Archive for May, 2009

Bad Pyrmont, Germany

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Evelyn Gossen and Simon Kolle, both from Bad Pyrmont, Germany, spent last year in central Ohio as exchange students. They lived with families from our church, went to school with my younger siblings, and became involved in my youth group. Before they returned home I (David) told them of my plans to be in Germany this spring, and told them I would try to visit them. They both seemed quite excited to have me visit their area of the world, and when I emailed Simon about the possibility of meeting up with them after our trip actually started, I quickly understood that they would do everything in their power to make our jaunt to Bad Pyrmont be as enjoyable as possible.

We had to overcome some travails in finding Simon’s house, but we arrived just in time to go to his youth group’s Bible study with him. We made him late, and as we were on our way, Simon’s sister Anna-Lena? Called to say everyone was waiting for us to arrive. We arrived at the church and introduced ourselves and tried to remember everyone’s names (without success). Before the Bible study we ate a meal of hamburgers (American-style as Simon called them). They were delicious and they kept bringing out more and more of them. They had cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, dried onions, ketchup, and “hamburger sauce” to dress up the burgers even more. I found it interesting that the hamburger sauce proclaimed itsself as being “American” and had a picture of the Statue of Liberty on it, but I have never seen any such sauce in the US.

After supper we started Bible study off with a time of worship. About half of the songs in their chorusbook were in English so we sang mainly English songs. They have a cajon, a wood box that you sit on and hit to make drum noises, and Simon insisted that I play it. (He remembered that I would always bring my djembe, an African hand drum, to Bible study back home.) After singing and a long period of sharing, Simon talked about David and Goliath. Evelyn translated the message for us to help us understand what was being said.

After Bible study the youth group decided they should take us up to the Spelunkerturm, a tower overlooking Bad Pyrmont and show us the lights of the city. It allowed us to further connect with the youth group and hear more about their lives and town in which they live. We learned that Bad Pyrmont is a popular retirement community because it has springs of natural mineral water that “is good for the blood.” We joked that their tower was much more impressive than the Eiffel Tower that we had just visited and that Bad Pyrmont is much more impressive to see than Paris. After getting down from the tower we drew manes out of a hat to determine which two of us would spend the night at Simon’s house and who would stay at Evelyn’s house. Dan Ziegler and I ended up at Simon’s while the others went to Evelyn’s. Evelyn’s father, Walter, told us that Simon’s father, Bernhard, had heard a noise from our car and suggested we check it out. We had been wanting to have a mechanic check out our car anyhow, so we agreed. Walter said he would call his mechanic in the morning and get it looked at.

We got up Friday morning and discovered that the shop that Walter planned on using was booked full. We discussed our options over a delicious breakfast prepared by Simon’s mom, Damaris. Matt and Dan Shenk showed up at 10:20 and we decided to try out some other mechanic shops. Bernhard and Damaris went with us and the third shop we tried was able to look at it right away. They informed us that our tires were illegal because they were too bald, which did not surprise us, but they were able to sell us used tires to help keep the cost down. We also got them to change the oil for us and replace the rear rotors, which were in really bad shape. They also suggested we replace the suspension because our car was “bouncing like a Citroen.” They did not like the fact that our finely-tuned piece of German engineering was preforming like a French car. We decided it wasn’t worth spending money on our car to keep it from bouncing (especially since they told us that it wasn’t compromising our safety). Bernhard was extremely helpful translator for us; without him it would have been much more difficult to understand what needed to be fixed with the car. We were relieved that nothing major was wrong with our car and thankful that our prayer in finding the right shop was answered. Our troubles were inexpensive to fix (we saved a bunch of money buying used tires, which most shops don’t sell), and having the car ready in only several hours.

We walked back to the Kolle’s house from the shop with Bernhard and he showed us some beautiful spots in Bad Pyrmont. He also took us by a natural spring of mineral water and we all got a drink. He told us that a company bottles Bad Pyrmon’s water and sells it throughout Germany for exhorbitant prices.

When we got back to the Kolle’s house, a large, delicious spaghetti meal was waiting for us. After lunch Dan Ziegler and I went with Bernhard to pick up the car. We also tried to buy some roof bars to properly attach our roof box, but they wanted €110 for them. We politely declined and moved on. We got back to the Kolle’s house and went inside. A few minutes later, Bernhard came into the house beaming and told us he found an old set of roof bars in his garage that don’t fit his new car, and we could have them. They fit our passat and we installed them right then and there. What an answer to prayer! Bernhard also gave us locks for the roof bars. He could still use them, but insisted we take them.

