Thursday, March 01, 2007

March 1st

Happy March Day! Again, we're sorry we didn't get time to say goodbye to everyone, as it was a crazy schedule leaving sooner than what we originally were prepared for. But we will definitely keep in touch!

Well, life has been busy lately. The command has kept us busy with "Welcome to Gaeta" classes, checking in, and our first housing trip this past Tuesday. Little by little, we're learning a few words in Italian, and mostly learning how to pronounce the words we read. Our cultural relations lady said that even if we don't know what they mean, Italians will appreciate our attempts and especially if we can pronounce them correctly. We can now get around a little better, and we've learned enough hand gestures to take care of most of the rest, but it is so different being in a culture that you have no idea what is being said around you. It's very interesting, but at the end of the day can be very taxing as well.

I took my first trip with "the spouses club" today. They do little tourist trips once a month to places you can't go unless you have a large group, mostly around the Gaeta area. We went to The Golden Chapel here in Gaeta, which originally was a hospital, then a hospice, and is now a retirement home for those without family, with a chapel and a larger church attached (the Church of the Enunciation - not sure about the spelling, but it's when Mary was told she'd be carrying Christ). It was amazing! There was so much handmade woodwork, gold-leafing, and gorgeous painting everywhere! Apparently, Pope John Paul II visited there in 1989, and several others. Stephen would've loved the paintings, as they were all done in the 1600's by local students from an art school here in Gaeta. And there were depictions of Jesus birth, circumcision and dedication at the temple, the turning of the water to wine, and the loaves and fishes - amazing! The chapel is rarely open, so we were definitely fortunate to get to see it. I know Neal's going to whine because he had to work today and couldn't go see it too. But they're having a special mass later this month, so we may just have to go then. I took tons of pictures, and I'll post them as soon as I can find a way to upload them.

Yesterday, I took a trip to the Gaeta open-air market. It's a weekly thing on Wednesdays. They have clothing, bags, linens, and of course fruits and veggies available for sale. It was so much fun just to roam about and browse. I didn't buy anything, but am still in my scoping things out mode until I get better acquainted with the area and prices. It's hard to get used to using the Euro and keeping the exchange rate in mind while shopping. But some stuff is about the same, electronics are much more expensive, and food seems to be much cheaper here, especially if you get it at the market. My next excursion planned is next Thursday at the Formia market (the next town over, about a 5-minute drive without traffic). I also walked down Via Independenzia (Independence Street, known as Picollo Alley) yesterday to browse in the shops. It was a good little walk, and I had so much fun! I always get a few odd looks, but Italians tend to stare since it's so easy to spot Americans and newcomers in such a small town.

We've made a couple of friends at the local pizza shop down the street from our hotel. We've gone there about 4-5 times now, and they have begun to loudly greet us as we walk in now. They're very patient and help us to pronounce the ingredients correctly. And the pizza is to die for! I've now started branching out and had a calzone too. Fairly different from the American calzones, even New York style, and so much better!!! We just went to a tavern last night with another new couple that's staying in the hotel, and it was great. It was really the first time I've had beef since we got here. It was weird to realize that, especially given how much of a carnivore I tend to be. We ordered a ribeye, and is was sooo good! The meat over here is cut much leaner, so there was very little fat on it, and they cooked it to perfection! It was so juicy and moist, I thought it might have been the best steak I've ever had! And here I was, worried that the beef over here might not be great quality. I think I'm going to be in gastronomic heaven while we're here, I may be spoiled when it's time to come back to the U.S.

Lastly, but so much more importantly, I'd like to ask you all for some prayer. Right after we left Knoxville, I found out that a college girlfriend of mine is in the hospital. Her name is Kristen. She's struggled with Cystic Fibrosis and Juvenile Diabetes for years. Since I've known her (about 3 years), she's had a couple of flare ups that have put her in the hospital for a day or so. However, this time, she's been in for about a month. It's been quite a roller coaster ride, and the doctors have said it's going to be a major uphill battle. She's a very small person to begin with, and being on ventilators and in bed for a month are wreaking havoc with her body. Please pray for her parents who are at her side 24/7, that they are getting the rest and peace that they need. Also, she's had a fever the whole time and they've found that it's a difficult-to-treat infection, and the doctors need wisdom and guidance with how to take care of her infection, her therapy to begin walking again (they just recently put a trach in so she could get out of bed here and there, among other things), and how to go from here. Shortly after I first met Kristen, when she was telling me the details of her condition, she said that God had given her a burden to pray for complete healing from both, and not just less flare-ups. Please pray for this now. She's such an amazing woman of God and continues to be an example to those around her. She's a super person and very loved.

P.S. If you'd like to keep up with her progress, you can follow the blog her parents are keeping at: Once there, click on the CarePages icon, the "Visit a CarePage." You then need to register, which only takes a second and is free. Once you've registered, then type in "KristenFischer" into the blank for where you want to go, and you're into her CarePage. Just be sure you type it with no space between names and the first letter of each name in caps. You can even leave her a note there. Also, her parents have asked for as much prayer as they can get. Please feel free to share this information with your prayer list/group.

Thanks so much everyone! We love you all!

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