Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reflections on Europe.

t's time for the truth.
The trip was memorable.  It was fun.  We saw some really neat sights.

In the chapel at Cambridge University at our friend Nic's college...which was also the college of Harvard., before he started "HARVARD". :)
The Roman Colosseum is pretty amazing...at the bottom you can see where the different walls were to keep the different animals contained.  We thought that this is where they killed Christians in ancient times...it was actually a LARGER facility. History says that this was not big enough to kill the amounts of Christians they wanted to kill. Eerily interesting.


It was great to see Nic, my sweet college friend!!

But it was not the smartest trip to take right after you lost a baby.  It brought out some really sad character traits in me. (I'm stressed, eating poorly, not working out, carrying 35lbs  of a backpack around everywhere, and I don't know where I'm sleeping tonight) and in my hubby. I won't go into details (do you really want to hear about how I bickered about the way Brandon picks our train schedule?), but I wouldn't say we had lots of romantic dates or ANY for that matter.  We didn't sit down and talk and connect, we were too busy trying to make sure we didn't miss our stop on the train, trying to find a new hotel, trying to find wireless to make a "google chat" phone call, etc.  Now hear me, it was certainly an experience to remember....but I am coming back feeling overwhelmed and not very warm and fuzzy and healed :)  It was (in retrospect) probably not the best choice of trips.  If you have never been overseas...you might think I'm being very ungrateful and unkind to not be thankful for such a great opportunity.  I am thankful, but I would have passed on the opportunity had I know how overwhelmed and emotionally all over the place it would have left me.  I hope this makes sense, but I just want to make a note that if you were sitting at home and thinking, "Man, I would have loved to go to (insert country here)"...maybe you wouldn't have if you were in our shoes. There is always another side to the story. Most people will let you think their life is always beautiful and perfect...but I am real....and I want to walk through this journey authentically.  We stayed in Charleston, SC for three days after we returned to try and connect and chill out a bit.  I LOVED that.  It was much needed and wonderful!

In addition to the poor timing, there are some other reasons that I was ready to be back in the good ol' US of A.

If you have been overseas...you might relate...
If you have ever traveled abroad, you know that all countries have some special, unique differences from the United States.  There are some really awesome things, and some things that are not so nice.  In my post trip stupor, there are many things that come up easily to my mind....that make me SO HAPPY to be back home.  Some things are only related to our particular trip.  After three weeks of travel, we feel encouraged to have time together as a couple.  I think I now understand why people are always encouraged to “Get Away” after they go through something tough.  I agree. But let me tell you, maybe we should have rented a cabin in the mountains and sat there for a couple weeks.  
(**I like to look at things 'glass half full' but humor me for a moment...)

I will not miss....
**Packing my bag every day.  I do not enjoy packing every day.  I don’t even enjoy packing for a trip period.  To re-pack every day is ZERO fun.  Rolling up my clothes.  Stuffing them all into my backpack.  We didn't stay anywhere, in any room..longer than two nights. And we were gone three weeks. That adds up to lots of packing!
** Getting ripped off because I do not speak the language.  More than once (let’s just say 24+ times)  I saw someone pay a price and then I would buy the same thing or use the same service and pay legitimately more money.  For example, a taxi.  A local would say that it would cost $5 or 5 Euro or 5pounds or 5 francs and it would end up costing us 7 or 10.  BUMMER.  That is one things that does not happen in the US.
**Feeling very incompetent because I only speak ONE language...and it is ENGLISH.  One day in Switzerland, Krista and I went to downtown Interlaken to explore and shop and grab lunch.  We had a great time and we very successfully took the bus from our little town into downtown.  When we caught the bus on the way back, we somehow got on the wrong bus.  We took a 45 minute bus ride along the lake.  We knew something was wrong, so I asked the bus driver if he would be going to our stop.  I managed to get a “YES” answer, but in the meantime, he told me that I was no good because I didn’t speak German.  He said, “Do you speak Spanish? No.  French? No. German? No.”  He said, “I go to AMerica last year and noone speak any language. No French. No German.  I stay in nice hotel and no person speak German. No ONE.”  he continued...."I speak French, German, Italian...and these people no speak German or Swiss".   I wanted to apologize for all Americans. But honestly, English is a pretty universally spoken language. So I’m sorry Mr.Bus Driver.  Guttentag.  
**Very slow wireless- I tried to download a picture and it would take 30 minutes.  Rent a movie on i-tunes? 14 hours!  So thankful for my real wireless at home!

**Looking for Wifi-  Netgear unsecured was one of the best things I could see on my little "available networks" tab!  I would walk around with  my ipod looking for wireless and when I found it I would stand in the middle of the road if I had to.  I would just be standing stationary like a statue trying to keep my continuous wireless to find a place to stay for the evening. Not always the easiest.  But always ANNOYING!
**Sloped ceilings- I probably hit my head 10+ times on these crazy ceilings. Are there just abnormally short Swiss people? Brandon and I stayed in a loft in our apartment in Switzerland (while  Will and Krista had a normal bedroom...we're not bitter :)  which had four to five foot ceilings.  At the lowest point it was only about one foot.  You had to crawl around up there...and forget getting dressed up there! It was interesting to say the least!! 
**Unhealthy/gross food..to the max.   Don't get me wrong. I love some good italian ice cream...or german chocolate.  But I prefer to eat healthy and splurge on some desserts.  One night in Spain we couldn't figure out the menu at all, despite Brandon's college level Spanish.  We tried speaking broken Spanish to the waiter who looked at us with a confused expression on his face.  We ended up  pointing to something on the menu and asking for him to bring it.  When it arrived it looked like fried veggies.  I went ahead and took a bite of a fried green bean.  When I bit into it, it seemed crunchy, so I looked at what I was eating...and it was a FISH....small and shaped like a green bean. I had pulled the spine out of my mouth.  GROSS GROSS GROSS. I had just swallowed the head. SICK.  So not only was it unhealthy...it was yucky.
**Two twin beds that push together to make their queen/king beds   Don't married couples sleep together there? Don't they want one bed...without a break in the middle? I'm confused?!  This seemed to be every country...except at our friend Nic's house (oops, FLAT).  Thanks Nic, for the real bed!

