Happy weekend everyone! Enjoy!
25 February 2011
Happy weekend everyone! Enjoy!
But one in particular has stood out to me.
I hesitate to devote a post to it because perhaps it is selfish that this particular place has stood out. Perhaps I am focused on this one place because places like Lybia and their unrest really frighten me about the future. Perhaps I care more because I have a connection. I suppose in life we do that. But I can't seem to get this tragedy out of my head.
On 22 February Christchurch, New Zealand was hit by a 6.3 earthquake. As of 5 minutes ago, the death toll has risen to 113. I imagine that number will continue to increase as the recovery work continues and the ruble is cleared. No one has been pulled out alive from the wreckage since Wednesday. There are still close to a hundred missing. I am fighting the tears as I write this.
New Zealand holds a place in my heart that no other place can ever fill. Just as much as London and Oklahoma are my homes, so is New Zealand. I truly discovered the Kristina I am today in New Zealand. I met my husband in New Zealand. I got my masters degree in New Zealand. I fell in love with a culture, a people, and a lifestyle that I have forever tried to emulate because of New Zealand. My heart truly came home and settled for the first time in New Zealand.
Buildings, memorial bridges, churches, the Cathedral, pubs, and homes that all hold special memories are destroyed. And my heart is sad because of it.
I have dear friends in New Zealand who have lost their loved ones in the earthquake and my heart is breaking for them.
A friend of mine who runs a hostel in Christchurch escaped with her life, but her livelihood is gone. And my heart is aching for her.
I cant imagine what life will be like in New Zealand now. It is an interesting culture to try and explain to people who have never been. The entire country, comprised of two small islands, is roughly 2/3 the size of Missouri. The people are very tight knit. It doenst matter if you live in Auckland, you are hurting for Christchurch. I have never been to a place that whole heartily embraces the idea of 'brotherly love' more completely than New Zealand. Even states known for their southern hospitality pale in comparison to the generosity and compassion New Zealanders show for their fellow man.
I have said it before, and it still holds true, that although New Zealand is not an overly religious country, Christians could learn a lot about how to act just by observing their culture. New Zealand is a visual explain of what the Church, the body of Christ, should look like. Compassionate, selfless, forgiving, giving, caring, helpful, and living in kindness. The people are open and willing to lend a hand. This is not an exaggeration; I have never encountered such wholesale kindness by a people in all the 30 countries I have been to.
I could list example after example of people going out of their way for me during my months in NZ. Like the time my credit card wouldn't work at the rental car company and the owner let me take the car anyway, saying he would trust me to come back and pay later in the week, because knew I needed the car and was willing to help. Or the family that overheard me at a payphone one day about how I was lonely and missed my family and promptly invited me back to their house for dinner. Another time a couple offered to pay for my groceries because they knew what it was like to travel and be on a budget. Then there were the girls who invited me to their table for coffee and snacks because I was on my own; the National Archives worker who did whatever he could to help as he knew I was on a limited time frame- even though it meant putting off his own project. I could go on and on with story after story of New Zealanders showing examples of love, charity, hospitality, and generosity.
I vividly remember an email I sent out to my friends in 2005 when I was still in NZ describing the culture. I compared it to the church then, but even as I do the same now, I am still struck by the comparison. I am called to help out those in need, to love unconditionally, and to act in kindness because I love and follow Jesus. The Bible tells us to do those things, and as a follow of Christ, I should do my best to live by Biblical standards. Sadly, I fall short more than I would like to admit. The church as an institution is called to do those same things as well. Like me, they too fall short. I am not saying that New Zealanders are perfect. Heck they have more bars than any other place I have been too and a fairly high percentage of people with drinking problems. The islands have their fare share of shortcomings as does every place. But I am saying that if you look at their lifestyle- they seem to get it right. (And we could learn from their culture.) And it makes me sad that tradegy has struck.
I have no doubt that they will rally around each other and do what they can to move forward. I have no doubt that they will pull together and make Christchurch what it was before. But my heart hurts for them.
