Monday, November 25, 2013

The Beginning of the Ends

     I am slowly starting to realize that my time here in Spain really is going to end, and soon! The count is now below 20 days. It is weird to think that this time that I looked forward to so intently and for so long is now about to come to a close. I am starting to realize how much I will miss this beautiful city and all the wonderful people I have met here. On the other hand, I am so excited to be home again with my family for Christmas. But I will not get ahead of myself. I still have a lot of time here... I have got to aprovechar todo (take advantage of everything)! I have really been cherishing my time in Sevilla recently by finishing up all of my commitments here and completing all my bucket list items for the city of Sevilla.
Bad quality selfie, but I wanted to show off some of my best exploring buddies! 
     One example of things coming to an end was that two weeks ago, we went on one of our regular field trips with our Art History class to the Museum of Fine Arts in Sevilla. Like always, it was an amazing experience that brought the art and the artists to life. It's always a blast to go out into Sevilla with our professor, Carmen. She is hilarious, and she loves to give us more information than necessary about the paintings. She will tell us all the funny, unbelievable legends about the paintings as well as all the rumors about the artists. She is so entertaining. Always. Anyways, at the end of our visit to the museum, she casually told us, well that is the last field trip for our art class... I was literally shocked and so sad. I love the excursions, and I had no clue we were that close to the end of the semester. There was no lead up to that end. It was a hard one for me for sure.

     Another thing in my weekly schedule here that recently came to an end was my time volunteering at Hospital de la Caridad - the home for the elderly men. Last Tuesday, I spent my last two hours at the hospital, playing dominoes with Miguel (sunglasses guy) and my friend Alyssa. We knew this end was coming, so we were able to anticipate it. I did not think it would be hard to say goodbye to the men, but the looks on their faces when we said we would not be coming back the next week broke my heart. I realized in that moment how meaningful it was to them that we faithfully showed up every week to brighten their afternoons with smiles and laughter while playing dominoes. I cannot say that I got to know any of them very well, but I am sure I will think of them in the future in a fond way because of all the time we spent together working out our next strategy for dominoes. It really is such a profound game. ;)
Miguel and I. He is very affectionate.
     The rest of my school activities, etc. have not yet ended, so I will not lament them yet. I will enjoy them up to the last second for sure! This past weekend we took advantage of having a weekend free, spent in Sevilla, which is kind of rare for me. And we explored parts of the city that we had not seen yet. On Friday night, we were able to go see the new Hunger Games movie in Spanish at one of the movie theaters in Sevilla. It had been a goal of mine to see a good movie in Spanish while I was here, so this was a great opportunity! The movie was amazing, and I understood the majority of it, missing a few details I am sure. We also got to go with two girls we recently met through a Spanish Bible Study at the University of Sevilla. They are so sweet and love spending time with us, and of course we cherish every second spent actually conversing with and relating to Spaniards! It has been such a blessing to have met them!
My close friends here, and on the right: Ester and Ana, our new friends!
     Then on Saturday morning, even though I was not feeling very well, I went out with friends to explore more of Sevilla! We went to the Mercado de Triana, which is comparable to Pike's Place Market in Seattle except more exciting for me since it is in Sevilla! We then walked around down by the river, taking lots of pictures (which I haven't uploaded yet…) Later on that day, we went out shopping and then up the Setas - one of my favorite places in Sevilla! We went up there to catch sunset and then stuck around to see all the churches lit up at night. Such a great way to just take Sevilla in!

I love Sevilla.
     To end our weekend of seeing Sevilla at its finest, Mara and I were able to go to a special mass with our host parents Chari and Walter along with their son and his wife. There was a special mass in the cathedral of Sevilla on Sunday to end the Year of Faith. We got to go to the third largest cathedral in the world for Catholic mass. It was such a cool experience! It was completely new to me. I was fascinated with the proceedings the entire time! We ended the service singing a song that we did not know the words to while all holding candles. It was so great. We also got to sit right next to the choral area, therefore right next to one of the organs. I felt like I was in a movie. The organ was so beautiful and deep. And the choir was great too. Really just a wonderful experience all around!

