Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Same clothes, different day

An embarrassing amount of times along this trip people have asked me why I don’t care about what I look like. This is probably because my clothing of choice is a tshirt, jeans, chuck taylors and always the same purple Patagonia sweatshirt. By this point, I have a pretty limited wardrobe. I began the trip with 2 huge suitcases, but in Venice I had to ditch half of my clothes and 1 suitcase so now I’m only down to one. That doesn’t give me a lot of variety and, as Randi Jones pointed out, in most of my pictures I’m in the same pink shirt. Mind you, I’m living on the same street as Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton; in the very richest part of Naples. But the truth is, I do care about what I look like, I just don’t care about what my clothes look like! My clothes don’t define me. Sure, its appropriate to look presentable and clean but I think its more important to smile, have a warm personality and look inviting than to have on fancy clothes that are tight and expensive. Even when I go out with my host family for dinner or on an outing and its necessary for me to dress-up a little, as soon as I get home I change back into my normal comfy clothes to go explore the city. I draw enough attention to myself by speaking English, skipping down the street, shamelessly taking selfies or pictures of random strangers so I don’t need to turn any more heads. I’m just doing the men of this world a favor and guarding hearts.

Also, clothes should be functional. I want my days to be filled with adventure. Stilettos and designer clothes are not made for adventures, unfortunately. How can you be the hands and feet of Jesus if you aren’t ready for action? 

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. - 1 Timothy 2:9-10

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter in Sorrento

Andiamo has become my favorite phrase in Italian because its always the start of a new adventure.

Generally, I like to have some kind of plan, not a set schedule just a vague idea of what the future holds. I haven’t had a day-to-day plan much less a long term plan since the day I left the states. My host family and Italians in general don’t like to plan, so I never really know whats going on until a moment before it happens. Usually it happens like this--
Marta: “Sammie, are you ready?”
Me: “For what?”
Marta: “We are going out, do you want to come?”
Me: “Sure.”
I never have any idea where we are going, what we will be doing or how long we will be there. This weekend was no different, we went to Sorrento for a long weekend and luckily I was notified just in time to pack my bags.

We left Naples on Friday evening and got about 5 minutes from home when something crashed into the window. Marco’s bike that was strapped to the top of the car fell off and almost broke the window before scratching down the rest of the car. This happened at a busy intersection by the sea, but in true Italian fashion, we made the road ours and just waited right in the middle for Marco to repair the bike, ride it home and walk back to us. No problem, the cars can go around us.
Once we got going, it was a beautiful drive past Vesuvius on the coast, through long tunnels and on steep cliffs to a small town where we had dinner at a friends house and watched a religious procession through the streets that recounted the years of Jesus’ life leading to the cross. Everyone was cloaked in black and hooded (kinda like the KKK) and the crowd was silent while we watched from the balcony.
I spent the next few hours playing in the garden with the kids, talking to the few people that knew a little English and eating way too much. It was midnight when the kids were drifting to sleep and the adults finally decided to leave.

Sorrento is famous for their lemons and you can clearly see why
I’ve been able to meet many of my host family’s friends here in Naples and this weekend we spent the weekend with Barbara and Alberto and their two girls Carla and Mary Jo. We stayed at their summer home in Sorrento. The house was one of the coolest I’ve ever seen; the house was in sections all connected to a beautiful patio that overlooked the ocean. So from my bedroom I would go outside and up some stairs and turn left to get to the balcony and the kitchen or go right to get to the living room and other guest rooms. I love mazes and hidden nooks so this house was like my dream, not to mention its in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Naturally, I got to sleep in the tower because I’m a Principessa! Once again, I didn’t know what the plan was for the next day so I got up, took a shower and got dressed before going to have breakfast. Everyone else was still asleep. I’ve quickly learned that the American definition of morning is much different than the Italian. Italians don’t use the phrase “afternoon” so when they make plans to meet in the morning it could mean anytime between 11am and 4pm. So after the typical Italian breakfast of cookies and milk we all went into the center of Sorrento and walked around the maze of streets and ate lunch. We spent the evening back at the house where I learned how to play chess and got beat by all of the kids several times.

To the left: Bay of Naples and coast of Sorrento, to the right: coast of Amalfi, and behind me: Capri
The view from our balcony, below are lemon and orange trees

The next day, Easter, I got to wake up to the most beautiful sunrise and sit on the balcony reading Moral Revolution and soaking in the truths of my Savior. After breakfast we went on a hike to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. From the top of the mountain you could see Capri, the entire bay of Naples, the coast of Sorrento and the Amalfi coast. There have been several times along this journey that I have been stopped in the tracks by the beauty before me, especially in Rome. The Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and ancient ruins were incredible but this time was different. I literally had to catch my breath, but not because I’m out of shape but because the beauty before me was purely the work of the one who set the world in motion, rose from the grave, created me and took the time to plan this incredible adventure for me.
Me with all of the kids: Carla, Mary Jo, Marta and Bebbo

