Songs from the Hills

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On Sunday, we went to Hillsong Barcelona! We were seated on a row with English speakers. I enjoyed talking with a family from Australia that is living in Perpignan, France. And, Scott connected with a guy from Zurich, Switzerland. Always cool to see the unity in the kingdom of God!

 

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A weekend as tourists

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Park Güell

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Park Güell

Last Thursday morning, my Mom and Dad arrived in Barcelona, and we spent the rest of the day dragging my jet-lagged parents around town. We toured la Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell, which both feature the architectural designs of Gaudi. Our host family also treated my parents like royalty with a huge meal and wonderful conversation (Thursday night and then again on Sunday for lunch). Scott and I had fun watching my parents experience the course-after-course meals. It was also special for my parents to get to know our incredible host family!

On Friday, we rented a car and Scott drove us to Montserrat and Andorra. Nestled in steep serrated rocks, the Monastery of Montserrat was unlike anything we had ever seen before. We enjoyed walking around, seeing inside the basilica/monastery, and taking in the panoramic views. With many hiking trails that we didn’t have time to explore on this visit, my dad is already making plans for his next trip to Montserrat.

The rest of the weekend we spent in Andorra until we came back to Barcelona on Sunday afternoon. We walked La Rambla, saw the Mediterranean sea, and watched the colorful show of fountains at Montjuic.

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  • We were required to wear swim caps at the spa in our hotel, which made for lots of laughs. We got to relax in the pool, hot tub and saunas with a view of the snow-capped Pyrenees.
  • My Dad and Scott hiked the highest mountain in Andorra—Coma Pedrosa.
  • My parents got to try lots of Catalonian specialties: Pan con tomate (bread with smeared tomato, oil, and salt), Paella, Spanish omelet with potatoes, Homegrown olives, Caramelized almonds, Crema Catalana (similar to Crème Brulée), Postre del Musico (cake with all sorts of dried fruit and nuts and a flaky pastry base with crema Catalana), Cava, Tapas, Cacoalat (a dark chocolate drink), Mel i Mato (honey and fresh goat cheese), crepes, and all types of cheeses, breads, and pastries! And, we enjoyed coffee in outdoor cafes at least once a day.

Scott and I usually make a game of trying to blend in and not stand out as tourists, but this weekend was a great chance to walk everywhere with a camera around my neck and soak up the scenes. We thoroughly enjoyed our short but sweet time with my parents.

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Blue-Eyed Boy

Camping

You can’t actually see his blue eyes in this picture, but trust me, they’re as blue as the Mediterranean Sea behind him.

Fact: My Scott has brilliant blue eyes.
Fact: Blonde hair and blue eyes are not the norm in Spain.

When we were camping last weekend, the ladies in the family complimented the lovely color of Scott’s eyes. He accepted the compliment by sarcastically saying he knew he had nice eyes, which made all of us laugh.

One sister was not around when we had the conversation, so the group prompted Scott to ask Lydia if she liked his eyes. “¿Te gusta mis ojos?” he asked. She, of course, agreed that he had beautiful blue eyes. It became a joke (like a lot of things around here with Scott) that all of the ladies loved his eyes.

A few nights later, we had Damaris’ parents and sister over for dinner. This was the first time Scott met them; so of course, we all prompted him to ask Damaris’ mom and sister if they liked his eyes. Scott was reluctant but finally looked at Damaris’ sister and said, “¿Quieres mis ojos?” And, the room was quiet for a few seconds before half of us burst into laughter. Instead of saying, “Do you like my eyes,” Scott had asked “Do you want my eyes?” The dear-in-the-headlights look that Damaris’ sister had on her face was classic. Poor Scott didn’t realize he had switched verbs and thus didn’t know what was so funny, but the rest of us were laughing so hard we couldn’t relay what he had said. Luckily, our family likes to laugh, so it was not a big social blunder and the joke lives on.  It’s not a rare occasion here to spend most of our dinner laughing hysterically, usually at something Scott says.

Fact: Scott can turn an ordinary dinner into an extraordinary dinner.

