Tuesday, September 28, 2010

another weekend

again this saturday we did not set an alarm and it was wonderful. we woke up to a beautiful day and decided to go to pisa on our day off, because ryan had never been there and it is very close to florence. so we trotted on down to the train station, bought 2 tickets and headed to pisa. it was only 5 euro per person and it only took 1 hour to get there, including about 10 stops on the way.

the train station in pisa is on the opposite side of the city from the obvious attraction, the leaning bell tower, so we had a wonderful stroll through the city. we zig zagged back and forth through so many little side streets observing dog fights, food markets, military gatherings, beautiful churches and other buildings, people arguing, and people just enjoying the day like us.

we finally ended up in the piazza where the infamous "leaning tower" stands, and as touristy over photographed as that building may be, it is still amazing to behold. ryan was not disappointed and of course we joined in with the ridiculous picture taking.
notice the woman to ryan's left doing the same thing

we spent the rest of the afternoon wondering around pisa, in and out of shops, and into a gelato shop that had lion bar gelato (something i had actually been searching for, thanks to mandy). we caught a 5:30 train back to florence and went back to the bible school.

david and debbie prepared a mexican feast for us in their apartment and it was so wonderful. after dinner we sat around their apartment and told stories (mostly debbie told embarrassing stories about david), but we had so much fun. we laughed so hard and i really feel like it was a special time, because no one was rushed, no one had to be anywhere, and we were just able to relax and hang out together.

sunday, we were all participated in the corri la vita (run for life) in downtown florence. we joined the HUF group but were soon separated because of the 15,000 other participants. some of us stuck together and walked the course. for this walk, the city opens palaces, gardens, churches, and other old buildings that are either usually not open to the public or if they are, they aren't free. after our marvelous stroll we stopped to eat at a little restaurant in the piazza of santo spirito church.
sunday afternoon, we came back to the bible school, prepared our english lessons, studied italian, took naps... then we rode up to the HUF villa for church and dinner. it was so pleasant...the singing is always beautiful at the villa and it's refreshing every once in a while to get to sing church songs in english. david shared the lesson and his words are always so heartfelt and encouraging. for dinner we had homemade beef stew and cornbread prepared by mona, debbie, and emily.

after a few rounds of knock out on the basketball court, we returned to the bible school to finish our studies and get some rest for the week ahead.

ps ryan put a lot of pictures from this weekend on facebook, so if you want to see more just ask him to be your friend and look.

ciao tutti

Friday, September 24, 2010

this week in photos

this week felt like a tornado! it was here and gone faster than any week i think i have ever lived, but a lot of really important things happened this week that have really made us feel like a part of the community here. mmmm, it brings so much peace when you feel like you are where god has intended for you to be. right this minute, that is how i feel and it makes me so thankful. thankful to God for opening doors and leading me, and thankful to others who have made this real through their prayers and support.

we will still have our italian classes in florence every week day from 9 to 1 until december, but we all started our english/bible classes this week. i had 1 student monday and 1 student tuesday. i usually have 3 on wednesday but for some reason none of them could come this week so they are all starting next week. ryan has 1 student on tuesdays and 2 on wednesdays. he, angela, and andrea teach a basic english grammar class on monday, tuesday, and wednesday nights at 9, so that's why he only has 3 individual students. all of our classes went really well and it is such a relief to have finally started what we have been planning on doing since january.

the rest of the week will be best summed up through the beautiful photos that the hubs has been snapping all over the place.

ryan got me flowers at the saturday market last week and i didn't have the photos to put up on the weekend post.
saturday is our laundry day. this was last weekend too, but i just like the photo.

sunday evening was pizza and a beatles concert at the HUF villa.

monday we came straight back after class, had lunch and a meeting, prepared for our first classes, and taught our first classes. that evening we had a simple supper and a women's and men's bible study. what an amazing way to start off the week. i don't know about the men, but the women's study was so great. debbie has put so much time and effort into an in depth study of 1 john and i really enjoy the quality time i get to spend with just women. i already look forward to monday because of this special time.

