Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Here's a little taste of our twelve hour travel day to Sorrento:

Wake at 2.00 a.m. in London to take the number 37 bus at 2.30 to Clapham Junction station to take another night bus at 2.56.

The night bus took us to Liverpool street where we waited for an hour and a half (we misunderstood the schedule) to pick up the 4.40 Standstead Express train to Standstead airport.

Arrived at the airport at 5.45. Boarded the 7.20 am flight to Naples, arrived at 11.30 and sought out information about Sorrento transport.

We found out that a coach service left for Sorrento at 1.00, so we embarked on the coach at 1.00 and arrived in Sorrento about 2.

It would have been nice to enjoy a bit of Sorrento at that point, but it was raining, we still had our luggage and we had no idea where our hotel was, since we had tried calling from London and the Naples airport and still couldn't get through. Google maps wasn't very clear either. We asked around, discovered that a taxi would cost us 40 euros, and then luckily found a tourist office. They told us we could take a bus, but we had to wait an hour or so so we enjoyed a margherita pizza and calzone at a little cafe and unfortunately missed the next bus too (timetables aren't the most reliable in Italy...) Finally, at about 4.30 we got on a crowded bus and enjoyed the short trip just outside Sorrento to Massa Lubrense.

After about 15 minutes we got off a bit early, enquired at another hotel, and then were told to walk about 500 more meters along the road. Soaked by the rain and drenched by puddle water from cars who raced down the road next to us, we tried to avoid getting hit by oncoming traffic and finally arrived at the Conca Azzurra resort. Home at last! We celebrated by taking nice hot baths and eating a delicious Italian dinner.

Sunny Amalfi

Yesterday a.m. J and I got back from our four day trip to Sorrento, Italy, which is along the scenic Amalfi Coast.


I'd been to the area before--a high school trip in 2000. But it was such a whirlwind mad rush of hotels and sightseeing and coach tours that I barely remembered it. All that was imprinted in my memory from Sorrento was a small piazza, a quick dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea and our rondevoux with the Swiss guys we met and hung out with on the rooftop terrace of our yellow hotel. From Capri I only remembered a pathway surrounded by trellis and flowers. And what I remembered from our visit to Pompeii was the fact that the prostitute's clients had to draw pictures of what they wanted on the walls of the brothel since it was an international port city and people spoke many languages. Today you can still see the pictures, too (I suppose they would have been the ancient equivalent of Playboy?) Anyway, funny what information manages to stick itself in our memories.

But this time J and I had time to absorb the sunny citrus flavors of Sorrento and it was delicious! First off, we were told that our three star hotel room at the top of the cliff wasn't ready yet and so we were to spend the holiday in the four star Sea Club hotel. Not too shabby. It was at the bottom of the most windy, steep, vine covered hill I'd ever seen, but was closer to the beach and the pool and had extremely nice bathrooms. And there was free shuttle service to Sorrento, so we didn't have to walk the treacherous hill. We decided that it made up for the fact that their broken phone line so it took us some time to get there. That night I enjoyed an apertif of limoncello and Jonathan whiskey, a lovely dinner of salad, duck in orange sauce, Neopolitan meatballs, and a slice of Italian cheesecake for dessert.

The next morning was bright and sunny. We had breakfast at our hotel (the Italians like their coffee thick!) and took a train to Pompeii. Like I said, I didn't remember much, but especially how expansive the city is. We walked around almost all day, peeping into what used to be bedrooms and theatres and gardens and forums and drainage pipes. It was odd to walk into the ampitheatre and imagine gladiator fights and wonder if Christians had been fed to lions in the arena. And it was amazing to see how well preserved the wall paintings were. We concluded that if Pompeii was located in the States or the UK tourists would definitely not have the allowance to roam as freely through the ruins as the Italians let us. Some of the areas are gated off, but for the most part you can walk in and around everything and touch everything, and no one would mind. At the end we saw the preserved bodies as well, which was eerie but fascinating.