Home is where…

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Catholic Church on Tibidabo

What makes a place a home? As a child, I thought it was a house. When we moved for the first time in my life, I was six years old and I remember my parents explaining to me that home is where your family is. I have believed that for years. There’s the cliché: “Home is where your heart is.” But, as I ventured to Barcelona (alone at first, but even now with Scott), I wondered once more what makes a place home. For two weeks, none of my predetermined explanations were true, and yet, I felt at home. I feel at home here. I have some incubating thoughts on the subject.

Could it be we found our city? That would be great, but I’m not sure that’s it. Could it be I enjoy travelling and this is a beautiful place so it is easy to feel at home? Maybe, but I think it is more than that. There are plenty of places I have travelled and experienced unease (even in the States). Could it be certain people just have a way of welcoming others into their homes and allowing people to feel relaxed? If so, I want to be this type of person with this type of home. Could it be as Christ-followers, this world is not our home, so we feel at home when we are walking with Jesus wherever we are? If so, it is yet another reason to foster friendship with Jesus.

Last night, our host family drove us to the top of Tibidabo Mountain. (Have I mentioned they are incredibly generous?) It is a mountain that overlooks the city—there’s a Catholic church and a small amusement park on top too! The view is amazing and our pictures don’t even begin to it justice (especially because I forgot to charge our camera in time). In one direction you could see the city and the sea and in the other direction you could see the rolling hills. I know Barcelona is a city of a couple million people (and more in the surrounding communities), but I still wasn’t prepared for how massive it looked from the mountain. La Sagrada Familia hardly stood out among the wide expanse of apartment buildings. Seeing the representation of many homes, I was struck once more that Scott and I are not big city people, but we both feel comfortable in Barcelona. In the end, I am simply thankful for the fantastic family that we live with and the experiences we are getting to have because of them. God provides abundantly.

Barcelona sunset

A view of the city from Tibidabo

Fauna and Flora

Here is a story of our weekend and all that we saw. We walked on a boardwalk along the Costa Brava. We stopped at a little city with narrow streets and gorgeous hilltop views.

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We also stopped at some Greek and Roman ruins. Said to have first been built decades before Christ, this ancient fishing village, where they caught and conserved fish, was only ten or fifteen meters from the sea. This is Raquel, Anna, Savanah, and Damaris.

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Scott snorkeled with Jordi (Raquel’s husband) in the Mediterranean. The water was cold but clear. Besides the hundreds of little fish they saw, they even saw two small octopi and a bright orange starfish.2014-05-10 02.54.04

The views were beautiful! Scott and I hiked a bit on Sunday. There are trails connecting all of the little towns–a bit like Cinque Terre (but less touristy). L’Escala is a wonderful little spot that is full of city-dwellers taking the weekend away from the hustle and bustle.2014-05-10 11.32.56

Full of the tastes of the sea, paella is the perfect camping food. I love watching this family make it, and it was fun for Scott to try it for the first time! This version had rice, chicken, mussels, shrimp, squid, shellfish, artichoke, and onion in a tomato and squid ink sauce.
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On our way home, we stopped at Girona, which is both a Catalan region and the largest town in that region. With the water, bridges and colored buildings, it feels a little reminiscent of Florence. It was a wonderful little town. Our host family told us it was very traditional Catalan, but for us it felt classic European. Lots of arches, winding streets, open cafes, live music, and overgrown vines.
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For this week only, they were having a flower festival, so there were interesting art pieces made of flowers all over the city. It was a great way to see the city too because the old baths, churches, etc. had flower displays open to the public. It was a great finish to a great weekend!
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Save the Day!

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YOU COULD SAVE THE DAY!

Our lovely friend Anna is working to finish her final project to graduate with her degree in Journalism. Please take 5 minutes to do survey in English (she needs English speakers). She must have 1000 responses and so far only has 200, so please share this with as many people as you can.

TAKE THE SURVEY HERE

More to come about our weekend adventures…

Finally!

