Saturday, November 22, 2008

Milan, Milan!

I have SO much to blog about my trip...but I don't know when I will get the chance!! For now, to give you a taste of the spirit of Milan, check out this link:

It is the city anthem of Milan. My supervisor's daughter, Julia, sings the "Milan, Milan" part any time she sees a Milan flag. SOOO cute! So, sit back and enjoy the way over dramaticness!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Italian Cafe to English Tea

Hi Everyone!

Just wanted to let you all know I got here safely! I left Milan at 7:30 this morning and flew to London. When I got there, I bought a train ticket to Erin's house. Unfortunately, I had to change trains 3 times! Airports I can do, but these train stations in the gorgeous English countryside are not tourist friendly at all. They have only 1 TV showing which platform for which departure. I had a hard time finding it! When I did find it, there was no mention of the place I needed to go for my next stop. I turned to an older lady next to me and said, "Excuse me, are you from around here by any chance?" She frankly replied, "Yes, but YOU'RE not." Haha. I proceeded to ask my question well knowing I was probably paining her ears by my NC accent. Based on the look on her face, I think she felt like I was raping her language! Anyway, not only do they give you very little departure information, but they also don't list all the places each train stops before it's final destination...and there were no maps anywhere. Thankfully, she pointed me in the right direction and I just made a habit of asking the security people for the other 2 stops. Because of the stops, it took me from 9:15 until almost 1:00 to get here. I was so tired on the train and couldn't help but dose even though I really wanted to see all the GORGEOUS countryside we were passing! The 2 days I have been in London (the first day when I flew in before getting to Milan and the second day being today) it has been sunny, fairly warm, and beautifully clear! Apparently, reality will hit this weekend though...

I was so wiped out from the stress of the trains and plane that I hit the bed when I got here. Erin and Caitlin were out so they had me let myself in and they said they would be there in a couple of hours. Apparently, I was so wiped that I didn't even hear them knock on the door trying to get in the house since she left me her only house key! I woke up and literally had no idea where I was for about 5 seconds!

Thanks for praying! Everything went well on the flight and it is really nice to meet Erin's family! I really miss Milan already though! So excited about going back!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Loving Milan!

I am LOVING Milan!! We have been SO busy since the moment I got here that I don't know where to begin!

My plane landed and I saw Taylor, Heidi and Jason waiting for me after I got through "customs" where I don't think he even looked at my passport! Quite different from Egypt! After lots of hugs and "I can't believe I am here!" squeals, we left to get some espresso! The way Italians do coffee is get little espresso cups and stand at these little tables where they chug it in about 5 minutes or less. And oh was it AMAZING! However, 5 minutes after I shot it down, my stomach was torn up! I had not eaten anything except for an apple since I left and didn't eat very much at all before I left because of the stress. Espresso was not the best thing on a completely empty stomach which greatly pained me for another 6 hours!

We raced back to the house and got to meet Allyson and the kids! The whole family is wonderful! We ate dinner and then left to go to a concert, which was fun! I loved being around the Italian language and was surprisingly not overwhelmed at all. I felt really comfortable and understood probably quite a bit of the content of the songs because they had the words on the screen so I could read it. (I think I am finally getting my c's and ch's right, Mael!) I met a lot of their friends there and a few of them were able to speak English. After the concert, we went to meet Nicola who is an Italian soccer player and also a really committed Christian who Jason knows well. Jason was telling me some of the about-face changes he made now that he is a Christian and how fast he is growing. So, even though I really don't know "who" he is, it was still nice to met him.

We came back to the house around 1:30 after piling 7 of us in a 4 seater car! Taylor, Heidi, Jason, and I stayed up until 4:00 talking together and then us girls stayed up an extra 30 minutes or so while they told me some of their crazy life experiences. We were up and out the next morning to take T & H to the metro and then the rest of us to Church. Church was really nice and the structure was very similar to Messiah. I was so overjoyed to have understood probably 25% of what was spoken, and at least 50% of what was written down in songs or the sermon outline. I was worried this trip would make me overwhelmed with language but it has done just the opposite!

After lunch, Jason, Jake and I raced off to buy tickets for the AC Milan game. They literally live right across the street from the stadium! Boy was it crazy trying to get tickets though! Italians have NO concept of "lines" whatsoever. The game was so much fun! I took lots of pictures!

So, that's what has been going on! I really love the people I met and the city. Tomorrow, Allyson and I are meeting another girl to explore the downtown area and then Jason and I leave for the Atleti Di Cristo meeting. I also am hoping to meet Mael's parents at some point too. Time is flying! I hate thought of going back to finals and FPO before I can come back! I am so grateful God blessed me with this opportunity

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And...we're NOT off!!

