Category: Justo

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!

The calm before the storm

This past week has been fairly uneventful – hence the resultant silence on my blog. I figured that you wouldn’t want me to tell you about the normality that I do every week – class, dance, Bible study, and the like. One day last week my Spanish Usage professor took us out for breakfast instead of having class – that was cool. I also had my final in dance class, and I feel like I did very well – my teacher told me that I should look for flamenco classes when I return to the States to continue what I’ve learned here. I might look…but I’ve got to say, I think I’d prefer to learn West Coast Swing than flamenco :). Flamenco is fun, but nothing compares to WCS… But ya, I had a blast learning it, but I must say that I’m glad it’s over. It made my Mondays and Wednesdays very hectic – I was always running from class to lunch to tutoring to dance, and I barely had time to breath. Now that I don’t have to rush to dance class I will be much more relaxed.

In other news, church last week was fantastic. God was sooo present, and the sermon, the worship, everything was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. During worship, spontaneous prayers were breaking out in multiple languages – French, Spanish, English, Dutch, German…it was way cool. I’m really going to miss the multinationality of my church here when I go back home :(.

Things are picking up again, though…this past week has been like the calm before the storm – in the next 2 weeks, I will be traveling more than I will be in Seville! This weekend I went to Grenada. We got there mid-day, and spent the afternoon walking around the city. We saw the Capilla Real, where 5 Spanish royalty are buried. We actually got to go underground and see the actual coffins – check them out here (I apologize for the poor quality). I also ran into 2 of my friends from Seville, Paola and Jess, who were there visiting for the weekend as well, so that was cool.

Late afternoon we hiked up the mountain to the old Jewish quarter, to the Plaza San Nicolas, to see the sunset. It was incredible. Plaza San Nicolas has a simultaneous view of the Sierra Nevada (the highest point in Spain), the Alhambra, and the sunset, as well. It was absolutely breathtaking. I love sunsets and scenic views; they are probably the easiest thing in the world to bring me to my knees in awe of the splendor of the Lord.

While we were in the Plaza, we met an American, Jeff, who’s backpacking around Europe for a month. He invited us to meet up with him and some friends of him for dinner later that night. Sarah and I took him up on that offer. We threaded our way back a different way down the mountain, and ended up with a gorgeous view of the Alhambra at night, with the river flowing past it at the base. Once we made it back down, we met up with Jeff and his friends (whom he had just met the day before) and went tapa-hopping. The tapas (appetizers) are free in Grenada with the purchase of a drink, so we went to 3 or 4 different places and got a different tapa and drink at every place. His friends, Palmer, Chris, and Seth, were also Americans, but they had lived in Grenada for 2 years as teaching assistants, so they knew the good places to take us to. After dinner, Sarah went back to the hotel to sleep, but I went out later to a dance club that Justo had recommended to me. I wasn’t out super late – around 1:30 or 2:00 – but I wanted to be able to say that I had gone dancing in Grenada! 🙂 Dances are never as fun by yourself, however, so I eventually just went home to sleep.

The next day I got up early and went to a market I had found the day before and bought a couple of pomegranates. Pomegranate in Spanish is grenada – so I was eating a grenada in Grenada! I found it amusing, lol… Anyway, after breakfast we checked out of the hotel and headed up to the Alhambra, a 14th century Moorish palace and fortress complex. Words…cannot describe that place. The palaces were incredible, with rich ornate decorations and carvings and inlays. But what left the more indelible impression on my mind were the views. The hoary sky, swirled with clouds and pulsating colors and shapes, offset with the vibrant hues of the changing leaves on the trees below, with majestic snow-capped mountain peaks in the background and the magnificent, awe-inspiring palace of la Alhambra in the foreground, left an unforgettable remembrance in my memory. I was very sad to leave the Alhambra – there was a feeling of such serene tranquility and harmony there, especially in the exquisitely manicured gardens, that I could have stayed there forever – like Washington Irving! Washington Irving, the famous American author, fell in love with the Alhambra, and actually lived there for several years. You can read his stories about his time there in his book, Tales of the Alhambra.

