July 7, 2009

Minnesota Rain

:) I was looking through some old e-mails, and I came across this one that I had written three years ago. I really like the images that it captures and it puts me back in the final days of my Jr. year of college. I just love thunderstorms... Enjoy!

For anyone who enjoys Minnesota rains as much as I do (especially if you miss them now, or have a flair for the dramatic):

As the sun began to climb over the midwestern plains, you could tell that it was going to be a humid day. The mist began to rise as the hours passed and the clouds parted to let the hot sun shine through. When you looked to the sky across this Minneota prairie land, you could see the front forming in the distance. On a small, distinguished college campus, students busied themselves on their study day... some with studying, others enjoying their "day off". Didn't anyone notice the increasingly darker horizon? I watched with anticipation and hope. Finally, the afternoon heat increased and the humidity level rose to a point where few could ignore. The clear blue dome overhead began to shrink as the thunderheads closed in above.

A group of students awaited their discussion in Biology when a crash was heard overhead. It had finally begun. Huge raindrops began to pelt the few that lingered on the mall as they were driven indoors. Sheets of rain were driven down upon the glass roof by the western winds of the prairie. The first thunderstorm had finally arrived!

As the storm continues to hammer its way around me, I wish that I could be outside, enjoying it to the fullest. Alas, it is the study of Biological Rhythms that keeps me indoors. What a shame I am unable to experience the rhythm of the raindrops and puddles instead. I hope that the storm continues and that I can walk home in the rain. What a joy to be lulled to sleep by the pitter-patter of rain and the sudden crash of a Minnesotan thunderstorm.

October 31, 2008

Oh Lord, let me build Your city!

Since I started this blog, I chose the title line of this post to be the capstone of everything I write. It's from the song "City of God". When I was looking at it a bit ago, it struck me how it's a plea. That's exactly what I want to be doing. What an honor it is to be working alongside the Lord. No matter what it is that we're doing.

This morning at Division Morning Prayer, we said some of the things that we're doing with the Lord today: tests, work, class, a weekend conference, the National Guard, interviews, job hunting, walking dogs, missionary work, working on the Variety Show... and I am writing this post between Parent-Teacher conferences (in Spanish) at AMS. Glory!

All of these things are what building the Kingdom of God looks like. We've been having some awesome discussions in Dinkytown about what city-building looks like when you're 48 strong. See Collin's photos to see the fruits of our brainstorm on what the Lord has done in the first part of the semester.

And so I sit here, thinking of y'all and the Lord's work. Father, I beg You to allow me to continue working alongside these brothers & sisters as we follow You. Let me use all that I have and all that I own. "To You, Oh Lord, I lift my soul... Show us Your ways, Oh Lord. Teach us Your paths." (Psalm 25 rocks.)

September 12, 2008

Bike Attack

News Report:
Tuesday, September 9th at about 5:00pm. Karen Coleman is just coming back from a long run through and along parts of the University of Minnesota campus. She completed her three mile run and has been walking for about a half of a mile to cool off. There she stands, at the intersection of 15th & University, waiting for a green light.

As she waits, she decides that upon the changing of lights, she will sprint the last 4 blocks home for a strong finish. The light turns green and she takes off of the curb. While getting 2/3 of the way through her first stride a biker crashes into her. She absorbs most of the impact into her left hip where the handlebars nearly take her out. Their heads also collide, forcing his glasses into her temple. The biker and Miss Coleman had been traveling perpendicularly, and despite the small moving profile of a target, the biker's precision enabled him to hit her right on.

Since she was mid-stride, she was standing solely on her left foot (also the leg that was hit). To prevent either her or the biker from falling into oncoming traffic, she instinctively grabs the handlebars at the pivot point and regains her balance as well as the biker's. They eventually look at each other in shock and try to understand the situation. The biker is an unidentified white male of about 19 years old. He apologizes profusely but she does not comprehend any excuses given.

Miss Coleman looks around her to gain her bearings and notices her friend Eric Smolensky (a Graduate student in the Chemistry department at the U of M) is less than ten paces behind her. He was on a run of his own and they had not yet noticed each other. They see each other and Karen yells "I just got hit by a bike!" He sprints forward to make sure that she is okay. Overwhelmed with shock, humility, embarrassment, and nervousness, she laughs and the three of them make sure that everyone is okay. The biker bends his glasses back into shape as Eric razzes Karen about the incident, much to her chagrin. Soon, the biker is off on his way, as are the runners. They run the final 4 blocks back to her house together and bid each other a farewell with laughter as she goes inside and he continues his run.

