Friday, July 30, 2010

My last few adventures of the summer...

Three things I've missed immensely:

1. Friends
2. Tennessee
3. Mountains

I was reunited with all of the above this past week, and it was awesome. (Also, I've noticed that "adventure" in any form is becoming my new favorite word...)

Darren's baseball team won state, so it was off to Lewisburg, TN, for the regional tournament. Lewisburg happens to be close to where Audrey and Mike are working camp for the summer. I was really excited because they're two of my best friends, and I was going to get to see them, right? Um, yeah, apparently, they decided that the one weekend I was going to be within 15 minutes of them would be an opportune time to go to Ohio. Thanks, guys.

Unfortunately, Darren's team didn't win their games, but they did play pretty awesomely, so I was still proud. Kristi came to see him play, too, so it was great to see her and to have someone to brave the heat with me! (For real, it should never be 100 degrees at 10:00 in the morning. Let's not try that again.) Her friend, Jeff, got bored in Murfreesboro, so being a flight instructor, he flew over to hang out with us for awhile. That evening, he took Kristi, Darren, and me up in his plane, which was pretty awesome! I had never been up in a small plane like that before, so it was cool to get to do that.

On Sunday, Kristi came to pick me up and I went to her house for a few days. Being us, we managed to have plenty of adventures crammed into a couple of days, and most of them involved the outdoors. Always a plus.

We went hiking, of course. We went to Abram's Creek, but it was super hot, so we didn't make it very far. We attempted to go down a side trail to see one of the Appalachian Trail shelters (just because), but it turned out you basically had to hike up the mountain to do so. We went about half a mile before deciding that it was entirely too hot to attempt anything more, so we turned around and went back towards the creek. Maybe in the fall. Anyway, we just waded in the creek for awhile, took a few pictures, then drove around for a little while. Typical us.

Later that evening, we dressed up a little more (the only time I looked halfway decent all week, I think) and we, along with Kristi's brother David, went to Pigeon Forge to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat! We got free tickets (typically $40) from Kristi's church, and even though none of us are particularly into that sort of thing, we didn't really have anything else to do, so we decided to go. Besides, my roommate has told me about a billion times how awesome it is, so I kind of wanted to see what the big deal was anyway. :) It ended up being a lot of fun (albeit slightly long towards the end...), so I was glad we decided to go.

On Tuesday, Kristi, David, and I went jet skiing with their friends Russell, Amy, and Kate. That was definitely fun, even though we only had one jet ski and weren't there all that long. It was just nice to be on the water, especially since I haven't even had the chance to go swimming this summer!

After finishing up at the lake, we went back to Kristi's house to pack up for a quick camping trip. We loaded up the truck and finally started making our way towards Cades Cove where our campsite was. (Kristi, of course, stayed true to form and packed 2 floats--never mind that our campsite was not near water.) It was around 10:30pm when we got there, so obviously, it was dark. However, Kristi, David, and I managed to set up our tent without a problem. As soon as we finished, David's friend Aaron got there. Perfect timing, I'm sure. The four of us played cards for awhile and then got ready for bed, since we were planning to get up before the sun.

We woke up at 5-something the next morning. Kristi and I ate Lucky Charms (very nutritious, of course) and finally managed to drag the guys out of bed and got them to eat, too. Then, around 6:30am, we got on our bikes and headed off to bike the 11-mile loop at Cades Cove! It was a perfect day to do something like that. It was early, so it wasn't hot, plus it was pretty cloudy. That made for some pretty awesome pictures. I've decided that, if I can't live in Colorado in the middle of the Rockies, I think I'll be happy to settle for the Smokies. Seriously, so gorgeous:
Is there any question as to why they're called the Great Smoky Mountains? Pictures totally don't do it justice. It was beautiful. When I see stuff like that, I can't help but be like, "Holy crap, God, You're amazing!!"

We did a few more random things during the week, and then yesterday, we decided to drive through Cleveland and hang out with Jon for a little while before heading to meet my parents. After driving around campus to see the random changes and sitting in the PCSU waiting for Jon to get off work, the three of us headed to Chick-fil-A for peach milkshakes (sooo good). Jon mentioned something about Will being back in town, so I texted him and he invited us to come over. We did, and after being there for about 5 minutes, Tuna* came down the stairs! We all thought he was at work, so that was definitely a nice surprise! I wasn't expecting to get to see either Will or Tuna, but I am so glad that I got to. I love those guys so much. It was sooo good to see them and hang out with them for awhile. It made me really glad that we'll all be reunited a little more long-term in just 2 weeks. YESSSS.

