Sunday, December 18, 2011


The hard semester has come and passed! I’m relieved to be typing this, back home in Minneapolis, realizing there will not be a semester quite as brutal as this one for the rest of my Drake career!

The last two weeks of school + finals was the most demanding academic experience I’ve ever had. A 10 page term paper, 3 (15ish) page lab reports, and five tests, all in about 20 days! Looking back, I got a ton of grace throughout this semester, and I’d like to highlight some of the things that got me through.

-    God – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” – 2 Corin. 2:19, I remember praying for grace weeks before the semester started in the mountains of California, knowing hard times would come, and that’d I’d be weak. God’s promises always come through.
-    Classmates – more specifically, one of my classmates helped me above and beyond – Kyle. He was the only other student in my Inorganic chemistry class, and really helped me out big time! The class was a huge learning experience because our professor expected us to figure out everything on our own, and most of the advanced instrumentation I had never used before (luckily Kyle was able to take the advanced Instrumental class last spring and had done research in our professor’s lab before, so he knew what was up). The lab was a struggle often, and it didn’t help that we left half of our lab reports for the last three weeks, but we were able to work together, peer review each others papers, and show the lab who was boss.
-    Professors – I couldn’t ask for more wonderful professors! In upper level courses where class sizes are small, the profs really go all out for you. One thing my p-chem prof did was stay an extra hour after class two days a week to help us work through tough problems!
-    Parents – I did have a few times where I freaked out and was overwhelmed, but my mom and dad are always just a phone call away to talk through things if I ever need them. Thanks mom and dad!
-    Friends and fellowship always brightened the day and were always there! I’m so blessed and thankful to be part of a fellowship who really believes and follows John 15:13!

As of now, I’ve been totally lazy the first few days of break! I’ve gotten to spend a lot of good time with family, and am excited to visit and hang out with friends this week.


Sunday, November 13, 2011


It’s been a hard week. Academically, the workload continues to pile up, but the end is in sight! Exactly one month from today, I’ll be free! My last final is on Dec. 12, and I certainly look forward to having some downtime where I won’t have to worry about lab reports, upcoming tests, and homework.

God has really tested me this week to see where my heart is, and I feel as if I’ve failed the test so far. Ironically, I finished reading “Desiring God” by John Piper yesterday, but right now I feel no spiritual hunger at all. It’s been hard to pursue the word with vigor, and I’ve often been just going through the motions.

Running is one of the areas where God has tested me the most. This past week, I believed I would resume my training after taking a one-week break from the cross country season, but I’ve been having some pain in the back of my knee. I certainly don’t look forward to cross training in the pool, and I feel this bad attitude has rubbed off in other areas of my life. Right now I’m in a phase of life where I’d love to push the one-month fast-forward button so everything unpleasant can pass without enduring it.

I have been encouraged today by reflecting on the promises stated in James 1,2-6: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Hopefully I’ll be able to look back in a month and see this as a time period that God really used to make me rely and hope in him more!

In Christ,


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Summer on My Mind

The weather in Des Moines is starting to get cold, and I’m starting to reminisce about the very hot 100 F temperatures I got to experience day after day in Madrid this summer.

Although winter is almost here, summer is on my mind for a different reason. Next summer, I would like to conduct research in analytical or inorganic chemistry at a large research institution; to determine if it is the Lord’s will for me to pursue graduate school. Luckily for me, the National Science Foundation funds Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) at various colleges and universities throughout the country and world.

An REU is essentially 10 weeks of full time research with other REU students, graduate students, and post doctorate scholars. Graduate school for the physical sciences consists of mostly research, so I think it will be the perfect opportunity to see if pursuing a Ph.D. is right for me. REU programs also offer other extra curricular activities besides just the research including: workshops on utilizing library and electronic resources, professional development workshops, seminar presentations on research and new developments, picnics, visits to corporations in industry, and a variety of recreational activities.

There’s a wide range of programs to choose from, and I’ve decided to apply to six – Colorado State University, Georgetown University, Graz University of Technology (Austria), the University of Michigan, Penn State University, and Syracuse University.

The main criteria I used to select these programs was the types of research the faculty are involved in at their respective institutions. If I’m going to be doing 4,000 + hours of research over the next summer, I want to study a topic of chemistry that interests me. I also took into account the location of the schools. I really enjoyed my summer in Spain last summer, and I want a new adventure this summer. I have not been to any of these six locations before, and based off of what I’ve researched so far, they all seem like they’d be a good fit for my liking. I get excited thinking of the possibility of running at the foot of the Rocky Mountains for 10 weeks (at CSU in Ft. Collins) or spending a summer in the alps (Graz)!

