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Wordless Wednesday (or Thursday…)

17 May

 

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AssassinsCreed

 

Roma

9 May

M: I have always wanted to go to Italy. Even though I’m only 1/4 Italian, I really have always thought that it feels like home to me– just reading about it, seeing pictures, and hearing about it from others. And it does feel like home! Everyone looks like me here– aquiline noses, dark hair, olive skin, etc. etc. I love that. And the food is remarkable. Particularly the gelato. I have had it twice a day since we got here… favorite flavors so far include: hazelnut meringue, Nutella, grapefruit, strawberry, rosemary/lemon/honey, honey, and fig/cheese/almond. Don’t even get me started on the pizza… as you can tell, food means home to me. So hello, Italia. I am home.

J: I’ve been here before so everything should be, at the very least, familiar to me, right?  Nope.  Not even close.  With Maggie here I’m taking in things that I would have typically waltzed right past without a care in the world.  Today, she was pointing out delicate textures on paintings that were incredible.  I never would have noticed them without her.  She even looked up the best gelaterias in the city and so far we’ve hit them all!  They’re incredible.  I would have settled for second to best.  Now I’ve had the best 4 times and the second best 2 times and third best once.  It pays to have someone as dedicated and passionate about life and living as your partner.  Maggs is great.  Rome last time was cold and lonely.  This time it’s warm and cozy.  In fact, I’d say, since I’m here with her, it feels like home to me.

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M: We are having a great honeymoon so far– thanks to the gifts of so many people at our wedding and other people who are letting us stay at their houses and give us recommendations for places to eat, things to see, stuff to do. It feels like a continuation of our wedding celebration– 1.5 years later! It’s as it should be. And as a nice surprise for continued celebration, we even got to hang out with some friends who happened to be in Rome at the same time as we were!

J: This is my favorite picture so far that we’ve taken.  (I’m referring to the one above.)   It was taken at the Spanish Steps by  a friend of ours (see below on the right!)  Maggs says I’m messing up the groove…which I probably am.  So I won’t comment on the picture below that makes the friends that we got to hang out with for two days here look like nerds.

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M: As I have raved about my husband’s photog skills enough on this blog already, I will just say he had the great idea to take pictures of the Colosseum at night when there were fewer tourists and neat lighting. So even though I had to pee terribly, I sucked it up and loitered while he took some great shots of this massive wonder. And then, as usual with historic things, I got freaked out that it was so old and so many people had been in there and been killed there… so we had to leave.

J: I, on the other hand, simply thought of the movie Gladiator (you know the one, I mean, of course you do.  There’s only one after all…) which I thought was awesome and crazy.  The people were about half the size of me back in the day and so when they went up against tigers and lions and such, they were outmatched not only in strength but also in size.  They didn’t have a chance…morbid

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M: We have just wandered. Sometimes consulting a map, sometimes not. Mostly just being quiet. Sometimes we hold hands, and other times we go on opposite sides of the cobblestone alleyways only to join up again when the cavalcades of scooters pass. And we see awesome buildings like this one.

J: I really liked the colors on this balcony.  I wish I could go and sit up there at night with a glass of wine because it’s just opposite the Trevi Fountain.

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M: Self-timer in front of the scary historic monolith full of dead people and bad energy.

J: Ahhh, sorry, I had to stop laughing at what Maggie wrote before I could think of my own clever little caption.  Here goes, so apparently, this giant arch is right next to the colosseum and was commissioned by Nero or something…(I could have made that last part up…not sure)

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M: The Fountain of Tritone in the Piaza de Barberini. I think. Anyway, it’s a great fountain. And I’m pretty sure you can drink the water from it– but I didn’t, Mom, don’t worry. Although I already have an amoeba from Rwanda, but that is another story. But you CAN drink the water from all the ancient water fountains all around the city because many (most?) of them are still fed by the same ancient aquifers from Roman times. The water is delicious.

J: This is that fountain in that piaza.  (But hey, don’t believe everything you read on the internet!)  And the water is pretty good…

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M: Justin has an obsession with taking pictures of doors and tiny automobiles. Jackpot. I think this one should be framed when we get home.

J: This is a red car.  A very very very very very very very tiny red car.  Seriously, they make Smart Cars look like Hummers.

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M: There are beautiful churches everywhere. I think we have said that before… and we try to go into them all, but they all start to look the same. In a good way, actually. It’s very beautiful and wonderful. We went to the Vatican today and saw the Sistine Chapel and all the other goodies of the Catholic church. Justin got kicked out of the Sistine Chapel for taking a picture, but who can blame him? The Church has done a lot of really bad things, but they’ve done a lot of really good things, too. Namely: Art.

J: I liked how the church was half in the light and half in the dark.  And I especially liked what the couple sitting on the steps added to the pic as well.

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M: Another picture courtesy of the lovely Alissa Case. This is another fountain in another piaza. Just kidding. It’s the Trevi Fountain.

J:  This is my favorite place in Rome.  Well.  It used to be.  Last time I was here when there were no tourists (you know, the end of December) and I had the place pretty much all to myself. It was super peaceful.  Now there are always about 2,000 people there making noise and taking pictures.  Still beautiful, just not as peaceful.

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M: This is that church I got kicked out of above the Spanish Steps for wearing a strapless dress. Viewed through azaleas.

J: She’s not lying.

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J: I took this picture of this guy.  (Obviously.)  And I can’t remember if he saw me take it or not.  And now, since that branch covers where his eyes are, I still can’t tell.  What do you think?

M: Your creeper pictures make me very uncomfortable. Obviously, this man agrees with me.

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M: The Piaza Navona with the Four Rivers sculpture by Bernini. It’s got so much movement in it. The Piaza is crowded with lots of painting vendors, these gorgeous cameo earrings that I would die for that were probably 900 Euro, and guitarists playing “Hotel California” to karaoke tracks.

J: Seriously, everyone there had the same set list.  And it seemed like their “big money” track was “Hotel California” which, I have fond memories of from back in the day when my family (specifically my uncles Bob and Jim) played it on guitar/bass and sang it together.  So these piaza people don’t have a chance stealing that memory away from my by creating another one.  Sorry, isn’t gonna happen.  Although, today we actually heard people playing real music without a CD track supporting cast…and that was nice.

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M: The Four Rivers! And an obelisk.

J: True story.  Bernini did this bad boy.

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M: Another sculpture in the Piaza. Not sure who did this one. Bernini, too?

J:  Also by Bernini.

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M: You get off the metro at Flaminio, and then you see the entrance to Piaza del Popolo. Another Piaza. I wonder if you are sensing a theme here. I am. It is another one of Rome’s monotonous but welcome themes. Piazas are large open areas where people rest on steps, couples make out (a lot), and street performers and vendors bug the crap out of you while you are trying to people watch.

J: They are a great place to rest when your “dogs are barking” (Kevin, from The Office, anyone?) and then you can people watch!

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M: I told Justin to title this picture “A man with a wooden leg named Smith.” Which is, of course, another movie/TV reference. From… I will tell you at the end of the post.

J: Somebody carved this.  He was famous.  He had given Julia Roberts and Pope John Paul II some of his carvings.  This particular carving looks like it’s kicking it old school in honor of the late Beatie Boy.

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M: Did we tell you about this already? I repeat my stories so bear with me. This is a site of sunken ruins– including the Senate House where Julius Caesar was murdered!– that is now a cat sanctuary. Piaza de Argentina, I think. If I was a cat, this would be paradise. Plenty of things to climb and jump from, long grass to stalk prey, other friends… kitty bliss!

J: Argentinians must really love their cats!

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M: Karli, Justin found the most magnificent painting for you– reminds you of a certain sweatshirt, don’t you think?

J: Hint Hint, Von Herbulis, it’s a blue sweatshirt with a white horse on it.

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M: Oh, look. Another creeper shot. But this lady was very neat. And had a dog in her purse.

J: I took this from my hip. Wishbone.