**Weird Toilets- We were in a cafe in Italy and I got the key for the bathroom (thinking it must be nice...).  As I go in, I look for the toilet and I see a hole in the ground.  A hold.  No pedestal. No seat. Just a little hole. How am I supposed to aim for that? Not pretty...I'm telling you.  

**Or better yet, paying for gross toilets.  Almost everywhere you go in Italy, you have to pay to use the restroom. Either as a paying customer at a restaurant...or you PAY at the train station, airport, etc.  You would expect that because you pay, there will be a butler to dry your hands, right? NO! These bathrooms are gross! Smelly and gross.  
**Lack of Gyms-  Hello Europeans. I am sorry if you all are beautifully skinny with no effort. I am jealous. But hear me: Working out is my favorite thing to do....so naturally after having a baby this would be something I would want to do even more of.  I like to do it not only for it's natural weight control effects...but more so for the awesome mood enhancing endorphins.  Apparently swiss people get these from climbing mountains. Italians get them from running to trains and people in England walk a lot! :)  We did see some gyms...but access was not there. So I missed the gym, and I felt uncomfortable running with no mace or weapon in these new places that I felt uncomfortable in.
**Planes, Trains and Automobiles- We never stayed anywhere longer than two nights (in one room).  We were constantly trying to find transportation and almost always it involved a plane, train AND an automobile.  For example, we flew into Ram stein Germany (on a SPACE A flight) and then had to find a way to get to our friends in Stuttgart.  We took a bus to our hotel for the night. Called a taxi in the morning to take us to the train station. Took a train to Stuttgart, got picked up in a car to arrive at our destination. To be honest, that was one of the easiest conversions. Sometimes we would be traveling for 10+ hours just to make a simple trip.  I like to travel, but it was a bit extreme...
**Eating Out.  I did not cook much after I found out about Briar's diagnosis. It was almost like I was incapacitated after work.  Somehow, when you eat out for three straight weeks...it will break that bad habit and make you want to cook every night for the rest of your life :)  I cooked two times in Italy at our little apartment, Krista and I cooked once in Switzerland and Nic cooked one night in England (thanks Nic, it was delicious!!).  We were gone a total of 24 nights, so that would mean we had to eat out 20 nights.  TWENTY.  Guess what happened? I gained 5 pounds.  Let’s not worry about that, but what lady who just had a baby wants to GAIN five pounds?  No worries. 

How about I follow this post up and tell you about some awesome things I love about Europe?

Did I mention we had fun? I just felt like you needed to hear some of these things...so you don't romanticize our trip too much :)  But it was a great time.  And I know we made some life long memories.  
Guess what was missing from my trip? Time to meditate on the Lord. Time to remember that I AM NOT in control! Time to think about who my creator is....and why I had the ability to travel in the first place!
I'll leave today with this....just in case you left feeling down....because I just rattled off all the depressing things about being gone. There are tons of up sides. :)


  1. You just experienced the effects of socialistic policies of European countries on everyday living,ex, paying to use a toilet, on top of the 75- 80 percent income taxes you've already paid..people live in 400 square foot flats and pay too much for them too....Yes, you get some good history, with quaint towns and some pretty landscape, but there is no place like the USA...

  2. I had to laugh about your point about the beds. We took a weekend trip to Barcelona (back in our Germany days) and after a LONG day of being on foot, we got back to our hotel room where I collapsed onto the giant bed. Only to fall straight through the middle of that stupid crack and hit the floor. It's just MEAN to say the least.

  3. Thanks for being so real b/c I was totally romanticizing your trip!!! Hahahah! What a great experience but I totally hear you about being thankful for home :) And I know what you mean about the timing. You're still walking through a lot and it's not easy. I'm praying for you, dear! Strength and peace and comfort from Jesus!

  4. Okay, you made me feel better. I have been reading and thinking, "What would I do in Europe for 3 weeks...." and now I know. Be homesick! So glad you are back and are resting! Keeping you in our prayers!!!

  5. I can't believe that you have been visiting Switzerland and I've missed that. I could have shown you some less touristic but none the less fantastic places here...

    This said, when I first visited the US, I felt exactly the same way than you, just relieved when I finally saw the first Europeand coast from my small plane window. Things are too huge in the US when you are used to live in a small place ;-)

  6. Just found your blog thought Calm Crazy. I LOVE that you told the real story here, and not the "Oh Europe was great!" story. Again, not that it isn't great, but you talked about your real experience and didn't sugar coat it. I can't wait to read more of your blog!