Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My life in the past couple of days - or weeks

Well I was doing so well with blogging at the beginning of my study abroad experience, but then life got crazy and I got behind on my blog and I haven’t seemed to be able to catch up yet.  I have worked on this blog a little each day over the past week; therefore it is rather lengthy.  I wanted to catch people up on what I have been doing in my life and instead of giving a brief overview I want to try to give at least a few details.  I will start where I left off my last blog – Loyola Retreat.

When I signed up for the Loyola retreat I thought I was signing up for a silent reflection time and would have a lot of time to myself to take a break for the busy life I am living and just chill.  Well the retreat was some relaxing and silent time, but we also did some sightseeing since it was the hometown of St. Ignatius – the founder of the Jesuits.  It was hard to believe I was literally standing on the same ground St. Ignatius walked on.  I think it made it a lot more special by attending a Jesuit University, but also having some friends that attended a Jesuit high school and seeing how much it meant to them as well.  We staying in a retreat house next to the Basilica that is in a way built around when St. Ignatius lived.  There isn’t really too much to say about what we all did on the retreat – it will be better to explain with a few pictures.  However, one of the most amazing parts of the trip was going into the Basilica at night.  The group had a private tour of the Basilica at night.  Before entering the priest explained how all the lights were going to be turned off and he was going to turn them on one by one with music.  To be honest I didn’t think that much of it until I sat down in the Basilica and realized it was completely dark and I could tell something amazing was about to happen.  The way the lights were turned on slowly only showing one part of the Basilica at a time with the music was breath taking.  There really isn’t another way to describe it – it was an experience of a life time for sure.

Another part of the trip that was interesting was on the first night a talk with Father Hung – a Jesuit priest in Madrid working on his Doctorate degree and being a present at Saint Louis University Madrid.  He was unlike any other priest I have talked to before – I am not really sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  There was a group about 25 people that listened and participated in the discussion with Father Hung.  The discussion was all started with a girl asking Father Hung at the dinner table questions about the Catholic faith.  Like all Catholic Church discussions – well at least in my opinion – deal with the three main topics: Women as priests:  premarital sex, and gay marriage.  When I first entered the conversation I thought Father Hung was a funny, outgoing, and knowledgeable priest, but the more I listened the more I wasn’t a fan of him.  What first turned me off from this priest was that he swore like it was part of his vocabulary.  Personally I try not to swear that much – yes sometimes it happens, but overall I make the conscious effort not to swear on a daily basis.  Also during lent I have made the commitment not to swear at all.  When people use the F word it literally makes me cringe – I don’t know what about it but it is just awful.  Anyways, as the discussion continued it seemed the main idea was people asking questions about if they don’t do something are they still able to be a Catholic and if the answer is yes are they considered a good Catholic.  I don’t think there is anything as a good and bad Catholic that someone can define for you not even a priest.  I don’t know if that is right or not but that is just my opinion.  Most of what Father Hung was saying was not what I was brought up to believe.  One main part of the talk that I disagreed with was Father Hung said you have to “change” the Catholic Church’s teachings depending on the age of the listener or audience.  I don’t agree with this statement at all – you have to the change the way to convey the same message but the overall message should not change depending on the age of the listener.  There were other little things I didn’t agree with either, but I don’t want to go into that much detail about the bad parts of the discussion.  Something I took away for the discussion was this:  A boy asked the priest if it is okay to have premarital sex if both parties agree to it – the boy stated that he thought it would be okay because both parties were willing.  Father Hung responded with this: if you are asking me to give you permission as a symbol of the Catholic Church saying it is okay to do that, than obviously you don’t believe it is correct to have premarital sex even if both parts are willing.  If you truly believe something is right in the eyes of the Catholic Church then you wouldn’t be asking a priest to confirm it.  I think this is a very helpful statement no matter the situation or problem at hand. 

