I just got back to Cittadella after an incredible four days in Rome. It was amazing to be in a place of so much history. Although of course I sought-out the popular attractions like the Colosseum, I found that everywhere I went, I came across ancient ruins, beautiful monuments, and bits of Roman tradition and legend. Highlights for me were the Vatican Museums & the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Forum, Piazza Navona, and walking along the Tiber River & across its bridges.
I had a map of the city, so navigating was generally pretty easy. I walked everywhere - my hostel was near the Colosseum, which made it easy to get there in ~10 minutes. But getting to the other side of the Tiber River and the Vatican took me almost an hour. Not because it was necessarily really far away, but because I had to wind my way through tons of tiny little streets to get there. I did fine most of the time, but it was a headache trying to pass through "Piazza del Esquilino" - there were so many tiny streets heading in/out of the plaza that I had to ask for help, every. single. time.
The food was of course wonderful, as always in Italy, though it took more work than usual for me to find the non-touristy spots. I was successful, though, in finding a few cute little hole-in-the-wall restaurants, where I enjoyed lots of pasta and wine ... and I think I had gelato 3x/day as well, oops... :)
I also had great conversations with some fellow travelers in the hostel where I stayed, as well as with some Italians that I met while out-and-about. I'm happy that my language skills are improving, as it is allowing me to speak to locals a lot more, which in turn allows me to learn more about the culture here :)
Now, tomorrow it's back to my regular schedule - class in the morning, and watching the kids in the afternoon.
So, the two boys I care for here are LEGO obsessed. They have so many building blocks to create airplanes, the eiffel tower, a castle, dinosaurs, dragons, construction trucks, police cars...pretty much anything you can imagine, they have made it in LEGOs (even a tiny port-a-potty, haha). This evening I was working on a 4-story "hotel" with the 5 year-old.
At first, Federico wanted to only use blue pieces. But as we began to build, we quickly realized that if we allowed ourselves to use the red, green, yellow, and even the "ugly" brown and gray pieces, we could make our hotel to be several stories high! So, we ended up making a multi-colored hotel, which wasn't necessarily as pretty on the outside, but it was complete with severals flights of stairs, an elevator, and a front patio with a restaurant (this is a very talented 5 year-old). Federico was so proud of what we had constructed at the end, and he didn't seem to mind that his hotel wasn't all blue - he said it was a 'beautiful' hotel because it had so many colors.
So often I want to hide my imperfections, and present myself to the world as an all-blue LEGO hotel. I fear exposing myself to the world with all of the ugly gray and brown blocks that are a part of who I am. But the wonderful thing about God's grace, is that it is sufficient for us. We all have gray and brown pieces built into our walls - times we mess up, lose our patience, fail to trust God, when we fall into the same sin over and over again. But we don't have to be perfect, because Jesus is, and He has already credited us with His righteousness when He died on the cross. In fact, there is freedom in admitting our imperfection, which allows us to better strive towards holiness.
God's Word says: "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, 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
I must remind myself to choose to be genuine, instead of putting up a front that I'm some kind of perfectly put-together human. I can boast gladly of my weaknesses, accepting God's grace over my life. Instead of allowing my sin to control me as I try to hide it, I can allow God to use my imperfection and failures. Every time I mess up, I have an opportunity to experience God's grace more deeply. I can allow God to use those ugly brown and gray pieces of my life to make me stronger spiritually, to build my faith up higher, just like Federico's multi-colored LEGO hotel.
It is an international church - with people from all over the world - Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, etc. This church feels like home already :) I love how Our Heavenly Father brings His people together as family - the African woman sitting next to me turned and said "You're my sister" during church. "Yes, we are sisters in Christ!" I responded.
In the afternoon I met up with some sweet girls from South Africa that I met at the language school I'm attending. We had rich conversation about Jesus over macaroons and coffee. We discovered that we have so much in common theologically and shared stories about our experiences and native cultures.
I have enjoyed the challenges of traveling solo, and as an introvert, I need time alone every so often. But I also know that we as people are made to live in community. It is awesome to meet my brothers and sisters in Christ from different parts of the world. - We each worship, dress, eat, and speak differently...but we all love and are children of the same God, and that makes us family :)
Since living here, I have discovered that family is an important part of Italian culture. Being so, having an Italian family includes having Italian grandparents! Every Monday afternoon I spend with "Nonna" (grandmother) and "Nonno" (grandfather) at their house along with the two kids I care for.
Nonna is so sweet and loves spoiling her grandchildren, just like any American grandmother does. Nonno is originally from Rome. He loves his country and culture, and especially enjoys sharing with me about the local traditions here. He is also an excellent teacher! Neither he nor Nonna speak any English at all, but he pushes me to learn their language, constantly quizzing me on vocabulary by pointing to random objects around the room and waiting for me to respond with the right word. I know I'll never get through dinner-time without correctly naming "plate," "glass," "fork," "knife," "table," "white wine," "red wine," and "candle." (Every meal is candle-lit at their house.)
And speaking of dinner, Italian food really is as good as I had heard it would be, and is completely different than "American-Italian food." I think my Italian family would laugh if I took them to Olive Garden. Fettucini Alfredo does not exist here, and you won't be able to find a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, either.
However, I am thoroughly enjoying sampling the authentic Italian food everywhere I go. My new favorite is "prosciutto crudo" - dry-cured, uncooked, thinly sliced ham. Last night I had the most delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, perfect blend of salty-and-sweet prosciutto ever! It was freshly sliced by Nonno in their house, with a traditional machine he has downstairs. Yum!
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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