Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thoughts and Considerations: On Micro-Aggression

Reading about the limitations of feminism with regards to race and class and reading about micro-agression may not be the healthiest literary diet for me. But again and again I find myself drawn to the articles my friends post on Facebook, or that I stumble across in my own internet trolling adventures, usually occurring right after having read an article posted by a friend.

There's something almost therapeutic about seeing someone lay your feelings out in an article when they'd been talking about themselves all along. It's like "Yes! Me too!", and the building blocks of shared experience begin to connect the community of women of color in ways more meaningful than color palettes and a history of shared suffering. Because as many know, not even those have always been enough to unite us.

But now I see more and more a community of strong women who are speaking up for themselves and asserting themselves in ways I had never dreamed possible as a young girl. I see women loving themselves, and it's easier to follow an example than to be the example. (I love you mama! You are and always will be my #1 example.)

Through my own personal journey I have had the privilege of counting many different and diverse people among my sisters. However, this does sometimes pose challenges. Still, I find the Bible to be true when I read "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation (testing) to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted (tested), he will show you a way out so that you can endure." 1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT. Often, that way out in these situations is simply to love.

So when I re-post an article about micro-aggression and I receive well-meaning comments of how I should feel about and react to it:

Comment 1:You mean people being worthless dicks? The world if full of em, let it go and keep moving on, cause that's the only way to get even!

Comment 2:Microaggression is still aggression.  M. is right, keep moving on.  The best revenge is to live well.  Show them how it's done!

I can better understand my reaction to those comments, which was rather strong, all things considered. You see, I am all fine when someone writes how they feel and I can relate to it, but upon reading those comments, my gut reaction was "Don't tell me how to engage with something you can't understand."
I'm not going to take what you say any better because you insult all of those terrible micro-aggressors out there. I'm going to love them, and you, just as Jesus would do, and just as He has given me the strength to do through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

You see, I've been holding this in, sucking it up, and being the bigger person all my life. No need to tell me to get started now. And honestly, sometimes the best help you can offer someone is showing them a mirror and shining some background light. It took me breaking down my sophomore year of college during an intentional missional living program with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, crying the biggest cry I've ever cried before or since, to finally let go of the crap that micro-aggression sticks on a person. I finally had a name for what I was experiencing, and from that knowledge and newfound awareness, and the love and hugs and touches of everyone in the room holding me as I sobbed, God came in and said, "Let it go. Surrender to me. I MADE YOU BEAUTIFUL. In all of your diversity, in all of the multiplicity of your identity, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL."

And the joy that characterizes my personality bubbled up, no longer covered by all the gunk. Sometimes though, God reminds me of this special time we had, always right when I need Him to, and I love Him all the more for it!

Once again, I will mention that I know these comments were well-intentioned. And one commenter in particular I know will remain one of my dearest friends for the rest of this life and through the next. I won't be upset with anyone, because let's be fair here. Racism here in the U.S. (and I would argue other places as well...) works as a system, and not everyone who falls under the bracket of "evil oppressor" is there knowingly or willingly. Not all privilege is a welcome responsibility.

To those who try to use it well (and especially to you, my stalwart defending commenters, my only two), thank you.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Home for the Holidays

I am home for Christmas. I AM HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!!

This has been made possible largely due to my stay in Pearl House, the missionary base where I handled hospitality in exchange for rent these last few months in Italy. Thanks Alisa!

This time last year I was in Rome, and while it was lovely I've got to admit it wasn't quite the same. My first Christmas and New Year completely away from family.

Well, now I'm home and everyone's asking me what my next steps are. How do I tell people "I don't know" without sounding completely out of touch with reality? I can't not know.

The impossibility of my situation makes it seem even more likely that God has His hands in it. You see, if I perceive this situation to be beyond my human efforts of making it happen (and trust me, it is...), then the only recourse left for me is to rely on God. And that's where the magic happens. And boy oh boy do I want something to happen.

Coming home literally felt like stepping into some alternate reality.
Little boys running around, excited about Christmas presents, already so much bigger than the last time I saw them. Already beginning to walk through the world as young men.

Big girls experiencing big woman problems and stepping up into those shoes far too soon.

Being home, my heart is filling and breaking all at once. Not just because of my family and friends here, but also for what I've left behind. As much as I've talked about my desires to settle and be closer to my family, my fears of never being able to find a husband who has the same calling and passions I do to travel, lead worship, teach, and walk in the Spirit, I'm not ready to give this all up.

I'm not ready to settle down.

I'd rather traipse around Italy, Poland and wherever else God calls me, working in communities, writing worship songs, and leading worship. Oh that my life's work could be leading worship!

As I seriously contemplate the life of a nomadic (at least for now) missionary, I wonder how on earth this is ever going to work. I mean, really. It's not like I have a long-term visa just...but wait, I think I do. I claim it now, Jesus!

Such rational and perfectly mommy acceptable thoughts to dissuade me from my travels have entered my head, such as:

  • where and how I'll live (especially legally)
  • student loans?-how are they going to get paid?
  • on that note, what would I be living off of? my current source of income isn't exactly bounteous
  • what is it exactly I'll be doing to advance the kingdom? I want spoilers!
It's up to me trust and wait on God. He will provide. Always.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


In Italy loyalty is incredibly important. The importance of loyalty can be seen in every level of society, but it is important to note that it takes place largely on a sort of unit-like microscopic level. The same perosn who hates someone simply because that person roots for another soccer team may treat you like gold because you have become such good friends that you are "like family". (I can totally relate, btw, since I'm a Bostonian and a Red Sox fan.)
Invitations for dinner and outings flow freely, and it is a good idea to reciprocate, but only out of genuine affection. No one likes to feel that you are doing something just because you feel obligated to.

Another level of the family unit extends to where you go for coffeee and brioches in the morning. Or where you go to get your shoes repaired and clothing mended. Or which stalls you stop by in the markets. It matters to someone if they see your face again. In fact, it is a most fabulous compliment, and once you become a regular you attain a sort of pseudo VIP status.

This was revealed most clearly the first time I got a heart in my cappuccino at the nearby cafe one morning. I went with some friends to the cafe for the second morning in a row, and the light of recognition lit up the eyes of the cashier and the bartender. I got the usual fresh pastry and the coffee that was already good enought to keep me coming back had the special plus of a heart in it. Yaaaaay. By the end of the week the bartender had already learned our preferences and named our oders before we did.

It was a cute moment, and I am reminded that we create small communities around us wherever we go. It's all the more reason to put a smile on my face and support the community around me, because I can see that those smiles spread and people are brought closer together.

Another awesome moment was when I was offered a free glass of wine while waiting for some seafood pasta at a restaurant nearby. I order from there probably quite a bit more than I should. I suppose it paid off though ;).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Love is in the Air?

Now. Women are increadibly sentimental creatures who read into just about everything.
Hmm. Let me not overgeneralize.  

I am an incredibly sentimental creature who reads into just about everything.

I am also fairly good at telling when a guy doesn't like me, but not so good at figuring out when one does.