The rest of the trip was a lot of hanging around with new made friends and just enjoying the beautiful landscape of Loyola.  I think on the retreat I had more meaningful conversations with people – yes we all still had a great time and laughed a lot but I feel like I learned more about people during the retreat.  At the retreat I had the opportunity to attend a reconciliation service.  I don’t know what it is, but literally every time I go to reconciliation I start to cry – it is just such a great experience that God will forgive me no matter what I do – as long as I am truly sorry.  It is one of the greatest feelings in the world.  Every time I just think about it even I feel happy.  Over the course of the retreat I talked to a couple of people about whether or not they believe Catholic is the correct religion.  Here is my opinion on various religious (remember not the view of the Catholic Church): I don’t believe there is really a “correct” religion for all people.  When I go to church – I feel something.  I can’t not really put into words what I feel when I attend mass, especially SLU Mass in STL, but I just know it is where I belong.  Yes, I was raised Catholic so I haven’t really explored too many religions, but I cannot ignore that feeling at mass.  However, I want to make it clear that I do not think other religions are wrong.  I have many friends that are not a practicing Catholic or Protestant and I don’t believe they are practicing wrong faith.  I just know that the Catholic faith is right for me.  It is key to have respect for all religions and be able to express your beliefs while respecting the others’.  I also think people should be educated about the different religions in order to “pick” the right religion for them.  It takes a strong person to really question your religion and exploring religions is courageous.  Well that is all the main ideas I have from the retreat right now.  I am sure more will come to me eventually. Enjoy the pictures! :)

Lisa, Kendell, me, and Mike in front of the Basilica.

Me inside the church where St. Ignatius - the founder of the Jesuits - was baptized.

Mike, Erin, Donais, Lisa, and me outside the chapel where St. Ignatius preformed mass - I walked on the same ground as he did.


Some pretty cool kids. Mike, Donais, Mia, Erin, Kara, Nick, Marvin, and Colin.

This one is for you, Mom!

Mike and me outside the Basilica at night.

The amazing experience in the Basilica at night.

Loyola was beautiful.

Joe, me, Kara, and Greg and the Castle of San Javier.

For more pictures check out facebook - I only choose a few to put on my blog!  The pictures I choose either had meaning or they were with new friends :)

The retreat ended on March 13 which was a Sunday.  On Monday, March 14 my friend Dan from SLU in STL was in town.  He is studying about two or three hours outside of Rome and came to Madrid for his spring break because he had a friend here he could stay with for free.  He got here on Friday the 11th, but I was on my retreat until Sunday.  On Monday I met up with him after class and he came over for a little bit and met Gloria.  Afterwards we walked to meet Elizabeth and her friend Steve – he was visiting her – they went to high school together.  We walked about 20 minutes close to the Real Madrid Stadium to a American 50’s diner – it was really cute.  It was interesting though.  Let me explain.  First when we walked in all the workers knew we were American and gave us some dirty looks.  Also the names of the food was in English but the descriptions were all in Spanish, and when we order they did not understand what we were saying – we said the names that were listed on the menu.  Elizabeth and I shared a Cesar salad and chicken fingers – both were good!!  Steve and Dan both had a hamburger.  We all also got dessert (remember dessert has two “s”s because you always want more!)  I got a milkshake – chocolate – it was wonderful.  Besides the food being really good the company was good too.  I thought it was going to be awkward because of the random people that were there.  Also I hadn’t seen Dan in a while and we were never that close of friends – but everything was really good and fun!