Karen later realizes that if she had not seen Eric, she still would have laughed about the situation. However, the Lord knows her heart and how her joy is increased exponentially by the presence of others to share in it. He therefore sent her a friend to share in and increase her laughter. She sustained mild injuries of a 5 inch long bruise along her left hip from the handlebar impact, mild headache, and slightly sore right knee.

She is very thankful that it was not worse for either her or the biker. Karen also stated her gratitude that she ran into Eric, but luckily that collision is just a figure of speech.

August 29, 2008

Gearing up again

Right now is probably the biggest time of transition within the entire year. I'm getting ready for the start of another year of teaching (year two!) with classes starting on Tuesday. Last night was our Open House which is kind of a meet and greet for the parents, students, and teachers. We had a pretty good turn out and it was fun to bust out my Spanish again.

I'll be teaching 6th - 8th grade Lit-Comp at Aurora Middle School in Minneapolis again: six sections, 84 students. Whew! It's sure to be intense and I have to completely shift my planning to a different mode than last year, but I am so pumped!

This weekend is also kick-off for the new year of the Dinkytown Campus Division. We're starting with dinner tonight, and kick-off from tonight through Sunday morning. Immediately afterwards, all 48 of us will simultaneously move into our new spaces! (That's like moving 8 community families all at the same time. Woot!) We're having four work sections in D'town again this year: Missionary, Action, Business, and Property Management. I'm in that last one and am so excited that I can hardly stand it! (Pictures to come.)

The Lord has given us so much good work to do. It's really an honor that He trusts us to execute it all. "The goal of this instruction is love that flows from a pure heart, from a clear conscience, and from a sincere faith." (I Tim 1:5) Come, Lord!!!

June 30, 2008

Update 6/30

I realize that I've been writing more about my weekend trips than the actual nannying and the reason why I am here. :) I guess the weekends are just more exciting for me. (Berlin blog post forthcoming.)

Things have been going well. I've had both kids for a week now that Filippo is back from soccer camp. They are quite the handful... but in general I think it's better and possibly easier to have the two of them together. That way we have the option of playing all together, I can play with him or her individually, they can play together, or all three can do our own separate thing. (Before, it got pretty intense when it was just Camilla and I together alone all day, every day.)

Filippo speaks very little English... so that makes things interesting at times. He only listens when he decides it's worth his time. Often, I speak to him in an interesting hybrid of English, Spanish, and Italian. (need to repeat a few times in different ways, but we make it work) Camilla's English is pretty good, and it's needing to get even better now that she needs to translate for Filippo sometimes.

As I said in a previous post, I really have to think in three languages when I'm here. The part that makes this especially interesting is the fact that I don't speak Italian! Nevertheless, my Italian comprehension is skyrocketing! I hear the kids speak it to each other and about half of the conversations between the family with the parents around me are in Italian. I haven't picked up on speaking the language a ton because I'm expected to be speaking to the children almost exclusively in English.

Last week I had an epic dream where most of us were all together in WW2-like Europe. I recall various snapshots of having a couple Lords Days, and one was cut short because the buildings around us were being bombed. It was clear that many of us were involved in the underground resistance. But the main reason I remember it (as opposed to most dreams which I forget upon waking), is because one of my friends was speaking to me in fluent Italian in the dream! I couldn't understand everything that was said, but it's evidence that I'm at least absorbing a good deal of the language while I'm here. Craziness.

Hope all is well with you wherever life has you at the moment. Ciao tutti! (Happy last day of June!)

June 25, 2008

Reflections on Traveling Alone

Most of my travels that I have embarked upon over the last 3 1/2 years have been solo ones. (Wow, has it really been just that long?!) When thinking about what's next for Karen, the world traveler, I think that I am about ready to put an end to my solo travels. It's fun, but it's intense. It's just so much more fun to have people to share it with! But, while I'm thinking about it, here's some reflections on traveling alone & what it takes. I've learned a ton!
  • You have to be gutsy, adventurous, smart, resourceful, confident, fiercely independent, and ambitious.
    • I’m working on it.
  • There is a definite mindset that I get myself into when I’m traveling solo. You are only as lonely as you make up your mind to be.
  • I do a mix of both staying alone and trying to find new people to spend time with. Too much of either would wear me out.
  • I do more talking on trains (bus, metro, plane, etc…) and in hostals than while I’m walking around. You can jump in with a harmless question about the destination, route, travel tip or story, or something like that. There’s no daunting commitment this way. It might end when I get off at the next stop, when we finish our glass of wine, catch the next flight, or when you can’t answer because of the language barrier.
  • However, I also have some friendships that started this way, and have lasted for years!

