Church Search 2010

So I’ve been in Asheville for four Sundays now, and I’ve visited three churches. This church shopping is pretty new for me. When I moved to Raleigh, I got involved with Vintage21 right away. I might have visited a couple of other churches, but I felt at home at Vintage immediately. I knew some people, I started hanging out with a home group, and I started writing for the dirtydish, so I stuck around. When I moved to New York, I really don’t remember what I did or how I found the Journey. I just know I got involved with a home group (I think they called them Growth Groups), met some people, and that was that. Then I met my friend Emily, and we knew immediately that we were each other’s people. That’s what it’s always been about, come to think of it – people.

The churches I didn’t stick around tended to be too big and impersonal. There was one particular church in college that I stopped going to after visiting a singles group and basically being chastised for being there because I was too young. Thanks, guys. But then I found The Memorial Baptist Church, where I became one third of the best singles group I think I’ve ever been a part of. We had perfect attendance at all of our meetings, and we talked like whales.

So I guess now that I’m here, I’m looking for my people. And I’d like to share the search with you.

The first was a Presbyterian church – the one where the lady who sold me the TV and told me she loved me goes. The people, as you might have guessed, were extremely friendly, and in a moment when my view of the minister was blocked by the tall man in front of me, I realized that he sounded exactly like Casey Kasem.

The second was a Baptist church that, quite frankly, was a little out of control for me. It was enormous, and there were lots of crazy lights. Everywhere. And the pastor reminded me very much of Ty Pennington. I’m told that the morning service is less flashy. I might check it out. I met some people there, however, with whom I’ve hung out several times since. They’ve been very welcoming and inclusive, and they invited me to the third church.

The third church was a small, non-denominational church plant. It’s only about four months old, and there were maybe thirty people there, which was nice. I think I met half of them, and we all went out to lunch afterward. The pastor didn’t resemble any celebrities in any way whatsoever.

So that’s the update for now. I apologize for my hurried conclusion, but I just realized how late it is and how many things I have to do in the next two and a half hours. Oh, and there are at least three more churches I need to visit, so Church Search 2010 continues!

How to Get People to Come to Church with You

If you always want to invite people to church, but always feel tentative about asking and often chicken out at the last minute, here’s a simple five-step process to getting those butts in the pews:

  1. List an item for sale on craigslist. Make it ridiculously cheap, like, say a 30″ TV for $25.
  2. When your buyer comes to pick up his/her item, be overly generous and offer to load it up in the car for him/her.
  3. (You’ll have to set this up ahead of time.) Park your car(s) and place your trashcans strategically so that the buyer will have to park in the middle of the street so you don’t get a hernia carrying that monstrous TV all the way down the road.
  4. As the neighbors line up on either side of your buyer’s car (which is in the middle of the street), casually ask where they live and mention that your church is near there. Even if it isn’t. Give them directions.
  5. As they get into the car, wave enthusiastically and tell them you love them.

True story.

Looks like we’ve made it!

Well, it looks like I’ve made it…to Asheville, that is. After last week’s craziness, the weekend’s big move and two nights in a row of ten hours of sleep, I feel like my brain is just now starting to recover. I’m hoping that by this weekend, I’ll have found places for all my stuff (either in the house or at Goodwill) and become a well-known regular at Tod’s Tasties, the little restaurant up the street from my house that has free wi-fi and TATER TOTS!! It’s a lot to aspire to in one week, I know, but I think it can be done.

The weather has been unbelievably beautiful this week – in the 50s, blue skies, clear view of the mountains. I love it. I still sort of just feel like I’m visiting, I guess because I don’t have a regular life yet. Everything’s still in boxes, I don’t know many people, I don’t have a job or a church to go to, etc. But I think getting to know Tod and his Tasties will be a good first step. As dirty as that sounds.

Oh, and I made chocolate cupcakes last night, which was terribly exciting. My roommates have yet to try them, though. Did someone give away my secret ingredient??

Seriously, 3 Months? Seriously.

