Last Story Uploaded to The Link

I guess Spring break is officially over now. I just uploaded my final story from our whirlwind week in Tuscany. ย I met so many wonderful, inspiring, kind people and experienced hundreds of new sites, smell and adventures. Thank you to all who made this adventure possible and who worked so hard to make our venture a reality. Grazie mille and Ciao for now.

Home sweet…Munich?

Everything I had on my person for my one night stay in Munich

Saturday morning, we awoke to the smell of freshly baked crepes, a chilling breeze and the call of home. As we packed our bags and ate our breakfast, we were anticipating our next slumber to be in the coziness of our very own comforters at Harding. However, the future seemed a bit “foggy.”

When we arrived at the airport three hours early, we went through security, checked our luggage, changed our money and took part in all other pre-flight preparations. But as the time came to board, we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, the pleasant lady of the over-com system informed us that, due to fog, our flight was…cancelled. And so the journey began….

Our next step was to get on a bus and go to Pisa. I was actually quite excited about driving there in hopes to see more beautiful Tuscan countryside and maybe even the Leaning Tower of Pisa. However, all hopes were dashed because the moment the bus pulled out of the airport, our entire crew fell straight to sleep. We were all so exhausted.

From Pisa, we boarded a plane to Munich, Germany. The plane was small and packed with tired American college kids, so I’m sure the flight crew was simply thrilled to have been assigned to us. I have a faint memory of the flight attendant violently shaking Grant Sloan in an attempt to wake him and put his seatbelt on.

From Munich, we were supposed to catch a flight to Chicago, then to Little Rock, and finally arriving in Searcy Saturday night. However, when we arrived in Munich, we were informed that the flight to Chicago left without us. I’m sure the other travelers on board enjoyed our thirty empty seats…

At the airport, we were given one phone call. It sounds a lot like prison, and at that point, I didn’t see much differentiation. We waited as our professors and the desk workers ironed out a new flight plan.

It turned out that we would all have to stay overnight in Munich and fly out the next morning. Lufthansa airways provided us a hotel, two bus passes and two meals and a toothbrush for our inconvenience.

The next morning, eight of us got up and headed to the airport for round two. After three security checks and one frisking, we were finally allowed to board the plane.

This ten hour plane ride was an adventure in itself. In the words of Nick Michael, it seemed that all the Germans on the plane were related and decided to have a ten-hour family reunion. The aisles were constantly flooded with laughter and champagne. They kept the jolly spirit alive and provided much entertainment for us all.

Our plane finally landed in New York. There, we rushed through security and customs to our gate only to find that our flight was delayed. After an hour and a half of waiting, they finally allowed us onto the plane, and we were off again. From there we went to Charlotte, North Carolina and finally on to Little Rock at about 1:30AM monday morning.

We made it back to campus at about 2:30 AM. After a hot shower, I crawled into bed and wearily set my alarm for Monday morning classes. I think we could all use another week of spring break…

When in Rome, be a tourist

Waiting in line at St. Peter'sFor our one free day Friday, we decided to pack our backpacks and travel to Rome and explore its great adventures…in about eight hours. ย To be completely honest, it is impossible to live like the Romans when you visit this city for such a short amount of time. So, I suggest that you simply be a tourist, because as soon as you open your mouth, your camera or your map, everyone knows you are visiting anyway….

We took the fast train there from Florence, and it took about an hour and a half to arrive there. Again, ย I felt like I was on the Hogwarts Express because train riding is such a “foreign” concept to me. The ride to Rome was simply beautiful: Tuscan hillsides, Terra cotta roofs, green gardens and blue skies.

When we arrived in Rome, however, it was much different. Rain greeted us as we got off the train, and we hailed a taxi to take us to St. Peter’s Basilica. On our way there, we experienced our first ever protest in Italy: the bus strike. Apparently, many Italians are unhappy about bus prices, and they plan strikes every few weeks or months. We just happened to be in Rome on the day of the bus strikes, so people were walking the streets and signs and balloons and hats that opposed buses. Therefore, we got out of our cab to walk the rest of the way to the ancient church.

The walk was completely worth it, even though we stumbled with directions. I’m not even going to attempt to explain the beauties inside of St. Peters. How can there be so much history in one place?

Cold, wet, hungry, and tired. But the fountain was amazing.

