Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I'm back in the U.S. now! The last week of my time in Spain flew by and I didn't have time to write at all because I was enjoying every second I had there. I had to say a lot of sad goodbyes, but I know that I made lasting friends. I went to Ignition, the young adult group of the church I've been attending in Madrid, one last time last Tuesday and they prayed for me as I left and blessed me into my work with InterVarsity this fall. It is so good to know that my "family" all the way in Madrid will be praying for me and supporting me as I go into ministry.

I didn't stop adventuring my last week. I went to a flamenco bar with Erica and her host mom on Wednesday night to see flamenco dancing and hear a live band. The music started at 12:30am, but things didn't start to liven up until 2am! It was a late night, but so worth it. Never before have I seen so many people excited to dance such a traditional dance. There were people of all ages staying out that late to hear live flamenco music and dance their hearts out. It made me wish I could dance flamenco.

I went to El Prado art museum and got to see paintings by Goya, Velazquez, Brueghel and many more famous artists. It was another shocking experience being among so many acclaimed pieces of art. Here's a tip though, if you are a student, BRING YOUR STUDENT ID! I forgot mine in the states thinking there would be no use of it in Spain since I am not European, but apparently they give all students discounts if you have your student ID. El Prado was free for students with ID and 12 Euros for everyone else, including me. But it was worth the money.

I hung out with my host mom and her friends one last time at their favorite café. I had chocolate con churros, like always as we chatted. Every photo I have with Concha, is of us at the same café eating chocolate con churros. To say the least it was something we did quite often.

The last day of class was bittersweet. We had a party, played games in Spanish and ate chocolate cake. I was sad to say goodbye to my classmates and teacher because I had learned so much from all of them, but so happy that I had such a great experience at the school and really had improved my Spanish.

So, now I'm back in the states getting ready for my next adventure: interning with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Dickinson College. I'm sure I will learn a lot from this experience as well. Adiós!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weekend Adventures

This past weekend was my last full weekend in Madrid. I was planning on going to Barcelona, because it's one of the places I've wanted to see ever since learning about Spain. But, no one was able to come with me and I would much rather spend time with friends than traveling on my own, so I stayed in Madrid. I am so glad I did because I would have missed out on some quality time with my host family and some friends that I've made while I've been here.

Friday night, Erica and I went out to tapear (ta-pay-are). Yes, this is actually a word in Spanish, and guess what it means... to go out for tapas! So we went to an area of town famous for the tapas bars and went to three different places. Usually tapas bars are standing room only and to order you have to push your way up to the bar and shout what you want. I got this amazing tapa called a croquetta and it's basically a fried ball of cheese. So delicious!

We met a couple from Kentucky at the bar and talked with them for a bit and gave them tips of things they should do in the two days they are in Madrid. We then walked the crowded streets to a small pizza place because we knew they had amazing bread, so we just ordered a basket of bread and tinto de verano, a popular drink here that consists of red wine and sprite. By the time we left this place it was about 1am, which is still considered early for the Spanish on a weekend. We then found an ice cream place that was open until 2:30am, so we got ice cream and talked until they kicked us out.

As we ate our ice cream and people watched out the window, we heard whistling and Erica said it sounded like the Snow White song. I dismissed it, but soon enough a parade of guys dressed up like the dwarfs, with a guy dressed up like Snow White as their leader, marched past the window! Apparently stuff like this happens a lot in the summer because for people's bachelor/bachelorette parties they dress the groom/bride-to-be in a ridiculous costume and go bar hopping. Later this weekend I saw a party of girls all dressed up like matadors riding on the metro and singing Spanish songs.

Saturday I slept in and then my host mom's (Concha) daughter and her family came to eat lunch with us and stayed over the whole afternoon to swim in the pool at Concha's apartment. I helped Concha make lunch, fried chicken and salad, played with Susana and Ramon, her grandkids, took a two hour nap, and swam in the pool with the kids.

It is actually great to practice Spanish with kids because they speak in simple words but also use colloquial language. At night I went to see a movie with some friends from the church I've been going to at the cine de verano (literally, movie theater of summer), which is an outside movie theater, kind of like a drive-in, but it is only set up in the summer and you sit on chairs rather than in your car. We watched The Artist, which I had already seen on the plane on the way here but it was good to see it again with friends. Also, these friends are from Spain, so all night I got to practice my Spanish.

