Thursday, December 11, 2008

AWOL

Yeah yeah, I know I've been AWOL lately. It's partly because I spent 2 weekends out of town, and partly because I've just been busy during the weeks. And today I'm going out of town again. I'm going to London! Yay! I'm super excited to see my friends that I haven't seen in over a year, as well as some other friends that I've seen twice, but let's be honest, twice in one year is not enough.

Sadly, I still don't have a camera so unless somebody around here has the generosity to let me borrow theirs for the weekend, I won't be taking pictures. :(

When I get back I hope to have some fun stuff to update on, and a tummy full of delicious New Orlean's Gumbo!!

Enjoy your Christmas holidays, wherever you may be!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thoughts on Winter

The past 2 weeks we've had temperatures of 4 to 8 degrees centigrade. That's upper 30's and lower 40's in F.

I'm from Texas. I'm not used to that.

While I'm pretty sure that winter here last year was the same, I don't remember it being nearly as painful as it's been this year.

Last weekend I went on a retreat in Valencia and the place I was staying didn't have heat. The main meeting room had a small heater and there were some stationary gas flame heaters in the cafeteria, but I still spent the entire weekend in tights, jeans, tank top, tshirt, sweater, coat, and scarf. I had to wear my coat and scarf indoors all weekend. And let's not even talk about going to bed. That was so painfully cold the very thought still hurts me.

But I suppose it was a good experience for me. I forget sometimes how blessed I am. I forget that there are millions of people who don't have heat on a daily basis. I forget that there are millions of people who don't have tights and jeans and layers of clothes and coats and scarves. They have no choice but to suffer through the winter.

And I take it for granted that not only do I have a coat, but I look in my closet and can choose WHICH coat I want to wear that day. The long one or the short one? Is it particularly cold? Then I shall wear the fleece lined ski coat. Am I going for a run? Then I shall wear the water resistant pull over.

I am blessed.



Along the same lines, I have a question. What cold weather tips do you have for this Texas girl? What kinds of clothing/layers/etc have helped you out? Even the obvious. For example, I never thought "put on some socks" until somebody said it to me one time. It may sound stupid but I'm so accustomed to going barefoot indoors that when it's cold, putting on socks doesn't even cross my mind. But keeping your feet warm makes a huge difference.

Tell me. Give me advice. Not only do I need it for now, but I'm also going to London (colder) in just over a week and then to visit my mom (even colder) in two weeks.

And since running in this cold weather has become far more painful than I thought possible, I also went shopping.

I always used to make fun of the people who wore running tights. I thought they were either too serious or just trying to show off their hot (or sometimes not so hot) bod.

And then it got cold. And I want to run.

Sweat pants don't do the job. They absorb your sweat, get wet, and then you end up even colder.

Windbreaker type pants don't do the job. They let air in at the ankles, and they make that "swish swish" sound that gets on my nerves because when you're running at a park where lots of people run, you like to know when somebody is lapping you so you can move over and get out of their way. When your pants say "swish swish" you can't hear the "swish swish" of other people so you're always thinking somebody is right behind you when really it's just you.

The people wearing running tights always look so happy and warm.

So I tried some on.

I liked them. A lot.

So I'm now "one of those."

One of those serious runners.

One of those people I used to judge.

One of those people showing off their hot (or not) bod.

"Judge not, lest you too be judged."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Revenge of the Nerds

Yesterday I went to meet a friend for coffee. When I arrived at the metro stop, I was surprised to find it full of "young people."

I looked at my watch. It was 11:15am. Kids didn't leave school for lunch break until 1pm. And besides, most of these people looked too old to be in high school. College maybe, but certainly not high school.

I walked up the stairs to the street level only to find another 80+ gathered on the sidewalk.

They all looked quite normal to me. Most wore blue jeans, tshirts, hoodies or jackets, and tennis shoes. The vast majority were guys, with a few girls thrown in for good measure. There seemed to be an over abundance of glasses, but I didn't think much of it. They were chatting in gender segregated groups, laughing and looking at their watches with a sense of anticipation.

In hindsight, I would have to say that in the eyes of a local this group of "normal" looking guys was actually quite nerdy.

I didn't see a single mullet, mohawk, or even fauxhawk.

Nor was there a facial piercing in sight.

Nobody was wearing skinny jeans with Converse All-Stars, nor expensive designer clothes.

Yeah...I guess they were pretty dorky.

I decided to ask what was going on so I turned to a group of three guys standing nearby.

(Translated version):

Me: "Excuse me, why are all these people here?"

Him: "We're having a protest."

Me: "Oh...about what?"

Him: "Computer science."

I laughed and looked around at the crowd. I was starting to understand.

Him: "Why are you laughing?" (said with a smile and a laugh that makes it obvious he knows exactly why I'm laughing).

Me: "It's just....uh...why are you protesting? Are you mad about something?"

Him: "Yeah, at the government."

Me: "Why?"

Him: "Because they aren't regulating the field."

Me: "Oh. Where is the protest at?"

Him: (chuckles) "At some government office, but nobody knows where it is!"

I kind of wish I could have waited around and followed them to the protest. They didn't look like a very intimidating bunch, nor did anybody have picket signs or angry looks on their faces. I think it would have been quite a show, and who knows? I bet I could have made some new friends among the bunch.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

She Forgot to Take Her Pills Today...

Sometimes I forget that I'm in public.

Does that ever happen to you?

It happens to me every day.

I'm walking down the street and I'm thinking about something. I'm reliving a conversation that I had, whether recent or ancient history, perhaps thinking about what could have been said. I'm recreating an experience I once had and feeling all of the same sensations I felt back then. Or I'm preparing for an upcoming conversation and reviewing what I should and shouldn't say or do. Or, and this is what really gets me in trouble, I'm imagining a completely made up situation and all the things that could be said if that highly improbable situation were to ever come about.

I get so involved in my imagination that the next thing I know I'm walking down the street making faces and gestures in accordance with the action taking place in my mind.

If it's funny, I laugh or giggle silently.

If it's painfully awkward, I inhale through my teeth making a subtle hissing sound, or else exhale with puffed cheeks.

If it upsets me, I furrow my brow, or sometimes sigh heavily and roll my eyes.

If it's serious, I nod my head, purse my lips, or scratch my chin.

If I like the boy in my imaginary conversation (and let's face it, I usually do, or why else would I be having an imaginary conversation with him?), I blush, smile shyly and bite my lip.

The only problem is:

It's in my mind.

Nobody else can see or hear my mental dramatization so all they see is a girl walking down the street making all sorts of faces completely unaware that she's making those faces at the people in the street.

They probably think to themselves, "sure, she may look relatively normal now, but in 10 years, she'll be the bag lady with 6 cats who talks to light posts."

But they're wrong.

I hate cats.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Outstanding Experience

This morning I had an appointment at the US Embassy to get some pages added to my passport, seeing as how I only had two blank pages left and I'll be traveling for Christmas.

The only problem was that I had the page with my appointment information marked on my laptop, which I currently can't use since my power cord is broken.

And in typical Bruner fashion, I didn't write down the time or date of my appointment.

So I thought, "well...I think that 3 weeks ago when I made the appointment it was for Nov 13 or something like that. I guess I'll just show up and see what happens."

Now keep in mind that usually the way things work in this country when you have an appointment at any official gov't office is quite...inefficient, to say the least.

Usually even if your appointment is at 10:30am and you get there at 10:15 you still have to wait inline until 10:45 or 11.

Usually you have to make an appointment to go wait in line so that they can give you another appointment on another day at an inconvenient hour in an inconvenient location to give somebody your papers and then wait for a letter to come in the mail telling you that you had an appointment yesterday to pick up the papers and take them to another office, but since you missed that appointment you have to go make another appointment to wait in line so that they can give you another appointment to go pick up the papers and....do you see where I'm going with this??

