Thursday, June 30, 2011

Saltzburg Fiasco!

My roommate, Julia, and a few others travelled to Salzburg last week to pick up more SoS volunteers. What was supposed to be an ordinary day of sightseeing and a quick run to the airport, turned into a hilarious adventure. Here's Julia's version of what happened...no big, no big! lol


Natalie and I Singing!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Til I Hear You Sing."

This is my new favorite song. It's from Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera. I get chills every time I hear it. The guy who sings it, Ramin something or other, played Enjolras in Les Mis...thought you might like to hear what's been making me sing this past week.  Miss you all.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day Off!

Well, I finally have a moment to sit down and write. ;) Today is my day off, and believe me, I'm taking FULL advantage!!!! We are on the go from 8am to 7:30pm, six days a week. It's crazy, hectic, and wonderful all at the same time. ;)

So...I just wanted to take a moment and update you on what's been going on. I feel like I haven't talked to anyone in forever. :(

There's a lot, so I'll just give you the main highlights....
1. The grounds here are absolutely stunning! We're perched right across a gorgeous lake, and at sunrise and sunset, the clouds turn brilliant colors. It feels like Heaven to just sit back, close your eyes, and here nothing but the sound of your breathing and the birds chirping. ;)

2. Have met a BUNCH of awesome, strong Christians. Everyone is from a variety of countries: England, Scotland, Hungary, Germany, Finland, Russia, etc. There are quite a few people here from the States as well. Many of them are going to Bible College in the Fall.

3. Work in the kitchen (that's where I was assigned) has been a blast! The head chef, Maxine, is English and has all sorts of interesting names for her cooking instruments. For instance, she calls a spatula a "fish slicer", strainers "sieves," and the seeds in a green pepper "pips." It's been jolly good fun, it has! :-) I think I'm picking up an accent of my own in some words--I caught myself once and was like, "Who are you?"

4.  You wouldn't think that doing dishes all day would be very fun, but I'm actually enjoying it immensely. Yesterday, there was a stack the size of mount "Pillowmenjaro" (Tim Hawkin's joke) ;-).  I thought about taking a picture just to show you how ridiculous it was, but my camera was in the Villa. As we were washing, Sean and Attlia (the grounds guy--he's married to an American girl and they have the cutest love story and the most adorable little boy, Armen) and I had a GREAT political discussion. It's the first time someone has talked politics with me since I've been here. I must have been really excited because a couple of people asked, "Are you going to be a politician or something?"

5. Have had several beautiful thunder storms. The BIG kind - as in the entire sky turns purple with the lightning. :-) It was awesome! A bunch of us were sitting in the castle (it was late at night and dark) when the storm struck and the thunder began. I couldn't help but relish every moment. Not many people can boast that they spent the night in a castle in midst a thunderstorm. It's raining again now...
6. Praise Report: I love my room mates (so far anyway--lol!) and everyone has been very friendly and welcoming.

Prayer Requests:

Please pray that the Lord would continue to work in my heart and in the hearts of my fellow SOS team mates. We are always together and, as is natural in situations like these, it's easy to rub someone the wrong way. Please pray for patience, for a willingness to serve, and for the strength to meet the needs of the guests who come here. Pray for unity within the team, direction for the staff, and that this summer would just be one of maturity and growth. ;)

Hope you all are doing well. Write me, and let me know what's going on in your lives. I may not have a chance to respond right away, but I LOVE to hear news from home...

Missing you all!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sound of Music Tour

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Sound of Music, so imagine my excitement when I found out there was a SOM tour in Salzburg.  Here are a few highlights:
The famous "I have confidence..." fountain in Salzburg Square.
Maria splashes in it briefly before getting on the bus.
Me outside the Abbey gates where Gretel says to the nuns, "But I have to show her (Maria) my finger."
Marybell Gardens where they filmed, "Do Re Mi"...
(scene from ..."a long, long way to run...")
Looking up the hill to the Abbey.

Me at the "I have confidence!" fountain.
Outside the City of Saltzburg. Isn't it gorgeous? The Abbey is sitting at the top of the hill.
Taking a break for lunch.
Walking through the downtown area.  I loved the old-fashioned signs.
In front of a beautiful sculpture.
The wall. "Oh, what's the matter with me?"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Millstatt



A view of my summer home from across the lake. ;-)


Me in front of the lake in town.


The gardens along the lake are stunning and the pink roses literally took my breath away.


