24/31 hours

June 8 11:00 pm was vastly different than June 9 11:00 pm.  June 8, we were walking from our last meal all together (the last supper you might say) and June 9 I sat in my bed sleep deprived and missing my familia.  I’ll give you a rundown of those 24 hours (31 if you count the time change).

piggy

At roughly 11:00 that last night, Ryal was giving Marat a piggyback ride to Giulitti’s and all of us were sentimental (#senti) and reminiscing on our time together.  Our last Giulitti’s did not disappoint and we soon found ourselves at the Trevi Fountain.  In classic CR fashion we took endless amounts of pictures then ended up sitting in silence, having yet another deep conversation, singing Stand By Me, busting out dance moves, and laughing at stupid jokes/Monty Python quotes/Vine references.  I felt so much at peace that I just looked around at everyone (sorry if I creeped anyone out by staring) and starting thinking about how close we’d all grown in a mere 3.5 weeks.

img_8312

We made the trek back to the hotel and by then it was around 2 am.  Brooke and Indigo had to leave for the airport at 5:30 am, so naturally, a couple of us decided to pull an all-nighter—with only a few hours of CR left, we wanted to squeeze as many memories in as possible.  Some went to bed around 4, but Indigo pulled a bold move and slept on the floor while those strong/delusional enough to stay awake danced around her head to Footloose and various Frog Camp songs.  The time went by surprisingly quickly with card games & back massages, and the next thing we knew, the sun had risen (and the Son has risen am I right?).  We walked Brooke and Indigo downstairs and said the first goodbyes of CR.  It was hard to believe I wouldn’t see them until August, and to be honest I’m still in denial about it.  Soon enough we said our farewells to the second batch of leavers Emma, Olivia, OC, Audrey, Kyle, and Ryal.  It was weird to be separating from people I’d grown so close to, and I trudged back up the stairs to reluctantly pack.  After I’d shoved everything into my oversize suitcase that had been lugged across 3 countries, Lauren, Marat, Taylor, Nishu, Jake, and I grabbed some breakfast.  It was a strangely silent breakfast due to the mixture of lack of sleep and an overload of emotions.  We grabbed our suitcases and the time came for me to say bye.  Weirdly enough, the song Time to Say Goodbye that had been played by all the street performers in Florence popped into my head and the feels began.  Lauren and I were waiting on the small and questionably secure elevator, and I just had to hug her and fight back tears.  We gave our final hugs and got in the van that would take us to the airport—the moment Lauren and I sat in the van, the tears came back full force and it actually hit me that CR was coming to a close.  Something I had looked forward to since December 17 was ending, and I didn’t want to accept it.

IMG_6414

Once we got to the airport, we parted ways, and for the first time in 3.5 weeks I was truly alone.  After going through excessive amounts of lines and security, I made it to my gate and onto the plane.  I found it weird being surrounded by so many Americans, and I started to realize how annoyed the Europeans probably were by us…we weren’t exactly a quiet bunch and probably disturbed a number of dinners and peaceful walks.  Too late to fix that now, but now I am more conscious of my noise level.  Nothing can dim the volume of my obnoxious laugh though, much to my chagrin.

On the ginormous plane, I was seated next to an angsty tween boy who avoided eye contact with me and didn’t smell too pleasant for 9 hours, and I spent most of it trying to process CR.  I landed in Charlotte and Facetimed my mom and drank enough coffee to make my body shake.  I figured if I hadn’t slept at this point I might as well tough it out until that night so I could try to keep the jet lag to a minimum.  After my final flight, I arrived in Memphis with bloodshot eyes, but was excited to see my family.  The Harano’s were waiting for me holding a neon pink welcome home sign, and we grabbed my bag and trekked into the muggy Memphis heat.  Man, I thought Rome was hot, but Memphis wins the humidity.  We chomped up some dinner and while they peppered me with questions, I had few answers because I still couldn’t articulate how amazing Cultural Routes had been.  How can you go into detail about how much you’ve grown as a person by learning more about your peers and the world when someone is asking you how skydiving felt?  They soon realized how exhausted I was and I fell into my greatly-missed bed and into a deeeeeep sleep.

plane

It was one of the most exhausting days of my life but I have 0 regrets about staying up with my familia to pack in as many mems as possible.  It’s been weird and borderline dreary being so far away from everyone, but I know that when we get back to campus we’ll all jump right back into our same conversations and laughs.  I had the best 3.5 weeks of my life on CR, and I cant wait to see how it impacted everyone else.

