Saturday, January 31, 2009

In Italia

I am pleased, and very thankful to say that I am now in Italy.

On Thursday my parents drove me to JFK in NY. I had a couple of road blocks. First my checked suit case was four pounds overweight, and in order to avoid the incursion of a $150 fee, I had to take out my backpack and check it as well (which was really kind of dumb if you think about it... they ended up taking all the same stuff anyways).

At this point I said goodbye to my parents and went through security, without any terribly serious problems.

I made it to the gate that I had been assigned and to and sat down to wait. After about twenty minutes, I heard over the intercom that a flight was about to leave for Venice at gate 12. I started to wonder how many flights to Venice there could possibly be that evening, so I asked the girl I was sitting next to where they were headed "London" She said. At this point I started put it together and decided that I would go and check out what was happening at gate 12. As I was making my way across the terminal I they started calling out names of people were missing from the flight to Venice, and 'Wilber' was on it. I made it there though, and ended up getting there just about in time to board the plane. I still can't believe that no one had changed my flight pass or really told me that the gate had changed... anyhow, all's well that ends well.

My flight went well. It was cool taxying out of JFK, because at points you actually go one overpasses with cars driving under you, which is a really strange sensation at night in a plane. The guy I sat next to was an older/middle-aged man who spoke nothing but Italian, so I got to try out the little bit that I know. I'm not sure anymore if this is wise, because I was able to answer his first to or three questions pretty well, at which point he figured that I had a reasonable grasp of the language, and after that it was hard to explain that I really don't.

I couldn't sleep much on the plane, and all the movies were stupid... there was some sob story about this woman and a Doctor and then just tv shows the rest of the time.

I did sleep for an hour or two and woke up to them serving breakfast. The sun was just rising, which was beautiful, and and soon revealed that we were over the French Alps. I looked on the display that showed the flight info, and at one point it was -70 degrees F!

We landed in Venice at Marco Polo more than an hour early due to a tail wind and after claiming my baggage I and getting some money in Euro, I was set about waiting for someone to pick me up. Just as I was starting to wonder if we had given them the wrong info, Samual Spatola showed up. He's really cool, and a lot younger than I expected. We went up stairs to a caffe and got some water.

It turns out I was the first one there, so I had to wait at the airport with Samuel until 2:00pm. about 17 others came. 11 from Bryan College, many of whom happened to know Pat and Abram Roberts, which was cool. One girl's flight came in from Istanbul. We couldn't figure out if she lived there or had the craziest flight ever. As it turned out though, she had been in Syria visiting her sister, who was married to a man there... and was thus flying from that direction.

Finally someone else came from the school to watch for arrivals and we were able to go back on a bus that they had chartered. The country side here looks much like a painting, with the exeption of telephone lines and industrial complexes dropped here and there. Most of the villas (many of which look somewhat abandoned) are spread in a very different way from America... the are surrounded by several acres of farm land, but then, instead of having another field, or buffer of some sort in between them, there is just another, and another, as far as the eye can see.

The school itself is really cool. It is more in a town. The buildings really look about the same but they are closer together. The school itself is about three buildings, one that holds the lounge and girl's dormitory, one with the dining room men's dorm and class rooms and another that's more of a barn, garage thing. There is a courtyard with palm trees (which seems strange for the temperature). There's a soccer field next door that belongs to the city (which we can use, but aren't allow to play anything but soccer on - it's true!). Today two other guys and I went and passed a soccerball around on it for a while. I think it was the best I have felt since I got off the plane (I've had some jet lag).

So that's it for now, we had orientation today, but not much else to say.

All for now,


Andrew

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'm Off

I'm off. This really deserves a longer post, but I don't have time right now, so, I'll talk to you all later.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Packing

Packing.

Packing, packing & packing.

I started packing this evening (well I guess it was more like yesterday if you count me pulling all of my clothes out of my dresser and arranging them by type on my bedroom floor, pulling all of my other effects that I had been accumulating for the journey - already lying on the floor, to another pile on a different bit of floor). I have my passport and cameras and all of the things that go along with them, and lots of books and a hat that says "EXPLORE!" on it that I received many years ago with a subscription to the long dead EXPLORE! magazine which always inspired me to want to travel... so even though I don't wear hats very much, I'm going to take it, as a symbolic gesture as much as anything (I'm afraid the amount room in my luggage won't allow for too many symbolic gestures though).

It's looking to me like my carry on and checked luggage will be at least respectably full with what I have now... clothes and books taking up the checked suitcase and camera and computer stuff pretty well occupying the carry on. The problem is I'm supposed to bring my own bedding too... and I have no idea where that will go now... so I may end up having to bring an extra duffel bag as checked luggage... but all seems to be going reasonably smoothly... so far.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ice and Fire

Sorry for not posting about much of anything for a while... I guess I've been a bit lazy. I am getting ready for my trip though... getting the last things that I need to pack and working on Italian (though not as much as I feel like I should... so that's mostly what I've doing today :)

My Dad and all of us have been going through a really rough time with the business... there are a lot of people who owe us a lot of money who aren't paying it. There are also a lot of people who we owe a lot of money who we can't pay because of it. We didn't even pay the heating bill for a while, and it got cold in hear, but they came up with some money and were able to fill the tank this morning... so now they have the heat turned way up and it's really hot in hear : (

It's been cold out the last week or so... sub zero cold much of the time.