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M: It’s like yin and yang. It’s like Rome is trying to balance all the bad energy from the murders at the Colosseum.

J: I named this picture “Halfsies.”

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M: Kitties in their kitty paradise! And me and Alissa who were happy to see happy cats.

J: I think that it looks like Maggie is trying to feed cats pizza in this picture.  Like she’s super proud of the pizza that she’s about to feed these cats.

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M: We may or may not have spent more time at the cat sanctuary than anywhere else that day… including the historic Via Appia. And we are not ashamed.

J: Andrew and Hans.  You can argue of who gets to be which.

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M: Yep. I got nothing. I did not understand THIS pop culture reference until Justin told me. But the beer shop it was in had some neat Trappist ales that aren’t sold in the States!

J: Duff Beer.  Please tell me at least some of you know where this is from.  (If you don’t, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  It happens to be from the longest running TV series ever.)

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M: We rented an apartment 4 stops away from the Colosseum through airbnb.com. Which is the best site ever, by the way– people rent their apartments, spare rooms, villas, etc. So we got a great little place with a kitchen. And Justin cooked us dinner the first night!

J: So here I am, cooking dinner.  Symbolic shoutout to the Scranton family and all my brothers!

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M: I am here in our little apartment. Which, thankfully, has WiFi and a washing machine!

J: Yup, the WIFI gave her something to do while I slaved away cooked.

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M: Justin, don’t even go there. All the times I cook dinner… okay enough. It was delicious and I am thankful and excited to cook more WITH you in the future.

J: Double fistin.

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M: The chef at work!!

J: I got that sweet little diddy on my head in Uganda for $5.  It was also on sale in Miami at the Urban Outiftters I worked at (no comments about this) for about $35.  So I’ve decided to open a Ugandan Outfitters when I get back and sell everything that Urban does but for 75% of the cost!

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M: Isn’t it beautiful?? We had wine and bread and everything. Delish. Excellent job, house husband!

J: Voila!

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M: These are more things carved by that man who carved Pinocchio, pictured above.

J: I was trying to take a picture of these pigeons but all these signs got in the way and ruined the picture…

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M: We so fly. And this picture so blurry. But we still so fly.

J: We so blurry.  And this picture so fly.  But we still so blurry.

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M: There it is again. You haunt my dreams, Colosseo. And are built on the site of Nero’s “Colossus” statue of himself, for which you are named. And you are stained with blood and filled with tourists and the popes tried to redeem you by putting crosses in you and their names on your sides.

J: Behemoth of a death building.

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M: More cat sanctuary! See? Wouldn’t you be blissfully happy there if you were a feline?

J: Feline Haven.

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M: Guess where this one was taken?

J: I like how this little black guy stands out among all of the white(ish) stones.

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M: This is an ancient temple. And the cat kept sticking his head down the hole in the altar. All I could think was ‘Curiosity killed the…’

J: ‘…cat.’

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M: Note the frescos behind Capt. Curiosity.

J: I would like to imagine this cat yelling at me for taking his picture in Italian…or at the very least, in English with a super deep Italian accent.

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M: Where is this? The Maria del Popolo? With the Caravaggio and the Berninis that were covered up?

J: Yes.  I thought it looked like a tree that had been burn.  Which I thought was cool because of how it covered up the/accented the organ pipes.

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M: I think we may be able to fill a whole book with pictures of beautiful Roman doors after this trip is through… another good one, babe!

J:  This is a black door.  It’s about 12 feet high and the paint is peeling off of it.

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M: Reflection. That is the word that came to mind… and then a song in “The Little Mermaid” and one in “Mulan.”

J: I really liked the plants on this windowsill.  But after I took the picture, I liked it for the reflection much more.

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M: Roasted chestnuts! Which remind me of my Nana at Christmastime. And a small cone was 5 Euros, which surprised me so much I didn’t say no. So I bought them. And left a trail of shells around the city like Hansel & Gretel. I even found some later that day. So my trail worked!

J: Walnuts. (That’s what I thought they were.)

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M: UP, UP, AND AWAY!

J: Look up next time you’re in a city.  It might surprise you.

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M: All the alleyways in Rome look just like all the pictures. Cobblestoned, ivy-covered wonders. Magical.

J: I really like the texture and character that the walls show here.

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M: Google has been my best friend on this trip. I Googled best gelaterias and secondhand stores. So we found a gazillion gelaterias and three thriftstores. They were expensive, but really neat to look in! And Justin got a sweet vintage tank-top. And I tried on some glorious vintage sunglasses that were too much.

J: You weren’t supposed to take pictures inside, but the owner let someone into the fitting room and I snapped this while he wasn’t looking.

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M: I wish we had more money and more luggage space for treasures, but we’re on a budget. Which is actually quite fun– it’s like a game to see how much you can get for your money. So places like this were more window-shopping. But still fun.

J: CLOCKS!

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J:  I loved this little alleyway. I thought it was super sweet with the cobblestone and ivy.  Plus the window shutters.  I don’t know why but I think they look awesome too.  And I’m glad I was able to catch the guy on the bicycle before he escaped.

M: Es-CAP-ey! (Finding Nemo).

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J: This is that church that was halfway covered in shadow and halfway still in the sun.  This is the top half.

M: Yep.

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M: There is a road that goes from the side of the Piaza del Popolo to the Spanish Steps. The Cases told us it had some great views of the city and geez, were they right! Rome is all flat so you can see across the whole thing.

J: Step 1.

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J: Step 2.

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M: My favorite church again. Ha! No, it was beautiful. I need to go back there before we leave.

J: Piaza di Spagna.

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M: Clown car! Oh, they’re so small. Two could fit in a Smart Car.

J: I’ve seen golf carts bigger than these things.

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M: We went down the Via Appia with the Cases on their last day. We got glorious Italian pastries and then this nice old Italian man drove us to the top of the road because it was like 2 KM from the Metro Stop. Oh well. We went down in the Catacombs (another scary, death-energy place!) and saw these sheep.

J:  These sheep were right next to the catacombs that we went into.  The particular one we went into happened to be the largest in the world.  It was incredible.  Can’t believe Christians used to have mass and celebrate Eucharist down there together…

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M: This is Angelo’s Castle. I am not sure who Angelo is, yet. I’ll have to Google it. But I DO know that there is a delicious gelateria not that far from there! Which is the most important thing.

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J: Yellow with shutters…and a lamp.

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J:  This is a shot from that road that leads towards the Spanish Steps.  It’s pretty sweet because you can see out over the rooftops of Rome.

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M: I helped J line up the spires and domes in this shot.

J: I pushed the button.  Ta-da.

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J: This is Maggs enjoying the second best gelato in Rome.  Although, it’s got some unique flavors that are really awesome (like Lemon Cheescake and Passionfruit).

M: Most of Justin’s pictures of me are me eating. Which is me happiest. This gelateria has those fancy flavors like rosemary, lemon, & honey and fig, almond, & cheese. Delish! They also serve gelato in the traditional Sicilian style in a brioche bun.

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J: Another interesting building.  Another sweet balcony w/ plants.  Another blue sky.

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M: Sun flare.

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J: Up. Orange.

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J: Down Orange.

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M: Ivy. Dang, there are a lot of pictures on this post. Keep going! It’s a marathon! Augh!

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J: More ivy and more Roman roofops!

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J:  Okay, so we decided that we would sit down at this touristy restaurant and eat a night ago.

M: Oh look. Me eating again. It wasn’t that bad, actually… for a touristy joint.

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M: We wanted to rent a scooter so badly here, but it looks dangerous and is wicked expensive. Next time??

J: But more importantly, there is a dead bird about 10-15 feet from where our dinner table is.  Look at the picture above again and you can see it there too.  It wasn’t just dead, it’s insides were on the outside.

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J: Magg-nut.

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M: Locks at the Piaza del Popolo.

J:Locked.

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J: Kinder egg!

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J: Jesus by Bernini!

