Friday 30 May 2008

leaving and weekends

where to start? i've been wanting to write about last weekend all week and the first chance i've got it's already the next weekend with a whole loads more stories to be told i'm sure. the last few weeks in Spain are rushing past. Actually i have less than 2 weeks left in the country, which is hard to get my head around. It makes me feel... SAD. which in turn is kind of good cuz it shows how great the last few months have been.

As i said to someone the other day, i have good reasons to stay. that is... PEOPLE. people i love. and... i guess feeling "useful", to put it crudely. that is to say, being able to hopefully make some little differences in people's lives. being a 'blessing'.

At the same time, there's good reasons to be in my 'other world' too. there's my family, there's friends i haven't seen all year, there's weddings and studies to finish and waitressing and dancing which maybe aren't so important but still things i love to do. but i guess i don't know quite what i'm going back to. it's all a bit uncertain. life will have moved on for everyone else in the last 9 months, not least that the majority of friends are currently finishing university. and its moved on for me. although maybe i won't know quite what this means till i'm there.

so a lot going on in my head. and meanwhile things are carrying on a full speed. tomorrow there's a big church youth event (for all extremadura) here in Badajoz, so been part of organising that. includes prayer rooms that we've decorated, picnic, a photo challenge and more... and in the evening there's the third of the concerts that the church has organised to be put on in the square nearby, and we are performing a dance just before that (many hours of practise unfortunately are not seeming to produce desired effects... but hey too late to worry now... hopefully it will be OK!). then on sunday it's a suprise birthday party for one of the young guys at church. and have a couple who are part of the band performing staying in my flat...

as for LAST WEEKEND... i think a summary will have to do!

family reunited * graduation * chinese meal * four guys from Gandia staying in flat (unplanned) means i go and share room with 2 new friends thereby forcing ant from his room * attempted studying * dance practise * rain * concert inside church building brings police as it was too loud * birthday party and cake fight (to which we travelled in the back of a big white van... driven by the very same person who had walked in on me dancing 'slightly' embarrassingly in the church building that afternoon.oops.) * late nights talking * more chinese food * more dance practise * 17 of us walk tour badajoz streets * ice cream * kebabs and origami * crap film * more late night talking...

weekends like that make me happy!

the product of hanging out with a 5 year old girl on a thursday afternoon

note the octopus's hair (this is what started it)... and the other evil octopus/jelly fish with elephant trunks and horns with fish on and a handbag. It's a party under the sea by the way. i never thought babysitting would be this much fun...

Saturday 24 May 2008


"La Coca-colanizacion del McMundo"

Blue like Jazz

I'm reading "Blue like Jazz" by Donald Miller. It's one of those books that seems to come up quite a lot in conversation but i didn't really know what it was about. So now i do. Well... kind of. Seems a bit like my diary to be honest. Thoughts spilled out. Someone said the most comforting words to hear are "me too". That's how this book is. A kind of affirmation that maybe it's OK to think some of the thoughts i have, especially about God. That maybe i'm not going crazy (!). Or at least that i'm not the only one. Which isn't necessarily the same thing but it'll do for now. :-) And yeh i guess just someone putting words to a feeling that you've had for a while but haven't been able to define.

Saturday 17 May 2008

what is the truth?



Friday 16 May 2008


on Wednesday i went to the famous benedictine monastery in the mountains, about an hour away from Barcelona. That is, if you don't get off one stop early and arrive another hour later than intended and miss the choir sing. oops.

It was a strange day. I couldn't work out if it was good or not, it just kind of was. I think i went semi-pilgrimaging in hope of a dramatic divine encounter. Unfortunately due to quite unspiritual reasons such as a monton of tourists it was difficult to find any space by yourself, and even if i did i had not dressed prepared to be basically in a cloud rather than that hot spanish sun they talk about and so was too cold to sit still for any length of time.

to try and come to a conclusion about my thoughts on the day i simply listed the things i liked about it:

  • the height - it'so high up with amazing views... that is they would be without all the clouds the way...

