Aquariums are a rush

I always feel like I’m 6 when I see the colorful fish, glowing jellyfish, and massive sharks swimming around. It’s intimidating, that only a transparent wall separates you from your most certain doom.

Well this past weekend ISA took us to Valencia, Spain. It is a gorgeous city. What I find most fascinating is that there used to be a river running right through the city, but because a flood killed many people years ago, they diverted the river. And now, the riverbed has been converted into this long winding park that cuts through the middle of the city. So neat!

So Valencia has the Mediterranean feel, it’s right on the beach, and there is the LOVELY ‘old city’ with a cathedral that was once a building where the Romans met, turned into a Visigoth church, turned into a mosque, until it finally rested as a cathedral once again. Glimpse of the outside and inside:

Cathedral of Valencia

Valencia is a beautiful city that feels very quaint. Whenever you’re walking through these small, winding streets, it’s exciting to imagine how people have been walking down that same street for hundreds of years. In the main plaza, we saw this other breathtaking building. I’m not sure what it was for, though.


As you must know if you’re close enough to me to be suffering through these ranting blogs, I really don’t like seafood. I can stand tuna, which doesn’t even count. But there’s this very famous dish here in Spain called “paella”, which is a plate of rice with spices and loads of different seafood. It can be as basic as only shrimp, to what I tried which had shrimp, crawfish, mussels, clams, and octopus. And shockingly, I loved it! I’m so proud of myself for actually eating it:

 And finally, on Saturday night, we went to a local bar to watch a flamenco show, and it was brilliant. The music is intense; I’ve never been so enthralled with dancing before.

My camera died Friday night…
Saturday we went to the 2nd largest aquarium in the world, saw a dolphin show, and eventually went to the beach for a few hours before heading home.

I stole this pic from a friend… and really I’m just putting it here because I think I’m cool. It’s not like any of you haven’t seen a shark before.
Amber Lea Mercier is coming to visit this weekend. Get ready, Barcelona.

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Wrecked

Many times, the enemy can plant lies in our life when we are children. Since we’re so young, we can’t process the lie, realize it’s not from God, and expel it like we can as adults. So often, these lies will simply sit in our soul, dormant, waiting for the right moment that would most effectively hurt us.

Sometime in my youth, a lie was planted that I was unworthy. At times, it almost became an actual belief, like when my sisters excelled at sports much better than I did, or when I began to notice that they were skinnier than me, so on. There have been many instances in my past where the lie almost had a hold on me. But because of my loving parents who continually encouraged me and spoke truth of God’s love to me, I feel like I was shielded from it.

Here in Barcelona, I am in an amazing girls group studying the life of David. We were watching a video tonight where Beth Moore explained the different levels of relationships that we are to have: with the world, the church, a small group, 2 or 3 close friends, and mano y mano with God. Obviously, the smaller the group gets, the more intimate and transparent we are to become with our friends. She explained the desperate importance of meeting with God alone, and how extraordinary and  significant we should feel that the God of the universe was calling me, and me alone, to meet with Him alone. “Why won’t you let Me help you?”

I found myself crying at this point, and by the grace of God, no one saw since the video was still playing. I realize that although I had the other relationships, I hadn’t been one on one with God in a very long time. He revealed to me a lot about what I had been stuffing down for so long. The lie that the enemy had planted so long ago was finally allowed to take root whenever I came to college. There were a series of events and a few people that had basically watered the seed of unworthiness in me. I was made to feel insignificant, awkward, and inadequate by those I had vulnerably trusted and been transparent with. Their harsh words soon encompassed who I was. But instead of aligning my soul with Christ’s truth, I allowed those lies to actually mold who I was. I retreated, started being less relational and open as I used to be. It was an ugly slippery slope because the unworthiness caused me to care less about what I did (began to gain weight, never dress nicely, did poorly in school), which then turned into self-hatred and shame, because I wasn’t shaping up and being a “better person”. So I would try again, try to be better, get my life back in order. But because I hadn’t dealt with how the vicious words of these people affected me, I simply couldn’t succeed. Inevitably, my internal life spiraled deeper into a pit while I put on a good face and continued to live “normally”.
But it is impossible to put on a good face for too long. Not forgiving myself meant not accepting God’s forgiveness. It is impossible to hate oneself and accept the love of Christ. You either deal with your troubles, or they start to leak out like a poison, affecting everyone around you.
I became vicious. I had a wicked tongue that masked itself in “humor”, and while everyone laughed at my extreme sarcasm, there was always someone left damaged. I found weaknesses in others, and exploited them whenever I could.
The sick part is that I saw myself doing this, it was almost like I was watching myself act this awful way. I KNEW that I wasn’t that person, but unfortunately it would just add fuel to the fire because I would turn to internally bashing myself for being a horrible person… the self-hatred spiral again. It hurt me that my friends around me only saw me as an obnoxious, insensitive girl that made everyone laugh once in a while.
Because I had been hurt so much, I placed very thick strongholds to “protect” me, rejecting my friends and even God.

