Prone to Wander…

My more than likely infrequent updates and thoughts about my semester in Sevilla, Spain. Habbakuk 3:17-19

¡Força Barça! and other small adventures….

Wow so much has happened since my last post. But those who know me shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that I couldn’t commit to something consistently. O well. I will just try to summarize what I have done since my last post and will put up another one soon detailing my thoughts a little more.

Well for starters, on September 29th I fulfilled a dream of mine by getting to see FC Barcelona play live!!!! It was an absolutely incredible and electric experience even though I was in the opposing stadium. The game was played right down the street from me at Sevilla FC’s stadium. The whole atmosphere leading up to the game was incredible! There was a large group of fans right outside the stadium chanting like the Orc army being addressed by Saruman at Isenguard(for all my Lord of the Rings fans out there)! I actually like Sevilla FC but I am a Barcelona fan first and foremost. I cheered for Barcelona in a subdued fashion as I didn’t feel like getting stabbed by angry Sevilla fans, though in hindsight I would have been fine. Barcelona, on the whole, didn’t actually play that well and were down 2-0 early in the second half, but after Fabregas scored their first goal in the 53rd minute, they got control of the game. Fabregas scored again in the 88th minute and David Villa, who had come on as a substitute, scored the winning goal in stoppage time to secure the win! However, the win came with an asterisk as Fabregas got Gary Medel sent off with a red card on an obvious flop. While certainly unfortunate, not much could bring down my high of getting to see Lionel Messi play in person! Although he did not score, he was involved in every goal.

On the weekend of October 6th I went on two day trips. The first was through the University to the Pueblos Blancos, or White Villages. We started with a 2 Km hike to the town of Ubrique(pictured above). Ubrique is a picturesque little town nestled in the rocky peaks of the Sierra Nevada and is apparently well known for leather. This is the town I think of when I think of Spain; white washed homes, little old ladies sitting out chatting, and a small wedding in the town chapel. Absolutely beautiful place. A truly Spanish experience. Then we got on the charter bus to go to the next town after lunch, and on one of the turns…..we got stuck. I kid you not, I got a LITTLE BIT concerned when we were told to all sit on one side of the bus. When they told us to get off, I didn’t think twice about it. But we were fine, and after backing up traffic for fifteen minutes, we eventually went on our way to the next town known as Zahara de la Sierra. The town is built on the side of a mountain with a small castle on top and overlooks and beautiful valley with a perfectly blue lake. The view was absolutely stunning! Here it is:

That day was quite a hike, but it was a lot of fun! The next day, I went to Cordoba with my friends and had a great time! The group is from TCU and they have been an answered prayer for me so far! There isn’t that much to see in Cordoba other than the Mezquita, which is a beautiful mosque that was converted into a Catholic church. The Christian conquerors thought the architecture was too beautiful to destroy, so they used it! It is really neat to me because the architecture is Muslim and then suddenly, BAM, church out of nowhere. I don’t enjoy visiting Cathedrals too much but this one was definitely different.

Last but not least, this past weekend I went to Barcelona and Madrid. I was going by myself, as my new group of friends from TCU had already been, and I had a long weekend, so why not? During my preparations, I discovered my friend Abigail Scheid and her group from Furman were going to Barcelona the same weekend! She has been studying in Madrid this semester and we were going to be in Barcelona and Madrid at the same times! So the first night I got there, I met up with her and her(now my) friends and spent the evening with them. The next day, while their group was busy touring, I went to see the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, both of which were designed by Gaudi. I did not actually go into the Sagrada Familia until the next day, but I will go ahead and say the inside is absolutely incredible! By far the most beautiful cathedral I have ever visited. I could say more but for the sake of time I will move on. The other highlight of my time there was going to tour the Camp Nou, FC Barcelona’s stadium. That was a truly awesome experience. As part of the tour you get to see the stadium, museum, press box, and you get to walk down the player’s tunnel by which the team enters the field. Such a cool experience! After two full days in Barcelona, I took the train to Madrid! Abigail’s schedule was pretty much the same as mine, as she and her group flew back the same day. My first half day in Madrid, I walked around on my own and saw the sights, and walked through the park! Madrid is a much more beautiful city than I expected it to be. The next day I toured the Royal Palace, and in the afternoon I went to the Reina Sofia and Prado galleries with Elise, a new friend from Furman! Elise is a studio art major and could actually appreciate the art in the museums, so she was basically my tour guide. I have to say, this was the only time I have ever been to an art museum and not been bored out of my mind! She helped make the exhibits, particularly the 20th century exhibits, very interesting to me. The last night I spent hanging out with Abigail, and we got to have a great Jesus conversation, which I desperately needed! Hearing her testimony and knowing that she was struggling with the same things I was struggling with this semester really refreshed me in a lot of ways. But I will talk about that more in my next post.