Selfishly my heart hurts a little because the places that hold some of my dearest memories with Rhys are now gone. We walked together in the Cathedral which is half missing. We shared many a pint and laugh (and even a cheeky dance and kiss) in a famous pub, which is now destroyed. I know I still have the memories, but part of me wanted to go back and visit- walking in those same spots. And I will no longer have that chance.
I am sad that people are dying. I am sad that so many lives are being ripped apart. I am sad that homes and families are forever changed because of one afternoon. I am just sad.
Please, if you haven't been doing so already, join me in praying for the people of New Zealand. Please pray specifically for my friends John and Elizabeth who have lost their home, their hostel and their way of life. Please pray for all the families and friends of those dead and missing. Pray for God's power to come and take over the situation. I may not understand the situation, or why it had to happen, but I do believe that God is in control.
24 February 2011
Day 3 was the last full day we had in Rome. It was also the most fantastic. In part from a historical perspective as this was the day we visited the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill (my favourite!!) and the Colessum. And in part because Rhys and I had just had some amazing moments.
We started the day with a couple of donuts and coffee courtsey of the crazy, chain smoking B&B owner and then made our way down to the Colosseum. The first time I went to Rome was in 2004 with Stef and Leah. We wanted to check out all the sights and according to the tube map, taking the 'Colosseo' stop was the way to do it. I will never forget walking up the steps from the tube, stepping into the street and immediately being overwhelmed by the enorminty of the ancient structure. There, less than 100 meters in front of the tube enterence, is the colosseum- towering high above the street, in all it's broken glory. It took my breath away and left in it's place an image that will never be erased. I wanted Rhys to experience the same thing so instead of walking to the ruins, we took the tube. He was just as awe struck 7 years later as I was on that summer day back in 2004. (and yet somehow I did not get a picture. i suck)
After the inital schock wore off, we wandered down to Constantine's Arch. It was constructed in 315 AD by the senate to honour Constantine's victory over a rival. It is massive. As an interesting side note, the Arc di Triumph in Paris is modeled after this arch.
We continued on to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Per a handy tip from a guide book, we went to the Hill first to buy ticekts. The €12 covers entry into both the ruins and the Colosseum. However the queue for the Palatine Hill is never long. Even in off peak time, the Colosseum queue was huge. With a ticket, you can queue jump. awesome. no waiting for us.
So here we are standing by the Arch of Titus. It was built by Titus' brother in 81 AD to honour the victories of Titus and Vespasian in the Judaean War. There is special inscreption on this arch to commerate the highlight of said conflict- the complete defeat and pillage of Jerusalem. The arch stood untouhed until 1471 when it was partially restored and used by the Frangipani family in their castle. That structure was demolished in 1821. In the same year the arch was dismantled (uh, how exactly do you dismantle a massive ancient arch?) and restored using travertine. The original material was marble, so you can see exactly where restorations have been made.
After the arch, we made our way around to the Temple of Venus and Rome. It is, or rather was, the largest temple ever built in Rome. It is thought to be desinged by Hadrian and finished in 135. It was damaged by a fire in 235, restored in 307 and remained completly intact and untouched until 625 when the bronze roofing tiles were stolen to create the ceiling in St. Peter's Basilica. Since then, it was left to go into disrepair and is only now being renovated.
The front part of the temple (where rhys and I are standing) is obviously in ruins, but the back part was turned into a convent and is still functioning. It is an amazing, massive structure to see- even today.
The temple sits on a high and as we rounded the corner to make our way down to the forum, we had an amazing view of the ruins.
The area that is the Roman Forum stands in the very heart of Rome. A busy metropolis has come to surround this fantastic bit of ancient, untouched history. Orginally desinged as a market place in 625 BC, the forum was the epi-centre of ancient Rome. The area was usedf or everything from market stalls to religious worship. As such, it the forum was divided into 3 areas- Religious, Political and Commerical. The senate houses and college of priests were headquareted here. The famous Vestal Virgins and the Temple of Vesta made its home in the forum. In the 2nd century BC, the market stalls were mved out and a judiciary moved in.
Below is the Temple of Saturn. To be honest, it is barely more than a pile of rocks, but it is thought to be the oldest standing temple in Rome, it was inagurated in 498 BC. People, that is old!
