Category: Christmas party

Catching up on life

The past few months have been an absolute whirlwind.  A new marriage, lots and lots of birthdays and anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, a dance event, a skiing trip in Colorado, huge amounts of interpersonal drama, and new jobs for both Michael and myself have proven to be just about all that I can handle.

It is ironic that, although I have been writing more than I ever have in my entire life, I think it’s the longest I’ve been silent on this blog since I started it.  Most of my time lately has been taken up writing for my new blog, forgingsignificance.com.  Right after the wedding I spent several weeks working on some quillwork for an artists’ market at my church, but since about mid-December I have officially taken the plunge and started working full-time toward becoming a freelance writer.

Since then, my days have consisted of lots of website tweaking and beating the pavement trying to submit articles to other sites.  I’ve consistently written at least twice a week on my own blog for several months now, as well as already had 3 articles accepted in other places.  Sometimes it’s frustrating and feels like I’m not making any progress; but then I remind myself that I’ve really only been at this a few weeks, and that helps puts things into perspective for me.

This post is just a brief summary, both for your sakes and mine, of what I’ve been doing the past few months.  Hopefully I’ll be able to write more regularly on here now that I’m in the swing of things :).

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Michael and I had the opportunity to go visit my New Jersey grandparents in October, just a few weeks after we were married.  I was so grateful that Michael had the chance to meet them both, but especially my grandfather, as he ended up passing away just a few weeks later.  We all miss him a lot.  He left quite a legacy.

I was able to do a few fall-specific things, like carve a pumpkin with Michael, meet my friend Sarah in Ellijay for their Apple Festival, and go to the Perry fair with my mom and younger siblings.  That was a really fun afternoon.  Perry is about half-way between Atlanta and Albany, so we met in the middle and made a day trip of it.  It’s hard to develop a relationship with your siblings when you live far away and they can’t drive and don’t have cell phones, so I’m always grateful for the opportunities that we do get.

I once again hosted a Christmas party this year, except this time I did 3 days in a row of Christmas parties!  We took this idea from a friend, and the thought was to try to incorporate as many people as possible, while also making an effort to focus on different aspects of the Christmas season.  So the first night was “celebrating friends,” which was basically my normal Christmas party.  I made dinner, we played games, decorated gingerbread cookies, etc.  One of the games was a new one – I wrapped little treats in saran wrap and made people unwrap the ball with oven mitts on.  It was actually a lot more fun than I expected!  You can read more about that here.

The other 2 nights were “celebrating others” and “celebrating God,” where we wrote letters to troops and did a lessons and carols service, respectively.  We had almost a completely different group every night, and it was really a lot of fun!  I was definitely tired by the end of day 3, though :).

One of the highlights of the last few months was New Year’s Eve.  Michael and I spontaneously decided to go to Birmingham for the night.  And it was really so much fun!  We hung out, played games, watched the ball drop, and enjoyed a great breakfast the next morning with people we love.  Nothing different from what usually happens when I go to Birmingham for NYE, but considering how much drama has been swirling around Michael and I lately, it was a welcome and much-needed respite.  You can read more about that trip here.

I also really enjoyed my birthday celebration a few days later.  It was a pretty low-key affair, but I was surrounded by some of my favorite people in the world (including my mother-in-law, who had just had knee surgery and could hardly walk!  It really meant a lot that she made the effort to come out.  I have great in-laws).  We had a potluck dinner and then went to downtown Atlanta to see the Christmas lights in Centennial Park.  The lights were gorgeous, and we even got a funnel cake!  I suppose that was my pseudo birthday cake, haha.

Several of my friends also brought gifts to the potluck, and as I opened them, I was overwhelmed by just how thoughtful they all were.  These people who had come to celebrate me together really cared about me.  I know it seems silly, as most people would say it’s obvious that I’m cared about…but when it feels like you’re being surrounded by selfish emotional drama on all sides, it’s easy to lose sight of that fact.  It was a wonderful night to be reminded that I’m cared for.