My current frustration concerning this matter is related largely to the fact that essentially every single guy I've hosted at the hospitality house recently has liked one of my friends. (In the case of the married guy there is an exception. He liked his wife.)

I have some really cute friends, I must admit. And though I know these things are largely a matter of taste and that I have my own fair share of attractiveness, my ego was pretty badly bruised by this weekend. Out of all of these visiting people there was only one guy that I was actually interested in pursuing anything with, so really I can't be upset if the others didn't like me either. One does like a little balm for a bruised ego, though. The only balm I've got is the Balm of Gilead. One of my friends told me that Jesus loves me and will always want to marry me. So there. 

All of my premature fears of turning into an old maid can now be dismissed.I've got someone who literally died to be with me.

An upside of this weekend has definitely been connecting with a college friend studying abroad in the area, and busking for reals near the Duomo on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. One of the new people I hosted played drums, and so we went out and had a lovely time. He played my guitar case for percussion and I played my guitar and sang. Cool right?

Unfortunately there are no pictures and video that I have access to, and I never shared my info with the people I saw recording and picture taking. Perhaps one day in my old age I will stumble across a video of myself and remember. Perhaps.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Let's Go to My Place!

When I moved into the apartment where I currently live I was warned not to have raucous gatherings with ten or more people. It was all a figure of speech but all the same I give myself credit for staying below the 'ten' mark. I can't make any promises about the raucous part. I mean, I've made quite a bit of friends here and if they're anything like me quiet isn't exactly their forte.

Anyway, I've been here more or less since the beginning of October and I've had people over a few times now. The point behind this huge two bedroom apartment is to be hospitable and encourage others in their walks with God. So, being the type of person that I am, I've taken to feeding anyone who will let me, and holding various worship/prayer gatherings. We've had two such gatherings, complete with homemade pasta dishes, wine, and lots of enthusiastic singing.

You see, since this apartment is paid for all right and proper I've got the same rights as anyone. As long as I don't make too much noise past about 10PM, no one can say diddly squat. Well, no one should, at least. I sing during the day sometimes but it's not as if I'm belting all the time. On the whole I'm a quiet neighbor-especially since I run around so much that I'm hardly ever home for any real length of time anyway.

Now, this second prayer and worship meeting was incredible. I mean, incredible. I think in some deeply human way this is what we were all looking for. Every single person present was an immigrant to some degree, whether they were from southern Italy, Brazil, Albania, Columbia, or the U.S., and each one of us wanted a deeper connection with these new people we found ourselves surrounded with. A text that for some reason never made it to its recipients meant that our group this evening was intimate, and we took full advantage of that with the sharing of our testimonies. We worked around language barriers, translating where it was needed and singing songs in the languages we knew best, or felt led to sing in.
There's something special about hearing "You Won't Relent" sung in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian all at the same time. This is what happens when the Spirit flows in us: the divisions between us are overcome, and in our reliance on God our unity is Christ-centered and thus pleasing to God. Nothing stands against a people united, which is why I think division is such a big problem in the church. But greater is He who is in us than he is of the world! To me our differences are a cause to join together in celebration of our diversity and the things we can learn from each other.

I can certainly celebrate having a chef for a friend, and this guy's carbonara pasta was soooo much better than what me and another friend had concocted two weeks earlier. I am so full of joy! Everyone who comes into the house loves the energy there and it has been dubbed a house of restoration. Hearing this is one of my greatest joys. Already people are planning prayer nights and we are all eager to meet and worship together again.

I am looking forward to continuing to serve God wherever He calls me to, and in whatever capacity He calls me to serve in. God is good and faithful to provide!

Friday, November 1, 2013


Being American does not automatically make me fond of Halloween. However, in my family it was something that we enjoyed. My first memory of Halloween is dressing up as a nurse. One of my foster brothers was a mummy. I don't remember what anyone else was wearing, but I remember one of my cousins had a pumpkin candy holder that I was most jealous of.

Off we went walking along, warm in our sensibly layered outfits, gazing adoringly ever so often at the adults who took precious time to bring us around for this rite of passage.

We crossed a street.

All went silent.

I noticed my mother gently coaxing my foster sister to keep moving. I had not her gift for sensing danger.

In young and eager trust we went along, and we crossed the bush-shielded walkway of a house when:


This man jumps out in a gorilla suit and all is a blur. We take off running and screaming our little heads off, and I distinctly remember the sound of my mother's laughter. I remember looking back and my cousin with the pumpkin candy holder had stopped to pick up the pieces of candy we had all dropped running away. Opportunist, that one.

Considering this start to Halloween I should not be so upset that it is no great tradition here, and that all of my Christian friends dissuade me from doing anything to celebrate. I understand their hesitancy in joining me for any festivities. Looking at the origins of the traditions makes it clear that there is nothing Christ-centered about the holiday. All the same, I find myself hesitant to give it up. I find myself wondering what I will do with my children. Will it matter to them? It did to me. I loved the fun of wandering around in the dark, picking up free candy, and meeting new people.

So while I personally love seeing little kids dressed like pumpkins and snow peas, I can avoid the holiday for the sake of being a kind sister in Christ, instead of being a stumbling block.

In what should be no surprise, I am noticing that the closer I get to God, the further away I get from the world.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Motor Scooters

I absolutely LOVE riding on the backs of motor scooters in Italy. (Some of the delirious joy and novelty is lost if one rides on a scooter outside of an Italian context.)

Having ridden multiple times on the backs of no less than two different motor scooters in the (and again, this is important) Italian context, I consider myself to be quite the accomplished American visitor. Ever since watching that Mary-Kate and Ashley film in Italy the desire to try this for myself was planted within me. Upon arriving to Italy and realizing that this desire was shared with an American friend of mine who had gotten the privilege of this tourist rite of passage before me and assured me it was worth it, I set out to experience this for myself.

Opportunity struck when I had to meet a student for English and we decided he should pick me up at a meeting point. I was woefully unprepared for a scooter ride, but after picking up a pair of 5€ pants from a street vendor and classily putting them on in the middle of the sidewalk, I was ready to ride. He went easy on me and didn't go too fast, and my first ride on a motor scooter in Italy finally happened! This student of mine went to the same cell group as me the year before, and so ride number two was to the train station after one of our Bible studies.
Rides number three to roughly six occurred in Loano, and here I had the experience of riding with an actual Italian (my student is Brazilian). Awesome, and much more frightening. We were chugging along on high mountainous roads with no railings and once the scooter swiveled and I freaked before bursting into hysterical frightened laughter. My Italian friend promptly responded with, "What's so funny?! We almost died!"

Ride number seven was an exhilarating dash through city streets on the way to a birthday party. That ride is by far my favorite. I had gotten abandoned by one car ride and had to abandon another because we were going to different destinations, when my student pulled up on his motor scooter. Yaaaaay. All ill will against the first ride who had abandoned me flew out the window as I hopped on the back of my super-hot-holds-my-wrist-too-long-in-public student's motor scooter while artfully hiding the hole in the crotch of my jeggings. Helmet in place and jacket secured against the eventual cold, we took off.

