Gondolas Galore

*Note: I know CR has ended, but I still have a few blog posts from the end of the CR that I never got to finish and upload. I don’t want to toss them out, so I’m going to go ahead and post them anyway.*

My new favorite mode of transportation is by gondola.

On our free day in Florence, we were allowed to choose to travel to either San Gimignano or to Venice for the day. At first I struggled to make a decision, but then I remembered that since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of going to the city with rivers for roads. My younger self thought that gondolas floating down the waterways, endless bridges and nothing but sidewalk to walk on was the coolest thing ever. I decided to make my childhood dreams come true – I bought a train ticket to Venice.

Going to Venice was the slightly less popular decision of the two. Of the sixteen of us on the experience, only seven people decided to go. Olivia Wales, Taylor Long, Olivia Chambers, Emma Hofmeister, Jacob James, Jake Lynn, and I chose to wake up super early and hop on a train to see the “City of Bridges”.

Venice was more beautiful than I ever could have expected! We had a surprisingly relaxing day in Venice. We spent the first hour or so taking random alleys and side paths to get to the main square. We somehow managed to avoid most other tourists and locals while strolling through Venice. It was incredibly peaceful and quiet as we walked along the many canals and dozens of bridges. Eventually, we crossed Rialto Bridge, the oldest of the four bridges crossing the Grand Canal and the most grandiose. We took a while to admire the view of the Grand Canal. We were stunned by the realization that instead of parking lots, people in Venice have their own private moorings to tie up their boats! This concept of a “water parking garage” blew our minds.

We kept walking and eventually arrived at Piazza San Marco, or Saint Mark’s Square. This is the largest public square in Venice, and surprisingly, it wasn’t extremely crowded. The Piazza is beautiful! On one side is a breathtaking view of St. Mark’s Basilica. On the other is a wide open space with a museum surrounding the square. There is also a large bell tower and a walkway leading to the water. We wandered around the square for a while, taking in the view. We eventually left the square to get lunch.

After lunch, we explored Venice a little more and eventually ran into a couple of gondoliers. Gondoliers are professional gondola drivers, easily recognizable by their striped shirts and wide-brimmed hats. We split into two groups and hopped in. The view from a gondola puts Venice in an entirely new perspective because you see the city from the water! Our gondolier pointed out the more well-known areas of Venice as we cruised along the water. He even showed Emma, a huge James Bond fan, the areas of Venice where a James Bond movie was filmed. We floated along the Grand Canal and went under the Rialto Bridge, learning about the city from our gondoliers the whole way.

After the gondola ride, we got gelato and talked as we continued exploring the city. Jacob, Jake, and I eventually decided that we wanted to climb the bell tower and check out the view of Venice from above. The others went to find a spot by the water to sit as we rode the elevator to the top. Our jaws dropped as soon as we stepped out of the elevator. Venice from the air is beautiful! We could see the water on one side, the multicolored buildings on the other. Seagulls circled lazily in the air, the water twinkled in the light, and the sound of a clarinet player in the street below floated up to us as we took in the view. We took pictures and admired the city. We had wonderful, thoughtful conversation and came down from the tower with new perspectives.

After our whole group reconvened, we sat by the water and talked for a long time. Eventually, we decided it was time to head back. We took our time to appreciate the channels and bridges and bright colors of the buildings one last time as we made our way back to the train station. On the way, I looked down and realized that there were a couple stolpersteine on the ground. We first discovered these “stumbling stones” in Berlin. They are small, brass plates put into the cobblestone streets with names of Jewish people that lived in the buildings in front of the stones inscribed into them. The stones mark the names, the date of deportation and the name of the concentration camp that they were deported to. They are a direct reminder of the loss that incurred during World War II and the massive impact of the Nazis. It was eye-opening to see a direct reminder about how people were impacted by the Nazis all the way in Venice. We left that place with a little more to think about.

