Hello Friends and Family,
Here I am again with my newest update from Spain. Even though it is coming to you a little late, I want you to take a little break. Lounge back in the chair, take a sip of coffee (or tea) and enjoy this letter. Again, I have poured my thoughts together to help give you a glimpse into the rich culture of Spain and the inside access to my thoughts. If there is anything that comes to mind while reading this letter, please don’t hesitate to REPLY! I find great joy reading your thoughts and encouragement! Happy Early Thanksgiving!
In God’s great Love,
My beloved friends and family,
The time has been passing by so quickly, I have not written to you in three weeks. Well, the truth is I actually had a steady stretch of tests, which goes to show, I do have to study while in this marvelous country. While these past weeks have been a little quieter in terms of traveling, there have still been some great experiences. I think my desire to travel is slowly growing like the winter cold we are currently experiencing in Spain. Week by week, the temperature has continued to drop to the point where it is now necessary to wear multiple layers to go outside. The fashion in Spain is somewhat different, in the fact that everyone is usually dressed very fashionable, so when in Spain do as the Spaniards, right? Therefore, I am excited to buy my first scarf! That may sound crazy; and it is, because being a mountain man, we do not wear scarves, we wear flannel! Seriously, depending on how much I enjoy wearing a scarf; maybe you will be lucky enough to catch me wearing it.
As I was saying about my growing desire to travel, I always hear from others about how easy it is to travel in Europe and then they go into these amazing stories of adventure that sound incredible. Unfortunately, not all of us have that initial desire to get up and leave for a weekend to an unfamiliar city and to say the least I have been a very slow learner with this concept. I am going to justify my lack of travel for the workload I have had for my classes, but the truth is I have found that I have a fear to leave my comfort zone. When I came to Spain, I was in a mix of excitement to see a new place and a longing for my distant comfort zone, but slowly the excitement drained off and I was left with that distant comfort zone of California. As the weeks have passed, I have been fortunate to begin feeling a new place of comfort here and a renewal of excitement to travel. Each new trip is a challenging and stretching experience where I find little treasures of Spain, like the bountiful olive orchards of the south or the expansive mountains around Madrid. I now have begun to wonder, what will I feel when I leave my new friend, Spain? Will I miss that busy capital city where I just spent three months? I guess I can only wait and see, for only time will tell.
One trip I took in the middle of these past three weeks was to the famous city of Sevilla (or Seville in English). I have learned from my other trips to travel with someone, so a classmate and I decided to head down south for the weekend, and what a weekend it was. As Madrid was nearing the nippy cold days of winter, Sevilla had a wonderful hint of summer still left, in which we were able to enjoy. Besides seeing ancient Cathedrals and castles, this also was my first experience with hostals, which I must say are a great concept for students who are traveling on a budget. It was like a little English village in the hostal in the middle of Sevilla, because not only did we only speak English we met people from England, United States, Australia, and South Africa. In addition, with the included breakfast, I was able to relinquish my love for cereal and make the most of their breakfast bar. Oh, how I miss you Honey Bunches of Oats! The city has a rich history of Arab and Catholic influence, but it is famous for the dance of Flamenco. In the variety that comes with most dances, flamenco has maintained a strong taste of its origins with classical guitar, opera like singing, beautiful colorful dresses, and the rhythmic clapping to keep this music intense and romantic. As a main attraction of Sevilla, we were recommended to go to a specific Flamenco place, and I must say it was completely worth the 13 Euros we paid, unfortunately no photos of that! So I guess that means I will have to perform it for you one day…or you can save the pain and look it up on you tube.
Another one of my weekends, I was able to go with some American friends to a house of one of our Spanish friends where we enjoyed a nice relaxing weekend playing games, eating pizza and crepes, and watching the movies The Bourne Identity and Bourne Supremacy. We had a great time speaking Spanish and laughing which made the time very pleasant. Every time I see those two movies, I always want to travel as he does. I need to tell you that since I’m in Europe, I now have even a larger desire to rent a car or moped and drive over Europe. To make it better, you only need to be twenty-one to rent a car in Europe, unlike the US. Kinda crazy, but doesn’t it sound fun!
These past three weeks have given me a different challenge, where as I have said I have struggled less with the longing to be home, but more with my relationship with God. As the work has piled on, so has the temptation to avoid daily time with God and time spent with friends. That may not sound bad, but let me explain. While being here in Spain, I have been able to get to know some really nice people in my program who I am so thankful to have met. Not only have they been a blessing to get to know, but also I would have never met these people if I did not come here. Every time I talk to my new friends, I am reminded of the distractions that fall so easily into our lives. My heart has only grown fonder for these people as I spend more time with them and if you could figuratively see my heart, you would see a pain for these new friends. It is a pain that longs for them to find a satisfaction in something more than the daily motions of life and for a transformation to take place. There is a gift that God has given us, and it needs to be opened. I like to think of a Christmas present that you have made for someone, where you are excited to see their reaction to your gift because you know they will like it. You have spent hours putting in all your love into this gift. You used the best wrapping paper to cover it and you wrote a nice little note with it. Now, would you hold that gift in your hands and not give it to your friend? How long would you hold onto that gift until you decided to give it to them? Or not give it too them? In that respect, I have suffered hard pressure to just give up, just focus on my studies and my own experience, and turn my outward focus and God’s love to my new friends…inward. Although, I turn around and I now ask you to be a part of this process in praying for the continual outward love to be displayed to my fellow students. Finally, I ask you, is there anyone you know who needs this gift?