March has been such a happy month for me! Instead of just being busy with school and work, I have also been very busy with good friends–two of whom travelled to Texas just to see me!
Over my spring break, my cousin Ashton came to visit me for a long weekend. She had never been to Texas before, so this was an entirely new experience for her! I led her on a campus tour of Baylor and she was able to meet a few of my cohorts over dinner her first night in Texas. While showing her around, we happened to notice that the gates to Floyd Casey Stadium were open (which is Baylor’s recently closed football stadium), so we walked in and took pictures on the field! It was such an amazing feeling to be the only two people in the entire stadium! It really makes you appreciate the size of the place and the perspective of the players.
Fortunately, the trip only got better from that point forward! On Friday, Ashton and I got up and drove to Austin, TX, so that she could experience the “Keep Austin Weird” culture. Needless to say, she loved it! We started off by taking a little tour of the UT Austin campus. It was beautiful in its own way. HOWEVER, the two of us could not help noting the differences between the REAL UT (Knoxville, TN) versus the knock-off UT (Austin, TX). Tennessee girls, Tennessee pride.
We also visited the State Capital Building, SoCo, SXSW events, and went out on Sixth Street that night, where we had a ridiculous amount of fun at Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar. We arrived in Austin after the accident with the driver at SXSW that left so many innocent bystanders killed and injured. Our thoughts and prayers went out to them and their families as we walked around the venues late in the afternoon. South Congress St. was an amazing experience, with lots of enjoyable shopping, food, and live music. Because of SXSW, we thought that we might never catch a cab to Sixth Street, but due to my ingenuity and a little bit of luck, we managed to make it to Pete’s, where we met a wonderful bunch of guys from Louisiana having a bachelor party!
After that fun-filled Friday, the cuz and I got up and drove down to San Antonio. We toured the Alamo and the Riverwalk, then we visited La Villita for shopping and perused the street vendors along the Riverwalk. We also visited the oldest church in the area (St. Joseph’s) and ate dinner at Casa Rio, the oldest restaurant on the Riverwalk.
After a fun Saturday that ended with Bellinis at the hotel bar, we got up on Sunday morning and visited the historic Menger Hotel’s bar, where Teddy Roosevelt selected and assembled his Rough Riders! Unfortunately, our weekend together was drawing to a close, so we had to begin the drive back to Waco. Ashton had to board her flight back to DC that night, but I’m so happy that she was finally able to come visit me! I also feel honored to be the person with whom she first saw Texas 🙂
I just checked the stats for my site, and I discovered that people from 47 different countries have viewed my blog. I just want to say HELLO and give a big THANK YOU to each of you! I think that is so cool. If anyone wants to say “hi” or leave their thoughts on my work, I would love to know what you all think. I love learning about new cultures and new things!
Do you ever think of all the places in the world you want to go to and all the things you want to see and experience during your lifetime then get really depressed because you know you won’t be able to do everything and go everywhere you want?
Because that happens to me on a regular basis.
On July 12, one of my best friends from childhood married his college sweetheart. In the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus at Notre Dame University. The basilica and the ceremony were absolutely gorgeous. I’m so happy for the wonderful couple!
At the reception, my friend the groom danced a mother-son dance to “Beautiful Boy” with his wonderful mom, a woman who has been a huge influence on my life as well and who has been battling with MS for the last 15 or so years of her life. She was able to dance with her son without her cane. There was not one dry eye at that reception. And, I can admit, I was crying so embarrassingly hard myself. It was such a beautiful moment and I was so glad that she was able to share it with her son on his wedding day.
My family and I also got to tour Notre Dame’s campus. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was also an opportunity to take pictures of things related to the movie “Rudy.”
On my last full day in Vancouver, Marija and I got up and decided to go exploring! Many businesses in Vancouver still close on Sundays or close early on Sundays, which makes it the perfect day to spend outside enjoying God’s creation. So with that in mind, we got up, got dressed, and took the seabus to Lynn Valley!
