Writing on the TGV to Bayonne…
Me + TGVs + France = LOL!!!
I literally sprinted to make my train this afternoon. Not because of missed connections or anything. As a matter of fact I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I sat on the “Le car” winding my way through the streets of Paris to Gare Montparnasse. “Les cars” by Air France (lescarsairfrance.com) are the fastest/most economical way to get from Charles De Gaulle Airport to the Montparnasse train station. They have 4 bus lines (the one to Montparnasse is line 4) that shuttle passengers to places all over Paris. My fare was 17.5 Euro and it only took 1 hr and 15 min. “Les cars” picks up every 30 min. A lady at the airport info booth let me know I could pic up my “Les car” if I walk to the Starbucks in the airport and turn left out to the curb. I crack up how so many of my directions have had a Starbucks reference in them on this trip.
When I arrived at Gare Montparnasse I had a whole hour before my train would depart. Considering what happened to me the last time I took a TGV in France, this was a good thing. I’d need all the time I could get. I got my e-ticket, walked around, ordered a smoothie and sauntered onto the wrong train. The right track mind you, what I didn’t know was that there was another whole train in front of it––the one I needed to be on. French people have all been so friendly. I speak a little French, but I never learned “am I on the right train?” (note to self) Something just felt off so I asked a few guys hanging outside the train to take a look at my ticket. By that time a few people had told me different things about where I should be sitting on the train. The guys pointed down the track enthusiastically, motioned to run and pointed to their hearts. Nice. Me + light backpack + sprint = Right train. I had just boarded, slung my backpack up over my seat when the train pulled out of the station. People around me sort of applauded. Hee-hee. Looks like my pilgrimage, starts with a sprint. There’s a beagle sitting next to me too. He’s really cute. Ahhh…the French.
At breakfast this morning I wrote in my journal with a light blue pen that says “I ❤ Prague.” It has silver sparkles at the top. The sparkles remind me how Praha bewitched me at night with castle spires lit against star-filled skies, the full moon taking center stage. A city where even the buildings dance.
The city got her name from a woman gifted with prophecy. She saw the hillside and declared a city would be built there and it would become great and gave it the name Praha, which means “threshold” in Czech.
It’s no accident that I visit Prague now. It’s more than the call to the mission trip for Christian Associates or the interest in exploring the city where my Great Grandfather was born and who could have quite possibly attended University at the same time Einstein taught there.
I wanted to know more about the word threshold. There’s the meaning we most likely think of: “a strip of wood, or metal that forms the bottom of a doorway.” Underneath this meaning another was listed…”the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested––nothing happens until the signal passes the threshold”
After learning the meaning off Praha, I recalled all my thresholds. I’ve been carried over four. Each brings a big smile, every threshold different, every one special. I was carried over the first as a young bride and the last one was to be my last, a place where we’d grow old together. Now I’ve been granted a fifth which will not involve a house at all and one that will take me 40 days and 500 miles to cross. In the Bible God talks about being sure of our calling. St. James keeps me company as I discern my call, as will all the other pilgrims past and present that have walked the Camino. God-willing I’ll arrive in Santiago having some incite into the threshold I’m crossing.
All I can remember from the previous ones I’ve crossed is a feeling of joy and happiness. To me that’s what thresholds represent. A promise of hope and excitement, of embracing what will be.
Tomorrow I’ill be a pilgrim along with thousands of others with thousands of stories. Everyone called to walk. I want to be a pretty pilgrim (una pellegrina bonita), so I painted my toes “pilgrim purple” and I’ve packed my tiara. I figure if my toenails might/are going to fall off they might as well be pretty. One thing is certain…I am in divine hands.
James 1:2-8 NIV
“ Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
So what the heck is this pilgrimage I’ve been writing about? It’s the Camino de Santiago.
A 500-mile walk that begins in France and ends on the coast of Spain. Some people walk part of the way. Some take years to complete the pilgrimage.
