Sunday, May 29, 2011

you guyssss.

I can't sleep. We have a bus to catch at 7am to head to a tiny little Bulgarian village to play with tiny Bulgarian children all day. And on Tuesday, our English lessons begin - I think I'm too nervous to sleep. I'm just googling random Bulgarian facts until I feel sleepy enough to try again? I counted sheep for 26 whole minutes, it didn't help.

Did you know lions used to live in the wild in Bulgaria? The last one was shot & killed in 1936. Also the tallest cactus in the world is only 2.5 hours away from my apartment, I MapQuested it.

I'm not making any sense so I give up on being awake. - лека нощ!

- Катхлэн (thats my name in the Cyrillic alphabet. Maybe I'll just study my flash cards instead of sleeping?)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hello, София.

just a note, my teams' blog is  
and I'll be updating there a bit too.

So my trip here was interesting (and embarrassing at times), I took a 4:30am taxi to the Paris airport alone, which was crazy nervewracking & I couldn't get TAKEN out of my head, didn't get enough Euro out of the ATM to pay my driver so I had to explain in caveman French that I needed a 'Euro dispenser', checked in on a broken machine that was out of ink so my boarding pass was a blank sheet of paper, got to my plane & they said my backpack was too large to take to my seat, (don't know how I took it on 5 other planes with no problem, get it together Czech Air) had a 3 hour layover in Prague alone, they made me through out my cherry coke, & they put my backpack under the plane again, this time without my consent - they just took it. I arrived in one piece but traveling alone can be so stressful. I need to learn 7 new  languages to keep up with my summer!

Here is different. My 2 trips are nothing alike, and I expected that - its still slightly shocking. But I had a wonderful first dinner! And my teammates were so happy to see me :) And downtown all lit up is beautiful and Eastern & nothing like I've ever seen. I'm just going to say it - Being an American is boring. I'm lucky I know, but I want to see as much of the world as possible, because the rest of the world is so much cooler!

Friday I told the Bulgarian government I'm living here. Weird. And I have a train pass. And a key to my apartment. This is real :) 

Our main mission is to get to know locals who are interested in learning conversational & practical English, and we are trying to get to know them as people in the process as well. We're working with kids, churches, schools, maybe orphanages, Starbucks, etc... there really is no set plan of how we're getting to know people - we're just hoping to be at the right place at the right time, and be there for someone who needs a friend, spiritual guidance, or just a friendly hello  :) 

I love it. I'm crazy excited. My heart could explode when I think about the people I may meet, the conversations I may have.

With all that said, this blog may change a lot. I can't say every detail of someone else's private problem, I'm going to be busy, and this experience will probably be hard to put into words. But I do want to keep it up so I can tell all you lovely people about what Bulgaria is like :) Ask questions if you want?

I'm excited. Weird things have already happened, like meeting Steve Musey (WHATTT) at a Bulgarian graduation. Or being stuck between 2 LARGE men on the bus to church. We don't have a shower curtain. And I have yet to see green vegetables in this country - a bad sign for my poor tummy. This place is so different. I like it already & i've only been here for 2 days. ADVENTURES, YALL!

Love you. :)

 I've seen that!

p.s. I may have a chance to go to ISTANBUL, Turkey for a couple of days, cross your fingers for me that it works out, I would LOVE TO. If it doesn't interfere with our work, I'm TOTALLY in.

Hello loves!

hi hi hiiiiiii -

So, I want to tell you about Bulgaria. BUT I can't till I finish up about my days in PARIS!!

After we sang in Notre Dame, (which was crazy wonderful) we had free time all night. So a group of us planned out all the things we wanted to see - the arc de triomphe, the Paris opera house, the Moulin Rouge, another H&M, (hahah DUH) and we even found a couple of vintage book & clothing stores, and I found THE BEST leather bag that I can't wait to use next semester at school :) And I bought a French bible & a hardback novel to keep my senior rose in.

I loved the parts of Paris that weren't full of tourists. Tourists suck. I know I was one but at least I'm polite!

The next morning we took a train to Versialles (well... we took 2 trains - we were going in the wrong direction for the first 15 min hahah) and like I said - I HATE PUSHY TOURISTS. The palace was beautiful of course, but there were a billion people & they all wanted 3576 pictures of the same thing... it sort of ruined it for me. But I liked walking though the gardens - this place is huge! I don't know a lot about Marie Antoinette or the royal family, but I do know that the country was starving to death when they were living in this grand place, so that is slightly unnerving. I spent most of the morning thinking about how wasteful & unaware the royal family seemed to be. No wonder the country revolted & Marie got beheaded... I never understood before, but once I saw this place, I did :) Too bad for her? hhaha

Our next stop was THE LOURVE!!!! Now, I did not do my research before. So wandering the place got a little crazy. I always thought the Vesuvian Man & The Last Supper were there? But they are in Venice & Milan. So I was slightly disappointed. (thanks ALOT DaVinci Code, hahah) But seeing The Mona Lisa behind bulletproof glass was exciting! And The Venus de Milo is beautiful. I think my favorite was The Winged Victory of Samothrace. Look it up, you'll recognize it. There were hundreds of others but I didn't recognize most. After we rushed to the Impressionist museum, but we ran out of time & couldn't go in :( The gift shop was good enough for me :)

