Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I had this great quotation from a chick flick to put here and now I can't remember it.

Yesterday, a friend from home asked me if I was lonely here. And suddenly I found the perfect adjective to describe my spiritual life here. God is here. I am here. And I long to see more of his action. I know that he is moving in my life and changing me as I live here. I can see that happening in small ways here and there. And I'm not looking for anything big or grandiose. What I want and long for is Jesus, radically Jesus. I'm learning to see him in the little things-the cute older people at Mass on Sundays and the people around me who might not know Him but they do know a bit of what love is. I want to be safe in the arms of Love and to know that I am safe and loved. Unfortunately, I am NOT serving a tame Lion and that will not happen. But I also want dynamite and that's an explosive, so I'm really not going to be safe. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle...
But I am lonely. And that is something on which the Enemy feeds. As Wormtongue said in The Two Towers, "Oh, but you are alone. Who knows what you have spoken to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all your life seems to shrink, the walls of your bower closing in about you, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in? So fair, yet so cold like a morning of pale Spring still clinging to Winter's chill." The Enemy longs to make us feel alone and abandoned. But these words are poison. I may not see God here but he is here. I am not alone; I am simply lonely. God will never abandon me.

In other news, I had some good times with Gabriel and Daniela last night. We had fish for dinner and while Marian (Maria Antonia, who will now be referred to as "Marian" despite having been previously referred to as "Antonia.") was removing the "espinas" from the fish, Gabriel told me that at his grandmother's house, they always give the cats the bones of the fish so they can eat the scraps. And then he remembered that I have a cat. (I've shown him pictures of Rina before.) So he wanted to know if Rina might like to have the bones from our fish. I supposed that she might, so he wanted to know if he could give them to her. I reminded him that Rina was very far away so he wanted to mail the bones to her. His father told him that he could send her the bones with a note that said "Para Rina" which means "For Rina" but they would probably rot and stink before they got to Rina. And then Rina would not want them. So we will not be sending Miss Kitten any fish bones. But the little guy does think about her. I think he wants her to come visit us. He also wants a dog and his mother does not.
I've been working on this post for close to an hour and a half. I multitask WAY too much. But yeah, that's always been the way I am.
In other news, whilst I am not eager to go home or longing to immediately return to the States immediately, I do desperately miss people. I miss coffee dates and laughter over stupid things and a lot of other things. People can feel free to mail themselves to me. You can sleep in the bathroom; it's almost comfortable.

Monday, September 29, 2008

But I've never harmed an onion, so why do they make me cry?

I don’t like being left home alone. I’d just like to throw that out there. I think my family knows that. I’m not a huge fan of being alone a lot. But this weekend, I was home alone all weekend. I hung out with friends quite a bit, which was awesome. But I didn’t like being home alone in this big apartment. I have great prayer times when I’m alone. And I get to listen to more Peter Kreeft. (By the way, he is ABSOLUTELY amazing.) But I don’t like being alone all weekend. I sleep more, which is probably good for me. But it’s still being alone.

I’ve been having some computer problems and it appears that Dell will not be able to help me out until after I get back from Spain. Dell has people in Spain but there are records of the work that has already been done to Mr. Darcy back in the U.S. that are crucial to doing any work on this delightful friend of mine. So please pray that this computer can survive the next two and a half months.

I’ve been here for almost a month; it’ll be that on Thursday. And I’m learning a few things here. God has a plan for me here; he brought me here for a reason. I just don’t know what it is yet. But I know that I’m here for a reason; I know that this season of my life is occurring for a reason. I am in Spain because this is where he wants me. But why? That’s my big question. I know that I’m growing and changing while I’m here. But I wonder what I am here to do. And I am desperate for signs of God. I find them in the oddest places.

There are conversations with friends and fingers of peanut butter in the absence of spoons. There was a day spent in conversation with a Christian girl from Grand Rapids who is over here as a nanny for a friend of my host mom. And that relationship promises to bear more fruit. There are group hugs from girls I didn’t know a month ago. There are Skype conversations with my brother. There are emails and facebook chats with good friends.

Sometimes I wonder if people in America have forgotten about me or decided to ignore me until I get home. I know that’s a stupid thought but sometimes that is really how I feel over here. I miss people at home; there are times, especially when I’m alone for long periods of time like this weekend, when I feel very abandoned and alone. I don’t want to be forgotten; I don’t want to be ignored. I need reminders that you guys are still there for me. I cannot do this on my own. I’ve learned to go inside myself and seek for Christ because he never will abandon me. But that is hard. And sometimes it really helps to have someone do something as simple as tease me or say “Hey, I hope you have a good day.” Three strands of cord cannot be easily torn. (Where in the Bible is that from? I think it’s from Ezekiel but where?) One strand of cord can break very easily. And, as I was reminded by a Peter Kreeft talk, friendship is one of the greatest weapons we have against evil. Beer may be the proof that God loves and he wants us to be happy but friendship is a weapon against evil. And Spain is known for their wine, not their beer. I don’t like being alone. I don’t like feeling abandoned. And I don’t want to beg people to notice me and pay attention to me either. If that’s what works for you while I’m gone, that’s fine. But it’s hard for me; that’s all I’m trying to say. I do not want people to tell me that they’re going to support me and pray for me while I’m gone and then completely and totally ignore me while I’m gone. Just be honest with me, please.

I also ask you to pray for me here. I am struggling to fight for the culture of life. I listen to people mock Christians who have large families and I cringe. They have no idea that they only make me want to have a bigger family. (Alex, you have ten boys; I’ll have 11 girls. Does this still work for you?) These people are wrong when they say that we Christians want to breed soldiers for Jesus Christ. Well, we are producing soldiers for the culture war but you are off on the moon and not aware of the fact that we’re at war. And we are fighting on the side of Jesus Christ. But that’s not why we have large families. We do it from a love of children and a love of God’s gift of life.