So in all, my travels have gone well. But I am definitely getting really homesick(well, PC sick). I have my midterms coming up and I really could care less to be honest. My classes aren’t that great(save a couple exceptions), and the things I have to do for some of my midterms have more to do with memory work than really understanding(at least that is how I see it). But more on all of these things in my next post!

Please be praying for motivation and that I can actually get my work done!!!! I really need it ha ha

¡¡¡Toro, Toro, Toro!!!

Last weekend I had the unique opportunity to attend a bullfight in the Plaza de Toros in Seville. The Plaza de Toros is one of the oldest bullfighting rings in the world and is considered to be one of the premier venues in which to watch the brutal spectacle. The crowd knows quality and is unforgiving of anything less than the best. It took me about an hour to discern what was quality and what wasn’t. The bullfight is not a battle to see who can necessarily kill the bull the fastest(at least from what I could see), but to demonstrate that you are in control of the animal. To start they have some other lower level matador runs the bull around, then two men come out on horse back with spears. They stab them into the bull’s back, which draws A LOT of blood. Then the other matadors get the bull to charge at them and they stick the bull with what I can only describe as decorative spikes. All of this is done to weaken the bull for the real Matador(as seen above). There were three Matadors in this particular bullfight, each fought two bulls. The closer the matador got the bull to run around him, the more the crowd cheered. Again, this shows the Matador is in control of the bull. One of the bulls actually got one of the Matadors on the ground! I thought he was gored for sure, but nothing that exciting happened. He also got the wind knocked out of him by his next bull. Needless to say, he had a rough day. The last thing the Matador does(or it is supposed to be) is to stab his sword through the spine of the bull. Ideally the bull drops right then, but more often than not the bull takes longer to die, and is finally finished of by one of the lower level Matadors. Also, I know this is random, but they had what I can only describe as a pep band in the audience as well. Anyway, moving on.

I have two observations about the bullfight as it relates to Spanish culture:

1.) In Spanish sports, HOW you win matters just as much as actually winning(and possibly more). In American sports, we admire the grit and determination of watching a person/team grind out a win when they should have lost. For Americans, the how matters, but the how is more about how much effort one puts in. Do they have to struggle for that victory? This is a mentality as old as America itself! A great example of this difference in American and European thought is in soccer. For those of you who follow european football, you know Spanish style football is known for their slow, patient, short passing style of play. This is particularly seen in Barcelona. Possession and control dominates for Spain. You will rarely see Barcelona or the Spanish national team crossing  into the 18 yard box to score. They would rather pass the ball into the goal. It is important for the Spanish and Barcelona to win, but it is equally important to do so the their way because it shows they can enforce their will and make you chase them. They opposite of this can be found in last year’s Chelsea team that made a miracle run to win the Champions League in penalty kicks. Chelsea’s strategy was this: get ahead and put 6-8 men in front of goal and get in the way of shots. Let’s be clear: Chelsea was a terrible team, but the were scrappy, a quality American sports fans love. But you ask the average European about Chelsea, they will tell you it was frustrating to watch because Chelsea didn’t really play football. It was too safe. Now to be fair, we often say the same things, but in America the result is only thing that matters in the end. If you win, who cares how you did it. The reason the bullfight is different is everyone knows who is going to win in the end(most of the time), therefore how you win matters a lot.

2.) The bullfight is brutal. I won’t lie, I couldn’t watch the first couple times they killed the bull. One thing I can say with full confidence is this: it is without a doubt animal torture. One of my friends did mention that maybe it is the more honorable way for the bull to die than a slaughterhouse, but I don’t really think bulls think about that too much. I will grant that all the meat from the bull goes to homeless shelters, so it’s not 100% bad. However, the fact remains that people are toying with a bleeding, dying animal. It’s incredibly difficult to appreciate the “artistic” side of bullfighting when you can literally see blood bubbling up from the holes in its back. It is a very slow and obviously painful death. When the pastor of the church I have been attending and his wife asked me what I thought I said, “It was an interesting cultural experience, but I don’t want to go back.” They agreed, and went on to say the majority of Spaniards dislike the bullfight and it is illegal in most parts of the country, but they money and tradition drive it’s continued existence in Sevilla.