We finally made our way back to Seville around 8:00 Saturday night. I had promised a friend a long time ago that I would go dancing with him, and so I went a little after 10:00, but I was pretty wiped out, and left before 1:00. What is Seville doing to me?? I’ve have more late nights here than in the rest of my life combined!! Sunday evening I spent with Justo. He corrected my second paper over dinner, and then we went and saw a Spanish movie, Bon Apetit (Spanish movie with a French title, and the majority of the film in English…ironic, no?). Well anyway, that´s about all I have to report at the moment. See all my pictures from Grenada here. Next update will be about Paris!!!

How time flies

This week we had classes on Friday, to make up for the festival on Monday. I also had 3 tests and 2 papers due, so I was pretty tired by Friday afternoon. I went to the doctor several weeks ago and got some antibiotics to help me get rid of my cough, so at least I didn’t have to deal with that – I’m finally back to my usual self, woohoo!!! But I was still exhausted, and when I was invited to go dancing, I almost turned it down. I was just sooo worn out…plus the dance club didn’t even open until midnight. But I finally decided to go, and I’m so glad I did! I was the first one to leave – I left at 2:30 – but it was so worth the sleep deprivation. Next time I’m bringing my dancing shoes, though…I never went home on Friday, so I ended up trying to dance in flats. It was rather uncomfortable. It’s so refreshing to have finally found a dancing scene here in Seville… 🙂

Oh, I forgot to mention that I also went to the Museum of Flamenco Dance on Friday with the people from my dance class. It’s a private museum, created by a super famous Flamenco dancer, but it’s also one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. It’s full of interactive rooms, and clips of different dancing styles, costumes, pictures, and more. It was quite an interesting trip. After the museum we made our way to a little store that the professor knew that sold the cool shawls that they sometimes use when dancing Flamenco. I’m sure I will never be able to use it in real life, but I splurged and bought a shawl, anyway. It’s white, all lace, and lovely.

Saturday I made my way to the Seville city cemetery, per Jon’s homework. Goodness, the comments I got from people at school when I mentioned that I wanted to go to the cemetery!!! I’m pretty sure that half of school is now convinced that I’m an emo kid in hiding, lol… But, all morbidness aside, el Cementerio de San Fernardo is really quite a lovely place. It is huge, and unlike any cemetery I’ve ever seen. There are sweeping pathways with meticulously manicured plant and floral decorations, enormous ornate sepulchers that house whole families, statues dedicated to famous personalities such as toreros or flamenco dancers, and thousands of the more “normal” tombstones. Sevillanos are not only buried under the ground here – all around the outskirts of the cemetery, there is a network of above ground catacombs, with separate crypts for each individual coffin and an inscription etched into the stone on the front of it. In the center of the cemetery, there is a statue of El Cristo de las Mieles – legend has it that . Además, a few days ago was the Festival de Todos los Santos, when everyone goes to the cemetery and cleans the graves and puts flowers or trinkets on them. All of the decorations were still there, and it was incredible beautiful and peaceful. I really wanted to take pictures, but I figured that would have been sacrilegious or something – at the very least inconsiderate to the hundreds of other people who were there.

I had been planning on going by myself, but I mentioned my plans to Justo and he would have none of that. San Fernardo Cemetery is pretty far away from where I live, and it would have been rather complicated to get there – I would have either had to take 2 buses, or walk about an hour to get to the second bus stop. So Justo offered to go with me, and we went in his car. Afterwards we went to a supermarket and got some food to make a picnic lunch, which we then took to a nearby park. Again, I must extol Justo’s awesomeness. He had told me before he picked me up to bring my research paper that I wrote for one of my classes – while we were at the park, he sat down and read the whole thing, correcting my mistakes and explaining to me why they were wrong. He’s a very good teacher. My señora absolutely loves him – he is mature, has a steady job, speaks three languages, doesn’t party late at night, and is the best intercambio (in her opinion) that any of her students have ever had. I give her lots of props that she hasn’t suggested that I date him yet, lol :).

Anyway, that’s about all of the excitement that I have to report for now. Sunday morning I went to church, and I spent the entire afternoon working on my second research paper. It’s not due until December, but I don’t have time to work on it during the week, and I’ll be traveling the last 2 weekends in November, so I want to go ahead and get it done. Can you believe that I only have 5 weeks left in Seville??? And three of those weekends I won’t even be in Seville – I’m going to Grenada to see La Alhambra, then Paris for 5 days for Thanksgiving, and then Morocco in December. It’s absolutely insane how fast time is going. I was trying to decide what I would miss most about Seville. It’s hard to choose. My church and church friends come to mind quickly, but so do my Spanish friends, such as Justo, and my host family, and the food, and culture, and dance, and architecture…I suppose I’ll have to wait and make that decision closer to my departure date :). Well, it’s off to bed for now for me…my brain hurts from reading and writing about the Restoration of the Spanish Monarchy all day. Sending all my love, as always!!

