Hello again. My last post left us mid-October so I’m picking up right where I left off.
Life in Spain has become totally normal and I have found my groove. I’m back to being busy had having so many activities that overlap and trying to fit everything in. So is life. I haven’t experienced culture shock yet so after having been here for 4 months I assume it’s not going to happen.
In October I started teaching English to a family of three and that is an adventure as I have no idea as to what I am doing. You may be thinking it is easy because it’s my native language but as I go I’m finding out how little I actually know. It’s humbling. Other than this I had all the other normal activities from before; class, GBU, intercambio coffee dates, grupo life, noche de equipo and other meetings at church. It was a crazy schedule but so much fun! I also donated blood and got a bunch of free stuff from that including a shirt. At one point I also considered stopping journaling because it was becoming mediocre and is time consuming but in the end I decided I need to continue to be able to film my update videos. As I am packing more activities into my schedule I am remembering Colossians 3:23 and that it is better to do few things well than have too many things going and not give them adequate attention.
Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.
Getting emails about more fees I had to pay for college was an unneeded stress as final exams were approaching. I am thankful for my dad dealing with all of that for me. The whole situation really scared me into remembering to save my money if I want to continue my education and get my degree. Through that fiasco I realized that financial “difficulty” will be present in some form for all of my life so I need to not make money an idol but make wise choices along the way.
November 7th-9th my classmates and I traveled to Rome. We visited all the famous sights; Colosseum, Palatine ruins, Trevi Fountain, Plazas, the park, and the Vatican. I was so cool to explore all these sights and think about all the history that had occurred there. To hear more about these adventures here is my video.
I like being introspective so I was reflecting on the trip and what it taught me about myself or others. The most profound things were that I need to be patient and considerate of other people I’m with because although I have my pace and things I want to see so do they… so basically slow down. Also I learned that although people do not show their enthusiasm the same way I do or react like I do that is ok. We are all different and that doesn’t mean they don’t feel the same way. We just have different ways of expressing things. It’s ok.
With the end of the semester rapidly approaching I was studding weeks ahead of time to be sure I would ace my exams. I knew where my faults had been in studying for midterms and now knew what type of answers the professors were looking for after one round of exams. I felt well prepared. I was very pleased with my grades and I also found a new love for literature and history. I really enjoyed all of my classes and learned a lot. We had almost no homework; maybe 2 little projects, 4 one page essays, a worksheet here and there, and 2 books to read. This was nothing compared to what classes at Cedarville ask from me. Nevertheless I learned so much and it was actually interesting. I prefer this type of education. I’m not sure if it’s because of the small class size, content of the classes, that they were in Spanish but all the same it was effective. The day of the last exam we went out for lunch with our professors and that was a blast but meant that my American friends would soon be leaving. This was sad but also enlightening as we talked about their regrets of thing they didn’t take advantage of while being here. Now I know and have time to change things in the 4 months I have left.
Then I went to London with Megan for a few days and we saw all the biggies and were exhausted by the end. You can see the video here.
I continued becoming more involved at church, go kids particularly. I love how much you can learn from teaching children. One week we were talking about the promises of God and how he always answers prayer. I was thinking about how that is true in my life and remembered that a year ago I was praying for a church family here and without even realizing that the prayer had been answered I was in the midst of the answer, with many wonderful friends and such great Christian community. I continue attending life group and also go to a program called ALPHA, where we learn and discuss the basics of our faith and why. I am so thankful to be attending this church especially because of many great friendships have come out of it.
Once my Americanos left classes had also finished up so I had more free time and started hanging out with my friends from church more. Through this the crew developed. (crew love is true love) We have fun going out, having dinner parties and throwing surprise parties for each other. I love how international this friend group is. We have representation from Bolivia, Colombia, England, Pakistan, Germany, and America.
The first major family holiday that I faced away from home was Thanksgiving. I was a little down because of not being with my family in the US but I had been put in charge of a Thanksgiving dinner for GBU, so that began to consumer my time. I delegated the cooking to various people and left some for myself. The cooking really made it feel like Thanksgiving, plus it was fun. Later that night when I actually went to the dinner it was fun helping to set up and organize. There were at least 30 people so it felt like a really being family. I am thankful for GBU. Just at the end of November I was working on getting paper work for my appointment to get a residency card and that was a nightmare as paperwork always is. We went from office to office, all over the city, trying to find out what papers we actually needed and where we really needed to go because laws change and building locations change. Finally we got it all sorted out and I had to wait 30 days to go pick up the card.