Then Simon, Evelyn, and Simon’s sister, Sarah-Lena took us to several castles, but we weren’t able to enter them for different reasons. Apparently someone lives in the one castle and didn’t want visitors, and the other had a special event. A classic rock cover band was playing and we heard them play several Beatles songs before they played “Hang on Sloopy.” It was odd hearing Ohio’s state rock song being played in Bad Pyrmont, Germany. Simon, Evelyn, and Sarah-Lena then treated us to some ice cream. We went to a specialty ice cream shop that makes their ice cream look like other foods, or covers them in fruit or sauces. I got a dish of vanilla, strawberry, and raspberry ice cream covered in blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Dan Ziegler got a dish similar to mine but had kiwis instead of mixed fruit. Dan Shenk got a cappuccino ice cream/drink mix, and matt got a dish of ice cream that looked like spaghetti. It all tasted absolutely fabulous.

We arrived back at the Kolle’s house with full stomachs, but found a small supper waiting for us. After supper we prayed together as a large group and took some pictures before finally leaving for Denmark. We got off later than planned, but we all agreed that Bad Pyrmont was one of the top highlights of the trip so far. We are finding that our most enjoyable experiences come when we are interacting with others.

We were greatly humbled by the generosity that was lavished upon us. Bernhard mentioned that we need to take care of other Christians, and he took this principal to heart. They gave us wonderful food and comfortable beds, but helped us get our car fixed, gave us roof bars and locks, payed for our ice cream and a car wash, and went out of their way to help us out in whatever way they could. It was a great reminder of how we need to act and help others whenever we have the opportunity.

david miller

The Lowlands

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Between the two fields, we awoke Wednesday morning (19/5) had some Harvest Morn bars and packed up our stuff. David had slept outside the night before so his sleeping bag was a bit damp, but it was a bright morning and we soon had everything dried out. So, we started north toward Brussels.

The Belgian countryside is quite nice, but rather unremarkable. Rolling hills and fields, lots of agriculture, and small farming towns. Politically, the country is a bit divided, but not violently so. The conflict centers around Belgium’s relationship with their neighbors. With French and Walloon (a French dialect) spoken in the south and Flemish (a Dutch dialect) in the north, there is sometimes a pull by the French-speaking areas to tighten their relationship with France. A few years ago, a francophilic member of government accidentally sang the French national anthem instead of the Belgian national anthem in front of the press and caused an uproar.

Belgium is also the seat of government for the EU which has its quite impressive and modern headquarters in Brussels. We parked in Brussels near the center of town and visited the main market square, surrounded by beautiful, tall buildings, and visited Manneken Pis, a small, eternally urinating statue. We then sauntered through town past the national library, the palace and the surrounding park and arrived at EU headquarters. The headquarters complex is a feat of modern engineering. Not as ostentatious as, say, the Scottish Parliament building, but impressive nonetheless. In the first courtyard, the four surrounding buildings are connected by a raised, circular walkway. In that courtyard is the main entrance and also an information center. We explored the outside of the building then headed back to the center of town where we had seen a waffle shop.

Belgian waffles are an experience unlike any other. The mass-produced Eggo contrivances pale to cardboard in comparison with real, hand-made Belgian waffles drizzled with chocolate or strawberry or piled high with whipped-cream or fruit. One by one we went up to the little window and ordered our treats. Mine with chocolate; Matt’s with kiwi, strawberry, and banana slices; David’s with strawberries; and Dan had two: one powdered sugar and one chocolate. After his first, Dan exclaimed “I will never look at waffles the same” and promptly bought another.

Dan and I had recently read an “historical” article in our favorite satirical newspaper (The Onion) about how Belgians had halted World War II German advances by serving the attacking forces waffles until they could attack no more. We were certainly fully satiated by these delicious morsels, partly because our appetites have shrunk from not feeding ourselves as often or as much as we had at home, but also because Belgian waffles are rightfully famous.

