Travel journal: The End.

(Written in the airport on April 30, 2013.)
I’m leaving Europe today and I hate it. Part of me, a very overwhelming part, is very scared that I’ll never come back. Knowing that I have friends now all over the world, I hate to think that I’ll never see them again. I feel almost as if I’m a child sent to time out while the rest of my friends play without me. This feeling in my gut is clawing its way out into the world via the impending tears of regret I’ll cry late at night when I convince myself I should have just stayed in Europe and become a nomad. Who needs a steady job? I love an adventure, and that would be a grand one to live…albeit possibly lonely. I think that’s one part of traveling alone I won’t miss: eating alone. I had the best time making friends at the hostels I stayed in, but during those slow times when there were few other solo travelers it was a bit lonesome. Thankfully I learned from my mother how to strike up a conversation with a stranger and from there how to build on commonalities, which meant that many times, most times, I had new friends to eat with.

I’m slowly transitioning back into the Bethanie of the United States: the girl who cleans houses, babysits two sweet little boys, looks for a full-time job, goes to Bible study on Monday nights; the girl who doesn’t really break the rules or push the envelope and continually dreams of what it might be like living in Europe. My life abroad versus my life stateside shows opposite sides of the same coin, the responsible yet adventurous, spontaneous girl next door with freckles and auburn hair. But being in a completely different place with people who don’t know me and my past is an intoxicating experience. I can be all the best parts of who I am, all the parts I like most or all the parts of me I’m scared to be in the States. No one had any expectations of who I should be, we were all travelers who happened to meet at one point in time on our respective journeys through Europe to wherever we were going. It was the most amazing thing. I became an updated version of myself; now I’m scared that in this normal and unchallenging life I live, what I’ve blossomed into will wilt without the proper diet of adventure, travel, and spontaneity. Can there be a job that lets me travel wherever I want but still make money? Tell me and I’ll do it. In a heartbeat.

Travel journal twelve.

April 29, 2013Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight. You’ve probably never heard of this island. Really, when most people heard I was going to the Isle of Wight, a small island south of mainland England, they asked me if I meant Jersey. No, you sillies, I meant the Isle of Wight. “But…why?” they’d ask. I guess there’s not too much to do there, as I’m sure any local might tell you, but my friend Anna lives there.

Anna and I met at USC when I was a sophomore and she was studying abroad. She’s from England, the Isle of Wight, to be exact, and we became friends based on our mutual love of British pop superstar Mika. Before she left USC to go back to the UK I promised I’d one day visit her and we’d go to a Mika concert together. Well, I did finally visit her, three years later, and although we didn’t go to a Mika concert, we sure did have a great time.

I got to England in the early afternoon and had to take a bus from the London Gatwick airport to the Portsmouth Hard Interchange to meet Anna by the ferry that would take us to the island. After taking the ferry to Ride, we drove about 45 minutes to her house through a very Dickens-esque fog-drenched landscape of rolling hills and British seaside. Her house is cute and much like you might picture if it were written into a modern English moors novel. She even has a conservatory, which is what we might name an enclosed porch.

That evening Anna, her mum Joy, her dad Mark, and I walked her dogs on a nearby beach. It was quite chilly out so we wore wellies (rain boots) and jumpers (sweaters). Honestly, the entire time all I could think about was how much I felt like I was living in a novel set by the English seaside. Something dark, written by Charlotte Bronte, but not too dark. More Sherlock Holmes walking through the mist, investigating a crime. Speaking of, I read Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes while I was staying with Anna’s family, which may have impacted how I perceived my time on the island. Sidenote: something I learned while walking on that beach is that the Isle of Wight is known for its fossils. As in, there are so many dinosaur bones buried on the island, and a lot of petrified wood as well.

