Monday, 23 March 2009

Just me thinking aloud.

I want Lenten talks.
I need Lenten talks.

I'm stuck and I don't know what to do.

This isn't going to be my normal sort of blog, sorry to disappoint. I just needed to 'think' out loud, and that tends to work best when I'm writing.

I miss home, yes. But not just usual "Family and Friends" missing. I mean that's pretty strong through, but not impossible to work through. More than that I miss the presence of God. 
I know, God is in everything we do, every action we choose to make. God is in old women who say Pace to you in Mass and in strangers who smile at you as you walk down the street. He is with us everywhere we go. I know that. 

I miss CLC. I miss MaranaTha'. I miss Chaplaincy.  I even miss Y4J even though I only went a grand total of one time! That one time had a pretty strong effect on me. I miss being in an atmosphere where I know that people understand what I'm going on about. Where I can just be. Where I can praise and worship God the way I know how. I need that. I didn't really realise just how much I need it until I came here. Without God, my life would have no meaning. I could try to live a 'good' life, but without Him it would still be dry and empty. At home I am ridiculously lucky to have amazing friends who understand that about me, and who feel the same way. I'm not judging people who don't feel this way, don't get me wrong. I just need the push. The whole holding-hands-together community feeling. I have nowhere to go on Thursday afternoons. I think of Cantarei. On Friday evenings. I think of M'Tha. On Saturdays.  I think of Y4J.

I know that the only thing that can save me in this respect is probably the most important thing. Prayer. And yet I feel I'm stuck. I need guidance. The feeling of peace I get after I pray is probably the most amazing I've felt over here, but still sometimes I forget this. And I wonder why I'm feeling empty. Why I'm not 'happy'. Then I remember. And I can't believe I could have forgotten. 

I need to learn how to really pray on my own and deepen my relationship with God. It's what I've been trying to do over the past year or so. It just gets harder when you're on your own. 

I need to be the person I can count on to remind myself how prayer makes me feel. I don't know if that even makes sense.

I've been reading so much about Lenten talks and meetings and the like. You guys sound so busy! And you're so lucky. Please don't forget that. You don't know how much I would give right now to be in your shoes.

Everyday when I walk out of the house, I plug in my headphones, turn on my mp3 and sing Hillsong. All the way to uni. And back. People have got used to me by now I think. Well, if they haven't already they soon will.

God Bless you.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Two words: Lon. Don.

I am back.

I have been meaning to update this for a while to be honest. But I was tired. And I wanted to at least try to do it properly. So now I am attempting to write on an uncomfortable plastic chair in the shade looking at the Italians frolicking on the lawn. And smoking. They're always smoking. I think I'm going to come home with emphysema. Ah well. Maybe I can do one of those ads on the Dangers of Second-hand Smoke.

Back to the point. Last week I made a very spontaneous decision. You see, lessons on Wednesday had been cancelled and since I am as free as a bird on Thursday and Friday I decided I had to go somewhere. For a brief moment it seemed as though my sister was going to join me in a trip to Florence. But she bailed on me for "educational reasons". I don't really blame her, she's doing her O Levels. 

After that there was only one logical choice really: London! I mean, why not? One message to Jenny later and I had booked my flights. It was perfect timing actually, considering that it was Jen's twentieth birthday yesterday. She's all grown up now. No more teen years. It's all downhill from here. Next year our lungs will start deteriorating. (Thanks go to Ruth for that lovely nugget of information).  Another shout out goes to Jeremy B, my godbrother (?...I say it exists.) He turns sixteen today God bless :)

I planned my journey down to a tee. I even wrote down all the info on a fullscap that I would carry around with me. I was oh-so-efficient. Or so I thought. Looking back, it's probably a good thing I didn't take my laptop with me. Otherwise you would have read a blog dripping with bile and venom and HATRED towards all Italians. Joe, you would have been proud. Let me explain.

I arrived at the airport bright and early, a full 30 mins before my train was scheduled to leave. I looked at my watch and smiled. Plenty of time. I'd planned to arrive at the airport in Milan half an hour before my flight to Gatwick opened for check in. Loads of time. I sat on a bench in the sun, pulled out my book, looked up at the announcement board, and frowned. A little red notice had come up: my train was now running 35mins late. No matter. Had time to spare. I sat there for forty minutes. Then, I heard the dreaded jingle that precedes all transport-related messages of panic and anxiety. I listened. I froze in horror. My train had been cancelled. Cancelled.

