Monday, June 15, 2009

A Family Affair

On My 20th, 2009 my Mom arrived to Spain for her second visit.

To start the trip off, we went to Barcelona. I had been there once before but it was for a conference so I didn't have much time to do any "touristy" things. So we went for two days and saw everything we could possibly squeeze in, beginning with the cathedral.

While we toured they were having mass so I stopped to listen. I must say, I was quite heart-broken by what I heard. The priest was talking about heaven (a topic about which we all like to hear) and how we will spend eternity in the presence of God. That sounds great to me! But then he began to say that the way to heaven is by living a good life, and that those parents who love their children will baptize them so that, should they not live good lives, they will still be allowed to enter heaven. It broke my heart to see the people in the pews listening, knowing that they trust this man to give them words of life, and instead he is leading them down a road that leads only to death, for we know that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no man can boast." (Eph 2:8-9)

But I shall continue with our visit.

Later we went to the Aquarium, which is supposed to be the largest in Europe. If you want to make me happy, take me to the zoo or the aquarium. I will then be your best friend for life. This aquarium had a really awesome shark tank (the kind with the moving sidewalk and the tunnel effect) and I finally figured out what one of my favorite fish (to eat) is! Here in Spain you see "sepia a la plancha" on menus all the time, and I must say that it's quite delicious, but I've always wondered what the fish actually is. Well, it's cuttlefish! These guys:

I'll be honest, I'm glad I ate the fish before I saw the live version of it. I'm not sure I would have had the bravery to eat him knowing what he really looks like.

Our second day was our "Day of Gaudí". We went to the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló (but only from the outside, they were both expensive and the Sagrada Familia had a LONG line), and toured La Pedrera, which means "the rock quarry."

The top of the building looks like ice cream cones, but the outside of the building looks like smooth boulders (sort of), which is where it got it's name from.

Then on the 26th my sister, brother-in-law, his mom, and my niece and nephew came! I can't tell you how awesome it was to finally see them, and show them this place that has captured my heart, and see Garrett and Vivian who are so much bigger than they were the last time I saw them!

The first day they were exhausted, so to keep them awake I took them to the park where the kids played on the playground and fed ducks and goldfish in the pond, and then we ate at a neat little café before letting them crash at the apartment they had rented. Little did we know that our first day would leave such an impression on the kids. All week long all they wanted to do was go back to the park.

Really, who needs more than a playground and some ducks? Apparently that's the key to happiness in life. While you can't see the water, they're feeding the ducks in this picture.

I ended up spending the night at their apartment a few nights. Even when I didn't, usually they were just having breakfast when I arrived at their place, meaning that every morning I got to wake up to this:

After calling my sister's house my home for so long and living with them during my transition period, it sure felt good to see those precious faces in the morning again.

We also toured the palace, went to the zoo, rode the cable car over the city, had some of my friends over for dinner, saw a flamenco show, and visited the majority of the playgrounds in the city.

Now most people who know me well know that I'm terrified of birds. I had a bad experience. So at the zoo, we went to the bird show. It wasn't my idea, I can assure you of that. But I didn't want to be a party pooper and since everybody else was interested, I wasn't going to say anything. Besides, they're all trained birds, right? At one point a hawk flew out and landed on somebody in the audience's head, way on the other side of the stage. I thought, "whew! I'm so glad that's over there." And flew over and landed sister's head. Right next to me.

I knew what came next. I squeezed my fists, closed my eyes, and prepared myself for the worst. It hopped onto my head. I could feel it's claws in my scalp. I could feel it's mighty weight, pressing down on me. And just as soon as it began, it was all over.

I realize that my fear of birds is slightly irrational, therefore I don't jump and scream every time a pigeon crosses my path. But a hawk? On my head? Talk about immersion therapy. When I opened my eyes again I was laughing and crying, rational enough to recognize the humor in the situation but still unable to control the tears. My wonderful brother-in-law was astute enough to get a few seconds of the moment on video. I'm sure my red face will be posted all over the internet very soon.

On their next-to-last day we took a day trip to Segovia. We saw the Roman aqueduct (how can you miss it?) the cathedral, and the Cinderella Castle, as Vivian called it.

Finally it was time for them to go home, and I could hardly believe that it was over so quickly. Those eight days flew by and I think we only accomplished half of the activities planned, but that was okay, because the number one activity - just enjoying each other's presence - was completed. Saying goodbye at the airport I was able to laugh and have fun knowing that I'll be seeing them soon - in August, to be exact - when I move back to Texas. But until then, I've got a plethora of good memories to dwell on. :)