This process is just beginning; half of these programs haven’t even released their applications yet. I’m really thankful that two of my chemistry professors volunteered to write letters of recommendation for me. I’ve been able to get a lot of sound input and advice from them, and feel confident in the six programs I have selected. I most likely won’t be able to decide on a program until February or March, but I’ll keep you updated on the process.

Until Next time,


Sunday, October 30, 2011


Halloween is here again! This past Friday, I was able to celebrate with some of my friends in Campus Fellowship at a corn maze located just outside Des Moines. We were blessed with a beautiful night of weather, and enjoyed navigating the corn maze, jumping on a giant pillow, playing in a huge pool of corn, sipping hot apple cider, and more! We ended the night by stopping at Abelardo’s, a great, cheap Mexican restaurant located in Des Moines. (and coincidently the same name as my grandfather).

Halloween was always one of my favorite Holidays growing up, and still is. I remember the nights where I would go trick-or-treating with friends down the street and bring home a pillow case filled with more than 30 pounds of candy. I liked dressing up too, I always wanted to have one of the best costumes!

This year I was a Dalton Academy Warbler, from the TV show Glee. It was a little bit strange because I’m not a huge glee fan, but for the limited time I was home this summer, I watched some episodes with my mom and we saw the 3-D movie. After the movie was over, she said that I would make a great Warbler, because I look like Blaine, the lead Warbler.

I kind of joked back that I would be Blaine if she made me a costume, and she took me up on that offer! Not only did she make me the costume, but she went all out. When I opened a package on Thursday, I found a blue jacket with red trim, and a red tie with blue piping, exactly like the actual Warbler outfit. If I could sing and dance better, I could be a legitimate warbler!

One of the coolest things was that people actually realized I was a warbler when I dressed up, not some secret agent or president in a suit. There’s proof that mom did one heck of a job!

Occasionally throughout the night, I was asked if I was going to give a performance (just like the real Warblers), but I had to decline because Warblers never perform solo, only in groups. My warbling partner is my dog Annie, and she was unable to make the trip down to Des Moines, but she has a red bow-tie with blue piping, and when I make it home for Thanksgiving, we’ll give a performance. Overall, it was an awesome night of fun and fellowship with some awesome people.

Until Next Time,


Myself, as a Warbler

Blaine, the leader of the Dalton Academy Warblers

Annie, my Warbling partner.

A very impressive mini Warbler

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Social Chemists?

Last night the first Chemistry Club Social event of the year finally happened! It was funny, earlier in the day I was talking to my friend Paul, who has a Ph.D. in chemical physics, and when I mentioned what the club was going to do later that night he responded jokingly, “What? Chemists and social just don’t fit right in the same sentence.”

Yes, there is a stigma that chemists, and scientists in enjoy working alone in a lab with limited social interaction. That’s certainly a myth, not a fact, and last night ended up being a great time!

18 others and myself met up and drove to the Sleepy Hollow Scream Park in east Des Moines for a night of hanging out and touring haunted houses. Being the weekend before Halloween, the park was packed and the lines were outrageous. We spent an average of an hour waiting to see two attractions, but it was definitely the best part of the night.

Most people didn’t know each other, and it provided a great opportunity to meet and talk about school and life. We bought a package that included visiting all five main attractions, but left after only seeing two because the waits were so long. Nonetheless, everybody seemed to have a good time at the park!

One of the nice things about Chemistry Club is its ability to generate its own funds. Most student organizations on campus get an allocation of a certain amount of money to spend each year, which comes from our tuition.

Chemistry Club on the other hand, sells laboratory notebooks and glasses at the beginning of the year and is able to generate enough revenue to sustain all of our Kids in Chemistry and social costs. College students don’t usually have a lot of money to spend, so it was nice last night where the club was able to pick up the tab!

Until next time,


Our first social event at Sleepy Hollow with Sponge Bob

Getting ready to shoot some zombies!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halfway Gone

Halfway Gone October 16, 2011

This weekend marks the halfway point of the semester: eight weeks down, eight to go! Classes are in full swing now, and things are really demanding! I’m really looking forward to the end of this semester, it seems as if my life is consumed by hw, lab reports, and upcoming tests 24/7. This weekend we have fall break and I am using the time to catch up and work ahead on homework and lab reports.

Not everything is dull though! The Lord has really blessed me this semester, and running has been one of the outlets I’ve used in order to remain sane. Our team this year has been incredible. This past Friday, we won the Bradley Invitational, the fifth victory of the season. Everyone is in high spirits right now, as it looks like we’ll be able to contend for the Missouri Valley Conference title in two weeks! Personally my fitness has progressed nicely so far, and I think if given the opportunity, my best races are still yet to come. I was our ninth runner this past meet, running 26:14 for 8k, four seconds off my personal best. I’ll try on keeping this updated better in the weeks to come!

