Friday, June 24, 2005

Oh, Glorious Downhill!

So we decide to hike up a path to a waterfall and it is supposed to be "just right over there". Is anything ever like it seems? The sign for the little path said 30 minutes to the waterfall. Whose 30 minutes? Mine, or a large German Black Forest hiker guy? We decided to move on even though my foot feels broken at this point. I have never actually seen a waterfall up close, so it was worth the pain just trying.

The climb was deceptive, started off with barely an incline for the first 5 minutes and the rest of the 40 minutes was straight uphill (like a staircase). It was beautiful and serene, with alpine flowers growing in the middle of the forest path. We found our first bridge that overlooked this rushing little waterfall. It was breezy and pretty, but I was thinking "Wow, this is great, but is that it?!"

Well, it wasn't. After a few more bridges like that, we spotted a beautiful rolling waterfall. Small, but gorgeous. I was fairly impressed, but I had some shattered expectations of what a "glacial waterfall" should look like. Well, I saw a sign that looked like it pointed around a corner and I heard a faint rushing water sound. Even though we thought we had seen it all, I asked my friend if we could check it out. We turned the corner...

And I was completely deaf from the powerful sound of a monstrous waterfall. It was tall and massive, and sprayed cold, melted snow water on you. I was amazed that we couldn't hear/tell/feel this from just around the corner. We sat and prayed and worshipped and the all I could think of was the song from Delirious: " bigger than...the air I breathe...the world we'll leave/And God...will save the day...and all will Glorious!" After all of that, we decided to come back down to earth. But the Lord spoke to my heart through the waterfall. On the way down, those other look-alike bridges/waterfalls were nothing compared to the source from which they came.

God is not satisfied when we only soak and sit at the "edge" of His glory. He wants us to hike up--hurting feet and all--to experience the source. The point where you can hear nothing but the roar of the waterfall and feel nothing but its refreshing breezes. Suddenly the whole world disappears and it takes conscious, concerted effort to come down from the mountain back to reality. And suddenly the cares of the world and even religion have very little impression on you now that you've seen the source of all greatness.

I am different because of that waterfall. But, I'll tell you that my heart could only think of how glorious going downhill felt after an experience like that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Ferris Wheel Gone Wrong

I am catching up on days still, so read the one below first to be chronological...

Took a cab this mornning at 6 am and paid an arm and a leg for it too. The cabbie practically kicked me out on the street when I wouldn't give him 2 extra Euros for "situating" my bag in the back. I took a train from Tours to Lyon and then from Lyon to Saint Gervais. Then I took another train from Saint Gervais to Les Pelerins, right next to Chamonix/Mont Blanc. I hiked up a mountain for 10 minutes to get to my hostel. Right after I arrived, it poured down rain. I met 3 cool roomies--one Canadian and two Austrailian women. We connected and went out on the town.

My foot has been in great pain for days, and it feels like a stress fracture. I don't think it is, but it hurts. The walk in to town was about 20 minutes and I had a rough time. We stumbled upon some bagpipe guys and realized that Chamonix was celebrating the Summer Solstice (I think that is what the longest day of the year is called). It was awesome! We ate a great dinner, danced in the streets (Haaay!), drank a drink in a pub, and danced some more. Every corner had a different type of music playing--some DJ's and some live bands. I enjoyed every minute of it.

The next day, my last day of vatcation, was by far the best. The Austrailians had to leave, but they told us about some cool things to do. I decided to go on a funicular up to Augille du Midi (a high mountain) and then a cable car over to Mount Helbronner, Italy. Have you ever gone on a ferris wheel and had to stop at the top, swaying and rocking in the breeze, while you wait for people to get on at the bottom? Well, hold that feeling and magnify it by 20. Picture the same scene--only you are in a little capsule, suspended on a cable between two mountain peaks at 3600+ meters (who cares how many feet that is at this point!), hanging--really dangling--over about twenty crevaces of a massive glacier. This was like a ferris wheel gone ALL wrong.

Don't get me wrong--the view was breathtaking. But somehow I jumped into a cable car solo, so mine tipped back just a little. You hang and sway for 2-3 minutes, about 6-7 times and the whole journey betweeen 4 mountain peaks takes about 35 minutes. When I got to Italy, my stomach was turning. The ride gave an incredible view of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in France; but, my stomach churned when I pictured my capsule plummeting into an ice crevace below. Thankfully on the way back, a French girl rode with me and it was awesome. I didn't notice the swaying, just the view. When we hiked around a bit on a lower mountain, we decided to search for a nearby waterfall...

