Sunday, December 25

Merry Christmas!

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
   Peace to all men and women on earth who please him

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!

Tuesday, December 13

Tuesday Night Tunes

N'Sync. Classic.

Relient K- I Celebrate the Day
Christmas at Hogwarts
Weezer- Christmas Celebration
Third Day- O Holy Night

Monday, December 5

Winter Is Upon Us....Finally

Today, down here in good ole' North Texas it finally felt like winter. If I'm correct I think the high was 42 Fahrenheit. That's a big deal for us Texans right now, because it has been hot forever. I'm happy to now experience actual winter weather. Hopefully, we don't have another 75 degree day on Christmas Day. It just makes the holidays feel strange.

It also cracks me up that we have about a three week autumn season. At last, the leaves are looking all bright and beautiful with deep oranges, shiny yellows, and dark reds. However, it won't be long till we just have naked trees.

As I was driving home in the yucky weather from teaching today, the bright leaves still stood out despite the gloominess and the rain. It reminded me of a story involving a tree.

On Sunday, I attended a bible study with a good friend and the good people of Grace Christian Church. The discussion involved the topic of change. During the study/discussion we focused on the story in Luke about Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-12).

It seems like a simple enough story. This little dude with a crazy awesome name and bad reputation climbs up a tree, simply so he can see Jesus over the crowd. Jesus sees Zaccheus. Jesus tells Zaccheus, "Hey let's grab some grub at your place". Zaccheus and Jesus go to Z's house together. Zaccheus is a changed man. The end.

After listening and adding to the discussion, here are some things I remembered from the study as I drove past the beautiful trees.

Zaccheus took great initiative to see Jesus. He climbed an entire tree. Most of the time that's not an easy task, plus people were probably put out by what he did. Chief tax collectors should not be climbing trees. Yet, Zaccheus seems to urgently want to see Jesus. Out of all people, we don't know why Zaccheus is so eager, but in the end  meeting Jesus changes Z's life around. Zaccheus eagerly put effort into climbing each branch in order to be changed. After he put in effort, after Zaccheus seeked Jesus; Jesus met his efforts and called Zaccheus down from the tree.

Zaccheus becomes a new man in Christ. New. Changed.... similar to the autumn leaves.

Anxiousness can overcome a person when climbing a tree. We just want to get to the top. I'm sure Zaccheus felt quite anxious as he climbed to see Jesus. His eager climbing and anxiousness was finally met by seeing Jesus and Jesus calling his name.

Similar to Zaccheus...
We strive. We wait. We seek. We prepare.
...Then Jesus arrives. He is born. 
We are changed.

This season, as many of you anxiously await the birth of Christ, strive to let Christ change you.

Sunday, December 4

Those Christmas lights
Light up the street
Down where the sea and city meet
May all your troubles soon be gone
Oh Christmas lights, keep shining on

I hope everyone can find some light during this holiday season. 

Wednesday, November 30

Thursday, November 17


Typically, I never ask for anything or want anything during ANY holiday, but man oh man, I would LOVE this CD for the Holiday season.

The only people who ever get anyplace interesting are the people who get lost.

Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, November 15

No, NBA?!?

Soooo it looks like America will not witness an NBA season this year. Boooooo! 

I'm upset because
1. I won't get to watch basketball games.
2. The multimillion dollar players are being super selfish.

As the player's union continues to demand for more money, the paychecks of the behind the scenes employees decrease. Think about how many people each arena employs. Think about the economy of the areas surrounding the arenas. Think about all the people effected by this greed. 

I realize many people do not care for the NBA. They argue the players all act like super stars and only play hard during playoffs. Well, in this instance of the players being greedy, I can see where NBA haters form those opinions. 

I truly love watching NBA games, but right now, I'm one annoyed and disappointed fan.

I love watching sports, but it's times like these that I have to question the values of professional sports organizations. 

On a good note: I guess this means the Dallas Mavericks= Two Year Reigning Champions!!!