You can see the organ right next to us!
     Right after mass, Mara and I headed to the Sevilla fútbol stadium to watch the HUGE rivalry game between Sevilla and Betis, the two teams of Sevilla. IT WAS INSANE! And so cool! We had great seats and were surrounded by crazy fans! Because it was in Sevilla's stadium, everyone there was a Sevilla fan. Except for the one section of Betis fans that cheered pretty loud the whole game, which made Sevilla fans so mad… They were constantly distracted from the game by yelling at the Betis fans. It was so ridiculous! But so entertaining for us because all we cared about seeing was the soccer and the environment! Yay for Sevilla, because they won 4-0 =) That was an experience that I will never forget and cannot wait to share in person with anyone else who LOVES soccer like I do =) 

     I want to end this post with some insight I found in James 4 today:
"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'"
It gives me some perspective on the rest of my time here and the way I should involve God in all my plans instead of trying to do it all on my own.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Recent Wanderings

     Where have the soles been lately? They have literally been all over the place with so many different people! Life has been an exciting blur of travel, food, seeing family, meeting new people, and new opportunities!
Sophie and I at the Colosseum!
     For a quick run-through, we had our week-long fall break at the end of October so I flew with Mara to Rome to meet up with my cousin Sophie! Sophie is studying in Florence so we met up with her and two of her friends, Monica and Emily to explore Rome. We absolutely loved it! It was so much fun and Rome is amazing! Such a beautiful city full of so much history! We went non-stop both days we were there and saw so many things!
In the Vatican Museum
    On Sunday, we took a train to Florence where Mara and I stayed in an apartment and explored the city on our own since Sophie needed to study. She met up with us and helped us find everything we needed. Sophie is a great Italian translator! We were able to understand a lot, since Italian and Spanish are so similar, but we could not speak to anyone without Sophie! She also saved us when we figured out that our phones could not make calls in Italy and let us borrow hers to communicate with the landlord of our apartment… We almost did not make it into the apartment the first night because we arrived so late! But it all worked out!
Florence is such a beautiful city!
     Sophie told us the things that were important to see and the places that had good gelato, and she sent us on our adventure while she attended classes! We found the Duomo the first day, and we spent almost the whole day there exploring the different parts of it. It is amazing! We climbed both the bell tower and the duomo dome to get gorgeous views of the city! We found some amazing gelato multiple times during our time there! We met up with Sophie later that evening and she showed us her school which was fun to compare to ours! We got to meet her adorable Italian host mom, who gave us some delicious biscotti…yes I'm still thinking about the biscotti…that is how good it was! 
Inside the Duomo, fantastic marble-work!
     The next day was full of art in the Uffizi Gallery. Overwhelming amounts of art actually! We were able to meet up with Sophie for dinner at her favorite restaurant, and it was so delicious and so fun to be able to have a dinner with my dear cousin! We laughed and told stories about our family. It was a wonderful time of family memories and super refreshing for me to be able to be with someone who knows me so well in the midst of all the change and new things!

     On that topic of being with people who know me well… After leaving Sophie in Florence and Mara in Venice, I met up with the two people who know me best in the world… Mom and Dad!!
So happy I got to spend time with these two!
     We spent four days in Barcelona going non-stop (They call it touring Analisa style)! We had such a great time seeing so much of that beautiful city! Churches, art, food, nature, music, more art, more food… I love that we got to share that time together! 

     On Sunday we took a train to Sevilla since I had classes on Monday. They spent a whole week here in Sevilla with me! It was so fun to be able to share my city and my home away from home with them! I got to show them the everyday things that do not usually make it into the pictures. They got to meet my host parents, which was so fun and cute to watch them bond! 
Sitting around the table, everyone speaking a nice mix of English and Spanish!
     Mom and Dad did so well with Spanish the whole time! Mom really impressed me with her Spanish, not only could she understand most everything, but she could also hold conversations with Chari, who speaks so quickly! I was their little tour guide all week, taking them to all my favorite places  and trying lots of new things with them as well! Flamenco, churches, gardens, shops, food, soccer, new neighborhoods, and more food. There is definitely a theme of food in this family! =) I just cannot get over how great it was to have them here! They came at the perfect time ! 
     To end their time in Spain, they came with my school on an excursion to Ronda, which is a city on a hill, beautiful place! We toured the city with my professors and fellow classmates. It was an amazing trip! We got to see the oldest bull-fighting ring in Spain and had some breath-taking views from the many balconies overlooking the countryside surrounding Ronda. 
Ronda, city on a hill
     From Ronda, we traveled Analisa style again, and took a bus to Málaga just for the day to spend some time at the beach. Then the next night we took a bus to Granada to spend a day at the Alhambra. That night, Sunday, we took another bus back to Sevilla where we did some last minute sight-seeing and eating before they said goodbye and flew back to the States on Monday morning. It was quite the whirlwind but also relaxing and refreshing for me. It means so much to me that they understand my experience here! I've slowly been getting back into my normal routine now that they are gone, and am trying to take advantage of all the time I have left here… only one month! I cannot believe it! Off I go to experience as much of Spain as possible! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Life is a Roller Coaster

