trick?
their repeated attempts to keep me off the computer keyboards while they are "typing". Also their claims to know what I'm thinking. mwah-ha-hah!
4. What human rule do you break often?
all the ones about going outside, about getting on the kitchen counters and dining room table...
5. What do you wish your human knew about you?
night-time is only for sleeping when *I* am tired, silly! It's much better to sleep during the day.
6. What are you glad your human does NOT know about you?
Playing in the ceiling is fun and sometimes I sleep there.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


for those of you not on the mailing list, my latest "letter from Cairo" is now posted. Follow the link to the left...

If you want to read newsletters from other volunteers around the world, check out:
Mission Connections: YAV

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


today in my lower-middle-class neighborhood of Cairo, I saw:

*a girl, in her dark blue school uniform, rushing to the head of the line to wish me a Happy Valentine's Day

*a dappled gray mare (I'm not even kidding) standing on the sidewalk next to a pile of garbage, eating out of a bag attached to its head

*a man, barefoot, doing the afternoon prayers in the only green space in our neighborhood--a triangle aobut 20 square feet, with mostly mud under the "grass"

*an ice cream cart with a man scooping kid-size ice cream scoops onto sugar cones and topping them with bits of strawberry...right outside the gates of a school.

*the same ice cream man also selling cigarettes to the dads coming to pick up kids

*lots of popcorn carts

*a 7 year old wearing the veil...walking with her FULLY covered--eyes and everything--(in black) mother.

*an Iraqi flag in a window

*a teenager in a beautiful purple galabeya with a complementary purple headscarf.

*my favorite kusheri man, waving at me as I passed shop.

*a 10 year old boy, barefoot, leading a donkey cart laden with oranges down the middle of the street while taxis wait behind him, honking

*a kitten that looks very like Ollie, only playing in a garbage pile.

*a very beat up, very old car driven by a man, slow down as he approached a puddle in the street, so as to avoid splashing the people walking in the road.

*a very fancy, new, not-yet-dented car speed through and splash mud and nasty water on tens of people in the street, all of whom started shouting very angrily in Arabic at the expensive American car.

*a dead chicken, in the midst of the usual rotting vegetable cuttings in the garbage piles.

*loads of cats on said garbage pile. (more than usual)

*a man being chastised--by a woman--for drinking water from the public fountain during the hours people were told not to drink the water until the chlorine has a chance to take effect.

*two teenage girls, one veiled and one not (one Muslim and one Christian) walking arm-in-arm down a street in the middle of this primarily Muslim neighborhood.

Things I did not see today:

*live chickens
*anyone throw garbage on the ground
*teenage boys bicycling through the neighborhood with racks of bread on their heads
*any stalls open in my end of the suuk (which also has a poultry market)

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but since I can't take a photo without drawing lots of attention to my already attention-getting self, words you will have to have.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

a few minutes

well, i've been online a long time but now, suddenly, hours are gone and i'm minutes away from my self-imposed bedtime, so....

a few thoughts on my Johari window so far:

--several people seem to think i'm brave. why?
--no one seems to think i'm friendly. hmmm...something to think about.
--i'm not the least bit surprised not to find "sensible" on my list.
--it's quite frustrating to only be able to choose six adjectives. Doing these for other people is hard and feels restricting.

That's all for that.

I also have this to post for Amy:

Xander: "_ U E S T I O N: / W I L L / H I _ I N G / I N / A / _ A _ E _ N / W I T H / S T O _ _ _ I L E _ / _ H O _ O L A T E / G O O _ S / _ E / A N _ / _ A _ T / O _ / T H I S / _ L A N ?"

Thursday, February 16, 2006

flotsam and jetsam on the waves of my brain....

this isn't about coherent thoughts so much as little tidbits here and there...

--I wish I knew what I am supposed to do when I leave Egypt. Today I want to go to Italy--even if it means I have to raise a zillion dollars because the PCUSA is poor. But it would be nice if I had some sort of, well, clarity about the future.

--I wonder if the reason I throw up so much here has to do with lead? (in the gas, and therefore in the polluted air, and therefore in the dust and nastiness everywhere, and therefore in the soil, and therefore in the food....)

--I wonder how I will handle watching the fifth season of Buffy with my friends now that my mom has died?

--why doesn't our printer work? Or our in-house cell phone? And why doesn't the person whose job it is to make sure those things work do anything about it? "I don't have time" is not a good answer. This is your job.

--you'll see that I finally finished The Land. I thought it was kind of repetitive. Not Walter's best work, but with lots of really great bits. And the last chapter was fab.

--I have also finished Walking the Bible. good, if with some zionist leanings I really didn't appreciate and thought were rather shallow.

--Upon finishing those two books and upon starting the Bible in 90 Days business, I am only reading fun books I have read before but need to read again. Until I run out of those, at which point I will get back to the large number of books I haven't read yet that are in my "to read" stack. Feel free to keep up with my reading adventures in the sidebar.

--I hope Sarah doesn't pass out during the half-marathon she's running in Luxor tomorrow. She's been sick for over two weeks and is only beginning to get better, and is probably a little malnourished after all that. I don't think she should be running 13 miles just a couple days after barely recovering from whatever it was she had. So I hope she comes home in one piece and not from a scary egyptian hospital!

--I really like singing in the Cairo Choral Society. But I do not like singing in German.

--I miss my kitty.

--I feel like I have to do one of these Johari windows because everyone else is doing it and because it never hurts to become a little more self-aware, does it? me out here. Thanks.

I think that's all for today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


today it rained. That's right, big Southern Thunderstorm Rain. (without the thunder and, well, the storm.)

Unfortunately, Jason and I were outside. On our way to the seminary. It started as some harmless sprinkles, not all that uncommon....but then the sprinkles got bigger and started coming faster and before we knew it we were soaked through and getting wetter all the time.

