Sunday, September 30, 2007

It all balances out. *Updated*

Lest any of you got on board with my outrage over my vacuum this morning, I figured that I should make another post in fairness to my sister.

Today, I'm overwhelmed. I have too much homework and my house is too messy. On top of it, I got my nails done and I think they belong on the cover of "Trailer Trash Digest." What happenned to the calm, peaceful and classy life I vision?** Today, it is just not to be.

Anyway, I stopped studying long enough to realize that I'm very hungry. So, I went up the stairs to see if Jamie had anything good made (she does "home-cooking" - things like pot roast and chicken 'n dumplings and ribs, etc.). She didn't have anything like that made, but is up there as I type sauteing Pad Thai for me.

So, while I'm irritated at times living one floor below my sister and her kids, it usually evens out.

**Since writing the above, my friends Kris and Anjali have reminded me that I am going through a cultural adjustment being home - and being slammed with starting school, a weather change, re-adjusting to parenting a teenager, etc., all at the same time. I have to remember to cut myself some slack.

It makes you wonder.

I was sitting in my living room studying when my kitty Lucy woke up from her nap. She's been sleeping for hours so she'll be refreshed and awake later when she will keep me awake late into the night with demands for affection.

Anyway, Lucy wanders over, but I'm trying to pay attention to Evidence. She climbs up on the little table I have between my living room chairs and preceeds to dip her paw into my water glass and taste it. She isn't sure she likes it, so she tests it a few more times. Then, she moves to the water glass that Marlo left out from this morning and dips her paw in that one too. This time, she swirls her paw around the glass before tasting - much as you swish wine in a glass to release the flavor.

Let me just say.....EEEEEWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!! These are the same paws she climbs in and out of the litter box with.

It makes me wonder how many times she has done this that I have never seen.

Maybe better than chocolate.

In Italy, I bought a stovetop espresso maker - a Moka Express by Bialetti. See: This pot makes some of the best coffee I have ever tasted (helped, of course, by the fact that I brought back some packages of coffee as well). I posted a stock photo here, but my pot is a pretty blue enamel.

I just made myself a little pot after writing my irritated post about the state of my vacuum and by the second sip was in my contented little place. Add a little milk and some sugar and this coffee seriously vies with dark choclolate as an example of pure bliss.

I bought my pot from this nice elderly lady who had a small shop on the Corso Vittoro Emanuel in Rome. She spoke absolutely no English. This is the moment where it sunk in that I knew more Italian than I thought. I was able to communicate (augmented by various gestures) that I wanted a blue, middle-sized pot. She told me how to care for it (never wash it with soap, just rinse it with water. No machine washing). She also told me how to use milk to make a cafe latte if I wanted. We also chatted for a while about how long I was in Rome (a month), why (studying), what (law) and that I was going to return in two years with my sixteen year old daughter. It was good to be able to have an entire conversation in Italian.

The other thing I thought was fantastic is that she'd package up the item and I'd say, "Grazie." and she'd reply "Grazie Lei." Then, she told me the amount and I gave her my money and said, "Grazie." She replied, "Grazie Lei." Then when she gave me my change, I said, "Grazie." She replied, "Grazie Lei." I finally realized that we were going to continue to say "Thank you" back and forth without cessation unless I bid her goodbye and went on my way. It was fun. I hope she's still there when I go back.

Mastering Difficult Concepts

You go through life learning new things all the time. How to talk, walk, make friends, eventually how to drive, etc. Some concepts are more difficult than others to master. For example, learning how to communicate with the opposite sex is necessarily more difficult than sorting laundry (although if I could sort men into three neat piles and treat each accordingly, it would be a lot easier. lol.).

For some reason, my sister and/or her children have never figured out that you need to change the bag on the vacuum cleaner occasionally. When I decided to return to school, I moved into a mother-in-law apartment in my family home. My sister lives upstairs with her three kids. From the moment I moved in, they have been harboring the mistaken belief that my vacuum is community property. My sister's excuse is that "her vacuum is broken and she's just borrowing mine." Since 2003, it has been on the fritz more than it has been working.