We ended the evening with dinner and a long train ride back to Florence. The final activity of the night was a hike to the Piazzale Michelangelo, where we admired the sparkling Florence at night. Reflecting on the day I had, I couldn’t have been more thankful for how the day went. We had a peaceful day in a city I had only dreamed about going to as a little girl. Not only that, but I got to experience it with some of my best friends. I was so thankful for CR10 as I gazed out over the Arno that night.

Close Calls

So far, transportation has been much more difficult to navigate than I first expected. From diverted flights, close calls on trains, and missed busses, our group has had our fair share of transportation problems. Through it all, I have grown a sense of appreciation for the people who navigate the tricky transportation systems daily. Even after three and a half weeks attempting to figure it out, I’m still befuddled at times when I stare at the intermixed train and bus maps (luckily, there are some people who are quite adept at it). Despite difficulties, transportation has surprisingly taught me a lot, from being wearier of my actions to learning more about myself.

Looking all the way back to our time in Berlin, I realize how spoiled we were with the transportation system. You could get almost anywhere with the train system. At first, I struggled to see where all the trains were going and had no clue how to differentiate between a U-Bahn and S-Bahn train. Thankfully we had an expert navigator in our group, Ryal Reddick. Ryal had been to Berlin before and was able to easily lead our group anywhere and everywhere with his expertise. I’d say by the second or third day in Berlin, I felt like I had a better grasp of how to navigate Berlin. But just when our group thought we were getting good, we hopped onto a train going the completely wrong way. Although only a minor mistake and easily redeemable, on a different train our mistake could potentially lead to a more severe problem. We were able to manage transportation pretty well in Berlin, but that did not necessarily reveal how the rest of our transportation experiences would go.

As I’m sure you’ve heard from blogs before, our night train to Munich was disastrous. I’m not sure what it was, but our conductor had a vendetta against us. Maybe we were too loud getting on the train or he was annoyed because we weren’t sleeping and instead enjoying quality conversation with each other in the different compartments. Whatever the conductor’s reasoning, his treatment towards us was quite cruel. Our entire coach was awoken to his cries of “it is finished,” “it isn’t my problem,” and most terrifying, “two minutes, two minutes.” Don’t forget that this was all expressed in a heavy, thick German accent. We all started scrambling, fearful that we wouldn’t get off in time. In the process of scrambling, food trays and drinks were dropped, items were left (IYKYK), and adrenaline levels were through the roof. When we finally did get off, we stood on the platform and watched the train stay motionless for another ten minutes. I fully believe that the conductor was in glee while watching us struggle to get off the train. Not a great start to Munich, but we were blessed by not going through any further problems with trains in Munich (or at least any I can think of). During and right after our night train to Munich, our group was anxious and exhausted, but I think we can now all agree that it’s a great story to tell, despite the emotional scarring at the time.

Our next transportation problem occurred on the way to Interlaken. This was not due to difficulty in navigating but rather our lack of train etiquette. Right before an announcement came over the speaker, our group increased our volume so that we could hear each other over the loudspeaker. By the grace of God and Dr. P’s many apologies to the train staff, we avoided a catastrophe. Because we had been so loud, we had missed the announcement that everyone going to Interlaken needed to get off at the next stop. As Dr. P was apologizing to the last train attendant, she mentioned that the next stop was the correct one. About ninety percent of us were standing on the platform. In other words, all of us on the platform were wrong and in danger of the doors closing and the train leaving us far from our final destination. Dr. P’s much better train etiquette saved us from the rest of our terrible train etiquette. Our Interlaken train situation has definitely taught me to be more cautious about how loud I am in public and in public transit. I often wince now whenever I hear our group’s raucousness wherever we go. I am not devoid of blame in all cases, but Interlaken has caused me to think more about how loudly I speak.

