Monday, May 31, 2010

Europe - a year later

A year ago today Adam and I were in Prague, nearing the end of our Europe trip. We had about three weeks between my graduation and his and we decided that we would take advantage of the brief window of time while we had it. And that we did.

The best piece of advice I could give anyone planning a trip like ours is to not take anyone's advice. We didn't! We packed a lot into our trip, despite much advising otherwise, and wouldn't change a thing. We visited 9 cities in 8 countries in 20 days. We backpacked and traveled via train, stayed in hostels, hotels and with friends, walked pretty much everywhere and took public transit where we couldn't, and pretty much just did what worked for us.

Our trip started in London with a brief 2 night, day and a half stay. We were fortunate enough to stay with and reconnect with a high school friend and her fiance and also meet up with an old CBC classmate of mine. Those familiar faces really helped us start our trip off right... and we LOVED London. Of course the sites were amazing, but it was the vibe of the city that we loved the most. I only wish that we had more time there and that the weather had been a little nicer.

Next we were off to Paris via the Eurostar. Our day got off to a rough start as we decided to walk the 5 or so miles from the train station to our hostel with our backpacks rather than take the Metra. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but once we got to our hostel we were exhausted, and had MUCH more walking ahead of us. But walking everywhere in Paris was one of the best decisions we made as we saw so much of local life there that we would have missed otherwise. We ate a lot of crepes, saw a lot of art, endured a lot of cold, stayed in separate rooms in our hostel and loved every minute. I mean, it was Paris - it's magical.

Switzerland came next. We stayed in Interlachen and spent our one short day up in the Alps in Gimmelwald and Murren. It was a perfect day, and by that I mean that it was PERFECT. We wandered and walked and plain old marveled at the beauty of the Alps. I've been to many beautiful places but this was something else. As we were roaming I truly expected to see Heidi roaming the hills with her goats while singing the Sound of Music. We couldn't have loved Switzerland more.

Off to Italy! We started in Cinque Terre, and this was the 'vacation' part of our trip. We spent three whole days and nights in Rio Maggiore, laid by the beach, hiked the path through the 5 villages, had the best gelato ever, sat on the rocks with our wine and pizza and had the best. time. ever. From there to Rome, which surpassed all my expectations! From the Colosseum to Vatican City, night walks through downtown, the Roman Forum, super hot weather and the best food ever, we fell in love with the city, as I imagine anyone would. Our last Italy stop was Venice and it was all that it's sold to be. We spent our time there getting lost walking around and drinking (wine) our way from one cafe to the next all night. We heard that getting lost was the best way to experience Venice and I would have to agree!

We overnighted to Vienna, which was a stop that we fit in last minute. We had one short day there but it was more than enough time to get a taste for that amazing city. The culture pervaded everything and I felt that outside of London it would be the city I could most see myself living in. Plus, the architecture was outstanding.

Prague was our last real stop, and one that we had really been looking forward to. We were lucky enough to stay with missionary friends of my sister and at this point of our trip it was so nice to be in a home again. Prague was like a fairy tale. The Prague castle, Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge, the Meteorological clock, the eastern European influence and communist background combined to make it such a fascinating city. And, oh so beautiful! Finding the John Lennon wall, joining the national marble tournament and taking a sunset boat tour made for a perfect end to our time there.

We flew out of Munich and only had one short evening to enjoy it. We wanted to get to Germany and Adam was very excited about the beer gardens and Hoffbrau Haus, but Munich offered so much more than that. It was a nice bonus to enjoy our last stop so much.

I would have packed some warmer clothes, brought a pedometer and a hat, but otherwise wouldn't have changed one thing about our trip. It was that great.

I was nowhere near ready to head home, and don't think I ever would have been. We were somehow able to leave the chaos of our lives behind and truly live in every moment - together - and in many ways that was the very best part. It was so much more than what we saw, what we did and what we experienced. It's hard to believe it was a year ago today that we were getting ready to return to Chicago, and so much has changed since then. I am incredibly grateful that we committed to making that trip happen and to take that pause from our lives while we had the chance. Our lives are so different now that the whole thing feels like a dream, but the very, very best kind.

Monday, May 3, 2010

We came to leave: Covenant Bible College

I was reminded yesterday that this weekend marked the 3 year anniversary of Covenant Bible College's final Commencement weekend. Any thought of CBC is decidedly bittersweet, and the anniversary of their closing especially so.

It's hard to describe the impact that CBC had on my family, and the role that it played in my life. In many ways, CBC was home away from home.

As a third generation CBCer I was so excited for my very own year there - I counted down from 7 years. Eventually my time came. And for now, that experience evades words. Another post, perhaps. Suffice it to say that I know with all certainty that I would not be the person I am today without that year, those studies, those friends. I am eternally grateful.

When CBC closed its doors, I was not only an alumna, but an employee. As a recruiter I had to call students I'd helped admit and tell them the news. Their plans for next year had changed. There would be no CBC for them to attend. My tenure there was short, rewarding and painful, but I consider it a privilege to have been part of the CBC family through that tumultuous time.

I wasn't able to be in Strathmore for that final Commencement, and I am still immeasurably sad to think that there will never be another one. No more final Vespers in the gym, choir performances, Christmas concerts, Xtreme Impacts, Kids Kollege, retreats, or Spiritual Formation Group. No more late night runs to Coffee Time, hockey games, Sno Jos, laughs, talks, cries. No more CBC. But there was one, and it blessed my life.

If I'm honest, it's still hard. I don't know if that will ever change. But if I learned one thing at CBC it is this: God's faithfulness is bigger and greater than I can comprehend. CBC's time may have ended, but its legacy lives on. And it was never really about CBC itself.

I am reminded of the term Sankofa: to look backward to move forward. Looking back at God's faithfulness over the ages and through CBCs tenure, we are able to anticipate and trust in the certainty of his faithfulness going forward. As students, we were constantly reminded that we came to CBC to leave. I thank God for that.