In Christ,


Matt Eckman, Ryan Flynn, Doug Brady, and myself after winning the Grandview Invitational earlier this month.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Great Divide - Pt. 2

This post is a few weeks late, things at school are really starting to pick up now! Anyways, I’ll now explain the significance behind the blog’s name, The Great Divide.

As I alluded to in Pt. 1, the name stems from one of Scott Stapp’s songs, “The Great Divide”. In case you haven’t heard the song, the chorus goes:

You set me free, to live my life
You became my reason to survive the great divide
You set me free

What Stapp is referring to you when he says “You” is Jesus Christ. God’s son in the flesh liberated him from his sinful nature, and allowed him to live a life free of guilt. The burden of knowing that he will never be able to be made righteous with God has been lifted off his shoulders. Nothing is more comforting than knowing you will spend all of eternity with the one, true God. Galatians 5:1 states,

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

I too experienced this sense of freedom and relief during my Freshman year when I came to know the Lord on a personal level. I had always been raised going to church and understood a lot of what the scripture was trying to say, but I was missing the biggest point – I had no faith. I always thought that I would be good enough to go to heaven because I was a nice person. God couldn’t separate me from himself. I never killed anyone; I never committed any grave sins. In the book of Romans however, Paul writes that no one is righteous, we all fall short of God’s perfect standard.

Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one” he continues in verse 23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Once I began to realize that I could never measure up to God’s standard, I finally started to recognize my need for a savior. Just because I went to church didn’t make me a Christian. Does going to McDonald’s make you a Big Mac?

There is good news in the Bible though too! God sent his one and only son, Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life to die for each and every one of us. Jesus lived a holy and just life, and willingly died for all of creation so man could be saved.

1 Peter 3:18 - “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.”

Thus Christ came down to earth, lived and died for man to make us right with God. It is faith that saves man, not his good works. The message of Christianity is quite simple, but so many people, including me, have missed it all.

Romans 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For 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 one can boast.”

On the night of May 7, 2010, I survived the Great Divide. I crossed over from a life of death that was leading to eternal destruction to an eternal life of joy and hope with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He set me free.

I also think college itself can be a Great Divide. Many of us enter college having no idea what to expect, some have no idea of what they want to do with their lives. I didn’t come in with many expectations; I only had three things I wanted to accomplish. 1.) Get good grades 2.) Run fast 3.) Get a girlfriend. Granted, two of those things I am still pursuing and giving the glory to God in the process (Col 3:17), and hopefully if it’s in the Lord’s plans someday the third will come true as well.

Ultimately, college is an experience like none other. It’s the four years of your life where you really discover who you are and what’s your purpose. I arrived at Drake as an immature boy, chasing after things in the world that could never satisfy me and always leave me empty. I feel by the time I graduate I’ll be a responsible man. I know my purpose in life, I will have gained enough responsibility to survive in the real world, and I have discovered the one thing in life that can only bring me joy, satisfaction, and happiness. The Great Divide can be daunting, but if you take that giant step, it will be the greatest thing that you will ever experience.

In Christ,


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Forget

Today was the big 10-year anniversary of 9/11 (duh), but it was kind of eerie how it slipped by and passed all too quickly. It’s unbelievable how at the beginning of a beautiful day, the world was changed forever.

It’s interesting for me to reflect back on this tragedy, because when it happened, I was 10 years old, mature enough to understand some things that went on that day, but I had no idea how it would impact the future of this country. I remember it very vividly; let’s bring it back…

Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

The first memory of this day that stands out was its beauty. I woke up to attend 5th grade class at Bluff Creek Elementary school, and at this time in my life my dad would leave me the sports section of the Star Tribune to catch up on all the latest sporting news. I remember the light brightly shining through the window, and as I read the paper, something really caught my eye. Michael Jordan, my childhood basketball hero announced the night before that he was coming out of retirement to make a comeback with the Washington Wizards. I was jacked.

I left for school normally that morning, and I think the attacks in NYC had just begun. When I got to school and was putting my backpack in my locker, I overheard a girl talking about how a plane crashed into a building. I didn’t understand why she was talking about this when the best basketball player in the planet was coming out of retirement. The thought of the plane didn’t cross my mind again until we passed through the halls for recess. TVs were on in the school, and the teachers looked and acted as if something were not right. I saw the images of the burning towers, but still didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was just a bad accident and that everything was going to be okay. My teachers actually ushered us into the classrooms to resume our studies, and we didn’t talk about the events for the rest of the school day.