Interlaken would go on to provide more headaches. When Nishu and I headed out for the day to go kayaking, we stood at a bus stop for a while waiting and waiting, until we figured something must’ve gone wrong. We walked forty minutes to get to our destination. Our attempt to catch the bus on the way back to the hostel would be just as fruitless. Nishu and I speed walked back to the hostel and because of the time crunch, ran the last half mile. I’d find out later more specifically how the busses ran. With that information, sprinting and long treks could have been avoided. But shoot me for not just asking and trying to do it on my own. My refusal to ask the citizens of Interlaken with help in figuring out the bus system led to us missing our busses. This do-it-myself attitude shows up in more than just not asking for directions, but in how I work with others. As much as I hate admitting it, I like being in control, so when others try and take charge, I sometimes respond negatively, which is a fault. It’s funny how much was revealed in missing a couple of busses. In the future, I hope to be more willing to ask for and readily receive help. That includes help in accomplishing a task or help when I’m emotionally drained.

Although Italy doesn’t utilize trains as much as Germany does, our group still found a way to make life difficult by almost missing our train and even missing one on a certain occasion. One morning, our group had to jog all the way to the train station (no mere feat) to catch our train to Pisa. We had time to get on the train easily and sit down and relax (not quite as exaggerating as it sounds). However, two days later, a smaller group of us found ourselves almost sprinting to the train station to catch the train to San Gimignano. Nine of us decided to travel to the Tuscan countryside town for our free travel day in Florence. Our arrival to the train was much closer than the train to Pisa and it started rolling only a minute after we boarded. Thank goodness we decided to sprint, or we would have certainly been left behind.

We arrived at the Poggibonsi train station about an hour later and proceeded to buy bus tickets to get us to San Gimignano, only to miss our bus due to confusion of where we were supposed to be picked up. Eventually we made it to the small countryside town. The town was small and rustic and reminded me of a medieval town with its high walls. We ate some world-famous gelato (twice), got a picture with the store owner, walked around a bit, and sat on some steps so people could journal and converse. The plot thickened when we walked down to our bus stop and our bus decided to no show. Because it was Sunday (or a “holiday”), the busses didn’t run until 5:40, six minutes before our train departed for Florence. Even attempting to call a taxi proved pointless because they, too, weren’t running till 5:40. At this point, I remember feeling so frustrated and many members in our group were on a similar wavelength. This is when one member of our group, Brooke, decided to intervene and have us all sit down and try to calm down and figure out the situation. She found another train that would only have us arriving about thirty minutes later than originally planned. Problem solved. Yet, I was still so frustrated. It was our third bad run in with transportation that day. Full of anger, I sat in the grass close to ten minutes. As I sat there thinking about all that had gone wrong that day and how stressed I was, I asked myself why. Why was I mad? Why was I stressed? Why was I harping on the negative? Everything was fine; we had devised a successful plan to get back. This is something I struggle with so much: focusing on the negative even when the situation turns out fine. In that moment, I decided to smell the roses. Instead of continuing to mope in the grass, I got up and walked over to sit next to my friends on a wall with a great overlook of the valleys surrounding the town. I attribute my action to Brooke’s logical words, Lauren’s positive outlook, and Indigo’s joy in the situation. All three handled the situation in a way that I want to be able to regularly act out. This seemingly frustrating travel day turned into a valuable lesson for me.

I hope these stories don’t sound negative or as if I’m complaining. I just want to tell it how it was and how I felt in that moment. It’s weird to think that such a minute thing as transportation revealed to me so much of my character and personality and even pushed me to look at life from an unfamiliar perspective. Often times, it’s the little things that can have such a great impact.

-Marat Rosencrants

The Walking In Between

One of my favorite parts of CR is the walking. And let me tell ya, we walked a lot. I had the most stirring conversations, eye opening realizations, and Lauren-style “wow” moments during our walks between destinations. It is so special to see the cities from a pedestrian point of view because we started to know our way around (huge step for a directionally challenged gal like me) and we truly saw the city’s culture rather than just the tourist spots. The musical genius Ben Rector (who came to TCU last fall!!) sings “life is not the mountain tops / it’s the walking in between / and I like you walking next to me”. You can bet your Patagonia Micro-D Fleece I liked these goobers walking next to me. CR10 certainly visited the mountain tops in Interlaken, but we also had in between moments on travel days (RIP night train) and our 204.4 miles of walking according to the iPhone health app.