Now, am I so petty that I would actually care if someone uses my vacuum? No, not if it was taken care of. Yesterday evening, I grabbed my vacuum to clean the carpet for the first time since I have been home. I checked the bag beforehand (from long experience knowing that the bag was likely to be too full). Not only was it too full, it was overflowing.

This is really simple. Occasionally, one must check to see if the bag is overly full with the dirt you have been vacuuming up. They even make it handy and draw a little line on the bag itself to tell you where the "full" line is. The "full" line is actually about halfway down the bag, probably because air needs to be able to circulate through the bag. The bag is not meant to be full all the way up to the top, with dirt spilling out of it.

One would hope that this lesson would be easy to learn so that my sister and her kids could move on to more difficult concepts - like how to sort laundry.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The new 'do *Updated*

I'm sure this one will be as much of a shock to my friends as it is to me. When I went to get my hair done on Saturday with Henry, we found that the ends of my hair were damaged beyond repair. I told Henry I'd rather have shorter healthy hair than long fried hair.

The surprise was that so much had to be cut off. So, now instead of describing myself as having long, curly medium-brown hair like Julia Roberts, I have medium length, darker-brown hair and need to find a new actress to use for clarification.**

Of course, I plan on growing my hair long again. The verdict is still out as to whether I like it darker or not.

**My friend Karol said it is like Nia Vardalos during her "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" phase.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I'm not getting anything done....

School starts tomorrow. I have reading I'm supposed to do. I need to get organized. I need to figure out what I am going to wear tomorrow. Do I have shoes? However, I'm not getting anything done. Why? Because a 38 year old woman's body is not meant to stay up until what it thinks is 4:00 a.m. several days in a row.

I am fighting jet lag, which everyone says is supposed to be easier when you travel west than when you travel east. However, I'm not so sure. I am a zombie right now, except when hostility kicks in.

I just whacked my sister's cat for walking on the dining room table. I'm not surprised that I whacked it, after all, it should know better. But I was surprised by the hostility I felt - like this cat was flaunting my personal authority by walking on the table in my sight. I'm pretty sure the cat just wanted to walk on the table and didn't mean it as a personal affront to me.

Plus, this just seems harder when I think that I have to get Marlo from work in about 45 minutes and take her out to dinner (I promised her sushi). Then, I have class tomorrow and a meeting of the Steering Committee for the Center for Human Rights and Justice in the early evening (when I'd rather be on my way home). What makes all that really sucky is not that I have to do it, but rather that I have to maintain some semblence of cheerfulness in the process.

I just want to curl up on the couch with a nice soft blanket and pillow and not move for the next three days. I had no idea that exhaustion could be physically painful.

My teeth are chattering....

Rome was hot. It wasn't just hot - it was hotter-than-the-hubs-of-hell hot. Of course, there was no air conditioning and no ice (both energy suckers by European standards - there are also no clothes dryers in Italy, which is fine because in that heat, things are dry within hours).

I'm back from Rome now and, if the Seattle weather itself is not enough of a shock to me, my sister Kelly is running her air conditioner. So, I'm sitting here typing in my nightgown, with the addition of thick socks and my brother-in-law's flannel shirt.

Kelly comes back into the house last night around 10:00, and asks, "Is it really hot in here?" I said - very clearly - "No, you are just crazy." Apparently she didn't believe me because she cranked the air-conditioner extra low.

I appreciate her letting me stay here while my apartment is flea-bombed (thanks Jamie for handling that), but I'll be happy to sleep in my own bed tonight and to be able to regulate the temperature inside with some relationship to the reality of what is happening outside.

Damn! Feet are ugly!

It is 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Why then, you ask, am I typing a blog post at this ungodly hour? Well, because it is 1:00 p.m. in Rome - and here is the thing I never knew before - if you effectivley sleep all morning long, you lose your desire to nap. Shocking! I'm 38 years old and I finally figured out how to cure my cat-like nap addiction. Unfortuntely, the cure requires eight hours of sleep from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You'll wake up hungry, but rested. The late (or early, depending on your perspective) hour also accounts for the long, rambling and sarcastic nature of this post.