Anyway, after our confection break we piled back into our mud-covered, semi-stunning Passat and headed toward Amsterdam by way of Antwerpen. We didn’t have a lot of time so we just stopped to send and receive some emails and Matt and I each ordered a half-pint of famous Belgian beer each. Matt did not enjoy the taste of his, but did appreciate the experience. I, however, had ordered one brewed by the Belgian Trappist Monks of Grimbergen since 1128 and enjoyed it quite a bit.

At that point David got an email inviting us to join the youth group at in Bad Pyrmont for hamburgers “American Style”. That event, however, was to take place on Thursday evening at 17:00 and we hadn’t planned on being in Bad Pyrmont until Wednesday so, we had to book it. We left that afternoon and got into Amsterdam early that evening.

Amsterdam is a city with the feel of a small town. We pulled in the day before a national holiday (although we didn’t know it at the time) and the streets at 22:30 were full of families on bikes, couples walking hand-in-hand along the canals, and groups of friends relaxing at outdoor cafés. There were a few street performers out, and hundreds and hundreds of bicycles. We saw the Anne Frank house, the national museum, the Hotel America, and generally took in the feel of the town. We left late that night and went north along the Noord-Holland peninsula toward Friesland. We camped that evening at a parking spot just off the road.

The next day we spent the day driving through northern and eastern Netherlands seeing the dikes, windmills (most of which were modern wind generators, but there were a few old-style mixed in). We stopped at a small town called Oldeberkoop (founded in 1105), visited the local church (built in 1125), saw a county fair, and watched some handball games at a sports camp. Then, we were on our way again. We passed into Germany an hour or so later driving straight to Münster.

Münster is the city where, during the Anabaptist reformation, several Anabaptists set up a small kingdom, took biblical names and proclaimed themselves prophets. They then proceeded to rule with impunity from biblical laws killing people who rejected their claims and, when the city was besieged, led the men in a brutal fight. This led to a shortage of men and polygamy broke out. All in all a bad situation, and really not very good for Anabaptists or Christian witness. In the end, when the besieging army finally broke through, the bodies of the three leaders were hung in cages from the tower of the town church and the cages remain to this day. A rather gruesome history, but a nice city.

From Münster we went northwest toward Bad Pyrmont and, after being thrown off our route by construction twice, we eventually made it into town and, using a stray wifi signal eventually worked out where David’s friends lived and made it there at about 17:45, just 45 minutes late.

Daniel Z

Mountains and Soccer

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

I suppose it’s because I’m the youngest and most harmless looking of the group, but I (Matt) am often the one sent to ask locals for directions. The claim of harmlessness may be questioned but let’s be perfectly honest, I stand 5′6″ and weighed only 139 pounds before the trip. Also, I can grow nothing more than peach fuzz. I even struggle with pronunciations. Needless-to-say, these limited interactions make interesting stories. On the British Isles, at least I could be understood. Admittedly, I asked one Irish man to repeat his directions three times before I understood his thick accent. I have spoken with several people on the mainland who understood only limited English and it’s always a strange dance. My first experience of this was with the young illustrator in Pontoise, France (see my Paris blog). We both experienced the awkward pauses as we tried to remember the right English words to express ourselves. Several times we understood each other before we found those words. I have no excuse; English is my first language but I still struggle to guess which words foreigners will understand. The same phenomenon occurred with the youth group in Bad Pyrmont, Germany. I’m learning how much I can pick up through inflection and body language. It’s such a wonderful experience to share the train of thought with someone so that you know what they mean to say before the say it.

When asking for directions, I generally encounter people with even less knowledge of English. We followed one man in his car about 7 km in Norway after I he had spoken only one word of English to me. I had asked for directions at a roadside restaurant and one man had understood my question for the nearest train station. “Friend going to Halden.” The men exchanged some words and then the latter pointed to his car then to me. “Follow.” Just yesterday we followed another man while looking for the highest point in Estonia. When I couldn’t make myself understood to a local, he pointed one direction and said, “Latvia.” I shook my head. “Rouge [Estonia],” pointing the opposite direction. I nodded emphatically. “Son. English,” he said and motioned us to follow him. We drove into Rouge but never did find this “Son.” I found a grocery store manager who only knew Estonian and one English word, mountain. I am still not sure how she knew what I meant when, in searching for a way to convey our intentions of seeing the highest point in Estonia, I tried the word. There are positively no mountains in Estonia. The highest point we found was 296 meters above sea level. In any case, she ended up outside the grocery store , kneeling beside me and tracing the roads we should follow in the dirt. Apparently, finding the “mountain” meant a few turns and the rightmost road when one branched into three.