This summer I finally identified the problem. It has been a long process of slowly forgiving those original people who hurt me, friends who chose to label me a jerk instead of seeing me in pain, and of course, myself for allowing sin into my life. This semester in Barcelona was perfectly timed and ordained. I am excited/terrified to be alone with God, to have to meet with Him completely stripped and vulnerable. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the thought of being that exposed to anyone is frightening, but I hold to the truth that God adores me as His child. And anytime I ponder on the significance of Christ coming to this earth and dying for me, I am overwhelmed by His grace. And usually start crying. My current state. Christ’s love is almost unbelievable. Even a small glimpse of how He sees me can completely wreck my soul. I am ready though, ready to be wrecked in these next months so that He can build me up again into the daughter I was meant to be.

Cross overlooking Parque Guell

Padres

I am definitely updating this very late, but my parents came to Barcelona for a week! Wooohoo!

But it was a blast. For someone who has always been shown up by her well-traveled, multi-cultured parents, I finally got to show them a part of the world that they haven’t seen.

The first day, we went to Montjuic. At the base of Monjuic is the “Palace” which is now an art museum. Dad got a little frisky:

Then the 1992 Olympic stadium:
 We then went to the top of Montjuic to the old fort:

And finally, off to “La Fuente Magica” for the light show!
 The next day was “Gaudi day”, where we visited various Gaudi buildings, such as Casa Batllo, La Pedrera, La Sagrada Familia, and Park Guell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Sunday we visited my church here, then took a day trip to Tarragona, which is a beautiful beach town with an old Roman coliseum resides:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the week, we visited various sights like the beach, plaza Espanya and Catalunya, other parks, and of course my school seen here:

 

All in all, I was extremely blessed to have my parents visit me while I was here. Next time I’ll see them, there’ll be chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Shoulda been a TOMS day

I have class at 2 different campuses on Tuesday/Thursdays.
Today I attempted to walk the whole day, without using the metro.
In total, I ran 2 miles and walked 2.5 hours.

Twas the wrong day to skip out on TOMS and wear less comfortable sandals…

But I got to see La Sagrada Familia again, so that made it all worth it.

Oktoberfest

Three events that solidified my trip to Munich this weekend:

1.) I got yelled at in German by an angry police officer for walking in a prohibited part of the beer-tent. (“AUS!”)
2.) Getting free Swiss chocolate on the plane.
3.) And, this was where I slept:

Oktoberfest is brilliant. I think it’s the closest I’ve experienced to culture becoming tangible. All around me were the Beer tents, games, rides, scent of roasting nuts and sausages, German music, and people wearing dirndl and lederhosen. I couldn’t have been any more immersed in the Bavarian culture unless I actually knew German. I went on the ferris wheel, which had a spectacular view.

The beginning of Saturday, we went to downtown Munich to Marienplatz. Unfortunately, even though we got there at 10am, the Glockenspiel didn’t work. Maybe it was being renovated :/
 I accidentally went to the airport an hour early, so I sat in the outside area between the two terminals and ate a traditional German lunch:


…afterwards reminiscing about the weekend in my journal while drinking Spezi.

Perfect weekend, Now excited to see my parents in a few days!

Novios y Iglesia

Boyfriend count: 2
One Argentinean gelato shop owner, and one Spanish waiter. I’ve received free ice cream and a kiss on the cheek. Well played.

