Sevilla, Spain. October 31st, “Halloween Paseo” or “I think it’s Reformation Sunday…”

 

The day was a good one. Thus far, the evening plans I have are to try and meet up with Nacho and Jaime and hang out for a bit before they have to go to bed for work and I have to go to bed for catching a train to Madrid.

 

This trip is winding to a close. I must admit to you that it has been good. I have experienced the providence of the Lord Jesus in ways that are beyond explanation. I have participated in lovely communities of faith, and hopefully who I am in the Lord has served as a witness to others in several different countries. Above all I think that it’s been made clear that this trip is much more about the Lord’s purposes in and through me than my own in “coming to Europe.” I was not all about the sort of experience in which one goes to Europe, backpack in tow, and makes out with a variety of girls and “finds oneself.” If anything I set out to have space to pray, to think, to reflect, and to meet new friends in new contexts. It would seem that in so doing I gave God lots of space to work…and work He does.

 

I now stand on the verge of returning home. On Wednesday I’ll be flying out of Spain and arriving in Seattle. I feel older, not that I don’t laugh at the semi-secret funny word hidden in the word “Bomboneria”…but more that I feel more confident in the Lord and in who He has called me to be. I’m also not feeling the emotional exhaustion that I started this trip with. It feels like I was prepared for coming home in some really wonderful ways, but it also felt like my preparation was the preparation for something beyond my reckoning. Much as the trip became something more than I’d ever really expected or hoped, I think that coming home will be moreso. I hope that this is the case at least.

 

I was reading my Dietrich Bonhoeffer this morning and he said that hope is something that we cannot separate from our faith. That we must continue to hope in God in current and in eschatological ways. I hope in the Lord’s work in my near future and in the future of all things at the end of time. That said, I don’t know what God has in store for you or me, but it is truly going to be better, more challenging, and more worthwhile than you or I had ever imagined. If you need proof, firstly that’s rather empirical of you, and secondly…read my blog. I have been blessed and blessed to share that blessing with others. No ivory tower of blessings, but rather an overflowing from a full cup (a la Psalm 23). Think Aragorn as King of Gondor as opposed to Saruman as ruler of Isengard. Though, those are perhaps too big of images for me to be compared to. Think smaller, but in the same idea. The man with too many grapes as opposed to the man who jealously guards his cheese. Moving on…

 

So I woke up today. I woke up at 3am courtesy of the obnoxious girl from the USA’s alarm on her phone which was practically unstoppable in it’s technical fancy-business. I turned it off several times…or so I thought. The despicable piece of machinery kept beeping. I hated it, and for a moment harbored some less than pleasant thoughts about her. Grrr.

 

When real wake up time happened, I was tuckered out, but whatever. I ate brekky, showered and then figured out how to go to mass. The man at the front desk was both irritable and of no help. When I asked him what time mass was at, he said, “I don’t know. I’m an atheist.” Well, pardon me sir. Next time the atheist conference is in Seattle I will think about spitefully not telling you where it is, but will choose to bless you with useful information instead. My response to him was meant to say “Yo no se a que hora empiezan la misa tampoco.” Or I don’t know what time mass starts either. But it was early, so what I said to this was “Yo tampoco.” Or me either. I then went and figured it out, all the while wondering if I had accidentally conveyed that I was an atheist too. Which I am not. Oh well.

 

In any case, I made it to the mass at the church next door. It was somewhat not that great to me, but part of that was the fact that when I went up to get my not-Eucharist blessing there was a bit of a misunderstanding and the priest was not very forthcoming with his blessing. He seemed to convey that I had come forward to get Eucharist even though I shouldn’t have it…This was offensive because I was working to avoid that very thing. Then he somewhat begrudgingly blessed me with a hand gesture. I was put out by this and as I returned to my pew, I reminded myself that I would be heading back home soon and would be getting Eucharist soon enough. On Reformation Sunday, I was glad there was a place in the world where I can get the Eucharist even though I’m not Catholic.

