Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday Happiness

I generally like to consider myself an optimist when it comes to the world we live in. I often feel really blessed by my family and friends. Then, every once in a while I become really conflicted about that. See, I just had yet another wonderful Christmas with my wonderful family. Forget the presents, we all know that those are temporary things. When I say I had a wonderful Christmas it means I felt like I was right where I belonged with the people I belong with. Having an entire day to just hang out with my family is a really great thing. The conflict that I face is that I feel spoiled. Sometimes I feel out of touch with reality. Today there were 278 people who spent Christmas having to subdue some idiot that was (unsuccessfully) trying to blow their plane up. Fortunately, the fool just ended up burning himself in the crotch and everyone is fine, but today 278 people wondered if they were going to see their families again. Also today, thousands of volunteers on the Eastern Shore of Maryland went out searching for an 11-year-old girl who disappeared earlier this week. Around 4 PM, they found her body and her family had to spend their Christmas mourning the loss of their little girl.

I know the sad thing is that we hear this kind of news often and I think, for me anyway, that makes me a bit desensitized to it. But for some reason this evening when I read about the little girl I was hit pretty hard. It just seems pretty unfair. I apologize for being such a downer on Christmas. I know this is a time when we are supposed to be nothing but cheery, and the truth is I am cheery. That's my whole point. I was able to come home from Spain and spend Christmas with my awesome family. I couldn't have asked for a better Christmas. I guess the only reason I'm writing this is because I want to remind myself to take a minute and pray for anyone who has had to go through a difficult Christmas. My prayer is that God would let those people know they aren't alone and that He would help lead them through that darkness. I think that's the only thing I can offer really. That, and to make sure I'm always thankful for the blessings I've received. I pray anyone who reads this had a great Christmas and I'd also encourage you to just remember where all your blessings come from. Love you all.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh! The Weather Outside is Frightfully Stupid

So, I just got off of my 9 hour flight from Madrid which felt as long as it sounds. I'm in Atlanta waiting for my flight to DC and we have major issues. First of all, the weather here is a mess. It's raining a ton and you can't see anything. My flight has already been delayed from 5:30pm to 6:45pm. To complicate things, The Weather Channel is expecting, and I quote: "a major, perhaps HISTORIC snowstorm" back home. How unbelievable is that?? I just looked and the snow is supposed to start between 10pm and 12am so as long as my flight isn't delayed anymore, I should be ok. This is major drama here people. I don't want to spend a week in Atlanta.

So after thinking a lot about how weird it is to be coming home in the middle of my time abroad, I've realized how exciting it is. I think this time at home will be so good for me. I get to have Christmas with the fam, I get to watch the last 3 weeks of Redskins games from home, I get to see lots of friends, I get to spend Euros as dollars and I get to have as many free refills as I want on drinks. And then I get to go back to Madrid and continue all those experiences over there. Life really couldn't be sweeter.

I am kind of curious to see the ways that I've already changed. I don't necessarily feel like I've changed, but God has done so much in my life in the last 3 months so I feel like there will probably be evidence.

Anyway, apparently my flight is delayed because our plane is going to arrive late, which means that once it's here we can leave and I should make it home in time. This is good news because being snowed into Atlanta while not being able to see my family = major suckage. However, making it to DC before the storm and being snowed in WITH the family = major fun.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

SeVILLA, wouldn't wanna BE YA!

HELLO! I'm alive! To my thousands of fans who check my blog 5 times a day for updates, I'm really sorry I've been quiet for like 3 weeks. To the 4 people who exist in reality and actually read my blog, the truth is I had a friend (Eddie) come visit me for 2 weeks so I just didn't bother posting anything.

EDIT: I just added new music to the blog after making this post. I found Family Force 5's new Christmas album and it is absolutely ridiculous. However, I kinda like it. Enjoy.

Let's see... what to talk about...

Well, Eddie's visit was really fun. He enjoyed seeing Spain and I enjoyed showing him around. It really meant a lot to me for someone from home to come and see what my life is like over here. It was especially cool that it was Eddie that came since he's a teacher and I was able to bring him to school for a day. My coordinator swooped him up, took him to her class and while I did my normal work he was teaching 5th graders. They loved having him and I think he really enjoyed the experience. You should ask him about it. (if you're prepared to listen to him go on about how cool he is)

I had a 5 day weekend this past week because of a holiday here in Spain (they have tons of holidays), so some friends and I decided to go to Seville (Sevilla in Spanish; pronounced seh-vee-ya) for a few days. It is in the southern part of Spain and it is one of the places you find a lot of classic Spanish traditions like Flamenco. In fact, one of the nights we were there, we stumbled upon a real local bar and around 1:30am one of the workers turned off the music, brought out a guitar and everyone gathered around and sang. Apparently everyone was expecting this except us and there were two or three people performing the singing and it was incredible. The songs were mostly very slow and powerfully sad. One woman next to me was balling while the guy was singing to her. hahaha

Sevilla has a lot of really awesome buildings and architecture. My favorite building was the Plaza de España:

It was too big to capture in pictures but maybe you can get a sense of how pretty it was. We also went to the Alcázar which is the palace. It was built by the Muslims that inhabited Spain at the time which is reflected in the architecture.