Lynn Valley is a beautiful park with a famous suspension bridge. Fortunately, we got there early enough that Marija and I were able to walk across it and take pictures virtually alone. Later in the day when we were returning, it was a lot more crowded on the bridge and there was a line to go across it. We were very fortunate… in several aspects that day. We hiked for a little while until we found a small rocky island in the middle of the river/stream. Marija and I hopped over to it and claimed it as our own. We then took our time exploring the area and taking pictures of each other’s explorations as well as the beautiful flora all around us. The water in the stream was so clear and unpolluted! However, it was extremely cold, a reminder that we were in Vancouver, after all.
After spending not nearly long enough in our spot, Marija and I ventured forth on our hike to a new spot. We found a pool in the forest where the water was 30 feet deep, but you could see straight to the bottom. The water is that clear! Marija and I clilmbed up along one side of it and took pictures. Other people were there climbing onto the rocks and jumping down into the water. They were nuts! That water was absolutely frigid!
After exploring through Lynn Valley more, we went for sushi at a lovely little restaurant. Though I had had sushi before, I had never actually had the kind with raw fish inside it. I was brave and tried it with Marija. I got smoked salmon and salmon rolls, and it was really good! And I got no food poisoning! A great day! We also went back to Steveston for more ice cream, and then we spent our last few hours together hanging out in the room, doing facials, and talking about anything and everything.
The next morning, we got up, got ready, and took our time getting to the airport. Once I got all checked in, we got a Starbucks tea together and took our last picture in Vancouver together. It was so hard to say goodbye to my friend. Even though I hadn’t seen her for years before that weekend, we had such a good time that it was really sad to leave. However, we both started making plans to see each other again soon. Our current plan involves me going to Latvia this summer to spend some time with her. I really hope that happens! 🙂
In the airport, I met the nicest hairdresser. He was from Vancouver, but he was going to visit his boyfriend in L.A. before the two of them went on a vacation to Russia! We got to talking and he didn’t think that I was American (much less Southern) until I told him so. I was so flattered that he didn’t perceive me with much of an accent or assume that I was American by my behavior. That is one of the biggest compliments I have ever received! He thought I was Canadian until I told him otherwise, and then he assumed I had been living in Canada for years. Wrong on both counts, but I really loved my stay in Vancouver. I would love to visit Vancouver again one day, but I would also love to explore more of the Great White North one day! It’s such a beautiful place and there are so many nice people there. It was certainly a fantastic way to spend Labor Day weekend!
On my second day in Vancouver, Marija and I got up and headed to the Vancouver Art Gallery. We got a bit turned around looking for it, but we eventually got where we needed to go. It was a beautiful morning and a wonderful opportunity to see some more of Downtown anyway!
The art gallery was wonderful, but there isn’t much photographic evidence from our time there since photos weren’t allowed. There was a great exhibit of the collection of art owned by two sisters from Baltimore. They lived together and never married and spent years collecting all sorts of art, statues, collectibles, etc. All of which they kept in their apartments with them! I don’t know how they ever relaxed with all those valuables on every shelf and wall! One of them was also a medical doctor, which was very rare for a woman in the 1800s. Fascinating stuff.
Marija and I also went biking along the sea wall in the afternoon. It was such a wonderful park and a lovely afternoon. Marija has most of the pictures from that part of the day because she is a far more proficient bike rider than I am haha. Until that day, I probably hadn’t ridden a bike in at least 10 years. I managed not to fall off and kill myself, but only barely. To be fair, after the first 15 or 20 minutes, I got the hang of it and was doing quite nicely! Marija was very understanding, thankfully.
The rest of our day was spent outdoors enjoying the wonderful (and, we were told, rare) Vancouver weather for that time of year. We went to Grouse Mountain, which is absolutely gorgeous! When you get there, you ride the ski lift up to the top of the mountain where there are several over-looks, a restaurant, etc. They also have two bears in an enclosure on the mountain, and they are so adorable! While there, we met a very nice German exchange student named Annie. She was from Frankfurt and living with a host family for a time. I hope she’s still doing well in Vancouver!