I realized there were six of us in total whizzing along, dipping and swerving and breaking suddenly, and at one point one of the other guys drove up behind us, then beside us, and his passenger held onto the back of the scooter I was on. After praying for our safety for what must have been the tenth time, I let the speed fiend in me enjoy the ride. It was fabulous. Here are some pics of the action.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Immodest Proposal

In life, many things are asked of us...

On Facebook I recently saw a lot of buzz around an engagement. Wistfully, I looked around me and said, "I want to get proposed to." It doesn't take much work to imagine the folded arms and two-year-old pout that accompanied this statement. Well, as it turns out, dreams do come true.

Later that same day I was speaking to an Italian friend via Skype, telling him about the annoyance of the permit to stay here, and explaining that if God has called me to Italy long-term something is going to have to be done about that. He shifts a little, looks me in the eye as best as one can through Skype, and says, "Here's my idea Allegra. Why don't we get married, consummate the marriage-because it's important to consummate the marriage- and then we can go to the immigration office and fill out all the forms".

Maybe I should have been more specific in my request.

I mean, I've never had someone older than my mother propose to me for what seems like just to get into my pants. I mean, who emphasizes consummating a marriage when they propose to someone!? I don't care if it was a "joke"! My friend D. (sensitive missionary info, so I won't say her name or location here) says that every joke contains some truth. Needless to say, I did not expect my first marriage proposal to happen under quite these circumstances.

Then the next day I was hanging out with some new friends, telling them the story. One of my buddies says, "You know who you should marry? You should marry P." (just gonna go ahead and leave out names...)

Does this count as proposal number two?
Either way, it was awkward. I mean, the guy is cute and we've got a lot in common, but he doesn't like girls with short hair and I'm not putting in extensions and crap just to make my hair look longer until it grows out more. Perhaps as a protective style, if I get around to it, for the winter.

Either way, I have a list I wrote out in Prof. Hucks' class that one amazing year of college, and though I don't have the physical copy, the list stays with me in my mind. I've got lots of things I want in a partner, though of course compromise is a part of any growing and joining together.

I tend to like guys who are a little older anyway. Just not older than my mother, please.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Sense of Adventure

One day as I was walking home from something (probably work), I went a slightly different route. As I was moving along, on impulse I asked God for a little bit of adventure. "My life feels a little boring right now", I thought. "Why not spice things up a bit?" So I asked, and I immediately started looking for what the adventure would be. When I saw the homeless woman I had made friends with a week or so ago in church, it was as if I had known all along that that's all my adventure ever could have been in this moment. I went over to talk with her and see how she was doing. The time before when I had seen her I had been rushing off to catch the metro to work and we hadn't had time to stop and chat. Now, however, I was able to stay and we talked for a bit. She told me about her struggles and her joys, and I promised to keep her in my prayers.
 I wanted to leave my number with her but I didn't have a pen! At first she didn't believe that a teacher coming home from work wouldn't have a pen (I don't blame her...) but my sincerity and generally open nature in the end convinced her. Anyone who gets to know me in any depth knows that going to work without a pen is just the sort of thing I'm capable of doing. But then, God covers us and any writing I needed to do, a pen always showed up from somewhere.

But not this time. We expect however, that the next time we run into each other I will have a pen and we will be able to exchange numbers. (Her phone wasn't working at that moment, if you're wondering why we didn't just exchange numbers using our phones.)

So, for those reading this blog, please pray for my new friend Nancy. She is a refugee of the conflict in Libya, though she is originally from Nigeria. She has refugee status and all the legal documentation that goes along with it, but she has found life in Italy to be incredibly difficult, and would really love to be able to start over in France. She left the refugee camps because of the horrible way the refugees were treated. In her own words she says, "They treated us like animals!" Please, let us ask God for a miracle for her. She needs to find work, a place to stay, an affordable way to get back in contact with her family in Nigeria, and a supportive Christian community to help her on her walk with God.

I have offended her, I think, by always offering to get her something to eat or trying to give her things. She seems to me to be a person for whom independence is important, and she struggles a lot with adjusting to living on the streets. In Libya, she says, life was good. If things continue like this for much longer increased consumption of alcohol may inhibit her from moving forward.

I believe that miracles happen around us each and every day, even in our own lives, and so often we don't even realize or thank God for them. So I thank God in advance that Nancy will be taken care of, that alcohol won't become a problem, and that God will bring her where she needs to be in the way and time she needs to get there. Amen.

The Great Divide

Anyone who has ever travelled to another country (or in some cases simply to another neighborhood...) knows that there exist cultural differences between people groups. Such a cultural divide exists, in the large overarching and oversimplified sense, between the United States of America and Italy.

I will point out the often frowned upon U.S. tendency to be overly politically correct (notice I didn't simply say "American tendency"?) by saying here that no one culture is better than another. We all have areas in which we can learn from each other and grow together. That I actually believe this is besides the point, I suppose, as we are speaking politically here.

I've had ample opportunity in my time here to speak with Italians, and there are some fun differences I've noticed or that have been pointed out to me. I list them below in no particular order for your reading pleasure.

Customer Service
In Italy the customer's rightness is not a given. Contrary to what seems like a good business model to me, the goal here is not to aid the customer's consumer habits. If you have to wait half an hour for something you were told would take five minutes, well such is life.

In Italy if your server is tired they are not going to grin and bear it. Oh no. If you annoy them or are a little indecisive no one is going to put in a little effort and be gracious about it. Change got thrown at you? Be glad you got any! What can you do about it? Nothing. Your tip is already part of the bill.

Italians have a concept of equipment preservation. When I mentioned that I never restart my ipad I was met with an immediate "You're so American." Indeed.

Now this right here can be it's own blog post. Heck, it can be it's own blog. In the interest of not dragging this list on any further I'll focus on one major difference here: Breakfast.

Why is there no such thing as real breakfast?! I want pre made bad-for-me egg and cheese and meat sandwiches on the go. Instead I get chocolate, cream, and jam filled brioches and cappuccinos for breakfast. I'm sorry but sugar doesn't equal long lasting healthy energy in the same way a protein filled egg does. Even if it comes with artery clogging bacon on the side. I'm too lazy to get up early enough to make myself an omelet, and by golly I am entitled to pay a few euros to have someone else do it for me faster!

This brings up a sub point: eating on the go. Despite Milan being a fast paced and rather New York like city, they have still not taken up the indigestion inducing U.S. habit of stuffing your face in public while walking or running from one meeting to the next.

Pity. It's serving us so well...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Busking in Cordusio: The Good and the Bad of it

I've always been a happy person (pun tooootally intended) but I have moments in which I feel exceptionally high. That's been the span of a couple of weeks now, and with this mood combined with my novel reading, I felt that after work I deserved to have some gelato and take a walk through the city center in my "teacher heels" and vintage sailor style dress without a care for Milan's fashion protocols.

