For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth. Colossians 1:16

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Recently, a friend and I drove to Switzerland for a seminar.  When we were discussing transportation options, we found that it would be much faster and cost roughly the same to drive rather than take the train.  It's way, we could also make random stops for coffee, stretch our legs, or just to take a picture of this giant chicken statue. My friend has a GPS in her car, so we felt pretty confident that we'd gave to and from the conference without a problem. Little did we know...

It's hour 3 of our trip, and the sat. nav. has been good to us. We should be getting to our seminar within an hour, and we've been on back roads for a little while.  I know that we're definitely in the mountains, and naturally there is enough snow to make Buddy the Elf feel right at home.  As we're driving though, I start to wonder. Finally, I say to Hannah, "I really don't think we're in France anymore. Did we somehow miss border patrol?" All of the signs are referring to things in Switzerland, and we couldn't get the sat. nav. to actually find the town for which we're looking. We follow the directions to the town we think is just before our retreat site. The roads have been poorly plowed, and not only is there a single business in sight, but there are absolutely no people. What is this place, some sort of frozen "Andromeda Strain" scene?  We pull over-well, more like skid over- and try to get the sat. nav. to find our town.  No luck.  We had passed a ski hill a little ways back, so we start to make our way back there to ask for directions.  There's a cute little cheese shop across the street form the ski hill so we go in, ring the bell, and a French-speaking woman comes out.  It turns out that if we continue on the road we had been on for about five minutes, we would reach the border.  Five minutes.  Good grief!  Needless to say, about 10 minutes later, we are happily pulling in to our retreat center.

Just wait, our adventures with Susie Sat Nav, as I named it, much to Hannah's dismay, are not over.  Four days later, after a really fantastic conference, we're back on the road. This retreat center was on the side of a mountain, so you can imagine our anxiety about driving down on the narrow road after it had snowed for three days.  We finally make it back into the town, put in our destination to the sat. nav. and we start to drive on the road to the autoroute while the map is loading.  Now, Susie Sat. Nav. says that the route is 100% loaded, but there is no map, no directions except when she says every five minutes, "Recalculating. Please drive to highlighted route." WHAT IS THIS HIGHLIGHTED ROUTE?  We notice that the car behind us is full of people from the conference who live moderately in our same region.  Why not just follow them (through the skill of looking in the rear view mirror) until we get to France, and then just follow signs towards our town?  Perfect.  We're driving along, and as we pass an off ramp, we see that the car pulls off.  Whoops.  Well, we're both smart women, I have no doubt that we can make our way back to France.  I mean, it was only about 10 minutes to the border, right?  Half an hour later, we're still in Switzerland and the signs are now directing us to cities that are sounding more and more German.  Finally, I say "Hannah, I'm pretty sure we're going in the wrong direction."  We pull off into a town, look at a map, because the sat. nav. is still not working, and figure out what road we need to be on.  We get back on the autoroute, in the proper direction this time, and we start looking for road signs.  There are NONE.  How do people get around this place?  We eventually make it to a town that looks familiar, and we pull over again to consult the map.  A very nice man offered to drive in front of us and point out which exit we would need to take to get onto the road we needed.  An hour after we left, we drove through the town from which we had started, and ten minutes later were at the border. 
Good. Grief.  On the upside, I did get to get a picture of the giant metal chicken statue.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Well, it's back. Or maybe it never has gone away. Either way, though, I have been bitten. Not by the love bug, not by any creature (though my irrational fear that the families of the spiders I kill will seek their revenge while I'm aleep is alive and well), but the most dangerous-and often expensive-bug there is: the travel bug.

Last week, I took a train to a somewhat nearby town, and at each stop I thought "I should come back here, just to see what's there." I was starting to dream up new adventures today, and as I remembered past travels, I started looking at old pictures and remembering beautiful moments. I want to go cliff jumping in the Mediterranean, enjoy a lemon straight off a Greek tree, walk through the green countryside of Ireland, enjoy Fika in a small Swedish town, hear the bells of cathedrals in Italy, roam the Icelandic countryside, see the architecture of Prague, go to the English towns I've read about in Jane Austen novels, visit the pyramids, go to the Holy Land, and all the while collecting sunsets and finding new coffees to taste.  I want to see the locations of my favorite movies in the Swiss mountains, the New Zealand pastures, go parachuting and hang gliding over seas and stones, enjoy the beauty of the earth that God created and saw was good.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I've always loved getting up early. When I was in sixth grade, my sister dared me not to wake up before 7. I would be getting up before my sister-whose school started nearly an hour before mine- and that trend has not changed much since I was 11.  Last week, my alarm was set for 6:30 as usual and I was going to be picked up for a meeting at 8. I figured that would give me ample time to read, have breakfast, put away laundry, drink my coffee, and mentally wake up before interacting with other people.

My phone rang. It was my friends calling to tell me they were running late. I asked if that meant they were still at home, and they said that they were on the road but traffic was moving slowly. I looked at the time and my clock said 7:57. Shoot. Naturally, I sprinted around the house trying to find my clothes in the basket that I had not put away, threw the various things I needed for the meeting into my bag, all the while my cat was meowing and looking at me like "Why aren't you paying attention to me? Love me!" and finally pulled on my boots as my phone rang informing me that my friends had arrived.  Four hours and three cups of coffee later, I had yet to shake the tired, fuzzy feeling from my head.

And that, my friends, is why I wake up so early.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Earlier this week, my friend and I were walking down the street in very high spirits.  It had been a good day, we were smiling and laughing, and I saw a green car parked next to the tramway.  Now, my friend also is an English-speaker, so when it is just the two of us, we tend to speak in English (and yes, I know there are some out there who would reprimand me for that!).  I looked at this lovely green car and said "I would take a green car." to which she responded with immediate laughter and exclaimed that I was losing my first language.  You see, the normal American would say "I'd like a green car" or "I wouldn't mind a green car", but not as often would "I would take a green car" be said.  She has lived all over the world, so she knows very well how unconscious direct translation can occur.  I wish I could say that this was the only time I forgot the typical English response or phrase, but alas, as my brother and sister-in-law can testify, I have used the word "hankering" multiple times after searching for what possible word I could use to explain the depth of my desire to see a film or go cross-country skiing.  Hankering.  That is the only word I could come up with, and I am neither southern nor Dutch (see here), so why would I use hankering when, as my brother pointed out, I could just say "I really want to go cross country skiing"? 

I've only been out of the country for a few months now, but I have a feeling that this pattern will keep on happening.  Plus, I've been picking up on British phrases and terms as the majority of the English-speakers I hang out with here are in fact English.  My brain won't know what to do with itself when I'm around Americans all the time again.

Friday, February 1, 2013

We all want to be happy, right? We prefer smiling to crying, laughing to whining, etc. etc.  Have you taken a look at what makes you happy though?  While scrolling through Facebook yesterday, a post came up from my old professor's blog entitled Unhappy People Habits.  Naturally, this intrigued me.  Seriously, go take a look at it.  There's a list of habits to which most of us have fallen prey, and every one of them can be changed if we just choose to.

A few years ago, I found an article online (which, unfortunately, I can no longer find) about 100 ways to enjoy your day.  You'd be amazed by how often you can smile if you just lift up your head and look around you.  I'm not saying sunshine and daisies (although daisies are the friendliest flower, as Kathleen Kelly once said) all the time, but really, look up from time to time and see if the basic things around you bring a smile to your face.  Old buildings.  Shapes in the clouds.  Cobble-stoned streets.  A little kid saying hello to you.  The smell of fresh bread.  Just to name a few.  Give it a try sometime.