My favorite part of the palace was the gardens.

Alright, in the interest of this not turning into a huge presentation on Sevilla, I'll just show one more picture:

That picture is from the inside of the cathedral in Sevilla which I believe is the 3rd biggest in the world. Inside the box there are the remains of Christopher Columbus. Pretty cool, huh?

So just to give you some more personal updates, I am getting very excited for Christmas. A week from tomorrow I will be home!! That is a really crazy thought. There are a lot of emotions tied into that which I want to elaborate on in another post at some point.

I was able to share with a friend of mine the other day that I have been feeling a little bit like I've lost focus since I got here. I know that I'm here for a reason but I was struggling, feeling like I had not been able to figure out what that might be. So I prayed about that a little bit and then the very next day I started reading a book that a friend here gave me called "Don't Stop Believing" by Michael E Wittmer. This book is one of the best I've ever read about Christianity so far. I'm 3 chapters in and already it is helping me to define questions and ideas that I've had for years. I highly recommend. Anyway, that was a huge blessing. Later on that evening I was at my coordinator (Natalia)'s house because I have begun tutoring her daughter and her brother-in-law. In between tutoring the two of them, Natalia helps me practice my Spanish by having conversations with me. Out of nowhere she asked me, "Josh, tienes una religión?" (Josh, do you have a religion?) So... I was kinda surprised by the question and didn't exactly know how to react because I am barely comfortable explaining to people that I'm not religious, I just love Jesus in ENGLISH, let alone Spanish. But I tried and I think by the end of it she understood what I was trying to say. I'm not sure what was accomplished by that conversation if anything, but it seemed too big a coincidence to be nothing. Then later while I was tutoring her brother-in-law, he asked me "So, in the United States is Christmas more of a religious thing?" Luckily we were speaking English so it was a little easier this time, but I ended up explaining to him a lot of the same things I was explaining to Natalia. It was so bizarre. I have no idea what it all meant, but I think it was somehow God's way of answering my prayer. We'll have to see what happens in the future I guess.

Alright, that's enough for now. Sorry it has been so long since I've updated. I'm going to probably try and update more frequently for a while since a lot is going to happen with my trip home in a week. I think it is going to have some serious effects on me since I've become comfortable here and now I'm going to go home and remember what I'm missing.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mesquite? Is that made from Mosquitos?

The other day I was in my room, on my computer when all of a sudden I saw a mosquito fly in front of my face. Mosquitos are my 2nd most hated insects. I hate them a little bit more than flies and a little bit less than ticks. I especially hate mosquitos in my room because they always end up having a feast while I sleep and I think I must be slightly allergic to them because their bites usually turn into welts on my skin. So, needless to say, I dropped everything I was doing so that I could engage her in a fight to the death. (Yes, her. For anyone who doesn't know, only female mosquitos suck blood.) I think if anyone had walked into my room at that moment they would have felt puzzlement that would have bordered on alarm. I was frozen in an attack position, waiting for her to fly into my sight. She came into sight a few times which resulted in futile attacks on my part. Then she made a terrible decision and flew over to my wall which is white and made her stand out a lot. I grabbed a notepad and flung it at her and that ended up finishing her off. The crazy thing was that as hard as I hit her with the notepad, her body remained in-tact. Spanish mosquitos are made of steel I think. Anyway, here's a picture of her:

Her stripes are pretty beastly. I think it means she's a tiger-mosquito.

Other big news: I have officially infiltrated the sticker-trade at my school. Stickers are extremely popular here and pretty much every kid has an album. They are very serious about making trades. If someone gives you a tiny little sticker, you aren't going to be giving them your favorite 3-D Hannah Montana sticker. It just doesn't work that way. So they began giving me stickers here and there before and after class and I just started putting them in my agenda book:

That's just the first page. I have at least 2 more pages so far. I'm pretty fond of Sandy Cheeks at the top of the page there. It would take a pretty hefty offer to make me part with her. Last week I actually bought some nice Spongebob and High School Musical stickers to put into circulation. It was a horrible idea. I actually made one of the teachers mad because the kids were becoming too distracted. Oops. Next time I have to make them a prize for good behavior or something.