At this point it doesn't look like my parents will be flying to Italy with me like the planned. I don't really mind going alone, as it's a non stop flight and I know who I'm meeting as soon as I get to the airport, but it's unfortunate that they have to stay for this reason... they should be able to change the dates on the tickets so they might be able to come over when I have to leave this spring... so that would be nice.

So if you could pray for my Dad's business I would really appreciate it.

What do you all think of the inauguration and the parallels they are drawing to MLKjr. in the news (as least on CNN... the only news we get out hear)? It's something how happy everyone seems about it.

Thanks,

Andrew

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Misconstruction?

A family member of an acquaintance in Israel sent us this link to a video of the IDF diverting air strikes to avoid hitting civilians. I immediately recognized some of the footage that I had seen playing in the background on CNN during a news report, I can't seem to recall however that they said what it actually was. Did they omit the context? On purpose?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Thoughts On This Most Recent Conflagration In Gaza

I've had a rather nasty cold the last couple of days. It's kept me from sleeping too well despite spending a lot more time trying to sleep than usual. It seems like I get a few of these a year and there isn't too much I can do about it. This go round though, I've been distracted from my own silly, insignificant worries by events on the news; namely, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in it's latest and most volatile manifestation in Gaza.

It's a bad situation. In early 2007 seven, the radical Islamic political party Hamas won control of the government in the Palestinian controlled Gaza Strip, a tiny bit of land sandwiched between Israel and Egypt. Hamas began a series of rocket attacks on Israel - who responded by literally sealing off Gaza from the outside world with fences on land and a naval blockade at sea. Rather than stopping Hamas however, the siege only seemed to steel their resolve to inflict as much damage as possible on the Israelis and caused outcry against Israel (or shall we say, an intensification of outcry against Israel) throughout the Arab world.

In response to the latest and worst yet wave of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) began launching air strikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and followed today with a ground assault.

On the surface, the good guy in this fight would seem to be Israel. After all, it was Hamas who has been attacking them all this time, and a nation has an obligation to defend it's people. This was the view that I had always had, and it made sense. Being a Christian, I have a tendency to sympathize with the Israeli people. I have friends who are Jews - and even acquaintances who's children are currently in the IDF and may at this very moment be part of the ground assault striking into Hamas held territory. Why do the Arabs have to hate Israel so much? And why do they repeatedly attack the Jews? I could see no reason other than that they must be poisoned by Islamic radicalism.

In recent months however, I have begun to question this point of view. I watched a documentary that addressed a side of formation of Israel that I had never known before. I ended up reading at length on the subject and was even called to give a presentation on it during course this past semester. Many of the Palestinians who currently reside in Gaza or the West Bank originally lived in other parts of Israel where they and their families had been for tens, if not hundreds of years. After WWII and the holocaust when it was decided by Western powers that the Jews deserved to have their own state and return to their Biblical homeland, many of the Palestinians were forced out of their property and made to flee to Gaza as refugees. Those who remained among the Jews in other parts of the country did so as an underclass, at first by law. Eventually the law was abolished, but the Palestinians were equal on paper only, still suffering higher unemployment and poorer living conditions than their Jewish counterparts. Currently all of the ten poorest communities in Israel are Palestinian, and 50% of those in poverty are Palestinian, despite the fact that they make up only 20% of the total pop.

I believe that much of the violence committed by Palestinians against the Jews stems from these past and current injustices.

In 2005, then Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, attempted to alleviate these problems by creating a separate Palestinian State in Gaza. Unfortunately all that happened was what most people would expect when all of the nations poorest, most under employed and under educated people where taken and put in one place - they ended up with all the nations poorest, most under employed and under educated people in one place. Gaza became a massive ghetto with 50% poverty and near total unemployment in some villages.






















If desperation provides a breeding ground for extremism, which I suspect it does, it becomes less difficult to imagine how the people of Gaza could elect Hamas over the the lame duck Abbas government.

So to wrap all of this up - I guess I would have to say that I don't agree with all of the protesters around the world who are calling on Israel to stop the war... as if Israel stopping it's violence against Hamas will somehow magically end Hamas' violence toward Israel. This approach overlooks the fact that this most recent conflagration was a direct result of Hamas aggression against Israel and that Israel is obligated to defend itself against outside attack, just like any other country in the world.
Neither do I agree with the many of my friends and family who seem to think that the Palestinians are the unequivocal bad guys in the situation and that peace can only come when Israel beats them into submission and they gratefully accept their own pitiful social and economic situation, much of which is a direct result of Israeli abuses in not too distant history.

My own opinion is that Israel must defend itself in this present situation, and should not be condemned for doing so. They must however change their approach toward the Palestinian people, providing wide reaching programs to help them succeed both in and out of Gaza and perhaps even pay damages for past abuses.

- Andrew