Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Drawings from Rome

While in Rome I doodled in my notebook and then colored most of them in later. Here is a sampling of what I like the best.

You wouldn't know by looking at this that it took me days and hours to complete this. I outlined Saint Peters when I was sitting in front of it my last day in town and decided that it was too much work to complete it. But, then I got to Bangkok and didn't have a TV or the Internet in my apartment, so there you have it.

Sophie and I listened to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel while in Rome. I think this quote from "Hazy Shade of Winter" fits well with our new missions.

I started drawing this on the train to Assisi. That's Saint Francis' Basilica in the right corner. My favorite place I visited in Italy.

Sophie told me that this one was kind of a sham, since I never actually had time to visit the Colosseum. I just drew this from a postcard. I apologize for the lie.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ok, scrap my top 5

Ok, so I recently gave my list of top five moments in Italy. I wrote that with a full 24 hours left to go in Rome. I spoke too soon. My last day in Rome was certainly the best.

Perhaps Sophie's blog post about it was more eloquent, but I'll try to explain it from my point of view.

Fr. Peter Balleis, the international director of JRS, told Sophie and I that he was going to say Mass my last night in town in a chapel at the Church of Gesu, the church for the Jesuits in Rome. We went to the Church and met up with some others from the JRS staff, and the finance officers from the African regions who were also in town.

We entered a building beside the church, wandered up some stairs and came to an old wing of the building, which is where Jesuits live now. Fr. Peter told us that this room -- that we were standing in at the time -- was the room where Saint Ignatius (founder of the Jesuits and a personal hero) lived and died.

We were floored. We were in the presence of God just by standing in his room. We got to see his writings and his clothes (the first black robe).

Then we entered his bedroom, which had a sign saying that is was reserved for personal prayer. Peter told us that this bedroom was converted into a chapel and that is where we would be having Mass.

It was too much. We sat in a circle, listened to the readings about working with the poor and gave the Eucharist to one another rather than forming a line to the altar.

It was personal and communal. And while I continue to worry that I am not accepting God into the present moments of my life, I experienced God in that moment. I prayed for Sophie's grandmother, who was being buried that day, her aunt and the work of JRS. I asked Saints Ignatius and Francis Xavier and Fr. Pedro Arrupe to look over us as we traveled to new locations.

As I sit here, in my new office with JRS Asia Pacific in Bangkok, I hope they continue to look over me because I am going to need it. And while I feel blessed to have experienced God's presence at Mass in such a holy and personal place, I hope I can experience God walking with me outside Mass, down the streets of Bangkok, into refugee camps and detention centers, in my present and my future.

The first black robe. In Lakota, "Catholic" literally translates to "Black robe" because the Jesuits were always seen in robes such as this.

The famous shoes that Saint Ignatius walked thousands of miles in.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dear Italy,

In a previous letter, I mentioned my concern for your beer. I stand corrected. Please remove Peroni from your taps and replace it with this. A word to the wise, Italy, a little bit of hops never killed anyone.

A gracious American

Top five moments in Italy

It’s my last day in the city and I’d like to go through some of the best and worst that Rome has to offer.

Top 5 best moments in Italy:

1. Does every day at JRS count as a single moment? I don’t care. I am putting it down anyway. Every day we got to learn more about our work I felt more excited and driven.

2. Visiting Assisi with my family. After two weeks wandering around the city, I loved getting to take the train across the countryside and visit a small town. And what better town that the birth pace of my confirmation saint?

3. My first weekend of wandering around the city alone. I was sad to see how sick Sophie was, but I loved riding the Metro solo and taking photos inside Gesu Bascillica, Saint Ignatius Bascillica, Saint Francis Xavier’s Bascillica, the Trevi Fountain, the Altar of the Nation. I had Bob Dylan’s song about Rome coursing through my veins all day.

4. Drinking beers with Sophie in Trastevere. We were hard-pressed to find a solid bar with good beer. While the beer was only standard, we buddied up to a great bar tender who reminisced with me about our trips down Route 66.

5. Walking through the Villa Borghese gardens at night with my family their last night in town. I didn’t know at the time that Sophie was bleeding profusely in our hotel room, so I ignorantly enjoyed the scenery with my family. The fountains, the trees, the statues all looked a little Halloween-y at night.

Honorable mention:

While this memory doesn’t make the list of top 5, I would like to honor the memory of Abby and I having a few drinks in Trastevere. She got a girly fruity drink at the beginning of the night. When I tried to order her a similarly fruity drink at the next bar, the language barrier got in the way and she got rum and pineapple juice instead.
Abby, remember our deal. I petted that Saint Bernard outside the bar, so you have to …

Top 5 worst moments in Italy

1. Getting back to my parents’ hotel only for the woman at the front desk to tell me that Sophie went to the hospital. She slipped on the street (completely sober, I might add) cut open her knee and had to get 12 stitches. My mom and I met her there and were surprised at how efficient and friendly all the staff were. Still, not the best way for my mother to spend her last night in town – reading the International Herald Tribune next to a bunch of sleeping homeless men in a waiting room for three hours.