I RAN to the Admin Office and pleaded with them to find me another way to get to Milan. I called my dad a couple of times. My breathing became more erratic. The man in charge made a few calls. Then he told me that the next train heading to Milan would leave at 12.06. It was around that time that I started to hyperventilate. But there was nothing I could do. I would still make it. Just. So I waited.
Eventually, 12 o'clock rolled around.





Where's the fracking train????

Yes. You guessed. It was delayed. By the time I got to Milan I missed my shuttle to the airport. I had to get on the next bus. Surprise surprise: it was late. I was oddly calm at this point. The lull before the storm. My exit from the bus can only be described as a leap. I was halfway through the security check before I realised that hadn't actually checked in. That was it. The boarding gate closed. I had officially been beaten by the Italian transport system. 

Thankfully the next flight was at 6.00pm. A mere three hours later. Fifty Euros poorer and still pretty pissed off, it didn't feel like much of a consolation at that point.

Once that ordeal was over, I could finally enjoy myself. Like Jen said: It's happened to me once. At least the first time won't be with 7 screaming kids or something. Her words, not mine.

I love London. I really do. It's one of those places where I don't feel like a tourist. I love the be-who-you-want-to-be vibe. I love the energy, the life that I feel when I'm there. Oh, and I l-o-v-e the food. Seriously. I went mad. Jen lives 5 minutes away from a place called Planet Organic. That's all I can say. Pret-a-Manger? If I could live there I would. For the muffins and cinnamon granola alone. There was even an EAT. in Topshop! Too good. Sigh. I'm really going to miss the food. You get tired of Caprese after a while, you know? Chicken doesn't seem to exist in Verona, in any shape or form. And I'm not really a prosciutto crudo kind of gal. They don't get it. It's quite fun to observe their helpless expression when you ask them for a meatless option. Quite precious. So the flag is flying at half-mast today as I mourn London food.

OK, you knew it was coming. You must have been preparing yourself for the raving that is to follow, so here it comes: the ART! Oh my. I went to the National Gallery twice. Did I mention I was only in London for two days? I couldn't help's so big! I actually took down notes on my musuem map so that I would remember all that I'd seen. Van gogh, Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Degas, Caravaggio, Carracci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Picasso, Velazquez, Ribera, Van Eyck, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt...the list is endless. Alone and teary-eyed once again, museum-Krissie took over for the six hours that I was in that building. I think I need a moment of silence to appreciate the glory of the experience.


And we're back. Honestly, I think I'm going to have withdrawal symptoms when I come home and leave all the artistic magnificence behind. Sniff. I don't even want to think about it. I bought a badge. It says LoveArt. I think I'm going to pin it onto my bag so that people will be warned of my crazed addiction before it hits them. It's the right thing to do.

Ruth joined us on Friday. We laughed, we sang ABBA at karaoke, we made lists (ahemm.), we went to Camden and played dress up, we ate a lot of muffins. OK fine. I ate a lot of muffins. I can't resist their blueberry goodness...

It was grand. Thanks again Jen.

Oh and, in case you were wondering, I made it home without so much as a five-minute delay. Actually, I was early.

Oh Pret. I'll miss you so...

I so should have bought that hat.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Reflections, Bucket Lists and a Broken Umbrella.

It's me again. 

It's been a very long week. So long, in fact, that I'm going to need to work backwards to make sure I don't forget anything.

Today, Sunday 8th March, Women's Day, was a very good day.

I woke up determined to track down a Catholic Mass...and I did! Turns out that about seven minutes away from my appartment there's this beautiful church called S. Giovanni Fuori Le Mura. That's what I love about Verona; it's full of these little surprises. So much so that I have decided to devote a Facebook photo album to all the churches that I come across while I'm here, famous and forgotten alike. I wonder how many I'll end up with...

Anyway, back to today. Well, I arrived at around 10.05 and, since I was told that the mass started at 10.30, I spent half an hour taking photos, wandering around, looking into the windows of Pasticcerias and just faffing about in general. Sadly, I had been misinformed. When I walked into the church, I stepped right into the prayers of the faithful. Oopsy. 

At first I was upset but soon all I could feel was this wave of relief to be back in a church again. I had missed Mass last week because I just hadn't got everything together at that point and I had no clue where to go or what to do. I had, and have, been feeling a little lost recently and being in that Church today just made me realise how much I've missed CLC, and Community and Chaplaincy. I've been feeling alone and sad, without knowing why, and this morning, surrounded by the congregation of Borgo Venezia, mouthing words I wasn't used to but which felt so familiar, I felt like part of something again. 