It was not fun.

Then we were cold.

Then, after Jason left to get a ride home in a car, I stayed to chat with my students for a while, and then started walking home.

On the way I had the wonderful experience of not only being soaking wet but also being mroe intensely stared at than usual...probably because I was wet. Three guys blocked the sidewalk so I would have to touch them (albeit by rudely pushing) when I passed by. Some young adults (Christians, actually, it seems...the girls were not covered) very kindly splashed me from a disgusting street mudpuddle. Some really creepy old men said very gross things.

Ah, brings out the best in everyone. And, of course, it's not finished. As I write this, it's raining again. It's windy and the clouds are thick. I hope it stops by the time I go to choir tonight!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Seven Days in Italy...Two Days at a Time

Days 3 and 4—The Scavi Tour, the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and more missionary adventures

Monday morning we raced off for what promised to be a major highlight of our trip: the “scavi tour”—a tour of the excavations of the ancient necropolis underneath St. Peter’s Basilica. Only 10 groups of 10-12 people are allowed in each day, and we got tickets! ilhamdulillah! It was very exciting. We made sure to arrive quite literally just on time at ten minutes before our scheduled tour time. Our fellow tour-ers were mostly American and Canadian. Our guide was very knowledgeable and also, for a change (for us anyway) spoke pretty clear English that didn’t require a lot of effort on our part. And, of course, she was impeccably dressed. The tour was everything it promised—it was amazing. Imagine yourself walking in to a very modern museum-looking place, then suddenly turning down a staircase, only to be met by a security-code-controlled sliding glass door. On the other side of the door it’s dim, the walls are stone, the floor is packed dirt, and the air is a little damp. As you walk along, you look through glass panels into 1900 year old tombs. Every major corridor ends with another of these glass doors, which you later find out are timed—they stay open exactly 40 seconds, which is “plenty of time” for 10 people to walk through. Every turn reveals new mausoleums, new doorways, new tableaus of ancient wealth. And it’s all being “preserved” by limiting the number of visitors, installing no-heat lights, and using this sophisticated glass door system to keep the different sections’ air separate.

The necropolis is really well preserved and the excavations were done very carefully—by only a few (5-10 or something) archaeologists, in secret, during WWII. You can actually see the individual mausoleums and some of their contents, such as jars and pots and paintings and whatnot. You walk down the original road of the necropolis and see mausoleums on both sides. And then, the piece de resistance: through a hole in a wall you can see a grave-hole with a wall built next to it. The very place where St. Peter’s body is said to have been laid after his martyrdom at the hands of Nero in 64. Apparently it was a secret grave, but after a few years or something some friends/followers built two walls to protect the grave and to mark it. Then there was a little shrine. Then Constantine, who ordered a basilica built here, made a bigger shrine. Then an altar was built incorporating the shrine. Then a new altar, and a new altar, etc etc etc. Anyway, after you look through, you walk around to a chapel that faces the back of the first altar. After more talking there, you walk up to a glass-floor room and you can see the “graffiti wall” where people had, for centuries, stated that this was the place and made pilgrimages and made their mark here. And you can see the bones that were found in the niche behind said “graffiti wall”, and were determined after much forensic examination to be the bones of a semitic man of the 1st century, well built, aged approximately 60-70 years (very old for that time). The bones were declared to be the bones of St. Peter by some pope a while ago. Anyway, you can see these bones, in their NASA designed plexiglass boxes, from this room. Very cool. of course there is no head (it’s in the Cathedral of Rome, San Giovanni in Laterano) and no feet (speculation suggests that Peter’s feet were cut off to make it easier to take him down from his upside-down cross). After this highlight, you head out through the tombs of the Popes—also cool! I was really hoping to see the tomb of Pope Urban II, the Crusade Starter, but no good. I don’t think he’s down there. Too bad. Now, I know I didn’t do this justice, but it was a REALLY amazing tour. I am so glad that we wrote ahead and managed to get tickets!

After our tour was finished, we headed in a happy daze over to the entrance for the Vatican Museums. You cannot enter the Vatican museums from inside Vatican City—oh no, that would make too much sense. Instead, from St. Peter’s basilica (where we were), you must walk all the way across the square, out, around the wall (two corners and a couple of long stretches), and THEN after about 10-15 minutes you find yourself and the entrance, which is totally crazy with metal detectors and purse screening and whatnot. Anyway, we got in with a couple of hours to go before they close at 1.45pm (what kind of closing time is that?).

The first day we walked quickly through classical statuary (lots of busts), the map room—with maps frescoed on practically every inch of wall, tapestries, and the room commemorating the declaration of the dogma of the virgin birth or something. All this on our way to the Sistine Chapel—which we spent nearly an hour in that first day. It was amazing. I read the book Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling so I was excited to actually see the ceiling, but when I did see it, I couldn’t even take it all in. Amazing! I had bought the Guide to the Vatican Museums and City—a great investment—and it told me which direction to look and what I was looking at as far as portraits, interesting tidbits, and some of the less obvious tableaux. Also, from the floor it’s difficult to see everything well because there is so much to look at! And you have to really put a kink in your neck to spend too much time looking at it. But it is really really cool. So much color, so many naked figures, so much complexity of design—to think that each section was painted on wet plaster, that Michelangelo did so much of it freehand rather than copying from paper cartoons he drew ahead of time—wow! Then to see the Last Judgment he painted on the wall over the altar, many years later—it’s something, I’ll tell you. For one thing, there’s so much blue. The ceiling contains very little blue paint, probably mostly because blue pigment was ridiculously expensive and Michelangelo spent his own money/salary on the paints for the ceiling. But the last Judgment has a lot of blue, comparatively. And then you see the paintings along the side walls—painted by various other famous painters—and there is a TON of blue in them. One wall has scenes from the life of Moses, and the other has scenes from the life of Jesus. It’s quite amazing to look at them and to figure out what each scene is and to see what famous people found their portraits painted in the scenes.