On a more serious note, I had a nice moment yesterday. I've been here long enough now that there's really no excuse for the fact that I have slacked on getting into the bible. I've joined a bible study through this international church that I go to now, but it doesn't really replace the time that I have one-on-one with God. My bible was still in my bag from bible study so during my break I decided to shut myself into the little classroom they give me and just read. I was really enjoying reading through the parables and stories in Mark. I think the story of James and John asking Jesus to sit at his side in Glory is hilarious (Mark 10:35-45). I think one of them must have pulled the other aside and been like "Listen man, we need to get dibs on the places next to the throne. I'm asking you because I like you and you have sweet sandals that you let me borrow that time that mine were giving me a bad blister." Then Jesus basically says, "Guys, do you honestly think that is a first-come, first-serve kinda thing? Those spots are reserved." But what really makes me laugh is that it says "when the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John." I imagine that to be the most awkward moment ever. "Umm.. James? John? Did you guys seriously just try and ask to sit to the right and left of Jesus? What the hell? What happened to our 12 best friends agreement?"

Ok, so that's my dumb interpretation of that story, but in my mind it was really funny. It was one of those moments where the bible was making a lot of sense to me and I had a hard time putting it down yesterday.

Ok, it's 3:15 on Saturday and I haven't done anything.

35 days until I come home!


Monday, November 2, 2009

I Came From the Montaña

Where to start, where to start... well, it has been like 2 weeks since I've updated and I promise it's not for a lack of commitment as much as it's for a lack of things to say. However, some interesting stuff has happened so I think I have enough for a substantial update now. Also, I think I'm going to just throw tons of pictures at you so LOOK OUT!

Last Saturday, which was.... let me look... October 24th, I went into the city with my friend Erin and we were attempting to go see a movie. We found out about a place where they show old movies for about 2.50 Euros, so we decided to try and catch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. When we met up, we discovered we both had a different address for the theatre from the internet so we tried Erin's first. That led us here:

So, the sign next to the huge scary door indicated that we were in the right place which was very confusing. Our solution to the problem was to stare at the giant door for 5 minutes and every so often one of us would tentatively walk up to it and nudge it slightly to see if it would open. We did this several times because we were never sure if we had tried hard enough, as we didn't want to be seen struggling with a huge door that was clearly locked. Eventually I gave it a good hard push and we even used the knockers, and we decided we were at the wrong place. That's when I remembered I had a different address which was a few blocks away so we decided to go for that. We were happy to find that it led us here:

We were unhappy to find this sign:

That means they were sold out. In the end, the time we spent staring at the doors to the Filmoteca business offices caused us to miss the show. Oh well, next time. The one thing we accomplished that night was taking pictures at the famous bear statue that is in the Puerta del Sol, which is a famous plaza at the center of Madrid. We use it as a meeting spot often and so does everyone else in the city. I always see lots of groups of young people waiting for friends around the bear:

So let me give you at least a small peak at the area around my house. I took some pictures late at night one time while walking back to my house. When I leave my apartment, I walk down this street first:

When I get to the end, which is where I took the above picture, I am standing at a circle with a gas station on it:

This is the closest landmark to my house, so when I take the night bus home in the middle of the night I know to push the button for a stop when I see the good ol' BP. Here's another picture from the traffic circle of a bus stop:

From the cirlce I walk about another 2 blocks to get to my metro stop which is called Peñagrande. The inside looks a bit like this:

So this past weekend was also a busy one. On Friday, I went with my friend Antonia to a mall near Madrid where there is an IKEA. The mall is called la gavia:

This is the part of the city that it's in:

Besides the mall it looked like the whole place was still being built.

So Antonia and I had been saying to each other that we really wanted to try and go hiking because there are lots of mountains surrounding Madrid. We found out about a little town called Cercedilla. Erin, Antonia and I met at the train station and took the renfe train out to Cercedilla.

When we got there, right outside the train station was the beginning of a really nice trail that we walked. It looked like this:

That last one is Erin and Antonia obviously. The place was really beautiful. It was also really nice to get out of the city for a bit. I hadn't realized how much I was feeling constantly surrounded by noise until I experienced the quiet out there. On the way back to the train station I got some water from this thing:

It was some seriously good water. The town has a lot of ruins left over from the Romans. I'm not sure if this was part of it, but I like to believe it was. That spout looks 2,000 years old, right? I took a picture while we were waiting for the train and I'm pretty sure that woman was getting weirded out that I was taking pictures of her:

Well that is about all the pictures I have. If you're wondering what I did for Halloween after going to Cercedilla, I went to a friends apartment and we watched The Orphan and... that's a really bad movie. So I didn't dress up, but downtown all the young people were running around drunk in costumes. Trick or Treating is a growing concept here so not everyone does it.