And I'm not even exaggerating. No lie.

So since I didn't even know when my appointment was supposed to be, I was expecting to show up, wait in a long line, and then have them tell me I need to go home and make another appointment through the website. OR at best, wait in a long line for a few hours until they could attend to me, and then leave them my passport and pick it up in 2 weeks.

What actually happened was far beyond AWESOME.

I walked up to the gate and a security guard asked me what I needed. I told her how I *thought* I had an appointment but wasn't sure. She let me in.

Somebody gave me a ticket with a number on it, and I sat down to watch Sarah Palin on CNN until my number appeared on the screen.

After only TWO minutes my number popped up on the screen.

Just two minutes? Cool!

I walked up to the desk and was greeted by, "Hi, how are you?"

I just about FLIPPED.

Somebody asked me how I am??? And she seemed genuinely interested??? A complete stranger actually cares??

I told her about my phantom appointment.

She looked at a list and saw that my appointment was for 9:15am. It was then 11am.

She said, "okay, just fill out this form and hand it to me when you're done."

When I finished she said, "Do you mind sticking around for half an hour and we can do it for you right now?"

Do I mind if you do it now??? Of course not!! Only half an hour??? AWESOME!!

So I sat down and read a chapter of Harry Potter until they called my number again.

This time a kind gentleman handed my passport back to me, and he said very sincerely, "We're sorry it took so long."

I assured him that it was completely okay. Seriously. I only read one chapter. It wasn't that long.

Not once in the past year have I experienced such a combined effort of efficiency and sincere courtesy, with the exception of my friends at the local Starbucks (however it probably helps that I'm a repeat customer and I bake for them).

Not only were they there to do their jobs and do them well, but they did them with smiles on their faces and the well-being of the "customer" in mind.

It was incredible. It's almost tempting to lose my passport just so I can go back there.

Untimely death and natural disasters aside, nothing can ruin my day after a morning like that.

:)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Goodbye, Canon Powershot Digital Elph

Tonight I dropped my camera on the kitchen floor. It wasn't a long drop (I was already crouched down to take a picture of the fresh out the oven chicken and veggies my roommate and I cooked) but it was a mighty drop.

My poor, sad little camera no longer functions. I'm going to try to find her some help, but at the moment, it's not looking good.

My camera accompanied me nearly everywhere I went for the past three years. I've taken thousands of pictures with her. I've shared so many special memories with her. She's helped me remember good times with my friends, family...and I was hoping with my mom on my upcoming trip to see her at Christmas.

Alas, she is no more.

I think I would have cried if it weren't for the fact that my power cord to my laptop is broken and I'll most likely have to buy a new one this week, so the timing of it was just too comical to let tears fall.

Yet another reminder that they're just things. Stuff. Meaningless.

Yeah, it stinks. But after breaking my camera, I enjoyed a delicious dinner of roasted chicken and vegetables, while I know that just a few blocks away three little girls I met last Friday are having nothing bread with butter and nutella for dinner.

And I'm quite sure that in the same apartment building as those three girls, other families are going without food.

How can I complain over luxuries such as laptops and cameras breaking knowing that down the street there are families with no meat, and maybe even no food, on the table? When last night I took a friend to sign up for my church's food distribution, because their money ran out, they have no jobs, and she doesn't know where next week's meals are going to come from? When I know that two blocks to the East there are homeless men sleeping on park benches, one block to the North sleeping on the sidewalk by the train station, and two blocks to the South in another park?

All while I eat my roast chicken and vegetables.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

McCain, Obama, and Some Italians

Tonight I was going home on the metro after Bible study when a rowdy group of Italian guys got on. As there was a seat open next to me, one of them sat down, but in the process he ended up sitting on me.

He said, "perdón."

I very much wanted to respond with, "that's okay, I'm used to guys trying to sit in my lap" but I don't know how to say "lap" so instead I just nodded okay.**

He and his friends were all settled in their seats for a few stops when a few American girls got on, speaking very loudly in typical American fashion saying lots of things like "OMG" and "no way!"

Immediately one of the Italians looked down at his friend (sitting about 6 seats down) with a devilish grin of evil delight and they started yelling "McCain! Obama! McCain! Obama! Oh my gosh!" Apparently they had been planning that for a while.

I couldn't help but laugh.

I was also slightly giddy.

Apparently they didn't realize that I'm an American!

My super-white face usually calls me out as a foreigner, and when I open my mouth most suspicions are confirmed, however in recent months people have not been guessing "American" as my nationality (a good sign, I think..) and twice a local has told me they thought I was a local as well.

But Saturday somebody asked me where I was from and when I said "guess!" he responded with, "it has to be somewhere cold."

I said "why?"

And he said "because you're so white."

Well poo.

So when the Italian guys seemed oblivious to my American nationality, I took that as a compliment.

I got off at the same stop as the Italians and the Americans and listened as the Italians in broken English tried to taunt the American girl, with a little more bounce in my step for having slipped past their radar.

:)

**Was that bad of me?

Monday, November 3, 2008

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

I know I've posted about this before, but it seems to be a continual theme in my life lately.

You see, greeting people here can sometimes get very confusing. People greet each other with two kisses here - one on each cheek, starting with the right cheek. You kiss to say hello, and then you kiss to say goodbye. Occasionally with a close friend you might hug. But you'll still probably kiss.

North African women greet with three kisses: one on the right cheek and two on the left.

Americans greet friends with hugs, and strangers with handshakes.

French and Italians kiss too, but I haven't figured out the "rules" to their greetings yet.

Then you mix it all together and nobody really knows what to do.

Some Americans take on the local tradition and greet with two kisses. Others prefer hugs. Others still, persist in handshakes. North Africans, French, Italians, and all the rest of the world also pick and choose what kind of greeting to give, but it's easier with the "kissers" because at least you can expect a kiss, however you may not know how many (or on what cheek!).

So lately, any time I meet a new person, I go for the kisses. If they happen to be an American who's been here for a while, it's not so weird because they're used to it.

But if it's an American with whom you're actually friends, then they'll probably want to hug. But hugging and kissing both involve leaning towards the other, and sometimes I forget what I'm supposed to be doing.

Some people hug AND kiss. Do you kiss on the side you're hugging at the beginning or the end of the hug? How long does the hug last before you kiss the other cheek? Do you hug again when you kiss the other cheek?

Then there are the Americans who are fresh off the boat. They're usually aware that you're supposed to kiss people, but it's still slightly uncomfortable for them, so they're hesitant to kiss another American. They'll usually try to follow your lead, but when you're already as awkward as I am, it can be quite messy. Girls seem to adjust faster than guys, who stay stuck somewhere between side hugs, kisses, and handshakes for a bit longer.

Then there's the "American man living in Spain that I'm sort of friends with but only see once a month" situation. That's REALLY confusing. You don't hug him the same way you would hug a close friend, if you were to hug him. But you're not sure if you should kiss him because it's always kind of weird kissing American men, since we don't typically kiss the opposite gender unless they're a significant other or a family member. But he's too good of a friend to shake hands with.

And what do you do with an American when your hands are full? You can't adequately hug with shopping bags or your guitar or baked goods in your hands, yet you're not sure how this person has adjusted to the kissing culture. Is it a friend or a stranger? A close friend or a new friend? The first time you're meeting or the 32nd? All of this affects what you should do. But what actually happens is a different story.

What's a girl to do?

To make it worse, get a whole bunch of Americans together for lunch one day, and when it's time to go everybody goes around hugging, kissing, shaking hands, but each with their own style, a mix of American and foreign customs. What a mess!

A few weeks ago I kissed a guy when I shouldn't have. We had chatted a few times over the course of the evening and then he leaned in to say something in my ear (it was really loud) and I, out of habit, kissed his cheek.

