Thursday, June 27, 2013

Prepping and packing

...because I can't think of anything better to do the week after three days in the hospital than take a 5am train to a city full of food you can't eat, can you? Seriously, though, I am so excited. I am going to get to see the pope, and get him to bless my rosary! (And some other stuff, but those are presents, so shhhh.) I'm solving the food problem by bringing nuts and hard-boiled eggs with me, and on Sunday night I'll probably scrap the gluten-free diet for the evening so I can eat pasta carbonara.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity, since all my friends are leaving. We went out to dinner several times, which left rather more of a hole in my pocket than I thought it would, and we spent an evening at a carnival. As my friend Alex said, "On a scale of one to Mexico, how safe do you think this is?"

There were several typical carnival rides, but there were no rules about how to behave on them. So people were standing up on the swing boats. On the swing merry-go-round, you will notice that my friends are facing me in several pictures. This is because they twisted up their chains before the ride started, and then shoved and pushed each other to make sure they kept spinning for the whole ride.

It was a good evening, or rather set of evenings, and a fun week. After I get back from Rome, though, it will be nice to relax a little bit.

Friday, June 21, 2013

7 quick takes, volume 10

1. Thank you all for the prayers! The final diagnosis was an infection/inflammation of the intestines which my body was fighting off on its own. Therefore, no medical interventions were needed (except a pain drug which is illegal in the US. Ha.)

2. I am now on a temporary diet of easy to digest food. On a lactose and gluten-free diet, that basically means rice, applesauce, and carrots. Yay. However, I think it also includes Fanta, because soda is the easiest thing to keep down if you're sick to your stomach, so it must be easy to digest. And also the doctor left it up to my discretion how long I should follow this diet for.

3. A little over half the people in my program are going home this weekend, which is sad, especially since a lot of the ones I got along best with are leaving. But I suppose this is life, and I will make the best of it. I now have offers of free places to stay all over the US. Road trip, anyone?

4. We had a goodbye party yesterday. I was voted "most likely to have a dozen children" and Kevin and I were voted "most likely to get married."

5. We held our party at the Seepark, where there are so many waterfowl. Since it's summer, there were oodles of baby waterfowl. I saw baby coots, grebes, mallards, and one cygnet. Possibly also a nest of baby moorhens--they were red on top like moorhens, but it looked like a coot was taking care of them.

6. and 7. Pictures of baby birds!
 Not all baby birds are cute. Some look like space aliens.
 A baby coot watching while its parent dives.
 A mama mallard sitting on her babies.
 Coots have strange, strange feet.
 This poor cygnet. He is so clearly going through puberty.
 Baby mallard!
 I threw in this random sparrow for good measure.
 A grebe. They are hard to photograph because they don't stay on the water for very long.
 Two baby coots fighting over an apple.
A baby grebe. They're striped!

Head over to Conversion Diary for the rest of the takes!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Prayer request

I don't usually ask people to pray for me (maybe because all my friends are so quick to offer!) but now I am going to. Monday night I had severe stomach pain. I thought it was my gallbladder and therefore not urgent, so I waited until the morning to go to the doctor. He diagnosed me with appendicitis and sent me off to the hospital.

The hospital ran a battery of tests (many ultrasounds, blood tests, urine test, and three different doctors) and sent me home because they didn't see a conclusive reason to operate. They had me come back this morning and the situation is much the same: my appendix is definitely causing me pain, but the blood tests and ultrasounds wouldn't by themselves suggest surgery. So I am going back again tomorrow at 8am and if things aren't better the doctor said they will probably do surgery and remove my appendix since it certainly seems to be the source of the pain.

I am not too terribly worried, since I am under the care of the head surgeon (apparently my case is too weird to trust to a regular doctor) in ambulatory surgery at the best hospital in Freiburg. But of course, avoiding surgery and general anesthesia is always a good thing!

Friday, June 14, 2013

7 quick takes, volume 9

1. I haven't posted, because not much has been happening that's terribly interesting.

2. On Tuesday, Kevin turned 21. We didn't really celebrate much, since it was in the middle of the week. But I made sesame chicken and chocolate cake, and that was good fun. We shared the cake with a roommate and his boyfriend and there was still a huge amount left over.