“Pilgrims have been walking the “Camino de Santiago” for over 1,200 years. According to
anecdotal testimony, the Disciple James (brother of John) spread the gospel to Galicia (northwest Spain) some time after the ascension of Jesus. At some point, James returned to Jerusalem where he was beheaded by Herod in 43AD. Following his martyrdom, St. James’ disciples brought his body back to this region in Spain. In 813, a shepherd was guided by a star (stella in Latin) to a field (compos in Latin) close to today’s Santiago where St. James (Sant Iago in Latin) was buried. Lore is that St. James reappeared to help banish the Islamic Moors from Spain, and the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage was born. St. James eventually became the patron saint of Spain, and “Pellegrinos” began making long pilgrimages to Santiago from all over Europe to honor the Saint and be healed of various afflictions.
There are many Pilgrim routes, but the most traveled one (and the focus of this guide) is the Camino Frances, which stretches ~800 kilometers or ~500 miles from St Jean Pied-de-Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.”
–– I’m quoting for the Camino Guide APP I have on my phone. (I recommend it for all pilgrims dreaming of or embarking on the Camino. It definitely helped me prepare, now I’ll find out how it will be on the walk.)
Here’s to a buen camino. A bonita buen camino 🙂
“If the path is beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.” –– Anatole France
In my last post I mentioned that the Spirit has revealed Himself to me a handful of times in my life. In the week after I typed those words, during my mission work here in Prague at the Christian Associates VBS (Vacation Bible School) at their Summit Conference, it’s become apparent that the Spirit is with me all the time.
In the of making dandelion chains….
In the joy of a little girl treasuring a ladybug….
In a small boy’s invitation to play….
Incidents of serendipity filled the months before I left LA and all during my move. It appeared in the moving guys’ certainty they could get my car and remaining possessions into a storage unit that appeared to my unbelieving eyes as much too small. The guys taught me about the power of belief…especially as three of them had to direct me how to park my car into the unit––which could be a short story in and of itself about trust and faith.
(After the guys placed the piano in the back of the darkened storage unit, I sat at the piano and played it for the last time. I’d been practicing some pieces over the last few years and finally flawlessly played Solfeggietto in C Minor by CPE Bach.)
To a friend in need who needed furniture that would have cost me a lot of money to store…
To my neighbor, Desi, a woman of beautiful faith, who’s helping me as my assistant with mail and things…
To my dear friend Jeanne, who called and asked if I needed a ride to the airport, which led to a gorgeous send-off filled with stories and laughing our whole ride to LAX….
To hearing my name at the gate at LA––a friend of a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We flew the same flight to Moscow….
To arriving in Prague, running into shuttle problems then finding exactly who I needed to help me figure out how to ride two buses and take a few metro lines which took me to t a few blocks of my hotel….
These are all the works of The Spirit helping me along an unknown path, but one that it’s clear I take. Every time I get overwhelmed, I believe The Spirit visits and gives me just what I need to help me along the way.
And this leads me to a prayer that I pray almost every day. Ever since I was invited to a friend’s birthday party. A lady I hadn’t met that night felt the need to introduce herself at the end of the evening and shake my hand. She said she had hoped to speak with me that night, but since we hadn’t she at least wanted to share a simple prayer she prays every day. Yet again, The Spirit found me. At the end of a friend’s birthday party. I mean how many times do you meet people that share a powerful prayer with you? Um…never. With a big smile she shared her prayer:
“Lord, please bring me the people I need; and, please bring me to the people who need me.”
She told me to pray that prayer every day. Ever since, I’ve been praying her prayer for myself and those I love. And even here for missionaries at the conference. I was invited to talk about leadership at one of the round tables and when asked to share a prayer, I prayed the lady’s prayer over them too.
Tomorrow I’m off to see a beautiful castle here in the Prague countryside as we get a day off between conferences. In a week I’ll begin my pilgrimage on The El Camino de Santiago. I can’t believe it’s nearly here. I am preparing myself for the journey and open to whatever adventure the Spirit calls me to.
