Tuesday, December 16

You know it's been a good day when...

...you've got four Christmas cards AND a Congratulations card from England in your postbox when you get home!!

Thanks people, see you all on the 28th December :-)

Saturday, December 13

Spontaneous Saturdays

Planning to not plan.


This box of Frosties cost me €1, ONE EURO people!  Yes, I may have found it in the 'near best-before' bargain bin that I used to frequent so often as a student ten years ago, but my oh, my.  Frosties in this neck of the woods (Pescara) are usually around €3, maybe more...so yes, €1 is definitely a BARGAIN and I can definitely devour the whole box before the 16th December so there's no problem there.

Anyway.  I'm off track...oh...actually I'm not...I'm living my spontaneous Saturday!

A day of rest, real rest, a day of well, what Bruno Mars 'The Lazy Song' encapsulates, doing stuff because you feel like it, not because you have to.  In 'religious' terms it's considered a Sabbath, based on the story of creation and that God rested on the seventh day.  It's a day to stop, reflect, 'rewire' our brains, bodies, spirits and emotions, giving them all back to God, to his rhythm for us.
 
When I lived in London, Sunday was definitely my day of rest.  I used to go to church, then do whatever.  I remember walks to Hyde Park, bus rides to Picadilly just because, lengthy gazes at paintings in the Tate Britain, basically doing anything that was completely unrelated to my 'day job' but without planning it.  That meant no SMART notebook slide, no marking, no planning, no conversations about school but it also meant avoiding people, at least people I knew, unless I felt it necessary to speak to them in that moment of the Sunday.  It meant I didn't plan to see anyone, I just left things to chance.

Here in Pescara my time is filled, not with one thing as in London, but many things.  My week comprises of work (with it's day trips, meetings etc), Italian school, my piano lesson for an English lesson exchange, church, Meetup and dinners/lunches with friends.  It means that my time, my time for solitude, is sometimes reduced to the transitions on my bicycle.  As weeks go, I know my weeks aren't tough at all, in fact they're pretty relaxed but if I can't handle myself in the little that I have to combine now, how am I ever going to cope with more?  One day I might not be so 'lucky' to be young, free and single but have a husband and family to coordinate, cook for, entertain, take to school, the doctors, and everything else. 

I remember my housemate telling me how she saw how much I enjoyed 'my own company' and that's completely true: focused bible reading in solitude is a daily discipline I started after an Alpha course in 2006.   My current reading sessions of a book by Peter Scazzero entitled 'Emotionally Healthy Spirituality' has helped me see why this solitude has always been important to me but what's more awesome is the realisation that it is myself that controls my own solitude.   

Basically, establishing a Sabbath boils down to the a little two-lettered word consisting of an "n" and an "o"...yep..."no".  I've got my rhythm, I know where I have to be and when and my 'free' time is up to me to fill.  Basically, Monday and Thursday mornings, Monday evenings and all day Saturdays start each week as 'empty' spaces, with no regular commitments, however things get planned in: work meetings, house chores, bank stuff, socialising etc fills up that time each week and so as a result, my Sabbath is now Saturday, the only full 24 hour period I can keep empty.  The only thing I am allowing myself to say 'yes' to in regards of a Saturday, as I did last week, is something Bible related, and even then it's preferable not to be a 'planned' event but at short notice.  Everything else, all other invitations, as strange as it sounds to say no to coffee with a friend, is refused with a polite 'no'.

So, today, it's a Saturday, what am I doing?  After a morning reading the book above, I ended up going to the swimming pool near my house to watch some of my class in their saggio (a presentation of where the kids are at the moment in terms of their swimming skills).  It came about because I realised none of the other teachers were going and that it would be nice for the kids to see at least one of us there.  As I thought this at 2pm, i.e. in short notice, I had enough time to get changed out of my pyjamas and walk on over and I'm glad I did.  It was great to see the kids in a different environment, sharing their achievements and progress with their families. Some of them swam four lengths, more than I can do!

On the way home I decided I wanted to make a Bread and Butter Pudding so headed to the supermarket to get milk and cream where I found the above Frosties in the Bargain Bin.  And there we are, back to the beginning.

Happy Saturday people :-)

Monday, December 1

When in Rome...

...relax.

I found this weekend so peaceful and relaxing, strange when I spent it in Rome, a city I originally detested.  It was my fifth time there and each time I like it just that little bit more.  It's difficult to walk around and see so much stuff without uncovering something new in such a big, mixed up city.  Although I saw many things that I've seen before, there are so many places, literally thousands, to discover.  There are over 900 churches in Rome, 600 of which are catholic, I think I saw...ooo...six of them this weekend.

Anyway.  Here are a few photos of my visit.  Forgive me though, I've not got a clue what they all are, except the obvious!



 


I cried a little inside when I noticed the roads that had had tarmac just dumped on top of the cobbles beneath

Monday, November 24

The day I finished Matt's gin...

...oh, and my Masters!

When one of my 'original' Pescara friends moved away, one who actually knew where my first house here was, he gave me the remainder of his bottle of Caorunn gin.  It was actually thanks to that bottle that I turned to quite like gin: it's now my preferred spirit.  Anyway, the bottle is now empty, probably after over 3 years since it was opened.

I'm having a quiet gin lemon to congratulate myself on passing the examinable assignment for my last Masters module.  It means I'm now waiting for the awards department to get in touch with me about my participation in a graduation ceremony hopefully at the Barbican Centre in March...I have a Masters in Education to go claim.

Ironically, the module I've just completed is sort of 'anti' exams...arguing that intelligence is held between people, not in them, and is therefore difficult to 'examine'. As a result I know I actually managed to jump the last hurdle, a month early too, thanks to my Mum, my tutor, my prayer line, and my friend once based in Pescara who's now all the way over in Chicago.  When I see them (...if I see him...in regards to my tutor), I will give them a ruddy big hug and a hi-5 to say thanks...

...but for now, this gin's for you!

Monday, November 17

Stuck

Stuck in the mud is still a game my class love to play

My brother came to stay for a few days, three nights in all and it was jolly good to see him.  We ended up following the 'usual' plan of action when someone comes to visit...we saw a castle on a rock (Rocca Calascio), we went to the cloisters on a hill (Abbazia di San Giovanni in Venere) and we ate...we ate a lot...pizza, burgers, arrosticini, ice cream and in the end, no pasta.  However, it was good to see my brother because, well, he's my brother.

I consider myself ridiculously lucky as through the banter and the sarcasm that is exchanged whenever we all get together, my family rocks.  We seem to have a mutual respect for each other, at least I think so anyway.  My parents don't seem to be too distraught that their children have 'flown the nest' as they've managed two motorbike trips in two continents and have recently done up a camper van for shorter getaways over the last few years.  On the other side, as the children, I think we do ok at keeping our parents 'in the loop'.

I've always tried to speak regularly to Grandma over Skype and my Mum is usually the first person to know all my news, and read any essays I've managed to construct!  But on top of that, it's making sure that the time, physical time, we've spent together is just that, time.  Whether it's been a pub lunch on a sunny August afternoon, or a Skype conversation all together, this time is sacred to me.  A point of contact with the people that really do know me the best.