  • theawesomeness of the natural surroundings - big fat rocky outcrops jutting out of the land

  • the walkways that you can follow all over these mountainous masses; and that 'health and safety' has not reached these parts so there are no fences and blocked off areas, allowing katrina to wonder off the paths to the very edges as she tends to do

  • the values and acitivities of the monks: BROTHERHOOD, HOSPITALITY, SINGING, SANCTUARY, PRAYER, WORK, COMMUNAL SPACES, NATURE.... (maybe more thoughts on this later)

  • if i'd heard the choir i think i would have liked that too

On the other hand there were quite few things that frustrated me. That you had to pay for EVERYTHING, there weren't even free information leaflets. You even had to pay to light a candle. I don't think this is unusual but it still makes me angry... (As if a euro will make your prayer more likely to be heard) As does the crazy amounts of gold in the monastery. And that it's tourist central. Even though i was one of them! I don't know, it just seems the values of the monks are contradicted by the money making schemes in every part of the monastery. I'd have liked to have met some of the monks, maybe spent a night, found out more about their history and also how they work out their values in the present day.

Despite all that, i think i would return... on a clear sunny day OFF-season (if there is one!). I'd go early in the morning with a few friends and spend most of it walking and climbing and exploring the highest parts. Then i'd listen to the choir at 7pm and afterwards watch the sunset. If i had it my way...


so, after a total of 26 hours of bus travel, over 20 metro trips, and a lot of rain, i'm back.

- minus a pair of holey shoes which finally died their death in a bin in Madrid's bus station and plus a pair of those trousers with the stupidly low crotch so they look like a skirt. Why? I like the colour... and they are comfy... although not sure that the fine people of Oxford would be ready for them just yet, so maybe i'll save them for Ibiza.

well, i'm back in Badajoz but not in my own bed just yet... as the owners of my flat and some english visitors and currently inhabiting "my" piso!

I had a really great week away, was just 'spot on' as they say. Best bits... getting to hang out and know better 2 very inspiring friends of mine - Kasia and Annah - both of them relaxing to be with, supporters of good healthy food (score!) and whose lives challenge me in many ways. In their honesty, ambition, willingness to learn and openess to the world and people around them. *Thanks!*

It was also great to be able to see Bruce, Helen, Katie, Matt... and to meet friends of friends. A privilege.

Other good bits:

climbing the spires of the Sagrada Familia for the view of Barcelona

that one bit of sun as i walked down from the Sagrada to the beach. although it was not hot. but that did not stop the tourist reddening themselves on the imported sand. (do you sense a i-am-superior-to-tourists-because-i-live-in-Spain attitude expressing itself??)

thick dark spicy hot chocolate in Annah's favourite cafe

climbing Montjuic for another beautiful view of the city at sunset

general walking through the streets of Barcelona. It's SO different to the side of Spain i have been living in the past few months. Some would say its because it ISN'T Spain. Fair point? As many of the people i met said, it's the kind of city where anyone can find a place, anyone can make it home. Every corner you turn has something new and creative to show, the cafes and bars actually make you want to enter with their colours and smells and decoration, and every person you pass speaks a different language. I like it.

It's a shame i didn't get to see more of Madrid, but the rain prevented much street-wondering. What i DID get to see and enjoy muchly was the San Isidro celebrations in el parque Retiro, where they put on a show of fireworks over the lake accompanied to classical music (Handel i think). I say see... i mean the second half. The first half was more a mixture of projections and fountains on the water. The combination of seemingly the whole city and my lack in height somewhat hindered the view. Fortunately the fireworks were bigger so everyone could see them.

And as i stood there, head tipped back, music and crackles and bang filling my ears, maize snacks and a snickers bar filling my mouth, and eyes wide taking in the most beautiful fireworks i've ever seen... i thought:

this is a good way to finish.

Monday 12 May 2008

in the park in Barcelona

"Hay de todo* aqui" said Mike,
our new aquaintance from Gambia,
as we sat on a bench in Parc ciutatela,
and watched a man in 80´s gear jog past us
with his dog draped around his shoulders...

*difficult to translate... um... there´s allsorts [of people]...

Saturday 10 May 2008

castles cathedrals... and belly dancing!

we made it to Segovia yesterday afternoon after a little bit of trouble finding bus times and stops... but that meant getting a quick view of the many buildings that make up the university (complutense).
Segovia really did seem a bit like a fairytale land with forested slopes and the massive roman aquaduct (that has no cement holding it together, amazing!) and cathedrals and the castle at the edge of the walled city. and on top of that some kind of circus/puppet festival is going on with lots of random shows going on in the squares.

we had our second all-you-can-eat buffet in two days, i hope this doesn't become a habit! then wondered around slowly exploring the narrow streets, Kasia attracting attention with her blonde hair and me feeling quite unfeminine with my undefined short-yet-without-style look. ah well :o) get over it.