We left on the train for Naples after Pompeii and spent a couple of hours wandering around the shops and trying to survive the crazy scooter and cable car and trucks and car traffic. I have no idea how people survive in that city. I saw one boy about ten run into the road, parallel to traffic, and race the cars behind him to get across to the other side. Pure craziness.

That night we returned to Sorrento and walked around the stores a bit before having dinner at a cafe and meeting our shuttle.
We woke up the next morning to sun and made our way through the early a.m. streets to the marina, where we picked up the hydrofoil to the island of Capri. Capri is fantastically gorgeous. The lush cliffs and azure sea contrast with the white-washed and pastel bungalows, magenta flowers hang over stone walls and shop fronts, and bright green, exotic plants meander through loose gardens. It's hard to imagine that people really live in such a relaxing, beautiful place. Since everything was so close together, the stone pathways surrounded by walls of wooden doorways that led into gardens and homes, we imagined it was probably the closest we could come to imagining Pompeii and any Roman town as it had been.

That day we had the BEST tiramisu gelato ice cream that we've ever had. Indescribably good. We took pictures and stopped at a cafe for bruschetta and bianca vino and then sunned on the pebbly beach. That afternoon we returned to Sorrento and wandered through the quaint, cobblestoned streets and colorful shops. That's when I tasted the most incredible liquor I've ever had--creme lemoncello. I'd had the regular lemoncello before, but the creme version is so sweet and smooth that I could drink it dangerously fast without even realizing it. No wonder it's so good--the lemons in Sorrento are positively massive.

The next day we spent the morning sunning next to the pool and the sea at our hotel, and then, sigh, it was time to leave. I wish I could have bottled the rays up with us and brought it back to London because we've had rain for the past two days. Va bene. Someday we'll see sun again, and maybe it'll be on a Sorrento beach with a glass of lemoncello.

Sorrento, etc. Picture Highlights

We were bumped from our 3 star hotel to the 4 star Sea Club hotel with its own beach in Sorrento! We didn't mind too much...

The pool and seaside view from our hotel room.

Steps leading up to a home on the island of Capri

A view of Capritown from our trek on the Arco Naturale trail.

The long queue for the most fantastic tiramisu gelato in the world!

Afternoon refreshment at a cafe on Capri: bruschetta (just the way it's meant to taste--fresh and crusty) and bianca vino. This is our second round of vino because I hit the table and spilled our first. Such a klutz...

View of the Tyrrehenian Sea and active volcano Mount Vesuvius.

The Marina Grande on Capri

An ancient roman street in Pompeii

Backside view of Pompeii

The first ampitheatre built for gladiator competitions in Pompeii. It's small compared to the others built after it, but it's still a good-sized arena considering when and how it was built.

A Roman column--an example of how well the city of Pompeii was preserved by Vesuvius' volcanic ash (I have pictures of some preserved bodies as well, but I'll refrain from posting them in case some of you are eating while you read this. Unless, of course, you beg to see them.)



It's strange that I can spend all day with people--breathing the same office air, heating the same water kettle, gripping the same tube pole, crowding the same carriage--only to come home lonely.

Don't get me wrong. The first week of my internship turned out even better than I imagined. I'm in the process of editing two books with fun topics, and amazingly, my boss entrusts the final proofreading to me. It's not just dirty work--filing, getting people tea, running errands. It's actually work that's beneficial to my hopeful editing career. The editorial director is bouncy and spontaneous and full of energy and humor. She literally runs around the office and is happy to rush to my side if I need anything at all, even if I'm interrupting her work. In fact if I walked into the old brewery office off the street I would have had no idea that she's the boss (after the publisher, of course). She's humble and interested in my opinion and encourages me to think for myself. I couldn't have landed a better internship.

