Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I think she's gone blog crazy...

Well, I am getting pretty consistent with this whole blog thing, and I am actually really enjoying it as a medium for processing my adventures... I have had quite a few "requests" for pictures of Linares (where I live) and my piso and such... I am getting those to ya in this post...

I am gonna start big and work my way to the microscale.. I live in Spain. Spain is divided into "Autonomous Communities" similar to states in the US, but on a little larger scale. My Autonomous Community is Andalucia, in the South... Each Community is again divided into providences. My providence is Jaen. Jaen is one of the largest olive producing communities in the world. Olives are everywhere and in everything--ooh, kinda like God.. :) anyhow, wihtin the providence of Jaen, is a town called Linares. THIS is where I live. Spain, Andalucia, Jaen, Linares... glad we cleared that up! :)

Linares, Centro Commercial (the center of town, with all the shopping and such...) From about 1:00-5:00, this street is desolate because of Siesta, which they REALLY DO honor here, and then at about 8:00-10:00 after dinner (around 9:00 normally) it is bustling with everyone taking their evening social stroll about the town...

So... the other day, I went on a walk down Via Verde (The Green Way) which is maintained by something similar to the forestry service in USA... it is 8 km (about 5 miles) and it goes from Linares-Baeza ( a town between Linares and Baeza-how original) to Linares. Anyhow... Femke, Audrey, Alyssa and I all went together by bus to Linares-Baeza and spent the afternoon walkng back via Via Verde. It is so incedible because one minute you are walking through a town, and seriously about 10 minutes later, there is nothing but rolling hills of olive groves. It is beautiful, really. So, here are a few pics of the landscape just to kinda give you a glimpse of what I get to run through now...

A view at the start of our walk near the train station in Linares-Baeza

Just kinda pretty

Some baby olive trees.. Crazy, but I am beginning to see differences in the types of trees and the olives they produce! We actually tried some of them along the path--definitely not such a good idea because they still need a few more weeks.. luckily we had some pastries to alleviate the bitterness!

An abandoned building along the path... there were quite a few--they just leave them there... it is really a rich ,rustic view to see the antiquity along the path...

On one of my hikes on Via Verde--alone, at one of the abandoned buildings... no one ot take my picutre--this one's for Aubs :) I have no tripod here, so my camerea is balancing on a crumbling concrete wall... not the best picture, but it was absolutely neccessary for The Sis...

Also, towns here are kinda different. In the US, cities go into towns, which then merge to suburbs, and then ghetto and farmlands and such... In Spain, the city is a definite area. The street I run on, for exapmle... one side, houses and shops and city, the other, the edge of town--farmland, seriously.. When I was hiking, I saw a shepard walking his sheep on the other side of the road. Crazy, and amazing all together! The whole seeing the shepard with His sheep was really a neat experince to... God is referred to as our Good Shepard more than anyhting else in the Bible, and I had never even really seen their interaction... They are kinda dumb animals, which I thnk really says a lot f the spirit we shoulld maybe have in his care. But they followed Him. He walked towards the front of the herd, and just walked. Didn't really say much, they just stayed with him. At one point, a dog came up and started barking. The sheep were all scared and scattered. The shepard shooed the dog away and stood a bit up on the field and called less than a sentence in Spanish, and within a minute, all the sheep were back in His care, under His protection... This was just really neat for me to see--and it's not like I was on a farm or anything, so it was a COMPLETELY unexpected experience, but such an incredible blessing and gift... I learned a lot. I recommend you all go watch a shepard for an hour or so one day! I went back and looked at some of the verses and situations where God is referred to as Shepard, and there are so many layers there that I had not been able to see before... so cool...

The Shepard and His Flock

So, now, here is my piso... It is very "homie" feeling and my room is VERY cozy, probably mostly because it is the size of my bathroom in college, but all is good.. i really have come to love it...!

My Piso--up there, top left! Great view of the town with the olive fields behind it! Awesome sunsets, too...

Mi habitacionita (My little room)

Demaciado (too much) crizzap, but i'm sure you wouldn't expect any less than this from me, and I would certainly hate to dissappoint the masses! :)

Please, step into my office :)

Well, that's all the pictures this post is allowing me to attach, so more of the living room, kitchen (my favorite) and laundry room later! Love you all and thanks again for reading... *britt

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Niza, Nice and Mean

Love is here. God is Love. God is here.