3. Wednesday we had our farewell dinner for the study abroad program. Those of us in University courses aren't leaving for another six weeks, and they threw us in with another IES program who we never see (because they don't speak German), so the farewell part kind of got lost. But it had free food, so no complaints.

4. Thursday was the All-American Barbecue at the university, sponsored by the international club. Everything was almost-but-not-quite right. I did get a picture of me wearing the uniform of the local American football team, and Kevin won the pie eating contest. That was funny.

5. Everyone I know is frantically doing large amounts of work before the semester ends. I have two papers due, one of which is ten pages and one of which is eight to ten pages. The ten page one is onto page ten, and I am not sure it can really get longer. Combined with the fact that I can write German much faster than everybody else on the program, I have so much more free time that it makes me feel kind of guilty. Oh well.

6. Apparently the score I got on the placement test at the beginning of the year was the best score the teacher has ever seen. I learned that on Wednesday night.

7. My seasonal allergies have only just showed up. I had thought I had escaped them by switching continents, but apparently the terrible weather here just delayed them. Speaking of weather, we skipped spring. We went from where-is-my-winter-coat weather to I-wish-I-didn't-value-the-virtue-of-modesty weather. Sigh.

I'm writing these while drinking my coffee, so if they don't make sense, you can find ones written after coffee at Jen's blog.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Orthodoxy and heterodoxy: 7 quick takes, vol 8

1. For some reason, questions about heresy keep popping up all over the place recently. And they all seem to lead me to the same thoughts.

2. It all started with reading the book, The Name of the Rose, which a good friend recommended and lent to me. The book is set during the Franciscan controversy, about whether Jesus had things, and whether Christians should have things, or whether they were required to live in poverty, and what that all meant anyway. One of the characters in the book made the point that the majority of people who get caught up in heretical movements are not trying to be heretics. An inspiring preacher comes along who talks about dedicating your life to Christ, so you follow him. And then it turns out his theology is all flawed and so he and you are both heretics, but you are just a medieval farmer, so you had no idea about theology anyway! You're a Cathar, because that's who came by, not because you're actually deeply committed to Catharism. I thought this idea was super interesting, and probably true.

3. Then, in my Medieval Mindset class, we talked about the same time period. My teacher advanced the theory that St. Francis was canonized so quickly because the Pope was worried that people would follow St. Francis rather than him, and so he canonized him to tie the St. Francis followers into the Roman Catholic Church. Now, to me, this sounds a little crazy, especially if you think that canonizations are divinely inspired. But what was very interesting was how much some heresies overlap with other, orthodox, traditions. The line between heresy and orthodoxy is so very thin in some places!

4. In my theater class, we discussed and saw the play Daniel Stein. It's based on a book which was originally in Russian, which is loosely based on a real person. Anyway, the story is of a Jewish man who works as a translator for the Gestapo in WWII. After he uses his inside knowledge to help a Jewish ghetto, he has to flee. He hides with Catholic nuns, becomes Catholic, and then a Catholic priest. He goes to Israel to try to found a community like the original church in the first century, before Judaism and Catholicism became so different from each other. However, he gets into all sorts of trouble with the church, because part of what he does is reject Church doctrines (like the Trinity) that were solidified in later centuries. These conflicts never get really straightened out because Daniel dies in a car accident. Nevertheless, it's interesting to me that what got Daniel into trouble was not so much his beliefs as his lack of beliefs.

5. A side note to a paper I am writing is the heresy of Joachim von Fiore. He wrote a book attacking Peter Lombard and his doctrine of the Trinity. Then he sent his book to the pope, to get an opinion on the orthodoxy of his opinions so he could know if they were in line with Church teaching. And, too bad for him, the Fourth Lateran Council condemned him and his book, and said that Peter Lombard was correct. It did praise Peter Lombard, though, for checking.