And then today, I listened to a Christian friend say that abortion didn’t affect her so she didn’t see why we needed to act against it. It wasn’t affecting her, so she didn’t need to oppose it. Hi, let me introduce you to my friend, Rachel…who isn’t here because she was aborted. One-third of your generation is missing and you don’t think abortion isn’t affecting you. Well, you really are on the moon. I like you very much but you are off on the moon. Do I sound callous? I’m sorry. You’re alive; Rachel and millions of other children are not. Let’s respect our deceased siblings. We are a generation that is called to prepare the way of the Lord; I really firmly believe this. And part of that call is to step out in faith and defend the defenseless. You may never have an abortion but abortion has still touched your life. Look around you; in the U.S., one-third of your generation has been murdered. We are in the trenches of the culture war. It is life vs. death and our society is on the line. The enemy is waiting in the wings whispering lies in your ear. He will lull you into complacency and inaction. And the trenches will continue to fill up with the corpses of dead babies. They have a right to life and they lost it due to selfishness and human pride.

And this makes me both angry and sad. Abortion may touch your life in ways that you never expected. Take St. Gianna Molla for example. I highly doubt that she ever thought that abortion would ever be an option for her life. But then she was diagnosed with uterine cancer while pregnant. And suddenly, her doctors were recommending abortion; it would save her life. But it would take the life of her unborn baby. Gianna chose life. She asked that all possible efforts be made to save her own life and that of her child. Her daughter was born and St. Gianna died shortly thereafter.

We are alive. We can protect the lives of our unborn brothers and sisters. We protect the lives of children once they are outside the womb. (Well, okay, some people support infanticide and that is horrifying. Life is a gift from God and we NEVER have a right to take it. I don’t care what you think is “wrong” with your baby. We never have a right to begin or end life; that belongs to God.) Abortion touches all of our lives whether or not we know it or see it.

St. Gianna Molla, pray for us. We need God’s help and mercy.

Oh and if you were wondering what was up with the onions, last night the family got back at like 10 or 10:30, close to when I was going to bed, because after all I am lamer than lame. Anyway, they started cooking something with onions in it and it was so strong, my eyes were just welling up and they hurt so badly. So I took my pillow and slept on the bathroom floor for about an hour until the onions were all gone. But why do they make me cry?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Politics and a brief Update

So I'm not in the U.S., so I don't know everything that's going on with the economy and politics. However, I have been trying to keep up with the news as best I can. And Donal's most recent blog post, which can be read here, enlightened me and helped me. I have to agree with what he says. And after reading the news today, I have to say that our country is in pretty crappy stuff. I'm not crazy about McCain but now is NOT the time for the Messiah who wants Power. As I recall the Messiah is supposed to be the Suffering Servant, not demanding power and saying "Hey, look at me. I'm amazing." And I'm not a fan of Biden simply because I like it when Catholic politicians actually live their freaking faith and follow the teachings of the Catholic Church. (Let's all review very quickly; the Catholic Church is opposed to abortion.) I like Palin; I think she's pretty amazing. And I've never really liked McCain and I'm really afraid he'll die in office. But hey...Matt Damon doesn't know everything; maybe Palin would be a good president.

Life here is Spain is pretty great. I love living with Gabriel and Daniela; they're such sweethearts. And I'm not making dinner tonight. I've been postponed to next week due to the fact that no one is going to be home for dinner tonight. But I have something to look forward to next week. And I get to go to the candy store with Melanie, Jessica, and Reba tonight. Trips to the candy store are always amazing.
This weekend, I'm getting together with Kim, the nanny of one of Antonia's friends. Kim is actually from Grand Rapids and went to GVSU. And I met her once last spring. But we were put in contact by Antonia. Crazy, huh?
Other than that, I have a lot of "deberes," or homework, to do. It's not going to be the most fun on record. But I'll live. Next weekend, we're going to the south of France, which should be fun. And the weekend after that I'm going to Vitoria to visit the community; I'm SUPER excited about that. And I'm officially on for visiting the Joys in early November. I told Antonia about it last night and she was like "Can you afford that?" So I explained that I just bought myself a student Eurorail pass which allows me unlimited travel for ten days over the next two months. And hopefully I'll be hitting Rome Thanksgiving weekend.
God is good.
I'm having computer troubles, unfortunately, but I'm going to try calling Dell tonight. Maybe they can help me out. Or maybe they'll give me a new computer since I'm still under warranty for another two years. We'll see.
And random fact of the day: I really like talking to people from home. Yesterday morning, I got to talk to Alex K. and that made me happy. I like being reminded that there are people back home who are praying for me and support me in my life and decisions. Skype anyone? If you make an appointment with me, I can skype Monday-Thursday at 7pm. And I can do phone calls then.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If C.S. Lewis were alive, I'd totally marry him.

Yes, I mean that.
Last night during my prayer time, I was inspired to listen to a Peter Kreeft talk and found an amazing quotation.
"War amounts to saying 'let's all get into funny looking uniforms and go out and kill each other tomorrow morning.'"
I'm not sure that's exactly right but more or less...that's what happens.
I bring this up because we need to talk about ETA. There have been a few bombings over here lately and at least one person has been killed. We're fine and safe here as of right now. If anything changes, I'm sure that the U.S. Embassy will get us out of here.

Anyway....life here is going well. School is really starting to pick up. I'm reading books and writing essays and yesterday I spent probably four or five hours in my room just doing homework. But I still have a mother who worries about me and fusses over me. And I think Antonia finally understands that I don't like going out clubbing at night.
And it looks like (once I type up the syllabus) I'm going to be able to transfer my grammar class back to GVSU as a phonetics class. So life is good.
Gabriel sticks his hands in my water glass every night or tries to steal my food. And Daniela is a drama queen, much like I was at her age.
But hey...life is good. And so are side hugs.
And on Friday I'm getting together with a Christian girl who is working as a nanny for my host mom's friend. And this girl happens to be from Grand Rapids. And I met her once before. It's so random but so amazing. And I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

White Roses are needed.