On my walk past the Duomo and a few shops I stop to pick up a gelato that is way too expensive and isn't the best I've had. Still, it gets the job done and I'm happy with my choice of hazelnut and chocolate. Walking along I hear some beautiful jazz guitar and I decide to stop and listen. In my newly typical Eat, Pray, Love fashion I ask myself, "Why not enjoy some of the last bits of summer warmth, some decent enough ice cream, and some excellent jazz guitar playing?" Why not indeed.

Now, I've sat down for all of two minutes when this guy who immediately gives me bad vibes sits down uncomfortably close to me and asks me something about Africa. I tell him I wouldn't know, since I'm American and have never been to Africa. And even if I had been there whatever experience I had wouldn't have spoken for the entire continent... I'm annoyed, but I can condescend to be amused by his ignorance. "He just doesn't know any better," I tell myself while soothing my recently healed anger reflex to such questions. I was doing well, but this guy, well he just doesn't quit. He barely misses a beat, pumping me for critical information so he can make his move. How long have I been here? What do I do? Would I give him my number? Would I take his instead? Will I call him? Will I teach him English? Will I take his number and call him and teach him English?

He really did repeat questions like he was on some kind of loop. I don't know how long you can employ closed off body language signals and politely refuse a guy before he takes a hint and gives up. I told him bluntly that I wouldn't take his number and wouldn't call him if he gave me his, and I called him on the BS of his suddenly wanting English lessons. "Well I do want English lessons. And anything else you'd be willing to offer." (rough translation)

There's only so much a girl from the hood can take before the roots make themselves known. Maybe he sensed the impending danger and decided to make his escape before my patience ran out. Perhaps he grew tired of trying to wear me down, but he made sure to remind me of the nights of mindless passion I had tossed away by refusing him. (Ugh. Blegh! [insert preferred sound of disgust]) Either way, he left, and the jazz busker took a cigarette break at the very same moment.


Sleaze-Man immediately forgotten, out of my mouth bursts the question that's been burning in me since I walked past him to sit down. "Can I play?" He looks at me and I tell him I'm a singer songwriter. "Will you let me play?" He asks me what I play and seems to like what he hears. He waves me over and I drop my half eaten ice cream cone in a nearby trash can and head for his guitar and mic stand like an oasis in the desert.

I've wanted to busk in Europe since I started busking. Another dream coming true. I sang a couple of tunes and then we did "Stand By Me", by the request of the second gentleman (nicknamed Becky, short for his last name of Beekmeyer, a colonial holdover that we both laughed about and could relate to, since in a way Fletcher is a holdover as well) you can see in the pictures below. (In fact, it was Becky who was so kind as to take these pictures of me and tag them on facebook for me. Yay!)

Basically that one blurted out question made my day. I had a blast performing, drew a crowd, and earned a few euros that I graciously left in Simone's (that's the busker's name) case. I'd say it was a good day, and I can be nice about Sleaze-Man. Sort of. Here are some pics of the action.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Eat, Pray, Love

I saw the movie Eat, Pray, Love before heading back to Italy, and oh was it satisfying to see places that I'd actually been to. Just in Italy, but still, I felt accomplished. Now this is my kind of movie, and when I saw the book a week ago on the book-share shelf of a wine store (excellent inexpensive wine) by the square where I currently live (Pza Le Susa) and it was in English, well I just had to borrow it. The man who owns the shop likes to practice his English and when I return the book, along with a few offerings of my own for the share shelf, I imagine we'll pick up where we left off on our conversation about the horrors of American pop music and the downward descent of most of the music scene in general. I tentatively shared my YouTube page (, and I hope (but honestly and conceitedly I'm certain), that he'll have a different opinion of my contributions to the music scene.

Anyway, it was when we were wrapping up our conversation that I spied the aforementioned novel and proceeded to squeal like a Belieber who just spotted Bieber. Over the next week I read the book in snatches, squeezing it in between all the other things I had to do. I feel though that I haven't been merely reading this book. I think I'm subconsciously trying to meld myself into it.

I found myself pondering, "Why shouldn't I take more pleasure in some of the more enjoyable aspects of Italian food and culture? Why not have a second helping?"

I even dusted off my yoga mat. "Why not sit and contemplate on the Word of God with my audio Bible playing softly in the morning light? And who says I can't have a good stretch and dance time while worship music plays afterward?"

It's the love part of the book I get stuck at. While I could modify the whole meditating in India bit to suit my spiritual needs and convictions, I find I can't simulate a Bali-esque experience in the middle of Milan. I do happen to know a Felipe (who looks remarkably like a younger version of the actor who plays Felipe in the movie and who is therefore quite handsome), but I somehow doubt that's gonna happen. When he does things like hold my wrist for an unsuitable amount of time in church (thereby ruining hopes with other men and raising unnecessary speculation) and talks about taking my pulse (or something like that. wasn't exactly focused...) I remind myself that he is simply unaware of his charming good looks (as if...) and is just too man-stupid to understand that you don't do things like that with single women who are most decidedly not called to celibacy. Especially if you're not going to follow up and deliver the goods.

Though perhaps this whole love thing is closer than I think. This Tuesday, in what I can only describe as a rather Ketut-like moment in this context, a friend of mine told me he felt certain that soon some romance was going to come my way. Just in case you're wondering, he's engaged and didn't mean himself. But who could it possibly be, I wonder? And how soon is soon? Like Liz, I have my fair share of control issues. But these past few weeks of bliss, this letting go and letting God, makes it much easier not to know. I'll just keep swimming, just keep swimming, and I'll bump into the right fish when the time is right. No sooner, no later. Juuuuuust right.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Silver linings around half full glasses (unsuccessful combination, but whatevs...)

I have been so deliriously happy that I don't know what to do with myself. This state of bliss comes as a complete shock to me because I haven't been having an easy time of it, regardless of how you look at things. Whoo-hoo fruit of the Spirit! These past weeks saw me in an unenviable position in just about every major and not so major aspect of life. And yet I'm happy. I suppose I'm a glass half full kind of person.

I mean, I've been so glowing these past two weeks that people randomly smile at me on the streets, and there is a decided pep in my step even when they don't. Everything was such a mess that there was nothing to do but trust in God. There is such a beautiful weightlessness when we actually cast our burdens on the Lord. I was almost upset when my financial situation was resolved, because it meant I had to start being responsible for it again. Though perhaps the lesson here is to leave my finances in God's care and have done with it. Why not just do that with my entire life? That way I can continue to waft about in this beautiful place of being fully aware of and responding to what's happening without suffering the crushing worry, guilt, shame and other accompanying emotions that went along with my perceived successes and failures.

I've decided to count my blessings, take note of them, savor them, and look back on them whenever future trials come. And of course, troubles will come. But victory is (literally) my middle name, and now more than ever I feel the appropriateness and power of my name. Happy Victory Arrow-maker.

My mother named me well.