     I know that if you are following my travels via Facebook, you know that I just went to London for a long weekend and are probably dying to hear more about my adventures. I am sorry to tell you that daily life here in Sevilla has taken over and I feel the need to write about how my life just in the last 4 days has been a literal roller coaster. *If you really want more details on the London trip, message me or Skype me because I would also love to share that experience!* Here's a photo of the weekend for a taste:

     So, when we got back from London on Saturday night, Mara and I were on top of the world, so content and thrilled with the trip we just took. We came home to an empty apartment which is actually so nice! Chari and Walter were in Granada with family, so when we came home we were able to relax, take really long showers, eat the tortilla that Chari always serves us when we get home from trips, and not have to explain everything in Spanish. (I know it is good for me to try to explain everything, but it was pretty hard to get back into Spanish mode after a weekend in England.) We slept in super late the next morning and enjoyed having the house to ourselves. We were feeling great! Then around 6 PM we finally decided to try to go to a new church we had heard about here in Sevilla. So, we went out and found bus #3 and tried to take it all the way to the stop near the new church... Little did we know, it was basically the last stop on that bus line! So we of course got off the bus too early, thinking that we were in the right neighborhood so at least we should be close... We were wrong. We ended up walking another hour (along the bus route because we refused to catch another bus and have to pay bus fare again) until we finally found the church at 8:15 PM. It was definitely over and had actually started at 6:30 PM. So that was very disappointing for us, especially because we consider Sevilla our home and we don't like getting lost in our own city, no matter how big it is! We caught the bus home feeling discouraged and thirsting for some fellowship and worship time, so we listened to Phil Wickham on my iPod for the 45 minute bus ride home.

Chari dropped a prawn in Ashley's water!
     The next day was so much better! We had a really fun lunch with Chari and Walter and their son Pedro and his wife. Usually we eat just the three of us girls together while Chari continues cooking. This was a very special meal because we got to eat langostinos (prawns) and gazpacho, and a delicious potato and beef stew! We also got to drink coke zero! It was super funny to hear Pedro try to say zero in English even though it is practically the same word! We spent the whole lunch talking and laughing about the differences between Spanish and English. We also got to share a lot about London with Pedro because he lived there when he was younger. It was just fun to feel like a family and laugh around the table with our temporary family. I really hope we have meals like that more often!  We also had flamenco class, which I love! It is so fun and really challenging! At this point, I feel like I will never be able to do it in front of people, but our teacher, Sylvia, keeps telling us we are good at it so she's probably right =)

Hannah and I playing with Ricardo and Lorenzo
    Tuesday was my day full of roller coaster feelings. I felt like I did not understand anything in my classes all day long, and I kept getting answers wrong in my grammar class, when all I want is to understand what we are learning! I was so discouraged! But I sat down between classes and tried to study the new material and that helped a bit. At lunch, things got better because Chari taught us a few fun phrases to use on each other sarcastically (yay for Spanish sarcasm!) Right after lunch though, I had to go to Hospital de la Caridad (Charity Hospital) to play dominoes with the old men that live there for two hours. To be honest, I was not excited. It meant I did not get to rest during siesta time and that I would have to put up with their slobbery kisses that get real close to the mouth! Surprisingly, I really enjoyed my time there this week! I played dominoes with Hannah and two of the men, Lorenzo and Ricardo, like always. But this week they actually asked us a few questions about ourselves and I actually won a lot of games! The kisses were the same as always, but I think I am getting better at moving my lips away quickly! Also, I entertained myself by thinking of Ricardo as the old man chess player in all the Pixar digital shorts (he looks a lot like him and Ricardo is a pro at dominos! Ricardo is on the left, wearing glasses in the picture).

     The rest of the day was better also, except the very frustrating moments when I could not communicate well with Chari. Later that night though, we ended up talking (her talking at me while I nod and reply with "Sí" and "Vale") for a good half hour just the two of us about her work at the hospital. It was encouraging because I understood everything she told me! So, as you can see, every day has its ups and downs. Sometimes they are just magnified in a foreign country!