I’ve been here for three weeks now and I can’t wait to come home and share all of my experiences with you back home. I can’t wait to show you pictures and tell you stories behind them. I can do that a little bit here but it will be so much better when we’re all in one place and I can sit there and just talk to you for hours on end. I can tell you how much little things like emails really helped me when I was homesick. I will tell you how much finding a Starbucks in Madrid really meant to me. I’ll tell you how hard I laughed when I found videos of Greg and Alex playing old-school community songs on my laptop. I want to go out to coffee with everyone and show you my pictures. I want to tell Steve Logan about the guy who looked just like him and acted nothing like him. There were way too many random Spanish guys who looked a lot like Alex and Kyle.

Spain is wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I’m learning so much here and not just in school or about all things Spanish. I’m also learning about myself and what certain things mean to me. This past weekend, when I couldn’t go to Mass because I didn’t know Madrid well enough to just go off to Mass by myself, I knew had a traveler’s dispensation but it still made me so sad. It means so much to me here. I don’t completely understand the Mass here but it is the Mass. I’m realizing the Real Presence so much more here. I think because it is the one part of every Mass that I really and truly know and understand. I know what those words “Este es mi cuerpo” and “Esta es mi sangre” mean. And that means the world to me. I see it and I know it and I believe it. And I love that church, San Vicente Martir. It’s so beautiful and it makes me feel like I’m really close to God.

I found out when I’m going to Vitoria. I’m going to be there from October 10 to the twelfth. I get to go to a prayer meeting and a community meal, which I’m guessing is something like a Lord’s Day. I’m also going to get to just spend time with some of the younger people/families in the community. It sounds really amazing and I’m really excited about it. I’m really looking forward to getting to meet these people and see what community life is like in Europe. I want to experience this side of community but also just to meet some people who have the same love of God and passion for charismatic worship that I do.

And then I’m looking at heading to Austria the first full weekend of November to see Katie Joy. And that will also be great. I like seeing people especially when it also means getting to go to another country. I want to see the world. I also want Majorcan pearls. But that’s another story and I don’t know if I can get them in Bilbao anyway.

One thing that I miss that I never really thought I’d miss is honorable guys. Here, as in most places, they’re few and far between. It makes me miss and appreciate the guys I know that much more. I think I’ve taken them for granted at some level. I have always known that they were the exception to the rule but I haven’t realized how much of an exception they really were until these past three weeks. Here, it’s rare to have guys honor you and respect you in a chivalrous manner. The guys in the CIDE program and the guys that I encounter around Bilbao and Spain aren’t the type who would consider the emotional ramifications of looking or speaking to a girl in a specific way. They don’t acknowledge what a look or a word or a dance means to a girl. Or if they do, they don’t care. It makes me appreciate side hugs more. But it also makes me appreciate guys who work to honor their sisters in their speech and in their actions.

In fantastic news, I’m making dinner for my host family on Thursday. I’m making Mrs. Kilpatrick’s meatloaf, which is amazing and hopefully I can do a good job of making it. We had an interesting discussion last night about what I wanted/needed to make it though. I need what we Americans call “salsa” but here that word refers to all sauces so I had to explain that I need “salsa Mexicana.” And then I had to explain what the ingredients were and that I could make it if she couldn’t buy it. That meant that I had to explain what jalapeños are. I was having trouble with that and we ended up looking them up in an encyclopedia. But then we realized that you could probably buy it here in Spain since you can make tacos and stuff like that here.

Above all, what I want here is to grow closer to God and become better with Spanish language, literature and culture. And right now, I'm doing pretty well with the Spanish but I'm really struggling with the God thing. I need to listen to more of Dr. Peter Kreeft.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Feliz Cumpleanos a Lauren

Since I did this for Jenny, I'll do it for Lauren. Happy Birthday!

Madrid y Toledo

First off, pictures won't be appearing until tomorrow. I haven't loaded them unto the computer yet. But the trip was wonderful. I liked Madrid and I loved Toledo. I think I need big cities but not too big. I wasn't a huge fan of Madrid; it was fun to visit but I couldn't live there. But they do have Starbucks there and Bilbao doesn't have Starbucks at all. And I really like a coffee shop where I can talk to the baristas and joke around with friends. And I haven't found that here. Here, that's more of a bar/club thing and I'm really not a bar/club person.
We saw a lot of things in Madrid: el Palacio Real, where the Royal Family does NOT live anymore and where you can NOT take pictures, la Catadral Moderna, el Mueso del Prado, las Austrias de Madrid, la Puerta del Sol, la Plaza de Espana (which was kind of by accident), and la Plaza Mayor. We also saw Real Madrid's stadium from the bus. It was beautiful and wonderful. We also went to this seven floor club (La Kapitol) and if you're ever in Madrid, DO NOT GO. It's crowded, gross, and not that exciting. And it's a 20 euro cover fee for entrance and one drink. It's not worth it.
In Toledo we saw a the Cathedral, which was beautiful but would have been more enjoyable if we had not had the most obnoxious tour guide in the history of ever. I was tired and I didn't give a too-da-lee-doo about what kind of architecture the organ was; I just wanted to pray and look around. We got to explore the city a bit and I saw some gorgeous things.
Side note: I bought postcards for Allison, Alex, and Kyle in both Madrid and Toledo but I think I lost them in our hotel, so you people will all have to just live with my pictures.
Anyway, in Toledo they sell Mallorcan pearls and I was tempted to buy some. But I didn't. But htey aren't that expensive. I was looking for an icon of San Jose for the Perrotas (Kevin and Louise there) but they didn't have one.
We came home yesterday and I'm glad to be back. I love my family here and I missed the kiddos while I was gone.
I'll post more later when I'm not so tired.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Permiso y el tiempo

I'm now giving you a Spanish lesson. "Permiso"means "Permission" and "tiempo" means "weather." These two words relate very much so to my life these days.
Last night, after an AMAZING Skype date with Greg and Clarissa, I went home and had dinner. During dinner, I discovered that yesterday Daniela had her first "deberes" or homework of her life and she wrote her first five words! I'm so proud of her. Her first written word ever was "uva," which means grape. And Gabi is still convinced that "you have to go to bed soon" means "let's do gymnastics on the couch." But they are darlings and someday I will get pictures of them.
Also during dinner, Antonia and I had a discussion about the differences in "tiempo" or weather between Spain and Michigan. Here, they freak out over a dusting of snow and get worried when the temperature gets close to zero degrees Celcius. I was describing Michigan winters to her and she was stunned. They just aren't used to that kind of stuff over here.