As planned my airplane landed in Seattle around 2:20 p.m. With governmental-like efficiency, we were herded like sheep through an initial line where they checked passports/greencards/visas, etc. Apparently, this is an all-important step where the U.S. Government feels the need to scrutinize your right to be on U.S. soil without the distraction of wondering whether you are bringing illegal goods onto said precious soil.

Then, we went down an escalator to an area with baggage-claim carousels where we waited an eternity for our bags to travel the 500 feet from the gate to the customs area. All during this time, there were customs agents walking around the crowd and hassling anyone who looked remotely foreign. There were two flights arriving at that time, ours from Amsterdam (where we all must be bringing in our personal stash of marijuana and mushrooms) and China (where exotic animal importation is a problem, according to a sign prominently displayed above the carousel). I, of course, desperately had to pee and spent my time contemplating whether my bladder could outlast the U.S. government.

Finally, the bags arrive. Oh yay! One of the first bags is a navy blue Kirkland brand carry-on from Costco! How did it happen that I got so lucky to be one of the first bags! Yippeee!

NOT - true to form, I check the ID tag becuase I am a compulsive rule-follower and that is one of the rules, "check the ID tag because many bags look alike." No kidding, and apparently are stuffed full in similar fashion by women. It is not my bag. I heft it back onto the carousel, while plenty of men stand by watching and looking delicate - maybe they didn't want to break a finger nail by helping.

Finally, bag arrives. Heft off carousel, check tag, see my business card, yay me for real this time. Good news is that although very uncomfortable, I'm still overcoming need to pee. This must be what the last 500 feet of a marathon are like. Of course, the race isn't really over because there is a second U.S. government line to get it. This one, they make sure that you aren't bringing in anything dangerous and that Uncle Sam gets his cut. It would be more authentic if they had a few mafia thugs staring you down while you stood in line.

Yeah, no kidding, unpasturized Camembert that can only sicken the consumer is dangerous? (See: If Rules Change, Will Camembert Stay the Same?) I can't kill myself eating something perfectly sublime and be killed by a natural substence, but I can walk out into the terminal and purchase a giant soda where the phosphorus will leach calcium from my bones, the sugar will give me diabetes and require my feet to be amputated, and the other chemicals will give me cancer where I'll have to undergo long and painful treatment. However, I suppose that all that medical treatment requires spending money in the market economy. So, no Camemberts, even though the French people have the highest life-expectancy in the world.

I go through this second line, where a U.S. goverment employee is aparently trained enough to make sure I'm not bringing in the wrong thing or that I don't owe Uncle Sam a dime, but isn't trained enough to run my passport through a scanner and look at my picture to see that I am in fact the owner of said passport. Actually, I suspect that they test all government employees to make sure that they have a defective multi-tasking gene. (This is the part where my father usually makes a comment about how we need less government, and I counter by saying we need better government. Quite frankly, if our goverment was filled with people like my hyper-efficient sister Kelly, sh*t would be getting done!)

After exiting line confirming that it is permissible to bring in coffee, honey, canned tuna (yes, it really is that good and different in Italy) and so many leather handbags that I had to leave clothing behind, the non-English speaking government employees (thereby precluding the possibility of discussion or argument) force me to give them my bag yet again for transport to Baggage Claim 1. Even though I have been through two governmental checks, according to the U.S. government, I still am not competent to wheel my own bag through the terminal. However, in keeping with all governmental logic, if I hadn't checked my carry-on-sized suitcase, I would be considered competent to wheel my own bag out of the terminal. Apparently, that trip down the first escalator was a test of our competence.