Next, we trekked to the Trevi Fountain. I would describe it more as a glorious display of architecture and sculpture with a pond at the base. It was truly amazing. The legend is that you toss one coin to return to Rome, two to find your lover, and three to meet your lover in Rome. I bet that is a huge money-maker for the city!

Next stop was the forum, or the ancient ruins of Rome. This was by far my favorite. Looking down and seeing structures that Paul saw as he walked the streets humbled me immensely. The silhouette of the Colosseum lingered in the background, and we just soaked in the view of history.

Food-check. Ruins-check. Happiness-check.

Finally, we walked the path to the Colosseum. The most amusing aspect of this visit is the people we met on our way. Of course, tourists were everywhere. People from Canada, Mexico, South America, Africa flooded the streets and sidewalks. At the base of the Colosseum, men dressed up as Roman soldiers stood and asked if we wanted to take our picture with them. It would cost money, of course, but they do not miss a trick! It was quite a sight.

You turn the corner and then BAM! There it is.

After the Colosseum, we caught a taxi and headed back to the train station. Although we still had plenty of time left in Rome, we were all so exhausted we couldn’t go on any longer. So if you are planning to visit this ancient city, spend at least three days there and be a tourist!

In the Pockets of a Journalist

Thursday, we toured the Bargello museum (best museum in Italy for Bronze sculpture, home of Donatello’s David) and the Medici Chapel (Michelangelo’s work equals amazement), then the Duomo of Florence.

I think I’m beginning to come into my own as a writer this week. How do I know? My pockets.

To any onlooker, my jacket is simply a light, grey Patagonia fleece. But it’s really my source of all things needed for a good day of reporting.

Guys writing down info in their "moleskins"

Item number 1: Paper and pencil.ย When our tour guide, Cindy, began explaining the history of the Medici chapel and the patrons of ancient art, I pulled out my parchment and began writing as much of the information as I could get.

Item number 2: Cannon camera. When the art was more breathtaking than I could describe with words, I groped for my camera and sneakily, or maybe not so sneakily, photographed Michelangelo’s work. Some of the students snickered, but I just shrugged and said, “I’m a journalist.”

Item number 3: Voice recorder. When I interviewed some of the students about the museum, I was able to record their thoughts to derive direct quotes later.

Item number 4: Flip video cam. As the students took notes and observed sculptures, I was able to use my flip cam to document their day.

And all this for one story! No room for chapstick when you have the pockets of a journalist.

Press Pass Anyone? High profile day in Italy

Day six, or five? Anyway, Wednesday in Italy: when Italians ask me what I do or who I am, I reply with “I’m a journalist from the states.” In some cases, they couldn’t care less. But in the rest, I have to say that is a powerful statement that we should learn to evoke more often! Sometimes being part of the media has its perks.

For example, when I was in Orvieto, I found out that if I told the tour guides and the museum workers that I was with the media, I could wave the ticket charge. However, I found out this information only after we were on the bus OUT of the city. But really? Do we really have that kind of power?

Jay Russell explaining the ins and outs of filmmaking.

This morning, we were able to have class and interview Jay Russell, film director of The Waterhorse, My Dog Skip, Ladder 49 and Tuck Everlasting. What an opportunity!

Italian dignitaries and HUF personalities enjoy celebration lunch.

Today was also the 30th anniversary of the HUF program, so there was a big celebration at lunch. About twenty Italian dignitaries were invited and dined with us at the villa. Again, press pass! I had the privilege of interviewing Aaron Craig, actor in film “Life is Beautiful” and director of Performance International in Florence.

Standing outside the Florence Duomo. The architecture is unreal.

And the buck doesn’t stop here. After lunch, a few of the link crew and Dr. Miller went to see the David at the Academia. This was such an exciting moment for me because we all thought we would not get the opportunity to see Michelangelo’s most famous sculpture. We entered the museum and walked through a few exhibit rooms, and then there he was in the middle of the opening. The David is no life-size man. This guy was eighteen feet tall at least. If that was David, then I would hate to see Goliath. The solid, hard stone that had survived throughout hundreds of years appeared untainted and perfect. We could even see the veins running through the sculpture’s arms and hands. Michelangelo left nothing out–except clothes. With begs the question: Who makes a naked David anyway?

Today, the documentary crew also had a once in a lifetime experience. They were allowed into the Bargello–biggest museum for bronze sculpture, home of Donatello’s bronze David–to have uninterrupted filming of some of the most beautiful and historic art and architecture in the city and country. Really? We can’t even talk the lunch ladies into giving a free cafeteria swipe at home!

