Goodbye Firenze, hello Malibu, and a new chapter at home

Sometimes saying goodbye is difficult.  Sometimes saying hello and moving forward is challenging.  Sometimes, however, when the time is right the hellos and goodbyes don’t seem too bad. It has been exactly one month today since I said goodbye to Florence. I said goodbye to Europe, to my study abroad experience, and to my new found “home” on April 15. It is hard to believe that was already one month ago. Saying goodbye was not too difficult since I saw more than I ever thought I would and I grew and matured in ways I am extremely grateful for.

Many people, during our final week in Italy, rushed around the city and seemed stressed with the pressure to see and to taste the things they had previously hoped to taste and see while in Italy.  I, however, after eight months of travel and study, relaxed and did not become too preoccupied with what I did not do while abroad, but instead I marveled at everything I was able to do while abroad. Because, when I look back to my time abroad, I am thankful and fulfilled.  I was able to travel to Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Morocco, Greece and Vatican City. I saw the islands Sardinia, Sicily, Santorini, Burano and Murano, among others. I was able to visit over 100 cities; yes 100, I counted if you don’t believe me. I hiked the Alps in Switzerland and Italy, road tripped in Tuscany, walked over the Pyrenees in Spain and I have memories that I cherish dearly which will last me a lifetime.  I’d say my year has definitely been a memorable one. I am excited to see where life takes me next. Even though it has been one month since I returned home, I do not think I have fully processed my journey yet. The beginning of my time in Italy was actually quite difficult since as my time in Italy began, I was still trying to process my journey on the Camino de Santiago. I have too many thoughts to think about and ponder at the moment. But, it is my hope that my journey will help me to relate to and understand others in a more impactful way in the future.

Some of my highlights include the quiet freedom I felt when hiking the dolomites, seeing the Tuscan countryside and taking in the beauty of multi-colored houses in Cinque Terre.  I will always treaure the time I spent with my Italian relatives as well; I got to spend Christmas and Easter with them and go hiking, caving, and visit thermal springs with my family as well.  Other precious moments include embracing the beauty of new cultures and customs, meeting the smiling people of Ireland, hearing the call to prayer and walking through the souks in Morocco.  A more difficult yet impactful memory was when I visited the Dachau concentration camp and felt the pain and suffering that once occurred there while I attempted to fathom the plight that the Jews once faced in Nazi Germany.  Other moments I will never forget: seeing Papa Francisco twice and watching the sunset in Santorini and Sardenia. Those are only a few moments that come to mind when I recall the past nine months of my life, but there are many more, too many more stories waiting to be told.  One thing I am extremely grateful for is that this year I learned the importance of presence and of experiencing moments to their fullest.  I learned to take life less seriously, to laugh at my rediculious tendencies, to value true friendship and relatonships.  Most importantly, I learned to love others in a deeper way.

Some pictures from my highlighted moments:

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

20150404_153624 family

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

IMG_3062

During our final week in Florence, we had a final banquet. The Gala was held at the top of a beautiful hotel that overlooked the Duomo, I have pictures to share below!

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

Here are a few photos of my Italian friends and sweet Antonella (a Florentine resident who I worked with regularly who has downs syndrome). Sweet ones Sweet Antonella Italian friends My Italian friend

The Gala was one of the final dinners we shared all together and a time we were all able to honor the teachers and talk about the year. At the end of the banquet, I read a poem that I wrote about our time we spent together in Florence. It is simple, but I will share it with you all below.

 In September we came

Feeling excited and a bit afraid

A new country, a new place

A new chapter up ahead

Strangers we all were

Surrounded by the unknown

We walked into a building

That we would soon call our home

The excitement and thrill

Uncontrollable and intense

But soon reality set in

And life seemed to change on a whim

Firenze, we never knew

The challenges we would face

The happy moments and the tears

The facing of our fears

It felt hard, it seemed impossible

But we soon did adjust

We traveled, we experienced

We began to see the world

We found our little niches

Our sweet places of freedom

We cherished new friendships

And grew in unexplainable ways

Winter break soon ended

A new semester, a new start

New faces and new transitions

Welcoming in nine new additions

We set out for semester two

Some excited others blue

Others didn’t quite know what to do

But we all did learn a lesson or two

We traveled to find

What we needed was here all along

A community full of laughter

And a household of love

Now we sit here together

Only seven days left

Where did time take us?