Next August we've already got a family holiday planned, and it will be awesome.  Not awesome in a "wow, have I got so many hilarious stories to tell you" kind of awesome, but awesome in a relaxed, whatever goes, kind of way.  That family holiday has become a milestone for me to gaze towards as I remain stuck...stuck in the mud.

I say I'm stuck because I am, spiritually, in that dark place I think we all have, whoever you are and whatever you believe, our inside, our soul if you like.  The bit where our instincts come from, where our yes/no choices are made, not the rational ones based on fact, but the yes/no decisions that, no matter what you choose, leads to an unknown anyway.  I don't know how I got to where I am, I can't remember most of the reasons I made the choices I did to do what I've done and I'm certainly not able to give you a 5 year plan anymore.  I suppose I'll just find out when I get there.

Saturday, November 1

Life is still beautiful

A year ago today my cousin and I were walking along the seafront when I received numerous missed calls from my high school friend.  It was odd.  So I attempted to ring back.  After a lot of phone tag, and a really bad reception I was told the news that Harriet Ward had collapsed whilst at the cinema and was dead.  Dead.

Harriet.

So, I then took the initiative, something you just have to do, to pass on the news.  I knew that the friend that had rang me was one of the first to know in my circle of friends as she had received the news from someone who knew one of the paramedics who had been 'on the scene'.  I had to ring my best friend.  I had to tell her that our Harriet had gone.

I remember sitting on the sea wall watching the people walking by with my cousin beside me, who herself was facing the one year anniversary of her Mum's death, as I listened to the dial tone.  I think I remained calm, I wasn't crying if I remember rightly, but was firm and prepared.  I calmly asked my friend if she had received any news that day, her negative response led me to tell her exactly what I'd been told about Harriet.

I have only one regret from making that phone call: I didn't check before telling her if she was on her own.  Since the age of eighteen I've received five phone calls from my Mum regarding the death of close relatives: my Grandparents, my Aunt and another for my Uncle.  If I remember rightly I had always been with someone at the time, plus they were all 'expected'.  But this time.  Harriet.  Our 28-year-old friend, who's birthday I'd forgotten that year, who was a lady-that-lunched...she wasn't supposed to die yet but she did.

Thankfully my best friend was with her Mum as I heard her voice in the background asking what was up.  You too would have asked what was up if you had heard the sound of someone's heart breaking.  That sound, the sheer devastation, the cry of unbelief, is something I would pay a lot of money to avoid hearing ever again.

A year later I find myself in a very different place to where I was a year ago.  My world has got a lot bigger, wider, more.  For one thing I moved into a flat by myself and I completed my Masters (although the result is still unknown).  I've also managed to go to America visiting Denver and New York, but more importantly to me, Chicago.  Harriet visited Chicago in 2011, and it was because of her trip that I decided to go and stay with a friend there to check it out.

It's strange that I put such an emphasis on that city as Harriet loved New York more.  In fact it's Alicia Keys song 'New York' that resonates the most with many of friends today when speaking of Harriet as she visited the Big Apple more than once.  However, the photo of Harriet standing in front of the Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, Chicago, has become my 'go-to' image of Harriet.  I really don't know why: it's not the best photo ever taken nor is it one that Harriet chose as a profile pic on Facebook.  Either way, as I look ahead to my blank canvas of a future, where even the country I'll be living in from September 2015 is a question mark, this photo of "our Harriet" will definitely be staying with me :-)


Thursday, October 30

I thought her birthday was yesterday and then I remembered I was a day early.

Yes.  I am in a pensive mood, a state of sadness.  It can happen sometimes. 

I'm sitting on the cold floor just inside my doorway.  It's a shadowed area away from the one light I turned on automatically as I entered my house.  My house.  My own space.  And yet today it seems so undeserved, so foreign.

In a year I feel so much has changed.  My memory, for one, fails me more often than it used too.  It's due to my stress levels I think, unconscious ones.  The lack of decent sleep joined with the worries for the future: a future that is so wide and expansive that I am excited by its energy but scared of how it has every potential to cave in on itself.

It's like when a mosquito is dancing around you, attempting to attack.  With its smallness it can make you scratch for hours, days even.  It literally feeds off of us, taking our blood, and yet with our hands it can be squished. 

Squish.  A word that mud is made of, like squelch.  Onomatopoeic.  Says how it sounds. 

Loss.

Let the 's' linger and it fades away to nothing.  A hint of what was but the start of what will be.  Adventures to be grabbed in an instant.  Laughter to be shared over and over and over as the memories that do resist the ticking clock move the moments onwards.

Why do I keep the clock ticking by my door when it doesn't tell the time?

Friday, October 10

A weekend 'off'

On my official day off, Friday - a localised bank holiday, I did work stuff, but exciting work stuff! The Saturday and Sunday I 'touristed' Padova and Verona.

After arriving in Ferrara, I caught a bus.  I recognised the station from when I went there to visit a friends parents who have a B&B in a near-by town.  This time however I met one of my close friends I met in Pescara who has since moved north.

Before arriving in Ferrara I went to the Loris Malaguzzi Centre with one of my colleagues.  The centre is where the Reggio Children foundation is based, a particular focus for a learning style based on play within the whole context of a child's life.  There were exhibitions of objects children have created over the years as well as an example of an Atelier, a working space at out in a certain theme which encourages play through resources laid out purposefully to be investigated.   My colleague and I found many inspiring things, if which I took how simple the original resources are as it is the teachers observations of the child's interaction with the objects and others that is the focus.  Monday I'm going armed with a new observation sheet and plans to work with three children at a time :-) 

In Ferrara I took an aperitivo with my friend, it was great to see her after so many months. We then ate in an osteria where I tried some typical Ferrara dishes:

Garganelli - cusina e butega (con erbette) (twisty pasta tubes)
Cappellacci di zucca al ragù (pumpkin filled pasta shapes with bolognaise)
Tenerina (a chocolate cake thing)
Tiramisù (....Tiramisù)

Saturday led my friend and I to Padova.  I enjoyed walking around the streets even though we did not see lots.  We entered the Basilica of San Antonio and we wandered around three of the squares: Piazza delle Erbe, Piazza dei Signori and Prato delle Valle.  In the prato was a large street market where I purchased some knitting needles and wool.  To say I didn't see half of the things I could have done is an underestimate so I'll have to return to the city.

On Sunday we headed to Verona.  As cities go, considering it's quite a 'famous' Italian city thanks to Shakespeare's Juliet, it was a surprising place to explore.  The views of the buildings from the river and the different types of architecture, all generally old, was really interesting.  My friend and I spent aages people watching in one of the squares as our feet were hurting from all the walking.  Somehow I found myself being told some of the original Verona stories by my friend's work colleague who met us in the centre.  He pointed out things that you would need a decent guidebook/tour guide to tell you, like the cuboid carved in a stone that was used to control the size of the bricks used in some of the buildings. 
I leave the 'north' of Italy feeling excited about seeing the sunshine again (in these places fog prevails most of the time) and yet I also feel that it won't be long til I return to Padova, I really did like it a lot. 