Dinner was with the entire group - which basically meant our trip was over :(  Some of the members said sweet things about the seniors leaving, and I felt so sad & weird. I don't think it will hit me until the fall that Mads is really over. I'm gonna miss it so so much - no music 'class' could have taught me musicality like Mads has. And Dr. C is the best professor I've ever had. We all said goodbye in front of the restaurant, some of us were leaving for London the next morning, some were leaving for home, and I was leaving for Bulgaria! So I went to the hotel, packed my stuff & set my alarm for 4am. I didn't sleep much.... I was nervous with a dash of excitment, but also sad that the trip went by SO FAST. I loved (almost) every second :)

Now I can tell you all about Bulgaria! Talk to you soon :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

well this always happens, doesn't it?

It seems like every trip I've been on, the last 3 days are a frantic attempt to soak up the last moments. Which isn't bad obviously, but my blog/journal entries stop immediately the more I wear myself out! :) Which I did. Sleeping tonight is going to me marvelous. - BUT I'll be sleeping in SOFIA, BULGARIA!!!

Let me catch you up -

SO, the afternoon after Dachau, we drove a couple of hours (completely silently) to Frankfurt, & stopped at the little town of Rothenburg for a short visit. It was a quaint little walled city, famous for cookoo clocks & christmas ornaments? Hahah it was incredibly German and I enjoyed the quiet moments. Being in only tourist areas can be so strange and stressful. After a couple of hours & a stop to a bright pink ballerina bathroom, We grabbed dinner & drove into Frankfurt.

And I slept hard.

The next morning, we sang at Frankfurt Nazarene Church, which I LOVED. The people were so so happy to have us, and singing for them really made us come alive. With our choir robes in a non-air conditioned building, we got pretty toasty, but we even introduced ourselves in German & they gave us a 5 minute standing ovation at the end. Such precious people. Then a homemade potluck lunch & play time :) I met a lil baby boy who was so confused by my English, he just stared at me the whole time I held him.

We headed to St. Bartholomew's cathedral in downtown Frankfurt, &  sang a 20 minute concert there, then had a bit to wander downtown. I wore a dress cause it was Sunday, it was windy, this was not funny:)

That night we sang for Hanau church of the Nazarene that night, which is a tiny group & service is held in a bar. Hows that for stereotypes? ;) And after the service we had German pizza with some of the members. I really love Germans. They are so warm & they laugh so much! That night I took a shower in the strobe light bathroom like I posted earlier, that was interesting hahah :)

THE NEXT MORNING WE DROVE 7 HOURS TO PARIS :) And I got so excited once we crossed into the city limits!! We headed straight for our hotel to drop off our stuff, grab some dinner to go, AND HEAD TO THE EIFFEL TOWER FOR A PICNIC. Which really has been a dream of mine since, well, forever - and it happened! So much fun. I ate a whole container of cherries too. And I had tomatoes and mozzarella & toast for dinner - I was quite the happy camper :) Getting up to the top was a long [& slightly stressful] situation, but it was SO worth it. I took a bajillion pictures and fought my way to the edge of every view and man French people/Tourists are RUDE but I watched the sun go down at the tip top of Paris. My goodness, I loved it. (Also I was standing within inches of a French lesbian couple, and one of them proposed. Then they made out for 20 minutes...? Not exactly something you see every day, eh? hahah oh, French life.) When the tower lit up, my heart started pounding. Its so beautifullllllll! I didn't want to leave even though we'd been there for almost 4 hours.

The next morning we headed to sing in NOTRE DAME!!! We took a 'secret' entrance & got our robes. Some of the choir got sick completely out of nowhere, so the poor things had to leave during our performance :( I was really worried about them. But who gets to say they had a stomach virus and used the choir room's toilet in Notre Dame? Pretty much no one. Its a memory if nothing else ;) The church is beautiful and amazingly old & I want to watch the Hunchback of Notre Dame RIGHT NOW. Our senior ceremony was right after. And we all bawled.

Because Mads is over for me - and I'm pretty much heartbroken about it. But I can't be in college forever??

So - I'll be honest, I'm freaking tired. I'm gonna head to my little Bulgarian bed now, & i'll finish up tomorrow :) LOVE YALL.

Monday, May 23, 2011

words and stuff

Last night,
at our hotel in Frankfurt,
whenever you turn the water on,
the bathroom lights started flickering.

So I basically took a shower in a disco.
or a haunted house.

Also, I shaved my legs in that disco/haunted house...
but now I'm in France where supposedly no one shaves...
so that was a waste of my precious German time...


:) I'll tell you all about the last 2 days some other time, 
when I'm not so excited (and hyper) I can hardly type.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

concentration camps & such

I just ate Burger King. I am ashamed. We're on our way to Rothenburg, & I was somehow hungry... oops ;)

This morning we went to Dachau, the first concentration camp in the world. I knew it would be a lot to take in, but I didn't really expect this feeling? I want to tell you all the history I learned from the 3 hours we were there, but I'd be typing till tomorrow... a brief overview it is.