It’s crazy thinking about everywhere my shoes have been in 3.5 weeks—they have accumulated dust, rocks, dirt, rain, and snow from all across Europe and now they get to go back to the states and continue on to new adventures. All 16 of our shoes will go on to different cities and different experiences but they’ll carry the memories of CR from Kansas to Illinois. We would joke about having rocks in our Stocks and Chacs (Birkenstocks and Chacos, AKA the official unofficial sponsors of CR), but I would gladly undergo the agony of having a foreign rock shard in my foot if it meant I got to walk across Europe again with the familia.

I am a highly nostalgic individual, so all throughout CR I took videos of us walking around with historic architecture rising above our heads. I’m planning on making a video compilation just to be even more nostalgic and make myself cry some more. It’s fun seeing who is talking to each other in these videos—in every single one, we are branching out and making more connections with each other. We were pushed to connect with people we weren’t as comfortable with coming into CR, and you can tell in the videos that we were making the effort to get to know each other by making use of the time we had while exploring cities with each other.

Taylor and I walked back from dinners together a lot. We find a lot of similar things funny which is startling because usually nobody else thinks lame things are funny like I do. Taylor is world renowned for her story telling and facial expressions. You can’t talk to her and not walk away with a cramp in your side from laughing so hard. I love how she perfectly captures every emotion possible in her hilarious facial expressions, and you can’t help but mimic them when you’re with her. One time at dinner, Dr. P asked some of us who were sitting near him who had surprised us most on CR. Two of us said Taylor because she has such an explosive and magnetic personality that has shone so much on CR. If you’re reading this Taylor, you’re a superstar.

We got to see mimes on two occasions, and they have an uncanny ability to see a person and in an instant copy their walk. I started trying to do this with people in my groups because it is a fun challenge to analyze someone and how they carry themselves. It tells you so much about a person by simply seeing how they walk. For example, Audrey walks with such elegance and upright grace, Lauren has the happiest, bounciest walk I’ve ever seen, Abby walks with equal parts humility and curiosity, and Indigo leads with her heart as her eyes take in everything around her. I would find myself in the back of the group to watch everyone walking and laughing (creepy, I know) and think about how long the next 2 months will be without them and their quirks. I’ll save my gross nostalgia and feels for another post, but I encourage all of you to take every moment, especially the in-between, transition times to make meaningful connections with whoever is near. I guarantee you’ll learn something new about them as you both get closer and closer to your destinations.

Weirdly Close

We’re all getting weirdly close, and in the best way possible!

While in Florence, we had a free day to do whatever we wanted to do between Venice or San Gimignano. A group and I chose to go to San G, and it was an awesome experience. Definitely an experience, not a trip.

This experience showed me we’re all getting so much closer, loving each other through all our mistakes and hard moments. And this was showcased especially with our rocky transportation experiences to and from San G.

From the start, we planned to leave the hotel at 10:45am to catch our 11:10am train. At 10:40am, Brittany was busy saving kids from forced child labor in an intense dream, and when Indigo and Abby woke her up, she rushed to get out the door. We ended up jogging out of the hotel and running through the streets of Florence all the way to the train station. Although this was an unexpected, semi-stressful experience, Brittany was shown incredible love with friends giving her croissants and juice, no hard times. Brooke showcased her awesome navigation skills, leading our run to the station, and once on the train, we had awesome conversations. I got to sit next to Brittany and Ryal who shared awesome stories.

Once we got to Pogibonssi, our train station, Ryal realized he lost his wallet. Then we missed the bus so we had an hour to kill before the next bus to San G. Ryal handled this situation so responsibly, and we quickly devised a plan to get pizza to avoid a hangry team. Indigo’s joy rang out in leading the group to find somewhere to eat. We got to support a small, local business and quickly get back to the station.

In this move, Marat saw a group of people that could’ve posed a threat and he made sure to stay between us and the group until we all got past them. That’s so selfless, and I’m very thankful for his actions. And when we got back to the station, Brittany dropped pizza on her toe and Marat cleaned it off with a napkin. It was then that Abby commented how weirdly close we’re getting. She truly chooses the best moments to capture with words.