And then there's "permiso." I hear this about ten or twenty times every day. Sometimes it's Gabi or Dani asking for permission to come into my room, which they almost always get. Other times it's someone needing to come get the laundry off the drying rack outside. And then there is Carol, la ninera. Now, let me make something clear here. I LOVE Carol; I think she's amazing. But she's so proper and formal around me. And I'm seven years younger than her. But because she works for my "parents" she has to be very respectful of me. She asks me for permission to enter the dining room/play room while I'm eating. Yesterday I had to give her permission to start eating the main course of "La Comida," or the main meal of the day, before me because I was still eating bread. It's so weird. I'm not really comfortable at all with the idea of servants. She asked me yesterday if my family in the U.S. had a housekeeper and I said no. She asked me who cooked all our meals and was slightly shocked when I told her my mom did.

But I really do like living here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Everyone loves politics!

I'm currently hanging around campus waiting for a noon meeting with my adviser. And I'm thinking about home and people's birthdays and all that junk. But that's mostly because today is Jenny's birthday and I'm not in the U.S. to call her or anything. But hey, I did blog about it! And I remember the twins' half-birthday but that's only because once Jenny and I were on FB and we noted that they are exactly eighteen months older than her. I don't usually remember half-birthdays. But I used to think that the crystal ball in Times Square was for my half-birthday. I think half-birthdays are really more for little kids who can't make it a whole 365/366 days from one birthday to the next.
Yesterday, after lunch, I was talking to Antonia and somehow we got on the subject of U.S. Politics and she started asking me my opinion of Obama vs. McCain. She was telling me about how Europeans don't really like Bush and they see McCain as a continuation of Bush, which I guess makes sense. On the other hand, Obama is a huge change from Bush, so they like that. And he's young and he claims to be all about change. But then she was telling me about Spanish politics. She doesn't like Zapatero, the current president, because he's too liberal. Now, I don't know much about Zapatero, but I'm guessing that if she thinks he's too liberal, she would probably think Obama was too liberal too. Politics are frustrating. But I don't know of any better way to do things.
Have a wonderful hump day!

Happy Birthday, Jenny!


I know this picture is terribly old but I had to put this up.
Happy birthday, gorgeous!
I promise I'll come home for your 21st birthday....
Please buy yourself some "hooker boots" someday soon.

And it's Alex's and Kyle's half-birthday. But we're only acknowledging that because I wanted to use this picture. For more, you'll have to wait six more months.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another Unprepared Post

So it's starting to get a bit chilly in Bilbao. Unfortunately, I have to open the bathroom window every morning after I shower to deal with condensation and such. It helps air out the bathroom and all that. (There's no fan in the bathroom.)
This also means that Carol has to dry all the laundry in the house, which is interesting seeing where she finds places to hang up your socks (the radiator) or your shirt is on a chair...but it's soaking wet.
Gabriel and Daniela are now full-time students. This means that I eat my main meal of the day with Carol, which is fun. I really like her. She's fun to talk to and she doesn't scream (like Gabi) every two seconds. The other part of the kids being in school is that they are much more tired at night. Last night, Antonia wasn't home for supper, so it was just me, Angel, an artist, and a dog. The artist loved her lasagna and ate three pieces of it but no salad. The dog didn't want to eat his lasagna at all but managed to get it down somehow. And then the dog wanted to eat "galletas con leche" but then didn't. It was all very interesting. And then a horse took the artist and put her in her bed so her father (who had to transport the dog to bed).
If you're interested, I had hamburger meat with ketchup and some salad and a pear for dinner last night. They're really good about accommodating my milk-retardedness here.
Gabriel loves to pretend that he's a pirate or a dog, usually a dog. But when he's a dog, he climbs all over me and licks me...a lot. He licks my legs and my face and my arms. It's all very interesting...and slightly disgusting. He's such a sweetie but a little bit ridiculous. And he's (typical of a kid his age) very cranky when tired, which is nightly now that he's in school.
And Dani is so cute and loving and affectionate. It's great. They love coming in my room and climbing all over me and jumping on my bed. I love it. Someday soon I'll get pictures of them and post them up here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Deeply Shallow!

“I resent that! I am deeply shallow…”
-Fiyero from Wicked
Fridays: We’re always grateful for them. But they’re usually pretty interesting days. Take mine for example. I got up, took a shower, ate breakfast, and played with Gabriel until he went to his grandmother’s house. Then I did some homework. Carol and Gabi got home. Gabi and I looked at some stuff on my computer. Then he played on my bed for a while. After that we had lunch. And then we played some more until he left with his mom (and the rest of his family) to go see Angel’s parents for the weekend. After more homework, I went out looking for a Catholic church that is supposedly nearby and never found it. Then I went to Zubiarte, Bilbao’s big shopping mall with a friend. After that we watched Shrek 2 in Spanish; the only cast member who is the same is Antonio Banderas, a national hero or something over here. After that, we went to Telepizza for dinner and then headed to a nearby bar/club/thing for this concert that a bunch of people from CIDE were going to be at. (Somewhere in there, I also finally figured out how to call the U.S. on my cell phone and called my mother. Unfortunately, that call was cut short by being dragged into this bar thing.)
And this is why I started out quoting Fiyero. Like Fiyero, I can do that whole bar/club scene if necessary. I’m not crazy about the music but I can dance to it, if you insist. And I like people, so that aspect is kind of fun. But I’m not a fan of the way people drink when they’re in an environment like that or what that alcohol makes them do. I also don’t like the way people dance in those environments. I’m not trying to be judgmental here; I’m just saying what I like and don’t like. If you know that drinking six beers is going to make you drunk and make you do stupid things, then why do it? I like the taste of certain alcoholic beverages but I’m also a big fan of moderation. I also hate coming home reeking of cigarette smoke to the point where everything I was wearing NEEDS to be washed and getting near the scarf I was wearing makes me want to vomit and gives me a headache. (It needs to be washed by hand but I did wash it..)
Fiyero, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the story of the musical version of Wicked, parties because it’s what everyone else does. But he is actually ridiculously intelligent and deeply concerned about the world around him. Unfortunately, he has no real intellectual equals, so he “dances through life” on his royal title and fame and his popularity. And then he meets Elphaba who is deeply passionate about life and very intelligent. With her, he is able to be the real Fiyero. I’m not going to change who I am or pretend to be “deeply shallow” just to please people. And that’s the point here.
I like being me. I like reading Jane Austen books and watching soccer and looking at churches because I think they’re beautiful. I might be a conservative Catholic prude. But I’m okay with that. I might be really modest at times, but I think that’s okay. It’s important for all involved parties. I might analyze life a little too much at times. But I like being me. I like being pretty but in a modest way. I really like being modest.

