Friday, May 31st, 10:22 am local time (4:22 am EST), Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany
Hello again, folks! Dad and I are in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, just a little over an hour's drive from Leipzig. Leipzig really only took a day, so we're officially at least one day ahead of schedule. We saw all there is (basically) in Wittenberg, but we booked for two nights, so we're taking a day off, and Dad is asleep...
On Monday I managed to sleep through my first two alarms, so I had to rush around to take my shower and get on the shuttle to the airport. Jean came down and gave me a hug goodbye, and a few minutes later, both Kibbles came and we waited for the bus together. Dr. Kibble gave me a heart keychain with a flag of Norway on it so that I would remember everyone loved me.
The bus came, I got on, and I waited as we drove about an hour from my hotel, via several other stops, to the Oslo Airport. I got off the bus, found the right line to get in, and I tried to sign in using the automatic kiosk, but they couldn't find me. So I waited in line for about 5-10 minutes. When I got to the front of the line, the man spoke perfect American English. It took him about 2 minutes to get me registered. He then asked me if I'd like an aisle seat, which I immediately asked for. He then noticed that I am tall, and offered me an emergency exit seat, which I heartily took. I suggested a bump to first class, but that didn't happen.
By this time it was just a little after 8, and I went through security with plenty of time... I found my gate, realized that it was full with passengers from a different flight, so I went and found a blueberry muffin and hot (dark) chocolate. I went back to a nearby gate and enjoyed my breakfast and finished a book I had on my iPad. I looked at my watch and it said that I had just a little under an hour until boarding. So I got up, went to my gate, and saw that there were no people... I looked at the board with all the assignments, and found that I wasn't supposed to be at gate 13 like my ticket said. Instead, I was to be on 37c. So I hoofed it over there ASAP.
I made it to 37c in plenty of time to start a new book, and get engrossed in it while waiting for the plane. I found generic gate 37, but couldn't find 37c. There was a hallway that look like the kind that lead to the airplanes, but it said something like Passenger Lounge. I walked through, and when no alarms sounded, I walked to the end of the hall and found my 37c.
We were shuttled on a bus from gate 37c to our waiting airplane, and allowed to board. I was in seat 9c, right above the wing. I didn't have anyone sitting immediately next to me, and though I didn't have a lot of leg room, I was comfortable. I read for a while until I started getting sleepy. From there I watched some Star Trek. I woke up when the fasten seatbelt sign lit up.
Several people (flight attendants, etc.) needed to talk to me during the trip, and they all immediately started speaking Norwegian or German. Only my panicked look and explanation that I didn't understand got them to switch languages to something I understood...
We landed in Munich, and I found baggage claim with no problem. My bag came around, and I grabbed it, and started heading out. I went through the "nothing to declare" line in customs, and saw nobody official and made it into Germany... Dad was waiting for me outside of customs, and from there we walked about 15 miles to the car, which was parked outside terminal 1 (I landed in terminal 2).
We got into the car (which was really quite nice), and drove to our hostel. It was one of those cold, blustery days that make you want to stay indoors. However, it was before 2, so we couldn't get into our hotel immediately. We walked down the street and saw a McDonalds and had lunch, and by the time we got back it was time, and we could get to our room... It was on the 2nd floor (which we would call the third floor), and small. The "bathroom" was a sink in the corner of the room, and if you wanted to more than brush your teeth, you needed to walk down the hall...
That afternoon, after just relaxing for a while in the hotel, we went out to the old part of Munich to the "Marienplatz" of St. Mary's Square. There is a church, and an old city hall. We went into the center of the City Hall, but didn't go in to see anything. We got to hear the City Hall Glockenspiel chime from 5-5:15, which was fun. It played a lot of Renaissance/Baroque sounding music, and there were dancing statues. Quite nice.
We walked around Marienplatz for a while, and down a few side streets, looking for food. We finally decided to go back to the hotel, so we hopped back on the subway, and even managed to go the right direction. At our end of the Subway, before we got on the bus, we stopped for food at a Pizza/Falafel stand, and Dad got swindled out of a tip by a very fast talking cashier.
Back at the hotel, we were tired, so we got in bed. We put on an episode of Star Trek, and neither of us knew what happened in the middle.
We woke up on Tuesday morning, and ate breakfast in the hostel. While we were getting ready, dad stood up, with arms stretching out. His 6-foot wingspan almost made it from one wall to the next. He was only about 6-inches short. From there we checked out, and went to the Dachau Concentration/Work Camp. They have kept much of Dachau how it was during the war, and they have very professional tours. They accept the fact that these horrors took place, and they don't, under any circumstance, try to hide it. They make their students come to Dachau at least once before they graduate.
The tour was very interesting and meaningful. We were shown the field where they stood for roll call, we were shown where the prisoners were registered, where they slept, where they went to the bathroom. I saw where special prisoners were put into cells, and I saw where religious services were held. I saw the crematorium, and I even saw the gas chamber.
This is the time when I need to clarify what the difference between a work camp and a extermination camp is. Dachau was a work camp. Until close to the end, the prisoners were there because they disagreed with the government. They were taken there to be put to work, not to be killed. That being said, many of them died due to overwork, lack of food, and lack of hygiene. There were individual executions, but no mass killings. The guide said that there was no evidence of mass executions happening in the gas chamber, but only individuals.
The prisoners in Dachau were stripped of their clothing, and basically given wooden shoes and a pair of pajamas. No socks, no underwear, no jackets. Only a small cap. They were forced to work that way rain or shine. I was struck by how cold it was in the camp buildings, and I was nicely bundled. I tried to imagine how they felt. I don't think I even have an idea.
During our tour of Dachau we met a man who is an Adventist, from Asheville, who, believe it or not, knows of Judy. I had introduced myself to someone else, and he overheard. I said I was a music major, and he asked what my instrument was. I said voice and organ, and he said he met Judy before the organ was installed. It's a small, small world.
After leaving Dachau we set our GPS to our hotel in Leipzig, which was about a four hour drive. We got in the car, and drove through some of the most beautiful countryside you'd ever seen. The grass was green, and there were wonderful fields of yellow (maybe mustard?). The houses all seem to be in the same style--sort of cement with bright red roofs. Very pretty!
We stopped along the way at an Aldi and bought a loaf of bread to go with the peanut butter and jelly Dad brought along. We also bought gummy bears and water. After that stop we got to Leipzig at about 6 o'clock.
We drove to the place the GPS took us, and there was no hotel... I was looking for different addresses, and Dad was about to make a phone call when he rolled down his window and yelled to a bicycler "unschudigung" (Excuse me). It turns out that we had passed it just a few yards back. So we turned around, parked, checked in, went out and changed parking places about three times, and then went in and up to the room.
The room was small, but it was huge compared to the night before. It even had its own bathroom... Unfortunately, there was a window into the bathroom, and even though glass was frosted, it wasn't private. The same for the door. My project for the evening was to do laundry, which was a fun experience. One washer took about an hour, but the other took 2.5 at least. And it took at least 2 hours for the clothes to dry!