I really enjoy this opinion article on the whole issue.

Sunday, November 6

Road Trips

As I sat in the backseat, on the way to and on the way back to San Antonio for a volleyball tournament this weekend, I became filled with joy sharing a road trip with new friends and old friends. There's something special about taking road trips with anyone. Whether you have know the other people or person for a long time or it's the first time you are traveling with the other passengers, road trips have the potential of bringing the best out in people. Everyone is forced to sit in a tiny space with not much to do for a length of time. Some people might hate road trips for this very reason, but I think there's something spiritual to them. I've found people open up, talk about deep things, talk about stupid things, and just try to make the best of the trip through conversation. Of course, creating the perfect playlist adds to this experience. (One time my best friend, Caroline, just put any song that mentioned the road or driving into a playlist. Quite, entertaining. haha).  I've gotten to know friends on a whole new level, laughed until having to pull over for a rest stop, seen new sights, listened to beautiful music, thought about random things while watching scenes fly by; all while simply sitting inside a car on a road trip. My favorite is hearing stories, telling jokes, and discussing life with the other people in the car. It's a moment where community is uninterrupted, except for the occasional rest stop.

Thursday, November 3

I wish North Texas had more of an Autumn...


Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman

If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.
Mohandas Gandhi
The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.
Ralph Marston 

Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All thing pass; God never changes. Patience attains All that it strives for. He who has God Finds he lacks nothing:God alone suffices.
 St. Teresa of Avila

Monday, October 31

I love Halloween!

Halloween. My favorite holiday of all time! No, not due to the fact my birthday and Halloween happen to happily share the same date, however, definitely a bonus, but because I love the community feel on Halloween. Everyone spends time walking around the neighborhood, interacting with friends and neighbors. Sadly, it's the one time people actually open the front door when a stranger knocks on the door. People seem more inclined to randomly start talking to someone when the someone is dressed as an Angry Bird or Niki Minaj, compared to when they pass the same stranger on an average day. I wish neighborhoods interacted on a regular basis similar to Halloween night, but definitely without the candy, because then we would create health issues. However, I wouldn't mind if precious children wore Yoda costumes and other costumes more often.

Q. What is a Mummie's favorite type of music? A. Wrap!!!!!
Q. Why do demons and ghouls hang out together? A. Because demons are a ghouls best friend!
Q. What's a monster's favorite bean? A. A human bean.


Monday, October 24

Spiritual Practice

This week my minister challenged us to listen to this song everyday and contemplate how we are  called to act/respond. I challenge you to do the same. 

Mercy by U2

I was drinking some wine... and it turned to blood
What's the use of religion... if you're any good
I know I'm weedkiller honey... and you're sugar
If you're the prosecution... I get away with murder
If you were ice... I'm water
And with your telescope... I can see further
We're binary code... a one and a zero
You wanted violins... and you got Nero
You're gravity... searching for the ground
You're silence... searching for a sound
Your heart is aching... your heart is my home
It's fascinating... I know I'll never be alone

I'm rippin' the stitches
You got two hands to rub
I'm in the ditches
Of someone else's love

Love is when I lie
Love puts the blue back in my eye
Love will come again
I'll be gone again... again

If you're hunger... baby let me feed it
If your heart is full... baby let me bleed it
And happiness is for... those who don't really need it
You love me... too much
You always loved me... too much

When I was rippin' the stitches
You got two fists to rub
I'm in the ditches
Of someone else's luck

Love is when I lie
Love puts the blue back in my eye
Love has come again
I am gone again

Love's got to be with a wink
Only then love gets a chance to speak
Love will come again
I'll be gone again... again

I... I can't escape myself
I hear you talk
Feeling nothing
I fear nothing

I can hear so much
Fear nothing
I feel so much
Fear... nothing

Love has come again
I am gone again
Love is the end of history
The enemy of misery
Love has come again
I am gone again

Love is justice, a charity
Love brings with it a clarity
Love has come again
I'm alive again

I am alive, baby I'm born again and again
And again, and again and again and again

Friday, October 7

Back in the U S of A

Yesterday afternoon, I said goodbye to the Netherlands and I am currently in New York City. I am definitely going to write about remembering beautiful Holland, but for now.... NEW YORK!