So basically, this camp wasn't known for mass murders - most of the people that died there passed away from exhaustion or sickness. Quite a few (thousands even) were murdered for 'misbehavior', but once they were gone, the camp claimed them all as suicides. (There were gas chambers on the grounds, but were never used for mass execution. That sort of thing took place in Auschwitz - the people that were sent to Dachau died slowly from malnutrition & exhaustion, unless they provoked guards or challenged the system. Or tried to escape.)

This first camp was built in 1933, and was created for Hitler's political enemies, as a way to make opposition to Hitler impossible. It was a model for all the other camps built in the next 16 years. It was filled with Jews, Roma, priests, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, gypsies... basically anyone who was not part of the 'fittest' race - Social Darwinism played a huge role in who was sent there. Any people group that was viewed as 'weak' was to be completely done away with asap.

The motto of the camp was 'Arbeit macht frei' - Work will set you free. But, most died of the absurd and inhumane living conditions, without any hope of ever being free again. People worked 12+ hours a day, doing nothing but pointless labor, designed to torture the body but mostly the mind. They were fed one bowl of nutrition-less soup a day, slept in barracks that were designed for 200, but instead housed 2,000 at a time, many were the test subjects of deadly medical experiments, (tests like seeing how long a man can live with consuming nothing but saltwater, what organs fail first when dying from hypothermia, how much air pressure the human brain can endure - sickening stuff. Disgusting, unnecessary & completely unbelievable)1 bathroom per 2,000, no heat, no rest, no doctors, Typhoid, lice, families were purposefully separated... the list goes on forever. At the camps worst moments, the crematory was burning all night & all day to dispose of bodies. They were only buried when the coal ran short.

Everything I read made me shiver.

I learned about a Jewish doctor who was a taken there, he was secretly trying to help the sick. He was caught, tortured, &  told he'd be shot if he didn't stop - but he kept helping others, he said because he took an oath to do so. He was taken to the shooting range the next morning. I'm sure there were more doctors with this same story - but it really broke my heart. I kept thinking about my dad, and how I was sure he would have done the same thing. Thoughts like this can make you feel so heavy.

None of these people had done anything wrong. That doctor did NOTHING wrong, yet they were all treated even worse than livestock. the unfairness of it all is completely staggering.

We went through the museum, watched a 20 minute movie on the history of the camp, (the pictures were so graphic I hardly watched... my stomach was in knots every time they showed a pile of bodies. The gruesome details were so overwhelming I just listened instead of watching. Everyone was sobbing. The place felt haunted) & went to the memorial chapel at the back of the grounds to sing, which was terribly hard to do though the tears. We've been pretty much silent since. We're on the bus now but I think there is a mutual understanding of reverence for the rest of our day.

p.s. I posted 3 blogs in a row, just so you know :)

Its STILL Spargle week?

We left Salzburg early in the morning (Friday, the 20th), and drove into Germany pretty quickly. My only complaint about the European Union is that crossing all the borders is too easy! I want my passport stamped, darn it. My Greece stamp is just the date, and nothing for all the others! DUMB.

We drove to a lake named Konigssee, surrounded by the town on Berchtesgaden. We took a boat to the furthest side of the lake, where we took a little nature walk - it was GORGEOUS. I can't wait to have a strong enough internet connection to put all the pictures up. We waded in a pond & wandered through the woods & took a million pictures. It was very quiet & peaceful & also a great change of pace compared to all the buildings & cathedrals we've seen. I wanted to have a picnic so bad. This was a few miles away from the 'Eagle's Nest', where Hitler spent his summers. We could see it from our boat ride. We also sang at a tiny little chapel on one of the banks of the lake. After biking all night before, I was a nature woman for a whole 24 hours almost! ;)

After some outside time we drove into Munich & went into town for dinner. I liked Munich a lot - it seems like a college town. I saw a lot of people my age, heard a lot of English & other languages of course, but it seemed like somewhere I could live. I sort of want to look into schools there... these are new thoughts :) BUT - we ate dinner at the oldest brewery in the city, the German beers were ABSOLUTELY HUGE and it was crowded & hot and there was a polka band and the food was great but our waiter was not a fan of Americans it seemed... I hate potato salad from home, but I ate it 2 times in one day here! We wandered around some more in downtown Munich after dinner & sang in the crowded areas, met a couple drunk boys... haha. We took the subway back to our hotel which was quite the challenge, so I slept like a baby as soon as we got back to our hotel.

(by the way, I'm writing all this on the bus, so when I get to the hotel that hopefully has internet, I can post it. Its hard to catch you guys up when so much has happened!)

This morning, we went to Dachau - Hitler's first concentration camp. And I'll need a whole other post for that story - I'm still processing. I've felt heavy all day.


First of all - foreign languages are fascinating. Second of all - I feel stupid that I can only speak one.

We had a long drive from Italy, & we stayed in the little village of Modling, half an hour outside of Vienna, which is so quaint & tiny & everything closes at 6pm at there are kids and dogs and large Austrian men drinking large Austrian beers and I just loved it. We had a lovely dinner with the whole choir, everyone was scared of the food except for me :) Why does German & Austrian food have such a bad reputation? I really realllly really like it. Except the pork knuckle, I think I can live without having tried that...