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M: THIS is that gourmet gelateria by Piaza Navola. They make all their artisenale gelato in small batches using only the finest ingredients– like their coffee gelato is made with expresso from Jamaica.

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J: Iglesia.

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J:  This beautiful horse was tied up in front up this sweet looking door and I couldn’t resist.

M: Three people were riding their horses down the Via Appia and one of them looked like he could have been from any of the past 3 centuries… his riding boots, old leather saddle… and then he put on a camo-print plastic poncho.

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M: And, another door for your viewing pleasure.

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J: This is a house off of Appia Antica.  It was incredibly beautiful.

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J:  Here’s another window from that same house.  The green is…just soo pretty.

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M: Another view from that road above the Spanish Steps. To the leftish is the white building with a million columns and winged chariots on the sides. That is the monument to Italy’s first king, Victor Emannuelle (I think that’s his name). It is the biggest thing we’ve seen here.

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J: Lots of green…

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J:  Sweet stairwell.

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J: Gloria In Excelsis Deo.  Indeed.

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M: I think this is what Justin called my “fake smile.” At the del Teatro Gelato place.

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M: Then I went back to eating my gelato.

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M: Seriously, every street– especially those off of the tourist beaten path– is just splendid.

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J: Fat cat subway.

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J: Down below, scooter row.

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M: This is that massive monument to Italian nationalism I wrote about above. It was raining so we had our Sprite-colored raincoats on.

J: Lemon-Lime!  A combo that has stood the test of time.

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J: Oh look, Maggs!  Another door!

M: Oh look, Justin! My shocked and amazed face!

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J: Feeling the vino.

M: It was SO great. We found this great little eatery down the street from the Colosseum (thanks to Kate Miller’s recommendation!) with cheap, delicious pasta and cheaper, delicious, smooth wine. It was packed with locals every night! We’ve been back three times.

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J: So the other night we ordered Chinese food and had to wait in the restaurant for it. I wanted to take a picture and this is what Maggie decided to do.

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J: Another door, another day.  (But actually this is the same door as the last one and from the same day…)

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J: Tiny car license plate!

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J: A better picture of us from the Chinese place.

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J: Threadz.

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J: All of the lights, all of the lights.

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J: Heart pizza.

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M: Tiny pistachio-encrusted canoli for 1 Euro? Yes, please.

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M: Sign at our train stop. Which is, as I told Justin, ironic. Because I think if you stopped and read it long enough, you’d get pick-pocketed.

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J: Okay, I’m sorry for all of these pictures.  I hope they’re somehow redeeming for how long this damn post is.

M: They really are beautiful, babe. We’re just tired so all these captions seem long. But they’re so awesome! They are going to be such great memories for when we’re old. Or just later this year.

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J: Please see up above about the redeeming qualities.

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J: Another door. Pretty sweet though, huh?

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M: My tiny canolo of goodness!!

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M:  My wife is beautiful.  Seriously.  Look at her!

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J:  Chewing…

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J: FINALLY!!!

M: Aw babe it’s been great writing this with you and being on Facbeook separately. Let’s go eat dinner now.

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(The movie reference? Mary Poppins!)

…And We’re Back!

3 May

M: Justin just told me I have control problems because I nabbed the computer from him about .5 seconds after it opened to this window because I had a good idea for a title. I do have control issues. Sorry, babe.

J: Yes.  Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way (and more importantly, publicly documented) let’s move on to the actual post.

M: First of all, to our huge, huge, massive group of readers, we are sorry we have fallen off of the face of the planet for the past 2.75 months. Rwanda got so monotonous after day 14 that we didn’t want to bore ourselves or you with more posts. There are only so many sentences/pictures you can write about rice & beans and rice & chips for dinner.

J: And thinking about blogging reminded us that we had nothing of importance to say.  The whole trip wasn’t a waste because I fulfilled the requirements to finish my Master’s but otherwise,

M: (and I grabbed it away from him again. His head is on the table.) I just want to say YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY YOU FINISHED! I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!!!! okay here’s the laptop.

J:…I hope this crap is at least funny to read, because it’s annoying when someone takes a laptop from you when you’re mid-sentence…okay, I’m over it.  Now where was I?  Anyways, Rwanda wasn’t a total waste because I finished the requirements for my Master’s degree…

M: Justin has been really good about encouraging me to be positive through it all. However, I am merely being objective when I say our experience in Rwanda was really sucky. It wasn’t awful and I didn’t hate it. It could have been WAY worse. But it was hard. We were bored, lonely, and depressed a lot. We fought more than we ever have before. I am very thankful that we have been blessed with, gifted this honeymoon afterwards. It is making it that much sweeter to be making our way through Europe now!

J: We also got to hang out with old friends (Deke and Jocelyn) and also make new one’s from a study abroad group called GoEd.  It was really refreshing and much needed to have them to spend time with during our last few weeks in Rwanda.  Regardless, I’m super excited that we’re on our honeymoon now.  It’s pretty incredible how different this week is going to be compared to our last week in Rwanda.

M: Agreed. The difference is remarkable. I feel funny being here. So relieved and thankful and wanting to cry. I feel it in my bones! Also, I want a whole new wardrobe. So the great Western consumerism complex is back! Definitely wasn’t this bad in Rwanda. Justin! Get off of my Facebook on the iPad and come respond.

J: Okay, so here are some pictures from our past day and a half.

M: Justin was here in 2008. Apparently, if you toss a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi Fountain, it means you’ll be back. And now he’s back but with me! So it’s better.

J: Although, to be honest, I’m pretty sure I never tossed a coin over my shoulder into the fountain.  I’m too cheap.  Same as this time.  No way am I gonna toss a coin into that fountain…unless it’s a Rwanda coin.  Things are useless to me now.

M: How about if it’s an American penny? I have some of those in one of my 918732o498 bags I brought.

J: Sure. Moving on…

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M: The Spanish Steps! Our method of exploration so far has been to just wander. It’s amazing. Except for the massive groups of tourists. We saw a big Asian group today all wearing matching red LEATHER jackets.

J: The weather is much nicer this time, especially compared to Rwanda!  It’s quite beautiful here….the problem is that it’s soo damn crowded now.  Last time I was here during winter and it was almost entirely empty…now the place is crawling.  I think there is a tourist epidemic here.

M: It is the Eternal City, weenie. There are always tourists here! We agreed if we ever go anywhere else touristy in the world someday (after we get jobs and pay off all of our debts), we will go on the off-season. Even if we have to bundle up like J had to back in Winter 2008 when he was here.
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J: Here’s the first church we went into this morning…we won’t be posting pictures of all of the churches that we go into.  There are simply too many.  But here’s one, they’re super pretty.

M: I got kicked out of one today above the Spanish Steps because I’m wearing a strapless dress. You also have to give an offering to take a holy picture or light a candle. Both of these things annoy me. I am all for respecting the Roman Catholic church– any place of worship, really– but I don’t know what to think about this. I had to put on a kimono when I went into a Mosque in Delhi. I don’t think Jesus would ask me to cover up or give him a drachma for anything. So I almost yelled such things at the nice guard who chastised me in French. But instead, I left. And I’ll be carrying a scarf with me to cover up with from now on. I’ll figure out my issues with the church and it’s business later.

J: I did not get kicked out.  The guy simply smiled at me because I’m so stylish.

M: You do actually fit in really well here. Lots of skinny jeans.

J: I don’t have skinny jeans on! My jeans are hideous.

M: For being worn every day for 3 months, they’re looking pretty rad. It’s the vintage destroyed look, lover.

J: Whatever, the guy didn’t really smile at me.  I’m not that stylish (you can be the judge, there’s one of me below on a train).
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M: Justin has long arms which makes it really easy to take great MySpace pictures. But seriously, folks. I am so impressed he took 2 good ones of us today. I am too scared to ask someone to take our picture because I don’t want gypsies to steal our camera. Isn’t that open-minded of me?