He jumped back and said, "thanks!"

Trust me bud, it wasn't on purpose.

But I'm quite sure I blushed and he probably thought I was way into him.*

Then the other day the same thing happened - it's loud, a guy leans in to tell me something and I, thinking he was saying goodbye, kissed him. This guy, however, completely ignored it and continued on with what he was saying. Apparently he wasn't as flattered as the first guy.

I'm not sure if the situations would have been better or worse had it been a girl leaning in to tell me something.

All that to say, I never know what to do. Hug? Kiss? Handshake?

Sometimes it's just easier to say "I'm going to give you a hug," but then that can be just as awkward in it's own way.

When I went back to the States for Lissy's wedding I was relieved in part to know that all I had to do was hug everybody, but at the same time frustrated because I kept wanting to kiss people, but knowing that it would freak them all out (especially my guy friends) I had to hold back what had become natural to me.

When I first arrived here a year ago I thought that all of this confusion would clear up with time, but it appears I was wrong. Each day, each new acquaintance, each greeting seems more confusing than the last.

I think I've just resigned myself to the fact that I'll never know just how to greet each person, so all I can do is laugh at myself and move on to the next victim.

*Tim once told me that if I hadn't told him flat out I wasn't into him, he would have thought I was. Despite my lack of flirting skills, my friendly nature apparently comes across as flirting, leading to much confusion on the part of many.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Nacho!!!

My little fishy has a name!!

I decided to call him Inigo Montoya, because he's quite the little fighter.

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

But since Inigo Montoya is a long name, and "Nacho" is the nickname for "Inigo" (go figure) I usually end up calling him Nacho.

And Nacho Libre is awesome.

"Chanco! I need to borrow some sweats!"

I've got him trained now where I shake the food in front of his bowl and he goes into a frenzy until I drop the food in to eat.

That little booger can eat a lot! The guy at the fish store told me they should eat 3-6 little pellets a day, and I would just need to experiment to see how much Nacho eats.

I'll put in 5 pellets and he eats them all up and for as long as I'm standing there he's swimming up and down, right and left, staring at me begging for more.

So I put in one more.

He devours it, and then does his little dance again.

But I don't want to overfeed him so I've made 6 the limit.

Also, if I put in more, then he just plays with it and it ends up disintegrating and making the water dirty.

Then I have to change the water.

Changing the water is a hassle, so I don't like to do it more than once a week.

Thus, I refuse to give him more food.

And now I shall go and make food for myself.

Quesadillas...yum.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Run for Breast Cancer

This Sunday a friend and I ran in a run/walk/skate/whatever for breast cancer. We got these awesome pink shirts and pink balloons, however we ended up tying our balloons to her daughter's stroller and leaving them with her husband, because we were going to run and the balloons would just get in the way.


Before it started, we had to pee, so we looked around for the port-a-potty...

None in sight.

So we asked a volunteer. "Where's the bathroom?"

"There is none" was the reply.

No bathroom!?!? So we ran to a bar and waited in a ridiculous line (because every other one of the thousand ladies there had to pee too) and barely made it back in time for it to start.

What were they thinking holding an event for a thousand WOMEN and not having a few port-a-potties? Everybody knows that women have to pee a lot, and it's not like we can just go behind a tree like men can (and men here DO all the time. Ick).

So when the run/walk/skate/whatever did start, they shot off all this confetti and a lot of people let go of their balloons. It was quite an impressive sight, all that pink. I must say, I do like pink:


Since there were so many people and we almost didn't make it back in time, we couldn't get at the front (where the runners were supposed to be) so we got trapped in the crowd. We ended up getting on the sidewalk and cutting around the crowd as soon as we could, or else we would have been stuck walking the whole time. Here we are pretending to run amidst the masses:


Before signing up, I thought it was going to be a 10k.

I was wrong.

According to the website, the race was "approximately 4k." That's 2.5 miles. That's also less than what I run on an average day.

AND it only took me about 17 minutes to do the race, so apparently their approximation was either a bit off or I'm a Superstar Speedster because it should have taken me 23-25 minutes to run 4k, because I run SSLLLOOOOWWWW.

When I turned the last corner and saw the finish line I thought, "what? I'm not even tired yet."

Here I am getting ready to cross the finish line:


There's nobody else around me because most people walked, and my friend is a faster runner than I am so she finished a minute or two before me. My friend and I were concerned we'd be the only people running, but thankfully there were a good handful of other runners.

Even though the "race" wasn't much of a challenge, I was still quite thirsty afterwards. So what did they have for us to drink? A nice, cool bottle of water? A refreshing Fruit Punch or Blue Ice Powerade?

What else, but a never ending table of Coca-Cola products!?!?!

Regular Coke, Coke Light (they don't have Diet here. Coke Light uses an artificial sweetener that tastes better, but gives you more cancer), Coke Zero, Caffeine Free Coke, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Orange, Fanta Zero Lemon, Fanta Zero Orange, and Aquarius, a Coca-Cola carbonated free product.

Not a single bottle of water in sight.

And despite the ginormous Powerade inflatable start and finish line, not a single bottle of Powerade in sight.

What??

And then after the race half the crowd lit up cigarettes. The other half had already smoked theirs before it started.

Does anybody else see the irony in the murky billows of second hand smoke wafting into our lungs after the race against CANCER? Or the Diabetes-In-A-Can drinks? Or the CANCER causing artificial sweeteners in the non-Diabetes-In-A-Can drinks? Or the releasing of a thousand non-biodegradable balloons into the air, just waiting to land somewhere and poison the earth and give us all CANCER??

Oh the irony.



In other news, tonight I was eating a scoop of ice cream in the city center while people watching when a short, chubby old man walked up to me, stared at my ice cream and started to lick his lips and lean forward. I wasn't quite sure how to respond (was he playing with me or going to steal my ice cream? I've learned not to trust little old men, no matter how cute and innocent they may look), but then he broke out into a chuckle, patted my arm, and went on his way, leaving me to enjoy my scoop of Ben&Jerry's Cheesecake Brownie.

It's the little things that make life fun. :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

YOU Vote!!

I have a new roommate!

And it's a BOY!!

Now, before you get the wrong idea, let's see a picture of this new roommate...



One of my friends here has a new obsession with fish, and while she has gone so far as to install a real fish tank, I only allowed her to convince me to invest in this handsome beta.

But he needs a name!!

That's where YOU come in! YOU get to vote (by way of leaving a comment) and tell me what you think I should name him. Keep in mind, it is a boy. So no names like Susan or LuAnn. And keep in mind that I am SO beyond Disney/Pixar names, so if anybody suggests Nemo or Marlin or Flounder or Sebastian I won't even consider it. However if you should happen to show the picture to your 4 year old son or daughter and HE/SHE suggests Nemo, I won't hold it against him/her.

Be creative. Be original. You can even be ethnic (keep in mind I am living in a foreign country). If no suitable name is submitted in the next week, I'll name him after my grumpy neighbor, because so far this fish seems pretty ornery. Just check out this face he made at me:


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm Still The Same

At least once a week (particularly last week) I am reminded that as much as I may have changed as a person, grown in the Lord, learned who I am, "blossomed into a woman" as my mother might say, I am in fact, still very much the same in many ways.

One of those lovely personality traits to which I am referring is represented in this piece that I wrote a few years ago for a poetry slam at Revolution Café in Bryan, Texas.

:sigh:

Enjoy:

My life can be defined by one simple word: Awkward.
My life is awkward.
It’s not that I’m socially inept
Or incapable of interaction with the opposite sex
But simply that I find myself with my foot in my mouth
My words all tangled up
Frantically fighting for some sense of order.
My inner monologue has gone on permanent vacation
Leaving me behind,
With random thoughts racing through my mind
And I can’t seem to get the right ones out
So then you all wonder “What in the world is she talking about?”