Friday afternoon in Stockholm, I tired of waiting for the guys to return for exploring the town so I walked over to a nearby school and approached one of the adults monitoring the recess yard. “American, can I join?” pointing to the dozen or so boys playing soccer. He hadn’t heard me correctly and somehow asked thought I was from Barcelona. I almost played along since their soccer team had won the Champions League final the night before. I expressed regret that I couldn’t speak Swedish and the man laughed. “That’s okay, football is international.” I had a blast madly running around with the boys and met Gabriel and Carlos, two boys on the Cubs, the team that drafted my services. We made an impressive combo; we held the other team scoreless and I served up an assist to Carlos who placed the ball in the net with a smart flick of his Crocs. High-fives all around. We hit it off and they ran inside after the end of recess yelling behind them, “You awesome!” “No, no,” I grinned, “You!” Some things need very little shared language to be communicated.


Versailles to Belgium

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Versailles to Belgium
Tuesday morning (18/5) dawned clear and dry and we awoke in our little campsite between the field and the golf course outside of Pontoise, France. After a breakfast of delicious (if slightly browned) Scott’s porridge with honey, we packed up and hopped in the car. “To Versailles!” we cried and promptly got stuck in some mud. A few minutes later we were on our way, but our jet black Passat was not quite as stunning as it had been, nor as black.

Versailles Palace, just outside the town of Versailles (which is a suburb of Paris these days but used to be outside of the city). The palace was originally built during the reign of Louis XIV, who was called the “Sun King” and king during the apex of French continental power. Apparently, however, he was a rather warlike fellow who preferred fighting to friendship and ended up almost bankrupting the kingdom through constant warfare. His residence at Versailles was built around his father’s (Louis XIII) garden chateau, which he expanded greatly in the highly ornate classical style that was popular during his reign.

The most obvious example of the highly ornate style is the pair of gigantic, gold-painted gates which stand at the entrance to the inner courtyard of the palace. The palace sits facing a gigantic parade grounds (now filled with cars and busses full of German, Spanish, and British tourists and middle school students). Behind the palace are the expansive gardens, at least a square mile in size, which contain smaller houses for many of the kings courtiers, mistresses, and family members.

We parked in the parade grounds (which cost several euros and hour to park in) and ate a delicious lunch of baguette, salami-like sausage tomato, and Laughing Cow cheese sandwiches. Then we headed into the palace after purchasing our tickets (they cost around €13, quite expensive, and didn’t even include admission to the gardens although Matt managed to walk around them without paying admission) we went into the palace. I personally found the palace gaudy, but nonetheless impressive. The apartments of the royal family were filled with family portraits and artwork. Almost every inch of the walls were covered with tapestries, paintings, carvings or other ornamentation. Most impressive to me was the hall of mirrors, at one point a state reception hall with tall windows along one side and tall mirrors along the other. The effect produced fills the room with light.

Versailles was worth the visit—despite the price–for the history alone. It was occupied by several generations of French royalty including the infamous Louis XVI and his equally as infamous wife, Marie Antoinette. It was easy to see while walking the halls of their home why they were perceived as being out of touch with the common people. It’s hard to notice the plight of the commoners when your busy posing for a 10-foot-high portrait or choosing the newest gold-plated silverware for your collection. Today the palace is used by the democratic government of France as the reception hall for events of state, particularly when hosting important international events.

By the end of several hours and after seeing hundreds of portraits and thousands of square feet of decorated walls we were about ready to go. Dan and Matt—Matt because he was exploring the gardens, and Dan because he’s a history major—took a bit longer so David and I waited in the car writing blog posts and catching up in our journals (oddly enough when I opened my computer we had an internet connection right there in the middle of the Versailles parade grounds). After waiting a bit and just before the start of another hour of parking David and I took off to circle the block and save a few euros, and just as we were coming back around for our first pass we saw a bewildered looking Dan and Matt standing where we had been parked, so we picked them up and headed northeast. They forgave us for the annoyance of not knowing where the car was when we explained that we had saved them several euros.