J: I’m not scared of that.  I just don’t like being around all of these people, so I snap pictures and then walk somewhere I can lean against a wall.  Therefore, there are pictures of Maggs by herself but only two of us together.  Don’t worry, we’ll get someone to take our picture at a few different places before we leave for the next leg of our adventure/honeymoon.

M: As long as it’s not a gypsy.

J: Hater.
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M: Haters gonna hate. Anywho, this is from our first day in Vatican City. We got picked up in the airport in a black Mercedes because we fancy, dropped our stuff off at the room, and we went into the city. We had no idea where we were going. We just went! And we didn’t get our tickets validated (whoops!) so we rode in and out of the city for free! Another honeymoon miracle!! The first was that we made all of our flights on time AND all our luggage got here with us. Woohoo!

J: Although, I sort of wish we would have lost some luggage, simply because then we’d have less to carry.  But then again, I prefer carrying a lot of crap and a happy Maggie than any other scenario that includes Maggs turning into a crazy.  Happy wife, happy life.

M: If we lost luggage, we’d also get financial compensation. For a whole new wardrobe at Zara!!!!
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J: Saw these fellas posing in front of the Vatican.  Not sure who they are or what they’re doing.  Don’t care.  This is priceless.

M: I’m pretty sure it was for some sort of dance-off show. This is like the city of irony– so many holy places and so many… well, never mind. I guess they’re all holy people in God’s eyes. AUGH! I’m thinking about too many things too much.

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J: Here’s another shot from Vatican City–the only international boundary that can be crossed without a passport–and if you look closely, our little dance troupe has regrouped in the right side of the picture!

M: We have tickets to go into the Vatican Museum on the 9th. I am very excited!
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J: There are vehicles here that make Smart Cars look typical.  This is sort of one of those vehicles.  It looks like a shopping cart.

M: In my hands is a bag of dried fruit from this sweet stand near a castle along the Tiber. There was guava, cantaloupe, and passion fruit in there, among others. Justin got a mix-and-match bag of candy from the same place.
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J: This is a wheel barrow and graffiti on a wall.

M: Justin has such a GREAT eye for these things. I know I’ve said that before. But it amazes me every time. I told him this today and he said “I just look!” I was struck by the profound simplicity of that statement. It’s true. He just looks!
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J: In addition to taking pictures of random crap, I also have the luxury of traveling with my own personal model.  Ain’t she pretty?

M: Oh, you! I love being on a honeymoon with you!!!! Funny stories about those poppies in my hair: I was looking at the train tracks where two poppy plants had sprouted. I was also looking at the signs that said “Do not cross the tracks” and considering darting out to grab some flowers while no trains were coming. Then I looked over at my paparazzi husband and did a double-take at all the poppy plants behind him (that you can see in the picture). So I picked some of those instead. Thus, I was saved from an untimely death.

J: There is graffiti everywhere here…plus, look at Maggie’s earrings, they are nice.
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M: I took this one! I am so proud. Okay wait, it’s a little fuzzy. Crap. Anyway, this handsome stranger sat next to me. So I took him home to my bungalow tonight.

J: It’s not fuzzy!  You big dork…it can only focus at one thing at a time.  You just happened to focus on me.

M: In keeping with the rule of my life that my only good photos happen by accident. I don’t know how that happens.
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J: Saw this little diddy on the wall after we got off the Metro near the Piazza del Poppolo.  Yoda would be in the “eternal city.”

M: Here Banksy he was. Get it? That’s how Yoda would say it.
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J: This one is taken from the top of the Spanish Steps…outside of the church that Maggs got tossed out of.  It’s super cool to see all of the domes and whatnot from up here.  It’s a great perspective.

M: Because I am a floozy (said in Nacho voice). You can see so very far– and it’s the same view millions of people have seen for hundreds of years. That’s amazing.
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J: I really liked this doorway and the steps down behind it.  I wish I could’ve explored back in there.  Although I feel like that scenario would have involved La Polizia in the end.
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M: There are street performers everywhere. So far, I’ve seen a Michael Jackson impersonator, a blue Statue of Liberty, a man dressed all in black with a gun, and these guys. When someone tossed them money, they all raised their bottles/glasses and sort of cheered in a creepy way.

J: Oh, I thought they were laughing…kind of like Santa or a crowd at a movie…either way, what a way to generate revenue right?
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M: The happy honeymooners.

J: It pays to have long arms.  Not literally…it’s just a figure of speech for that means it’s beneficial.  Anyways, the Trevi Fountain is my favorite.
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M: Your creeper pictures are my favorite.

J: I really liked the way this building looked.  And I actually liked the people and the way they were sitting on the steps.  (Normally I make every effort to take people out of pictures, but I liked them in this instance.)
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M: The Pantheon has a hole in the roof that keeps the dome from caving in on itself. Without the hole, the whole building would collapse.

J: In case you didn’t know, the building in the picture is the aforementioned Pantheon.  It was built about 2000 years ago.  One upgrade/change is that the plaza that the Pantheon opens into no longer has a McDonald’s across from it.  I read an email my Dad sent me back in 2008 before I came here and he had mentioned how weird/crazy it is that there’s such an ancient building and some stupid restaurant chain in the same plaza.  No more Daddy-o, the Mickey D’s is no more…at least not at is particular place.
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M: What there IS, however, is this killer cafe right around the corner from the Pantheon. Kate, I don’t know if this is the place you recommended, but the cappuccinos were killer. We stood up at the bar and knocked them back like good Italians would.

J: This is the espresso bar.  It was delicious.  Well worth the euro.
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M: My great-grandfather was a traveling accordion player from Italy– he was born just a few hours from Roma, actually. This man reminded me of him!

J: He was playing a nice little song.  Sorry this picture isn’t better, I didn’t want to have to pay him.
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M: Oh, Zara. How have I never been inside one of you before? You have this sweet mirror on your ceiling that my husband can take a picture of us in. And beautiful shoes I can buy. Thereby blowing my entire treasures-for-Rome budget. And having to starve myself to use that money for more things. Priorities, priorities.

J: This picture was fun to take because I noticed the mirror on the ceiling before Maggs did.  I had the camera out and ready and then simply said “Look up” and then snapped this picture.  Zara is nice.  But I won’t be buying shoes and surely won’t be spending any of per diem for food on clothes.  I imagine that the only takeaway I’ll have from this place is this picture…which I’m fine with.

M: And a happy wife. Which we’ve already established is a good thing.
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M: I’m sorry I took your turn, but can we please go to dinner now?

J: Oh yes, I’ve been thinking about it this entire time.  Okay, you heard the lady folks, that’s all we’ve got tonight.  Only one trick.

M: Tomorrow’s trick will include getting two large backpacks, one small backpack, one large duffel bag, one handmade purse, and two huge weekender bags made out of African fabric into Rome on public transportation. Ta-daaaaa!

J: Pray for us.

Life in Instagram

27 Feb

J: I imagine that this man was having a conversation with a few others as they tried to fit this bed-frame into the bed of a truck, obviously to no avail.  I then imagine this little man–he was perhaps 5’6″–saying something along the lines of “I’ll just take it down.”

M: So he did. On our way from the bus station to our guest house in Kigali, he ran past us down the hill that leads down from the US Embassy where I take yoga every week. Literally ran. Down the very steep hill. He just trotted his way past us and other Rwandese who were completely unperturbed by his strong-man feat. And in case you can’t tell, this large bed-frame was balanced on his head.

J: The thing about my imaginary event is that somehow this man ended up carrying this bed-frame for about 3 miles.

M: You have no idea if it was 3 miles!

J:) Whatever, I’m sure it was far.  We watched him carry it at least a kilometer.

M: Oooh fancy international traveler. Using the metric system.

J: First of all, the metric system is quite simpler to use and secondly, I can’t imagine anyone I know volunteering to walk this bed-frame down that bigass large and very steep hill.  That was my point.  Regardless of if he took it 1k to 3k.

M: Do you even know how long a kilometer is or would you have to Google it? Because I’d have to Google it.

J: google.