Everywhere you looked, there was a temple, church, grave or building that was thousands of years old. I could have easily spent hours and hours reading and researching. I would have even brought my own materials if Rhys had left me. If I ever win the lottery and have millions to spare, I will go back to school and study ancient Rome extensively. I took hundreds (literally) of pictures, but I will spare you.
After we left the forum area, we made our way up the Palatine Hill. There are many legends regarding the hill, but regardless of what story you believe, there is no doubt that it was on these very grounds that the ancient city was founded.
The most commonly believed 'tradition' is that the hill was settled first in 1184 BC. To quote the story from the Blue Guide "Sixty years before the Trojan War, Evander, son of Hermes and as Arcadian nymph, led a colony from Pallantion in Arcadia and built a town at the foot of the hill, naming it after his native village. Aeneas, who escaped from burning Troy after the Trojan War was welcomed here by Evander." Nice. I like that story. To continue on "Some classical authors give another explanation of the name Palatium: that it is derived from Pales, the goddess of flocks and shepherds, whose festival is celebrated on 21 April, the day on which the city of Rome is said to be founded by Romulus and Remus in 754 BC." **
Anyway you look at it, the place is crazy old, and covered in history. And as we were on a hill, we had some amazing views. check on the ruins- again.
just in case you wanted a panoramic shot as well :)
After the Forum and Palatine Hill, we headed over to jump the queue and have a look inside the Colosseum. It was incredible. I had never been inside before, but it was well worth the euros shelled out. As Charles Dickens said "It is the most impressive, the most stately, the most solemn, grand, majestic, mournful sight, conceivable. Never in it's bloodiest prime, can the sight of the gigantic Coliseum, full and running over with the lustiest life, have moved one heart, as it must have moved all who look upon it now, a ruin. God be thanked: a ruin!" a mouthful, but it sums it up nicely.
It was built in 70 AD and although is the most visited monument in Rome, it is the most under studied. It was only in 2007 that a full scale evaluation was conducted. I will not go into the history here because it is simply too long and too detailed. I do strongly recommend that you at least google the history and read up. It is fascinating; you will not be disappointed.
I will, however, offer this bit of information that I did not not before my visit. The Colosseum was obviously the forerunner of all modern arenas. But do you know why they are called arenas? Because back in the day, when they used to have bloody fights- you know to the death and all that- they covered the floor with arena to soak up the blood. yeah, arena means sand. interesting, no?
another interesting side note: the main train station is Rome is called Termini. You think terminal right? wrong. Termini means bath. The site is the ancient Roman baths. crazy eh?)
That said, here are some shots of us inside.
It was dusk by the time we left the Colosseum. They actually closed at dusk and they asked us to leave :) We made our way back to the B&B and found ourselves at sunset on the Pont' de Angelo. I tried to capture the moment, but I only got one picture before my camera died. And I didn't bring the charger.
This picture ends the visual part of my Roman tour, but I am not finished until I relay one further story. It ranks in the top 5 of 'best moments of my life'
After a shower, run around the Vatican (thats right folks, even on holiday you still gotta run!) and a wonderful dinner of pasta, Rhys and I decided we should make a somewhat early night of it as we were leaving the next day. We spent hours walking all over the city, getting lost on purpose just to make the night last longer, but eventually we found ourselves back at the bridge. the same bridge we walked over several times a day. But that night it was different.
The bridge was deserted save one older gentleman. He sat alone, playing a guitar. Not busking or begging, just playing for his own enjoyment. His own and ours. We walked along, hand in hand, as the moonlight danced upon the water. The tune changed and as the slow cords of "Your Song" filled the air, Rhys took me in his arms and we started to dance. I wish I could have captured that moment. The star light casting a gentle glow, the soft hum of the water rushing beneath the bridge, the cold air forcing me close to Rhys and slow strumming of the guitar. Rhys sang along...."I hope you dont mind that I put into words how wonderful life is now that your in this world...."
I couldn't have imagined a better moment. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. It was the perfecting ending to our time in Rome. After the song finished, the guitarist picked up the beat and we kept walking down the road. But for those few moments, we were the only two people in the world, dancing ever so slowly, on the streets of Rome. Day three, success.