I have actually done other less depressing things in the past week and a half! I am very excited about going to see Barcelona play Sevilla FC tomorrow just down the street from me! I still haven’t decided if I am going to wear my Barcelona jersey or not. I keep getting mixed reviews as to whether that is ok or not. Some Spaniards say, “Nah, it’s fine. Don’t sweat it.” Others very bluntly say, “No, that’s a terrible idea.” We’ll see what happens I guess. My classes are going well I think, but I feel behind in my learning Spanish. I really need to commit to talking in Spanish more, but my vocabulary is so limited it makes it incredibly difficult to not default to english. At the church last week, I met the Pastor Pepe Miranda’s son Daniel who speaks perfect english and spanish. My short conversations with him and others at Iglesia Parque Este have been incredibly helpful! I also met a medical school student and his wife from Guatemala. I asked him how to tell doctors I am Sidus Inversus Totalus(it’s not a Harry Potter spell; its a thing. Look it up), and apparently it is the same thing just pronounced in Spanish(go figure). But once again, the people at Iglesia Parque Este were incredibly friendly and loving!

My epiphany for the week comes courtesy of a girl I met at the church whose name, I believe, was Vivian. I was talking to her in Spanish, and doing pretty well. She told me she spent the last summer in Atlanta and was actually a fan of baseball now(Braves of course, even though she only went to a Gwinnett game)! I was saying something about my struggle with Spanish and my lack of vocabulary and then she told me something I thought was really interesting; “You actually speak better than me a lot of the time.”

What?

I thought every Spanish person spoke perfect Spanish, with absolutely perfect grammar, all the time? While I have never actually thought that explicitly, that is how approach talking to Spanish speakers. Since I learned Spanish in a classroom setting, I for some reason have this mental block that requires me to only try Spanish if I speak it perfectly! No native speaker or Spanish speaks absolutely perfectly, and the same is true for english speakers. It is an incredible realization to me that my (seemingly) broken Spanish makes a lot more sense than I think it does. I was reminded of a time in my high school Spanish 4 class with Señora Irwin. We were discussing the differences in Por & Para and, to prove this very point I’m talking about to us, she asked Maria Jimenez(who speaks Spanish) why she chose Por or Para for a particular sentence we were working on. Maria’s answer was, “I don’t know. The other way just sounds wrong.” Expecting a native Spanish speaker to ace a Spanish grammar class is not dissimilar to asking me to ace an English grammar class(I actually got a B in Linguistics). Learning this has definitely made me more relaxed when trying to speak Spanish.

So I am going to try just speaking as naturally as possible and see what happens! Thanks for reading and I hope to post another post in the next couple of days that is more of a personal reflection on my first month here and what God is teaching me!

Thanks for reading!

Jacob

And just for kicks, here’s what I’ve been reading/watching:

The Great Gatsby, A Good Man is Hard to Find, The Prodigal God, and I am currently reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. It’s rocking my world right now, I will have plenty to say about that book during my time here. Also, I just watched Tom Shadyac’s(Directed Bruce Almighty, Ace Ventura, and Liar Liar to name a few of his movies) documentary “I AM.”  An absolute must see. Definitely eye opening. Also I have been watching a little BBC comedy call Rev. It is about an Anglican priest who moves from a small country parish to a struggling congregation in London. Great show filled with a lot of heart and a lot of laughs.

Not all who wander are lost……but then there’s Me.

It is incredibly weird for me to think that I have been in Sevilla for over two weeks now. It’s even weirder to think that I will be here for another three months! I already feel like I have been here so long. I guess that is a good thing, since that means I am getting comfortable here. With classes starting, I have been able to get into a routine of late. I also manage to work out fairly consistently, with the exception of today(Chose to write this post instead, sorry Kyle). However, I have a had a couple chances to go running here in Sevilla. For example, there is a park in front of the Plaza de España(seen above) that is great for running or just sitting on a park bench and reading. Also, the rest of the American students arrived last week and I have gotten the chance to know quite a few of them! There are a lot of really interesting people here and a fairly wide diversity of personalities.