People Watching

October 1st
I find myself in the square of the main church here in Milan, trying to do some discreet people watching. I suppose staring at people for hours while you try not to look sketchy as you write things down doesn't always work. On top of that, my wardrobe screams, "look at me!" Sort of. It's just the boots and bag attract attention in a place as name brand conscious as Milan. My lovely yellow scarf doesn't exactly blend into the dirty concrete on which I'm sitting either.

But I digress. This self given assignment isn't about others watching me, but about me watching others. "The other", to be exact. With all of the soul searching I've been up to lately I needed to do something. Sure, I received healing with regards to my own personal connection to slavery, but I've been aware for some time now that there is another form of modern slavery running rampant and receiving even less attention than the transatlantic slave trade.

Looking at this situation I am being made more and more aware of how limiting personal pain can be. While I've been moping around about something that happened centuries ago (to be fair to myself, I must acknowledge that there are still the aftereffects to contend with), there were people being trafficked into all kinds of horrific forms of modern slavery right under my stuck up nose. But I speak for myself. Someone else might have taken their personal pain and used it as fuel in the fight against the modern day slave trade. That's all fine and well except for the fact that I don't want the work I do to be fueled by pain and hatred. What good could possibly come of that, in the long run? For sure I'd burn out or lose effectiveness as the bitterness consumed me.

Back to the task at hand.

I am people watching. I am watching the people who no one pays any attention to, and I am waiting. In a sense, I am putting myself in a place to receive divine appointments. Many of the African immigrants here in Milan feel comfortable coming up to me. They ask me what I think about the city, how I like it. They take the time to listen to me, while I've just been breezing by, missing out on deeper connections. But I want to slow down now, and I've determined that now it's my time to listen.  I may not be particularly trained at dealing with people who reside on the fringes of society, but clearly that hasn't mattered.

I know that I can listen, I can ask questions as well as answer them, and I can write. It's time to write about someone else's experiences now, though in typical egotistical human nature fashion the connection of this project to myself is incredibly obvious. I think in some way all of our creative outputs are a reflection of ourselves. Really, it's only our lives that we live, but part of the beauty of living is intersecting with other lived lives.

So this creative effort here is both a step into the new and an exploration of my past. Here we go!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Vanity, thy name is Italian male

It is said that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Perhaps, perhaps not. I do know that my return to Italy allowed me to better know this population God has given me a heart for. As the title suggests, I had a rather shocking discovery: women, after all, are not the vainest creatures on the planet. No, that covetous standing in society is reserved for the Italian male.

Now I make this observation with the utmost fondness. I myself have my fair share of vanities, and while I adore my waistline and rear end I equally loathe each day I have to face the fact that my acne didn't miraculously disappear after my teen years.

I have to be fair here. I mean, what person doesn't take a quick peek when they pass a mirror? Everyone stops to adjust their gelled and carefully coiffed hair every time they pass any reflective surface, be that a shop window, an ipad screen, a mirror, or the spoon they've lifted up from the table in front of them. And let's not forget the vainglorious profile picture with the simpering half pout and sultry bedroom eyes. Ah. Perhaps we should.

Now the grooming practices of the well-kept Italian male extend beyond head hair. Let me clarify. I was surprised to find out that certain younger male members of society here pluck their eyebrows, and they're straight (Sorry Bryn Mawr, but gender stereotypes are not so easily escaped, it seems. ). I never expected straight males to pluck their eyebrows, and I honestly thought that for two of my friends, their eyebrows just grew that way. Needless to say, the disdain with which they glanced upon my bush brows had me running to my tweezers in record time. It also had me diligently checking on any new beard growth that needed plucking. 

When one of my male students told me he waxed his legs it didn't exactly send me running to the esthetician, but perhaps that's because it's easier to hide hairy legs than it is to hide bush brows. So you see, the shadow theory (or whatever it's called) is reconfirmed. You really dislike or notice most in others what you dislike or notice a lot in yourself. However, having moved past any guilt in my self grooming and beautification practices it makes it much easier to accept Italian men for theirs.

I must admit that allowances should be made for cultural differences. I mean, one of my friends, his girlfriend does his brows for him. And really, Italian men as a lot are generally stylish and easy on the eyes, so I don't particularly care if they pluck their eyebrows and wax their legs to achieve the desired effect on the lady folk. (And trust me, the effect is desire(d)...) I mean, while in Poland our boys stood out for the clear anointing of God upon them, and their clearly superior style. Clearly no one was complaining, perfectly arched brows and all ;).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

God's Song Over Me

It's getting harder to keep track of how this week fit together. There were so many significant moments that even limiting posts to those is adding up something fierce. Anyway, one of these special moments was God's song for me. Alisa was in her morning prayer and she received a word for me, which she was instructed to sing over me.

Now, Alisa received healing for singing not terribly long ago, and so the fact that she was asked to sing the message was like an extra confirmation of God's wanting her to sing. As she told me about this being the first time she was asked to sing a message we both laughed at the idea that God was blessing "Two birds with one song". I was instructed to prepare myself with tissues, and I was asked about my preference: song at the beginning or end of our session? I opted for beginning, since fewer people would be there to witness any sobtastic behavior. Just for added context, this word came after my healing and racial (or I should say continental) reconciliation. Here it is.

Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Alisa sang of God's love for me, and on the other side of the paper was a message from her:
You are loved. You are valued. You are His own precious daughter. People may hurt and disappoint you, but never forget who you are! He has made you. He is pleased with you. He brought you here to Kalisz. It is not by chance! You are here for your healing. He is the Balm Gilead. Let Him heal you. He will heal your heart. Pain and wounds be gone in Jesus' name!

In the song God had given her, He told me that he felt every hurt and every blow, and He sang of His love for me. It was beautiful.
We then went on and finished our last worship session, during which another member of our team claimed his healing and sang worship songs, overcoming the mental block he had for singing. Then we went back to the hotel for breakfast.

Kalisz 2013, Word 2

This second word came over two different occasions but from the same guy, and so I've decided to combine it all.
One evening after coming into our lovely hotel after worship, team Italy was fellowshipping in the restaurant/bar with a few beers (and one very classy martini), as we were wont to do. As we talked and enjoyed ourselves a man from the table behind us left, bidding us goodnight in Italian. We promptly set about determining whether or not the person was Italian, which in essence was us trying to guess how much of our conversation had been understood. We determined he was not Italian, and that our musings were safe with us. When the second guy bid us goodnight in the same manner, we turned our attention to the table behind us to meet the people there.

Three Swiss musicians, only one of whom spoke Italian well, were sitting at the table. We shared stories and talked, switching to English once the native Italian half of our team went up to their room. These guys were pretty awesome, and the peace and humility pouring off of them was wonderful to see. None of them had had easy lives, and yet here they were, praising God through their circumstances. It was inspiring.

I got to talking with one chap in particular, as there were three of them and the three of us left from team Italy, and I talked about my plans to go on to grad school and study international education. I felt that it might be time for me to give Italy some space. He listened, told me more of his story, about  his involvement in social work among other things, and by and by we all bid each other goodnight.