I think that's enough for now. After making you wait 2 weeks I've showered you with photos, so enjoy. I will try and update quicker next time.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Then Will the Eyes of the Blind be Opened and the Ears of the Deaf Unstopped

Last night I was up until 4 AM talking on skype with Aaron and Eddie. I had to be up around 8 for work but I was having such a great time that I didn't really care. I had a great time catching up with those guys and I definitely miss all that laughing.

So speaking of the job, this is where I update you on that situation. As most of you know, I am an English teaching assistant in a public elementary school. My school is called C.E.I.P. Antonio Machado and it is located in Majadahonda which I've talked about before so MOVING ON. The schools are bilingual so about 50% of their classes are given in English. Science and English are both taught in English so those are the classes that I assist at my school. I work mostly with 1st and 2nd graders but I have 3 hours a week with 3rd graders. Going into this program I wasn't sure how I was going to do with little kids but so far it has been awesome. I was pretty nervous that they weren't going to really like me but I think I've done an OK job of at least keeping their attention. I'm hoping as I get more comfortable teaching them that I will be able to make things more fun and figure out the ways that they enjoy learning.

One of my first days on the job we were going through the five senses in the science book and I ended up trying to contain my laughter while the teacher was giving the lesson because of what was in the book.

This is the introduction to the section about sight. As you can see there are a couple of pictures to illustrate.

So that's all good, but then all of a sudden you continue to look at the pictures and you come across this example:

Now... does anyone see anything wrong with that picture?? I thought that was so funny. What would possess someone to choose THAT picture to illustrate the caption "I can see where I am walking"?

As far as the specifics of my job go, they vary from class to class and from day to day. This week I am actually leading all of the 1st grade classes that I would normally be assisting because their teacher is out of town at a conference. That's been a challenge because I still don't feel like I'm a very good teacher, but it went well today. Most of the time I just follow the regular teacher's lead and help with pronunciations of words or help the kids know what to do.

The reason they bring us to the schools is so that the students can hear a native speaker and learn about their culture. The hope is also that it will encourage the students to speak in English. We are supposed to pretend that we don't understand any Spanish because the second the kids find out we understand it, they'll never attempt to speak to us in English since it's so difficult. This causes a lot of problems for me. The kids don't know enough English to communicate most of their ideas so they just say them all in Spanish and I have to decide whether to ignore them or answer them in English in the hopes that it won't register that I just understood their Spanish. So far it has worked out but some of the 2nd graders began to catch on because I was answering too many of the things they were saying in Spanish so I had to back it off a little bit. It's such a difficult thing because a lot of times I really want to just speak to them in Spanish because they're pretty cute and I hate having to just look at them with a dumb look on my face.

Some of the parents really want their kids to learn English well so they hire us assistants to come their homes and spend an hour or so tutoring their children. It's great practice for the kids and nice for us to get the extra money. I had my first tutoring experience today and it was a lot of fun. I went to this family's apartment and spent an hour just hanging out with the student, talking and playing hangman.

Well after having such a late night last night I'm going to stop here so I can actually get some decent sleep.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Big Trouble in Little Canada

After reading my last post I'm realizing how much has happened that I need to share since last time. Every week is like a year right now because I can look back on what I wrote and feel like I'm already in such a different place as I get more settled.

I think I should dedicate at least one paragraph of this post to acknowledging the fact that I serve a very real and loyal God. Some of you read the note that I posted on facebook over the summer in which I basically confessed all of the fears that I was experiencing about trying to prepare for Spain. I was unsure how I was going to pay for a plane ticket, I was behind on applying for my VISA, I had no idea how I was going to be able to support myself for the first month here until they start paying me, I had no idea where I was going to live and most importantly I had no idea how I was going to watch the Redskins. In the note I talked about how I felt like God was telling me that Spain was the right thing and I wanted to make the decision to trust Him with taking care of the details. Almost immediately after posting that note things began to fall into place for me in some pretty miraculous ways. For example, I had to be fingerprinted in order to apply for the VISA and that process was supposed to take 7-10 days. I think I got the fingerprints back in the mail within about 2 or 3 days and I was able to apply for the VISA that same week. Also, I had to wait longer than I wanted to before I could buy a plane ticket so I was worried it was going to cost an arm and a leg. Through a series of fortunate events I was able to get a roundtrip ticket for $260. I have never seen anything like that before. I think I could go back and look at every single step I had to take to make this trip possible and it was as if I had some supernatural help the entire way.