Anyway. The next day Anna, her dad, and I went to Osbourne House, Queen Victoria’s holiday home on the Isle of Wight. It was gorgeous! Gorgeous, I tell you. Man, did she have style, and she was quite beautiful in her time as well. I learned so much about the British monarchy at Osbourne House, thanks to Anna’s dad Mark. As an American, I’ve never had to worry about the monarchy, and I haven’t grown up with a queen. It’s such a foreign concept to me, knowing who the next ruler of my country will be from the time he or she is born. For those born into the monarchy, they know they’ll be in the public eye from the time they’re conceived until the day they die, and probably after. The closest thing we have to that in the States are celebrities’ children or politicians’ children, but even they aren’t constantly monitored by the press. It just seems so strange. So because of that, I just wanted to learn all I could about monarchs and where they get their family names from, and how they could just change the monarch family name in 1917 from Saxe-Coburg to Windsor so as to sound less German. I also learned that Queen Victoria actually died in Osbourne House in 1901, and I saw the bed she died in. Before she died, her husband Prince Albert died in 1861 and his room in Osbourne House was kept as a kind of shrine to his legacy. After the queen died, her children decided that they didn’t want the house anymore and gave it to the nation.

That afternoon we picked up Anna’s Great Uncle Ken from the ferry as he was spending a couple of days with Anna’s family. Have you seen the old 1970s British TV show Fawlty Towers? You can watch a clip here. Uncle Ken reminds me so much of the Major on Fawlty Towers. That night we ate proper English fish and chips from a local pub. It was delicious, so delicious I want to eat it forever and ever.

The next day we decided to be kind of lazy because some more of Anna’s family was arriving later that day. After her aunt, uncle, and cousins arrived we went for a walk with the dogs up this wonderful hill to the Tennyson Monument on the Isle of Wight. Apparently Lord Alfred Tennyson, the poet who penned The Charge of the Light Brigade and many more poems, owned a house on the Isle of Wight for about a decade. The view from the top of the hill was breathtaking. It was absolutely stunning to be able to see essentially the whole island from where I was standing. I didn’t think of it then but it would have been perfectly appropriate for me to do a Maria von Trapp twirl while singing, “the hills are alive with the sound of music!” That night we went to a pub and had beer and cider and listened to a live band play some pretty decent covers.

The next day was also a lazy morning because Anna’s visiting family were all leaving to go home. That afternoon we went for a walk by the seaside and saw where part of the island had literally collapsed into the ocean. The soil of the island is very clay-like and therefore doesn’t provide much stability.

For my final full day on the island Anna and I went to Carisbrooke Castle, where in 1647 Charles I was sent to serve a prison sentence. It later became the home of Princess Beatrice, daughter of Queen Victoria. The castle also houses the only donkey-operated well-house wheel in the world. The donkeys step into a huge hamster wheel type machine and walk a couple of steps to demonstrate what used to be done back when the castle was used as a residence. Now the donkeys are treated very well and barely do any work on the wheel, just enough to show us what it would have been like. The donkeys’ names each start with the letter ‘J’, as part of a tradition started by Charles I while he was prisoner at Carisbrooke. When Charles I wrote letters or was planning his escape route, he always signed his letters with a ‘J’. So for 150 years all the donkeys at the castle have had a name beginning with ‘J’.

Later that day Anna and I stopped by a grocery store so I could stock up on Cadbury chocolates. That night we drank tea and watched Doctor Who, and by the way Anna is completely to blame for my recent obsession with this wonderful TV show. I also learned that Cadbury chocolates go so well with earl grey tea.

We went to bed very late that night and got up around 5am to leave for the 5:45am ferry that would take me back to Portsmouth Hard to catch the coach for my 9:50am flight that would begin my journey back to the States.

Thanks so much for reading this penultimate post! Or at least what will be my penultimate post until my next European adventure, which I’m hoping will be within the year. For pictures you can visit my facebook album.

Travel journal eleven.

April 27, 2013

I just spent a few days in Dublin, Ireland, and I’m in love with that place. I belong there, and it is the only country I’ve been to where I don’t stick out as a foreigner.

I flew to Dublin on the 22nd and on the plane I met an Irishman named Shane. He gave me a list of things to see in Dublin and told me a little about Dublin and the culture of Ireland. There are two very popular sports in Ireland that I’d never heard of before: Gaelic Football and something called Hurling. Here’s a video of Gaelic Football: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEAbWrdB9XU, and one of Hurling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmzivRetelE.