My host dad, Marco, is the sweetest because he makes sure that I never miss a photo opportunity with the kids. He always offers to take pictures of us from several angles. After chasing lizards and picking lots of flowers with the girls, we went to another part of Sorrento for another long hike. By the time we returned home for lunch, it was about 2pm and the house was filled with more friends to share lunch with. We had aperitivos, two kinds of pasta, specialty meats, 2 huge chocolate eggs bigger than my head and a typical Neapolitan Easter pie pastiera. Then, after more chess, we all went on a walk through town down to the coast where the adults sat at a café and talked with everyone in town while the kids and I played in the sand and climbed on the rocks along the shore. One of the coolest things about living with an Italian family is that you are immersed into the culture in a way that you couldn’t if you were only traveling. I go everywhere with them and get to see “behind the scenes” Italy. I get to see what its like to live like a true Italian; I get to hear all the gossip, learn their customs and become part of their family.

On Monday, we ate breakfast and packed our bags to go back to Naples but first we stopped by the beach to spend a few hours enjoying the last bit of the weekend and soaking up the sun.

I’m starting to get sad about leaving my Italian family and this beautiful country. I can’t believe I’ve been here for 4 months and not at all where I planned to be when I began. It would have been so easy to call it quits and go home during the hard times in Venice, but I’m incredibly thankful that The Lord had a different plan for me. I’m learning that I’m always safe because God always has me in the palm of His hand. If you can learn to trust that, be brave and go beyond your comfort zone then something incredible is waiting for you. I promise. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dreaming Rome

Here’s an update of my weekend with Randi and our trip to Rome! I’m really behind on blogging because this was March 13th- 17th but I’ll try to write about my time in Germany soon.
Randi came to Naples! So great to see a familiar face!
Randi, my au pair friend from Kentucky and traveling soul mate, came down to Naples to visit me! After a loud and obnoxious reunion at the train station I got to show her around Naples and take her to my favorite places. She was having knee problems and I know all too well how that goes so I was happy to be her human crutch the whole weekend. After she arrived and met my host family we went out to explore the area around my house, get graffes, pizza at my favorite restaurant and then dessert at an American café. We also went shoe shopping which resulted in no purchased shoes even though I managed to break a pair of shoes I tried on…oops.

Our crazy boat guide sporting a USA hat!

The next day we got up early and caught a hydrofoil to Capri, one of the islands off the coast of Naples. My host family actually has a summer home in Capri! First, we took the most thrilling bus ride along the cliffs to visit the Grotta Azzurra or the Blue Grotto. It was only worth it because of our hilarious guide, shamelessly flirting with the American girls in hopes to get a good tip. The water was beautiful but the boat ride was short and its way too hyped up as a tourist attraction. A million laughs later we grabbed a pizza and walked around downtown Capri. There weren’t many people on the island because it’s the off season which was nice. We took the ferry back and, in my opinion, it was way better than the faster hydrofoil because 1-its cheaper, 2-its so huge it carries cars too, 3-all the locals take it, and 4- you can walk out on the back of the boat. After we reached the port in Naples, we hopped on a city to bus to go to a castle along the coast, and this is where it gets interesting... but you’ll have to read the next blog post to find out why. After a quick visit to Castle Nuovo, we stopped by my favorite gelato shop and Randi got to meet my friends Serena and Tony.

View of Capri from the cliffs on our bus ride

On Saturday, we took an early train to Rome and had nothing short of an amazing time! Theres just way too much to write about and I’m not sure I can even put it into words so I’ll just give you a quick overview of what we did:

Inside the Colosseum, obviously. 
  •  Stayed at the coolest hostel on the planet with strangers that became family in a matter of hours
  • Went inside the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatino
  • Got caught in the middle of a Syrian manifestation march
  • Piazza Venezia- Monument to Victorrio Emanuel II and the tomb of the unknown soldier, balcony where Musilini gave several of his speeches
  • Saw Papa Francesco again
  • Ate the best pizza and gelato, of course
  • Fabio, owner of our hostel, gave us free pizza at our hostel
  • Went out to the Drunken Ship with everyone from the hostel
  • Got roses and polaroid pictures from Bangladesh immigrants
  • Fabio drove us around Rome to the secret keyhole, the optical allusion road, and the highest point in Rome
  • Got pulled over by the Guardia de Finanzia, aka the police, in Fabios car
  • Visited Basilica of St. John Lateran in San Giovanni, the most ancient church in the world and more important than the Vatican
  • Got lost in Trastevere, a really cool district in Rome
Hundreds of people in the square to see the Pope

We met a few more friends that night!
Our hostel was pretty freakin awesome- Dreaming Rome Hostel

My weekend in Rome was incredible. Even though I had already stayed in Rome for 10 days before moving to Naples, this was the weekend I really fell in love with the city thanks to Fabio and his hospitality and, of course, my partner in crime Randi! 

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”- Jawaharial Nehru