Friday, July 29, 2011

Update from Austria!

Hey Guys,

So I know it's been a while, and I've neglected (shamefully) to update this blog. :( Rest assured however, I have NOT fallen off the face of the planet. It's just been one of those crazy last few weeks...Here's some of what's been going on--in a nutshell:

1) We are up to a whopping 41 SOS people, including staff. Apprently, this is one of the biggest turnouts yet. It's great, but at the same time more complicated...and more difficult to connect with people on a deeper level. But I've met some awesome believers, and in my small groups, a kindred spirit or two...

2) Summer of Service it is NOT!!! We are cold, wet, and rainy in Austria this year. Thunderstorms, snow-capped mountains, name it. It's COLD!!! Several of us have been forced to break out the gloves, hoodies, and mittens. Oh, and let's not forget double-layered socks, blankets, and portable heaters! Not exactly winter (today is acually warm), but on the days it is cold, it's freezing! The nice thing is, I have a good excuse to drink loads of coffee/tea. :) I just wish I brought my wooly boots.

3) Things continue to go well in the kitchen. Injuries have been minimal, and my cooking buddies, Josh and Albert and I, are becoming good chums (as they say in England). I am pleased to say, that I have not broken a dish or cut myself since I've been here. Unlike Josh, who in addition to breaking two plates and a bowl, nearly chopped his finger off a few weeks back. Or Albert, who burnt his hand severely AND broke a glass cup. Tisk, tisk! lol No, the worst I've endured so far is a square inch burn on my thigh. That's what happens when you lean up against a recently-turned-off-but-still-blazing-hot oven! In my defense though, the indicator light was off. :D

4) I will never complain about doing dishes again. I didn't know so many dishes could exist on this planet, let alone in one kitchen! And we use them ALL just about every other

5) We're having a costume/dress up night next Satuday after turn around. (Turn around is when we take the castle apart and put it back together again for the next conference--every Saturday!)  I'm SO excited. I'm thinking of dressing up as the evil Queen in Snow White. But I'm not sure. Open to ideas...hint, hint! :) 

6) We're also going to Italy again in two weeks. This time, for some pizza and some beach fun. I'll be sure to post pictures.

7) My new proverb: 'Roomates come and go, but Julia and Talia endure forever!' Seriously, we are the only ones in our room who haven't been moved at some point in the summer. It's sad, because you start getting to know these girls (midnight chats and all) and then they have to leave. Even if it's just down the hall or up to the castle, it's not the same as waking up in the morning to each other's bed hair, acne, halitosis, puffy eyes, etc. You feel so much closer to one another! :)

8) Adventure here never ceases. I had the opportunity to go climbing again. This time THROUGH a mountain river. It was wonderful and...cold. :) The water was numbing this last time. I could only stay in it for a minute or two. But it was a blast nonetheless. Not many people can boast that they've been free-style rock climbing in Austria! :) (Free-style as in no ropes or gear....)

Well, that's about all I have time for. I'll try to post pictures soon. Write me and let me know how you're all doing. :)

Miss u guys!

Monday, July 18, 2011


In the car...
The scenic Alps...aren't they gorgeous? God's creation is amazing!
Venice! We took a water bus through the main canal. THIS was our view...How breathtaking to think of all the history that this place has seen.
Venice wouldn't be Venice without the famous gondolas!
Me and my room mate, Dasha!
(L-R) Jimmy, Kelsey, Chelsey, Emily, Dasha, Sarah B., Sarah J., and me!
St. Marco's Cathedral. Why can't they build things like this nowadays????

Venice is historically known for its masquerade festivals.

Yes, Dasha and I bit the bullet and forked out 80 Euros. :) It was an incredible experience, though and worth every cent!!! Maybe someday I'll go back with my future husband and do the bridges :P


Me and Emily!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

One Life Down, 8 to Go!

Have you ever done something so dangerous you knew you would be putting your life at risk, but were compelled to do it anyway? No? Well, good for you, 'cause this genius almost died in her attempt to be Wonder Woman...