Some stories from past travels:
  • Overheard three groups of people from various parts of Australia that were talking at the train station. I joined their conversation with a travel tip. Then sat by one of the women on the train afterwards. Eavesdropping is definitely a part of picking up random conversation.
  • Met a mom and 19 year old daughter from Montana who were traveling together before summer study abroad program in Valencia, Spain. I gave some advice and stories from my time in Spain. They said that I was the 5th person from MN that they had talked to! Many said it had been a hard winter. Either that, or we’re just especially outgoing towards strangers in foreign countries. (I think this one started by talking about our Rick Steve’s travel books.)
  • I sat near family with three kids from Colorado on the train. The dad is originally from England and the mom is from Sweden. (sweet!) Talked to the kids about what they could see for a while.
  • I stayed in the same hostal as a pair of friends / sisters from Canada. One is from Manitoba and the other from Alberta. Amy Rice was my connection with this one!
  • A guy asked me a question about the bus we were riding in English. We were in Portugal, he was a Peruvian student at the University of Delaware traveling around. We toured a monastery, took pictures, and talked about art together. Kept in touch over e-mail and chat.
  • Met a guy in line for a sandwich in the Milano train station from Montana. He goes to the St. Thomas School of Law in downtown Minneapolis and was doing a summer abroad program in Roma.
  • Ate dinner with a mom, her son, and a seminarian at my hostal. Walked around the city with them that evening and met a local priest who gave us an in-depth tour & history lesson of the restored piazza. Awesome!
  • Asked people to take a picture of me in front of various landmarks (the trust-worthy looking ones) and struck up conversation with them afterwards while hiking or over a glass of wine.
  • Asked to borrow a travel book from the people next to me on the bus to learn about our destination. (Way to go to Portugal without any info on it, Karen... not the best move.)
  • Heard someone speaking English in Chinese grocery store and followed her to pick up some conversation. She was happy to talk as well since she had just arrived for an exchange program there.
  • Toured around Rome with two Austrian guys from my hostal for 3 days. Kept in touch by exchanging pictures through e-mail. Visited one of them over three years later in their home town when I was back in Europe!
  • Best story from this summer in Italy though is about Joyce & her husband Kelly:
    • They are a couple from CO who I sat next to on the plane from Sea-Tac to Amsterdam. They were traveling to Europe for business with a bit of pleasure mixed in. I ended up switching seats with Kelly for leg room because he’s about 6’3”. We talked for a while about traveling, and they were a really cool Christian couple.
    • Then, as we were getting ready to disembark, he misplaced his passport! The three of us started looking for it (and I prayed to St. Anthony, inspired by stories told by family members at the wedding I was coming from). He ended up finding it in the bathroom trash, between the bag and the container.
    • They helped me get through security quickly, we said good-bye in Amsterdam, and wished each other luck.
    • I was walking through the tunnel into my home base at Cinque Terre and the couple in front of me looked somewhat familiar. It looked like them!
    • I tapped the woman on the shoulder, and it took a second but then they recognized me too! We had said good-bye in Holland and now here we were in a national park in the Italian Riviera!I guess the knack for remembering people’s faces, names, and then running into them later on is genetic. Right, Papa?
    • The Lord was clearly doing something here, so we exchanged contact information and we’ll see if anything comes of it. Glory!

It's fun to travel alone and you learn a lot about yourself. But it's kind of scary. The Lord has been really gracious to me throughout the years on all of my various trips. I have learned how to trust people in a whole new way and also how to make quick, as informed as possible decisions. I can navigate an train station, airport, bus depot, and look up train schedules in a whole bunch of languages that I don't speak.

All Glory goes to the Father on those ones, because He's the one who brought me through it and taught me along the way! Who knows what we'll do together next!

June 24, 2008

Come with me to el Parco Nazionale dell’ Cinque Terre

We get up at 5:30am to gather my things, drive to Arona, and catch the early train to Cinque Terre. This is an Italian National Park within the Italian Riviera. In order to preserve it from tourism, the only traffic is train and pedestrian. I came here a little over three years ago, fell in love with it, and now we’re back. It is the one location that I will revisit on this trip.
Approaching Cinque Terre by train is fun. We pass through innumerable small towns, switching trains in Genova and suddenly our train is hurtled into darkness as we travel underneath mountains via the system of tunnels. Boom! There is a flash of blinding sunlight and to the West you catch the first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea. Just as your eyes are getting adjusted to the sunlight, you are sent back into darkness. This pattern continue for about an hour. But as the bursts of light become more frequent, the levels of anticipation and excitement rise because you know we’re getting close. You can hardly contain your joy and a smile slowly spreads across your face without really knowing why. What is it about this place? Finally, we arrive at Monterossa dell’ Mare and you try to restrain yourself from running as you leave the station and head to the water, beaches, mountains, and tiny towns of Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre (5T) means five lands, and it consists of five tiny towns that are smashed up against the mountainside and spill out into the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the birthplace of pesto and the air is heavy with the smells of the sea, basil, olives, and the mountains. The steeply terraced landscape spill over with flowers, vineyards, and trees weighed down by lemons, apricots, and olives. The towns are bubbling with the life of the natives patroning countless gelaterias, paninerias, and pizzerias. One of the reasons for the precarious nature of these towns was as protection from pirates hundreds of years ago. They tried to fortify their homes and make them hard to access… they succeeded!