The name of our hotel was Babenbergerhof. On Babenbegergasse st. SAY THAT 5 TIMES FAST - GO.

The next morning we were scheduled to sing for morning prayer at St. Stephens Cathedral in Vienna, then we visited the graves of famous composers like Mozart. And Beethoven. And Strauss & Schubert & Brahms & Schonberg. For me, this was completely monumental, and I can't really explain the sense of wonder I felt? We sang a Mozart piece around his plot. I touched Beethoven's grave stone... these men were so entirely influential to the music I want to spend my life singing, that I was crying & then smiling & then taking pictures & talking to my friends & my face was red & and I was sniffly and just so very appreciative to the men in the ground around me. I know I'm not meant to be a classical singer, but I can appreciate their work whole heartedly. We also sang in the cathedral at the center of the cemetery, which I've heard from former choir members, has INCREDIBLE acoustics. And they were NOT lying. After our first note of 'Sanctus', all of our jaws dropped - the echo lasted for 5 full seconds. I've got video, you'll see :) Its pretty much astonishing. Once again, if you're not a singer I can't really explain how a room like this can make you feel, but my heart always starts pounding and I nearly giggle through the words as everyone around me gets excited too, & then we all start crying! haha it happens every time. Its like hearing your voice sound completely flawless while singing in the shower - times a million :) :) :)

We spent the afternoon in downtown Vienna exploring & going to the 3 H&Ms, & drove back to Modling for dinner that night. And I bought a curling iron! Hoorahhhh.

The next morning we headed to Salzburg, (SOUND OF MUSIC HEAVEN AHHHH) where we had a city tour & sang in the Salzburg Dom. We saw the fountain where Julie Andrews sang part of 'I Have Confidence', the garden where the VonTrapps sang 'Do Re Mi' and I jumped on the steps & ran through the ivy tunnel and I was wearing my new sun hat and it was just WONDERFUL :) Of course we saw plenty of other things but The Sound Of Music stuff was my favorite. We sang all the songs like i'm sure most of the annoying tourists do.

That afternoon/night we had plenty of free time, so some of us headed to the bike rental place down town. 10 of us got one (Me, Amanda, Cameron, TJ, Timbre, Tetra, Elizabeth, Nicole, Kyle & Carlie) & as we were about to start riding, a huge rain cloud showed up... but we didn't care! We went & got plastic bags & covered all our stuff in the baskets & took off. I got the smallest bike they had, which was a dumb idea. After only 5 minutes, my chain fell off. Then once we fixed that (an Austrian tried to help but Timbre saved me), five minutes later, my seat fell down to the lowest peg & I was basically sitting on the wheel with my knees bent & i could hardly pedal. Everyone else was flying past me cause they had the good bikes & just as I was getting really annoyed, the rain came! Timbre & I fought with my bike for 10 minutes at least before we finally fixed everything, but once we did, it was POURING. And we were alone cause the rest of the group was so fast & it was just so pathetic we started cracking up. So we hopped on & rode as fast as we could, (through a school parking lot where we got yelled at and we just laughed hysterically, not so polite...) & we finally found the rest of the group. Everyone was soaked but very giggly so we set off not knowing where in the world we were. Aaaaaand we rode for 3.5 hours :) We sang and laughed and directed entire pieces & Carlie's bike basket fell off & we hit a detour that took us through the woods up a mud hill that we ALL slid down & i kept getting sand in my mouth from the spray of other bikes & my white shirt is probably ruined and I tore a hole in my leggings & we were surrounded by THE ALPS & the mountains were in view the whole ride and our code word for 'stop' was 'SPARGLE' which is German for white asparagus... don't ask... it was just completely blissful. I didn't feel any pain, my legs didn't get tired, nothing. We were all so happy and dirty & wet & it was seriously the best 3 hours of the whole trip for me. My butt hurts still but that only came after. I keep getting butt injuries on this trip, what is going on!?! ;) Dad - we biked almost 12 miles total... not bad for one afternoon eh?

Then a hot shower, dinner with the biker gang, & BED. I LOVED Salzburg. Austria is beautiful.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm sleepy.

As I type this, I'm in Austria on a Mercedes Benz charter bus, surrounded by the Alps... i win :)

Venice yesterday was quite the experience! I really liked the city, I really hated all the tourism. We sang in St. Mark's cathedral right by the main canal, then had a free afternoon to wander. The shopping is great once you get out of the square, but nothing I could carry around for 3 months in a suitcase without ruining... so I bought nothing. (I'm still on the lookout for a curling iron - no such luck.) Four of us wandered and marveled at how expensive everything was - the Italians love their designer clothes. There isn't much of a historical aspect to Venice musically or artistically, except the way the architecture is built. Very narrow & cramped & vertical... great for getting lost, not so great for crowds. This was our first day of the trip that we didn't have a tour or a museum visit... I liked it that way. Wandering aimlessly is way more relaxing :)

That night, we sang for a small Catholic church on the far side of the canal - where tourists never go. They loved us :) The little Italian ladies talked and talked and talked like we understood Italian - I was with one of them for 10 minutes + and I swear I said grazie 16 times... NO idea what she said to me, but my cheeks hurt from smiling. The only sentence I caught all night was 'You're beautiful - all of you are beautiful'.... !!! Such sweetness.

