Category: God

Beginnings and endings

Whew, what a week! I’m super glad it’s over. This has without a doubt been the most hectic few days I’ve had since I’ve been here – hence my long silence on blog updates :). But I think things are finally calming down again, so I should be able to give you more frequent updates and pictures (on that note, it has come to my attention that the link to the pictures in Españoles por fin was broken. I have now fixed that).

Anyway, I suppose first I should update you on my classes, since that is, after all, why I’m here. Last week I had finals (hence part of the reason for the insanity). There are 2 rounds of classes here: one lasts only 3 weeks, and the other lasts until the end of the semester. So last week I finished up my first term. I feel like it went well. My lowest grade up until that point was a 95, and I was the first one done with the test :). I’m sad it only lasted 3 weeks, though…I really liked the teacher. I also got my schedule for my future classes…and it’s INSANE! I hate it :(. But I’m going to talk to the director and try to change some classes around on Monday, so I’ll let you know my final schedule in my next update. I do believe, however, that I will have ALOT more free time, so hopefully you’ll be hearing from me more often (be that in blogs, chat, or skype :]).

So, in other homework news: I opened my next letter from Jon last week. So here are my new assignments: 1) Take a dance class as part of the tour at the Museum of Flamenco Dance, 2) Take your new dance moves and dance in one of the fountains at Alameda de Hercules, 3) Find the ruins beneath the Plaza de Pescanderia, 4) Take a picture of something that makes you extremely happy, and post it on Facebook (check out my picture here. And, before people start teasing me about having a Spanish boyfriend, it´s not him specifically that makes me so happy, but just all of my Spanish friends in general :P. That´s just the only picture I have so far), 5) Sing your siblings a song over Skype webcam, and 6) If your wardrobe allows it, wear Spain’s colors one day. Interesting thing there, although Spain’s colors are red and yellow, yellow is considered bad luck. People rarely wear it, and performers never, EVER wear it. I find it ironic that the national color is considered bad luck… My wardrobe at the moment does not allow it, but I’ll see if I can fix that before I leave :). With less classes and not having to worry about my applications (I finally got them submitted, woohoo!!!!), I should have a lot more time to get my bucket list done. I’m super excited about it, especially since I’ve started meeting people that I would want to share my experiences with.

On that note, I went out Saturday night with Sarah and some intercambios, Miguel and Eligio. I had sooo much fun. Also, I’m such a nerd :D. We did go out late, which is normal in Spain…but what we did was not normal. We went to an arcade room that’s in the big mall in Seville (Nervion Plaza), and played arcade games all night. May I just say that I dominated at air hockey :D. Afterwards, we went to a bar that was owned by a friend of theirs, and bought drinks and just sat around and talked. I got a tea that’s very similar to a peach tea from Costa Rica, so I was happy. We talked about anything and everything, and laughed at each other’s language mistakes, and in general just had a grand time. I didn’t get back to the house until after 2:00, however, which made the next day rather hard to stay awake. There’s a reason I don’t stay out that late on school nights…the next day I’m totally shot :).
But anyway, let me tell you about the next day!! Sarah had told me about an evangelical church she went to last week when I went on the hiking trip, and so this morning I went with her to church. It was amazingggggg. (although I don’t ever want to hear you guys complaining that your hour and a half long services ran long…this church meets from 11:30 – 2:30 :P) The worship was awesome, and the sermon excellent (especially since I understood all of it! Yes, it’s all in Spanish), and I got to meet some awesome people, too. I’m pretty psyched about going back. They’re starting a Bible study on Thursday nights that I want to get involved in…right now I have a class at the same time, but hopefully I’ll be able to change it.

So after church I came home and ate lunch with my family, and then promptly passed out. I felt better after a nap, which is good, cuz I went out again with the same group from last night. We walked around the city for a while – didn’t really do anything, but it was fun, nevertheless. I’m so excited about Jon’s bucket list, though – I plan on showing these natives Sevillanos their city. Many of the things he’s having me do, they have never done before. So we’ll get to experience them together. I suppose it’s the same way in the USA – if you grow up around something, you’re less likely to appreciate its uniqueness. The people least likely to have been to the Grand Canyon always seem to be the ones that live within a hour of it :).

Oh also, I forgot to mention that on Saturday I went to Aracena to see “Las Grutas Maravillosas” (the amazing caves). They truly were amazing. They didn’t let us take any pictures, which was quite tragic, but at least I have the memory of them. I love caves :D. Aracena is famous for it’s “jamón ibérica”, so I also went to a pig museum while there (yes, it really does exist), and tried some of the famous ham. It was good, but very very salty – the way they make it is smother it in salt and leave it to air-cure. Check out pictures here. After the museum, I went up to the top of the mountain to see the castle and church that was nestled in the top (which, of course, involved more climbing. If I don’t come back completely cured of my fear of heights, it certainly won’t be for lack of trying :]).
So this weekend was quite excellent, overall. Probably the best I’ve had since I’ve been here. An ironically fitting ending to what was definitely the worst week so far. But everything has it’s season, and I’m quite glad that the season of stress was short.