When I got home form school, my mom explained to my sister and I what was happening that day. It was the first time I recall learning of a terrorist attack, and when my dad got home, we called our grandma (who lived in Queens, NY) to see if everything was all right.

I didn’t understand why attacks on the east coast had to affect life in Minnesota. My soccer practice was cancelled that night, and our family attending a prayer meeting at our church in Minneapolis. Because I wasn’t directly affected by the attack (at that moment), I couldn’t comprehend why it was a big deal.

Fast forwarding back to the present time, I’m amazed of all that’s happened over the past decade and how much things have changed for me and this country. On this day in 2001 I was 10 years old, and now I’m 20, going on 21. I’ve lived twice as many days on earth. I’m attending college in a different state now, have different desires and dreams (unfortunately the professional NBA player dream died at age 16 or so, but when I get the chance to play pick-up ball every now and then, it lives on.)

My generation has a unique perspective on these attacks. We weren’t mature enough to understand the motives and attacks themselves when they happened, but as we matured, we were able realize more and more about the twisted world we live in and see how the attacks changed and morphed our country into the state it is in today.

My pastor made a very good point this morning at church, relating Hebrews 12:27-29 to the tragedy:

“27The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Many men and women started their Tuesday morning 10 years ago as just another normal day, assuming that it would be like every other. This event showed how our world can be changed and shook in just moments forever. Tomorrow is never a guarantee. It’s conforting to know that the Lord promises an unshakeable, eternal kingdom for all who  believe and call His name (Romans 10:13)

In Christ,


Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Great Divide - Pt. 1

This post is long overdue, I’ve been meaning to write about this blog’s name since I created it, and remembered the other week that I haven’t yet.

The name stems from Scott Stapp’s song “The Great Divide”. Check it out below, and I’ll explain more next week. Enjoy!

In Christ,


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Beginings

It seems like an eternity since I've last blogged. Let me update you on what’s been going on…

I was blessed to be able to attend the Altitude Project 2011, a Christian running camp in Mammoth Lakes, CA for three weeks in late July and early August. I had an awesome time enjoying fellowship from other like-minded college students and young adults from all over North America, growing with the Lord, and getting some training in for the upcoming season. All things training wise didn’t go to plan, I unfortunately got food poisoning the first week, and it took me about two weeks to recover and feel “normal” on runs again. A big part of this was the extremely difficult terrain (many runs up mountains and steep hills) and the lack of oxygen (Mammoth is based at 7,500 ft. above sea level, but many of our runs were at an elevation of 10,000 ft. or higher). All things considered, it was good to go through a mini trial of health before the school year started, it tested me to see where my priorities are. It’s comforting to know that God is in control at all times.

Classes started yesterday, and I’m in for probably my toughest semester I’ll have to experience at Drake (academic wise). My class schedule is:

Physical Chemistry (3 credits)
Physical Chemistry Lab (1 credit)
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry (3 credits)
Inorganic Chemistry Lab (1 Credit)
Applied Differential Equations (3 credits)
Junior Chemistry Seminar I (1 credit)
Analytical Chemistry Research with Dr. Mark Vitha (1 credit)

I’ll be spending a lot of the time in the lab; my guess is 15 hours minimum per week, not including time spent working on reports. This will be good for me though because as of now I am planning on attending graduate school for Analytical or Physical Chemistry, which consists of many, many hours in the lab.

I look forward to blogging about this journey as the semester progresses, I know I will need to manage my time very proficiently in order to do well in class, have a good cross country season, be a good president of the chemistry club, and be involved with bible study and other church activities.

It’s another transition period for me, my adventures in Europe and California have now come to an end and a new semester has begun.

 I was recently reminiscing about high school. Often, some friends and I would go midnight bowling at a local ally. Once the new day struck, they always played the song “Closing Time” by Semisonic. The last line of the song goes, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Very fitting right now. It's a great jam, check it out below.

In Christ,


Friday, July 22, 2011

MTV Cribs - Spanish Piso Edition

I can’t believe it, but my Spanish adventure has now come to an end. On one of my last days, my sister took my camera and we made an “MTV Cribs” edition of my Great Aunt Hilda’s Spanish piso (in most Latin American countries this word means floor, but in Spain it’s meaning is more of an apartment/condo). Most Spanish families live in a Piso similar to this, it is very rare to live in a house in the Madrid area because space is limited and rent is expensive! Check out the video below!