Wanna see what I did? :D

Yep, that's right. I climbed up a waterfall. :D 

A few days ago, some of us got the brilliant idea to search for falls that--apparently--no one knew existed. lol Seriously. The best we got at directions was, "After the sign, just keep walking. You'll find the trail. Can't miss it." Am I the only one who thinks that description is a bit ambiguous? Maybe? Just a little bit? Between ourselves (and the rest of the world wide web--:D) I don't think that individual was very detail-oriented. :)

Anyway. After a long, round-about, wild-goose-chase, we finally found a stream that emptied into the lake. "Well," we decided, "the water's gotta come from somewhere." So with that, we climbed (more like fell) into the stream and began our blind expedition. [Side note: being the typical, overly-prepared girl scout that I'm not :), I had packed my cell phone, mega water bottle, and camera in a strap-on bag. Bear that in mind, por favor...]

Things went well for the first 100 yards or so. The stream was channeled into a wash, and the ground was paved with really smooth stone.  It felt so good to get my feet wet on such a blazing hot day! But then...

The adventure began. I have never been so stoked in all my life! Guys, I hiked through a stream!!!! That may not sound like such a big deal to some, but for me, Miss California girl, surrounded 24/7 by cement and suburbia, it was a monumental feat! To be slipping over rocks left, right, and center, getting my shoes/socks sopping wet, hearing the splash of the water against the rocks, AND trying not to break my camera and phone at the same was nothing short of amazing. Definitely a highlight of this summer--and maybe my whole life! :D

So. To continue...

This whole time, as we're continuing to hike, the stream is becoming more and more rocky. At this point we're climbing over boulders and pulling ourselves up over mini falls. All the while not even knowing where this "trail" is taking us. Fun stuff! I nearly stepped on a frog...AND a small snake (maybe one foot long)! Screamed bloody murder. Nearly scared everyone half to death. lol It took a while for  my heart to settle back into it's normal rhythm...

Now, there really isn't much more to say as for as our "hike" is concerned. Yes, it was amazing. And yes, we found the waterfall. The real meat of this story happens there. 

For those of you who know me, you'll understand that as the world's most OCD dare devil, when I start out to do something, I HAVE to finish it. Even if it means killing myself, which I almost did. :) 

You've seen the fallen log in the pictures. What you don't see is a four-tired water fall with a plethora of rocks at the bottom. Don't ask me why I did it--I have no idea--but for some reason, I couldn't look at those rocks and NOT climb them. Call it an insane, adventuresome spirit that came over me. But I began to climb. And thus began my near-death experience. 

Now, I've never been a rock climber, but I will say that I was pretty impressed with myself. The boulders along both sides of the waterfall, were not very secure, which meant that I had to poke and prod at them to see if they'd bear my weight. And sometimes *rubs hands together*, they even fell out of the mountain/hillside/rockface and tumble to their deaths below. It was legit, you guys! I felt like Tom Cruise at the opening of Mission Impossible. :) 

Speaking of death, my own existence nearly came to an abrupt end on the way down. Herein I discovered something: the next time you climb up a waterfall, keeping going--UP! Don't EVER turn around without a rope and harness! But I did not know this at the time, so like an idiot, I came back down the way I came. Which meant--that's right--sliding down the fallen log. Which meant that--brace yourself--IF I'd have fallen, I would have splatted upon the rocks below, impaled myself with sharp branches jutting straight up in the air, and left my friends to drag my body back to the castle...after which my body would have had to have been wrapped, packaged, and shipped back to the States for the funeral. 

This in mind, I DID slip. But thankfully (by God's grace), my foot caught on a notch in the tree, and I was able to squeeze the trunk between my legs for a screeching halt. (It hurt like fury. And I've got the scratches and cut marks to prove it!) But I managed to climb down safely...after which I climbed back UP the other side and returned for a safe hike home. [Don't ask, guys. I'm sick in the head.]

Anyways, I'm getting hungry now and my creative juices are gone. So I'm going to sign off now, and say that this was one of the best days of my life, and as scary as it was at times, I'd do it again tomorrow! With ropes. :)

Miss you guys! Write me!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Campfire Fun

Saturday night Perfect relaxation after a long day's work.

I love campfires and the conversations. As the sun sets, the stars are clearly seen throughout the montain sky (no LA smog here!) The surroundings are SO incredibly surreal.

Maxine, the head chef, and Albert - both from England. Can I just say I love their accents? :) Albert is very sarcastic, so we go at it with verbal volleyball all day long. Example. On Monday, Leah, from Germany, wished all the Americans congrats for the 4th of July. I quipped to Albert, "Yeah, and our condolences to all you Brits. Today we informed your king that we were a separate nation." Ha-ha! He loved it.

