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

Friday, June 10, 2011

Getting into the Swing of Things

Now that I’ve finished my second week of classes at Nebrija, I am starting to get the hang of Spanish living. Monday through Friday, I’ve found a good routine that works, and can basically expect the same on a daily basis with a little variation here and there. It looks something like this:

6:00-8:30 – Wake up. Some days I run doubles (both A.M. and P.M., so I will wake up earlier), but days such as today, I can sleep in until 7:30. That sounds really strange that sleeping in right now means getting up that early, but I have to catch the bus to "Avida de America", a Subway station in Madrid, if I want to make it to class on time. For breakfast, I have had a steady diet of the Spanish version of Corn Flakes, range juice, bananas, and apples. At 8:30 I head out the door and catch the bus.

8:30-9:15 – This is my bus ride to the school. At first I was a bit frustrated with all the travel that’s necessary to make it to the school and back (75 minutes each way), but the more I’ve embraced it, the better it’s become. On trips to the school I catch up on music I haven’t had a chance to listen to during the school year, pray, and reflect on things God is doing in my life. On the way back, I’ve been listening to a new message each day from Mark Darling (thanks for giving me that link mom!)

10:00 – 2:45 ish – I have three back-to-back-to-back classes during this time period. Mondays and Wednesdays I have Spanish twice and art once, and then Tuesdays and Thursdays I have art twice and Spanish once. Fridays are good days because I only have one Spanish class. I get one 20 minute break and one 10 minute break inbetween classes, and use this time to hang out with friends in the cafeteria and get a bite to eat.

3:00 – Start travel back to condo in Torrejon de Adroz (75 mintues), usually accompanied with a stop at a great bakery I’ve discovered.

4:30 – Return home and get my main run in for the day. Usually in El Parque de Europa, a really neat park with miniature sculptures and statues of famous landmarks in Europe, and I also run on a trail that borders a river. Really beautiful, you can see the mountains and pastures, and sometimes there are wild horses on the other side of the river.

6:30 – Shower, eat a very late lunch/snack

7:00 – Sometimes take a nap, or else I will stay up and hang out with my family (my cousin Yas and I have been playing some Mario Kart the last few days), read, study, or finish work for the next day

10:00 – Eat Dinner

12:00 – Head to bed

Weekends are going to be filled with travel. Tomorrow I am heading to El Escorial, a town located about an hour outside of Madrid with other classmates and friends from school, and then Sunday I will venture to Toledo with my Aunt. Things are busy, thank you for your prayers! In my next few blogs, I hope to get more in depth and try to give an accurate illustration of how classes differ from the U.S., and some other culture aspects vary from those back home.

Check out below too, I've added some pictures!

Spain So Far

I finally brought my laptop to school one day, now I can upload a few of the pictures I've taken so far. More to come soon...

Me, my cousin Yasmin, and her friend Fran (center) at the Real Madrid game

With Family before flying to Paris!

The Roman Aqueduct in Segovia

The Segovia Cathedral, Incredible!

Streets and shops of Segovia. A candidate for the "Culture Capital of Europe" in 2016.

The Alcazar of Segovia. Much more extravagant on the inside than outside, unfortunately my camera died

A statue of Fransco de Goya outside the Prado

Enterance to the world famous Prado Museum

Monday, June 6, 2011


This past weekend, I went on my first excursion with other classmates to Segovia, a small town about an hour outside of Madrid. The day started off very well as I met one of my best friends here yet, Fayyaz, who is from Canada. I hung out with him and two girls from San Diego all day as we explored the city. Segovia is a very old and antiuque town, walking through the cobblestone streets, it felt like a scene straight out of an old movie. One of the landmarks it´s best known for is an aqueduct that was built by the Romans over 2,000 years ago. It was impressive and amazing to see that a structure so old is still so strong today. We also got to tour an old castle that the king and queen of Spain used to reside in during the summer and one of the most beautiful cathedrals in all of Spain. I have seen pictures of Cathedrals before, but I have to admit the pictures don´t do them justice, the immense detail and beauty needs to be experienced in person. That day we hopped around to the various cafes in the city and I ate some of the best chicken I´ve ever had.

When I returned home from the excursion, my aunt, uncle, cousin, and I went out to a local bar for diner and to watch the second half of the U.S.-Spain soccer game. Spain destroyed the U.S. 4-0, and it was interesting to hear that most of the locals weren´t too interested in the match, partly because it was exhibition, and also because the they knew the U.S. would be no challenge for last year´s World Cup Champions.

Yestertday I had the opportunity to check out a Real Madrid game. It was a retro All-Star game, with most of the players being former stars from Real Madrid. The one aspect I was really looking forward to was the atmosphere of the match, from what I had seen on TV in the states, the excitement of an intense soccer match can compare to nothing we have in the states. It wasn´t quite what I expected, the game was actually a fundraiser for African countries and was more for fun than competition. Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun to be in the stadium with fans who really appreciate futbol!

I´ve got a lot of great pictures I´d love to put up, but the internet is still down at the condo, hopefully it will be fixed later this week!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The First Few Days

The first few days of living in Madrid have been a whirlwind! Luckily the plane ride went well, I arrived in Paris with plenty of time to spare before I need to catch my transfer flight to Madrid. One thing that really struck me in Paris was the diversity. There were so many different planes from around the world, the States, China, Africa, Isreal, you name it, it seemed like every country was represented. I also noticed how important it is to be able to speak multiple languages, every employ at the airport could speak fluent French and English, and most can even speak Spanish as well. This stressed the importance of the language classes I will be taking, my parents have always reminded me how the ability to speak Spanish can lead to great oportunities for jobs and much more.

When I arrived in Madrid, my Aunt Josefina and my Great Aunt Hilda were already there waiting for me. We hopped on a bus and cuaght up about all that has been happening since we last saw each other... 8 years! Right now, my aunt and uncle live in a suburb of Madrid called Torrejon de Adroz. At first I thought it was a town or city, but it´s actually a village. We live in a condo, and everybody knows everybody! One of the first things I noticed about the culture is how open, caring, and nice everyone is. In Spain, it is custom to greet women with two kisses on each cheek. There is much less personal space here, and this is one of the biggest aspects I´m learning to adjust to. Other notable differences in culture I´ve noticed so far are:

- A normal day here is much different than in the states. People still get up fairly early, but at night, dinner is not usually eaten until 9:30-10:30 and it´s not unusual for the whole family to go to bed until 1:00 in the morning!

- The food has been great so far! One thing I really like is that every meal is homecooked, and for the most part very nutritous. Meals contain very little sugar and processed foods are rare. Back home, breakfast is usually the biggest meal fo the day for me, but here it´s quite small and the large meal comes at lunch.

- Public transportation is awesome here! Everyone takes the bus and/or the subway (I take both to get to school everyday), it´s convienient and fast!

- The academic setting is much more relaxed. The Spanish culture is not punctual like America, if you walk into class 10-15 minutes late, it´s not considered rude, and the professors are laid back and classes are very informal. My Spanish class consists of about 8 other students from around the U.S., and most of the class consists of discussion. My art professor is very interesting, he really likes to joke with his students, and some of the things he says could be considered borderline harrasment in the U.S.

Overall, things have been going very well so far, sorry for this marathon post, but right now I only have access to the internet while I´m at school. I´ll try to blog about more specifics in a few days. Tomorrow I am going on my first excursion to Sergovia, a town in the sothern part of Madrid. Thank you for your prayers!