Over Labor Day weekend, I was fortunate enough to travel to Vancouver for the first time. It was my first time in Vancouver and my first time in Canada at all. I was very excited for my trip because I’ve wanted to go for awhile and have heard wonderful things about the area. The real reason for excitement was for my reunion with my friend Marija. She and I first met in kindergarten at New Horizon Montessori. She was new to the school and to the States; she was born in Latvia. Marija and I were friends until she moved away a few years later. Long story short, Marija and I had not seen each other in about 10 or 11 years before Labor Day weekend. We did, however, reconnect via Facebook about 4 years ago, which was wonderful. Finally, after years of trying to meet up with each other, we managed to plan to meet in Vancouver!
So, on that fateful Friday morning, I woke up early and drove to the DFW airport. For some reason, the boarding pass machine at the airport wouldn’t take my credit card, so I had to get in line and pay cash, which made me run a bit late. Thankfully, I was still there in time for my checked luggage to be put on the plane. The plane ride was not too long or too turbulent, but there was a toddler across the aisle from me who was rather unpleasantly vocal for the duration of the flight. Once I landed in YVR airport, I managed to pass through customs without incident for the most part. The customs officer was much more in-depth than I anticipated, however. She asked me questions about who I was meeting, how I knew her, if she was a citizen, why she was in Vancouver, where we would be traveling in Vancouver/Canada, and more. I got nervous at this point because Marija’s story is kind of difficult to explain to an outsider. I mean, “I became friends with her in kindergarten but haven’t seen her in ten years, so I’m here to meet her while she’s visiting some other friends,” sounds strange enough. But when I had to explain that no, Marija is not a Canadian citizen, she just went to high school here, it got more complicated. Don’t even get me started on Marija’s citizenship status of which I was ignorant at the time. The one comfort was that my story was so elaborate and ridiculous that it had to be the truth. No one could have made up all this stuff haha
Anyway, YVR is a really nice airport. I managed to find Marija; rather, she managed to find me relatively easily. From the airport, we found our hostel, which was very centrally located! We spent the rest of our first day together sightseeing in the area of Vancouver around our hostel and going to dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory. The salads there were delicious and the white peach sangria was to die for!
Gastown is an absolutely gorgeous area of Vancouver, and it’s one of the older sections. It was supposedly founded by “Gassy” Jack, who has an awkward statue memorializing him. The streets are beautiful. I can’t post all the pictures I took of Gastown, but it was wonderful. There were also all kinds of cute little stores to go into that sold many different types of items. There was also a lot of graffiti in Gastown, but it wasn’t an eyesore. It was beautiful, truly a work of art. The artists were clearly talented. I posted only my favorite, but I took so many pictures of the graffiti as well.
Marija and I also swung by China Town. It was such a cool little area of town. Also, there was a beautiful park in it, in which Marija and I took many a picture. She remembered that she came with some friends to take prom pictures there back in the day!
Afterwards, we went all the way out to Steveston, a fisherman’s village where the show “Once Upon a Time” is apparently shot. Marija used to live very close to Steveston. We got ice cream at the best place in the world. It was so delicious; I can’t even begin to describe it! We sat on the shore and watched the sunset. The views there are amazing.
After packing so much sightseeing into a few hours, Marija and I went back to our hostel and spent some time catching up. It was so wonderful to be able to talk to my friend face to face again! We caught up about all the things that have happened in our lives, what we are planning on doing next, and started brainstorming ideas for our next outing together. I’m hoping to go to Latvia in the summer to visit her! She also spent a lot of time educating me about Latvia and Russia: the language, the culture, the food, the people, the music. I loved every minute of it! I love learning about new cultures and she has so much to teach me. I want to start working on my Russian so that I can say a few words when I go visit. I know a phrase in Latvian, but it only translates to “Where is my airplane?” In other words, it’s not the most useful thing to know for every day interactions haha.