I wish cheek kisses were a thing in America.
And I also wish I could have floated in a gondola without spending a million euro.
But the city didn't smell as bad as I was expecting! They win.

We had a great dinner as usual, but I ordered the local 'Venitian' drink - IT WAS TERRIBLE. I was so sad. Seriously - I took 2 sips and shivered. Worst ever. Don't ever order a 'Spritz' in Italy - you'll spit it back out.

After 1 last cone of real ITALIAN gelato, we took a boat back to the bus island, and headed to the fancy villa hotel we were only staying at for 1 night :(
BUT now I'm on a bus to Modling, Austria!
And I just had an austrian lunch, complete with my terrible yet almost completely correct German translations of menu options... MMMM feels like last July!

We said goodbye to our Italy tour guide Monique last night, which was sad cause she was SO precious & SO helpful - But we got to meet Jop (you say it like 'yahp') today! I've heard so much about him from former Madrigalians. We're just about half way finished with European choir tour. I can't even believe it.

Love yall. I'm tired but I'll sleep when I'm dead!

Sooooo, Please excuse me, everything out the window looks like a postcard and I'M MISSING IT ALL! Byeeeez!

p.s. I posted 3 blogs at once cause we just got internet - scroll down!! ;)

King David

I've been thinking about King David since I saw the statue yesterday.

He's been my favorite man from the Bible for awhile now, mostly because he did everything wrong. Completely everything? Cheated, lied, had someone murdered, all of it. But he was still called 'A man after God's own heart'.

I know Michelangelo carved him with a sling in his hand because of the very famous David & Goliath story, and supposedly its supposed to be a 14 year old version of him,  (um.... a 18ft tall 14 year old) but I'm also secretly hoping he chose to carve King David perfectly because of how imperfect he actually was. Maybe he chose King David because he is the epitome of a messed up human being, but through the love of God, he was still able to overcome all his mistakes and accept forgiveness when he asked for it? And through that he eventually become a terribly successful leader, writer and father. A man worth sculpting, even hundreds of years later.

Maybe Michelangelo was thinking about that during the 4 years it took him to carve it out of a 2 ton block of marble.

p.s. I also kinda wonder if King David would be okay with the fact that thousands of people pay to come to see a statue of him every day? I'm not sure if he would be if he were alive to see it, but its still beautiful... this is beside the point :)


Our drive from just outside of Rome to Florence was lovely - through the rolling hills of Tuscany :) (WATCH THE MOVIE 'UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN' WITH DIANE LANE RIGHT NOW) Only 2ish hours to Florence, but our hotel was in the tiny town of Montecatini, which is my new #1 on my 'I want to come here for my honeymoon' list. It is so quaint and it smells good and the fashion is flawless in the little street boutiques and the view from the top of the highest point is breathtaking and I felt so at home.

When we arrived around 3, our bus driver took us to the top of the city, where we sang in the town square, sang in the town cathedral, had a little stroll through the perfect neighborhood & even sang for a bride and groom while they were taking pictures before heading to their reception :) And I bought some new sunglasses. Perfect, all the way around!

The next morning, Sunday, we went to Michaelangelo's square to get the best view of the city. One of the replicas of the statue of David is there. Then we went to the Accademia  (maybe I spelled that wrong...?) to see the real thing! There were other pieces of artwork there, but David was all I wanted to see :) ITS HUGE. And ITS PERFECT. Our tour guide explained the process of sculpting such a smooth surface, which I still don't understand, while most of us reeled in the fact that we were standing in front of the most perfect sculpture in the entire world. Hahah my mouth hung open till someone told me to close it. We wern't allowed to take pictures, so I just bought a postcard of his butt instead...

(I will take this moment to say - yes I know I'm acting like everything i've seen for the last week is so exciting I can hardly breathe, but thats actually kinda true ;) But I'm not being a loud obnoxious American about it, I'm trying to keep my composure hahah)

The rest of the afternoon was a walking tour of Florence (which wasn't all that fun cause it was pouring and cold), but we saw the city hall & the other replica of David, and had more Gelato :)

At noon we sang at the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral for their mass, which was another interesting experience. but the Priest was precious. We're getting so spoiled with the amazing acoustics. There is NOTHING like it in America. After that was another amazing lunch, and wayyyy more rain than needed :(

Then we walked to Santa Croce Cathedral, which was a favorite from choir tours in the past. Its where people like Michaelangelo, Galelieo Gallae & Dante were buried!??! Also there is a small side chapel hidden near the back, where we gave an impromptu performance... I've never heard anything like it. We've NEVER sounded so beautiful. The chapel didn't look like all the other really ornate ones, but its by far the most incredible place I've ever sang. We sang our anthem & a pretty big crowd gathered, we ended up singing 5 songs when we only planned on 1. It was so gorgeous I was laughing one minute, and crying the next. Seriously, I can't explain how good this moment was for my heart. You'll never understand if you're not a singer, I'm sorry :) haha

We headed back to Montecatini for our night service at Basilica Santa Maria Assunta, where we sang for mass, (and while I was directing, my safety pin popped & my choir robe nearly slid off, I got the giggles) and after we gave a short sacred concert. The locals were very appreciative and vocal about the songs they loved :) I really enjoy the people of Italy, they all seem so passionate.

