Monday, May 23, 2011

Italia - by Hannah

My entire life, I have wanted to visit Italy.  Something about it just drew me.  The beauty, culture, history, language… everything just drew me in.  Well, my fellow seniors and I worked all year, fundraising and fundraising and fundraising, to raise enough money to go to Rome, Italy.  Thanks to help financially from parents, to the chaperones for helping out, and to the hard work of the seniors, we actually got to go to Rome.  It was a dream come true.  We left for Rome on the 2nd of May (Monday) and stayed until early on the 9th (Monday).  It was a blast. 
The Seniors: (left to right) Christian, Abena, Setor, me, Samantha.  David took the picture. 
Pictures do not do justice to the Colosseum.  Huge and breathtaking.
On the first day in Rome, we saw the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.  Upon seeing the Colosseum, I fell in love with it.  It is absolutely breathtaking.  There are so many stories, so much history, and so many years in the Colosseum, as well as its size.  It is enormous.  On day two, we walked a lot, all over Rome.  We saw the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.  Walking up the Spanish steps, you get an incredible view of Rome.  Seeing the Trevi Fountain was again breathtaking.  To imagine that people carved this marble by hand and with no instruction manual and it came out looking so huge and so realistic was awe-inspiring.  The legend goes, if you toss one coin in to the Fountain you will come back to Italy, if you toss another in you will find love, and if you toss a third in you will get married.  My plan was to toss only one in, but then Mr. Crosby (the Director of AIS and a chaperone on the trip) didn’t get a picture and had me throw another in.  I’m not looking for love, not even a little, but now I guess I’m going to find it :-).  

The Trevi Fountain.  Huge.  And very beautiful.
 On Saturday, we visited Vatican City, went on a tour of the Museum, saw the Sistine Chapel, and visited St. Peter’s Basilica.  The Sistine Chapel was beautiful and the Museum was filled with sculptures and paintings with fascinating stories behind them.  For example, in the middle of the famous square of the Vatican, where crowds gather to see the Pope, there stands a huge monument, a tower.  This tower is hundreds of years old.  When discovered, the Pope had it brought to the square.  Since the tower is made of solid stone, it took hundreds of men with ropes to lift it to a standing position.  The Pope ordered absolute silence in the audience for fear that if the men got distracted, this relic would come crashing down and be destroyed.  The penalty for speaking was death.  As the men began lifting the tower, the ropes begin breaking because it was so very heavy.  A fisherman in the back of the crowd realizes the problem and has the solution, so he risks his life, breaks the speaking ban, and yells “Wet the ropes!” knowing that this would reduce friction and allow the ropes to hold together.  This saves the statue.  After the tower is safely in place, the Pope approaches the man who spoke.  Believing that now he would surely be punished, he prepares to accept whatever punishment the Pope has for him.  However, the Pope thanks him for the advice that saved the monument.  The Pope tells the man that whatever he wanted would be his.  The fisherman’s response? (I’m paraphrasing of course)  “I live in a small town with an abundance of palm trees.  It would greatly honor my village if, this year, the palm branches for Palm Sunday be cut from my village.”  And his request was honored.  As a matter of fact, it is honored to this day.  Every year since, palm branches for the celebration have been used from that fisherman’s village.  This was just one of many fascinating stories of the origins and backgrounds of different statues and monuments throughout the Vatican.  
St. Peter's Basilica.  The tall tower on the right with a cross is from the legend of the fisherman.
 On our trip, we also saw the Mouth of Truth (another fascinating legend, but for sake of space, you should probably look it up yourself) and many other buildings, fountains, and structures that are very old and very beautiful.

Cleaning up after the first day at the soup kitchen.
Also, to go on the trip, we had to incorporate a service project into the week.  So for two days, us 6 seniors and the two chaperones volunteered at a soup kitchen.  We worked by signing people in, handing out food, cleaning tables and serving those who came through.  I worked cleaning tables and refilling water jugs and, when the patrons could speak English, conversing with many of the hundreds who came through.  It was hard work, but also nice to see a different part of Rome, to hear Italian (a language I love and hope to learn fluently at some point in my life) and speak to many different people from different walks of life. 
 If you ask me my favorite part, I quickly respond “The Colosseum or the gelato”.  Gelato is Italian ice cream.  It is incredible.  As a group, we had some every single day, often more than once a day.  The food was amazing.  The trip was everything that I have hoped about Italy.  Experiencing it with the awesome people in my class was so much fun.  I am so incredibly thankful for that opportunity, and it will be something I never will forget.
Abena, Miss Kershner (one of the chaperones), and I with gelato!!
Inside the Colosseum.  The sandy colored flooring shows what the floor would have looked like back when it was a center of entertainment for many Romans.  
Isn't this carving beautiful?  Only one problem though.  It's not a carving. This is actually a completely flat painting on the ceiling of a room in the Vatican.  The artists used light and dark paint to create the illusion of depth.  They were quite skilled, don't you think?
These "Roman soldiers" are found in various tourist locations throughout Rome.  This one is proposing to Abena, saying they should run away together.  Next to Abena is Setor, who the soldier threatened to beat up, mistaking him for Abena's boyfriend.  It was highly amusing for the rest of us.

