Monday news


Jet lag isn’t just about not being able to fall asleep when you’d like to or eating at normal mealtimes. It’s also about not being able to remember what you’ve been doing and getting confused about what’s going on.

I sat here thinking that I didn’t have anything to blog about, but then I remembered a few things.

This:

DSCN5321It’s the famous clock tower in Graz, up on the Schloßberg. If you type in “Graz, Austria” on google images, this is the 11th image that comes up. The sign next to it said that the earliest mention of the clock in historical records was back in 1265.

I can’t think of a single thing in America that is that old. Maybe rocks? Native American culture? Fossils? But not buildings! Some people get excited about boy bands and new technology. I get excited about food and old things.

There was also part of the original wall of the city of Graz, way up on top of the Schloßberg:

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Hello, old stuff. I’m almost 20. It’s nice to meet you.

In other news, I found out I’ve been making espresso like drip coffee, which hasn’t seemed to do me any harm yet. I still get sleepy at bedtime and don’t feel too wired during the day… even though when I met some fellow Americans for the first time since I’ve been here, I found myself talking embarrassingly fast and enthusiastically.

Never mind, just read a forum on what the difference between espresso and coffee is: it’s only different if you make it differently. I’m good!

In case you were curious about my computer’s continued health, I’m happy to report that she’s in perfect working condition. I’m still praising God every time I recall what could have happened.

Have you been wondering what a vegetarian eats in the land of schnitzel and würst and sausage? Well, she makes French toast for dinner sometimes (forgetting to use butter on the non-nonstick pan beforehand and therefore requiring some scrubbing afterwards) and eats pasta on occasion. She ate Chinese food tonight (some of the best she’s ever had, particularly since it was just rice, vegetables, and sauce) and finished it off with an unknown brand of pastry. You already know about the müesli and coffee, so the rest is TBD.

On another note, I’ve felt so supported while I’m here! Your comments, prayers, and ‘like’s are invaluable! Much love from Austria!

 

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Stupidity, doubting, and faith.


Let’s talk about the three of those in that order.

First: stupidity.

Stupidity (stoo-pid-it-ee), def: You make a full, large cup of hot tea. You set your laptop on your bed and intend to join it there with your tea. Your bed is one foot off of the floor, so you have to lower yourself a lot farther than your center of gravity is used to. You lower yourself down, meanwhile sloshing tea onto your computer (aka lifeline to home, center of memories, files, and work from years and years).

You have a half second of panic and disbelief, then you grab the towel from the shelf and dab the computer. Oh, no. Ohhhhhh, no. Don’t die, baby, you whisper. No, no, no. Don’t die. I need you. I NEED YOU.

As you’re dabbing, you have the presence of mind to turn the computer off. And by some miracle, you realize it would be a good idea to set the computer up like a tent (upside down) so that the water can all drain out.

Doubting (dow-ting), def: First, you doubt that you could have ever done something so clumsy and stupid. You, who never do anything like this (note the sarcasm there). Then you doubt that God will heal it. Oh shoot, he’s probably going to say that he has a better idea. He’s going to make me buy a new laptop. Oh shoot, I can’t do that. I really can’t do that. And what will I do without my files? Where will I get such a marvelous computer as Matilda? Why do bad things have to happen when you’re brand new to a foreign country? Still, despite all the doubting, you realize that the only way this can get better is by miraculous healing.

So, you set your hand on your computer tent, which is sitting on the towel on your bed. (the tea cup is now on the floor, out of the way) You pray for a good fifteen minutes, pleading as honestly as you know how with God to fix the darn thing and to overcome your stupidity. You promise to make it known when He does. You tell him that you know that he could have a better idea, but you tell him you can’t handle the better idea. You just would like to have it fixed. You tell him that maybe there was a lesson he wanted to teach you by making you buy a new laptop in a foreign country, but you ask if you could learn that another way.

Then you proceed to continue to worry. And you wonder why you can’t just trust God to fix it. You know that God has fixed your phone before, has given you an extra week with Pearl that you really needed. He could give you an extra five months with this machine. You know that God has the power, the reason, and the sense to fix it, but you wonder if he thinks something else might be better (even though you have no idea how not fixing it could be better). You wonder why you can’t just let God have this situation. You want to try turning on the computer.  I won’t be able to sleep if I don’t know that it’s fixed. You try turning it on. It turns on but then goes black. You decide God isn’t ready to fix it but hope he is soon. You really want to trust God.

