Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Santorini

Well we were supposed to go from Mykanos to Paros, but the seas were so bad they cancelled our ferry! So we ended up catching a larger ferry to Santorini, where we were going to go a couple days later anyway. During the ferry ride, it became evident just how rough the seas were. It was so wavy/windy/rocky that all 3 of us (as well as about 75% of the boat) got super seasick. All my life I've heard "Lorin can't go on boats because he gets sick." All my life I've seen him do fine on boats, but after that ferry ride I have a lot more sympathy for him - I'm not to keen to get on a boat anytime soon either. 

The good news is that it was totally worth it because Santorini is BEAUTIFUL. The island is just huge, steep, rocky cliffs with white picturesque villages built on top. It's stunning. And we had four days there, which was lovely. 


As per usual, we did lots of walking, village to village. There are pathways along the cliff where you can see all the pretty everything. The first day, Lorin was still recovering from seasickness, but Judy and I climbed a little mountain to this darlin little chapel built nestled into the cliffs. I think my favorite part of Greece might be the chapels everywhere. 



We rented a car (it was tiny and European and adorable) and went to red and black sand beaches - the water is clearer here than anywhere I've ever been. It's like looking through glass and it's amazing. And we visited an archaeological site - Akotiri - which is basically a 1700 bce Pompei. So seeing 3700 years-old 3 story buildings was stunning. 

My favorite village we visited was called Oia. It's the most beautiful by far. It's built on the very tip of the island, so the cliffs on all sides (as well as the views of the sea and surrounding islands) make it so majestic. It's got tons of blue dome churches, a street made of marble, and the best sunset in the island. I even love it's name. Oia. I love all those vowels. Actually, that's something I love about Greek in general; when it's written in the Latin alphabet, there are so many vowels. Vowel-rich words warm my little English major heart. 

I rode a donkey! We were going up from a port to a town, but were not digging the idea of waking up 516 long steps (the ones where you take three strides before you get to the next step), so we paid to ride the donkey's up. It was so touristy, but the view was nice and I had fun. 

In other news, I'm over this whole eating-meat thing, but it's okay because I'm enjoying other things, namely baklava and frozen yogurt. Baklava is the best. It always makes me think of my 16th birthday picnic in Vienna. The frozen yogurt is awesome too. It's not regular frozen yogurt; it's frozen Greek yogurt. I like it even more than gelato (Judy might disown me for it). My favorite so far is topping it with honey, strawberries, and pomegranate seeds. I could eat that all day every day. 


Friday, May 24, 2013

The cat came back

I'm reading outside again. The cat came back as soon as I opened the door. I think he likes books. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hello from Mykanos

Hello, I am alive, and in Greece. It is lovely and warm. Today I got sun burned! It's been about six months since I was in the sun enough to get sunburned. Unfortunately I was wearing a 3/4 length shirt, so I got sunburned from like 3 inches above my wrist to my hand, which is a funny look. But it's do nice to be warm again, I don't even care. 

Can I just take a minutes to say the flight to Europe was my best flight ever? The plane was super empty. It was like flying 10 years ago. I remember how when I was little I used to always have my own row to lie down in coming back from Hawaii. I can't remember the last time that happened, BUT IT HAPPENED FLYING TO EUROPE. I had my own row for the whole 9 hour flight. So I laid down (the perks of being 5'2'') and slept the whole way! It was great. But for some reason this trip I've been struggling with jet lag. I'm usually pretty good about adjusting to Europe time, but it's been a battle this time. Oh well. There are worst things. 

Right now I am sitting inside with my kindle and my journal but I am blogging instead of writing or reading. On the plane I read Sherman Alexie's YA book, and I enjoyed it because Sherman Alexie is a very good writer. Now I'm working on a Ken Kesey novel, which is also very good. It surprised me a little bit because I didn't like Cuckoo's Nest because of the misogyny up the wazoo in it. Earlier I was sitting outside, but it got a little windy, and a strange very needy cat came over meowing and trying to sit on my lap, so I came inside. The cat is still outside, asleep on a chair in the sun. His collet is a piece of thick string. I think that in another life, I would like to be a Grecian hotel cat. He seems very comfy in his life, even if he is a little entitled. 