We went on a ski trip 2 weekends ago – Michael’s first time!  It was bitterly cold, but a lot of fun.  Even though I’ve been skiing several times before, I actually ended up being a lot more sore than he was.  I think I was so scared from how fast I thought I was going that every muscle in my entire body ended up tensing up, lol.  But we both made it through the day in one piece, so I count that as a victory! 🙂

All that aside, Michael and I have been trying to focus on taking care of ourselves and getting into a regular schedule.  We’ve become connected with a small group at church that focuses on outreach to internationals in Atlanta.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them.  I’ve also started part-time work teaching a beginner ESL class twice a week.  It’s quite a challenge when you have Spanish, Chinese, AND Russian speakers, and there’s no telling how many people will actually show up!

Now that things are starting to calm down a bit, I’m hoping to be able to update both blogs.  But for the most regular updates, be sure to head over to my new site (forgingsignificance.com) and sign up for my newsletter!  I always post there on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The most wonderful time of the year

I have been looking forward to Christmas time since….well, probably since last Christmas, really.  It is definitely the most wonderful time of the year for me.  I love the lights, the weather, the foods, the gifts, the music (I am one of those people who start playing Christmas music in October)…it’s just such a festive, beautiful time of year.  I always do everything I can to make the most of it. Because I enjoy the season so much, Christmas festivities always start very early for me.  I think that the kick off this year would probably be the Tour of Homes that I took Michael on for a date in early December.  I don’t know what it is about home tours, but I find them exceedingly fascinating and enjoyable.  I’ve always enjoyed riding around and looking at homes from the outside…perhaps it’s just the extension of that activity that I find so much fun.  Whatever the reason, it was a blast.  There were 7 homes and 1 historic church on the tour, although we only made it to 6 homes before it ended for the day.  But even so, it was worth our time.  All of the homes were gorgeous, and on top of that most were decked out in all of their Christmas glory.  There were also different restaurants from around town that were offering food tastings at all of the houses.  We had apple and cheese wedges and a fancy meat and olive sampler and grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and key lime pie dessert shooters and lobster bisque and I’m forgetting the other one but they were all DELICIOUS.  Oh, and gawking at the gorgeous houses was pretty fun too, of course :).

The tour of homes was followed shortly thereafter with Michael taking me to see A Christmas Carol at the Alliance Theater, which was FABULOUS.  I’ve wanted to go see that for years, but could never muster up the willingness to bite the bullet and pay the steep admission costs.  But Michael finally got me there, and it was totally worth it.  The set was beautifully done, and the actors and musical numbers were brilliant.  This version of the classic story also had a marked “gospel music” feel to many of the characters and songs, which was a new and enjoyable twist to a very well-known story.

A week or so later was my company Christmas party.  Michael has gone every year since the tradition was started, but this of course was my first time.  The highlight of the Brightlink Christmas party is the gingerbread house competition.  There are 3 rules – things can be prepared in advance, but nothing can be assembled ahead of time; everything must be edible; and you only have 1 hour to assemble your house once the contest gets going.  Some of the entries have gotten quite impressive.  There have been nativity scenes, a barn, an iconic building on the Georgia Tech campus, and an angry birds fight that involved a blowtorch and flaming marshmallows launched in a catapult-like contraption, just to name a few.  Employees are generally paired into teams with their spouses, but since Michael and I are dating we were also put into a team together.  Before this year, the gingerbread house that Michael was most known for was “Snowpacolypse” – he knew he wouldn’t get a house standing, so he put a bunch of marshmallows over the battered gingerbread and said a snowstorm had come through.  Oh dear.  I had actually never before built a gingerbread house in my life, but I knew that I wanted to at least get one standing, lol.

What we ended up with actually far exceeded my expectations.  We decided on a “beach house” theme, and I spent a long time the weekend before prepping everything I could beforehand.  I even made the gingerbread – Michael said that it look liked it had been store bought, a comment which I considered high praise, indeed.  We dyed blue icing for the water, made some grey icing for the mortar on the walls, and used a variety of different types of food to make the designs and textures that we were going for.  Some of my favorites included dried dates for the stones on the walls, triscuits for the roof, green peppers for the trees, fruit roll-ups for the towel and hammock, and crushed up cheerios for the sand.  It was fantastic!  I was so very pleased with the result….winning “chef’s choice” (the caterer’s vote) was just icing on the gingerbread (pun very much intended, haha)!