“In 814, a strange shower of shooting starts over Mount Libredón (now Compostela) attracted the attention of the hermit Paio. As he approached, he saw (hidden) tomb of Santiago (St James). This event turned Compostela a focal point for the Christian faith.”
I’m all over pilgrimages that come about because of things that grab the attention of hermits:)
“God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” ––Hebrews 2:4 NIV
March 6, 2014
I’ve heard about Bali my whole life and it seemed like an exotic place only other people would visit. But today, I’m going to set foot there. There were a million reasons to not go. To stay stuck in fear. To pull back, especially in the face of so much pain and uncertainty— but I didn’t. I chose to Go Big, and this is my new philosophy. My new North Star. I’ve decided I don’t want to live my life as I always have. I want to live differently. I’m not completely certain what this will look like. I’ve decided I’d like to travel and write and work incredibly hard to support myself with my pen (camera and computer too).
I would find that the real magic in my life lies in an elegant truth. An elegant truth it would take a trip around the world to discover.
Java, this ancient place of mystery and history, the island where my dad was born, the island where he fought for his survival during WWII, transformed me and my pain.
Calls of “hello”
Swimming in holy water
Offerings to volcano cauldrons
24/7 people in crowded squares
Life, life, life
Manic driving and motors
4:30 AM calls to prayer
Jungle shrieks and hums
I will miss it all
The bike ride with Hannah, Tim and Peter
through the nighttime streets of Pandangaran
Volleyball, 2 AM feasts
flying foxes for dinner
Markets and the mystical
A witch’s spell cast
A holy tree wrapped
The spirit world
A heartbeat away
Waiting to be felt
Waiting to speak
Living with duplicity
the black and the white
the left hand and the right
good and evil
all have a place
finding a balance
A great harvest ahead
in the joy
that comes from
It’s my last few hours on Java and I’ll take it home with me. Whenever I feel unclear or uncertain, I’ll bring the harvest in the palm-tree fringed rice paddies to mind, trusting a rich harvest is ahead.
I take the ferry from Java to Bali today. My dear Indonesian friend warned me about the ferries. “They sink a lot of the time. Go to Bali another way,” she said. I prayed extra-hard on the crossing, so breathtakingly beautiful I can’t imagine arriving on Bali any other way.
The Hindu temples here have monuments at their entrances in the shape of hands in prayer. As you walk through, they bless you and as you leave they wish you well.
I went to the gardens of good and evil at the Goa Gajah temple in Ubud. I was kind of shocked how they acknowledge the evil spirits in this way, so different than the West.
My guide, Ketut, told me that there was a small school in the Elephant Cave at the temple here. Once upon a time, the King taught boys there about religion and philosophy. Ketut mentioned that the students were instructed in controlling their emotions because it is the only thing a person can control. He said that when there is a problem, that the problem always lies inside you, never inside another person. The the only two things a person should pray for from God, according to Ketut, is health and harmony in the family. When life is out of balance then there is a problem.
Word of the disappearing Malaysian Airlines plane shocked the world, and Indonesia was in the spotlight for the search and rescue effort. As countries scoured the Java Sea for the missing plane, relatives contacted me and my fellow traveling friends to ask about our welfare.
Was our next flight a Malaysian airlines flight? It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to go through such a global event at the heart of the event itself.
Of course I think about how short life really is. And how small the world really is. And how if we could just wrap our arms around each other more, we would weep less. That it’s ok to be afraid of the unknown, even when the world asks the question about how the impossible can happen. It’s okay not to have any of the answers you want and need when you want and need them. It’s part of the journey. Back at home people were concerned at me traveling so far away to places so different from the U.S. The more I travel, the more I understand that the key to world peace is in the friendships we make. Because, in the end, we all want the same things. We want to be happy. We want our children to be healthy. We want to be there for our friends. The more friends we have in the world the more peace we will have in the world. – March 9, 2014
It’s like Hannah said, there’s a difference between going on vacation and traveling. She told me we are travelers. And I believe it was at this point in the trip I took inspiration from Hannah and became a true traveller myself.
to be continued….