Sunday was another day full of experiences. I met Erica's host mom, Ester, and another girl who is living with them, Maria, and we all went to El Rastro, a huge flea market. It reminded me of being in Ecuador with all of the artisan stands, expect no bartering happens here, you just pay the price they tell you. We went out to eat at El Mercado de San Antón and got delicious empanadas, kabobs and gazpacho. Whenever Erica and I slipped into speaking Spanish, Ester scolded us and made us speak in Spanish even if it was hard to express ourselves. More great practice! By the end of yesterday I was thinking in Spanish.

Now it's the end of the weekend and the beginning of my last week here. I have plans to see a flamenco show, watch the sunset at this Egyptian temple, eat at Café Gijon (the famous café where Buñuel and Dalí would frequently meet up), see El Escorial and go to El Prado.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


This weekend I went on an excursion all on my own to go visit Liz in Salamanca. Liz is a good friend from Spruce Lake Wilderness Camp and when we found out we would both be in Spain at the same time we just had to meet up. The last time I saw her was over Christmas break. We both live in PA, but rather than seeing each other there, the first time we've seen each other in 6 months is in Spain! It was great to see a familiar face while being abroad. It was comforting to talk about the things we have in common and reminisce about the good times we've shared together. We also made so many new memories too while exploring Salamanca together!

It's so awesome how the people we meet everywhere allow us to go places we never would have gone before. I may have still visited Liz if she wasn't in Salamanca, but it definitely wouldn't have been the same experience. Sharing travel experiences with friends is, I think, one of the most rewarding experiences. Traveling is great on your own, and you learn a lot, but there's something about having someone to laugh with, share stories and memories and support each other while traveling.

Liz and I went on a paddleboat ride down the River Tormes, ate a lot of delicious Spanish food (and learned that Spaniards don't have picnics... people looked at us really weird when we brought food to a park to eat it), watched the "mayores" dance salsa in a park (it's always dancing time in Spain, unless it's siesta time), stayed up "late" (until 2 am, but most people are just starting their Saturday night then), bought souvenirs at a flea market, and most importantly got to talk and catch up. It was Liz's last weekend in Salamanca, so I'm glad I could come and spend time with her before she left. Tomorrow, back to Spanish classes in Madrid!

Puerta del Sol

I have been here for exactly two weeks now. The second half of my time here will go by twice as fast as the first I think. One month is not nearly enough time to really build community and learn a language, but I have surprisingly grown a whole lot in the past two weeks and learned more than I ever expected to learn in my time here.

Demonstrations, strikes and marches happen all the time here because the Eurozone crisis. Especially in Puerta del Sol (Door of the Sun). This plaza is not only a tourist attraction, but it's also a popular meeting place, shopping central, and the dead center of Spain. It's called "Kilometer Zero" because all highway kilometer markers count out from that point. So, it's a great place to gather to protest something because not only will a lot of people see you and pay attention, but it sends a message to the whole country, putting these issues at the center of the country.

Last week a huge group of miners from Asturias came to Puerta del Sol to protest job cuts. I was there and got to experience the culture of demonstrations here in Spain. I happened to be at Puerta del Sol not because I knew there would be a huge demonstration, but rather because I was coming to check out a ministry group that does street evangelism there called "On the Red Box." Street evangelism isn't really my thing, but I saw God working here in Madrid through the church that I went to and they directed me to this ministry to see more cool things that are happening. (Ask me sometime about all the cool things I got to see at the church I went to). It is amazing, they are preaching the gospel in the heart of the country, at Kilometer Zero and the Door of the Sun.

