We have our typical birthday celebrations--we go out to dinner, we have a cake, some party of sorts. But is this really the best way to celebrate birthdays? Why do we do it this way? Since I don't really have any of that, and since I'm not around all my friends I'm asking myself, "what is the best way to celebrate the day of my birth?" So then what is a birthday anyway? The celebration of the day of my birth. So maybe it's cool to be away from everything to celebrate it. Because birth is that entry into something completely new, something unfamiliar. It's not fun or comforting, but it's worth it. I don't think any of our actual birth days were all that enjoyable, but it signaled the start of something. And now we celebrate all that has come since that day, and all that we have gained. That's a good way to celebrate I think--reflect on all that you have gained since the day of your birth.
It's also just the celebration of the passing of a certain amount of time. It's just a marker really. A sign. It doesn't really point to anything ahead, but more of what has already been. We don't say, I'm beginning my 24th year, but rather, I am 23 years old. As the numbers get bigger and bigger, perhaps we begin to ask ourselves what we've done with all these years. Maybe that's the other good way to celebrate, think about all that you've been able to do in your years.
All you've gained and all you've done. One passive and the other active. I think those are some good things to think about on your birthday, and maybe some good things to tell others on their birthday. I'm not trying to fish for anything here, but maybe I'll try and do that on others' birthdays--tell them what I've seen them gain and what I've seen them do that's incredible. I think that's better than cake. It's certainly better than getting trashed. And just maybe it's better than presence.
That being said, I'm off to the pub to enjoy a European beer on my birthday.
That being said, I have a few pictures today of my campus. Hopefully more will follow.
Unfortunately the mountains in the background are washed out because I took the picture in the morning--but I didn't want to be that guy, you know? that guy that takes pictures on campus. Have you ever seen anyone take pictures of their campus? I'm just kidding. I actually don't care. This is a little different in terms of campuses, as you can see.
Today was my first day of classes. I've stacked them all on tuesday and thursday so I have the opportunity to travel more. It makes for a long day of classes, but it's well worth it. I think I will like my classes, and they shouldn't be too hard. Here's what I'm taking in case you didn't know: Northern European Art, Russian Literature, Mass Communication of Politics and Society, and Fiction Writing. Art will be very interesting, learning how to study a painting closely--we're focusing on dutch paintings. I'm most excited about Russian Literature because that's my cup of tea. Mass Com will actually be really interesting, good discussion--heavy emphasis on the idea of public opinion and politics. And fiction writing will be good to keep me writing.
I also wanted you all to know how small of a world this is. In the first place, my cousin's girlfriend is actually from Lugano. How wild is that? We met yesterday and she showed me around the city a bit. Her family is glad to have me in town and they are planning on having me over for dinner sometime. It's cool to have a connection like that even this far away. Secondly, the world is small because travel is cheap. Fall is the best time for flights over here, and I've heard of people finding tickets to Milan for under 400. Milan is only 1 hour away, and if any of you are getting the travel bug and can take some time...
I also wanted to clear the confusion about commenting on here, as I've heard some people mention it. You don't have to have a blog to comment. Just click the comment link and then select "other"--the second on the list. I would love to hear your comments and it's a fun quick way to say hello.
I believe that's all for today. I know I didn't quite come through on my claim for quality prose, but come back tomorrow. Because I'll have less to tell, and so I'll probably spend some time processing how I am feeling and how things are affecting me thus far. And for those of you with a good memory, perhaps you'll know why.
Those are just a few of the amazing landscape shots. Please do look at the rest--they're incredible.
I was walking across the bridge back from the crazy waterfall and I prayed to myself, "can I ever possibly reflect your beauty even half as much as all this does?" And then God brought to mind the words of C.S. Lewis (or maybe Chesterton) about how if we saw one another in our full glory we could not bear it. And he spoke, "but you do. and you are of greater glory than all of this beauty in creation." And that's a wild thought. Maybe we just appreciate beauty like this so much more because it is rare. Just as a diamond has more glory than crystal or somthing like that because it's rarer. We see people all the time, and they have become so commonplace that we completely miss the fact that we are staring at the greatest thing every made. I'll refrain from going into the philosophical implications.
And then I did my part to partake in this beautiful landscape:
The right is the view from above, and the left is me jumping. It was higher than it seems to look in the pictures. Oh well. The water was absolutely freezing, as I'm sure you have some idea from looking. I assure you it was colder than you think. But well worth it. The next challenge:
Do you all know what that is??? I know it's a bad picture, we were in the bus and weren't stopping for it. I'll give you a hint--that's in Interlaken. Any takers? Let me know if you got it right. But that's the dam from James Bond--GoldenEye that he bungee jumps off of! Sam, you went bungee jumping when you studying abroad, can I do it? If the funds and manhood are sufficient enough then it might happen. I did hear though that it's the farthest bungee drop in the world (the picture does not justice--it just keeps decending and getting more and more narrow). Go big or go home right? Oh man. I don't know. It might be crazy expensive and then I can hide behind that. That would be so cool though to be able to say that you've jumped off of that! I'd totally have to outstretch my arms like he does, that is if I could raise the as they are shaking violently. Honestly I don't think it will happen unfortunately, but it's fun to dream.
Ah, I almost forgot. I also picked up a few postcards today. Since I know that you all wrote down my address from the last post and are preparing your packages and letters, I figured I'd do something myself. However I don't have any addresses with me. So if you give them to me (comment or email), you might get a post card. Quickest responses get earliest rewards. And I assure you these post cards are pretty tight. And I guess I'll write on them a little some too.
Thus concludes another long yet "scratching the surface" post. I'll try to continue to learn how to focus and intensify. Or am I doing alright? Feedback? Suggestions?
