Mar 31, 2007

OTP (2), Days 6-8 -- Krakow days, Krakow haze

This is a pretty amazing city. I've actualy spent the majority of my time visiting churches and enjoying the rich religious and cultural heritage of Poland. (How's that for an obvious statement?) On Sunday, I arrived in early afternoon and caught a bus to travel the 15km into town. Once I located the Cracow Hostel, I checked into my private (at least for now) room and took a nap. But I didn't want to sit around in this fabulous city, so I roused myself and went out for the evening.

The hostel is great; it's located right on the Stare Miasto (Old Town Square) in a renovated home. (The rooms are spacious and clean, although the stairwell smells somewhat of sewage. Hmmm.) I stepped outside the door and walked a short 50 m to the Cloth Market and past that to the 14th-century church nestled between two flower markets. Nice.

After wandering through the craft markets and doing a bit of shopping, I walked to St. Mary's Church,

Mar 19, 2007

OTP (2), Day 6 -- Off to Krakow!

Those who know me, know that I'm not always on time. I've definitely improved over time, but it's not my strongest point. But I'm getting better. So when I realized I had a 9:45am flight from Gatwick to Krakow, I planned carefully --30 minutes from Paddington to Victoria (subway or "Tube" stations), 15 minutes waiting for the Gatwick Express, 30 minutes on the Express, then the recommended 2 hours for pre-flight processing. Add the 5 minute walk to Paddington, and I need to leave my hotel by 6:15am.

And I did it! Made it to Paddington by 6:20am... and realized that the Tube didn't run until 7:00am on Sundays. Chatted with 2 Scots and a self-described "tranny from hell" (i.e. a large man in heels and a peekaboo lace bra, wearing last night's makeup which may not have been that good to begin with) until they opened the gates to the subway. [Only a little worried about making my flight.] Caught the Tube to Victoria... and realized that they were running the Gatwick Express every 30 minutes instead of 15, due to repairs. [Getting more worried.] Waited through 15 minutes of stalling due to a broken train on the tracks. [Getting very worried.] Nodded when another passenger casually remarked, "You'll probably miss your plane." The next British Airways flight to Krakow was the next day. Damn it.

Got to Gatwick 55 minutes before my flight and had to change terminals, and was fortunately able to rush through check-in because I only had a carry-on. They waved me to the front of the security line (I felt guilty with every step), and I sprinted to the gate and was the second to last to board. Whew.

When I first decided to go to Krakow, it sounded exciting. Two days by myself in that exotic city, eating bigos and perogi and drinking good beer. But as we flew over Western Europe, I began to have doubts. Will I be able to do this by myself? What if I get lost on the way from the airport into town? Too late now -- we're about to land.

I caught the very-obviously-marked bus into the center of town, where my hostel was located. Cracow Hostel looked good online, located right on the Rynek Glowny (Old Town Square) in a restored townhouse. I barely made it, as the heels on both my boots were breaking, folding back and pinching my heels. Ouch.

Sad to say, I reached the hostel around 3:30pm, checked in and collapsed for a nap.

More later.

OTP (2), Day 5 -- Oxford Blues

On Saturday I travelled to Oxford for the postgraduate forum of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics. It was a great opportunity to gather with other postgraduates, discuss papers, and attend a few workshops on the postgraduate life (reading primary texts, building an academic career).

I also made some new friends and was able to attend part of Oxfordshire 2007, a celebration of the county being 1000 years old. That"s pretty impressive! There were lots and lots of light displays, strange configurations of burning pots and some good live music, Celtic in tone. We also took in a great Italian meal and walked through old Oxford. It was an interesting mix of folks -- one Dutch, one Argentinian, one Romanian, and two from the US. No native British in this British program! Bizarre.

We hung around until after 10PM, when Liviu (from Romania) and I hopped a train back to London. I walked the 100 yards to my hotel, packed for the next day"s journey, and collapsed.

Daily highlights:

  • feeling more immersed in the life of the postgraduate, and discussing those issues with fellow postgrads
  • hearing about ethical issues from non-Westerners.
  • wandering around during the celebration, enjoying the lights and music

No anti-highlights!

Mar 18, 2007

OTP Highlights of each and every day

Here are a few images that are keeping Mommy going. Captions are courtesy of Daddy.

"Reaching up, saying Mommy"
"Serious business call"

"No paparazzi, please"

"Wunchie reading picnic"

"Bring u sacrifice"
(Someone did suggest that this could also be "The Good Shepherd" -- do we feel particularly Old Testament or New Testament today?)

Over The Pond (2), Days 2-4 -- (yawn) more Durham... I think...

