Category: trains

Aguascalientes

The morning after arriving in Cuzco, Sunday, Yuri and Roxi gave us a ride to the bus station. It wasn’t really a bus, but a colectivo, a minivan in which they cram as many people as possible and strap all your stuff on top. Because we’d bought our tickets so late, we had to leave from a farther station, which is why we needed to take the colectivo to get there. So we arrived in this tiny town called Ollantaytambo around noon, and then were able to take the train to our final destination of Aguascalientes.

To see just how remote Aguascalientes is, and some of the passes that we had to cross to get there, check out this short video: Train to Aguascalientes

While in the train on our way to Aguascalientes, we got to meet some really fascinating people. Two of my favorites were Natalia and Señor DeBere. Natalia is a Russian national, but has been living in Norway for many years. She was traveling throughout Peru for about a month, all by herself – and didn’t speak a word of Spanish. Whew. That’s either incredibly brave or terribly stupid, I can’t decide which. Completely blows out of the water the pair of girls that I met in the plane on the way to Lima who were winging it together around Peru for 2 weeks :).  The other interesting person was Señor DeBere.  Señor DeBere was from Chile, and on vacation with his entire family. Super nice, super friendly, we had a lovely conversation with him almost the entire 1.5 hour ride to Aguascalientes. And we actually got to see him twice more, once in the city and once in Machu Picchu itself.

The train runs right through the center of the town – for someone who almost never sees trains, it’s pretty cool to watch: http://youtu.be/BDanlIohm-o

Upon arrival, the first order of the day was finding a place to stay, as we had no idea where we were sleeping when we got there. I’ve got to say, although this whole traveling without any sort of plan at all is difficult for my type-A personality, it’s also rather fun.  I enjoy being spontaneous and flexible and just seeing what life throws at you and taking it one day at a time.  It’s certainly a great way to force someone who’s wound too tightly to relax a bit! 🙂  After finding somewhere to stay, we went and checked out the huge handmade craft market, one of the few things to do in the very very tiny town.  I even did some haggling for a few gifts while I was there! I was proud of myself – I find haggling incredibly difficult to do, and generally just don’t bother buying something if I’m not willing to pay the full price.  But hey, this is how it’s done in Peru – when in Rome, right?

Anyway, after taking freezing cold showers (especially ironic considering the name of the town) we went to sleep early. The next day, Machu Picchu, was gonna be a long one, and we wanted plenty of energy to enjoy it!!

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Mr. DeBere and Caroline 🙂

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Masquerades and fireworks

Well, I’m in rather better spirits than I was in my last blog, although far more sleep deprived.  Let me explain… :)So my voice finally came back on Thursday, and I taught my four classes.  I did a lesson on Halloween and my girls LOVED it.  And me?  Well I was just happy to be teaching (and therefore talking) again.  Their gasps of wonder at the pictures in my slideshow and sighs of understandment during the lesson was just icing on the cake :).  On Friday I didn’t have class, although no one told me that until I actually got to school, which was a bit frustrating.  So I edited some students’ papers and did administrative / emaili stuff for most of the day, and then went home early.

That night there was a masquerade party for another one of the English teachers in town.  I hadn’t planned on going, so instead I went home and ensconced myself in a blanket and watched the Chronicles of Narnia – love that movie :).  But around 11:00 pm, my friend texted me and said that I should come to the party – I would really enjoy it.  It was already so late, and it really took some convincing to persuade me to leave my warm little bubble, but I finally did, and was happy that I did.  There was dancing, I got to see some people I hadn’t seen in a while, and overall it was lots of fun.

Harry all dressed up for the masquerade

On Saturday I went with 4 guys from church to Busan, to see the fireworks.  Busan is renowned for their incredible fireworks shows on one of their many beaches; they had such a big turnout last year, in fact, that this year they stretched the event into 2 weekends instead of just 1.  I wasn’t able to go last weekend because of my Fulbright conference, so instead I went to the finale show.