And that is just the first half of the day. Part two coming soon.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Day Fit for a Princess

I am a little tired of trains--arranging them, changing trains, cramming, waiting in lines for their reservations--all of it. Think twice about getting a Eurail Pass for France. Ok, that is all the complaining I will do...

So, I decided to take it easy today. I took a bus tour today and it was awesome! We left after lunch to head out to Chateau de Chenonceau. Oh, the palaces! Everything royal--from the 4 poster beds to the flower gardens painstakingly planted. I walked around the shrubs carved out like a maze. The weather was gorgeous and I just strolled around, taking it all in. After Chenonceau, we toured Chateau de Amboise, and then Leonardo DaVinci's house (in his last years of life). IBM had taken his drawings and built all of his inventions. They were scattered through this park where you could use them and play with them. Maybe it was the engineering side of me, I don't know, but it was more glorious than the palaces. DaVinci was a genius.

We ended the tour with wine tasting in a little winery built in a cave. Very cool! I don't like wine so much, but since it was white wine, I joined in. They took us back to the station and I hiked back to my hostel. It was cool because I started talking to a Chinese lady on my tour and she turned out to be Campus Cr. for Christ staff in Paris. She knew all about my summer project in Nice!

Small world.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Hitchhiking on Father's Day

I am catching up on a few days, so bear with me...

I arrived in Tours, France after a long day of travel. I am sunburned from WAITING: For the many modes of transportation that say they are coming when they aren't; for random buses that miss your train times because nothing lines up; waiting. But somehow, the waiting is pleasant--maybe cuz it's Father's Day and my heart has been so broken lately that it is now at rest.

This morning I woke up and made my way through the crowds for the marathon at Le Mont St. Michel. Of all the weekends--a marathon weekend! I am so glad I went last night when no one was there. I made my way up the incline to the Abbey (this is what makes the Mont St. Michel a ''Mont'') for Sunday mass. As I took my place and the monks started chanting, my eyes filled with tears. Maybe it was the haunting singing, maybe the longing for my Father to have known Jesus, maybe wondering if Jesus FELT glorified in all the ''religion'' taking place. My tears fell and my eyes were empty--no more to give. I cut out of mass early to see the abbey and catch my bus. I accidentally took a ''tour'' of the abbey (which saved me 8 Euros!) but I was almost late getting back to the bus stop, although the bus never came. I re-routed and arrived in Tours by 9:45 at night. There were no taxis to be found, so I waited some more.

A nice couple asked if I wanted to share a taxi with them, because my hostel was on the way out of town to their house. 20 minutes passed--no taxis and there were 5 people ahead of us. My feet were practically bleeding, the blisters pinching against my shoes. The couple decided to call a friend and they took me to my hostel. Is it hitchiking when you've met and talked with the people?

My desperation and God's grace made it all possible.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Heat Exhaustion

Today was the worst, but then it got better! I waited in the wrong line at Gare du Nord in Paris 3 different times. I couldn't stop crying--I think Father's Day crying came in too. I finally got in the right line to take a train to Pontorson/Mont Saint Michel, and the lady said I needed to go to a different train station in Paris. I had 30 minutes until the last train left. With my ginormous bag and soggy clothes, I RAN to the metro and into the station. The last train left at 14:05 and I jumped on at 14:03. I was hot and about to faint, but this man was blocking the aisle and wanted me to move. I had nowhere to go and by this time, vomit was rising to my throat. I backed up and then barreled over him and another person, stumbled to the luggage car and collapsing, holding my mouth--dry heaving and hyperventilating. I am fairly sure it was heat exhaustion because it was 85 degrees+ and I had been running and carrying my bag for 3 and a half hours. You should see the picture I took of myself to prove it. :)

Several people took my bags off of me and led me to a seat. It was hilarious, y'all. I wish I'd had a reality show at this point. There was no water on the train (at least none that were bubble-free), and the snack machine with the only clean water on the train ate my last 3 Euros. I could not stop crying--it just poured out like gut-wrenching rain. I hit the machine and went back to my seat to cry some more. Then it got better...

2 Crazy Asians

Someone showed me where to catch my bus to Mont Saint Michel and this is where the day was redeemed. You see, I wanted to spend Father's Day at the place my dad loved the most, Le Mont Saint Michel, France. He particularly liked it at sunset. I thought it wasn't going to happen, and I kept praying and asking Jesus to get me to the mount for Father's Day.