We got on the bus to San G, took a beautiful ride through Tuscany and took a breath. The morning was definitely an experience to laugh at. And many awesome moments came out of it!

Arriving in San G, Nishu hyped up and we were all ready to get some world-famous gelato. But first, we stumbled upon a fantastic view, and Kyle made us pause, take it in, and take a group pic. Good thing he did, because this ended up being our only group pic of the day, and we paused extra to take it all in.

While in San G, we got to enjoy each other. Talking, getting world-famous gelato, people-watching, and shopping, we got to experience San G together. Nishu also brought some laughs with his cologne extravaganza.

So relaxing.

Then when we thought it was time to catch the bus back, we were not even close to correct. We had missed the bus. We were stressed and perturbed, some of us pacing, others laying in the grass. Brooke saw this and made us sit in the grass to calm down. Sunday’s are a holiday in San G, so we watched our bus stay parked for an hour before we could take it to a train station. Our plans had to be flexible, and we figured it all out so we still got on a timely train back to Florence. This even gave us extra time to talk and relax more together.

This whole experience of going to San G maybe didn’t go as planned, but was so funny and brought us so much closer.

Experiences bring us closer, and we still have one more city! Rome, I can’t wait to pack our time full of experiences with the best people ever!

With love,

Lauren Rasmussen

Magic Moments

I have a playlist on Spotify titled “A Good Soul Jive” which consists of R&B and soul music. On said playlist is the lovely song, “This Magic Moment” by The Drifters. It gets me thinking about how some moments in our lives are so amazingly unreal that the only word to describe them is…magic. If you’re an avid reader of our quaint CR10 blog, you might notice I haven’t blogged since our visit to Dachau—this is due to a mixture of exhaustion and writers block, but mostly because everything I want to blog about is a brief, “you had to be there” kind of thing. Instead of writing about each of these times, I waited until now to describe multiple (but not anywhere near all) of my magic moments from Interlaken to Florence.

1.) The Train to Interlaken

To get from Munich to Interlaken, we had to take a series of trains. The first one left bright and early, so many of us slept through it (In a strange turn of events, I ended up sleeping on the floor of the compartment. It was oddly comfy). The train I found the most magic in, however, was our very last one. Though it was only 15 minutes long, it had many of us transfixed. Our first view of Interlaken, Switzerland was something I’ll never forget—after being in a dark tunnel for a hot minute, the sun suddenly burst through our train windows and all we could see was the dazzling lake and mountains and trees and sky. The train went silent at first,then all of a sudden we started buzzing about how breathtaking it all was. I’m pretty sure about half of us remarked that we wanted to have our honeymoons here (watch out future CR spouses). We saw a whole new side of God’s creation and it was topped off with paragliders floating down all around us. When you have 16 sleep deprived teens and a beautiful mountain view, magic just happens.

2.) Jumping out of a plane

11 of us thought it would be a grand idea to fall through the sky from 13,500 feet. And it was. After we all got suited up (and took some Top Gun level pictures), we jumped out of planes. It honestly felt fake, and I didn’t even scream because I couldn’t believe my eyes. We were free-falling with a stranger strapped to our backs (shoutout to my guy Craig) with the stunning terrain of Switzerland under us. It doesn’t get much better than that. The only reason I knew for certain that it happened was the fact that my ears didn’t pop back until the next day. Also I threw up in the bus on our way back—I blame that more on motion sickness induced by our crazy skydiving instructor lady’s mad driving, but it counts. I would definitely skydive again if I knew my ears and stomach would cooperate, but nothing beats doing it with these 10 rockstars with me.