Man, it’s like time is moving at warp speed. Before I know it, every day, it’s midnight or midnight:30, and here I am still up, trying to upload some pictures for y’all and then deciding I’ll just do it tomorrow because dang. It’s now midnight:34, and the internet’s being all slow, and I really need to go to sleep so I can get up and do a million things before midnight tomorrow comes and goes.

And the past three months have been like this. I have more to say on that, but for now, I’ll just leave it at wow. I can’t believe it’s almost over. I just suddenly had that moment of realization today that I know where things are. Like I can get from my house to the best doughnuts on earth, good shopping, the hubs of at least three types of transportation, church AND the archeological museum (which I’ve never actually entered) without a car and without assistance (save that of the bus driver and the guy at the Party House who sells me the bus tickets). It’s not an extensive knowledge of Napoli, but it’s something. Just when I’m starting to feel at home and beginning to warm up to the place, it’s time to go.

Dear Wherever I End Up Next,
I promise to stay for more than three months. Cross my heart. I also promise to find the best museums, church, shopping and doughnuts you have to offer. But especially the doughnuts.
Love,
Beth

I’m still standin’ (yeah yeah yeah)!

Wow wow wow, friends, I am so sorry to have left you in such a lurch all week, but it’s been a busy one. I spent all day on Wednesday working on some articles so I could take Thursday and Friday off. I don’t think I’ve even mentioned yet our trip to Sorrento last weekend. It’s such a cute little town with lots of stores and limoncello and woodworking shops selling inlaid wood masterpieces. We went with a tour group from the base, so included in the tour package were transportation to and from Sorrento, a four-course Italian lunch and a day of shopping. It was great, and maybe I met a cute Italian named Ottavio who wanted me to stay and go out with him. Maybe.

Anyway, also on the tour was a girl named Holly, who’s here visiting her cousin, who happens to live right down the street from me in the same neighborhood as Tracy. She’ll also be here until December, and she also has very little going on during the day, so we decided to go to Capri together on Thursday. And y’all, it was QUITE the saga. I’m not even going to tell you all of it because it’s so ridiculous, and I just don’t feel like doing all that typing right now, but long story short, we didn’t get there on Thursday because of a man begging for change, and we weren’t sure we were going to be able to use our tickets on Friday. However, we did miraculously make it on Friday, and it is THE most BEAUtiful place I have ever seen IN my entire life. I have pictures, but they won’t do it justice. You’ll all just have to go at some point. Seriously. Must.

I’ll post the pictures later on, whenever I get a chance to upload them and get back to the internet, but until then, just imagine what you think the most serene place on earth would be like. Then add a row boat and George Clooney, and you have Capri. No, we didn’t see George Clooney, but we’re pretty sure celebrities have vacation homes on Capri based, if on nothing else, on the fact that it cost me €6 to drink a Sprite at lunch. For those of you who are math and/or international currency conversion-challenged, that’s like nine bucks. FOR A SPRITE. Just one. And Georgey was nowhere to be found when il conto (the bill) came. Freakin’ Clooney.

Anyhoe, in a couple of weeks, I’m going to go back to Napoli to do the Archeological Museum, but other than that, I think I’ve done pretty much all the things I wanted to do around here. Success!! And next week, I’ll be in FUNDON!!!! And then like a week and a half after I get back from that, I’ll be on a plane headed back to the USA. Crazy. CRAZY!! I can’t even handle how quickly this has gone by. And THEN…

Well, I guess I should tell you now. When I get back into the country, I’m taking a wee detour on my way back to Raleigh…to Portland, Oregon. I’ll be there for a few days, checking things out and trying to decide if I love it enough to move there. We’ll see.

Oh, and I have bangs. Today at least. Tomorrow, I’ll probably sweep them back to the side, but I realized last night that I’ve had them all along and never utilized them, so today, I busted them out. So far, the response has been positive.

Ok, I’m off to Thanksgiving dinner at church! If I don’t post again until I’m in London, y’all have a GREAT Thanksgiving, and I’ll talk to you (and SEE you) soon!!