Tuesday, October 7

For weekends away...

...there's always a plan of some sort...

This weekend I’m heading to North Italy to scout out the Loris Malaguzzi Centre, the home of Reggio Children with my colleagues.  I'm really excited as it is the place where a particular, context, play-based approach to learning that evolved that influenced, amongst other things, the development of the Early Years Foundation Stage in England.  I particularly want to investigate the 'What happens next...' issue.  What happens to all the free thinking, happy, reflective 6-year olds that then enter Primary School?  After visiting the centre, I'm heading to Ferrara to meet a close friend moved North.  There are plans to spend a day in Verona and Padua, eeek!  However, I’ve not long returned from a weekend in England...

I used the trip to catch up with all my friends and family that I couldn’t see in Summer due to the American adventure, and to give me a focus for after the return from America.  The schedule on the Friday before I left looked like this…

Saturday
02:00 - Bus to Ciampino Airport
05:00 - Arrive at Airport
06:30 - Flight to Stansted
09:30 - Collect hire car and head to Portsmouth
12:30 - Find parking space for the car at Gunwharf
13:00 - Ferry to Fishbourne as a foot-passenger where Mum will be waiting :-)
14:00 - Tour family friend's newly refurbished house
15:00 - Coffee with Grandma
17:30 - Starbucks with my favourite opera singer
19:30 - Movie night with my Cousin
Sleep

Sunday
09:30 - Pop round to church to say Hi!
10:15 - Walk over to friend's house for coffee where Mum will be also
12:00 - Ferry to Gunwharf
13:00 - Lunch with friends at Gunwharf Quays somewhere
14:30 - Collect car and drive to Thetford
18:30 - Arrive and give my best mate a HUGE hug then chat, laugh, eat, drink,
Sleep

Monday
05:15 - Leave for Stansted
06:30 - Drop-off car
08:30 - Flight to Pescara
12:00 - Land
13:30 - Go to Work and start the week again...

And the weekend did really go pretty much like that!

There were a few ‘added’ extras including the BMW series 1 that was waiting for me at the airport.   It took me 20 minutes to get the seat adjusted and start the engine.  It wasn’t the whole ‘driving on the otherside of the road thing’ but more the, ‘which of these 5 levers makes the seat go forward?’ that I had problems with…

Saturday evening was quite possibly the most relaxed I’ve been in aaages.  My cousin had prepared a buffet style tea with all the naughty things you buy for parties, like sausage rolls, salad pots etc AND she had prepared our families signature ‘plate’, cheese straws…plus a chocolate cake.  This was eaten whilst watching ‘The Sound of Music’ with the karaoke lyrics for a good ol' sing-a-long, bliss.

Sunday’s lunch with friends turned into an extended lunch as I’d forgotten how easy it is to lose track of time when in good company.  I’d not seen these friends since New Year and there was a lot to catch up on but at the same time it was as if I’d seen them only last week.  Before I met them at Giraffe, one of my favourite restaurant chains, I managed to buy a new bag and purse (or purse and wallet if you’re American) from the Radley outlet in Gunwharf.  Spending money has officially got to stop!

Due to the extended lunch and impromptu shopping spree I managed to leave later than expected to go to Thetford.  Although late, seeing the best mate in person was worth it.  Especially the random conversations I had with their 4 year-old daughter who was already tucked up in bed.  We ordered pizza (well I got sausage and chips) and nattered until we were all too tired.

Oh, how I wish I could’ve extended that weekend to a week, or a few months!


Monday, September 8

One of those days...

...where many bad choices in the once present, that is now the past, truly affect the future. 

The photo below is of a Christmas present from a very dear friend of mine.  Today, more than others, I have really felt how friends, real friends who believe in you, have got your back but also serve to push you onwards and upwards.  They can see your potential but can also see what's blocking it and today I had those blocks pointed out to me, pretty clearly, which is handy!

Now, I have the battle to get past those blocks, destroy them completely if possible (how I wish they were made of polystyrene!).  I believe in change however as change for good exists, change for bad does too.  This last year, on reflection, has been particularly crucial in changing me for the worse, a back slide if you like, a serious one, let's say avalanche. 

Although I'm excited about what's ahead, I've got to focus on the here and now, the everyday: doing, reflecting, asking, recognising, observing, listening, considering...oh that would be the process of 'learning' then.  I need to see if I can put into practice the theory I've just studied so hard to understand, easier said than done of course.  This last year in Pescara is going to be a year for sharpening up.

Now, where's my hidden stash of chocolate raisins?

Friday, September 5

Rolling with it

Yes, I know there are many photos of my travels that I should probably be posting up but I haven't taken the time to sort them out yet...

So, as everyone knows, the come-down after a big adventure is tough.  Whilst in Chicago I booked return flights for a weekend in London at the end of September (Ryanair had a sale) to help cope with the return to Pescara.  I have no idea what I'm going to do, where I'm going to go, who I'm going to see.  A few of my friends that I've contacted are not available that weekend and I've not really explored all my options.  I've got to decide if I need to hire a car by the 8th September as the company I book through have a sale for the UK that day and that's it.  I'm just going to 'roll with it'.  Oh, and remember to check my friend's availability BEFORE booking the flights next time...

Work wise, it's been a shock.  Without the more experienced kids, you know, the ones who speak English pretty fluently after 3 years, it's a very different dynamic.  I know that organisation is the key and now we've experienced a week of, well, chaos, we've got the foundation to start getting organised.  As I get annoyed at chaos so easily, I tie myself in knots and that's not fair on neither my colleagues nor the children.  When there are children running round in circles, not responding to anything I seem to do or say, for the moment I just have to breathe, and yep, 'roll with it'.  After all, children love to run, I've just got to make sure they're doing so safely!

A sculpture in the
Metropolitan Art Museum,
New York, that nicely represents
how I feel about
...dah, dah, dahhhhh...
the 'future'
The future is ahead and my decision to leave my current post gnaws* at me constantly.  Where am I going?
 What should I do?  Do I return to England to be closer to my beloved friends and family?  If I do, am I able to handle being a classroom teacher even though it nearly killed me last time?  But if I don't go back in the classroom, does a suitable alternative exist?...an alternative that can feed my 'jack of all trades, master of none', 'keep me on my toes' likes? ...and if I stay in Italy...where?  Does an Italian city exist where I can feel neither 'big fish, small pond', nor 'small fish, big pond'?  Can I find a city lifestyle with a good balance between the known and unknown that remains after three years?  If so, how do I know?  Would I be able to get a job in an International School?  Or should I, yet again, up sticks and move on completely?  Change everything, school, house, country, even continent?  Yep, just going to have to roll with it...