3.) Hiking Through Cinque Terre

Don’t let the idyllic, chill Italian beach town vibe fool you, Cinque Terre can be home to some hardcore & sweaty activities. Hiking is one of them. Our day started by going all the way up a mountain to a church, then going across vineyards and valleys to the other “lands” of Cinque Terre (“five lands”). CR is all about the deep talks, especially while walking. Everyone is wanting to grow closer together, so what better way to do that than by asking simple, easy questions like “what was your biggest struggle in life?”, “what are your faults?”, “who are you now vs. who you were in high school?”, “tell me about your family and how they’ve shaped you”, “who do you most look up to?”, “what are your dreams/aspirations?”, “what are you passionate about?” Obviously these questions will help you get to know someone, and I’ve realized they are good questions to ask yourself for you own personal growth. Kyle and I were having one of these CR-deep-talks as we walked, and it was so special listening to and sharing what we are passionate about and why. Kyle, like everyone on CR, is incredibly wise and thoughtful, and truly strives to make the world better using the talents and interests God gave him. He is super involved and passionate about combating human trafficking, and it was eye opening and heartbreaking to hear about how deep it runs in our world and how no easy solution exists. I admire people who see things like human trafficking and, rather than getting discouraged or downtrodden, use all their drive to fight it. Every person has passions and dreams, and learning about them is something I will never tire of. People are far more complex than we can ever imagine, and I’m so thankful everyone on CR has the courage to ask each other about our deepest fears and greatest triumphs.

4.) Floating Down the Arno River

Our very first night in Florence, we had a big surprise waiting for us: we got a nighttime boat ride down the Arno River! What a way to see Florence. The weather was perfect, the river was sparkling, all my newest pals surrounded me, and we got to see Florence from the only boat in the river. People on land were taking pictures of us and waving because we were that big of a deal. We floated under the Ponte Vecchio Bridge and remarked how we all were peaking in life at that very moment. Our Italian boat-rower-dude was teaching us how to say some Italian words and describing the rich history of the buildings we were passing. If you ever get the chance to have a suave Italian row you around Florence at sunset, jump in.

5.) Street Musicians Playing Their Hearts Out

I love music. It’d be kind of hard not to considering my career path, but it has nonetheless been something that moves me and shapes me. After grabbing some gelato, we headed to hear some street musicians outside the Uffizi. I danced around with Lauren (she’s the next Odette in Swan Lake I’m tellin ya) then we all cruddled together (CR + cuddle = cruddle) to listen to a guitarist, flutist, and violinist. There’s something amazing about a group of people going silent just to listen to and enjoy someone creating music—all of us hear the same notes being played but hear different things and find different meaning in the songs. Some of us took videos or audio recordings, some of us listened blissfully, and some of us fell asleep (*cough* Marat). All of the musicians played a beautiful variety of songs, but they all played “Time To Say Goodbye.” Weird, but cool. Despite Dr. P telling us to be all in 24/7, it’s hard not to think about how soon CR will be over and how quickly approaching our “time to say goodbye” is. We are already in our last city, and the pressure is on to make the most of every moment. I can assure you there will be many more magic moments to be had in Rome, and I can’t wait to update you on them. But for now, I will try to get in my 4 hours of sleep before we wake up to go to Vatican City. Ciao!

The Chambers’ Debate: Transportation Edition

Preface: My mom, the wonderful Catharine Chambers, was a military brat and went to High School in Vicenza, Italy. Cool, I know.

Hearing of our two options for Sunday travel away from Florence, San Gimignano or Venice, I was torn; which way was I to go? So, naturally, I texted the expert: my mama. Right away I got a response back, “OMG!! You’re so lucky. Venice. It will be very worth it.” Decision made, train ticket bought, and group organized, the adventure was locked in. Venice, here we come.

Venice lies only 30 minutes from where my mom went to high school. Being in Italy has already given me a small glimpse of what it would have been like to be living in her shoes as a teenager. I have had the opportunity to eat the combo of lemon and chocolate gelato like her, go shopping on cobblestone streets like her, and last but certainly not least, take trains to fun places like her. The stories she told always left me engaged and in awe. Yet, throughout my years, I have had a special ability of twisting these adventures back on her. Whenever my mom didn’t let me go out in high school, I predictably pulled one card: “When you were in high school, you would to go to other cities and countries with your friends on weekends, mom!”

Of course, this was always combatted with her go-to line: “that’s very different, Olivia. You’re not driving tonight. End of story.”