 

After this I came to the hostel and ate lunch. Whilst there I met a woman from the USA whom I invited to go walk around with me, seeing as how that was my plan for the day. She agreed and as a result I had a kind friend to hang out with whilst the sun shone in Sevilla. It was nice to have someone to talk to for longer than an hour in English. I realized that I look much more like a Spaniard than I ever have looked like a Mexican. Example being that people give me strange looks if I wear shorts around town as though they think, “That guy must be cold.” Instead of, “Check out that goofy gringo.” We strolled about, got coffee, and then paid for grumpy service of tapas.

 

I then came home to the hostel, ate dinner (tuna pasta with redsauce, and some vegetables.), and then proceeded to write this blog.

 

I got reservations at a hostel in Madrid instead of Couchsurfing, no one seemed to be jumping at the chance to host me, but eventually after this someone said they could host me on the 2nd which is the evening before I leave for the airport at 6am…all things considered I decided that I would just stick it out in the hostel. That way I can leave all my things in one spot, not have to say goodbye to anyone really, and expedite my process in general. Plus the cancellation policy would make me pay for the night I missed anyhow. Blah.

 

Last night in Sevilla, here I come.

Advertisements

Sevilla, Spain. October 31st (part one). “Good Flamenco is like…”

I went to another flamenco show last night. It was super awesome. The main dancer reminded me of lots of different things that I wanted to share with you. This is what came to mind when I was watching her dance.

Good Flemenco is: a whirlwind, a stalking tiger, an attacking mongoose, a thunder storm, and the crashing waves on the beach all working together to forge a secret rhythm that is only known in the meeting of these things.

I don’t think I will be intimidated by really attractive women anymore, because at the end of the day…most of them can’t dance Flamenco.

That’s all for now. I’m sure there’s some sort of allegory regarding how the rhythm of the dancer in context of the guitarist and singer in Flamenco is an exemplification of how the church works in community to see how the Holy Spirit is leading us. It’s only in the combination of all the parts that the rhythm comes through.

Maybe that works as an allegory. Maybe not.

Sevilla, Spain. October 30th, “Jamie and Nacho” or “I’m glad I got into the Alcazar for free.”

 

Last night after the nap I mentioned, I went out to see what there was with regards to meeting actual Spanish people. A French acquintance and I (she was from my room) went out to explore. She has an interesting scenario going on in her life and it was really fascinating to listen to her story. I wished I could have given her more useful advice, but I didn’t have any sort of experience that lent itself to her situation. We chatted and went into a tapas place and then wandered until…

 

We went into a random bar sort of place. There on the inside a guy started talking to her and by association started talking to me. His name is Nacho and he is legit. Shortly thereafter his friend Jaime showed up and we talked for a substantial amount of time. Lots of different things and a variety of topics. Jaime and Nacho were really cool and interested to ask what I knew of Spain and what I thought about stuff. I mentioned that I thought it was strange that there were so many things like memorials to Hernan Cortez when he did terrible things in America. Then Jaime said something really interesting.

 

He said that basically everyone in the colonial age did horrible things. It wasn’t just Spain. Moreover, he pointed out, the discovery of America by the Spaniards was probably the greatest discovery in history. It was also the first time that a country had colonized another place and left behind a religion, a language, and a culture when the colony was independent. As such it made sense that these figures of the “New World” were immortalized in statues despite their shadiness. This was a very good point. All the colonial powers (the US included) have made things really hard for other countries and I suppose discovering America—even by accident—was probably a huge deal.

 

Still, I am hesitant (if not staunchly opposed) to granting these people merit just on the fact that they did impressive things. I think the 300ish years of oppression in Latin America speak a bit more strongly than the deed of finding it. Don’t they? I submit that they do. The action of the discovery and the transmission of a culture, language, and religion are one thing…but I guess I’m thinking of it from a perspective of expecting Christians to love their neighbor…which maybe can’t be applied to all of Spain even if they were a Catholic nation at the time…Hmmm.