The Sistine Chapel was incredibly crowded, and you aren’t allowed to take photos inside. I was quite determined to take one anyway, but there were security guys stationed every 20 feet or so throughout the chapel, and they were constantly shouting “silence” and “no photo!!” and sometimes confronting people who openly had their cameras out. Occasionally they would play this recorded message asking people to be quiet and not take pictures. I knew we were coming back the next day, so I decided not to risk being kicked out (or not being allowed back in) and to take my photo the next day. We left the Sistine Chapel that day and headed straight out for some lunch in the Vatican Cafeteria—pizza—before the whole place closed.

The second day in the Vatican Museums we arrived just after opening and we followed the itinerary in the Vatican guide book that would allow us to see everything in the museum--but we planned to skip the Egyptian Museum. ha! We've seen it, thanks. We went fairly quickly through statuary again, partially because to me it is just not exciting. But boy is there a ton of it! We spent a tiny bit more time with the maps, and I wanted to spend more time with the tapestries but didn’t. We did have a goal—the Raphael Stanze. This is a set of rooms that used to be Pope Julius II’s private quarters, and they extensively frescoed by Raphael at the same time Michelangelo was busy with the ceiling. So we wandered through several rooms of painting and whatnot until we came to this set of rooms. And all I have to say about them is this:


Raphael was a really amazing painter, and these frescoes are awesome. The school of Athens—which you just “happen” upon when you unsuspectingly walk through a door, is huge and very cool. I got a picture of me “studying” (the guide book) in the school of Athens. hehe! And the Dispute over the Sacrament, the other paintings I don’t remember the names of but full of color and people…wow. All wow. I had so much fun in the Raphael rooms, I didn’t want to leave. Also, I had so much fun in the Raphael rooms that I don’t remember much else that we saw that day. We went back to the Sistine Chapel for a while…and it was actually less crowded, which unfortunately meant that taking a photo would have been way to obvious so I chickened out and didn’t do it. Next time….

Anyway, after our second visit to the Chapel, we wandered through the modern religious art, and possibly some other things? We stopped at one of the little gift-shop kiosks and Jason bought a book on Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican. I bought stamps at the Vatican Post Office and we mailed postcards to some of you—which should have even the Vatican Postmark on them! How cool is that? And some of you I don’t have addresses for…sorry. You got mental postcards, I promise. :-)

So…that was two days in the Vatican Museums. Both afternoons, post-Vatican, we called the mission co-workers. Monday, one of them came over to St. Peter’s and gave us a tour of the Square and the Basilica. Very excellent! He’s very knowledgeable and definitely gave us a great tour—complete with good stories, history, and fun little Protestant asides. After that (and first thing after the museums on Tuesday), we went to their flat, then went to the local cappuccino bar, and hung out for a while. We had lots of really interesting conversations with them—about things in Rome, about things in Florence, about the work they’ve done in other places (the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Sudan, etc), and about the work they’ve been doing in Rome. They have been working primarily with an organization that works in interfaith/intercultural dialogue. One of the things they do is bring together different groups of people for travel seminar, for discussion, etc. For example, children from Israel and children from Palestine. Or peacemakers from both “sides” of the Israel/Palestine thing—they come to Rome because they can’t openly meet in Palestine or Israel. They did a lot of work with people from Bosnia when all that was going down. Plus lots of other people—those are just the examples I remember right now. It sounded pretty amazing. We also talked a lot about the Reformed Church in Italy—the Waldensian church. It’s older than the Reformation, actually, and has been pretty severely persecuted over the centuries…and there still is a little persecution/rough feeling. There’s also a really amazing amount of stuff being done by the Reformed church, and it sounds really really interesting. One of the things Victor has been asking us (Jason and me) to think about is whether we might be interested in taking a mission position in Italy. Because the two co-workers there now are leaving March 1st, and Victor feels it’s important to have people in Italy—partly because he feels the American church has a lot to learn from the Waldensians. I don’t know much, but I think he’s right about that. So for me and for Jason, hanging out with the missionaries wasn’t only about fun—though they were hugely fun to be with—but was also a little about scooping out whether we might be called there next. I don’t think any decisions were made—at least not on my part. But I really enjoyed being with these people, and in Italy, so one never knows! Wherever I go next, I want to be able to take my cat. That’s all I’m saying. :-)

Anyway, after lots of talking with the mission co-workers, and some borrowing from them (Jason borrowed a coat and gloves, and we borrowed some books on Florence and a magazine about what’s going on in Rome), and some petting of their cat Sophie!, we headed out to explore Rome in the evening. Both nights we were headed the same place, but only on the second night did we get there.

We went out looking for Piazza Navona, a relatively famous square with three fountains, one of which is quite famous (the four rivers). We were also looking for food—the first night, for mushroom risotto, the second night for anything food related (we had skipped lunch on Tuesday). Monday night we were much too hasty in our turning—we gave up on the road too soon—and we wound up lost. Rather than wander more, we looked at every restaurant menu we passed until we found “risotto ai funghi”—which we eventually did, on a little side street. And it was SO GOOD!!! Oh my gosh. I have never had such amazing food as in Rome, seriously. It was so nice to eat mushrooms, for one thing! But also, risotto, pizza, etc…these are some of my favorite things. So anyway, we found some mushroom risotto, and then we found that Jason’s camera was missing. We wandered around more while trying to find our way back, and eventually we found ourselves back at the apartment building where the co-workers live. They were not answering their door, though (not surprising since it was getting late and one of them had quite a headache). We walked back to our hotel via a fantastic night-time view down the Via Conciliazione (reconciliation street, built by Mussolini…I referred to it constantly as “dictator street”) to St. Peter’s. The photo from this actually did turn out really well.