Soooo... here we go with some updates from my latest international travels! (I am not gonna lie--it feels kinda cool saying that!) Well, this past weekend, I met up with a friend Kara and I met in London in Nice, France... the French Riviera is AMAZING... the water was so blue--quite a contrast to Murky Galveston, Texas! One night was the Rugby World Cup 3rd/4th place game and FRANCE was playing Argentina! We went to an Irish pub to watch the game--it was a real experience Eveyone singing and shouting!! France lost and played miserably, but it was still great! It was a real break from Spanish, and I got to be a stupid American tourist who couldn't speak the language rather trying so deperately to grasp the language and culture of Spain so I blend in. If anyone remembers Maslov's Heirarchy of Needs from high school sociology, you will recall that the bottom teir is survival for the basic needs. The premis is that you can't skip levels--you must acheive one level before you can worry about those above... well, I have been operating way down low in the Survival trapezoid... my brain remains in a constant state of deep fry... I am working so diligently and desperately just to communicate that I have not had as much time as I had anticipated to just relax and read and paint and play guitar... however, dia por dia (day by day) and poca a poca (little by little), I am improving. I sometimes think, "My goodness, shouldn't I be fluent by now?!?!" but then I just remind myself that this is a completely different language I am working to master! TIME TIME TIME! :)

So, anyhow, the French Riviera... it was so great because we didn't really do any touristy attractions, but really just hung out on the beach, walked around the less traveled areas, and people-watched, read, talked (in ONLY English!), and sat in silence. The silence was nice. I am living with 3 other girls, and there really isn't ever much silence to be heard in my piso, so the weekend really was just what I needed. I've got some pictures here.. well, I am gonna try to get them on here... there is one panarmic of the sunset and a boat is crossing the sun's rays over the ocean--this was from a lookout point, and it was absolutely one of the most incredible sunsets I have ever witnessed... the picture is beautiful and rich, but even the brilliant colors captured on film don't do a but of justice to the true masterpiece. That evening, God was just reaching out to me saying, "Brittney, I love you. " My friend Brendan (the one I was with) commented on how incredible it was that God can reach down at any time, through any medium, just to tell us how much He loves us. So, this has been my new challenge, find God's love in everything... it's been good so far.. this practice holds me steady in His presence and assures me of His power and beauty and love, which only gives me more reasons to love Him, praise Him, and stay even more constant in His gentle grasp. Anyhow, God's doing great things with me here... I am so thankful for this, but I don't want it to be all about me... I want to be used as well, so continue to pray that He uses me however he chooses here... love you all, and again, thanks for reading...!

A man fishing at sunset on the beach

The boys in the room with me at the hostel... it's rare, but they were really cool!

A completely unexpected surprise around a corner! One of the most incredibly monuments I have ever seen because it is so vast and grand and intricate, yet carved right out of the rock.. beautiful contrast...

Brendan and I looking out on a Nicean night. it's a totally different city after sunset, but somehow just as breathtaking!

Immitations of Andy Warhol

Note to Self: Don't take pictures trying to ascend stairs.

Cool colors of Love.

A surprise appearance by the King of Pop on the French Riviera Boardwalk... the best part-his face was painted white, and he was LOVING what he was doing...!

And this is Nice!

Told you it was blue! And, yeah-the beach isn't sand, but these perfectly beautiful smooth stones.. so much midrage there, but that is for another time!

Pensive Brendan afront Noche Rico de Niza (a rich night in Nice)

"I love you." -God

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Baby Carson!!!!

Baby Carson is here!!!! I was in Nice, which I will get to at another time, bu tright now, it is more important that my precious lifelong firnd and her husband, Meredith and Kevin Tichenor, just welcomed a beautiful and healthy baby boy, Carson Edward Tichenor, into this world... I am so sad I am so far away. Keep the new parents in your prayers! Touch back super soon on the Nice adventures!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Motos, Mullets, Machisimo y Mas

Well, I write again (otra vez)... I have decided that these blogs need to be wothwhile to read, so from this point on, I will include tidbits of wisdom on my experiences here! :) Thus, the word "again" is "otra vez" en espanol!