To cap off the festivities, we travelled to the church building to be part of the Albanian folk dance. Irony? Yes, I think so. Dressed in authentic Albanian “garb,” they put on a show for us all. And even let us join them on the easier songs. haha.

Wow. So much to do and so little time to write. Until tomorrow, Caio!

A Day of “Firsts” in Orvieto.

“God will never rob his children of an opportunity to grow their faith.” Even if it’s completely hard.

Today has been a day of firsts. First cup of coffee. First ancient church. First underground city. First train ride. First day of pure individual growth in Italy.

Today, God was stretching me. Period. I wish that I could write that I am excellent at handling obstacles out of my control. I was reassured today…that I have a lot to work on.

Big grin on the train after a 4-block sprint and tons of prayer.

We were supposed to be at the bus station at 8:50 a.m. meeting a group of HUF students to leave for the city of Orvieto. Orvieto is 2 1/2 hours away by train. Everything this morning…went wrong. We woke up late. We missed the bus to get to the train station. We got caught in traffic. By the time we arrived in Florence to catch the train, it was 9:09. Our train was leaving at 9:13, and we were three blocks away from the station. This was, of course, not okay with me. Stephen Goodale and I landed on the pavement in a sprint and literally ran through the streets of Florence, past onlookers, through traffic, over bridges….okay, maybe not over bridges, but my adrenaline was running so high that I feel that I could have conquered a body of water. We got to the train station while the conductor was blowing the whistle (at this point, I was completely frazzled from head to toe, and had no idea what the whistle meant). Finally, we saw our group already on the train and we boarded in a heartbeat. Thirty seconds later, the train left the station…with us on it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Our group welcomed me into the Harry Potter-like riding car with, “Congratulations, you made your first train.”

NEVER in my entire life have a felt as completely out of control. I guess you could say I’ve been lucky to have this be my biggest uncontrollable episode, and I think that is definitely true. But I do know that I prayed during the entire fiasco. I know He is stretching me and preparing me to truly jump the rivers!

Duomo in Orvieto through the snow ๐Ÿ™‚

It was SNOWING in Orvieto! SNOWING. It doesn’t snow in Italy–at least not often. Orvieto is literally a city set on a hill, and a beautiful city at that. Cobblestone streets, medieval sculptures, an amazing duomo right in the center of the square, and snow. It also has an underground city, but you’ll have to wait for my link story to hear about that! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve never seen such beautifully exquisite and detailed art. Ever. Anywhere. We toured the ancient Orvietan duomo for at least an hour, examining the ancient artists’ abilities and visions. I stood in the room where Michelangelo studied art of the human body. I stood in a building that took over three hundred years to construct and is still standing strong to this day. It was absolutely breath-taking and unreal.

After the duomo, we went to a coffee shop and I ordered my first ever cappuchino. I thought it would be a momentous occasion, since I have never drunk a cup of coffee in my life and especially not in Italy! Sadly, I have to tell you that it was a complete fail. I hated it. haha. Even with FOUR packets of pure sugar in an extremely small teacup, I still hated it. But hey, at least I gave it a shot and could use the bathroom! (In Italy, most places only allow you to use their restroom if you buy something). So I suppose all was not lost.

We also visited a museum of ancient artifacts from the city. Etruscan technology was advanced even when there was no technology! I will also be writing more about this subject on the link in the near future. ๐Ÿ™‚

The underground city of Orvieto was built by the Etruscans ans still stands today.

We finished our tour of Orvieto with the underground city. Amazing is all there is to say. The Etruscan people built an underground city hundreds and hundreds of years ago, and it is still supporting itself and the weight of the above-ground city. Do you think it is possible that humankind has…digressed in brain activity? Because I don’t think I will ever know how they pulled THAT off with donkeys and chisels. Thanks for reading and hope you have a fantastic day!

Leisurely Appetite

SO delicious homemade lasagna!

Today I spent my time at the Bible School writing stories. This morning we were treated to french toast and bacon for breakfast made by Italian hands. These people really know their way around a kitchen! For lunch, we had Lasagna, and I think it might have been the best thing that has touched my tongue in my entire life-since the gelato of course! There were about 8 layers, and the pasta was thin and the cheese was thick ๐Ÿ™‚ It was so so so good!

Tonight, we are going to a concert at the Villa and will be shooting a little video of an Italian band. After another fabulous meal at the Bible School of course! Ciao for now!