Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Country Full of Empty Churches:

I went to Catholic Mass in the third largest Gothic Cathedral in the world today.
It's only about a fifteen minute walk from where I live.
I kind of can't believe that.

La Misa de la Catedral de Sevilla, España.

Immense columns hold up the church's ceilings- lofted by arches and ornately decorated. A small gathering of people assembled in a couple dozen pews that face an altar and a wall of gold. An altar stood blanketed in white, in front of the wall of sculptures portraying the life of Christ.

The Priest stood. The people stood. Then kneeled. Then stood again. There were no hymnals or books or any things of the sort. There was a huge cross hanging above it all, the image of Christ suffering on it.

The parishioners and Priest took turns reciting the memorized service. Then there was a sermon.

My Spanish is improving, I really think it must be. I'm pretty sure I would have been able to understand a lot of the sermon, that is, if I hadn't been so distracted by all of this...

It was kind of nice though. I mean, I love to listen to a good Law/Gospel Sermon, but this building reflects God's grandeur. It shows his power. I let the Spanish phrases slide across my mind and just reveled in his creation. He is our everlasting fortress, holding us until he comes again, just as the stone has lasted to house his worshipers for centuries,

God loves old things, beautiful things, ornate things, but mostly he loves human-things.

There are a lot of churches in Sevilla. Every plaza practically has one (and there are a lot of plazas). When I first toured the Catedral earlier this week, the guide told us that though the building is huge, it never has many worshipers at Mass. Spain is a very secular society. You can see that in advertisements and commercials and in the lifestyles of the people as well. Why aren't there more Christian missionaries focused on urban or Western nations?

I live with an older, more traditional, more conservative Señora who goes to Mass every week. I think it's a blessing probably to live with Consuelo. I have so much to be thankful for here. In a foreign culture, there are still people who know the Sacrifice that Jesus has born on the cross for them. Brothers and sisters, thanking God for his forgiveness of sins and receiving Holy Communion. As the semester goes on, I'm sure I'll have more insights and stories about religion in Spain. Right now, it seems like this is a Country full of empty Churches. I am thankful just to walk inside of them and remember that he crossed the ocean with me earlier this month.

Also- I'm praying for you.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pieces of my days thus far:

Our first week in Sevilla, we've had some presentations, but most of the time we've been walking around the city, getting lost, and trying to find landmarks/the University/the CIEE study center/our homestays. Not only do my feet hurt at the end of the day, but I've also taken a lot of photos from these walks, most of which you can see on my facebook page.

Here is a montage of different sights around the city, everyday while I walk.

Things I see every day:

A bird's eye view from my 9th story apartment in Triana barrio of Sevilla

Los naranjos: a type of orange tree. All over the city, so beautiful. The fruit is bitter, apparently. They line sidewalks and plazas.

Bike paths. They are part of the sidewalks, but designated by the green paint and white lines as paths for bikes only. If you walk on them, you get fined like 90 euro. More than 100 dollars. This is a great city for bikes, though, I'm thinking about renting one because my walk to class Monday through Thursday is going to be about 40-60 minutes.

El Rio Guadalquivir. The River between downtown (El Centro) and my barrio (neighborhood, Triana). I walk across el Puente de Isabel Segunda everyday, either to class or the Palacio (study center) or for shopping in El Centro. I run along the river and the row of houses on the right side of the picture. One of my favorite things about Sevilla.

Night view:

Haiku of the Day:

Walk across Seville
on the narrow roads of stone
lost, but quite content.

During our walking tour around the city, our guide- a lifetime Sevillana -got lost for a little while trying to find our next location. I think I'm starting to figure out my routes, with the help of a map. We'll see if I'm ever to class on time next week. Intensive grammar begins Monday! There were pre-departure tests to determine levels before we left. Our whole group is considered "advanced", but is split into a lower, medium, and high levels of competency for intensive classes. I tested into the top level of the medium group, which I am really excited about! But I have so much to work on. Consuelo has to repeat herself so much for me to understand her. Class starts Monday. God willing, I'll be able to find it...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Managerie of Sevilla

CIEE orientaion:
So much information
So much walking
So much speaking (Unfortunately, I often have to force people in my program to speak Spanish rather than English. I wonder about other students' priorities for this trip...seems like they enjoy "los chupitos" more than anything. More on that later).