On another note, Saturday afternoon, I went for a walk around Bilbao and found this really gorgeous church that will become my home parish for the next three months. But I miss St. Michael’s in Grand Rapids and hearing the Divine Liturgy in Baby Babble. On Sunday, I got up and went to San Vicente Martir for the 11am Mass. It was, like San Jose, mostly older people but I liked it more. The church was absolutely gorgeous and they had an organ and a choir. And Mass took 35 minutes instead of 30. I really liked it. The priest seemed really awesome and they had white roses on the altar. White roses are my favorite flower, so it was kind of a sign to walk into this church and see the altar decorated with white roses for “La Fiesta de la Exaltacion de la Cruz.”
After Mass, I went home and ate lunch before going on a walk around Bilbao to take pictures of San Vicente Martir, la Plaza de la Sagrada Corazon, and a park that’s near the Plaza. There are now pictures online of that walk, by the way. It was a really nice. But I had a couple really cool moments while walking. This Spanish guy saw me taking pictures of the Plaza and stopped me to ask me where I was from and what I was doing in Bilbao. It was nice to talk to someone from Bilbao outside of school or my host family and feel comfortable doing so. And then a bit later, while I was taking pictures of fountains in the park, this family saw me and asked me to take some pictures for them using their camera. And I got to see a lot of really cute kids running around the park; kids here are really fashionable. It’s kind of ridiculous.

Back to Saturday evening, I called Greg on his cell phone. He happened to be at a UCO event so I got to talk to a couple people before my phone ran out of money. My phone has money on it and the money pays for the minutes I use. For example, it’s less expensive (18 cents per minute) to call within Spain while international are 35 cents per minute. So the phone just cut out while I was talking to Jessica R. But it was still really nice to hear a couple people’s voices. You guys in GR have no idea how happy it made me when Greg yelled “All right, who wants to talk to Cecilia?” and people just started yelling that they wanted to talk to me. I felt so loved and so blessed. And I really love and miss all of you. Like talking to my mom the night before, it did my soul so much good to hear Greg, Kyle, Noelle, and Jessica. In a place where I have little spiritual support, I need all I can get. And after this weekend, I’m feeling like I know where God is. I may not see him in many places. But I have found him in some great personal prayer times. And Mass Sunday morning was wonderful. I’m really starting to experience Christ in the Eucharist and the Mass here-even though I don’t always understand everything. But the sermon Sunday was about the Cross being the center of Christianity but also the hardest thing to accept.
Thursday night while I was praying, I came across Isaiah 50. It’s the prophecy of the Man of Suffering and is ridiculously detailed as to how He will suffer. But the last two verses really caught my eye and have become my motivation to keep going after God while I’m far from home and support. And I think it kind of works for all of us.
“Who among you fears the Lord? Let him listen to the voice of His Servant. You who walk in darkness and have no light, trust in the Name of the Lord and rely upon God. Behold, all of you kindle a fire and feed a flame. Walk in the light of your fire and the flame you kindled. This happened for My sake, and you shall lie down in a place of sorrow.”
-Isaiah 50: 10-11
It is kind of depressing but it is also beautiful. And I think, knowing this, I can make it through three months far from home and community. I emailed the community in Vitoria on Thursday and am now looking into the possibility of going to visit them at least once. And I’m also looking at the possibility of visiting Katie Joy in Gaming, Austria. Things like that should help.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

If you love me...

“If you love something, let it go.
If it comes back to you, it’s yours.
If it gets run over by a car, you don’t want it.”
That’s how you all should feel about me. If I come back to you, I’m yours. If I get run over by a car, you don’t want me. Okay, that sounds really horrible. But the way people drive here, I almost get run over about five thousand times a day…or at least ten. So I won’t get run over by a car and you guys can all keep me-theoretically.
To answer my aunt’s question about how I update so much, I’m not that busy with classes yet. I’ve only had a few homework assignments and none of them were much work-yet. But I have two classes in which I’ll have to write four papers, each, over the next three months. I also have a couple classes in which I’ll have projects. And then I’ll just have lots of homework in other classes. I’m taking five classes and none of them look to be particularly easy. I’m retaking Advanced Spanish Grammar and it looks like it’s going to be over different stuff than the course I took last winter. But in about a week and a half, we’re going to Madrid and Toledo and that will keep me busy for a few days as well as provide me with lots of pictures and stories. A couple weeks after that, we’re going to the South of France for a day and then about two weeks after that we’re going to this Bio-reserve or something like that. All I know is that there are prehistoric caves there or something. And it’s also in the same region as Loyola, birthplace of St. Ignatius Loyola; I think Xavier is also near there. (Yes, Xavier was home to St. Francis Xavier. I think they grew up in villages near each other. Someone who knows more about the Jesuits could probably answer that question better than I could.)
This weekend, Reba and I are planning on going to Zubiarte, the big mall that’s really close by. (We see it from the bridge that we cross on our way to and from the Uni every day.) There’s also a concert in town Friday night and we’re planning on doing that too. I’m not sure about Saturday; I’m free all day and the family is going to be out of town. I need to go for a walk and find that other church that Antonia told me about. And I want to explore more of Bilbao. It’s a fun city and it’s pretty safe. There is a bad part, obviously, but most of the city is pretty safe.

