Monday, October 31, 2011

That Day We Walked Off The Map

Today was one of the best days I have had since coming to Spain. And that is saying something considering I have done some unbelievably amazing things.

We had a five day weekend this weekend (yes Mom and Dad, I am actually learning things). Most of my friends traveled to other places across Europe this weekend. I spent a fare amount of money in Italy and decided it would be best to maybe stay put in Granada and explore the city a little. So Friday, I shopped. For anyone that really knows me it is like pulling teeth to get me to go shopping a lot of the times. Especially when I have to spend money. But not this time. I spent the entire day in and out of stores trying on cute clothes. It was so fun. I even bought things! Saturday we went on a group tour of a neighbor in the area. Sunday I slept in and spent the day mostly around the house. But today, my friends Sam, Georgia, Molly, and I decided we needed to go hiking. Music to my ears. The only thing was we had no plan. I had heard there was some hiking within walking distance from the city center so we decided to just start walking and see where we ended up. So we picked a direction and started walking. And this is where we ended up...

Yeah. How crazy is it that I can literally walk out my front door and end up here by foot. I would do this everyday if time allowed. Since being here I have realized how much I long to be outside. How much I love the mountains. And that I have a God who has been gracious to me and knows that I love being out in the world he created. It was no accident I grew up going to Colorado, that I landed in Asheville, NC for college and that now I am in Granada, Spain at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Call it what you want, but I believe it is all purposeful and not just a coincidence. 

A smile has not left my face all day. I am already planning how fast I can get back up into those hills. Because my heart is not satisfied in the city. It never will be. I crave space, greenery, mountains, and fresh air. I love nature because I cannot ignore the hand that created it. I cannot ignore the face of Jesus when I am amongst his creation. I am blessed to have to opportunity to be in the very middle of it. 

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; 
night after night they display his knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard. Their
voice goes out into all the earth, 
their words to the ends of the world. 
-Psalm 19:1-4

Friday, October 28, 2011


This is what I looked at today

It was pretty cool. Also pretty cool to know that I moved from one mountain town to another.
Although, today, while shopping I did see a guy's shirt in english that said "Appalachian Trail: Extreme hiking" and my heart and my stomach hurt a little bit. And that is when I knew, Asheville North Carolina has stolen a piece of my heart forever and ever. And I am certainly ok with that...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Why are you Here?"

It's only natural for people to ask me the question "why are you here?" when i first meet them. For awhile I gave the standard answer "to learn spanish." But now I know the reason goes far beyond and deeper than that and I am only beginning to understand a piece of it. Let me explain.

Since arriving in Spain 2 months ago I have had more quiet time than I have had in my entire life. When I close both layers of outside doors and the door to my room in my house here the stillness can be defining. And at first it scared me very much. But after awhile I learned to become friends with the silence and am starting to master the art of being still. well, sort of. Little by little.

And what have learned so far is slightly ironic in my opinion. It is starting to appear to me that instead of getting to run away from my problems I was actually 'brought' here in order to grow and to heal. and apparently to do that, I needed to leave the country. To finally unpack all of those bags that have been weighing me down for a while. The first time I realized this I may or may not have looked up and said "Are you kidding me?" but then I laughed and shook my head because ultimately I have come to discover it is, in fact, the best way. I know that might not be the only reason I am here but so far I have a pretty strong case for it. and I am slowly learning to cherish every moment I have here.

Here in Spain nothing is truly very comfortable. From the food to the language all is different. I have had no other option but to spend time with Jesus. And i LOVE that. At first it was scary and hard to do it. But now I find myself sitting in my room just laying in the silence.

I have also found community where I least expected it and am hopeful for more. Even today, I was super sick in the morning but by the afternoon I felt good enough to venture out and meet up with two of my friends from Minnesota studying spanish here in Granada. We ended up talking for 4 hours in a cafe about life, Jesus and how he is at work in our lives. My heart felt alive again, like I was waking up from a deep slumber that I have been in for a while. I am almost in tears (of joy) at how well I am and have been cared for in my life. I never could have thought it would have taken leaving everything I have ever known behind to come face to face with myself in order to grow.  My time here has been so sweet. While there have been many days that have been a struggle, even within those I am learning to find the sweetness. I am being given so many opportunities to be still and to listen, to cry, to grow, to heal, to be honest, to learn, and open my heart once again. It is not an easy thing, but it is good. The God I serve is a merciful God and thankfully, he is not finished with me yet and never will be.