Breakfast was not included at that hotel, so we resorted to PB&J. I found the addresses to the places we were going for the day, and we decided to go first to the Bach Museum and St. Thomas church. By the time we got to where we needed to be it was about 11, but by the time we parked and figured out where exactly we were supposed to be, it was closer to noon.
We went in to the Bach museum, and were given audio guides that contained a wealth of very interesting stories, facts, and even music! In the museum we got to see a family tree with at least 5 generations of Bach's family, beginning with Veit in the 1500s. From there we got to see an organ console once played by Bach. Then we saw more family trees, musical instruments, pictures, manuscripts, and many, many other things. I learned more about Bach in 2 hours there than 2.5 years of the B's!
After leaving the Bach museum (by way of the gift shop), we took a few pictures by a statue of JSB, and then went into the St. Thomas church, where Bach was in charge for 27 years. We walked around the outside perimeter of the inside until we found Bach's grave, which is at the very front in the choir area. We took several pictures, then went into a side room that told, in German, about the last days of Bach.
From St. Thomas church we headed toward the Mendelssohn house. By this time it was raining, and we were hungry, so we stopped at a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant, and had SPAGHETTI, and it was so good! After we left, we walked the remaining blocks to the Mendelssohn house, almost missing it entirely.
The Mendelssohn house is one floor of currently-used apartment building, and it's all in German. When we went in the door of his apartment, we were given a translation booklet with our tickets. The information was very interesting, but not laid out in a way that compared to the Bach museum. I read every word, and then looked around at all the exhibits. They were quite interesting to look at, especially the one of the Gewandhaus (guh-vant-house). It was just nice to be there. After a quick trip to the gift shop for a present for Grandma, Dad and I left and began walking back to the car.
By the time we were almost to the car we started seeing signs for the Schumann house. We started following them, and walked close to a mile before realizing that we didn't know where it was, and also realizing that our feet hurt. So we turned around and finally found the car! I was overjoyed.
We first figured out how to get into the parking garage, then we figured out how to drive out of the garage. We made it back to the hotel, ate PB&J for supper, and watched the rest of the Star Trek movie we started the night before.
Thursday morning we woke up and decided that we didn't want to walk the 5K Music Circle, and we didn't want to wait until 2:00 for the Schumann house to open. So we drove to Wittenberg by abut 11. It was only about an hour-and-a-half drive, and we made it to our next hotel by a little before 1. We checked in, and used the first good Wi-Fi we'd had in days. There was a knock at the door, and the lady asked if it was going to be one person or two staying. Dad booked it for 2, but their records only said 1, so we had to pay more.
By about 3 we went out into the city. We were only about 2 blocks from where all the important things happened in Wittenberg. We enjoyed walking down the street until finally coming to the end at the Schlosskirche (Castle Church), where Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses. Unfortunately, the church was closed for renovations, and we couldn't even see the doors up close.
We walked across the street to the Information Center/Gift Shop and bought a present for Grandpa. From there, we walked up the other street (they kind of meet at a V), and headed back up. We crossed over at one point, and then began looking for the Lutherhaus. We (finally) it, and went in with just under an hour to see everything, since we were trying to get to an English language church service at 4:30.
The museum is amazing! There is interesting information, and the exhibits make it come alive. I learned new things about Luther, but also saw old things in a new light. I saw Luther not as a troublemaker, but as a theologian who had issues with what was going on. He was just stating how his knowledge of the Bible didn't match with what was being said.
We had to run from the museum to the Corpus Christi Chapel for the English language service. It was special to get to worship in the town that Martin Luther caused such a stir in. When we sang A Mighty Fortress, I realized that I was singing it where it was written, at the birthplace of the Reformation.
After church we went to an Italian restaurant and had more Spaghetti. This wasn't as good as what we had in Leipzig, but it worked in a pinch, and I was full. From there it was back to the hotel. Dad and watched Ice Age, and went to bed.
I think I'm all caught up, now, but can't wait to have more adventures and tell you about them!
Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 6:07 pm local time (12:07 pm EST)--Leipzig, Germany
Well hello, folks! I'm really sorry that it has taken me this long to write another blog. It seem like no time at all since I last wrote, but it turns out it's been four day... I'm sorry!
The last concert of the trip was absolutely wonderful, and honestly I think we did quite well. There were some goofs, but it was something to be proud of for that much practice!
Before we left for Scandinavia, Joel and I each scanned half of our music and put all of it on our iPads. I was sure that Murphy's Law would pan out and someone would lose their music. I was right. About 20 minutes before the concert, Johannes Myers came up to Dr. Kibble and said he thought he had left his folder on the bus. She told him that there wasn't an extra (Kerysa usually brings one), so he would have to do without. I suggested an alternative, so I gave him my folder, and I sang from my iPad.
After the concert we all repaired to the cafeteria for popcorn and ice cream. I managed to get myself seated with a local named Christopher Robin, as in Winnie the Pooh's friend. He was very nice, but I had a hard time understanding him. There was a (fairly) funny conversation going on in English, and he kept missing things, and I didn't know how to explain what was going on. Eventually, he just didn't worry about it, and we just chatted.
Sabbath gets over extremely late (like 11 o'clock) that far north, so after a sundown prayer, I watched the rest of an episode of Star Trek on my iPad, and then went to bed with my iPod playing Yankee Doodle Dandy in order to drown out the loud guys with whom I shared the room.
The next morning we all woke up and continued on our merry way. We ate breakfast, and then said goodbye to one of the most beautiful places I've ever stayed. As we were driving back into Oslo, we stopped at a turn off, and took a few pictures. From there, we got back on the bus and I gave a non-written-out version of my worship talk.
When we arrived in Oslo, we got our guide, this time a woman aged somewhere between 55-65. She had a lot of vim and vigor, and had a wonderful tour planned, interrupted quickly by a cry for bathrooms... So we walked and we walked and we walked some more, looking desperately for a potty for someone who shall remain nameless.
The first cool thing that we saw on the tour was the opera house, though it was closed. I've decided that the Collegedale Church should be torn down and built in this design, though for a different reason. The roof of the building stretches from the ground to the top (but no higher), and people can walk on it and enjoy the sunshine and the view. If it was covered with snow, you could very easily sled down the roof and into the water. I think Collegedale Church should have a roof like that so we could use it for parking.
Before we got to the opera house, there was a fountain that looked like a peacock. After the opera, we got serious in our search for a bathroom. The person who still shall remain nameless was getting to the point of desperation best imagined by dancing a jig.
We walked through the older part of Oslo and enjoyed looking at older buildings. At one point we passed a statue of Edvard Grieg, and I managed to get a picture. We walked to a fortress of some kind, which was very nice, but there wasn't much that I thought was just amazing.
I'll be honest, I left my notepad in the bus during this tour since we were out walking, so I really have none of the interesting tidbits that make these postings fun to read. That being said, I'll continue to give the highlights of what I remember.