Last night, I got talking with Antonia about having children. And somehow it came up that I know a lot of people from large families. (Large families=more than 7 kids, FYI) And so she asked me if I wanted a big family. I had to say yes. I think some of it comes from growing up in community and around Christ the King and being exposed to these big families. I think I really have taken to heart the idea that five or six kids are “a good start.” Here, women tend to not have children until they’re in their early-mid thirties and then they only have one or two kids. And they’re starting to look at a population crisis. They have more “viejos” than children. And it’s getting to where more people are dying than being born. The country then has to look at its pension programs and things that are similar to our Social Security benefits. It’s apparently a big enough deal that we’re going to be looking at it in my Contemporary Spanish Culture and Civilization class. It’s weird to look at things here and see this amazing culture but also see that it is beginning to die. (Spain is, obviously, not the only European nation facing this phenomenon.)
And I think that this nation is the perfect place to hold World Youth Day 2011. In my experience, WYD brings the youth, the heart of the Catholic Church to one place for five or six days and it is an exhilarating, enlivening experience. It is a good experience for the Church in that nation as well as for the youth of the world. Maybe it will help wake up the faith of this nation and remind them why they were a traditionally Catholic nation for hundreds of years. Or maybe it won’t. But we can pray for this country. In the past, this was the home of many holy men and women-San Isidore of Seville, Santa Teresa de Avila, San Juan de la Cruz, San Francisco Xavier, and San Ignacio Loyola. Surely the church can be revived once more.

On a cute note, last night before dinner the family went out for a while and when they got back, Daniela gave me a pink rose. It’s really pretty. I took a picture of it that I’ll post probably on Monday. I felt loved. Then she wanted to lie on my bed and talk to me until dinner time. But we were supposed to be setting the table…I really feel like the big sister in this relationship.
And after dinner, Dani and Gabi always want to play “gimnasio” and do their best impressions of Nastia Liukin doing handstands on the couch. Ay, it’s ridiculous. But they’re sweet kids. I spent part of yesterday afternoon coloring with Dani and it was great fun. But this afternoon after lunch, I’ve got homework to do! I think school is starting. I might lose all my freedom.
Santa Fe, are you there? Save a place for me…for a dreamer night’s the only time of day. Sorry, last night I had a dream about that song and Christian Bale in Newsies. I need to watch the movie again soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Little Homesick

I like being here, in general. But I miss home. I miss my cat and Nicole and my family. I miss other people and things too. I really miss going to UCO. But I emailed the community in Vitoria and they said I can come visit and gave me an email address to contact.
I'm pretty positive that the people who live in the flat above us either have a bowling alley directly above my room or there's a pool table up there. And last night, they were moving furniture up there, I swear. Gosh...
I'm also looking for recipes still.
This is a short post because I usually type my posts up at home before I post them and I didn't do that today.
God bless.
And UCO-GR, I'm praying for you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Classes, Kids, and Food

Classes started on Monday. We have classes Monday through Thursday and then we’re free to travel or whatever on weekends. (There are a couple weekends when we have planned excursions, but I’m also looking into doing some travelling of my own.) Lucky me, I have my first class (la lengua y cultura vasca) at nine in the morning-Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Wednesday morning, I have “la cultura y civilizacion espanol” at 9am. Mondays and Wednesdays, I can come home until about four o’clock when I have “Temas de Gramatica Avanzada” and then “Introduccion de la literatura hispana.” Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have Spanish culture at one, so I’ll probably just hang around campus between classes and use my computer and do homework. (If you’re in the U.S., I’ll probably be online from about 4am-7am your time.) After culture, I’ll head home for lunch and relaxation before going back to campus for “Panorama de la literature Espanola.”
Okay, so I took this language placement test and they want me to take Spanish III, which is a ten credit class. Hi, I need to take very specific classes because I would really like to graduate in April of 2011; I’ve also taken the American equivalent of this class. I’m not doing it. I have a dictionary; I’m smarter than testing makes me look. I’ve never tested well. So we’ll see how this first week goes. We don’t actually register for our classes officially until September 18, so I could theoretically try to get into Spanish III if need be. But I’ve been taking Spanish since seventh grade. I should be fine. But we’ll see how it goes. I’m smarter than I look, especially than I look when I’m tired.
And having gone to one of the literature classes, I am pretty positive I can do this.

So one thing that raised a lot of questions before I came here and I think still raises questions would probably be the kids. Daniela and Gabriel are pretty good kids overall. But they are your typical siblings and pretty normal for their ages. For example, right now Gabriel is really into hiding things from you. He’ll come into my room when I’m crocheting and try to hide my yarn and needles from me. He tries to hide my money from me when he finds it. Basically, he finds things I own and he hides them. He also likes to rip paper, so I have to be careful what gets near him. He’s not very shy; he loves just walking into my room, even just walking into my bathroom while asking for permission to enter….so much for having privacy. But he can also be a cutie. On Sunday night, I gave him his “manta” or blanket that I had crocheted for him. And he loved it. He wanted it on his bed right away. And later that night, Antonia found him (and let me see as well) with all his other sheets and stuff pushed down to the bottom of his bed and just curled up under his new “manta.” They will argue, like normal siblings. But in general, they like each other and are pretty close. They start school (Gabi’s first year in fact) Tuesday, September 9, so we’ll see how that affects things.
Daniela is a sweetie, most of the time. She’s much better about respecting privacy and understanding the idea of staying out of other people’s things. She loves to play games like Old Maid and Memory, but she hates to lose and won’t hesitate to cheat a little to guarantee a win. You have to be really careful when you’re playing with her. The best word to describe Dani is “princess.” She loves princesses and she is a princess. She loves the Disney princesses but more than that, she wants to be a princess. She loves wearing dresses and pink and being pretty. She loves pretty things-clothes, jewelry, the whole nine yards. She’s also very interested in weddings and stuff like that. She wants me to get married. She can be fussy; she’s a picky eater. And when she doesn’t like the way things are going, she lets you know. She’ll throw a fit over losing a game of Old Maid or being forced to eat food she doesn’t like. She HATES “tortilla de patatas,” a Spanish egg and potato dish. And she’ll try to bargain with her parents over eating it. She loses and usually ends up in bed without dinner because of her fussing. Sunday night, she really threw a fit because I had eaten tortilla de patatas for lunch the day before and she and Gabi were eating the rest of the tortilla for dinner while I was eating tuna for dinner. She wanted tuna, like me. Instead, she ended up in bed without dinner.