The other thing I talked about in my note on facebook was my fear about my friendships here in Spain. In the States I found myself very blessed in the people that I had around me. I had great community at home and at school, and I felt like I was being filled in a lot of ways. I was pretty nervous about giving that up and coming to a post-church country where Christ has very little relevance to people outside of their religious traditions. Well, I think I've explained before on this blog that the day I arrived I was introduced to a girl my age that was attending a great church, called Amistad Cristiana, in downtown Madrid. I landed here on a Friday and that Sunday I called her up and we went to Amistad together. While at church that day I met a girl that lives in my neighborhood and her and I have since ridden the metro to church together and have met up a couple of times to grab some food in our "barrio". So I already have my foot in the door with a great church community which is awesome. But it gets better. Even though I now have the connections at Amistad, I've actually been spending most of my time with some of the other auxiliars that I met at orientation. One of them lives very close to me so we often end up riding the metro together. One night after hanging out with everyone we were heading home and our conversation somehow ended up on the topic of Christ and it became apparent that it was something we had in common. So we were talking about that for a little bit and then we had to transfer to a different line. As we were walking to the next line I heard a couple of guys speaking English and my friend said she recognized one of them from orientation. So I struck up a conversation with one of the guys and he was telling us that he has been in Madrid for about a year now and as we were talking he casually mentioned something about a church that he goes to. I asked him about it and he told us he goes to Oasis, which is an English speaking church that meets on Saturday nights that I had actually heard about from a few different places. He and the other guys had just come from there. Considering my friend and I had just been talking about that stuff we were both convinced that it was more than just a chance encounter. I'm not sure exactly why we met him in the metro that night but I can say that there have been few times in the past that I have felt God moving so strongly around me. My specific prayer in my facebook note was that I would find a good community of friends while I am here in Madrid and so far it has felt like everywhere I've turned I've found His people around me and that is not exactly common here. I told a friend who has been here for 4 years about that and she told me that it is very rare to find Christians here, especially among Americans. I feel like I really had to share all of this as a bit of an update to that facebook note. I want to say thanks to anyone who saw that note and prayed for me. I hope God can use these examples as a way to show how well He really does care for us when are willing to put our faith in Him and do things that scare us.

Oh, and as far as the Redskins go... although I´ve found ways of watching all the games it turns out they aren´t really worth watching this year anyway.

So, just to fill you in on some of the things that I've been doing:

We had a 4-day weekend this week because today (Monday) was a big holiday in Spain. It is based on Columbus discovering the Americas just like in the States but it means something more here. That was the beginning of Spain's rise to power in the world so the holiday is basically all about celebrating being Spanish. Since we had so many days off we decided to take some day trips into some of the smaller towns around Madrid. Saturday we went to El Escorial and today we went to Alcalá de Henares which is the town where Cervantes was born.

Sunday was the weirdest day of the weekend because we celebrated Thanksgiving. Some of our auxiliar friends are Canadian and the Canadian Thanksgiving happens in October because Canadians are strange and they have strange customs. We had a big turkey dinner at one of their apartments and it was actually very fun and we had some great food. Whenever we're all together we have some funny conversations about some of the differences between our countries, but in reality I think that we all realize we are pretty much the same. It's like, if you have a sibling, you might argue with them when you're at home, but when Mom and Dad drag you to a stranger's house and they have weird kids, your sibling becomes your best friend. It's like that between the US and Canada while we're in Spain.

Friday night my friends invited me to go to a concert to see a group called Giulia y los Tellarini. If you have seen the movie Vicki Christina Barcelona, they sing the main song on the soundtrack. I knew they weren't going to be my kind of music but they were pretty cool to see live. The pleasant surprise was that they opened for another group called La malarazza. These guys were AMAZING. They put on a great show with a ton of energy. The guy who plays sax in the band did some ridiculous solos. It was really one of the more memorable concerts I've ever been to.

Ok, so I need to update you on teaching but it is getting very late and I have to work in the morning so it will have to wait until next time but there is a lot to tell there. For now I hope that is a good enough update. I'm starting to miss everyone from home so I'll expect at least a 2 week visit from each of you.