Blessings and curses

I forget sometimes how much influence we have on the people around us. Even little things, like a chocolate bar or a hug or a coke, can have a major impact on the people in our lives. Yesterday (Monday) I had a truly horrible day. It was without a doubt the worst day I’ve had since I’ve been here. Since I plan on going back and reading these blogs, and I do not want to remember the bad parts, I will not go into detail about why it was so bad…but suffice it to say that nearly everything that could have gone wrong, did. Well, I will say that my back has been absolutely killingggggg me lately…prayers for that would be appreciated. But anyway, during classes in the morning, several people saw me near tears and spontaneously came up and gave me a hug. One girl received a care package from her family that day, and gave me a cookie from the box.

(on that note, if any of you want to send me anything…**hint, hint**…my address in Spain is: Lauren Fenner; CC-CS; Calle Harinas, 16-18; 41001 – Sevilla, Spain. Letters will get here no problem, as long as you specify “airmail” on the envelope. Packages, too, shouldn’t have any problems if you send them through the USPS and describe the items being shipped as “used” with a total value of $0. :])

Anyway, back to my story….in the afternoon, my friend Sarah (Sarah S.) gave me a milk chocolate candy bar. She had noticed that that was the kind I had bought in Portugal, so she knew that I liked it, and she went and bought it and gave it to me to make me feel better. It absolutely made my day. I am sure she had no idea what a big difference such a little gesture made for me.

Another example: I went out tonight (Tuesday) with Justo, one of the intercambios that I met on Sunday. He’s technically not my intercambio, but I met mine today and it was really awkward :(. I like talking to him more :). So anyway, I had mentioned to him that I had had a bad day yesterday, and so he asked me if I wanted to go out for a little bit tonight. He lives really close to me, about 10 minutes away. We were only out for about an hour, but that hour made all the difference. He took me to an outdoor bar in the park that I walk by every day. I had been wanting to go there for a while – they have couches and lounging areas and everything set up outside, and you can sit under the stars while you drink your pineapple soft drink or coke or rum or whatever it is you want. We talked about nothing of importance, but that wasn’t the point. He was just trying to take my mind off of my problems. And he did. We talked in Spanglish, and laughed at each other’s mistakes, and had an overall great time. I did, at least :D. The simple act of giving me an hour of his time meant the world to me.

Then later, I was talking to another Sarah (Sarah L.), and she mentioned that one of my blogs had basically helped her decide on a major and career after graduation. Apparently, she took the words of Ecclesiastes and my thoughts on it (basically, that God’s will is that we do what we love – see “What’s your heart’s desire?”), to heart. So I thought that was really cool…but at the same time, it’s kind of overwhelming, isn’t it? Just think of how many people you’ve influenced when, like Sarah S., you probably didn’t even know it! How many peoples’ futures do you think your offhanded comments have helped decide, like Sarah L.? It is so true that out of the mouth comes either blessings or curses; there’s really no in-between. So here’s some food for thought…have you been blessing or cursing people today?

Españoles por fin!

These past few days have been rather exciting. On Thursday, I went back to La Catedral. But this time, I looked all around it, and even went up to the very top!! The view from the top (it’s 500 meters tall) is incredibleeeeee…check out pictures here(I had to start a new album :])! Thursday night I was supposed to (finally!) meet my intercambio. But she totally flaked on me and didn’t show up. She didn’t call, or send me a message, or anything. If I had had her number, I would have called her, but she never gave it to me :(. So that was disappointing. But as I was leaving, I stopped into Yogurtlandia. It’s a frozen yogurt place right next to the Center that’s reallyyyy good…I think I’ve just discovered my Achille’s heel ;).

Friday night I went to a Flamenco exhibition with my friend, Alice, in a little place called Casa de la Memoria. She’s been taking flamenco classes in the states for 7 years, and heard about this place from her teacher here in Seville. It…was…incredible!! There was a guitarist, a singer, and a female and male dancer – all in the flamenco style. I had to remind myself a few times to breathe. I wish I had a video of their performance, but they told us quite emphatically – and in 4 languages, so we would have no excuses – that video was strictly prohibited. So I’ll have to be content with my memory, and a few pictures that I took.