And then there's the conversations to myself about my last Masters submission: "No Laura, you can't change it now."..."Yes Laura, it has been submitted, you checked yesterday."..."...and No, reading that last section through is not going to help you solve anything."..."Patience Laura, what mark you get is what you get...four days with just 3 hours sleep is your own fault, and if that affected the quality of the submission, well, you do only have yourself to blame...".  Rolling.  With.  It.

It's an exciting time rolled out ahead, only God knows where I'll end up.

*I had to look-up the spelling of 'gnaw', I originally wrote 'knaw'...then 'naw'...then Googled the synonyms of 'chew' to find the correct spelling, as you do.

Tuesday, August 26

Holiday: New York pt 1

Life is temporary like a Transformer

I arrived into Newark airport on Tuesday 19th August and stayed with my friends near Hoboken, New Jersey, for four nights.  In that time I navigated the public transport system (bus, PATH, light rail, subway), I would say, quite successfully but had to get used to recrossing the same Avenue/Street whilst getting my bearings once off of transport.

On Wednesday I walked the High Line (see photo), ate clam chowder and sat on different benches, around Washington Street Park just people watching.  We then went to a rooftop bar for drinks which was pretty awesome.

On Thursday I had my first ever surfing lesson at Rockaway beach during which I got bitten by a crab, bumped on the head a few times whilst falling off and saw dolphins.  To regain some sustenance we headed to a fish taco hut for my first taste of fish tacos...it was like a fish finger sandwich (a.k.a my favourite food) on caffeine, so yummy.  That evening I happily surrended to the suggestion to a night in.

On Friday I ventured to the Metropolitan Art Museum and bought myself a sketch book before wandering the hundreds of rooms.  I became disorientated regularly but did see many a painting and pretty thing.  It's amazing to see so much history and visions of the past frozen in time that can be looked at, and interpreted, by the likes of little old me.  I was a bit frustrated my the musical instrument bit because, although interesting to look at, musical instruments are to be heard to be fully appreciated.

On Saturday I missioned to my other friends apartment in Manhatten, armed with my 25kg suitcase, backpack and handbag.  After a bus, subway, and another bus, I landed at my friends, where, yet again, my good ol' British accent meant the doorman heard Dora, rather than, you know, Laura.  Quite entertaining really.

After dumping my stuff, we went to my friends rooftop garden for a BBQ, followed by a quick drink in a beer garden then home.  It was a peaceful Saturday, with many taxi rides here, there, and over there again.

On Sunday we headed to Broadway!!  We got discounted tickets to see the Avenue Q matinee which was hilarious.  I highly recommend it as a show, genius, especially if you too are questioning your 'purpose' as myself.  After the show we ate sliders (small burgers), drank beer and then headed home.

On Monday we have wandered around Wall St and the 9/11 memorial, after I'd devoured a ridiculously chocolaty cupcake from a cute cupcake shop.  The fountains where the twin towers were are quite impressive, large, and seemingly bottomless.  It's so strange to think how a few minutes can change the course of so many lives and affect so many but the memorial is one way to ensure such a strange tragedy, such as 9/11, can make a difference to those directly affectes, and all those who visit it.  Life really is temporary.

Wednesday, August 20

Holiday: Chicago

Days 12-18

Erm.  Chicago.  It felt like I was there for much longer than a week and yet it also feels it was shorter than a day.  I'm not sure how to capture my week in Chicago using this blog post...I truly can't...so a summary will have to suffice.

The days were typically spent with my friend, running errands, attempting to sort out her recent house move etc.  I think I probably made the house worse as, being in 'holiday' mode, or perhaps just the general "What am I doing?!" feeling that I had the whole week in Chicago, I didn't finish anything that I started, including the flat-pack bathroom cabinet.  I ate brunches, met friends of my friend and also went to a hot yoga class, which was hot and very sweaty.  The highlight of the days has to be the baseball game, there was an air display rehearsal going on over head and peanuts and hotdogs to be eaten, amazing (oh and the baseball game....).

The "What am I doing?!" feeling prevailed through the evenings when I wandered aimlessly around the city, finding touristy things to do whilst my friend worked.  I managed to do a walking tour of the public sculpture in the city, listen to some very experimental jazz in Millenium Park, go up the Willis (Sears) Tower at sunset, do a quicker than quick tour of the Art Institute AND go on a river cruise to see the iconic buildings...through fog.  I also spent one evening writing my postcards at the coffee shop mentioned in a previous post.

The nights that followed the evenings were pretty unpredictable: sometimes I met my friend and we just went home, other times we went out for drinks or dinner.  I've eaten sushi, pizza, Italian style food, udon noodles, popcorn, mac n cheese, pulled pork sandwiches, sweet potato fluff (!!) and more.  Randomly, one night I briefly popped into a strip club...as you do...but decided (surprisingly) it wasn't a place for me.  Another night, I played cards and laughed so hard my sides hurt, something I wish I could've done more, but alas time marches on.

Chicago was great fun, manic but loveable, full of people with lots to see and do.  I've talked more about American sports than I ever thought possible and definitely had an adventure to say the least.  Next stop: New York!

Tuesday, August 12

Holiday: Day 9, 10, 11...I think

It's happened, I've lost track of the days, pure holiday bliss.

Sunday I attended my friend's third wedding reception, yes third.  When you are an international couple with family all over the place you need to celebrate everywhere!  I had a great day, met some new characters to add to my friends list and enjoyed some good grub.  Oh and I was able to get creative whilst assisting with the decorations of the hall.

The Monday after was total relax.  The day started with a short hike up to a rock that had an awesome view of where I was staying.  One of those peaceful, on-top-of-the-world, style locations.  After two friends departed for their home towns (both of whom I will be joining soon enough), I spent the majority of the afteroon chatting on the terrace with my friend.  Awesome.  A dinner at a Nepalese restaurant followed by frozen yoghurt from a self-service shop where you could put as many toppings as you wanted, which of course I did, ended the last full day in Golden, Colorado.  A really neat town.

Now, after repacking my suitcase I find myself feeling a bit, emotional I suppose, whilst at the gate for my plane to Chicago.  You see, the next stop, a week in Chicago, brings friends old and new together.  Harriet, my high school friend who died last October, visited this city in 2011 and spoke very highly of it and one of my closest friends I met in Pescara returned to the city this year. 

So, when another friend was joking about which of my American friends I like best, judging this by the length of time I'm spending in each city, there's one thing he didn't consider: Harriet.  Harriet loved Chicago but more than that, she loved New York and I'd never be on this adventure if it wasn't for her.  Although the idea for a big American adventure began on 28th August 2013 when I declared I wanted to be in New York for my 'Golden' birthday (28, on the 28th), the scale and length of the trip snowballed when Harriet died, it became more important.

The photo below Harriet posted to her Facebook stating it was her favourite coffee shop whilst in Chicago, having visited it a few times and always finding solo travellers to talk to.  So in all the excitement and things to do, I'm going to head there for a coffee, just because.  It may well be just another chain coffee shop to some, but to me, it's more than that, so much more.

Sunday, August 10

Holiday Days 6 to 8

It's the altitude!

