Eleven days into my semester abroad, Italy has me humbled. I'm feeling my age. (Students use cell phones like they were born with them in their hands.) I'm feeling my aloneness. (Stan returned to the States four days ago.) And I'm feeling like Pooh--like a bear with limited brain. Plus my throat hurts.
I have had the good fortune to see Hong Kong, Beijing, Saba, The Hague, London, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Brussels, Mainz and Heidelberg with students in the past. Now I can add Florence and Rome.
In 2004, on only my second trip out of the U.S., I took my mother to England. Our boldest itinerary move was taking a train out of London to do a six mile walk from one town (or was it a hamlet?) to another. We had no Google apps to guide us, only a simple folded map with markings like "cross Shell Bridge," which meant the bridge with a shell at the crest of its arch. We hiked through what I'm pretty sure was Sherwood Forest though it wasn't labeled on the map. I would not have been surprised had Robin Hood or one of his merry band swung down to demand a toll for our passage. About four miles in, woods changed to sheep-dotted hillsides which changed to vineyards, complete with a cafe and one of the best bowls of broccoli soup I've ever eaten. The market/cafe/soup was a complete surprise, having also been unlabeled on the map.
As we passed a hedgerow covered with pink roses, my mother told me she first fell in love with my father when he picked her flowers like that. Then she said, "I never imagined when I was a girl growing up on Deer Creek that I would ever see England."
I never expected to visit Vatican City, either. To stand beneath Michaelangelo's most famous of frescos in a room full of hushed strangers with signs in Italian reminding us that this was considered a holy place.
Be still and know that I am God. If these are the gifts I have given man, can you imagine the glories awaiting you in heaven? You think the Colosseum is a marvel of construction? These ancient streets walked by the Apostle Paul? Wait until you see the gold I've laid down. Wait until you see the shimmering pearl of my gates. Where no one fails to understand the language of love I speak. Where no one gets lost, or has a sore throat.
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." I Cor. 2:9-10, New Living Translation
Rome--and all of the Italy I've seen thus far--is more than impressive. Wish you were here, but honored to share the journey with you.
From Florence with love,