Riomaggiore is the first of the five towns. It is the biggest non-resort town, and seems like the logical place to start our day. Murals on the walls greet us as we head to the waterfront. We climb out along the rock outcropping in the bay to eat a picnic lunch. I look at you to say that it’s almost reminiscent of Grand Marais and we’re reminded of bouldering with Team MIS as well. Despite our attempts to be careful, I get splashed by the waves twice and am drenched in the salty water of the sea. We laugh and I cling to the joy that the Lord gives along with humility and humiliations. People we pass on the hike give big smiles and ask in Italian for the story. I just smile back and take a little bow. It’s an easy walk to the next town, and one section is referred to as the “Via dell’ Amore”. We split off from the main path for a while and hike up to the old castle-like stronghold and tower. Across from the tower, I spot an elementary school and tell you that I’m tempted to apply.

We head back to the hike and wind our way over to town number two, Manarola. This is our home base while we’re here, so we follow the explicit directions to the hostal: “Go through tunnel, turn right, go up the hill, and take a left at the church”. The tunnel that is referred to there is painted a bright green and it’s a fun way to get from the train station to the town. There seems to be more of a neighborhood feeling here in Manarola, but maybe it’s because we know it’s home for the weekend. When we went to mass Sunday morning next door to our hostal, we were some of the only non-Italians there. The parishioners were all hanging around the piazza before mass started. Later on in the day, you spot those children who were altar servers that morning playing soccer in that piazza. The feeling of community is permeates this life.

As we head down the path towards town number three, you point out signs that say the path is closed. We hope that they’re out of date, and decide to see if we can maneuver our way through anyways. About half-way there, we discover that the path really was washed out by a landslide and we are forced to turn around and catch the train. I heard rumors of an upper trail later on that day, but we were unable to find it before leaving. Corniglia is the third city of Cinque Terre, and even though we took the train, it is still hard to get to! After climbing the 382 steps up to the city center, we discover the “city on a hill” of this place. It’s the only town not directly on the water, and it’s open to a little more traffic than the others. There are lots of motorcycles and Vespas parked nearby. It seems somewhat fitting the the middle city, the heart of this place, would be the hardest one to access. Talk about being on a remote hilltop!

I remember as we begin the next hike that this one (between #3 & 4) is the wildest, greenest, and toughest of them all. As our feet get splashed and muddied, you comment on the wet trail and how it’s not surprising there was a landslide on the other side of town. Finally, after an hour of arduous hiking, we spot Vernazza, town number four. This is my favorite town out of the five. I find it the most picturesque with it’s rambling staircases and reinforced walkway out into the bay. As we sit and take a rest, there are some ambitious swimmers in the bay, and lots of people sunbathing nearby. I recall that this is the town where I had the best gelato ever at “Gelateria Antigliari” so we visit it twice while we’re here. I’ve made a rule for myself that I can never try the same combination of flavors twice. Saturday brings me “Frutti di Bosco & Ciocolate” (Wild Berry & Chocolate) whereas Sunday is more adventurous with “Ciocolate con Pepperocini & Limon” (Jalepeno Chocolate & Lemon). Whew! Despite your grimace, I try to convince you that it’s really good… honestly!

Finally, we reach town number five, Monterossa dell’ Mare. This last one was another intense hike of about the same length, but it took us longer because I was tired. It’s the most resort-like of the five, and is clearly more touristy and upper class. There are many more people who are here for the beach and the shopping, not the hiking like we are. It does have the only sandy beach, and it reminds you of more typical beach resort towns that you’ve seen. Once we venture off the resort path and start taking back ways though, we both start to see how it’s very clearly still related to the other four.

We had mixed weather throughout the weekend, but it was nice in general. One thing that I couldn’t help noticing was how the scenery changes with the weather. This is most notable regarding the color of the water. When it was sunny on Saturday, the water varied from an amazingly brilliant royal blue to a true aquamarine. On Sunday however, the weather was cooler, cloudy, and brought some rain. The water then appeared a gray to dark blue-green hue. It was a packed weekend and we’re tired, but man was it worth it! Glory to God!