As a child of the 60‘s, I open the window and hear echoes of Richie Havens at Woodstock “Here comes the sun...” great tune, great view, great day. We are in Sottomarina (in Italian “lower marina”) so after breakfast (I was the only one eating prunes and I have a high threshold for ridicule) we walk from modern Sottomarina to one of the most ancient fishing villages of the Adriatic called Chioggia (pronounced key OH cha). We are revived, renewed, and raring to go. We need to cross from the mainland lido to the other side of the lagoon , so we board a ship named “Sphincter” ...or something like that. I don’t even want to think about the implications. We stake our claim on the best seats of the upper deck for a glorious view of the Venetian Lagoon--Sottomarina and Chioggia behinds us, the emerald waters of Venice bathed in sunlight ahead.
Two hours later, we arrive at the floating dock at Piazza San Marco flanked by the exquisite Palazzo Ducale (the Doge's Palace), the sky-scraping Campanile, and Saint Mark’s Basilica (an architectural fusion of East meets West). We decide to move quickly to the Laguna Murano glass factory. Group after group ahead of us are turned away, so we strategically place our beautiful girls in the front of the group, while putting David Smith--with his terrorist beard--to bring up the rear. Fantastico! They open wide the doors for us (they didn’t spot David crawling on his belly across the threshold).
We are first treated to a demonstration of a master glassblower doing his magic with molten blobs of glowing sand, potassium, and sodium. Magically he creates a delicate sparkling horse. To our utter surprise, he spots a fair maiden from among us and calls her forward to the glowing furnace stoked up to a mere 2500︒. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would be impressed. She, the fair maiden, would be our very own Erica Schultz--the dancing Florentine from a few nights before. The master glassblower convinces Erica to try her hand at the ancient art. With trepidation tempered by a modicum of courage, she consents to play with this menacing molten mass. The master tells her to make whatever she wants. She tries her hand at a bird and when she is done, it could only be called a bird in a very “Picasso-esque” sense (David Smith added parenthetically, “If that’s a bird it got hit by a truck.”). Erica bows to the applause of the Italian men in the background. We are not quite as impressed, but we do admire her daring.
Next stop Il Canovaccio, the most famous Venetian mask shop in the world. This is a must stop for me--I have been building my mask collection for about 10 years now. This year, I will begin a new phase in my acquisitions by adding African animals in honor of our forthcoming journey to Kampala, Uganda to work with the orphans. I will start with a giraffe...pretty cool, I must say. The students love trying on the masks--using them as photo-ops--but the proprietor is not a bit thrilled with the idea. This happens every year, but I keep buying masks and they keep putting up with us...or should I say with them.
Continuing through the glorious aqua maze called Venice, we search for a stunning vista from which to take a few pictures. Dazed, disoriented, and delighted to be here, we arrive at the Rialto Bridge--spectacularly spanning the Grand Canal. We take a couple thousand pictures in about a minute and a half and then jump the next boat that winds mystically down the majestic Grand Canal. What an experience; what an opportunity of a lifetime; what amazing people to share this with.
Back at San Marco piazza things turn weird: Riley accidentally tangles with a pigeon (fortunately, Riley gets the best of it; the pigeon looses a few feathers); Mark’s funky unbalanced blue ball goes awry and nearly takes out quite a few unsuspecting tourists; and David Smith buys an insanely ridiculous Captain Nemo hat. Never a dull moment.
Back into the ship after I teach Kendra how to whistle with her fingers (one of my few talents)--unfortunately a group of sailors thought she was flirting with them. No problem, they were scared off by Captain Nemo, Mark’s unpredictable blue ball, and the pigeon feathers in Riley’s hair. Two hours later we are in Chioggia experiencing their annual Medieval Festival followed by a memorable dinner outside on the patio along the lagoon. It’s good to be alive, to be together, to partake of the richness of God’s bounty. God is good....All the time!
San Marco Basilica (St. Marks). The jewel of the Venice. Anyone know where all the pigeons went? Maybe they saw Riley coming.
The Murano master with apprentice Erica in the wings.
Stephanie (Haupt), Morgan, and Erin going Venetian. You go girls!
Who the heck is that? Answer tomorrow.
Cruising down the Grand Canal. Am I dreaming? Somebody pinch me.