Tuesday after class I met up with my good friend Megan – she was in Madrid for her spring break with her family – mom, dad, and older brother.  I met Megan freshmen year in biology lab – it was a weird story.  She got sick so she couldn’t attend her lab and then had to come to my lab to make it up and we have been friends ever sense.  We are also in the same family for APO.  Anyways I met her in sol and we walked around and talked for a while until we met up with her family to go to dinner.  We went to t a nice Italian restaurant close to SOL.  By the time dinner was done it was already 9:30 so we walked back to the main part of sol and I took the metro home why they went out for a drink at an Irish pub.  Something funny that happened on our way back home was we passed Joy – one of the clubs we go to and Megan’s parents were going to try and go inside the club to see what it was like.  I was like I don’t think you can just really go inside and see what it looks like – besides it is a movie theater during the day.  It was an interesting experience that is for sure.  Wednesday I volunteer with Jackie.  The last couple of times we have volunteered we have been in the kitchen.  For a while I was not bothered by being in the kitchen – just washing the dishes, but now I miss the interaction with the different people at the soup kitchen.  There has been way to many volunteers the last couple of times – which is not really a bad thing.  I mean you want to have the problem where there is too many volunteers – it is way better than not having enough volunteers, but it just makes for a lot of people standing around.  We skipped volunteering on this Monday because we both had other things to attend to, but we are going on Wednesday and are hoping we are not in the kitchen! Wednesday night I went out with a bunch of different people.  I met up with Elizabeth and Steve and we went to sol to meet Megan and her brother Pat – Elizabeth and I took them to euro pint – where you can get a pint of beer for a euro or a pint of sangria for 2 euros.  After we had a drink we went to meet up with Joe, a guy a met on a retreat to go to a bar thing that had open bar of boxed sangria and beer – it was free for girls to get in and guys had to pay 5 euros.  It was really great to actually have a plan before just getting to sol and walking around until someone came up to give us something free.  Also Dan came with us to the bar.  I have to say Wednesday was one of the best nights I have had in Madrid.  I don’t know if it was because I was with Megan or if it was because I was a place I hadn’t gone before or if it was because I was hanging out with new people – including Steve and Joe and some other people.  It was just a really fun night! One I will never forget for sure!  Thanks for the invite Joe.  That is really all the exciting things that happened past week before Mom and Dad arrived on Thursday!

I went to bed around 2:30am on Wednesday and then woke up at 7:30am on Thursday morning and could not go back to sleep because I was just so excited to see Mom and Dad!! I even showered before breakfast, because I just wanted it to be after my 11am class so I could get on the metro to go and find Mom and Dad!! My art history class did not take as long as I thought it would.  Anyways Mom texted me asking what line of the metro I was taking to meet them – I told them I was taking the red line and I was getting off Sevilla.  We were supposed to meet in the lobby of their hotel.  I knew as I got that text they were going to try wait outside of the metro stop for me, but I didn’t say anything to them.  Well I got off the metro and found their hotel went into it (like I knew what I was doing of course) and what a surprise they were not there!  I had to turn my phone on to call mom.  As soon as she answered I asked her where they were and they said they were sitting outside of the metro stop and I just told them to walk to the hotel – it was about a 15 second walk.  Once I saw them I explain to them there is more than one exit per metro stop – they are sometimes across the street from one another or a little farther down the same street and that is why they didn’t see me, because I came out a different exit!  It is all good though!