The second night we hung out (and Jason’s camera was found and returned), we left and DID actually find Piazza Navona, after quite a bit of wandering around and actually passing it a couple of times. We hung around it for a while, then turned down a little side street off the piazza and found a really lovely little restaurant where we were the only people inside. In fact, the owner was out in the doorway and when we stopped to look inside to check for atmosphere (the requirement of the day), he beckoned us in and we went. Atmosphere was definitely in abundance! We had a bottle of wine, amazing bruschetta, a pasta dish each, AND we shared a pizza. We did not follow up with dessert, though, because I was hoping we would find a great little gelato place. post-dinner we started walking toward the Pantheon…we found ourselves in some neighborhoods we had definitely seen earlier in the evening! We also found a copy of Trajan’s column (not a real copy, but a copy-cat, really), and Trevi Fountain. We hung out at the fountain, threw coins in over our shoulders to ensure that we will return to Rome, and found some gelato. yum yum yum!!! I really love gelato. Post-gelato, we walked a few blocks to the Pantheon! It was night and therefore not open, but oh how cool. The Pantheon! Wow. Anyway….yeah. It was neat. So neat that I don’t remember if we did anything after that or not! I think we just went back to the hotel, exhausted from a ton of walking and art viewing and eating. If that's not what happened, I'm sure Jason will correct me. :-) All in all, a good two days!!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

in no particular order, I love....

mashed potatoes
that jason is coming home tomorrow
my friends, even though they are far away
chicago style pizza
ice cream--oh, how i wish i could get some now but NO, Cairenes think it's too cold for ice cream...
general foods international coffee french vanilla cafe (decaf)
cadbury hot chocolate
my cat

Friday, February 10, 2006

I'm it....

The way it works. Knock the top name off the list below. Add yours to the bottom. I don't know exactly why you do this, but okay....

Topmost Apple
Rebel Without a Pew
Clever Title Here

Tag five people for this meme...even if they'll never do it?

Emily (em-isms)
ASM (either blog)
Noell (ramblings...)
Rachel (inklings)
ChiRev? are you there? do you have a few minutes free?
I'm bad at following directions, so....reverend mother, if you have a few minutes and feel so inclined....
And anyone else who hasn't been tagged, but wants to play.

What were you doing 10 years ago?
umm, I was 15. I was playing the clarinet a lot but not as much as I should have been, and I was teaching clarinet too. I was getting ready to go to college (I went to college for two years during my last two years of high school). I was probably thinking about which summer music camp to attend. And I was obsessed with whether I'd be accepted to all-state orchestra or band or whatever. that year, I wasn't.

What were you doing a year ago?
taking five classes at seminary--four of them required IN MY LAST SEMESTER!!--and serving as a part-time director of youth ministry in the church where I interned. I was also filling out the application for the YAV program and recovering from Jan-term CPE in a hospital with a HUGE women's services sector, and my assignment was to the floor for women with breast cancer. ugh.

5 snacks you enjoy
home made cookies--chocolate chip, no nuts, are the best!
breadsticks (or crackers) and cheese
peanut butter and jelly toast

5 Songs to which you know all the word
About 3/4 of the Presbyterian Hymnal--and let me tell you, I'm glad I'm not the only one!
most of the songbook Common Ground (from the Church of Scotland)
umm, probably no other songs. I suck as far as radio/pop culture goes.

5 things I'd do if I were a millionare
Pay off debts
Buy a condo
contribute to the PCUSA because they need money like crazy!
join a gym
Give the rest away.

5 bad habits
touching my face/eyebrows
checking my email even though I know I don't have any
not cleaning the kitty litter as often as I should
forgetting to turn on the filter between my brain and my mouth
stacking things and calling it organization

5 things you enjoy doing
snuggling with Jason
snuggling with my kitty

5 things you would not wear again
tapered leg jeans
clothes that I have to hold my breath in
stirrup pants
mini skirts
I can't think of anything else

5 favorite toys
my stove-lighting thing--it sparks rather than flaming. so cool.
my new camera
my computer and the Buffy it plays
all things book related
also...My Little Pony--the original--which I totally don't have any more and haven't for like 13 years, but I still love them.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

25 random questions

okay, I know i'm about a thousand years behind on this, but it seemed like a good way to think about something else for a while.

25 questions

1) When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
Do I look sick enough to not go to school until 5th period today?
2) How much cash do you have on you?
About 10 egyptian pounds--just under $2 US.
3) What's a word that rhymes with TEST?
4) Planet?
5) Who is the fourth person on your missed calls?
"mish andi mobile"--I don't have a cell phone, so no missed calls!
6) What is your favourite ring on your phone?
see above...but back in the US I really loved that when Jason called it rang Aragorn's theme from the Lord of the Rings. And when his mom, the church organist, called, it rang Bach's Little Fugue in G.
7) What shirt are you wearing?
maroon Egyptian tunic
8) What do you label youself as?
cute and personable and everybody likes me?
9) Name the brand of shoes you've recently worn.
White Mountain, at the moment.
10) Bright room or dark room?
kind of dim because sandstorm season started today.
11) What were you doing at midnight last night?
12) What did the last text message on your phone say? was from a long long time ago (like months, now) but I believe it said "have a good day...I love you."
13) Where is your nearest 7-11?
umm, no 7-11. Not much resembling one either. too bad--I could use a slurpy.
14) What's a saying you say a lot?
"it's not that complicated"
15) Who told you they loved you last?
Jason? Noell?
16) Last furry thing you touched?
Real live with fur? Sophie the cat belonging to the co-workers in Rome.
17) How many drugs have you done in the past three days?
just vitamins and one Advil Cold and Sinus
18) How many rolls of film do you need to get developed?
none, I'm all digital
19) Favourite age you've been so far?
probably the one I am now, though honestly 23 is looking pretty good too
20) Your worst enemy?
21) What is your current desktop picture?
a photo of me and Jason at the pyramids.
22) What was the last thing you said to someone?
see you tomorrow, insha'allah
23) If you had to choose between a millions bucks and being able to fly, which would you choose?
money. how many more things can i do with that than with flying? we have airplanes, people.
24) Do you like someone?
of course. Many people. If this is "like" as in the "hi, i'm 12" "like", then yes. And you all know who it is and if you don't then you should read my blog more.
25) The last song you listened to?
just a few minutes ago I listened to a first grade class learning songs for the milestones of life, and one of them was the song people sing to a family on the 7th day after a baby is born. It was in Arabic, though, and I caught zero words. The last song I listened to in English was probably one of the songs from the Team America soundtrack.