Dinner at the hotel, pack, fight with the internet, BATH IN A FULL SIZE BATHTUB YAYAYAYA, and then bed :) A full Sunday of singing.

Now its monday, and as I'm writing this, we're on the bus to Venice! Ciao!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This internet sucks.

I've been fighting with the internet for 29 minutes now,  just so I can tell you about yesterday & today! But I've got to be short, my 5 euros won't last much longer :)

Yesterday morning on our way out of Rome, we took a tour of the Catacombs about 20 minutes outside of the city. We learned all sorts of things about it, like how long it was abandoned before it was rediscovered, how many Christians were buried there, how many of them were martyrs, etc. (our tour guide was an Indian man with an accent speaking English in Italy... cause that makes sense) I was calm, I was collected, I was excited but I didn't really know what was coming.

We walked down into the deep hallway & a deep sense of reverence came over all of us. It was cold and damp and silent and I felt full, but not overwhelmed? But then our guide took us into the room where St. Cecilia was buried.

And I fell apart, on all levels.

I knew nothing about this woman, I didn't know she existed. There is a statue above her grave, and it really may be the most beautiful and striking thing I've ever seen. It spoke to me so loudly that I was overwhelmed and teary and speechless, but I didn't know why? I've never heard of this woman who died only 230 years after Christ, but I felt such a sense of understanding and connection with her. I couldn't explain it. I kept wondering why no one else seemed as shaken as I was.

We kept wandering, learned more, we sang in one of the small chapels,(which was beautiful and everyone felt just as overwhelmed as I did in that moment) and after only an hour or so, our tour was over.

But I kept crying? And I kept thinking I wanted to go look at the statue of St. Cecilia again? And my tour guide kept asking if I was okay because I was still crying long after the tour was over? I couldn't explain it.

On the bus, I learned from Timbre, St. Cecilia was the patron saint of Music. She was a rich woman in Rome, who became a Christian, and secretly began helping the early church escape persecution by hiding them in her home. She was caught, tried, and sentenced to death in the city square. She was cut deeply on the back of the neck, and was left to bleed to death - it took 3 entire days. All throughout her last moments, she was still singing songs. When they finally collected her body, her hands were folded in the symbol of the holy trinity.

No wonder I felt so strongly towards her. I will never forget it.
The patron saint of music, and I felt it in my bones before I even knew :)
It was definitely a moment.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Also, a few things.

some of my European thoughts -

- I have only seen 1 speed bump, and I appreciate that. Hate em'

- Fanny packs are all the rage here, TAKE THAT AMERICA.

- I am very young, and the world is very old.

- My allergies (that I didn't really know I have) act up A LOT when I'm in a room full of 2,000 year-old tapestries.


- I'm still in phone withdrawl. Every time the bus vibrates a little, I think I'm getting a text. Bad news bears.

- I tried using a Bidet - nothing much happened except water sprayed on the floor.

- Italy is one big tomato.

- Americans will be Americans.

- I can't wait for Bulgaria.


So - I've come to the conclusion that I can't explain to you (or anyone) how I'm feeling. I can't tell you what I've tasted or smelled or seen or heard adequately, all I can do is beg you to come see it yourself. - Sell your stuff, babysit every child you know, write A+ papers for other crappy students, sell your car, SELL YOUR BODY, (just kidding) WHATEVER IT TAKES. Get to Europe. Its changing my mindset, and its only been 6 days. Thats why this post is so long BUT OH MY GOSH READ IT ALL :)

We left Athens and took a 1hour flight to Rome, Italy, and I only cried for the first 5 minutes after takeoff! Thats a major accomplishment for me. :) But once we landed, it was so clear that we were in a completely different place. Colors, traffic, architecture, everything is TOTALLY different. I kept catching myself almost saying Greek words like were still in Greece, only to remember - OH, I can almost read these signs! A spanish background helps SO much with Italian. Within the first 10 minutes, I knew I would love Rome. And I do!

Our first stop was the Colosseum, and as we rounded the corner & I saw it, my breath was completely taken away. I took 2525256 pictures of it though the bus window, only to delete them all haha. Yes, It really is as big as you think! We met our tour guide and made our way inside, and I kept touching the walls and giggling and thinking of all the gladiator books I'd read as a kid. Then I thought of the Britney Spears Pepsi commercial from years ago so I kicked that thought out :) For the fine arts credit I'll be getting for this trip, I had to do a short presentation on Rome, so I knew all sorts of things that happened at the Colosseum, like that over 500,000 animals were killed there in its hayday, & that there were trap doors in the floor for elements of surprise during battles, Christians were martyred there... etc. I was a giggling mess, I loved it. And I used the bathroom there so thats cool, teehee ;)

Of course we got pasta & pizza for lunch - SO FREAKING GOOD. (Although I will say Olive Garden does a pretty good representation? Kinda? Eh?) After we headed to the Ancient Ruins of Rome, where I took over 200 pictures. Unfortunately after a 6am flight, the heat of the sun & the 4 hour walking tour, I can't remember half of what the tour guide told us... BUT - I do know everything was crazy old. Hahah:) It was really interesting & beautiful though, so when I get a chance to put my pictures online, I'll try to explain each one. These are ruins & statues & evidences of life from 300 A.D. Incredible isn't the word. Most everything I saw I had to remind myself - THAT IS REAL. We had dinner by the hotel and then rested our poor little feet because WE WERE GONNA SING AT ST. PETERS THE NEXT DAY.

