Archive | meggie

#everlyabroad (entries from my journal 4)

blog photo train travelers

Little sisters at one of the many train stations we visited that day. Tired but ready to ride!

April 9, 2015 8:30 PM *Milan to Verona*

We had to run to catch our train to Verona…just like we’ve had to run for every single train so far. “Milano” didn’t get the chance to impress us—we really didn’t see it at all, but the lady who got us on the train earned one point for Italy! Apparently, we didn’t have tickets after all (don’t know where the break in communication was) but we do have proof of purchase, so she talked to the ticket man and they decided to let us on. Phew!

So we are finally on our way to Verona. Fair Verona! I can’t wait!

April 12, 2015 *Moscow to Riga*

(there is a perfectly good explanation for the missed time…)

Wow, wow, wow! When I’m too busy to journal is when there is SO much to journal about! I am on a plane from Moscow to Riga. I have the row all to myself, I just inhaled a cheese sandwich because travel makes me so hungry, I am writing with a Central College pen that saved a girl’s life—but I am getting ahead of myself.

Russian airlines are not keen on announcements, but I think we are already about to land, so I will get as much down as I can before then! When I lat wrote, I said I was on a train to Verona, and that was both true and false. after a very long day (about twenty-seven hours on trains,) we were finally on our train from Milan to Verona. I wrote that I “couldn’t wait.” Well, I would have to!

Our train rom Milan was booked through Expedia and there was some sort of mix up. (See last entry.) The ticket man, whom I am tempted to kiss* later in this chapter, allowed us on board without a real ticket and we headed toward Verona. (*or create a national holiday in the honor of.)

We were on a very fast train from Milan to Verona, and  all feeling SO ready to be in our hotel and get showered, etc. After so much running and lugging and confusion, we were relieved that Verona was our final destination. Zurich had been quite the adventure, and we thought that might be the biggest story of the day, but looking back, losing Daddy in Switzerland and having him run up and down countless flights of stairs in search of us before barely making it on our train, was a small part in our crazy day. Missing the next train due to construction at the station, having to bus to a new station with a bunch of skiers…all of that seems like a vague memory already.

After a few minutes on the train from Milan, Daddy said we were almost to our stop, but we didn’t need to rush because the buses ran every thirty minutes and this was our last train. Rushing was really difficult with our big packs, and my poor father was often carrying multiple bags (including his extremely heavy camera bag) and running full speed ahead in search of each train. Every time we’d board, he’d strip his scarf and coat off and sit there sweating and panting! We definitely made a scene…

The train stopped, announced “Verona,” we got up and began to gather our things. People were already hopping off and on and I said  something to the affect of, “Well, we may not be in a hurry, but we don’t want to be sent to the next stop, either!”

TO BE CONTINUED

April 13, 2015 *Riga*

To continue our adventures…

It was at this moment we realized that trains that move quickly also stop and start quickly. As we grabbed our luggage, a woman came up behind us to take one of our seats, and in a moment of chaos, we rushed to the door, only to find it closed. We pulled and pushed and tried to get off, but the train took off with all of us still abroad, in the direction we were already heading.

We passed Verona, where we had a very nice hotel reserved for only one night and had already called ahead and told them we’d be checking in late—and headed toward Venice, where we weren’t supposed to be until the next day! Before we could say “mama mia,” the train was whizzing down the tracks. In a panic, we sat down in the nearest available seats, which happened to be First Class, and began to assess the predicament.

We were probably going to to lose our reservations and have to stay somewhere else. We were going to spend about 100 euro more on this unexpected First Class ride. We told the ticket man what had happened. He told us that you have to pull the red lever to open the doors once they’ve closed. We had never been on a train that didn’t have automatic doors, and the lever certainly didn’t look like something passengers were supposed to touch!

We felt a little less stupid now, and all agreed it was just a mistake anyone could’ve made, but one that would cost us dearly–especially if we never got to see Verona. The ticket man told us what stop (more like pause!) was next and that if we wanted to catch the next train to Verona from there, we had one minute to go under the platform, to the Verona-bound train and board.

If we did our very best and ran our hardest, we might have been able to make it onto the train in sixty seconds, expect for one thing: we did not yet have tickets for that train! The next Verona-bound train wouldn’t come for close to an hour. We were getting way behind schedule and continually more at risk of of losing our reservations. We sat on this first class seats, too frustrate and nervous to take our packs off. Daddy rubbed his temples and Mommy used to her phone to try to find the hotel’s contact information in case we needed to cancel. The girls sat behind us and played quietly. I was tempted to cry—after all, I had been looking forward to Verona more than anything and even if I got over it—Mommy and Daddy would never get over “letting us down” like that after so much anticipation. All because of a stupid lever!