I felt...weightless. And so happy. It's funny; when I reached out to shake the hand of the old woman next to me she smiled back when she said "Pace". She gripped my hand tightly and really looked at me when she said it. It was almost like she knew what I was feeling. And then the last thing I could have possibly imagined happened: I started crying. I guess I really am turning into my mother! 

I walked down towards the city centre to meet two friends of mine and together we went on a hike to the Sanctuary. This monastery was built right at the top of the highest point in Verona. It is now my second most favourite place in the whole world. Taize still comes in at number one. What can I say, I have a thing for monasteries.

The sanctuary is the building that looks kind of like a cupcake, on the far left of the top photo. As you can see, the walk up is quite brutal. A constant curving uphill, followed by many, many steps. But I would do it a hundred times over. And I probably will. When you finally reach the top of the hill and look out onto the horizon, all Verona is spread out before you. The river, the bridges, the endless churches and their campaniles, the snow-capped Dolomites; all of it. The atmosphere of the sanctuary was so calming; a place of prayer and reflection. The few people who were up there with us felt the same awe and reverence we felt, and there was a silence that none of us wanted to break. I want to go back there to sketch. It's one of those places where you could sit for hours without seeing the time pass. Where you don't have to can just be.


Like I said, today was a good day.  

Thursday 5th March. 
The day I would finally cross something off my Bucket List.

"In short, he who doesn't go to Venice is a fool". Anton Chekhov knew what he was talking about, believe me.


One of the places I promised myself I would see in my lifetime. I can't even remember what made me fall in love with the city. All I know is that whatever it was, it was justified.

Even though it was cold, with torrential rain and Malta-style wind, Venice's charm was irresistible. The canals! The bridges! The gondolas! The blind-ending streets! The sour-faced locals! The endless stalls of Murano glass! The time spent wandering around as you get lost over and over again! Ah, Venice. There's really nowhere like it.

I loved every second of it. And I wasn't kidding about the rain. Exhibit A: the bins full of broken umbrellas. Sadly, mine was destined to join them.

The trip was totally unexpected, as the best things in life usually are. As we were only there for a day,  St Mark's Square and Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (i.e. Titian-land) were on the top of my hitlist.

First things first: we got totally and utterly lost. Please note: I had a complete street map. I never claimed to have good direction skills. We (Anja and I) decided to stop for lunch to get out of the rain and maybe figure out where we were. A piadine and panino later and we realised we were a total of five metres away from dei Frari. Figures.

It's a really really really big church. And I'm short. 
But mostly it's just really big.

TIIIIIIIIIIITIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAN!!! I will typescream his name for all to hear! Before going to Venice, and more specifically de Frari, I never really put him on the same level as Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael, the Florentine masters. 

I was wrong. 

This is for the lady who shouted "NO photography" at me: The Assumption is miiiinnnee muahahahaha. What can I say. I'm a rebel.

I must, and will, go back to Venice. No other place can make you feel so confused (try walking up and down the same piece of waterfront for half an hour looking for a pizzeria that you know is there... in the rain) and enthralled (St Mark's Basilica in all it's golden, mosaic-ed, Byzantine glory).

My feet were soaking wet the entire day [MEMO to me: check weather forecasts], I ate a chocolate and almond pastry bigger than my fist, I walked past Byron's old haunt, I heard a gondolier sing, I nearly fell into a canal, I bought more books than I could carry, I envied the art students sketching in the rain, I unleashed my inner tourist and I broke my umbrella.

Not bad for one day.

I think I'll stop here. 
I know: two days don't really make a week. So I guess I'll be back sooner rather than later.

Oh and thanks for all the support! You have no idea how much it means to me. 

And I apologise for never uploading more photos to my last post. I would say that I'll try to remember, but I know I won't. I'll put them all on Facebook. Soon. Promise.

Miss you,


Sunday, 1 March 2009

Take Two...

I'm writing again!

It seems I've taken to this whole blogging thing surprisingly well... go figure.

First of all I'd like to say THANKS to all the people who commented or let me know that they read my first blog and want me to continue writing. I felt connected with everyone, like I could really share what I am going through. No wonder Simon keeps bugging me to comment on his blogs... [yes, Sim: they are excellent and worthy of a comment in every possible way.]

I went to Milan on Saturday!! That's the main topic of this blog in fact.

I have reached a conclusion: Milan is only fun if you can afford to shop there (highly unlikely in my case), OR if you're interested in seeing a lot of art. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT.