The fortress was really quite beautiful. It was on a river, and it overlooked a cruise ship. There were lovely French gardens (I learned the difference between a French and an English garden. French is cultivated and weeded and isn't natural. An English garden is allowed to grow up and be wild.
There were several places that our guide took us. The tour was supposed to be an hour and a half, but it managed to become three hours... By the end we were all hot and tired and thirsty and sick of being with the group. We wanted to do something else.
We were treated to lunch at a pizza buffet. The problem was that we didn't do well at getting vegetarian pizzas made. And all the meat pizzas had pepperoni. That didn't bother certain members of the group, but I didn't even want to pick that off...
From there we loaded back on the bus, and went to a couple more museums. The first was the Kon-Tiki museum, which commemorates a man who was born in Norway and who moved to the Pacific Islands. In the 40s or 50s he sailed very simple, thatched boats from somewhere in South or Central America to Easter Island, to prove that it was possible that South American Indians (Mayans or Aztecs or something like that) could have colonized the Pacific Islands instead of Asians. He also sailed a Papyrus boat from Egypt to South America to prove that the Egyptians could have settled the New World.
We had been given 45 minutes in the museum, so I paced myself, but I did it too well and was done and in the gift shop in about 10 minutes. Dr. Kibble showed how happy she was for the concerts to be over that she tried to hook caribeaner-handled mugs onto her ears, my ears, and Steven Blondo's ears... You really had to be there, but it was absolutely hilarious. When she gets laughing it is the most hilarious sound you can imagine.
From that museum we went across the street because the gift shop was better there. I got a really cool map of Norway since I hadn't been able to find a Norwegian flag. After the stop at the gift shop, we went to a Viking Ship Museum, which was quite interesting. Unfortunately, my brain was already quite full, so I didn't get as much from the experience as I should have.
After the Viking ships we went to our hotel and checked in, and were given some time to relax before meeting at a Cajun restaurant for our farewell supper. During that time, Dr. Kibble and I figured out how I would get to the airport. The shuttle came right by the hotel. I just had to be out the really early. Eha, our guide, and our bus driver (whose name escapes me at the moment), were with us. After we got the shuttle figured out, Eha, translating for the bus driver, asked me if I had managed to find a Norwegian flag yet. I told them no. Then she went on to say that the bus driver had an extra one sitting in the bus that he would give me. I didn't even know that he knew I collected them.
The food was quite good, and it was a lot of fun to talk with my friends one final time. At the table next to ours, Robby V., Curtis and Josh Knight were talking with the most ridiculous southern accents--which is fitting since were supposed to be in Louisiana. It wasn't just the accents, but all the stereotypically Southern things they were saying.
After supper we all loaded up on the bus and went to a naked-statue park. There were something like 2,000 statues, all naked, that showed humans in various stages of life and death. Americans as a whole, and specifically the guys of I Cantori, are not mature enough to walk through this garden, but if you can tune out the derrières, it is a very touching thing to see honest sculptures of honest people doing honest things.
At the other end of the garden, we met and sang, with Jean conducting instead of Dr. Kibble. We sang My Song in the Night and Finlandia. While we were singing, a group of very spirited (in more than one sense of the word) locals of about our own age gathered around and cheered for us. When we were done, they applauded, and then broke into song. Unknowingly, we had ended up in a battle of the choirs with a show choir (or something) from that area. After they sang a few songs, we all joined together, shoulder to shoulder, and sang Amazing Grace. It was really quite touching.
We all said our goodbyes, and loaded on the bus. We counted off, as we always do, and we we missing number 12, our dear Valley... So Chaplain, Robby V, and Joel all ran off the bus to find her. There was about 20 minutes of tenseness and prayer, and then they found her and brought her home. Then we all went to the hotel, and went to bed.
Well, folks, I'm ready for bed now, so I'll let you go... I promise I'll write more tomorrow, and I'll post it if we have Internet in Wittenberg.
Love you all and miss you,
Dr. Kibble asked me if I would be willing to share a worship thought tomorrow on the bus. Here it is!
Yesterday I was talking to Dr. Kibble, and telling her about a couple of experiences that I had had during this trip.
I am not a scenery person. While Josh is trying to find the perfect filter to take pictures of the scenery, I jump off the bus, snap a shot, and am back on waiting for the signal to move on. There have been a couple of times during this trip, though, that the scenery--combined with music--has moved me very deeply.
A week from yesterday, when we were waiting to sing in the Lutheran church, Chaplain had us line up in the cemetery around the church, and he told us how all these Lutherans were Adventists, which is true. They are waiting for Jesus to come again. That image really touched me, especially when we sang Abide With Me.
I fear no foe, with Thee to bless; Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness. Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
As we sang a picture entered my mind--I saw our sleeping Lutheran brothers and sisters waiting safely for Jesus to wake them again.
The other piece of scenery was Friday night when we were driving to Tyrifjord for the first time. I had been listening to some orchestral hymns on my iPod, and suddenly realized that there was a something out the window behind me. I turned so I could see it better, and it immediately took my breath away. The Fjord was beyond anything I could imagine.
Then I began to pay attention to what was on my iPod again--and the hymn was Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus...
Look full in his wonderful face--and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
It really confused me for a moment--This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen--how can this become dim? But then it dawned on me: How much more beautiful is Christ's face and His character it they make the breathtakingly beautiful Norwegian Fjords look pale?
My challenge to you is to enjoy the scenery--but remember that its beauty pales in comparison to the face and character of Jesus Christ.
Sabbath, May 25, 2013 7:41 am local time (1:41 am EST)
Good morning, and Happy Sabbath! If I'm not careful, this could turn into welcome and announcements for church. Right now we are in the town of Røyse, Norway, staying at our sister school Tyrifjord.
Last Wednesday we got to do laundry (!), and then went on a tour of the city of Uppsala, Sweden, which is about an hour away from Ekebyholm. Of that city's 200,000 residents, about 40,000 of them are students at the several universities. We got to look at the museum (though we didn't go in), and our tour guide told us that there were some 37,000 manuscripts, many of which were stolen during the 30-years-war (1618-1648).
As we were driving through Uppsala, we passed the northernmost mosque in the world. It was fairly modern looking, and very beautiful. We kept driving, and eventually parked in front of s small store. We got out of the bus, had a potty break, and then began to walk.
Before we went very far, we came across a line of small hills, and Esther immediately wondered if they were burial mounds. It turns out that's exactly what they are! They were the graves of the Nordic kings from before Christianity.
After walking a little further down the road, we found ourselves standing inside the oldest church in the country. It was built some time in the 12th century! That's 1100s, folks! We sang several songs there, including Cantique de Jean Racine with organ accompaniment. I even got to turn pages (and I played a C major chord!)
That oldest church was the original seat of Christianity in Sweden, but it was moved fairly quickly to a new cathedral in Uppsala, and finally to Stockholm.
