Friday, July 24, 2009

Starbucks and Sushi

Once upon a time there was a girl named Bruner.

Bruner had no fear of strangers, an insatiable curiosity, and an utter lack of an efficient inner monologue to stop her from saying the first thing that crossed her mind.

One day while Bruner was at Starbucks (because really, when is she not at Starbucks?) she noticed a deep looking soul sitting not too far away. She knew he was deep because of his shaggy hair, little black notebook, and self mumblings as he scrawled his deepest most profound musings into the notebook.

"I wonder what he's writing? Is he a poet? A song writer? A philosopher?. It must be deep because that's a Moleskine, used only for the deepest, most profound thoughts."

After that day she saw the deep, shaggy haired poet every so often and constantly asked herself what kinds of tragically romantic thoughts he might be scribbling that day.

Until one day...

Bruner sat across from Deep Boy. She watched him mumble to himself with furrowed brow, his lips silently composing, his hand drawing tiny circles in the air before jotting down his latest revelation. As she was studying for a Spanish exam, and he was Spanish, she found this was the perfect excuse to begin a conversation.

"Excuse me, could you explain to me what (insert Spanish idiomatic phrase here) means?"

After his polite response the two returned to their tasks. He with his deepness and her with her Spanish. Until suddenly her auto-stop failed - she could no longer resist the temptation - she gave in to her curiosity and said:

"Do you mind if I ask what you're writing?"

She prepared herself for the most philosophical of responses, most certainly far beyond her scope of understanding when he replied:




And all that time she thought he was deep and sensitive.

Deep-Boy-Turned-Comedian was named Alvaro.

From that day on Bruner and Alvaro always found each other on the sofas and spent the evenings talking and laughing; Bruner using Alvaro as her own personal Spanish dictionary, and Alvaro using Bruner as a test audience for his jokes.

Their friendship grew and grew as each night they sipped coffee until closing time, accompanied each other home, Gchat-ed the next day and then returned to Starbucks to do it all again.

They carried on like this for months and months, but alas, all good things must come to an end.

Bruner had to return to the land of pick-up trucks and BBQ, and Alvaro got a job in another city as a comedy writer for late-night TV. All of those jokes finally paid off.

The day before he left, Alvaro took Bruner to her very first Sushi restaurant.

Not only was it her first sushi experience ever, but it was also the best in the city, making Bruner very happy when she finally tasted the more-delicious-than-she-could-imagine-raw-fish, plus she got to eat with chopsticks and we all know that Bruner loves chopsticks. Alvaro knew just what to order to please the palate.

Just as they met at Starbucks and thus began their friendship, so they must also say farewell there and thus begin a new phase - the long-distance friendship. So they went to Starbucks to enjoy one last drink together on the oft visited sofas.

As it turns out, Alvaro really is a deep, sensitive soul. But he just so happens to be a funny one, which is much better than the emotional moody poetic one she originally thought he was.

Bruner was sad to say goodbye to Alvaro, but thankful to have known him, learned from him, laughed with him, and enjoyed his friendship. And when he comes to visit her in the land of pick-ups and BBQ, she'll buy him a drink at Starbucks. :)

Thanks, Alvaro :)

Monday, July 20, 2009


Last weekend a few friends and I went to Salamanca, Ivan and Rocío's hometown. The city is famous for it's university, the oldest in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. Ivan, Dámaris, Sebas, and Rocío and I all piled into Ivan's car and made the 2+ hour drive to this ancient city.

While Sebas and Rocío spent the day with their family, Ivan and Dámaris showed me around town, beginning with the Plaza Mayor:

Later we went to the old university. On the facade there's a frog hiding out somewhere, and legend has it that on the first day of class students had to find the frog, and if they were able to find it they would succeed and complete their degree, but if they couldn't find it, they were sure to fail. I was determined to find it, but after straining my next for just three minutes I said to Ivan, "I'm not sure I have the patience to find it." Now, I didn't mean I was going to give up just yet; I was just commenting. But Ivan took that to mean "I give up" and proceeded to tell me exactly where it was. Oh well. I guess it's a good thing I've already got my degree. :) Now see if you can find this famous frog:

Later we went to a juice/smoothie bar. I got pineapple/raspberry juice, Dámaris got a raspberry smoothie, and Ivan a strawberry smoothie. Here we are enjoying our refreshing drinks on a hot Summer day:

At one point we toured the free part of the cathedral (the "new" part, built in the 1500's), and later in the evening (when it wasn't so hot anymore) we were able to climb to the top and explore the roof of the cathedral, as well as view the old part (the part you have to pay for). From the roof we could see brides galore, all waiting to get married in the 12th century cathedral. Each bride got a 15ish minute wedding. They all walked in, sat down, the organ played, the priest gave them the wafer and the wine, pronounced them man and wife, and as the cameras flashed he shooed them out so the next bride could take her turn. Not exactly what I dream of for my own wedding.