Almost immediately after meeting up my friend, Rachel Hagadone, my good friend who lives in NYC and with whom I am staying, we rode one of the classic New York subways. Even though I now consider myself a "professional" public transportation user, the subways here are CRAZY, especially compared to the quite luxurious trains/trams/metros in Europe. In Europe every form of transportation tends to stop and go in a fairly smooth manner, but, oh no, there is nothing smooth about a New York subway. Whenever I stood up yesterday, I would quickly grab the nearest pole for safety measures. The whole subway system is exactly like you see in movies and tv shows. Dark, little creepy, all different kinds of people; I love it.

By the way, I always fall in love all over again with the diversity of our country whenever I return. New York is definitely a diverse place and it fills me with joy walking around seeing people from all different backgrounds all living in the same area. Rachel told me it's one of her favorite things about New York- being around people who are different than her. :)

For my first meal back in America, Rachel and I grabbed Chick-Fil- A. (My friend Woody, who manages a Chick-Fil-A, will be proud) Also, I had a HUGE ice cold Dr. Pepper!! It was delicious, but then I discovered that my body no longer likes fast food. It made me feel gross. Maybe, I can just stop eating fast food altogether. Ya! This  Chik-Fil-A is the only one in the entire state and it is located in an NYU cafeteria. It felt interesting to be back around American students. I can't imagine going to college in New York. Wow!

After eating, we walked through Washington Square Park where people were doing the randomest things. There were about three different young acapella groups just randomly singing together. Then, there were two musicians playing together. One guy played the banjo while hitting a bass drum and tapping a tambourine tied to his foot  and the other guy played stand up bass. All this was happening around a beautiful fountain and the Empire State Building glowing red in the background. haha- I'm in New York.

We ended the night by walking through Times Square. Although, Times Square is simply a bunch of flashy advertisements, it's still overwhelming to experience. Naked cowboy was there along with a large crowd waiting to take their pictures with him. I can only think of how overwhelming this city must be for people who have never even been to a large city. It's a lot to take in.

I guess I'm happy to be back in the States, but I'm already discovering certain things already feel weird. It's weird to be around English all the time again. I can plug my electronics in without a converter. I can pay without converting prices in my head. I'm able to talk to people here on the phone. The food is different. I can watch TCU football again. It's the little things that I didn't even think would feel weird.


Sunday, October 2

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for the water brooks, 
so pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet God?

 ... These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.
 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.

 ...Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

 By day the LORD directs his love,
   at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.

Thursday, September 29

The Rest of Spain/ Beginning Adventures in Switzerland

Sooo... I need to stop blogging late at night. For one, I randomly add extra commas into my sentences and my grammar is poopy. Two, I don't include enough information because I'm tired.

Here's a summary of the rest of Espana:
1. I'm not the bragging type, but I consider myself pretty good at directions and finding my way; however, the streets in Sevilla are obnoxiously confusing. Also, the touristy map I used was missing about a thousand small streets. 

2. Malori & I went on an epic, yet extremely ridiculous adventure trying to find a place to watch flamenco dancing. We started off by following my crappy map to a place I had read about earlier in the day. Then, as we were standing on a street corner extremely concentrated on our maps, some random Spanish guys helped us with directions. However, instead of showing  us the nearby flamenco place we were already heading to, the guy told us that place was bad and drew dots on the map to where we should actually go to watch flamenco. Thus, ensued the ridiculous adventure. The flamenco place was about as hard as getting to something that is extremely hard to find. haha. Great simile- I know. After an hour and a half of walking around, we finally found the bar. It was a gem of a place. It looked like a total hole-in-the-wall type of venue. The walls sporadically had beautiful pictures of flamenco dancers and the place even had a really neat outdoor area. It was worth it! But... we decided to leave to get cheaper tapas before the flamenco show started. We found yummy tapas, but then we searched for the place for an hour yet again. I swear the bar moved or something. The only way we found it again was being guided by a British man on vacation with a fancy map. Then, once he lead us in the right direction he stopped and gave a10 minute "insightful" outlook on Spain. Basically, he told us to go to Barcelona and Madrid. haha. We were grateful for James, though.