At the beginning of December for the first few weeks I was totally free; sleeping in till 12, eating lunch, maybe going for a run, reading a bit, and planning ahead for English lessons. A highlight was Hannah’s birthday party that we surprised her with. That was really fun and then two weeks before Christmas most of my crew friends left. That was sad but thankfully I was busy the following week babysitting. We went to the Bio Park, Gulliver, the Hemispheric and saw Jerusalem, to the beach to play an adapted form of volleyball, a cooking class, the Oceanographic, ice skating (my first time…it was a falling frenzy), shopping, and the science museum (the area for kids 4-7 was the most fun even though we were both older than that) with a picnic in the river, and making Christmas cookies. That was a fun but exhausting week and I realized how fun it is to be a child and that I truly find joy in the simplest things.
Now begin the Christmas festivities! I helped with Go kids for the Christmas service at church. Sadly I did not bring my Christmas apparel to Spain (only one pair of socks) but I made due with what I had to go all out for the Christmas service.
Then the traveling began. First I went to Palencia with Lucia and Enrique and spent Christmas with her family. It was fun and felt like a normal family Christmas; cold weather, children running around, bickering and the usual. We explored the small town’s bakery and having two of Lucia’s nieces there kept me entertained. I always gravitate towards the children. Christmas day we opened presents, ate churros for breakfast and went ice skating (p.s. I improved a lot from my first experience). They 26th they drove me to Valladolid where I stayed with Sonsoles.
It was good to catch up with Sonsoles and spend time with her family and friends. She was busy studding most of the time so her mom entertained me by taking me to Belen scenes around the city, approximately 20, I will comment more about this later. Then to their mernedero (an extra flat where they chill and have parties and big meals because the apartment isn’t big enough). That afternoon we went up in the tower of the cathedral of Felipe II. He was having it built there because at that time Valladolid was the capital of Spain but it was left unfinished as he wanted to build the Escorial. It was a good view of the city from the top. I also went to the movies see 8 Apellidos Catalanes as well as Palmeras en la Nieve and liked both a lot as they enlightened me about Spanish politics, history and tensions within the country. I also ran in the San Silvestre, a 10k, which was fun and not that hard even though I had never run that distance before. We took a day trip to Madrid and went inside the Palacio Real and walked down Gran Via and did some other things. This was fun and we had an hour and a half before we had to go catch our train back to Valladolid so we decided to go to the “cute” rock/indie cafe to get some tea but we stayed a little too long. When we noticed what time it was we ran to the metro station and while in the metro calculated how much time it would take us to get to our stop and go to board our train. We found that we would only have 2 minutes to spare before out train left. Once we got to our metro stop we literally sprinted out of the metro up 4 sets of escalators, to the board that said where our train was at, then back down and boarded. As soon as we were on the train left. Perfect timing and good practice running in the San Silvestre the day before, pushing through the pain of being sore. I also went out with Sonsoles and her friends and another night they had a Christmas dinner. My time in Valladolid was very good because I did not speak any English my whole time there and also hanging out with so many Spaniards my age was a blast.
About the Belen scenes. They are so important and people line up to pay and see them. Personally I think they are beautiful but don’t need to see 20 of them. It is intriguing to me that the whole Christmas story is of such importance as it is depicted in this scene yet the country is so non-religious. (68% of Spaniards consider themselves religious but 61% of those people rarely practice their religion) It is so interesting that the Bethlehem scenes are such a tradition and of such importance but aren’t noticed for their real meaning.