In the "new" part of the cathedral they had a mirror underneath the dome so you could get a better view without straining your neck. But I saw greater potential:

All in all it was a great weekend with great friends. I enjoyed getting to know a new town, getting to know my friends better, and replacing the noise and bustle of a big city with the calm and quiet of a town.

Monday, July 13, 2009


For the past two weeks I've been helping out in our annual basketball camp. This year we had more or less 120 kids each day from ages 4-15.

The first week I found myself translating a LOT. So much so that by the end of the week I had nearly lost my voice. And while I wasn't with any one particular group, I had the blessing of seeing all the kids on a daily basis as they came to my station to learn about good sportsmanship, giving your best effort, playing good offense and defense, and of course, being like Jesus. During that time I got to know these three girls pretty well:

In the second week I was translating for the 12-15 year old girls' coach, so I had the opportunity of getting to know these girls a lot better. I had so much fun!

Of course, it was stinkin' HOT, but thanks to the prayers of many, it wasn't intolerable. Nobody got heatstroke or dehydrated that I'm aware of, and my sunburn was only minor. :)

Next year I won't be living here anymore, but I'm hoping to have the opportunity to come back with the volunteer team to help out with the camp. Who knows, maybe I can bring a team over myself? Anybody ready to sign up?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Russian Tim, Women and Fire Jumping

A few weeks ago one of my friends from college, Tim, came to visit with his mom. Tim's been working in Russia for nearly a year, so when his mom went to visit they decided to take a little European tour and come see me.

It was so great to see a friend from home - somebody who knows me, understands me, and now that he, too, is living internationally, somebody who can relate to living cross-culturally, learning a new language, and so many of the strange experiences that are so hard to describe unless you've "been there."

I had so much fun showing he and his mom my city. I love this city so much and want for everybody who comes here to have a great experience and fall in love with it as I have. That's why I'm starting to think I might enjoy becoming a tour guide. :) Something to think about for the future...

We also went to Toledo one day. And without knowing it, we went the day before a huge festival, the Corpus Cristi, when the city is packed. So we got to see the decorations and some of the pre-holiday festivities without the massive crowds.

One of the pre-holiday festivities involved marching these giants through the city. They were probably about 15-20 feet tall and dressed as men, women, old Spaniards, Moors, and various other characters. Check out the guy behind us scratching his belly:

The day that Tim and his mom left I went on a women's retreat with my local church. What a blessing! There were women of all ages - from 20 and 21 (or 24 like myself) all the way up to "señoras mayores", women who usually don't tell you how old they are. :) I loved getting to know more women from the church, learn from them, worship with them, and spend a weekend out of the city. I also made a new friend, Cristina, who's just as crazy as me, or maybe crazier:

Two days after the women's retreat I went with my friend Paola to the Fiesta de San Juan, the day of Saint John. When she invited me, I was expecting a late-night picnic, families, music, and other benign activities. What I found when I got there was much different:

In the park behind a large church hundreds upon hundreds of 20-somethings has set up bonfire after bonfire and were taking turns jumping through them. They explained to me that it was originally a Celtic pagan ritual, but when Catholicism took over they turned it into Saint John's day.

What Paola's friends told me is that you're supposed to write down the bad things that happened over the past year and throw them into the fire, and then jump over it. It's a rite of purification, a sort of "cleansing." Knowing that I'm a Christian, they asked me if I was going to jump. I told them that I've been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and I've got the fire of the Holy Spirit, so I'd already got it taken care of. We all had a good laugh, drank lemon Fanta (well...some of us), and watched people burn their leg hair jumping over completely un-safe bonfires. All the while a woman pushed her two year old child on a nearby swing despite the fact that it was nearly 1am.

Overall it was a great week - time with an old friend, making new friends, and getting to know better some recently made friends. :)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Melissa!!!! (and usa)

Today is July 4th! And we all know what that means!

It's Melissa's birthday!

Yup, that's right. Our own personal firecracker, Melissa Jane Baxley (formerly Bruner) was born on July 4th, 1978 (I think it was around then - I'm terrible at remembering how old people are!).

Since I can't be there to give you your gift in person, I'll just have to get creative.


Get ready to open your gift!!

Open the bag and pull the little box out...

Open the box and pull the little packet out...

Open the paper and begin to see...

Happy birthday!! I hope you like it!!

We saw this necklace at a store when Melissa was visiting in May and she just LOVED it. So I went back to buy it, and while they no longer had the same necklace, they had this one that's almost the same.

I hope you can enjoy it just as much as you would have the other!

Since I'll be seeing you in just over a month, I decided to hold on to it to give it to you in person. you'll have time to look for some matching earrings!!

I love you Big Sister!