What a trip that was!  We got there early, to stake out our spot.  The fireworks weren’t supposed to start until 8, but by the time we got there around 4, the beach was already almost full of people.  We just randomly happened to come across Lorna and a few other people that I had met at the Kyrios church retreat (it’s a small world!), and so we set up our blankets with them for the afternoon.  We played card games – I taught the South Africans how to play Apples to Apples, gotta love being a cultural ambassador! – sang songs, reminisced and caught up, ate lots of food, and overall had a great time.  I was glad to have some female companionship :).

On our way to Busan!!
Our friends from Kyrios 🙂
I stole Anthony’s hat!!! 🙂
Norman….I don’t know, lol

About an hour before the fireworks started, however, it started raining – hard. But we had come all this way to see the fireworks, I was darned if I was going to go home now!  So we got out our rain jackets and umbrellas, and hunkered down to wait out the rain.  It was still raining when the fireworks finally started, but you know what they say – the show must go on!  And what a show it was!!  An hour of nonstop lights, lasers, flying fiery kites, and fireworks synched perfectly to music – made the trip and waiting in the rain completely worth it.

Sitting out the rain….
Me and Lorna <3

We didn’t want to stay the night in Busan, though, so after the fireworks ended we headed back to the train station to catch a late train back – us and all the other 3 million people in attendance.  I have never seen such a crush of humanity in my life.  We had to fight for every inch we got, and there were times when I was being squished on all sides so hard that I literally couldn’t breathe.  I was glad when we finally made it to the train station.  We had about an hour to kill before our train left, so we went and got hamburgers (and randomly ran into Megan, my friend from Andong!), and then got on the train.  More people.  In fact, it was standing room only for most of the hour and a half ride back to Gyeongju.  I finally fell into bed, completely spent, around 2 am.  It was sooo worth it, though – check out my pictures below :). The last one is a video!!

So yeah, Sunday came, I dragged myself to church – found out about 45 second before the service started, in fact, that I would be leading it (gotta love Korea!) – came home and took a nap.  I’m finally feeling human again :).  Please continue to keep my homestay situation in your prayers, I’m hoping by next week to have a definitive answer.  Au revior!

Some of the night shots before the rain started
Isn’t that an awesome picture??  I love my camera.  I would marry it it I could…. 😉

Make sure you watch the video directly above!! 🙂

Paris!!

Whew!! What a whirlwind of a week I’ve had!! It’s hard to believe that I was only in Paris for a little over 4 days – it feels like it was a lifetime!! Again, as in Barcelona, I promise in advance that this will be a very long blog, but I will do my best to make it interesting for those valiant readers of mine who are willing to make it to the end :).

The times for my flights to and from Paris were much more reasonable than those for Barcelona, so no crack-of-dawn rises were necessary. We left Seville around 10:00 in the morning on Wednesday, had an uneventful flight, and were in Paris by early afternoon. We had to take a bus from the airport to the city – that lasted about an hour. By the time we actually got to Paris, I was famished, and so we stopped in at the first little café that we could find. That was the beginning of our adventure. Apparently the café that we chose was not one often frequented by tourists – no one in the entire café spoke English (or Spanish), and none of the four of us spoke a word of French. After lots of hand gestures and pointing, and more than a little laughing at the dumb American tourists on the part of the Parisians, we were able to order some food. I think – although I’m not quite sure – that I got some sort of creamy ravioli dish. Whatever it was, it was yummy.