Sooo...turns out the level of oxygen in the air reduces a bit the higher up you go.  The result of this is breathlessness, tiredness, nausea and a little bit general confusion.  Add to that a bit of jet lag and it's all peachy!!

On August the 6th I managed to fly out to Denver and I watched three films...three!  It was a 9 hour 40 minute flight in the end and I didn't sleep at all which was random.  I did eat everything I was given, and drank soooo much tea.  I must say I loved the flight!

When I landed I met my friends and we headed to a bar for a welcome beer.  The menu was insane, there were well over 60 beers to choose from, maybe even nearer one hundred.  The thing is that beer is a big thing here in Golden.

Day 7 started with hiking boot shopping.  I bought some new, properly fitted, boots as a birthday present from the money my Mum, Dad and brother gave me.  The boots came in handy for the walk we did over lunch.  A leisurely 4.5 mile hike up to a lake past some moose, as you do!!

I'm finding the elevation here difficult to comprehend.  The car park was at 10,300 ft, higher than the highest mountain near Pescara, Gran Sasso.  My 'ground level' base is my friends house which is actually 5,675 ft up, compared to Pescara's 0 ft.  Apparently the altitude doesn't only affect breathinf due to the oxygen level but baking cakes too. 

After hiking we went for dinner in the town of Bouldner which has a really lively pedestrian centre with lots of buskers and street artists. There was one man, in his late 50's, who put himself in a 20x20 inch box, some skill!!

Day 8...a well deserved lie-in and pancakes for breakfast before heading to an amphitheatre called Red Rocks 'cos, yeh, it's in red rocks!  It was beautiful. We then met another friend and did a tour of a brewery, the biggest single brewery in the world, Miller Coors.

As my friends Mum works at the Miller Coors brewery, we got a v.i.p. tour with extra tasting samples and bonus sites to see. The beer making process is pretty long winded taking 55 days.  It was really interesting and provided a great opportunity to catch up with my friends over free beer! 

The evening event was a painting session. A group of us followed the instructions of an artist to create a copy of a painting.  It was fun but really intense as we had a time limit to follow so had to go pretty quickly. It was amazing how different everyone's painting turned out even though we were following the same instructions.

The night ended with some happy hour sushi that tasted better than anything you can get in Pescara but cost less than half the price.  The is certainly a huge variety of food at ridiculously reasonable prices.

Thursday, August 7

Holiday Day 5

Fact: I did not fly anywhere on Wednesday 6th August as scheduled.


Day 5: A cheeky trip to London


Whilst packing my suitcase for my multiple trip adventure - Devizes, Windsor, Denver, Chicago, New Jersey, New York - I put my Oyster card in my travel pack.  "Laura, you're not going into central London, why do you need your Oyster?"  I said to myself.  Flash forward 5 days and yep, I'm on a tube, the Picadilly line, into London...Shepherds Bush to be precise.  I'm going shopping!


On arriving to the airport after being unsuccessful checking-in online or at the self-service machine, I was informed that the aeroplane was full.  The B.A. rep babbled on about having problems with the original plane and so a smaller one was drafted in instead of cancelling the flight completely.  This meant only some people couldn't fly, rather than everybody.  Made sense.


I was given 3 options: 1) volunteer to fly tomorrow 2) wait and pray enough people volunteer to fly tomorrow otherwise fly tomorrow anyway 3) wait and be successful. On weighing up these options I went for number 1.  The night in a hotel with breakfast, lunch and dinner with the compensation money meant I would have some time to do some yoga (my back is crippled after sleeping in a field), and the money means I could buy the Longchamp shopper I've been pining after for months - I've tried cheaper alternatives but they're just not the same.


And so.  I'm gutted I've missed out on visiting the hotel where Stephen King wrote The Shining and seeing the highest paved road in America, at 3600ft, as my friend had planned but the extra $650 spending money (well, minus the Longchamp) means I'll be able to say "Yes" to all the activities my friends suggest instead of rolling out the "I'd love to but...", yay!


N.B. Whilst in London I managed to:


- transfer the compensation from the random Visa Electron card that BA had given me into my bank account


- use a Boris bike to cycle across Hyde Park and along Mayfair


- stumble around the Underground system attempting to get back to my hotel


-miss dinner due to my failed negotiation of the Underground


- eat a Zinger Tower burger courteousy of KFC as a substitute for the missed dinner! 


- enjoy salmon and Philadelphia on toast for breakfast, yummy!!


 

Tuesday, August 5

Holiday Day 3 and 4

I've moved to Holiday Inn Express Windsor which is nearer Heathrow ready for tomorrow's flight, a real bed, rather than an airbed in a tent that's too small for me.

Day 3
After packing up the tents etc. three quarters of my family headed to meet the last quarter for a pub lunch.  Then my Mum and I were left to our own devices to find the Holiday Inn and we ended up popping into Windsor where Mum bought some new shoes!

Day 4: Legoland!
It was my fourth time going to Legoland and I loved it.  Two of my best friends joined my Mum and I as we looked at the Miniland (buildings made of lego from all over the place),  we watched the pirate stunt show whilst we are lunch and I queued for half an hour to use a digger for 3 minutes... At the end of the day my Mum and I sat like big kids and made an eagle together.  All in all a very ' big kid' day!!

Sunday, August 3

Holiday Days 1 and 2

After managing to complete my final Masters essay and submitting it at 8am, I slept an hour and then headed to the airport.  A flight, and 2 coaches later, I joined my Mum and Brother on the infamous cricket tour...and so begins my "one photo a day..." blog posts.

Day 1: 17 hours awake and I'm designated driver for the cricket tour lads.  Hand stamp, sticky floors and sweaty people.

Day 2: As the Brother failed to take me for a flight in May, we flew over today's match to check out the game.

Tuesday, July 8

In the mean time...

...this is the only thing that I have to focus every ounce of energy on.

It's called my End of Module Assessment (EMA) and it's my 7000 word ticket to a Masters in Education.

Monday, June 16

Advice needed.

What do I do when a dog actually does attack me?

Twice today I've been scared of a dog whilst riding my bicycle.  The first was on the way to work.  It was a dog of small proportions, black, yappy, but pretty fast.  It was loitering around the back of a church I cycle around as a shortcut and proceeded to follow me for a bit, yapping...quite ferociously.  I don't know if it's the same one I nearly kicked whilst passing the traveler's settlement a few months back, it looked familiar.

Then, on the way home, at the beginning of a road that is quite busy, a larger black dog came out of the 'driveway' under an apartment block.  It shot out right in front of me and had a proper bark.  I didn't look to see why exactly it was behaving that way and focused on moving on as quickly as possible.  I then saw the smaller dog from earlier trotting under the railway line, which made me change direction quite quickly and take a slightly slower route home.  Now, I'm beginning to think about what I should do if I do get maimed by a dog.

It's a reality as I know our dog Scampy (RIP), when she was a puppy, bit the ankle of a boy when we were at the rec (the recreation ground, i.e. park for recreational activities like football and...cricket).  Mum hadn't known that Scampy had this tendency and so from that day on we only let her off the lead in the woods, or in large spaces away from any other human beings.  These dogs that are coming at me are not domestic animals, they are doing their job, protecting their territory.  But I really don't think their barks are worse than their bites.