Anyway, once I exit customs and take the train to the main terminal, my bag-wheeling competence is magiclly restored. I collect my bag *again* and my friend Melanie picks me up. We stop by to drop off my bags and so I can hug Marlo before she leaves for the evening with her dad. Marlo hadn't seen her dad all summer as well, so even though this was my first evening back, I didn't want to demand precedence. They did invite me to go out with them though. Unforunately, I had other things I had to do. Melanie and I headed off to the University Bookstore to spend $579 on textbooks. I wanted to go right after landing because it'll be crazier at the bookstore this weekend and early next week - and if I'm going to spend that kind of money in the unavoidable textbook racket, I don't want to do it in a crowd. Here's what I'd really like to know, though. We spend billions of dollars tracking down druglords or pursuing Microsoft, but no one is bothered by the fact that students pay billions of dollars per year on producs that line their own professor's pockets or the pockets of their friends? Textbooks that are supposedly "updated" nearly every year, but could just as easily be updated with a "pocket part"? ("Pocket part" supplements— stapled paper updates literally stuck in a cover pocket of the hardcover volumes.) Forget going after Microsoft for anti-trust violations, someone should investigate textbook publishers.

All in all though, the trip was made fun by being able to gossip non-stop with my friend. It was a much-needed girlfriend fix! After that, I returned to the house and yapped with my sister Kelly while I waited for Marlo's dad to bring her back home. Of course, by this point I was fading fast. Marlo came home and wanted to run through and show me her wardrobe of every new item she bought this summer. First off, she is an average-American teenage girl with a job and her own money. This was going to take a while. After being awake and on-the-go for 27 hours, I couldn't take it. So, like all good mothers, I fell asleep while she was talking to me.

Saturday morning, I was up at 4:00 a.m. as well. I cleaned out my email boxes, surfed the Internet, read the news and waited for morning. Finally, it came, I made Marlo breakfast before she went to work to try to redeem myself as a mother, and then spent all of yesterday running errands. First stop, Trader Joe's, where I tried to find non-chemically laden, processed foods to continue the good eating habits I got in Europe (gelato is all natural). Then, to a first salon where I got my much needed manicure and pedicure, then to a second salon where Henry cut and colored my hair - darker for those who are wondering. I can't post a picture now though because my look is that all-wonderful, wildly smashed into the pillow, curly hair look. Very attractive (not). This leads me to the title of this post. I thought, "I'll just take a photo of my newly-painted pink toenails so there will be some artwork for the post." I took five or six photos before having to concede that feet in general are just ugly. When I was younger I read a book called "Emma and me" about a blind British lady's adventures with her seeing-eye-dog Emma. Somewhere towards the end of the story, she undergoes surgery to restore her eyesight. Her first reaction to seeing her husbands bare feet was one of horror - "veins and bumps all over!"

So, even though everyone's feet are just as ugyly (or worse), I'm not posting the picture. I'm saving the sight of my pink-painted toes for my close and intimate friends who I know will continue to love me despite this flaw.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Airline sacrifices goats to appease sky god

I'm glad I'm not flying on this airline! Rather than posting the full article here, go read it at:

Of course, if they actually fixed it mechanically and then offered up the goats, I don't necessarily have a problem with it. After all, it's not any more superstitious than crossing one's fingers for good luck or throwing pennies in a well to have wishes come true.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another reason not to drive a Hummer

As many of you know, my sister Shawna owns a b'jillion rental houses in Tulsa, which she has been in the process of selling off. She emailed the following note this morning:

Here is a house we had completely fixed up and was listed with a realtor. This morning at 6:30 am, I get a phone call from my realtor and he tells me that someone vandalized (or drove into the house that he listed).

OK, after an exhausting morning we figured out it was a Hummer (probably driven by a drunk guy). The police officer called Mr. Hummer and he hung up on the police officer.



Just imagine what little damage would have been done if the drunk was driving a litte Mini Cooper.

Saving the planet, one garage at a time.**

**This originally said "carport," but Shawna informed me that before the Hummer hit it, the damaged area of the house was a garage.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Rounding the 4th corner into the home stretch.

It's Tuesday night about 10:00 p.m. Rome time. I'm going to bed soon as last night the neighbors across the street gave a dinner party on their balcony and were talking loud and laughing until about 1:00 a.m. My Italian professor told me how to yell, "Shut up for the love of God!" (phonetically, "Zitzi! per l'amore di dio!") but that seems more appropriate for drunk partying Italians rather than a dinner party.