My self-editor, the filter from my brain to my mouth
Seems to be having technical difficulties
And now everything has gone south
Blundering, bumbling, uncouth and uncoordinated
Spewing word vomit on the nearest available victim
As I tell them my life story
And about that awkward last day of school in seventh grade
And everything I did earlier that day
Until suddenly I realize that they didn’t want to know
And why am I rambling? Why don’t I just go?
And get in my car and wonder why I said what I said
And then I go home and toss and turn in my bed
Thinking about what a fool of myself I’ve made
And now he’ll never ask me on a date
And why can’t I just be smooth like that girl over there
And to make myself feel better I put on my superman underwear
But you didn’t want know that
That was too much information
And thus I find myself in another awkward situation.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

American Stereotypes

Living in Europe almost a year now has made me realize that the world has some strong stereotypes of Americans. Some are only slightly true, some are absolutely ridiculous, and a very few are "spot on".

Currently I'm reading a book called "Infidel", the autobiography of a Somalian woman who escaped a forced marriage by fleeing to The Netherlands and later left Islam (hence the title "Infidel.") I might comment on it in another post, but at the moment I'd like to share a quote that made me laugh out loud:

In October 2002, I flew to California. It was the first time I had ever been in the United States, and I realized almost immediately that my pre-conceptions of America were completely ludicrous. I was expecting rednecks and fat people, with lots of guns, very aggressive police, and overt racism - a caricature of a caricature. In reality, of course, I saw people living perfectly well-ordered lives, jogging, and drinking coffee.

Yep. That's pretty much what people seem to think about us. That and lots of really stupid pregnant teenagers. I'm glad she changed her views.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Unity of the Word

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it."
John 1:1-5


"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
Colossians 1:15-17


"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven."
Hebrews 1:1-3

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Crisis Averted


This is a walnut.

According to wikepedia, it grows on the deciduous walnut tree, genus juglans, and can be eaten in a variety of ways.

Except by me.

I am allergic to them.

Not in the, "if I eat you I shall immediately die" sort of way, but rather in the "if I eat you I will become like Hitch" sort of way.


Today I ate at one of my favorite restaurants in town - a vegetarian buffet. You pay by weight, so you just load your plate with as little or as much as you want and enjoy a delicious, healthy meal before you recycle your plates and plasticware in their hippy-friendly recycling bins.

But vegetarians often eat a lot of nuts (Because they're nuts themselves? That's SO something my dad would have said) so I always check the ingredients before scooping onto my plate.

Today they had a delicious looking pasta salad. Thanks to Jason's Deli, I have a relatively recent obsession with pasta salads, so this was an ideal choice.

I checked the listed ingredients: no nuts.

So I served myself a heaping scoop and sat on a bench outside to savor my meal in the sunlight.

Later as I was finishing up my last bite of one of the more delicious pasta salads I've ever enjoyed, I thought to myself, "something doesn't feel right."

My body was telling me something, but I didn't understand until I looked down at my plate and saw two lone, teeny tiny pieces of walnut* where my pasta had been.

Oh dear. This could be bad.

Enough time had passed since I took my first bite of the salad that I figured if I was going to go into anaphylactic shock it would have happened already, so I decided to take a moment to speak to the only restaurant employee I saw.

She was involved in a very important phone call, and as I had nothing in my hands to buy didn't seem too concerned with me standing in front of her.

After I stared at her smiling for a moment she got the idea and told her bff to hold on.

I told her, "the pasta salad has nuts in it, but it's not listed on the ingredients [I double checked before speaking to her] and I'm allergic to nuts [this is where a look a horror started to spread across her face] and ate it without knowing. I'm going to get some medicine right now, but I just wanted to let you know that you need to list nuts on the ingredients."

She looked horrified.

She apologized profusely and tried to make excuses.

I assured her I wasn't going to die but that yes, I needed to take some medicine right away, and again, please list nuts on the ingredients because nuts is a very common allergy.

And then I left, in a hurry to find some medicine as my ears continued to clog, my throat itching more and more, and my chest steadily tightening, partly due to the nuts and partly due to my growing anxiety. I really and truly knew I wasn't going to die or even have very serious problems, so long as I could get my hands on some medicine quickly, but my physical discomfort was steadily growing.

However on a Sunday afternoon during siesta time, the pharmacy around the corner was closed and a 15-20 minute walk home loomed before me.

Thankfully pharmacies in this country are like Starbucks in College Station** - there are far more than you could ever need or want - and I soon came across a 24 hour pharmacy.

I walked in and told them what happened and they knew exactly what to give me. I took it right away, still standing at the check-out, and after just 1 or 2 minutes I could feel a significant difference. It was incredible. I don't know what that stuff is, but I'll be keeping some in my purse from now on.

Crisis averted.

Now I'm not familiar with the laws in this country, but I can assure that in the United States there would have been fine print somewhere listing nuts among the ingredients with little asteriks like these: ***

And then after I ate the salad with the nuts they either would have pointed it out to me, or if they were non-compliant with the Food and Drug Administration laws I could have sued for 5 million dollars and treated myself with lasik eye surgery and one of these:




That's a Jaguar XJ.

The dude from Top Gear drove all the way across England and Scotland and back in one and never got bored or uncomfortable.

I've secretly wanted a Jaguar ever since I first became aware of what one even was on LBJ freeway in Dallas roughly 8 years ago.

I have diverted and thus it is time to end this post, after a few brief footnotes:

*the walnut was chopped so finely that not only was it difficult to see among the pasta and pesto sauce, but since I have not eaten one since my childhood I didn't know how to recognize the flavor

**I love Starbucks but anybody who has been through College Station surely must have noticed that we have an over abundance of this over-priced yet oh-so-addictive coffee chain

***the United States is obsessed with lawsuits, which is why hot coffee cups have written warnings that the coffee inside is hot

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Awesomeness That Is....

So I told you to check back to see something awesome, and now the time has come to find out what that awesomeness is.

As you can see, this is a picture of me:



Of course we all know that I am completely awesome.

That is obvious.

But the awesomeness that is "Me" is just about to get even Awesomer.

Did you notice the background in the picture of "Normal Awesome Me"?

Do you know where I am in that photo?

Do you know what's coming next?

Meet "Super Awesome" Me.



Technically, that would be "Super Awesome Me in a Little Bit of Pain".

Can you see the difference?

Do you see the shiny little spot on my slightly throbbing red nose?

Yes my friends, I pierced my nose.

I'd secretly been wanting to do it ever since sophomore year at A&M when I went with Denise to get her nose pierced but I knew my mom would object. Well, kill me, to be exact. So I pierced my upper ear instead. It was kind of a whim during dead-days - a way of procrastinating studying for final exams.

Then I didn't want to do it because it had become so trendy, and while I don't like to be out of the loop, I also don't believe in doing something just to be part of the trend. I got over wanting to be part of the "cool" crowd my freshman year of high school.

So whereas some do it as their way to "stick it to the man," my NOT doing it was my own rebellion against society - the society of "cool kids."

But I still secretly wanted it.

I like shiny things.

And I think I have a cute enough nose for it.

And I'd rather do something stupid while I still have the excuse of being young and dumb than wait until I'm an adult and should know better.

But I don't think this was stupid.

So I mentioned it to my mom a year or so ago and she was clearly against it.

Then I brought it up a few months ago. Again, not so much for it.

Seeing as how my 24th birthday was approaching, despite my "adult" status I still didn't want to do it without her blessing.

But a friend wanted to give it to me as my birthday present.

Thus, I had a dilemma.

So I spoke to my dear, beautiful, graceful, charming, lovely, mother again.