Well, that was fun and mildly diverting. excellent. After last night's rant I feel an incredible urge to read Pride and Prejudice again. Which may explain my use of the word "diverting". ha!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

you don't have to read this if you don't want to....

this post may not make a lot of sense, but too bad. Welcome to the stream of my consciousness.

I have been missing my mom a lot lately--more than I did in January. Maybe this is because I have been traveling so much and now I'm "home" and "settled" for several months running with no big trips planned. Maybe it's because I'm back in everyday life without excitement to distract me. Maybe it's because I have a cold and I hate being sick without my mom to turn to. Maybe it's because I haven't used my resources of my YAV community well. Maybe it's because Jason is gone now (only for a short time, but still) and he's the one who keeps me sane. Or maybe it's because with his grandmother dying I feel like my own grief process has to be finished in order to be there for him. In any case, I miss my mom.

I have been thinking about the grief process, and about how we have talked about "grief work." I keep wondering if I am doing the work or just glossing over it, and then I realize that I don't even know what the work is. Will I get back to the US and find I need months and months of therapy before I can be a good pastor or a normal human being simply because I didn't do the homework? Am I going to be irreparably damaged because I've decided to continue living my call to Egypt even in the midst of huge pain? I hope not, but I wonder sometimes.

I have also been thinking about other people and why no one seems to care about all that pain. And there are two answers, of course: one is that everyone has pain and it's not all about me, and the second is that I haven't talked about it with "everyone" (anyone?) so of course they don't care because they don't even know about it. But on the other hand, this whole year is not about me using the group to do the "work"--it's about service. And there's something in there about community building too, but sometimes building community with this group is hard work. Well, building community with any group becomes hard work at some point, but I guess what I want to say is that we've reached that point. I am learning a lot about holding "all things in common"--including some things that I would normally say are very much mine (like things from my kitchen, and my computer). I am also learning that when a bunch of people who don't want to hurt anyone else's feelings are all together, no one's feelings ever actually get asked about or taken into account during all the tiptoeing around. Instead of no one getting hurt, no one's spiritual or emotional needs are being met. And that's frustrating. So no wonder no one cares about the pain I'm in--their own needs aren't being met AND we've not set a precedent for how to actually meet anyone's needs.

Now for something not meant to make a single clay family member feel guilty--it's just there. What with the whole grandmother situation, I definitely feel like my support system has shifted focus--which it has, and rightfully so. But now where do I go? Who will take my tear-filled emails? Who will give me the hugs I need without feeling like they're putting their own needs on hold? I guess I'm wondering--where does my grief process fit in with this new one? Where's the balance here? I don't know it yet, obviously, since they haven't even had the funeral yet. But the thoughts are there anyway.

Another thing about horrible as this sounds, I'm kind of mad at my mom. I asked her a zillion times to tell me if it was time, so I could come home. She promised me she would, that she would let me know. This is actually, I think, the only promise my mother has ever broken. but honestly--it's a big one. One phone call--even if I couldn't have gone in time, just one phone call--to say goodbye, so I could tell her I loved her, so we could talk one last time. but no. Our last conversation was a few minutes on my 25th birthday, and she was crying and talking about giving up, and I tried to encourage her, and then she said it was okay. Would it have been so bad to at least call once more..even if it was that last day? Cell phones make international calls--she could have even called from the hospital. But no...nothing. Just me, finding out from my brothers AIM away message that my mom had died that morning.

Which brings me to being mad at myself, for not realizing that she was serious and that I should go home then. I had ten days--ten days of wondering whether I should go, and deciding not to. Ten days I could have spent with my mom. Why didn't I realize it was time to go? Why did I push myself to believe that she would tell me when to come? Why didn't I listen to the very very quiet inner voice?

But the overriding thought? I miss my mom so much, and I would give anything in the whole world to talk to her just one more time. One more....

Mom, I love you. You are stubborn but great. I love you.

Once you have come to the end of this, if you haven't already read the post below RE the cartoons, please do. It's important to this place where I live, and important to my life here.

comic furor

okay, so this is by now practically old news, but here on the ground, it's big news. Not only are the Danish cartoons the biggest story in international politics, they're also the biggest story in the everyday life of millions of people--including those I work with and, frankly, me. Therefore, my perspective.

1. Freedom of the press is crucial, and I do believe that the government of Denmark is correct in saying it cannot apologize for what the free press publishes. The publisher can do whatever he or she wants as far as what is in the newspaper. I often want to ask people here "why are you so upset that a government won't censor the newspaper, when one of the things you ask for is an uncensored media?"