3. The last full day I spent going to the Palace Alcazar, a beautiful historic palace with elaborate Isalmic decorated walls and  gorgeous gardens.

4. At night, I went on a "Tapas Tour" with people from all the hostels in the city. We traveled to different restaurants in the city trying the different tapas the different places serve. I met a guy from Austin, TX, two girls from DC, a Brit, an Italian couple, and a French guy.

5. Later, I met up with Malori, her inter-cambio, and her inter- cambio's best friend for drinks. Her inter cambio is a Spanish guy who is learning English, so they meet and he practices English and she practices Spanish. We spent half the time speaking Spanish and the other half in English. I definitely struggled with my Spanish, yet I was surprised that I could still communicate. It was fun and interesting to talk about their culture and lives. Somehow we discovered both of the gentlemen watched "Bob Esponja" when they were younger. It took as a moment till we discovered they meant "Spongebob Squarepants." I love moments like that in which a cultural similarities and differences become apparent.

6. I rode the train back to Malaga and took a flight to Basel, Switzerland.

Wednesday, September 28

Spain- Bob Esponja!

My second day in Espana began with me attending Catholic Mass for the first time. I went with the Vrenkens for Christmas, but before now I've never been to a regular Catholic service. Malori, Norman and I went to the service in the amazingly large and beautiful cathedral in the center of town. Since, Catholicism is such a huge part of many Spanish people's culture, I wanted to see a traditional Spanish service. Oh man, it was traditional. This made me contemplate why so many Europeans don't understand Christianity, think it's boring, and/or don't believe in God. I want to be careful not to disrespect the Catholic church or say they are doing anything wrong, though. However, popular European cities often have an elaborate Catholic cathedral that tourists and Europeans visit. Tons of money and time is put into creating these cathedrals. What about outreach? Reaching out to the lowlt, like Jesus? I know the Catholic church is known for providing many things to the poor and needy, but these cathedrals still make me question the intention behind the buildings. Malori is actually catholic and she says she struggles with the fact that these beautiful structures demonstrate the holiness of God and that we should honor the Lord with the best things, but she agrees that maybe the money should be spent elsewhere. These tourist visit these places of worship, many times little knowledge about Christianity, and see a stuffy place where one feels like they can't breath too loudly. Then, the services are soo boring, emotionless, and methodical. I respect the fact that some people prefer to worship God in such a manner and I believe it shouldn't always feel extremely easy/joyous to worship God, but if I didn't believe in God, why would a lifeless, stuffy service in an extremely wealthy building change my mind? Despite my questions with the cathedral, I'm glad I experienced the service. Also, I understood several of the "churchy" Spanish words thanks to my many years of attending a Hispanic church on mission trip. I was proud of myself. 

The rest of the day we spent exploring the beautiful city. Malori and I explored the side streets, where we found many hidden treasures. I love that Spaniards have what I would call courtyards inside their houses/apartments. Many times people leave the front door to their houses open and inside one can see a locked gate containing an open room full of plants and doors leading elsewhere. While peering into the open doorways, it made me feel like I had a chance to glimpse into the person's life- just a peek.