And then, of course, I also hosted my own Christmas party before leaving for Albany.  It is becoming a tradition – this is the third year that I’ve done it.  It was a blast, as always.  And this time I didn’t try to cram all of the prep work into a single day, which meant that I had enough energy to actually enjoy it by the time that people started showing up.  We had a nice dinner, decorated gingerbread cookies, played some Christmas games, made some silly photos in front of the Christmas tree, and then did a white elephant gift exchange that was really a blast.  Last year about 2/3 of the gifts were some form of chocolate, so this year I forbade anyone from bringing that, and it seemed to ignite people’s creative juices when it came to white elephant gift-buying.  There were books, and funny hats, and blankets, and house decorations, and even a bungee-cord chair.  That’s the one I ended up with :).  I really do very much enjoy hosting, and I love Christmas, and so throwing this Christmas party has probably become one of my favorite events that I host all year.

After the bustle of celebrating Christmas in Atlanta, though, it was nice to have a toned-down week in Albany.  Michael came with me, but we had very little in the way of planned activities.  One night we all went out to see Christmas lights, my grandfather took us out to dinner once, I went clothes or grocery shopping with various members of my family, and we watched several movies together (if you haven’t seen Annie yet, go see it!  It’s fantastic).  And then Michael cooked dinner for my entire family the last night that he was here to celebrate my birthday, which was lovely.  He really blessed all of us a lot over the course of the week.  But overall, Christmas week was a pretty low week, which was just what I needed.  A little R&R is a great way to start a new year! 🙂

Christmas is coming…

…the goose is getting fat!  Actually, I have no idea how fat the rhetorical goose is, nor do I have any plans on buying a literal goose, but I do know that Christmas really is coming!  Just a few days away at this point!  Eek!  School and Christmas-y things have been keeping me busy for sure.  There’s not much about school that I particularly want to talk about, other than the fact that it was really hard, but I managed to get all A’s; but there’s plenty of Christmas updates that I have!

The lights, the music, the decorations…everything about Christmas sends a thrill through me.  I absolutely love this time of year.  I dragged a few of my friends with me to Atlantic Station, to see the official lighting of the enormous Christmas tree that they had erected in the middle of the plaza.  The lighting of the tree was actually somewhat of a letdown – there’s only so much fanfare you can have when all that’s happening is a cord getting plugged into an outlet – but they had fireworks afterward, which more than made up for that :).

My church also had a volunteer Christmas dinner at the end of November.  It’s an event that the staff puts on every year, in which they invite all of the church volunteers to a big fancy dinner to thank them for their service.  That was a blast.  As you can see from the pictures below, the people at my church can definitely be clowns…regardless of how dressed up they might be, lol…

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Matt, Amy, and Elizabeth – some amazing friends right there!!

As sort of a last hurrah, I hosted a Christmas party for a bunch of my friends the last Saturday of the semester.  I had hosted a potluck party last year (you can read about that here), but this year I wanted to put a bit more effort into it.  Rather than have people bring stuff, I made the whole meal – the pièce de résistance was a pork tenderloin that I marinated in a honey and brown sugar glaze.  Super yummy!!  Since I’m in a much bigger place now, I also had the space to be able to plan a few more activities this time around.  So we played a few games, did a white elephant gift exchange, decorated gingerbread cookies that I had made in advance, and overall just had a splendid time.  Most of my best friends from Atlanta, and all of my roommates were able to be there.  I felt very blessed, indeed.  And then I promptly fell asleep after they all left – considering it was the first real party that I planned and hosted all by myself, I may have overreached a bit.  I was exhausted by the end of the night.  Was so totally worth it, though :).

L-R: Chelsea and Kelsey

L-R: Lauren, her fiance Michael, Matt, Jonathan, Jessica, and little Nicholas

This is such a fitting hat for Jonathan…

Decorating the gingerbread cookies…

As a bit of a side note…I went to see some of my relatives in the north Georgia mountains with my dear friend Elizabeth way back in October.  It’s not Christmas-y, but I have nowhere else to put the pictures from that trip, so it’s just getting tacked onto the bottom of this post.  We just went up for the day, to get away from school and visit my family and see the beautiful fall colors.  It was a lovely day :).  Pictures are below – enjoy!