We think and reflect

Emotions are now flowing

The reality has not yet set in

Yet now the goodbyes soon must begin

We say goodbye to

the pizza, the pasta, the Duomo

The gelato, the palazzos,

The statues and fine art

Goodbye to the Italians,

To Viale Milton

Goodbye most of all,

To who we once were before our journey had begun

Firenze how you would change us

Was unclear from the start

But we leave here with memories

Thanks to the city of the arts

We soon will enter our homeland

But before we depart,

Goodbye sweet Firenze,

You’re forever in our hearts

As a house, we left a gift for the future students who will be studying in Florence. We decided to leave a “yearbook page” meaning that the house would come up with a superlative for each of us, which would be placed by an individual photo of our choice and a quote. I was so honored because the superlative that was given to me was “most likely to save the world.” I don’t think I deserve this superlative, but I am more than honored that my peers gave me such an honorable title. In reality, I know I will never be able to change the world. All I hope to do is to love everyone and allow God to work through me, for change only comes from God. I feel as though I have been given so much and I often wonder, “Why me?” None of us will ever discover the answer to the question “Why us?”  I think the question that I will begin to ask myself is “How can I use the gifts and the experiences I have been given to help others?”  Maybe that is the question we should constantly ask ourselves. Matthew 10:8 says, “Freely you have received; freely give” I hope to model my life after this. I hope to give to those who have nothing, I want to share the love I have been given with the voiceless and the broken hearted. It is not a command that I have to do this, but instead a burning desire within my heart, one I have possessed ever since I was a child. Whether it is through spreading cultural awareness and acceptence, contributing to the world in using strong intercultural communication skills, or helping a child who is suffering. I hope that whatever I do, I will do it for the good of others and mostly; I will do it out of love.

After my time in Florence, I flew directly to Malibu. I stayed on campus with my dear friend Jennifer for a few days. Being back at the Malibu campus was refreshing. I was able to spend a good deal everyday at the beach, have a sunrise devotional, catch up with some great friends, visit my favorite acai juice bar Sunlife Organics, volunteer in the projects in downtown LA and even go to the campus ministry formal. I have a few pictures below from my time in Malibu.

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

When I arrived home, it felt like a dream. I was tired, jet lagged, excited, and my mind was overloaded. While abroad, though I did not blog about this (I will explain more in future posts), I was actually ill. Even though I did travel throughout Europe, I suffered from various health problems throughout my journey and visited various Italian health physicians. Though I had originally planned on interning in Washington DC this summer with Pepperdine, I had to withdraw from the program in order to heal. So, this summer will be one full of relaxation and healing which is a stark contrast to my last nine months abroad. Since home I have been eating a raw, vegan diet (I have been vegetarian for 12 years, vegan for 4), doing yoga regularly, reading, spending time with family, and relaxing outside. It has seemed almost like a relaxation retreat. I have also been filling out various scholarships and other applications as well. What’s next? Well, as of now this summer will be one of healing but I am volunteering at a weeklong foster kids’ camp in June and will be hopefully traveling to Puerto Rico and backpacking (if my health allows) as well. I was just accepted into a Jewish Studies Scholarship Program, which will sponsor an internship in Israel next summer (or the following one), which I am excited about. I get excited thinking about living in the Middle East, I cannot wait, but until then I will continue to rest and hopefully my body will be healed soon. I will be posting regularly throughout the summer despite the fact that I will not be abroad, so keep your eyes open! Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

Advertisements

a perfect ending and a new beginning

After spending two days exploring Santiago, I started to realize that my trip was ending. I felt that Santiago had been a perfect place to end my trip; I had such a wonderful time in the city, the cathedral, and at the festivities for the feast day of St. James. I could not have asked for a better ending to my trip. Yet, God had different plans. God ended my trip in the most perfect way, better than I could have imagined.

At the beginning of my trip I had hoped to change my flight so that I could stay a few extra days and walk the extra three days to the sea, to Finisterre. However, changing my flight would have been $250.00 and with other fees that would also arise, I knew that it then would not be possible to walk to Finisterre.
This did not, however, change my mind about making it to Finisterre. So, I decided to take a bus there. Three others from my group wanted to take a bus to Finisterre along with me. The bus would leave at 9am on Sunday and I insisted that we leave around 7:15am to ensure that we would get tickets. When we got to the station we luckily got tickets, I could not control my excitement. I had heard such amazing things about Finisterre, also known as The Ends of the Earth. I had heard about the large rock-bound cliffs, the lighthouse, and beautiful beaches there as well. I was not, however, prepared for the rich, overwhelming beauty of Finisterre.

My amazing friend Ashley and I sat together on the bus trip and admired the gorgeous views throughout our ride to the seaside village. It was quite strange being on a bus after walking for 5 weeks without the use of a car!
When we arrived in Finisterre, we saw our friend Niels at the bus station. Niels is from Germany and he traveled with us up until Leon. We had not seen Niels in weeks and we greeted him with much excitement. He was originally planning to leave on the next bus out of town, but he decided to stay with us, and he then became our tour guide.
First, we headed to the beach. As we walked up to the beach I became lost in the glimmering aquamarine sea, white sand, and glorious sunshine.
Ashley and I were surprised to find an abundance of seemingly untouched, perfect seashells on the beach; this was quite different from the California beaches that we are both used to!