I love these park benches.


We went into the village for Monday Market a few days ago (their version of a swap meet). The bright-colored buildings lined one side of the street and swarms of people shopping the villager's wares were behind me. Although Austrian swarms are nothing compared to Californian swarms. ;-)

We have a bit of time before the new conference begins on Monday, so a few of us are going to Salzburg for a Sound of Music tour. We plan to break out in song at each stop. Do Re Mi...

_

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Singin'

A bunch of girls and I broke out into Disney songs which was hilarious because the dorm
hall is very acoustic. 
Here's a clip...

video


_

I'm Alive!!!

Hey Everyone!

Well, I have safely arrived/settled. What a long flight it was, too! There's way too much stuff to cover, so I'm just going to skip the not-so-interesting stuff and just give you the highlights of a crazy week. 

1. Flight to Austria (including wait time and layover) was 21 hours long! It was a pretty smooth flight, but the three of us were exhausted from lack of sleep. We arrived at the castle at about midnight. I was so amped up on adrenaline, I was unpacked and showered by 1:30am. ;)

2. Had the worst sleep of my LIFE due to jet lag. Slept two hours my first night. The rest of the team didn't start showing their faces until 7:30am....loooonnnggg morning. ;)

3. My duties involve working in the kitchen. I cut and chop vegetables all day. :D Not very glamourous, but definitely worthwhile. I think I'm loosing weight, too. (Always a bonus! lol) I'm so surrounded by food all day that by meal-time, I don't even want to touch it. Keep that in perspective, I AM eating a little. They have GREAT bread here. 

4. I'm addicted to coffee. I started the first day I was here. Seriously, I needed it. Now I can't have breakfast without it. For you people who know me as the ultimate tea consumer, rest assured: I have NOT turned traitor. I am merely maintaining a more open mind as to the medicinal advantages of another beverage. :)

5. I've rolled my ankle--again! I think this makes 6 times, counting both ankles. I've done it at least three times in the last 12 months. Was walking down a steep hill when one of the rocks slipped out from under me...or did I slip out from over it? :P

6. Swam half way across a beautiful lake two nights ago. It was SO hot here and we had been working in the sun all day. (Yes, I got switched to maintenance temporarily.) One of the guys boated along side in case I drowned. It was a gorgeous sunset and just surreal to stop, breathe, and look up into the mountains.


Okay, so you guys think that Austria is developed? Maybe in some parts, but where I am...it feels like I've stepped back in time. No street lamps, no busy freeways or traffic lights. Just you and nature. It's incredible. And the Lord is doing such a work in my heart, helping me work through some difficult issues, teaching me the true meaning of forgiveness...I've learned so much from the people here, from the other SoS staff. They truly are a godly example who want nothing more than to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. I feel very blessed to spend an entire summer together. ;)

And what am I missing back home? My family. ;) Chocolate. More piano music. But that's about it so far.

I'm keeping a journal (not very faithfully) but enough to remember all the important stuff. I wish I could post pictures, but my roommate's Mac doesn't have an SD card drive....later perhaps.

Hope you're all doing well and enjoying your early afternoon/my late evening... :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Now It's Time to Say Good-Bye To All My Family...


My gorgeous siblings!



The farewell committee!
 


My travel buddies: Julia and Josh


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

One Day More....

One more day 'til departure! I thought I'd post this music video in honor of the day. ;) This is something that Joe and I put together with some friends. We did it all: music, singing, video production, costuming, the whole shebang!!!! Enjoy! 
 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pre-Wordless Wednesday.

I'd just thought I'd show you what disaster of a condition my room is in right now. And you have to know I am such a neat freak...most of the time. lol


6 Months Home!

6 months ago today, we officially adopted Mia.
Oh, I love this little girl. She's funny, active, talkative, the world's #1 drama queen, and an all-around character. She brings so much laughter to this house with her silly antics and behaviors. For example, her signature shrug. Whenever Mia doesn't understand what we're saying, she'll stick out her bottom lip (alla Shirley Temple) and turn out her hands--twice. Exactly. ;) Then she'll shrug and exclaim, "Ohhhhhhhhh!" or "Mia!" (as if chiding herself "how can you not know?") in a really sing-song voice. We love it.