We skirted Paris and headed north in the direction of Lille (where I once spent a few hours waiting for a train) and Belgium. We stopped only twice, once to fill up on water and use the toilet and, just before we were on our way, we were surprised when we spotted a small abyssinian guinea pig peeking it’s nose out of the bushes next to the parking lot! The other time we stopped was to get a picture with the sign welcoming us to Belgium. It was pretty difficult to find a place to camp in Belgium, it’s a nation with some beautiful countryside, but it’s also pretty heavily populated countryside. We did eventually, rather late in the evening, find a place to set up camp in the fallow land between two fields. As we drove off the farm track to camp, several rabbits scampered across the field, startling me a bit. Dan, Matt and I slept in the car and David slept on a tarp outside and, after a meal of some stew with canned ham, we nodded off.

Daniel Z

Paris: Comprenez-vous?

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Sunday morning (17th of May) served as another major step in our adventure: the language barrier. After breakfast, we arrived in Pontoise with full intentions of parking and taking public transportation into Paris. Even the former was a new challenge; our understanding of French parking signs was far from perfect. The qualifications above our parking sport contained an ambiguous French word, sauf. Ziegler successfully defined the word’s meaning as either “except” or “death.” Parking there meant either that we should pay-and-display except on Sundays or that we would be killed on Sunday. I (Matt) instinctively hoped to avoid both fines and death, if possible. Transportation inspired more trepidation. We studied the train and bus station’s maps and ticket machine for such recognizable terms as cul-de-sac, soup de jour, rendezvous, or laissez-faire. After seeing our few minutes of failure, a timid young woman approached us and asked in halting English if we needed help. Oui. She generally explained how to purchase tickets on the RER train into Paris. As she led us to the correct terminal, she informed me that she was studying to be an illustrator. Still very cautiously speaking with limited English, she brightened when I told her of my graphic design minor. We thanked her profusely and I boarded the train with the broader awareness of the extent of our adventure. We were suddenly very foreign and very alone in a country that spoke very little of our mother tongue.

Upon leaving our final stop we chased the first recognizable structure, the Eiffel Tower. We circled beneath the monument and asked a random tourist to take the clique picture of us with the monument. The young man turned out to be a missionary kid from Utah, the first person we had met who spoke English comfortably. We moved on toward the Arc de Triomphe. It was a long walk past numerous buildings with illegible signage. We arrived at the famous arch during a curious lull in traffic and ascended to the top. Paris is quite the lovely city and the Arc serves as a hub for its numerous boulevards. We enjoyed the view and I, surprisingly, took several pictures before we purposed to walk along one such boulevard. First, we had to cross the roundabout encircling the Arc with its increased traffic. David informed us that the circle was the only place in France where fault was not defined in auto accident insurance claims. Instead, all involved drivers split the responsibility to avoid conflict. We decided to test this approach by making a mad dash across numerous lanes of traffic to the sidewalk. David had a showdown with a Mercedes-Benz and apparently some cops yelled at Shenk from a Police van. Still alive, we continued down the Champs Elysses boulevard to the impressive glass pyramids of the Louvre and then across the city to the even more impressive Notre Dame cathedral. Our hunger prompted a splurge on the exotic-sounding dish on a McDonalds menu, the Croque McDo. The woman behind the counter handed us a ham and cheese sandwich. Finding a train station, we returned to our camping spot for soup and sleep.

By the light of Monday morning, Dan discovered we were parked on one side of a stand of trees from a golf course; too bad we had forgotten our clubs. We drove back into Pontoise, bought some groceries (including croissants and Laughing Cow cheese), and parked the car at the station. We rode to the Louvre and ate a late lunch of our purchases before splitting up in the art museum. I could have spent two weeks in that building. Instead, we rationed our time in the three and a half hours until it closed at 5. I felt immensely torn between seeing as many works of art as possible and allowing enough time at specific works to appreciate them. As such, I had to continually remind myself that what I saw was not merely the subjects of my studies over many years but actually the pieces of art touched by the very artistic masters themselves. Da Vinci himself touched the Mona Lisa and The Virgin of the Rocks. Delacroix touched Liberty Leading the People and not Coldplay. Some master sculpture chiseled Venus de Milo over two thousand years ago. Hundreds of brilliant artists had touched the art in the museum and made each uniquely beautiful. I emerged and met the guys at five, all of us slightly dazed. We walked across the river to Notre Dame but found it closed. On a brighter note, I finally made good on my aim to kick a pigeon and it helped me relieve some of the disappointment in missing the cathedral’s interior. The four of us began the journey alongside the Rive Seine and I tried in vain to ask where we could procure bagets, thin loaves of bread. I really fail at foreign languages and our French phrase book helped very little. To tide us over until dusk, we had some Expresso coffee and a croissant at a little restaurant. At the Eiffel Tower a little after nine, we discovered we were unable to climb the steps to the first platform at night as we had orignially planned, to save 3 Euro a person. I could have kicked another pigeon but we still took the trams up. Paris is even more lovely at night and from its highest point. We did the touristy thing and took lots of pictures. On the way down I realized I, the only single guy on this trip, had just passed up the most ideal opportunity to kiss a random girl. How could a single young woman refuse me a kiss at the top of the most iconic and romantic places in the City of Love? I even considered how long it had been since my last shower but I doubted it was much longer than for any true French young woman. On another note, we didn’t see any all red pickpockets like on the tower’s cautionary signs. Shenk, in his red lumberjack coat, was similar but thankfully kept his hand out of others’ purses.