2. Part of me wants to ask where the Christians or the Jews are when their iconic figures are being bashed by political cartoons. I don't like to see Mohammed with a bomb on his head, but I also don't like to see Moses with a gun or Jesus throwing people into hell or whatever it is that cartoonists use to make fun of things highly visible Jews or Christians do or say. And a small part of that part wants to ask why it's such a big deal--a few cartoons...welcome to the equal treatment you've been demanding. Except I know that is a huge gloss over a ton of issues, not the least of which is the prohibition against ANY depiction of Mohammed.

3. "with great freedom comes great responsibility." And in this case, I think the responsibility is to common sense. We are in a world where radical followers of religions are known to act in ways that seem irrational. We are in a time when anger against Western countries and those who are perceived as enemies of particular religions is very high and situations are volatile. We are in a world where people are regularly kidnapped and murdered simply because their skin color or faith identifies them as the enemy, whether they are or not. So to publish anything inflammatory or, as many Muslims would put it, defamatory, in this environment is profoundly stupid. Where are your brains, people? Not only have you further inflamed the anger against the west, you have also put in danger all of us Westerners who live in the Middle East--your own diplomats, business people, aid workers, volunteers, English teachers...not to mention the Christians both native and foreign who are seen as outposts of the West by the radical Islamic movement.

4. Don't think it's only the radicals who are upset by this. Every day I walk through a poor-side-of-middle-class Muslim neighborhood. Yesterday I found that EVERY CAR on the street had posted an 8-1/2 by 11 sign (either printed out or hand written) that said--in English--"down with haters of Islam...destroy Denmark today." And I'm not talking about someone walking down posting flyers on cars. These were on the inside of the back window. Of every car in the neighborhood. Sure makes this cute blonde woman want to think twice about going to my job as a pastor in the protestant christian seminary on the other side of this neighborhood. Today I was talking with a Muslim teacher--a first grade Arabic teacher--at RCG. When she began to talk about the cartoons, she CRIED. With real tears. She was explaining to me that she loves the Prophet Mohammed more than her mother, more than her father, more than her sisters...why would people want to defame that love? And you know--that's how much we're supposed to love Jesus. And if the command is to spread love around, then why are we spreading hate and mistrust? This woman--a normal, average, not all that conservative Muslim woman, cried when talking about these cartoons.

5. Obviously I don't condone violence. I think that people who are burning embassies and throwing rocks and whatnot are not taking the best action to make their case. I agree that the violence is only making moderate Islam look bad and is increasing the culture of fear and hatred. I also would be quick to point out that Radical Fundamentalist Islam is not the way to go. And then I would point out that some of these people you see protesting are not Radicals, they aren't Fundamentalists, they are people who feel really deeply hurt and angered over this defamation of the one they love most, the one who gives them their identity. And again I appeal to the common sense of people--don't return evil for evil.

Well, that's my take on this. And now I have to go for a walk through my Muslim neighborhood, try not to look Danish, and if someone approaches me, try to mend some fences.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Seven Days in Italy...Two days at a time

Okay, I don’t even know where to begin with blogging about Italy. Should I do a day-by-day? Should I talk about food, then art, then people? Should I just start writing and see what happens? I have no idea. So….in the interest of simplicity, day by day it is. This could get tedious but I’ll try to keep it interesting.

Day 1: Cairo to Rome.

Of course, the flight was delayed and we had the intense pleasure of hanging out an extra hour or two in the Cairo airport, which has not enough chairs and also apparently not enough “no smoking” signs, because I saw dozens of people smoking while standing or sitting right next to the signs posted every twenty feet or so. The Cairo airport is also interesting in that passengers are not allowed into the departure gate (where all the chairs are) until it’s nearly time to board the plane. Instead passengers mill about the congested terminal area, waiting until a gate is posted and actually opened. Then they go through a security check, then wait in the gate area about 20 minutes, then board the plane in a very unorganized all-at-once fashion, rushing the door. It’s very exciting.

Once we arrived in Rome, we were quite late. We got our bags, went through a very useless customs service area, and headed for the train. Train tickets into Rome are nearly 10 Euro, but it’s worth it! In 30 minutes you are basically downtown, AND the Metro entrance is right in the train station. We, of course, couldn’t figure that out and we ended up asking for help at a door that went outside. We finally found the metro, worked out the ticket machine, and got ourselves onto the right train. It was a very fancy-schmancy metro train, more like an accordion bus than a train. You could see/walk through the entire train, with no car divisions. Very strange. Very new. Very cool.

We went seven stops, consulted the map in the Lonely Planet Book for Rome, and found our way (past our first view of the Vatican and the dome of St. Peter’s basilica!) to the Grand Olympic Hotel, one of the Aurum chain hotels. It was an incredibly nice hotel, and we had rooms hidden away at the top of what we termed our “private staircase.” Nice. Our rooms were huge. Anyway…after dropping off our stuff, we headed down to ask the front desk man for a good restaurant. It was nearly 11pm and we were STARVING!!!!! The front desk guy was an incredible man who spoke several languages and pointed us to a neighborhood place called Taverne Varrone (tavern-a veron-a). We found it easily, as it was just the next street over—Via Varrone. It’s underground—we went down about 10 steps to get in. It was incredibly dim, and we were told that there was only half power so we could only have pizza or pasta. Perfect, since we wanted pizza!! I had a mushroom pizza, Roman style. It’s VERY VERY VERY thin crust, with really great tomato sauce, wonderful mozzarella, and fresh button mushrooms, plus a few spices. It is, by far, the best thing I had ever eaten. Ever. oh my gosh. I kept making Rachael Ray noises—“mmm, oh, mmm….wow…” It was so good. I told Jason that if I had actually been Rachael Ray, I would have gotten a tour of the kitchen and seen the wood fire oven they baked those pizzas in. I ate the entire pizza—it was probably 10-12 inches across. In Rome you don’t touch your food—you eat your pizza (which comes whole) with a knife and fork. It’s a little fussy, but worth it because the crust is so thin you probably couldn’t hold the pizza anyway. It was SO GOOD. So good. I have never been so happy to eat pizza. Plus the atmosphere of the place was awesome—only a couple of other people, dim light, underground, etc…

After the pizzas, we decided to share a tiramisu. Oh man, there is nothing like Italian desserts in Italy. Tiramisu at this restaurant was again the best thing I’d ever eaten. I don’t know how they did it, but yum!!!!! We wished we’d ordered one each instead of sharing. Seriously. Weightwatchers, goodbye (I know we parted ways months ago, but still…). tiramisu, hello!!

