Today I visited Florence - "Firenze" - such a beautiful city! I really enjoyed my time there, though this morning was a little stressful as I had some transportation troubles...
In the morning I had purchased my train ticket from Cittadella to Florence, which included riding on two different trains: one from Cittadella-Padova leaving at 8:01am, and another from Padova-Florence at 9:03am. I was scheduled to have a ~20 minute break at the Padova station, more than enough time to transfer to my second train...except the first train was delayed. At first it was only a 5 minute delay, but that turned into 25 minutes, meaning I would miss my second train.
As I left the Cittadella station, I worried about what in the world I was going to do when I got to Padova, sure that I was going to lose the money I had just spent on the ticket. Not only that, but from looking at the schedules earlier in the day, I knew that the next train from Padova-Florence was several hours later, so even if I caught a later train, I really wouldn't have time to see much of the city.
I was frustrated, but as I sat there on the train, I started to pray - I asked God to somehow get me to Florence today. And because He has continually been so faithful to me, I just felt a sense of peace, that somehow it was going to work out. I calmed down and started to doze off, though I was unsure of what exactly I would do at the Padova station. About 20 minutes later, the train stopped, and I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker (somehow I understood the Italian) that passengers could get off and board another train that would get us to Padova more quickly. Calculating in my mind, I knew that I still wouldn't arrive in time to catch the second train, but I decided to go for it anyways.
I watched the time pass throughout the duration of that second ride, and realized that it I might be able to catch that train to Florence after all. But as the train pulled to a stop at the Padova station, I checked my phone and saw that it was 9:04am. Shoot. I missed it by only one minute, I thought. Oh well, I guess that little prayer of mine was silly, anyways.
I walked downstairs and over to the screen where the train schedules were shown , planning to just head back to Cittadella, as I couldn't afford a ticket to another city for the day. But as my eyes scanned the list, they stopped abruptly on Train #9432 - to Florence. It was delayed by 5 minutes! By that time it was about 9:07, and with the delay the train would now leave at 9:08. I had ONE MINUTE. I sprinted back up the stairs to the correct platform, and caught the train just in time.
I sat down, a little out-of-breath, and smiled. God had answered my prayer! He brought me a faster train to Padova and delayed the second train to Florence. I could say it was just a coincidence, or luck. But I believe that God is purposeful in everything He does. I also believe that He loves us as His children so much, and enjoys showing us that love through little things each day, things like delaying trains for us. So often I miss out on God's blessings simply because I'm not looking for them. But I am learning to be more thankful for the ways God shows me His love throughout the day. He knows all of my worries and fears, my passions and the things that I delight in. And He is a good dad, who loves to give His children good gifts.
Traveling solo has been teaching me so much - especially about trusting in and depending on the Lord. Today I was encouraged by God's faithfulness, and was reminded of how amazing it is that our great God loves and cares about each of us individually.
Last night I went to a Norwegian fish feast in Sandrigo with a group. I learned that every town in the Veneto region has a festival or feast once a year. This particular festival was huge! After getting drinks, (prosecco again, so good!), we waited in a long line at a ticket booth to purchase our entrance to the tented dining area outside. Then it took another 30 minutes or so waiting in another line to pick up our plates and sit at one of the many tables. The fish (cod) was served various ways. A friend and I each ordered a plate of Bigoli pasta with cod, and then we shared another plate of Baccala Vicentina (cod served with polenta). I especially liked the fresh pasta - we watched it be hand-made right in front of us before eating.
Italians really do love their food and drink. I laughed at how many "courses" our meal had. First we had prosecco, then dinner (two plates of food) with a dry wine, then coffee, and then a sweet wine. Then they joked that we were going to eat MORE food....but I guess it was only to mess with me ;) I understand why wine is so popular here, though...aside from it being such good quality, it is so cheap! A glass of prosecco only cost us 0.80 euros, and a glass of wine 2.00 euros!
Not only do Italians enjoy good food, they enjoy talking about food...sooo much. Every glass of wine or plate of food comes with a long explanation of how it's prepared, what the ingredients are, what region it is from, etc. etc. etc. .... With the language barrier, these explanations often take a long time. I tried telling my friends, that I really didn't care what it's made of, I just wanted to eat...but they wouldn't let me begin until I understood the dish's full history, haha. I can't complain though, everything here is so fresh and flavorful!