The gospel of peace is such a contrast to the somewhat violent protests that have been happening in this same exact spot in Madrid. Jesus wants to throw down the systems just like the people protesting, but he does it with love, rather than with violence. I want to be a part of this Jesus revolution that tears down corruption and injustice in order to bring peace to the nations.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

La Corrida de los Toros

Overall my time here has been such an adventure. Every day I am learning something new or meeting new people from all over the world or seeing new things. Class has been so much fun and it doesn't even really feel like a class, but I am learning so much and my Spanish is definitely improving. When I run in the morning I find myself thinking in Spanish instead of English! My host mom is such a doll and I am so blessed to be living with her. I met her daughter, son-in-law and their two kids this past weekend and had a huge Sunday lunch with them. I thought that the first course was lunch so I ate a lot, and then Concha brought out a huge pot roast and piled meat and potatoes on my plate. So that's my little update. I have so many stories, so ask me about tapas, El Palacio Real and running sometime.

This past Sunday I went to a bullfight with a few of my friends from class. The tickets were only 6.50 Euros because we sat pretty high up in the stadium and in the sun for part of the time we were there. When you buy one ticket, you stay for three fights total. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go at first, but I decided I should at least go once so I can form my own opinion of what I think about the bullfights. Bullfighting is prohibited in Cataluña, one of the regions of Spain, and in other Spanish-speaking countries, like Ecuador, they are trying to prohibit it.

Here is how a bullfight works. First, there is a type of parade where all of the players (all men) parade around the arena while a small pep band plays a fanfare. Then, the first fight starts after 6 men are in their places stationed around the arena. When the bull comes out each man takes his turn waving his cape in front of the bull and the bull runs around the arena in circles to each of the 6 men. After they tire the bull out a bit, the picador, a man on horseback with a huge javelin, comes into the arena and the men direct the bull towards the horse. Usually the bull will charge the horse and the picador will stick the javelin in the bull's back. From then on the bull is bleeding profusely for the entire rest of the "fight." It's definitely not a fight, it's more of a form of torture, I think.

Then, 3 more men enter the arena with these things called bandilleras, sticks with barbs, that they attempt to run up to the bull and thrust into its back. Then the matador (or torrero) comes out and this is the main fight one on one, man and bull. But the man has his full strength and the bull has been weakened already and is continuing to lose blood. The matador uses his cape to make the bull charge, and after he has been tired out (we could see the bulls drooling and dropping their heads and hanging their tongues out of their mouth), he sticks the bull with a sword. If the matador is successful the bull will die almost instantly, if not he will have to stick it with the sword again.

In the three fights that we saw, there was so much action. In one, the bull was so riled up and aggressive that he knocked the horse over and the picador fell. You could here the two animals hit each other with a pound, but the horse was pretty much defenseless because it was blindfolded. I guess if it weren't the horse would be too afraid to even enter the ring. In another, the matador had to run away from the bull and catapult himself over the side of the arena! And in the last fight, the matador was trampled by the bull and had to be taken out of the arena. So, I guess in that case the bull won... But they still killed it.

 Although it was a neat experience going to see a bullfight, I don't think I would ever go see one again.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


The past two days I visited two art museums here. One I stumbled upon during my exploration of the area around Puerta del Sol (a plaza who's name literally means Door of the Sun), and the other I went to with my classmates. The first, was called Museo Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Yeah, it's a mouthful. It was a lot of classic art and I loved seeing the paintings by Goya that I had studied in my Spanish classes. I spent a few hours just wandering around the galleries taking in all the beauty. It's a different kind of beauty than I'm accustomed to. I am always drawn to the beauty in nature and seeing the "artwork" of the great outdoors, but here in the city there's not a whole lot of that so it's nice to take in a different kind of art, a different beauty.

 (Artwork in San Fernando)

The next museum I visited was el Museo de la Reina Sofia. This one doen't have any of the classics, just the neoclassics and modern works. And guess what piece is there. La Guernica. This piece was painted by Picasso to depict the Civil War in Spain. I've learned about it a lot in all of my classes and I've seen pictures of it, but to see it in person was a shock. It's huge! It takes up an entire wall and it's in one room by itself. There were also about 5 security guards standing around scolding anyone who tried to take a picture or even tried to sit on the floor to rest a bit. I just stood there in awe, hearing the cries of the mothers who's children had died, seeing the sadness on each person's face in the painting and thinking of all the suffering like this that still goes on in the world today. I want to go back to the Reina Sofia again sometime while I'm here because the only thing we really had time to see was La Guernica and some works by Dalí and others by Picasso.