Another "ism" is what has since been dubbed the "thumb dance." Mia loves music. But she LOVES dancing. I'm thinking a career on stage is a serious possibility. ;) Anyway, when she tunes into a beat, she'll clench her little fists into a ball (making sure her thumbs are projected out) and then bob her head from side to side. Actually, I should say she bobs her body from side to side because Mia never moves one, single limb without engaging the rest. ;)

But our favorite "ism" of late is well, a bit unusual. You have to know that when we first brought Mia home, she was afraid of a lot of things. For instance, she had a deathly fear of animals. Any animal, big, small, dead or alive, caterpillar, butterfly, anything...Well, during the time we were trying to acclimate her to the presence of our cat, Mocha, we would tell her, "Mia, you need to be strong like a big girl. No cry. Happy." We've said this so often that now whenever Mia gets even remotely hurt or cold or hungry, she says, "'Tokay, Mia happy. See-tong." Translation: "It's okay, Mia happy. Strong." ;)

So now every one of us is walking around the house crying, "'Tokay, 'tokay!" I told my mom, I'm going to make that a bumper sticker. The next Forest Gump. ;) LOL

Seriously though, as silly as that little expression of her's is, I think there's a lot that our world can learn from it. When we learn to say, "It's okay," and not dwell on the half empty glass. I've often marveled over the fact that the poorest people are often the happiest. Like those starving children in Africa, like Mia. She's been through such emotional trauma. She's had to relearn everything the past 8 years have taught her, and yet--she's always, ALWAYS smiling. Always ready to laugh and have fun. And I think, with all the blessings I've had, why is it that I have the more ungrateful heart? That I am the first to grumble or complain or bewail my misfortune. (Not that I've had many...lol)

It's a wake up call, really. A reality check. What kind of person am I? Am I the kind to take on the day with reluctance? Or am I the kind to say, "Yeah, this stinks, but you know what, it's okay. I'm happy and strong."

I think if every person asked themselves that question, the world would be a much better place. Because when we stop focusing on the negative, and start zoning in on the positive, there's always a benefit. Everyone has a Pollyanna within them; it's time to get in touch with your "glad" side. ;)

And if it's buried beneath layers of anger and bitterness, remember, "'Tokay. You're happy and strong." Just keep telling yourself that. ;)


Monday, June 6, 2011

The Hills Are Alive!!!


Summer.

Is there a more beautiful word in the world? It's amazing how much joy can be compiled into six little letters! I'm so excited to start these three months of bliss because...well, two reasons. 1) Time off of school and 2) *drum roll*

I'M GOING TO AUSTRIA! *crash* I can hardly believe it, but it's true. And I'll be there for not, one, not two, but THREE months!!! Almost. ;)
I will be working at a retreat center for missionaries seeking rest and relaxation. Lest anyone should think I'll be living in a shack for three months, the facility is a converted castle! Yeah! ;) As the team is always understaffed, they're asking for volunteers to come and help out during the busy months: wash dishes, wait on tables, do laundry, maintain the grounds, etc. My duties will probably entail the following: 

I can't wait! Not only have I been crazy to travel to Europe ever since I can remember, but I think it's a good opportunity to expand my horizons, meet new people, and see how the Lord would mature me in my walk with Him!

Now for any concerned parents reading this, rest assured: I'm not traveling alone. ;) In fact, that was one of the contingent factors for my parents in letting me go. It's quite a story, actually, so I'll start at the beginning. ;)

It all began one Sunday morning on a bright, blustery day in March. ;) My family was sitting in church, just minding their own business, when all of a sudden, I caught sight of this announcement in the bulletin.

"Short-term Mission's Trip to Austria."

Well, suffice it to say, the wheels began turning. I leaned over to my mom and asked what she thought. "Sounds interesting. Let's talk to your dad."  My dad was very supportive and agreed I could get more information. I called the church the next day and after asking some questions, began filling out the application.

As God-incidence would have it, my mom met that week with a friend whom she hadn't seen in several years. This friend, upon hearing that I was going to Austria, said: "Why don't you have Talia do the Summer of Service program instead?"

It sounded like a good idea. Cost-wise, it was only a bit more for the three months (as opposed to eleven days). The only problem was, I didn't have anyone to travel with. The 11 day trip provided a group from my church flying both there and back. The SoS (I purposely did NOT capitalize the "O") program left me completely responsible for my own transportation. My parents didn't feel comfortable with my roaming about Europe alone (obviously), so we prayed and asked that if this was the Lord's will, that He would please open up the door for a "traveling buddy." I guess the more accurate story would be my parents prayed. I was pretty discouraged and resigned myself to the original plan A.