Rome: A Pictorial

Hooray! Ok, here we go. We arrived in Rome on Friday evening, and when we arrived at the train station, all we knew was that we were looking for the Hotel Madison, and that its address was 60 Via Marsala. We looked at a map and saw that Via Marsala ran right along the outside of the station, so we walked out and wondered which direction we might have to go to find #60. We didn’t have to wonder long, though, as it was literally right in front of us.

So we checked in to the hotel and went up to our room. It was clean and warm and had four twin beds and a bathroom. We also got continental breakfast included, and it came out to about €30 per night per person, which is not far off from what you’d pay for a hostel but SO much nicer and extremely convenient. We were pleased.

We were meeting up with some people on the other side of town, but having realized that Rome is surprisingly not that widespread, we decided to walk. I didn’t take any pictures that night, though, because it was dark, and I knew we’d be seeing it all again the next day. Which I did. Behold:

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We decided to hit up Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel first thing because we knew the lines would be long, and the chapel closes just after noon, and I was NOT ABOUT TO MISS IT AGAIN, DANGIT. So we went to St. Peter’s Basilica (in the background of this picture), where the Pietà is. And just to make everyone feel like they haven’t accomplished anything, here’s a fun fact: Michelangelo finished carving the Pietà when he was 25. I’m willing to bet, though, that he was never on a competitive jump rope team. Take THAT, Michelangelo. Anyway, here it is.

Pieta

Freakin’ Michelangelo.

Anyhoe, after St. Peter’s, we found out that in order to go into the Sistine Chapel, you have to pay to go into the Vatican Museum. And then you have to walk ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL the way through the museum to get to the chapel. Now, had we arrived earlier, or had the chapel been open later, we would have taken our time to see all that the museum has to offer. But we didn’t, and it wasn’t, and you couldn’t go back to see the stuff you missed in the beginning, and we had other things to see anyway, so we basically jogged through the whole museum just to get to the Sistine Chapel, where we weren’t allowed to take pictures. But we took a few anyway.

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On the way out of the museum, there’s this awesome staircase designed (as far as I can tell) by architect Giuseppe Momo. It’s a double helix with one “strand” for going up and the other for going down. It is, quite simply, so cool.

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Now, as I have alluded to before, there is not much in Europe that really resembles what I think of as being Chinese food. There are “Chinese” restaurants, but they are few and far between, and even if you can find one, it’s not really worth it. If you have any suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them, but so far, I’ve found nothing. So we were determined to find some non-Italian food in Rome, and when we left the Vatican, we were on a mission. A mission that ended up failing and putting us at a little…oh I guess you’d call it a bodega. It wasn’t even really a restaurant. I don’t know, but at the end of our meal, the guy was asking if we wanted coffee, and since I don’t drink coffee, he suggested that I have some hot chocolate. I had not had any hot chocolate here yet, so I decided to give it a try, and y’all. It is amazing. It was like hot chocolate pudding, all thick and sweet. I think we could have had two cups each, but we didn’t. We were saving up for gelato.

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After lunch, we went to the Piazza Navona, where local artists sell their work. Some of it was quite good, but most of it was wholly unoriginal. That doesn’t make it bad, especially for a souvenir, but it was almost all paintings of the Colosseum and St. Peter’s, and I was not interested in paying that much for them, so we moved on.

Tracy and I headed over to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum next. We didn’t have time to go in before it got dark, so all my pictures are of the outsides. Oh well, I’ve seen them before. And now you can too!

Colosseum askew

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And thus endeth my photos of Rome. The next morning, we went to the Spanish Steps and Cafè Greco (where kids like Keats and Goethe and Liszt and Wagner used to hang out), but it was all rainy, and they were setting up for an event in Piazza Spagna, so everything was covered in scaffolding and speakers and stuff. It’d be prettier in the spring anyway.

After that, we just sort of wandered around, did a little shopping, and headed back to the hotel to pick up our stuff and get on the train to come home. It was lots of fun, though, and I’m thinking I’ll probably go back for another day or two on my way home. I fly out of Rome anyway, so I might just go up a little early and do some more sightseeing/shopping. Any requests and/or recommendations?