But now that I've glimpsed the life I've wanted, now that I've pulled back the curtains on that mysterious dream world to see it for what it is, I realize that I was putting much more hope in it than I should have. I hoped it would fulfill a need I've never had filled. I had it in my mind that once the career I wanted was in reach, I would be happy. Turns out that there are other things that matter so much more than a career. I've been slowly pushing them out of my gaze, farther and farther, until they were in my periphery, and finally, out of my vision completely.

Those things I've been missing? They're not things at all. They're people. I haven't loved people. How do I get myself scrambled up in self-satisfying messes time and time again, forgetting that my purpose in life is greater than my happiness?


For All You Creative People Out There

On Saturday I went to a forum at our church for people in creative industries--musicians, architects, artists, writers, graphic designers, etc. Wow. Not only was it interesting, but I'm impressed with their resolve to help people figure out how their vocation and their faith work together.

It was put together by a comedy writer and an artist, both members of the larger church group we're in (called "Co-mission churches"), both people who decided that it was worth the effort to get up at an early hour on a Saturday morning, buy some croissants and fruit to share and plan a couple of talks and group discussions to get the church talking about what it means to pursue a "creative" vocation as it corresponds with our faith. Because it's no secret that for the last few hundred years and especially within the last fifty, evangelicals have spewed dragon fire on the idea of art in church, especially visual art, reviling it like a form of idolatry and excessive luxury. Modernism was all about the Word so while we did have literature and rhetoric, visual art wasn't considered worth our time or money like it was in the early ages of the Christian church. (Even then if it was included, it had to fit a certain "church" mode and follow specific "church" guidelines. If you couldn't do stained glass, your art would not be included in the canon of church beauty. If you didn't have magnificent wood working skills to carve an altar or pew out of the surrounding oak trees, then you were doomed to whittle away your time to secular causes. Because if it wasn't displayed in church, it wasn't worthy art.)

While I think that some churches today, especially the emerging churches, are doing a better job of encouraging drama and visual arts, people who desire to make a vocation out of their creativity still often feel the need to justify their choice. Why? Because we're not doctors or fireman, lawyers or policeman, professionals who make the survival of humankind possible. We're luxury. We're excessive. We're a vanity.

As our speaker pointed out, it's tempting to believe this lie because we have our priorities wrong. Somehow the evangelical church has gotten the idea into our heads that our main priority as Christians is to introduce people to the saving love of Christ. Evangelize evangelize evangelize. Well, surprisingly, it's not. Of course it's God's will that all of humanity will come to know him, but God put us on this earth for a greater purpose: to give him glory. To worship him as he made us to worship him: as humans. The act of creation is human, and there is no other reason we should have to give.

God made the world unnecessarily beautiful. Look at the thousands of birds in the world. Visit the Canadian Rockies. Get married and experience passionate sex the way God designed it to be.

Not only is our world beautiful, but so is His Word. The first words that Adam spoke after he saw his wife for the first time was not a theological sermon but a love poem. A simple love poem. The Bible is filled with poetry and metaphors and stories and parables and powerful symbols that point to what? God's unnecessarily beautiful love for us--the kind that never dies, no matter how often we hurt him.

I find it interesting that the first mention of a character in the Bible who is "filled with the Spirit of God" is an artist:

"The Lord said to Moses, 'See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft."


The Next Piece in the Puzzle

On Monday I start an internship with a publishing company in north London called Quarto. This is their 2008 catalogue--you may not be able to see it very well from this picture, but the watercolor cover is thick and beautiful and drew my eye immediately when I walked into their office, which is located in a modern-looking refurbished brewery.

Quarto publishes illustrated nonfiction books internationally. Their process is a reversal from most publishing companies, since most of the traditional companies rely on submitted manuscripts and don't have to find authors. Quarto comes up with an idea first. They research markets and decide if the topic will sell and if it can be sold internationally--not just in Britain (for example, they won't create a book about baseball, even though the States is their biggest market, because a book on Baseball won't sell in all countries). Once they have an idea, they seek out an expert on the topic and commission them and our designers/editors to put together a synopsis and three-page layout for book fairs. Then they pitch it to a traditional publishing company to see if they would be interested in buying it, and if they do, voila! They go ahead and finish the book. In the end Quarto owns the copyright, but the publishing company publishes it.