On the way home I had visions of me having to limp myself to the hospital with blood stained trousers that I had had to rip so that I could tie something around my leg to stop the blood flow.  I was also, in this vision, pushing my bicycle as I couldn't leave my bike unattended, that'd be nicked.  Perhaps I have to stop using my short cuts, but that means cycling on a busy road full of pot holes which, personally, is equally dangerous.  Oh my, I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Hmm...thoughts?

Wednesday, May 28

If only every morning was so successful...

I arrived at my Italian School, spot on 9am, to find no one else there. 

Today, with the 3 hours I was expecting to be sitting at a desk completing mind-numbingly boring Italian reading and writing exams I have managed to:

- get my Carta d'Identità (hooray...only 2 years 9 months behind!)

- ask the very hot-headed lady at the Rai customer service how I declare that I do not own a television and therefore paying for the licence to have one seems, well, down right ridiculous.

The very hostile lady did eventually warm up a bit and inform me that because I didn't declare this 2 years ago when I moved out of the house that had the television, I have to pay 2 and a half years of the licence anyway.  But I can write a letter to the television people explaining my circumstances so hopefully I won't pay in the future.  Yes, I know it all makes no sense.  No, I'm not going to just ignore it, I'll do what I have to to make sure I never pay anything in the future.

- apply for an online bank account which has no charges for transfers (i.e. paying my rent which is currently costing me €3 each time) nor charges for withdrawals internationally.

Now I just have to verify my identity via webcam on Friday morning.  Oh, that, and put money in the account...easier said than done!

- scan all the paperwork needed to process a claim from the last car I hired in Italy.

Please, people, do me a favour and don't use Sicily by Car, as a car hirer (otherwise known as "Dollar", "Thrifty", "AutoEurope" and "AutoEuropa").  It's all hunky-dory if you don't have any damages, but if, in the very unlikely event you do have problems, they don't half sting ya!

- ignore the email from my Masters tutor...that can wait...he's probably telling me my proposal is barking up the wrong tree anyway!

And that's all before 12.30pm.  I know some people that would've taken months to get all that lot done!!!

Brava La-oo-ra, brava!

Saturday, May 24

I'm digressing somewhat.

Wowsers, a month since the last blog post...

Today I'm having a day to catch up on myself.  Look through the credit card bill, check up on the places I have to go to sort things out: assessing the preparations before the action-if you like.  I've also been reading up a lot about 'playwork' and have found myself wondering how I can become a bit more like a 'real' playworker in my current job.  It's a bit of a digression from my Masters but hey, it's a lazy day.

As this academic year slowly creeps to an end, and I love the end to my academic year as it consists of over a month playing on the beach, I'm projecting my thoughts to September and how to create an environment that can truly 'teach English through play' but I keep stumbling upon one problem:
Play is a set of behaviors that are freely chosen, personally directed, and intrinsically motivated.

(as quoted from 'The Play Primer' by Penny Wilson, downloadable here: http://www.ultimateblockparty.com/download/Playwork_Primer.pdf)

You've got to read it a few times to really understand.  So read it over, please.

The problem is that the children I support will freely choose to speak in Italian making the job of teaching English just that little bit...trickier?

However, this years leavers not be speaking English with all the correct grammatical bells and whistles but they can definitely explain their thinking in a way that is pretty coherent without "translating".  We have discussed everything from the sun to the moon, from Australia to Italy and back, in this years project 'The World and Us'.  Plus, in doing so we have also learnt some pretty advanced social and emotional skills too.

Like, just the other day, we watched the video of my Mum having her hair cut in aid of a brain tumour charity.  Afterwards, the children that are this years 'leavers' remained to have a chat: they had many, many questions. We ended up discussing the brain, its function, what it's like, where it is, why it's 'in our head'.  This was all illustrated, thanks to the latest addition of an Interactive Whiteboard, by x-rays and images of brains to assist with the explanations they were after.  Of course I was careful in how far I took the explanations, emphasising how tumours are rare in the hope to avoide any sleepless nights.  

Something worries me though.  I would have never been able to plan this type of investigation using a planning format from my previous school and I'm beginning to wonder if I can ever return to the formalised schooling practices I was once able to mentor others in doing.  But then again, I have been able to do that in the past so I could do it again if I chose to.  It's just that the National Curriculum is not my outcome at the moment, nor are the completion of APP sheets, mid-term plans etc. etc.   In fact the learning objective, the WALT (We are learning to...) for everything I do is quite simply 'interact in and with English', whereas the WILT (What I'm looking for...) is 'interactions in English'.  Simples.  I just have to remind myself of that sometimes!

Wednesday, April 23

Easter Update!!

My Easter was a bit of this and a bit of that, I went south to my friend Monia's for the weekend.  Here's a report of the main things that happened in the form of the whatsapp messages I sent to my Mum over the course of the weekend.  For those of you not accustomed to the whatsapp format, my messages are on the right, my Mum's on the left, and each message has a time stamp to show when sent...

Friday, April 18

Are you having a Good Friday?

A Good Friday.  

Today I ate the first Crunchie on a Friday for the first time in possibly...at least since the last time I was in England...so...maybe December.  I used to eat a Crunchie (a chocolate bar) on every Friday for a while as a student due to an advert that was around in the 1990's: Get that Friday Feeling.

Today I went to the cinema with my school for the first time.  It was organised chaos.  Mum's and Dad's arriving to escort the kids to the cinema, children bundled in to cars and away we went!  Loved it though, hopefully some good teaching points can come from it....especially about the conservation of the Amazon.

Today is the 3rd Good Friday I didn't set foot in a church.

Today is the day many Christian denominations commemorate the day God died.

God died.  That's huge right.

I read an article explaining how Good Friday is the 'day we forget to remember'...but I disagree.  Christianity is in itself the remembrance of Good Friday.  Christianity exists because of the crucifixion.  If the crucifixion hadn't happened then the resurrection wouldn't have followed and the writers who wrote the Gospels would have had nothing to write about.  Paul* wouldn't have traveled around a bit, got tortured and what-not and started the 'early church'...whatever that refers to.

However, although I believe everyday is both Good Friday and Easter Sunday I do think it is good to unite everyone in a day that commemorates explicitly how God died.  God has His ways of getting through to people and maybe this Good Friday is that day for you - only God knows.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10773013/Good-Friday-the-day-we-forget-to-remember.html

http://y-jesus.com/

Sunday, April 13

On my fridge...

Let us not become weary in doing good (Galations 6:9)

Man, I'm tired.  Like.  All the time.  Who knows why.

Actually it's probably because I don't use much of my day for just sitting; because my mind rarely "turns off" from my job, to-do lists, Masters and everything else.  Recently I've been wondering if I can cope with the reality of doing stuff all day, everyday or if I can become a hermit, escape somewhere, a mountain top, to be fed and watered only by that which I find.  I'm tired.