Needless to say, she always won. And now, as a wise, sagacious, enlightened 18 year-old, I finally see her side of the debate. Train-travel (and foot-travel for that matter) is game-changing and America really needs to take note for the sake of the high-school Olivias out there. Here is a mental list of the benefits I have conjured up:

1. Train-travel eliminates the problem of drunk drivers at night. Trains get rid of the risk for inexperienced teen drivers (like me) being on the road, in the dark, with other more reckless drivers. If I could of hopped on a train to make it to LA, instead of hopping on the 101 to the 405 in Friday night traffic, I bet Catharine would have been much more at ease with my outings.

2. Trains facilitate the exploration of other countries and cultures. With the ease of buying a pass and hopping on a transportation system with a flexible schedule, they offer an easily accessible opportunity to learn. Just by traveling, young adults (and anyone for that matter) has the opportunity to become more cultured and respect the ways of other places. In America, by contrast, it’s not so easy to just hop in the car and see another country.

3. Trains give a sweet time for some reflection. As we were making our departing voyage from Venice back to Florence, I realized one monstrosity of a problem—my phone was dead. That meant that I had to sit in dreaded silence for a two-hour train ride, yet I learned that it’s ok to listen to myself, be in my own thoughts. Just by sitting there, I allowed my soul a time to reflect on everything CR has been and where I wanna go after the experience. I learned that sitting in my own thoughts isn’t such a bad thing, and maybe I should have my phone die more often.

4. (This one combats Catharine Chambers’ biggest fear for me and my friends) Train travel eliminates the problem of a group of young girls breaking down in a car on the side of the road in the middle of the night, being stranded on the side of the freeway. Although this has never actually happened to me, I have heard the hypothetical one too many times from my mother.

5. Train travel is a real bonding experience for everyone involved. We have had some funny train stories, but the greatest of all is the triumph our group felt as we successfully made it to Venice and back with no train debacles. It made us feel independent, yet also humbled us, as minds as we saw the stress firsthand train days are to Dr. P.

All in all, after our adventure to Venice, I feel more connected to my mom by seeing her teenage arena, but also by seeing her side of the recurring transportation argument. America is much different than Italy; it’s like comparing apples and oranges, you just can’t do it. So mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry that sophomoric Olivia argued with you weekly about the contrasting transportation styles of our high school adventures. You win.

Night Train to Party Train

In preparation for this trip, we were advised to stay up all night on the CR tradition: the night train. I hate to disappoint, but we certainly did not do this. Although, we still have stories worth telling. As a preface, Europeans are not particularly fond of a group of sixteen, American college students, with the largest bags and loudest voices boarding their train. To begin the on-board adventures, I would like to thank Jacob James for his incredible ability to bring people together. He radiates energy and instantly set the tone for how enjoyable our night train experience was about to be. He started us off with immediately suggesting Hot Seat: a high-pressure game where your group has one minute to ask you any question they want; riveting I must say. From questions about how one eats their taco to horrendous, and I mean horrendous, first kiss stories, the night was nothing short of memorable. I am grateful for this new level of friendship reached and each and every one of these people continue to amaze me in their past, present, and plans for the future. It helped me realize how much more I have to learn about each individual and I am looking forward to continuing to do just that.

As sick as the fellowship (that was for Kyle Hepting) on the night train was, the morning did not greet us kindly. For starters, our conductor, who already did not like us, woke us up at 6am to give us “breakfast”. “Breakfast” consisted of two hard pieces of bread and either coffee or tea. After we nibbled, we started counting the stops and nodding off back to sleep. About thirty minutes later our conductor was standing at our door yelling at us in German. I am not sure if you have ever been yelled at in German, but it is about a million times scarier than your parents have ever said to you. His knowledge of English was slim to none and the only thing he could say was “it is finished” and “two minutes”. After us honors students put two and two together, all hell broke loose. For everyone who knows me well should know that this just about gave me a heart attack (I don’t handle being late well). As my graceful self quickly got out of bed, I hit the hot tea off my bed, spilling it everywhere. But with two minutes on the clock, that had to be ignored. As Olivia threw down luggage that weighed about a ton to me, I threw them down the hallway while everyone helped clean our cabin and attempt to grab everything. A special thank you to Abby Souder for being the only responsible one of the group and grabbing our rail passes, which are our lifeline for the rest of our trip. We made it off the train with my heart rate at 128, but little did we know we had plenty of time to spare. As we stood outside the train trying to find our bearings, the train sat there for a solid ten minutes and proceeded to sit there after we left. I am convinced our conductor had it in for us and enjoyed watching us Americans squirm a little bit. I reached this conclusion because I watched him share a chuckle with his colleague or should I save accomplice after watching us sprint off the train in sheer panic. Needless to say, first impressions while arriving in Munich (people wise) was not stellar.