Advertisements

Roma Familia

As I’m boarding my final plane ride home, everything is starting to hit me. I’m not going to see our familia tomorrow, next week, or even next month. After reading Olivia Wales’ blog post, I started tearing up, and I’m sure some people were giving me looks in the airport, but I’m gonna miss our familia so much! No rivers nor roads will separate us, because love will bring us together forever.

Rome was the perfect ending to CR10. In a city rich with ancient history, art and culture, we got to experience it together. And our game of Whai Whai truly brought it all together for me.

On our last team day in Rome, we had some senti moments, one of which was a conversation between me and Ryal. Ryal is one of the most loving, relational people I know. I also respect him so much and value his insanely high emotional intelligence. In this conversation, we asked each other for constructive criticism, and if that doesn’t show love and trust, I don’t know what does.

Our game of Whai Whai truly tested if we were able to trust each other and work together as a cohesive team. I can confidently say CR10 is the dream team. After 3.5 weeks of doing life together constantly (literally together all the time), we know each others’ ins and outs, strengths and weaknesses, and highs and lows. Each of us has an integral role in each others’ lives.

Each Whai Whai team was completely randomly selected, and each team collaborated so well! For example, on our Whai Whai team, the BlueBerry Bunnies, Jake was our navigator, Abby set an incredibly fast pace, Indigo kept the morale super high, Taylor kept communication with Dr. P, and I asked locals for directions. None of this was pre-assigned, it’s just what happened because we trusted each other and knew each others’ strengths.

In Rome, our CR10 seemed so close, and everyone got a chance to showcase their talents: culinary, navigational, motivational, artistic, humorous, interpersonal skills and more. We experienced so many different occasions together that let our strengths shine through: from our cooking class allowing Brooke to show her bomb pasta making skills to our tour of the Vatican Museum showcasing OC’s incredible knowledge and love for art!

And at our final dinner, we got to give awards to each other, sharing words of affirmation and our love for one another. Our team has come so far, and I could not be more thankful for each and every incredible part of the familia.

Rome was amazing because each part of CR10 is amazing. We are committed to being all-in for one another 24/7 and that will never change!

A 2000 Year Old Wall

One of the coolest things in Rome, in my opinion, is the Basilica di San Clemente. What appears to be a normal church – at least normal by the standards of Italian churches – turns out to be the location of a part of history quite unique to the city. Rome is the lasagna city, as the new Rome is built on top of the old one. This is why there’s no subway system: every time they dig, they find some 2000 year old ruins and have to call the archeologists and stop the excavations. Another name for it is the eternal city, as it’s history has been preserved so well.

This basilica models this theme perfectly: it is built on top of an older church, which is built on top of some aristocrat’s house where they held cult meetings during ancient Roman times. So you can quite literally walk through time and see how Rome has progressed through the years in its architecture, theology, culture, artwork, etc. It’s truly amazing. Jake Lynn and I walked through most of the ruins together and spent most of the time trying to understand what the cult believed in. We’re still lost, but that’s okay. The rest of the time was spent trying to wrap our heads around how old the stone we were standing next to was. Our conversation looked something like this:

*touches the wall*

“Dude, this Stone is literally as old as Jesus.”

“Yeah, like when people lived here, Jesus to them was some guy from Nazareth.”

“2000+ years ago…”

“Wow… what does that even mean?”

“It’s 100 times as old as us.”

“It’s 10 times older than the founding of our country.”

“It’s almost 150 times as long as we’ve been in school.”

We stood there with our hands on the wall for a good 10 minutes going back and forth about ways we could understand what 2000 years meant. We probably looked like idiots to the rest of the tourists – but what tourist has ever looked like a rocket scientist? Once we finally felt like we had a good grip on what something that old meant, we realized how much history had been going on before that house was built. We didn’t even try to wrap our heads around that. The realization we came to was we are playing a role in a story so much larger than our own lives, and that was humbling and empowering at the same time.