We had another rough run-in with French when we got to the metro station. Paris is a huge city, and also quite spread out, so we had already decided that the metro would be our primary mode of transportation, so we wouldn’t lose tons of time walking. The first kiosk that we got to wouldn’t change to English, and the second one was broken altogether. We finally made our way to customer service – to find out, once again, that English and Spanish are not common languages in France. In France they speak French, period. After more sign language we finally were able to purchase some metro tickets. By the time we got to our hostel, however, I had a splitting headache. There was a grocery store right by our hostel, and we bought some microwaveable food and Nick, Sarah, and Silvia made dinner while I took a nap to try to get rid of my headache. Luckily, it worked, and I was able to appreciate the rest of the evening. We went up first to see the Sacre Coeur, which was literally right outside of our hostel. In fact, this is the view that we had from our window…pretty awesome, huh? 🙂 We just walked around the sanctuary, but it was lovely. Mom told me that she had been there when she went to Europe way back when, so I kept wondering if she had seen and noticed the same things about it that I had. I’m not sure what it is about the Sacre Coeur in particular, but there was something about that church, out of all the ones I’ve been in, that struck a chord with me. I really liked it. More on that later… 🙂

We were all pretty tired by the time we finished at the church, but we decided we could sleep once we got back to Seville, and so we made our way to the Eiffel tower. That was incredible…absolutely breathtaking. Touristy to the max, as well, but really truly lovely. It was all lit up with lights, and at the top of the hour it came alive with a light display. Aside from the Sacre Coeur, which ended up being my favorite place in the entire city, I think I liked the Eiffel Tower at night more than anything else in Paris.

Thursday – Thanksgiving! – we found out about another free walking tour, like the one that we found in Barcelona. So we set out early and decided to go to mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral before the walking tour. Unfortunately, some Parisians have rightfully earned the reputation of being rude and unhelpful to foreigners – a French woman we asked for directions to the cathedral intentionally sent us the opposite way…I was told later that lots of French people do that with tourists. So we missed the beginning of mass, but we still caught most of it. I didn’t understand a word of it, but the songs that they sang during the service were absolutely lovely. Listening to that beautiful music, under the roofs of Notre Dame, in the enchanting City of Love, simply blew me away. It was definitely a wonderful way to start my Thanksgiving day.

The walking tour was just as interesting and informative in Paris as it was in Barcelona. The only thing about this one that I didn’t like was that the group was huge, and so I didn’t hear a lot of what the tour guide said. But I did learn and see quite a bit, nevertheless. We started out at the Saint Michael fountain, right across the street from Norte Dame. From there, we migrated down to the banks of the Seine River. The large metal rings on each side of the bank used to be there for protection – defenders would tie rope on rings on opposite sides of the river, and then yank it tight when enemy ships came, hopefully destroying the ship (it didn’t always work). But now they’re considered lucky rings, so of course I had to run over and touch one of them :). The bridge near the lucky rings had a lot of grotesque faces carved into the stone – apparently, one of the Kings of France (I can’t remember which one) got all of his distinguished guests drunk at a party once, and then decided to etch their faces from that night forever in stone. I truly hope the artists used some artistic license, and the guests didn’t actually look like their stone likenesses under the bridge are depicted, lol. I also saw the Samaritain Building; for you Jason Bourne fans, that was the building whose letters Matt Damon hid behind when he was staking out Conklin in the Bourne Identity. I saw another space invader on the bank of the Seine, by the same guy who did the one in Barcelona. I saw an artist sitting on a bridge painting the river that snakes through Paris, a model in the middle of a photo shoot (the poor girl must have been freezing!!), weird modern art, and lots of other fantastic buildings throughout the city.

I also met some really interesting guys, Chris from Australia and Adam and Ash from England. When I mentioned to them that it was Thanksgiving in the USA, they had all sorts of questions for me about it. It was nice to talk about Thanksgiving, which I was sorely missing, to a willing audience. At the end of the tour we all went with the guide to a little mom and pop Parisian café. It was really good. I got a quiche and a salad, with crème brulee for desert. I also tried spiced hot wine – I don’t know what they put in it, but it tasted more like apple cider than wine. It was the only alcohol that I’ve ever had in my life that I can honestly say I rather liked. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to turn into an alcoholic, lol :).

