Tag Archives: Easter

Today I feel like spring

The cool air touches my face and the apples of my cheeks turn that rosey color that I love so much. Today I feel like spring.

Today I feel ready for bloom. Ready to push up through the ground and burst open my petals. But I know it’s still just a bit too early–I am still a gentle bud and I must take my time. Be patient. Allow it to happen. The time is coming.

The time is always coming and going, going and coming and I will be ready when it is here. I will be ready to display my soft pallet. My graceful hues of green and yellow and rose. I will be ready to sing my sweet song to the world. The song that only I know how to sing, the song of me.

The barren land is rejuvenating itself and signs of growth are all around me.

And today I feel like spring.

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Gdansk with the Stars

When I started to plan this trip to Poland I read travel blog after travel blog about the best things to see and do. Knowing myself and how I like to travel, the two non-negotiables on my list of things to experience were culture and nature.

I made up my mind that I would first go north to the city of Gdansk in order to experience what one blogger called “the most charming and romantic city in Poland.” However, as my trip drew nearer I realized that I had booked my flight to arrive over the Easter weekend and that the “charming and romantic” inhabitants of this city were going to be eating eggs and borscht and kielbasa with their families, as I strolled the empty streets and peered into windows of shops whose signs read, “zamkinęty” or “closed.” But I wanted a taste of the city nonetheless, so I started to email anyone that I knew who was Polish to see if they had family who would take me in and celebrate a traditional Polish Easter with me.

No dice.

Two days before I was scheduled to fly I thought that I would send out a few messages via couchsurfing.com and see if I got any replies. I sent out 8 requests and got 7 “declines.” But there was one family who agreed to host me.

At first I only had communication with the father, Mariuscz. According to their profile, they were a family of four–a husband, wife and two daughters. As soon as I accepted the invitation, however, I started to think…I hope this is legitimate. As I boarded the train to Gdansk my thoughts were, this could be great…or this could be a nightmare. Crossing my fingers for my good karma to bring me into the home of a nice Polish family, I got off the train and was greeted with a big hug from Mariuscz and Matilda, their eldest daughter. As we drove back to their house I breathed a sigh of relief as 15-year old, Mathilda, told me that I was their very first couch surfer and that they were so excited to take me in and share their home, culture, holiday and city with me.

When I arrived I met the mother, Patricia, and youngest daughter, Melanie. I settled in and we sat around the table drinking tea and getting to know each other. We shared tales of travels and hiking expeditions. They love to travel and see the world and they have instilled this value into their beautiful, well-rounded and mature daughters.

As we talked I learned that Patricia and Mariuscz met walking on a pilgrimage to the relic of the Black Faced Madonna–a 500km trek by foot from their hometown Gdansk. When they met, Patricia gave Mariuscz the travel bug and they have made seeing their country and the world a top priority for their family. They also told me about a piece of graffiti he did many years ago on the top of the tallest building in Gdansk, that reads “kocham moja Pa” meaning “I love my Pat,”which had become very famous in the city. It’s a symbol of their incredible love, which knows no boundaries, and it’s for all the world to see.

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This morning when I woke up, Easter breakfast was on the table. We had an egg fight and then ate lemon salmon, stuffed eggs, potato salad and desserts until our stomachs couldn’t handle anymore. After breakfast the girls searched for their Easter eggs and then we got ready to go to church.

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Because we knew we had another Easter meal at 2pm, we decided to walk so that we could burn off some of our breakfast. We bundled up and set off in the direction of their church. We had walked less than 300 meters when I stopped dead in my tracks. Low to the ground on a metal highway divider was a trail marker for El Camino de Santiago. To my disbelief, the trail that I had walked 800 km on to Santiago de Compostella in Spain 2 years ago was right outside their front door!

The spirit of pilgrimage came up once the last night, when Mariuscz and Patricia recounted their love story to me. In the back of my head I thought of my own pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, but then quickly brushed it to the side in order to let myself fall in love with their love. This morning, when I saw the marker, however, I was truly astonished. It was like El Camino was calling out to me to remind me that I am always on the way. I felt the magic of the trail once again and my heart swelled. The trail showed itself two more times throughout the day, and I laughed thinking that there was no coincidence. I was meant to be here and meet these amazing people.

After mass we drove to Mariuscz’s mother’s house for MORE food. Seriously, these people have opened their doors and kitchens and hearts to me in a way that is so generous and kind and fattening. I’m going to need to buy some new jeans. I thought I couldn’t be more grateful for their hospitality and sharing of their family’s holiday, but then they offered to drive me into Gdansk and give me a guided tour of their city.

Gdansk is a stunningly beautiful and an amazingly strong city. It was burned to the ground in 1944 by the Russians, who were fighting over the city with the Germans. The devastation was massive and you can still see scars of the war everywhere. However, the rebirth is something like a phoenix from the ashes. It was a reminder to me of the resilience of humanity. Life is not always going to be easy, but sometimes we are meant to be burned to the ground so that we can wear our scars like badges of honor and flourish in the wake of catastrophe.

We arrived back at home many hours later, exhausted from our epic day out. Mariuscz, Mathilda and I squeezed in a workout, and kick boxed against each other in the living room. The end to my perfect day was 10+ punches to the face…and I mean that in all seriousness. This family gets me.

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The gratitude is flowing as always.

Happy Easter to all!