 

Anyhow, we talked to them and it was great. Meeting people from here is always cool. They even complimented my Spanish and taught me some Sevilla phrases. Eventually they had to bail, and I went to bed. I woke up today and was tired, but after the things that needed to be done, I went to see the Alcazar (the residence of the Moorish kings/Spanish kings in Sevilla). I got in free masquerading as a student through the ID card of a guy from Ohio in my hostel room. I felt sort of bad about it and it probably still counted as lying, but in the end I think saving the 7.50 euros was worth it because the Alcazar really wasn’t that impressive when compared to the Alhambra. It was starting to rain and the grey light made good photos really hard to get. Which is frustrating when getting good photos of special things is a goal of yours after 2 months of taking pictures…just saying.

 

It was pretty and all, but I had a high bar for it to compete with. Sigh.

 

While I was there I ended up meeting people who I already knew from the tapas time the other night with the hostel, so we hung out for awhile. One of the people was from Brownsvill, Texas. Basically the same are where my dad is from in Texas. Small world. The other two were girls from the UK and Chicago. We became a somewhat motley array of folks and thanks to the rain went to a coffee shop at chatted for a long time. There’s not too much to do outside when it’s raining and your rain jacket isn’t great. It was very nice to learn about Britain’s political scene. A coalition government with two parties of contrasting political perspectives is a strange thing.

 

Then I bought food for several meals knowing that everything is closed Sunday and on Monday it’s all Saints day, so lots of places are closed. I got things for making pasta and eating vegetables (the latter being a rarity at the moment)…but then discovered that the hostel had large quantities of these things on hand already. Well balls. I guess I’ll contribute to an existing overabundance of pasta and olive oil…

 

The plan for this evening is to go to a Flamenco show (which I’m excited about) and then after maybe call Nacho and Jaime again. Tomorrow is my last day here and with the rain and everything being closed on Sunday I guess I’ll go to mass, and then maybe make it a day to spend time with the Lord. It’s always hard in hostels to get time to pray. Especially with churches here being caked in gold or just for decorative purposes with the doors locked.

 

No complaints though. My mother and friend Lindsey Goff made good points that I shouldn’t fret about what’s going to happen when I get back. The Lord has provided for me thus far, and I should trust Him to keep doing it. I’ll be doing that. As always your prayers regarding that would be appreciated.

Sevilla, Spain. October 29th, “Walkin’ around the city” or “No twelve year old Spanish girls, I won’t buy you alcohol.”

 

I awoke today after a night’s sleep constantly haunted by the ringing of the bell at the church next door as well as the clanging of the front door of the hostel as people came in at 3am. Not a real pleasant evening, but I couldn’t stay in bed all day because free breakfast is in a limited time period. That said, I ate the breakfast then dealt with some internet things and from there I headed out into the city.

 

First stop (as I left around noon) was to get lunch on the cheap, which I did, then after that I walked to a plaza and sat and ate it. I realized that I needed some time to speak with the Lord, so I went to a church and after considerable amounts of effort to ignore all the gold in the chapel, I had a good conversation with Him. That was very necessary.

 

I was still feeling a bit out of sorts so I stopped and got coffee and sat in the sun. While I did that I realized that I was frustrated because the way I do this whole tourism thing is much different than lots of people. I like to walk around and look at things, I don’t really enjoy the nightclub scene. I was put out because I felt like I wasn’t having a good time here between being ready to get home, and being led around on walking tours/tapas tours with all English speaking people. It really took the fun out of being here. So I decided to do what I usually do, I walked around and looked at things. It was great. I have thoughts regarding my time:

 

I get very tired of things that glorify “heroes” of the colonization of America. If I ever see another statue in Hernan Cortez’s honor I might vomit.

 

It was like summer here. Maybe 85 degrees with a nice wind. Mmmm. Sure beats the dark rainy weather at home. Though for people here this is winter and everyone has coats on. Except for the guy who looks like a Spaniard who was wearing shorts and chacos (guess who.)

 

The city is really beautiful. Just like Grenada except for more confusingly narrow streets that can get you lost amidst short buildings that seem to have no end. Luckily my sense of direction has proved itself strong and I haven’t got really lost yet. I just might not find things that I want to see. There are cobblestone roads that lead to all places, and there are vast quantities of orange trees whose oranges are for some reason inedible. My response to that is “Who wants decorative orange trees at all if you can’t eat the oranges?” Not me. That’s for sure. Still, cobblestones mixed with orange trees, combined with the standard European architecture in summerish weather renders this city quite lovely. The people are kind also.