So this morning (afternoon) when I woke up, I had a heavy heart, soul and mind - really heavy.  At a one of the best weddings I've been to, I slipped into my usual state of questioning life, the world and all the universe that, no matter how hard I try, slaps me in the face at weddings.  I should've enjoyed the moment and shared in my friends amazingness and commitment to one another rather than letting all the sociocultural nonsense I've been studying affect my day (cultural beliefs, traditions and all that what-not, blah).  Waking with this heaviness I didn't think it would shift but I was surprised only a few hours later.

When I question the existence of God, when I doubt my purposes and why I do what I do, why I think what I think when many of those around me are not reading from the same book, I force myself to read that book, the Bible.  It has to be done.  Even though it's the very last thing I want to do, I do it.

Today I used a bible study I received in my email a few days back.  It was focused on 'the church', what we think it should be, how we've experienced it and what we think of it.  I brazenly read through the study notes and considered the early church as written in Acts 2:42-47 (NLT) like I was "told" to.  And I think I found something...

Church is big - really big.  Huge.  More than a building.  It's a word that encapsulates the acts of devotion, fellowship, performance, meetings, worship, giving, and enjoyment.  It's also a space for sharing:  sharing not only physical things like possessions, money and space, but not so physical things, thoughts, reflections, time etc.  Church therefore can happen anywhere, at anytime, as the over used verse of Matthew 18:20 - For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. - illustrates.

For example, I can devote myself to my work, I share fellowship with my colleagues, I meet them regularly, I perform acts with them...and we are doing really great things...but it's not a church as Jesus is not "the name" for which we are meeting.  I love going to my English Speaking Group, I share a lot of things with the people I meet at the group, friendships, my time etc, but it is English that we share as the common denominator and is therefore not church.  In the bigger picture I actually find that sometimes going to church is not actually church either, as many people go to church because it's what they think they have to do, therefore they go not because of Jesus' name but of tradition, human expectation, and that's where it gets complicated and I start stumbling.

I didn't go to a church building today...I woke up the same time the service finished but that's when I found my church...it was on my fridge.


A friend of mine stayed with me last week on holiday from England and I was really sad to see her go.  If I'm honest I was sadder to have her leave than I was when my Mum left.  And the reason why this is the case: my friend is a Christian.  

My friend left a postcard for me on my fridge and it's been there since she left on Monday.  I only found it today.  What's important is that I found it fifty-five minutes after I gave my recent struggles and doubts to Jesus (again).  Last night I struggled with the idea that there actually exists such a thing as "God", or whatever human defined word you wish to use for a divinity that's....well...that's not able to be proved actually, but only lives through having faith, even just a little bit of faith.

I'm not saying that my friend, or the postcard, is my church.  No, not at all.  Rather it was the time we spent together, the actions of reading the bible, studying each others ideas and opinions about Jesus' teachings, in Jesus' name, that's my church.  And this morning, in finding the postcard, I've been pulled back up, dusted off, and pushed back out in to the world to explore and adventure.  Even if I'm so ruddy tired.

Thanks Victoria, I'm glad you enjoyed your Italian adventure and thanks for the postcard :-)

Wednesday, April 2

Unlearning

I really feel like I'm in a phase of 'unlearning'.  I'm trying to 'un-do' all the things society, cultures and identities have led me to believe is 'right', the 'real method', the 'best way', what it is to be 'intelligent', to 'know' and to 'be'.  Today I've drawn a conclusion that by living in a world of many people there are many, many paths and we just have to focus on the moment we are in and do what we can with that.  It's the most difficult thing I've ever had to get my head round.

http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.it/2014/04/for-that-purpose-alone.html?m=1

Saturday, March 29

The Book of Love

So...due to my friend posting a video of two, rather handsome, Croatian cellists playing AC/DC on their cello's on Facebook I spent an hour chasing music and this is what I discovered:

In 1999 'The Magnetic Fields', an indie band from Boston, Massachusetts, released '69 love songs', literally three volumes of music that consists of 69 love songs, after the guy who started the concept decided that his original idea of writing 100 was just too many. Number 12 on Volume 1 is called 'The Book of Love'...it's at 27:27 on the following video.  The lyrics are what grab my attention, they're everyday lyrics...would Disney describe the "book" of love to be boring?  And then there's the singer's voice, the writer of the song Stephen Merritt.  He has the voice of someone you'd never in a thousand years recommend began a singing career but he's obviously become successful by doing so...


Fast forward to 2004 and Peter Gabriel sings a cover of this song for the soundtrack of the film Shall we dance?  Peter Gabriel's version has a more "commercial" sound, with a full orchestra.  Here is a 2012 performance:


In 2012, the same year as the video above, the writer of the song, Stephen Merritt, records this.  Ukulele and that strange, not completely tuned, voice.  It's raw, hauntingly enticing, he's singing for real.  This is raw, like crunching vegetables fresh from the allotment.


And so...we come to today and my discovery of the two guys and their cellos.  The chaps, called 2CELLOS, have played with Elton John's band, and already have a pretty big following, like HUGE.  For their second album, in2ition, the two Crotian chaps asked the Italian singer Zucchero, who's also a busy man having collaborated with many artists in his time, to record an Italian version of the same song and I think this is amazing.  Music, when it's "real" and "raw", created just because you decide to try and write 100 (69) love songs, is simple, and heart-achingly so.  It's difficult to lose the beauty of simplicity when it's been captured.

I like simple things that have been created from complexity.  Take a fish finger for example.  I had them for dinner yesterday.  All I had to do was turn on the oven and put the fish fingers in the oven for a set amount of time.  If I had to make fish fingers from scratch that would be irritating.  I'd have to source the fish somehow, gut it, fillet it, descale it and  whatever you have to do to fish, then shape it and cover it in breadcrumbs.  To me, Stephen Mirrett's song is a fresh fish, beautiful...real...but a little bit bony.  Peter Gabriel then took out the bones and filleted it and then 2CELLOS and Zucchero covered it in breadcrumbs so that now we have the fish finger version of "The Book of Love".  I'm sure someone will get the analogy.  Either way, I think this is ruddy brilliant:

 

Tuesday, March 25

Hiring a car is always a gamble.

so I got stung by the car rental company.

I come back to my rental car, two weekends ago, and it's been keyed...you know, a big looooong scratch down the side of it.  A brand new car at that too.  "Oh well..." I think, "...I paid for that no excess thing."  Yeh.  Never trust your car hire rental agreements.  Apparently because I didn't pay for the "Car Protection Plus" AND the "PAI something-or-other", I have to pay for the damage.  The funny thing is that these two things were not even an option when I booked the car on the internet, or when I collected it.  Going to try and sort that out, see if I've got a leg to stand on with that nonsense, only God knows.

So.  In light of that, I've bought a years cover for rental hire, considering that in the next five weeks I will hire a car for three separate weekends, in two countries. That way I may have a little bit more chance of getting my money back as the idea is you just hire the car with the rental company's base insurance then if there's any problems you pay the rental company's excess then claim it back from your insurance policy.