I suppose that is why I collapsed and had the gut-wrenching tears. It was originally told to me that the train was leaving at 14:00, not 14:05. But then it was changed and I had 2 minutes to spare. Then, I had accidentally been booked on a bus that took me to my hotel door at Mont Saint Michel (which is amazing cuz the rail station is 20 minutes away). I would've had to walk if it had not been for that bus. Plus, I met GRACE and SUNNY (2 Asian ladies--yes, those are their actual names). Grace and Sunny said they would take care of me after hearing my story. We walked to the Mount together that night. No one was at the Mount, which was amazing for a Saturday night. They had made reservations at a high quality restaurant. When I saw the prices of the restaurant, I said I couldn't join them because of the price. They said, "Don't worry...we'll treat you!"

This was a treat indeed. We had French cider & wine (I tasted), several courses, and it totaled 202 Euros! My steak was the cheapest thing on the menu at 45 Euros. I was definitely wined and dined and there were many famous people who had eaten there over the years. Their pictures hung on the walls. We watched the sunset from the top of the mount, but I really wanted to see the silhouette of the mount against the sunset, as that is the poster my dad had hanging on the wall. We talked about it often and I shared his love of sunsets.

Well, there was no conceivable way to see the silhouette when we were ON the mount at sunset. I prayed and asked Jesus to stay the sunset. I believed He could do it for me and even that He would. We walked leisurely home and the sunset lasted from 10:30 until midnight! All the colors stayed intact. I kept looking at my watch and thinking, "Okay, Lord, that's enough, I've seen it." But the sunset stayed until the mount was just about out of my view (a 20 minute walk). When I was about to lose view, I turned and the sunset was gone.

We even had a laugh at a guy who flashed us on the way home. :P

Friday, June 17, 2005

Lessons from a Seagull

6 modes of transportation and 12 hours later, I arrived back to Paris from London. It was a very stressful yet relaxing day coming back. It is stressful for me anytime there is changing transportaion and timing everything right to get back to Paris before dark. But, once I was on the underground/bus/ferry/train/train/metro, you have to relax. I learned this by watching the coolest seagull by the ferry. I had taken a bus to Dover after hiking through London. I got on the ferry to go to Calais, France, and while waiting to take pictures of the white cliffs of Dover, I took note of a particular seagull.

I realized I had a lot to learn. This seagull (sg for short) struggled to get from the ship into the air. But, once in the air, its natural design took over. I watched as it floated effortlessly upon the wind, almost like it was windsurfing. But, everytime it touched down to the ship to get food, life got complicated. There was definitely a solution--back to the wind once again. The ship was not the sg's carrier, just a pitstop for goods. The wind was forceful but guiding and all the sg had to do was steer its body to ride the wind's direction. The sg surfed the wind, not the other way around. Because the wind really had the final say on the direction of the seagull.

Well, as you can see, this related so much to my reliance upon the Lord in my daily life and even my travels. The world is not our carrier, He is. After the struggles comes the effortless surfing. He is in control and moves me, but I have choices about the direction I "think" I'd like to go. But in the end, He knows best and can change that direction for me when needed.

After my lessons from the seagull, this knowlege has come in handy. I'll explain later when it doesn't cost 8 Euros an hour to type.

Tom and Katie

I got back to Paris after the long trip from London. I had been praying and asking Jesus to take care of me the whole way. All of the transportation has to work out correctly, and believe me, that is difficult in France! He directed me home, and I had some people even share a cab with me and pay for the whole thing. I was almost to Paris when a funny thing happened. This French guy at the rail station asked me for a cigarette in French. He realized that I was not French and then started talking to me about how he loved America and loved music there. He found out I was from Texas, so he said he loved country music. He inquired of my music tastes and then asked if I liked rock music. I said not really, but he insisted that he had the best amplifiers in all the land. By now, you can probably imagine my face--but he wasn't getting the hint. He then asked if I would like to come to his car and listen to his amplifiers. After a definite no, he pressed on that I should come look at them. I kindly thanked him again and started to get up, hoping to avoid another Mohammed incident. He left and I chuckled all the way to my train. Seriously, has that worked on other American girls? I have gotten more offers in the last week and a half than I have since third grade (that was a good year)! I toured Paris for one last day and Bethany decided to come with me--we saw a ton of stuff. Something random--I spent my last night at the Eiffel Tower,watching the lights sparkle. When we got home, we saw that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had just gotten engaged there that morning. Crazy!!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ewan McHottie

One word to describe Ewan: Haaaay! (Jesse and Ruth--that's for you). Guys and Dolls was the best! I had great seats and enjoyed every second of it. Sadly, Ewan decided not to come out and meet his adoring fans, and because my hostel was touching the theater, you know I was one of the 6 people waiting forever. When I finally gave up, my hostel doorman said he saw Ewan leave on his motorcycle a while ago. He also said, "Oh yeah I saw him earlier today walk by our hostel with a cup of coffee (from a cafe 2 doors away)". What!? Where was I when all of this was taking place? Anyway, they tried to comfort us by saying that Ewan would be signing the next night. Great! Only I will be in Paris.