She told me to do it.

Well, actually she said, "do what you have to do."

It was over chat so I couldn't hear her tone of voice but I imagine that it was light and joking and she was smiling and shaking her head in that "oh you young whipersnapper" kind of way.

At least that's how I like to picture it.

Thanks Mom. :)

I'll be sure to post a prettier, shinier picture for your awesome viewing pleasure in the coming days.

Now if I could just figure out how to blow my nose...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Thank God

Tonight I had a quite frightening moment, and I'm still thanking God that I'm okay.

I was coming up the stairs out of the metro when I saw a man and woman walking towards me - or rather, the woman dragging the stumbling man towards me. The man was so drunk (and/or under the influence of something else) that he could barely walk, and he seemed to be resisting the woman, who also might have been under the influence herself. They nearly knocked me over as I was coming up the last 2 steps, but I saw them just in time and quickly moved out of the way.

I thought, "They're going to fall."

Sure enough, two seconds later, they went tumbling down the stairs.

Not just an "oops I tripped" kind of fall.

It was the kind of fall where they went bouncing down 15 cement steps, rolling over each other, banging their heads, shoulders, and backs on each step along the way.

Immediately when they reached the bottom a crowd of people jumped around them to see if they were okay, while one girl ran to get the police standing just across the way.

I just stood there and stared.

After standing back for a bit taking it all in, watching the crowd gather and the police make calls on their walkie talkies, I sat on a bench and said a prayer for them.

Then I realized: that could of been me, too.

They nearly pushed me anyway.

Only because I was looking up at the right moment instead of looking at the steps did I see them and move out of the way. They certainly hadn't been paying any attention to me.

What if I hadn't been looking up? What if I had exited the metro just 2 seconds later? What if something had distracted me and I didn't see them coming straight at me?

I praise the Lord that I'm okay - that they didn't run into me and take me with them. That I didn't walk out 2 seconds later.

As it turns out, it seems the man was relatively okay. His head was bleeding quite a bit but he was able to stand...sort of. So at least he didn't break his neck. But I never saw what happened to the woman. She never came back up the stairs, and when the ambulance came the police just waved it on by, so my only guess is that she too, was able to walk/stagger away from the fall. I really am amazed that neither of them broke their spine.

As Mad-Eye Moody would say, "Constant vigilance!!"

But no matter how much you pay attention, things happen. Surprises come. There are things that are out of our control. But today, I'm praising God for another day of my life; for another day without injury; for the saved lives of the drunk couple.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Get Ready...

Tuesday is my birthday.

Tuesday is also a holiday here.

I am choosing to believe that the holiday IS my birthday, and the whole city is celebrating with me.

Isn't that nice of them? Everybody's taking off from work in honor of my 24 years of life. They're so sweet.

In celebration of my birthday, I'm going to....

Well, I'll leave you in suspense. But check back Tuesday or Wednesday to find something awesome.

Tee hee.

Tee hee.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chocolate

I would just like to comment that I love chocolate.

That is all.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

God Bless You

Tonight, church was incredible. I just can't get over how incredible it was. It's been a struggle here to find a non-English church where not only can I worship with music that won't put me to sleep, but also teaches the Word. I don't want to hear a pastor's opinions - I don't want to hear a bunch of jokes or allegorical stories - I don't need ten illustrations to understand one verse - and I certainly don't want a motivational speech ("you can start that business! And God will help you!"). I just want the Word. Teach me the Word. No more, no less. Just the Word.

I'm starving for the Word; for the Bread of Life that fills me up. I can't live without it.

So tonight when he spoke the Word, explained the Word, taught the Word...it was sweeter than honey.

The main text was Numbers 6:22-27, which says:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and to his sons saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:

The Lord bless you, and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine on you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up His countenance on you,
and give you peace.'

So they shall invoke my name on the sons of Israel, and then I will bless them."

I recommend that you go read it in several different versions, because there are several words there that we take the meaning for granted unless we see it stated differently.

He talked about how when we bless someone, we're invoking the Lord to bless them. We ourselves don't have a blessing to give, but the Lord does. He went through these verses, phrase by phrase, referencing other scripture and explaining the meaning and significance of each phrase. He talked about how when we say "God bless you" to somebody, it actually means something. We are calling upon the Lord to bless that person, and He will. He talked about how God told Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you" and "I will make you a blessing to nations of the earth." He talked specifically about parents speaking blessings over their children and passing that blessing down from generation to generation, like what has happened in his family. He talked about the meaning of a blessing, and that it's not material (even though we often consider material objects a "blessing"). I could go on and on about all that he said and all of scripture that he spoke from, but there's no way I can relate it all on here.

As a result, I felt very convicted that saying "God bless you" is something to take seriously. That I should be saying it more often, and with meaning and conviction, rather than casually in passing. When I have children I want to pray this blessing over them when they go to bed at night. I am an ambassador for the Lord and he has charged me with a great responsibility. I do not want to take it lightly.

LB

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Celebrity Count



Last night I saw Pau Gasol at a pizza place. As you can see from the picture, he plays for the Lakers. He also played on the Spanish Olympic basketball team, who we all know took home the Silver (because the U.S. beat them for the Gold...tee hee).

So I've decided that I need to start keeping a celebrity count, because I've realized that I now live in a city that's kind of like Hollywood - there are celebrities everywhere. The funny part is that I usually have no idea who they are until somebody points them out to me (with the exception of Pau Gasol and 2 other guys), because they're usually only celebrities here and my status as a foreigner also means that I'm generally clueless to these kinds of things.

So here is my celebrity count so far:
1) The guy that plays "Gaston" in Beauty and the Beast here. Normally I wouldn't count stage actors but I saw this guy on TV a few weeks later, so he's a legitimate celebrity by my book.
2) Paco León - he's in a popular TV show here. I saw him walking down the street one night. I actually knew who he was because I sometimes watch the show, so that was an exciting moment. I felt like I was part of the culture for recognizing him.
3) Alaska - rock star (see previous blog about her)
4) Name Unknown - a guy who's in a lot of Pedro Almodóvar's movies. Somebody pointed him out to me at a bar. Apparently he's quite famous here, but I was 5 feet away from him and had no idea. I'll bet he knows Penelope Cruz.
5) Pau Gasol

There was one time when some friends and I were eating at the same place where I saw Paco León pass by and a friend pointed out some other celebrity, but I had no idea who they were or what movie/TV show my friend was talking about, so I won't count that one.

I think that's more celebrities than I've ever seen the rest of my life.

One time I met Chuck Norris at Double Dave's Pizza in College Station. He was nice, and his wife was super excited to meet me.

That is all.

LB

Monday, August 25, 2008

I'm an...adult??

Pretty soon I'll be 24. September 9th, that is. 15 days, to be exact.

You know what that means??

I'm an adult.

Yes, I realize that in the United States you're officially an adult at 21. But at 21 I was still in college. At 22 I was still in college. College is great! It's like Utopia for anybody who has a scholarship or a college fund, both of which I had. All you do is go to class, study, drink lots of coffee, hang out with friends, play mafia and watch The Office. It's great!

At 23 I had just graduated college. I didn't really feel like a real adult just yet. Sure, tons of my friends were getting married...a few even had kids. That's them. But me? I'm still single, doin' my own thing. I moved half way across the world, and while that is a very adult-like thing to do, to me it just feels like another adventure. I have no husband or children, so I can just pack some suitcases and go. And I was fresh out of college when I came here, so people still see me as one of those "crazy young people, flying by the seat of her pants."

But now...24....more than a year out of college...I really am an adult now. Supposedly.