The one thing I thought I could never get used to was the late night lifestyle over here. I am actually adjusting to it pretty well so far! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not out at clubs until sunrise. But I am out generally until around 2 or 3 in the morning on Friday nights just hanging out and talking to people. But I have had times like this past Saturday, where I ended up not getting home until around four in the morning(not my intention). The worst part about that was that I got up at ten the next morning to go to church, which leads me to my next story.

Towards the end of my last post, I believe I mentioned I was going to go to a church two sundays ago that I found online before coming to Sevilla. The name of the church is Iglesia Parque Este(logo seen above) and it is in Sevilla Este(East Seville), about a fifteen minute bus ride from where I live in Nervión. I take one bus and get off at the stop and the church is in this apartment complex. Simple enough, right?

So wrong. I made the rookie mistake of trusting google maps. It sent me to the wrong bus stop. I thought it was weird that the bus I was on was riding to the city center. But I figured, “Whatever, I guess it just has a weird route or something.” The last strand of hope I had that this bus was going to take me to the right place faded as we crossed the river into the neighborhood of Triana(the opposite side of the city from Sevilla Este). Using my horribly broken Spanish, I eventually figured out how to get back to my neighborhood, but by that point the church was almost 45 minutes in. So I chalked that attempt up as a defeat and went home.

While I did make it there this past sunday, I almost got lost again! I got on the correct bus this time, but I didn’t know where to stop. So I got off the bus at near some tall apartments which seemed to resemble the area in which the church was located on google satellite images(Don’t know why I keep going back to them). I was walking around for a little while, praying that my efforts were not in vain this sunday. After walking around for about 20 minutes, I luckily stumbled upon the church. Theses apartments have shops and restaurants located on the ground level and the church owns one of these spaces. It is very much in the middle of the community in which it does ministry. I was greeted warmly by Pastor Pepe Miranda, who spoke very little english but I still managed to have a conversation with him. Next, a man named Alejandro introduced himself to me, and he was incredibly friendly and invited me to sit next to him during the service. I assume he works some with the teens in the church, but I don’t believe it is his main job.

Parque Este was starting a new series, which they apparently do once a year, called, “Yo Amo mi Iglesia”(I Love my Church). The pastor and some of the members had on shirts that read, “Yo “heart” mi Iglesia”(those of you familiar with Newspring Church know they do a similar series). The church reminded me a lot of the new, small, local non-denominational churches one sees in the USA. They had contemporary music, a modern setting, and the pastor sits on a chair instead of standing at a pulpit. I actually understood the theme of the message, which I was very proud of to say the least. The pastor spoke on 1 Peter 2:4-5, which reads:

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

All I really understood was that he emphasized the fact that the church is not a building, but that we were called to be the church in our work, school, and in our daily lives. The people make up the church; we only meet in a building. I didn’t understand all of his extrapolating of the text, but once again, I got the general idea. I have heard this message before, but it is always good to hear again(especially this semester!). Afterwards, Alejandro showed me around the church, which is small, but they maximize their space well. When he was done, random people came up and started talking to me, one of whom said her husband was from Oklahoma and went to Columbia International University(formerly Columbia Bible College), which is where my boss from this past summer, Chris, got his masters degree. So I ended up talking to him some afterwards before giving into my hunger and heading home for lunch.

If you have stuck with me to this point, I promise I’m going to wrap it up soon! I just had a couple of observations about this church. I mentioned it was a very contemporary church, which is not uncommon in the US. But about halfway through the service it occurred to me that this church is incredibly different from pretty much every other church in Spain. Most Spaniards would certainly leave a service there with their view of church challenged. Also, the people are genuinely friendly and want to meet you! They were incredibly patient with my broken Spanish. Another thing I noticed was that after the service, everyone just stays and talks to each other! You can tell there is real, tangible spiritual community there, as these people are certainly minorities amongst their fellow Spaniards when it comes to their faith. My short time there was definitely nourishing for me, as I still haven’t met any Christians in my program(Again, I haven’t met anyone that said they were).