We got up the next morning (our hotel was lovely, but no free internet) & headed straight for the Spanish Steps! And like the good tourist I am, I made my girlfriends taken artsy pictures with me hahah. I had a feeling I would also fall down those steps, but I didn't :) Our next stop was The Trevi Fountain, which for some reason excited me to no end! I didn't expect it to be SO BIG so I once again was a giggling idiot, & I threw in 3 euros to make SURE I'll be back to Rome. Everything was wet and there were soooo many people, but man - was I happy. TJ didn't throw in any euros, he used them to buy a Diet Coke... hahahah some things you can aaaaalways count on! :)

My favorite stop of the day was the Pantheon. We came out of a side street & a milk truck was right next to me, and when it drove away, this huge building was right in front of me. Everyone laughed at how loud I gasped. This. building. is. monstrous. The dome is the largest in Europe, with no steel reinforcements, no restoration, no nothing. Its over 2,000 years old. Completely. Staggering. My favorite part was the huge open hole left in the ceiling - to let the rain in. There are drain holes in the floor in the center. I HAVE to go back on a rainy day. That seems so incredible! As we walked in we found out we had permission to sing, so of course the tears were already coming for me. We sang 'Sanctus', which was composed by Timbre Cierpke, Dr. C's daughter who is on the trip with us. It was a really special moment for all of us, and we sounded almost angelic in there. I videoed it :) I'll post when I can. I cried so much, Ahhhhh - I'll never forget it. One of the best musical moments of my life I think. We sang in a couple other small cathedrals on our walk through, A french one & also the church at the top of the Spanish Steps. Even the tiny places are so ornate.

When we headed down to catch the bus to the Vatican, Nicole & I saw a gelato place, & got  some, but because I was hurrying, ALL MY LEMON (zitrone!!!?!??!) GELATO FELL OFF MY CONE AND ONTO THE COBBLESTONE STREET. Ohhhhh, what a European blunder. I turned around & frowned at the guy, and he was not impressed by me. He made me another but it was terribly embarrassing hahaha. I laughed but still... then we had to run to catch up with the group... great. I learned my lesson I suppose:)

Next was the Vatican museum & St. Peter's Basilica, which was HUGE, and we had to be dressed specifically & go through lots of security to get in. The museum is basically an art museum, with rooms & rooms of marble statues & tapestries. A huge amount of people were there so I didn't enjoy it all that much, until The Sistine Chapel :) No pictures were allowed of course, but I'm almost glad because it allowed me to take it all in. Michelangelo must have been superhuman... the amount of detail was ridiculous. I stared at the ceiling for over 20 minutes and over & over I kept seeing things I hadn't noticed before. Really, YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS FOR YOURSELF. I couldn't believe it. Although, I hope the air conditioner works on the day you're there, I nearly suffocated, but it was totally worth it.

Then onto St. Peters, the largest cathedral in the world. I feel like most of Trevecca's buildings could fit inside all together... its HUGE. And its terribly ornate, with paintings & Michelangelo's  'The Pieta' is inside, and the tombs of all the popes. St. Peters' grave is directly in the center. You'll just have to look at my pictures. I can't even explain it. Next we grabbed our choir robes & warmed up for our performance in the 5:00 Mass. (after a fast lunch where our waiter asked us all about Beyonce & Chuck Norris & California & he called me baby 24736 times hahah)

Ummmmmmmmm... so, surprisingly & unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with the experience of singing there. I'm still not totally sure why. But don't get me wrong - I GOT TO SING IN ST. PETERS. AND I GOT TO DIRECT A PIECE IN ST. PETERS. AND I MET THE MUSIC DIRECTOR OF ST. PETERS AND HE KNOWS I EXIST AND HE SPOKE TO ME AND SMILED AT ME. AND I KNOW ITS CRAZY AMAZING. But there was something about the service that was so strict? Very structured & traditional & totally in Italian obviously, but I guess after a southern Alabama Nazarene background, I did not feel at home in such a non-emotional service. I felt stifled. I couldn't hear the ring of our voices because of where the choir loft is positioned. I'm not complaining, I'm just being honest - I didn't really love it. I'm sad about it. Some people may have really enjoyed it, but I prefer I warm & laid back environment better :(

After such a big day, a relaxed dinner & bedtime was exactly what I needed :)

This morning we toured to the Catacombs - but thats an entire blog in itself, I've still got to collect my thoughts. It was amazing, but I can't put it into words just yet :) We drove to Florence this afternoon so I'll tell you all about it later.