Whoa.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Random Ramblings of a Rambler

I don't have anything remarkable to say today (do I ever?) but rather just a few random thoughts, comments, observations, etc, and since I live alone in a country where I'm still learning the language, I don't always have the chance to share my random ramblings...so here you go, organized by topic:

Olympics:
I didn't get to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics due to Greg and Panda's rehearsal dinner, but right now I'm watching the closing ceremonies. I can't believe the Olympics are over already!! It was so short! It seems like when I was a kid staying up until 2am to watch gymnastics, the Olympics seemed to go on for months and months, so it caught me by surprise when I found out this morning that today is the closing ceremony. Wow.

The Chinese are really playing up the cute factor right now. Who doesn't think a little Chinese kid is adorable? They're so much cuter than white kids and everybody knows it, so they've put a ton of them in these closing ceremonies. Good job, China.

Sidenote: there's this really attractive Korean guy passing out flowers to people right now. When I was in high school I had crushes on all the Koreans.

Blisters:
On my trip home I bought a new pair of running shoes, seeing as how I had worn my other pair four years, trained for (and ran) two half marathons in them, the cushioning was coming out, the rubber was coming unglued...they had seen better days. So today I ran a little over four miles, a HUGE accomplishment for me because about six months after the second half marathon I hurt my back and couldn't run for a while, and it's been an uphill struggle to re-train my body. Every time I get back in the habit it gets disrupted by something, so even though I was up to 4-5 miles last Spring, Summer kicked that in the butt and lately 2 is the most I've been able to run at a time. So while I was SUPER excited about today's four mile run, it came at a price. I now have four nasty, painful blisters on the arches of my feet. Two on each foot. I'm not sure if I got them because my new shoes aren't quite broken in yet, or because my feet just aren't used to running that distance anymore, or if I just sweat a lot so my socks got wet...but I think I'll do pilates or something tomorrow and Tuesday to try and give them some time to heal. Anybody got any good blister remedies? As fun as it is to pop them (ewww, right? It's still fun) that's not the best way to help them heal. Anybody got any prevention techniques?

Free Starbucks:
I'm a self-proclaimed coffee addict, and I particularly love the coffee shop atmosphere with couches, cool music, art on the walls, so even though back in Texas I usually preferred independent coffee shops (like Sweet Eugene's, Coffee Station, or Rockwell's...yum), here Starbucks is really the only place you can sip your coffee on a couch and read a book for hours, but of course, it's expensive. So I try to limit my Starbuck's intake. When I first got here I limited myself to just holidays and special occasions, but after a few months I threw that out the window and now I treat myself to a latte or mocha sometimes as much as once a week. Or if not a drink, then one of their super yummy sandwiches or pasta salads. Yuuum.

So yesterday I thought to myself, "I haven't had a Starbucks drink in two weeks. I want one." I went to the one closest to my house because I've become friends with the people who work there and love to chat when they're not busy. Luis (who no longer works there) liked to draw hearts on my cup, Victor always remembers that I like soy milk, and Wendy gave me my drink for free one day because I was really tired after a long week. So I knew yesterday would be a good day when I saw that both Victor and Wendy were working, along with another very nice lady whose name I don't know, and Luis had come by to say hi. I hadn't seen them in about a month (due to traveling, visitors, etc) and they were so excited to see me that they gave me my drink for free! Wendy even came and chatted with me for 10-15 minutes while they weren't busy. While free drinks are always exciting, the best part is that them giving me a free drink is a sign of something more - they like me. They consider me a friend. They know my order. They chat with me. They tell me about their lives. They smile when I walk through the door. Even when there's a line waiting out the door, they take the time to ask me how I'm doing and fill me in on what they're up to. To me, it's worth the cost of a 3.50 Euros for the opportunity to be talk with them, to encourage them, to be encouraged by them, to feel welcome in a country where I'm constantly reminded that I don't fit in.

Violin:
I think I mentioned that somebody gave me a violin in April, but due to all of the traveling and craziness of Summer, I've not had a chance to play it much. Yesterday I picked it up and started practicing a bit. Man, have I lost it! So I've got a book of scales and exercises and I'm going to make it a point to practice at least 3 times a week. This week I'm going to the music store to buy a shoulder rest (I've been using a potholder from the kitchen...it surprised me how well it worked!) and a few solos to work on. I want to keep up (or rather, re-gain) my skill so that when I get back to the States in a year or two, I can join an orchestra. I have an awesome violin waiting for me at home and I don't want to lose the skills that I worked for since 5th grade.

Coffee:
I think my favorite flavored coffee is Texas Pecan. Yuuum. My favorite non-flavored coffee is Jamaica Blue Mountain. MEGA yuuuum. My birthday is September 9th. :)

That is all my randomness for now!

LB

Friday, August 22, 2008

An All New Low For Smokers



While the United States succeeded in making smoking taboo by the time I reached adolescence and is progressing steadily in the fight to save our lungs from second hand smoke, much of Europe is only recently catching on and enforcing new non-smoking laws in restaurants and other public places as their citizens slowly make the connection that maybe that shortness of breath while climbing stairs has something to do with the four packs of cigarettes they smoked this week. Northern Europe seems to have embraced cleaner lungs faster than Southern Europe, where chain smoking is still considered a favorite past-time and rather than post signs in windows that say "Smoking Prohibited", many establishments post signs saying that smoking is permitted, just to clear up any confusion in case the billowing plumes of smoke clouding your vision didn't make it clear.

And today the smokers of this country have reached an all new low. While running at the park, a man in his mid 30s passed me (I'm not a difficult runner to pass) and left me in the wake of his wretched tobacco odor. Most people here smell like cigarette smoke all the time and I rarely notice anymore, so it caught my attention that he reeked so strongly even in the open air of the park. And then I saw it: he was smoking a cigarette while running.

This smoker has hit rock bottom. Not even those blessed endorphins released by running can conquer his addiction to nicotine. Not even his tar-filled lungs straining for oxygen can make him put that cigarette down. Truly his addiction has him subdued.

The saddest part? He was still running faster than me!

LB

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sweet Seventeen?

Yesterday and today I've been listening to lots of Country music while procrastinating unpacking and such.

And it leaves me with a question:

Why is it that in nearly every country song, all major life events take place at 17?

Every first love happens at 17. Likewise, every first broken heart happens at 17. Every loss of a loved one happens at 17. Every first truck accident happens at 17. Every first beer happens at 17 (well...I guess that one depends on the song..). The point is, it all happens at 17.

At first I thought maybe it's because 17 is such an idealistic age. You're still young enough to be innocent without being so completely stupid as 16 when you fall in love any boy who with a cute smile. Maybe it's because 17 is when you're becoming aware that there's life beyond your small town (because you're always from a small town in a country song) and begin to "spread your wings." Maybe it's because 17 is when you start to really think about the future even though you can't quite imagine anything beyond Friday night. Maybe it's because 17 is when your parents allow you more freedom, and thus you find yourself getting into more trouble due to a lack of supervision...

But then I thought, "no, it's none of that."

It's because Country musicians like to draaaaaaawl out their words to make as many syllables as possible, and 17 is the only teen with three syllables.

Simple as that.

Problem solved.

LB

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I'm Back!

Howdy!

I'm back from my trip to Texas, and I had a wonderful time! It was such a blessing to see my family and friends again, and thankfully I was able to spend some really great quality time with both. Here is a quick summary of the trip:

When I first arrived to the airport I had a HUGE surprise waiting for me. My mom, who was supposed to have been on the opposite side of the world, was there waiting for me! She was supposed to have left Texas a few days before I arrived, but due to a strike affecting her airline, she was delayed a WEEK, so after I walked out and hugged the rest of the family, we began walking towards the doors and hiding behind a column was my mom! I started to say "what are you doing here??" but burst into sobs as we hugged for several minutes, with me sobbing in that embarrassing way where you hiccup uncontrollably, and strangers staring at the girl and her mom making a huge scene. It was a happy surprise!