Well, outside of that, my classes are going well as of right now. My friends know that I really want to go to an FC Barcelona match in Barcelona, but that is looking less and less likely as their only home game on a saturday this semester is this weekend and I couldn’t get anyone to go with me. I think I will just try to get tickets for when they play in Sevilla on Sept 29th. I am also going to try to go to a bullfight this Saturday! I will be sure to tell you guys all about it next time! Also, I will try to follow this post with a short, simple one about my classes and some of my sightseeing like La Catedral.

Thanks for reading!

Jacob

Mi Primera Semana en Sevilla

My first week here in Sevilla has certainly been interesting and has already come with some ups and downs to say the least. For starters, as I was walking through the Charlotte airport going to wait on my flight to Madrid, it suddenly hit me;

“Crap. I’m alone.”

Yeah, real positive way to start out a semester abroad right? I would definitely say that I am a more introverted person, and though I try to be outgoing as much as possible, I find it hard to connect with people the first time I meet them(or the second and third). But even from the start God helped alleviate some of the anxiety of having to make new friends by having me happen to be on the same flight as a group from Furman! Now granted, the only person I knew in the group was Abigail Scheid(we met at Leadership Project two summers ago), but I instantly felt relieved. For whatever reason, talking to her and meeting some of her Furman friends definitely helped me feel more comfortable about going to a country where I literally know no one. She gave me a purple bracelet(think Livestrong bracelet) to remind to pray for JJ Russell’s(her boyfriend who is at PC) mom who has cancer. It says, “For His Glory. Galatians 2:20.” It has served as a great reminder to me to not only pray for JJ’s mom, but that I am accountable to a higher authority than man, and to do everything “For His Glory,” even when I have the shroud of anonymity that studying abroad by yourself provides. So Abby, if you are reading, I want to give you a big thank you and I hope you are loving Madrid!

So anyway, I arrived in Sevilla and took a cab to my host home, which is a small apartment in the neighborhood of Nervión. My host mother is Josefa and when I first met her, she started rattling off in spanish very quickly(okay not THAT quickly but I was rusty). Remember the penguins in “Madagascar” that say, “Just smile and wave boys…smile and wave?” Well, I quickly reverted to “Smile, nod your head, and say ‘Sí’ over and over again.”

After butchering the spanish language over lunch with Josefa, my roommate  Kegan, who is from Maine, arrived and later on we tried, albeit in vain, to find the nearest metro station. Upon our return, another roommate had arrived. Marco is from the Netherlands and will be in Sevilla through February, but will only be living with us for a month. We get three meals a day, laundry, and showers. Downside is, we only get 5 minutes of hot water(natural gas ain’t cheap in Spain) and there isn’t air conditioning, but the house is surprisingly cool considering the temperatures in Sevilla. Josefa is a great host and the more Spanish I learn, the funnier she is!

As for the school, the Universidad Pablo de Olavide is much bigger than PC. It is definitely a hard a adjustment going from waking up 5 minutes before class and still being on time to having to leave the house 45 minutes before school for a 10 minute metro ride and then a 10-15 minute walk to class. But let’s be honest, having short legs doesn’t help much. My intensive Spanish course was great and my professors were awesome! Oddly enough, the part I have enjoyed the most about Spain so far is my classes(#nerd). The school has a gym that cost around 50 Euros for three months that actually has legitimate fitness instructors working there. The one I met said he was going to set me up with a work out program for my time here(PC…take the hint!!!). Also, I hope to spend a lot of time just wandering about the city center while I’m here, as it is stunningly beautiful and filled with great restaurants and plenty of Sangria!

Spiritually speaking, so far I have had a lot of alone time with God. I’m praying that he will provide some form of community this semester, and I’m holding out hope with the rest of the international students arriving on Monday. Being the only Christian(at least that I know of) presents some awesome potential conversations during my time here. Part of the reason I came to Spain was to see how my faith fits in a context where I am a minority. But I will be visiting a church on Sunday morning that I found online before coming over to Spain. It will obviously be in Spanish(which could be another great way to pick up the language!) so we will see what happens with that on my next post. But, I have enjoyed going out with all the other students here so far, as everyone is really nice and friendly(some of them taught me how to say Ghetto in German last night)!  So either way, I think I will be alright.

Well that’s all I have for now. I hope to post about my potential travels soon, and maybe some book reviews as I find I have a lot of reading time thanks to siestas(what a concept!). Hope there weren’t too many horrible grammar mistakes! Thanks for reading!

Jacob

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.