20140509-074601.jpgScott made it here with his new haircut! He gave it to himself and now we can’t stop laughing. But, maybe that’s just because we are so happy to see each other. We spent some time getting oriented in the city, and now we’re packing up and heading to go camping! A fun weekend is in store for us!!

 

Walk slowly, Read carefully

Almost every day when I walk to work, I get in race car mode. I hone in on the person in front of me and try to pass them. As soon as I do, then I focus in on the next person. If I see the pedestrian crossing is green or flashing green, that too fuels my steps. And, I must admit I have to convince myself not to get frustrated when I hit a pedestrian red light. Every day I check my watch as I clock my time. Okay, I have a problem: I’m a fast walker, not to be confused with a runner. My friend Leah (see here) mentioned that walking fast makes you stick out as an American. It suddenly clicked with me that all the people I’ve been rounding on the streets haven’t been worth 5 points–it’s not a game and it’s not something to get through as quickly as possible. For the Spanish people, it’s a promenade.

Today, I tried to walk slower. Funny thing is, when I got stuck behind some especially slow walkers for a few blocks, we hit every pedestrian crossing with a green light. A couple times, even in my attempt to walk slowly, I passed a mother and child. I got to the crossing with a red light and had to wait. Just as it turned green, the mother and child would cross at exactly the same time as me.

So, here’s my cultural lesson turned life lesson for the day: don’t rush through things that are meant to be enjoyed. The people here are teaching me how to savor a meal, a walk, and, even, a workday. I deeply desire to be efficient but not at the cost of missing the experience.

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On a totally different note, I received an email this morning from a coworker in my department, Marta, inviting me to coffee at 11 (which was in about five minutes). My days are incredibly flexible–I almost never have appointments–so I was bummed because I was scheduled to meet with my boss right at 11. I emailed and suggested the next day instead, and then I got up to go meet with my boss. He needed to reschedule, so I immediately emailed back and said, actually, I’m free and I’m coming! Thrilled, I walked downstairs to meet her.

I walked to Marta’s desk and asked if she would like to get some coffee. She said she had already had some and asked if we could get coffee tomorrow. I was impressed that she had already had coffee–it was literally 11:01. I mean, I know the cups are smaller here, but still that was a quick break. Anyway, I gladly accepted her offer for coffee tomorrow, and I turned to go back to my office. On my way, another girl stopped me and said, “Oh, great! You came down for coffee!” I looked puzzled, I’m sure, and she said, “I’m Marta! I emailed you about having coffee.” I just smiled and accepted trying to explain my mishap to her. We both laughed and enjoyed a coffee break together. And, I get to have coffee with the other Marta tomorrow!

Better than a Sunday Afternoon Nap

20140504-120336.jpgThis afternoon I got to meet up with an American friend, Leah, who has been teaching in Madrid this past school year. I met up with her and one of her friends (a fellow English teacher) by the Sagrada Familia. We ambled up the Avinguda Gaudi and sat to chat over some coffee. Leah and I were in Hungary for a couple of weeks together four years ago (and we are both Asbury College Alums). Today was especially fun because I got to hear their stories about Spanish culture and their love of the people. At first, three months in one place sounded like a while, but after hearing them talk about their past year here, I felt a tinge of sadness for the day that I depart from this beautiful place. More than that, I am filled with thankfulness today.

Beautiful buildings

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Here are lousy pictures of beautiful buildings! These are all of the Hospital de Sant Pau.

Pau Gil, a Catalan who made his money as a banker in Paris, left a large sum money in his will for a hospital to be built in Barcelona. So, after his death, construction began in 1901. By 1911 there were 8 blocks of the complex in use, but they didn’t finish building it until 1930. In fact it’s the largest complex in Modernist style. The plans  included 48 individual buildings in one large square. There is even a church on the premises with floral decoration and sculptures by the best artists of the time! 

They wanted to give sick people a feeling of well-being and beauty, believing that beauty has therapeutic value. The complex was still used as a hospital until 2009! Now, it is being used by about seven different aid organizations including WHO and the UN.  There are certain dilapidated parts that they are working on fully restoring (you can see construction materials in one of the pictures below).

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