 

Part of my walking included the place where the Spanish Inquisition shot people for being heretics and then threw their bodies into the water. That was a disturbing part of the walk. Yet again, that was a poor decision by the church. I would have voted against it…but I doubt that was an option. They probably would have shot me for trying to vote that way. We probably should apologize to people for that too.

 

I also walked through this big garden and saw a large line of old school Jaguar cars. I drooled a bit. I’m usually not a car guy, but when I know something is really awesome…oh man. Those were smooth cars. The garden was very nice and afforded me some necessary time outside of the city while inside it. It was quiet there.

 

At the end of my walk I sat in a square near the cathedral (after declining to pay to go into it) and relaxed in the sun whilst I enjoyed a guy playing flamenco guitar for about 45 minutes to an hour. It was a good time and I enjoyed everything about it except for the pigeons.

 

Tangent. I despise pigeons. They are the most offensively presumptuous animals I have ever met. They do their stupid head bobbing walk towards you no matter if you have food or not with this air of superiority as though just because they’re pigeons you want to give them something. They roam unhindered throughout almost every city, poop everywhere, and for some reason there are people who feed them. Many people continuously give these dirty, lazy, and obnoxious birds food. Why? Why feed the pigeons? One less pigeon won’t hurt anyone. They don’t seem to be dying out. Stop feeding them! When you feed them they herd around like you’re simply a mechanical object whose purpose in life is to feed their whimsical avian laziness. I won’t have it any more! I’m going to introduce a race of hawks to cities that will eat pigeons. On that day, the menace stops. The sparrows (the natural hardworkers of the standard bird community) will rise up and quietly and politely deal with the extra bread. Pigeons will not be needed.

 

Anyway. The guitar was great. After that I met up with some French-Canadian friends and we went and got tapas for dinner at the usual dinner time. That was nice. They were the people I met on the train to Granada, I saw them again last night and we planned on dinner for this evening. The nice thing about dinner at that time is that I can go to sleep for an hour or 3 and then wake up and do things and go back to bed after. Spanish time schedule is hard to get used to. I’ll give you a report on the evening tomorrow. My hope is to go to a tapas place and chat with people until I get tired. Go team.

 

It’s strange how much of a difference prayer makes in the day. I notice it way more when I’m rolling solo out here in Spain. Your prayers are valued. Thanks folks.

 

PS: These girls who seemed like they were 12 asked me to buy them a bottle of something that the store wouldn’t sell to them. I would not facilitate underage drinking so I said no. I actually wanted them to help me find my way back to the hostel, but after that…uh uh. Nope. I’ll be lost first. Dunno why exactly, but it made me feel dirty. Buy your own alcohol. Oh wait, that’s right. You can’t. Why? Because you’re 12. Stop it. Go get orange juice and play outside.

 

 

 

 

 

Granada, Spain/Sevilla, Spain. October 27th and 28th. “The Alhambra and Spanish clowns.” Or “hmmm…walking tours are useful.”

 

Well, this post is meant to catch me up. I’m currently on the 28th, but lets take a step down memory lane and talk about the 27th.

 

I awoke extremely early. Far earlier than most people ever need to in Granada, it was 6:30am. If you recall the war in my stomach that was caused by fried tapas had raged most of the night. The result was that I was dog tired, but the Alhambra was to be seen. I would not be denied. So I woke up, dressed in the dark, took the food I’d bought specially for the purpose and caught a 7:05 bus to the Alhambra. When I arrived there were already 150ish people in front of me. How they got there…I don’t know.

 

The Alhambra represents roughly 8 centuries of Moorish/Spanish architecture. Many different kings (mostly Muslim) built a series of amazing palaces with gardens to match. On account of Islamic art being unable to feature people, the palaces are mostly decorated with geometric designs and flowing Arabic script. The Catholic kings didn’t rip everything down, but rather kept using it as a palace. Eventually it became a national treasure. Not the one that Nicholas Cage finds though.

