Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hasta Luego

alright. I am in Paris now, but still processing everything that has happened these past six weeks in Spain. So here goes:
God has taught me a bunch about how to respond to differences, how to enjoy being alone and appreciate beauty by myself/with God, and how God provides and is incredibly faithful to His children with even the littlest things.

First, our little Christian study abroad group was made up of six wonderful girls of different faith backgrounds. We had some Baptist, non-denominational, and catholic faiths in the mix and it was interesting to listen to the different beliefs and traditions of other faiths. I also was taking a class on Comparative Religions where I learned a ton about different religions and how they differ from Christianity. Throughout all this, I learned how to listen, be respectful, and tried to understand when it was my place to speak out about my personal beliefs in the midst of differences. Still haven't figured it all out, but I got a lot of practice with these new friends and the course which helped with everything. Also, I was in Spain, living with a Spanish family who knew no English, speaking a foreign language with locals, and all that--lots of differences all around. I embraced the Spanish culture, trying everything once such as breaded/fried squid, Pudi's flavorless dietary cheese, and other deliciousness that I would not necessarily want to chow down on again. I respected the culture, trying to speak the language as much as I can, even when the natives switch to English, I would respond in Spanish.


Second, my time in Sevilla--going abroad alone, knowing absolutely no one. I even lost my camera so I was not able to share my pictures with friends and family back home..It sounds crazy, but my mind wants to call that a waste. If I can't do something such as watching a movie, traveling to a foreign city, eating dessert, with someone, I feel that I shouldn't be doing it yet..But God taught me that I am spending all of this time here with Him. On my solo walks to and from school, I would process my time here by talking to God and appreciating all the beauty and new sights on my walk. It was such a beautiful walk even though it was lengthy. So thankful that I was able to learn this from my journey here because that mindset is unhealthy.


Third, this one is my favorite..God provided for all my needs and fulfilled all my goals, even the little silly ones. Here are some of my goals: make at least one native friend and one deeper friend from the program, hang out with local kids, safe/smooth travel--no delays or cancelled flights, Spanish improves, balancing Spanish culture/studying/communicating back home/Bible&journaling, and getting used to the sleeping/eating schedule. My flight to Spain was a little stressful but I knew that God was testing me from the very beginning. I ran to my flight to Madrid out of Chicago since my plane to Chicago was delayed over 2 hours for tornadoes...but I made it. Then, after arriving and spending a few days in Spain, I realized that meeting locals would be harder than I thought and I started to not think it was possible. But, the second to last week, I met a sweet, local woman, Maria, at English Club who introduced me to her amazing daughter, Cecilia, who is now a close friend. We hung out basically every night after we met for the last week I was there. The last week, God met my desire and I was blown away..especially since she might end up living with my family this upcoming year to learn English. Sleeping/eating schedule took a week to get used to, but was not a big barrier to experiencing the culture. I would, however, get hungry between bfast and lunch most days, but the last 2 weeks, I was sick and did not have as much as an appetite, so God provided there, as I was not struggling with the hunger gap. (God's strange way of provision, but I love it)  As far as new American friends, I got close to a few individual girls including my roommate, and we even were able to do a bible study together once a week. I love them so much and it was great to connect on a deeper, spiritual level so fast since we only knew each other for a week or so when we started the study. Communicating back home worked out and was not something stressful that preoccupied my thoughts at all. Studying, thankfully, did not really need to happen until the last week..so I did not waste time on studies outside of actual class time. And most afternoons, I had my room to myself and I sat outside on our little balcony and read the Bible/journaled..listened to the kids playing down in the courtyard. Lastly, the way God provided my happy time with kids was wildly awesome and unexpected. The time spent for service at the Christian campsite (see "ma-ri-po-sa" blog) was not time I was expecting to spend with kids at all..I thought I was going to paint (which I did also...) Then, after meeting Maria, she took me to a preschool by her apartment where I was able to spend the day hanging out with kids...an amazing experience I was not expecting. God sees the desires of His children, and He provides tenfold.