What’s next? I’m back home in MN right now, currently trying to get over my jet-lag before I fly off again, this time to Reno this Sunday. From there, it’ll be a three hour drive to Mammoth Lakes, CA for three weeks at a Christian running camp for college students called the Altitude Project. It will consist of lots of running, fellowship, and going through the book of Romans – all at 7,5000 ft! I was blessed enough to be able to make the trip last summer and it was a total blast! One of my favorite parts about the camp is just being cut off from the rest of society for an extended period of time (no internet, TV…), being around 50 other like-minded college students, and growing closer to God, and the soaking in the beautiful scenery on runs (not to mention 0% humidity!). This year’s theme for the camp is Be Transformed! (kind of fits well with the current transformers movie out right now) from Romans 12:1-2

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – NIV

In Christ,


Friday, July 15, 2011

Mind the Gap, Please

Last night, my family and I returned to Madrid from an awesome two and a half day getaway in London! Like Valencia, we didn’t have nearly enough time to explore all of the city, but we were able to see all of the typical tourist must sees such as Big Ben, the Westminster Bridge, the changing of the guard ceremony, ect…

We toured the city on the standard Red Double-Decker bus! One of the nicest aspects was having a humorous Englishmen explain the history behind the buildings and places in the city while adding British humor in at the same time.

Before the trip, I did not know that London was famous for its theaters – it’s considered to be top tier, on par with the likes of New York’s Broadway. The second night, my dad, sister, and I too advantage and saw a three-hour musical devoted to Michael Jackson, entitled “Thriller – Live”. The show featured the King of Pop’s greatest hits, all of the dancers, singers, and musicians were incredible, it was certainly one of the highlights of the trip!

Another highlight for me was running in Hyde Park, London’s biggest park. Not only was it nice to swap the never ending, 90-degree minimum weather of Madrid for a crisp 55 degrees, but it was a great way to see more of London on foot. I underestimated the chilliness of London, I didn’t pack any pants, and it got so cold on the first night that the next morning I bought a second jacket. In reference to the title of this post, we used the city’s underground or subway, more commonly known as the tube to travel from the Hotel to downtown. Whenever a train would arrive, the phrase “Mind the Gap” would be pronounced in a perfect British accent before the doors would open – one of the many British English phrases I learned throughout the trip. A few things I took away from this trip:

1.    The U.S. Dollar Sucks - London was very expensive, especially for Americans. Before I came here, I already thought Madrid was expensive, but England was much worse. The two U.S. Dollars is currently equivalent to about one pound. This, along with switching money at an increased exchange rate really hurt! Even a man in one of the stores told us he felt really bad for Americans who visited here because everything is so pricey.
2.    I’ve assimilated into Spanish society more than I thought. Communication certainly was not a problem on this short trip, but several times I found my self-asking for directions in Spanish, it didn’t even cross my mind. It’s become second nature to me now, I’m surprised on how well I’ve adapted to the language. My sister has also told me that my “American” accent is slightly different now. Interesting.
3.    The weather sucks! We experienced typical England weather – cloudy and overcast. But 50 degree days in the middle of July? I thought Minnesota had it cold, I don’t even want to imagine what it’s like in Britain in the winter.

4.   London is hosting the Olympics next summer. You could feel in the air, the excitement is already building. There was a countdown clock in Trafalgar Square.

Now I’ve got four more days in Madrid, then it’s home sweet home.

In Christ,


After "Thriller Live"

The Westminster Bridge

2012 is coming soon!

Typical Red Telephone Booths

The World's Largest Ship in a Botle

Big Ben

Changing of the Royal Guards

Valencia Photos

Authentic, Valencian Paella

The Natural Sciences Museum is designed to look like an eyeball. I saw more of a fish.

More beautiful architecture.

A cool statue in the center of a roundabout made out of Cobalt Blue. Valencia's new soccer stadium is in the background.

In the City of Arts and Sciences.

At the Beach on the Mediterranean!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Sorry for the long delay and update, things have been really busy here. Last Thursday, my sister and dad arrived to Madrid and everyone (and eventually everything) made it here safely. We’ve spent the first week exploring downtown Madrid more in depth, we visited a neat medieval festival in a small town called Hita, and also a local zoo. To cap off the first week, we went to El Saler and Valencia, two towns on the east coast of Spain and the Mediterranean Sea to spend some time at the beach and see another part of Spain.

Valencia was absolutely incredible! The most unique aspect that stuck out to me was the architecture, especially in the part of Valencia called “The City of Arts and Sciences”. Many of the buildings have unique designs related to the marine and sea life just off the coast. I was convinced that one of the buildings looks like a fish, but on the tour we learned it resembles an eye. I still think it looks like a fish. The city seemed to have everything from one of the best zoos in the world, to a world class athletic training facility where many of the best athletes in Europe train to a beautiful cathedral, where legend has it the Holy Grail is located. Two and a half days definitely was not enough time to explore the city, we wish we could have been there for much longer, there was so much to see and do.