After we spent some time gathering shells and taking a few photos, we both ran and jumped into the crystal clear sea. The extremely refreshing, cold water was tinted a perfectly blue color. I knew at that moment, when swimming around in the ocean, my trip was not meant to end at the cathedral, but instead at the ocean.
It’s amazing to see beautiful buildings like the cathedral that were constructed to honor and glorify God, and seems to try to bring the beauty of God to earth. However, there is something even more special to me; to see God’s own artful touch, God’s creation, this connects me with God in such a deep way. To me, I feel God’s presence in nature but mostly when in the ocean. The wholeness and peace that I feel when with the ocean, is indescribable. As I swam in the salty sea I felt connected to the sea, to the earth, to creation, to God.

Ashley and I embraced every moment at the beach with thankfulness. I could not have asked for a better friend to share that special moment with. I could not have asked for a better person to finish my Camino de Santiago journey with.
Ashley and I met at the beginning of my freshman year and were instant friends, kindred spirits. God definitely brought us together. I know that I will never forget the joy I felt when swimming in the sea. The moment when both Ashley and I felt clothed in God’s love and peace. After spending time at the beach we all went out to lunch at a seaside café. While at the café, we saw another friend of ours, Mario, whom we had not seen since Burgos. We had lunch with both Mario and Niels, which was so special. After our meal, we headed to the lighthouse, to the cliffs that overlook the sea, the area that was once thought to be the end of the western world, The End of The Earth.

As I sat on the gigantic cliff and looked out at the sea, I felt so small, so insignificant; yet, another part of me felt more significant than ever before. I felt as though I was apart of something greater than I could ever comprehend, something exquisite. While there, I imagined that my friends Thalia and Brenda were enjoying the extraordinary view along with me. I made it to the end for them. I left two small shells on the top of a high cliff in honor of their arrival. I know that they too completed their journey, they both made it to the end, to the vast ocean, to God.
I wrote in my journal and I was overcome with thought for quite some time.
I reflected about the end of my Camino. And, at that precise moment, when I was sitting on the cliff and admiring the majestic sea, I felt more ready than ever to begin a new chapter in my life. The time seemed to slip away while Ashley and I were sitting on the breezy cliff. After about an hour, I had to say goodbye to the sea, to the ocean, to Brenda and Thalia, to the person I used to be. I was not sad about these goodbyes; instead, I felt an inner sense of peace and joy.

So, here I am, now finished with my journey on the Camino de Santiago.
I am now walking on my never-ending path towards deeper growth, healing, knowledge, and faith. I know that I am not who I was yesterday or who I will be tomorrow; I am simply the person I am in this present moment.
I bring no past baggage into the new chapter in my life; it is a fresh start for me on every possible level. Too many people take life far too seriously; I used to be one of them. Life is so beautiful and exciting. I want my new chapter to be one filled with joy, hope, and simplicity. I will take the time to smell the flowers, to smile at a stranger, to embrace relationships, to love others, to love myself, to stand up for justice, to kiss a cow, to comfort a hurting child, to embrace life.
In one short month I leave to study my sophomore year in Florence, Italy. Living in Europe for an entire year will be a whole new set of adventures, which is exciting.
So, here’s to a new chapter in my life, a new page, one of mystery and experience.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and Love.

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

 

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

 

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

 

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

 

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

 

 

 

images from today

Today we walked more than 19 miles from Terradillo de Los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero. The walk was great, but the last five miles were mentally rough. Me and my friend Hannah both pulled each other through and we made it to the city by around 2:30pm. We’re staying at an adorable albergue called El Nogal. I made a salad with fresh veggies, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, white asparagus, and tomatoes for a few friends and I for dinner, it was so refreshing after a somewhat mentally strenuous day. I’m really starting to get to know and love all of the group members from my university that I’ve been traveling with, each person adds something extremely special to this group. Though this is an individual journey, it’s so amazing to experience all of this together. I wouldn’t want to change one thing. Tomorrow we have a shorter hiking day, 12 miles. Then on Thursday we head to Leon, for two rest days. I’m excited for Leon because some of my pilgrim friends are waiting for my group in Leon and we’ll all be together again on Thursday. I love my Camino family, I love my Camino. A few pictures from my travels today are below. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

20140708-210341-75821565.jpg

20140708-210342-75822348.jpg

20140708-210343-75823904.jpg

20140708-210343-75823126.jpg

20140708-210344-75824704.jpg

20140708-210459-75899386.jpg

20140708-210500-75900260.jpg

20140708-210458-75898588.jpg

20140708-210457-75897781.jpg

20140708-210501-75901301.jpg