Saturday, September 24, 2011


I haven't blogged for a while mainly because I've not had the opportunity. For the best part of two weeks I've been lording it up in the sunnier climes of Italy.

I took part in another expedition with Oak Hall (who if you recall, I went to Israel with 2 years ago). The trip was very different in feel to the Israel holiday... but I enjoyed it very much nonetheless. Inasmuch as I felt God's presence in a very special and unique way in Israel... I again had an amazing personal encounter with him in Italy.

What has all this got to do with cartography?

Well one of the things that made my experience of Italy so different to Israel, was the looser more liberal way we explored the cities we visited. We kept more together in Israel, taking part in walking tours... whereas in Italy we were given rendezvous times and locations... and set loose into the enigmatic surroundings. What came as an unexpected surprise to me was that somehow I ended up becoming passively delegated as a leader by a few of the lads who had no idea or plan of action of where they wished to go.... but then, neither did I for that matter.  However, I felt like I rose to the occasion.

On the very first foray (into Venice), I took hold of a crude map and consulting with my party, decided to head off on a tour of the islands that took in a number of churches en route. My aim was to hit a piazza in the north west that looked of interest. In actual fact it turned out to be the main car park for Venice itself, however it did afford us an excellent view of the main canal and a lovely wooded recreational park. As it happened serendipity was also on our side as we discovered when we stumbled upon Santa Maria Gloriosa church and were astounded to see a newly wed local couple emerging from the church and setting off on their first gondola ride as man and wife *sniff*, how moving.

A similar thing occurred on my second day in Rome where again I was charged with leading my troops to the Trevi Fountain. I'd already seen it the day before but the lads had missed out and so I promised to lead them there after we finished exploring the Colosseum. Arming myself with a map I set out across the back streets of Rome, using several landmarks to get me within shouting distance. We were running tight on time and so after our brief sojourn, we started yomping towards St. Peter's Square. Unfortunately haste led us a little off target and we ended up crossing the Tiber at the next bridge along from the Castle San't Angelo. However even this misadventure worked in our favour as in my opinion it gave us a far better view of the river than we'd had before.

I was charged with leading my intrepid band again when we hit Sienna. After a trip to the bell tower, we marched off to the statue of the Italian revolutionary hero - Garibaldi (which I had spied coming in on the coach and wanted to get a snap of for my Babylon 5 loving friends). This actually led us back to the car park... which was a little disappointing... but then we got to climb the remains of the old fort and got a great vantage point for looking at the town.

I really feel that these experiences brought out long hidden depths of my character. By nature I'm an explorer but experience has taught me to be far too cautious for my own good. If anybody bore a risk of burying their talent... it would be me. However, the lesson I feel God was teaching me most during the holiday was this:
Sometimes the path isn't always going to be clear... the roads you take in life and the places you visit, aren't always going to be obvious. Sometimes you just have to look at the map and decide that a certain feature looks worthy of taking a punt on... and set off into a degree of uncertainty as you make your way into the future. Maybe you'll merely end up in a car park... but along the way, think of the things you may discover. Nothing is wasted... nothing. A little courage reaps the greatest of rewards.... even if those rewards aren't always what you expect.

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."
Proverbs 16:9

There are other things I'd love to tell you about Italy... my personal highlights and other things I learned or experienced, but I have a feeling some of that may be restricted to the Inner Sanctum. However if you would like to view a gallery of pictures I took, you can find them on Facebook and I will be trying to add them to Flickr at some point.



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