Rome

Being in Rome is like being in another country surrounded by another language, but with one significant twist: In Rome, I was immersed in an entirely new world of Catholicism.

It was like this in Costa Rica, too: At first the newness simply clings to the edges of your clothes, occasionally brushing up against your cheek, making itself known to you but not drowning you in its unfamiliarity. After a week or three, your body has adjusted to the altered air, and when you breathe it in, it inflates your entire self, steaming out of your lungs and pervading your entire body. Soon that too becomes electric, your awareness of it at its best; it tingles out of your fingers, nose, toes, and lips, and alters everything you touch or perceive.

It is so magnificent to be changed by something that has radically altered the history of Western Civilization, global politics, art and architecture, and human mentality for almost 2,000 years. And that’s just Christianity and Catholicism. The Roman Empire has been around for thousands of years longer than that.

It doesn’t leave, either. The electricity may lessen, but I am permanently affected by my time in Rome. I spent the entire semester studying the history and culture of Western Civilization while being completely surrounded by it,  but I came back with the knowledge that there is so much I will never know. What a beautifully painful thing to come to realize.

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We did it.

There were times I thought I would never make it to Rome, and while there, there were times I feared I would never make it back. But I went, I did it, and now I’m sitting at a table in my favorite coffee shop in the small town of Midwest City, Oklahoma and writing about it. I never thought I could travel all over Europe, but I did it. It makes me think, what else have I always wanted to do but shoved aside, thinking I never could? I’m going to dig those up, and I’ll make a toast to the next adventure.

Until next time,

it’s good to be home.

Peace.

Kelsie

The Ultimate Tourist Trap

I think all of us who travel have done this at some point during our adventures. It’s a 21st century thing, really, and with so much of our generation traveling, it’s an easy thing to fall into. I know I’ve done it more than once.

It’s easy for us to go somewhere new and exciting and see all the unique differences that that culture offers and marvel in those unique tendencies that are so distinct from our own. We tend to pride ourselves in our ability to value those cultures for their individuality and experience that difference rather than be the “stereotypical tourist”, taking extra care to keep a safe distance from giant colorful tour buses, the corner McDonald’s, and the pestering salesman waving neon selfie sticks at anyone who breathes in his direction.

This is great, don’t get me wrong. Understanding cultural differences and learning from those is and will always be a good thing, there’s no doubt about that.

But I challenge you this: is it possible to focus to much on those exciting differences that we neglect to see how all of us, our culture and theirs, when it comes down to it, are all simply members of one single humanity?

We put so much effort into recognizing the worth of these cultures because the generations immediately before us have had some problems with this, yes? The internal dialogue is so predictable: Italians drink wine at almost every meal. I don’t do this in the States, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I appreciate Italy for it being so different! But after doing this too many times, our goal of appreciating those cultures for what they are ultimately does a 180-degree flip: they become a place so unique and so separate from our own that we ultimately isolate them. The conversation quickly becomes something else: They can believe what they want; I’ll admire it, but it’s not relevant to me.

How are we supposed to really learn anything from that culture if we’re so busy admiring and separating it from our own? And, if we truly believe there is nothing to learn from it, is that not devaluing to that culture as well?

Obviously the situation I just described is not as intense as I made it seem, but I won’t deny that it does happen in some level for all of us travelers. The solution is easy- Admire the uniqueness of other cultures, yes, but instead of focusing only on how those differences make them separate from us, search for how they bring out our similarities on a deeper level.

After all, we all are simply human.

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Thoughts of a semester.

When in Rome

Friends,

I am here. I have made it to the eternal city , the heart of the Church, the beautiful city of Rome. And, let me tell you, writing about it is really, really hard. I’ve been scrambling for words for a couple of days now but like beads on a tile floor they roll and bounce and lodge themselves in the dusty underbellies of the furniture: out of sight, out of reach. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no possible way to convey the awe of my experiences to you, and even if I could eloquently translate experiences into words on a page, it would be far less personal than if I were to share stories with you face-to-face where we can both chat away about some of our greatest adventures in life. My goal on this blog is to tell the most simple stories to you, the highlights of what I see or do. My goal here in Rome is to learn: learn about history, culture, philosophy, and, above all, humanity. How incredible that throughout nearly 200,000 years of human existence, there is something vaguely similar about it all.

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The sunrise begins to light up St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Perhaps that is the difference about being in a city so old. Being here is not only experiencing the unique beauty of a culture separate from my own, but one rich with history spanning thousands of years. The city of Rome, in many ways, contains a wealth of pieces that begin to tell the tale of human existence.