As you can probably recognize, the name of this posting is "Motos, Mohawks, Machisimo y Mas;" however, you may not know what all this means. This is the absolute best Spanish culture lesson you may ever receive, so get prepared.

Motos. They are everywhere. They are not motorcyles, nope, they are the equivilant of an American scooter. The moto is a crazy virus that has swept accross the jovenes (youth) of Spain. Now, I say it is a trend with the younins; however, it is actually equally common to see an old man in a buiness suit, a woman in a skirt, or even two guys on a bike (a site I am still adjusting to). Anyhow... it is not enough for these hormone-crazied moto-maniacs to ride their bikes too fast through traffic and park on public sidewalks, they also remove the muffler to acheive a terribly high piched squelch when they ride. And it is not a cool, deep growl like you would think of back in the US; it is an annoying sissy screech that echos through the concrete avenues of the city orchestrating the most intolerable symphony of unbearable noise. I say all this only to claim- I want to join the ranks of the Motos. :)

Mullets. If your hair is longer than 2 inches at the crown of your head, you were probably born before 1985. Seriously-- girls, boys, i think i have even seen a few dogs sporting the Mullet. I will say, when I say a cool "Australian" mullet in America, I would think, "Wow, that is kind of cool. They are probably cultured." Here, no. It IS the culture. It is NOT different. EVERYONE has a mullet. There are old school mullets, rat tails, mini-mohawks, and even the throw-back do with a buzzed head and just bangs. I am tellin ya-- these kidss are trendy. I just wonder what they are going to do in 5 months when mullets aren't cool anymore. They will still only have like 2 inches of hair on their head. That's gonna suck. They could then just pull a "Britney" and shave it all off!

Machisimo. This is the word for the general attitude/personality (talento) of the average Spainard hombre (man). It refers to the "macho" aspect and as well to their affection for the mujeres (ladies). Now, if I walk from my piso to the bus station (15 minutes) without getting some kind of cat call from a school boy, teenager, man, or ooold man, I begin to get insecure! Not really, but seriously.. it is crazy. They are super suave and as crazy as it seems, I actually love it becasue here, this display is really not intended to "start a relationship" or "hit on you" as it would translate in the US, it is just a way to get to know someone new. It is so embedded in the culture here that they see it more as a greeting than a pickup line!

y Mas. (And More) Well, this can be the part where I tell you about the wonderful feria (fair) I went to this weekend. I now have a group of about 8 girlfriends that I most hang out with. There are 6 Americans, on French girl, and a Dutch girl. I love them all so much! Actually, I am moving in with one of them to a differnt piso tomorrow! I will also gain two more Espanolas (Spainsh girls!) I am so excited because I will be able to practice my Spanish so much more now! Anyhow, la feris-- there are pictures here, but the culture of Andalucia is so incredibly rich! In southern Spain, many of the people get all decked out and wear flamenco dresses and torreno costumes! It is almost like the Houston rodeo where people sponsor tents and have little temporary clubs and restraunts set up! I think we might have been the only non-natives there because it was their province fair in Jaen, a small, sheltered region of Andalucia! It was incredible to experience this as a local!

This was one of the more waring decisions of the day--they all looked so good!

One of the incredible tents set up at La Feria... The typical meat here is ham (jamon) and there are huge legs hanging in every restraunt, grocery store, pub-you get the idea... anyhow, the black hooved pigs are supposedly better. I guess. Culture.

I wonder if he could fly.
And yes, balloons have the same irresistable attraction worldwide for young children. And there were so many. I even wanted one.

An example of the decadant Flamenco dresses the women and girls were wearing a la feria... they were so vibrant and the women looked so completely elgant and AMAZING!

And there was dancing, claro que si (of course)!

Even los hombritos (little men) were in torrero (bull-fighting) attire!

Caroline, Caro (my American roommate) is very excited about chocolate churros!

Then, today in Linares, we happened upon an incredibly decadent procession of marching bands and this incredible statue, to find out that today, Linares was celebrating 250 years of patronage! Everyone in the parade was so dressed up and stature they were carrying (it too 16 men to carry) looked outrageously heavy! It was another beautifully cultural experience!