What a night...

I arrived at the airport way early and immediately noticed the lack of lines! When I checked in, the lady said my flight had over 100 empty seats! She gave me an entire middle section and said I could just stretch out on it and get a good night's rest. YES!

I went through security and got to my gate. My dad called so I was talking to him while waiting for 1.5 hours to pass. I decided to stand up and walk around so I gathered my stuff, which included a backpack of bricks, a coat, and my travel wallet containing all my documents and information. I had the jacket and wallet in my arms while I was walking up and down talking. I realized I left my headphones so I wandered around to find some cheap ones. I found a pair and walked up to the cash register when I realized my wallet was gone. Completely gone. I panicked and raced back to every place I had been with no success. I went to the security check point and they had an officer walk with me to every gate, restaurant, etc for over an hour. Nothing. Intercom messages galore. Nothing.

I went up to an Hispanic janitor who was washing the floors and asked him with a mix of sign language, some spanish vocab, and carefully pronounced english if he had seem my wallet. He said no but had the sweetest look on his face and promised he would talk to all the other janitors and tell them to start looking through all the trash. He was SO sweet! He acted like it meant a lot to him for me to stop and seriously solicit his help. I need to make more of an effort in the future to seek these people out. God really used that to convict me. Its so easy to unintentionally overlook the people who are cleaning the floor when you are racing here and there.

I watched the plane fly away with a mix of worried-sick and heart-broken emotions. I was so utterly shocked by what just happened. My feet ached like crazy after running up and town the terminal at least 10 times. God really blessed me by really kind people, though. The man who was about to ring up the headphones came out and helped us look for almost an hour and then later came back to check on me. (maybe he just wanted a break from work...though he was acting more like he wanted my number:) All the security officers were searching and coming up to me asking if I had any luck. Another lady waiting for a flight heard me tell the American Airlines people what happened and came up to ask me questions. She said she is a cop and was going to make a sweep of the bathrooms really fast. She didn't find anything, but it was really sweet of her to do that. Oh yea, and another lady saw me peaking at the trash in the bathroom and asked if I was the one she had heard about over the intercom who lost a wallet. I said yes and she started digging...yes digging...which was more than I was doing...through the trash. I couldn't believe it! Then, right as I was leaving the airport, I found another janitor and asked if he had seen anything. In his broken english, he said, "No, but the other guy told us about it and we are all looking for you...really hard." I could have cried.

I got my bag and met my brother in the baggage claim who lifted the 100 lb backpack off my exhausted shoulders. My dad was waiting for us in the car outside. When I got in, I burst into tears. Everything was gone. I didn't even have a driver's license or a debit card!

The rest of the night was a big exercise in taking all my worried thoughts captive for Christ. I had no idea what would happen. BEST case scenario, they would call me in the morning saying someone turned it in. WORST case scenario, and most likely, I would be out 1000.00, my dream vacation I had been planing for over 6 months, and I would spend the next two months tracking down a passport, drivers license, etc. But, I KNOW God is a God who overcomes insurmountable obstacles much bigger than this one. He obviously did not want me on that plane for whatever reason. I have seen God work in amazing ways in my life. I have seen him completely drop things in my lap and I have seen him take them away. I had to trust that if he wants to bless me with this trip he will...and it is just that: a blessing.

I went to bed and was woken up by my dad yelling, "Amber, Amber!" He ran up and basically tackled me while innocently sleeping in my bed. He was so excited that he was shaking. "They found your wallet!!!" Your mom is talking to them on the phone downstairs right now!" He was crying! I jumped up and ran downstairs while trying to unpeel my contacts from my eyeballs and make sure I wasn't dreaming. The lady on the phone said one of the employees turned the wallet in just a few minutes ago. Everything is there minus the cash. I don't think I have ever been so relieved and thrilled! She rebooked my ticket to leave on the same flight the next day. I had to just buy another ticket from London to Milan so that put me out a couple hundred dollars. But, if I had lost everything, it would have cost me a lot of time and money to get everything re-issued.

What a great way to start off a trip! I am officially going to be the most paranoid person about wallets from now on! And I am never talking on a cell phone in an airport again. I think the combination was just bad though I still can't figure out when it happened!

All this has served as a reminder that this trip is from the Lord and HE has plans for it...not me. I know He is going to do great things and I am really looking forward to seeing them!

But, man do I hope I can still get those great seats on the flight tomorrow!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Conference Day 3

Whew! I have just a few minutes before another meeting but I wanted to share a really neat experience God used to confirm (yet again) where he has me! I am using this blog as a journal so I can remember everything that happened so just bear with me!

