30 April 2009

Lego Play

Today Jules and I played with Legos for what seemed like hours. I was commissioned to build two Star Wars spacecrafts. The first picture is the first one I made. It isn't really for Star Wars. It's actually for Indiana Jones and his sidekick, a very happy two-headed skeleton. Indiana is taking his dog and pet spider along for the ride too.

And here is the second one I made...This one looks more space-crafty. It was supposed to be Star Wars, until we put it to better use - carting around Indiana Jones' spare head (which is for holding his spare hat).

Here are the four spaceships that Jules made...

And finally - here is the payment I received for my hard work - you can see I was paid quite handsomely with several colorful gemstones, a pile of money, some priceless gold nuggets, and a fierce crocodile that sadly has no tail.

By tomorrow these will all be taken apart, and we'll be building new ones from the pieces. Thought you might like seeing the pictures!

That girl in Switzerland

26 April 2009

Anzère Weekend with TNT!!

Just thought I'd write a quick post about the recent TNT (twenties and thirties church group) weekend in Anzère. We've just arrived back tonight. Here's a picture of where we were (a picture which, btw, I think nicely captures God's obvious love of both the majestic and the detailed):

Absolutely beautiful weekend - took my breath away more than once. I think we were twenty-one people altogether staying in the chalet, with a few other people driving up to join in the hiking and fondue on Saturday.

Here's a huge shout out to BETHANY, who organized the entire weekend for us. *WAHOO!!* Bethany is awesome - very selfless with her time. As Matthias would say..."Bethany ROCKS!" *pumps fist in the air*

We really packed a lot into our weekend - a Bible study each morning (reading the book The Reason for God)...big hiking on Saturday...a few movies...card games (I beat Brad!! YAY!!)...lasagna, fondue, too many loaves of bread to count...pancake bakeoffs...a "farting machine" (I hate that word...and the dumb thing was absolutely sickening and immature, but ok, funny because of the men's jubilance at the girls' reaction - though not at all funny the time of night at which they chose to use it - one in the morning - which should tell you our reaction and why they thought it was funny...)...a lot of worshipping God in song...some special times of prayer...and basically the most laughing I've ever done in my life.

So here are a few "Best of" scenarios from our weekend in Anzère...Enjoy!!

Best laugh of the weekend: Saturday night as we were having the biggest fondue party ever (picture includes not even half the group), somebody decided that we should sing all the national anthems of the countries represented in our group. (I think it started with the three UK guys singing "God Save Our Noble Queen"...)

Let's see if I can name all the nationalities we had...American, British, Swiss, German, Portugese, Greek, South African, Swedish...aaaannd...I think that might be all...

Anyway, the majority of us were American, with the British following up a (not so) close second (they had three). So our little Sing-Along-In-Between-Bites-Of-Fondue ended up turning into an Epic-Battle-of-Patriotic-Songs between our two countries, with the UK'ers shouting that we Americans had stolen their tunes, and we Americans yelling out our songs until the roof almost collapsed (not really, but it was loud, which was the intended imagery). The climax of this impromptu contest took place when the Americans sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" and the Brits sang "God Save the Queen" (same tune) - all at the same time at the top of our lungs. WHAT the people in the surrounding chalets MUST have thought!

The Americans won, BTW - Iain, Ben, and Richard finally gave in and admitted that Americans are more patriotic than the British...but they were also firm in their opinion that all our songs are the same words, just with different tunes ("God bless America" seems to be a frequent theme).

BUT - the part where I finally lost it and laughed until tears were literally dripping off my chin was when the Brits were being particularly loud, and Kevin (New Jersey) stood straight up, put his hand on his heart, and started loudly reciting, "I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA..." Our group is so much fun! It wouldn't half so great if we didn't have so many nationalities represented.

Also as we were singing out patriotic tunes - Brad (or Kevin??...hmm...I don't really remember) suggested the three Germans sing some WWII songs about Hitler...I couldn't help laughing when Matthias looked around sideways, lowered his voice, and said, "I actually know some of those..."

Best brownies: Ben's - a WHOLE POUND of sugar, baby, YEAH! I ate three...brownies, that is, not pounds of sugar.

Best long conversation: Laurent, Melody and I stayed up till about 3:30 Sat. night/Sun. morning debating several ideas involving God's wisdom/perspective versus Christian perspective/world's perspective. Well...Laurent and I were debating...Melody was mostly just laughing at how stubborn Laurent and I were both being. In the end, after nearly two hours of heated discussion, we realized we were basically agreeing, the problem was just in our definitions of a couple key words. (Or maybe he just came around to my point of view...haha...) All three of us were dead tired on Sunday morning.

Best time of connection: After our Sunday morning Bible study when our small groups got together to pray for each other...Devon, Katie, Jessica, Melody, Julie and I had a really open time talking about what has been on our minds lately and the areas in which we feel we need God's help. It's amazing to be able to pray for each other. It's what we as Christians should be doing daily.