We’ve seen a lot over the course of the last month. We’ve learned about how to respect the memory of those that are oppressed and how to maintain the knowledge of what can go wrong based on what has gone wrong; we’ve seen how even the biggest castles can’t defend us from Gods plans; I jumped out of an airplane and experienced one of the most beautiful places on Earth; we climbed to the top of the Alps, we felt the gentleness of the breeze on the sea and the peace of Riomaggiore; we learned from some of the greatest minds in history about art and its significance to the world as well as how generations can change and shape a culture, enjoyed world class gelato in the countryside of Tuscanny; and our experience came to a close in Rome. It’s amazing how much we have accomplished on this experience: it’s more than words can really convey.

But very little of that matters to the majority of the world. Few people are going to care that I skydived, or ate a bunch of gelato, or went in a bunch of museums. What matters is that we spent the last 3.5 weeks getting closer to each other and figuring out ways to relate to people who would have no connection to us from the outside. The reality is, we are all human beings, and human beings have been around for a while. And since everyone had to come from somewhere, there’s a good chance we all have a connection to every single person on Earth through the history of humanity and its struggles.

I have no idea who walked through that ancient Roman ruin when it was in its prime back in the day. But I do know that they were human beings, that they had families whom they loved, kids they were trying to raise, bills to pay, and a job to do it with. Something some random dude in Riomaggiore told me was that his son had just finished traveling around the entire world, and the one thing he learned was that it doesn’t matter where you are, or how far from your house you stand. People are people. They all have so much more worth than any adjectives can prescribe them.

We have this shared humanity that spreads across time and space, and it’s necessary to recognize the intrinsic value that we all hold. When you think about all of this, it’s hard to treat anyone with anything other than love and respect.

So as Cultural Routes 10 comes to an end, I feel all of the same bittersweet emotions as everyone else. And I think that we all recognize how powerful the knowledge we’ve gained is, and how much influence we can have in helping the world out by working together.

Stairway to Jesus, Ghandi, and Abby Souder

If I could mark my time in Riomaggiore by something, I would say it was the beauty and nature, the amazing culture and closeness of the people, the incredible number of flowers, and the delectable food.

If I could mark it by only one thing, it would be stairs.

I consider myself a relatively in shape person. However, there was scarcely a moment in Riomaggiore where I was not panting or keeled over, begging for water.

Perhaps it’s due to the absurd amount of gelato I consumed in our mere two day stay, or perhaps it’s because climbing directly uphill for 8 miles is kind of difficult, but I’m currently doubting my physical state. There was more sweat on my body than I thought was humanly possible.

That being said, Riomaggiore was also marked by a much more important word for me: peace.

Watching the city operate in harmony every morning through evening, hanging their laundry out on their patios and walking to each other’s markets, I felt a great sense of inner peace. Riomaggiore was unburdened by the stress of modern technology, and I found myself enjoying the nature and beauty that surrounded me rather than needing to constantly check the screens around me.

The sheer number of flowers that surrounded and seemed to enclose us on our hike astonished me; they were indigenous to that region, no one had to plant them there. The city was just filled with natural, unfiltered beauty, and no one tried to force it, and that’s how they found peace. I admired the respect they had towards their city and their culture.

Riomaggiore was different because it felt like a screeching halt in the middle of a high speed train. For the past few weeks on CR, we’ve been going going going all day every day, and any time there’s a chance for rest I found myself collapsing, even for a 15 minute nap. But Riomaggiore wasn’t about seeing everything or going to all the places we could; it was about admiring the beauty that surrounded us and understanding what made it so special. It wouldn’t have made sense to speed around Riomaggiore, because that wouldn’t fit the culture of the place we were in.

I spent the time in Riomaggiore getting to know not only the culture and beauty of my surroundings, but the wonderful people that accompanied me on this experience. Being in an environment where we could relax and talk about what we were feeling without being in a rush helped to get to know my friends on a much deeper level, and I am incredibly grateful for it. I am also so grateful for the role they played in my growth and how they helped me through my struggles. I don’t know what I did to deserve such amazing people, but I love them more than anything.

Emma Hoffmeister talked to me about Christianity as we walked through the beautiful hills of Riomaggiore and as I was telling her my story and listening to her own, I felt as if a part of my tale was being built through the conversation. Her openness, empathy, and encouragement inspired me so greatly in not only my faith, but my life.

Nishu and I discussed a variety of topics, from amazing music to what bothered us the most to a stream of consciousness of what was running through our minds in that moment, surrounded by such beauty. We were having a conversation that could’ve been had anywhere, but it happened in the hills of Riomaggiore and that made it so much more memorable. Nishu’s passion for music and justice and family and life is something I admire so wholeheartedly and hope to bring into my own life.

