Five days into our adventure, we are leaving behind Venice, with all her mists and canals, her tight alleys that are really streets, her red brick, her houses held together with metal bars (basically staples) because of the shifting sand that is her foundation, and Padua (or as the Italians say Padova), with her ancient university and cobblestone streets, where we spent the day, and are headed to Ravenna. I know that was a long beginning sentence, but …how do you express the sights and sounds of another continent? A little running on is bound to happen.
Venice is…beautiful. Surely there isn’t any city like it anywhere else on Earth. If anything, it reminds me a little of New Orleans, just because the similar environment (lots and lots of water) has induced certain shared characteristics. We arrived Monday in Marco Polo airport at 9 am local time—to our cramped bodies, it felt like 3 am. A bus, a walk, a ferry later, we found ourselves walking in Venice! There are no cars in the city, nor bikes—either foot, or boat to get you around. I can’t capture the beauty that is everywhere here—culture, history, care…recorded bits of times when craftsmanship was valued. We’ve visited churches, synagogues, museums, and today, Italy’s second oldest university, the University of Padua, where Galileo Galilei was Professor of Mathematics for 18 years. Honestly, though, I know I’m enriched just walking down these streets, to be surrounded by such beauty, such history. Looking back on my childhood, I realize again what an impact those 3 years in Europe had on me. One could scarcely grow up in such an environment, surrounded by such beauty, without being changed!
I definitely feel like I’m “along for the ride” here. I don’t really know what we’re doing, where we’re going, or what the history of each place is. For once, I can’t speak the language! (Today I braved the Padua Post Office, and felt completely helpless—it’s hard to even get in the correct line if all the signs and instructions are in Italian!). Most people do speak English, or we can get by with a Patois of French and Spanish, and good ol’ sign language. I’m picking up on more and more of the language, though. Kyle’s Christmas gift, a phrase book, is proving extremely valuable, and the source of entertainment at dinner. (The illustrations for the pickup lines in there are downright hysterical!)
Last night, Jen (my roommate in Venice) and I got left behind for dinner—no one told us we were leaving 15 minutes earlier than set time. But we made it through Venice and found our dinner place just fine on our own—we’ve eaten dinner every night at the same restaurant, the “Veneziano Anonimo” (the Anonymous Venician). The food is quite a different affair than in the States. We begin with an antipasta, eat through a pasta dish, a salad (no dressing—only oil, vinegar, lemon, salt, pepper, or parmesan), then a meat & vegetable plate (so far, we’ve had veal, salmon, swordfish, and chicken), before arriving at dessert. I haven’t actually gotten to taste any of the desserts, as they’re all full of The Poison (aka gluten), but from what my compatriots tell me, they’re drier and less sweet than our desserts. I was so excited when, on the little island of Burano, I was treated to my first Italian pasta! The restaurant where we ate is top-notch—the best fish I’ve ever tasted—the chef was so cute and kind. He came out when he was told I couldn’t eat gluten, bringing with him a package of gluten free pasta! “Is good?” I nodded emphatically, almost too excited to talk. He made me a sumptious dish of pasta with zucchini and shrimp, then I was served an entire fish all to myself, cooked separately from the others, and grilled instead of fried. Several of my new friends told me it made their day that I got to eat pasta in Italy—wasn’t that kind?
God is teaching me so much about my own heart, and how I fear man. I’m finally reading through When People Are Big & God is Small, and that doesn’t hurt any. But I’ve been struck by how readily I categorize people! God’s Word and Spirit are convicting me about that, and it saddens me as I realize how often I “need” (use) people instead of loving them. please pray for me about that, if you think about it. I’m being befriended by a lot of people here. We eat with different people at our table each night, and there aren’t any clique divisions, which is wonderful. I’d never met some of these people before this trip! There’s my roommate Jen, who is so innocent and sweet that it makes you smile, or Amanda, who’s finishing Furman in 3 years and is already accepted in medical school, or Clay, who as the only other Latin-reader is my inscription-decoding buddy, Carolyn & Tierney, whom I know from RUF, and who were so intrigued by comments I’d made about Ryan that last night they made me tell the whole story of how we met & started dating (and oh it was SOOO hard to get me to talk about that subject…HAH ☺), or David, the Aussie soccer player who gets these fits of laughter right in the middle of serious portions of our tours, and about 25 others whom I’m being blessed and stretched to get to know. Pray that I will really love them, and my professors—not love their good opinion of me. Please also pray for my testimony here. One of my new year’s resolves is to daily see Jesus, and it’s only as I see Him that others will be able to see Him in me. I don’t want to be the obnoxious Christian, but I also don’t want to care more about being “nice” or smart than I do about loving Jesus publicly, before the very ones who need Him, whose worship He deserves!
All right, the bus is dark and my eyes are starting to smart from staring at the back-lit screen, so I’m going to close the screen and focus on the Andrew Peterson in my headset right now. “All shall be well, yay all shall be well—the Word of God shall never fail, and all manner of all things shall be well. There’s a Light in the darkness; there’s an end to the night.”
There is going to be a day when every one on this trip will bow before the Name of Jesus, and there will come a complete and total end to the darkness that hovers over our planet, our world. May that begin to happen now!
Caught up in the bosom of the Savior even in Italy,