After dinner the Aussie and Brits and Americans went our own ways, and we decided to walk around the old latin quarter. No, it’s not the region of the city where lovely hispanics can be found lounging around and drinking mojitos – there used to be a university here in which all of the courses were taught in Latin. This latin influenced permeated the area, thus giving it the name which still remains to this day. We walked past the Jardins and Palace du Luxembourg, as well. That had been on my list to go visit in the daytime – I’ve heard the palace is amazing, and there are puppet shows held in the gardens that I wanted to check out. We never made it back there in the daytime, but it was cool to see them, nevertheless, albeit obscured because of the lack of light.

Dinner Thursday night was chicken cordon-blue – supermarket style. Benefit of having a hostel near a grocery store, I suppose :). It wasn’t exactly Thanksgiving dinner, but it was pretty good, anyway. I had several people send me messages on Thursday – the one from mom made me tear up just a bit. It was good to know that I was in my loved ones’ thoughts that day, even though I was physically very far away. I hope you guys know that you were in my thoughts, too!!

Friday we decided to go to Versailles. We were originally going to skip it, since Versailles is basically an all-day affair, but we decided that it was worth the trip. We didn’t leave until around 11:00, however, so I made another trip up to the Sacre Coeur before we left. I had heard that you could climb to the top of the Dome, so I wanted to try to do that. I walked all around the sanctuary and didn’t find anything, nor did I find anyone I could ask. I was about to head back down the hill, dejected, when I looked on a whim around the corner of the outside of the church and saw a sign for it!! That was the coolest thing, in my opinion, of the whole trip. Perhaps it was the solitude – everywhere else we went was so touristy, but up here, on top of the Sacre Coeur, I saw not a soul, and it was like I had a priceless treasure all to myself. Perhaps it was the fascinating system of stairs on the outside of the building. Perhaps it was the views that I saw from the top. Perhaps it was the stories etched in the stairwells of people who had come before me. But I think the largest reason that I liked it so much was that I had an amazing experience with God up there. Before I left for Paris I had taken pictures of my Bible study and all of the Bible passages for every day that I would be in France, so that I wouldn’t have to lug around the actual books. Of course I brought my camera with me on my adventure to the top of the dome, and so while I was up there I decided to do my Bible study. The topic was just what I needed to hear, the silence was serene, the view was breathtaking, and the heights that I was at made me feel as if I could almost touch the throne of heaven. Perhaps I sound like I’m babbling, but it was worth every single one of the 772 steps that I climbed to experience it, and then some.

After I came back down, we made our way to Versailles. Versailles is on the outskirts of the city, and it required 3 metro rides, an INTERMINABLY slow train, and about 2 hours to get there. But it was so worth it – especially since I got in for free, as a student (I tell you what, the student and senior discounts in Europe put those of the United States to shame!). The Palace and gardens of Versailles is probably the most extravagant display of grandeur, luxury, and selfishness that you will ever find. It was exquisite to behold – places like the Hall of Mirrors or the gardens have not become famous without reason. But it was also rather sickening, to think that the French monarchs lived in such excessive and ever-increasing splendor, while the people that they were supposed to govern and protect were dying of hunger in the streets.

But anyway, that’s enough of my philosophical meditations. We had brought food with us, so we ate lunch on the steps of Versailles, overlooking the fantastic gardens. How many people can say that they have had a picnic lunch at a palace…and not just any palace, but one of the most famous palaces in the entire world?? I truly am a blessed, blessed young lady…. As we were finishing our lunch, it started to snow, so that was pretty exciting. Sarah, Nick, and Silvia are all northerners, so they thought it quite tragic when I mentioned that that was probably all the snow I was going to see this year. I, on the other hand, was ecstatic to see any snow at all – and at the Palace of Versailles, of all places!! This is one of my favorite pictures of the snow at Versailles; isn’t it beautiful??