After that amazing dinner, we pretty much collapsed into our respective beds, knowing we had a big day to come!

Day 2: Rome.

We awoke to a thoroughly non-Italian breakfast at the hotel—it’s obviously designed for foreigners because there’s cereal, pastry, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, tea and coffee and juice, yogurt, etc. Italians normally just grab a cappuccino and a croissant while standing at the bar of a cafĂ©. But since we had breakfast in the hotel, we saved a couple euro by eating a heartier meal. How often do you get to say that?

After breakfast we headed out towards Vatican City, a grand total of two blocks away. We ended up walking right into St. Peter’s Square, without even really trying. It’s crazy—from one country to the next through a colonnade. St. Peter’s Square is huge—practically sprawling, actually. Two huge colonnades, a large basilica in the center (from Heliopolis, Egypt, just a few miles away from where we live), and it still had the nativity scene when we were there too. The basilica is so big. I can’t even begin to express it. There are statues of saints all around the colonnade and the top of the basilica, and obviously in the center (over the door) is Jesus. They look about life-sized from the ground, but it turns out they’re actually about 4-5 times larger than an actual person. Wow.

We spent quite a bit of time wandering around this square, thinking about looking for the excavations office (where we were slated to go the next morning), but mostly people-watching, walking through the colonnade, taking photos of the massive Saints Peter and Paul guarding the entrance to the basilica, and also taking pictures of the Swiss Guard, who have really outrageous uniforms. They were supposedly designed by someone famous—Michelangelo or Leonardo or something—but they’re actually just hilarious. I have a feeling those guys get their pictures taken a lot.

There were a ton of people in the square. I was surprised at how many, actually, given that it’s low tourist season and a Sunday. Of course, the Pope gives his weekly address on Sunday, and I learned on Monday morning that Sunday must actually be one of the bigger crowd days. Monday and Tuesday the square was deserted in comparison. Anyway, about half an hour before the Pope was to appear, we heard a commotion coming from the opposite colonnade. We half-heartedly ran for it, only to discover we should have really tried harder! The Swiss Guard was in formation, complete with a band and a spear-weilding cavalry, all headed by a cardinal or something. We got a few photos, but mostly we just enjoyed watching people flock to one little part of the square. The guard stood around for a while and the square filled up. There were probably several thousand people there. Then he was in the window! Pope Benedict XVI appeared, waved, and began to speak. In Italian, of course. I caught a little of it…mostly it was about Christian unity and the love of God and the church. Then he began to recite the Angelus (which of course I didn’t understand at all) and suddenly people around us were reciting too—it was actual liturgy and people had it memorized and the pope was leading worship and prayer for thousands of people and it was very cool. After that was finished, he continued to talk a little bit more in Italian—maybe five or six sentences—during which time Jason and I moved into a convenient position to see the Guard better when they recessed. Suddenly we realized the pope had started speaking in English! He delivered his 5-6 sentence summary: welcome, this is the week of prayer for Christian unity, we have a lot to pray for, we need to show the love of God to the world, etc. He then proceeded to do the same in German, French, Polish, Russian, and Spanish. Dang. That guy knows a lot of languages. A lot. As he greeted each language’s people, people in the square erupted in cheers. One group of nuns started singing. It was really neat. I’m sure there were people there whose language was not spoken, but I would be willing to bet that they understood at least one of the seven languages I remember hearing.

After the Pope had finished and offered the benediction, the Swiss Guard band started up and then did indeed come marching straight toward us. Everyone ran over, but we had front row places. ilhamdulillah! It was so neat. I got some great photos.

Anyway, after our Sunday address with the pope, we headed out for some lunch back at what had already become “our” restaurant—the one we ate at last night. It had full power and actually was a little too bright, I thought, compared to the night before. But the food was still really really good! mmm, mushroom fettuccini!! So yummy. I think we may actually have had tiramisu again too. heheh! The staff were just as friendly as the night before too, and this time they had a full house. It was great.

After lunch we decided to strike out on a Lonely Planet walking tour of the Appian Way—what used to be like the longest, straightest road in the empire or something. It leads from Rome across to the other coast of Italy, and at one time you could see really really far down it because it was so straight. Part of the original road still exists, which is always fun. “I’m walking on a Roman paving stone…la la la…” Anyway, we hopped on the metro underground and then a bus. We got off not at the place the book told us to but rather at the “Via Appia Antica” stop, which seemed like what we ought to want, and proceeded to be very confused for a while about which direction we should go. Luckily Jason got us straightened out and we headed in the right direction eventually.