My first afternoon in Dublin I went for a very late lunch at a Chinese place because it was close by and I was tired and hungry. Then I went to a cafe and tried to get on the internet but they didn’t have any. That was a little bit of a letdown. It was a cute place and I kind of wanted to spend a lot of time there, but it would have been tremendously boring, so I got a cappuccino instead and read for a half an hour. I went back to the hostel after that because it was a somewhat of a dreary day. I honestly don’t even remember what I had for dinner that night, or even if I ate dinner. Back at the hostel I spent time in the common room and watched a little of the news, I booked a bus tour for the following day, and then just kind of did nothing that night. I didn’t know anyone at that point and I didn’t want to go out alone, so I went to bed early.

The next morning I woke up early and headed out to the bus tour. I got on the bus but had to change my seat because an elderly couple got on the bus and there were no empty double seats available save for mine, so what could I do? So I ended up sitting with a woman named Julie from Canada. It was kind of a matter of fate because she and I got to talking about our lives and everything and it turns out that she used to be an au pair in Ireland when she was in her twenties. If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m planning on being an au pair in Europe if I don’t get a teaching job for this fall. I’ve done a lot of research on it and it just seems like a wonderful thing. So anyway, Julie and I talked about that for a little and she said she’d pass my information along to a family she knows in Ireland who might be looking for an au pair.

Julie was traveling with her mother, her aunt, and her sister. Her mother and aunt are from Ireland, her aunt still lives there, but her mother moved to Canada when she was in her twenties and has lived there since. Julie and her family kind of adopted me for the day, which was very sweet of them. It meant that I had someone to eat with and do things with on the tour, which was a huge Godsend, really. As much as I love traveling, there are some things that are just plain sad to do by yourself. Eating alone ranks among the top.

The tour took us to Wicklow, Glendalough, Avoca, and through other towns, but those were the three main stopping destinations. They are very sweet little Irish towns, and very much what you’d see if you googled “quaint Irish village.” So cute. During the tour we stopped at the bridge where a scene in the film P.S. I Love You was filmed; we went to Lough Tay, which is owned by the Guinness family and where the Beatles’ song Yesterday was conceived, and it’s where the tv show Vikings is filmed; we stopped in Glendalough, which means “Valley of the Two Lakes;” we stopped in Avoca and saw the Avoca textile shop which sells wool items (clothes, blankets, whatever) made from genuine Irish wool grown by genuine Irish sheep. During the tour I got to know Julie’s mother, and by the end she’d invited me to stay with her in Nova Scotia this summer. I am very tempted to take her up on that. It would be such an awesome little vacation! I’ve heard it’s beautiful in Nova Scotia.

Our tour guide was very nice and funny and gave a lot of information about Dublin and about the villages we visited; to be fair, I remember maybe 10% of what he said. But he was a great tour guide. He even made each person or couple/traveling group sing a song during one part of the tour while we were on the bus. Of course I had to sing. I’d told Julie and her family that I studied singing in university, so they were very adamant that I sing. So I did. I sang the recitative from the Le nozze di Figaro aria, Deh vieni non tardar. And of course everyone loved it. I get a little embarrassed about it, though. Yes, I tend to sing better than the average person, but I also studied it for four and a half years, intensively. I had to work hard for it, and I like to sing for people, but I guess I don’t like to draw attention to myself too much. At least, I don’t like it to be the first piece of information people learn about me. But if I can make people happy through my singing, I guess it’s ok.

After the tour I went back to the hostel to think about where I should get dinner. I was just going to grab something alone because I hadn’t made any friends yet, but while I was chilling in the common room I noticed that a guy was holding a Nikon camera, so using that as a basis for conversation, I asked him about it. We talked about his camera and about my Nikon, and I learned his name is Khalil. He’s from Morocco and France and French Canada and pretty much all over, it’s complicated and I really don’t even understand it. But he’s cool. Then we met two guys from Amsterdam, Matthias (Matty) and Dirk (spelled “Dirk” but because of the Dutch accent, it’s pronounced more like “Derek”), who were both traveling alone having never met each other until they got to Dublin. Isn’t that always how it works, though? It takes a trip across the world to meet people who live in the same city as you. Irony at its best.