Horray for not traveling!

We had a 4-day weekend this week. While most of the students were off exploring exotic places such as Italy, France, or Morocco, I elected to stay here. Honestly, the only reason I stayed was because I didn’t have time to make plans to go somewhere. But I’ve very glad I did. It turned out to be quite a productive, eventful weekend, albeit rather quiet when I was home – my host family was at the beach all weekend. Check out the note they left me – I thought it was really sweet :).

Thursday night there was a Halloween party hosted by the school. I went, and even half-heartedly dressed up! (I wore a masquerade mask I bought in Barcelona) I’ve never really seen the point of Halloween, and don’t ever celebrate it in the USA. I find it ironic that one of the only time I actually celebrate Halloween is in a country which does not celebrate it as a whole :). Anyway, the party was pretty lame, but I got some interesting pictures. Myself and a friend, Allyx, started dancing Flamenco in the middle of the party. That was interesting, lol. After the party everyone went out for tapas. That was more interesting, in my opinion. I got to talk to the Academic Director for a while – she apparently is a Harvard graduate!! I was very impressed. Anyway, I finally made it back to my house around 1:30 in the morning. Although I didn’t have school the next day, I was waiting there when they opened at 8:00. Friday was my push day. I wanted to get a ton of homework done so I wouldn’t have to worry about it for the rest of the weekend. I took a break for lunch to eat with Jess and Paola, 2 girls from the Bible study. They also brought a Spanish friend of theirs, Julia, who is really sweet. It was very encouraging to be able to spend some time with godly, wholesome, fun girls. Other than lunch, though, I was at school until it closed – at 8:00 at night. Almost 12 hours total :/. I’m so glad I did that, though – I finished one of two research papers, did all my homework for Tuesday and half of the stuff for Wednesday, and also studied for 1 of my 2 tests that I have time coming week. I felt very accomplished and on top of things :). I often get teased for being such a studious student, but I really think that I’m the one with the last laugh – I’m never stressed about getting things done, and I go out just as often as anyone else. It’s an excellent combination :).

Friday night I went to another Halloween party – this one hosted by a friend of mine from church, Nadine. That one was far from lame. I had such a blast!!! There were people there from church, from Bible study, from other schools, and some random Spaniards who were friends of other guests, as well. All in all, I’d say there were about 25 or 30 people there. There was a tone of food, and great music, and a costume party (I got to be a judge, since I was costume-less. I think I’d prefer that, lol), and just great fun to be had all-around. There was a pumpkin-carving contest, as well – not only did I carve my first pumpkin ever in my life, but I also won a prize for it! As long as you promise not laugh, you can check out my pumpkin here. It was loads of fun to do, but I hardly think it’s worthy of a prize, lol…

Around midnight, we cranked the music up and started dancing. There were lots of great dancers there – ironically enough, none of them were Spaniards. They were from Columbia, or Cuba, or Peru, etc…so we danced some Merengue, some Salsa, Bachata, a little bit of Swing…the whole shebang. Then we tried to learn the Thriller dance. We didn’t learn it – but watching people try to watch it was quite amusing :D. The party finally ended around 1:30 because half of the group had to leave to catch the last metro home at 2:00. I was very sad to go :(. I haven’t had that much good, clean fun in a long time. Check out the pictures from both parties here – they should be at the very end of the album.

Saturday morning I had planned on going to Isla Magica, a theme park in Seville. But Saturday morning dawned cold and rainy and windy, so I scratched that idea. Instead, I went back to Nadine’s house and hung out with her and Sarah for the day. We went shopping, and made pizza and brownies, and watched chick fliks and old episodes of the Gilmore Girls. It was excellent. My host family is out of town, so I spent a quiet evening cleaning up my room, and organizing my stuff, and other necessary things. It’s nice to have quite evenings to yourself sometimes :).