After the dance, Alice and I met up with another friend, Allyx, to go eat tapas (appetizers, basically). Our waiter was the best waiter I’ve ever had. He was funny, engaging, and attentive – but not suffocating. I have decided that I’m going to eat there again just so I can have him as a waiter :D. On the way back, we saw El Festival de las Naciones (Fesitval of the Nations) going on in a park near where I live, so we headed in to check it out. It was pretty cool. It has stores, food, and performances from countries all over the world. I bought a dress and a cool wrap-around skirt. I’m sure you’ll see a picture of me in it sooner or later… 🙂

Saturday I spent all day in Córdoba. We visited holy places from 3 major religions – Alcázar de los reyes cristianos (Christian), Una sinagoga (Jewish), and La Mezquita (Muslim). La mezquita was actually really cool. It had been a muslim temple, and then was partially converted into a Christian church. So there are some places where you can see both architectural styles right next to each other. I’ve got pictures of all three places in my photo album that I gave you the link to earlier in this blog.

Sunday was AMAZING. I went on a “senderismo” (a hike) with a bunch of the students AND intercambios. My intercambio didn’t come (of course), but there were several intercambios who came who’s students did not, so I hung out with them all day. At last, I have met some Spaniards!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 We walked around as a group for a while, and then split off into sub-groups. I went with my three new Spanish friends, Justo, Pablo, and Rafael, as well as a few other American students. We climbed up a mountain to see the ruins of an old castle that was on top of the mountain. Some people took the path up…I actually climbed up. As in, rock climbing. I was so scared (I’m not a fan of heights), but it was sooo fun. I’ve got a picture in my album of what I climbed.

After the castle, we climbed all the way down the mountain to the lake that was nestled in the valley. There was an island a good ways out from the shore that several people decided to swim to. I didn’t have my swim suit, but I decided to do it anyway. On the island there was a rock about 15 feet above the water that we all jumped from (my fear of heights got a good licking today, lol :]). By the time I swam back, I was soooo tired – hours of walking, an hour of climbing, and lots of swimming, while also battling my fear of heights all day, had done me in. But oh my, it was so worth it! What a day!!! Not only did I have a blast, and POR FIN (finally!!) meet some Spaniards, but I also got to talk to my family when I got back. The internet connection was a lot better than it was the last time we talked, so this time we actually got to talk. And I exchanged numbers with Justo, Pablo, and Rafael, and we’re going to go out this week. I’m super duper excited.

I sat next to Justo on the way back. We talked almost the entire hour and a half drive – mostly in Spanish. He corrected my Spanish several times. At first he was apologetic, but I told him I prefer it that way – I won’t improve unless I am corrected. I was never able to get my friends in Costa Rica to correct me. He said that, if my Spanish was really bad, he would not bother to correct me, but it’s already good, and he wants me to be able to speak perfectly. My Señora said a similar thing. I was rather pleased with that :).

Oh, and as if that wasn’t cool enough, I have icing for the cake! My friend Sarah found an evangelical church that she went to this morning instead of going hiking. She told me afterwards that it was really cool, and there are lots of awesome people there. It’s really close to where I live, and I’m going to go with her next weekend. I can’t wait :D. Also, they’re starting a Bible study on Thursdays that I’m planning on getting involved with. On that note, many, many thanks to everyone who commented on my last blog post. Mom, dad, Jon, Philip, and Grandma and Grandpa Pool, thank you all for your uplifting words! They helped me more than you know. I’m doing much, much better now. I debated posting that last blog, cuz it’s kinda personal…but I’m really glad I did. But anyway, it’s off to bed for me now…tomorrow school begins anew. Oh, and this week is finals week for the intensive period. Yuck :(.

A different kind of culture shock

Well, I haven´t really had to deal with culture shock. I get the feeling that I really won’t deal with it – I seem to have adjusted to the Spanish life fairly seamlessly. I am, however, experiencing a different kind of culture shock – one that relates not to the Spaniards, but to the Americans that I work with every day. The vast majority of the students here are super liberal, and I have already had several conversations with a few of them over our differences in belief. I’m finding it very challenging. This has definitely been a very stretching experience for me.

For one, I don’t want to compromise my beliefs, but neither do I want to be considered a stick in the mud or a rigid, unyielding person. How do I relate to them and be their friend when I don’t drink, and they want to go out and get drunk and paint the town until ungodly hours of the night? I had a conversation with one of the students in which he basically told me that, after the first night that I wouldn’t drink and left the bar we were at earlier than the rest of them, he realized that he wouldn’t get to hang out with me as much, because he’s not going to feel comfortable drinking if I’m around. That killed me. How do I stay friendly and open, while still keeping my convictions? He said that I seemed to be less open to trying new things…which I suppose I am; that’s what I would call my convictions. I don’t see anything wrong with convictions. But how do I make my beliefs known without turning people off from me? But I don’t want to water down my beliefs, either…where is that line?? I’m finding it difficult to find, indeed. My brother said that, if they can´t accept me for who I am, I should just not hang out with them. I suppose that´s true…but I guess I´m too nice, lol :).

