I returned from the Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna trip feeling very tired and ready for a rest from traveling. We had stayed in hostels the whole 2 weeks, so having a bedroom all to myself with a door feels like unbelievable luxury. Of course, my hostel roommates were all very considerate—even those who were strangers—and I had no trouble sleeping. But still, there is something about having space all to yourself.
When my plane landed at Milan Malpensa Airport and I turned on my phone, I received a voicemail message from a cousin that I had never met. His mother had contacted me some weeks ago, asking if he could come stay with me. He arrived in Milan the very same day that I did: Sunday.
My cousin is a big, sweet guy from Texas who goes by BC. That’s very Texan to go by initials instead of a name. This is his first trip to Italy, and he travels very light. BC is 28 years old, very adventurous and open-minded. When we wandered around a bit, looking for the tram stop in an unfamiliar area, it didn’t faze him one bit. BC just takes things as they come. He’s also a kindred spirit, with a big wanderlust and love for Europe.
He started out in Portugal, where he has friends. After a few days there, he made his way down the coast to Spain, saw the Rock of Gibraltar, and back up the Mediterranean coast to France, then Turin, Italy where he spent the night Saturday night before coming to see his missionary cousin in Milan. He showed me pictures of his trip, and they included some pictures of his mom, my dad’s cousin. I saw a resemblance to my great-grandmother. She looked like I would imagine that Granny had looked as a younger woman. Her eyes were especially like Granny’s. BC might look like his dad, who I never knew, but the family resemblance in his mom is unmistakable.
I took BC around the center and showed him the castle, the cathedral, the galleria, and La Scala opera house. It’s amazing to be with someone who isn’t tired of seeing churches and castles. It’s almost like seeing these things for the first time again.
Milan’s cathedral, the Duomo, is beautiful and a real wonder. It is the 3rd largest cathedral in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome and Notre Dame in Paris. It was under construction for over 500 years, and has over 3000 life-sized statues built into its façade. Although we didn’t go up there, it is possible to go explore the roof of the cathedral. From the roof of the cathedral, you can really grasp just how enormous it is. And from there, a whole lot more of the cathedral is still far over your head—all of it very intricately carved.
Inside the cathedral, BC and I went into the crypt that is behind and under the altar. There lay the mummified remains of San Carlo (St. Charles), who had been bishop of Milan a few hundred years ago. I had seen it before, and it still creeps me out. BC was also creeped-out. I also pointed out the statue of St. Bartholomew. I had seen pictures of it, but had never spotted it before. The saints are always depicted in the way that they were martyred. According to legend, Bartholomew was skinned alive. So the statue (which stands inside the cathedral near the side exit) shows him standing skinless with his skin draped over his shoulders—also very creepy. Creepy religious art seems to be an Italian thing because I can’t remember even once seeing anything like this in any church in any other country.
When BC had spent 2 nights here, he declared himself to be rested and restless. He said that he wanted to go by train to Como and on into Switzerland from there. So I took him to the train station, helped him buy his ticket from the machine, and we said our goodbyes. Yes, he is kin and a kindred spirit!
Today as I was finishing writing about BC’s visit a bird hit my window. I was surprised to see that it was a parakeet. It wasn’t afraid of me, and let me pick it up. I took it downstairs to the custodian. “Does anyone in our building keep birds?” I asked. She said no, but advised me to ask the custodian of the building across the street.
I carried my little friend across the street and asked the custodian there. She keeps birds, but both of her parakeets were still in their cage, which is enormous. I asked if anyone in her building keeps birds, but she said no. She opened the cage and told me to put it in. At first the bird was reluctant to let go of my finger, but finally went into the cage. It proceeded to investigate its new surroundings, while the other birds came closer for a good look at the newcomer. There was a moment of tension while one of the birds fluttered at the newcomer, but soon they seemed to settle into a posture of guardedly watching each other.
“Thank you for taking the bird,” I said. “Of course,” she chuckled. “The cage is big enough for all 3, and I think they will get along. I’m glad you brought it. Left outside, he would surely starve to death.”
As I crossed back to my apartment building I felt grateful that I had been home when the bird hit the window. Otherwise the poor thing would have died sooner or later. I realized that it feels really good to have helped the little bird, and also to help the people who pass through my apartment. Not that the people are in danger, but it’s good to help them on their way. This is what I do. God is good!