Well, there is the bare bones tale of the first day of my reunion with Marija in Vancouver. I hope you enjoyed hearing about it! There are many more adventures to come!
Blog post for June 22, 2012 –
We left the serene seaside village of Tolo this morning in order to travel across the Peloponnese to Pylos. It’s a decent drive, so we made a few stops along the way. We stopped in Argos to see the ancient theater there. It was quite well preserved and would be able to hold several thousand people. It was carved into the mountain, so it was a Greek theater, but Roman baths were built next door to it and some of the remains still stood. We also stopped in Nathtali to see the town and the evidence of its diverse history. The Venetians took it over and built some fortresses there, so many of the buildings (and the town in general) have a real Venetian feel to them. It looks so much like Italy in a way. The Ottomans came in next, however, and they also took over the Venetian fortresses and altered them some. The town has seen a lot of change over time and has incorporated it into the city. We got some very good gelato here, but I spilled it on my shirt L Katherine was kind enough to clean me off using spot-remover, but it was Tide… I haven’t had an allergic reaction yet, so here’s hoping that it stays away! We also stopped at this adorable little Orthodox church. It was very eclectic, but it was controversial. The current bishop of the area does not approve of it, so he does not hold services there. As a result, only weddings and baptisms take place there and another bishop or priest has to be brought in to perform them. It would be such a great place to get married, so I can see why it’s so popular. Once we got to Pylos, we divided up into our rooms – I got a single this time! It will be nice not to have to share a bathroom, but I’m so used to being with my roomies that I might get lonely lol. We quickly changed and headed to the beach – the Mediterranean Sea to be exact. It is absolutely gorgeous! The water is completely transparent and not too cold. This is also the sandiest beach we’ve seen in the entire time we’ve been overseas. I love the Mediterranean! Apparently, this area is one of the top 5 beaches on the Mediterranean, but our group was basically alone on the beach. It’s either early in the season or a very well-kept secret! There’s nothing like having an entire, perfect beach all to yourself! Unfortunately, we’re only here for one night, so we have to make the most of it!
[the pics that were meant to be here somehow got messed up and posted in the one below this, so look at those! haha]
Augustine’s City of God discusses the relationship between the City of God (the spiritual, eternal city) and the City of Man (the earthly, temporal city). Christians have dual-citizenship between the two. They live in the City of Man but are only journeying through it in order to arrive in the City of God. Augustine addresses the tension that Christians feel between the two cities and analyzes whether or not Christians can also be good citizens in the City of Man. Some argued that Christians cannot be good citizens and that they were to blame for the fall of Rome. Augustine defends Christianity against these claims, but his conclusions are as relevant today as they were then.
Augustine believes that Christians can, in fact, be good citizens. As long as their government does not prevent them from worshipping the one true God, then Christians have no reason to be bad citizens. The present world is not the focus of the Christian; the world to come is the reality they work toward. This does not mean that Christians can completely disregard the present world, though. Augustine makes clear that until the time of judgment the two cities are tangled together. He describes the City of God as “sojourning” on earth, calling “citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby earthly peace is secured and maintained.” It may seem unbelievable, but Augustine genuinely valued and wanted to preserve diversities between Christians as long as they do not interfere with proper worship of God. Augustine reminds his readers that God calls people of every race, ethnicity, language, location, gender, and social strata to become citizens in His city. As a result, we should be hesitant to judge because some who appear to be in the City of God are really not and vice versa.