It’s a computer for goodness sakes. So you text your parents to pray for it, even though it’s a computer and you don’t want to tell them how stupid you were.

Faith (fay-th), def: You calm down and go to sleep. Then you wake up the next morning, eat müesli, drink coffee (the same coffee you have a small victory with yesterday), and tell God that you trust Him to fix it. You trust him because he called you here, and in order for you to stay here and be sane, you need your computer. You remember his words to Peter when Peter was walking on the water towards Jesus and started to doubt and sink, “You of little faith, why did you doubt? ” So you decide not to doubt. He’s faithful. You remember Daniel’s words in chapter 9, “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous but because of your great mercy.”

Have mercy on this tea-spiller, Lord.

You get the strong urge to turn on the computer again, so strong that you pour out the small remainder of cold coffee and go to your room.

And it turns ON. It allows you to login, and it stays on. And has not changed since.

PRAISE THE GOOD LORD.

Here’s my psalm for today: Praise the Lord! He has heard our prayers and fixed the computer. His faithfulness and computer savvy, no one can fathom. Hallelujah for connection and for files restored!

“I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again.”


Today is a day for small victories. Like, I successfully asked the cashier at Spar (say: sh-pah), “Sprechen sie Englisch?” She replied, “a little bit.”

WOOHOO!

Another small victory: figured out how to grind my coffee beans at Spar, even though all the instructions for the machine were in German.

It helps that the machines in the US are the same, but I’ve only used those a couple times. I credit the success to Jesus since I could have very easily ground up my fingers or broken the machine on my own.

It’s a day to rejoice in the small victories because I didn’t particularly enjoy yesterday. I mean, all the circumstances of the day were good, and I had a great companion to help me, but it’s hard to enjoy anything when you’ve been traveling for about 18 hours, not to mention that you said goodbye to all that is familiar and entered a very foreign place.

The Toronto airport ended most of the familiarity. I got to Frankfurt, and everything was in German first… then in English. I hadn’t eaten in a while since I attempted sleep for most of my flight from Toronto, so I was pretty hungry. But who wants to spend a lot of money on airport food? So I got a joghurt (said almost like yogurt…. almost) with a bunch of unknown fruchtes (the r sounds kind of like an ‘l’ and a rolled ‘r’ mixed together) and muesli in it.

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Also, a gigantic spoon. I couldn’t fit the whole thing in my mouth. I found a grape at one point, and I think there was some dried… mango(?) in there somewhere along with peach? I don’t know. My taste buds were tired, too.

All this time, I still felt like I was going to land in Minnesota, where I would find familiarity and family. I just couldn’t get my brain to understand that I was going away.

It got more real when Daniela picked me up at the airport, and we took the tram to my dorm. Well, first I got the key to a dorm that didn’t have a bed but did have a lot of dust. The dorm people quickly remedied that though, and now I’m living in my own room in an apartment with three flatmates: Fabian, Magda (short for Magdalena), and Anna (I haven’t met her yet). We share a kitchen/living room and have three bathrooms (I share with Magda). Daniela (my airport buddy) took me shopping for everything I would need.

First time grocery shopping in Austria:

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Daniela and me on the tram!IMG_20140214_155348

We also got Italian food for lunch, so that helped with the hungry thing, although my stomach wasn’t doing too well off of its normal eating schedule and 7 hours ahead of its regular time. Scarlett O’Hara’s quote (title) is appropriate here because I was a) hungry for food b) hungry for familiarity c) not sure whether I could live through a day of this, much less 4 months. I found myself just saying over and over again, “Jesus, I need you. Make it better.”

I kept counting down the hours to bedtime. When I got home from my extensive shopping, I got to know my flatmates a little bit more over dinner. Fabian got my internet set up so I could Skype my mom (he’s an IT major), and I met Magda’s friend while they were cooking. I’ll be honest: I cried a little bit. I think I was just so tired and completely out of the familiar world that even talking about my family and home was hard. They were both so sweet though, hugging me and offering tissues, so obviously the kindness brought a few more tears. We talked and laughed for a while after I finished crying (which definitely came back when I talked to my mom). Having companionship started to make dry eyes easier.

