Falling in Love with Italy

Ciao! Italy is a wonderland of beautiful nature, mouth-watering pastries, and passionate people. The images stuck in my mind of the vibrant green scenery will forever keep me yearning to return. As I sit here with a glass of Sangiovese red wine in my left hand, a Pulitzer Prize novel on my lap, and a breathtaking view of rolling mountains and the Mediterranean ocean, I already wish I could stay in this wonderful country forever. Aside from the piercing blue ocean and endless vineyards, I have come to appreciate the culture.

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Being American, I came to Italy expecting it to be not much different; I expected to see heavy Americanization. I couldn’t have imagined how wonderfully different it is. The peacefulness of the people and country is constantly surrounding me, a quality rarely found in America. This persistent quietness has allowed me to appreciate things that I have never thought to before. The food, oh the food. Where to begin? While I did expect the meals to be maginificent, I didn’t expect the culture of eating and speaking quietly and appreciating every bite as you take it. Everything I have eaten has been organic, grown by the locals that rely on your business for their living. Due to the lack of chemicals and preservatives found in almost every meal in America, I feel healthier than ever! So although I am constantly eating goodies such as gelato, pizza, calzones, pasta, and just bread in general, I know that I’m putting decent food in my body. In return, my body is gratefully staying healthy.

 

Then there’s the drinking. Last week, I sent a selfie of myself with a beer to my dad as a joke. He wasn’t amused in the least. What is often misunderstood in America of under 21 year olds drinking in Europe is that the drinking being done is purely for taste. I haven’t had a meal without at least a beer or a glass of wine. I learned to appreciate the taste when mixed with my meals. I am not drinking for an end goal; I am drinking in moderation. I can appreciate Italy’s famous vineyards with each and every sip.

My life here is a dream come true; I now know how much I would enjoy living here in the future. Italy has been wonderful to me and I know who to thank; God has been constantly showing me His light during the duration of this trip. From strangers finding a way (despite the language barrier) to stop me from getting off on the wrong train stop, keeping me safe in dangerous areas of towns while traveling, and leading me to a wonderful summer romance (yes, I like an Italian college student here). I have no idea what the Lord has in store for me but I cannot wait to find out. For now, I can only continue to pray for His hand to continue showing me His plan.

So far, I have visited Florence, Pisa, Elba island, San Giminano, Voltera, Naples, Capri, and next week I will visit Venice! Stay updated for more!

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How a Muslim couple inspired my faith.

Last week, a Muslim couple inspired me to work harder in my faith. I met this couple on a nine hour flight from Chicago to Rome.

My friend Katy and I were on our way to study abroad in Siena, Italy. The plane we were on was overwhelmingly packed with fellow travelers, all hoping for a quick-passing and safe journey. I could not explain to you how I felt during those nine hours, as words would not be able to sufficiently explain the excitement, nervousness, and uneasiness I was struggling to conceal on the quiet flight. Midway through the flight, I was woken up from a very pathetic attempt of a nap. What woke me was the stirring of the Muslim couple sitting beside me. The couple stood up and made their way to the area near the bathrooms. A¬†group of passengers were already standing close to the area, all waiting their turn for the restroom. Instead of grabbing a spot in the growing line, the man pulled out a rolled up mat. Carefully, he bent over and gently unraveled the mat onto the plane’s floor. As his wife stood patiently, he slipped off his shoes and stepped onto the mat. I watched curiosly as he began a series of bows and performed what I assumed was a prayer. Once he finished, he put his shoes on once and again and stepped aside, nodding to his wife. His wife, a beautiful woman with a caring face, proceeded to take her turn in prayer.

As I watched this, I couldn’t help but wonder how often these prayers were performed. I waited until the man’s wife returned to her seat beside Katy and I, then I quietly asked for her attention. She smiled at me and gratefully answered all of my nosy questions concerning her faith and culture. She explained that she prays to God five times a day. Wow, I thought, I can barely remember to pray once a day. Sadly, I admit, I probably pray far less than I need to. I told her that she inspired me, being confident enough to get on her knees in prayer in front of hundreds of people. I said it takes a lot of courage to do that. She looked at me and simply stated, “No, it isn’t courage. It is simply my devotion to God.” I smiled at her and told her thank you, turning back towards the seat in front of me. In ten minutes, this stranger had taught me something very important.

The couple’s peaceful prayer forced me to question why I felt as though I can only pray silently in my room, so as not to disturb or offend anyone. God used them to teach me to not be afraid. Praying and worshipping God should be something I am proud of, it should promote my love for the Lord and inspire others. I should be brave and make disciples. I should shout from the rooftops how great my God is.

So, thanks to two friendly strangers, I have decided to make my month in Italy a faith journey. I am going to worship the Lord whenever and wherever I see his love and beautiful creations, which is everywhere. I am going to use the experience of traveling, only made possible by Him, to both grow in my faith and proudly demonstrate it. Thankfully, Italy’s beauty constantly reminds me of how awesome the Lord is. God truly is amazing.