Because the two cities are currently intertwined, it can pose difficulties for Christians. The first loyalty, of course, should always be to God. Augustine describes, and we talked in class about, two errors Christians can make when dealing with the City of Man. The first is to presume that we can be truly happy here. Like Aristotle, Augustine believes that true happiness cannot come in this lifetime; it must be in the life to come. Aristotle believes that virtues must be habituated throughout a lifetime in order to achieve happiness. Augustine believes, however, that true happiness can only come from God in the eternal world in which suffering will be completely removed. On earth, bad things happen to everyone, even Christians. As a result, Augustine believes that these things mar happiness and encourage us to look forward to the happiness in the next life. If this temporal happiness was the highest good and type of happiness, then we should be in a very sad state indeed. How encouraging it is to know that there is an even deeper happiness awaiting us in the next life! This first error of Christians is the error of complacency – we get comfortable where we are and decide to move in instead of continuing the search. The second error is the error of despair – Christians become so discouraged and disillusioned with the world around them that they just want to avoid it or end it all. This results in withdrawing from the world, becoming apathetic to the things happening around you, and may even lead to a desire to die. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian is very affected when he is captured by the Giant Despair and he considers taking his own life. Hopeful, however, encourages him not to commit murder of any human, even himself. According to Hopeful, succumbing to despair and taking one’s own life is not just a physical death but also a spiritual one. This second error is equivalent to giving up on one’s journey entirely.
In our class discussion, we touched on the ramifications these views can have on current politics. Christians who commit the first error may be so enamored with the current world that they are completely focused on fixing it. They believe that if Christians were in charge, everything could be sorted out and the problems largely solved. They are not naïve; they know, of course, this would take time. However, they become so focused on the present life and its issues that they forget to be focused on God and the life to come. The point is not to spend one’s time making the earth a heaven, but to use the earth and creation in a godly way so as to complete one’s journey to the City of God. Christians who commit the second error, however, are so disillusioned that they do not participate at all in government or take a stand in current issues. This is not right either. Christians must be involved in the earthly world insofar as they can obey God, encourage others to obey God, and speak out against injustices. On their journey to the City of God, Christians cannot forget their fellow man; they should be trying to encourage others to join the journey.
I confess that, politically speaking, I commit the second error. I am so disillusioned by politics and corruption that I become discouraged when I think about the current situation. I do not see how I, or anyone else, can fix such a broken system. But I am not God, thankfully. Only He knows the true purpose for the situation. Augustine warns Christians against dismissing things immediately simply because they don’t seem useful. American politics don’t seem useful to me, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t. Though I want to see many injustices remedied, I don’t always know how to help. Though my goal should not be to make the current world a heaven, I should try to improve it for humankind and pray that it inspires them to seek God.
The place to draw the line can be difficult. How does one live the Christian life without committing either of the two errors? Though Augustine, like Aristotle, gives practical advice instead of merely theoretical conjectures, he does not trace out exactly how each Christian should live. In fact, he provides a few options so that each Christians may choose his own. Perhaps, because we are all pilgrims on the journey, each individual’s journey differs from everyone else’s. As a result, there is no one right answer; there are several, but the key is the godly execution of the strategy.
In Zorba the Greek, the author presents the reader with the character of Zorba – an older, Greek gentleman who loves living life the way he wants. As a character, Zorba is very easy to dislike. Perhaps less conservative or moral readers, or at least more open-minded ones, would find him easier to understand and/or respect. I, however, do not think this is so. He is a character with, thus far in the novel, very few redeeming qualities. His desire to live life according to his own rules leads him to live a life of sin and dishonor. He does not practice self-control or habituate himself toward virtue. Nor does he, in an Aristotelian fashion, behave the way befitting a truly good, virtuous friend. Furthermore, he is disrespectful towards women. He has a very low opinion of them, and this is evidenced several times throughout the book. He uses them as sex objects to fulfill his needs and desires but does not see them as real people. Zorba also makes unflattering generalizations and degrading remarks about women throughout the book. He also does not grow much as a character. Zorba is largely static; he does not learn from his mistakes and use his knowledge to improve himself. Instead, he continues on in the same destructive cycle, while learning nothing about actions and consequences or right and wrong. If Zorba could “see the light” and mature as a character, he would be more likeable. However, this is practically impossible for him because he is so set in his ways and unwilling to change his practices.