Right now we're on the island of Mykanos. It's just gorgeous. I feel like I'm in a National Geographic catalog. Or maybe in Mama Mia. All the buildings are white washed with blue shutters and balconies and stairways. Also, because of the lime whitewashing on all the buildings, the corners all look softer and the lines are slightly less than straight. All and all, it's a very appealing look these islands are rocking.




There are lots of tiny churches on Mykanos, and as I understand it, on the other Cyclade islands. Because there isn't a centralized (Papal) authority in the Greek Orthodox religion, families can build their own chapel on their land. Then they use it for baptisms, marriages, and burials. So there are these beautiful little chapels dotting fields and the tops of hills. The dome color reflects the family's buiness - blue for sailors and agriculturalists, red for merchants, and white for foreigners. The blue domes are my favorite. 


In Athens we went to the Acropolis and we spent today at Delos. There is something sort of stunning about Ancient Greece. I wish I knew more about it. I have vague 8th grade memories of Ancient Greece history and reading the Odyssey (I think I only remember either of them at all because both classes were taught by excellent teachers).  I need to reread the Odyssey.

On another note, remember that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the protagonist is trying to explain to her aunt that her fiancĂ© is a vegetarian and the aunt is super offended by it? It's a really good thing that I quit being a vegetarian because there really isn't much meat-free action going on in Greece. I'm good with it though. Actually I'm totally loving Greek food. What meat-eating person doesn't love Greek food? Today while we were eating lunch a pelican came walking past. He was giant. The waiter explained that in 1986 Jackie Kennedy came to Mykanos and saw how much the tourists liked the one pelican on the island so she donated another, which was the one that walked by, because pelicans live about 45 years. I thought that was pretty cool. 

Today we hiked up a small mountain/hill to get a view of the island and it was glorious. I think that my golden rule of traveling is that the view is always worth the climb. It seems like the most spectacular and memorable breathtaking moments have all been after I climbed a hill or tower or whatever to see where I was from a new perspective. There's just something incredible about it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Check Mate

Just finished my last final for TWO, count them TWO, years. So that's sort of awesome.

This week has been the busiest school week of my life. Monday I ended up starting a TOTAL REWRITE of my history final paper, due Wednesday afternoon, worth 50% of my grade. Monday I pulled the very first school-induced all nighter of my life. Promptly followed by my second all nighter on Tuesday. There will be more. I've avoided all kinds of caffeine for the past 9 months or so (yay Mormons!) but I consumed like 6 monsters writing that paper. Monsters are disgusting. But I was so wired, I wrote the hell out of that paper. It was also totally bearable because I really liked the topic I was researching/writing about. So that was good to have finished.

I spent pretty much all of yesterday packing. I accumulated SO MUCH STUFF. I don't even know what to do with myself. Anyway, I managed to get it all packed away. How many bags am I taking on the airplane today? Checking 3, plus a carry-on duffel, plus my backpack. Yay for Southwest's first checked 2 bags for free! If I were flying any other airline, I'd be paying hundreds of dollars for all my crap. One small catch is that I literally don't know how I'm going to make it from the taxi cab to the check-in counter. I don't think I'm able to carry 200 pounds of luggage that far. And as we all know, unattended bags will be confiscated, so I can't really do two trips. Maybe I'll have to rent one of those stupid luggage carts. Worse things have happened.

Anyway, it's been a great year. I'm a pretty lucky kid. I'm in the 801 tomorrow, saying goodbye to some of my favorites for the next two years. Then off to Europe Sunday. Summer has officially arrived.

Winnie and I finally took a picture in "the big chair".

Monday, May 13, 2013

Here I am

I think my very favorite moment in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a letter that a father writes to his daughter simply because she asked him to. The letter ends, "I hope one day you will have the experience of doing something you do not understand for someone you love." It's such a gorgeous sentence because it so aptly conveys the kind of trust involved in loving or being loved by someone. Sometimes, the meaning isn't immediately (or ever) clear, but you go ahead anyway, because you trust that person enough to proceed blindly.

This sort of blind trust in God has definitely been part of my religious experience. For me, there is a period of blind faith between when I choose to believe and start living a principle or aspect of the gospel (even though I usually don't understand why I'm doing it) and when I understand that to be true. And the reality is, knowing it's true usually entails a confirmation that it's the right thing but not necessarily understanding every aspect of the why. I've learned to be okay with that, because I think that one of the most fundamental aspects of faith is that there needs to be reasonable but not certain grounds for believing, which means there must be space for both doubt and belief.