2. Eating a crappy Italian meal and having to walk all the way home after. I thought my gut was going to explode. Of course, this restaurant was recommended by the hotel.

3. Getting lost. It was late. We had been working all day. All I wanted to do was find my parent’s hotel before they arrived and get some dinner. We wound up wandering around the area, never finding the hotel and most of the eateries were closed.

4. Sophie’s food poisoning the first week I was here. It’s hard to enjoy Rome when your counterpart needs to be 60 seconds away from a bathroom at all times.

5. My dad missing Gesu Basilica. We tried three times to get in to see the resting place of Saint Ignatius. On his last day he went up the steps right as the guards were closing it down. He explained that he as leaving in the morning and just wanted to go in for a minute, but they wouldn’t have it. So, he shoved his way past the guards, walked in and made it about 10 steps before the kindly asked him to GTFO. Way to go, judge.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Who I work for

Below is the video about how the Jesuit Refugee Service came to about 30 years ago.

Today is my last day of training in the international office and my next stop is Bangkok. I hope I can live up to Pedro Arrupe's vision of what a JRS volunteer should be!

on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Italy is trying to kill us

Dear Italy,

As a traveler, I have cause to believe that you are trying to kill both myself and my fellow traveler, Sophie. Your seafood gave Sophie food poisening, your streets caused her to slip and spend the evening in the ER getting stitches. Your beer gives me a death wish and rough hangovers.

Please cease and desist in your constant plot to kill us.

A concerned American

Monday, October 18, 2010

Top 5 talking points with Saint Francis

I went to Assisi yesterday with my family. It was my first Euro train ride, first time in the Italian countryside, first 300 euro cab ride and first time in Italy seeing something that actually took my breath away.

Assisi is the home of Saint Francis' basilica and his final resting place; and Saint Clare's basilica and her final resting place. First we went to Saint Francis' spot. The church was amazing. Huge. Colorful. Happy. It contained the kind of joy I think Saint Francis would love.

Then we went downstairs to the original Church Saint Francis built where his grave is. After circling the grave and having a good cry, I started to have a conversation with Saint Francis. Here were the main points:

1. Because you inspire me, does that mean I have an obligation to follow you?
2. Is money evil in ALL cases, or just the power associated with it?
3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being an example of a rebel in the Church and your community.
4. Can I really do anything?
5. Please watch over me and guide me the where I am supposed to be.

As you may notice, most of the talking points were questions. I am still waiting on the answers.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On ice cream and God

At dinner tonight, my roommate Osiris told me that I need to keep my ears open to God. As a former nun, she said she had listen to have God show her what she is in love with. For her, life is about living with the poor and working with refugees.

I told her, if only she knew how hard it is to truly get to a stage in life when I can even open my ears or my heart.

This has been my worry for months. Why can I not connect with God in an honest way? Why cannot talk to God and be open to God? Why can I not follow the Jesuit way of seeing God in all things?

While I have gotten down on myself for this, Osiris told me that God will tap me on the shoulder eventually. God will open my heart for me if I am unable because whatever I can't do, God can.

So for now, I eat gelatto, recite Saint Francis' prayer while I brush my teeth and try my best to keep God inthe present.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A note of concern

Dear Italy,

As a non-Italian, I am concerned that your country isn't as beer-friendly as it should be. Please take note from your German and Belgian brothers that beer is supposed to have taste.


A concerned American

Rome so far

Tonight is my last night in Rome before my parents arrive. I hope I have a good enough angle on the city to show them around.

Above is the Vatican Fortress.

Today I shot video for a story in Southern Rome. It was interesting to be taking video of a workshop where I didn't speak the language. I guess I'll have to get used to that when I'm working for JRS in Thailand.

Top 5 things I have learned in Italy:

1. The Eucharist tastes different here
2. Some places you just can't go if you don't speak the language
3. There are travelers and there are tourists. I hope I fit into the former group, but Italians categorize me as the latter
4. An SD card can never be big enough and a battery never lasts long enough
5. It is possible to O.D. on pasta and pizza, even in Italy

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Buona Sera

I practically had St. Peter's Square to myself. At around 10 p.m. Friday night I wandered out of the apartment with my camera. While I pass by the basilica every morning and evening to and from work, it was certainly different seeing it at night. Perhaps it's because during the day there is an endless stream of tour buses, groups, and vendors clogging the street. In the quiet of the evening, I was able to just see the darn thing.

So, Rome is nice so far. Sophie was sick the first five days or so, which gave me to opportunity to see Rome on my own. I saw St. Ignatius' resting place at Gesu Bascilica and went to an Italian Mass at his church.

I am excited for my parents to come Saturday for a final send-off before I head out to work for the Asia Pacific regional office of JRS.

I am working in the International Office at the moment with a view of the St. Peter's from the street. I'm excited to go write my own stories and take my own photos and video instead of editing and sorting other people's.

It shall be a great adventure.