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M: The same day we saw Amazing Bed-Frame Man, we hadn’t much work to do in Gahini so I said on a whim that we should just go to Kigali right away– Monday instead of our usual Tuesday. My cute husband’s eyes lit up and high-fived me across our desk. “Great idea, babe!” he whispered, so we wouldn’t disturb Gerard, our office-mate. And we were off. Our reward for getting there early was getting to go to Quiz Night at Sole Luna!

J: I really enjoy when she refers to me as “her husband” even though you should all know that we’re married and my proper name.  Anywho, Quiz Night was…

M: *makeout break for being cute* Just kidding. Ha, Justin! I even interrupt you when we’re typing. This is so true to us in real life.

J: Oh lord…well Quiz Night was freakin great.  The team below was named “After 69 kids, your mom has the deepest lake in the world.”

M: BECAUSE one of the questions had been “What is the record number of children born to one woman?” Answer: 69 and another was “What is the deepest lake in the world?” Answer: Lake Baikal. Combine those two and you get this wonderful name that won us Best Name (and 5% off of airfare on Rwandair). I thought of the name 🙂 I’m really proud of it. Just saying. Sorry, Ma.

J: But “Best Name” was the 2nd best thing we won that night.  We ended up winning the whole shebang!  Which was sweet because it meant that our adult beverages and delicious brick over pizzas were FREE.

M: You do a lot of formatting things that take a lot of time. But fine they look cool. So anywho because we won, we got to make up the quiz for this week! Which we are about to give in about five hours. To a whole chorus of heckling ex-pats. It’s gonna be great.

J: …formatting shormatting.

M: Justin just told me sometimes I need to let the segment end and move on to the next photo but I just NEED to say that the pizza was delicious and well-worth the exorbitant amount they charged for it. Grampa, my pizza had anchovies on it and they were delicious. Wish you were there.

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J: So we’ve been spending a lot of time at this coffee shop called Shokola Lite here in Kigali when we’re here.  Especially today.  As of now we’ve been here since it opened at 10 am and it’s now 3:40.  We’ll be here for another hour and a half or so.

M: I don’t know if that sounds terrible or not, but to us, it has been close to heaven. It’s like an African ex-pat version of the Gryphon. We have no semblance of Western culture in Gahini to enjoy, so this is an indulgence. And the decor is funky and colorful– there’s a whole wall of wooden dowels covered in sections of African fabric. I’m salivating over it. And some of the footrests and baseboards are covered in this burlap with all kinds of neat sayings on them. Justin snapped this picture when he and Deke came here last week while Jocelyn and I were yoga-ing it up.

J: I should say that if any of the pictures look grainy, they are.  They were taken from my iPhone.  That is all.  Except for this: Our friend Bethany Crabbs Simpson said that these three things are all you need.

M: All you need is love! Do do do do doooooo All you need is love! Do do do do dooooooo…

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M: Our new schedule has been 3 days in Kigali, 4 in Gahini, repeat until we leave. This weekend, we house/dog-sat for the South African missionaries, Wim and Bertha, who live up on the hill and Deke and Jocelyn came out to visit us in the Boondocks. These are the South African dogs, Becky and Nugget. It was a wonderful, much-needed “holiday” to be able to cook for ourselves and we slept in twin beds so we actually slept well because we weren’t elbowing or kneeing each other all night.

J: Okay, we don’t live that far from “civilization.”  It’s only an hour away from Kigali.  I’m pretty sure my Mom used to have to drive 4 hours just to get to a Wal-Mart.  But yes, here are the dogs.  They’re hilarious.  Perhaps I’ll video them the next time we take them on a walk.  Then you’ll see.

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J: I’m not very good at Bananagrams.  I kind of think that it’s a dumb game.  The second statement is true because of the first one.  I know lots of words, I just don’t know how to make them connect to one another very well.  So I decided to do some “off-roading” in our game the other night.

M: We used to play Scrabble, which I would win, and then we’d play a game of Chess afterwards so he would win. It was only fair. But we had no Chess around, so Justin just did his own thing. Which is what made me fall in love with him in the first place. Doing his own thing. Not Bananagrams. Anywho, this game was played in the replica of a traditional Rwandan milk-hut that is on Seeds of Peace’s deck that I’ve never been in until that night. Then we ate tough goat kabobs and chips a.k.a. Freedom fries. Let me also just say I never ever ever drink soda in the States, but I drink it a lot here. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s what’s available, but Coke is so good with Rwanda’s version of “pub food” like this.

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M: Justin took this when we left Gahini at 7:30 AM this morning to go to Kigali. We hitched a ride with the Bishop so we didn’t have to deal with the smelly, terrible mutatus/coasters. Hale-freaking-lujia!!

J: Yep, there it is.  A sign.

M: I love his Instagram pictures! On my list of “Things To Do When We Get Back To The US” is “Make Justin’s Instagrams into magnets” because I love them so. And also “Put Justin’s Instagram pictures onto cards” that I can send to all my pen-pals.

J: This one willnot be on any of those cards and/or magnets.

M: Well, this is where we live, so I love this picture.

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J: Holy crap…I would have never even tried this in the U.S. but we both had Carrot-Ginger soup with this pita bread on the side for lunch today.  It was unbelievably delicious.  Maggs can’t even believe that I like it that much.

M: It is probably because it was reminiscent of Indian food. I think the menu said it was “cooked with exotic spices.” But yes, it was delicious. And only 2900 Rfws, which is about $5. Yum!

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J: Here’s a video I took of ants…there were thousands of them…I read about these kind of ants in Barbara Kingsolver’s book The Poisonwood Bible.  Sometimes they spread out and overtake entire villages, forcing the villagers to run to the nearest body of water and jump in.  Makes the ants in the U.S. seem quite pesky but tolerable.

M: Good grief I am SO glad you didn’t tell me that when we saw them. But now I understand why my sister hates ants. Because when there are just a few, they’re whatever. But put them in a line 20 feet long, and it’s creepy and gross. In my incredible powers of estimation, I would say there were probably a million or more. Truly. They were crawling out of a hill in the side of the ditch and down, down, down the hill into another hole on the same side of the ditch. Blech I just got the goosebumps. Or ant-bumps, rather.

J: We’ve got another video coming your way…below is a link, but when I get the time, I’ll embed it in this post.

http://static.photobucket.com/player.swf

M: Dang it, I’m getting hungry again. More soup, anyone?

J: Delicious pizza is just…oh 2 1/2 or 3 hours away…we can make it!  Hold fast my love!

M: Too bad it won’t be free this week.

J: Why is it that something that is free is always better?

Love,

M&J

Home

21 Feb

My husband is very careful with his language. He has taught me that an Autistic child should not be defined by their diagnosis– so she is a child with Autism. A mentally disabled person is a person struggling with mental disabilities. A homeless person is a person experiencing homelessness because they are not defined as a person by the fact that they have no place to live. Having two beautiful little sisters with Down Syndrome has driven this point home for me. They are my sisters and the fact that they have Down Syndrome is merely a part of who they are– it is not the defining piece in their puzzle. Before Justin helped me relearn the importance of my language, it wasn’t like I defined my friends with Autism by their diagnosis or the folks experiencing homelessness by their lack of housing– it’s just that now my language intentionally reflects that. It takes a lot longer to say “person experiencing homelessness” than “homeless person.” That annoys me sometimes; to save my energy, it is tempting to say less words. But to honor the person I am speaking about, I make the effort because they are worth those extra syllables.

So I have been thinking about what to call myself lately, in an effort to be linguistically intentional. And I have reached a decision– for now. For the past six months, Justin and I have been homeless. We are not experiencing homelessness in that we are not at odds with the systems in place because of our substance habits, family situation, ethnic identity, etc. The fact is that we have no home. This reality is so big that it defines us at the moment.