Lately, I've been pretty overwhelmed with this whole mission thing. It's like now that I've bought most of my clothes and I've got other preparations seriously underway, the realities of the things that scare me are really sinking in. Kiev Ukraine is literally on my mind all the time - in both good and bad ways. I've been participating this giant 7000-member sister missionary facebook group, planning my life on Pinterest and reading all these blogs and talks about preparing and going on a mission. The general consensus seems to be "A mission is really really really nearly unbearably hard but it is absolutely entirely worth it and you will grow in orders of magnitude."  I already knew this, but right now, I can't help being absolutely terrified. Which is why I need blind faith. 

I know that I am supposed to go on a mission. I am absolutely sure of it. Never in my life have I been more confident of anything. Right now, however, is a period of blind faith. I'm not totally sure how I'm going to do all these things that terrorize me, but I believe there will be a way. This is my life. I am the one who has to live with it, who has to live with the consequences of the choices I make, and I am making my decisions in accordance with what I think is right.

One of the things I learned studying for my religion final is the Hebrew word Hineni. It roughly translates to "Here I am" and it's used almost exclusively by humans addressing a divine presence. It's a word used by Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah, among others. And I think it's the word that you use when talking about a mission, because it's not so much a physical "Here I am" as a moral and spiritual "Here I am." It means "This is where I am. What do you need from me, Lord? I am ready." Which is where I'm at right now. I am ready to try.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

I love mine lots and lots. Can't wait to be home in five days to see her. 





Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pink!

So remember how I haven't dyed my hair 6.5 months? In the wee hours of the morning last night, I saw pictures of pink hair on pinterest and decided that I wanted to dye the tips of my hair pink as a welcome-summer, pre-mission hurrah (since there is definitely no pink hair once I'm a missionary... "The style, color, and length of your hair should be attractive and easy to manage and should not draw attention. Hair adornments and other accessories should be simple and conservative"). It was a pretty impulsive decision, but spring has been so lovely and I'm just feeling so excited about life and pink hair just seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate that. I'm going to blame my impulsive nature on Judy who has been known to do similar things (Whimzy got her name because we bought her on a whim).

Anyway, Winnie did it for me. She was super incredibly good. If I had done it myself, it would have looked pretty much like a disaster. But Winnie even got an a little bit of an ombre look going on.


So that's my news of the day. It's temporary(ish) dye, so it should wash out in a few weeks. I figure worst-case scenario I have to dye it back to dark blonde pre-MTC. I'm okay with that. The whole blonde-stripe thing was getting old anyway.

PS.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

In which Eve Ensler comes to my city

EVE ENSLER CAME TO PHILADELPHIA TONIGHT. EVE ENSLER.

Eve Ensler has been on my list of favorites since last spring, when I went to the Vagina Monologues for the first time (which was super incredible) and when she published a piece called "Over It" that is still one of my very favorite pieces of feminist lit. I love Eve Ensler because there is a fearlessness to her writing. She writes the things that need to be voiced, but that are too scary for most people to say. And somehow that fearlessness in turn allows her readers to also become fearless. It's magic. Eve Ensler is a magical superstar.

I took the afternoon tonight and read her new book. It as a quick read but it was intense. Cancer and the Congo put together are intense. Especially when it's Eve Ensler writing about it. Reading the book combined with the reading meant I spent a good 20 minutes curled up in bed crying tonight. The thing that really got me the most was a story she told at the reading tonight about a little girl who lives in the City of Joy (which Eve helped found). The little girl and her family were taken into the forest by soldiers when she was three or four. Somehow, they don't know how, this little girl survived and found her way to the City of Joy. She was immediately enamored with the woman who runs it, Mama C. One day the two of them were talking and Mama C, who is very tall, asked the little girl why she was always looking at her legs. The little girl responded  "It's because your legs are so long that you can run away when the soldiers come. Mine are too short. But if they come back again, you will carry me."

Can you tell I'm geeking out? Because I am. Because it's EVE ENSLER.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Poetry Reading

Well, as of today, classes are over. All that's standing between me and home is 3 papers, 2 finals, and 14 days. Which sounds like a lot (which is a lot), but isn't so much seeing as after that I'll be gone from school for 20 months. That feels like a very long time to not be doing school. I'm kinda worried that I'm going to come back and have to relearn how to write a paper and read for class, but even if that happens, I'll be able to figure it out again. I think there are more important things I need to learn in the next 20 months.