Ack! Ok NEXT time, I promise

I know I told y’all I’d do a Rome pictorial the next time I blogged, but I don’t have time right now (it just keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future, man). So next time, I PROMISE. I’ll do it first thing. Right now, I just want to tell you that we FINALLY got to Vesuvius yesterday, and it’s SO cool!! I’ll have to do a pictorial on that one as well. Blast! So many things to show you, so little time.

And also, we finally got around to learning verbs in my Italian class!! So now I can almost talk about things that somewhat pertain to a quasi-normal person’s life. Last night, the teacher had Tracy say something like, “My friends are not white. They’re green.” I had to say, “These friends of mine have a dog and a cat.” Then he pointed out that I must be studying a lot. I’m not, honestly. Not that much. Not as much as I did for say…Neuropsychology. Or Linguistics. Or Biology. Maybe, in fact, just slightly more than I did for Geography. Wait. Was it Geography? There was some class in college that I skipped for the entire last half of the semester, which is probably why I don’t remember what it was. It was a lame and pointless class that fulfilled a requirement and had the most ridiculous attendance and testing policy on earth. Basically, there was no attendance policy, and the testing thing worked out so that I didn’t have to take the last one or the final, so once I had secured my A, I stopped going. Sorry Mom. I still made the Dean’s List.

Anyway, so I’m not studying that much for Italian class, but according to Raffy, the teacher, I’m doing well. Hooray! And my time is up, so next time, next time, I promise you a prettier update. Peace out.

Weekend Getaway

First of all, I just wanted to share with you all how off I am. It’s not just that I can’t remember what day it is. I don’t even have a clue what time of year it is. Earlier this week, I thought it was January or February already, and not because of the weather. I’m just way off. It was on Tuesday, and Carla was asking me what people in the U.S. were voting for, and I was all, “Voting? We only do that in November,” like she was the crazy one. And then we were eating pizza in this restaurant, and the news was on the TV, and they were showing Americans at polling places, and it dawned on me that it is November now. I still have no idea what y’all were voting on, though. But that has more to do with my general political apathy than anything else.

So clearly it’s time for me to get away for a few days, and lucky me, that’s exactly what I have planned for this weekend! Today is Tracy’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Tracy!), and a few of us are headed to Rome to celebrate! It’s supposed to rain today and Sunday (when we’re on our way back), but tomorrow looks like it’ll be perfect. Mostly sunny with a high of 63?? Yeah, that’s right, Rome. You know what I like.

And this time, friends, I WILL see the Sistine Chapel. Even if I have to break in. Well maybe that’s a tad extreme. It’s only a couple of hours away, after all. I could go again on another day, but you know, as long as I’m there anyway, I really should see it. Note to self: It closes at 12:20 tomorrow. We should go there first as I’m sure there’ll be a line.

AND I was reading in my Italy guidebook (Grazie, Dan!) about some typical foods from the area, and although we have them here, I am very much looking forward to eating the fried rice and cheese balls and the gnocchi. MmmMMMMmmm!!

Ok, off I go!! Yippee hooray!!

Where do I begin?

I don’t even know what to tell you about. I’ve been away from the internet all week because (a) we still don’t have it, and (b) I’ve felt a little icky in my tummy for the past few days. No, I don’t think it had anything to do with the entire pizza and dessert and a half I ate on Sunday (except I totally think that’s what it was). Anyhoe, I’m much better now.

I went to an Italian hospital on Monday with the wife of one of the pastors of my church here. There’s this Australian girl who was touring around Italy by herself and got hit by a motorcycle. She shattered her shoulder, and they had to put in five pins and some bone from her hip to fix it. She didn’t know anyone here, but she got in touch with an aunt in the UK who found a missionary online who is hoping to come to Italy to work with our church. The aunt emailed the missionary, who emailed the pastor, who called his wife, who recruited me to go with her downtown to the hospital to visit.