The Protestant Reformation began (pretty much) with Martin Luther's 95 theses. In Germany the Reformation was of free choice, but in Sweden it was a political move. Gustavas Vasa (I'm not really sure if he's I, II or III) didn't like the Catholics, so he basically drove them out in the 1500s. It wasn't really until the 1700s that the common people accepted Lutheranism.
[Later in the afternoon, maybe 3:30 local time, 9:30 EST]
We later visited the "new" Cathedral in Uppsala--completed around 1300 or so. It was originally a catholic church, so going in and walking around we were shown many different things that had no business in a protestant church. There were images of several saints, and even a room with relics in it. Martin Luther's Solus Christus had been forgotten in a Lutheran church! Throughout the whole stop at this Lutheran, formerly Catholic, cathedral there was a song going through my head, as there often is. It was the English text of the Cantique de Jean Racine by Faure. As I looked around the church which was full of distractions, my heart's choir sang:
O Redeemer Divine
our Sole hope of Salvation
Eternal Light of the Earth and the Sky
we kneel in Adoration...
And so I did. I sat in a pew and prayed. I prayed for our tour, I prayed for my relationship with God, and I prayed for those who worship in that church--that they can find the truth in their confused church.
In the evening, we went to another mall to eat, and I learned my lesson and ordered my own pizza! No more sharing with Kaiti. I was hungry, so I polished off that pizza toute de suite! It was absolutely amazing! I have never been a thin crust lover, but when it's the only thing, and when it's done right, there is nothing better.
Thursday morning we left about 10:30, and drove once again to Stockholm, with the husband of Ekebyholm's rector (principal). He is, I think, a doctor, but it seems like he has also been a teacher and a missionary. He acted as our tour guide, and was a lot of fun to be around. He was the man who took us on the tour of Ekebyholm, and he grew up in Stockholm and was able to give us wonderful facts and histories, coupled with several really good jokes!
Our first stop in Stockholm was a vegetarian buffet which was actually quite good. I had the first broccoli I'd had on the trip, and several other delicious entrees. I even had some strawberry ice cream.
I've decided that I am going to write a book called Around the World in 80 Restrooms, and one that I will be sure to include is the one from that restaurant. The toilet and sink were beautiful! They were painted very intricately, and I thought it was just about the best thing I'd ever seen. I have pictures that I'll eventually put up.
From the restaurant we went to an outdoor "museum" that was part Plymouth Plantation, part Syracuse Zoo, and a small, overpriced gift shop. We walked around for a few hours and enjoyed looking at the animals and watching them blow glass, etc. I got to see Elks and Moosen and Reindeer and Otters. It was really quite a lot of fun. There were also replicas of several different houses that we could find throughout Sweden.
Joel and Kaiti got bored in the museum (called Scanson), so they dropped me off at the front door, and they went and explored Stockholm for an hour. I didn't want to go, so after wasting 30 minutes in a 10 minute gift shop, I went out, curled up in my hoodie, and took a nap.
From the Scanson we went to the Stockholm SDA church and practiced and gave a concert. All the churches we've sung in have actually been quite nice, but this was one off my favorites. There was a nice organ in the back, and the pews and pulpit looked strongly in place, but they actually moved quite easily, so we were able to set up how we wanted it.
We drove back to Ekebyholm after our concert, and I got to sit next to the pastor from the church, and he gave me a pronunciation lesson which I thought was great fun!
We had to be up and out by 7:30 the next morning, thought it actually turned into 8... We drove all day from Rimbo/Ekebyholm to Oslo, Norway. We stopped for lunch at about 2 o'clock, and we went to Subway. It tasted so good, except next time I plan to order my sandwich without peppers.
We arrived later than expected to the Oslo SDA church, and only had a little over an hour to change, eat, practice and get ready to perform a concert. It worked, and the concert went very nicely. The church almost looked like a cabin, or at least it had a rustic feel to it. It was finished, but it has knotty pine throughout, and it looked very nice and they had nice acoustics.
After the concert, we changed and drove another hour and a half (or so) from the church to Tyrifjord, our final sister school. The beautiful thing about being this far north is that the sun doesn't set until late, and the sunsets last forever! For at least the last half hour of the trip, in those wonderful twilight moments that we hope will never end, was flanked by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Clouds, darkened by the setting sun, combined with the sun's pinks and golds. On top of that was a still, calm fjord, with everything reflecting in it. Literally the most beautiful scenery I'd ever seen.
I had been listening to orchestral hymns on my iPod, and by the time I was really starting to enjoy the beauty of the Fjord, I realized that a new hymn was playing: =
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely DIM
in the light of his glory and grace.
I was confused for a moment--how could something this beautiful ever dim, but then it dawned on me: How much more beautiful must Jesus be if he can make this beautiful sight dim in comparison!
As we continued to drive by this beauty, the choir erupted into two songs: the Majesty and Glory of His Name by Tom Fettke, and a different setting of How Great Thou Art (which we had sung the previous school year). Those were some of the most glorious moments of music I've ever heard, and it's because we all knew to Whom we were singing and why.
We arrived at Tyrifjord, and found out that all the guys were staying in one room. The last time that happened it was miserable, but this time it actually worked. I just went to bed before anyone else got there, and I wasn't woken up.
Sabbath morning (today) we all stayed in bed as long as possible, then finally put on our accursed tuxedos and went to breakfast. From there, we loaded the bus and drove a little more than an hour to church. I'm honestly not sure where it was, but it was a very nice place to sing. It was a little modern for my tastes, but the acoustics were very nice.
We at a potluck supplied by the church, and then loaded back on the bus. We change and eat supper in about an hour, and then it's on to our final concert of the tour.
Tuesday (is it really Tuesday already?), May 21, 2013, 1:44 pm local time (7:44 am EST)
Hello everyone. I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to get back in touch with you and write another "epistle" as mom called it. The last note I wrote was just under 3,000 words, but it still probably was longer than several of the Epistles.
I last wrote Sabbath evening while we were still at Toivoninnan Yhteiskoulu (which, according to my itinerary, is the right way to spell it). On Sunday morning we were given the chance to sleep in, and have nowhere to be until brunch at 10. It was so wonderful! I woke up early enough that I could actually get a (partially) warm shower. Quite lovely.
We loaded the bus and drove about an hour from Toivonlinnan to Turku and were given a guided tour of the city. Turku is the oldest city in Finland, and was originally the capital, until the Great Fire of 1827, which was blamed on a maid. The city has burned 31 times since its founding in 1229, so when it burned in 1827 they picked the government up and moved it to Helsinki. Today, Turku is Finland's fifth largest city with a population of 175,000 people. That number is still less than half of the population of Metro Atlanta. Of those 175,000, some 40,000 are students in the several universities.
We got to see many very interesting things, including a castle and church, both begun in the year 1280!!!!! It dawned on me as I was briefly walking into the castle that 1) it was the oldest building I had ever been in, and 2) it was older than America is now when the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. That just completely blew my mind!