The next few days were spent spending time together - going to church, shopping, going to the discovery science place with the kids, swimming at my brother's hotel pool, eating Tex-Mex, Jason's Deli, Texas Roadhouse (all of those things I can't get here!), swimming at the lake, playing on the swing set...we were non-stop! It was great though - the only thing we didn't get around to was going to the zoo, but we managed to spend tons of quality time without the zoo, so it was okay. :) My niece and nephew are awesome swingers, and Vivi has NO fear and wants to do everything her big brother does! Except wear clothes...she played outside in just her diaper and shoes! It was adorable.


Then on Wednesday my sister's family and I drove to Dallas to take my mom to the airport, and then down to College Station so I could try on the bridesmaid dress. We ate at one of my favorite CS restaurants: Blue Baker!! Afterwards, we let the kids run around the fountain for a while since they had just spent about 5+ hours in the car that day! While playing at the fountain, Vivian kept running up to me giving me tons of hugs. What a sweet memory she left me with!



Thursday after lunch my family and I parted and I spent the rest of the day with Lissy and Greg. I was so thankful for the opportunity to spend so much quality time with both the Bride and the Groom. Weddings are so crazy and often times the couple is so busy that friends and family barely get to spend meaningful time with them, but I was blessed to be able to spend a lot of precious time with the both of them. I love you Lissy and Greg!

Friday was the Rehearsal Dinner and we had a delicious fajita dinner at Pappasito's. It was so exciting to have almost all of our close friends together again - I needed that so bad. I've missed being with people I can just "let go" with and be my goofy, awkward self. I know that I'm safe with them, that they love me, and I love them all so much. God has blessed me with an incredible group of guys and girls that encourage each other, challenge each other, make each other laugh, support each other in hard times, accept each other how we are but hold each other accountable to be what God wants us to be, and I hope and pray that despite our physical distance we NEVER lose the incredibly special friendship that we have. We girls in this picture are just a few of this quite large yet very tight group of friends, and we 6 became close friends our freshman year at A&M and I've learned so much from each one of them. I love you girls!!



The day of the wedding was wonderful. The bridesmaids and house party spent most of the morning at a salon getting our hair done and pedicures, chatting, laughing, eating more Jason's Deli (did I mention that's my favorite??), and enjoying our time together as girls. Then we went to the church to finish getting ready and watch our precious friends make a beautiful commitment. It was a wonderfully special day; one that I'll never forget. Isn't the Bride beautiful?


The reception was lovely. We had a delicious surf 'n turf dinner followed by super-yummy wedding cake. The Bride's cake was gorgeous, and the groom's cake was an XBox360 with game controller. Yes. And if you know Greg, you'll agree that it was perfectly suited to him.

We all had a great time dancing like wild dancing fools, and even got Rick Rolled by the Bride and Groom on the dance floor! It was a night to remember!

After the reception quite a few of us went to Lindsay's house where we watched some Olympics, talked and laughed, and spent a few sweet hours together. Sunday I went to the airport and headed back across the ocean, and now here I am! It was a great trip and well worth it to see my family and friends. If only I had a never-ending budget and could take a trip like that every few months!! But alas, this will have to suffice for the next year or two. Until then I shall rely upon my friends and family to make the trip this direction. Each and every memory of my trip home is a sweet one, and for that I am so thankful!

LB

Monday, July 28, 2008

How Long Has It Been???

Yep, it's been a long time since I've updated...well...a real update that is, and a lot has been going on!

Let's see...this group of Aggie girls hung out with me one evening at the beginning of the month. It was WONDERFUL!!



I also received a visit from a high school friend, Anna. We hadn't seen each other for FIVE years! She spent a weekend here and it was great catching up, showing her around the city, etc.



All the while I was working a 2 week long basketball camp. We had over 100 kids and a great time! One of the little girls was my "mini-mi." I didn't even notice it until one of the coaches pointed out that we look a lot alike, and I think he was right! She even makes funny faces in the camera like I'm known to do!


During the last week of the basketball camp, Julie came to visit!! Julie and I have known each other since we were 4 or 5, and have been best friends since middle school. We hadn't seen each other since January, and even then, only for an evening - before that we hadn't seen each other since October, and only for an evening, and before that it was August!! This is the longest we've gone since we were tiny tots without seeing each other!! It's been almost a year since we've had one-on-one time!! I missed my JuJuBee!!



Also, one of the moms from the basketball camp gave us free tickets to a bullfight, so Julie got to experience my very first bullfight with me! It's quite controversial here, and I'll be honest - it is pretty cruel to the animals. I'm not an animal rights activist, but I'm not out to get them either. So I'm ashamed to admit that I kind of enjoyed parts of it - but not the bloody part. It was a good cultural experience, but sad to watch the bulls die so slowly and painfully. I've decided that I prefer Texas rodeo. Bucking broncos, bull riding, calf tying...but no killing. Even if they do eat the meat, is it really necessary to watch it die so slowly and painfully??

On Thursday evening I'll be going to Amsterdam where I'll spend the night with a family and Friday morning I'll hop on a plane to Texas. My first meal: Abuelo's Mexican Embassy. Oh yes. I'm going to get one of those massive platters that has a little bit of everything on it. Don't worry - I won't eat it all, but when you've only got one shot at it, there's no way you can choose between avocado enchiladas, chile rellenos, or chicken enchiladas with sour cream sauce. Not when you won't have another chance for a good year or more.

Yuum.

I'll spend a few days with my family and then a few days in Houston before being a bridesmaid in Greg and Lissy's wedding. :)

And now I must do chores and run errands before evening comes!! Time is too short!

-LB

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More to Come Soon!

The past two weeks have been SUPER busy - we had a big basketball camp going on (100+ kids!), a friend from high school named Anna spent a weekend with me, and now Julie is here spending almost a week visiting, so between basketball camp in the mornings, meetings with the coaches/being a tour guide for them in the evenings, Anna and Julie, I've been a super busy girl. But starting Monday things should slow down...well...a little bit...so I'll post some pictures soon to update you on the happenings on this side of the Atlantic.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Please Don't Stop The Music

Friday evening while walking to meet somebody I turned onto a small street to immediately hear, "All by myseeeeeelf....don't wanna be.." from somebody's open apartment window.

Just now, somebody just pulled up to the intersection outside my apartment with their windows rolled down and their radio BLARING Smashmouth's "Hey now, you're a rockstar, get your game on, go play..."

Does anybody else find that really funny? Or is it just me?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Culprit Caught!

The past 9 months I've been living here, there's been a criminal on the loose.

Somebody in my building, causing havoc.

A rule-breaker.

Taking the lives of the residents of building number 13 into their own hands.

They say that 13 is an unlucky number.

I noticed it one day when I stepped into the elevator, many months ago. Something wasn't right. Something didn't smell right.

Surely it was just my imagination. My nose has been a bit confused due to the exorbitant amount of second hand smoke I breathe on a daily basis.

Maybe some excessive smoker left their stench lingering in the lift. Most people over the age of 11 in this country are chain smokers - it could be anybody.

But surely nobody would smoke in the elevator. Not with a sign saying "NO FUMAR" and a logo of a cigarette with the circle/slash that means "prohibited".

And yet, at least once a week, upon entering the elevator I was overwhelmed with the reek of tobacco.

It was a mystery left unsolved for nearly 9 months, until...

This evening the elevator reached floor zero just as I entered the building.

The door opened.

A wrinkly hand belonging to a wrinkly old woman with a raspy voice appeared with none other than a freshly lit Camel Joe.

I knew immediately that she was my culprit.

She's old, so she thinks rules don't apply to her.

She has a cigarette in her hand every time I see her.

She never takes the stairs (like I said, she's old).