So yeah--definitely a good week! I can't believe I'll be going back to Lee just 2 weeks from today. I can't say I'm looking forward to classes and homework and such, but I am definitely excited to be with everyone again! This semester kind of has to be awesome. There is no way that junior year is allowed to be as lame as last year! The fact that I'll have an apartment, my brother will be there, and pretty much all of my friends will actually be on the same side of campus for once makes me really happy and excited and yeah, I pretty much can't wait. Okay, I'm done. Maybe I'll actually have a short post one of these days?
* Every now and then, it occurs to me what a ridiculous nickname Tuna is and what people who don't know him must think when I call him that. Oh well. It's pretty much impossible for me to look at him and think "Michael." It just doesn't work. He doesn't respond to it anyway.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"I've got joy down in my heart..."

Listening to: "All I Need" by Mat Kearney
(Still not over my Mat Kearney obsession. This song is the best. Love, love, love it.)

To continue the updates on my busy summer... Right after getting back from Europe, I headed to work 3 weeks at Camp JOY! When I say right after, I'm not kidding--I got home, washed clothes, re-packed, went to bed, and got up at 6:45 the next morning to head off to camp. It was worth it, but I can't say that I recommend it!

Quick rundown on how I ended up working there to begin with: I typically work youth camp down in Tifton every summer, but this year, I didn't really want to. It's a great camp, don't get me wrong, but since it is a Church of God camp, I just don't agree with a lot of what they teach there. The more I thought about it, the less comfortable I became with the idea. I just couldn't justify being responsible for teaching kids things that I don't personally believe. Anyway, not working camp meant losing a lot of scholarship money, and the job market was not looking great. It's not in my nature to stress out about stuff, generally speaking, and I really wasn't, but at the same time, I really did need a job! I wanted to work a camp because I really love doing that, but since I wasn't doing youth camp, I figured that was probably out of the question. Well, a couple of weeks before last semester ended, I was sitting out on the ped mall, hanging out with people, the usual, when I get a phone call from Mrs. Victoria (my friend Emily's mom). Kinda random, since I never talk to her on the phone. I answered and she said that there was a Lee University bus in Columbus and she was wondering if I knew what it might be for. I thought that was a little strange--I have no clue why a Lee bus would be down there at all. Anyway, we talked for a few minutes and out of the blue, she asks,

"Hey, do you need a job this summer?"

Um, yes!

"There's this camp for underprivileged kids and they really need college students to be on staff. I think you would be awesome at it!"

She told me that she'd give the camp director, Laura, my name and let her get in touch with me on Facebook. The next day, I got a message from Laura telling me that I had come super highly recommended and that she really wanted to have me on staff. She sent me an application, and all of a sudden, I realized: the mandatory training week was right in the middle of when I'd be in Europe. Dangit. At this point, I kinda figured I wouldn't be able to work there, so I told Laura. However, she told me, "If you're interested in working, I am totally willing to train you before your trip!" So awesome.

When I got home, I had to go in for an interview in order to get the position. Since I had been away at school, Laura let me bring in my application then, too. Interview went well, and when it was over, Laura was like, "So, I hope you don't mind, but I've already submitted your name as being our girls' head counselor. I'm technically not supposed to tell you this yet,'re hired." Yeah--she hired me before meeting me or receiving my application. And not only did she hire me, she hired me to work the highest position at camp, besides her own. What the heck.

So yeah, Lee bus randomly shows up in my hometown. Friend's mom happens to see it, thinks of me, and calls me. Random conversation ensues, inspiring her to #1, ask if I need a job, and #2, tell me about a job that happens to be exactly what I wanted. God works out the only glitch (minor detail of me being out of the country during a mandatory week). I get the highest staff position without even turning in an application. Um, can we say God thing? When I say that God gave me the job, I'm not kidding.