I can't help comparing him to all of the artists of the sculptures I saw in Italy. The Lord is a master sculpture patiently chipping away at me. It is often times a painful process and a lot of times I tend to fight back because it is hard to understand. And that is when I have to learn to stop fighting so much and trying to understand and just trust. and so trust I will...

But I trust in your unfailing love, 
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.
-Psalm 13:5-6

All things Italy

It is amazing how time just slips away from you sometimes. I feel like that last few weeks have been crazy but amazing. I returned last Monday night from my 10 day adventure in Italy. It was so awesome I don't know if I have the words to accurately describe it. I had 3 days of class last week and then headed to Sevilla and Cordoba, Spain with my program group. I'll save that for another post. Then Sunday night I got sick. Got worse yesterday and spent the whole day in bed with the most painful sore throat i have ever experienced before I stopped being brave and told my host mom what was happening. She and her daughter diagnosed me with strep throat and immediately rushed off to get antibiotics which I have now been taking like it is my job. Slept through class this morning but thankful woke up and no longer had a fever. Just a throat that feels like someone has sliced it with a knife. So today, I am spending the day catching up on my cyber life.

And back to Italy...for those of you who did not see my 300 pictures on Facebook, here a few for you to catch a glimpse of the amazing time i had
 Me at the beginning of the hiking trail between five italian costal villages. More commonly known as Chinque Terre. This beauty of this place was far beyond the well over 100 pictures i took in one day

the gang. 

grapefruit gelato and pesto, a fantastic start to my Italian experience

 our view for the sunset that night in Rio Maggiore. It was one of the prettiest i've seen

stayed the night outside of La Spezia, Italy and took an early morning train to Florence. I stayed in Florence for 5 days and saw everything from Michelangelo's 'David' sculpture to the Duomo. Went on a wine tasting that lasted the entire day, watched 3 sunsets over Florence, ate more gelato than I should have, and fell in love with Italy. need evidence?

our great hostel in Florence. It looks crazy, but believe me, it was perfect.

 Duomo- so big..

And yes, we did go eat at the pizza place that the cast of Jersey Shore worked at while they filmed in Florence. It was delicious. And i only saw 3 native English speaking people there. We felt like it was a must, being so close and all.

the ladies on our free walking tour of Florence.

pear and dark chocolate gelato at 11AM. 

dome of the Duomo

Florence skyline from Michelangelo Plazza

Wine tour! Chianti Classico region in Tuscany. Italy apparently has 600 types of mind was boggled
 first winery

second winery with our guide, Mateo. We also had honey and the best olive oil i have ever had in my entire life

second winery. this place has been open since the 1500's.

the end of our day in the Tuscany region. 

beginnings of a sunset of Florence after an incredible day in the Tuscany region

copy of 'David.' the real thing is incredible in real life. 

Florence. goodbye for now

While staying in Florence we took a day trip to Pisa to see the tower and also to a town called Lucca of which I had never heard but will certainly be returning to at some point in my life..

how could you visit the tower and not take a pic like this?

seriously, they aren't kidding when they say this thing leans

Lucca at sunset

Lucca, i will be back..

The last stop on our agenda was Rome. I must say it took me about a half of a day to get adjusted to being there. We were able to see all of the major sights while we were there. Sistine Chapel, colosseum, Roman Forum, St. Peter Basilica, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain... It was such an surreal experience to be actually seeing some of the most famous landmarks and history on this earth. Even though there were thousands upon thousands of people in these places, somehow i was able to get lost in the magnificence of it all, the grandeur of what has been. It is pretty unbelievable the more I think about it.

Rafael School of Athens. fun fact: this is aslo painted on a giant wall in the Student Union at UNCA. 

St. Peter's Basilica


 the BEST gelato of the trip. Old Bridge Gelateria. Strawberry and Lemon. I ate there 3 times in 3 hours. it's a long story....i do not regret it

a castle. it was cool.

Occupy Wall Street (rome), protests against the italian government, crazy people rioting in the streets. don't worry, i was safely away from the cars that got fire bombed and caused this fire

Roman Forum

the main attraction...

I honestly felt so strange standing here smiling. And of course, I came home to Spain and watched Gladiator..

check it out, the old and the new..

those Spanish Steps
Thank you for reading the longest blog post of your life. Ironically being in Italy made me even more excited about being in Spain and learning Spanish. I heard so many languages on our trip. It was a fantastic experience. History seems to have more of a tangible meaning to me, at least this small sliver. I also know how to use the Italian train system very, very well. 
I am so glad that I have the opportunity to be abroad for almost a year and to take trips like this one. I still have to shake my head sometimes to make sure that this is all real. And it is. Every bit of it. And for that, I am thankful.