Tomorrow, we get a special tour of the court of Cassazione where we will observe a proceeding with an English speaking prosecutor. This prosecutor has prosecuted some of the most (recent) famous criminal cases in Italy. He is also the former president of the European Lawyers Association in Italy. The public is normally not allowed into the courthouse unless they are parties to a proceeding (i.e. the courts are not open and you cannot just walk in) so this is very special. After the court tour, my group is finalizing our immigration presentation, which is scheduled for Wednesday evening.

On Thursday, we have the final day of classes, a farewell lunch, then final packing, cleaning of the apartment, turning in keys, etc. After that, I'm off to the Hilton near the airport. My flight leaves at 6:15 a.m. Rome time and I was too distrustful of Italian inefficiency to be certain that I could get a cab to the airport at 3:30 a.m. in order to arrive by 4:15 a.m. I checked online and the hotel rooms were nearly $300. I thought a long time weighing my options: Spend $300 or sleep in the airport. Spend $300 or sleep in the airport. Spend $300 or sleep in the airport. Finally, I called my sister Jamie and asked if she had enough Hilton Honors points to get me a room for the night (she gets lots through her job). It cost her something like 30,000 points, but she booked me a room. Thank god.

I'll be on the 6:15 a.m. flight from Rome to Amsterdam, then I have a short layover and leave Amsterdam at 1:05 p.m. I arrive in Seattle at 2:20 p.m. My girlfriend Melanie is picking me up from the airport and, oddly enough, we are going to head up to the U-district to pick up our books for school. I have the freedom to do this because Marlo is cheering at a football game and won't be calling me until about 9:00 for a ride home.

Anyway, I come bearing little gifts for my girlfriends and my sisters, which I'll get to you all as soon as I can.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Global Justice Group Blog Post

This is a heads-up that I've posted another essay on the Global Justice Group blog from my Comparative European Union Law class at

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Random thoughts of Roxanne - Part deux *Modified*

I was yapping with my sister Shawna over IM the other day and she mentioned that my blog, while historically interesting, was much funnier earlier on. So, that got me thinking - why is it that I'm just posting pictures and not writing down my thoughts?

I've boiled it down to the fact that I was raised by a foreign-born mother. You see, my mother is Egyptian and was raised in Cairo. She attended an all-girls school run by nuns and was taught in English. Well, she hasn't told me any stories of the nuns rapping her knuckes with a ruler, but I'd be willing to bet $20 that those nuns were big on proverbs.

My mother is the queen of proverbs - "A stitch in time saves nine." "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." I'm not kidding. No native-born American says these things. However, when my mother says these things, while completely annoying, they don't sound weird. The other two things she used to say (not strictly proverbs, but in the same genre) were, "We don't talk about money at the dinner table" and "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

I think it is this last tidbit that has been hanging me up in my writing. It's not that I don't have nice things to say about Italy, they just aren't amusing, funny, witty or interesting, IMO. I mean, how many posts can I do expounding on the virtues of gelato or the amazing architecture?

I've tried identifying where I am on the U-Curve of Cultural Adaptation (see post titled, "Sliding up the U-Curve of Cultural Adaptation" at It's hard to pin down. I'm definitely out of the honeymoon phase. The remaining three phases are Hostility, Humor, At Home. I would say that I swing through these last three phases - sometimes all within a three minute span of time. (grin.)

I'm "at home" with traveling in Europe, can find my way around, can order what I want from a shop, can even bargain for a better deal with vendors at the market. However, I don't think I'll ever truly be "at home" in Italy (at least not "southern Italy"). Rick Steves says to travel from the north to the South - and if you're irritated in Rome with the Italian culture to avoid going further south as it just gets worse. I'm not quite clear how it could possibly get worse, but I'm not interested in finding out. I think I'd rather see the Mediterranean from France or Greece.