Back to camp. It was awesome. Seriously. I loved the kids immediately. Really, really loved them. It was so weird how quickly it happened--it surprised even me! Especially since these kids weren't the easiest bunch to deal with. Every day, I worked in the craft room alongside Mrs. Helen (don't even get me started on her! Crazy. Old. Woman. Not even kidding), building 3,000 birdhouses and coloring. I was in charge of teaching Bible study for the 9- and 10-year-olds. That was interesting. I had the VBS Teacher's Guide and that's about it. I had virtually no materials to work with, and keeping 9- & 10-year-olds entertained for a full hour is no easy task. It was pretty rough at first, but I got the hang of it eventually. Well, sort of.

The first week, the kids were full of questions. One girl, Marjorie, was so sweet and had this innocent curiosity that I absolutely loved. She asked me so many great questions, and I loved having the chance to answer them! (I have to say, my favorite was after our lesson on Zacchaeus, she was asking how short he was. When I said I didn't know, she asked if she could Google him and find pictures. Hahaha.)

The big adventure of week one: Lice. Ahhhh. We sent 10 girls home with it. Ohhh my gosh. My head was itching for 2 weeks every time I would think about it. We thought things were going okay, but on the third day, we found 2 girls who had it really, really bad (like, you could see the lice crawling on the outside of their hair). Then we discovered that it had spread. A lot. On the last night, we ended up having to clean out the cabins and have everyone sleep in the cafeteria, in hopes that no one else would catch it. It was bad. Fortunately, for the remaining weeks, we checked their hair before going to camp.

Second week, the girls in my cabin were hilarious. Seriously. I documented a few of their quotes here, but there are so many other things that I can't even remember anymore. Loved them. Anyway, I realized that we had three hiking trails at camp, and not one of them had been used. Being me, I decided to change that immediately. Our first lesson of the week was about creation, so I took all of the girls in my Bible study on a hike! Yay!

One of my favorite moments of the second week was on the first night. One of the girls in my cabin, Tatiana, needed to go take something to her sister, who was in another cabin. I walked over with her, and on our way back, I looked up at the sky. The stars were especially bright, and then I spotted the Big Dipper. It was perfectly positioned in between two trees, so I asked Tatiana,'

"Have you ever seen the Big Dipper?"
Tatiana: "No."
Me: "Do you want to?"
Tatiana: "Yeah!!!"

I let her stand in front of me and showed her exactly where it was. She was so awestruck by such a small thing. It made me really happy, especially when she woke up the next morning and the very first words out of her mouth were to another girl, "Miss Brittany showed me the Big Dipper last night!" :)

Week three was the best though--it's the one that made everything all worth it, and confirmed to me once again that God definitely wanted me to work there this summer! It was a pretty good week in general. It was kinda crazy when I discovered that I had fifty girls in my Bible study (that is, fifty listening-impaired 9- and 10-year-olds by myself. Literally. I was the only adult, only staff member, only anything. It was insane). Other than that, though, it was good. I taught the whole camp how to play Ultimate Frisbee (yay!). Held a snake and a hissing cockroach. Fun stuff like that. I also got to paint a lot! That was fun! It reminded me of how much I enjoy that sort of thing, so now I'm on a roll. I went out and bought a bunch of paint and some canvasses the weekend I finished camp. Ohhh yes. Anyway! All of that was pretty awesome, but the last 2 days were the best.