Instead, I swallowed my emotions and pulled my Bible out of my bag. I prayed that somehow, we’d still get to Verona safely that night and that by some miracle, we wouldn’t have to pay the extra money, even if that meant we found a hundred euros on the streets of Verona!

blog photo plane to moscow

Plane selfie on the way to Moscow :)

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#everlyabroad (entries from my journal 2)

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April 6, 2015

I am writing this by candlelight, on a boat, in a canal and I’m eating butterscotch chocolate while I do.

Sounds romantic, doesn’t it?

Well, even though everything I described is true, our circumstances aren’t quite romantic. We are on a houseboat in Amsterdam and all was going well until Daddy pulled a chain in the bathroom which turned off most of our electricity. (I believe he was looking for a light!) It also set off a very loud, high-pitched alarm. That was about an hour ago and we have yet to remedy the situation.

Therefore, we have no heat, very little light and permanently ringing ears. After several phone calls, we got a hold of Alexander, bicycle repairman who offered his assistance. Most sadly of all–Alexander is neither handsome or jolly. He just arrived on his “moto,” cigarette in hand. I don’t think he’ll be much help with the (missing) key to the breaker box…

Which brings us back to me, sitting in the captain’s quarters, eating butterscotch chocolate and writing by candlelight. It’s a good thing we bought this Amsterdam cigarette lighter at the gift shop today! Since I do not plan on going to bed until we are rid of both Alexander and this awful noise, I might as well this this opportunity to give an account of our day.

We woke up in our cozy, modern apartment around nine o’clock again and packed up, cleaned up and checked out. We picked up our backpacks and walked out, across the canal and to the tram stop. We then took a long series of trams to Pancake Corner, where we got coffee and pancakes (all mediocre.) From there we hopped on the tram again and found our way to the rent-a-bike and rent-a-boat office and got our houseboat key.

A short walk from there, we found our new home (The Agada) and hopped aboard, happy to finally unload our backs. We got settled in (it’s quite quirk and quaint and OLD,) and then headed back into town on foot (no luggage!!!) and in the direction of the Rijks Museum. On our way, however, we decided we really didn’t have time to explore all the great Dutch masters this afternoon, so instead we popped into some souvenir shops (score!) and then a nice little pizzeria where we had pasta, gnocchi and grilled chicken. After that, we caught a short tram to Rembrandt Plein to resist the huge, wonderful Starbucks we found yesterday and enjoy some coffee and wifi.

We actually stayed there quite a while, (the girls enjoyed their frappucinnos at their own table, then played around the statues with Daddy.) We checked social media, email and texted a bit with stateside family before bundling back up and heading “home”.

blog photo 2

“The rest is history”–as they say! We were settling in (I was actually painting a little sketch of the canal) when Daddy to tried to turn a bathroom light on and turned off our electricity instead. I’ve moved to the kitchen table now (bringing the candles) and Mommy is here writing in her own journal and drinking wine. We stopped for a while to do laundry, which meant scrubbing our panties with dish soap in the bathroom sink and hanging them in our stall-sized bathroom. Of course, our lovely bike repairman (who is still here and is slowly winning me over with his determination to be of help) soon had to start walking in and out of our bathroom, past our lingerie display, and pulling the Famous Chain of Doom repeatedly, for reasons beyond the female mind.

In other news–my little watercolor set and aqua brush I bought for this occasion work quite well. I had a lovely few minutes on the “roof” sketching the canal by the heat of the fresh air exhaust pipe…

WE HAVE POWER! The boat is starting to warm up. We are under strict instructions from Dear Alexander to “don’t touch again.” Roger that.

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#everlyabroad (entries from my journal)

dot waiting to boardApril 3, 2015

from the journal

Traveling alone can make you feel very grown-up, but nothing makes me feel quite so very “ten” as traveling with my family! The train of people, holding hands, passing the hand-sanitzer and snacks, sitting together and visiting the bathroom together–almost nothing has changed! 

I am at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, sitting in one of those wide, leather seats that come in threes. We are indeed about to embark on a intercontinental journey! Daddy, Mommy, Dorothy, Phoebe and I are about to board a flight to Amsterdam. And from Amsterdam, we’ll take a train, through the alps, then on to Verona and Venice. A flight from Venice will take is through Moscow to Riga for a few days. From Riga, we’ll fly to Stockholm and then back to Amsterdam (layover) and then home. Our trip will be a total of nineteen days.

I am so excited to see Europe, but i am in a state of disbelief. Until tomorrow, Europe is a made-up place. You might as well tell me I’m flying to Mars or Narnia or ancient Greece. How am I to know if it will really be there when I land, if this is indeed not a dream?

I just drank a vanilla latte from a Starbucks dad to hike to. We board in just a few minutes and we are already surrounded by Dutch!