6. Yesterday, a friend of mine and I were discussing religion and the Church. (This is the same friend who recommended The Name of the Rose. He and Kevin and I have some awesome deep discussions. He also might be reading this, so hi!) Anyway, he started to ask a question, prefacing it with the two caveats that one, he hoped this wasn't offensive and he didn't mean it offensively, and two, he knew it might be hard for me to answer this question objectively, so I was prepared for some tricky theology question or something. But the question was, aren't there some popes and bishops throughout history who have done some really evil things? To which, of course, the answer is yes by any moral standard. My father likes to say that given the people who have led the Church in the past, the fact that she still exists is a testament to her divine guidance!

7. But what it all comes down to, I think, is authority. Does the Church have authority, or not? If the Church has authority and is inspired by the Holy Spirit, then you follow her. If not, you don't. The line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy is fine, but the line is there. To a regular person, it's so hard to sort out. For God, it's easy. I would hate to be a Protestant and have to figure everything out by myself. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have the Church to guide me in my theology, especially in my metaphysics.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Ok, now I'm all caught up. Or I will be, once I'm done this post.

This is what we did last Saturday: rode ancient streetcars. Once a month during the summer, the old streetcars get pulled out of storage and driven around, and you can ride them for free.
 This one is from 1959, I believe.

 Some nice old ladies offered to take our picture getting on. I put the camera back on auto for them, and the sky is all blown out. Yay.
 Wood paneling inside! How classy.
 The ride was free, but you could buy a souvenir ticket for 2E, so we did.

 Standing in the rain, waiting to switch to the other old streetcar.
 This one is from 1929.
 10 DM if you ride without a ticket!

 The handles to hold onto are made of wood, and those strings are leather cords, to pull to signal the train to stop.

 Here's the front of the 1929 train.

 Waiting in the rain again.

 I love old signs. But I can't imagine the uproar if a streetcar today had seats reserved for "severely damaged" people!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Medieval Mindset Excursion

Twice this semester, we have gone on an excursion for our Medieval Mindset class. This basically works in the following way: Get up extremely early. Ride around in a bus all day looking at old things. So far, something has gone wrong each time. The first time, someone got sick and threw up. The second time, the time this post is about, it poured all day. With that said, we did get to sleep in a bit because of that!

 This is Burg Rotteln.
 This is a church in France. We tried to hide from the rain in it. Unfortunately, someone had already scheduled a funeral and didn't tell us. When, to our surprise and shock, they brought in the coffin, we hightailed it out of there.
 A stork! We saw at least four different storks. I love them so much. I just wish the weather had been better so the pictures would have been better.
 This is the most adorable tiny castle ever.
 We also took a tour of the city of Staufen. Due to an accident while drilling for some sort of geochemical energy, something cracked and now the tectonic plates under the city are shifting and the buildings are being destroyed.
 See the way this house leans forward? That was done on purpose to maximize the living space while minimizing the amount of property you had to pay taxes on. It also made it easier to haul things up into the top floor without scraping the walls.
 So many cracks! :(
 Kalte Sophie! My patron saint! I want to go back there and buy some ice cream.
 We finished up our day with a lovely classy wine tasting.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Corpus Christi!

Or, as the Germans call it, Fronleichnam. It's a big deal over here.

To begin with, it's on Thursday. I think if you told a German that in the US a lot of bishops move it to Sunday, they would be horrified. Especially because in Germany, everyone gets the day off school or work. After Mass, there was a long procession carrying the Eucharist around the city. I took lots of pictures, and here they are.

 To begin with, we were greeted by a banner of the SSPX. I am not sure if I should interpret it as a heretical statement that we are all on the same page or a difference-crossing celebration of a common belief. Do the SSPX people have valid Eucharist? I don't even know. (I stopped wearing my chapel veil here, because I get hostile glares from everyone. I think the other people think I am part of the SSPX.)
 So many people, blocking all the street. See all those trees? Those are all branches put up along the procession way to decorate the streets.
 Businesses and houses put up their own displays too, either flowers and pictures, like this one,
 or just Vatican-colored flags.
 historic buildings,
even Lufthansa got in on the fun!

 This banner outside the hair salon is printed with the first few lines of the Lamb of God.

 This is the crowd filling the square outside the church at the end of the procession.
We had lovely weather. It was the one day that week that it didn't pour rain. The bishop said that some of the event planners had been taught a lesson about trusting in God! It was a lovely day, and I am glad I went, even if I was sore the next day from carrying my picnic lunch around.