Since I already had my name on the Milan job, I haven't really been looking at specific jobs very much. I looked at a few just to be "open" but nothing came even close to peaking my interest. However, I have had a heart for the Middle East for a while and it does keep coming back up in my mind. However, I know God could have me there at a later time (or not at all). I found out last night that I still have to choose a second or third choice to turn in even though I have my name on the job. Sometimes things happen and I get placed somewhere else. So, I figured I probably should start researching some of these jobs just in case. I went to the NAME region table and had a great conversation with the lady there. I looked at a job in Morocco that initially caught my attention, but after reading it I realized it was not at all what I felt lead toward. Almost everything about it didn't fit for me. The lady then asked me about my background, interests and passions to see if maybe there was another suitable job somewhere else. After telling her, she smiled and said, "This is very rare, but you really seem like a perfect Western Europe." We had a great conversation about opportunities to reach out to "cousins" in Milan and the possibility that God could have me in NAME at a different time. I walked away feeling yet another amazing sense of confirmation. I mean, these region people are recruiters! They want you to come to their region. For her to tell me that Western Europe was an amazing fit for me and that she felt God had really prepared me for that region was amazing!

So, much to my parents great pleasure, :) it looks like God does not have me there! I still love the culture, have a heart for the people, and want to visit whenever I can! I do have to choose a second and third choice, however. I think my second choice will be a job in Slovakia doing something very similar to Milan. The third choice will probably be either Belgium or Poland. (leaning more toward Belgium probably) Again, these a just options for the event of something unusual happening. (like Jason getting hit in the head by a soccer ball and having to come back to the states :) But, I know God works in strange ways so I have to constantly stay open to his guidance!

Gotta run to another meeting! I'm totally not reading over this to check for type-os but that's okay. Thanks for the continued prayers!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Conference! Days 1 & 2

Wow! It is so hard to believe I am at conference right now! Time really flew by! (I understand I just ended that sentence with a preposition...and as much as it pains me it is what I needed to adequately express myself, Talyor...)

When I was driving up, it was pouring down rain. I really just knew I would get hit by a car driving there and that would be the end of it. On top of that, this past month has been one difficulty after another...culmitating with a snow balling effect of challenges this past week. Some big, some small. (like my computer cracking and loosing my cell phone!) On top of that, I have had to research and write a 20 page paper on Comparative Religious Ethics and finish position papers on alcohol consumption, HIV/AIDS, torture in an age of terrorism, and global warming for my ethics class before leaving. (I'm still working on AIDS now and actually stole some info from the South Africa presentation today! Yes!!:) All that to say, when I got here, I felt like I was the walking dead.

Upon arriving at the commune, I met several really sweet girls that I have been "pal-ing" around with. (another sentence with a preposition...) We have instantly clicked and I know we will really enjoy having each other when we have to live here for 2 months!

We had a bunch of orientation stuff last night and they unleashed people on the job books. I have been amazed at how many people come here 1) without knowing if they FOR SURE want to go overseas, and 2) have NO IDEA where they would want to go! Having to make that decision in less than 4 days would be so hard for me! I would be so overwhelmed - as most of them are! Having my name on a job already has freed me to serve them while they are looking for theirs. I love "figuring out" people, so sititng down with a pen and paper and assessing their strengths/weaknesses, where they feel lead, etc is really fun for me! So, I have just tried to help them talk through everything as they narrow down the possible jobs.

I knew I needed to be "open" to the possibility that God could have another job for me in mind. I did look through the job lists and listened to all the regional presentations. I will not lie, the NAME (North America and Middle East) region really does appeal to me and I did look at a job there. It was a good job and I probably would have enjoyed it...but it wasn't the perfect fit for me right now at least.

I then got to talk to my supervisor, Jason, on the phone. Talking to him really reminded me how perfect this job is for me and God clearly I see God's hand in it. I really feel so blessed!

Another blessing I now more clearly understand is God's had in having me visit my friends in Egypt, Indonesia, and Thailand. I got a very clear understanding of what "life" is like doing this type of work. I saw their joys and sorrows. While I was seeing the reality, I also knew God was leading me to that life. It was a very emotional time when God gave me a clear picture of what he was asking me to do. Coming here, I see people who have been on a few school trips here and there but know they have no idea of the type of rude awakening ahead of them. I don't by ANY MEANS know everything or have it all together, but I am thankful that I am "scared" enough to have an idea of what to expect. God has blessed me by showing me even on a small scale what he is asking of me.

Gotta go to a small group meeting. Thank you all for praying for me! Tomorrow is going to be the hardest day because I have all the big interviews then. Please pray for peace and clarity of thought.