The train to get to Versailles was complicated and rather nerve-wracking to figure out, but we got it. The train to get back to Paris was impossible. We had no idea which train to take, and the little French woman who valiantly tried for a good 10 minutes to tell us exactly what we needed to do was not at all helpful. So we finally got in line at the ticket office. We already had our tickets, but we just wanted to ask for help. The women ahead of us turned out to be our guardian angels. They turned around and asked us something in English while we were waiting, but it was English with a strong Spanish accent, and so we answered them in Spanish. Turns out they were Mexican, and they thought it was the greatest thing ever to find students in France who spoke Spanish. It also turned out that they spoke excellent French, and were headed the same place we were, and so they helped us get back into the city. They were really sweet and sooo, so helpful – getting back to Paris required multiple transfers and 3 different modes of transportation – train, tram, and metro – and at every change they checked back to make sure that we were still with them. It was so comforting to have a friendly face in a city full of unintelligible strangers.

After getting back into Paris, we decided to pull a walking marathon and visit the Louvre the same day we went to Versailles. That wasn’t the greatest idea in the world. We made it about 2 hours, and then all of us were absolutely completely worn out. But entrance to that was also free, so I don’t feel like I missed out much. I would have been impossible to see it all, even if all I had done while in Paris was look at artwork – do you know that if you looked at every piece of art in the Louvre for 30 seconds, you would be there for 3 months straight…and that’s assuming you never take breaks for bathroom, food, or sleep! I still got to see lots of great works of art – including, of course, the Mona Lisa, which was disappointingly small and unassuming. I don’t really understand why it is one of the most famous paintings in the world – it doesn’t seem to merit its reputation.

Despite our complete exhaustion (or perhaps because of it), we decided to go out on Friday night instead of making dinner in the hostel. That was such a good meal. I got a salmon brochette, walnut cheese and spinach pita sandwich, hummus, salad, French fries (in France…ironic, isn’t it? :]), and a piña colada, all for €13. The restaurant was called Le Paradis du Fruit, and their specialty was, of course, fruit. So for desert I had this strawberry and banana and coconut and ice cream and whipped cream and chocolate and waffle cone concoction. It was very tasty – definitely worth the 5 pounds that I’m sure I gained by consuming it :).

I kept thinking of the Grand Canyon on Friday. At first I couldn’t figure out why, but I think I finally came up with an explanation. It’s hard not to think of natural wonders when I see all of these man-made wonders in front of me. The Sacre Coeur, the Palace of Versailles, the plethora of diverse artwork in the Louvre, the architecture of the Louvre itself…all of them are exquisite in their own way. But I don’t really think they compare with the pristine beauty of God’s natural wonders, like the Grand Canyon. Just think, our God not only made the Grand Canyon, but He also gave men the inspiration to make the Sacre Coeur. What an incredibly vast amount of creativity He must have!!! So I think to myself, it’s really quite silly to worry and stress about resolving your problems…God’s already got you covered, and probably in a way that would never have even occurred to you. But, unorthodox or not, His way is always the best way. I find that quite comforting :).

Alright, I’m determined to stop philosophizing and actually finish my tales of Paris!! Saturday we slept in a bit – Friday had really worn us out, lol. We went back to the Eiffel tower in the morning and went up to the very top. My fear of heights started kicking in on the second lift, which seemed never-ending – we just kept going up and up and up!!! The view from the top, however, was lovely. They also had cities all over the world listed on the tower, along with the direction and distance that they were from the tower. I found Costa Rica, as well as Washington and New York City, the only US cities listed. It made me happy :).

Sarah has some friends studying in France, Maggie and Taylor, who came to Paris to spend the day with us on Saturday. So after the Eiffel tower, she and I split off from Nick and Silvia to go meet her friends at the Arc de Triumph. We found a subterranean stairway that went under the roundabout that encircles the Arc, and came out directly underneath the monument. Our walking tour guide on Thursday told us that every year there are idiots who die because they try to get to the Arc by running across the street, instead of taking the stairs. That roundabout is the most dangerous roundabout in the world. With a width of 12 cars, no marked lanes, and no rules of the road, except seemingly that all cars entering the circle have the right of way, instead of the other way around, it’s no surprise that no insurance company will cover an accident at the Arc de Triumph – one happens every 30 minutes. I actually saw one while I was at the top of the Arc, counting how many streets feed into the roundabout. There are in fact 12 major streets that all feed into the circle, none of them with less than 5 lanes of traffic. What…a…nightmare!!