ok, this is the display window at an audiology clinic we pass by everyday walking to class in florence. i feel like i'm home when i see these hearing aids

tuesday after class, ryan and i ate a picnic in the piazza della signorina and wondered around florence until 6 pm when we both had classes to teach. we found so many cool places and things to do "off the beaten path". after that i feel like i could find anything in florence if i had to

church of san filippo, it was completely empty except for ryan and me. that was a first for me because there are usually millions of other tourists everywhere you go. not this time...it was so serene
in the past, when people would get engaged on the ponte vecchio, they used to put a lock on a gate that is on the bridge around a bust of some man. in an act to clean up the ponte vecchio, the city cut them all off and cleaned the statue (it does look much nicer). well, people that get engaged there now apparently still want to leave their mark on the city, so they have started putting locks on these chains lining the street right off the bridge. there are already thousands and this was just done recently

my favorite sculpture in florence. it's brunelleschi in the piazza of the duomo and he's looking up at his dome. i don't know why but it just speaks to me and i love it

the inside of our school...grandmother, make sure to show this photo to granddad. do you see what i'm talking about? yes, that's copper ductwork and it's everywhere! so pretty

enzo, one of our italian teachers. he loves us, he laughs at everything we say

wednesday after class (since i didn't have students) i and all these other lovely people helped set up, serve at, and clean up for a welcome convention thing for all the american students studying in florence this semester. there were probably 500-600 people there and we were there working from 2-10pm. needless to say, i was exhausted, but it was so much fun and incredibly hilarious working with these fun italians and my american/albanian friends.

thursday after class, we met david and emily at the post office in scandicci to do some more paperwork to live in italy. we walked to one building and it took us an hour and a half there. then we walked back to the post office and it took us another hour there. we walked back to the bible school (got gelato on the way), piled into the cars, and headed to church for the thursday night simple supper/conversation class/bible study. angela and i were in charge of the simple supper so we ran to a grocery store near the church, grabbed a few things, and successfully/quickly prepared pesto pasta and salad for 20 people. the food was ok, but the conversation, fellowship, and bible study were wonderful. it was such an uplifting and refreshing time to slow down and reflect after such a busy week.

oh, this was thursday at the government building where we were doing paperwork for health insurance and such. one of the ladies that worked there asked david to help her learn the words to a bruce springsteen song that she will be using to try out for the italian version of american idol. she doesn't speak a word of english so her pronunciation was hilarious, but i'm so proud of her for trying. ps the words of the song were something about lust and "in the bed until the morning" and baby this and baby that. it was amazing because david was singing it with her.

today, we came back for lunch and solomon and ann marie (brother and sister from ivory coast) joined us. they only speak french and the same amount of italian that we speak, but emily majored in french and she translated for us. they are so sweet and sometimes i think that they think we are crazy, but i'm really glad they came.

this afternoon we are just hanging out and relaxing. tomorrow ryan and i may go to lucca and explore...maybe rent a tandem bike or something. who knows?

Monday, September 20, 2010

il fine settimana

this weekend was very relaxing and wonderful. after a sushi date with angela friday night, we slept in late on saturday!!! which really means 9:00, but it was so needed. every night so far, i have said that i was going to bed at 10 and i haven't gone to bed until after 12.

saturday morning ryan went to the "saturday market" to browse, and i stayed at the bible school and cleaned and washed clothes (i wanted to...i like to clean). i also just had some good quality quiet time to sit outside and think and study alone; that always refreshes me. saturday afternoon a few of us went to the coop (most similar to wal-mart but much nicer) to get some groceries (my favorite being green apple yogurt and blood orange juice...yes they are as amazing as they sound) and our cell phone. after dropping off our groceries we went into florence to grab a quick dinner and just wander around. as often as we can and before we get too busy, we have been taking free time to just "get lost" in florence. it's such a good way for us to get to know the city and we find the coolest places off the beaten path. i've always liked walking away from the central areas and finding quaint little places to hang out, not to mention that the dense/noisy/sweaty crowds of tourists really make me want to scream and swing my arms around in a circle sometimes. after a while, it came a downpour so we made our way back to the bible school. andrea, angela, and i stayed up together painting our toenails and watching the sound of music. it was a great saturday.