This brings us to food. First of all, everything is cooked in olive oil; I think I’ve mentioned this before. Secondly, the food is good and pretty filling. I’m probably losing weight here but that’s for a couple reasons. Their food is a lot healthier than most American food. The other is that I don’t eat as much here. That’s partially because I usually eat with the kids and then I end up with smaller portions. I think it was Jessica R. who told me that food over here generally is blander than at home. Yep, that’s pretty true. They don’t use as many spices/herbs as at home. In fact, the only one I’ve really ever seen used is salt. They want me to cook for them sometime, so I’m looking at various recipes I have that I could use. I’m also trying to figure out what ingredients I can get here, but I can probably talk to Antonia about that sometime soon. Or if anyone wants to send me any recipes/suggestions, I’m open. Greg sent me the household cookbook but it’s missing all of my darling mother’s contributions.

Life here is good. Everyone seems to think that I have a beautiful name; they’re always telling me that, especially the men. And it’s raining cats and dogs today. It’s a bit ridiculous. But the lightning looks cool over the river.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I consider myself to have a pretty strong will and personality. I think I’m pretty stubborn and don’t argue with me about that one. However, I have realized that being over here, there is one thing that I have at home and I do not have here. It isn’t really something that I realized that I would miss and it’s probably something that I take for granted at home. I miss having support and accountability. I might be accountable to my professors for turning in my homework or accountable to my friends to spend time with them. I might be accountable to my host family to show-up for meals on time. But I’m not spiritually accountable to anyone. There’s no one here who says “Cecilia, you have to go to Mass every Sunday. Cecilia, you have to take your daily prayer time.” And while I can do these things without being told to do them, there’s no one encouraging me to do them. And I miss that a lot.
I miss being able to discuss religion with people. A couple months ago, Jenny F. and I had a two or three hour long discussion about the importance of the Eucharist and Catholicism for each of us. We were discussing the importance of maintaining and living your faith on a daily basis. And I don’t have that here. During this first week, and probably for the next several weeks, my biggest encouragement spiritually is email and Facebook. It’s such an amazing feeling to open my email and see that email from FB saying “Nicole Terwilliger has written on your wall.” And while it might not be that big of a deal if you aren’t far away from home, it’s a huge deal to me. It isn’t just my mom sending me information about my bank account or Ben G. teasing me about Spanish men and mullets. It’s Nicole or Annie taking two minutes out of their day to think about me and to let me know that someone back home is praying for me. It’s a reminder that going out and clubbing isn’t something I would do back at home, so why should I do it here? (By the way, my host mom is stunned that I don’t like to go out late and party on the weekends. Here, everyone just goes out and clubs or goes to bars on Friday and Saturday nights. I prefer just going to someone’s house and watching a movie or talking to going out and being around lots of people. Random question: do migraines make me more of a homebody because I’m so extremely sensitive to sound and noise?)
So yes, you guys are hundreds of miles away. And you can’t sit here and be with me on a daily basis. But you know me. You understand my quirks and my preference for Jane Austen with a glass of wine to bouncing up and down to techno with sweaty strangers. Or if you don’t understand why I prefer Jane Austen to, say, John Grisham, you at least know that she’s one of my favorite authors and you accept that. By the way, I’ve been rereading Pride and Prejudice but in Spanish as Orgullo y prejucio. So it’s as good as ever but I never really realized how much I couldn’t stand Mr. Wickham and how quickly I wanted to get past him and move on to Mr. Darcy being all gallant and handsome and proud. “Or was Elizabeth proud and Mr. Darcy prejudiced?” (Quick…what movie am I quoting?)
Anyway, so last night, I went to H&M with a friend and bought a few things for myself as well as a present for someone. My friend had never been there before, so it was fun taking her and just looking at all the clothes. Afterwards, we wandered around downtown Bilbao looking at all the sights and people. The people here are so fashionable and so gorgeous; it’s pretty much ridiculous. We found this plaza; don’t worry I took pictures of it. It was really cool and we just sat there for a while and talked. And twice young boys (somewhere between eleven and thirteen years old) came over to ask us our names and then started hitting on me. “I’m a magnet for unavailable men,” to quote another chic flick.
I got home around ten or so and had dinner with the family. I also had my first taste of Spanish wine; it’s good. I don’t usually like red wine but this was a really good red wine. (By the way, Alex, if you’re reading this and wondering how I know so much about wine, please remember that I am half-Italian.)