Christmas break part 1

Well, after a long hiatus, Sinbad has returned!  Hopefully I’ll be able to be a bit more regular in my writings this semester! 🙂  But I can now officially say that I survived my first semester of graduate education!  It was a really tough semester, so I’m really pleased to be able to say that I survived :D.

The one good thing about being a graduate student, is that there are no finals in grad school!  So, I was able to leave about a week and a half earlier than everyone else, which was wonderful, to say the least. The latter half of my Christmas break was frenetically crazy, so having an extra week at the beginning of the month to just relax at home was just delicious.  I got to be home for both Josh and Matt’s birthday (and see their graduation from white to yellow belt in karate!), decorated the tree with my siblings, went to a tacky sweater party as a family, drove around looking at Christmas lights, and overall just had a grand time together.  I’m so blessed to have a family that loves me so much :).  It was even better this year, because last year my Christmas was so squeezed, since I only had 2 weeks of leave to be home from Korea.  I think having such a crazy holiday last year made me appreciate the extra relaxing time even more this time around.

Mom made a homemade ice cream cake for Josh and Matt’s birthday

The brand-new yellow belts! 🙂

My shirt is snoopy, and I’m holding a Charlie Brown ornament.  I thought it was cute… 😉

My family really got into the tacky sweater party

Mom and I dressed a bit more conservatively 🙂

Right before Christmas, however, the mayhem began!  Together with my family, I drove several thousand miles – right around 3000 – within the span of 2 1/2 weeks.  The whirlwind tour began in North Carolina, with a visit to my dad’s parents.  They took us to WonderWorks, the same hands-on science museum that I went to in Orlando late last year (check out this link to read about that).  And it was just as fun the second time around!  Maybe even more, actually, since this time I went with my beloved family :).

The whole family (plus Jan!) in front of WonderWorks

Indoor ropes course!

Even mom went up!  I was so proud!! 🙂

After North Carolina, we went even farther north, spending Christmas in New Jersey with my mom’s parents.  We did a bit of visiting, a bit of helping them move and get unpacked, a bit of hanging out; and then it was time to move on again!  After 3 days spent with each set of grandparents, we headed back down to Georgia.  It was quite a whirlwind tour, and exhausting to say the least; but really wonderful at the same time.  I get to see my grandparents so infrequently; getting to see all of them within the same week was just unheard-of happiness! 🙂  More about the latter half of my Christmas break in the next update!

Gumi orphanage Christmas party

I went to Gumi last Saturday.  Arriving in the city, it made me think of what the ancients said about Bethlehem – nothing good ever comes out of Bethlehem.  Gumi is a dirty industrial city, marked by chugging machinery, freight trains that stretch on for miles, and belching smokestacks.  But just like the ancients were wrong about Bethlehem, beauty can be found in Gumi, as well.

The reason that I went was to participate in the annual KKOOM Christmas party.  KKOOM, or Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission, was started by a bunch of Fulbrighters a few years ago.  Every year they host a Christmas party for the orphans in Gumi, and I decided to participate.  So I was assigned 3 children to buy gifts for, and then I made the treck to Gumi and helped out with the festivities all day.

My station was the arts and crafts / snack station which, I must say, was the best station of all :).  I got to play kids’ faces and hug and play with them all afternoon.  Then in the evening after dinner, we had a human decorating contest and handed out the presents.  Some of us went out to a bar after the kids were in bed, but we didn’t stay out long.  We had all had a long day, and several of us – myself included had volunteered to wake up early to make breakfast for the kids in the morning.

4:45 came darn early, but I enjoyed every minute of making breakfast.  I did not enjoy the trip home, but as I’m trying not to remember the bad stuff, let’s just say that I had….difficulties with the public transportation.  I was glad to finally be home again – 5 hours after I started my 1 1/2 long journey.

In other news, I’ve started to have “last days” with my classes.  Check out the pictures of some of my favorite classes – as well as what one of them wrote on the board for me before class started.  Yeah, I was bawling :).

I’ll be home for Christmas in 9 days!!!

What greeted me when I walked into class last week…로렌 is Lauren in Korean

Some of my favorite classes.