Saying goodbye to Pudi and the family was hard since I know it will be a while until I see them again. But I helped Pudi get an email address and taught her how to use the internet (!) so we can keep in touch still. My last moments with Pudi were spent on a little afternoon at the doctor and then Plaza de Espana, where we ate chocolate and had some conversation. It was a lovely afternoon and a great way to remember Sevilla and Pudi. She insisted that I not say "Adios" (goodbye) but say "hasta luego" (see you later). I love that idea and thus, I have said my "Hasta Luego" to Spain and all of it's beauty and happiness.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

bronchitis and the beach




This past week has been full of adventure and new friends. However, for an entire week now I have had a fever of 102-103 on and off, everyday. But I went to the doctor yesterday and the results just came back. Guess I have bronchitis. But the cough syrup is sweet like childhood and the antibiotics are working with only 2 days left so I am thankful and moving forward! Somehow I had the energy to do everything I wanted to last week which is such a blessing.


Last week, we went to an English Club at a park where we paired up with adults wanting to learn English. My friend, Diana, and I paired up with a woman, Maria, and her sister who did not know any English but were only waiting for a friend at the club. So we talked with them, got to know them..they are Christians, originally from Brazil. Maria invited both me and Diana over to her house almost immediately after we met. Turns out she's got a daughter who is 22 years old and loves to travel, and wants to learn English. Long story short, her daughter, Cecilia, is a fun, adventurous little lady and has traveling dreams that may or may not line up with my plans one day..haha. She has roots in Brazil so I might meet her there sometime...also, she is trying to move to the U.S. for a year starting next February or March...I may have mentioned that my house has an empty room or two but have to talk to my parents first.. ;) We hung out all day Friday when I first met her and then all day on Sunday. I went to her church and gave a short testimony and sang a song for worship with Cecilia. So thankful to be part of a church service in Spain! We went to the beach after church for a nice, relaxing time. Here is a picture of us with her mom's friend who is spunky like no other and made the trip extra spicy and fun with her bromas (jokes) and imitations of people who we asked for directions. (bad quality picture.)
                                         


 This past Tuesday, we went to see "Gran Gatsby" in Spanish. The theater was inside a shopping center, similar to many theaters in America. It was so cool to see it in Spanish. Wanted to hear DiCaprio and McGuire's real voices but Spanish made it more elegant, classy, and formal, to me at least. I also had background information from High School English class which helped.
 
We were able to spend an afternoon at a beach with the group from our school. Here is a few of us in front of the ocean blue. We toured a winery before and did the whole wine tasting thing...so gross--well, the wine was "Sherry" wine which I guess is normally used for cooking in the U.S. since it is 19% alcohol (and tastes disgusting). But it was cool to see what the big sources of income are for Spain, second to tourism.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

ma-ri-po-sa

Last weekend was my favoritest of all the weekends in Sevilla/Spain. The top 10 highlights include:

1. Watching American Idol, Spain Edition-- "Numero Uno." The story goes that the missionary couple knows one of the contestants and he, Raul, grew up with their daughter here in Spain. He is a Christian and is not afraid to share his faith on the screen and give his testimony which is so awesome.

2. The intense process of removing a smallish lizard from our camp bedroom. I told them I was experienced in lizard-removal because of an experience a few years back (there was randomly a lizard in my friend's suitcase which escaped into my room) so my pride found me in a situation of being the guy in a group of girls and gettin it done..it took about 30 minutes.

3. The trek and swim in a beautiful, clear river/stream with 2 beautiful, fun, goofy kids named Eva and Raquel

4. Learning new hand-clapping games in Spanish (called mariposa, chocolate, among others),singing/making up songs from the girls, and basically every moment spent with Eva and Raquel (this morning/afternoon in Spain hanging out with the girls is what I needed more than anything at this point. I have not been able to interact with kids since I don't want to approach kids on the street and ask to play with them...creepy American.)

5. Hearing the experiences and what God is doing with another missionary couple here in Spain--one American and his native Spaniard wife.

6. Serving together with friends in this Christian retreat center/camp (Campamento)

7. Going to a flamenco show, though mega-touristy and hard to find, it was still great. (La Carboneria)

8. Finally (with only 2 weeks left) making native friends and hanging out with them Saturday night (Saturday I was 2 hours short of staying up a full 24 hours. crazy, but that is life here.)