Regardless of the rough morning, Dr. P treated us to a wonderful breakfast at a café in Marienplatz. I thought unwelcome feeling would change quickly but it continued when we sat down in the café a couple immediately got up to leave. I can’t say I blame them too much since you can hear us coming from about three blocks away but I felt myself getting hostile even though it was so early in our Munich experience. This view changed throughout our first day as we were awestruck by the city’s beauty. It was drastically different from Berlin, old architecture, calm streets, history at every turn. As abrupt as the morning was, it helped me realize how important it is to recognize and respect your surroundings. I love the way Americans make conversation, sing, and practically dance through life, but respecting the culture around us helped us to even further immerse into the society we entered. CR10 has capitalized on this by learning how to navigate the city, appreciate the culture, but still remain unapologetically ourselves.

Our first day in Munich turned out to be wonderful. We pushed through the tired, learned more about each other, and ended up jumping in a freezing cold river in the middle of a park. However, that night turned out to be the best night so far. We arrived at a Mexican restaurant that has been CR tradition for a decade now. My view of the Munich people made a complete 180 as the owner was nice enough to close down the restaurant just for us. Not only did he close it down, but he blasted music for us all to dance together and even our waitress joined. There was salsa dancing, two-stepping, A LOT of shimmying, and even Dr. P got out on the dance floor. My personal favorite was the conga line around the restaurant during Despacitos third time playing. But, before I continue, I a wonderful person that I have been lucky enough to come to know because of this trip.

Audrey Payne, if you do not know her, you need to get on that. In the middle of the dance party she pulls out this hidden talent of doing the worm. I personally have never seen a better worm in my life and I have Bennett Hofmeister for a brother. Not only can Audrey do the worm, but she is a phenomenal flute player in the band who plans to continue to pursue her music career after college by joining her community orchestra and teach private flute lessons. Alongside her music career, she would like to double as a lawyer. I am pretty sure the only step up from there is a secret agent, so watch out she could do that too. Audrey is one of those people that you can never stop learning enough about because her talents are endless, her spontaneity is magnetic, and she never ceases to amaze you. She is selfless, passionate, so incredibly kind-hearted, and brilliant in the most beautiful way. She is always keeping us on our toes and I am looking forward to many more surprises.

These first days in Munich have really pushed me to be open-minded. I would like to think that I was that way walking in, but I tend to form my views quickly if something goes wrong. Going back to the conductor putting me into cardiac arrest, I immediately thought that the whole city of Munich didn’t want us there. It took me all day and a nice restaurant owner named Martin to figure out how incredibly wrong I had been. The days followed have been taken by storm with an emphasis on allowing the culture to teach me before I write it off. We have one more day in Munich and I can definitely say it will be missed. (Keep going past pictures for the most important part)

One last, but very important thing. Today is my parents 31st wedding anniversary but these two have been together for a total of 36 years. Thank you for being the epitome of a Christ-centered relationship for John, Bennett, and I and always loving and supporting each other/us unconditionally. It has been the most beautiful thing to watch, learn from, and environment to grow up in. Thank you for giving me the two best friends/brothers I could ever ask for and allowing us to hang out with people as cool and as fun as you. Any parents that decide that they want to go play laser tag and whirly ball for their anniversary celebration definitely have it going on. I love and appreciate you so much and thank you for giving me this opportunity to explore abroad. I can’t wait to celebrate with you when I get back. I love ya’ll.