Gumi Christmas party….yay for seeing friends!! 🙂

Face-painting!!  I got the best job ever…

They decided that I needed to be painted, too.

I have no idea….I think Sarah was the reindeer and Adam was Santa…

The kids got to decorate the ETAs!  It took the boys some coaxing, but they finally warmed up and really got into it 🙂

ETA performances

Kid performances
One of the little girls that I bought gifts for… 🙂

Making breakfast at wayyyy too early in the morning….for 150 people.  Oh yeah, fun times 🙂

Relaxing and counting my blessings

This weekend marks the first weekend that I’ve stayed in Gyeongju – except for the weekend that I moved – in nearly 2 months.  I cannot even begin to express to you how excited I was to not be catching a bus or a train or a taxi this weekend.  Nevertheless, I found things to do, as always.  Saturday morning I went over to Harry’s house and helped him decorate his house for Christmas.  It was a little sad – Christmas decorations are not particularly easy to find in Korea, resulting in a rather small pathetic little pile of decorations.  But we played Christmas music and wore a Santa hat and did what we could, and still had a joyous time.

Saturday night I went to a party.  It was the first time I’ve been out among the foreign population in ages.  It was good to get out.  They catered dinner – and it was wonderful! – and I got to catch up with some people that I hadn’t seen in a while, and all in all it was just a nice relaxing evening.  I was one of the first ones to leave because I had to get up super early to Skype with my family the next day, but it was still a lot of fun.

I had to get up so early because my brother Josh’s blessing ceremony was at 5:30 am on Sunday morning my time, and I was able to Skype into the ceremony.  It was a beautiful ceremony.  Definitely bittersweet on my end, because I so wanted to be there in person, but in the end I’m just grateful for technology that allowed me to be there at all.

Josh’s blessing ceremony has got me thinking of all of the blessings I have in my life.  Actually, it had me throwing a pity-party because everyone else in my family was together and I couldn’t be there…but I decided that that wasn’t a good attitude to have about it, so I’m trying to adopt a different perspective.  So here goes – some of the things that I’m grateful for.  I suppose during this season of family and thankfulness this is a fitting way to end this post.

I’m thankful, first and foremost, for my Lord and Savior.  He has blessed me – and stretched me as well – in ways that I would have never imagined, nor could have ever planned for myself.  No matter where my life ends up, I know for a fact that Jeremiah 29:11 is true, and that He WILL take care of me.

I’m thankful for my family.  Whenever I get into one of those self-pitying moods, I have to remind myself that the reason I’m so upset is also the very reason why I’m so blessed.  So many people don’t have families that they’re crazy about.  So many people don’t want to go home.  The fact that that’s not the case with me is one of the greatest blessings that I will ever have in my life.

I’m thankful for the opportunities that God has given me.  I’ll be honest, sometimes I suffer from a severe case of “grass is always greener” syndrome.  I miss being home and comfortable – but God has given me an incredible opportunity to see things this year that most people will never have in their entire lifetime.  It’s an experience that I never thought I would have, and it’s one that I would do well to remember what a wonderful chance it truly is.

I’m thankful for my friends.  On a day like today, they also make me sad, because most of them are so very very far away from me.  But again, God has been reminding me that He has given me companionship all over the world.  No matter where my wanderings have taken me, He’s led me to people that will uplift me and challenge me.  What a blessing that has been.

I could go on, but the night grows long, and I still have much to do.  But above all, I want to remember what God has done for me.  It’s hard to be depressed when you sit down and really count your blessings. 

A little bit of everything

I have gotten to the point where everything is a last – last Wednesday, last day of classes, last church service, last time to go dancing, last party…I’m excited to go home, but it’s bittersweet at the same time. I’m making the most of it, though…the last thing I want to remember of Seville is regrets for not enjoying it as much as I could have. Wednesday was excellent. I got to Skype with my family (it was Josh’s 12th birthday – I sang happy birthday to him in both Spanish and English), and then I hung out with Justo for the afternoon. It was rather bittersweet, because it was the last time that we are going to see each other, but we made the most of it. That night, he and I went and had dinner with some people from church. That was a blast…although after Justo left (he had to leave early), they teased me MERCILESSLY about having a Spanish boyfriend. They had the wedding planned and everything, right down to the date and location! :/ But they’re good-natured people, and I still had a lot of fun. I can say happily that my last Wednesday in Sevilla was a good one.