9. Church on Sunday--gospel presented to a church full of over 30 non-believers that were there for a baby dedication.

10. Hanging out at Picalagartos with a small group of friends where we drank some soda and played some cards. Classic Sunday afternoon.


here are our "momentos"---

                                                    this face. She knows how to work it.




Wednesday, June 12, 2013

mexican food, puppies, and the global church

Last night was a beautiful night spent at the home of a wonderful Christian missionary family. My friends were almost at the point of tears from the moment we walked in at the smell of real, home-cooked Mexican food, and the sight of a little puppy. (I could care less about the dog, but am growing fonder of Mexican food when it isn't spicy...needless to say, I was not getting teary eyed)

But the conversation and discussion of the three hours spent around the dinner table made us all walk away from that night with an awe of what God is doing in Spain through the mission field and what God is doing through the Veritas Study Abroad groupies (6 girls from various religious backgrounds and ages).

This particular family used to live in Germany for 11 years before they moved to Spain 7 years ago. In Germany, their newly planted churches grew exponentially with crazy stories of God working in ways of Pauline-like conversions (for example, David, the husband, told us a story of a "vampire" coming to church and eventually getting saved. This particular man is now a missionary to the vampire community in Germany and witnesses faithfully to those in the graveyards every Saturday despite previous physical persecution from them. wow.). But in Spain, they have had a slower paced mission field as seven years after they started here, they are beginning to baptize more and more people and see them love God and develop a relationship with Him. It has been difficult in Spain because most people are Catholic and do not want anything to do with any other religions so they do not listen.

Yet, with this tension between Catholics and Christianity, there has been some discussion and dialogue amongst the Veritas girls as 2 girls in our group are Catholic Christians and have been questioning the perspective of other Christians that we have met here who talk about the difficulty of having the majority religion here Catholicism..

So we are all thankful of the perspective of this family. David went on to describe his ministry at the University of Sevilla along side a Catholic priest who is the only Catholic contact here who is willing to work with David in outreach and evangelism. David said that the many Catholics in Spain can easily get caught up in tradition and not focus on a personal relationship with Jesus. He acknowledged that the Catholic Churches are different here than in the U.S., as in the U.S. there are more genuine Catholic Christians who know and love Jesus whereas here, the Catholic population is mostly older folks whose hearts are not into the mass tend to drag their kids along when they do not want to go/do not know what it is all about. David also talked about the unity of the churches here. There are several Christian denominations here in Sevilla but they are all so small that the churches have to come together for evangelism, outreach programs and events, and bible studies/work days. He contrasted that with the divisions and distinctions within the churches/denominations in the U.S. It is encouraging to see the unity of the body of Christ in action here as churches come together over the common goal to reach as many people as they can for Christ.

David described their forms of outreach as well which are not deceitful at all. They host English clubs, date nights that help married couples focus on their relationship, conversation tables over food, movie nights, etc. where the goal is to get the people to see that Christians are normal people since many times, Spaniards are warned about Christians trying to "steal their children" and associate other negative ideas with Christians. They don't even talk about the Bible or Christianity at these events; they form relationships and invite them to church, leaving that window open for those conversations, but it is relational evangelism which is awesome.

In the end, the night was full of encouragement for successful Christian ministry in Spain, a bit of vision and reconciliation amongst our group of Veritas girls, and empowerment in the rest of our time here and in the mysterious ways that God works. I am so thankful that I am able to get these firsthand stories and experiences to see what life is like as a missionary in Spain.

Hopefully I explained that okay. It was crystal clear last night but there are lots of words and I feel like it was all over the place.

Gracias.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

10 things I hate about you

In attempts to make it more interesting to tell about my observations of the Spanish culture and everyday life, I am doing it in the form of things I will not miss about Spain. However, I do love Spain and consider myself to be a rather positive, optimistic person--therefore, humor me and get to know Spain through these 10 things that I will not particularly miss when I return to the U.S.