This is the Mujer de los Lineresos (Woman of the Linareans).. apparently she has been around since the establishment of the town 250 years ago... pretty cool. She looked heavy (pesado). I think the men thought she was heavy, too.

I can't wait to tell you more about the girls! They really are great, and a lot of them have done a bit of travelling before, which has given them an incredible perspective on life, as well as the abitity to step away from their own vantage point and see the world from someone else's shoes (or in Spain, someone elses's boots)! Anyhow, I am learning and growing so much here and I am so thankful for all of your suport and prayers. Email me anytime because I'd love to hear from you! Much love,

*bretana (my spanish name) :)

Four other language assistans that have become my great companeros (buddies)!
Beth, Caroline (my roomie), Audrey, and Femke (the Dutch One)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Movin into Life...

Well.... it has now been just over three weeks... quick overview:

Week 1:
In Madrid with Kara recovering from jetlag--spent most of my time reading, walking and adjusting to life in a new country.

Week 2:
Noche de Blanca from previous blog
Go to Linares (in Andalucia where I am living and teaching) for the first time to check out the scene.

Week 3:
Go to Granada for my Orientation and meet over 800 crazy young people doing the exact same thing as me all over Spain--and I thought I was unique! :) I met some amazing people there and contacts all over the region I am living in, so we can visit eachother in different places and really take advantage of all spain has to offer! Also, I got to stay with my old lifegaurd coach and her precious family who are stationed in Granada for right now. Her family is really adorable and it was so nice to get a sense of "family" for a bit! I also was able to go to the Ahambra... it was so incredible.. breathtaking views and we went aroufd 5.00 when to sun was dark and warm... it was amazing, but I deleted the pictures accidentally... youll hear about that again later...
Head to Linares for my first week of work! I absolutely love it here. It is a lot smaller and I can already tell my Spanish is going to have a really funky accent--the Jaenians (natives in the region where i live) are know for their super thick accent all over Spain!

This weekend:
It was Kara-my friend whom I came here with and is in Madrid--had her birthday Oct.8th, so for her birthday weekend, I went to see her in Madrid! Not only did I see her in Mardid, but Saturday we flew out to London to go see the Damien Rice concert (one of our favorite artists!) Well, that weekend, it just so happened that a friend that we met on a the train in London as we stepped off the plane originally in London, was coming to Madrid on his EuroTour, so he stayed with Kara, which made for even more birthday fun! I had a ton of pictures of all this, but I somehow deleted them and dont really want to talk about it because I am sad! :)

In London, we met up with Erin Wilson, a friend from school who is doing her master's work in Scottland (brainy), and made the most of our time there. It really was a blast! We went to Harrod's High Tea--something Kara has always wanted to do, and even though I haven't done much there, that was definitely my favorite thing so far! The teas were so incredible! (and all the food, of course!)
Well, then we left Harrod's aorund 5:00 only to discover the Tube was down, so our means of transportation was drained. We spent the following our trying to get a taxi, only to see one passing every 5 seconds, and of course, occupied!!! So frustrating.. we finally got one, and it took us over an hour to get to the concert becasue of traffic... we were late for DAMIEN!! aghh!!! bummer, btu the rest of the night we spent tooting around the town and eating at MCDONALDS ( I know-death) because Kara and my flight left at 6:40 that morning, so we didnt book a hostal and just planned on taking our time back to the aiport! We spent quite a while at the major train station there.. those Brits are crazy! ALl of it was such an adventure!

I am back in Linares, thankful to feel stationed here for the next 2 weeks or so... Actually, I woke up for work today, and saw Ihad developed a stye (spelling) in my eye... my bss sent me home (to the local hospital, actually) after only my second class of the day... I had to go to the emergency room becasue I dont have a residence card yet, but a lot of people do that-its how the system works here becuase it is a socialist type system.... anyhow, that, too was an experience because I didnt know the medical terms and such, btu everyone was so sweet becasue they could see I was really tring (and I think they felt bad because I have only been here in Linares for a week now!) Anyow... I think i am probably ready for a siesta... have a great one everybody!! Thanks for reading!