The next morning as I was walking in the cafe upstairs, from clear across the room this sedate man yells to me, "You are a great woman of God!" I was surprised, and I think he was too. I thanked him, albeit a bit awkwardly. God was working something in me and I was feeling exposed. Every time I came to a moment of doubting, something like this would happen.

Then the next day in the restaurant I passed the Swiss table at breakfast. I greeted them and bid them good morning. Again this particular guy had a word for me. He asked me, "What are your plans now?" I truthfully responded with an anguished and awkward, "I don't know..." I had a feeling about what was coming next, and when he said, "I think you should stay in Italy a while longer." I wasn't terribly surprised. He broke it to me nicely. I think he realized that the tower of security I had been building for myself was being torn down to make way for God's much better version. Given that he was a social worker, he probably understood that I wasn't particularly ecstatic about the process.

You see, I like the known. Sure I like to travel and meet new people, but I like it all to happen in predictable and familiar patterns. A vacation, an internship, a job and an apartment. Something well structured with a comprehensible and me-controlled beginning and end. But you see, God is the beginning and the end and I can't possibly hope to fully understand or even partially control God. So I have resolved to step into the unknown. God is so patient. I had to come to this conclusion about twenty times during Sukkot before anything started sticking. Thank goodness God is so merciful!

European Communion and Reconciliation pt II

Now, I may have convinced myself that I didn't need to hear an apology from someone but God knew better and he gracefully provided for me.
Later during the morning meeting, the youth (under 30) were called up to receive prayer and Alisa came to pray for me. No one else from team Italy had come to this particular morning meeting so it was just me and her.

She began to pray over me and before I knew it she started tearing up. She confessed that she didn't realize the burden she had been carrying for her family's part of the slave trade in North America. Her family had owned slaves in Texas, and while they hadn't had a huge operation, just one slave in her opinion was already too many. She then asked for forgiveness and I felt something crack and shift inside me. No one had ever before apologized to me. I freely forgave her and thanked her for apologizing, and in short order we were both sobbing all over each other. I imagine we got a few strange looks.

We may have had puffy wet faces, but I think both our hearts had a new lightness to them, and also a new link.

While Alisa continued to pray for me the message she had for me was to think BIG. She received for me that there was a ministry of my own prepared for me, and that if an idea scared me, than that was the bigness I was to go for. She said, "Thing big. If it scares you, that's good."

The funny thing is that she didn't even remember saying any of that to me. Apparently she doesn't remember most of the prophetic words she receives. Either way, it was nice to hear.

Her words were also timely, because I am now at a point where I have to make a decision for God, and I need to make it soon or risk missing the train. This restored heart for Italy and Europe is an important part of it all, I am sure. It was with great joy and mindfulness that I entered into communion with everyone over the rest of the week, and the final communion, in which everyone present broke break together, was especially nice for me. Whatever the heart of anyone else, I know that at least on this issue my conscience is clear before God. Certainly there will be more levels of healing that come through the years, but that burning anger and defensiveness is gone, and I am free.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

European Communion and Reconciliation

It was the end of one of our worship sessions, about the middle of the week, when our team and a few others with whom we had all made friends were gathered together to take communion. One of the fabulously friendly members of one of the German teams had invited us. Having taken communion with my team many times I expected this to be a rather similar experience: the solemnity of pondering what Christ had gone through along with the joy that comes from pondering what He accomplished. Of course, there is also the step of repentance for any sins I am aware of, because communion is serious and as a youth pastor dutifully informed me, we don't want to take God's judgment upon us because we entered into communion with hard hearts. Now, I had taken communion just two hours before with my team so I skipped the self examination and repentance part and just pondered the cross.

I went to place the bread, representing the body of Christ, in my mouth. As soon as the bread touched my tongue I realized that skipping the repentance part might not have been so good an idea after all. I was physically unable to take communion! In a split second I was down on my knees asking for forgiveness.

God had revealed to me that I could not take communion with the greater community of Europe because I had not forgiven the entire continent for their involvement in the slave trade of Africans so many years ago. I had not forgiven Europeans (and people of European descent) for the fact that what heritage I did have would always be hyphenated, as I would always be AFRICAN-American and AFRO-latina. I was tired of being asked what country in Africa I was from after having just said I was American, and I was tired of people touching my hair and asking me awkward questions about my African heritage when any knowledge of it had been purposefully taken away from me.

Most of all, I was tired of being angry.

God had mercifully brought me to a place of repentance and through that, healing. Burning in my heart as I got up from my knees and drank the wine, representing the blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins, was the desire to confess the sin of the hardness of my heart and my lack of forgiveness.

Now, I was the only person of color at this event until someone who looked to be of Latin American descent arrived with one of the teams from England. At any rate I was certainly the only Black person and one of two Americans, the only non-Europeans present. I wasn't exactly thrilled to go up in front of everyone during the morning meeting and be like "Up until yesterday I subconsciously hated all of you, but God revealed that to me and healed me. Forgive and forget?"

I asked to speak with the organizer of our team, who is also the other American. I explained to her what I was going through, and I asked if it made sense to go up and confess. Given the focus on Israel no one was thinking of the enslavement and torture of Africans. Germany was far too busy feeling guilty about the Holocaust and their poor treatment of the Polish people in general, and that's all most anyone else was focused on. Why bring it up, even if to apologize for my lack of forgiveness?

Alisa told me that in my place she might not be so gracious as to go up and apologize, but I felt it was the right thing to do. What use is there holding on to hurt and pain? It just holds you back from entering into the fullness of God's will for you. She agreed with me.
So up I went to apologize, and as I rushed off I heard the scattered "We forgive you!"s.

I had resigned myself to the fact that most likely no one would apologize to me, but it still hurt not to hear it. But then, having a knowledge of the way of the world I know that Black people are generally not much more valued than they were during the slave trade, however enlightened the world may now consider itself to be. I expected no one to feel guilty or compelled to confess to their nation's part in the slave trade, and I had determined to come to my place of forgiveness without receiving someone else's apology.
With the weight of un-forgiveness no longer dragging me down I already felt I had come out a winner.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Kalisz 2013, Word 1

So I've established that Sukkot in Kalisz was a wonderfully anointed time. As a result I need many posts to do justice to describing my time there. During the week I received various words and messages from God, and more or less I've decided to give each one a post, describing situations as needed.

This is in all likelihood an incredibly boring post idea for anyone other than me, spiritual mentors (though not even that's certain), and my mom (again, not so sure on that one...). All the same, sometimes it's nice to see the parallel ways God moves in our lives. Sometimes in my story there's a blessing for you in yours, and vice versa. So here we go!

The first word I received from God was from a member of one of the English worship teams (some countries had more than one team). I was sitting near the back of the sanctuary, asking God to hear from Him. I've struggled so much with pride that I fear that sometimes I go too far, focusing more on abasing myself in my sin rather than accepting God's grace and praising Him for covering it. Some would describe that as false humility, since I end up being the focus just the same. At any rate, despite my self preoccupation, God still saw fit to give me a word of encouragement. Here is what He had for me: You are more than a conqueror. It's time to spread your wings and fly.