After my time in Valladolid I took a bus to Madrid to stay with friends of my mom’s Aunt. (this was crazy to explain to everyone) There I was treated really well; given meals, treaded as family, and introduced to new friends. I arrived the day before New Year’s Eve and just chilled around the house. Since they weren’t doing anything special for New Year’s Eve the hooked me up with some of their friends. I went over to these people’s house and had a giant dinner consisting of various things; soup, lamb head, calamares, some type of fish, pickled mini eggplants, asparagus, lobster, gambas (overload, at every dinner became a little too much) salad, and almonds inside a date which was wrapped in bacon (that was my favorite). After all of that I was time to eat the grapes as the 12 bells chimed ringing in the New Year. It was my original intention to do this in Puerta Del Sol as that is the equivalent of the Time Square but I didn’t because I had no one to go with and there was limited access. After ringing in the new year I went with Samuel (a friend of the people I was staying with, who was also at the dinner) to a friend’s flat were there were 15 or so people from their “youth group”. We played just dance and a bunch of other games and that was fun. So in summary I met my hosts the day before and they introduced me to some friends who then took me to their friend’s house. Crazy meeting so many new people in such a short time and trying to explain the situation to everyone! While in Madrid I went to all the art museums, cafe Gijon, la residencia de estudiantes de Madrid (where Dali, Lorca, Bunuel, and many other famous people collaborated back in the day) to see an exposition about women in Vanguardia. I also went to Sol, Gran Via, and on a tour of barrio de las Letras (where I saw where authors and learned more about the people whose work I had read and interesting historical fun facts).
Then the 5th I went to a nearby pueblo in the mountains with the people I was staying with to celebrate their anniversary. On our way back we saw towns preparing for the Cabalgata de Reyes, a parade they do with floats where the 3 Reyes Magos arrive to town. The next day was Reyes and we didn’t do anything special but they did buy roscon (the cake that they eat for Reyes) so I could try it. The next two days I spent reading, resting, and skyping people until 5am. I was good to be able to relax, catch up with people and sleep in until whenever I wanted. The 7th I returned to Valencia by train. My Christmas travels were a success and I experienced authentic Spanish holidays. Although I was away from my family I still had fun because I was surrounded by other loving families and enjoyed traveling and exploring alone. Here is the video summary of my Christmas travels.
As I am moving around so frequently and changing friend groups every 4 months because other are no longer present I have had to learn how to stay connected and make these relationships deep and meaningful. That way I will have reason to stay connected when we are away from each other. Through all this moving around I have also learned to invest in the people and community wherever I am. I can’t wait till I have my degree, have more money, or am more settled to get involved and reach out to people. Although I may be uprooted after a few months it’s better to invest full force with the time I have than idly live because I will soon be leaving. For this reason one of my new year’s resolutions is to prioritize my relationships with others and make them intentional. Really getting to know people and pour into them, really building lasting friendships. By doing this I can know people on a more personal level and know how God is working in their life and what they are struggling with. In turn for being vulnerable I can pray for my friends, and that brings me great joy. I’ve found that the best friendships have been when God was in the center and I was willing to be vulnerable.
I’ll also add a little year reflection and summary to this. I have lived in 3 different places for extended periods of time and have had 3 distinct friend groups that know nothing about each other, but though every season God was good. He calmed my anxiety about the future, taught me new things through amazing friendships and travel experiences, and personal growth in general…. wow! I am going on 2 full years of journaling daily (as it was my new year’s resolution almost 2 years ago) and how life changing that has been, although I’m not sure if it’s because of being analytical and thinking through everything before writing it or that I have been in more pressing situations in life where growth is more “forced”. But wow was it a good year. At this point in my life I am being forced to mature and grow up in many areas but I will never lose my juventud (couldn’t think of an English word…) I am also learning to be more open minded and accepting of different beliefs, viewpoints, opinions and lifestyles. Especially realizing cultural differences and things that are not exactly biblical but more cultural. I has been interesting to interact with so many different Christians and see how they carry out their faith, and yet not one is better than the other, each is seeking God throughout their life. I’m learning a lot from other people.
As life here is becoming more and more normal and mundane along with it comes the danger of complacency and mediocrity. I find that my faith is stronger when it’s being tested but as life gets “easier” I think I can do it on my own. But the truth is that I CAN NOT. Just when I think I have things under control God comes I and shows me that I need him. Because I feel like I am approaching this place I am going to go back and read the post from April to be reminded of how much I really do need him. #neverforget
Sobre todo mi propósito por este año es para buscar el reino de Dios en todo; cada acción y palabra, en amistades y decisiones, pequeñas cosas crearán la diferencia.
Vosotros, antes que nada, buscad el reino de Dios y todo lo justo y bueno que hay en él*, y Dios os dará, además, todas esas cosas.
Going into this next semester I will be building new friendships and learning even more in my classes. I am really excited for all of that!