After we came down from the Arc, we walked down the famous Champs Elysées, the Fifth Avenue of Europe. The only thing I could afford to buy was an éclair, and even that I split with Sarah. At the end of the street, we found a Christmas Village that sets up there every year around the holidays. Sarah had been craving a French crepe since we got to Paris, so we found a place in the Christmas Village to buy one. You actually got to watch them make the crepes – it was pretty cool. I did a little bit of Christmas shopping (I’m not telling who I bought for! :P), but most of the stuff was really expensive, so I contented myself with just looking for the most part.

The last place we went to with Maggie and Taylor was the Pompidou Center, a huge monstrosity of modern art. It’s actually a modern art museum, but the art begins outside, with the statues in the fountain, the street performers, even the building itself. I’m not a fan of modern art, so it was interesting to see, but not particularly enthralling. We did see, however, a street performer paint a picture blindfolded, standing behind the canvas, in 4 minutes flat. THAT was impressive :). After we parted ways with Maggie and Taylor, Sarah and I walked to see the Moulin Rouge. It was actually less than ten minutes from our hostel – it’s crazy how fast the neighborhood changes. Our hostel area is a good, albeit touristy, location. The Moulin Rouge is located, for obvious reasons, in the Red Light district. If you don’t know why I said it’s obvious, go watch the movie Moulin Rouge – but read a summary first, so you know what to expect :).

Sunday, our last day in Paris, I decided to go up to the Sacre Coeur one last time to see the sunrise. Paris is a late riser on Sunday mornings – I was the only person outside the church, except for the intimidating French soldiers wielding heavy-duty machine guns that are always around every famous monument in the city. I was about to head back down the mountain after the sunrise, but on a whim I decided to go into the church one last time. I’m so glad I did. The first time I went in the Sacre Coeur, I was trying to keep track of where Nick and Silvia and Sarah were. The second time, I was looking for the entrance to climb the top of the dome. The third time, however, all I was doing was drinking in every detail of the church. The prayer candles scattered all around the sanctuary, lit by the faithful who have been present nonstop for the past 125 years, day and night, praying to the Lord. The incredible stained glass windows, flooded with the early morning light. The reverent statues, paintings, pictures, and mosaics nestled in every alcove and corner of the building. The delicate smell of the hundreds of flowers that could be found all over the sanctuary. It was all lovely – but the most lovely thing of all was the music. There was an Office du Matin, a morning choir of nuns, while I was there. That was, without a doubt, the absolute prettiest music I have ever heard. They sounded like angels. I could have stayed there all day…unfortunately, though, my plane back to Seville was calling my name.

The trip back home was uneventful – 1 ½ hours in bus to the airport, 2 ½ hour flight, 45 minute bus ride home, and a 15 minute walk after that. It’s so nice to be back in a country where I can communicate with ease. I spent most of the afternoon on Sunday sleeping, and then organizing pictures and writing this blog. I went out for about half an hour to take medicine to Justo, who’s sick. I brought some of the medicine that my family had sent me when I was sick, but that I hadn’t used. I figured what better way to use it than to pass the love on, right? 🙂 I’m glad I got to see him, even if he was coughing and sneezing – I won’t get to see him again til next week, because he’s traveling tomorrow and then when he gets back I’ll be in Morocco. And now here I am, with a six-page single-spaced blog, pictures on my flashdrive ready to be uploaded, my bag packed for classes tomorrow, and midnight rapidly approaching. I’m going to say au revoir for now…next update (most likely) will be from Morocco! Check out all my pictures from Paris here. I love and miss you all tons…see you soon!!!!

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 :).