All in all, great fun! The Eurostar Channel Tunnel train rocked and I want to thank my mom and sister for making this whole event possible. They helped me finance this jaunt as a birthday treat! You gals are awesome. By the way, mom, I don't have your new e-mail on hand. Can you e-mail me so we can talk?

I have more adventures to speak of, but it has been a long day. I will post Part 2 tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mum!

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday, dear Mum,
Happy Birthday to you! I love ya'!

On your birthday, I took in the sights of Paris on a cruise down the Seine river, and then walked around Paris taking pictures for 5 hours down by the Louvre, gardens, Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower. I wish you were here with me taking it all in.

Tomorrow, London to see Guys and Dolls with good ol' Ewan McGregor. I'm pumped!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Wobbly Knees

I am feeling the 509 little steps that I hiked in the Cologne Cathedral the other day. This morning I woke up and walked around Brussels--much better the second time around. I found the train and took it to Paris. Upon arrival, I attempted to call my friend who was to meet me, but I couldn't get the phone to work. By this time, the 40 lbs on my back and wobbly knees from the cathedral were starting to get to me. Several people helped, and one guy even let me use his phone card. No luck. I am standing in the middle of Gare du Nord, wondering how I am supposed to get to a place that I have no address for and no phone to contact. I found two sweet Americans who let me use their cell phone to call. My friend had already been to pick me up that day, but missed me because our communication over e-mail hadn't gone through. Grrr! She started to tell me how to get to her house (which is very complicated) and the more she talked, the weepier my eyes got. By this time, my legs were about to give out. When she heard me starting to sob (I have been very emotional these few days, I know :P), she said for me to take a certain train and sit there while she came to get me.

The American girls gave me a subway card and a little map that they had marked where I needed to go. Somehow I seem to lose all sense of adventure and ability to focus with that bag on my back. Because as soon as it comes off, I am fearless! But I managed to find my friend (rather, she found me) and we hiked back to her house from the train--about 20 minutes walking. We rested for a few minutes and set out again for a Bible study. It was cool to see the work she is doing here. I would say well worth the sweat and tears!

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Well, I left the beautiful experience of Germany to travel about on my own. What was I thinking coming to Brussels first?! I was initiated into travelling by myself as soon as I stepped off the tram. A dude named Mohammed decided he wanted to escort me to my hotel, no matter what I said. He followed me in and kept trying to exchange numbers. He left and then came back in with his number written down. I had already told him no about 6 times. By now, I had to break out my ghetto--dude, I said no and I put my hand in his face. That worked and my hotel receptionist thought this was very funny.

I went to my room and cried myself to sleep. I woke up with crusty eyes and aching shoulders from my bag of bricks that I am carrying--Brussels is fittin' to have a large number of my second hand clothes left in their hotel. Regardless, I was ready to go out and make the most of my trip to Brussels, Belgium. With new spirit, I took the hotel shuttle to the city center. I am thanking God for the shuttle, because I manuvered the tram to my hotel and walked--that is where I met my little "stalker friend" earlier. The hotel has a shuttle to the train station too. I am all over it. Anyway, Brussels is like they took Morocco and transplanted into a New Orleans style place where they speak Dutch. I felt strangely like I did in Istanbul because of the large packs of Muslim men standing around. Interesting...

I was taking in the beauty of the city market place and a Muslim dude asked me for the time. I looked at my watch and he grabbed my hand to look also. I pulled my hand away and he started saying "F@#! you, F@*! you!" I rolled my eyes, but I was really thinking, "No you di ent!!" (said in a ghetto voice). Wow, do I have a sign on my head saying "Bother me, I'm lonely". After these little initiations, I decided to join in with packs of tourists, pretending I was one of their group. I squished right up behind them until the took another direction, and then I found another group to "join". It was funny, but I had no one to laugh with me (please chuckle as you read this so I can complete the experience :) ).

I am off to Paris tomorrow to meet my friend and I am excited to spend the next 5 days in Paris and London. Please pray for SAFETY and that I would be invisible to others as I walk around. Funny, I have always prayed that I wouldn't feel so invisible in life, and now that is all I want.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Hiccup

We have had some pretty exciting days on campus after my "wounded soldier" day. I met some great Germans, Bulgarians, Turks, and even some Germans who sound like Scottish and Irish people. What a diverse culture--some of what I like about the States is found here in Dortmund.