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Definition of travel in English:

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verb (travels, traveling, travelled)

1[NO OBJECT, WITH ADVERBIAL] Make a journey, typically of some length: 
Example sentence: today I traveled from New York to Poland via plane, train, and automobile.
If you have not had the pleasure of listening to Louis C.K. talk about air travel, your next assignment is to watch this clip: (warning: mature language).
My travel from point A (Long Island, NY) to point B (Gdansk, Poland) actually went something like this:
a. town car to JFK — 1 hr.
b. jet from JFK to Berlin — 8hrs.
c. plane from Berlin to Warsaw–1hr.
d. bus from airport to Warsaw Central train station–30 min.
e. train from Warsaw to Gdansk–3 hrs.
f. car from train station to host family–15 min.
Total travel time from point a-f (not including 5 hrs of layovers) = 13 hours and 45 minutes.
Moving myself from one place to the next was not particularly challenging…especially considering that I “partook in the miracle of flight.” But if I really wanted to, I could complain about the leg space and the middle seat and the general fatigue that these last 18 hours of travel have imposed on my body. Good news though, I don’t actually want to complain about my fabulously pleasant day. Why so fabulous, you ask? I attribute this to two different factors: 1.) the feeling of excitement to be experiencing something novel, and 2.) the people I met during today’s journey.
Traveling alone is one of my favorite ways to travel. In my last post I mentioned that traveling enhances my senses and evokes emotions of living life to the fullest. Traveling alone is an additional push outside of your comfort zone, as it ultimately creates space for you to either panic about or romanticize your journey in your head.
Today I had a few moments of both panic and romanticizing. The former because I was worried about getting lost or taken advantage of as a solo, non-polish-speaking traveler. And the latter, because my journey was spent imagining myself to be the star of a Wes Anderson film, traveling across Eastern Europe in a rail car, my life tinted the color of an instagram filter, listening to a mellow indie playlist, and reading my philosophy book written by Andy Warhol. (Insert obligatory eye roll at this incredibly hipster statement).
Anyhow, today was a incredible journey for me and I met one kind soul after another. The best of whom is the family I am spending the next few days with as a guest in their beautiful home. I promise I will devote an entire post to this incredible family of four tomorrow, but I actually must force myself to sleep, so that I can be up for tomorrow’s Easter feast, mass, tour of the city and second feast!
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Attitude of Gratitude–I Stopped Counting–What Lies Ahead

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I landed in Warsaw this morning and I am currently sitting in a cafe at the Central Station waiting for my afternoon train to Gdansk. I will be here for the next two weeks on a 50/50 business-pleasure trip and I am looking forward to discovering all that this country has to offer.

Today I will travel north to Gdansk, a city on the Baltic, and spend Easter with a host family that I met on Couchsurfing.com. They have offered to host me through the holiday and share their traditional celebration with me. There are promises of a massive Easter breakfast, which can be compared to our Thanksgiving feast because of the amount of food. And on Monday apparently everyone throws water on each other…? Like a good dousing. Not sure how I feel about this tradition seeing as it’s cold as ice here, but I’m looking forward to the cultural experience nonetheless.

Right now I’m feeling excited and mildly prepared for what’s to come–which is how I like to travel. I like to have a general game plan, but also to let my journey evolve as I go. I don’t need (or want) to follow a set itinerary. I have always found that they best opportunities reveal themselves in the present moment, and traveling allows me to tap into that flow in a way that I don’t get in my everyday life. Traveling requires flexibility and a sense of humor. It can make me feel vulnerable in many ways, but it’s also thrilling. My senses–visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory–come alive and enhance the emotional charge of the moment.

It’s romantic, really.

I’m grateful today for this opportunity to travel and explore a new country from top to bottom. I’m grateful to the new people I will meet who who will share their culture with me. I am grateful for the ability to learn more about myself as a solo traveler and for the myriad possibilities that lie ahead of me in these next two weeks!

Stay tuned for pictures and more stories.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 31: A New Take on the Last Supper

Maundy Thursday (the celebration of the Last Supper, which took place on the eve of Good Friday) is a little less than two weeks away, but tonight I partook in a “last supper” of sorts. Tomorrow, I begin a 5 day juice cleanse, in which I will drink all of my nutrients in order to purify and reboot my digestive system. Combining the, “you are what you eat” philosophy with some Eucharistic theology of Christ’s Last Supper, the aim of my juice fast is to forgive,  purify and raise myself up in humbled grace.

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According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the last supper symbolizes. among many things, Christ’s humility; refusing to prove himself the Son of God, he humbly chose self-sacrifice over exhibiting external, miraculous powers. At supper, he broke bread with his disciples whom he acknowledged as his friends. The breaking of bread being the symbolic foreshadowing of Christ’s broken body, and the wine, the blood he shed to forgive the sins of humanity.

And though Christ may have expunged our sins upon his crucifixion, we continue to sin nonetheless. It is my belief that one of society’s greatest sins is our utter lack of appreciation for our vessel–the human body. In the United Sates in particular, where nearly 1/3 of children and adolescents are considered overweight or obese, large agricultural and pharmaceutical  industries are doing their best to make us sick.  Our diets are now scientifically linked to the sharp increase of  obesity related diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  We are encouraged/ duped to mindlessly consume processed sugars, foods pumped full of chemicals and preservatives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and growth hormones; as a result, our generation is the first expected to live shorter lives than those of our parents! I find it outrageous, gluttonous and sinful that we actively disregard our privilege and participate in our own systemic demise.

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Thus, tonight, after my “last supper,” I began to think of a juice cleanse as being my way of offering some forgiveness to humanity for what we have done to our bodies as a result of our consumptive attitude. The Christ-like qualities I would like to embody–humility, self-sacrifice, friendship, love and divinity– will be the subsequent themes for my next five gratitude posts, as well as each day’s meditative intention while I fast.

Tonight, I give thanks to my belly full of  curried tofu and vegetables, roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potato wedges, and I look forward to revving up the Vita-mix, and experiencing all the challenges and rewards of purifying my body, mind and soul!

Amen, right on, shalom, salaam, namaste!

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