The tobacco smell today was the same smell as all the other previous infractions - she probably has her favorite brand that she always smokes.

The culprit has been caught.

Now what am I going to do about?

Absolutely nothing. In case you're weren't sure, she's quite old. I figure, if she wants to smoke on the elevator, she's earned it simply by living this long. That and the fact she kind of scares me.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Do You Iron Your Sheets?

I'm taking a poll:

Do you iron your sheets?

A) For your bed
B) For the guest bed
C) For your kid's beds (if you have kids)

I never have ironed my sheets, but today as I was making the bed for a guest who arrives tomorrow I thought to myself: "this would look so much prettier if the sheets were ironed." *

I see ironing sheets as a waste of time. You're just going to get in the bed and sleep, and I wiggle around a lot, so they'll just get wrinkled again. So what's the point? To look good for a few hours?

But then I thought that maybe it would be nice to put the effort into making the sheets look nice. After all, now that I'm on my own, I'm having to learn how to be a "home-maker" and a hostess, even if the home I'm making is just for myself. I'm trying to learn how to be a proper female (not that men can't iron as well! don't get me wrong!) so that one day when I am a wife and mother I don't have to learn it all from scratch.

So what about you? Do you iron your sheets?

-LB

*It's hot and I don't have AC so I'm not bothering to put a blanket on top, thus the sheets are all there is to it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

She-Males and a Rock Star

Last night I went out with two friends, just to get a drink and a pincho de tortilla, and afterwards we decided to have a little walk, since it was only 11:30 and the night was still young (on Wednesday...life here is so weird sometimes).

We came across a concert/party thing in the middle of a small plaza. I had seen them setting up earlier in the day but had no idea what it was for, and now, around midnight, the plaza was full of people jumping up and down to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", even though most of the people there had no idea what the words meant (not that we native English speakers have the slightest clue either). I tried to translate for Rosi but I didn't know the verb for "to entertain," which is kind of a key word in the chorus so I had to give up (it turns out to be "entretener." I should have known it would be that easy). Besides, you can't really understand much of what he's saying anyway other than "here we are now, entertain us, I feel stupid and contagious."

I just looked up the lyrics to the song. Does anybody have any clue what he's talking about? I think he must have been high when he wrote that. That's what my dad always said when I would ask him about what some song they played on KLUV meant. He would say something like, "it doesn't mean anything; those hippies were high when they wrote that." That's what he said about "American Pie." That Don McLean got high and all sentimental and wrote that song. But I'm digressing.

So the three of us decided to hang out there for a while and enjoy the music. We found a little spot at the back of the crowd near some people of questionable genders* and bounced along to the music. One she-male in particular put his/her hand on my back very gently in the polite kind of way that you do when you need to squeeze by somebody in a crowd. But it wasn't necessary to touch me to squeeze by, because we were at the back of the crowd and there was plenty of space. Personally I think it was because he/she saw me looking at him/her with curiosity, because, like Heather, this was the first real live she-male I'd ever seen up close (besides just passing them on the street) and I was asking myself medical questions in my head and became unaware that I was staring. And when he/she saw me staring, I smiled a bit (to be polite of course, because while I may not agree with his/her choices he/she was still created in the image of God and God has filled me with only love for people that years ago I would have tried to avoid) and then politely turned back to my friends. So I think the hand on my back was his/her way of saying to me, "I saw you staring, and it's okay sweetie." At least that's what I'm going to believe. And I'm quite sure that he/she would have called me sweetie, at least if he/she spoke English.

Then suddenly Rosi got really fired up about something.

"See that redheaded woman over there?"

I'm looking around. I don't see any redheads per se, but there is a woman with long, very orange hair within an arm's reach of me.

"You mean the one right here in the black dress?"

"Yeah. That's Alaska!"

"Alaska?" I knew a girl in T-Camp that everybody called Alaska, but that was because she was actually from Alaska.

Well it turns out that this Alaska lady is a super-famous rock star here. She was of the first punk-rock musicians here in the 70's and 80's. So then they started playing her songs, and EVERYBODY was singing along at the top of their lungs, except for me, Amir (also a foreigner and therefore clueless like myself), and Alaska herself. I stood there and stared at her for a bit. She's a very interesting looking lady. And she has a surprisingly deep voice. I wonder what it must be like to be surrounded by people all singing along to the song that you wrote 20 years ago when most of these people were just kids.

Later in life Alaska changed to techno, and I must say that while the punk-rock songs I heard were quite good, the techno is...techno.

There I was, standing right next to a rock star, but as far as I knew, she could have been just another she-male and I would have never known the difference.

Later a slightly crazy lady of about 60 years with a long black wig, a tight mini-skirt and fish net tights asked us why we were laughing at her (however I'm quite sure we weren't laughing at the time) and then started to hit on Amir.

And that was the end of our lovely evening.

*It turns out that this is gay pride week, culminating in a big parade on Saturday. It's very likely that this little concert was a gay-pride event.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I'm Back!

After spending two weeks in Barcelona and one week in Rome, I'm pooped!

Rather than tell you every little detail, I'll just share some pictures!

Here we are at the beach in Barcelona enjoying a little bit of free time:

Here we are at a shopping mall. We saw the familiar red sign and just about flipped out. We couldn't believe it! It was too good to be true!! And yes, it was too good to be true. There was no Target but rather just a mean, cruel joke. We were heartbroken.


The Colosseum!

We ran into these girls at the Forum. They're from California and we spent several hours Wednesday and Friday hanging out with them!

The Pantheon: a former site of idol worship, replaced by a "Christian" church filled with new idols to replace the old ones. I found it quite sad and would have preferred they left the old ones for the sake of historicity rather than add new ones and call them "Christian".


I'm getting ready to throw a coin in Trevi fountain! Don't worry, my Daddy raised me to be prudent with my money. It was just 5 cents. And I only threw in one coin instead of the traditional three.

Bobby wanted to see the Pantheon too.

Really yummy gelatto. I think I had gelatto 4 times over the period of 3 days. Thank goodness I walked it all off (at least I hope!). And 2 of them I couldn't finish. But I most definitely finished this chocolate mint cone. Yuuumm.
That's all! Of course there are millions more photos, but these are just a few highlights.

And now I am watching Spain play (and hopefully beat) Germany in the European Cup (that's soccer, or "fútbol" for you NFL fans out there).

¡Vive España! ¡Olé!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mere Christianity

CS Lewis' Mere Christianity is one of those books that I never really cared to read but always felt like I should because well, I'm a Christian, and the title of the book is Mere Christianity and everybody's always quoting CS Lewis and shouldn't every "good" Christian read CS Lewis?

So as a result of my imagined peer pressure I attempted to read it one day in high school. I read a few pages, then realized I didn't get a thing he said in those pages but figured it was because the TV was on so my mind was distracted, so I started it again. I read a few paragraphs. I didn't comprehend a thing. I tried again. I focused all my brainpower. And then, about 3 pages into the book, I put it down, never to pick it up again. I did read several others of his works, but not Mere Christianity.

UNTIL just a few weeks ago. I decided to give it another shot. And I was amazed. I went into it expecting it to be like the first time - boring, obscure, too "deep" for my pea-brain, but instead, I was awed. I couldn't put it down. Everything just clicked. I suddenly understood why Mere Christianity is the quintessential Christian apologetic. I loved it.

He's deep, he's brutally honest, he's witty...

So I thought I would share with you just a few of my favorite quotes:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

"The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began...Pride always means enmity - it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God."

"There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of 'Heaven' ridiculous by saying they do not want 'to spend eternity playing harps.' The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them."

"If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years. A bit more makes no difference."

"You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God. Well, stop them."

"That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither."

""If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

"Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothin in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in."

That's all for now folks! If you've not read the book, go read it!

LB