Sunday morning was a lazy day. We had daylight savings, so I got an extra hour of sleep, which was nice. I slept in and still had time to get some homework done before church :). After church I went shopping for presents – there’s been a festival going on since I’ve been here, and this is the last weekend it will be around. I wanted to swing by before it closed. It’s so strange to think of it not being there tomorrow…it seems to kind of be a part of Seville by now. I also ran into a friend of mine, Rodrigo, and we hung out for a few hours. I got a rather backwards compliment from him that I’m quite proud of. I was talking about how different I am now than I was when I was younger, and he asked me, “What happened? Did Jesus change you?” It was quite apparent that that was not a serious question – Rodrigo makes no claims to be a Christian, and the sarcasm was so thick I could have cut it with a knife. But I chose to ignore it and simply answer the question. “Yes,” I said, “He did.” Then Rodrigo was like, “That’s what I like about you. Most of the time when I’m around hard-core Christians I try to say things to piss them off, and it usually works. But you never react when I try to insult you.” I’m almost positive that he did not intend that as a compliment, but the fact that A) he considers me to be obviously Christian and B) I don’t react to insults in a way that turns people off of Jesus made my heart swell.

Monday was quite an excellent day. I went to Carmona, a small town about 40 kilometers from Seville, with Justo, per Jon’s suggestion. Actually, Jon’s homework said I had to take a bus, but everyone knows the cool people take cars ;). So Justo picked me up mid-morning, and we drove to Carmona. Can I just say that Justo is the best intercambio ever!! He had already been to Carmona, so he took me to his favorite haunts; he also brought along a map and tourist info, so we knew exactly what spots we should hit. Also, he printed out a history of the city from online, and made me read it aloud to him as we drove. He corrected my pronunciation when needed, and explained to me any words I did not know. He also tries to correct me during the course of normal conversation, something that I give him huge props for. I’ve been on the other side of the coin – I’ve been the fluent speaker talking to someone who’s learning the language, and I know that it’s really hard to correct them if they’re trying. As long as I understand what they’re trying to say, I tend to ignore the errors. But that’s not how to improve, and I’m so grateful that he actually tries so hard to help me get better. I need to hang out with him more often – I know my Spanish noticeably improves every time I do :). He also offered to correct my papers that I have to write for school. Besides that, we get along really well – he’s very easy-going and fun to be around, and also speaks very good English, so I can switch whenever my brain starts really hurting, lol.

Alright, now that I have sufficiently extolled Justo’s commendable qualities, let’s continue with the story, shall we? 🙂 We walked around for a while, just drinking in the sights. There was a famous convent that we went and visited – this picture is from the top of the tower. I like it because you can see the city behind us through the slats in the window :). The sunset was absolutely gorgeous – although I did snap a photo of it, it truly doesn’t do it justice. But oh well, I did my best :).

My family got back a few minutes after I did, so we caught each other up on our respective weekends. Although I rather enjoyed the solitude these past few days, it’s nice to not be in an empty house anymore. Well anyway, thus ends my lovely weekend of not traveling – see all the pictures from Carmona here. I love and miss all of you guys buckets and bunches!! 🙂

I live for the weekends

I absolutely love the weekends here in Seville. Everyone keeps chastising me, saying I should travel more, but I really like staying in Seville and exploring the city and getting to know the people. Maybe that makes me strange….but then, we already knew that I was strange, did we not? 🙂

I had quite an eventful few days this past weekend. As my weekends do not start on Friday, I shall begin my story on Thursday. I woke up early and went to the churros stand on Café Arfe, where Jon had sent me. The churros were good, but I’m not sure I would say they were fit for a king…I must say I was rather disappointed. But, as Jon said, even a king wants macaroni and cheese every now and then, right? 🙂 I went that afternoon with my friend Virginia to see the Museum of Arts and Traditional Customs. It was quite interesting, and Virginia’s a lot of fun. Afterwards we went to feed the pigeons at the Plaza de America (well, I fed them; she took pictures), and I even have the scars to prove it! It was an interesting experience, I’m glad I did it, but man, those pigeons were vicious!! Thursday night I had Bible study. It was good, although I was a little out of it. I have a lot on my plate right now, and it’s even harder to deal with that because I’ve been sick ever since I got back from Barcelona. It’s hard to deal with tough circumstances and emotions regardless, and even harder when you’re sick, ya know? So I was having a bit of a pity party on Thursday, which was unfortunate. Luckily, I snapped out of it by dinner time – I didn’t want to have to explain to my host mother why I was so depressed. Makes for rather awkward dinner conversation, lol.

