Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Kicking off 2014

In my last post, I mentioned that I had two very exciting things coming up on my horizon. And as of now, one has passed and the other is just about to begin.

The first was that I got to spend a couple of days with Lindsey and Abbie, my roommates/friends from my time in Italy about a year ago. Over the past year we have constantly been monitoring groupons and getaway flights to see if we could pull of a random weekend reunion, but sadly nothing pulled through. Two weeks ago though, Abbie (who lives in Indiana) told us that she would be coming down to San Antonio (where Lindsey lives) just after the New Year for a Christian youth convention. We scrambled a bit, talked logistics, booked a couple flights and managed to land ourselves in the same cities for just a couple of precious days. So on Monday, I flew down and met up with the two of them for a 3 day getaway in San Antonio and Austin. Finally seeing those girls at the airport - I don't think I've screamed that much in a long time. I was giddy. Positively giddy. 

We spent the 30th in San Antonio, doing all of your typical San Antonio things - Alamo, River Walk, Tex-Mex happy hour, etc. A lot of our conversation was spent catching up on the year and reminiscing about our time in Rome. We found that we were starting to forget a lot of the small details, like the names of streets and restaurants, or funny little mishaps from our trips. Being able to talk and talk and talk about that semester was extremely therapeutic.  And I really haven't laughed that hard or that much in a very very long time. The friendship we were able to cultivate through our experiences in Italy went so deep so quickly. It was a wonderful gift to be able to pick up with them again so quickly after being apart for so long. 

The three of us during our first trip together, to Milan in the fall of 2012.

Reunited over year later in San Antonio. And so. stinking. happy. 

After our first day in San Antonio, our plan was to get out of town early the next morning and head to Austin. We didn't get out quite as early as we planned, but it made for a really enjoyable day. We walked around a cute little shopping area for an hour or so before finding a place to grab some coffee and breakfast. Abbie found a coffee shop a couple of blocks away with decently good reviews so we decided to check it out. It was called Brown Coffee Company, and it had a very unique vibe. It had a minimalist style, no menu to look over, and no cash register. Very counter-mainstream. All three of us decided to stick with our basic cappuccino that we had come to love so well in Italy. And it was perfect. I have not had what I would consider to be a decent, or even passable cappuccino since returning to the states, but this, this, was authentic. This was legit. This was the real deal. I think we all understand that taste and scent memories can often be much stronger than simple visual memories, and this was a great testament to that. Aside from the wonderful pizza and cappuccinos, we've found that we dearly miss the pace of life in Italy. So since we were flashing back with the cappuccinos, we settled back into the Italian pace as well and sat for a solid hour talking over those tiny and long-gone cappuccinos.

the cappuccinos in all of their authentic glory

(Side note, speaking of authentic Italian food, I recently encountered a small pizzeria near the DFW airport called Cavalli's. if you are ever in the area and have an appreciation for Good Italian pizza - you should go. The Marghertia pizza was true Italian Margherita, not Americanized Margherita. The crust was bubbled and burned, as it should be. The tomato sauce was fresh - which is practically non existent in the states. The mozarella was scattered well and the basil was abundant. So again, if you're around, you should go. Here's the link to their website - Cavalli's, These guys are legit)

But back to my time down south, after the cappuccinos, we trecked back over to Austin to spend the rest of our New Years Eve and New Years Day. We puttered around a little bit in Austin then got ready for our night. For our NYE dinner we went to Red's Porch, which is now my Austin favorite. It can only be summed up as a mexican/burger bar/comfort food/creole type of restaurant. The atmosphere was cozy and local. They have their restaurant on the base floor and then a full coverage porch upstairs that was (graciously) enclosed and heated with a great view of the sun setting and then the city lighting up in the dark. Aside from the atmosphere, the food was wonderful too. It was creative and unique, and I ended up getting some sort of chiken chile enchiladas with rice and collard greens. All in all, great local place that is on my shortlist of favorite Austin places. If you're near there, try and stop by - it'll be worth your time. 

I said goodbye to them earlier today before hopping onto a plane back home before heading off to my next adventure which starts tomorrow. 

saying farewell at the airport. I am so immensely blessed by these two ladies.

Now as I said, adventure #2 is just around the corner. Some of you already know that I will be heading off to Panama very very soon! Tomorrow I will head out to meet up with my Panama team. This year I have the opportunity to travel to Panama for 10 days and help run a summer camp for high schoolers. This trip is through a program put on by the camp that I work at in the summer. I've been wanting to go for several years but it has never really panned out for me. However this year, it worked. God finally opened the door. So tomorrow afternoon I will meet up with the rest of the team and we will spend our day going through some basic tips and training. We'll grab a quick 3 hour nap before heading out at 3 am to catch our 6 am flight to Panama on Friday morning. I am most certainly excited but also partially anxious, simply because I am headed off into the unknown. But heavens knows, I've found that heading off into the unknown can often bring the most glorious of blessings. (i.e. going to Rome and meeting those two amazing girls pictured above.) 

If you would like to follow the progress and happenings of our trip, you can follow the team blog which will be periodically updated by our team leaders. To all of you who helped support me in my pursuits to raise funds for this trip, I cannot thank you enough for everything you've done for me. If you would like to continue to support me while I am on the trip you can be in prayer for
     - safety for our team as we travel
     - energy and joy amidst the anticipated fatigue
     - boldness in our relationships with the Panamanians
     - presence of mind - "wherever you are, be all there"
     - openness of heart to receive God's teaching, Americans and Panamanians alike

So with that, I'm off to Panama!

Ciao and adios!

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