As humans, we are looking for a place to belong– that is the constant struggle of the human race, I think. To belong somewhere. To find identity in the fellowship of others. To have a community and a physical place you call your own. And the “physical space” part is really important: Whether it’s a house on the Nantucket Sound or a shack in the Kibera Slums in Kenya, it makes a difference when you have four walls and a roof you can claim as your own. We do not have that right now– and I acknowledge that many others are in the same situation with more of a finiteness than we have. Justin and I have each other, and for that I am infinitely grateful in a way few will ever understand. He is my home. But Justin cannot provide a bed for me to snuggle into. He cannot be the wall on which I hang our art collection. He cannot be the IKEA wok in which I make Trader Joe’s fried rice. We have been transient for six months and probably will be for another six. In anthropology, this is called the liminal stage. In transit between two other stages. It is not sustainable and it is unhealthy when prolonged.

In August, we left Philly to go to Miami where we lived with some gracious people in their guestroom for four months. Then we moved into an apartment with friends for a week before we left to go to Rwanda for three months. Here, we live in a guest house. Then we’ll be in Europe, skipping around in hostels and the couches of friends, and then finally back to my parents’ house in Virginia where we will collect ourselves before trying to move back to Philly posthaste. It’s exhausting just writing that. All this time, we’ve schlepped our things along with us, but haven’t settled ourselves and our belongings anywhere in any sort of permanent state for a long time. Chances are, we will have been homeless for over a year before we find an apartment, a physical place to call our own again. I am weary of this.

That makes me sad. Not sad in the whiny, teary, dramatic way that I *ahem* sometimes succumb to. But deeply sad, in the pit of my stomach. We have no home. Wait, seriously? Yes. I hate that that is a very large part of our identity right now. But I am trying to turn this reality around, into something generative– I am willing myself to recognize the gift of running water every time it rushes over my hands. I pray that it would sink into my very spirit that it is a privilege to have a toilet that flushes, soda bottles on the desk next to me with no large cockroach sitting at the bottom, and a car. Oh, a car! I can’t wait to dive into my life in the US headlong again. I miss it. Not having a home makes me realize what is important here and back in the US.

I long for home. Sometimes I say the word to myself over and over again. Home. Home. Home. Home. Home. I miss our tiny apartment in Wayne, with all of my treasures all around me. I miss my Indian tapestries and the bottles I decoupaged with Sarah and Kathleen for my wedding. I miss my clothes and my jewelry. I miss being able to read the signs around town and navigating transportation without the aid of an interpreter. I miss my blanket I splurged on at Anthropologie and the hand-made wedding quilt that Aunt Lori painstakingly stitched for us. I miss our sheets that are quite literally as soft as a baby’s bottom. I miss my spices, our amalgam of kitchenware, our thrift store flatware, the plates that Justin and I have collected for years. I miss Justin being able to wear his “fancy boots” from Aldo with his skinny jeans tucked in. I miss watching “Downton Abbey” and “Jersey Shore” in the same sitting and having clean water to drink from the faucet whenever I want it. I miss my things in a way that is far from superficial– I miss that they are indicators that I am home, that I am settled, that I am not homeless.

I am so thankful for my belongings. I can’t wait to enjoy them again! I will wear the hell out of my pants, snuggle the hell out of our pillows, drink the hell out of that tea, use the hell out of my sewing machine. My things won’t know what hit them, I will enjoy them so.

Why is it that we have to leave home in order to realize it was there in the first place? We were just settling into our nook in Philly when we left. I can’t wait to get back there, to friends and real concerts and a church and our weird patchwork culture in general.

I read a short story where a Nigerian author said she pined for the warm weather and palm trees and fufu of her home when she lived in New York. I am pining away for the fall and spring, boots and scarves and jackets, record players and concerts, coconut water and fried rice and salmon and anything without potatoes in it, for Pete’s sake. How does that song go– you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?

I remember when I studied abroad in India and how I was deeply homesick. I wasn’t ungrateful for my experience there, just as I am not ungrateful for my experience in Rwanda. But I think you can be present and appreciative of an experience while still counting down the days until you are home again; in fact, it is that outside experience that makes you thankful for returning to where you left. It is in leaving that I have found where my heart lies, where my home is. In experiencing other cultures, I have found and made some efforts to claim my own.

Justin’s dad commented on our blog a bit ago that we need to stop with the negative white United-Statesian crap. And he’s right. We jokingly employ self-deprecating humor about our Patagonia rain jacket and backpacks, our Nalgene bottles, Justin’s floppy hats, my affinity for “authentic” jewelry, our inability to do laundry by hand or exhaustion at walking up the village hill twice a day. But we have, feel, do all those things and that’s okay. We are white kids from the US with expendable income to buy treasures. That’s just how it is. We are constantly identified as belonging to this illusive tribe, Hipster, despite having no trust funds (which, you should know, is the mark of a true hipster). I have tried to buck this yoke for a while now, but I think I’m beginning to accept it.

I guess that’s our culture. Hipster. Scenester. Bands before they were cool, plaid shirts, farmers markets, Fair-Trade coffee, Whole Foods. We are white kids who try to live simply, who enjoy ethnic cuisine but still want a good grass-fed hamburger every once and a while, who shop at thrift stores and Urban Outfitters and also make our own clothes, who may have a problem with hoarding arts and crafts, who love and miss their family every day, who like being outdoorsy with nice gear, who can’t wait to see their friends when they get back to the City of Brotherly Love. Sunday dinner with the Pham anyone?

We are homeless right now but have hope that someday we will be back in a city where we think we can finally put down roots. Where we will camp out in Grace and Patrick’s guest room for a bit until we can get our stuff together– haha kidding maybe. Where we will be able to nail in our decorations, happily aware that we won’t have to rip it out and pack it up again for a while. Slowly by slowly, we are accepting what India, Uganda, Rwanda, Costa Rica, and all of our other travels have taught us– that it is not shameful to be proud of your culture and to miss your other life when you are away from it. That you need to go through a searching period before you finally accept your culture, your community, your life. I am praying that this reality will settle itself into my soul like a Tetris piece into its neighboring bricks. That it will be locked there, that Western consumerism will not be able to dislodge it with its whispers that I need more art, travel, experiences, jeans, shoes, spirituality to belong. I am trying to enjoy this struggle of getting home again, of being shaped by my liminal life and the truths I am discovering while on the road. This struggle is normal and healthy and reveals that you are finally– maybe– finding a place to call home.

Love, M

Ramblings

17 Feb

M: Two weeks ago, on our first visit to Kigali, we picked up a few things in the local supermarket, Nakumatt. I think it was just conditioner and lotion. While I was fumbling with my francs, the lady rang up my purchases and printed out my receipt. The bagging gentleman held it out to me and said “Come with me. You have won a gift” in a deadpan monotone.

“A gift?” I said. I was sure he was joking.

But he wasn’t.

So I was hustled over to the customer service desk where they solemnly handwrote my name and information down in a book and then presented me with a package: A brown paper bag with a sign on it that said “A Valentines Gift for you” (and inside, I found out later, was a gift-wrapped bottle of vintage 1999 Chardonnay from British Columbia. I will let you know how it tastes when I’ve opened it).

They made me stand with a tall male employee and get my picture taken while he pantomimed handing me the parcel. I was mortified.

Justin wanted to take a picture with his iPhone but I bolted out of the store, shushing him. “But why do you refuse him?” the kind female customer service rep called after me, as I slunk away with my tail between my legs.

Hooboy– it was a crazy induction into city life, let me tell you.

J: So she somewhat reluctantly let me snap this one when we got back to Deke’s room.  I’m pretty sure it was because she didn’t let me take one in the store…but she was a bit flustered and surprised and I shouldn’t have asked…anyways, here’s that pic I was telling you about.

M: I should have just let him take the freaking picture in the store. I felt so bad afterwards! Justin loves to take pictures and I give him such grief for it, but if he didn’t make me stop to take a picture now and then, we wouldn’t have any.

J: P.S. That bottle of wine is from British Columbia (B.C. for you cultured folks) and the year of Prince’s party, 1999.