     To end on a fun note, last night Chari and Walter's granddaughter, Alicia, stayed the night at the house. We studied with her and laughed and laughed and laughed because she is quite entertaining! As always, the funniest parts of every conversation are the miscommunications. She is learning English and French in school so we taught each other a few fun phrases and laughed about how they don't make sense in other languages. One of the highlights was when Ashley asked Walter to take a picture of the four of us studying together at the table... it turned into a huge ordeal! He ended up walking into our bedroom to take a picture of us through the window! It was hilarious! He sat on my bed while taking the picture of us in the kitchen! Also, he struggled quite a bit to get the camera to work, like always =) I got the picture on the left right before he took our picture!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Weekend Update: Life Moves Fast

The view of Granada from inside
the Alhambra
     So, things have been moving pretty quickly here in Spain. All the weekly activities have mostly started by now, and they keep me pretty busy for sure! It definitely is fun to stay busy, but it makes it hard to keep family and friends updated on my life here! If you have been keeping track of my Facebook pictures you may have noticed that I have been gone from Sevilla almost every weekend so far. I took a trip to Cádiz, then to Córdoba and Granada, the next weekend was a group trip to Sagres, Portugal, and last weekend we went to Sanlúcar de Barrameda - a beach town with very few tourists! =) So, to summarize my last few weekends, here are some pictorial highlights:

My roommates and me in Córdoba

Mara and I atop the Sierra Nevada peak 

Hanging out in the Alhambra in Granada

Mara and I learning to surf in Portugal
My banged up knee and Chacos overlooking
the cliff we attempted to climb and the rock
we jumped off of into the ocean


The whole group watching the sunset from a cliff in Sagres.

A relaxing boat ride on the Guadalquivir River
The girls enjoying the guided tour of the Doñana National Park


     With all of these weekend trips, combined with my first round of tests these last two weeks, I have been swamped with catching up and keeping up with everything here! It is definitely fun, but this weekend I realized I needed to slow down and take some time for me. So I decided to stay in Sevilla this weekend (after our school excursion to Toledo on Thursday and Friday of course!)

Toledo - the most beautiful Spanish city I've seen so far!

Mara and Brenna and me checking
out the windmills in Consuegra
     Our school excursion to Toledo was led by my art professor Carmen and the goal was to see the two things we recently studied in art history: a painting by El Greco - El Entierro del Señor de Orgaz and the Cathedral of Toledo. So we took a 6 hour bus ride up to Toledo, stopping in Consuegra along the way so that we could see the windmills of Don Quijote. We were able to see the painting by El Greco, which was so cool to see after studying it! I always feel like I have a good understanding in class, but when you see it in person and can pick out the details as Carmen is mentioning them (into our awesome touristy headsets!) you earn so much more from the class and the experience in general! We were also able to see a beautiful monastery before heading out for tapas in Toledo. We got to stay in a really nice hotel on Thursday night and Friday we went to the cathedral. The day started out pretty rainy, but when we got free time to explore on our own, the skies cleared up and God gave us an exceptional day to see the beauty of Toledo! Mara and I separated from the group to wander on our own - we ate lunch atop the old city walls, got lost in small neighborhoods, went shopping for cheap and fancy souvenirs, and found some delicious gelato! We had a great time in Toledo and were super excited to head back to Sevilla to rest and get to know our own city a little more!

Epic jumping picture with Brenna!
The main altar of the Cathedral

With Mara on the edge of the city

An old monastery 
Dill pickles on the city walls!

      And today we decided to explore Sevilla... We got some great advice from our señora Chari about where we should go first. She told us that a beautiful morning like today would be perfect for a trip to the historic neighborhood of Macarena. She told us what bus to take, where to get off the bus, which monuments were worth visiting, and she also made sure to tell us to take our time and enjoy it because it is such a beautiful day. She is the best at giving advice like that because she is so convincing and repetitive with her arguments! It is so entertaining and helps us a lot with our Spanish! So we ventured out to Macarena on the bus and were able to visit the historical church of the virgin of Macarena, which was breath-taking! So beautiful and full of decoration! During the feria in April, they make a float with the virgin in the background. They carry her throughout the city for the parades and Chari told us lots of stories after we got home about funny things that have happened during feria regarding her float. She told us that usually when the float of Macarena passes by, all the men shout at the statue saying ¡Ay que guapa! (How pretty/beautiful!) which I thought was an interesting thing to yell at a virgin saint, but we all have our quirks!

    We also visited the Plaza de la Alameda which has statues of Hercules in it. We did not quite understand the history of this plaza as told by Chari, but I plan to look it up later, or ask one of my professors this coming week. We did not understand the history of it because Chari mixed the history of it with a story of her own past, which was actually really fun to hear a story from when she was younger! Spaniards do not tend to open up much about their history (Chari may be an exception to that generalization) but it was still exciting for Mara and I to learn more about her when she was younger.