Needless to say I'm excited about the prospect of finally working with publishing professionals and being a part of the book creation process, since it's been my dream for so long. Even if it's an internship. Have to start somewhere! (And a little extra money will help pad my shoe and travel fund :)


Little Writing

Sometimes I write nothing of consequence and so question my sincerity. Then I start to question 'me' in everything. Do I have what it takes? It doesn't matter what I write for. But do I have what it takes?

I usually give up. I think of the big things, the larger picture, and deny the small important links. It's a lie, really. I forget the blades of grass beneath me. I forget the steps I took to get here. I forget the specific moments and try to learn from the grand. But smallness is vital to life. A tiny face, rolling a ball back and forth, the tongue hanging lopsided in expectation. Play with me! It's fun for him and changes me, a break in the strict rigidity in which I work. A small laugh across the room pierces the silence and sends me loose on a healthy chase of the present, loosening my tight grip on elusive memories and dreams.

Then, if I'm careful enough, small drops of remembrance seem to pour from unknown places and make me want to cry and I have no idea why or what I wrote but I keep writing-- only if and when I stop I'll realize the truth of sort and get over myself. Quickly. But I have to deny the urge to pout.

That's the essence of little writing. Talk about a lot of littles, then go back to the front, find the big idea, and make it all connect.


Late Bloomer

I confess I've never felt a total and complete camaraderie with my fellow females. Not that I don't have a lack of estrogen (my husband can attest to my occasional mood swings, and I do highlight the word "occasional") and I did spend a girly childhood filled with Barbies and My Little Ponies and Playing Kitchen and Dress Up (and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, too, but even they could be considered dolls...) But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't muster up the unquenchable fettish for shoes or accessories that my friends all had. Even my husband owns more shoes than I do.

But in a matter of a month, I suddenly find myself mystified by a new hunger for them. I have no idea what finally launched me into the final stage of my girlhood, but I'm officially jealous of women who can perfectly coordinate accessories and shoes. I now walk down the street and admire the way a funky heel makes the outfit, the way a necklace balances out the colors of the scheme, the way a fat belt cinches together a drapy shirt. Of course, this apparent shoe and accessory phase didn't exactly turn up at the right time, living in London and trying to survive on the most meager means possible. Which may be why they're so attractive...

So on Saturday when our friend suggested we breakfast in Covent Garden and go shoe shopping (trainer shopping, to be more specific) I was giddy with excitement. Turned out we spent the entire day wandering around the quaint shoe shops near Neal's Yard, in awe of the variety of heels and crocs and trainers and birks. After breakfast we stopped for a basil, mozzarella, pesto, tomato panini and a sparkling Perrier, met up with some friends, and finally, after all the fanfare, I bought a pair of shoes. Nothing too expensive, just a nice addition to my wardrobe. Still, the day wasn't over. We met up with another friend at Leicester Square and ate at a Mexican restaurant, and I had my first margarita since I moved here from the US. It was amazing. Then our friends went for ice cream, and we sat outside on the patio people-watching and talking until we decided to check out a nearby club called the Rex. Highly recommend this place. We went early enough that we didn't have to pay a cover charge, and inside it was surprisingly small. Imagine velvet drapes, chandeliers, victorian chaise lounges and sofas, candle lighting, mirrors--and salsa dancing. Finally, after weeks of looking for a place with salsa music, we found it completely by accident. I'm sad that our American friends who came in March and love latin music couldn't be with us, but I thought of them.

So, anyone who's been wanting to fly to London: what better reason do you have than to go shoe shopping and salsa dancing? I've got the perfect places to take you.


Tragic "Art"

Of course it's difficult to define and qualify aesthetic value. But this? This is a Derrida-inspired comment that mangles the meaning of existence into a coagulated pulp. Art celebrates life. This is not art.

Yale Abortion Girl