*Pictures: 1) Giulia y los Tellarini performing. 2) Scott Van Pelt on guitar and Hugh Laurie on trumpet anyone? 3) La malarazza doing their thing. 4) Those are some of the greatest hats I've ever seen. 5) El Escorial is in the middle of some really awesome mountains. I'm pretty determined to go hiking on them one day. 6) This is Alcalá and they were basically having a Renaissance Fair and the streets were way too crowded. 7) Suddenly Don Quixote appeared being led by a band of bagpipers. That was a strange experience.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Abono to pick with you

The honeymoon is over. My feet are on the ground. No more feeling like I'm in a whirlwind that won't settle down. I've now finished my orientation into my job and things are starting to get real. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's a great thing. During "the whirlwind", as I decided to call it in that third sentence, I think I was experiencing a weird mentality. I mean, I haven't had any kind of responsibilities until now so I felt almost like a tourist which was bad because I'm realizing now that I actually live here and there will be no end to the expensive lifestyle. So unless I'm making money, I need to stop spending it. Not that I've been going out every night to eat or anything like that, quite the opposite really. (As I've told about before, I've mostly been hanging out with the Colombians.) But I think I could have been being a little bit more conscious of money. Here is an example:

Hugo has a son, David, who is 21 years old. When I arrived Hugo told me that David wanted to help me find a phone. So I was in my room one time and David came in and asked me what I was looking for in a phone. I told him I just need to be able to make phone calls and send text messages. Well, he showed up a day or two later with a pretty nice phone. Now, I was going along with this whole thing because I was under the impression that it would be cheaper to get a hand-me-down phone from David. So when he handed me the phone I thought it looked a little bit too nice. So when I asked him how much it was he told me that he would only charge me 50 Euros. I didn't want to be rude so I was said OK but on the inside I was thinking "umm.. WHAT!" 50 Euros is about 75 dollars for you people who don't know. Oh! I should explain that these phones are prepaid so you aren't paying for any kind of plan or anything. What you have to do after that is buy a SIM card to put in the phone, which for me cost about 24 more Euros, which put about 12 Euros towards minutes. So I spent a grand total of 74 Euros on a phone that does things that I will never use it for, like play music and take pictures. At this point it was early on. Ya know, during "the whirlwind", so it wasn't quite hitting me how bad of a deal I was getting. Until I found out that my friends in the program all bought phones that came with cards for 20 Euros. 20 Euros!!!! Once I found out about that and the money woes started to hit, I decided I needed to say something to Hugo. I talked to him last night and at first he wasn't understanding what I was saying but eventually he figured it out. He kept swearing to me that the 20 Euro price was a gimmick they were using to reel you into a contract but I showed him online how that wasn't the case. He said he would talk to David and see if he can work out getting me the money back in exchange for the phone. It's still a little uncomfortable for me because I don't want to piss of David, but I can't afford to spend that much money on a phone. That has honestly been one of my biggest challenges so far. I guess that's not so bad.

So as I have mentioned in the past, the school where I will be teaching is in the town ofMajadahonda, which is a good distance out of the city. What is really awesome about this (to be read with a sarcastic tone), is that when you work that far out of the city the transportation costs are made to reflect the distance that you're traveling. Isn't that nice of them? Anyway, in order to have unlimited access to all of the transportation between the city andMajadahonda, I must pay 60 Euros a month to get an abono for zone B2. The zone thing works based on how far out you are going. B2 just so happens to be the most expensive one that they offer. Yay! These are the kinds of things that are constantly coming at me and are making me realize that I have to be extremely careful this next month until we get our first paychecks.

While I'm thinking about it, I'm going to go back and make all my Spanish words bigger and in bold print so they will be like key words and you guys can pretend you're learning something. Haha.

Here's some more Spanish for you: jornada de formación. That's what they called our orientation. I had some mixed feelings about the whole thing. I think it definitely gave me a great sense of what this whole thing is about and why we are here. Spain, and the rest of Europe really, are being very aggressive about teaching their young children English. They are putting a lot of money into bringing us here and it's a very intense bilingual program that they have here. The downside of orientation was that there was a ton of boring information and then they would try and slip in some pedagogical skills on the fly which I just don't see as being very realistic. I mean, I liked having examples of what we can do with the kids, but you aren't going to be able to make us all certified elementary school teachers in two hours. The great thing about it has been hanging out with some of my new friends. Now, I'm trying not to only surround myself with Americans, but I feel like since I'll only be speaking Spanish at home, that gives me some leeway with who I hang out with. Things are going to change once we all start working, but I think I've met some pretty awesome people so far and I'm hoping that we all hang out regularly.

In other news, I have been unable to shake this stupid cold that I've had for the last few days. I think it has been my funky sleep schedule since I arrived, plus the slight change in climate. My hope is that I can at least feel normal by the time I start work on Thursday. Tomorrow is a day off so I'll be able to rest, but then it all gets started! The great thing is that more than likely I'll have every Friday off so I will probably do one day of work Thursday and then head into a long weekend. Woo hoo!