I wasn't really sad about classes ending until after the poetry reading tonight. The moment it finished it totally sunk in that the year was coming to an end. It made my boots heavy. I'm just no good at saying goodbye. The good news is that the reading went really well. It was lots of fun and like 60 people came. The amphitheater was a gorgeous setting. It was worth the allergies I'm going to have for the rest of the night. Please pardon the fact that I am posting lots of pictures of myself. #narcissist


Since, as we all know, I bake when I'm sad, I made cookies tonight. It went great, until the timer went off. At which point I realized I didn't have any way to get the cookies out of the oven. I was wearing a skirt, but didn't want to burn it. But I had to get the cookies out of the oven ASAP otherwise they'd burn. I rifled through cabinets, and came up with a large garbage bag. Garbage bags do not make good oven mits. The bag melted and I burned the pads of my fingers pretty badly. My middle finger on my right hand is the worst, which is severely inconvenient because it makes it painful to write. Oops. It was one of the dumber things I've done. The good news is that the cookies still turned out good!

Anyway, here's one of the shorter poems I read tonight:

Roadside 

Dear Lord I hope
you will pardon

my appearance,
I’m just a gold digger

buying cantaloupe
at a roadside stand.

My great aunt’s furs
are in a closet at home

but I can’t find
any place to wear them –

that’s why
I’m digging.

The Last Time I Lived in Europe

The last time I lived in Europe was Vienna. One of my college friends is going to Vienna this summer, so I reread some parts of my Vienna blog looking for things for her to do that I really liked. I realized that most of the things I really liked were food - Demels the imperial bakery, Zanoni and Zanoni gelato, Naschtmarkt picnics, Schokozauber at Cafe Central, Sacher torte, and the Manner cookies store - but I'm choosing to just assume that means that I have my priorities right. Another thing I realized reading my blog yesterday was that today, this very May 3, marks 3 years since I got on the plane to Vienna. I totally can't believe that it's been three years. I mean, I can, because I'm a totally different person, but I also can't because I still love my Vienna trip so much. I really learned a lot that summer. I did some stupid things. I had some excellent adventures. And I made some great friends. Here's the four of us in Slovenia. All three of them are married now and two of them have kids, but that's cool and stuff. I feel like I'm a baby here. 


The last time I lived in Europe, right before I left a friend gave me a five Euro bill with "rainy day fund" written on it. She told me that it was my rainy day fund because it was something to have just in case there happened to be a time things seemed lousy and I needed a little pick-me-up. I never spent it, but I carried it in my wallet that whole summer and for the three years since. Simply keeping it with me has proven to be a kind of rainy day fund all it’s own; it’s helped me to remember that I am cared for and loved. A few weeks ago, I finally passed on my rainy day fund, to one of my favorites who's going to be living in a Euro-using country. I'm glad it's in good hands.

There are other things in my wallet (admittedly it's one of those HUGE Hobo wallets) that remind me of the last time I lived in Europe. I've got a tiny old playing card (ace of clubs) that I picked up at Naschmarkt, the business card to my favorite cafe, a pretty little Osterreich stamp, and my going-back someday 50 euro bill that I pulled out of the ATM my last week in Vienna, but never spent. It stayed in my wallet when I got back, because I was nostalgic, and over time it's become my going-back someday. There's talk on facebook of going back in 2020 (10 years later... maybe by then I'll have a real grown up life. Or be in grad school. Probably grad school). So that's the start of my Vienna 2020 fund. I'm totally going to make it. 

Today's my last day of classes and I think I'm just feeling a little bit jostled. I'm pretty sad it's ending, mostly because there are friends here who I love lots and who I'll miss for the next year and a half. But also it's sad because when I come back it won't be the same and that sucks. I feel a little bit how I did my last couple weeks of high school - like I can't handle the goodbye, but I also can't wait for what's next. I'm also a lot more scared than I was when high school ended. Going on a mission is, without a doubt, the scariest thing I have ever done. I guess that's part of why I'm looking back to the last time I lived in Europe. I did lots of scary things then, and it was wonderful. And my mission is going to be even better.

PS.
Yesterday during my extended study break I redid the blog layout. I love the goat. Winnie says it might be my spirit animal. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Throwback to Hawaii

Where for 3 weeks all I did was this. I WAS SO TAN. What I wouldn't give to be there instead of the library right now.