I was sitting at dinner, eating and talking with my girls, when one of them pointed to the 3 (rather tacky-looking) white crosses hanging on the wall and asked what the red stuff on the middle one was. I explained that it was there to represent Jesus' blood when He died on the cross, etc. This inspired another girl, Tay-Tay, to ask me who nailed Jesus to the cross. Well, after I explained that one, she just kept asking questions (crazy questions!), eventually leading me to say something about Jesus still being alive. She was shocked: "He is?!" At that point, I figured out that she had no idea about anything to do with Christianity. Especially when, after I used the word "Christian," she said shyly, "What's a Christian? I forgot" (in that way where you know the person really has no clue what you're talking about but doesn't want to let on, so they just say they "forgot"). Well! I took the opportunity to explain as simply as possible what it meant to be a Christian, defining sin and salvation for her, making sure she understood everything that I said. (The best way I knew to explain it for her was that sin was like a giant wall between her and God, and being forgiven was like Jesus coming in and knocking down that wall so she could be friends with God. It was a much longer, more in-depth conversation, but that was the idea of it.) It made me realize more than ever that I really need to know and be able to explain the words that I use, especially when it comes to churchy words! "Sin," "salvation," even "Christian"...they're all virtually meaningless to most people. Anyway, all of a sudden, Tay-Tay asked me, "How do I get to be forgiven?" I told her that all she had to do was ask, and to tell Jesus that she wanted to live the way He wanted her to. I asked if she wanted to do that, and she gave a very definite, "Yes." I got to pray with her, and it was seriously the best thing ever. I've never actually had the chance to do that before, and I absolutely loved how she came to me, and it was totally sincere. It wasn't me pushing her in any way--she was totally initiating and leading the whole thing. Incredible. (And what made it even better, she would randomly come up to me hours later and ask me more questions that had to do with what I told her: "So, if I do something bad again, will the wall between me and God come back?")

That in itself was enough to make the entire summer totally worth it, but then on the very last day, we were all sitting in the chapel, waiting for the buses to arrive to take us back into Columbus. Holly went over everything that we had learned at camp, and she decided to do the whole mass prayer of salvation thing (you know, raise your hand if you want to become a Christian, and then everyone prays together). She mentioned something about "the story of Jesus dying for you," and another one of my girls, Alexis, turns to me and says, "Story? What story?"

Me: "The one about Jesus dying on the cross."
Alexis: "I've heard people say that before, but I've never heard the story."

Whoa. That made me realize that we really fail as Christians way too often--we tell people, "Jesus died for you!" but never take the time to explain what that means. We just take for granted that people know, when really, they don't. So I told her the story of what happened, and she seemed satisfied. Well, after Holly prayed with all of the girls, Alexis turned to me again and very urgently said, "I don't know if I'm a Christian or not!" I immediately took her outside (it was way too noisy inside) and explained to her exactly what I had told Tay-Tay. Alexis told me that she wanted to do the same thing, so I ended up getting to pray with her, too! It was so awesome!

So yeah, that was Camp JOY: total God-thing. There are waaaay more stories that I could tell, but this post is long enough as it is. If you read the whole thing, you're my new favorite.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


"When did I arrive?
I don't recall ever leaving Alaska
Why do I hate the dark when I'm alone?
I was on my way
To a brighter day I'm still chasing around
But somehow, I believe that this is home
It's so good to be home."
- "Alaska" by Sky Sailing

Oh my gosh. I love this song so much. The new Sky Sailing album, An Airplane Carried Me to Bed, is amazing. The combination of Adam Young's voice and lyrics with an acoustic guitar and piano is making me really, really happy right about now.

Oh, and for a clip of "Alaska":

Yeah. My idea of awesome.

In other news, I'm going to Nashville(ish) in about a week, meaning I probably get to see Mike & Audrey! Yay! I'm kiiiiinda excited.

P.S. 5:19! :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

European Adventures!

Listening to: "Vienna" by The Fray 
(Yes, I listened to this song, along with "Dear Vienna" by Owl City, multiple times while actually in Vienna. I've always wanted to do that. I'm lame, I know.)

Now that I'm actually free for a few weeks, I figured it was time to update you guys on my amazing trip to Europe! Hard to believe that it was a month ago. Dang. Anyway, just a heads up, this is going to be a long post!

The adventure started with a 9-hour flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt, Germany. This wouldn't have been so bad if 1) I hadn't been in the middle section (at least I was on the aisle...), causing me to miss a gorgeous sunrise, 2) I could have actually slept, and 3) there hadn't been a restless, screaming child directly behind me who cried and kicked my seat for at least a third of the trip. I was sooo ready to get off the plane! When we finally got to Frankfurt, we were all pretty exhausted, but we were only there for about an hour and a half before catching a quick 30-minute flight to Zürich, Switzerland.