Well, the next day, we got a phone call... (Don't you just love how the Lord works?)

My mom had, unbeknownst to me, e-mailed her friend asking if she knew of anyone else going to Austria. Turns out, she did. A guy and girl, both of whom had done this program before. Both came highly recommended, and my mom contacted them for more info. Bless their hearts, they were totally cool with my tagging along and asking a million-bazillion questions. The girl lives out of state, but we met Josh, and he seems like a very capable, travel-savvy kind of guy.

There was just one problem. Josh and Julia weren't returning to the States at summer's end. They were staying on in Europe (for different reasons). This threw a major spoke in my wheel. Here I thought everything was going like clockwork, and instead I found myself without an escort home.

Long story short, I contacted the castle director and asked if he could hook me up with anyone from California. Unfortunately, the girl he recommended to me lived about 7 hours away which meant that one of us would have to take a connecting flight home. As the cost of airfare is already expensive, neither one of us were willing to fork out the extra dough. So that was strike one!

Things began to look brighter though, when the director put me in touch with another gal heading the church Children's Ministry. Her group was flying to England on the way home and would be stopping in London for two days of sight-seeing. Now for those of you who DON'T know me, I love anything and everything British! To give you a minuscule idea, I was one of those girls to stay up until four in the morning to watch this! ;)
Pathetic I know, but that's the honest truth. (As opposed to the dishonest truth :P!)I've always said that once I graduate from grad school, I'm going to take a tour of England/Ireland/Scotland and see all the places I've only ever read about.

Well, the Lord decided to make that future day even sweeter. The gal couldn't get me on her flight. ;( I wasn't traveling TO Austria with her group and therefore wouldn't qualify for the the discount. *sighs* So that was a very disappointing strike number two!

By this time I was starting to clue into the fact that all of these "road blocks" were really spiritual tests to my faith. It's hard to explain, but when this opportunity first presented itself, I just felt as if the Lord was calling me to go. I know a lot of people don't agree with my decision, but as strange as it may seem, the more something wouldn't work out, the more I felt like I was in the center of God's will. It's as if He was saying, "Talia, you're going to Austria. But will you trust Me through this...and this? How 'bout this?" ;)
Anyway, much as I would have loved to go to England, I also knew that the extra expense would be considerable. You wouldn't think that a flight from Munich to London would be that pricey, but when you need a specific flight for a specific time for a specific blah blah blah...guess again!

Thankfully, this gal presented me with an alternative solution. Why don't I return home with the original 11 day group? They would be leaving at the end of August and might just have enough room to let me tag along.

Thus began three weeks of painful, anxious waiting. Because people register late for these mission's trips, the church couldn't book the flight right away. This was fine for them--they're not leaving until mid-August. But for me, who is leaving in less than four days, it was a slight problem. ;) Just slightly....

On top of that, do you know that a one-way plane ticket from Germany to the US is $4,500?????!!!????

Let me say that again: $4,500!!!!!!

Shoot. me. now! I couldn't believe my eyes. If anyone is so insane as to buy a $4,500 ticket, don't talk to me 'cause I'm sure we share nothing in common! :D

So that was strike three. "You're out!"

But just when it seemed all hope was lost (don't you love that phrase?), God provided me with another answer.

I called church travel agent asking if I didn't need to have my vision checked, and she suggested I buy a round trip ticket (discarding the first part). That brought the cost down to nearly a 1/4 of what it had originally been.

Praise God! After much faith, trust, and pixie dust...everything's finally settled. My flights are booked, my sim cards, visas, and passports are all in order, and I leave in--a very short time. AAAHHH!!!!

You guys should really see my packing list. It's three pages long, and next to each item I've drawn two boxes: one to check everything I packed going there, and another to check that I packed everything coming home.

Mia and I spent a couple of days making a paper link chain. That way, she'll be able to rip off one link for every day I'm gone.
And how, you might ask, are my parents dealing with all of this, their firstborn traveling overseas for the entire summer? They're freaking out, as they should. ;) But they're also VERY excited for me and VERY eager that I experience what the Lord would have for me in this season of my life.

I must say I'm looking forward to it myself. I will be posting from Europe, and sending e-mails to my mom which she will forward here. I'm not abandoning you (the few readers that I have)! And I look forward to sharing all my adventures.

So, after that long-winded post full of more details than you'd probably care to know, I guess there's just one thing left to say.

Auf Wiedersehen!!!!