I spent most of the day in two places: the Duormo and the Prada store. I was walking around looking at the ridiculous clothes, shoes, bags, and such just overwhelmed. Nothing had a price tag on it, and I don't think that I would have wanted to know. Some girls dragged me in there of course (why else would I be there?), and so while they were looking around I took a seat in a chair and started looking around. What is the purpose of a store like that? I admit I totally am not into and don't really understand fashion, but really. These purses sitting in front of me were well over several hundred dollars I'm sure, and the boots across the way were into 4 digits. How is it that we decided that we could excuse vanity by calling it fashion? Not all fashion is vanity, and I don't mean to knock it too bad if your into that sort of thing. I just really don't understand the why. I sat there pondering these thoughts and then I started looking around again. And I realized my group was gone. Can't a man have a minute to sit down and think! Not when there's shopping to be done. I rose from my chair and rushed back up the stairs.
The Duormo was something utterly different. All that had flustered me about losing my key and the loneliness of travel disappeared as I went into that church. It's very crazy how walking into a large cathedral can put some things into perspective. It was good to see people worshiping again. There was such a contrast between the tourists and those that were praying. I went in with only one other person, because her and I were the only ones wearing long enough shorts and closed toed shoes. As we passed by the confessionals, I remarked at how they were still operational. She said she would be terrified to go to confession now because her penance would be so much. She proclaimed herself an atheist, but was telling me about her limited experience in the catholic church as a child. I asked her how being in a church like that made her feel. I wondered what a place that brought to me awe and worship might feel to someone who has that kind of history with the church. Her answer really surprised me. She said that anything that leads people to the kind of devotion and faith that it takes to invest so much into creating something that beautiful must be worth at least looking into and not just dismissing. I thought that was so cool--God still working through old relics of cathedrals that seem to most to have value only in the tourist industry. It was a good conversation.
Well that's it for today. I wanted to give you all my address. You can send me packages and letters--that would be really awesome and I would definitely appreciate it. Anything you want to send me: pictures, american food (no perishables--especially you ben moore), money (haha), letters, or my favorite--succulent surprises!
via Ponte Tresa 29
oh and by the way, i'm a bit insulted at those of you hating on my score in the game. you don't think i could be at that number. shame on you all.
So this is the first real post of my travels and events here in Europe, and I'm not quite sure what to say--or rather what not to say. I will be writing about all that goes on here often, whether it be in my journal or here or emails. So I'm sure the focus of what I talk about on each will grow and shape up in time. For now, you'll get the goodies...whatever that means.
Coming abroad to Europe is a very interesting experience--leaving behind all that you've known except really just one thing. It's always a sobering and comforting feeling to realize that everything can change and leave and disappear, but God will always be present with you. In the one sense, I can see God in the beauty of all that is around here in nature. And in another sense I see God inside myself in how his Spirit dwells within me. But then everywhere else it is much more difficult here. I've yet to find another Christian, at least that I know of. But that's ok. The study abroad community that I'm a part of here is a good group of people, and I'm making friends with all of them. I'm excited to have this experience of living in a community of people that is vastly different from all that I've had before.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. How did I even get here? Boat, bus, train, taxi, scooter? all of the above...well not exactly. Sitting in the airport at JFK I had such a peace about the upcoming time abroad, and I know that is largely due to many of your prayers, so thank you. The flight was crazy cool. If you ever get to fly Swiss Air, do it! We got swiss chocolate and wine and hot towels. It was a lot like first class. The first class had lazy-boy type chairs with footrests and massages. Crazy. The bus trip down to Lugano from Zurich was 3 hours through the most beautiful Swiss mountains and lakes. The picture is one of the 3 buses we took (there were 90 of us on the flight--mostly freshmen), with some of the scenary behind. I should be able to have at least one picture on each post.
Since arriving in this amazing town (pictures to come), We've been involved in orientation stuff all week. It's a lot of stuff for freshmen, but there's also some stuff about living abroad and here in Switzerland which is helpful. It's basically the best orientation program I've ever heard of. Tomorrow they're taking some of us to Milan. I won a rock paper scissors tournament to get on the trip. They've made home cooked meals for us, taken us around the town, etc. It's a very cool set up.
I'm living in the top of the admissions building. Sounds kind of ghetto right? Well their dorms are at max capacity so they opened up these rooms this year for the first time. They're actually really nice though. The halls and stairways up to our 4th floor loft are all marble and ornately decorated. And our rooms (there's 5 of us up there, all study abroad) are like lodges. Wood floors, slanted wood ceilings with beams and skylights (pictures to come). And I'm in a double without a roommate. It's a great deal, except there's still a lot of things they have to do since it has never been lived in before. We didn't have electricity for a few days (showering in the dark!), we don't have any kitchen or refrigerator (all the other rooms do), we had no trash cans or hangers (did you know in Switzerland you have to use government issued trash bags?), and we don't have internet yet. On top of all that we had a crazy storm here last night with hail, and my room flooded through the skylight. Luckily nothing seems to be damaged--it just took away to switch out mattresses and mop up the water.
Things are really just still getting going, and now that I have internet on my computer (i have to go downstairs) I'll be able to post more often--they'll get shorter. But that's it for now! Ciao!
for those playing the game, current count: 3!
I once told someone that I love "eves." The night before something can be such a cool time. Christmas Eve is my favorite night of the year. This is an eve. Tomorrow is the beginning of something that I'll never forget. It's pretty unknown and therefore a little scary. The anxiety is there a little--and in the past couple of weeks it's been fluctuating between anxious dread and anxious excitement. When I really pray and think about it, there is so little to be dreadful of--but I will miss my friends and a lot of aspects of my life here.
There is so much to be excited about though. Adventure. Would it be adventurous if it wasn't a little scary? Well then I sure am glad that I'm feeling that fear. But oh how hope prevails so much more.