Today, however, is different Today is much better. 12 hours of sleep makes a world of difference with perspective. Yesterday I just wanted to be where things are familiar, knowing that Graz would eventually become that place, but I didn’t want to have to be in the in-between stage where I’m completely dependent on other people… I guess this is a good lesson-learning time. Lesson number 1: let people help you, and be okay with your complete incompetence.

Coffee with Magda this morning at our kitchen table also helped. She took me to the grocery store again (since I just bought a few things yesterday), which happens to be just down the road from our flat. We taught each other German and English words for things like ‘grape’ and ‘raisin’ and laughed when we had miscommunications. I kept getting excited about seeing familiar foods or brands. She had to leave in the middle of our shopping trip (It’s the semester break here, so she’ll be in Upper Austria for two weeks then come back when classes start), but right before she left she hugged me and said, “I’m really glad that you’re here.”

Me too, Magda, me too.

Not there yet.


Hello from Canada. I’ve had quite the day already, and since it’ll be tomorrow when I actually arrive in Austria,  I figured I’d let you know all the wonderful things I’ve already encountered.
First off,  maybe it’s just me, but Minneapolis has the easiest airport to maneuver. Next (again, maybe this is just me), the Toronto airport is not that easy to maneuver.
Anyway, my day thus far has consisted of goodbyes to my dear parents and a two hour flight on a teeny tiny, nowhere near full plane.

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I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me,  which was nice.  And my very full bag (filled with clothes packed in space bags: see below) was already on its way to Europe. I surely hope it actually makes it there.

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I also did things like putting my slippers inside my sandals.

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Dorky but effective.
Anyways,  I arrive in Toronto without a hitch after a two hour flight full of worship music and Fruit Ninja. All I wanted was some guacamole,  so after I breezed through customs, I got myself thoroughly lost looking for a Mexican restaurant.
Eventually,  I found the terminal E security checkpoint. Again,  my applesauce made it through security (score one point for healthy snacking), and I didn’t have to get a pat down.
Now I’m just bumming at my gate with one hour left til the boarding call.  Then I’ll take a sleep aid and snooze my way to Germany. Praying that it helps beat jet lag.
Until next time,  friends.

The magic friend-maker


I think I might have made my banker’s day today. As we sat down to talk about how the bank isn’t going to freeze my credit cards when it sees that I’ve travelled to Europe, he told me I looked like Taylor Swift.

Not unusual, as you all know. But this time I had a better response, right after I told him I get that all the time. (people want to know they’re not alone, right?)

“Actually, it’s really funny… I got my hair cut about a week ago, then yesterday she cut her hair!” Wide eyes, incredulous expression.

He got a really good laugh out of that. So I’m thinking that if nothing else, this whole doppelgänger thing can help me connect with people.

Connecting with people. Ah. It’s so important to my happiness. I’m guessing yours, too. I know a total of one person in Graz right now, since the international coordinator at the school doesn’t really count as a friend (otherwise I’d have TWO). It’s a bit unsettling, but it reminds me of a book that my parents used to read to me when I was younger.

You guessed it. The Magic Friend-Maker, a heart-cuddling story about two lonely girls who meet and bond over a particularly lovely rock. My mom and I read it together last night, feeling the nostalgia of impending separation. Turns out (small spoiler alert) that it isn’t really the rock that is a magic friend-maker, as the girls supposed, but it seems like sharing  life and enthusiasm is what brought them together. When you share your pretty rock with another little girl and find out you have even more in common, a sweet little friendship is born.

Sweet little friendships will be born for me, too. Tomorrow is the day I’ll board three planes and cross an ocean to live a foreign life. It’s a day to inflate my travel neck pillow and take a sleep aid to avoid jet lag. It’s a day to pretend I’m a more seasoned world traveler than I am and confidently try to smuggle my drinkable applesauce through airport security. It’s a day to rejoice that I fit everything I need into my suitcase, to praise God that He cares about the little things (like when I went into our freezing garage to go through a box and find my power strip – glory be, it was right on top!) and the big things and that He will be present with me through it all.

Are you ready to journey to Europe with me?

Copycat hair.


Taylor Swift, you are a copycat.

I mean, I’m flattered that you cut your hair short the week after I did, but really? This is a bit much.