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April 4, 2015

a note on public transport

This ticket (taped above) took me from the train station inside the Amsterdam airport to Central Station where we bought “city cards” and boarded a tram. You scan your city card to pay for each ride. I literally don’t know how we would’ve safely and successfully boarded and demounted so many trams today if we had to buy a ticket with Euros each time!

At one point, we got on the wrong tram without realizing it and it was just us and one other guy on board. After several blocks and stops, the tram came a halt and the guy went to jump off. Before he did, he looked back at us with a look like, “hello?!” and said, “End of the line!”

We had to grab our things (so heavy!) and and jump off. The tram driver jumped out too and lit up a smoke. We told her where we were trying to go and she told us we were headed the wrong way. When we asked how to get there, she said to go “over there” (several yards away) and wait at that stop and she would come get us. So in the cold rain, we walked with all our luggage to the next stop and waited while she took her smoke break and-a few minutes later-came and got us and brought us back into town.

Another time, Dorothy was almost hit by a tram that appeared to have no intention of slowing for us. I had to grab her by the coat and pull her out of the road as the driver silently accelerated toward her! We also hear them announce what stops are coming up next on the intercom and have barely missed The Red Light District a couple of times, which makes me paranoid! Our last tram was os full, I had to stand on the middle section which bends when the tram turns. The floor is like a “lazy Susan” and there is no wall, just an accordion-like siding in which my legs would get pinched as we turned. There is a “no standing” sign above this area, but there was nowhere else to stand. Trams are scary for a number of reasons!

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April 5, 2015

“Happy Easter!”

We had a good holiday in Amsterdam, though it was weird being away from home and family. Amsterdam is a very popular Easter destination and “half of Germany” is supposedly here today. We had some trouble finding tables to eat at and fitting on trams! We slept until about nine o’clock this morning (it’s 11:30 PM as I write) and then got ready for the day and went (by tram) to Rembrandt Square. We had breakfast at a place there and tried one kind of Dutch pancakes–like a crepe, almost. 

From there, we meandered the art gallery set up around Rembrandt’s statue before attending a service at Hillsong United, Amsterdam. Hillsong has only had a church in Amsterdam for three years and only for a few months have they been in this location: The Escape; which is a a notoriously raunchy night club Monday through Saturday, but on Sunday “it’s ours” one of the church leaders told us.  Apparently, over fifteen years ago, some Christians saw The Escape and prayed that it would someday be used as a church. Last June,t heir prayer was finally answered!

The church service was wonderful. Afterward, we walked across the square to the largest Starbucks I’ve ever seen and got yet more coffee, some hold-me-over pastries and a spot of wifi for updating the stateside family. From there, it was back on the tram to get to the loading dock for the canal tours. After some typical goose-chasing, we found a tour we could use our city cards for and hopped aboard. 

It was a round trip which took us out to the area which feels like the sea but is actually a dam-made lake. We used headphones to listen to some very hokey folks talk about Amsterdam for about an hour. Cheesiness aside, we learned some things and saw some pretty sights. At the end of the tour, we found out Dorothy’s headphones had never worked and she had been sitting there in silence the whole time. “Were you hearing something?” she asked, rather late. Oh dear…

After that, we tried to eat at Hard Rock Cafe (per Daddy’s request) but the wait was going to be an hour-and-a-half, so we meandered around a bit more, got very cold and finally ate at a Big Nick’s style restaurant called Rancho. Dorothy got the “best spaghetti of her life,” Phoebe got pizza, and the parents and I all had chicken fajitas. It was kind of an Italian/Argentine restaurant run by an Egyptian man in Holland. You know–your usual place! 

Half-way through the meal, Phoebe (who had barely recovered from a terrible stomach bug before our trip,) began to feel very nauseated, so we spent a while fanning her, dabbing her and trying to figure out how to get back to our apartment with a gravely ill girl in tow. Finally, we had to go (it was after nine at this point) so we bundled Phoebe up, brought some water along and did our best. On our way home, while waiting for yet another tram, the nausea finally passed! 

We took two trams and a long walk and got “home” quite chilly and worn out. Everyone is bed now but me. Seeing as it’s nearly midnight, I better get my shower…

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More journal entries from our European adventure to come…

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#everlyabroad (tales from europe)

Tuesday.

Today marks one week since I touched down in  my beloved Texas and saw the continent of Europe fade into memory. We flew away on Good Friday and it was nearly Earth Day when we returned. April went by like a tram. And trams move quickly, in case you didn’t know.

I was disappointed when the trip was over, simply because I couldn’t go on living it forevermore. But there was nothing disappointing about the trip–it was grand. Coming home was also grand. When we came out onto the roof of George Bush Intercontinental Airport, I spun around in the hot air. As sleepy as I was on the drive home, I kept my eyes peeled for wildflowers. I marveled at the enormous sky. My first five meals at home all included salsa, including for breakfast. I do love home.

