Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bread and coffee.


4 exams down, one to go. And it is now in the next two days of studying that I must obtain all knowledge of the entire history of Spain (might I remind you..is a bit longer and more detailed than that of the United States) and every aspect of Spain's culture. (Fun fact: In the city, to add parking spaces, people park their cars perpendicularly behind the parked cars and leave them in neutral. Then, if someone's car is blocked, they just pushed it over to get out...not sure if i explained this correctly...but i thought it was interesting.) This is when I would assume that living immersed in a culture would assist in writing an essay on it. You would think I paid attention to what I eat everyday. We will see.

I spent my last Tuesday afternoon in Sevilla with good friends from my university and surrounding programs eating a loaf of bread and drinking coffee (improvised Lord's supper), just hanging out and talking about all God has done. Biggest thing overall, and I think we can all agree, is the reminder of community we have found through knowing Christ and how cool it was to talk to each person while realizing there was some crazy way that we all ended up together this semester. I spent alot of time this semester thinking about what it was like to be "alone" as a believer here, but the reality is, I cannot deny God's faithfulness in at least having a weekly time to sit and talk transparently with other believers.

Before I left, my mom had given me a number of letters written by various people as a means of encouragement throughout my adventure (and thanks so much to all of you who had the opportunity to send one)...yesterday I read one that had Colossians 2:6 noted: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." I have learned alot. Really. Paul reminds us, keep living in the way you know. There is a reason we go through intense periods of growth. Even when I had times of not knowing what to do next this semester, I had friends and family who just kept saying, "Walk in what you know." So we learn. And we build on that. And we keep learning.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


It's Christmas time....

After what has already been a long weekend off of school, today was another day off celebrated as the "Day of Immaculate Conception". After being nestled cozily in our small barrio of Condequinto, I finally ventured into el centro only to realize it was there that the rest of the world was gathered. The streets were filled for hours with people buying flamenco figurines to add to their nativity sets which fill a table from wall to wall in many houses, the smells of incense burning, people eating roasted chesnuts sold by street vendors, and the dripping of your occasional ice cream cone since it is still about 60 degrees here during the day.

Yesterday, we started humming a few Christmas songs and ended up singing every one we could think of while getting a bit tickled when Pepe shamelessly sang "We wished you a very Chrissmas and a happy jew jeer." Gotta love those faulty translations! How in the world do I even begin to explain what "Don we now our gay apparel, troll the ancient yule tide carol" means. (P.S. I had to google that one because I really had no clue how to write it myself.)...much less teach them how to sing those words.

Hehe, goodness. Looking forward to celebrating the yule tides soon with my family and friends!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oh, how He loves us so.

I have to stop for a minute, as I am really amazed at how God has been so faithful this past week. Discouragement has really come and gone here in Spain in a number of ways. I have been to the point of wishing I could just sing out loud through the house and then to the point of sitting with the Lord saying, "I don't want really feel like having You pry through all this stuff in my heart but it's the last thing I know to do at this point." The theme for this week seems to be "Oh how He loves us" as I recently got ahold of that song in Spanish and it has been running through my head constantly.

A few days ago, I had a friend say, "You probably aren't celebrating Thanksgiving this year, right?." But to be honest, not only did I celebrate, but apart from missing my family a ton, it turned out to be one of the best Thanksgivings ever. After celebrating the holiday with my host family (which was so cute as the Christmas decorations covering the house accounted for the lack of Thanksgiving decorations), I flew to Paris to meet up with friends from Snowbird who are currently living in various parts of Europe.

Of course, Paris is such a beautiful city and the thrill of being there seemed to be enough. However, I cannot express how encouraged I was to sit with the Body of Christ around a table in Paris, France (while eating a rotisserie chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, sweet tea, and a french baguette) and be reminded of how incredible the Lord has been in our lives this semester. I hope and pray that after many months of being thirsty for Christian community, I will not take for granted the campus ministry and believers I can spend time with at App.
Thanks for your prayers. Classes are wrapping up around here and the realization that this is it is here. But, I will be realistic and say three weeks is still a long time.

I praise Him because He loves me, no matter how wretched I am.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Futbol and fried fish that stares at you.

It's wierd to turn the pages on the calendar and see approaching the day circled that indicates my flight home. 28 days. My dad so kindly reminded me of this count down the other day as I talked through all that's coming up in these next few weeks. I definitely carry around mixed emotions about this, pulling out the "It's time to go home!" thought each time the due date of what seems to be my seventh final project is mentioned. But better yet, to remain positive, I pull out the "Change flight now" emotion each time I meet someone new or the realization of the life I am used to here in Sevilla sets in.

I was shocked this past weekend when my spanish friends allowed me, a girl (which is not extremely normal), to play in their pick-up futbol game. In something as grand as this, there is of course a pressure to do well which accompanies this permission as well as a special bit of grace considering I have never played the sport in my life. Nevertheless, it was fun and that's all I would have asked for.

To continue in a description of my new experiences, I went to my first salsa fiesta hosted by the dance academy where I have been taking classes. I learned one major thing. Level 1 really means level 1. "Lo siento. Estoy aprendiendo." became my key phrase amongst the rigid spins and slight trip ups. I really do love it though!

For the poor college student: To give a short culture lesson...I learned a bit more about tapeando this weekend.

Tapeando: (v) The art of going from tapa bar to tapa bar, sharing tapas ( a smaller portion of delicious food...usually fish, meat, or potatoes) with friends, and having the waiter split the bill evenly in the end.

Lets just say...if you eat and drink alot, this is the activity for you. If not, get ready to help out all your friends by contributing funds for their meal.
Yet, really though, I found alot of fun in eating from place to place, and I didnt even have to decide just one thing. Saammplles.