Off to wash my clothes in the sink... although I'm thinking about using the Bidet!!!!! hahahah don't worry, I'll totally take pictures of that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My right butt cheek hurts.

While facebook is taking 2384629842894 years to upload my pictures, I'll tell you about the last 2 days :)

Yesterday morning we rode the bus to see the temple of Zeus, then hiked up a hill to the Acropolis(!!!!) ..... only to walk back down the other side to grab lunch. Our tour guide is precious (Christiana) but I was mad at her for that moment. My baby feet hurt already. :)

For lunch I had a chicken pie, (no idea what that is exactly but I ate every bite) Greek chips & a coke. And a bite of a Bueno Bar! And BAKLAVAAAAAAA oh my gosh I nearly cried it was so good. Can you tell the food is 50% of the reason I was excited about this trip?

The walk up to the Acropolis wasn't bad once I'd had lunch. But once we reached the top, I kept having to remind myself that THIS ISN'T FAKE.  It all looked like a computer desktop background!? Everywhere I looked, I couldn't even imagine how it was possible to build this so long ago. Did you know it only took 11 years to complete the whole thing? I didn't. All day I was completely amazed. And the wind nearly knocked me off the top of the hill. We had so many laughs!

At the base of the Acropolis is a large rocky hill called Areopagus. I didn't think much of it until Christiana explained the name, which is translated to 'Mars Hill' in English. YES, LIKE WHERE PAUL PREACHED. Acts chapter 17 happened right there. I got tears in my eyes immediately, I couldn't wait to climb to the top! It was kinda scary, and I tripped 3525 times but woaaaaaah I was overwhelmed. Way to go Paul. Michael Louderback, I wanted to text you SO BAD. You would have loved it. (Maybe we can call it The Seattle School Hill....? eh eh eh)

Later on that night we split up for dinner & got a little lost heading back to the hotel, but what is a trip to a foreign country without a chance of never making it home? ;)

This morning we took the bus to Delphi, and on the way we passed through the most precious skiing village! As soon as I'm a millionaire I'm headed straight back there. It seemed so lovely. Who knew skiing was a big thing in Greece? Not me! Anyway, Delphi also included a hike to the top, (the mountains here are INSANE. But I'm also from Alabama so I'm easily impressed...) so we took off and of course I ended up in the back hahah. I'm sorry I don't claim to love hiking... oh well. On the way down we stopped at the ancient amphitheater to sing a little bit, (our director asked permission & she said yes originally) and 1 minute into our song, (with a least 100 other hikers around us that stopped to listen) a Greek guardwoman yelled at us to stop. Dr. C yelled back at us to keep going, and we all got so confused! We kept going for a bit but then got scared & stopped.  It was quite the spectacle. The whole crowed was angry with her for making us stop... at least we made a memory? Hahaha some people caught the whole thing on video... Also lunch was lovely. GREECE - GIVE ME ALL YOUR CHEESE. * i heard a rumor that Chris Pine from Star Trek was there? I never actually saw him but some of the girls SWEAR it was him.

On the way out, I slipped down the stairs, of course. And ripped a hole in my leggings :) Bahahah and now there is a bruise the size of Texas on my butt cheek - priceless. I was too busy falling all over the place to see Chris Pine :( Boo.

We drove through Thebes 2 times. WOAHHHHH. Although I can't stand thinking about Oedipus.... buhhh.

When we got back to the hotel was said goodbye to Christiana (i shed a lil tear, she was wonderful) & we sang in the hotel lobby for a group of precious Brazilians. I shed a lil tear then too, they LOVED Psalm 23:) Now I'm back in the room, about to start packing. We leave for ROME at 6am!!!!!!

Its only noon for you kiddos, but I AM LE TIRED. Goodnight!

p.s. I've sang the Hercules soundtrack in its entirety at least 2 times, while also reciting lines like "I'm a damsel, I'm in distress, I can handle this. Have a nice day" ... No, I'm not sorry.

Monday, May 9, 2011

γειά σου!

Landed in Athens at 9am Greek time - 2 am for you sleepy heads back in America :)

We hopped on the bus (with Benadryl still lingering)  & headed straight to see the changing of the guards at Parliament - the traditional Greek outfits are NOT what I expected? Note the fluffy balls on the tips of the boots... hahahaaaaaa of course I had the giggles. ---->

I had TWO gyros for lunch. Bought one, then headed back for another. And I found a Kinderegg! [A GERMAN SUCCESS!] Also I met a man named Tom... and I pet 3 dogs. And used a really fancy bathroom by the Olympic stadium. All normal things, right?

then I slept through my alarm (took a baby nap) & made us late for our lamb & rice dinner ( I LIKE LAMB??)... oops. This just in - I'm in love with olives & feta cheese. Ζήτω!

I'M GONNA GO TAKE A SHOWER NOW, & head to bed. Tomorrow the extra special sights begin!! :) :) :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 8th, August 11th, 2011.

New York
(THE PRAGUE AIRPORT for 3 hours...)

I'll try to tell you all about it!!

(tonight I said goodbye to my friends and parents so I'm the most out of sorts.
We're boarding in 4 hours. HERE GOES NOTHING!!!)