Day 4 consisted of breakfast, a quick last walk around St Peter's and the Vatican and then it was off to the airport and back to reality. It was an amazing time; such a worth while trip. Our last big hurrah in Europe? Success
** Macadam, Alta. Blue Guide, Rome. Sommerset Books, London. 2010.
21 February 2011
It is not really, we have booked a round trip ticket and are coming back in September. We will have a get together then and I will do all the same Watford/London things in a few months time. But this past weekend was the last time I will be up before I leave. And it was bittersweet.
18 February 2011
This will be it for me until next week, so I will leave you all with this picture. I put Ele's coat on and asked if she wanted to go on a walk. She said yes and ran off. This is what she looked like when she came back. Awesome
17 February 2011
With only 9 weeks left in the UK, I am trying to cram as much in as possible. And if I am honest, with Peppa Pig's World, friends to visit, 6 nations games, one last IKEA trip, shipping our stuff out, seeing family and maybe a last minute trip to Barcelona- this will most likely be my last trip to London before I move.
Which brings me to the topic of today's post. Dreams.
Not the kind of dreams you have when you go to sleep, more like daydreams. The dreams where life is imagined in glorious and exciting ways. The dreams where anything and everything is possible, and more often than not, everything you could ever wish for comes true. I have been thinking a lot about these kind of dreams.
The university where I did my undergraduate work was a great place. No place is without its faults, but over all it was a fantastic place of education as well as personal and religious growth. At said university there was quite a bit of emphasis placed upon emotions/relationships. Not just boy/girl. ALL types of relationships- Jesus, friends, roommates, parents, yourself etc.... I can not even being to count the number of personality tests I had to take in my classes or the number of surveys I did on relationships and what should be expected/accepted. I say all of that to make this point. Largely due to the culture of my university, I made a list my first year of all the things I wanted to achieve in my life. Yes, my entire life was mapped out when I was 18.
I know I have mentioned the list before, but as a recap everything that was on my list has been accomplished. yes, everything. travel-check. travel alone-check. marry an international-check. make sure said international husband has a British accent-check. get a graduate degree-check. live overseas-check. have a child-check. and then the list kind of stops. I am not sure if I never really believed those things would happen. I mean, marrying a British guy and living in another country does sound like a pretty crazy thing when you are 18 and in school in Arkansas.
However, since 2004 I have literally been living my dream. Back and forth across the globe so many times I needed extra pages put in my passport; making a home in a foreign land; starting a family; having an incredible husband. My dreams have come true.
Apparently I forgot to keep on dreaming.
I think that is one of the reasons this move is so hard for me. I have achieved things I never really thought possible. And now that it is time to move on, I am afraid because I am not sure what I am moving on to- or that it is what I really want. After all, my dreams seem to stop after the international man and move. Sure I have made new lists. But the new lists are more practical, things that are actually necessary like supporting my daughter and making sure there is a roof over our heads. No crazy 'live in New Zealand, own a hostel but still find time to run with the bulls in Pamplona every year' kind of dreams.
It is time to dream big again. Just because I am married and have a kid, doesn't mean that I still can't come up with off the wall, seemingly impossible dreams. After all, my dreams came true before so why can't they again? I feel newly inspired today to really think about what kind of future I want for my family and my children and the dream big around that. I know myself well enough to know that I dont always fit perfectly into the conventional way of life. So its time to really embrace that and make some new dreams.
15 February 2011
The second day involved even more walking than the first day. Seriously, at least 50 miles. Ok so maybe not 50, but a fair few of miles were walked. We started the day with our hostel breakfast which consisted of coffee, juice and a few croissants. We wanted an early start because we were off to the Vatican and the Vatican Museum. The last time I went to the Vatican, I waited in a queue something like 3 hours to get inside. Granted, this is February and before was June- peak travel time- but better be on the safe side than waste precious hours standing in a queue. We walked straight in. Off season is awesome.