By the time we returned to earth, it was after 11 and we had missed the last Pontoise-bound train from the nearest station. The feeling of being alone and foreign returned as four young men set out to either return to the car or find a place to sleep for the night. We trained to the central station and happily discovered the last train of the night to our destination would leave in 17 minutes. Naturally our debit card refused to cooperate in the ticket machine and anxieties began to rise. We tried to explain our situation to an employee and thought he explained that because of our predicament, we could just get on the train without a ticket. We hurried aboard. In our second encounter with the law, six police officers followed us onto the train and demanded tickets. Pale, we explained our position but the tense situation seemed rapidly leading toward us sleeping on benches in that station for the night. As exciting as that would have been, we were relieved when the head officer finally relented and we barely left on the last train to our car for free. Truly an exciting beginning in the foreign language step on this exciting journey.


On Food

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

When we were making the budget for the trip, we decided that we would aim for €10 a day for food. We thought it might be a bit ambitious, but we figured we would try it. After all, the more we saved on food, the more we could spend on experiences like the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the London Underground, Stonehenge, Norway, etc. It started on our first day with our ramen noodle hobo meal in the Dublin ferry terminal. Then when we were in Cannock we went to Aldi and we’ve been on a roll since then. Our first meal was rather bland. American cheese, white bread, and extremely cheap meat. Then after a day or two we realized we were way under budget so we bought some mustard and it’s been uphill ever since.

These days we’ve been living high on the hog. Scotts Porridge with raisins, apples, and sugar every few mornings; Real meat, cheese, and vegetables in our lunchtime sandwiches; and soups, stews and pasta dishes for suppers; have become commonplace, though certainly not unappreciated. Another thing we’ve been able to do has been experience more of the local flavors of the nations we’ve visited by spending a bit more to get something locally produced instead of mass produced and imported. These local delicacies have included: shepherds pie and Irish stew in Ireland; lamb roast and fish and chips in the UK; baguettes and Laughing Cow cheese in France; waffles and beer in Belgium; Apfelschorle and local ice-cream in Germany; and knäkebrödsskolan and swedish meatballs in Sweden.

I brought along a little camp stove and camp fuel so we’ve been able to buy foods that need a bit of cooking. Our facilities (and abilities) are limited, but stews, rice, couscous, porridge, and hot chocolate add a nice variety whenever we have time to set up the stove. One really amazing experience happened a few days ago. We had decided that the small camping pot we had was really a bit too small for four hungry guys, so we went into a Swedish grocery store to see what we could see and, lo and behold, there on the bottom shelf underneath a number of largeish pots for 139 krona was a largeish pot without a handle. “Well,” I said to David, “I wonder if we can get some money off for that.” So, we went and asked the manager and, after a bit of discussion in Swedish and broken English, he said we could have it for 100 krona! What a glorious day! Ok… so… not as exciting, perhaps, for normal people, but I hope you will exult with us. That pot has been wonderful and has allowed us such delicacies as fusilli with spaghetti sauce; pasta, potato, and tomato stew; and, best of all, popcorn.

At the moment, we have a variety of condiments (in a variety of languages), some snacks and fruit, some vegetables and soups, and rice, couscous, and pasta. When I first told people that we were aiming for €10 a day, some people doubted us but we’ve proven it can be done, it just takes a bit of willingness to experiment and learn how to cook, especially for 4 bachelors.