this was our second sunday and we started off with a coffee at a nearby "bar" (coffee/pastry shop). then on to church for a wonderful service. the HUF students were there and some pepperdine students came so it was pleasantly full. i'm loving getting to know the italian church members. after service we greet each other, remind each other of our names, and play a game of charades/pictionary/broken english-italian word salad while we are trying to get to know everyone. it's really great to watch and be a part of, but the church members are all so welcoming and warm and they are always happy to try to communicate with us and let us practice our italian. even though they probably don't know what we're saying because of our accents or bad pronunciation, they all just smile and encourage us to keep trying. it's such a friendly and hospitable group of people. after church we ate left overs and studied our italian together. that evening we walked to the HUF villa for dinner, fellowship, and an amazing beatles cover band (jonathan shackelford and his friend samuele). we had so much fun and they are so talented.

the weather was wonderful, the company was unbeatable, and the food was indescribably good; the only thing missing was our family.

(for you, grandmother)
thank you all for your prayers and thoughts of love, family. you are in our hearts and minds constantly. know that you are with us! we love you

Friday, September 17, 2010

week uno - italian for dummies (suffer through it, the end is the best part)

we started language school on monday at Lorenzo di Medici Italian International Institute in downtown florence. we ride the bus into town in the morning and have class from 9 to 1 every day. we have 2 teachers who each teach for 2 hours, and they are both so much fun! there are only 10 people in our class: the 6 of us, a brother and sister from ivory coast now living in italy, and 2 brothers from vietnam (we don't know what they are doing in italy, but we do know that one of them did tell us that his favorite american country music artist is brittney spears). the only language that we have in common with the other students is italian, and seeing that i only have about 200 words in my italian vocabulary, our class is very interesting to say the least. we really do have so much fun. i burn calories for my gelato by laughing in our italian class.

this is our school, it's so pretty

this is the medici chapel right
down the street from our school
it's one of my favorite structures
in florence

after class monday we came back for lunch and had a proper AI orientation all afternoon. different people spoke on relevant topics that david suggested...all very interesting. we heard from robbie and mona shackelford, 3 past avanti workers who are still living in italy (1 married an italian man and 1 married an albanian man but they both live and work here now with their husbands), and 3 present avanti workers (1 has moved to vicenza to work and the other 2 still live with us at the bible school). it was wonderful and they all had so much encouraging advice for us all. it made me so excited for all the things we are going to do and all the ways we are going to be involved in this community.

tuesday after class ryan and i went with david to do some paperwork and check in with the police here (something you have to do) and then he dropped us off at the HUF villa because i wanted ryan to see it before the harding students got there. andrea came with us because she had never seen it either, and we hung out there all afternoon. we walked back to the bible school from the villa because we thought it was only 2 miles away, but it took us 45 minutes to walk back so i'm not sure about that. anyway, it was a beautiful day and the walk was so nice. so nice that after dinner we went for a gelato down the street for all of our hard work.

our HUF mural

walking down the "HUF" hill

wednesday after class we got lunch at the indoor food market and had a field trip to the boboli gardens at the pitti palace with our school. one of the teachers was our "tour guide" and the tour was in italian so we really had to pay attention. the gardens are so nice and it was another beautiful day...so pleasant to just walk around and enjoy the scenery.

caprese salad!! mi preferito

there is a beautiful and almost panoramic
view of the florentine countryside from the
top of the boboli gardens

the boys...

will be boys

and i will be me :)

thursday after class we had another AI orientation but just with the 7 of us workers and david and debbie. they taught us how to use the bidet and properly flush the toilets, haha. they really did but we also talked about our living quarters and how everything should be done here at the bible school. very practical and useful information. thursday night we had a meet and greet session with our new and returning bible/english students and it was AWESOME!!! we met most of the people that we will have in our classes. there were men and women of all ages, background, and understanding of english (unfortunately we were all so excited to meet them that no one took pictures). i'm definitely a little nervous because this is obviously the fist time i have done anything like this, but i know that GOD will be guiding what i say and for that i can be thankful. i don't have to have all of the answers. also, after meeting everyone last night i feel so much better, because i really just want to make a relationship with these people and let them know that i'm just here to love them and learn what i can about them and their culture. through this friendship i want to show them Jesus.