Now that I am agonizing over next steps this word seems all the more pertinent. All of the doubts and reservations holding me back from going into full time missions sooner rather than later have no bearing before the All Powerful and Able to Provide Anything God. I am more than a conqueror in Christ, and so really, through the power of His spirit I actually can spread my wings and fly. You see, if I really believe that our God is greater then I must also believe that He can take care of student loan debt and any living costs that arise as I move into the ministry work He has prepared for me.

If I believe that whatever next step I take is walking into God's will, then I trust that He will provide for me every step of the way, and that He will also provide for my family and friends. I trust that my mother will be understanding and that my family and friends and I will remain close in heart. And in any case that arises, I trust that God's grace is and will be sufficient unto my needs.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Italian Worship

Without a shadow of a doubt I was meant to have gone to Poland this past week. If I'm going to be honest that trip was the main and possibly only thing I was looking forward to coming back to Milan for, apart from friends of course. My heart quailed at the thought of coming back to a country where I felt more of a foreigner and infringer than I ever thought possible. It was like lazing around in lovely salty sea water and then being told you had to do laps through molasses now. Hence the comment in previous post about my heart for Italy needing to be restored.

Now, what do Poland and Italian worship have to do with each other you ask? Well let me tell you! A lovely church in Kalisz, Poland has a pastor with a heart for Israel, and every year during Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) he invites nations from all over Europe to join together in 24 hour worship and prayer for the entire week. A herculean effort, but all made possible through an abundance of Holy Spirit blessing and presence. So, less herculean and more spritulean (that word is totally in Webster's...).

So now the pieces are coming together. But as an American what could I possibly have to do with the Italian team going to Poland for Sukkot? And an African-American at that, I can't even make fanciful claims of distant or otherwise ties to European ancestry. Well, God doesn't care about that. He saw my heart was willing, and so for the entire week I was the main vocalist and secondary guitar player for Team Italy. God is AMAZING. Like, AMAZING. I think anyone who experienced my worship leading throughout college and high school can attest to the fact that I have a heart for international and intercultural worship. This was like a really early Christmas present and birthday present and another Christmas present all wrapped up into one big weeklong 24 hour a day
 extravaganza. Only God can come up with a team that an American woman prayed over for two years resulting in: her and our English friend as chorus and intercession, me as lead vocalist and some guitar, a 17 year old Italian on drums, a 19 year old Italian on electric guitar, and a 40 something year old (father of drummer) on bass guitar. God is something special. Really special.

Even the painful bits of the week were good, but this particular post is for the gushing "that was fantabulous" portion. My time in Poland was both one of the most intimate and communal worship experiences I have ever had. My own personal worship of God seemed to have grown exponentially. There was such an air and encouragement of freedom that I felt completely comfortable letting go, and before I knew it I was praying and prophesying and declaring words from God whilst hitting notes I never thought I'd reach vocally during our worship sessions (unfortunately that same anointing didn't fall on my guitar playing... ). Each session was two hours long, but when the end of our sessions came up our team was always surprised with how quickly a session had passed. It was like we were all transported to a place where time had no importance and wasn't really all that noticeable. Our hearts were focused on worshiping God, and all was as it should be.

In that same vein, being continually surrounded by and fellowshipping with people whose hearts were focused on God, well that was wonderful. I met so many people who are now so dear to me and who were instrumental in the work God was doing in my heart and in my life while I was in Kalisz. I know also that God had used me to work in the lives and hearts of other people present as well.

God honored so many prayers, desires, and dreams by bringing us together as a group and it was wonderful to see the ways our dreams came together. It was truly a taste of heaven. Nations together, worshipping in various tongues, all declaring "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!"

Making a go of things

I swear I speak more and more like an English person with each minute I stay in Milan. I've even been told recently that when I lead worship it comes out in an English accent! But that's for another post.

This post is about making a go of things. You know, trying to accomplish something without really understanding what's going on. You kinda wing it. In my case I felt clearly the call of God upon me to serve in Italy. I immediately went to work planning it all out. Really I should have known better but the control freak in me thought I knew exactly how and when God's calling on my life was supposed to take place.

I have come to a point now where I can acknowledge that though God did give me a heart for Italy, he didn't say it had to be now, right this instant, and he didn't say it was specifically as a teacher with the occasional side gig singing in bars. And given my unforeseen visa difficulties, I am inclined to think God is telling me to wait for something. By faith, waiting and not knowing will no longer be a spiritual problem for me. By faith I can wait on the Lord and not rush ahead making five million plans, or even just one plan, that all come together in a way that makes "perfect sense". Well, to me, at least.

Recent experiences would suggest that one of those somethings I need to wait for is a renewed heart for Italy, and that I also need healing. As I already stated, patience can be added to the list. Really, God's will is the best place to be, but I know I am called to sacrifice something. Of course we want to give God our all in our walks with Him, but some people are not ready for what that actually means in their lived reality. Sometimes I'm not ready for what that means. Maybe that initial feeling of "go home" wasn't completely unfounded after all. In my walk with God my family and friends have been the only things making my decisions difficult. Though I am in Milan right now, when I go home (admittedly much sooner than any of us had anticipated, and much to my mother's joy) I will enjoy my time with family and friends, and I fully entrust them to God's care now and when He calls me away from them. In the words of Jeremy Camp (hopefully the connection here does not go unnoticed...) "I wait for the Lord. My soul waits."

Holy Tram

Sometimes God speaks to you in the funniest ways, and in the most awkward places. One such place was the tram stop outside my apartment one evening as I was on my way to my church's film festival. It was Thursday March 14th, just one day after my 23rd birthday, and I was feeling pretty good.  There I was, happily humming along to a Jeremy Camp song when wham! I suddenly find myself filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. Pretty awkward. I try to disguise it by keeping along with the melody of the song, but when the Spirit moves you gotta go with the flow or miss the tram, so to speak. So there I am  pacing and trying to keep away from people and ignore them staring at me at the 15 tram stop. I get this incredible urge to start praying for Italy, and a few of my students in particular. I pray for God to send someone here to witness to all of the lost people, and I get this sudden impression of "I already have".

Uh oh. If you have a relationship with God then you can guess who He meant there.

I look up at the tram announcement screen and I see one word: URBANA. ('Urban' in Italian) In a split second a few very important Urbana 2009 experiences flashed through my head. I remembered seeing the video of the missionaries in Italy and wondering what they were needed for. I recalled my growing interest as I watched and realized there was a need here and that as an Italian major, missions in Italy might actually be a good fit for me. I remembered learning about IV Link and thinking what a great way that would be to combine my passions for travel, students/teaching, and just about anything intercultural. And last but not least, I remembered Shane Claiborne's talk, and I remembered the part where he said something akin to 'Be careful what you pray for, because you might be the answers to your prayers." Was I ready to be that? Standing in Milan, I was asking myself if I was ready to answer the call and be someone God sent to do His will in Italy. It seems so funny now, but at the time I had already told my mother I was coming home. I had been hurt, and I had very little love left in my heart for Italy. Now I would have to tell her that I had changed my mind, and would be doing the optional second teaching year of my program after all. Yay. Still, I had since learned that the best place to be is in God's will, even if that means spending less time with my family friends in the U.S. than I would ideally like.