After arriving in Zürich, we got on a bus that took us to our hotel. As soon as we pulled out of the airport, I happened to catch a glimpse of the Alps waaaay in the distance. I kinda freaked out in my head a little bit. (I probably would have been a little more open about it, but no one else was anywhere near as pumped about the Alps as I was. Things would have been so much better if I'd had someone to share my excitement with!) We got to our hotel and after Lauren & I had an adventure in the super slow, super small lift (wish I would've gotten a picture!), we walked into our room and swung open the windows (literally) to see this (click to make them bigger):

Sooo pretty. Zürich is a perfect picture of what I think of when I imagine a European city. Anyway, we cleaned up a little bit and then headed out to explore a little bit. We were all pretty tired, but in an attempt to beat jet lag, no one was allowed to take a nap. This resulted in me being awake for 36 hours straight, but fortunately, I survived just fine. Number one on my agenda was to walk down to Lake Zürich so I could see the Alps a little better.
You can just barely see the snow caps in the background. I don't think I can really explain what it was like for me to finally get to see those mountains. I've wanted to see the Alps my whole life, and...I don't know. I don't know why it meant that much to me, but seriously, it was a big deal! After walking around the city for a little while, we decided to head back to the hotel and get some rest. The next day, we began with a walking tour of the city. That was pretty cool; I just wish I could remember all of the stuff our tour guide told us! A few pictures from that...
Second largest clock face in the world (this was apparently extremely significant) and a street in the old part of the city.
View of Zürich from the top of the hill where it has been prohibited to build anything ever since the days of the Roman Empire. Pretty cool.

After the tour, we just explored for the rest of the day. For lunch, we wanted to find something authentic instead of going to one of the more touristy places. After searching for awhile, we stumbled across Rheinfelder Bierhalle.

We decided to go for it, and walked inside to find that we were the only English-speaking people in the entire place. Most Swiss speak a decent amount of English, but not here--we were on our own! Since none of us were familiar with any of the local foods, we basically just picked something random off the menu and hoped for the best. Fortunately, this turned out okay! I ordered Rahm Schnitzel. I'm still not sure what that is, exactly, but it was pretty good!
That evening, the whole group (all 36 of us!) took a "short" walk (it ended up being at least half an hour) to a local church. Personally, I wasn't a fan of the church in general, but the people were really nice. It was cool to get to meet and talk to some of them. After church, some of our group decided to take the subway back, while the rest of us joined Dr. Sargent in walking back in an attempt to save 4 francs. That ended up being an adventure in itself. It had been really sunny and clear all day long, including when we were walking to church. However, when we walked back outside, it was cloudy and starting to rain. We decided to go for it anyway. Promptly after making this decision, it started to pour. And thunder. And lightening. Too late now--we were going to walk. Some people had come prepared with umbrellas. Lauren and I were not two of those people.
Yeah, we were pretty soaked. Fortunately, we both have good senses of humor, and found the whole thing pretty amusing. It ended up being so much fun!

Overall, Zürich was my least favorite city. It was nice, and I'm glad I got to go, but there was just something about it that I didn't care for. It's one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and it's kind of obvious, so I felt a little out of place. Plus, the whole place has this very worldly, materialistic vibe, and...I don't know. It was just weird. Not to mention the ridiculous prices! (Ever pay $13 for a Big Mac? You can if you visit Zürich!) I would love to visit Switzerland again, but I don't care to ever go back to Zürich.