I am beyond excited to get to be a part of it for the millisecond I am graced to be here.

Until next time,

Kelsie

A Messy Post: Why I Blog

I’m going to go on a more-than-norm personal spiel here.

Writing is the one thing I can do no matter what state I am in. Exhausted? Still have the energy to write. Stressed? Write about it. Ideas? Write them down. So on.

I don’t need a blog as an excuse to write. No one really does. I journal almost every day in the form of letters.

So why do I blog, then? There are a few reasons. The first is that because I do love writing so much, I want to be better at it. It’s one thing to keep a journal that only I read; it’s something entirely different to write something you know will be read by others. I’ve always been a creative person and crave the creative outlet.  I go to a liberal arts university, so essays are our primary form of submitted work, but a lot of times those are so intellectually based that there is little room for creativity. The elaborate beauty of words cannot be woven in and out through the density of the material. I cannot breathe into life the matter; it is already pulsing there and the mere task that is granted is to build, not to create. In an essay I am asked to gather the sturdy rocks and lay them back into their foundation, organizing them in such a way that is new to the outsider’s eye but is doubtfully something that has not been done before.

See what I did there? C.S. Lewis is great at that. Words, words. Words are so beautiful. I know the content of my blog is neither particularly rich nor fulfilling, but anyhow, that’s not my goal. Do you remember analyzing books, poems, and other various texts in school? Remember how you are asked to analyze and analyze, find hidden meaning in all corners of the writing, dig up the bones of the material, and subject yourself to the mentality, the concealed inspiration of the author? Yes. It is mysterious, mystical, and magnificent.

Maybe I can be noticed for writing one day. This is a subtle and currently weak goal of mine, but it a goal, none the less.

Blogging forces me to organize certain ideas and thought bubbles that I may want to implement into my job one day. It forces me to focus; it wakes up my mind to the critical dedication our humanity has labored over, sweating as the arms aside their backs draw the tool up off the ground and propel it in front of them in an endless circular motion, shaping the way we all think, believe, behave, and communicate. Writing forces focus, strain, and dedication. It is innovative and creative. It can both give life and draw it out of something. It is unique, objective, subjective, and everything that makes up wonder, simplicity and complexity all in a single act.

Will Write. To Write. Writing. Written.

Peace.

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Wanderlust Debunked

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Wanderlust. A strong desire or impulse to wander or travel the world. Generally paired with the girly ideals of seemingly graceful map-of-the-world tattoos, necklaces with delicate little mountains, watches with airplanes as hands, mountain-background Instagram photos with the word rhythmically sprawled across the image in flowy golden letters, both the idea and the very word “Wanderlust” are seeping into the minds of those who seem to desire so deeply only one thing: To travel.

And, let’s be real. I would be lying if I said I too were not struck with the lingering desire to go beyond what I’ve experienced already and go somewhere new and refreshing where I can be whoever I want to be and experience something I will never experience where I currently am now. After all, we are the generation that travels. But, I ask, can we get beyond the word “travel”? Can we talk about the second part of that little word for a second; the term “lust”?

In no culture ever has the word “lust” ever been conceived in good connotation. It is unhealthy, irrational, and dehumanizing; simplistic and thoughtless. Those who lust after someone or something will often do what it takes in order to get that pleasure. Lust can be sparked by jealousy, by greed, by the inability to maintain self-control. It is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason, folks.

Does your mind become nearly consumed with the idea of going somewhere, but doesn’t think beyond the very act of going? This, in essence, is what wanderlust seems to encompass.

I guess I’m just tired of a culture that is so thoughtless.

One of the most humanizing things about spending time in Costa Rica was experiencing how differently the Ticos lived in comparison with to the image of Costa Rica that so often pops into people’s minds. The average person lives in deep separation of exotic beach resorts, nightly piña coladas, and coconut-rich palm trees ready to give in a beachy back yard.  Within my short time in the beautiful land, I quickly realized that there is not one, but two Costa Ricas: Tourist Costa Rica and Costa Rica of the natives. Only one of them is real.

Identify with something greater than “wanderlust”. Go somewhere to learn. Go to experience, go to give. Let it shape your ideals, allow the experience to seep into your soul and make you think. Think about who you are, where you’re going, who you want to be.  Traveling is extremely humbling if you let it.

 

 

Serj Books

Dallas, Texas

Well, it is quite a feat to say that I have finally arrived here. I took the DART for the first time in a long time and while that in itself wasn’t an issue, the wind that made me victim of unnecessary hair torment. That is okay, though. There are more important things to worry about.