Well we went up to the hotel room and they gave me all the goodies they brought me.  Oh I forgot how good it was to hug mom and dad – there is nothing like their hugs and I have missed them a lot. Anyways, mom and dad brought me real Wisconsin cheese, goldfish, cheese-its, Reese’s, kisses, some other chocolate, and a dress.  I think the thing that tasted best was the Wisconsin cheese – oh how I had missed my good Wisconsin cheese.  :) Well we were suppose to go the Madrid Zoo on Thursday when they got – I skipped my first class ever – Ethics to hang out with my parents.  But they were too tired so they took a nap and then we just walked around sol and they I took them to the park where I run and then by school – they just wanted to see where I go and what I do so it actually worked out for the best.  Before we walked around we went to VIPS for breakfast – something I wanted to try since the first couple of days I had been here, and just never had the opurturnity to try it.  It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be – it is close to Applebee’s I guess – it has salads and sandwiches and what not.  After we headed home to Gloria’s house for dinner.  I was a worried about the dinner, because I didn’t know how the language thing was going to go at all.  I have never heard Gloria speak English – well not more than a couple of phrases and my parents speak about five words of Spanish: 1. Hola 2-4 No Hablo EspaƱol. 5. Adios  That is about the extent of their Spanish.  Glo (Gloria’s daughter) and her boyfriend and an old host student – who is fluent in Spanish and English – all came to dinner.  It was not awkward at all.  I showed mom and dad the apartment and then mom went into the kitchen to help Gloria and Glo with dinner and it worked out fine.  While mom did that dad and I sat on the couch and just talked.  I warned my parents that we would be given a lot of food for dinner, but they were not prepared for what was about to happen.  Our first course consisted of a huge lettuce salad with a bunch of veggies, soy shrimp with mushrooms, tomato and red pepper salad, bread, and fried calamari.  It was all so good I was hard to not eat a lot and save room for the second course and for dessert.  For the second course we had a rice dish – rice is very Spanish.  The dish was close to Paella but it was not as dry as Paella.  It was really good but heavy.  We were so full after this part of the meal and then we had a pudding type thing for dessert.  After the meal we all talked for a little bit and then I went up to pack for the weekend, I was really tired – the 5 hours of sleep I got the night before was not helping me!  We got back to the hotel about 10 o’clock and then we had to plan on what time we were leaving for the train station and everything like that.  We decided we were going to the take the 10:20 train and leave for the train station at 8:45 to give ourselves plenty of time since I had never been there and we didn’t have tickets. 

I was a little stressed about taking the train and getting tickets just because I had never done it before.  I do know some Spanish and it has improved since I have been here and I have become more confident with it, but I am still nowhere near fluent.  I have a long way to go and sometimes I would put too much pressure on myself to be able to translate and figure everything out for my mom and dad when they are capable of figuring it out for themselves.  Well we got the train tickets with only a little bit of stress and then we had about an hour until our train left so mom and dad wanted to get a coffee.  There was a protest going on in the train station for social rights and it was really loud so we went the end of the station and were standing in line and the guy a couple people in front of us, his credit card wouldn’t work so a lady told us to come over to the side of the counter and then no one helped us so we left and went to another coffee place.  Mom and dad got coffee – which they said was a lot stronger than the coffee back home – and I got fresh orange juice.  We ate some Wisconsin cheese, dried fruit, and nuts before getting on the train. The train was only about a 25 minute ride to Toledo – it was high speed – by the time I fell asleep it was time to get up and explore Toledo.  When we got to Toledo we decided to buy the train tickets for the return trip right away and then dad thought it would be a good idea to take a taxi up to the Parador.  I am very glad he decided to take a taxi – it was uphill the whole way and it would have taken us probably about two hours to walk the entire way; however, on Saturday when we were walking down to the train station we did see a bunch of people running up the hill – that would be one of the hardest runs.  We checked into our Parador and it had a wonderful view of the city of Toledo – see pictures.  After we got settled into our real hotel – yes they had towels and shampoo and a bathroom just for the three of us and a balcony and chocolate by the pillow – mom and dad were laughing at me on how amazed I was with the room.  I had to explain to them this is not how I had been traveling the last two months.  It was great to have a real hotel room :)  Anyways, after we got settled in the hotel I told them we should walk down to Toledo – it wasn’t that long of a walk and the view was going to be amazing.  Mom was all for it but dad took a little more convincing to walk down the hill – I explain to them if the walk is normally less than a hour I would walk it – it saves a lot of money not having to take a bus or pay for a taxi.  Since it was my second time in Toledo I will not too much detail about everything – this blog is already pretty long.  But Toledo seemed to get even pretty the second time – the weather was gorgeous and the people I was with made it wonderful!! The only thing different we did this time was we actually went into the cathedral – one of the most amazing things.  People told me that when I am in Europe I am going to go in so many different cathedrals that they are going to all look the same – but I am with different people everything and there is something different about each cathedral.  And again I am just in awe on how a huge building like that is built just for one person – God.  It is simply amazing for sure!  We had lunch at a place in Toledo and sat outside – it had been weird to eat such good meals over the past weekend – thanks mom and dad.  When we were all getting tired we decided to get some sangria and some tapas in the plaza – it was a learning experience.  First the pitcher of sangria was 15 euros – pretty expensive and we ordered two tapas thinking that would be enough for the three of us since they were about 4 euros each – well we were wrong.  They were only a little piece of bread with different toppings – as I said it was a learning experience.  After tapas I had the idea that we find a super market and buy some bread, cheese, sausage, some fruit, and some wine for dinner because I knew once we went back to the hotel we were all going to be too tired to leave and it would just be nice to have a relaxing evening – mom and dad agreed and later they said that was the best idea!!  The view from the Parador of Toledo at night was breath-taking – I wasn’t able to capture it on any pictures, but just trust me on this one!  Side note: the Parador used to be a manner house.  There was a swimming pool, but it was closed and we didn’t have swimsuits anyways.  However, dad and I did find a way to get in the pool and feel how cold the water was – it was COLD, but not as bad as the polar bear jump for sure!  Well that is about all we did in Toledo – we walked to the train station on Saturday morning and took the train back – I was going forward this time inside of going backwards like on the way there.  