My last Thursday, as well, was well spent. I had my last day of classes in the morning and then went home to study some. In the afternoon, though, I went to see Los Seises in the Cathedral of Sevilla. Los Seises is just about as Sevillana as it gets. It is a traditional dance dating back from the 16th century, and can only be found in Sevilla. Originally it was 6 boys (from which comes the name of the dance) who would dance at the high altar in the Cathedral every day for 8 days after the Día de la Concepción Inmaculada; now the number stands at 10, and has been that number for quite a while. Interesting tidbit of history: in 1685 the dance was forbidden by the Catholic Church; this caused such an uproar that 17 years later the people of Seville finally were able to have it re-approved, on one condition: the dance could continue as long as the boys´ clothes did not wear out. So of course, their clothes have never worn out – they have been mended and repaired numerous times over the centuries, but never all at once. Interesting way to get around the system, don´t you think? 🙂 After the ceremony I walked around Sevilla for a while. They had put up all the Christmas decorations while I was in Morocco, and it was lovely to see all of the lights and trees and wreaths and everything. I’m so psyched about Christmas!!!

Friday morning I had my first final and finished all of my Christmas shopping (woohoo!!!). I went early to Nadine’s house in the evening to help her get ready for a Christmas party she was hosting. I helped her clean the house, and cut veggies, and bake pies, and make cheese and meat trays, and all sorts of other Christmasy things. It was so much fun…I can not WAIT for Christmas!! Then, when the actual party started, it got even better. We decorated Christmas cookies, and made ornaments, and played games, and had great conversations, and overall just a grand time. I love how much fun I can have without a drop of alcohol. I loved talking with all of the Spanish guys – they´re so interesting and fun to be around. The party consisted pretty much 50/50 of all American girls and all Spanish guys…sorry mom, it seemed like there was some heavenly match-making going on there ;). Haha don´t worry, I´ve made it 3 months without getting a Spanish boyfriend, I don´t think that´ll change in the last week…

Saturday I was going to go to Villalba, a small village with the same name as my grandmother Petra´s family. Unfortunately, I was dead tired from the party the night before. So I decided to just have a relaxed day, studying and catching up on emails and other such normalities. I went to a concert with some people from church in it in the evening – that was really cool. They had all sorts of music – from violins, to pop, to funky mixtures of rap, flamenco, hip-hop, and jazz. It was definitely worth the almost hour-long wait for the opening band to show up – ahh, such is Spain, I suppose :). I was going to go to my last bachata class with Rodrigo after the concert, but when we showed up, we found out that the space was being used that night for a Christmas dinner. So he convinced me to go out with some students who were celebrating one of the girl’s birthdays. I didn’t stay long – all they were doing was standing around drinking – but I did get to see Eligio, one of the intercambios whom I had spent a lot of time with at the beginning of the semester, but hadn’t seen in months. So that was good to be able to say goodbye to him.

Sunday was another last, last day of church. It was a wonderful service. They prayed over Sarah and I to send us off – that was really cool. I also had my first encounter with live translating. Sarah’s parents are here visiting her, but neither of them speak a word of Spanish. So she translated for her mom, and I did the same for her dad. It was sooo hard, but I was rather pleased with how well I did :).

Well, I suppose it is only fitting that I wrap up my accounts of my time in Seville with a summary of the homework Jon gave me that I have not already mentioned, since that was one of the first things that I experienced of Seville. I was able to complete all of them – all 42 of them. The rest of this blog consists of the stories behind them, if a story exists. Some of them – such as drawing a picture on a napkin for a waiter, are rather self-explanatory :). Others, such as singing a song to your siblings over webcam, or going down the Guadalquivir river in boat, or playing soccer on the beach, I’ve already talked about, but simply did not mention that they were part of my homework.