So after dinner, I went out to meet my friend Pauline, from Holland. She had told me that she was taking salsa classes, and so I went along to see how they were. The lessons were pretty basic (I think I’m going to try the more advanced class next week), but I stayed after the lessons for the open dancing. I have finally found the pocket of Seville that dances!!! And oh my gosh, dance they do. It was soooo much fun. Pauline wasn’t able to stay after the lesson, so I was there alone…I finally left around 1:00. On my way back to my house, I saw three friends from the Center sitting outside a bar, having a glass of wine. So I went over to talk to them for a while. They actually thought that I was planning to go to that bar – apparently Justo was inside, and they thought I was coming to meet him. Apparently they don’t know me that well – I don’t meet ANYONE at 1:00 in the morning, lol. It was sheer luck that Justo, I, and they all happened to be at the same place at the same time. But we went inside and talked to Justo and his friend for a while, and then went on our separate ways. It wasn’t anything special, but I really enjoyed it. Of course, it may have been simply that I was still on a euphoric high from actually getting to dance for real for the first time in over 2 months. It wasn’t West Coast Swing, but hey, Salsa is definitely better than nothing! 🙂

I spent most of Friday morning holed up in the public library, working on my first of two research papers I have to write for class. Not exactly a ball of fun, but it has to get done, and I would rather get it done now while I have time, and then not have to worry about it later. My late night caught up with me by lunchtime, though, so I had to take a nap in the afternoon. It probably also doesn’t help that I’m still trying to fight this sickness I’ve had for 2 weeks – it’s really started to sap my energy. Friday evening I participated in the “Día del estudiante extranjero” – it’s an event hosted by the city of Seville, celebrating all of the foreign students there are in the city. This was the first year they had done it, but it was a lot of fun. The night started with a scavenger hunt that sent us all around the city, looking for quirky and historical facts about Sevilla. Afterwards we got to go into the Alcazar at night. I told you guys about the first time I went there, but that was during the day. Normally the palace is closed at night, but they opened it up especially for us that night. It was sooo cool – like a totally different world. There was even a hedge maze that I went into and scared unsuspecting students. It was great :D. I wish I could show you pictures, but none of them came out – it was too dark. I guess some things you really just have to be there to experience :). There was also an awards ceremony for those students who had submitted the best pictures and phrases describing Sevilla. I ran into Olivier, a friend of Pauline’s that I had met at the dance the night before. So we talked for a while…I love how Seville’s such a vibrant city, but it’s still small enough that change encounters like that with people that you just met are normal. It makes for a very interesting daily life :).

After día del estudiante ended, a bunch of us went to Rayas, supposedly the best ice cream place in the city. Rodrigo, a new guy at school who is replacing the woman who left on maternity leave last week, came with us. He’s really cool, I had a lot of fun with the group who went. We all migrated to the Festival de las Naciones after ice cream. This is the last week it will be around. That’s so strange to me to think, considering that it’s been here ever since I’ve gotten here. Saturday I had planned to go to the Seville city cemetery in the morning. That did not exactly happen. I was in bed nearly the entire day with a fever, trying to sleep through a incredibly loud anti-abortion rally that was happening right outside my window. I got very sick once during last Spring semester, so bad that my mom actually drove up to Berry to take care of me for the weekend. It’s amazing how much more miserable a sickness is when you know for certain that your mommy cannot come take care of you :(. But anyway, I was feeling better-ish in the afternoon, so I went out with Justo at night. He took me to a tapas place on the other side of town. I love having an older intercambio – he’s lived in Seville all his life, and knows the city very well. He takes me to all sorts of cool places that I would have never found by myself. After tapas, we walked around for a bit in the center of town. There was an outside concert that we listen to for a while, and then we went to another, very hip, modern restaurant right next to the cathedral – he just wanted to get a drink. We went all the way to the top floor, which was on the roof. So we got a bird’s eye view of the city and the Cathedral at night – it was sooooo cool.

