Monday, June 29, 2015

The Art of Italian Coffee

Italians raise the beverage coffee to an art form.  You cannot simply enter an Italian eaterie and ask for a coffee, nor for a latte.  If you ask for a “coffee” you clearly meant an espresso.  If you asked for such an odd beverage as a “latte”, it raises the question of why you have such an affinity for pure, warm, frothy milk. To get what we call a “Latte”, you MUST ask for a “café latte”.  To get what we would call coffee, that is clearly a “café Americano”.  Sometimes you get a choice of warm or cold milk for your coffee, and mostly typically brown or white sugar, if you want to go all the way.

“Taking a coffee” is extremely popular in England and Italy.  It seems to be the height of sociability. taking one coffee can give you your caffeine fix for the day too.  It can be quite strong!

Sociability is important. We negotiate, we persuade, we evangelize in social settings.  In England this is done in the pub, but in Italy it seems to be done more often over a coffee.

One of my American professor friends, Sam M wrote a short essay about evangelizing during many shared coffees.  I can see that for him and also for many Italians.

Let's you and I take a coffee one of these days and chat about The Christ.  What do you think?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

London vs Roma

I have been in London quite a few times, but in Roma only twice.  So, take these contrasts with a grain of salt.  Having gotten off the plane in Heathrow less than 24 hours ago, I am already struck by the contrasts.  Some of the changes are obvious.  The language here, though easily understood is appealingly different.  As Churchill said, “America and the UK, two great countries separated by a common language.”  Italy is one of the least English-speaking countries in Europe, or so I have been told.

The drivers in Italy drive on the right side- as in the USA- but are quite happy to weave in and out and miss one another by scant inches.  Here in Jolly Old E, the drivers are much more orderly, but drive on the left, as we did in the former British Protectorate of Botswana.

The food in Italy is – as you might assume – a gourmet’s paradise!  In England, well, it is Indian food or it is fish and chips.  I will say the British do win out when it comes to breakfast, though.  The English Breakfast, which we enjoyed in Botswana, is a multi-course affair, as is dinner in Italy.  The English eat cereal or porridge, followed by eggs which are typically served with one or two meats, with cooked tomatoes along with beans.  The coffee here is NOT cappuccino, not espresso, not café latte, not even café Americano!  I like it, with sufficient cream to render it a bit milder.

The biggest difference seems to lie in the people.  The stiff-upper-lip British seem a bit different.  They were as friendly as the Italians – once you get some distance from London – but they are different. The Londoners, like New Yorkers, seem less approachable, perhaps mostly due to the need for a bit of privacy. They seem a lot more reserved, more self-conscious than the Italians.  They are a bit more organized, and there is not much trash on the streets here, in contrast to Roma.

In the end of course, we need Londerners and Romanos.  G^d created individuals differently, with different dispositions and different giftings.  It should be NO surprise that these people groups are different.

Vive la difference!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Maurice Simpson

I am walking down the street in Oxford, England.  I am coming back from a speaking engagement in Oxford Brooks Uni, where I met with a bunch of grad students and talked about hydration and nutrition in recovery.  I notice a small older man, similar to me, with a small folding table, set up next to the street.  The man has a small portable PA system around his neck.

Jehovah’s Witness?

Mormon, maybe?

None of the above, Maurice Simpson is a Christian on a mission.  He tells me he is merely trying to win as many souls into The Kingdom as he can.  I notice his table has many tracts in Arabic.  “Yes”  he agrees, “The Muslims are more spiritually minded, and they esteem Jesus as a Prophet.”

I ask him if he is Anglican.  “No, not really”, he says with a smile, “My wife and I just try to follow the Bible in all things.”

I unzip my backpack and dig out my LAST remaining “Jesus film” CD which has the film in about 8 languages and give it to Maurice.  He beams.

“Perhaps together we can help someone into The Kingdom”.

Perhaps we can…

Friday, June 19, 2015

New Thinking

If we do NOT renew our thinking, it can become stale.  One advantage to travel and to new friends are the new things to learn.  Two of my favorite new things are really new slang terms:

“Re-tweet” is a most modern way of saying, “that’s worth repeating”!  I like it.  It’s short, it’s an inside slang that only a few will understand.

The second one is, “Wow, that’s Gucci!”  Of course, to any thinking person, that means, “That’s top-notch!”  Of course it does.

From what I can tell, these terms are only used by the youngsters of 2015. I discovered in Africa that if I knuckle-bumped like a famous young wild African rock musician, the young folks would laugh, reliably.  As an old professor teaching very challenging material, I need all the laughs I can get.  For an old, out of touch prof to exclaim regularly, “Re-tweet that!” and, “Wow!  That’s Gucci!”, should at minimum get a giggle.

I hope so, after all, these terms are both “Gucci!”.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015


I have been in lots of countries where bicycling in popular, such as:

  • The Netherlands
  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • China
  • Afghanistan.

But I have never seen the likes of the cycles in Oxford, England.  Everywhere you look there are bikes parked, bikes ridden, and bikes being walked.  It is staggering.  I understand that this is a COLLEGE town with about 17000 students, whose fastest, cheapest, most convenient form of transport is the bike.  But you see the very old and the very young on bikes.  You see women wearing skirts riding bikes.

The streets are filled with bicycles, and watching for autos is only half the battle.  The cyclists follow the rules, stop for the lights, but they don’t signal their turns much.  About a third or so wear helmets, and the helmets often seem to have lights on top.

The bikes are mostly middle-class bikes.  Raleigh was the only brand I have recognized.  They typically have very sturdy locks in place.  Some have paniers and other means of hauling a few things.  The thing I have noticed most is that unlike at U of AL, most of the bike seats are well-adjusted to the leg length of the riders.

I cycle to work when there is sufficient light and good enough weather.  It is a way to combine exercise with the necessity of getting to work- so I figure it costs me NO TIME at all.  I try to work pretty hard in my cycling, to maximize the exercise benefit.  It costs very little.  I think $25 is the most I have ever paid for one of my own bikes at UA.

One thing you don’t see much of in Oxford is… obesity!  Reckon these two things could be related?