March 2, 2014
Seloliman Nature Reserve, Java
The jungle hikes at Seloliman will stay in my imagination forever. So much to inspire. The great variety of life…the beauty of the wild. I thank God for waist-deep hikes in this jungle. Swallowed in nature, I’m blessed to experience the aliveness of an exotic world. A world my dad called home.
“It’s loud in the jungle, just like Dad said. Full of hums and chirps, calls and caws, crescendos and croaks and howls. There’s a million creatures out there and my mind’s alive with the intoxication of sound! One of the best experiences of my life—sitting here on the bed, under the mosquito netting, journaling to the jungle’s symphony.”
March 4, 2014
“I just killed a spider for Hannah, she’s adorable. A total sweetheart, she’s extremely adventurous, but really upset by insects. At our last place in Seloliman Nature Preserve, our bathrooms were outside and she had a wasp nest under her sink. She was staying all alone that night (it was her night to have a room all to herself, we all take turns). When she screamed and I was the one to kill the spider, I realized that I’d be killing my own spiders from now on. Once upon a time, he took care of that. So many things shared, so many things lost.”
March 5, 2014
“One of the most amazing memories of the trip so far was when I swam at the Hindu temple in Seloliman. It was completely spontaneous. We’d just hiked to the temple, and before I knew it I was swimming in the temple’s holy water. I loved it. Every second of it. There’s such power in following my instincts, even though I have no idea where they might take me. All I know is that I’m more me when I pay attention to them.
I was deeply sad at the temple (I think it had something to do with the fact that I would be killing all my own spiders from now on) and I wanted to wash the sadness away. After I went for a swim, my friend David came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. He asked how I was. The gesture so very unexpected and so very nice. It was the kind of tenderness I wasn’t used to.
Thunder’s booming in the distance and is a comfort. I like the rhythm of the storms. We have no water in our room right now. Last night I blew a fuse when I plugged in my phone for a charge. In the last hotel the electrical didn’t work at all. There’s a peace to life in the darkness I never knew before. I’ve made friends with it.”
To be continued…
“the truth I ‘d been running from was so strong,
it was as big as the promise of the coming day…”
My roommate Hannah and I sleepwalked into our clothes. Together with our traveling companions, we piled in five jeeps to take the dizzying, nighttime drive to summit Mt. Bromo. I sat in the far back seat of one of the jeeps. Every twist and turn sent mystery metal digging into my hip or thigh. My friends and I had braved many adventures on our tour together. This one was the earliest. After a short hike to the summit we waited, having no idea what beauty we’d witness. What wonders sat in the darkness below.
I saw The Southern Cross for the first time. My friends and I sung the Crosby, Stills and Nash song of the same name. As I sang, I understood why I came to Java— the truth I ‘d been running from was so strong, it was as big as the promise of the coming day.
March 4, 2014
“In the pink and purple smoke of many shrouded volcano peaks, at the summit of Mt. Bromo, the sun rose. Illuminating beauty out of the darkness. It was my sunrise. All mine. A new beginning. An invitation to do the very same thing within my own life. To illuminate the darkness. I am the sunrise. In that moment, I decided I’d always GO BIG. This big trip, this big sunrise called me to trust my big dreams. I’d no longer need to doubt or be frightened by them any longer. I’ll bravely keep on dreaming. Keep on living, to discover myself and my passions in the face of catastrophe.”
On what would have been my twenty-eighth anniversary, February 14, 2014, Kelud erupted, a volcano 175 miles to the east of Yogyakarta. I learned of the deadly details of the eruption on my return to Jakarta, where I prayed for the victims and hoped for the best with my travels. Borobudur and Prambanan temples closed because of the disaster. I believe it was at this point in my journey that I composed my own traveler’s prayer––“Lord, please bestow good health, good weather and good connections.” I would pray this every day. The timing of the eruption spoke to me personally and to the power of my journey. Not only my world, but the world around me was erupting too, seemingly in my wake.