Sunday morning I was feeling yucky again. I dragged myself out of bed to go to church, but was right back in bed as soon as I got back. But again, like Saturday and Friday, I felt a lot better in the afternoon. I met Rodrigo and Sarah in the evening – we had dinner, and then went to see The Social Network, a movie about Facebook. It was actually quite interesting – I enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting to. Although I must say, I would not suggest watching it in a language that is not your first language. It’s hard enough to understand the technical slang if you speak the language fluently…forget it if you’re still learning it :).

Hey, also, check this link out. Apparently I’m doing pretty well in the whole Spanish deal! 🙂 As the picture on the website changes every week, I suppose I should tell you what was supposed to be on the link, just in case it’s not the same by the time you get to reading this. My school has us sign a contract at the beginning of the semester, saying that we would only speak Spanish while at school or at school events. Every week they spotlight a different student on their website who has actually been doing that. I made the spotlight this week! I was rather happy about that :).

So anyway, apart from the illness, last weekend was a very good weekend. As much as I love Seville, however, I think I will be ready to go home in December. Spain just hasn’t clicked with me like Costa Rica did. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t like one of my teachers – who happens to be the one with whom I have 3 classes. I have to listen to him over 10 hours a week. He’s really quite brilliant, actually, and one class would not be at all bad…but 3 classes just gets tiresome. I find myself checking my watch every 5 minutes when I’m in class. I think that’s a big factor for me, as well. At Berry, I have been enormously blessed that the vast majority of my teachers have been very good at what they do. They are knowledgeable and interesting, and make me really want to go to class. I don’t want to go to class here, which makes the mornings drag much more than they should. But, nevertheless, I recognize what an incredible blessing I’ve been granted to be here, and I’m doing my best to take advantage of every second. School isn’t the only part of a study abroad experience :). I haven’t taken many pictures lately, but if you want to make sure you’ve seen all the most recent one you can get to my album here.

Me lo pasó la bomba :)

Wow, what a weekend. Although it was a short one, I would say that this was definitely my favorite weekend so far. There is a phrase in Spanish that basically means to have a stupendous, wonderful time…I have put it as the title of this blog :). Ahhh, where do I start?? Ok, well, I suppose I will start with Friday, since that is the beginning of the weekend.

Normally we don’t have class on Friday, but this week we did because we didn’t have class on Monday, so we had the same schedule as a normal Monday. I remembered that in the morning, and made it to all my classes. But I have a long break in the afternoon, when I go home and eat lunch. Normally I tutor right after lunch, and then go straight to dance class. But today I didn’t have tutoring, so I Skyped with my family instead. Well, that messed my whole internal clock up, apparently. After talking with them, I went back home and started setting up to study in the living room. My señora asked me if I was going to class. I told her no, I was gonna stay here and study. I quickly realized my error and rushed off, getting to class just in time. Thank goodness that she knows my schedule better than I do :).

My whole week seemed to be like that – always rushing, rushing, rushing. I was very glad when my last class ended on Friday. I was going to go to a museum with a Spanish friend, but he canceled on me. I’m rather glad he did. I spent the night doing necessary things, like fixing clothes and making my bed, and then watched a Spanish movie and went to bed. It was a much-needed chill time from the craziness of the past week.

So Saturday morning, I went on an adventure with Justo, a Spanish friend of mine (why is it that I never seem to be able to make female friends?? Gahhhh…). Justo is way into running and biking and basically all things sporty (but not dancing, much to my disappointment, lol). So he invited me to go mountain biking with him yesterday. We left early in the morning and took a train to a little city in the mountains to the north of Seville, in between Cazalla and Constantina. The ride was like an hour and a half…it was very cool (my first time ever taking a train! Well, for any distance, at least). One we got there, we rented a bike for me, and hit the trails! Halfway through the afternoon, we stopped for a picnic lunch…he brought a TON of food, lol. After we ate lunch, I introduced him to cloud-gazing. You know, when you were little, you would lie on your back and find shapes in the clouds? Well, he never did that as a kid. So I found things like a mother and child, a bike, Spain, a lizard…he found nothing, and just laughed at this crazy American girl. He has apparently decided that I have a very overactive imagination. But it was a lot of fun…he is very easygoing, and we get along very well. You can check out a picture of us here.