I’ve had several conversations of similar depth. One was tonight, actually. I went to meet my intercambio at the school. She never showed up (which bothered me a lot, but that’s beside the point), so I hung out for a few hours with 2 students from my class, instead. We started talking about Evolution and Creationism. He was raised religious, and says that he still is, but he believes that God originated the Big Bang – kind of a combination of Evolutionism and Creationism. When I told them I didn’t believe in macroevolution I got such looks of incredulity. It was so frustrating because they kept asking me why I didn’t, when there is (in their opinion) such strong evidence for it. There was a time when I knew my reasonings for such things perfectly well, because I had studied it – both sides of the argument. But that was a long time ago, and honestly, I’ve forgotten a lot of it. And I could quote the Bible inside and out, but most people want “unbiased” proof. How can I explain my faith in a way that makes sense to people who don’t believe the same way as I when I can’t quote the cornerstone of my faith?

Another time, I was asked by a catholic-turned-atheist how I know that my religion is right. He acquiesced that I may feel I have a personal connection with God; but then, he argued, so do Mormons, and Muslims, and Jews. How do I know that my “connection” is the real one? That’s something I’ve struggled with for a while, and I told him as much. I did not know how to answer that.

I don’t really know what I’m saying; I’m probably just rambling again. But this has been a very frustrating time for me. The whole “be in the world, but not of it” deal is proving harder to do than it sounds. If you have any suggestions for me, please tell me them. Also, prayers are always appreciated; prayers for whatever you feel inclined to pray for, but also specifically that I will not neglect my time with the Lord while I’m here. It’s easy to get distracted :).

What’s your heart’s desire?

Friday night I did my Bible study in Ecclesiastes 1-3. (I don’t have internet at my house, so forgive me if the dates of when these are posted don’t match when I say they happen. I have to write the blog at home and then stick it on a flashdrive until I can find somewhere with internet :]) Anyway, Ecclesiastes is not generally regarded as one of the more exciting books of the Bible; I know that personally, I do my best to avoid it. But man, it was dead on this time. The first 2 chapters of Ecclesiastes, Solomon is lamenting the futility of life. He goes on more than a 50-verse rant about how everything in life – work, happiness and sadness, success, even wisdom – is meaningless. It gives a rather desperate tinge to life. But, considering the rates of cutting, drug and alcohol addiction, depression, suicide, and any number of other vices, I’m rather inclined to think Solomon was right. Everything under the sun is meaningless – and most of us lead lives of quiet desperation, according to Thoreau.

But there is more to the story. At the end of chapter 2, Solomon says that “a man can do no better than eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work” (verse 24). He then goes on to pen the famous “time for everything” speech – there is a time for weeping, laughing, silence, speech, birth, and even death. For someone who has a host of life choices facing her, I really really liked this passage. God isn’t expecting us to know the map He has already charted for us. He wants us to be able to chart our own path. I don’t have to worry about making the wrong decision, going down the wrong street, and being lost for eternity. (forgive the map analogies; I’ve been looking at them a lot lately to navigate the city :]) As long as we’re following Him – that’s an important caveat – we can go down whatever street that strikes our fancy; whatever street that gives us “satisfaction in our work”. So you’ve always wanted to go to college but can’t afford it? Apply for scholarships and take out some student loans. You want to join the Peace Corps? Go for it! You want to go to grad school? Start filling out applications. You hate school and want to drop out and be an artist? Get a portfolio together and starting pounding the pavement. You want to see the world? Skip that movie tonight and start saving your money. You don’t know what you want to do? Find something you enjoy and go for it!!!

I don’t want to lead a life of quiet desperation. And I know that, if I am not where God wants me, that’s exactly what I will do. So I really loved this passage, because to me, it says that I have more than 1 chance to get it right. If I am where I need to be spiritually, then I will naturally be where I need to be physically, because “He will give me the desires of my heart”…IF I’m listening.

Anyway, it’s almost midnight here, and I have a long day tomorrow, so I should get going. I apologize for not talking anymore about my adventures in España. This just really excited me, and I wanted to share it :). Choosing the “right” future has been occupying my thoughts a lot lately. Where should I go to grad school? Should I not go to school and just get a job? Who should I marry? Where should I live? And on it goes… How comforting to realize that I don’t have to know the answers! Just love God and follow Him….and then, do what you want! I can do that. I’m pretty excited about it, actually 🙂