I just read through my entries from OTP, volume 1, especially the ones from Durham. And I seemed to be having a much better time last summer than I am having now.

That"s probably due to several things. For starters, I"m just tired. I was exhausted when I left home, and I"m still exhausted. I didn"t have my writing done, so I"ve been up til all hours trying to finish. And I"m still jet-lagged; next time I need to come to Durham at the end of my trip, not the beginning. It"s hardly worth it to come all this way and not be able to form a coherent thought.

Second, my work just isn"t up to snuff. It"s not bad, but it needs to improve on several levels to be PhD caliber. This is sobering, and depressing. More on that later.

Third, because I was scrambling to get my papers finished, I missed those things that usually ground my trips to Durham: walks along the river, enjozing the Durham Heritage Center, and especially participating in the daily prayers and services at the Cathedral. I really missed this; I"ve relied on it to calm and center me in such a strange place and situation. And I only attended once during my 4 days there. That really sucked.

All in all, it was my least memorable trip to date. As I pulled out of Durham on the train, I felt as though I hadn"t even been there. I don"t want this to happen again... which means that next time, I need to do things differently beforehand.


But, there were still highlights:
  1. I had some of my favorite, stock Durham meals -- steak pie, mash and peas at the Market Tavern with a "half" of Old Speckled Hen; fish and chips from Bimbi"s, yummy English breakfasts.
  2. I made some new friends -- Ben and Heather Blackwell, fellow Texans (at least partly) who are studying there
  3. I caught up with an old acquaintance, who is now a new friend. She is also a wife, a mother, a pastor and a student. We had a great lunch and shared our stories of complex lives, and encouraged each other and vowed to keep up online.
  4. I had a great time with Robert and his family. I helped construct a Lego bridge with his son Jamie, and spilled 3 boxes of Legos and a set of Monopoly (read between the lines -- that"s a LOT of little pieces). We ate a great dinner which was full of all sorts of new (for me) food combos -- proscuitto and melon; smoked salmon on buttered bread with a squeeze of lemon, and couscous. Plus a gin and tonic, glass of white wine, jasmine tea, and chocolate covered apricots and marzipan. Then Robert and his daughter Iona taught me to play Risk. What great people. I wish we could be friends all the time.

On Friday afternoon, I took a train back to London and got a room near Paddington Station. I took the long, winding walk up the 4 flights of stairs, dropped off my bags, and went back down for fish and chips and an apple. Then, up to watch part 1 of "Lonesome Dove" (which is great, thanks Mark), and off to sleep.

More tomorrow.

Mar 14, 2007

Over The Pond (2), Day 1 -- Tiring but good

After a pretty full day with Communality and schoolwork, Billy drove me to Cincinnati to catch my flight to London. The wunchie slept all the way to the airport, and awoke just in time for a quick snuggle and a kiss (sort of). After a ridiculously long check-in (I think Northwest needs to hire more people, really), I settled down with an asian chicken salad, an iced tea, and Xenocide, the first of several books I plan to devour while I'm gone. I connected in Detroit just in time to board; unfortunately, this wasn't one of those semi-full flights where you can commandeer an entire row and stretch out to sleep; it was packed. But my neighbor was nice, and I worked on Plato and read my book and watched "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "X-Men: The Last Stand." (Both good, mindless entertainment.) I dozed for a while, but couldn't get comfortable enought to really sleep.

I arrived at London Gatwick around 9AM, took the tube (subway) through London to Kings Cross station (watched for Harry Potter and the Weasleys, but couldn't find platforn 9 1/2) and rode the train for 3 hours to Durham. Then found my room at St. John's college and met with Robert for a while as my eyes began to glaze. I was really tired. I wanted to go straight to bed, but had made dinner plans with some folks (whose blog I circuituously found) who are Americans studying and living here at Durham. (Billy said, "Just make sure they aren't serial killers or anything." So far they're not.) Turns out I'm glad I didn't cancel, as we had a great time. Another biblical studies student joined us, and we talked about programs and parenthood and theology and things in general. Thanks Heather and Ben for your hospitality!!! Then, took the bus back to St. John's and fell asleep reading.

So far, the main thing I've noticed is how much less... significant this trip feels, compared to last July. Billy mentioned in the car, "These trips used to seem like such a big deal, but we're getting used to them. They're just part of our lives now." And really, up until I was eating and relaxing in Cincinnati, this trip was just one more thing on my to-do list, something else I needed to be prepared for. I wsan't really thinking about being away from Miranda, which was a major preoccupation last year. One reason for that is that I was weaning her just before my last trip, and was worried about how she'd do with such an abrupt shift away from nursing. But that's been off the radar screen for awhile now.