Rhys has never been to Rome and the Vatican and Sistine Chapel were top on his list of things to do. He was not disappointed. How can you be when you are seeing things like this
Even when you are surrounded, wall to wall, with incredible paintings by Raphel (and the like)
After 4 hours in the Vatican we ventured over to St. Peter's square to have a look around inside the basilica and the tombs of the popes. breathtaking (the basilica, not the tombs)
Here Rhys is kneeling on the original slab of porphyry which the emperors used to kneel upon for their coronation. It dates back to the old basilica (around 319 AD) and it is thought that Constantine accepted his role as emperor on this very stone. As a side note I should say that is no way was this stone marked in the basilica. It pays to have a thorough and informative guide book. (Blue Guide all the way!!)
After a nice pizza for lunch, our next stop was Fontana di Trevi. A fairly recent structure, the fountain was started in the 15th century but updated and most of what we can see today was built in the 18th century. Interestingly though, the water used to supply the fountain are those of the Acqua Vergine Antica which is an ancient aqueduct built almost entirely underground. The aqueduct, supplied from a spring 20k east of the city, was built by Agrippa to supply the bath in the Pantheon in 19 BC. Now that is old. The same aqueduct channels and spring are still used to supply the fountain with water even today.
As the sun was beginning to set, we found ourselves at the Piazza del Popolo. It was built in the 15th century as an entrance to Rome from the north. While that date is 'modern' compared to some of the ancient ruins left around the city, there is an obelisk (not pictured) which dates from the 12th century BC. 12 century BC. that is crazy old.
As an interesting side note, Queen Christina (often noted: Kristina) of Sweden made her entry into Rome through this very area in 1655, dressed as an amazon. For the sake of space (and most people's interest) I will not go into all the details here, but if you are the least bit interested in history, I would recommend reading about Queen Christian. She is the only not emperor, not religious person to be buried in St. Peter's. Look at that, another interesting fact. I am just full of them ;)
We finished the night off with a great dinner of gnocchi and wine at a very picturesque Italian cafe. We went to bet tired and sore from the massive amount of walking, but pleased to have another successful day under our belts.
14 February 2011
Mostly for my benefit (and that of my parents back home), I am going to divide the holiday into 4 posts, one for each day. I still journal like there is no tomorrow, but on the blog I can add pictures. And I want this record for the times I am feeling low in America- I can read back through and remember the awesomeness that is Rome.
After a 4am start, Rhys and I wasted no time in falling straight asleep on the plane. Usually I dread long flights, but I could have handled a few more hours of sleeping this time. However a mere two and half hours of sleep later, we landed in Rome. Sunny and 15 (60's) a nice change from the crap, rainy 5 (30) we left in Wales. As Rhys and I like to consider ourselves 'seasoned travellers' we bypassed the easy jet offer of €8 tickets to the center terminal and decided to do it the local way. We managed to get around and find the local bus, a measly €1.20 to the center. funny thing? the same people on our flight who bought the easy jet tickets were on our bus. look how excited we are at saving the money....pays to shop around.
45 minutes later we had managed to find the right train and make it to our tube stop for the hostel. Finding our hostel proved to be not as easy. We had directions and street names, yet it took nearly an hour of walking up and down, asking people, and going around in circles to find the right building. No thanks to the shop owner who said "ah, so so, i donta know but kind of where-a to go. this way, no the other way. ah, so so. maybe I dont know whicha way to go" nice man, but not so helpful.
I thought I had booked a hostel. In reality, I had booked a B & B. And by B & B I mean a mans flat with 3 extra bedrooms that he rented out. And he smoked. a lot. The positive side? He was very friendly, we had our own room/bathroom and the flat was close to the tube stop. the down side? He smoked. a lot. As the weather was so nice, we could open a window and the room mostly aired out by the end of the day. ah, crazy smoking Italians....
As soon as we shed our bags, Rhys and I were out the door to explore. Our first stop was St. Peter's Square.
After the square we decided to head over to Castel Sant' Angelo and pay for our first visit to ancient Rome. Well worth the €16 it cost for the two of us to get in, the castle was unbelievable.