And to close out this evening, if you would like to know more about Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, a famous Spanish poet, please feel free to ask, even though it might resemble something more like a wikipedia answer. Two presentations and a paper on the subject should come in handy at some other point in my life.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"I'd like that to go, please."

It has become a joke but everyday I tend to finish my lunch way before anyone else at the table. Of course I am convinced that everyone else eats incredibly slow, but they think otherwise...and then I get the lecture about how bad it is for you to eat too quickly.

If you know me at all, you know I am a goal oriented person. It comes sometimes in the form of skewed priorities or anti-procrastination which causes me to be unsettled until something is out of the way. I love the feeling of completion and live for moments when I have absolutely nothing that remains on my list. (No, this never really happens, but I can try to convince myself otherwise.)

Overall, I have been really challenged with the struggle that I face having a personality like this one. While in Spain, I have been learning to enjoy opportunities and realize everything can't just be "completed." (If this were so, I would have pathetically ordered five good Spanish friends online two months ago and avoided the patience required in building relationships in the midst of strong language and culture barriers.)

1. I am always on a mission. At first, I thought it was crazy that Spaniards could literally go from site to site, bar to bar, with no plan in mind other than hanging out and talking to each other (My usual question: "Where are we going?" Response: "Wherever.")
2. I don't slow down enough. I have yet to see a drive thru here. (As a Sevillano sees it, why would anyone skip their break to eat?...p.s. we did see a "walk-thru" at the McDonalds in Madrid)
3. I love to climb trees. (This has nothing to do with Spain, I just thought I needed a number 3. It's true though.)

So, maybe both of our cultures do have some areas that need work, but its obvious that I have to work on enjoying people and relationships around me when I have the opportunity. Yes, I still get my homework done, but maybe for me it means staying up a few minutes later at night in order to save time to sit and talk after lunch (and this includes eating it much more slowly)...or in general, remembering relationships are more important than marking something off a list.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vamos a Italia!

First of all, a tribute to Snowbird across the world. Madrid, Spain
It would really requre the 321 pictures we took and a book of stories to even begin to sufficiently describe our trip to Pisa, Roma, and Madrid...a trip not recommended to be taken in just one weekend.

We arrived in Pisa, stayed in a quaint little guesthouse, saw the leaning tower, and even took a surprise bus ride to the coast near Livorno (due to the mistake of the guesthouse owner), but we enjoyed it. Our biggest smiles came from the moment we entered the pizza restaurant and the chef said, "Wait, you don't speak Italian." Then with a thick accent said, "I can'ta speaka English, but I can maka pizza."

(This is a picture right outside the Vatican City at sunset.)

A train ride with an incredible view of the countryside brought us to the beautful city of Roma. It was so strange to walk through a street of pizzerias and turn the corner to see one of the world's most well known monuments, the Colliseum. We just kept touching it realizing we were touching years and years of history. Avoiding the Italian bus system this time, we conquered the art of reading a map as we made our way to the Pantheon, La Fontana de Trevi, and eventually to St. Peter's Basilica...a wonder! Of course, we wished we had spent at least a day in the Vatican City itself.

As tired as we were, we spent our last day in Spain's capital, Madrid. We found a completely different image than Sevilla, the city in which we study. Although much more modern, the gardens and Palacio Real were beautiful as well as provided a nice spot to lounge. We also experienced the hustle and bustle of Plaza Mayor and the variety of activities continously taking place there.
Finally, we took a midnight bus from Madrid to Sevilla (the shortest 6 hours of our life). Worn out and exhausted, we couldn't believe we had experienced all of these things and more in one short weekend. To see Rome had been one of my dreams...
Since then, things have been going well despite the accumulating papers and work we are discovering spanish professors to be capable of demanding. But, above all, the Lord has been good and I have enjoyed these past few days of skype dates and emails with friends and family.
A few prayer requests...
*My faithfulness in spending time with the Lord and allowing Him to renew my perspective daily
*The ability to see His purpose in "little" things He is calling me to
*My host mom Matilde has a few months of chemo ahead. She is a strong woman but pray for her comfort and strength. We have enjoyed joking and laughing alot this week. I am thankful for the blessing of a happy household!
*Registration and specifics for the spring...I don't want to live thinking about a few months from now, but I have things that have to get done. God hasn't failed me yet in placing me exactly where I need to be.
I love you all! Thanks for your prayers! If you have skype, look me up at rlsteele330. I would love to see your face!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hiking a stroll through the countryside

"Hiking? Here in Sevilla? But I don't see any mountains or deciduous trees? Where have my geography teachers failed me?"

My usual response when I was told I could go on a hiking trip with my university. Of course, we had to drive 2 hours outside the city.

After a long week of midterms and papers, the long awaited "senderismo" trip came this past Saturday. Carrying a backpack loaded with my camera, a bocadillo, and a sufficient supply of agua, I met my friends to join a group of university students and professors on a hiking trip in Grazalema, Espana. After an hour of winding through the narrow mountain roads, I realized I had underestimated the various types of terrain Andalucia offers.

After only a few minutes, I seriously felt like I was in Ireland (of course only comparing it to the movies I had seen.) The hills of green grass. The rocks. The random cattle. It was a pleasure!

What seemed to be a 10 km stroll with slight incline and decline became a hike unlike one I have ever done before. In Grazalema, the air was crisp and the rolling hills were open and clear, yet in the mountains of North Carolina through Wilson's Creek it is a luxury to have the chance to see an incredible view further than a few hundred feet as the towering trees often limit this. I cannot say that I would rather have the former, but it was wonderful to be able to see this amazing view, meet great people, and eat a bocadillo in the grassy patches of Andulucia's countryside.

Boone friends...please save up some hiking energy for me! It will be a necessary adventure when I return. (and of course my hammock is at home waiting for me as well.)