Plus, I think that trip (combined with weaning) was the inauguration of a change in our parenting patterns. Whereas for the first year I was rarely away from Miranda for more than 4-6 hours, I now have larger blocks of time available to me. Billy keeps her for extended periods of time (and is so in tune with her, it's amazing), and she has nursery school and a day with Marie once a week. So, while I certainly miss her, I don't feel the same anxiety about leaving her. She's doing just fine!

Anyway, here's the daily highlights:
  • Having time and quiet to read a good book on the plane, with a "free" glass of red wine
  • seeing daffodils blooming on the hill of the castle and between the tombs in the cathedral lawn
  • a nice evening with new friends
  • getting 2 pix messages from Billy of the wunchie
  • a comfortable bed and a good night's sleep
And the BIG anti-highlight: as I walked back to my room, getting hit (on the behind, no less!) with an egg that some drunken person threw at me as they drove by! I'm sure it wasn't personal, as I saw other eggs up and down the Bailey, and fortunately it didn't break on my jeans, but still. And it really stung!!!

Mar 9, 2007

Rock 'n Roll Never Forgets!!!

Four words: Bob Seger in concert.
One word: ROCKIN'.

Thanks honey for a fabulous date night!

Progressing through Lent

Someone reminded me that I'd promised in my Ash Wednesday post to talk more about what we're giving up for Lent. Here it is, sorry for the delay.

For the second year, we've decided not to drink any liquids besides water. (This is not a "water fast", where you only have water, no food or anything.) Last year, we had the idea to fast from other liquids, and save that money to give towards a water-availability project in Uganda. It was a great way to combine the sacrificial component of Lent with an area of social justice. So, this year several of us have recommitted to this project.

This fast impacts people in different ways, and we're all forgoing different pleasures. The pleasure and social nature of a bottle of beer or glass of wine. The oh-so-ready availability of soft drinks. The invigoration of that first cup of coffee. The comfort of a cup of tea as you read a book in the evening. The sweetness of juice with your toast.

For me, it's almost all of the above. I love soft drinks, I love tea, I like coffee. This is going to be good for me, but I will definitely feel it. Which probably means I've made a good choice.

Billy and I are also trying to eat somewhat more simply during this liturgical season, but due to our busy schedules and trying to sell our home, our eating has been somewhat haphazard. But, it's still good to bring an awareness of the value of simplicity to the table. We don't need extravagant meals evey night, or every other night, or probably more than once a week or so. They should become more of a treat than an expectation. There's a lot I could process on this point, but it'll have to wait!

Mar 7, 2007

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You...

That's right, it's time to reserve your seat for Over The Pond, vol. 2! First installment set to be released early next week. You were there for volume 1 last summer; now join us for the latest in the (unfortunately long) series of Maria's doctoral adventures. Bookmark it now -- you'll be glad you did.

Mar 5, 2007

The wonders of modern technology?

I love this picture because, in addition to that awful fracture in her little tibia, it showcases those sweet, scrunchie little rolls of baby fat! Are those thighs the most adorable things you've seen, or what?

Upon sharing this with a coworker, he mused, "Wonder if that works with mammograms, too?"
Whatever, Greg.

Mar 3, 2007

John's birthday party

We had a good time Thursday night as we celebrated John's 40th birthday. Buffalo Wild Wings (where else?) was a great place to join and say congrats to our friend. Good food, good people. #

Happy birthday, friend!!!

Mar 2, 2007

Maybe he really meant 18 months

Once, after Miranda had taken some spill or another, my mom told me that Dr. Spock said, "If a child hasn't had a broken bone by the time he's 18 years old, he's been overprotected." It sounded good at the time, kinda took the pressure off. But somehow it feels different when you're standing with the orthopedic surgeon, examining x-rays of the hairline fracture at the top of Miranda's right tibia (shinbone) -- you can see it at the bottom of the photo. According to him, we have 2 options:

  1. He could set her right leg in a cast from toes to hip (he didn't say for how long)

  2. We could try to carry and hold her as much as possible for the next week, and it should heal on its own ("If she was my daughter, that's what I'd do," he said.)

Guess which one we chose? Here's hoping it was the right decision. We'll follow up in a week; we'll keep you posted.

[How did it happen? She was running down the hallway -- the carpeted hallway -- when she tripped over her little feet and went down, splat. We thought it was nothing until she got up and wouldn't put down her foot. After four days of debate -- "Is she limping or not? I can't tell. Can you tell?" -- we got an x-ray and voila, hairline fracture. Yikes. Poor little wunchie.]

Mar 1, 2007

The Beginning of the End

Well, it's official -- we put the sign in the yard today. And the flyers with the color photos. And the info on the FSBO website. Sigh...