The barista at the counter has a crazy weird Chicago accent and wears bright red glasses that somehow fit his assertive  yet caring personality. He goes in and out of the wide black door with the magician’s purple curtain to go to and from the inside of the counter/kitchen to the rest of the restaurant. Conversations are blunt:

“How’s your Americano?”

“Good, it’s delicious.”

“Good, I’m glad you like it. Hey you, over there, how are you?”

“Huh?”

“I’m checkin’ on you. How you doing?”

“Oh, good.”

I can hear the rhhhuuummmmm of the DART just outside the widows as it takes off and goes every so often once again.

The music here is much more upbeat than your typical quaint coffee shop; distinct 50’s and 80’s sounds fall out of the speakers. Serj Books does nothing less than make a statement. But, what else can you do in the middle of Downtown Dallas? The walls are crafted with wooden brick and the tables have a royal purple cloths draped over the surface. Books on display are scattered on shelves along the walls, and all bear strange names and unusual covers. They make me want to both pick them up and flip through the pages and shout out to all those in the small shop, “WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS MEANS?!”

I could have a lot of fun here. That’s the thing about Serj, though: It is not exactly what one would call a good study space. Instead, it’s a place for being with people, philosophizing, discussing all things good and bad about your day while doing an occasional jig to the music that floats in the air. It’s a place for listening, for speaking, and for telling jokes. Laughing is encouraged. Using WiFi to isolate yourself from the rest of the world is not. The barista smugly tells his very lame and wonderful joke as you order. I’ve been sitting here for  healthy chunk of time and let me tell you, he tells it with the same gusto for every single customer.

Where do animals go when their tails fall off?
The retail store. 

 

The Good Creatures

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I met a puppy in the mountains of Monte Verde. There he was, just sitting there on a step, looking at the world around him in a kind of contemplative gaze. He had curiosity in his eyes, but remained still. The puppy’s feet were caked in dirt, yet his thick fur wasn’t matted. It was clear the soft and silent creature had adapted to such an environment; he didn’t belong to anyone here. This pup was a roamer of the rainy green mountain jungle. And, of course, just like all puppies, if not more, he was really, really cute.

Animals are some of the only creatures we are able to love completely and indiscriminately, something we have such a hard time doing with each other. We love these creatures for what they are and what they are not. Perhaps our dominion over and likeness to such creatures is reflective of God’s dominion over us: we watch them make silly decisions, run around in circles, get a mouthful of dirt or poo or roll in the trash or whatever, but at the end of the day we are always given what it is we need and are a part of a ceaseless and forgiving love.

A passionate bishop in the 2nd century, Gregory of Nyssa worked on merging the truths of science and the truths of  faith. One of his main areas of focus was the study of animals and their relation to man. Good ol’ Greg’s argument is essentially that animals are created for the good of humans. It is the ox that tills the land, the sheep wool that keeps us warm, the alligator skin that protects us in battle, the wood of the tree that creates our ships and houses. Humans have a deeply-rooted dependency on animals and nature in order to survive and, in turn, for animals to serve their purpose to God.

Now, there should be something bothering you about this argument here.

If humans are created to be so dependent on animals, then why are they no longer a part of our everyday lives? The only creatures I regularly come into contact with is my dog, the birds, squirrels, and the melancholy farm cows I pass while connecting the dots between Texas and Oklahoma via I-35.

But maybe this is a part of the problem. It is no secret that we are not exactly taking the best care of our precious Earth. I think we all know that regressing back to the pre-industrial revolution is not the solution; technological and mechanical innovation is natural and good for human progress and development. But, I will dare to say that the solution probably lies beyond the easy recycling or the designation of reserves to keep our greedy, grimy hands off of  certain parts of God’s green earth. If animals and the environment were created to serve humans, are we not depriving them of their purpose by only widening the gap between our everyday lives and the great outdoors?

Is this perhaps why we are so willing to trash our oceans, pollute or skies, slaughter thousands of animals a day just to sustain our everyday lives, because we lack the understanding (or acknowledgement) that such a creation is created for us, and, in turn, we are responsible for it? 

What if we made an effort to integrate ourselves within environment again? Is it possible to maintain a symbiotic relationship between ourselves and the natural world around us? How difficult it would be to create such a relationship again.

I loved this puppy in Monte Verde.  I loved this puppy because he was a puppy and it was almost unnatural for me not to. I loved this puppy because he was a living creature. I loved this puppy because he was simple, he was unique, and he was good.

If Gregory was right, then does our abuse of what was created for us reflect how we believe God looks after us? How do you believe that God loves you?

I’m still thinking about this.

Peace.