Winner of the Pancake BakeOff: Brad, for his stellar achievements with buttermilk and cinnamon.

Best back massage of the weekend: Richard. THANK YOU! I OWE YOU! (or wait...no I don't...you owed me...and now you don't.)

Best Running Joke: Matthias and his speed dating - "I only have two questions for you...what are your hobbies and how many children do you want?" It was also Matthias' idea to do "speed dating" during our fondue Saturday night - so we were randomly changing seats every five minutes, taking plates, cutlery, and glasses with us...the "speed dating," along with the fondue confusion and the loud singing of national anthems, made for one very interesting evening.

Best movie of the weekend: Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina. (Brad refused to watch it. Apparently it isn't a manly movie. Here's to Ian B. for sticking it out. *raises glass*)

My personal favorite bit of the weekend: Saturday evening - Brad played the guitar for us and we just sang to God for about an hour. I started crying at one point because it was clear that every single person in the room was craving God's presence. It's been rare in my life to be with a group of young people who are only thinking about worshiping God, not being embarrassed of raising their voices to Him or thinking about other people - just closing their eyes and embracing the awe. God was with us, I know He was - He was right there in the room saying, "This is why you were created - to praise and glorify me without a thought to yourself."

It's so cool...that we all came together, from different countries to the same place, with the most important thing in our hearts a desire to focus our lives on God...I'm so blessed to have been given my time with TNT...I wouldn't trade it for anything. These are friends for a lifetime, and hopefully longer than that.

So I'm signing off now, dear Readers. I've got a smile on my face and a bigger one in my heart. I'm relaxed, refreshed, and rejoicing.

Love and Peace,
That girl in Switzerland

24 April 2009

Heart of Darkness

Reread Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness the other day. Fascinating little book - quite possibly the first great 20th-century novel - that tells of one man's journey into the heart of the African continent. If you haven't read it, I highly suggest you do. I love Conrad's style of writing. My four favorite Heart of Darkness quotes are:

1. Concerning sunset: "The day was ending in a serenity of still and exquisite brilliance. The water shone pacifically; the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist of the Essex marshes was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds. Only the gloom to the west, brooding over the upper reaches, became more sombre every minute, as if angered by the approach of the sun."

2. Concerning life: "It is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence - that which makes truth, its meaning - its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream - alone..."

3. Concerning cannibals: "Fine fellows - cannibals - in their place. They were men one could work with, and I am grateful to them. And, after all, they did not eat each other before my face: they had brought along a provision of hippo-meat which went rotten, and made the mystery of the wilderness stink in my nostrils."

4. Concerning death: "I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable greyness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamour, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid skepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary...I was within a hair's-breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say."

Oh, to be able to write like Joseph Conrad!! One can only dream...

Cheers, Readers,
That girl in Switzerland

07 April 2009

London (being part the late, and also the second, and the last)

Well, this post is about a month overdue. The draft has been sitting on file for weeks now - I do apologize. My week in London was super interesting! Here are a few of the things I did while I was there, along with a few pictures:

Tower of London:
This is namely the place where 1) several queens lost their heads; and 2) you are absolutely not allowed to take pictures of the crown jewels. This is also the place where 1) I learned how to make four different types of arrow heads from a man who's pet topic is arrows (and though not an idea left previously unconsidered, I myself might now begin to channel Robin Hood) and who got distracted from the big weapons about which I was more interesting in learning (catapult demonstration, etc.); and 2) I took pictures of the crown jewels. (They were so preeeeety, I just couldn't help it...we're talking about the world's largest diamond...and you see that teeeny crown?? That is the one Queen Victoria wore for those famous portraits after she became a widow...how could I not sneak pictures??)

Westminster Abbey:

is the place where you pay £14.50 to walk on and around the graves of hundreds of famous dead people - a lot of queens and kings, writers and rich people, mostly. This is also the place of the Coronation Chair that has been used in British coronations since that of William the Conquerer in 1066 (UK readers, don't be haters...I was very impressed...1066 is a good date in my book...this is when the French began to really influence the English language and started it on it's journey to what it is today). The Abbey is also where Edward the Confessor is enshrined and secluded away for private prayer services, and the place Livingstone (minus his heart), Tennyson!!, and Handel (among others) are buried. Westminster Abbey is also the place where I had a miniature breakdown, cried my eyes during the prayer at the top of the hour (for people who had recently lost loved ones, and my uncle Albert had just died the day before), and where a very busy, yet friendly, rector kindly asked me if I was alright as I bawled, "Yes, of course," and waved him on.