1.  Creepy homeless cats everywhere--especially at night
2. The lack and complete absence, in some cases, of street signs
3. The temptations of helado (ice cream) on almost every corner downtown
4. The scary driving when I am on the other side as a pedestrian or biker
5. The extremely narrow streets that are in fact meant to be 2 way streets..as well as sidewalks in there, somewhere.
6. The long gap between breakfast and lunch. (7 hours..)
7. The 9-hour time difference to contact friends and family back home
8. Guys saying "guapa" or "bueno" as my friends and I walk by (normal thing, not just because we are American)
9. I like walking, but 30 minutes one way to school is something I will not miss
10. The PDA like no other -- when there are many couples making out inside of a McDonalds...you know you are in a different country where the concept of McDonalds MUST be different..


See, the negatives aren't even that bad. Therefore, Spain is wonderful. Many of those pet peeves concerning cars, bikes, etc. are frustrations derived from adventures on the bikes the past few days. There were definately some scary moments where there was no room for us on the sidewalks with our bikes when a car was coming by. But we made it! Bueno.
Old ball photos--
1. First day exploring the city of Sevilla..trying to take jumping pictures and failing.
2. Hole in the wall (actually it was an old cave home...) flamenco show in Granada with live music (musica en vivo)
 3. Lastly, one of the many a times we have shared delicious helado together. This is in front of part of the Mezquita.
 

Friday, June 7, 2013

"hermano"

I miss Arrested Development. We couldn't even get netflix here if we tried to watch the next season (we did try.).

Anyway, this is a spotlight post on my hermano mayor (older brother) here in Spain! Last week we didn't see him much after he picked us up the first day but this week I had some fun conversations with him over mealtimes.

His name is Jose. He is probably mid-late thirties and is a policeman here in Sevilla. These days, he greets me and Amanda with a fist-bump and a skater boy"whassap" and I think it is the greatest greeting ever. But he does not speak much english after that.

We discussed movies yesterday--his favorite is Batman, although he is a huge Brad Pitt fan as well. I obviously shared his sentiments about Batman but didn't know many of the Pitt movies he was referencing. Apparently one of them makes him cry and he can't even watch the whole thing.

The day before, we talked about my desire to have native Spanish friends. He essentially crushed my dreams. (it is still going to happen! Next week..) He said that I shouldn't even try to be friends with boys because they are all ...(bad word). "I speak because I know. I am a Spaniard boy" (Jose's few words in English to make sure he got the point across.) I said I wasn't interested in guys here anyway and he was glad, haha. Then he said girls won't talk to American girls because they do not know english..but I want to speak spanish but I guess they are still intimidated. Regardless, I plan on teaching english this upcoming week to both kids and University students--that is my plan to become BFFs with at least one native Spaniard..

So Jose is awesome and he adds to the fun element of this household. He asked Amanda to teach him how to be flexible and do the splits since she is a ballet dancer. He has got some ambition.

Speaking of home, here are some pictures of the small suburb of "Triana" (where our home is). We get to cross this beautiful bridge everyday when we go to school or into downtown for anything (which is everyday). The mornings are lovely and peaceful, the nights are glowing and magical. I could never get used to this everyday.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

fotos de amigos

In case you don't like to read blogs without pictures, this makes up for the last post. Nice pictures that I stole from my friends on facebook of the past weekend in Cordoba and Granada! Bueno.

Here are the beautiful arches of the Mezquita temple that is a catholic church today. So many!

Part of the inside of the Mezquita...this was my favorite part. The dark wood (mahogany, I think the tour guide said..) carvings are beautiful. I would never have the patience to do art like this. (okay, I wouldn't have the skill either..)
Picturesque and unreal view from a lookout point in Granada. This is the Alhambra castle.
Inside of part of Alhambra. Some of the Muslim temples with gardens and fountains in between.
My friend, Diana, and I in front of the detailed marble-carved walls I was talking about.

There is a bit of this past weekend in Cordoba and Granada! I have friends with better cameras than my little ipod anyways so this works. In other news, my roomie and I are in the process of watching "Sonrisas y Lagrimas" with our mother, Pudi. That is the Sound of Music in Spanish! Weird that the translation of that in english is "Laughter and Tears.." not so similar but it is so fun to hear the songs in spanish. One funny note that I thought was cute--" Far a long, long way to run!" in the spanish edition, is "fa-lejos en ingles!" which means, "Fa--long distance in english" ahaha. Anyway. Big four day weekend ahead--exploring adventures and getting lost in Sevilla is definitely happening.