Although this post has pretty much been dominated by all the challenges I've been facing, I hope I'm not giving the impression that I'm unhappy. There are a few things that I can think of that I know God has provided in order to keep me safe. For example, I literally think I would have already run out of money if it hadn't been for the fact that I ended up in an apartment with people who were cooking meals everyday. Otherwise I probably would have already given up on cooking at home all the time and I would have been spending more on meals out in the city. Well, that's all for now! Thanks for reading everyone.


*Pictures: 1) This is how I spent most of my time in orientation. I had 2 friends with me, one from Kansas and the other from southern California. I decided to draw their homes. 2) Then I tried to draw Maryland from memory so they could more or less see where things are situated. Not bad, right? 3) That is at the end of orientation when they called us up one at a time to make sure our documents were in order so that we can get our residency cards. 4) This is my abono . The most important part is the little ticket that says "Oct 09". I have to take that out and pass it through the machines on all the busses and metros. If I lose it, I have to pay another 60 Euros.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I have officially been in Spain for a week and it feels more like a day. It seems like I was immediately swept up in this new craziness as soon as I landed and it is hard to really wrap my head around all of it. This first week has definitely not been a good representation of how the rest of my year is going to go. Next week I have orientation and then I start working at the school by the end of the week. I'm actually pretty anxious for a routine.

The biggest thing that is going to change is going to be the loss of "the Colombians". I think I mentioned before that there are four Colombians staying with us while they present their thesis' at their University in the city. Well, I've come to really love them as we've all been kind of like a family this last week. We all eat most of our meals together and we all hang out in the apartment at night. Today I spent all day with them in Majadahonda, which I'll say a little bit more about in a minute. The whole experience has been a lot like a home-stay. Their names are John, Adriana, Jorge and Lucy. John and Adriana are both about 30 years old and they are married with a newborn at home. Jorge is in his 30s and Lucy I would say is probably in her late 50s or 60s. Lucy has basically taken on the role of grandmother to me. She calls me for meals and she takes care of me whenever we all walk around the city. She's incredibly sweet. The others have been like older siblings and have been really fun to hang out with. They have a lot of patience and take time to explain lots of things to me, sometimes 3 times before I finally understand.

As I'm typing this Adriana is trying to show me how to dance salsa. haha I don't know if she's expecting me to try but I think I'm going to pass.

Anyway, I'm really going to miss having them around.

You won't believe what one of my biggest challenges has been. I brought with me a set of hair clippers because that's how I trim my beard. For the first 5 days I didn't have an adapter that fit so my facial hair has just been growing out of control. In the States I wouldn't really worry about it because I think that kind of thing is a bit more accepted. Here, everyone is clean-shaven so I've been walking around feeling like Wolfman. Anyway, I finally got the adapter and yesterday I went to use it and I failed to realize that the outlets here put out 220 volts and we use about half that in the US. Luckily, the clippers didn't break but they made sure I was aware something was wrong with the amount of noise they were making. So today I asked the Colombians about it and we found a transformer that cuts the voltage in half, but since I already supercharged the motor in the clippers, they now always make that noise. Awesome.

Majadahonda is almost like Madrid's equivalent to Rockville or Silver Spring. It doesn't look the same, but there's a huge shopping center there and the residential areas there are very, very nice. I wasn't able to find the school that I teach at, but we tried. The only problem is Majadahonda is pretty far out of the city so I will have a hefty commute to work, but there's not much I can do about that.

Anyway, that's all for now. There has not yet been a time when I haven't felt God's protection and guidance here in Spain so I'm very grateful for that. Thanks for all of the prayers. Let me know if there's anything you want to hear more about. It's hard to know what's interesting enough to put in the blog.

*Pictures: 1. The best picture I could find of Majadahonda on the internet. It doesn't really show the part we were at, but at least it gives you something. 2. Me and Lucy tonight after dinner. Adriana was playing with my camera and we weren't paying much attention so we weren't smiling. I promise we were having fun.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Just watched last week's episode of The Office and thought it was hilarious.

Yesterday I hung out with Hugo most of the day. He was showing me a lot of the art that he has done and he introduced me to his favorite artist, Francis Bacon. We have similar tastes in art and it was actually really fun hearing him explain what he saw in the paintings.

After looking at the paintings he took me to some of the neighborhood's grocery stores and we bought a bunch of food. It's a long walk to the stores and we had so much food that my fingers almost fell off.

Last night I went and met up with my friend Erin who is in the same program as me and we actually had a class together my last semester at Maryland. She had been in contact with other auxiliars (that's what we're called) and so there were about 7 of us that went out to dinner together. They're a great group and I hope to hang out with them more.

So my biggest problem right now is that I am still sleeping like I'm in the United States. I didn't do a good job of adjusting my first few nights and since there have been a few times that I've stayed out late, I'm still not getting tired until about 4 or 5am. Today I actually slept until about 1:30pm, so I need to fix that.