Castel Sant' Angelo was originally begun by Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. Work started in 128 AD and the structure was finished one year after Hadrian's death in 139 AD. Over the years the building was used as burial grounds, a palace, a prison, and even official papal property. Marble and stone was taken from this building for use in St. Peter's basilica. It was pillaged in the middle ages and elaborately decorated by several popes. In the late 1800's it was occupied by French troops and finally made into a museum in 1930. What we see today is what remains- a really old, historically amazing building.
In fact it is so old that there are signs everywhere like the one below. Age of Hadrian. People that is OLD. Even if you do not enjoy history as much as I do, you can appreciate the importance of this.
Below is a picture of the original burial chamber of Hadrian.
Here I am in one of the top walk ways, you know, just standing in a spot where Hadrian could have stood- 2000 years ago! crazy. Or let me put it this way- this walkway where I am standing is over 1500 years older than America as a country.
The castle provided incredible views of the city. The pictures do not do the view justice, but it was the best we could do with a point and shoot camera. Believe me when I say it was breathtakingly beautiful.
After an extensive tour of the castle and quite a few hours of wandering around the city, it was time for dinner. There was no discussion of where to go, it was already decided. The Hard Rock Cafe.
Hard Rock Cafe is our 'thing'. It started 6 years ago in Barcelona. We couldn't decide on a place to eat and somehow ended up at the Hard Rock. We spent the entire night talking about music. Since then we have tried to hit a Hard Rock Cafe in every major city we have been to. And we still spend the majority of the evening discussing music. It is just as awesome 6 years later as it was that very first night. Barcelona, New York, London, Dallas, Paris and now Rome. Here we are enjoying our traditional Hard Rock Cafe meal.
After dinner we decided to walk back to our flat instead of using the tube. That and the tube was closed from 9pm on due to work. But hey, why not make the most of a gorgeous evening? We walked and walked and walked. And then walked some more. After a few turns down some side streets and a couple funny street names, we were lost. In front of a giant, ancient obelisk, but lost none the less. I, or course, decided to document the map moment with yet another self picture. (yes, rhys did get sick of the pictures. his facial expressions start to show it...)
But we managed to find our way (thanks to Rhys' awesome map reading skills) and shortly found ourselves in front of the Pantheon.
The building, originally built in 27 BC to commemorate victory over Antony and Celopatra, was damaged and rebuilt several times over the years. It is assumed (with quite a bit of certainty) that the building we see today was actually built/modified by Hadrian in 118 AD. It was closed under the first Christian emperor, pillaged by the Goths, eventually restored by a pope and today open to the public as arguably one of the most famous of the Roman ruins. I say 'ruin' but in actuality it is wonderfully preserved and quite a bold symbol of the capability and enormity of Roman skill and architecture. (i have a feeling that I will type that exact sentence several more times over the coming days)The Pantheon is an incredible structure to see.
As we wandered around the streets, we gradually made our way back to the Castel Sant' Angelo and the Ponte Sant' Angelo. It was beautiful lit up for the night, reflecting off the water. It was a sight worth seeing in the day, but well worth the visit at night.
Our last stop of the day, which ended up being our last stop every single day, was St. Peter's Square at night. It was deserted, again off season Rome, and beautiful. Most nights we were the only two people in the square. Well, us and the two Polizia that rode around on a golf cart. It was so peaceful. Our first night we spent a good while just walking around the square, holding hands and enjoying each other. Eventually we headed back to our place. It had been a long day, but an amazing one. First day was a success.
8 February 2011
Ah, it will be awesome. I am so excited for just the two of us to get away. This trip was actually Rhys' Christmas present, it just worked out for us to go now.
7 February 2011
We have dear friends in both places. And I know that either Arkansas or Boston would provide us with great opportunities. And it was excruciatingly difficult to make the decision. As I said before, no place will have everything we want.
But I will tell you, my blogging friends, where it is that we are moving.
We have said from the beginning that it doesn't have to be forever. We reserve the right to say that middle America is not for us and move to Boston. Heck, we reserve to right to say America is not for us and move back to Europe. Just as we felt it time to move on from London, we want to stay open and honest to our needs as a family and a couple and realise that someday it may be time to move on again.
But for now, it is Arkansas.
4 February 2011
and then she decided she had to stick her tongue out in every picture.