Some people that stood out to me: Birgit (and her mother Monika)--she approached me and we hit it off and exchanged numbers. She has come to EVERY one of our events on campus so far, even though she takes 23 hours in school and works part-time; Henrik--hilarious German guy who does American, Scottish, and German accent impersonations. He walked up to our table and asked to eat with Marc, Joa, and me. We talked about lots of things, and he says he wants to go to church, but without God. His heart seemed to be seeking though; Senay--a Turkish girl who wanted to exchange e-mails and come to the English conversation class regularly. These people are just a few that we have met. Many other team members have made amazing contacts. We did an English conversation class that had about 15 people come to it (it had been 3 the week before). Please pray for our grill party tonight and our goodbyes with our friends we've made.

I will have some more pictures up later, but one of the best "outreaches" we have had was going to the Irish pub, "The Hiccup", last night. We watched Germany play Russia in futbol on a big screen and many of our friends came to hang out all night. It was great to relax and talk with them after we had an open-air worship service on campus. We didn't have a great turnout for that, but the RIGHT turnout. At the Hiccup, amid the smoke and noise, two Gospel conversations were going on simultaneously, while 2 guys that the team met last year were conversing with the team as well. Very fun!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Meeting Sarah

Originally uploaded by Brownie Bytes.
I went to a German party and met this girl named Sarah. She spoke excellent English and was just a joy to talk to. We exchanged e-mails and numbers and she said she will try to come to some of our events.

Seriously, we hit it off and I thank God for meeting her. We talked for over an hour and clicked immediately. Praise God for relationships!

A Wounded Soldier

It has been quite an interesting day. After a weekend of helping and worship, today was rough. I'll start with the weekend first.

A crazy thing in Germany--when a couple buys a house, they are repsonsible for putting EVERYTHING in it. I am not talking about a registry, I am talking about cabinets, tile, wallpaper all over, paint, flooring, windows...the list goes on. One couple involved in the church needed our help, so we spent this past Saturday (and some Sunday) doing jobs for them. I am trying to put pictures up soon so you can have a look at the craziness. Talk about stress!! On Sunday, we went to church and some from our team led worship. Bryan (one of our team leaders) spoke to the congregation with the help of an interpreter. We all went to eat Italian ice cream and Turkish food--imagine that! I think the Turkish guy behind the counter was laughing at my attempts to order in Turkish. :P

Today I woke up on the wrong side of the bed or something. It was rainy and I felt pressured to wake up earlier than I did. I snapped at someone on my team and then I was supposed to go share the love of Christ with the people on campus. Somehow it didn't seem okay. I talked with a friend and cried, and then I spent some time alone. I realized several things about why I was feeling emotional: I haven't spent a lot of time with God lately due to the nature of overseas travel and teams, and the five year anniversary of my dad's death is coming up on June 10th. Please pray for my heart. I am always too busy to think about it until May comes, then suddenly I start crying a lot. It usually takes a while to figure out why I am so sad for the month. Anyway, all of this heaped on me today. So I cried in a cafe alone, talked with Jesus, and then I still didn't feel okay to go out on campus. I felt like a soldier in battle, only my legs had been shot.

The difference was that I asked God to carry/drag me to where he wanted me to go, even though I didn't feel like anything would come out of it. I was wrong about being ineffective. Apparently, Jesus always works with a willing heart, even if it is from a wounded soldier.

I met some great people not 5 minutes after I returned to our book table on campus. One girl exchaged addresses with me and said she was really excited to start talking with me. :)

Keep praying for our team relations and my effectiveness here in Germany. I would also love to hear comments or encouragements if you have any. More later!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Germany Team

Germany Team
Originally uploaded by Brownie Bytes.

This is our team on the first night at a local "castle" (okay it has a moat--it counts!) The red eyes are from the camera, not our lack of sleep! It was a long and smelly flight, but I am glad to finally be in Deutschland.

I had to fly by myself because of my later trip to France, so God provided a group of Christians that were going on a mission trip to Russia for me to hang out with on the way over. One older guy owns a photo lab in Dallas and saw that I am a picture taker, so he offered to develop all of my pictures at the end of the summer! For those of you that know how expensive black and whites are to get developed well, you'll know that I almost fell out of my chair. All is well with our team and I look forward to the next 10 days in Germany.

If you would like to see more pictures of the "castle" and a few of our team, click on the "Germany Team" picture and when it takes you to the webpage, click on my "photostream". You can view a slideshow or you can browse away!

Thank you to those who have been praying for me and our team--please keep it up! I need it desperately.