     After seeing the plaza, we went on towards the center of Sevilla, a familiar place, but were still able to encounter something new and exciting! First we found a new and yummy ice cream place! Always a goal and fun thing to accomplish! Just down the street from our new ice cream place we saw the Setas! The Setas are a metal structure that definitely does not fit in where it was built, but still a fun thing to see! They are fashioned after giant mushrooms, and I do not really know their purpose other than to have a cool place to overlook the entire city! So Mara and I went up to the top and it was definitely worth it! Such an amazing view up there!

Me and my new city!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sole Sisters

The Chaco girls in Cádiz: Me, Alyssa, and Katrina
(photo cred: Alyssa)
     This post is inspired by my love for shoes, comfort, friends, the beach, and especially Chacos! This past Sunday, I went to the beach in Cádiz with 5 other girls from the program. We had a beautiful day together exploring Spain, speaking Spanish, and soaking up the sun! I felt so at home traveling by bus to the beach with a group of new friends that I really get along well with! Even when we realized at 6:55PM that the tickets we had purchased to take us back to Sevilla on the 7PM bus were not the correct tickets and that we needed to wait until the 9PM bus could take us home, we were optimistic and found some fun stuff while exploring Cádiz! For example, the 0,90 euro block of chocolate that Alyssa and I bought... It tasted like the inside of a truffle! We devoured those things! 

What a great find!
     I am feeling very encouraged after this trip that I have been able to make friends here, travel to a new city in a different language, communicate with new people, step outside my comfort zone... the list could really go on and on! We are starting to plan trips for the upcoming weekends now that we know we travel well together, which is exciting for me! It is also comforting to me that when all these things around me are changing, I can still be true to myself and find friends that I relate to on a deeper level. I'm looking forward to future excursions with these girls!

Holly, Alyssa, Jocelynn, me, Mara, and Katrina

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Todo Está Cambiando

Another tapas outing
     Wow! I did not realize how hard it would be to post about my experiences here, but things are happening so quickly and constantly that I really don't feel like I can cram all I want to say into one post! I'll do my best to give a good overview, but the truth is that everything is changing (todo está cambiando).

     First of all, just to comment on how everything is changing, a phrase that people often use here is "poco a poco." They use it a lot to refer to us Americans that "little by little" we are adapting to the environment here. We have to adapt to the language, the weather, the level of independence, the food, navigating the city, even using the toilets and showers! The list goes on and on... There are times when I feel completely overwhelmed and like I cannot fit in here at all, but then there are times when people come up to me and ask me for directions in the street, and I feel great about myself! I do not want to look like a tourist every day, instead, I want to do my best to fit in and speak Spanish as much as possible! For an example of how different everything is, this is our apartment building! We live on the sixth floor, but there is an elevator! Thank goodness because it is so hot here!!!

    One of my favorite things about Sevilla is the architecture and the beauty of the old buildings that are everywhere here! We can walk outside of our school and within a few moments can see La Catedral and La Giralda, two of the most beautiful structures I have ever seen in person! I also just love to look at the little details of all of the buildings, even apartment buildings. Like today, when Mara and I went on a walk to find the secret garden we heard about. The garden was a little disappointing but we were still able to find so much beauty in that little courtyard!


     Also, we started classes yesterday, which was exciting! I feel like I am finally starting to get to know people here... getting past the small-talk phase finally! Another thing that helped me to get to know some of the girls better was our Noche de Chicas today. We met at the school for a time to share our highs and lows of our time here so far. We enjoyed iced coffee and chocolate pastries together, laughed our heads off about each other's stories, and then went out for paddle-boating on the Guadalquivir River!    

My paddle-boating group

     Just as a side note: My high was attending a Brethren church on Sunday. It was a wonderful time for me to worship God in a different language with people I did not know at all. It was such a good feeling to know that I have something deeply in common with people in the church. We share the same God, the same hope, and we can care for each other even though we speak different languages. It was a profound realization for me. My low was that I lost my flip-flops in my señora's house... I have no idea how, because it is a small space and they never left the house, but nevertheless, I lost them and we could not find them! The thing was that the sandals really were not important to me. I was totally okay to say wow after searching the house for two days straight, its okay that we can't find them... but my señora could not give up on it!! She would not stop searching for them or asking me where I left them! It got a little ridiculous, but I finally told her I left them at the park on accident (even though I know they didn't leave the house) and she bought me a new pair! I think I need to be very careful not to lose anything else (or at least not tell my señora) because she now thinks I am the absent-minded one! =) I'll do my best to keep track of my things!   
 ¡Hasta pronto!