Southwark Cathedral:
The oldest gothic cathedral in town where Shakespeare probably attended services, though who knows how regularly. It is also the burial place of Shakespeare's brother Edmund. (Yeah, I know you didn't know he had a brother. Dummy. As a matter of fact, he had seven siblings, including two sisters named Joan. And dear William wasn't the oldest either, or even the youngest...which proves that even middle children can achieve things in life *said the middle child without a trace of bitterness...or sarcasm.*)

Kensington Gardens:
The place where I saw no fairies, even though it is the setting of the 1903 English opera A Princess of Kensington (which has fairies in it, as you might have guessed from the context of the sentence). There is, however, a delightful statue of Peter Pan, with which I did not manage to get a picture. I did manage to get a delightful phone call, though, so that was ok (if that person is reading this...you know who you are...). Kensington Garden is also the location of Kensington Palace (who would have figured?) and a very cool, terraced, sunken garden (which, on second thought, is where the fairies were probably in hibernation...and I would have been too, were I a fairy, which sadly, I am not).

The London Underground (Mind the Gap):
This is where you see way too many people waaaaay too closely, all of whom happen to be heading for exactly the same stop as you, and all of whom seem to be more than happy to give you a nice rough jostle whilst stepping on your toes in the mad rush out the door. I had to literally undergo a personality transformation, thereby becoming mean enough to step on other people's toes as well, or risk riding the tube for life. The London Underground is also where I saw, among others, a woman who dyes her hair too much (evidence: freshly-cut hair that had already begun to fray at the ends, though not yet to work its way up the hair shaft), a man who has a cat (evidence: four veeeery tiny scratches just out of eye-reach on the right shoulder of his sports jacket, along with a few hairs that his lint roller apparently missed), and a man with poor circulation (evidence: he had white white white hands that he kept rubbing together, even after he'd been on the fairly-warm metro at least seven stops). I felt that my personal space was invaded on numerous occassions, and I'll bet if the woman with bad hair had realized I was close enough to count split ends, she would have felt invaded as well.

FACT - I saw not one badly-dressed person playing ear-wrenching violin or accordian for money on the London tube. In Paris, it was impossible not to see them every last time you used the metro - the pleasures of mass transit, sickly cords of Carman wafting through the corridors, drifting from stop to stop like the smells emanating from the people manning the broken strings or shaking the paper cups.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre:
This just may be the biggest bloody disappointment in all of London. I was perfectly aware, as should be all decent, self-respecting readers of Shakespeare, that the original Globe Theatre burned down on 29 June of 1613 after a spark from a prop cannon caught the thatched roof on fire during a performance. I also knew that the second Globe was closed by the Puritans in 1642, along with every other theatre in London. What I didn't realise, or had completely overlooked, was the smallish fact that that second Globe had been pulled down - yes, to the ground - only two years after its closing, and that the current Globe - erroneously (I believe) called Shakespeare's Globe - was only just built twelve years ago. Not to mention - it isn't even built in the same spot as the previous one...it's a good two minutes walk from the original location. But of course they don't tell you these things before you pay for the tour...anyway, I went, I looked, I took the tour, but I shall never again return to this "Shakespeare's Globe Theatre." Darling William would be quite appalled. Not even in the same spot. Bah.

British Museum:
This is the very cool place where I spent a rainy afternoon looking at things like a manuscript of the Egyptian Book of the Dead and too many mummies to count, and peering over the heads of school children to get a glimpse of the Rosetta Stone. This is also where I fulfilled a very old wish to see artifacts from the Anglo-Saxon ship-burial at Sutton Hoo. Very, very awesome! I managed to feel a great deal of pride in myself for making it from NC to Switzerland to London to see these things I've been reading about for so long.

Leicester Square:
This is where I accidentily ended up at the world premier of the new movie "Young Victoria." It was also the place where I took pictures of Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, and her daughters (see below), along with various other royal people and actresses...and also the place where the batteries in my camera went dead just as the Princes William and Harry arrived. Bugger! Life-long regret, that.

Piccadilly Circus:
This is the apparently London's very own Times Square...flashing lights...huge billboards, etc...but for me it was basically the place where I renewed my long-term love affair with Cinnabon's massive, gooey cinnamon rolls.

Covent Garden:
This is the very neat market/series-of-stores/not-sure-exactly-how-to-describe-it where I saw a guy balance a full-size bicycle on his forehead. And that's pretty much the end of that story.

Whitechapel District:
This is where I took myself on a four-hour, meandering, walking tour of Jack the Ripper's home turf. I had the A-Z, I marked the trail, and I followed it in the order of the victims, down every last dark alley, past every dimly-lit pub, until I had a picture of myself at each place where Jack mutilated one of his victims. You might think I'm weird, but I don't care - I have a morbid fascination with the story of Jack the Ripper - have had for about fifteen years - and it was a free way to spend an afternoon. Not to mention I got some great exercise, discovered a couple of really cool old churches (another fascination - I go in every one that isn't locked), and explored a bit of London that otherwise I would have had no reason to see.

I went to a lot of other places I haven't mentioned...lots of museums, lots of parks, lots of little coffee shops...and overall had a really amazing time. Cannot WAIT to go back!!

In LOVE with London,
That girl in Switzerland