Matthias, Dirk, Khalil, and I went to dinner at a pub we found across the Liffey, the river that runs through the middle of Dublin. I’d heard about a pub and we went to look for it, but unfortunately it wasn’t where the map said it should be. What’s with that? It happened to me in Bratislava, too! Maybe the maps I have are seriously out of date. Anyway, we ended up at a pretty posh (in looks, not cost) pub and had dinner and beers. I am staunchly against drinking beer. I’ve tried it so many times and I’ve disliked it each time. The only cider I knew from this part of Europe was Strongbow, so I ordered that. The guys laughed at me, as did the waiter, and told me that that stuff sucks and there are far better ciders to drink. So the waiter brought me some Irish cider that was actually delicious. Bulmer, it’s called. Very good stuff. After dinner we went back to the hostel to figure out our evening plans. It turned out that some people who are regulars at the hostel for one reason or another, and some of the staff, were going out to this club called Dicey’s Garden later that night. Dicey’s Garden is the type of place where it’s so packed with people, it takes thirty minutes to move ten yards. I got so many drinks spilled on me that night simply because everyone was jostling everyone else. But it was really very fun.

The next morning we all woke up around 11am because we’d stayed out until around 3am. Matty, Dirk, and I had planned on going on the free walking tour of Dublin at 2pm, so around 1:45 we set out to the meeting spot. The day before, we’d talked with someone at the hostel about whether the tour was at 2pm or 1pm, and decided that it was at 2. We got to the meeting spot and waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. And no tour guide showed up. Then we looked at the tour pamphlet, which clearly stated that the tour started at 1pm. Major failure. Since we’d missed the tour, we ended up just walking around Dublin together to see the places we’d have ended up seeing on the tour anyway. But this one was way more fun because at one point we were going to pretend that Dirk was a foreign diplomat and that I was his secretary and Matty was his driver, all so we could get into Dublin Castle. We totally couldn’t pull it off, though, because we quickly found out that Dirk was really terrible at pretending to be a diplomat. 🙂

I’d told Matty and Dirk that since that night was my last night in Dublin, we should go out again and have a really good time. We got a group together (Matty, Dirk, Khalil, two French guys, and a girl from Canada, and me) and ended up back at Dicey’s Garden again and even though it was packed the night before, it was almost empty this night. We have no idea why. We had a lot of fun and then walked back to the hostel around 2am, and stayed up talking until 4am. The next morning I woke up super early after only four hours of sleep, got a bus to the airport, and then flew to England to meet up with my British friend Anna.

Whew! That was a long post.

Thanks very much for reading! Don’t forget to look at all of the pictures I’ve uploaded from my trip. Click here.

Travel journal ten.

April 22, 2013

On my second full day in Bratislava I met up with a girl who Doug and Patti know, Heather, from their time in Slovakia. Heather showed me around Bratislava and we went to the Blue Church, literally a church painted smurff-blue, and then we got coffee and cake at a coffee house on the Danube River. She told me all about what she does in Bratislava: she works with the youth group at an international Baptist church and has been for five years. We talked about life in Bratislava and what I want to do with my life, and she gave me a list of English-speaking schools in Slovakia that I need to look at and maybe apply to.

After hanging out with Heather until late afternoon, I went back to the hostel to figure out what I was going to do that night. I was sitting in the common room paying the guitar when I overheard two guys talking in English about the events in Boston. I asked what new developments there were and one of the guys, and Aussie named Matt, told me what he had read online. Matt and I got to talking and then went to get coffee at Axiom, where I’d gone the previous day, and ended up talking for about an hour about family and religion. It was such a great conversation and very deep and challenging for me. I always feel as if I’m not very convincing when people ask what actual proof I have of Christ, but I explain it the best I can in the knowledge that God uses every truth I say about him for good.