Saturday I went to La Sagrada Familia, which is a huge cathedral the Gaudi designed, and is still in construction.

And then I went to the birthday party of my host mom’s sister. She has ELEVEN brothers and sisters. It was a really neat experience. We ate tapas in a park.

Yesterday I visited the International Church of Barcelona, which was really encouraging. Especially since the assistant pastor mentioned the Aggie win… I’m going to start going to this 20s/30s group on Thursday nights. After church, I went out with my two new friends to go see the Catalan festivities downtown. When we got there, we realized we missed it, but we did get the see a market thing with old trinkets…

 And while sitting in front of the Barcelona Cathedral, we asked these Australians to take a picture of us.
We ended up walking around with these guys for a while. They are in Barcelona for a training session with Apple.

Day ended well with wine and cheese and crackers at La Fuenta Magica. Pictures to come.

WHAT’S TATORS HOBBITS?!


Last night I had an extremely strange dream that I was IN Middle Earth. Like I was fighting a bad guy (who isn’t actually part of the LOTR series), but in order to kill him, I had to take this piece of meat from part of an animal heart and through it at his heart…. very strange.

Quotes from my professor today:

“Potatoes… boil them, cook them… do whatever”
Which, OF COURSE, had me internally repeating “PO-TA-TOES! Boil em, mash em, stick em in a stew” for the next 2 minutes.

“Except Mexico, they speak funny Spanish”

And while trying to explain how strange it was the Europe was the one that took over the world when Asia was much larger and richer…
“I mean look at it! Europe is a piece of crap!”

Anyways, I went to the Fuenta Magica… beautiful


Barcelona- The time has come

I almost got pickpocketed today.
Usually, I am VERY careful with my purse, always holding it against my side, making it impossible for this to happen. But I wasn’t on my guard in H&M today…. Two girls suddenly come up really closely to me, “looking” at clothing where I was. I immediately felt uncomfortable and turned to leave, and as I did, my purse lifted up off of me like someone was holding it, so I WHIPPED around and stared them down as the wenches quickly walked away. My purse was unlatched, and as I looked, I saw that I couldn’t find my camera… But when I looked at the ground, there it was. I caught them just in time, because if I hadn’t turned around when I had, which obviously freaked them out, I would have been camera-less. The same two girls then went up to my friend and “crowded” around what she was looking at, and she glared at them. Needless to say, I won’t ever let my guard down again.

Oh. And I found out that pickpocketing isn’t illegal in Barcelona unless it’s over 600 Euro. Unbelievable. And half of the students in every program get pickpocketed. HALF.

Ok, now for Barcelona…..

Oh. My. Goodness.
This is the most magnificent city I’ve ever visited. There is so much culture. You haven’t seen a “vibrant city” until you’ve seen Barcelona. There is so much modern architecture, especially by Gaudi, including La Sagrada Familia, Parque Guell, y muchos buildings more.
Today I got up really late, so I had about 20 minutes to get to the University downtown (which is a 20 minute walk). I only had time to throw on a Texas A&M tshirt and jeans, so consequently I screamed U.S. of A.  I spent the morning taking a bus tour of Barcelona, then a few hours walking around the square downtown, and finally went to a 3 hour academic meeting before heading home. I think my “madre” knew how nasty I was because she immediately asked if I needed to take a shower before dinner. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll look a bit more decent.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take many photos since I knew I was going to be here for 3.5 more months… so here is the view of Barcelona from on top of a mountain (where the Olympics were held in  1992):

And here was just a part of “Parc Güell”:


Hasta tomorrow, amigos. I don’t have class till 1:40. Whoop!

Toledo

Toledo is unbelievably gorgeous. Only God knows why King Philip moved the capital from here to Madrid (as much as I loved Madrid…). It’s like an ancient city, protected from all modernized architecture and gaudy neon advertisements. Everything is still built with the traditional stones and granite, and the old city is based on high ground because there used to be a moat protecting it. Here are a few pictures:

 


And a famous cathedral we went to…

If I were to study abroad again, I would most assuredly go to Toledo. It’s so enchanting.
Later on in the night, Brittany and I went out to eat and this is what the square looked like at night:
Looking forward to Barcelona tomorrow! (not so much to the 8 hour bus ride…)