Also, I spent the first day trying to adapt to the different eating times. Literally, restaurants usually don't serve lunch until 1pm and then dinner until 8:30. I tried a classic Spanish dish called tortilla something. It was made out of egg, tortilla and onions. It tastes pretty bland, but still delicious. I also ate pappas with cheese. Spaniards love pappas y pappas fritas. (Fries & chips). I guess I expected most Spanish food to be similar to Tex-Mex, but that is not the case. Spanish food is pretty bland, while Tex-Mex has lots of spice and zestiness. Oh, and coolest thing EVER..."tapas." It's a small serving size that is cheap and it allows you to share dishes. You order a regular dish, but ask for tapas. It's great!

Well, I guess I'm only going to update little snap shots at a time.... Adioss!

Whitty P

Tuesday, September 27

Seville, Spain

Spain. Wow! Where do I start?

This country is beautiful! Since I flew into Malaga and not directly to Sevilla, I gained the opportunity to take the train, a fancy train I must say, into Sevilla. I think everyone should take a train through the countryside when traveling through Spain. I loved sitting, gazing out at the sun reflecting off the mountainous landscape, as quaint houses peaked through the hills, and the quiet clatter of the train sounding in the background. During my moments riding the train, I was at peace.

Since I arrived to Sevilla at a somewhat late hour and without prior knowledge of the bus system, I decided to go ahead and take a taxi to my hostel. Although, definitely much more expensive than a bus, in the taxi I got to roll down the window and let the warm breeze greet my face and see the twinkling lights of Sevilla. I immediately noticed the cleanliness of Sevilla and the fact that the city is large and bust, yet still feels small, similarly to Fort Worth.

The hostel I stayed in is much cleaner, friendlier, and comfortable than the other two hostels in which I stayed. At first, I was somewhat nervous, because I signed up for a 10 person mixed dorm room, but everyone was super friendly and respectful of one another's space. It also made for a better atmosphere to talk to other people staying in my hostel. Plus, the bathroom was super clean, which is always a good sign. :)

The first night I met up with Pearce & Malori, two of my friends studying for the semester in Sevilla, as well as; Norman, a Canadian living in London, who I invited from my hostel. Pearce suggested we meet at a pub called Texas Lone Star Pub. Normally, I would never go to a place with familiar food and people while on a vacation in another country, but since I've been away from Texas for a while now, it felt a little refreshing. American football aired on the televisions and one wall was covered with t-shirts from Texas universities.  I only wish the owners could top it all off by serving Shiner beer, but then I would just be spoiled.  Of course, we ended the night getting ice cream.

Cultural side notes: Spaniards have a few apparent cultural differences than my own. For one, staying out late, say 3 or 4, is perfectly normal for them. When a person "goes out" for the night, he or she doesn't go home until 5am or later. Even older people stay out late on weekends, according to Pearce who noted seeing a couple in their late 60's strolling the streets at 1am.  Also, eating schedules are different than in Texas. Normal lunchtime isn't until 2 or 3, right before siesta time, and lunch is typically the largest meal of the day. Dinner is usually eaten after 8pm, at the earliest. 

 More about Spain later, now I'm off to sleep in Switzerland. :)


Sunday, September 25

I'm In Espana!

Hola Amigos!

Soy en Espana por cinco dias. De ciudad es muy bonita!

I will post a longer update soon, but these tidbits for now...

1. I'm definitely learning a lot about Spain's unique culture, like staying up till 5am on certain evenings.
2. This country is sooo beautiful and quaint!
3. I reccomend taking a train through the countryside of Spain.
4. Flamenco dancing is wicked awesome!
5. My hostel is super nice and cheap.
6. I'm not sure how I feel about all of these elaborate and expensive Catholic Cathedrals. Respect but... really?!?
7. I already want to come back one day.
8. Spanish is really hard to remember after attempting to learn Dutch for so long.
9. I love meeting up with friendly faces in foreign countries.


Friday, September 23

When In Rome...

Blessings today...
- riding a train through the Italy
-Walking through the Roman Forum
- touring the massive Coliseum
- spending the day with a Bulgarian woman who lives in England and whom I met when I first arrived
- throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain
- astonished by the Pantheon
- grabbing dinner on the streets of Rome with Nadya, the Bulagrian woman, and the Italian man whose house she was couch surfing
- having a pretty decent hostel room all to myself
- meeting/talking to a room full of soon to be American Catholic Priests who are going to seminary in Rome
- drinking an Italian beer

Thanks to the Lord for the many gifts in my life!