So we went. The hospital was…better than a Honduran hospital, maybe slightly better than a Hungarian one, but definitely not up to US standards. On the plus side, it didn’t have that hospital smell. On the downside, though, it smelled like cigarettes. The girl was really cool, though. She was really cheerful and optimistic and totally somebody I’d be friends with. Before she came to Napoli, she worked on an organic vegetable farm for a month on the island of Elba (where Napoleon was exiled).

I think you all know what’s coming next.

Who wants to volunteer to work on an organic vegetable farm with me?!?! You get room and board in exchange for your labor. Again, it won’t be done on this trip. I will have to come back. This trip is pretty much booked. If the weather is nice tomorrow, I’m going to go to Pompeii. Then I may go out of town next weekend, but I don’t know where. If I don’t take a weekend trip, I’ll probably try to go to Capri for the day. Or Sorrento. And whichever one I don’t do next week, I’ll do the week after that. Then I’ll be in FUNDON! And then I’ll only have like two more weeks until I start working my way home.

And I can’t say what exactly, but I may go on a wee pilgrimage while I’m in Switzerland (I have an overnight layover in Zurich) to give Freddie Mercury a t-shirt. We’ll see. If I can swing it, it’ll be the most awesome thing ever. Stay tuned.

Pàpa and Vienna: Yet Another Pictorial

Well, there actually aren’t any pictures from Pàpa, but just so you know, it’s a small city in western Hungary where student Beth’s brother lives with his family. We went there partially because she wanted me to meet them, but mostly I think because she already had the trip planned before I decided to visit. Anyway, they were very hospitable and kept me warm with pàlinka, a homemade blueberry liquor and a heavy blanket. But mostly with the pàlinka and the blueberry stuff. Strong.

So because we were going there on Friday and didn’t really have any plans for Saturday, Gabor (the nephew) suggested that we go to Vienna because it’s only about an hour and a half away. And although none of us really knew much about Vienna or what to do there, we went and wandered around anyway, and it was lovely. And now I’ve been to Austria!

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

The first place we stumbled upon was the most delicious-smelling tea shop on earth, and I basically had two choices:

  1. Don’t by anything.
  2. Buy one of each.

I opted not to spend a thousand dollars on tea I couldn’t conveniently transport back to Italy, and we moved on to the square where St. Stephen’s Cathedral sits. The outside is very cool and rather formidable, and the inside is beautiful, as you will see momentarily. We also went down into the catacombs and crypts where the internal organs of 72 Habsburgs are preserved in bronze pots filled with alcohol. They were preserved rather than cremated because, as I understand it, they died before the Catholic church allowed cremation. There are large pots for large Habsburgs and small pots for baby Habsburgs.

There are also skeletal remains of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of folks who died of the Black Plague. They’re just stacked up down there like Jenga. It’s super-creepy. I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures of it. Photography was not allowed. Here are some less creepy pictures:

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Food and Drink

Wandering on, we found a little street fair where we got a mug of hot, spiced wine. Hungarian Beth has pictures of that, but she hasn’t sent them to me yet. We also found a cafè where we ate apple strudel and a wiener stand where they tried to get me to eat meat. They were unsuccessful, but I did discover (based on the picture above Hungarian Beth’s head) that the Austrians apparently eat geoduck.

Other Random Stuff

We walked past the parliament building and the opera house and a few museums, and whenever we saw a church we liked, we went in, but it was starting to rain, and my batteries were starting to die, so there aren’t many more pictures. Plus, I haven’t shrunk all the picture files so they can be uploaded here, but again, facebook.

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And that’s about it for Vienna! We thought about going to the palace, but it really started storming, so we scratched that idea. We decided that it would be better to see it in the spring anyway because apparently they have like a bazillion different kinds of roses, and there are extensive gardens for perusing each one.

Sooooooooooo, all y’all start saving your money, and in a couple of years, we’re going to go on a Sound of Music tour, which mostly just means we’re going to go to Salzburg and to Vienna and up into the Alps and learn the Lindler, and I’m going to sing and dance the whole time.

Ok, so maybe some of you won’t be interested.