The enormous amount of gold and paintings and lavish decoration and entry fee of the cathedral made me feel kind of cold inside but the pillars and height and space and light provoke a "wow". i read something about that recently, will have to find the quote...

today i randomly went to an "oriental dance" class at kasia's rather nice gym... which involved 5 of us attempting (with ranging degrees of success) to follow the teacher's graceful moves. basically lots of hip movement! Couldn't manage to get the hands and arms looking anywhere near "oriental" at the same time but i did enjoy it! Good start to the day.

Then i met with Katie, a girl i'd met half-randomly one afternoon in Sevilla before Christmas for a walk in the rain and a long chat over a long sandwhich. I love being able to do that. We're going to a tapas party with some of her friends tonight before i catch the bus to barcelona. wooooo!

the rain in spain....

falls mainly on...


Friday 9 May 2008

i think this is a mixture of three different posts i wanted to write...

i've often been quite ashamed to admit to myself, let alone to anyone else, that i identify more with the prodigal son's older brother - who spent his life bitterly working his a** off to earn what was already his and then in jealousy could not bring himself to celebrate his brother's return. Or the servant who took the one talent and hid it for fear of his masters reprieve should he take a risk and lose it. better safe than sorry, no?

i always assumed the parable was addressed at the "lost" ones, i.e. the ones 'squandering their fortunes on "wordly things"'. But maybe it's the older brothers and the stingy servants that are more lost. They are more blinded to the truth because they hold it in their hands and don't even realise.

I hate to say it but i would probably have been one of the ones shocked and uncomfortable by a woman pouring out expensive perfume over Jesus' feet. I would have been in the kitchen with Martha stressing over the food rather than sitting at those same feet taking in his every word.

and i want all this to change. yet knowing i cannot change myself. as much as i'd like to be i will never be perfect. (!)

so it's back to my knees to say "i can't do this by myself"

and back to my feet and instead of hovering on the edge just pondering about what lies beyond while staying firmly planted on solid ground, it's taking a leap and leaving the good behind to aim for the best; abandoning the pond and heading for the sea.


i'm in Madrid today. sat in Kasia's lovely room while she goes to the Syrian embassy (!), with the sound of traffic outside and it looks like it's about to rain but hopefully will brighten up later as we're planning to go to Segovia. Which to me sounds like a fairytale place rather than a Spanish town.

i got here last night after a chilled 5 hours on the bus from Badajoz. It feels so good to be on the move, i don't know i've been feeling restless for a while and missing friends... so a mixture of travelling and visiting is just what i wanted. So with my packed-light-state (for a change!) and my blue hippy trousers ("that feel like air"!), i'm contenta.

Last night went to eat at a new 'healthy food all-you-can-eat' place which was GOOOOD, and Matt came to meet us and it was great to just sit and talk and talk and sit and eat and talk. and get hugged.

On Saturday catching the all night bus to Barcelona. Woop! I went there 4 years ago and had a great time. Looking forwards to going back. Although Matt's comment on the 8 hour bus journey was "good luck". A couple of good friends who I'll be working with in Ibiza later in the summer are also going to be in Barcelona this weekend. love it when that happens!

and i'll stop there.

Sunday 4 May 2008

a headfull

i played football for the first time in ages. it made me really happy apart from the sunburn and that my body hurts now.
i went to portugal for lunch. how many people can say that?
i never noticed the roses before even thought they were always there. their colour reminds me of the strawberry ice-cream someone ate last night except one was natural and the other definitely wasn't. ice-cream should look more... creamy.
my great aunt is staying in my bedroom. she's 70 and has just walked from Sevilla to Zafra on the pilgrim 'caminos' but then her blisters (which she never normally gets) got so bad that she had to stop. i don't know her very well because she lives in cornwall which is quite far... but now i wish i knew her better. my family is full of characters... especially strong old women! on both sides... my granny is 80 something and went to australia last year. respect.
i think being 20-something is maybe harder than being something-teen. we thought we'd done our 'growing up' but maybe it's only just beginning.
Pablo: "what are you going to do?"
me: "tonight? or in life in general?"

buena pregunta. just like: "so what can you do with anthropology?"


"beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions, beneath our religion or lack of it, we are all vulnerable both to the storm without and to the storm within, and if we ever are to find true shelter, it it with the recognition of our tragic nakedness and need for true shelter that we have to start"
Frederick Beuchner, 'Telling the Truth', p.33