In all of this I'm feeling ok.  Money is only money at the end of the day, and having a car for a weekend is worth so much more than "money".  The freedom of cruising through the Italian countryside, winding through small hill-top towns and stopping off to take in the scenery is what I'm working my butt off during the week to do.  With my bicycle there are just some places I cannot get to as easily, although I'd definitely give it a go!

And on that note, a friend of mine is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Nurses by cycling from London to Paris...that's definitely further than my bi-weekly cycle to Francavilla.  So if you're wondering where your next tithe, or charitable act should go to, I suggest this cause.  All the proceeds my friend and his mate raise will remain with the Isle of Wight branch of Macmillan who help cancer sufferers and their friends and family through the tough times that cancer brings.  If you're like me, you'll have known many, many people who have been diagnosed with cancer at some point or another so I put that cause "up there", with the others.  You can sponsor them here.

Wednesday, March 5

Bye bye biscuits, cakes and pastries

So Lent is upon us people. You know, the '40-day' fast...that's actually 38, 44 or 46 days depending on whether you count Sundays, end on Maundy Thursday or keep going to Easter Sunday.   I'm not going to skip Sundays and I'm going to wait til Easter Sunday starts so that's 46 days without cakes, biscuits or pastries...

I always used to think that these '40 DAYS' were the 40 days that Jesus endured in the wilderness directly before Palm Sunday, that he travelled straight from the wilderness into Jerusalem but this is incorrect.  The 40 day fast actually commemorates the 40 days Jesus endured in the wilderness after John baptizes him and before his ministry in Galilee: Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13.

I find it curious that all this time I have 'believed' that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days before entering Jerusalem when actually he was ministering in Galilee.  All the time I've literally been sleeping on the "truth" as it's written in 3 of the 4 gospels.  This is where it's clear why man needs a saviour, someone to clean our slate of sins because we can't even translate bible teachings clearly to kids in a Sunday school...let alone deal with birth, death, and everything in between.

All in all, I hold faith as the belief in something that is unseen, something that is 'unbelievable' but persists through prior experiences and present decisions.  I suffer on many occasions from 'doubt' as I mix with 'believers' and 'non-believers' regularly.  But...I keep going, faith is personal.  I try to face the questions and fears I have and search for answers: from the bible, in conversation with others, through websites etc.  However I place an importance in not believing one source.  Everything needs to be cross-referenced and then sealed with my hearts approval.

I have what many would call 'morals', I know I place rules and sometimes unnecessary expectations on my path BUT my life experiences have always ended more positively when I've been more focused on loving 'the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind' and loving 'your neighbour as yourself' (Matthew 22:37, 39).  It can be really tough but hey, I don't need biscuits, cake or pastries in the long run...right?!

N.B.: I found out today, that here in Italy, well in Pescara at least, well according to my school cleaner who is my fount of knowledge on all things knowledgable, she's giving up something in May, rather than now...something to do with the Virgin Mary or something...rather than Jesus.  Make of that what you will...

Sunday, March 2

no news is good news

So nothing really "new" to report...but then saying that...there's been quite a lot of productivity recently....

Starting from the most recent things and working backwards:
  • Managing to speak to my Grandma on Skype:

...yep...that's a picture of frying pans...

  • My first official friend in Pescara, who moved to Rome a year back, came back to Pescara for a dinner.  It was great to see her and plans have been made to visit her new place in Rome later in March.
  • I made a cake: a lemon and lime drizzle cake.
  • I discovered my cousin's wedding falls on the same weekend as my best friends children's christening so I can go to both AND the brother may even be able to take me for a "spin" (not literally I hope) in a plane, being a pilot an'all...which I had forgotten!
  • I received a copy of the registered contract for my apartment's rental agreement.  Using the registered rental contract I missioned on down to the Ufficio Anagrafe to register my new residency.  I found out that I have actually been registered all this time with my original address, marvellous!  Now I'm registered at this address the notice has been put through for the police control to confirm I live here so that I can then get a carta d'identita.  With the carta d'identita I will then be able to open an online Italian bank account that has reduced fees (i.e. is free to own and not €50) and has no charges on bank transfers or standing orders (rather than €3 for standing orders or €6 for a direct debit).
  • Thursday morning consisted of a two and a half hour talk to my best mate...utter bliss.
  • My Mum and my Godmum came to stay.  They were given the full Pakes in Pescara experience: a few hour with my children at work; a tour of a point of interest in Abruzzo (gole di saggitaio and Scanno), eating everything in sight including pizza, pasta, and of course, arrosticini; plus meeting some of my friends.  I think they gave the thumbs up to my apartment and were impressed at how much space I have :-)
  • Spending a weekend touring Pescara/Abruzzo with my friend and her visiting sister was entertaining, as the differences in English and American cultures/use of language can make things that little bit funnier.  Especially when there is a convertible automatic car involved.
  • Hosting my Bible Group at my house.  Hopefully I will be able to maintain this as it means I can actually attend the group.  If it's at somebody else's house I'm usually to tired to go, or it's too far away!  I just have to hope that my friends don't all have birthday's on Tuesdays as this week I had to cancel.  This would have been resolved if I actually stored my friends birthdays somewhere...ufffa!!!
  • Oh and did I mention I booked my flights to America?!!

Monday, February 17

San Liberatore a Majella

My friend had her sister to stay for just over a week, cue a good excuse to hire a car.

I picked up a hire car on Friday evening and, oh boy, what a palava!  There is now, somewhere in Pescara, a lad who thinks I'm totally 'bimbo' when it comes to driving as I pulled up to the petrol station exclaiming (in Italian) "I don't understand anything, this is a hire car and I don't understand.".  He looks at me and then checks the fuel cap: "diesel, you need to go over there."  Well, that's easier said than done, the engine was off and could I get it back on again?!  No.  Turns out that initially, an automatic car is not as automatic as it sounds.  It took both myself and the lad to figure out how to actually start the engine again (put the car in neutral, push the brake and start the engine, duhhhh!).

As I drive off I saw him laughing at me, bet he didn't think I'd be getting very far.  In reality I managed to drive all the way to...just past Manopello...where I've been quite a few times now.  There's an Abbey, really far up a hill that has a river running past it and it's quite an awesome place to go and chill.  You have to ignore the "Path closed for safety reasons" signs twice to actually go exploring but being extra careful makes amends for the slippery-ness.

The Abbey itself was shut tight, one door had a key hole which I peered through and managed to get a photo of...some chairs...original.  But it was so peaceful.  I love the sound of rushing water.  It's a sound, that if you think about it hard enough, is very unlikely to ever stop.  Ever.  And that to me was quite the thing I needed to hear.  Stress seems to have gotten the best of me recently, but I'm back on the Bible reading, yoga meditating, studying in the morning action plan so will be soon out of that niche.  Booya.
impressive stone carving
The bell tower
the 'back end'
The only keyhole of 3 front doors
Through the keyhole
Primroses! It's Spring :-)
Three shadows