Matt invited me to go to a pub with him and some other people later that night so we parted ways back at the hostel with the intent to meet up later and walk over together. When we got to the pub the rest of the group was already there, so I met and began talking to a couple also from Australia. As the conversation progressed I found out that the couple, Chloe and her husband (also named Matt) were Christians, and that Matt is the worship leader at their church. It always makes me so happy when I meet Christians from other countries.

After the pub I went back to the hostel and Matt (not Chloe’s husband) and I hung out for a little while longer before we said goodnight.

The next day I wandered the city a little and got to experience a bit of the Bratislava For All festival that was going on. There were balloons, face painting, a stage for kids to perform on, and other musical performances. It was really fun! All of the museums were free this weekend but that made for huge lines and crowded galleries so I didn’t go to any of them. Thankfully I’d seen the places I’d wanted the day before and though I had to pay (maximum €2) I was the only one in most of the places I’d seen. Totally worth it.

That was Saturday. On Sunday I went to church with Heather and played guitar in their worship band. She’d asked me on Friday if that was something I’d like to do since I play the guitar, and I said that it would be fun if I could! The message that morning was about the prophet Habakkuk and how he asked the Lord why there was so much injustice in the world and pretty much asked God where he was with all these crazy things going on. God answers that he is there and that he sees what’s going on, but there is no way for us to understand all that God is doing in the midst of what we see. God says that he is doing things that are so unbelievable that we wouldn’t understand if he told us. Obviously a message pertinent to what’s going on in the world now.

After church Heather and her friends go to a place roughly translated as Crazy John’s, a very yummy Slovak diner-type restaurant. And oh my gosh was it delicious. All of the food was fried and I got some fried chicken and fries and Kofola, which is now my favorite drink besides Radler. Oh, right, I didn’t tell you about Radler. When I was at the pub I mentioned that I wasn’t going to get anything to drink because I hate beer. Chloe said that she does too, so instead she drinks Radler, a lemonade beer drink. Oh my gosh it’s delicious. Really and truly one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. They don’t have it in the states I don’t think, which is a crying shame.

So after Crazy John’s we went to get ice cream at “the best ice cream place in Bratislava,” I was told. It was pretty great, I have to admit, and the long line in front of the shop was proof that people think it’s worth waiting for. After ice cream we went our separate ways.

Back at the hostel I met another Aussie named Dominic, a Kiwi named Phillip, and a German named Robin. Ok so this German guy Robin looked like a 25-year-old model, just the type of guy you’d want representing your country abroad. Imagine my surprise when Dominic told me that Robin was only 19. They grow them well in Germany, that’s all I have to say. There was also an older man in the common room, I guess he was about 60, 65 maybe, and he was biking all the way to Japan. Apparently he’d already biked around the world twice and now he was on his third trip. On a bicycle. Amazing. I meet the most interesting people in hostels.

This morning I got coffee in the lobby before making my way to the airport and I found out that one of the guys who works at the hostel, Jakub, has friends on the University of South Carolina tennis team! Go figure! What a small world.

Thanks so much for reading! Don’t forget to look at some of my pictures; the link to my Flickr account is in the About Me section of my blog.

Travel journal nine.

April 18, 2013

Yesterday I got to Bratislava, Slovakia, all by my lonesome. It’s not so bad though, it’s actually kind of fun!

I got to my hostel in the afternoon and decided that I’d spend the rest of the day relaxing. I went to the grocery store and bought bread, cheese, and a nutella knockoff for dinner, then I came back and did laundry, took a nap, and read. There’s a community guitar at the hostel, so I’ve been using that a little. At night I got to talk with my mom and then my Nana and Pop, and then I figured out what things I wanted to see the next day.

Today I met up with a woman named Eva who’s on staff with Cru here in Bratislava. She showed me around and helped me get my bearings in the city, which isn’t too confusing or large, and told me about her ministry here. It was so fun to hang out with her, and it’s been amazing that I’ve been able to meet with Cru staff in almost every county I’ve visited! Eva even took me to this amazing chocolate shop and we got hot chocolate. But really, let me tell you, it was the best thing I’ve ever had. It was like someone melted chocolate and put it in a cup in front of me. We had to eat it with a spoon. It was chocolate soup. SO GOOOOOOOOOD.