The next time I gathered up with friends to share this experience and my decision to stay in Italy, one of my friend's immediate response was: "Well that's obvious. It was clear to all of us you were called here!" Thank goodness God is patient and gives us some of those Deus ex machina moments, because I certainly hadn't gotten the memo.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Catching Up

Hey Everyone!

I like to imagine that my hoards of faithful readers have been desolate without me. Well, not desolate, really, since I don't wish sadness on anyone, but still. It does a body good to know someone's wondering what's up with you.

Anyway, it turns out that the month of February did indeed bring great changes. I moved into my own apartment halfway through the month and I've been there ever since. I share the place with a woman named Caterina who's a little older than me, much more of a neat freak and generally very nice. I keep things neat in the kitchen and bathroom, but I will admit the room door stays shut. Still, my mother will be pleased to hear that you can regularly see the floor.

The month of March brought my first full month of real life living. Cooking my own meals has its charms but there is definitely some ramen space in my food budget. I also turned 23. Yay! My students were just wonderful, and I had a surprise bday party in the middle of a lesson on Ebonics (Awesome, I know...). Here I am waxing poetic about Black English and slang and the next thing I know, students from another class come in and start erasing the board and then start writing "Happy B-Day!" If I were a fish, in that moment I'd have been a really big pufferfish. I imagine that by that evening, after my second birthday party with some students, colleagues, and friends I had met through church and Bible study, that my ego was quite puffy. I had three birthday cakes, various presents, and a free liter of beer. A day to remember. :)

Then with Easter, I'd say that everything God had been telling me was confirmed. It was a time of spiritual awakening, refreshment, and then purpose. I found my prayer partners, my fellow warriors in intercessory prayer, and boy has God been moving. It's amazing how much more of the Bible you read when your laptop finally breaks and the only interesting thing you have in paperback to read is your Bible since you just finished reading The Help for the second time.

Now we're in April, and the month is almost done, what with another school break coming up.  I am, as usual, on the cusp of some possible romance. However, at this point in the game I'm still not sure if it's worth it to start anything with anyone.
Well, I went to Ireland as a chaperone with my students, and that was awesome. Dublin reminds me of Boston and for a bit it felt like going home. I needed that. Coming back to Milan was almost painful. Nothing against Milan but there's no place like home, and the closer you can get to it the better. I guess Milan doesn't feel like home yet. I think I just feel so foreign all the time. In Dublin I could forget a little that I was a foreigner. It felt like it didn't matter all that much. I was just a friend of the family (really awesome family hosted me. more like I was a friend of a friend, but whatevs.), just another person walking by. Sometimes anonymity is a blessing.

I think I'll have to do some extra updates but this is everything in a nutshell. It feels so strange that the school year is almost over. I've been getting really tired and looking forward to vacation time a little too much I think. The next break that comes up, I'll try to take care of myself a bit.
But yea, working two schools, doing the whole grown up thing with ample help from family and friends, and generally enjoying life. Well, that and missing my family and friends like crazy. Next travel plans include college buddies.

Better updates with pictures on the way as soon as I get a new laptop and have time to settle everything.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


So I've recently found work at another school, so the month of February will see me shuttling between two sites. I'm actually really happy about this, because this gives me the means to rent a room somewhere, keep on top of student loan payments, and not starve. Maybe even take a day trip somewhere in the region. I'm contemplating the opportunities here. The freedom I crave could be a good thing, but I've got to be careful. I've realized that I am a bit of a recluse, and that I need a lot of time to think and process. I blame it a bit on the whole musician thing, but it is what it is. Writing takes time.

Anyway, this school is located in Corsico, not far from Milan but a hassle to get to using the metro from where I currently live. Still, it's not so terribly bad, and work is work. Like Allende, this new school is also a complex containing different types of high schools. In Italy there are classical and scientific high schools, then high schools that focus on languages, sports, technology, music, and whatever else I've forgotten. I'm sure there is something I missed. I like this whole set up because I get to work with different types of students. Really, I like this new school a lot. I was worried because I'm replacing another SITE intern who went home for Christmas and decided not to come back (I wish...), but the students seem to be taking the change in stride, and half of the classes I am working with never worked with the other intern.

My first lessons have been quite fun, and I feel like I'm getting into quite the rhythm as an educator. Those classes in which you feel like you and the students are on the same page are some of the highlights of my days. There's something special about a positive classroom dynamic, and it's these classes that keep me refreshed enough to tackle the classes in which the students are not quite as enthusiastic.

So the month of February is coming in with a few changes. Some change is always difficult, but I'm hoping for the best.

When in Rome

So, much to my extreme joy, I had the choices of going to the mountains with my new host family (I'll explain some more on that change later) or going to Rome with my friend and his family for the Christmas holidays. *Note friend has girlfriend, so no mushy ideas there. (I know... It makes me sad too.)

At any rate, my dislike of being cold, my inability to ski, and the draw of seeing a friend I hadn't seen in a while made Rome seem like the better of the two choices. I think going home would have been even more fun, but hey. I mean, it's Rome

So, my friend's family has a house (more like independently owned apartments from the U.S. perspective) that's about a five minute walk from the Colosseum. I was one happy camper. The four days were spent walking around, eating a ton, and having great conversations.
On the 24th, some Italian families have what is called "cenone", which is a large sea food based dinner. Then on Christmas day the celebratory meal was lunch. We had neutered baked rooster (capone), boiled hen, a few side dishes of seafood, buffalo mozzarella, and likely other things I've forgotten. Fortunately I was in tourist mode and walked everywhere, so I managed to escape the Christmas season unscathed. Because pictures will likely be more interesting, here you go!

The first night we went out walking. Meet Daniele, and check out the tree. It was pretty cool.

Fountain of Trevi. Threw in a coin, so to Rome I shall return.

Questionably awesome elevators. Really narrow because they were added on to buildings which were a little older than elevators. Just a little. Every housing elevator is like a new discovery in innovation.


Really super awesome breakfast pastries.

Didn't get to see the pope, but just looking around was lovely.


So here we see the dad, the aunt, the brother, me, and cut off a bit is the mom sitting across from me.

Here you can see the mom better.

Piazza di Spagna

Free concert the day after Christmas. St. Stephen's day, if I remember correctly. This church was lovely in and of itself, though, and just seeing that alone was worth the trip up those steps.

The mouth of truth. 

And here's another one.

Me and Luna, Daniele's cousin. Lovely view.

Through this hole you have a framed view of St. Peter's square. Here are two shots. Camera doesn't capture the view, but I still liked the shots.

Really cool. Pyramid in Rome.

Had to touch the Colosseum on the last night, and I definitely admire the graffiti work here.