We both did the shoulder-length thing, too. Do you ever wonder if we’re telepathically connected? Oh, of course you don’t. You don’t know me or that everyone thinks we look alike. I’ve written about this to you before, with no results. But that’s okay. I know you’ve got a lot of people vying for your attention.

I’ll just wait my turn.

I’ve wondered before if we’ll still look alike when we get old. If we still look alike at age 80, can we do lunch? I’d like that. Or I think 80-year-old me would like that. I guess we’ll see. I’ll probably be a pretty snarky old lady, so if you’re still strutting around onstage with red lipstick at that age and going through boyfriends like pairs of socks, I might have something to say about it.

I still wonder why I look like you. I really don’t think God does stuff like that arbitrarily, so I feel like there’s some good reason.

Hmmmm.

Well, if you see this and feel like contacting me, I’ll be tied up til July, but I bet I could squeeze you in after that.

You just have your people contact my people. (I gotta find some people.)

Folding lessons.


I’ve spent quite a lot of time folding clothes over my extended break. Fold, re-fold, tell a customer how cute that sweater you just folded is, watch them rifle through the pile to find their size, smile as they take it to the dressing room, re-fold entire stack of sweaters.

I don’t resent the folding. I slightly resent people who are mean, but I’m trying not to. I try to imagine that mean people haven’t had enough people be courteous to them. So they don’t know how to respond nicely. And they leave inside out clothing all over their dressing rooms and leave without so much as a smile or a response to our cheerful goodbyes because they just don’t know better.

(maybe)

I’m not bitter.

I really don’t resent the folding, though. It’s taught me a thing or two.

1. There’s a rhythm to folding. If you’re trying to get the perfect creases while folding a shirt in the air, you’re going to have to move with the rhythm of the fabric. Patience, grasshopper. Wait for the fabric to sway in the right direction. Place your first fingers where you want it to fold and slide your thumbs to the back at just the right time so that the sleeves and sides of the shirt fold evenly and smoothly to the back.  Really, it’s an art form. I’m still an apprentice, but I know a few Da Vinci’s of folding.

2. There’s no point to getting frustrated when you have to re-fold an entire pile of shirts just because someone needed the size at the bottom. That’s just life. You get your piles stacked all nicely, ordered the way you’re comfortable with, but then someone comes along and needs something from you that shifts your pile a bit. So you have to learn to adjust and play Jenga.

3. Neatness is actually a virtue. A folded stack of shirts looks so far superior to a pile of sleeves and necklines.

4. I now can fold any shirt you throw my way. Maybe even while you’re still throwing it my way…. while juggling on a unicycle.

Even if these were the only lessons I’d learned from retail, the only reminders I’d garnered, it would still have been worth my time. I’m learning that anything can be worth my time if I’m willing to open my eyes and see the object lessons God has placed before me.

Pack, un-pack, re-pack


I’ve blogged about packing before, at least a few times. We both know that I have a hard time packing; I have a hard time because I MUST BRING EVERYTHING I COULD EVER NEED.

Note: not everything I will need, everything I could need.

Yes, I worry about the decision about whether or not to pack that sweater and both the navy and black tank tops and the travel toothpaste. I worry that if I don’t put hand sanitizer in my purse, I might lose my mind or get hepatitis (even though I’ve been vaccinated).

I worry that I might not have enough underwear. Actually, you can never have enough underwear. I’m set up for failure because no matter how hard I try, I will never have enough!

I worry that I’ll get everything in my bag, be so satisfied that I’ve finally packed everything and gotten the zipper shut, but then I’ll remember the bulkiest, most necessary item that must go in the suitcase and isn’t in there and have to re-do the whole thing.

Pack, un-pack, re-pack, as Amber Brown says.

Stress, un-stress, re-stress, I say.

I’m making a list though. It’s long and will be comprehensive. I’ve read countless blogs about what to pack in your carry-on and suitcase. I’ve made lists and more lists and then combined the lists and added more to the list. I’ve made a plan for how I’m going to pack. (It helps that my sister is a married woman and doesn’t live here anymore, so I can lay everything out on her floor and not worry if my room is too messy for neat packing.)

It’s going to be just fine, even if I forget something that I need.