Me, with my hand in the Mouth of Truth.  The legend is that the mouth used to close on the hand of anyone who told a lie while their hand was in the Mouth.  The story goes with it is long, but very interesting.  So, I recommend you look it up when you get a chance. 
We didn't spend much time here, but this is the Pantheon.  It was HUGE.  Each pillar weighs 60 tons.  It was enormous and very beautiful.  Very old as well.
From left to right:  Abena, Samantha, and Mr. Crosby.  We were on the metro, the Roman subway, which we took to the city every day since our hostel was about 45 minutes by car outside of the city.
Inside the Vatican. This statue, though lacking a head, arms, and missing most of its legs, so inspired Michelangelo that he took it and kept it in his office for two years, studying it.
My good friend, David and I.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Our Faith is Gone

Faith - note the position of the tail - almost always like that.
Sorry, folks.  Couldn't resist that title.  Actually, Noah's friend, Armand, suggested it for this blog.  The good news is that our faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is not gone and remains strong.  Our faith in our dog, Faith, however has been wavering for some time and resulted in her leaving for another home last week.  As a reminder, Bob got Faith when we thought that Dusty was dying; Bob worked really hard to save Dusty, and she ended up surviving, leaving us with three dogs instead of the preferred two.  However, Dusty and Faith did not get along - Dusty was always fighting with Faith, and in the end it wasn't a nice life for Faith.  So we hope she is happy now in her new home.

Hannah at the Spanish Steps in Rome.
Hannah has returned from Italy and had a great time.  She now wants to learn Italian and live in Rome for a year - at some point in the future.  She is dealing with a serious case of senioritis as she deals with her last few weeks of school, while her peers in the US are almost done with school already or are given the option to not do exams if they have good grades.  She is not given that option and has to go until June 9.  But with graduation, open houses, summer job, and Calvin College all coming up, she has a lot to look forward to.

Noah has to be reminded that he doesn't have the right to senioritis yet and has to wait until next year, although there does seem to be somewhat of a contagious aspect to this ailment.  He took his SAT last week, was accepted to the Summer Academy at Calvin College for the summer, and is looking forward to getting to the States for a few weeks, to have some down time as well as have consistent electricity and water for a while.

As for me, I have realized that, according to Aesop's Fable,  I am more of a hare than a tortoise.  After Bob's death last year (which was seven months following the stress of a new position and a move to a new country), I told myself that the first year of grief was the hardest and I needed to survive that first year.  Which I did.  I survived - I continued in my job, continued living apart from family and friends, continued living in a foreign land, and continued parenting.  Once I passed that first year, I was then left with the question of, "What now?"  What is my next goal?  Surviving is not enough - how do I live?  I've now been told that for some the second year is the most difficult, for others the fourth, others the sixth, and so on.  So I'm looking forward to getting back to the States, having a silent retreat, and going to some grief groups with other widows and widowers who can help me "normalize" what I'm going through.

In the meantime, this week we will be hosting Jeremiah Yongo, the Partnership Manager for Partners Worldwide from Nigeria, who will be here on a learning trip and then will be traveling to Liberia to spend some time with LEAD as well.  Last week, we hosted groups from Grand Valley State University as well as the University of Indianapolis, so the work, the dialogue, the challenge, and the message continues on. 

Blessings to you all this week.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bummed Out AND Burned Out

Hi Folks,

A few of you have asked how I'm doing since announcing in March about being depressed and wanting to take a few weeks off from writing the blog.  I haven't wanted to write about it but since I'm about to take more time off from the blog, I now believe that I must - that I owe it to you. 

I have realized that the exhaustion and the depression that I was experiencing was not just related to tiredness and the one-year anniversary of Bob's death, but was (is) burnout.  I hate to admit that because I've always believed that burnout is not responsible.  We have a responsibility to our calling and a responsibility to protect it so that we can keep at it.  Bob and I have been at this work since 1997 and we worked hard at not getting burned out because we knew it wouldn't be helpful to anyone.

[I know what some of you are thinking - that I'm being too hard on myself by saying that.  Some of you told me that after I acknowledged that I let myself get too busy.  But the truth is, by owning responsibility, I am also able to own the solution.  If I am a victim to what other people put on me or to my circumstances, it is no longer in my control.  So it is actually healthy for me to own it.]

I can excuse this through several justifications - Bob's death and the grieving process, the lack of a partner to help watch over me and protect me from myself and the "tyranny of the urgent," the fact that many widows experience a significant health event in the first year of their husband's death, etc. But it doesn't matter at this point how I got here - it is what it is and I need to work my way out.

I'm rereading a book by Os Guinness, The Call, where the author states, "Our calling is the sphere of our responsibility.  But we are not responsible to our calling.  We are responsible to God, and our calling is where we exercise that responsibility."  I still believe I am called to this work - that has not changed.  For me, the growing process is now to figure out how to do this responsibly, by myself.

I have tried again to write the blog over the last couple of weeks but it's not coming naturally.  I said to the kids yesterday that I have no idea how I wrote the blog every week for the last year - but actually, writing it was helpful for me and it came naturally.  So, I'm going to take more time off again from writing the blog.  I'll write when I have something I want to share but if you don't hear from me, know that I'm still working through this and am busy fanning the flame of the small coal that still has fire in it. 

Thank you for your continued support, prayers, encouragement, and faithful reading.