I wouldn't say I spend a long time in the "hostility" phase, mostly because I know that this is an opportunity I may not get again for a long time. This phase tends to occur in short bursts. For example, I went to the Sunday open-air market at the Porta Portese this morning to do some final shopping for presents for my girlfriends and sisters. It was so crowded, which would normally get me on edge. Added to that were people who stop in the middle of the "walkways" to look at the booths, without moving to the edge, various men hawking stolen goods, faux-brand purses, or cigarettes from the middle of the walkways, and your occasional Italian male who feels the need to stop in the middle of the flow to look pouty and georgous as only Italian men can do without setting off the gay-dar. I wanted to mow them over.

That only leaves "humor" as a phase, but to be honest. I don't find much funny these days (Well, the bus driver we had for our trip to Tivoli was a RIOT - post coming soon). To be honest. I feel a little worn out.

I've received requests for photos of myself in the scenery of Rome. I'm thinking, "You've GOT TO BE KIDDING!!!" My scant amount of travel clothes (I didn't bring much to keep my luggage light for my easyjet flight) are looking worn out due to heavy use and frequent washing. I haven't been to my hairdresser in two and a half months. I need a manicure and pedicure more than a Hummer needs gasoline. I'm falling apart.

If I were living in Italy, I'm sure I'd find a new hairdresser, a department store I like for clothes, and a salon with reasonably priced manicures/pedicures. However, considering I only end up with what I really want about 3/4 of the time when I go into a shop due to the language barrier, I'm not really willing to risk a 25% chance of having a miscommunication about my hair on this trip.

If you've read this post this far, you can now see why mother's advice to keep silent if you've got nothing to say is good advice. But who knows, maybe you'll find the sorry state of my appearance amusing instead of depressing. If so, let me know and I'll send you a photo (not).

Per Jamie's request below, I added the link to the Cultural Adaptation Post above. For convenience, you can cut and paste this into your browswer:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hey Shawna! Saw this and thought of you. *Updated*

When my sister Shawna was little, she insisted that she was not a member of our family, but rather was born from an ostrich. She didn't look like the rest of us girls; she had straight dark hair and an olive complexion. (You can see that her logic skills weren't very developed or she would have thought she was a descendant of ravens.) Plus, she was a middle child and suffers** from a severe case of middle child syndrome. ' nuf said.

So, Shawna would get upset about something, stick her head between two pillows and her butt in the air and would cry, "I don't belong to this family!" This could be the root of why she lives in Oklahoma while the rest of us live in Washington.

Anyway, I saw this photo at the Benedictine Monastery and thought of her. Of course, I found out later that these are not ostrich and are pelicans. Sorry, Shawna.

** Shawna sent me an email requesting that I change this to "suffered from," but I refused. It really is a present case of overachieving middle child syndrome, as evidenced by the fact that she sent me the email at nearly midnight.

Here's what's coming down the pike.

It's been a jam-packed few days. For example, today, we went to see two different Benedictine monastaries near Subiaco and then the Tivoli gardens. It was a long day with a lot of excitement. I took hundreds of photos.

Tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn, I'm going to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel.

Sunday, is the open air market.

Monday we have to work on our group's oral presentation on immigration and have the final exam in Italian class.

Tuesday we are meeting with a group from Doctor's Without Borders.

Wednesday is our group's presentation and a reception afterwards.

Thursday is the last day of classes and the farewell luncheon.

Then, I'm on a plane at the crack of dawn on Friday and back in town Friday afternoon.


I know I still have blog posts from France to update and I will do that ASAP. I just don't want to do it at the expense of going out and experiencing Rome.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Placeholder - Visitare il Papa

The text of the pope's address:


VATICAN CITY, SEP 12, 2007 (VIS) - Shortly before 10 a.m. today, the Pope arrived in the Vatican by helicopter from his summer residence in Castelgandolfo. He then went to St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience.

Addressing the more than 12,000 people present, the Holy Father recalled his recent pastoral visit to Austria to commemorate the 850th anniversary of the shrine of Mariazell, a visit, he said, "that was above all a pilgrimage on the theme of 'looking to Christ,' that is, of going towards Mary who shows us Jesus."