I'm not a fan of marshmallows, so I roasted bread dough instead! It turn out so perfectly golden brown, I could have sold it for 5 Euros!
Picture of me taken by Joci. 
Carrot Cake alla Talia. Josh taught me how to make the carrot flowers. I was so stoked. I'm going to turn everything into a garnish when I get home. lol

Happy 4th!!!

Hey Guys!

Happy 4th of July!!!!

Today is my room mate, Julia's, favorite day of the year...more than Christmas! I'll admit I'm catching the fever, too. The Slovenian kids at the conference here like fireworks, so we're going down to the dock tonight to celebrate! Should be fun!!!

We've all been very busy working and setting up for the next conference, but here are a few highlights of my week:

1. Played soccer again last night. TOTAL BLAST! Two of the European guys, Attila and Alex are SO good--and competitive, which I love. ;)  Injuries have been minimal. Brandon, (from WA,) nearly knocked me unconscious by slamming his shoulder into my face. Other than that, a few bumps, bruises, and hard balls to the head are all I have to complain about. It feels so nice to exercise. We're surrounded by beautiful mountains on all sides, and this last time, there was a picturesque rainbow hanging right over the field. Gorgeous!

2. Went to Calvary Spittal yesterday for church. I really like, Robin, the pastor. He's the director of our facility. I love hearing the congregation sing in German. There's something so cool about Christianity uniting people of different cultures, languages, and backgrounds. Anyway, Florian, (friend from church) said he's going to ask if I can play on the worship in August. We'll see what happens.

3. Had some fun banter with my travel buddy, Josh, the other day while we were chopping a gazillion peppers...We were arguing (in fun, of course) over whether or not Europeans have a richer history than Americans. I said "yes", he said "no." Both of us were explaining our reasons, when I said: 

"Josh, do you know where the Renaissance began?"
Him: "In Europe."
Me: "Yeah. And do you know where we get inspiration for much of our art and music?"
Him: "The Renaissance."
Me: "And which cuisine are you studying while you're here?" (knowing quite well, the European)
Albert (another kitchen helper): "Dude! She's got you nailed there."

HAHAHA!!! I LOVE getting the last word. Josh is so quick-witted, it doesn't happen very often. ;)

4. It's July and already the goodbyes have started.  One gal, Jess, has already left. And Natalie (from the Sound of Music video), is due to leave on Friday. I HATE goodbyes! I've bonded with so many of the people here. I can't imagine not interacting with them on a daily basis.

5. We're going to Venice on the 13th! I CAN"T WAIT!!!!! I'll have to sing, "O Sole Mio" on the Gondola ride as a tribute to my mom (who loves to sing and is Italian, btw...).

6. Things I'm missing from home: tea, showers that drain, my queen-size bed :D, MOCHA FRAPS, living space, driving, regular swim workouts, Friday night movies, MY PIANO, clean floors, sleeping in, dry towels, laundry done more than once a week, YouTube field trips, and Pasta Milano. ;)  But it's all good...stretching, growing, surrendering...

Hope all is well with you.  Please stay in touch...feel free to comment too!!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Update from Austria!

Hey Everyone!

I have an hour's break this afternoon, so I'm catching up on emails and thought I'd write this short post. I love to hear from all of you - feels like Christmas - keep them coming. (hint, hint!) ;-)

I'm learning so much here in my quiet time. I feel like this experience, the surroundings, and being away from all the comforts of home, has really forced me to dig in and cling to what it is that I believe and in Whom I believe. :) It's amazing, really, the work God has already done in my heart, how much I am forced to listen to that still small voice when there is no mom to comfort me (or vent to). :) I know I'm in a hyper-spiritual environment here, but somehow I also know these lessons won't leave me once I'm back in the States. I've been asked to surrender so much in the last few weeks: my personal space, my princess status :), my sleep, and even things like bitterness an resentment.

I pray that God will be glorified. That somehow, through it all--the ups and downs and tiffs and doubts and uncertainties - I will better transformed  into the image of His Son. You may have a different daughter/friend by the end of the summer. :) Hopefully, she will be changed for the better.

Miss you all.