M: I already told them, babe. Not the Prince part, though, so you get props for that.

J: Well, just in case they forgot after reading the rest of your lengthy introduction 🙂

M: Bite me.

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J: Just so I can beat Maggs to the punch, “Oh look!  Another sunset!”

M: See? This is why I give you grief for taking pictures!! Because we have a million like this. But they are beautiful and you have a good eye for them and we can make an Instagram collage out of them when we return to civilization.

J: OOH!  Hipster points for referencing Instagram my love!

M: AND I’m wearing a grandma skirt and a grandma hairstyle today. Triple Hipster points.

J: (Picture to follow in the next post)

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M: I make no grumblings about these neat Panoramic pictures J takes with his Hipster application on his Hipster iPad. They are so neat!!! This is the football pitch where he plays with the village young boys– he’s the lone white man out of about 60 Rwandans. And he literally blends right in– I walked past yesterday and it took me a good two minutes to find him!

J: Yes, thank you Brent Spead for the Hipster app and Daniel for the Pad.  And yes, this is the football pitch.  To the far right, there is a lot of grass where the ball gets stuck and you have to kick it really freaking hard in order to get it to go anywhere…although yesterday I tried and it didn’t go anywhere.  I was actually laughing at myself.

M: Is that where you kicked the stone?

J: No, that’s somewhere slightly left of the middle of the picture.  And I didn’t kick it.  I tripped over it.  And again found myself laughing at…myself.

M: See? This is why I don’t play football. Or any sport for that matter. I’d rather make the other villages and myself laugh at myself by sliding down a 6 in. hill and landing on my knee in a perfect Icecapades position. While wearing my fancy, no-slip sandals and holding two large backpacks.

J: I have absolutely no idea what a “Icecapades position” is, but it sounds fun!

M: I just kneeled really gracefully with both of my arms out at my sides, okay? As if they didn’t have enough to stare at me for.

J: I’m sure the judges gave it a 10.

M: Winning.

J: Twinning.

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M: Do you want to write on this one first?

J: Sure, this is my plate from dinner the other night. (Notice, there are no lack lack berries?) For now, I’ll simply say that we got 5 very large avocados at the market the other day (think twice as big as they make them in the U.S., yes, even Texas) for about 50 Rwandan Francs.  600 Francs equals a dollar.  You do the math.

M: I knew you were going to type “You do the math.” I think this is my plate, though, because you don’t eat avocado!

J: Nope, I did eat one.

M: Was it dericious?

J: It was actually pretty good.  The avocados here are so fresh they almost have a sweet taste to them…wouldn’t you say?

M: Yes, I want to bathe in them. They’re amazing! So light and almost fruity. The perfect accompaniment to spicy beans, rice, and tomato (pronounced to-MAH-to) sauce.

J: Ugh!  Bathe in them? SMH.

M: Never again. Never again use that acronym in my presence.

J: Anyways, back to the food plate.  We also had “chips” which are simply really good potato wedges or as some of you might know them, “Freedom Fries.”

M: We’ve had Freedom Fries, Freedom Toast, and Freedom Ketchup.

J: Let’s just say that Freedom has been busy on this side of the pond.

M: This is basically what we eat for lunch and dinner. Every day. Luckily it is yummy and filling and sometimes they put less twigs in it than usual. Sort of kidding.

J: Oh, don’t be so negative.

M: You’re right. Other people cook for us three times a day and I’ve only gotten a branch in my greens twice. Isn’t it hilarious that, in a restaurant in the U.S., we would immediately send that dish back and ask for a refund plus free dessert or drinks? Here, I just removed the fibrous stalk from my mouth, calmly set it on the plate, and kept eating. Puts things in perspective.

J: Heh, fibrous stalk.

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J: This is a picture of the capital city, Kigali.  Just so some of you know that there are “proper” cities on this continent.

M: We had delicious Indian food for Valentines lunch (including a paper dosa and biryani! Yay!) and I found a yoga mat at a Chinese store called T2000 AND I took a yoga class with a bunch of expats at the U.S. Embassy. Which looked laughably (or maybe not so laughably) like Fort Knox.

J: She absolutely loved the yoga class!  Many thanks to our friend Jocelyn (see below) for hooking that up!

M: We’re going to try to go to Kigali every week to do some work with Deke (since he graduated from the same program as Justin) and to get our expat food, people, outings, etc. fix. We’ve deemed it necessary for our sanity, you know? Just to get away and be with familiar people and things and activities for a few days a week. It is a welcome break and relatively easy to do. Though those busses are going to have to grow on me.

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J: This is Deke.  He’s slicing tomatoes or onions for our homemade salsa!  Notice the iPad to the left, Deke keeps recipes on there for when he’s cooking!  Pretty sweet eh?

M: So glad we bought ours. It is such a precious luxury– so portable and useful.

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M: While Jocelyn and I were at yoga, Justin and Deke cooked us V-Day dinner– guacamole, real tortilla chips, homemade salsa, and fajitas made out of filet mignon pieces and peppers and onions. In Rwanda, and much of the rest of Africa, tender meat is not valued– they prefer tougher meat. So Deke picked up our filet at Nakumatt for $5. Drool.

J: Also, while Maggs was in the shower, Deke and I decided to make a chocolate cake to surprise her with!

M: That was for me?!?!?

J: Yeah, you were the last one to know about it (we tried to hide it from both of them, but Jocelyn came in and discovered it) and we wanted it to make you happy since you had been having a rough couple of days, there.

M: You are the sweetest thing! And smart to know one of my weaknesses. Which is, of course, chocolate. This cake was to die for. I don’t know if it was on purpose but it was just a hint salty so it was sweet and decadent and crunchy and then the salt hit you and it was just a party of deliciousness in your mouth.

J: Eso es lo que dijo ella.

M: Para.

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M: Here it is, in all its glory. When they took it out of the oven, the boys threw it in the refrigerator. And that made it collapse. I’m not sure why, but at the time, it made Jocelyn and I crack up to imagine them pulling the hot, delicious cake out of the oven only to think it was a good idea to put it in the fridge. That may have been the passionfruit mimosa talking, but I swear it was the best joke I had heard all day. That crunchy top was just divine!

J: It sounded like a good idea to us at the time.  And I think we might have simply thought that it would be a good way to keep it hidden from Maggs…I dunno.

M: You are so sweet. And wickedly funny– sometimes without meaning to be. Regardless, it was delicious.

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J: Here’s the homemade salsa, guacamole, and chips.  Deke sliced tortillas for the chips and then I put them in oil to harden them.  They were super delicious, as was the guac and salsa.

M: It was just superb. Seriously. This meal blew me away– and not just because I had eaten rice and beans for the past 983479283 days. It was so simple and flavorful and good. A simple meal, but it made me so happy!

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J: Here’s the filet with peppers and onions made into shish-kabobs by the cook there.  Deke and I could have done it, but Jaqi absolutely loves showing off her cooking skills (especially to Deke’s friends) so she was really excited to make them for us.  They were freakin delicious!  (As a token of our thanks we gave her one and she seemed to really like it because when we woke up the next day she had done all of the dishes we were going to do before breakfast!)

M: I know I complain a lot about our situation here, but I am truly thankful for how it is revealing to me what I have, what I take for granted– especially back in the U.S. After eating goat kebabs that made my teeth ache the other day, this meat made me groan with pleasure. Literally. I could slice through the tender pieces with my teeth alone! It was like butter. I hope that sort of appreciation will sink deep down and take root in me so I am always thankful for tender, flavorful, simple food.

J: Mmmm…just looking at this picture gets me excited for next week; we’re planning on having dinner with them every Tuesday!

M: I guess we should go order our beans and rice for dinner now, huh?

J: ::looks at the time on his phone:: Yes, we’ll be back…enjoy…you’ll never know we left.

J: So much for uneventful!