Churches (iglesias católicas)
Orange trees (los naranjos)
Beauty (el rio Guadalquivir durante la noche)
Life (El Centro en media del dia)

...Also, they say 'Vale' and a lot.
(Pronounced bah-le more or less. Similar to 'Okay/Okay?'. If you don't know how to respond to something a sevillano has said, then just say 'vale' and you'll be good.)

My Homestay:
Triana. Across the river, with a bridge called "El Puente de Isabel II" (It's not 'Isabel Dos' but 'Isabel Segunod', my senora told me).
Small apartment, ninth floor, building 14.
Small bedroom, tiled floor. (They don't heat their houses very well here, so it's cold all the time. There's a table in the living room that has a space heater under it and a blanket over it, like a table cloth. We sit on the couch, with the blanket on our laps. A little cave of warmth. I wear a lot of layers and hard-soled slippers. Zapatillos.)

My Señora:
Consuelo Bernal Sanchez.
Mid- to late-60's. Catholic. (I'm going to mass - la misa - with her soon!)
Lives alone, besides me. Husband, deceased.
Two sons, Francisco lives in China to study Chinese (The reason she has WiFi - pronounced 'wee-fee' here - to skype with him. Also I rarely can get it to work.)
One daughter.
Many grandchildren. (who I can't wait to meet.)

*New Address*

Antonio Rodriguez Zeppelin 14 9b

41004 Sevilla, Spain

Excursion options:

(I need your help deciding! It is very possible that I am going to be able to plan my own trips to Bilbao and Lisboa with a friend or two during the semester. But for Morocco, it's now or never.)

-Bilbao, España. Art museums, northern Spain, modern meets ancient, France meets Spain.

-Lisbao, Portugal (Lisbon). Spain and it's neighbors. International relations of Spain. Chamber of Commerce of Gibraltar. (

-Morocco, África. (Maruecos) Sevilla's heritage: Bull fighting, Flamenco music/dancing, Islam, Spanish/Moroccan food, Fiestas de España (El feria de Abril y Santa Semana).

What do yall think?

Stay tuned in. Photographs coming soon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

European Adventures? : A Really Long Post About Waiting Around in an Airport

I just spent over 15 hours inside the Madrid Airport, yesterday.
No Wifi. Cancelled Flights. Long lines. Spanish.

(Mucha niebla. I don't think I'll ever forget the word for fog.)

At least, I think it was yesterday. I can't really remember. . . Yes, if I had to guess, then I'd say it was yesterday. (Sorry if this post is absurd - I'm sure it will be - I went to bed at 3:30 am or something.)

I had a lovely flight from Seattle to JFK and then from JFK to Madrid. Sure they were long, but they were also pretty empty, on-time, and, on the last leg, I sat next to a 24 year old Israelite man named Ellie (I don't know how you spell it in Hebrew) who was returning from visiting his American girlfriend. We talked about how great Christmas is. Ironic, to say the least. (Quick questions: do you call Isreali Jews "Israelites" anymore? Or was that just an Old Testament thing?) Those 6 and 7 hour flights were wonderful. Surprisingly the 1 hour flight to Sevilla gave me the most grief.

There were a lot of Americans in my CIEE study abroad program connecting to Sevilla from Madrid, so we kind of all sat down in a big mob by some computer monitors to wait for our gate to be assigned. I'm sure people were annoyed by the loud Americans, sitting around discussing Taylor Swift and . I was annoyed by us, even. But we were in Spain, so I found some girls from the group who were actually speaking Spanish, and hung around with them. Until we got too tired for Spanish.

We sat around. We stood in lines. Unlike America, the airport doesn't really explain anything to you about a potentially cancelled/delayed flight. They assign a gate an hour before the flight leaves. You wait around for the assignment, if it doesn't appear then you go wait line at the information desk. We waited for about three hours in line. And got assigned a flight for nine hours later.

A girl I met compared the nightmareish situation to an episode of the twilight zone, in which toys donated to the Salvation Army come alive and can't except the basket that holds them. But I finally made it to Sevilla. My bag didn't (it arrived two hours ago), but hey, it just reminded me that there is more to life than superficial things like shoes.

Now, sitting here in my hotel room, it still feels like I fell into some sort of weird American made for TV movie about studying abroad in Europe. I keep expecting Mary Kate and Ashley Oslen to pop out from behind an orange trees and ask me for directions to Paris. The city just has that kind of vibrance and surreal effect.

There was no fog here today. It was quite sunny and wonderful.

I move into my homestay tomorrow. I will be living with a Señora in the "Trianas" district of Spain, across the river from the Universidad y study center.

More on that later.