Going back was much harder than coming – I was already tired, and so the hills seemed to be much larger than before, lol. I asked Justo later how much we had biked, and he told me close to 30 miles – he told me in kilometers, of course, and I had to make the translation. (Curse the American obsession to be different! Why can’t we at least have the same measuring system as the rest of the world?? I am constantly making conversions in between inches and centimeters, meters and feet, kilometers and miles, Euros and dollars. I can’t do the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit to save my life – I honestly have no idea what the temperature has been like since I’ve gotten here. The only I know is that it’s cooler now than it was when I arrived :]). But anyway, for someone who doesn’t bike often, especially on mountainous terrain, I think I did pretty well :). On the train ride back, there was group of drunk people who were dancing flamenco. Justo knows I’m learning it, and so he tried to get me to dance with him. I’m not quite that adventurous, but I did finally agree to practice with him sometime before I left – apparently he DOES dance flamenco, just not other styles. Soooo…thus ended my Saturday, in the blink of an eye. As we were walking back to my house from the train station, it felt to me that we had just left it 30 minutes ago. Apparently Justo agreed, because he made a comment exactly to that effect.

Sunday morning I went to church, as usual (I love being able to say that I have found a church that I enjoy going to regularly here in Spain :]). Today they did something really cool. They had all of the young people come up to the front, and they prayed over us. I love the close-knit, caring community that exists in my church (I wrote “my” without thinking about it…and then decided to leave it. Although I’ve only been going there like a month, it truly does feel like “my” church.). They’re always praying for someone, or giving personal testimonies, or praises of things that God has done in their lives. They present every first-timer by name to the congregation, so that people can (and do) seek out the new people to make them feel welcome. They sing happy birthday every week to everyone who has a birthday in the upcoming week. It’s just a very welcoming and loving community.

After church this week a bunch of the young people stayed after for a picnic lunch. You can see a picture of all of us here. That was fun…we spent half the time telling cross-language jokes, and half the time laughing at each other’s language mistakes :). (I’m finding it very hard to stay in an English mindset for this blog. I keep switching to Spanish and then having to erase half the sentence and start over. It’s very annoying, lol…). Here’s a joke that I liked; but only for my friends who speak Spanish. This one doesn’t really translate :(. Un hombre preguntó a una mujer, “Do you speak English?” “Como?” dijo ella. “Do you speak English?” la preguntó otro vez. “No te entiendo”, dice ella. “Hablas ingles?”, dice el. “Oh si, si, perfectamente!!”

I found it rather funny, but as the majority of my loyal fans will not understand it, here’s one in English (it was actually told to me in Spanish, but I’ll do the translation for you :]). A little boy said to his father, “Daddy, I want to marry grandma.” “You want to marry my mother??” the father asked in surprise. “Yes, I do. Why, what’s wrong with that? YOU married MY mom and I didn’t say anything about it!” Anyway, it´s quite likely that my jokes were lost in translation, but I found them amusing… 😀

After lunch a group of us went to the park (check out the picture here). One girl had Phase10 with her, so we played that for a while. There was not a common language between the 7 of us, but I knew the most of both languages together, so I served as interpreter. Do you have any idea how hard it is to explain the rules of a card game in a language that is not your own?? How do you say “shuffle” or “discard” or “a run or set of cards”?? I muddled through it, but when we got home I looked up all of those words and memorized them, so that I would know them next time. Actually, I was rather pleased with how well I did. I have also started to formulate much more complicated sentences than before and tell my host family much more details of the things I’ve done, which makes me quite happy.

While we were in the park, I discovered that one guy in the group, Maykol, the worship leader from Cuba, loves to dance!! There was an outside concert in the park (there’s ALWAYS music here!!) and we danced salsa together. He’s reallyyyyy good. It was excellent. I’m going to make him take me salsa dancing before I leave :). So, thus ended my Sunday, in half of a blink of an eye. I cannot believe how fast this weekend went. I’m rather sad that tomorrow is Monday. Not so much because I have to go to classes, but more because I really don’t want this weekend to end. Oh well, all good things much end sometime…but I console myself that this good thing has not yet ended, as I still have 2 months left in Seville. I’m sure there will be many more such days as those of this weekend. They seem to be happening with more and more frequency as I get more acquainted with the city and the language. God is good, that’s all I have left to say :).

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 :(.