Day 4

Thursday, September 22

Day 3

I walked EVERYWHERE yesterday. I saw parts of Florence that NO ONE has seen. No... but it was fun to explore off-the-map places. I really wanted to go see Michelangelo's David in the Accademia line, but the line was long and didn't open till way later in the day. I might try to go today. For lunch I ate a kabob on Neri street. Once again recommend by the wonderful Alison Panza. I know that kabob's are really a Turkish food and not Italian, but that kabob was fantastic! Plus, the man who works there is really nice.

Later, I went with Rachel and Lindsey exploring some of the markets. Basically, there are streets lined with tents with people selling all kinds of goods, mainly Italian leather purses. One tactic the sales people us is either calling you beautiful or I really like, "Hey, you dropped something!" Then, you are supposed to turn around looking for whatever you dropped, but since you didn't really drop anything they begin talking to you and then try to sell you something. Hey, it's kind of creative.

For dinner, we ate the best pizza EVER! Gusta Pizza. The pizza is cheap, simple, and extremely delicious. The restaurant is also simple and laid back. If you go to Florence, you definitley need to check out Gusta Pizza. 

At night a large group of us girls went to have drinks together. I pointed out how international we were because I invited two German girls staying with me in my hostel; Rachel invited a German friend and Denisa, the girl from the Czech Republic; and Lindsey invited her Dutch friend from class who brought along her Dutch roommates. I loved it! I think, being amidst different people is the most beautiful thing about traveling the world.

Tuesday, September 20

End of Day 1/ Day 2

Yes, so I landed in Florence and hopped on a bus that dropped me off at the main bus station. Instead of rushing off to find my hostel, I decided to sit on the nice grass, eat my sandwich, and absorb the fact I am in Italy. I quickly learned not to smile and act friendly towards Italian men, well at least not some of them. There I was happily sitting and enjoying my sandwich, when this late 40s Italian man stopped and said, "Ciao!" to me. Being the friendly person that I am I waved, smiled and said "Ciao!" as well. Before I knew what was happening, the man bent down to where I was sitting and starting touching my arm while talking to me. I politely told him "No, I'm not interested in pizza" and "No, we can't communicate again." Somehow he still managed to give me kisses on my cheeks. haha. Welcome to Italy!

I checked into my hostel, threw my stuff on my bunk and went exploring the city. I grabbed the nearest gelato I found and sat out on one of the "pontes"or bridges soaking up the beautiful and breathtaking city of Florence. Shortly afterwards, I met up with my friends Sarah and Lindsey from TCU who are studying abroad in Florence. They gave me a small tour of the area and then we sat outside and ate DELICIOUS Italian food. My lasagna was soo lekker!  (I keep wanting to use Dutch words when speaking.) Walking back to our beds that night felt magical. I'm in ITALY!

I stepped out of the hostel this morning to the sound of scooters and people. Florence is definitely an extremely busy city. I began my day by walking along the Arno river and admiring the morning sun. Then, I headed to the Duomo church and took plenty of pictures for Brett Peters to enjoy later. :) Thanks to my friend Alison, (who studied abroad here a year ago and gave me a list of to-dos,) instead of waiting in the longest line ever to climb to the top of the Duomo, I walked up the 417 steps of the camponello tower to get a better view of the church and the gorgeous landscape of the city. I spent some good time on the tower, because the views were just so spectacular.  Then, I visited the Bargello museum which was neat to see the ancient artwork and Donatello's David, but you can only look at pretty vases for so long before you start skimming through some of the exhibits. Mostly, I've enjoyed just walking around and sitting in random places, admiring the beautiful architecture. People watching is also, fun. I noticed that some people seem to only visit museums or spectacular buildings in order to get a picture. I watched people walk up take a picture then quickly walk away. It made me sad that they didn't sit and really take in what they are observing.