When we touched down in Houston, Dorothy became an American citizen and all the people rejoiced. Something about that is so comforting. Even though she’s been ours for a while now and the door was closed behind her, that door is bolted now. She has a dual citizenship, which is really cool, but right now all she cares about is her American citizenship. She has long felt a connection to our country that she never had in Latvia, and though we love Latvia and I personally hope to return there someday, Dorothy is heart-set at Eyrie Park for this season, just as she should be.

We hit the ground in Houston and we drove to Eyrie Park and hit the ground running. It was a Tuesday and Friday started our weekend-long, out-of-town family reunion my mom was organizing. Cue jet lag, sleep deprivation, grocery lists and suitcases that needed to be emptied and refilled, laundry and baking and phone calls and dog sitters and cleaning and finally heading out. And realizing we’ve packed all the food but need lunch and taking the whole caravan to Chic-Fil-A like you do when-in-Texas.

Our reunion weekend was quite literally under attack. As our 50-ish family members all headed to the campsite, there was a serious car accident, seizures, fever, vomiting, fridge disasters, hail and lightning and buckets of rain, washing machines giving up the ghost, items lost to the unexpected rain, packing issues, two dead cars and many other delays. At first, it seemed like everyone was going to have to turn around and go home and call it quits, but we prayed and persevered and most of us made it to the camp. (One of my cousins did end up turning around and heading home with his family when his little boy got sick.)

For those of us who were able to stay and enjoy the weekend, it turned out to be a very enjoyable weekend indeed. There is always some amount of chaos and drama, but there’s also lots of love. We held each other’s babies, tried to make the chuckwagon teams even, pitched in financially, gave encouragement and advice where needed, watched each other’s kids, cleaned up each other’s messes and ran each other’s errands. We also played games, laughed, told old stories, looked at photos from our trip, sang songs, prayed, hugged, reminisced, napped, ate, soaked up the sun, slept through the rain and kept company with the sleepless, took pictures, gave gifts, blew out candles, flipped a canoe, pogoed, pushed swings, wrote chalky love notes, dribbled balls, cheered for our team, cheered for the opposing team, teased, caught up and caught fish, cooked and said “thank you” and, rather reluctantly said, “goodbye.”

I am more tired now than I was when I was jet lagged, but it is worth it!

Yesterday I started back at both of my jobs, powered by coffee. I am excited to be home, excited to be at my computer and on this here blog, excited to tell you about my adventures. Because, that’s what it was–an adventure, not a vacation. I hope you enjoy my tales and my photos in the next couple of weeks as I find pockets of time to upload and update.

everly

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everly abroad

Dear Faithful Readers,

I have so enjoyed this whole blogging thing lately. I’ve been writing about adoption, great books, prayer, being a stay-at-home daughter, singleness and dressing modestly. What you didn’t know was that I was keeping a big secret from you all along. Plans have been in the works for some time, but they weren’t finalized until just last night.

On April 3rd, I am flying out of Houston with my parents and my two youngest sisters and I won’t be back for nineteen days. In the meantime, I will be soaring around in airplanes and chugging along in passenger trains and seeing Europe for the first time in my life.

travel for travel's sake

“Meggie” and my parents had to return to Latvia one last time to get her permanent visa and we’re turning it into a bit of a vacation. I’ve been saving for months, hoping to go. Little did I know when I started saving that I would not only being seeing the beautiful country of my sister’s origin, but also taking a “fika” in the land of my mother’s ancestry, Sweden! And picking tulips in the country of our beloved Vincent van Gogh, The Netherlands! And taking a train through Germany and Austria where the hills are alive with the sound of music! And floating down the canals in a Venetian gondola! And having a lay-over in Moscow! And spending nearly a month abroad, like a character in a book.

Excuse me while I stare into the distance for a moment.

Nope, still don’t believe it.

I’m still pondering how to best invite you all on the journey with me. My instagram account is private, and probably staying that way (lots of little siblings pics appear there) but I may create a hashtag y’all can use to creep along with me. Either way, I intend to have a genuine BLAST in April and want to tell you all about it, already.

But for now, I have a couple more weeks of work left and some loose ends to tie up and would love to ask y’all a few questions as I prepare!

1. For those who have traveled by train in Europe, any advice?

2. To those who have traveled as or with 10-12 year olds internationally, any advice?

3. To those who have seen these specific cities (Amsterdam, Riga, Stockholm, Venice) what is a must-see/must-do?

4. What movies or books should we snag as we prepare for this trip??

5. IF I do create a hashtag, what should it be?

 

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