Kyle Hepting challenged me and my beliefs in many ways. I had fun teasing him and saying I was a superior being, and when he challenged that notion by saying Jesus and Ghandi were better than I was, I admitted to being okay with being third. Third place is alright on that list. But Kyle also uses vocabulary very carefully, and I can see him fully thinking through an argument before he starts it. I’m astonished by his intelligence, his patience, and his willingness to walk alongside others.

I learned so much about the people around me and what values I hold closest all the way up in the hills of Cinque terre just by admiring the beauty of nature and feeling my spirit settle in peace.

Riomaggiore, thank you for your peace. I’ll miss all that you taught me, but I’ll never forget it.

Two Beauties

Within 48 hours I was immersed in these two views:

The top of the Swiss alps

And the top of a hill next to Riomaggiore

There is a stark contrast in the beauties presented by Switzerland and Riomaggiore, but they are both remarkable and truly difficult to process. It was almost a challenge to make myself fully aware of the wonder around me, as it was so much to take in. Photos don’t do a justice; In Riomaggiore (where the second picture was taken), you couldn’t see where the sea ended and the sky began, and both were a deep, calm blue. The diverse array of colors in the flowers around us presented a rich landscape that is usually found only in paintings. The valleys of interlaken were also rich in their colors, but the white mountain tops presented a more rugged, dangerous beauty. One showed God’s power, and the other showed God’s peace.

The top of the Alps was breathtaking. Everything around us was white with snow, and everything beneath us was a warm summer green. The mountain air was brisk and fresh – so brisk that we were able to bust out the micro d fleeces. I never would have thought I’d be able to have a snowball fight in May with 15 of the most amazing people on Earth, but here we are. I also think it’s worth mentioning that we had an amazing meal at the top of this mountain. We ate at an all-you-can-eat, American style buffet and we Americans went crazy with the croissants. Few things in life last forever, but those mountains are going to be there for a while, and so will the memory of sharing a magical meal on top of them with the familia.

As I mentioned in a blog post before, a stereotype of Americans is that we are extremely loud and obnoxious, so we usually have to be extra cautious with how loud we laugh at dinner, constantly shush each other, and look over our shoulders to make sure no one is giving us an evil look. However, when we were at the top of this mountain, we could talk as loud as we wanted and no one would bat an eye. We needed that desperately.

Here are some more pictures from that day to put a smile on your face!

48 hours after being at the top of Europe, we found ourselves sitting on top of a hill next to Riomaggiore taking in the sight of the sea. There were vineyards surrounding us, flowers blooming all over, a gentle breeze, a hot Mediterranean sun beating down on us, and a beautiful city at our feet. I sat there for a while and journaled some. In my journal, I jotted down notes about the beauty we get to experience here on Earth. The crazy thing is in both Switzerland and in Riomaggiore I thought to myself, “this could be what heaven looks like,” but the reality is that I believe that heaven will blow those locations away with its beauty. I wrestled with that though for a while and felt a rush of joy and appreciation for the majesty of life and the plan of the Lord.

Here are some more pictures of what we saw, but just know that they don’t even come close to doing a justice.

We all felt like we could just sit by the church at the top forever, except for the fact that we got hungry. It took a hike and a half to get to the restaurant Dr. P wanted us to experience, but it was so worth it. The seafood was so fresh, and the view didn’t cease to overwhelm us. The whole rest of the day was filled with taking in the sights and enjoying the peaceful cinque terre, or five lands (we only saw like 2 of them though).

While this post isn’t the most insightful one on this site, I think that was part of the point. We spend so much time looking for deeper meanings in everything all the time, which is good, but sometimes you just have to enjoy the gift of the world that’s around us. There’s so much to appreciate in the world, and all of it is unique. But the most profound thing in all of this is that God created all of those mountains, valleys, hills, and the sea, and then He deemed Man the pinnacle of creation. How loved we are is unimaginable, and I think that these locations are evidence of that.

Power and Grace

Two days ago, we got to visit this super cute town filled with farms, cow bells, and huge waterfalls. Walking through this valley between two huge mountain ranges, there is something so comforting about nature’s purity and beauty.

