Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The Last Week of September

So much for being consistent.  For the past week, I have been out of school, so I've mostly stayed around the house.  I did quite a lot of genealogy work.  I don't know what it is; I've only had one or two contacts all summer about genealogy, but in the past week and a half I've gotten emails from five or six people.  Suddenly everyone is noticing the cemetery records I've had online for months.  The aggravating part is that, since my external drive broke, I was never able to put the most updated version of the database on my laptop.  It's too large to be uploaded to the internet or burned on a CD.  I'm trying to figure out a way to have mom break it down and then burn it on cds.  We'll see.

Last weekend (not yesterday, a week ago) was beautiful.  Perfect weather--warm without being too hot, sunny, breeze... That Saturday (the 23rd), Anna and I decided to go out and do something.  We both enjoy photography.  She suggested we find a bus that goes somewhere out of town, and take it all the way to the capolinea [end of the line].  She got online and poked around, and decided on Settignano.  So, we took the 10 bus from the stazione through town and up one of the large hills (small mountains) that surround the city.  On the top of this hill is the little town of Settignano.  It was a pretty little town in itself, but its real draw is the views of the valley and the city of Florence from there.

My favorite views, however, were as we walked out of the village into the countryside towards the Villa Gamberaia.  After walking past sloped groves of olive trees, with the valley rolling out behind them. I understand why there is poetry about olive trees.  The pale leaves seem to catch the light when they are stirred around in the breeze.

The Villa Gamberaia is supposed to have one of the most elaborate and beautiful gardens in the country.  However, there is a 10€ charge to go in, and we arrived only a half hour before closing.  It was a beautiful villa to see from the road as we approached, however.  The hedges were as tall as trees; I've never seen them so massive.

Just past the villa, the road ran through a little tunnel and through a wooded area.  We followed it up a ways, past orchards and olive groves, for a ways further before turning back.  Walking back down the hill towards the tunnel, we saw what appeared to be elaborately painted ruins in the woods.

We went back through the tunnel, and took pictures of each other at the end of it.  We also took pictures up--huge trees grew on the bank above the tunnel; it's not often you can get a picture of a tree from that angle, completely underneath it.  When we got back home, I realized I had taken over two hundred pictures.  They turned out well. Now, I'd like to go to Fiesole, another hill town, sometime.

The next day, Sunday the 24th, we took the van after church to Arezzo, a city about an hour and a half away.  Bernardo and Alfredo rode with us, and Tammy, Christina, and the Albanian lady (I can never remember her name) rode with Gary and Jennifer.  In Arezzo, we met up with church members from Rome and Prato.  Paolo Mirabelli, from Rome, had gotten us all together.  He is organizing people to go to cities in Italy that have no churches of Christ to pray for that city.

We had Bibles, in which we wrote the addresses and phone numbers of our congregations in, before passing them out.  We had a short devotional by the train station.  We sang "I Love You with the Love of the Lord" in Italian, English, Spanish, and Albanian to represent the languages of all of us who were present.  We read scriptures and prayed the same way, using the different languages.  We sang an African song that is apparently common here, as well.

We then walked through the old part of the city, winding our way up the hill the city is built on.  Near the top, we stopped and sat on the steps in one of the oldest piazzas.  There, we had a long devotional, singing together.  A couple from the Prato congregation who were originally from San Salvador shared there song book with me.  That was the best part of the day--meeting Christians from other congregations.

After the devotional, we needed to head back quickly in time for the Pepperdine devo.  Anna, Christina, and I ran through a little park on the top of the hill and had time to take a few picture of the beautiful valley view from there.

The rest of the week was fairly uneventful.  Gary and Jennifer are on vacation, so we were rather informal this week. I made birthday cards to send to church members, and I studied a little, though nothing like I should have.

And now today, I'm sitting in the Piazza Savonarola, which I expect to see a lot of in the next few months.  The University of Firenze owns buildings at the corner of it, and that is where my new language school will be.  I came this morning to take the placement test and pick up my schedule and student id cards.  I think it will be good.  I plan to take the trips with the class, and try to do all I can.  I need to spend more time studying this afternoon.

The view from the park near the main church in Arezzo
One surprising thing about the last few weeks has been that several people have complimented me on my voice.  I've never been anything special as a singer; I don't know why I am here, but I'm enjoying it.  I always wanted to be able to sing well.  It just seem easier all of a sudden.  I can sing louder and stronger than I've ever been able to.  Maybe it's because my allergies are better here (I always said it was Tennessee I was allergic to!), or that there are fewer people who sing at all here.  Anyhow, it makes me happy. 

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