The Pope spoke of his arrival in Vienna where he had visited the city's Judenplatz and the monument to the Shoah, and of his meeting with the public authorities of the country and the diplomatic corps. "Such moments," he explained, "are precious opportunities in which Peter's Successor has the chance of exhorting the leaders of nations to favor the cause of peace and of true economic and social progress. With particular reference to Europe, I renewed my encouragement to continue the current process of unification on the basis of values inspired by its shared Christian heritage."

The Pope described Mariazell as "one of the symbols of the meeting between European peoples and Christianity" and highlighted how many philosophers, not always from a Christian standpoint, "have recognized the central role of Christianity in defending the modern conscience from the currents of nihilism and fundamentalism." In the Marian shrine, said the Holy Father, we understand that "to see Jesus with Mary's eyes is to encounter God Love, Who was made man for us and died upon the Cross."

Turning to consider his meeting with the Austrian clergy, Benedict XVI pointed out how religious and priests always "strive to present everyone with a reflection of the goodness and beauty of God," by choosing the way of poverty, chastity and obedience, understood "in their authentic Christological sense, not individualist but relational and ecclesial."

During Sunday's concelebrated Mass in Vienna's cathedral of St. Stephen, "I dwelt upon the importance of Sundays" said the Holy Father, "which give meaning to work and rest, renew the significance of creation and redemption, and express the value of freedom and of service to others."

Benedict XVI also mentioned the joy he had felt when he visited the abbey of Heiligenkreuz and the Pontifical Theological Faculty. There, he recalled, he reiterated the value of prayer "as service of praise and adoration ... over which nothing must take precedence," and of the liturgy "oriented towards God," highlighting also how "theological study must never be separated from spiritual life and prayer."

Finally, the Pope mentioned his meeting with voluntary groups in Vienna. "Volunteer work must not be seen as 'filling the gaps' left by the State and public institutions," he said, "rather as a complementary presence, vital to ensure that attention remains focused on the least advantaged."

"In Vienna and Mariazell," he concluded, "the living, faithful and variegated truth of the Catholic Church appeared particularly clearly. ... A Church that implements and is witness to a generous 'yes' to life in all its dimensions, a Church that renews her bi-millennial tradition at the service of a future of peace and of true social progress for the entire human family."
AG/VISIT AUSTRIA/...VIS 070912 (550)

Placeholder - Florence - In case I forgot something

Placeholder - Florence - The Love Bus

Placeholder - Florence - Santa Croce

Placeholder - Florence - The Duomo: Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

Florence - The statues

Just imagine you live in Florence and walk to and from work, like most Italians, and travel past these fantastic statues and fountains on nearly every street. It is inspiring.

As a side note, I will say that the statuary in Florence is very different from that of Rome. In Rome, most statues seem to be either religous or of old Roman leaders draped in togas. In Florence, the statues are most clearly related to violence, war, conquering and strength, reflecting its feudal past. There are also more depictions of nude bodies in Florence than in Rome. This is most probably due to the fact that Florence had its hey-day during the Renaissance while Rome is much older.

Florence - City Views

After spending the day in the hills around Florence visiting the European Union Institute, I spent the evening walking around Florence and getting oriented. These are the photos in roughly the same order that I took them during my walk.

This first photo was taken a block from the hotel. After wearing high heels all day long at the EU Institute, my feet felt like someone was stabbing the bottom of them with a fork over and over again. I wished I could have figured out the way down to the river so I could stick my feet in the Arno.

The following photographs were taken the next day in Florence as I was walking around before catching the train back to Rome.

Over on the Global Justice Blog...

I posted a reading response paper I wrote for one of my classes. Scored very well, but it isn't worth much in the overall grade. Bummer.

You can see the post at:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Florence - The European Union Institute

As part of our visit to Florence, our program visited the European Union Institute, which is the EU's university for doctoral and post-doctoral research in law and the social sciences. See: It was interesting and I can see myself doing a one-year LLM program in International Law after I get Marlo through her college. Until then, enjoy the photos of the gardens and buildings.