Dr. P took us to Trümmelbachfalle where 3 waterfalls from glacier melt all converge into this one powerful waterfall. As this fall was a little bit off the road we were traveling on, I would have never discovered this place on my own or thought it was a place to be explored. I could’ve just thought looking at the waterfalls was amazing enough. But thankfully Dr. P navigated us through fields of wildflowers and across streams to this incredible creation.

While hiking up into the caverns of this waterfall you could hear the roaring water- so loud you could barely hear people talking. This was the first sense of power present in the falls.

Then you could feel the temperature drop drastically, and the brisk spray splash onto your face. And when you got to the rail separating you from the falls, power was immensely evident in the path of the rushing water. The water carved such a smooth, powerful path in the mountain.

This whole experience is an incredible example of God’s power and grace. He is all-powerful, carving every detail from rolling hills to volcanos to tsunamis. His power is so vast and just takes your breath away when you get close. If this was the waterfall’s power, I can’t even fully comprehend what God’s power is truly like.

And yet with this extremely powerful waterfall, God’s grace is so evident. When I paused to embrace God’s power at the top of this cascade, I looked up to see little water droplets gently coming down like snowflakes. I couldn’t take my eyes off this. How could water droplets hit the sides of the cavern and rain down like snow? These droplets reveal God’s grace and mercy raining down on us in the midst of His powerful creation.

God carved the world with His mercy and power. From the Earth’s tectonic plates to each of us, He used His complete power and authority to create beauty while covering us in His grace and mercy. And He lets us just stand in awe of His creation. He gave us everything as gifts. How incredible and loving is He?!

This experience put me in complete awe of God with His combination of power and grace. It also taught me how you can always look at a situation and see more details within. You could easily walk into Trümmelbachfalle and only see the beauty. But with a closer look, you can see power and grace and so much more.

We all take different paths in life, but what path will we carve for others? God crafted an incredible place for us to live in and find Him. I’m so thankful to have experienced this nugget of truth and experience Him more and more through His creation.

With love,

Lauren Rasmussen

Bird Can’t Fly in the Cage

Remember Ausgang?

Well, I did the ultimate Ausgang yesterday.

I jumped out of a plane voluntarily.

Before the ultimate leap, our group spent what felt like an eternity at the Skydive Switzerland warehouse, waiting and watching. Every time I saw that small plane make its ascent into the vast sky and release miniscule specks one by one that were barely visible to the naked eye, I became increasingly trepidatious. That speck was the lives of two humans and that speck was free-falling.

But, if I want my life to be a wild, crazy adventure, then I just had to step out of my sphere of comfortability and take leaps (specifically out of airplanes). So, suit on, harness tightened, and expert-man behind me, I stepped into that sketchy airplane and refused to look back.

I did look down though.

And as I looked down I saw the city of Interlaken from the eyes of the birds. I saw the peaks and valleys and houses and businesses and clouds and sun all in one frame. The Creation stunned me; the earth was pulsing with life. And what was I thinking about in this very moment, as I peered down? my tenth-grade English class.

This class was agonizing to sophomoric Olivia. We had to deal with the devil of all elements of English for a whole school-year—poetry. The horror! (Little did I know, I would end up being a writing minor one day and actually enjoy poetry.) Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to appreciate Hopkin’s, “God’s Grandeur,” back then. Luckily, I am able to appreciate it now.

“God’s Grandeur” is a 19th century poem that talks about the earth and its relationship to the divine. It also talks about humanity’s negligence of that. As humans, we are exploiting the earth at a fast rate, but seeing Interlaken from 10,000 feet up, I was reminded that the whole earth is coursing with God’s vivacity. As much as I fangirl over the artwork nature is, God is the painter, and a painter cares about His creation more than a mere fan.

Fast forward to today, I was reminded yet again of Ms. Issac’s laborious English class. As we were exploring the Swiss Alps, I was only in more awe of the earth, of the sphere we were given. “The world is charged with the glory of God.” That one line kept repeating in my head. “The world is charged, the world is charged, the world is charged.” I felt it—the charge. Nature has a way of doing that. No matter how much man depletes the earth, God’s hand is still pulsing over the ground; He still prevails. No matter how much beauty man can artificially make, there’s still something unique in the natural beauty in our world. The Swiss Alps confirmed that for me. So, thanks Ms. Isaac for forcing us to meticulously dissect “God’s Grandeur.” I finally get it.