I use the term castle correctly. It was NOT a palace by any means, though it was quite tall and very beautiful. This place was a fortress, though, and not just some beautiful house. It was built to withstand the most common form of battle during the middle ages, which was the siege. The longest siege they ever survived was nine months long.
During the middle ages, people did not drink water because it was not sanitary. Instead, they drank beer with a very low alcohol content. It's probably a good thing they avoided the water, because once someone threw a dead cow into the well an everyone who had any water became very sick (duh!)
Duke Johann lived in this castle during the 1500s, and his (?) Polish wife, Countess Catherine Gekelo introduced the fork to Finland in the 1550s. We are very used to forks now, so there are very few fork related accidents anymore, but when the fork was first introduced to Finland, people would poke themselves in the mouth, and some even died as a result of an infection. That kind of death is almost as bad as Lully's conducting accident death.
From the castle we proceeded to the Turku Cathedral, which was begun in 1280 and finished in 1300. The tower of the church is 101 meters tall, and the aisle is 90 meters long. It can hold about 1,000 people. The actual "business" part of the church is comparable to Collegedale, but there are several extra spaces that make it both longer and wider. Some of the extra space that the church uses is taken up by the 4,500 people who are buried in there.
It is very convenient to be a Lutheran in Finland, though many are officially leaving the church because of it. Instead of paying tithe of 10%, the government takes out a 1% church tax. Because of money being tight, though, many people officially leave the church, even if they still attend. The government also assigns which church you are a member of, even if you choose to worship at a different church.
We got to sing four pieces in the Turku cathedral, though we fought with the organist to be able to. The organist was practicing (too early), and so when we got there for our appointment he was playing. We let him know, and he stopped, for exactly one song. Once we got him to quit playing, we sang our other three in very quick succession.
We sang the three Russian pieces that we've spent a lot of time on this semester, but we also sang a song that is very near and dear to my heart: Beautiful Savior, arranged by F. M. Christiansen. The song begins with a verse that is completely hummed, then it opens to a small group of girls singing
"Fair are the meadows,
Fairer the woodlands,
Robed in flow'rs of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
He makes our sorrowing spirit sing."
The song doesn't end there, though. The whole choir opens up and we blend our voices in singing
Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, Praise, adoration,
Now and forever more be Thine."
Looking around the choir, seeing the faces of those singing about their Beautiful Savior was one of the most heart-thrilling moments I have experienced.
After singing in the Cathedral we were given some time to ourselves to eat and then do a little sightseeing if we had time. As Kaiti, Mindy, Joel and I were walking, we saw the familiar red, white and green bunting that symbolizes Italian food world wide. We went in and Kaiti and I split a Marghareta [cheese] pizza. The pizza was about the size of a Papa John's large, but it had thin crust! It was amazing, but I was still hungry!
We spent the rest of the day going to a different little town to sight see, though honestly it was nothing that really interested me, except that I had the best chocolate/vanilla twist I've ever had!
That evening, after exploring, we all loaded on the bus and were taken back to Turku for the departure of our ferry the Viking Grace. It was basically a mini-cruise ship. Originally we thought that there were four to a room, but luckily there were only two. The room could comfortably sleep four people, but it was only the size of a bathroom.
The ship was very expensive. We went to one restaurant (called Frank's), and they wanted 12-16E for a lot of food that I didn't recognize. Mindy and I gave up, so we walked downstairs to the Sweet and Salty, which was somewhat like Golden Corral, but you paid by weight. Not having a clue what 100 grammes felt like, I didn't fill up and I paid 9E for the privilege of doing so.
Mindy and I walked out on deck for a few minutes, and then we went in and I walked her to her room. After that, I just went to bed.
The next morning we had to be up at 6:30 Finnish time for breakfast. We had access to an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, but I didn't fill too far up. I was back in the room by about 7, and within a few minutes a knock came on my door and when I invited them to come in, a small Swedish maid came in and stripped three beds in under 2 minutes.
We debarked by about 6:30 (the time had changed to one hour earlier) in Stockholm, Sweden, and waited for our same bus from Finland (which is actually Estonian) to be unloaded so we could get on and be about our day.
While we were waiting for the bus to unload, I found out that Devin (a fellow baritone), had slipped whilst out on deck and had probably broken his foot. While we were waiting, we had a prayer session led by Jerdie.
Once we got on the bus, we drove to Stockholm's old town and parked at the side of the palace. We waited a few minutes, and then our beloved director began to look for restrooms. Remember, this was still quite early in the day, and none of us had had a change to change any money, and there are very few free toilets in Europe. The men's restroom was open, but the women's required 10 krone (crow-nuh; henceforth referred to as :- (no smiley intend). She even considered using the men's but it was "high and lifted up."
Eventually Caspar, our friendly guide (this is how he introduced himself) came, and took us all for emergency pee break at Stockholm's city hall. From there we toured into a fairly busy shopping district of Stockholm in order to drop Devin (along with Chaplain) off at a clinic.
The city of Stockholm (the Venice of the North), was founded in 1252. It was given the name Stockholm (which means Island of Logs) after it unified the areas immediately around it and started plugging up the river with logs to control who came in by boat and where they went. Stockholm is 1/3rd green, 1/3rd water and only 1/3 buildings. The country of Sweden has 9.5 million people spread out over the same amount of land that makes up California.
While we were riding the subject of Kristina (the Girl King) came up. She was the daughter of Gustavas II Adolfus of Sweden, and she was born covered up with some sort of membrane so it was impossible to figure out of she was male or female. She was the subject of one of the Royal Diaries books that I own. She was raised a Lutheran by her father (who is mentioned somewhere by EGW as a champion of the faith or something like that), but eventually abdicated the throne and moved to Italy and became Catholic.
During the driving tour we passed several different concert houses, including the Berwaldhalen (the home of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus) and the Konzerthuset, where the Nobel Prize is given each year.
The biggest sport in Sweden is soccer, but even more people sing in choirs than play soccer. Caspar sang a folk song for us in a lovely baritone voice, but he makes some of his money as a male alto in a professional choir!
After the bus tour, we went in to a museum and learned all about the ship Vasa (the Sheaf of Grain) that was built over two years of Gustavas II Adolfus' reign and that sunk within 20 minutes of being launched. It's a really sad, but sightly amusing story.
After touring around we saw the changing of the guard at the Palace and then went out to eat to a mall (ish) with a food court with a Mexican restaurant! It was so amazing! One of the girls had her purse stolen in the food court, and several of us ended up as restroom attendants waiting for the suspicious person in the stall to come out. Dr. Kibble was prowling and waiting, and Alex and I (two of the more imposing people unless you know us) stood by a gate that let you in and out of the bathroom area.
I stepped away for a minute because I was going to call her phone ("This is Robert Raney from the US Consulate. We have already traced your location. Come out with your hands up..."), and the thief left, followed by Alex and Chaplain. Chaplain stopped the man, and Alex continued walking into a two-step tackle range and got ready... The man let Chaplain look into his bag, but they didn't find it.