The Via Appia Antica (the Appian Way…not to be confused with Via Appia Nuova, which is somewhere else inside the old city walls) is lined with ruins. It’s home to mausoleums and catacombs, which were what we were particularly interested in. We found our way to the San Sebastian catacombs, and we took a tour of one particular catacomb that houses approximately 500,000 tombs. Christian tombs in the first centuries after Christ were designed like beds—the body was simply laid in the niche on the wall as though they were sleeping. In this way niches were dug below others, and the catacomb extends down four levels below ground. This is also one of the places where the early church would meet for worship—because it was underground, so it was more secret. Also, the pagans at the time who saw people going there would assume it was for a funeral, since this was a known burial ground. Christians did little to change this assumption, mostly because it was convenient for them and also because the theology of that isn’t so bad—since Christian funerals are REALLY about the Resurrection, and that’s what regular Lord’s Day worship is also about…Anyway, there were thousands of tombs down there, most very small (as in, they were for children). They are empty now, of course, because the last known use of this catacomb was in the 4th century. However, some are still bricked up, so you never know what you might find in there. I suggest dust, since caskets were not used.

The catacombs were really really fascinating. Apparently many church groups still ask permission to celebrate the mass or other (protestant) worship services there, because it is a holy place. I think it was amazing. I could really visualize the early church meeting here while trying to escape persecution. Plus the corridors were so narrow and the place was so deep that it would also provide a relatively secure hiding place if that became necessary.

After we left the catacombs, we had a long, long walk back to the city. Lonely Planet isn’t kidding when they tell you this walk is going to take three hours. We definitely took three hours beginning to end, plus we stopped for about 45 minutes for the catacombs. Anyway…along the way there is a church that commemorates Jesus appearing to Peter and telling him not to flee Rome, but to be persecuted and crucified here. There is a stone with some vague footprints that are supposedly Jesus’ footprints. I saw the footprints, but I somehow doubt they’re Jesus’. Maybe they are and I’m too much of a skeptic. Or maybe they’re not. In any case, there they are. I think people really come to touch them or something, but I just saw them and went on the way because it was getting dark.

We finally made it to the city gate, apparently the best preserved remnant/gate of the old city walls. Then we had further confusion, again my fault. There was a lot of confusion on my part during this trip, so you’ll find this a common refrain. I thought the book told us to go through the gate to catch the bus. Apparently after you do all the things inside the gate, you are supposed to go back out to catch the bus. we didn’t, obviously. We walked and walked, and it got dark, and we finally came to a piazza we didn’t recognize (it being our first full day in Rome) and we had to figure out how to get a bus from there. We finally did figure it out, and the bus took us to the metro station where we finally found our way home. Jason was very upset about this, mainly because I was stubborn about it being the right way and also, I think, because he was anxious to get back to the hotel to try to call Victor.

Victor Makari is the PC(USA) WorldWide Ministries Division Area Coordinator for Europe and the Middle East. There are a couple of mission co-workers in Rome (well, until March 1, anyway, when they will move to work in the Holy Land…therefore I will not use their names here, as that’s a sensitive area) who needed a visit, and Victor was orienting a new colleague in the Mission Partnerships office to her “territory.” Conveniently this visit coincided with our visit, so we called their hotel when we returned from our epic adventure on the Via Appia Antica. Their hotel was only a few minutes’ walk away from ours, so they came to pick us up (with the missionaries as well) and we all went to dinner at one of the favorite restaurants of the two co-workers. It was run by a lovely older man named Luigi. One of his children (or his children’s spouse?) has converted from Catholicism to Protestantism, and attends the same church as the two mission coworkers. The food was amazing, the atmosphere wonderful, the owner congenial, and the company excellent. Jason and I had a great time meeting the two co-workers, and also getting to know Angela, the new person Victor was orienting. Not to mention catching up with Victor, who we haven’t seen since Thanksgiving. There was good red wine, and I once again had mushroom pizza, which was amazing!! After dinner we had lots of different desserts to share and they were all good. Jason and I shared most of a tiramisu again! And then Luigi brought out his signature (secret recipe) after-dinner liqueur. It had amazing flavor, but he refused to tell us what was in it—even when I gave him my cute and pleading “pretty please?” face.

After all that great conversation and good food, we were sad to leave. But we did have the mission co-workers’ phone numbers, and agreed to call them again tomorrow and maybe meet for a cappuccino or something.

After that, Jason and I headed “home” again because it had been such a busy day! But, of course, no night in Rome is complete without an evening view of St. Peter’s all lit up. I stood in the middle of the road (no cars, don’t worry) and tried to get a photo, but I needed the shutter to be open longer than I could hold very still in order for it to come out. You can see the result of that first effort on the photo page—it’s blurry. :-)


Jason has gone home to Atlanta to be with his family as his grandmother dies. The doctors have revised their time-estimate down to three days or less. He is hoping to make it in time.
And here, we are without a member of our group and I am without my "other half", so all of us need prayer.
but really, focus on traveling prayers and prayers for the end of suffering and for a family in grief.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I miss Puffs

You know you've either blown your nose too much or your egyptian kleenex is bad when the Egyptian Toilet Paper feels better on your nose than kleenex.

I used an entire box of kleenex before lunch today. That's right, 200 tissues gone in a matter of hours. Well, last night and this morning, but still. That's crazy.

On the bright side, I think I might be getting better. I've been drinking lots of juice, water, and tea. I've eaten healthy food like fruit. I've slept in a lot. I have faithfully blown my nose every couple of minutes rather than sniffling at all, in an attempt to keep the yuckiness out of my throat and chest. So really, I should be over it ASAP. I hope.

But right now, I miss Puffs with lotion. I could really use some of those. In their nice green box.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

prayer request

jason's grandmother had a stroke last week, and it has affected her ability to swallow. she did not want any big measures taken, so she has moved into hospice and the doctors are currently saying maybe three more weeks.

please pray for jason and his family as they share this experience and grieve together.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

home at last

well, after a fantastic week in Italy AND a surprise three day field trip to Port Said and Alexandria, I'm home. In theory, I won't be going on any more vacations (besides the required retreat) until summer.

And I still have one more devotion to write for Ordinary Time.

And tonight is the first night of spring term English classes at the Cathedral.