After Eva left to pick up her son from school I went to a place called Slovak Pub for lunch. This place boasts traditional Slovak food, so I got sheep cheese pirogy with dill and bacon, with a mug of Kofola, a Slovak cola drink. Yum. After that I went to Michael Gate, the only remaining city gate of old Bratislava, and went to the top to take pictures of the city. Michael Gate is the tallest building in Bratislava, if I’m remembering that correctly. It was beautiful up that high. After that I had to come back to the hostel to rest for a minute, and I also got a good cafe reference from the girl working at the reception desk. Before I did anything else I went to the cafe, called Axiom, for cappuccino and to start my most recent Tolkien acquisition: The Unfinished Tales.
Then I walked to the president’s house and took pictures of that mansion, and then I walked to the castle.

I think I took a really roundabout way up to the castle because it took me a lot longer than I thought it would, but I finally got there. The building itself is not much to look at on the outside, but inside is breathtaking. I was the only person in the castle besides the people who watch to make sure we don’t touch anything, so it was a very solitary experience; I could envision it being my home, as if I were a Hapsburg princess spending my summer there. It was surreal. Most of the castle is now a gallery, so because of all the pictures it took me a good hour to get through the whole place. One of my favorites was a tapestry of the story of Esther: it had I think eight panels and each told a specific point of the story. It was really neat. Another one I liked was the picture of Maria Teresa, Austrian queen. Or any of the portraits, really. These people were alive once, they walked these halls and lived in this palace. It made me want to really know who they were, but obviously I can’t truly know them because they’re dead.

After that I was starting to get hungry and my feet were really starting to hurt so I walked to a cafe that’s on the map of Bratislava the hostel gave me. Unfortunately, after three passes along the street where the cafe is supposed to be, I gave up. Obviously it’s not there anymore. So instead I went to a different cafe, a French bistro called St. Germains, and got grilled brie covered in raspberry sauce with toasted bread and salad. Oh, and lavender lemonade. Uh, yum! For dessert I got some ice cream from a place down the road.

Now I’m back at the hostel chillin out, maxin, relaxin all cool… yep. But as I was writing this I noticed a guy skyping someone. Totally normal, right? Except he was signing, as in sign language. Very cool. Oh, and one of the guys from my room came down to the sitting room and told me that our room smells super bad for some reason. Great. Looking forward to sleeping in that. Yikes.

Thanks for following and reading!

Travel journal eight.

April 17, 2013

Brianna and Christine and I got off the train in Prague and walked to our hostel. It was only three blocks from the train station, but with our heavy backpacks and the insanely long blocks of Prague, the walk felt very long. Very very long. That evening we walked around the old town with nothing really planned, but we stopped at the clock in the town square and watched it chime in the hour. It does a cute little thing with the statutes in the tower every hour. I videoed it so I’ll have to post it when I get back to the states so you can see what I’m talking about. Then we walked across the Charles Bridge and looked around a bit, then got dinner at a Viennese/Czech restaurant. I was going to try a very traditional Czech dish consisting of some animal’s heart and tongue and liver I think, but I decided against it. I’m not that brave. Instead I got goulash with a bread dumpling. That night Brianna and I met up with Joaquim at a beer garden for a little while and chatted about our experiences in Prague thus far.

The next day Brianna, Christine, and I woke up later than we meant to, around 10ish, and went to a place called Bohemia Bagel for breakfast. This place is essentially an American bagel place in the heart of Prague, and it is delicious…just the taste of America I needed after almost two weeks of traveling.

At this point I’m realizing that I only have this last day in Europe until I’m supposed to fly home, but I’m trying to figure out a way to extend my stay.

After breakfast we went to the Prague castle and walked around. We saw the cathedral and the small, very old street next to the cathedral, called Golden Street, or something like that, and the dungeon where people were tortured back in the day. Then Christine left to meet up with a sorority sister who was also in Prague, and Brianna and I went to the John Lennon wall. It’s a huge wall of graffiti that I think John Lennon started, but now anyone can paint there legally. It’s amazing. After we saw that, Brianna and I stopped and got some souvenirs and went back to the hostel.