After that adventure we were taken back to the shops near the palace and several of us walked in a group and bought souvenirs and chocolate. Jean bought an ice cream, but only wanted about two licks. I helped her finish it, even if it was coffee flavored.
I bought a present for Lou there, and several of us pitched in for a gift for Mrs. Burrus. After that, we loaded on the bus and continued on our merry way to Rimbo and our home at Ekebyholm. We got there at about 6:30, and ate. Then were assigned rooms and roommates. Mine was Steven Blondo! When I heard, my heart stopped beating for a second... I was tired and wanted to go to bed! Luckily, the following is true: Where three or more are gathered, there will Blondo be loud. He is actually quite a good roommate.
This morning we woke up and were given a tour of the grounds of Ekebyholm, our school in Sweden. It was built as the Prime Minister's palace in 1623. The PM was under Gustavas II Adolfus, who has popped up several times already in the history of Sweden. Gustavas would visit his mistress here at Ekebyholm, and would stay in a room on the uppermost floor. I have pictures.
As best as I can tell, this is the oldest set of buildings in Seventh-day Adventism. They were build in the 1620s, though we didn't buy them for something like three hundred years. This is the oldest place I've slept, and one of the 4-5 oldest places I've ever been!
We sing tonight at Ekebyholm (basically redoing the I Cantori spring concert). Right now I'm going to sign off and go take some pictures!
Please comment or send me emails something! I want to know who is reading my Epistles, and I want to know what's going on with you all!
Hello, this is Robby Raney. During the last couple of weeks of May and into the month of June I had the opportunity to be in Europe. First in the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Norway and Sweden. I thought it would be fun to give you a few highlights of trip as WSMC takes you on Summer Vacation.
Portions of these programs were recorded live overseas. I'll let you know what. We begin in the capital city of Finland: Helsinki, which was founded by Gustav Vasa in 1550. The country itself was owned by several different nations through the ages. From the 12th through the 19th centuries it was ruled by Sweden. They lost it to Russia after the War of Finland in 1812, who ruled until December 6, 1917--their Independence Day.
Let's travel around the city for a moment... When you are driving around, you will definitely know you are in city, but it is a slower paced city than many in the states, and there are trees! More trees than would fit fenced in on sidewalks.
During the early 20th-Century, the Finns were trying to develop their own nationalistic style of architecture. Instead of relying on the modern, expected and traditional element, they went back in time with their buildings. In modern, downtown Helsinki, the buildings look like they should be hundreds of years old, but in effect they are only around one-hundred.
In 1812, after the Revolution where Sweden lost control of Finland, Czar Alexander I of Russia wanted to make Helsinki, its new capital, into the most beautiful city in Europe--after his own St. Petersburg.
Another Czar Alexander is given the most prominent place in the city square. There is a beautiful statue of him standing in the middle of the Senate Square, a cobbled courtyard that is just below the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral.
From the state of Czar Alexander II, let's climb the 46 steep, stone steps to the Cathedral. Just before you enter through the main, side entrance, gaze up and see bronze statues of the twelve apostles looking down at you.
Inside the church is simply beautiful. You walk in from the back, and are almost immediately greeted with a beautiful altar piece, maybe 75 feet away. The inside of the church is in the shape of a Greek cross with all four of the arms an equal distance. In the outside angles of the meeting point are statues of important figures in Church history, including that of Martin Luther.
Behind you is breathtaking 57-stop Marcussen organ from 1967, which is housed in the facade of the Church's original 1848 Walcker organ. The 57-stops play a total of some 5,600 pipes distributed between four manuals and pedal.
As we leave the church and descend the stairs, we continue walking through the beautiful city. A few blocks later we come to an open-air bazaar, and in the middle of the crowd is a statue called the Lady from the Sea, which is the symbol of Helsinki.
The city of Helsinki has 240 parks, and Finland, with a population only of 5.4 million, has 3 million saunas--more saunas than cars! And the country can make Minnesota look like a desert with 187,888 lakes!
Another Helsinki attraction is the Church of the Place of the Temple--though it's called most often the Rock Church. A church was desired in a particular neighborhood of Helsinki, but the locals didn't was the view to be spoiled. Architect were hired, and they decided to blow up the inside of a granite boulder and build inside it. The church is beautiful inside, lit using the sun, and the acoustics are absolutely amazing. It is a treat for a choir to sing there.
One of Helsinki's most famous sons isn't even their son. Jean Sibelius was Finnish, but wasn't born in Helsinki. He loved to travel, but always came back home to Finland where he said the silence spoke.
Sibelius' most famous work is definitely Finlandia, which is only about 10 minutes long. It ends with a chorale that we sing to this day. The melody is unchanged, and the harmony and even arrangement have changed very little since it was composed and was entered into our hymnals as Be Still My Soul.
After Jean Sibelius passed away, the city of Helsinki, his adopted home, decided to honor him with a statue. I had the opportunity to see it while in Helsinki. The statue was welded from many different pipes, and it almost looks like a collection of organ pipes or those insect nests on the wall of your porch. It's not supposed to symbolize any of those things, though. It is just supposed to describe the music of Sibelius.
Within just a few feet of the main Sibelius monument is a secondary, much less abstract statue, also in his honor. This one features Sibelius' face along with clouds.
Toivonlina, Finland (about 2 hours north of Helsinki), Sabbath, May 18, 2013. 9:50 am local time (2:50 am EST).
Happy Sabbath, folks! Sorry that it's been a few days since I've written, and honestly I'm not sure when I'll be able to post this note. The internet isn't as ubiquitous as I'm used to.
I haven't written since Thursday, and so I'll give you the short version of what happened. I will also post the radio script that I wrote and recorded on Thursday which is based on the sightseeing tour we took that day.
On Thursday morning at about 8 we loaded onto the bus and were given a very interesting tour of the city of Helsinki, and were given the opportunity to sing at the Lutheran Cathedral. It is in the shape of a Greek cross (all four arms are an equal length), and on the "eastern" and "western" (where North is the altar) sides there were places where we could stand, so we split into two halves and sang "This is My Song," a setting of Jean Sibelius' Finlandia:
This is my song, O God of all the nations!
A song of peace for lands afar and mine
This is my home, the country where my heart is
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true an high as mine.
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight, too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, Thou God of all the nations!
A song of peace for their land and for mine!
The acoustics in that room were absolutely lovely. They were warm and seemed to go on forever.
Before singing in the church we took pictures near the statue of Czar Alexander II in the Senate Square.
Later in the day we took a short tour of Finlandia Hall, which was designed by a very important Finnish designer whose name I have in my notes upstairs. The building is very attractive, but not in a style that really speaks to me. We went into the concert hall part of the building, and the room seemed even deader than the Collegedale Church, and the seats were a hard black leather. While we were at the hall we were taken up to the Presidential box and given the chance to sit where the president is supposed to sit (though the former president preferred to sit on the front row of the audience).