Other than art museums, I've been finding my way around the city quite well, figuring out the buses and Metros, learning new Spanish phrases and words that are unique to Spain and spending time with my new friends here. I also found a great place to run! There's a huge park right behind my host mom's apartment and it has a great view of the city too. And there are birds in the park!! I saw a flock of parrots today! Right now I'm about to go have lunch with my friend, Erica, in a cafe called "Taberna" (Tavern). We went there yesterday for breakfast and it's a place where all the locals go. We want to be regulars there, so we're coming back today. The food is super cheap too!

Monday, July 2, 2012

La madrileña

Day 2 in Madrid and I already feel like a madrileña. I arrived yesterday morning after a long flight that was delayed for 2 hours before we left JFK. And we were in the plane the entire 2 hours waiting for the maintenance crew to fix a problem with the engine sensor. I kept thinking that "it's all part of the experience," one of my family's well-known mantras when we travel.

It sure has been an experience so far. My host mom, Concha, is so sweet. She immediately made me feel at home and fed me and made me take a three hour siesta. Apparently that's an everyday occurrence here in Madrid. I sure needed it, I felt like a zombie after only having slept three hours on the plane. Concha's apartment is small but I have a nice room and my own bathroom. There's also a pool in the courtyard that all the residents can use!
 (My room!)

The food was a bit of a shock though. I haven't eaten meat in about a year and the first thing my host mom made for me was steak and pasta with this weird blue cheese salad dressing on it and a huge iceberg lettuce salad (just to clarify the salad dressing was on the pasta, not on the salad). I'm not a huge fan of the food here, but again "it's all part of the experience," so I'll be ok.

I went to mass with Concha, another experience because I was trying to cross myself at all the right times, look like I knew all the words to the responses and stay awake all at once. I'm pretty sure I just stood out like a sore thumb. Especially because my host mom always sits in the front of the church. When the priest said the benediction he said something about saying a prayer for the futbol team because they were about to play in the Euro Cup. What a day to arrive in Madrid. After mass everyone rushed home to their televisions to watch the game. It was even more intense than the Super Bowl in the states. I watched with Concha as we ate dinner, which by the way, here dinner is at 9:30 pm. The streets were completely empty the entire game, but as soon as Spain won, 4-0, everyone went LOCO!

Today there was a party in the Plaza Cebeles near my school and the futbol team made an appearance! There was a concert and everyone dressed in their Spain jerseys and chanted as we waited for the team to arrive. Sadly I didn't get to see the actual team because my host mom needed me home for dinner... But just being there in that plaza with everyone so pumped to see their team win was phenomenal. (I'm already having a bit of trouble writing in English, it's taking me longer to formulate my thoughts because they're coming in Spanish first. This is a good sign).
 (My classmate and I at the rally)

My first class today was fun too. I already made a few friends and I'm looking forward to spending this month with my classmates. Only 4 or 5 of us are from the US and the rest are from France, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Germany and a handful of other countries. It's so interesting to hear all of their accents in Spanish instead of English. I have class in the afternoon from 3:30 until 7 pm so I'll get to sleep in and run every morning. Buenas noches!

Friday, June 29, 2012


I haven't written in this blog in over a year, and now I'm finding myself going off on another adventure abroad. I received a scholarship to study Spanish in Madrid for the month of July and although it is in the middle of a very busy summer, full of change with everything going on post-graduation, I decided to accept it. Spain has been on my list of places to go ever since I took a class on Spanish history at Moravian College and I never would have expected to be going there now. It's funny how life has little surprises like this.

I leave PA tomorrow, arrive in Madrid on Sunday morning and my classes start Monday morning. This is the first time I've been on a trip like this all on my own. In Ecuador I was always with a friend or the SIT program, but this time I need to do everything on my own. I'll get thrown right into things. When I get off the plane in Madrid I need to figure out the bus system to get to my host family's house and I won't have anyone telling me what to do or translating for me or holding my hand through it all. This will be a grand adventure and I'm looking forward to this challenge and the opportunities and experiences I will gain from it.

"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."

- The Old Walking Song, Lord of the Rings