Sunday morning, I went to Mass at the church down the street from the apartment. And I won’t be going back there. It’s mostly old people and apparently there is another church somewhere else nearby that has a children’s Mass on Sundays and I’d much rather go to that. I like seeing families at Mass. But this place is definitely nominally Catholic. There are so many churches but you just don’t really see people going to Mass every Sunday or anything like that. Antonia told me that type of thing primarily belongs to the older people. The younger people just aren’t as interested in their faith. It’s sad. It makes me miss churches like Christ the King where there are families everywhere. I like going to a “cry room with an altar.”
People have asked me to keep them updated as to my prayer requests. My prayer life and my spiritual life, my faith; these are what I would ask prayer for. It’s hard not being able to pick up the phone and say “Katie, I need pray for this.” And I can’t just shoot off an email either because I don’t have internet access in the apartment. Instead, I take my laptop to school and find a quiet place to check my email and blog. So that’s hard. I’m used to being able to shoot off an email or quickly call a friend when I need prayer for something. But this is good for me. Yes, I need prayer and support from other people, but it’s teaching me to pray on my own. And I know that when things get to my Christian friends, they will pray for me. So please keep holding me up in prayer.
And let me know how Michigan does; heck, tell me how GV does.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mi Primera Semana en Espana

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
-John 4:23-24

“Pero llega la hora, y es la hora mismo, cuando los que versa adoran al Padre lo harán de un modo verdadero, conforme al Espíritu de Dios. Pues el Padre quiere que así lo hagan los que lo adoran. Dios es Espíritu y los que los adoran deben hacerlo de un modo verdadero, conforme al Espíritu de Dios.”
-San Juan 4:23-34

This passage might give you a clue as to what my biggest struggle here in Spain is. I miss charismatic worship. I’m asleep by the time UCO is having meetings back home but I know that you guys are back home praying in charismatic community. And I miss it; I wish I could be there. So I find my own ways to pray charismatically. And you know what the best solution/helper is? In Spirit and Truth…I could do a commercial for you right now; it’s really great for inspiring personal prayer when you have no other charismatic prayer. (Could someone please get me some contact info so I can go European community hopping on weekends?) But I bet you’d rather hear about Spain.
I arrived here around 12:30pm, local time. Antonia Ezkurra, my host mom, picked me up from the airport and took me to her family’s “piso” or flat. There I met her children, Daniela and Gabriel, and their “niñera” Carol. Dani is five and Gabriel is three. And they’re crazy but wonderful kids. I spent most of that afternoon settling in or sleeping; in fact, the whole day pretty much went that way; although I did get up for dinner, which was very good.
The next morning, after showering and breakfast-which, yes, I did completely regurgitate but that’s not Antonia’s or Carol’s fault, Antonia walked Sarah (another CIDE student who lives with Antonia’s cousin, Mercedes) to la Universidad de Deusto. There we met up with more students and went through some orientation stuff. This included our introduction to Dr. Jon Franco. He put on a pair of shades and said. “I like Metallica too. You dig it?” And then he started speaking in Spanish. That afternoon, we went on a walking tour of Bilbao. It’s a really pretty city and I promise I’ll take more pictures later but it was raining that day. I also bought myself a prepaid cell phone because this apartment does not have a landline (or internet.) I also discovered that H&M is like a mile from the apartment, so we are all set for Cecilia to throw out her American clothes and come back looking more amazing than ever. (Or at least with less money and different clothes…)
A side-note: the people here are gorgeous, just simply beautiful. Mullets are a bad idea but other than that these people are gorgeous. I met Antonia’s parents the other night; they’re probably in their early seventies and they’re well-preserved and just really handsome people. And they’re super nice to me. But yeah, it’s a land of beautiful people. And I’m an American.
Wednesday night, after dinner, I played “La Vieja Senora” or Old Maid with Antonia and Daniela. Dinner, by the way, is not the main meal of the day; that would be lunch, which is around 2pm. Dinner is around 8pm. I went to my room around 9:30 or so and read and prayed before going to sleep.
So I need to explain something here. Carol is not only the nanny but also the maid. So I don’t really clean my own room or bathroom or do my own dishes or laundry. It’s kind of weird. But I’m sure I’ll get used to it…NOT; having someone else do my laundry is really, extremely awkward. She’s really nice though. Also, people here have their washing machines in their kitchen, hidden behind cupboard doors so you’d never know where it was. And instead of using a dryer, they just hang everything out to dry; as it happens the clothesline thing is right outside my window so they have to go in and out of my room to do laundry. Instead of a hamper, the family just has a “laundry drawer” next to the washing machine. I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
Thursday, we took a Spanish placement test and then went to visit the beach towns of Plentzia and Getxo. I have pictures up on Picasa; please see the link. This was also the first place that we saw the Basque desire for liberation. These towns don’t display the Spanish flag for fear of vandalism. But they were beautiful towns. In the evening, I had dinner with the family, read for a little while and then crashed. I was tired and sore from all my walking.
Friday, we had more academic orientation and then we went to the Guggenheim. It’s amazing but a lot of modern art. After buying postcards for a few people, I went home to have lunch with Daniela and Gabriel. And then I played with Daniela until her parents took her and Gabriel to a children’s festival or something nearby. Then I did some unpacking and settling in before reading for a while. The family got back around 10pm and we had dinner, which was amazing, as usual. Then I watched TV with Antonia and Angel before going to bed and sleeping for eleven hours.
This morning (Saturday) I woke up around 10:30am and showered before eating breakfast and going for a long walk around Bilbao. I found this amazing plaza that has this awesome statue of the Sacred Heart. I also found some other cool shops and things. And it was just fun to explore the city.

Do I miss home? I’m not sure. Do I miss people? Heck, yes! I realized how much I missed people when I was looking through some pictures from some event at Leslie’s old apartment last year and I found a picture (that is probably on Facebook) of Greg and Kyle K. Greg is eating something and Kyle has what is quite possibly the straightest face I’ve ever seen on anyone who wasn’t at a funeral. And I just started laughing. I didn’t cry; it’s all too funny. But then I saw another picture from that night, this one of Katelin S. and Nicole T. feeding each other. I don’t really want to come home; I really like it here. But I wish I could have brought you guys with me. I keep seeing things that I want to show you or experiencing things that I wish I could share with you.
And then I found a picture of Jim Parr and a few other people from Pancakes and Prayer. And I did start tearing up. I really miss you people. I need to stop looking at pictures of people back home. But I’m praying for you guys and I’ll be back in three and a half months, just in time for Christmas. And beware of grape with wooden mallet; I found a picture of Alex and Kyle with food and I thought that. So beware of grape with wooden mallet.
God bless!