For lunch I met up with Lindsey and Sarah's roomie, as well as, Denisa, a girl studying here from the Czech Republic. I enjoyed walking around with two new friends getting to know them, while observing some great sites. Of course, we had to get gelato, too.

For diner, Rachel cooked hamburgers. It's been over two month since I've had a real hamburger and it tasted like home. Dutchies have "hamburgers" but it's Dutch meat on a bun only labeled a hamburger. After an exhausting day, it was nice to be in apartment full of good company.


Monday, September 19

I arrived in Florence!

Tom dropped me off at the Dusseldorf airport this morning,  in order to fly to FLORENCE. I left little Boxmeer feeling ready and excited for an adventure. I'm using this trip, of course, to see beautiful places on this earth, but at the same time listen to God and praise Him for his creation. I'm excited for the things I will see and experience.

Check in went smoothly. However, as I began walking to my appropriate gate number I noticed it was one of the very last gates.  Once I reached the end of the long walkway a sign with an arrow pointed me to the direction of my terminal. The arrow pointed down a tiny hall. I followed the tiny hall to a large door which displayed my gate number. The door automatically opened and I felt like I was entering a top secret lab or something. I walked through the door and down a small flight of stairs, through another automatic swinging door. Then, another. Finally! I arrived at the very small gate waiting area. I figured I must be flying in a pretty small plane...

The stewardess began calling different rows to begin boarding and I didn't notice, until I walked up to hand the stewardess my ticket, that all of us passengers first had to load onto a bus. The bus took us on a short trip to what seemed to be the middle of a runway. Then, we all unloaded and walked up the steps to board our small prop plane. Okay, I say small, but it was still fairly large for a flying craft; however, TO ME, it seemed teeny tiny.  I sat next to a nice, old German man from Cologne, Germany. His family is Polish and after talking to him, it sounds like he has traveled EVERYWHERE. I wish I can be like him and go on random road trips whenever I have free time.  Despite the baby aircraft rocking back and forth, we landed safely in Florence.

Okay, I will write more later. I know that was none of the exciting stuff but I'm too tired.

Thursday, September 8

Grocery Shopping in the Netherlands

You walk up to the grocery winkel(store) and as you are about to enter you get out a coin in order to retrieve a shopping cart. By the way, Europe has 1 euro and 2 euro coins, so for those of you who don't like spare change- you best watch yourself in Europe. You insert the coin into a slot on the cart's handle. As soon as you insert the coin, the chain attaching your cart to the cart stacked in front gets pushed out. (If you have ever been to an Aldi store, it's exactly like those carts, because Aldi is a Dutch store). It makes perfect sense. Everyone feels more liable to return their cart. I think Americans are more lazy and don't mind wasting money, though, so it might not work as smoothly back home.

You enter the small store and begin browsing around. Most grocery stores in the Netherlands are about the same size as a drugstore (CVS/ Walgreens). You walk past a machine which people can insert their plastic bottles or glass bottles and receive store credit. You can quickly make decisions about which brand of certain foods you want, because the store does not have an obnoxious amount of choices. For example; the cereal section is only a small section of a long shelf, instead of taking up an entire side of an aisle.

Now it's time to check out. You walk up to the check out line and see the cashiers either standing in front of a chair or actually sitting. Yes, most employees have the option of sitting during their shifts, as they help check out customers. How considerate of employers! If you want plastic bags for your purchased products, you must pay for large bags or stuff your items into tiny, flimsy plastic bags. You pay for your purchases and then hurry to place your items into bags and get out of the way, as the cashier begins sending the products of the next customer your way. However, the Dutchies are smart, so there is a sliding bar that can divide the bagging spot in half, so groceries do not mix once they start sending the products of the other customers your way.

You grab your bags, reattached your cart, retrieve your returned coin and head home.