That afternoon I met with a woman on staff with Cru in Prague, Cindy, and she took me to the English class she teaches for Czech/Slovak university students. It was really a neat experience. She told me all about the ministry in Prague and I got to talk with one of her students, Miša (Americanized, we’d write Misha, but the little thing over the s makes it sound like “sh.”) about her life in Czech Republic and her family and everything. After English class Cindy and her husband Jim and the other Cru staff host something called Mississippi Mud, an English club. There’s coffee and tea and snacks and Jim presents some discussion questions and the Czech/Slovak students practice their English. At the end there’s a small gospel presentation, and we talk about that for a little bit. It was really a cool thing and the students are so nice. I mean, besides the language, Czech and Slovak students are pretty much the same as American students. Miša and I had been talking earlier about what Czech students like to do versus what American students like to do, and there was virtually no difference.

After Mississippi Mud Jim invited me to the English class party he and Cindy were having for their students the following night, and I told him I’d try to go.

When I got back to the hostel I talked with my mom a little and decided to extend my stay in Europe for another two weeks. I decided to travel to Bratislava, Slovakia; Dublin, Ireland; and Isle of Wight, England, to visit a friend from USC. So that was that. I made all the necessary travel arrangements: flights, hostels; but I had to change my flight back to the states. THAT was a nightmare. I made my initial reservation through Orbitz, so I called them. They said that since my flights were through Lufthansa that I had to call them. I got the number from the Lufthansa website, but the number was wrong, so I called a different number they had listed for baggage claim or something like that. I told the guy who answered what I needed and he said that they’d been having trouble with that number and gave me the new one. Come on, Lufthansa, get on that. So I called and the woman I talked with said that although the ticket head was from Lufthansa and my flights to Europe were Lufthansa, the flights back were United and she couldn’t change it so I had to call United. I did. The woman at United said that she couldn’t change my flight because though my flights were United, the ticket head was Lufthansa so I had to call them. I told her that I just did and they sent me to United. She told me to call back and to ask to speak to a supervisor if the person couldn’t help me. So I called Lufthansa again and the woman who answered said she could not change the ticket. I said calmly yet authoritatively that if she couldn’t help me then I’d need to speak to her supervisor because I need to change my ticket. She placed me on hold saying that she’d double check something. It ended up that she could change my ticket (duh) and it all worked out.

The next day I went with Brianna to Kutná Hora, a town about an hour by train from Prague, to see the famous bone church. This church was built centuries ago and the legend is that a priest buried some saint at the church and from then on everyone wanted to be buried there. They ran out of room and started just hanging people’s bones in the church. Yeah, that makes total sense. So now the church is decorated with bones. I took a video but I won’t be able to upload it until I get to the states, unfortunately. After the bone church we visited another church nearby, and this one was much more normal and very pretty.

That night I went to Jim and Cindy’s home for the English party and we introduced the Czech/Slovak students to hamburgers. If was so fun watching them react to eating it because after putting the burger, lettuce, onion, and tomato on the bun, it seems too tall to fit in your mouth. I mentioned that they had to smoosh it down, which was a new term to them, but that’s how you have to eat a burger. It was really funny. I got to know a lot of the students and talked with them about where they’re from, what their families are like, and what they do for fun. I talked with a guy named Michel about what he thinks of EveryStudent, the name for Cru in Czech Republic, and he said he doesn’t really believe what we believe, but he respects it. I had a very long and interesting conversation with him about what he believes and what I believe, and he finally asked me what my motivation is for telling people about my faith. I told him that it makes me sad that people don’t know that there is a God who, even though he controls the entire universe and makes everything with together, he loves us no matter what. He loves me like a father loves his child, like a friend loves his friend, and so much more, and no matter what I do, he’ll always love me. It makes me sad that people don’t know that there is someone who loves them like that.

After the party I spent the night at the STINTer’s apartment and got on a train to Bratislava the next morning.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to look at my Flickr page for pictures of my travels; the link is on my About Me page.