Sorry about that, but you know me... ART...(angel choirs singing) ... Good times. And totally random! It just goes to show that Erasmus Nights at pubs were created for a reason... but I'm getting ahead of myself, so I'll start from the beginning.

Now I really reaallly didn't feel like going to the pub that night. Most of you have witnessed my hermit-like tendencies in some shape or form, and so you know that no matter where I am, no matter how many times people try to assure me that the party/film/gathering is going to be "off the heezy", if I don't wanna go, I'm not gonna go. I'm boring. I have embraced it and moved on.

So when Thursday rolled around and I was feeling tired and lazy, the thought of a pub stuffed beyond comprehension with other aliens didn't really excite me. At all. AND I was pretty certain that my room mates hated me. See, they're older and they work, so they have to wake up early. And I kept coming in late. I could have sworn that one of them was coughing at me when I walked in at 12.30am the night before. You know. Coughing. Cough go to sleep cough now cough or else...

Yeah. Partying wasn't really high up on my to-do list. So I walked home and chit-chatted with my roomies, or co-inquiline as they are known here (my vocab is slloooowly expanding). Turns out, they can't hear a thing when they close their door! And one of them, Patrizia, had done an Erasmus exchange and she was all like go out, have fun, take the plunge, you're only here once carpe diem and all that. So I went.

I ended up meeting these two really sweet girls, Anya and Catherine. Random fact: Anya's dad is Maltese. I know, right? What are the odds... Anyway, we were talking about how none of us had plans for the weekend and then *poof*, suddenly we had promised each other that we would go on a day trip to Milan! And just like that I woke up super early, caught the train and less than two hours later I was in Milan. Simple pimple. 

Ah Milan... I feel like I should take a drag from a cigarette, or throw a scarf around my shoulders or something when I say that. It really is quite posh. We stopped in front of La Scala for a quick photo and walked through the very beautiful and oh-so-expensive Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele. The only things we could afford were a coffee and muffin from the McCafe. Yes, shock horror, I was in Milan and went to McDonalds. I. Moi. Me. And it felt good. How shameful. 

Pretty, right?

Anyway, so we walked through the arch and stopped dead in our tracks. For right in front of us was one of the most impressive buildings that I have ever seen in my life: the Milan Duomo. Honestly, I nearly cried. Words cannot describe how amazingly impressively, exquisitely...yeah, you see? I got nothing. 

At this point the many toddlers wandering around dressed up as lions and princesses and power rangers hadn't caught my eye. I mean, I was too busy gawking. But when silly string shot across my boots that got my attention. I looked around. As far as the eye could see [i.e. up to the giant Zara...that place is everywhere...] there were children. Hundreds of children dressed up in costumes. Throwing confetti. Spraying silly string. Doing other children-type things. 

Please note the confetti.


I still don't get it. I mean Ash Wednesday had passed and everything. We were officially in Lent and I'm being totally serious when I say that Milan was overrun with beings under two feet in height. Odd. 'Twas cute though. Right up to the point when I got sprayed with silly string. Yeah. Not so cute then.

After eating the crappiest meal in the history of tourist trap meals, I escaped to the Pinacoteca Brera by myself. I didn't really blame the others for not coming; by that point I had already dragged them to a Futurist exhibition. To be very honest I was ready to explore by myself...I hate to feel rushed because I'm worrying that someone else isn't enjoying themselves. So I found the museum, took a deep breath and walked in. An hour and a half later I stumbled out, red-faced, glassy-eyed and totally satisfied. I had lucked out. It was the 200-year anniversary of the opening of the museum. Can anybody say "Caravaggio Exhibition"? I walked into the screened off area, clutching my time-slot paper like it was the ticket to heaven. This time I really did cry. And more than once too. I was like a loon. A lonely loon on loon tablets. Wandering around the paintings, reaching out to them whilst muttering under my breath and 'shedding a tear', as my mum would say. I had reached new heights of geekdom. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

I made up for the crappy lunch later. The Calzonpizza is a wonderful thing. I don't care what my godfather says. God bless the Italians.

And that was Milan!

I'm going to have to go again though... I mean, I didn't even see Da Vinci's "Last Supper"! Apparently you have to book 60 days in advance...stupid Da Vinci Code.

Good night and God bless you.

Oh, and you'll hear from me reaaaaally soon this time. I have lots more to say and you're a very good listener...

Miss you, as always,


P.S. More photos to come. I got bored waiting for them to upload.