The Lord my God will be with me wherever I go, there are stores, and I’m pretty good at substituting. My whole freshman year, I baked using at least one substitution per recipe. I can re-wear outfits with the best of them, and I know how to wash clothes in the sink. I know how to deal with tiredness and jet lag. I know what it’s like to miss home and familiarity.

I will be fine.

Better yet, I think I might be great. I think I’ll enjoy myself.

Naps and bears


I tried so hard to keep myself from napping today, because I typically don’t sleep well if I nap – especially at 5:00 pm. However, there’s a special quality about snowy, gloomy, frigid winter days that lulls you to sleep even when you’re reading Willa Cather – who is far from boring.

Well, I fell asleep while reading My Åntonia on the couch, appearing to be chock full of Minnesota sports’ pride in my Wild t-shirt and my dad’s Vikings’ snuggie. I woke up at 5:30 as the skies began to tint to darker gray hues, feeling guilty for half an hour of snoozing and wondering if my hair was going to look funny now.

Bears have something right about winter: that whole hibernation deal? I could do with a few months of sleep in a warm cave I think. I know some people who are crabby enough about winter that I might recommend the practice for. You are unbearable. Stop complaining or go sleep in a cave.

On the days when winter seems particularly windy and icy and frustratingly long, I try to imagine why winter is a good thing. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1.  Sledding, skiing, snow forts, snow angels, twinkly light under the snow, hot chocolate. Duh. 

2. Not that I know squat about agriculture, but I know the ground gets a break in winter. That’s gotta be good. Everyone needs a break.

3.Sometimes we have to stop or slow down. You can’t drive as fast on icy roads, so people learn to be okay with having a slower pace because it keeps them out of ditches.

4. Sweaters, mittens, hats, gloves. This is only a plus as long as you aren’t sick of your clothes, but it can be fun for a little while.

5. Any restaurant that delivers probably gets a enormous business boom this time of year. Who wants to cook when they’ve been shivering their rear off all day and are just hungry for something warm? There’s a business idea: soup delivery.

6. Spring seems like the best season we’ve had (that is, if we actually get spring).

If you have any more, leave them in the comments. I think I’ve reached my complaint threshold about how cold it is, so I could use as much positive spin as possible.

Cheers to winter!

People who need people.


Today lunch is a spinach and fruit smoothie and hash browns, because there’s nothing more efficient than cramming all your vitamins into a blender and drinking it. Also, I have some serious adoration for spuds – hence, the hash browns.

It’s lunch also because my parents are coming home from an 8-day vacation today. (Didn’t want to mention that til the tail end of their absence in case any of you have been anxiously and sinisterly awaiting an opportunity to accost me late at night when I’m alone… okay, maybe I’m paranoid) I’ve been drinking a lot of smoothies this week, because who’s going to make a full meal for one person? I’ll admit, I ate frozen pizza twice this week.  I talked to myself a lot. I watched 1.5 seasons of Veronica Mars. I watched (and cried to) many episodes of Parenthood.

I knitted a scarf and half a hat. Then I realized I was going to run out of yarn for the hat, so I pulled the whole thing out. I’ll re-start it later today.

I have a renewed appreciation for my parents’ presence in our house. Without them, all I hear is the heater and the ticking clock, unless I get noisy. That leaves a lot of silence for my brain to fill.  And my brain is really good at filling silence. First, it starts with quality thinking, processing events, pondering problems and people. But eventually, it goes through all the things it can process that make sense. And we end up dragging out old thought patterns and eventually, nonsense.

It’s part of the reason I haven’t blogged much this week – I don’t trust myself to make sense when I’ve been home alone for hours on end.

We need people. I need people. I’m an introvert, but goodness gracious, do I need people. This week, God has so graciously reminded me that I’m not a lone ranger or a hermit. When I emulate hermits (by spending an entire day knitting and watching tv, only leaving the house to buy more yarn), I lose myself.

And I get lonely.

Are you ever tempted to write off the people in your life because they disappoint you? Are you ever disappointed in yourself for not attracting the kind of people you think you should? There are so many wonderful people in my life that I love, and there are also those people on the fringe of my life that I’m tempted to think I could just take or leave.

I’ll opt to take, please. Those fringe people one out of the woodwork sometimes in my life, and those encounters are so significant. My fringe people have reminded me of core truths and of my value, without even thinking that they’re impacting me at all.

I’ll take the fringe people and the core people, actually. Starting with my parents.