The excitement of the transition is wearing off a little bit and while I'm always going to be excited to be here, I'm starting to miss a lot of people. Oh! I forgot to mention this the other day: the day that I flew out, mom and dad surprised me by telling me that they're bringing me home for Christmas! That was such awesome news and it has made it seem less daunting to be here for only about 3 months before visiting home. So I will see some of you then!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fast Food breakdown

Let me just preface this post by saying I'm sorry that it is so long, but there was a lot to tell.

Ok, so now that things have slowed down a little bit for me I can give a real update. It is currently Sunday afternoon around 5:15 pm and a lot has happened since I flew out on Thursday. I'm not going to bore everyone with intense details but I'll give some highlights.

While waiting for my flight from Amsterdam to Madrid, a kid sat down next to me and pulled out Blue Like Jazz, which is a great book and I told him I had read it and we became friends. Turns out he's on his way to Salamanca to study abroad and also do campus ministries there. So that was pretty cool.

Through a series of contacts I was put in touch with a family living here in Madrid. Larry is an American who married a British woman named Maryan and they now live in Spain with their 5 kids. They picked me up from the airport, brought me to their home, fed me, gave me some advice about living in Spain, gave me a place to sleep off my jet-lag and helped me get in touch with my landlord and brought me to my apartment the next day. I mean, I'm not sure there is a better way to transition into living in a new country.

Through ANOTHER series of contacts I found my new landlord, name Hugo, who is a Colombian artist living here in the city. He had a room in his apartment that he was renting for a great price, so that's where I am now. I think if it had not been for Larry and Maryan, I would have been very intimidated about coming to the new apartment because Hugo doesn't really speak English. However, since I was able to have that day to recover I was feeling ready to jump into things and it has been awesome! Hugo is SUPER nice and my Spanish is holding up way better than I thought it would.

So last night was something called La noche en blanco. This is basically an annual festival that they hold in September during the full moon. I haven't been able to figure out exactly what is behind the celebration, but essentially there are lots of art exhibits and people play music and dance everywhere downtown. So, Hugo has some Colombian friends staying in our apartment because they are all preparing for a big test tomorrow for their PhD's. Hugo left for a bible study last night and they came into my room and asked if I would like to go with them to see some of the festivities. In my head I was like "that will be kinda awkward since you guys don't speak English and I barely speak Spanish." Out loud I was like "...SURE!" As it turns out, my Spanish was good enough to have a great time with them and they took turns trying to introduce themselves in English which was hilarious.

Here's the part where some of you are going to make fun of me. The first thing they wanted to do was eat because they were hungry. I was kinda starving so this was fine with me. However... the place they wanted to eat, ironically, was Burger King... As some of you know, I gave up fast food last September and just celebrated a year without it. I tried to explain that to them, but I don't think I made it clear enough that I seriously NEVER eat it anymore. Soo.... they bought me a whopper meal... and I ate it. hahaha I don't even feel bad about it though because I was having so much fun and they were taking such good care of me while taking me around the city so I gladly ate my first fast food burger in over a year. I don't plan on making a habit of it.

While I was at the Piano's house (Larry and Maryan), I met a friend of theirs named Anna who is from Atlanta and just did 2 years of Young Life here in Madrid. She is leaving to go back to the states tomorrow so before she left she offered to bring me to the church she has gone to. I met up with her this morning and we walked to her church which was incredible. It's a Spanish church, but it was very much like church in the United States. They played a few of the worship songs that we sing, only in Spanish. I almost teared up a few times because there's something very powerful about singing those same songs in a different language. It definitely gives you more of an understanding about how the church is a family. It's also a reminder that God lives in Madrid too and I don't ever have to feel like I'm apart from Him here. Does that make any sense?

Here's a funny story from church that illustrates the constant awkwardness of living in a country with a different language: After the service a guy walked up to me and said something to me, while shaking my hand. Now, I thought he said 'Dios te bendiga' (God bless you) which is a common thing people say to each other, but I still have no clue if that's actually what he said. I said 'y tu tambien' and then he said something else I didn't understand and walked away. I just have this feeling that in his mind that conversation was very different than what it was in my mind. You never go very long without feeling like a moron in these situations, but that's just a part of the experience and I've decided to embrace it and share it with all of you to have a laugh over.

Ok, I realize this is super long but I think this whole process of getting settled is one of the most important parts of the whole thing so I wanted you all to get a sense of how my last few days have been. Thanks for reading!


*Pictures: My room, The obligatory picture of my plane over the Atlantic, The city during La noche en blanco, My Colombian friends working to get ready for their exams. More Pictures