Also during that tour we were given the opportunity to visit the Sibelius monument. Jean Sibelius was a Finnish composer most famous for Finlandia. He was not born in Helsinki, but he adopted it as his home. Sibelius loved to travel, but he would always come back to his beloved Finland because he thought that the silence spoke.
The Sibelius monument is very odd and avant-garde. It is a collection of pipes that were welded together and that look like organ pipes or mud bee nests. I'm not sure that I think that it is a fitting memorial to one of the best and most important composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Something tells me the Finns agree with me, because standing next to the big memorial, but not trying to outshine it, is a smaller monument which actually has his face. I wanted my picture taken by it, but I missed my chance.
After lunch back at the hotel we had the chance to go sing the Rock Church, which was heavenly. They wanted to have a church in the neighborhood, but didn't want to lose their view, so they blew out the middle of a granite rock and built a wonderful church inside. It is beautiful and functional, and at least on the the day we were there (which was a perfect spring day) was lit completely by natural light.
[After Sabbath School and Church at Toivonlina, about 2:00 local/8 EST]
After a concert in the Rock church we were released to explore the city. During the tour that morning we had heard that a train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg only took about 3.5 hours and at least I was sorely tempted to go just to say that I had. I knew that we (about 13 of us) couldn't go. The letter of the law said that we could go anywhere and do anything that we wanted, so long as we acted as ambassadors of Christ and Southern. The spirit of the law, though, said that we couldn't go that far away. Dr. Kibble needed to know where we were, but we knew that the less she knew about St. Petersburg the better...
So instead we went, by cable car trolley about 12 blocks to an open air bazaar. There were many different shops around, and I bought a Finnish flag (to go with my Fijian, Malagasy and American flags).
Overlooking the bazaar was a beautiful Russian orthodox church. We made our way over to it, walking right by the bay and stopping every few minutes to wait for Joel who was gawking at a boat of some sort. When we finally reached the church we discovered that it was closed. We had pictures taken around it, and decided that if we could we could come by again during our free time the next day.
As we were walking back to the place we got off the trolley we went a different route, which included going over what was called the Love Bridge (or something like that). There was some sort of metal lattice on both sides of the bridge, and they were covered with locks. Evidently, couples come to the bridge, put on a lock, and then throw the key into the bay.
A little further down the way home we came across an old boat that had been turned into a gift shop/restaurant. We went in just to see what it looked like, but we came to the conclusion that it was closed, so we got out as quickly as we could! We didn't want to get caught breaking and entering (or just entering) somewhere I didn't speak the main language.
Speaking of language, I know only two kinds of languages: those that I can fake my way through at least pronouncing, and those that I don't have a clue. Malagasy was the first language to throw me for a loop, but Finnish is definitely in the same category. For someone who is as literate as I am, and who loves to read as much as I do, it's very difficult to not be able to even pick words off signs. I have read about 4 words since being here: McDonalds, Holiday Inn, and Kirche/Church (it's actually not spelled like that, but it's the best I can remember).
We eventually got back to the hotel (and didn't lose anyone or get arrested! We ate food and contemplated what we were going to do the next day. We were free until 11:45 the next morning when we would load the bus.
We decided that at stupid-o'clock the next morning (okay, 6:30) we would take the ferry over to an island that had a military academy and a bunch of historical stuff. Sounded very interesting. More on that later.
For our trip to the bazaar we had bought a 24-hour rail pass for 8 Euros (from now known as 8E), and since we still had most of 24 hours, several of us (Joel, Kaiti, the Twins, Tim, and Savannah) decided to just ride the trolley around town. We got on trolley 3B (speaking of 3B, tune in at 11 am for the Three B's!) and rode for about an hour. It was mostly empty, but we stood in the back and looked out the rear window and talked and looked for an ice cream stand. That morning we had been told about Tar Ice Cream (yes, as in what you fill a pothole with), and we all wanted to at least give it a taste. We never found any ice cream, so, getting desperate, we went to the market that was just a couple of blocks from the hotel. There was none, but we did buy ice cream sandwiches and the like.
I dropped my wonderful water bottle on the floor of the market, and it cracked badly, so we had a small funeral for it in the trash. Needing a replacement, I found plastic bottle (think 1.5 liters of Aquafina), but when I opened it, it effervesced like the best bottle of Mug root beer. I had gotten fizzy, mineral water that tasted like Sulphur water. Very disappointing.
By this point it was around ten o'clock, so I went back to the room that Josh Knight and I were staying in, and I started working on the script for one of the special programs I am doing for WSMC while I'm over here. It goes into much more detail as to what I saw during the day, and I'll post it here, too. I finished writing the script by about 11:30, and went down to the lobby of the hotel to record it so I could have some ambient noise. I think it turned out quite well.
The next day I woke up at about 6 o'clock and was down to breakfast by 6:30. We left the hotel by 7:15 and took the trolley back to the bazaar (not bizarre, as I originally typed...) stop, and we took the ferry over to the Fortress Island where the military academy was, and I thought a whole lot of other interesting things, too... No such luck... The Academy was there (doing firing range practice), but there was nothing else open. We walked around the island for about an hour, looking at the outsides of buildings. I was disappointed, though I enjoyed hanging out with my friends.
When we got back from the ferry (about 8:30), we went to the Russian church (which was finally open). That was one of the most beautiful churches I'd ever seen, but at the same time it was very busy inside. Almost every inch of the inside was covered with paintings or gold leaf or what not. The main part of the church really was't huge (maybe 1/2 of 2/3 the size of Collegedale Church), but it was two or three stories tall in places.
A lot of us wanted to sing there, but we were too scared to ask. All except Daniela. She marched right up, and in just a moment we were singing. We had B2, B1, T2, T1, AAAA (not sure which numbers), S2 and S1. It really was lovely. Mindy was our soloist, and her clear voice is perfect for the room. We began with Vaughn Williams' O Taste and See, then on to The Earth Adorned and My Song in the Night. It was a beautiful and powerful experience to sing there.
As we were leaving someone commented that they thought the person we asked had gotten in trouble for letting us sing, so maybe Daniela didn't ask the right person, but I'm glad that they didn't stop us, and hopefully we were a good example of God's love.
After leaving the church we walked through the bazaar on more time on the way to our trolley stop, and I found a present for mom and bought it. On the way back to the hotel we were joined by Jean, who had been out on run but whose running partner wanted to stick around and shop.
Once we got back to the hotel I watched an episode of Star Trek and packed my suitcase up for the trip to Toivonlena later that evening. We at lunch at the hotel, and sang our setting of Finlandia to the hotel staff. One of the ladies started crying and said that it was the best she had ever heard it.