This Wednesday, before Skyping with my family, I was actually able to get 5 done in one shot! I was studying at Starbucks, and ran into Andrew, one of the students who had gone on Morocco Exchange with me. We decided to go exploring. He already knew where the geographic center of Seville was, on Calle Jose Gestoso (#1), and so he took me to see it. On our way, we passed the old tram system that now lies dormant and unused in the bus station in the Plaza de Armas (#2), the Iglesia Salvador, and the Plaza Encarnación. The 14th century funerary chapel in the church (#3) that I was supposed to find was less than extraordinary, and the outside market in the Plaza Encarnación that I was sent to buy food from (#4) has been moved to make room for the huge modern art-ish awnings that they are in the process of building. But the point is that I went, right? 🙂 Andrew’s knowledge of the city ended after we made it to Calle Jose Gestoso, and so afterwards we decided to just wander around and trust our sense of direction and knowledge of the city. That was my fifth assignment that Jon had sent me to – he actually told me to get lost and not use my map!! I thought it a very cruel assignment at the time, but it wasn’t nearly as bad when I did it with a friend 🙂

Another one of my assignments was to go to the Plaza del Museo and look at the artwork that they have there. I did make it to the plaza…but museum was closed, and all of the artwork had been packed up. However, I also made it on my own to the Fine Arts Museum, Museum of Popular Customs and Traditions, Archeological Museum, Museum of Flamenco, and the Louvre in Paris, so I think I can say that I’ve seen my fill of beautiful artwork :). Other assignments that may possibly be considered a stretch, but I consider to have completed: wear Spain’s colors one day (the only yellow in my entire wardrobe is a red and yellow and orange shirt…that counts, right?? :]), find a car without a scratch on it (I went to a Mercedes dealership), buy a CD of Spanish music (Justo gave me a mix CD of some of his favorite artists), and jump on a bus and take it to a random place – have no set destination (I’ve done this many times on foot and also in the metro, but not on the bus…I think that’s ok, lol). And others, such as doing the Macarena with a friend in a public place and staging a bit of drama with a friend can be counted as one, in my humble opinion :).

There are some, however, that I have completed without a doubt. Such as: finding a restaurant that is famous in the USA and having a taste of home (did you know that the McDonalds’ here sell beer??), dress up in some ridiculous clothing (I would definitely say that the takchitas our Moroccan host sister dressed us up in count as slightly ridiculous for me, as a non-muslim American), and doodle on a sidewalk with chalk (my señora’s 3 year-old grandson is a trip!).

There are others I did that were a bit more meaningful than scribbling on concrete. One week I was supposed to secretly drop some change on the ground for a child to find. Instead of dropping it on the ground, I actually gave it directly to a small child in Morocco. Seeing the look on her face when I put those few dirhams in her hand was priceless. I’ll never forget it. I’m pretty sure I made her day…she definitely made mine. Two assignments that Jon gave me my last week in Spain were to pray with friends and to have a night of seeking God in the Word with at least one other person. My Bible study and church have been such a wonderful source of refuge for me. My church is so welcoming and loving and inviting – hours fly by like minutes there, and I’m always surprised when the service ends and I realize that I’ve already been there for almost 3 hours. And the Bible study…being able to meet and get to know and have fun with and pray with people my age who are also in a foreign country has been priceless…it’s been so nice to have a support system, to know that I have people to call and lean on when life has got me down. Another assignment for my last week was to give and receive as many hugs as I could. I’ve certainly doled out more than my fair share of hugs – and tears – this week. When I said goodbye to Hasnae. When I said goodbye to the other American students that had gone on Morocco exchange with me. When I said goodbye to Justo. When I said goodbye to my dance friends, like Perdo and Martín and Rodrigo. When I said goodbye to my host parents, Sarah and Pedro. When I said goodbye to all my friends from church – José, and Fernando, and Gerard, and Flora, and Nadine, and Pauline, and Henry, and Moni, and more…

Looking back, I am so fortunate to have been able to meet so many wonderful people and see and do so many wonderful things. My time in Spain was truly God-orchestrated. This has been a wonderful experience, and I am so blessed to have been able to have it. There are still a few more adventures for Sinbad during the Christmas season, and I also plan on writing one last blog about Spain once I get home, but this will be one of the last blogs that I write for a long time – until God sends me on another adventure, which, knowing Him, will probably be sooner than I expect. Thank you so much for going on this journey with me!