Mom and Dad in front of the train station in Toledo, Spain.

Dad and I on the way done from the Parador! Love it!

Mom and Dad in Toledo - they loved it!

Mom in front of her first cathedral!
Sunset from our Parador.

Saturday morning walk to the Train Station - I love Toledo.

When we got back to Madrid we went to our hotel, but we couldn’t check it right away, so we decided to go and explore Madrid.  We went to the temple in Madrid and actually went inside – it was cool but really crowded because it was free and small so we didn’t stay too long and we were all getting hungry.  After the temple we had lunch at a restaurant across from the Palace – it wasn’t that good of food and a little pricey, but we were able to sit outside and enjoy the amazing weather.   After lunch we went inside the palace – it was simply amazing again.  It was huge!! Side note for all people reading my blog studying abroad in the future – make sure you tell them you are a student no matter where you go – you can normally get some sort of discount! There were so many chandelier in the palace and every room that we saw was incredibly decorated – we were not allowed to take any pictures so I can’t show you how cool it was – I guess you will just have to go and see the Real Palace of Madrid too see for yourself.  After the Palace we were really thirsty, but the soda machines only took change so dad bought me a button – stop discrimination button – to get change so he could have a soda.  After just sitting for a little while we decided we would go to the bull fighting “stadium” to try to get tickets for the bullfight on Sunday.  The website made it seem like there were no tickets left, but when we went there, they had a lot of tickets left.  We bought out tickets and I was actually excited for the bullfight.  We were all getting a little hungry so there was this tent thing set up next to the stadium and we had some crepes – one chocolate and banana and one ham and cheese.  Mom and dad noticed how much Spanish people love their ham – there is a ham museum everywhere you walk!  After the crepes we were all getting tired so we found mom a bottle of wine and some bread and we went back to the hotel.  After resting for a little longer, dad and I decided to go and find a place to eat – we ended up going to plaza mayor for some tapas and just to talk.  It was good to spend some one on one time with dad!  We walked around for a little bit and then went to the San Miquel Market – it has a bunch of tapas and wine and desserts – it is always really busy, but dad and I found a little table on the side and tired a tapa.  Dad thought it was going to be a fried piece of fish and I thought it was pork – well it turned out to be a piece of friend cheese.  Haha.  We also had some amazing truffles and brought some back for mom!!

Dad and I in front of the Egyptian Temple.

Just chilling in front of the Palace.