today we came back for lunch after school had a continuation of our AI orientation from yesterday. it too was just with the AI workers and david and debbie. all of these little meetings we have together are so beneficial because we are all very open and honest with each other. i feel like we are getting so close, which is so important in "stressful" times like this when we are all dealing with culture shock and limited privacy/space issues. everyone is so understanding and genuine and i really treasure the times that our group has time to spend together just talking, because i know soon when classes start, that will not always be possible.

this weekend we are planning to wash clothes, go to a florence soccer game, go to the saturday market, go to church, go to a "beatles" concert at the HUF villa, study italian, prepare english/bible lessons, get a cell phone, eat sushi, walk in the park...who knows what else? i love not having a schedule. i haven't known the date any day this week and it hasn't mattered, i love that!

extra, extra
this has nothing to do with anything, but it is hilarious and so many people in my life will love it. enjoy:

during training and our first week here, we have been told so many stories about learning italian, and the many ways people have embarrassed themselves by saying the wrong word. in many instances the people didn't even know about the blunder until hours later or in one case an entire sermon had been preached. i have laughed until i have cried after hearing these stories and i feel like i need to share them. i don't feel like explanations are needed so i'll just list them out. ps i know all the people who have said these things and i will make sure and record ours when they do occur. if we can't laugh at ourselves, we would never make it through a day.

"don't be farted"
(instead of "don't be discouraged")

"do you need a new (private part)?"
(instead of "do you need a new pen?")

"conversion of the rabbit and his family"
(instead of cornelius and his family)

"i would like to order a large (private part)"
(instead of "i would like to order a large pizza")

"come on, let's eat the old people"
(instead of "come on, let's take the bread")

and last but definitely not least...

"my wife's genitals are deaf"
(instead of "my wife's parents are deaf")

i hope this makes your weekend, ciao tutti!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

our first weekend

well, last time i said that some italian kids were coming for the weekend for a retreat. they weren't kids first of all, they were young adults around the same ages as us. they arrived friday evening, and after some choppy/terrible italian salutations from us (the new avanti workers) we all sat around the grill outside while david prepared a feast.

yes, those are mashed potatoes
the food was wonderful but we soon came to realize that the company was even better! all of these young professional/college student italians speak beautiful english. that was bad because we need so desperately to be immersed in italian only, but great because we were actually able to communicate and get to know them. they are all such motivated and hard working christian people, and being around them all weekend was so refreshing.

after that marvelous dinner, we sat around and sang together and had a little devo (all in italian of course). then we played girls against guys pictionary (also in italian), and we had a blast! i don't even know who won but we played for hours and it was so much fun. (oh also before our turn we had to tell our names, where we are from, and something we like to do - guess what language we had to do that in). then we went to bed.

pictionary fun
a great picture of all the guys (emily has a good one
of all the girls, but we didn't get one with our camera)
saturday morning we got up and reported to the kitchen to help david and debbie make pancakes and bacon for our guests. (they don't sell sliced bacon in italy, but don't worry, the bible school owns a meat slicer like the ones they use in lenny's and eric became proficient in the ways of bacon slicing) after breakfast we sat in the "living room" and had a little devo, and then it was on to FLORENCE, for my personal first trip back there since HUF in 2005. oh, was it ever just as grand and majestic as i remembered!!!

it's like when you are looking at houses with a real estate agent and you are supposed to act really stoic and if you love the house you can't let them know. i was trying to show florence that, "oh you're pretty cool, but i could live without you", and blend in as if to say "i walk around this city everyday and am not the least bit impressed." florence wasn't fooled, i was like a little kid as we walked towards the piazza duomo, and the giatto tower became bigger and taller and my neck strained further and further up until i was standing right under it again. oh what a beautiful feeling it was. (for all of you who are thinking "you crazy freak, what is the big deal, yea it's a big old dome, but who cares, millions of people see it daily and no one cares." well then don't read my blog, because i love florence, all of italy for that matter, and i'm enamored with it all.