El Saler is a town 8 km south of Valencia, and has one of the best beaches in Spain. It was also nice to switch up the running routes for the first time in over a month, it was very refreshing, but I forgot what humidity feels like, it was rough! The sea was very clean and we enjoyed swimming and spending time at the beach. The water felt excellent in the hot weather, however it was hard to relax in the sea as I constantly had to be on the lookout for Jellyfish. Luckily the closest I got to one was walking by one that had washed up on the beach. Another highlight of the trip was authentic Valencian Paella, a traditional dish made with rice, chicken, vegetables, and a variety of beans, it was delicious.

We’re now back in Madrid for the next two days, then it’s off to London!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Transition Time

Monday was my last day of school at Nebrija, in which I had my final exam in my Spanish and art classes – both went really well! Yesterday we had a mini graduation ceremony at Nebrija’s campus in the mountain surrounding Madrid, it was beautiful and a great opportunity to say goodbye to some friends I’ve made over the past four weeks.

At the beginning of the year, I thought it would be a neat idea to bring my Spanish flag along, and have people I meet sign it. My whole Spanish class has signed and also some other friends I’ve met on the various excursions. So far the flag is about half full of short statements and signatures, and by the time I return it should be completely covered with the people who have made this experience special!

Today is just going to be a nice day of some R&R (Reading and Running!), as I unwind from my classes and prepare for my father and sister to arrive. They’ll get here tomorrow morning, and the rest of my trip will be significantly different from the first half. I’ll transition from the life of an international student, to more of a tourist. We don’t have too many solid plans yet, the only thing I know will happen for certain is a visit to London on July 12. Besides that, anything is up in the air, we’re gonna try and play it by ear, we have also discussed visiting Barcelona and Valencia.

In Christ,


My Spanish Class after our Final

Patricia, my Spanish teacher

I'm going to miss this place!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Learning at Another Level!

I’ve briefly talked about my classes thus far, but let me give you an update. Today I had my last Spanish class, and on Monday I have my final exams and then I am done. This is unreal, I have no idea where the time has gone! On Wednesday, my class visited the Reina Sofia Museum of Contemporary Art, and I was blown away!

Throughout the course, we’ve been talking about why the artists painting what they are, and also what are trying to depict through their pieces. Of the earlier artists we studied (El Greco and Velázquez specifically) were very simple. They were often Portraits, Religious Paintings, or Mythological stories, and experts are able to interpret almost everything about them.

The more modern works we’ve studies ( by Goya, Picasso, and Dalí) seem to have much more depth. One of the most important aspects about 20th century art is the artists’ ability to communicate and detest troubles in the world, such as war (Picasso), social inequalities (Goya), and many more. We got to witness Picasso’s “Guernica”, considered the art masterpiece of the 20th century! Something I found fascinating was the seemingly limitless amount of interpretations some of these paintings can have. In some of Dalí’s works, there are hundreds of theories trying to justify what he was trying to depict. Although it is clear that certain aspects of paintings have deliberate meaning, many of the features remain vague, allowing the viewer to make his/her own interpretation of the work.

My favorite art to witness was Dalí. He was a crazy, crazy man, but his paintings are incredible to see up close, high-resolution photos do not do them justice. What I like most about his Figurative Surrealism (the use of recognizable objects in strange illogical settings, which causes the viewer to question which aspects are real, and which are imaginary) is the immense detail. I went back to visit some of his famous paintings several times throughout our time at the museum, and saw new aspects and interpreted new meanings every time. Some of my favorites were “The Endless Enigma”, “The Invisible Man”, and “The Enigma of Hitler”.

In Christ,


With Dali's "Endless Enigma"

"The Enigma of Hitler"
With "The Invisible Man"

Close up detail of "The Invisible Man"

More detail on "The Great Masurbator"

A Nice Sculpture in the Courtyard

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Festival of Torrejón de Adroz

The past five days in the town I’ve been staying in with my family (Torrejón de Adroz) had its annual fair. This village wide festival is similar to a state fair (basing my assumption of the MN state fair, but without the awesome Sweet Martha’s cookies). It’s got all the typical expensive, fatty, foods on a stick, and many amusement rides that aren’t nearly worth their cost (euros/ride is about $5). None the less, it was fun to check it out with my family the other night. Some notable differences between this fair and ones in the U.S. include:

1.    Time – Unlike the MN State Fair which goes all day long and ends around midnight, this one is just getting started early in the morning. When I left with my family it was 11:00, we returned at 2:00 and the fair was livelier than ever. At night, I have heard bands playing until 4:00 a.m. Last Saturday, I had to wake up early for an excursion, and at 7:00 a.m. there were many people still walking home from the fair!
2.    Groups/Clubs – One of the most unique aspects was that almost all of the locals form groups with friends and families, wear their club shirt, and a pair of white pants, which they have people sign throughout the night. My cousin had a group with her friends, she says its one of the most exciting events of the year.
3.    Bulls – Throughout the week, the fair has bullfights daily, a Spanish tradition. Although I have never witnessed one myself, I have heard that they are extremely gruesome in the way the torture the bull. Many of my classmates attended a bullfight two weeks ago and left shortly after it began.
4.    Running with the Bulls – On the last day of the fair, they put fences up on both sides of the main street and allow bulls to run through the fair. You are allowed to chase after them if you dare.
5.    Safety Regulations – The one amusement ride I rode certainly would not have been up to U.S. safety standards. It was similar to a ride you can find at many American theme parks, you sit down, you’re strapped in, and the ride ascends and descends in a circular motion, and it feels like you loose your stomach at the top right before you accelerate downward. This ride at the festival had the exact same concept, but instead of sitting, you stand in a cage with multiple people. I was in a cage with my cousin and one other girl, it was complete chaos! I was wearing sandals so I couldn’t grip the platform very well, and when the ride reached it’s maximum speed, we would be thrown from side to side. I accidently slammed in to my cousin a few times, and at the top you can jump right before the ride descends and “float for a while”. It was really fun the first time, but the second time I jumped too high and hit my head against the top of the cage. When it ended, it was bittersweet. I was happy to be alive and at the same time I wanted to ride it again.

Until Next Time!


All of the Lights!

The Shield of Torrejon

My cousin Yas, and her two friends wearing their club outfits

The crazy ride!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Art In Spain

One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Spain over the summer was to get my "Artistic Experience" AOI taken care of. As a result, the course I am taking at the University of Nebrija is called "Art in Spain". In this class, we are learning about and analyzing the paintings of five of Spain's most famous painters: El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, Picasso, and Dali.

So far in class, we have covered El Greco and Velazquez (I actually have a midterm about them tomorrow), and I'm starting to acquire a greater appreciation for art. Growing up, I couldn’t grasp the underlying meanings behind most works, and as a result I had very little interest. I viewed it as a discipline where meaning solely lies in the eyes of the beholder. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. I didn’t get it.

Many of the works by El Greco and Velazquez portrayed religious scenes from the Bible. Initially looking at the paintings, I am able to appreciate them more than I was before, because over the past few years, I have been able to come to grasp with what my savior has done for me. Both painters use various colors and symbols to portray different meaning, which I have found very interesting! Let me show you how…

“The Resurrection” by El Greco

  •  El Greco was commissioned by Maria De Aragon (she was the maid of honor of King Philip IV’s wife) to do a series of paintings titled “The Crucifiction”. She thought by doing this, she would be able to obtain a better place in heaven. It seems as if she didn’t understand much about Christianity (or in Spain Catholicism for that matter), because the Bible clearly states that man is saved by faith and not good works (Ephisians 2:8-9).
  • El Greco was notorious for painting his subjects with extreme body elongation. A normal person usually has a head height : body height ratio of 1:7, but El Greco used a ratio of 1:13.
  • Jesus has a diamond shaped Halo, an aspect El Greco added due to Byzantine tradition
  • The white flag doubles as a cloth of purity (a common aspect found in almost all of his paintings of Jesus) and a flag of victory (contrary to today’s association of a white flag with surrender). I love this, if Christ isn’t risen, we aren’t victorious
  • In almost all paintings, light appears from the top left hand corner, but in this painting light is radiating from Jesus himself. John 8:12!
  • The people below Jesus are Roman Soldiers, who are having all types of possible reactions: falling out of shock, being blinded by the light, sleeping, and the one wearing a blue robe is lifting his hands in acceptance, realizing that Jesus is the one, true savior. The men have been painted in a circle is a typical aspect found in many paintings from the Renaissance period.
  • Painters at this time were obsessed with the depiction of human anatomy, so you can see the muscles of Jesus are drawn with much detail (especially the arms)
  • This is probably my favorite painting by El Greco. I appreciated it even more when I was able to see it up close at the Prado Museum last week.  Its absolutely massive, about 12 ft x 6 ft. Seeing the immense detail up-close makes me appreciate the skill he had!