"Toria act like the guy in the background" - Mom

Sunday morning mom and I got up early and went to the Rastro – the market.  The only thing we bought was a 5 euro purse for me.  However, it was a lot of fun just to hang out with mom and walk and talk.  I have missed both my parents a lot.  It is weird you really don’t realize how much you miss a person until you see them in person again.  You can text them and skype them as much as you want, but until you see them in person you will never know how much you truly miss them!  After the Rastro we went and got some breakfast at VIPS.  Well I had a hamburger, but mom and breakfast food – American breakfast food that is! Also I ordered a class of milk, but it was whole milk – tasted just like creamer for coffee – not exactly what I wanted.  Our waitress this time at VIPS did not speak any English and I was trying to help mom and dad out with what she was saying and she told me I speak very well in Spanish – it is always nice to hear those kind of comments.  After we had breakfast we headed to the zoo – I was so excited!  We didn’t have that much time at the zoo because we had to leave to go to the bullfight – then again I could have spent the whole day at the zoo! We saw the dolphin show, pandas, the aquarium, and just walked around for a while (see facebook for pictures).  After the zoo we went to the bullfight – none of us really knew what to expect so we were all excited.  Dad did a little research on the bull fight before we got there so we had a general idea of what was going on.  There are three main parts of the bullfight – the first one is the bull gets tired out by the matadors with their capes, then two horses come out with a rider on them and this rider will stab the bull twice, then two guys are given stakes and they have to put them into the bulls back, then finally the matador comes out and attempts to kill the bull.  Overall the fight was less bloody than any of excepted.  The worst part was when the bull rams the horse (the horse has padding, but is blind folded) and the rider stabs the bull.  However, I felt like everything was done with respect.  There were not many people at the bullfight since it was only the second one of the season – it was kind of like pre-season dad said.  What made it the most fun was having mom and dad there making commentaries about the fight.  At one point dad said that they need to get some turf so the bulls don’t slip as much – oh dad!  One of the matadors actually got a little too close to the bull and was flipped up and then rolled around and stomped on by the bull – it was really scary, but he got up and fought the bull again.  He also came out and fought his second bull.  Overall, I am really glad I went to the bullfight, but I don’t know if I ever need to go again.  After the bull fight we went back to where our hotel was and we were going to go out to dinner, but since Spanish people don’t eat to around 9 o’clock at night there were not any restaurants open.  We went back up to the room and I packed up my stuff and decided that I wanted to go back home because I was really tired and I had some homework to attend to.  Dad would not let me ride the metro and walk home by myself – he insisted that he would come with me.  I told him I walk alone and ride the metro alone, and he said he knows but he just wanted to be a dad and walk me home! It was actually nice to not have to walk by myself! Thanks Dad you are the best!  

Just a little excited to go to the zoo!

Mom and Dad in front of the bullfighting stadium.

Me at the bullfight


Matador and his bull - look on facebook for a lot more pictures!

Monday morning mom and dad left to go to the Canary Islands – so jealous! They are coming back tomorrow and I am meeting them at a hotel close to the airport and we leave for Portugal early on Friday morning and come back early on Monday morning and then they leave Spain on Tuesday morning.  That is all I think I need to talk about to keep everyone caught up on my life! It is a really long blog – I hope you all enjoy.  Nothing too exciting has happened this week – I have just been going to class and trying to work on some papers and getting caught up on life!  I have been listening to some new music that I suggest you all take a listen to
1.       Sea Breeze by Tyrone Wells (thanks to Elizabeth)
2.       Beautiful by MercyMe (thanks to Kelsey)
3.       Me and My Gang by Rascal Flats (thanks to myself – came on when I was running)
4.       One Tribe by Black Eyed Peas (again came on when I was running)

Life has been really good lately! Having mom and dad here is great, I just know it is going to be hard to say bye to them on Tuesday.  Also it feels like the semester is over when I still have like 6 more weekends here.  For some reasons it feels like I will be going home so shortly, but I need to realize I have about a month and a half left in Spain and enjoy every moment of it.  Also going on the retreat was really nice because I met some other people – I like meeting new people – I just hope I stay friends with them and it isn’t just a couple week thing since we went on a retreat together.  Well I think that is all for this blog – I hope you all enjoy! And I going to try to do a better job on keeping up to date with my blog, but I will be gone all weekend! But after that!!  Miss you all.

Paz y Amor. God Bless.

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