Daily blog—Day 11 ½--more to the story, as always…
April 13, 2022, 8:42 AM

I’m home in the Nook, sitting in the same spot where all my daily Bible blogs came from last year, drinking my own blend of coffee from my favorite coffee thermos, surrounded by the smells and sights of all that I know, and spending time with Alistair. He generously picked me up at Newark last night (never a fun trip!!) and I will tell you a few things quickly:

  • The roads in Poland are so much better than the roads in New York. Polish highways are smooth, open and wide, and even on these beautiful roads, we saw work zones as they repaired whatever imperfection they detected. Driving on the Thruway north felt more like rock climbing on a horizontal surface with a car.
  • The Polish people have gruff exteriors and hearts of gold. Every Polish person we met was committed to the mission of helping the refugees, and they were always interested in talking with us, as we were able, about the situation.
  • I will never travel internationally without an internet plan for my phone, and you should never do so either. Without an international internet, I put us both me and Cheryl at risk and my life was MUCH more difficult when traveling because I could not get directions, download boarding passes or tickets, or translate simple phrases with Google Translate. Polish was an impossible language to figure out; Italian was much easier to glean meaning from, but without internet, I continually needed help from Cheryl, and I could not communicate well with people from home. It was simply unsafe to travel without the internet.
  • NEVER forget your international Driver’s License. Enough said about that. Mine is good for a year, and I am saving it. You never know when you need to go back to Poland, right? Or is that just me?
  • Cheryl and I had a phrase and we continually said it to each other when we left for the day: “Passport…wallet…phone”. Those are the three essential things you need to travel well and safely in any foreign country and you need to know where they are 24/7. I traveled every day with my passport tucking into my sports bra—I don’t care how weird that sounds, you simply need to know that your passport is your LIFE, especially if you are traveling in a more unsafe area, as we were. Put money in a few places in your rental car and suitcase in case your wallet gets stolen. Bring pictures of all your documents, credit cards, licenses etc, even if you store them in a digital file on your phone.

And now here’s the unsaid part of the Italian adventure that I am free to tell you now—when we got to Italy, we both tested for Covid using home tests that we carried on our trips. Cheryl will tell you that I am a bit neurotic about it, and tested more frequently. Her joke was that I was testing myself every 12 hours, but maybe every 24 hours would be more accurate. Realize that a positive test could have signaled terrible illness in a foreign country, but testing positive  also requires ten days of quarantine legally. We also could not fly out without negative tests performed by a physician or pharmacist, and we wanted to make sure we would be negative before paying for the legal test.

I was negative, and Cheryl tested positive. Absolutely shocking to us both, and honestly, terrifying to find this out so far from home. Once again, God had provided us with the blessing of recuperation in San Marino. I had a separate room from her, as we always did when traveling (once again, separate rooms were essential when traveling) and began double-masking immediately, as did Cheryl. She even brought a face shield with her.

Blessedly, she has had mild symptoms—exhaustion, headache and an intermittent cough, but no fever and perfect oxygen levels. We can also attribute some of those symptoms to the stress of all that we faced in Poland towards the end, but either way, Cheryl was staying in Italy, and I was not. I needed to get my legal test asap in order to leave the country, and I needed to minimize any contact with her, which made us both so sad. Remember that she is surrounded by the best people—her family—in Italy and even while I was there, they dropped off food, bottled water and a bottle of wine—don’t you love the Italian people? I would not have included that in MY list of Covid convalescence, but it made our final night of fully-distanced dining so much more celebratory, and Cheryl was well enough to enjoy the fresh Murano plum tomatoes, buttery cheeses, breads, ripe strawberries, apples and other foods that had been given to us. We toasted, from far away, with glasses of wine, and we cried at the prospect of leaving each other. This trip has been unifying on so many levels and we traveled together.

To get my final Covid documents, I had to travel to a small town in Italy to the local pharmacy and the Tabachy shop (tobacco shop) to get copies. I maneuvered the rental car, manual shift only (aren’t we lucky that we can both drive stick?) around the hairpin turns of the mountains to get the test and the documents and felt in my heart that I wanted to live in Italy the rest of my life. Something about the country genuinely calls out to my heart and my guts. I felt very much at home there.

So Cheryl is still in Italy where she will remain until she is able to get her negative covid documents to travel back. Her family may come to join her as it is Easter break, and while this is indeed Holy Week, I continue to sing songs of Hallelujah and I continue to give thanks to God for all that has happened, for all the ways God guided us, walked with us, blessed us and for all the challenges that reinforced the importance of the call we had both received and answered.

I have one more blog in me, I think, and that will tie up very important details that you need to know.

I am more in love with God than ever,  more full of praise, and yet I am now more aware of the cruelty of this world in the lives of many people,especially in the lives of refugees fleeing their homes. My heart is scarred by what I have seen, but scars can make softness stronger. I pray that my scars make me a better servant during a week in which we meditate on the wounds in the hands, feet and side of Jesus that remind us of brokenness, and of healing in His name.

Oh, I love all of you so much, and am grateful that you followed this journey with us. I am glad to be home, but I have learned that home is wherever Jesus is, wherever the Spirit moves, wherever the Father calls us to be his servants. So really, I’ve been home all the time, haven’t I?

My prayer for the refugees, and my experience of God’s grace on our trip:

“You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!”  Isaiah 55:12

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,