also reading this blog entails looking at our
calendar-like picturesque photos of florence
and the surrounding areas that you have all seen
before, but that we love because they were taken by
us with our camera
sweet debbie (mom, ya'll would be good friends)
anyway, we strolled around florence (i, no doubt, in my own happy florence bubble with a ridiculous smile on my face) for a couple of hours, got our first gelato at "grom", and walked towards the piazza della michelangelo for the best view of the whole city and lunch. debbie and mona met us in the piazza with all the makings for sandwiches, panzanella, and fruit. after relaxing in the piazza we rode the van back to the bible school, and worked on a service project that emily planned for us.

we divided into 4 groups with both italian and "americani". each group was assigned a verse from the song "in christ alone", and we translated it so the italians can take it back and teach their home congregations in italian. obviously, the new avanti students weren't much help with the translation part, but we did hum the lines of the song over and over and over again to make sure the words fit. this took almost 2 hours, because the italian language is very elaborate, poetic, and basically the words are very long compared to english. for example "stop" in english equals about a 12 syllable word in italian. so, making the song correspond in italian with the same number of syllables was no easy task.

after this we had dinner...real lasagna. it was delicious and i won't tell you how much of it i really ate because some would consider it gluttony. after dinner, we sat around the table and practiced our newly translated song, played some more games, and went to bed. little did we know that we would have to sing our new song in church today in front of the congregation (unexpectedly having to sing in front of large groups is becoming a trend of ours).

after church we ate at "movida" (i think that is the name) ... we had ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta with a sage/butter sauce on top and spaghetti. of course this was accompanied with tuscan bread and salad (italians eat their bread and salad at the end of the meal, you clean your plate with your bread and then eat the salad after that). an espresso to top it all off and back to the bible school for a relaxing afternoon of blogging and studying italian.

ryan and i still need to go to the store for toothpaste, kleenex (we are both already sick), and a few other random things. tomorrow we start language school and have orientation with david and debbie for our english students. apparently, we are all going together to pick out a puppy on tuesday and i'm extremely excited about that! eventually i will be able to blog every few days without getting so specific, but right now everything is new and exciting and i don't really know how to summarize it. sorry for the length but it was such a fun and busy weekend!

ciao tutti!

Friday, September 10, 2010

mailing/shipping address

it must seem like i'm doing nothing but sitting on the computer today, but they really had nothing planned for us today, because of this retreat thing which is about to start. also it has been raining so i couldn't really walk around outside. people have already been asking for our address so here it is:

wait, first please let me say that we have to pay taxes on any packages that we receive and apparently it is very expensive so if it can wait until the spring, just send it with my parents when they come see us in april. but we love getting letters and that doesn't cost anything.

ok here it is really:
La Scuola Biblica di Firenze
Via Armando Spadini, 24
50018 Scandicci (FI)

everyone have a great weekend!

we made it!

after and 8 hour flight to amsterdam, and 8 hour layover, and a 2 hours flight to florence, we finally made it! all our bags arrived with us, which was a very pleasant surprise. we got to the bible school at about 10 pm, did a quick tour of the school, unpacked and put away our clothes, and crashed. we slept until 11am (haven't done that in years). i still feel a little disoriented but ryan said he feels great. i'm going to try to go to bed by about 10 tonight (we'll see about that). apparently there is going to be a youth retreat here this weekend and a bunch of teenagers will be arriving at the school this afternoon. ryan and i are clueless at this point, but we did meet rosa (the lady that cooks for us), and obviously david, debbie, and their daughter, emily, and erminita, from albania who is also doing avanti with us.

so, here are a few great pics so far.

if you can't tell, this is me in the airport sleeping and looking awesome!

our room (notice martha we do have a full bed, not 2 twins)
those cabinets across the room are our closets (ryan has 2 and i have 2)

another view of our room, like the decor?
ps this in room sink is my favorite! it's so
convenient because the bathroom is down the hall

our balcony! (view to the right)

view to the left (looks like a park over there,
but we haven't been able to explore yet)