Today I visited Villa Contarini in Piazzola sul Brenta, near Cittadella with my Italian mom and the kids. It is beautiful, elaborately decorated all across the front, and inside every single wall has been painted. However, as we walked to the garden behind the the villa, I was surprised to find that the back side is not decorated at all. Simple concrete, it looks unfinished, and ugly. I learned that because it was so expensive to build something so extravagant, the front was well-presented, as this is the side most people would see, while the back was left bare.
This contrast made me think about how we as people so often present our best side to the public. We are happy to share our successes and talents to the world, even sometimes misleading others to think we have more perfectly-put-together lives than we really do. But when it comes time to be genuine, honest, and real about our failures and struggles, we are much less willing to be so open.
Contrary to how we feel we must present ourselves, God tells us to be real. If we truly believe the gospel, then we know that Jesus died and sacrificed himself for us, because we are not and will not ever be perfect on our own. We need a savior, and Jesus is just that. And so, instead of hiding our unfinished or imperfect lives, we can be honest about where we need growth and support. We can be weak, because He is strong.
"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
2 Corinthians 12:9
See more photos of Villa Contarini and nearby Cittadella, the Italian city where I am currently living, here
My Italian mom recently introduced me to a new friend who took me to dinner tonight along with a group of rowdy, food-loving Italians to celebrate a birthday.
First we went out for drinks - I tried Prosecco, a white sparkling wine, for the first time. Then we walked over to a nearby restaurant for bruschetta - so much different than the "bruschetta" I have tried in the States before. There were so many different kinds to choose from...so as a group we ordered several different bruschettas to share. My favorite was topped with prosciutto crudo, mozzarella, and mushrooms, but they were all delicious. Afterwards, we had limoncellos, an Italian lemon liqueur (I preferred the Prosecco).
We were a group of 12, and although a few people spoke some English, I got quite a bit of Italian conversational practice, listening and picking up some vocabulary. I'm happy to find that I understand quite a bit, because of the language's similarity to Spanish, but I still have so much to learn, so I appreciate being able to meet so many locals to speak with.
1. Germans generally keep to themselves, but are extremely kind and helpful when approached.
2. The people are very honest, and the city is very safe - Train tickets are bought from little machines in the station, but there is no scanner or person checking to see if you have paid for a ticket when you board the train - My German friend explained that some people do take advantage of this and ride for free, but for the most part passengers are honest and pay for their tickets.
3. Germany is quiet, organized, and technologically advanced.
4. The pretzels are amazing :)
5. Talented street musicians- I have seen/heard many performers in various cities, but Frankfurt impressed me with talent in instruments such as the accordion and the clarinet.
6. Most everyone speaks English here.
Another Note: Before we had parted ways, my German friend explained to me that the skyscrapers and racial diversity that I would see in Frankfurt is specific only to this city, and is not typical of the rest of Germany.
To see more photos from Frankfurt, click here
So while wandering around Frankfurt, I decided it would be a good idea to sneak my way into a huge group of asian tourists. I followed them around the city for a bit during their walking tour, and although I understood none of what the guide was saying, I got to see some beautiful parts of Frankfurt. I was blending in great, until people started talking to me (in Mandarin or Japanese or some other asian language...I really don't even know what it was). They started getting a little suspicious when I just smiled, made a peace sign, and nodded "yes" to every question they asked me. As you can probably guess, I quickly departed from the "tour" to continue wandering on my own.
I have enjoyed a brief visit to Washington State with my family. This morning they dropped me off at the SeaTac airport, and I began my journey to Italy! Never in my life have I seen airport lines so long...winding back and forth all through the actual security area, then continuing on down two flights of stairs and out into the parking garage! That was a little nerve-wracking at first, but I reminded myself that God is always in control. Everything worked out fine in the end and I made it to my gate in time :)
I'm so thankful that I got to spend a week in Honduras at the end of my backpacking trip through Latin America. I spent 3 days in Tegucigalpa with some friends, and 4 days at the Orphanage with the kids I love!
See more photos from Orphanage Emmanuel in Honduras here
I love Jesus and what He has to teach me while I wander around the planet. My other favorite things include: foreign languages, yoga, hiking,
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