“The Forge of Vulcan”

  • This painting by Velazquez shows the realistic and natural depiction of humans – it looks real. The people in it almost look like they were photographed and pasted in the rest of the painting. Velazquez does not distort those in his painting like El Greco.
  • This is a Costumbrist-Mythological painting – it portrays everyday life and a mythological story at same time. The Greek god Apollo is the main in the orange robe, and Vulcan, the god of fire is standing to the right of Apollo. The story goes that Apollo wanted to have an affair with Vulcan’s wife, Venus, but she declined because she was already having an affair with Mars, the Greek god of war. To get back at her, he showed up in Vulcan’s Forge to tell him of the news, and as you can see by the expression on his face, he was shocked.
  • In the mythological story, Vulcan’s assistants were Cyclops (men having only one eye), and Velazquez is able to portray an everyday life scene by only painting the profile view of the men, so you can only see one eye.
  • It’s ironic in the picture that the men are preparing new armor for Mars (lower right hand corner)
  • If you look closely, you can see two vertical lines coming down the side of the paintings. These are called side repentances, and were added by Velazquez after the initial draft of his painting was complete in order to finish it. Without them, the picture would appear to be “zoomed in” too much and appear slightly awkward. A fascinating fact is that Velazquez never sketched out design before painting – he dove right in with color.

Tomorrow I have my mid-term exam in this class, and will have to explain the relevance and meaning behind paintings from El Greco and Velazquez. Also, on Monday I will have to analyze and present a painting by Surrealist Salvador Dali to the class. Dali’s work has always interested me, and I can’t wait to dive into it further. The painting I’m presenting is “The Portrait of Luis Bunel”

In regards to Maria De Aragon, who thought she could earn, or even get her way to heaven through good works is one of the biggest misconceptions about the gospel. In a book I just finished reading last night, “Thriving at College”, Alex Chediak illustrates a common misconception between the true and false gospels in relation to good works.

False Gospel

Faith + Good Works  Salvation

True Gospel

Faith  Salvation + Good Works

In Christ,


Monday, June 13, 2011

What a Weekend!

What a Weekend!

This past weekend was crazy busy! Friday night was pretty relaxed, hung out with the fam the whole night, and went to bed a bit early because Saturday and Sunday were going to be jam packed!

Woke up bright and early on Saturday to go on my second of three excursions with my University to El Escorial and Valle de los Caídos.

El Escorial is a town located about 40 km northwest of Madrid, and houses one of the most famous complexes in all of Spain: a royal palace, monetary, museum, and school. King Phillip II oversaw the development of El Escorial, which began in 1556 and took 21 years to complete. It certainly is built for a king!

Our group toured most of the complex, which seemed to be extravagantly decorated in every possible way. Some of the highlights was the Pantheon of the Kings, a room in the basement where the bodies of some of Spain’s most powerful kings and queens reside. Everything is coated in gold; it was the most gold in one place I’ve ever seen in my life. Another favorite for me was the Basilica, a gorgeous cathedral where the kings would go to pray. Like many other cathedrals, detail is paid attention to in every way. It’s mind bobbling to think how something so old could have been constructed so beautifully and so strongly that it doesn’t look like it has aged a bit to this day. Unfortunately we were unable to take pictures in any of the rooms, but I was lucky enough to snap a pretty good picture of the dome of the Pantheon of the kings before a security guard chased me out!

Valle de los Caídos is a site where the remains of the Spanish dictator Fransico Franko remain. We were able to go inside and see the tomb, which is located inside a mountain, which houses a giant cross on top! It’s really encouraging to see from miles away the sacrifice Christ made for us all!

After I returned home, I quickly had to change clothes and get ready for my cousin Yasmin’s conformation. Once again, it took place in a beautiful cathedral, and I was actually selected to be Yasmin’s Godfather! It was really uplifting to see so many people, young and old, confirm their faith in Christ.

Yesterday was spent touring three small towns off the beaten path in the mountains surrounding Madrid. Some of these towns were so small, they aren’t even on the map! I spent the day with my Aunt and her two friends, Patricia and Juan. The thing I liked best about the day was that it wasn’t a typical tourist thing to do. Two of the towns were made out of rock called Pisara, which is also the same rock used to make blackboards in the classroom. These black houses and villages were quite a sight to see!

On another note, time is flying by (as usual). Tomorrow I already have my first midterm exam! As always, thank you for your prayers and support!

El Escorial, Valle de los Caídos, Yasmin's Conformation, and Ancient Spanish Towns

Me, my Aunt Josefina, my Two Cousins (Yasmin holding Lysete), and my Great Aunt Hilda after Conformation
The Spanish Flag, in Downtown Madrid

Dome of the Basilica of El Escorial

High arching ceilings are found throughout the complex

One of the many gardens

The dome in the Pantheon of the Kings

In one of 18 courtyards

Enjoying lunch with friends!

The whole group

The Cross

At the highest peak in Hita

It was a great steak!

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Beautiful church bell tower made out of Pisara

Pisara up close