February 22, 2014
I had a steamy Sunday to myself to explore Jakarta. One of the sights I wanted to tour was Monas––the Indonesian national monument commemorating their independence built by President Sukarno. I had yet to try speaking Basha Indonesian on my own. Google Translate and I hit the streets of Jakarta.
“It all started with a taxi ride. I’d just arrived in Jakarta after a few days in Bandung with my friends. I was thrilled but terrified heading into the city without a native speaker with me. I wasn’t sure how I would see all I wanted to see. I took a picture of the map of the Kota out of my guidebook and figured I’d use my App to help me communicate where I needed to go and headed out into the world. But the second I stepped into the sunshine of the Jakarta Sunday morning I got this “I-want-to-curl-up-in-ball” feeling. I was about to leave the cozy confines of the Dreamtel Hotel for Read More
When I left her in Melbourne, Dee said that the world is my oyster. It was wonderful to hear, but I had yet to believe it. One world had ended and my new world had yet to begin. I was between worlds…
Feb. 19, 2014 – Arrive Sydney, Australia – Rothwell Guest House, Glebe
Glebe is a great part of Sydney. My room at the guest house was $80/night, unheard of affordability in Sydney, and just a short walk up Ferry Rd. to an amazing bakery and lots of restaurants. The bus stop to the harbor (the 431 & 433 bus lines) was right in front of the bakery. I purchased my $15, 10-ride bus ticket at the news store across from the Glebe library and hopped on the bus. The Writer’s Walk leads up to the Opera House. One of my favorite plaques on the walk reads:
“Australian history is almost always picturesque, indeed it is so curious and strange that it is itself the chiefest novelty the country has to offer. It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies. And all of a fresh sort, not moldy old stale ones. It’s full of surprises, and adventures and incongruities, and incredibilities, but they are all true, they all happened.” – Mark Twain
While I saw a late-night show at the Opera House, The QE2 anchored in Sydney Harbor. Along with hundreds of people lining the harbor, I waved to those on board as they sailed out to sea. When the ship sounded it’s horn, we all hollered. In the midst of the spontaneous celebration with my new-found friends, I realized I’d just left my safe harbor and set sail in the world too.
Feb 20th, 2014 – Sydney
A comedy of errors leads me to missing my tour two times today. But without missing it so many times, I might not have met Gabriella and Vidal. They are each other’s Ex’s and found they can’t be married but love each other very Read More
“You know, some are glass half-empty people, and some are glass half-full people. But some people aren’t limited by the glass.”
When I chose to take big leaps in my life, people all around me, well-meaning friends and family, even acquaintances all had advise and opinions about my plans. Supportive, to be sure. At the very least curious and at times afraid for me. Read More
A year ago I began what would turn out to be a 90-day spontaneous trip around the world. Spontaneous, you say? Uh-huh. In honor of the journey, I’m featuring posts about the trip over the next three months. Wanna join me?
I thought about giving you a preview of where we’re heading. But, heck, I had no idea so why don’t we find out together. All I knew at this point in the trip was that I’d spent nearly every dime on my life-long dream to travel to Australia and Indonesia for five weeks to do research for a screenplay I was writing at the time (and am currently editing). The trip took me to the island of Java where my dad grew up and would inform the setting of the screenplay, a true World War II story based on my dad’s experience as a Japanese prisoner.
Are you ready? We’re going to have to pack. Everyone advised me to travel light. Prior to this trip, I’d pack the kitchen sink to go anywhere. I felt like Lucille Ball when I packed (read: stuffed) my backpack for the trip. My youngest daughter called as zero hour approached, asking if all my provisions fit. I confessed I’d have to take two backpacks instead of the one I’d planned.
I looked like a very pregnant adventurer, a small pack in front and a big pack on my back. What’s hilarious is I only have this one picture of me wearing them which was taken after an unexpected adventure. Had I known about these must-haves, my packs would have been much lighter and I would have saved priceless, precious travel time! Read More