We got on the bus and drove for about 20-25 minutes to the largest Nordic mall, where we got to spend an hour and a half. The first 45 or 50 minutes didn't go by very fast, but then along came Esther, Megan, Curtis and Robert William Van Arsdale, Jr. (fondly known as Robby V., Him Robby, or the older Robby [I am the Good Looking Robby]) came by and invited me to play a card game with them. Robby V. had bought a Finnish version of something like Old Maid, and we played about four games and had a loud, hilarious time. There was absolutely no skill involved, but we got so defensive playing! I was like playing Dutch Blitz with the family.
From the mall there was about a 20 minute drive to our next place, (which to be perfectly honest, I don't know where it was) for rehearsal and sound check for that evening's performance. We got there at about 4:00, and rehearsed for about an hour (and I even got to lead the men for a few minutes...), and then had a delicious supper that consisted of a sandwich and water.
We changed into our concert attire (which I believe was invented by Lucifer himself), and waited about an hour before going on stage to sing. It was a very powerful performance, and (for the most part) it really went quite well.
After our performance we waited forever and a day for the girls to change before we were able to. Once we changed we loaded the bus, and departed for Toivonlina. We left about 9 o'clock, and it was still broad daylight out. In fact, it was still "twilight" until about 10:30 or 11. We got to our sister school "Hope Castle" or Toivonlina at about 11 pm, and I was in bed by 11:30.
I was actually the last one up this morning--about 8:00--and I found out that people had already been showering at about 5 minute increments for about 1.5 hours and that there hadn't been hot water in hours. Oh boy! I was one of the first people there for breakfast, and figured that by the time I ate and got back from the Cafe the shower line would have finished and there would have been some time for the water to heat up. I was, unfortunately, only right in one of my assumptions. There was no line, but the water was colder than the White Witch's heart...
After showering I followed the sound of a piano downstairs and enjoyed writing my blog and then playing out of the Finnish hymnal (which has a really funky-easy version of Wachet Auf/Sleepers Awake) that includes very few, if any, eighth notes and one really unnecessary and frankly awful doubling at on point in the Abegesang.
We had Sabbath School and church by ourselves, and then had a few free minutes before lunch that consisted of real, honest-to-goodness LASAGNA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now that my pasta craving has been satisfied I need Mexican food!
This afternoon, up till 3:30 (now), has been quiet and wonderful. We leave for the Lutheran church by 4:15, and who knows what will happen tonight...
P.S. (8:00 pm local time, 1 pm EST) We just got singing at the Piikko Community Lutheran Church, which is a beautiful church dating from at least the mid-to-late 1700s. Surrounding the church is a cemetery, which is not unusual, at least not outside the Adventist system. As we were lining up and praying before we went in to the building to sing, Chaplain Kibble offered prayer and mentioned how all the people asleep in the grave were Adventists, even if they were Lutherans. It struck me as beautiful. The faithful Lutherans in that cemetery are waiting right now for Jesus. As we sang Abide With Me, the penultimate song in the concert, I sang "Where is death's sting? Where grave, thy victory? I triumph still if Thou abide with me!" and I realized that those saints asleep in the cemetery around the church and around the world had nothing to fear--even as they faced the grave. They had no fear because God abided with them, and they abided in Him.
The church was very beautiful on the inside, filled with pictures of the disciples. The altarpiece was a painting of Christ on the Cross. As I sang "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis [et] dona nobis pacem (Lamb of God, you who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us and grand us peace), I remembered the face Christ on the cross. I saw his love for us through fresh eyes during that song.
Holiday Inn Hotel, Helsinki, Finland. May 16, 2013. 7:20 pm local time (12:20 pm Eastern time)
We had quite an interesting trip over. Our plane was supposed to leave from Atlanta at about 7:30, but evidently our plane was having extreme problems since we got on a different plane at 9:27. The trip was about 8.5 hours, and it felt like every single one of them.
I sat near Steven Blondo (which could have been very, very bad). There was someone of Arab-ish descent sitting between us. Very nice man. We said about a paragraph to each other, then basically just ignored the other. That's my kind of seat mate!
During both the takeoff and landing of the long flight the overhead bin above my head opened, and I was sure that Robby V's duffel bag was going to bean me.
There was a baby (toddler?) sitting in the row directly behind me, and it always seemed to know when I was finally asleep... He would start crying. There was some turbulence during the flight, which scared him but didn't really bother me... What did irk me a little bit, though was the inability to go to sleep and stay there for any length of time.
After the long fight we arrived in Amsterdam and were still on time for our connection to Helsinki, even though our plane arrived to take us about two hours late... We went through security and had our passports stamped for the EU in Amsterdam. We didn't go through customs, though we did have to go back through security.
The short fight was pretty uneventful. We were on a much smaller vehicle (more of a puddle jumper), and I sat next to Jonathan Rodney who slept the majority of the time. I read for a while, and almost fell asleep at some point.
We landed in Helsinki at about 5:10 local time, and were out of the airport within about 30 minutes. Only one person had her luggage get lost, and she was in the earlier group that had been in France for a few days already. Again there was no customs to go through. It was very nice.
We met our tour guide (which I don't remember right off...) and we got on the bus and headed for the hotel. On the ride over I noticed how much I feel at home here. The city really reminds me a lot of Chattanooga. It is a city, but it doesn't feel cramped. As we were driving there were absolutely beautiful tree-lined streets, but you could still see buildings and businesses...
Josh bought the internet for right now, but it will only lat for about 15 minutes, so I want to get this posted ASAP.
Atlanta Airport -- 7:13 pm local time (7:13 pm EST)
Well, I'm writing from the Atlanta Airport and not getting on the airplane... There is some sort of a delay, so we're not leaving until 9 o'clock.
It's been a fairly uneventful time thus far. There was only one person to check us in, so a group of 40 people took more than an hour. Besides that it took about 5 minutes to get through security. I went through the full-body scanner (I think this was my first time, but I don't quite remember).
We're all just kind of wandering around waiting for the plane. Some people are watching a basketball game, Kaiti and Joel are playing Gin Rummy, and a bunch of people are playing some sort of banana scrabble.
Written at 9:49pm local time (9:49 Eastern time) on May 13, 2013
Well folks, tomorrow is the big day. My suitcase is all packed (and only about 35 lbs.) thanks to Grandma. I have high hopes that my tuxedo will arrive in Scandinavia without wrinkles.
I've been to Walmart a couple of times in the last week, I've gotten all my recording done for while I'll be gone. I'll be gone a month, but I've managed to record 6 weeks of programs. I'm determined that when I get back I'll finish the Epic Bach Week! It's been in the works for about a month, and it's long overdue.
I can't quite get over the feeling that I'm forgetting to bring something or do something. I've made my list, and besides a few things I'll need to grab in the morning I can't think of what I feel I've forgotten. It's nerve wracking.
The title of this post is Charging, and that's exactly what it looks like. Right now, in preparation for my trip I have my iPad, my phone and my camera charging. I need to take out my contacts and go to bed and get myself charging all the way.
Good night and sweet dreams. I'll try to write something tomorrow, but I've never been very good at blogging.
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.