Daniel Z

London to Paris (With Canturbury Between)

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

We left London around 5:30, pulling ourselves painfully away from the sumptuous going away snack Erlis had prepared for us. Our plans to cross the Channel through the Chunnel were scraped when we found ferry tickets out of Dover for almost £100 less. The catch was that the ferry left at 7:00 AM. We drove towards the white cliffs, aiming to pass through Canterbury on our way. To get ourselves in the mood, we had David read a few selections from Canterbury Tales. We arrived before the sun set, and began searching for a way to get to the cathedral. After retracing the same roads several times with no success and with no apparent means of driving any closer, we determined to walk. Our extensive driving did show, to our surprise, that Canterbury is quite a college town, and that everyone was out partying this Saturday evening.

We finally found free parking and walked towards the cathedral’s spires where they poked above the roof tops. Along the way, Dan, Matt and I picked up the fish & chips that had proved so elusive during our last night in London. David preferred not to spend his money on fish, and had to watch as we devoured our cultural experience. The chips (Fries) were quite delicious, though our decision to get rock instead of cod resulted in a more fishy (Though tolerable) taste than we would have preferred. We enjoyed talking to the Turkish employees at the fish & chips shop. The manager had immigrated seven years ago, while the cashier had lived in the UK for only eleven months.

The cashier proved the most talkative, explaining racial issues involved in being a Turkish immigrant and pointing to an emphatic sign that declared, “No racism in this restaurant!” He worked 11 hour days, six days a week, yet had scarcely enough to get by between £500 a month for rent, and what he sent back to his family in Turkey. He confessed that he was considering moving back home, finding many aspects of being an immigrant in the UK to be too much.

After the enjoyable interlude at the restaurant, we continued our quest for the elusive cathedral. It remained out of reach, the towers still taunting us. The problem was that the walls that had surrounded medieval Canterbury are extant, for the most part, and the cathedral was inside them, behind gates that were closed for the night. Matt asked some students at an open air diner what the best way was to sneak in. They told him they had no idea, and that it would make more sense break into a bank than a cathedral, because we would get some money out of it. Another prime specimen of British wit piped up with a warning that Canterbury Cathedral is guarded by ninjas who would swoop down upon us if we tried anything.

We ignored his warning, exploring the possibility of scaling several fences, but all was for naught. We finally approached a security guard and asked if we could get in, just to take some pictures. The guard explained that the walls now held a boarding school for rich Brits, and he couldn’t let us in. We asked him about his job, and he spoke with very little affection for his pampered charges. He was extremely nice (In a gruff way), and gave us directions to a high spot where we could take pictures of the cathedral. We followed his directions and our own instincts to a hill where the old town stretched out, twinkling in the night, beneath us, with the elusive cathedral finally in full view. We began taking pictures, but the cathedral get the last laugh after all, switching off its illuminating lights midway through. We decided we had experienced all we wanted of Canterbury and headed for Dover.

We arrived after midnight, driving into the port immediately. We had to present our passports at the entrance, and noticed right hand drive cars, both reminding us that we were entering new territory. I was very excited to be going to the mainland, especially France. It seemed so exotic and different compared to boring old, english speaking Britain. We boarded the ferry around 6:00AM. It had signs in both French and English, and French outlets. I stayed up long enough to watch as we sailed into the Channel, watching as the white cliffs of Dover slid back and away.
In less than three hours, we were in France. I had the distinct sense of being in a completely new and strange place, where language and values and culture were in many ways quite different from my own. Our first goal was to fill the car, but we had problems distinguishing between gasoline and diesel in French. We finally found “diesel,” in our phrase book and at a station. With a full tank, we headed to Pontiose, a northwest suburb of Paris, intending to train into the city instead of attempting to brave Parisian traffic and paying an exorbitant fee to park nearer the downtown. The French lady behind the information counter was very nice. She broke with the French stereotype from the start, listening patiently to Dan’s attempts to speak french, instead of acting offended that he dare even try, and helping us choose the best way to get into Paris and back. It was with great anticipation that we left Pontiose behind, the train sweeping us towards one of Europe’s greatest cities and the next step in our trek. It is a blessing to be part of a trip that lets you see two of the world’s greatest cities within twenty-four hours of each other. Keep us in your prayers as we journey on.

Daniel Shenk