After spending another night in Zürich, we got on the bus and started heading towards Germany to go to the Dachau concentration camp. Well, shortly after getting into Germany, we discover that Dachau is closed on Mondays, which our tour guide's assistant failed to mention. Change of plans. We decided to continue heading towards our next stop: Salzburg, Austria, to have a couple of extra hours to explore there. That whole drive was absolutely beautiful. I love the Alps!
We eventually arrived in Salzburg, which was definitely my favorite city. It is known for two things: being Mozart's birthplace and the home of The Sound of Music. By the end of it, I didn't care to ever hear either of those things mentioned ever again. However, it is a beautiful city. Lauren, Josh, Sam, and I walked around together when we got there and discovered the cathedral there. It's huge!
If you look closely, you can see a tiny little person at the bottom. Yeah, that'd be me. Seriously--it's huge. After exploring for a little while, we decided that it was time we try some gelato. Sooo good!!
It wasn't quite as good as the gelato Josh and I had in Vienna...but still. I'm a fan. We ended the day with one of the most gorgeous sunsets I've seen in a loooong time (and, considering I think every sunset is gorgeous, that's saying something!).
Day two in Salzburg consisted of a walking tour with a guide, ending with us taking a trip up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
I love that place. It is so amazing to me that it was built in 1077. That's 933 years old. That's mind-boggling to me. That was one thing that I absolutely loved about Europe--there's so much history there! Here in America, our most historic places are few and far between, and are typically from the 1700s or later, with the occasional site from the 1600s. But 1077? Sometimes, I wish buildings could talk. Just think of how many people have walked there, looked up at it, how many things have happened in and around it. It's incredible! Then, of course, there was the view from the top:
So. Incredibly. Beautiful. I could've stared forever. Even though it was cloudy and kinda hazy, it was still amazing. After the tour was over, we were free to wander around the city again. Lauren, Josh, and I got some lunch at a literal hole-in-the-wall restaurant. It was excellent. I was also pleased to see that Sodexho is spreading the joy worldwide.
We also explored Mirabell Gardens for awhile. That was a lot of fun (especially our impromptu chase through the maze-like bushes)!
Next day was what I had been looking forward to for months: the Eagle's Nest! Oh my gosh. Most incredible view I have ever seen, ever, and I'm not kidding. I wish you guys could see it in person, because honestly? Pictures are disappointing compared to the real thing. Really, I feel kinda depressed when I look at pictures of it because they don't even come close.
Wow. I want to go back so bad! It was the most perfect view I've ever seen. It's breathtaking. And the fact that it was perfectly clear and sunny and warm... Thanks, God! We also took a short hike while we were there. It was only about 45 minutes, but it was way more intense than I was expecting! It was a lot of fun though. I can officially say I've been hiking in the Alps--how awesome is that?!
After hanging out on top of the mountain for a couple of hours, we headed down into Berchtesgaden, Germany, to visit the salt mines there. Another gorgeous drive--I think Berchtesgaden is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to.
The salt mines were a lot of fun. Super-fashionable clothes (as seen below), riding on a little train, going down a slide...yeah, it was pretty cool. It was also a nice, much-needed break from the heat!
The next day, we started heading toward Vienna, Austria. On the way, we stopped to tour Mauthausen concentration camp. That was a really sobering experience... It was hard to process and it's even harder to explain, so I don't think I'm going to attempt to. I think it's one of those things that you just have to experience for yourself to understand.
We also stopped at Melk Abbey. Not my favorite place of the trip, especially not when it came right after Mauthausen. Oh well. The library there was pretty cool, at least!
After a long day of driving, we finally arrived in Vienna. Vienna is big. Really big. After doing so much traveling already, I don't think I was completely up for taking in such a large, fast-paced city, but I did my best. There was so much to do and see there that I honestly had no idea where to begin.
We walked around for awhile that night, and then the next day, we visited the Freud Museum like good psychology students should do. :)
While I'm not a huge fan of Freud in general, psychology would not be anything near what it is today if it hadn't been for him. He's one of those people that you have to respect, regardless of whether or not you agree with him. As a psychology major, it was pretty awesome to be able to visit the place where he used to live and counsel his patients! We also visited Stephansdom, ate at The Chattanoogan (yes, it was named after Chattanooga, TN--I wasn't too concerned with making a point of eating "authentic" European food by this point), and watched part of an opera on a screen outside the opera house. Kinda cool.

On our last day in Vienna, we got to ride the Prater Wheel! To be honest, it wasn't a very exciting ride in and of itself, but the fact that I got to ride the Prater Wheel in Vienna was awesome!
Next, we visited the Schonbrünn Palace. By this point on the trip, I was so exhausted that I didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as I would have otherwise. It was still pretty cool though.
Then it was off to take a tour of Vienna, by bus this time. Thank God--I couldn't have survived a walking tour! I wish I could say that it was interesting, but honestly, I wouldn't know. I was just focusing on staying awake. Oh well...we did stop at this place that had lots of cool artsy things, which I really liked.

So, there's my trip to Europe in a nutshell. As long as this was, I left out a ton! I would love to be able to go back someday. It was awesome. Anyway, I'll leave you all with that for a few days, and then maybe I'll get around to updating you about Camp JOY and my 20th birthday! (Yes, I'm 20, and yes, that's still super weird to me...)