M: I know you can’t tell, but that took way longer than it usually does. First, because we had to interrupt a dance party in the kitchen, and second, because a large thorny branch attacked me in the dark when we were walking back to our room. By attacked, I mean I tripped over it and then it lodged itself in my legs and skirt. Justin, my knight in shining armor, pulled every piece out and even got a war wound: a thorn prick on his finger. Hilarity ensued.

J: We might not like it very much over here, but boy does Rwanda keep making it, at the very least, interesting and new each day.

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M: Anywho, we’re back. These are our Valentines Dates. Deke apparently has a habit of doing this in pictures, so don’t hold it against him.

J: Notice the chapati in Jocelyn’s hand, it’s filled with that delicious filet you saw.  Soo good.

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M: We were talking here about going to see the gorillas in North Rwanda, I think. Then Jocelyn and Justin started talking about the hippos they’ve seen and how I won’t go swimming in Lake Muhazi (the lake right outside our doorstep) because someone at Deke’s work said there used to be hippos there.

J: This is Jocelyn’s impression of a baby hippo.  And I’ll let you know how swimming in the lake is after tomorrow morning–I’m gonna wake up to work out and play basketball with the Bishop’s son, Sam, and his friends, tomorrow at 6 am.

J: Ugh, just read the above statement again! Who am I?  6 a.m.?

M: This is just a place for abnormalities for us, kiddo. Get used to it. I will be sleeping in and then watching “Ever After” so I’ll see you when you get back, my lovingest love.

J: Not so fast, we’ve still got a few more pictures and I haven’t eaten yet.

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J: I took this to show you Kigali at night.  There it is.

M: What a talented husband I’ve got! Ugh, your breath smells like a Jolly Rancher.

J: I’m drinking Rwanda’s President’s water company’s apple juice.  Still with me?  Okay, it’s essentially Green Apple concentrate flavor, water, and for kicks, some more sugar.  It’s pretty good. (And I didn’t want to mess with the settings on my camera so the picture below is somewhat fuzzy and pixelated, FYI.)

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J: They HATE Sherlock Holmes here!!! O_o

M: As mentioned previously, J likes to take artsy pictures of windows and doors. Another thing he has an affinity for is signs– like this one that forbids detectives or smoking or something, rusting away in the hall on the side of the Guest House where we live. It may or may not find its way into our bags when we depart.

J: Nothing to say about possible theft, I plead the fifth (does that work here?).  And the best part about this sign is that it’s leaning again a fence pretty much in the middle of nowhere on the compound.  It’s definitely in the least traveled area on the premises.

M: So they won’t miss it if it’s gone. No seriously, I’ll ask Alfred if we can have it when we leave. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.

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J: Whoa!  Just noticed that the bottom of the picture didn’t load!  Freakin goofy internet…it took me about 3 hours to load these damn pictures onto photobucket this afternoon.  Thankfully I had some Angry Birds and Plants beating up on Zombies to keep me company while I waited and Maggie read/took a siesta.

M: I dreamed I was still reading my book. While it was on my face and I was actually sleeping.

J: The best part of writing this is that Maggie and I sit silent the entire time…not talking, simply reading what the other has to write and awaiting a reply.  So you are a bunch of eavesdroppers…

M: Thank you for eavesdropping. Everyone has had such nice things to say about our ramblings; we really appreciate it. We are doing this to keep ourselves sane and like that it maintains a connection with our lives back home.

J: And we’re trying to get famous.  So we’re gonna start writing things about “Snooki” and “Jeremy Lin” and whomever else is “hot right now” so that we can get tons of hits…

J: Okay, that’s a lie, we don’t care.  In the words of Andy Bernard, “I said no hits!”

M: I would actually like to get famous.

J: On second thought, make my potatoes a salad.

M: Bless you for coming out in public.

J: Mazeltov.

 

Lots of love,

M & J

Theological Reflection 2: Eve was the first human.

16 Feb

(I apologize in advance if this is too pretentious or academic.  I’m supposed to do 5 of these for my final class in grad school and I just figured I’d share them.  If the first paragraph is too pretentious, please just skip it!)

I believe that to study anything about humanity well, ontology—the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being—is precisely where you need to begin; since ontology is the starting point of studying humanity, this alone must be the foundation of academia (i.e. Ontology must be the foundational tenet for studying humanity because being itself is the starting point of humanity.) The reason being: ontology has massive implications for academia and yet not a single field of study has actually addressed the importance of—or even the existence of—ontology as a foundation for approaching each respective subject. You’ll only discuss ontology if you’re into philosophy or if you’re reading Martin Heidegger. However, the problems caused by this lack of ontological exploration is magnified tenfold for Christians since their faith is rooted in the hope they have as children of God. Christians find their vocation in their identity, which ultimately is found in what it means to be human—more precisely, what it means to be human as God intended. If identity—both who we are and whose we are—begets vocation, and identity is rooted in ontology, then why has ontology lost its place as the foundation of what it means to be human for both Christians and academics?

As a Christian, I look to Genesis for ontological hints, not in an exact science—as if it actually matters whether or not the world is 6,000 or over 100 billion years old—but in a way that can help speak to questions of Christian identity. Christopher West says, “the creation stories were never meant to be scientific accounts of the origin of the world. Scientific knowledge is certainly valuable as far as it goes, but it can’t tell us the spiritual meaning of our existence.” Here are my thoughts on what we can glean from Genesis regarding the ‘meaning of our existence’:

Looking back at Creation, God created Adam and Eve in order to reflect divine communal nature. What prompts God to create Eve is Adam’s desire for community—a desire to fully image God. This is not to say that Adam dictated what God did, for God chose to create Eve, not out of Adam’s desire, but rather, as a result of seeing that Adam’s desire revealed an inability to fulfill his created purpose because he lacked community. Humanity was created in the image of God and thus our deepest desire is to reflect this, thus the reason for Adam’s dilemma; his deepest desire and purpose for existence was to live in community and yet he was unable to do so. Humanity was created with a desire to image God relationally, not in the sexual or physical, but also the ontological. The desire is to be in communion, not only with God, but also with something that is both similar and at the same time different. The Trinity is in fellowship with itself because God has the unique ability to be different and yet also remain of the same substance—different as God the Father is from Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Because while they are different persons, they are ontologically the same. God is one in the same (3 persons:1 nature) while Adam (1 person: 1 nature) was created to image God. Therefore, God does not need another being for this inter-relationship. Adam however, is not properly enabled to image God’s example because he only is (ratio wise) one person in one nature. This required God to create a creature that was similar to Adam in person and nature that was also creatively different. Thus, Eve was created. Adam realized that Eve made him fully human as he is able to—finally—properly image God. Eve does not have the same realization as Adam (at least not the very same one) because she never experienced isolation from a being that is different in nature but similar in being. This differs from Adam’s experience because he experienced God as being different both in nature and being. Eve, I would argue, was not only the pinnacle and perfection of creation but was also created fully human in that she was immediately human. What this means is that although Eve was created after Adam, she was immediately 100% human because she was able to image God both in the horizontal (her relation to the rest of Creation…especially to Adam) and the vertical (her relation to God). Eve, from her genesis, imaged God not only in her being but in her relationships. Adam existed outside of humanity, or as an incomplete human, prior to Eve’s creation. Adam’s uniqueness among all of good creation, pre-Eve, was so momentous that God declares “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18) and subsequently creates the first full human—yep, Eve was the first human. However, saying this is in no means to take away from Adam’s uniqueness because Adam is unlike any other human in that he was not perfect until Eve was created. Adam means “man” and Eve means “life,” thus Eve gives Adam life. Adam without Eve was, in a sense, partially lifeless. Perhaps this state of lifelessness is not to the point where Adam ceased to exist but, at the very least, the point at which he was not fully human—that is, he cannot fully or appropriately image God.

Understanding our identity in creation is utterly important for Christians because if we are to live into the Missio Dei then we must understand our identity and purpose. Understanding who we are in Christ must dictate how we live. Being a disciple of Christ has implications for how we body forth our existence—there is a Christian ethic that accompanies our identity; they are part and parcel.