 

As I entered the sun was rising over the hills, casting shadows and making fun effects with the light which I attempted to catch on film. Taking a page from Mr. Monet’s book I made the point of looking for reflections on the water and got some serious photos. Get ready for awesome Kile Petersen. Here it comes.

 

In any case, I find the Alhambra hard to describe. Picture a fantastic overabundance of beautiful gardens which surround majestic palaces, all of which is met by constantly flowing stream of water which comes from the nearby mountain river. Tiny manicured, specifically located, and wonderful spouts of water abound and one finds walking in the Alhambra constantly accompanied by the delightful sound of running water. Those Moors were bright people.

 

I was there for 6 hours. It was worth every penny and getting up super early. On my way home I checked out an internet café and discovered that I’d be at a hostel in Sevilla. Oh well. Then I came back to Kate’s house, ate a kebab (a complete kebab. This means meat, sauce, vegetables, and even a fried egg. Oh my. So delicious.) and read for awhile. Eventually her fun Spanish roommates Andres and Carolina came home at which point I was informed about the option to go see a clown show in another part of town. This sounded interesting, and I’m not scared of clowns, so I went after Kate, Nikolai, and I had made some curry. Not that I really want curry…ever…but cooking as a team is fun, and curry while not my favorite at all, is not terrible.

 

The Spanish clown was interesting and mostly funny, but I got very tired by the end. On the whole the silent physical comedy bit is hard to get people to laugh at. Carolina and Andres are lovely people though and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and spending time with them. When I got home it was bed time because I wanted to be able to catch my train to Seville.

 

So, the 28th dawned earlierish again. Not 6:30 though. That was nice. I woke up, ate food, packed my bag, and then chatted with Kate and Nikolai until it was time to leave. Nikolai is a pretty cool dude. Very strange, but maybe Denmark is just that sort of place. A place that can arrest you for no reason for 12 hours…that’s actually true…So in general you might say that my couchsurfing experience thus far has been very good indeed. Hopefully I can find one for Madrid, but who knows…

 

I got onto the train without issue and found myself sitting across from a Swedish man and his daughter who were on holiday. It turns out that she can speak 5 languages. French, German, High German, English, and oh wait Hebrew because her mom is from Israel. WOW. I want to speak 5 languages. That’d be smashing. They were nice people, and I must admit I thought they were German…not the case, accents are not immediately a dead giveaway.

 

I made it to the hostel and after I checked in I decided to go on a walking tour. First one of the trip. I thought that since I didn’t know anything about where I was going I ought to see what there was to see. So I walked for awhile with a couple American girls who are studying in London while our Italian guide told us about things. He’s a cool guy, but he had a real beef with the Catholic clergy. I suppose I understand some of his points. The inquisition was awful, and the strangely political nature of the Papacy has always been confusing to me…I don’t know honestly what Christians should do regarding the horrible things we have done over the years. Not that it’s inherently worse than things other people do, but it’s horrible in a different way because we know better. I guess start by apologizing? Donald Miller went that route in Blue like Jazz. Sounds good to me for a start.

 

In any case I saw lots of the city that I hadn’t before and learned a series of things about Christopher Columbus…possible love-affair with a love starved Queen Isabel? King Ferdinand might have been a lack-luster lover? All things considered there was a strange manner of glorifying people such as Chris Colombus, Hernan Cortes, Ponce de Leon, etc…that happens in architecture here. I don’t like it. Columbus went the wrong way, Cortes was a murderer, and Ponce went looking for the fountain of youth…come on. Maybe I’m wrong, Columbus probably needs another 5 streets named after him. Done already? Good.

 

After the walking tour I went back to the hostel with the American girls for a bit and then set back out for the tapas tour offered by the same Italian guy. The tapas was good, but not great, and despite the vibe of familiar chattiness offered by so many English speakers…it doesn’t feel like being in Spain. It feels like being a chump. So, that won’t be happening anymore for me. I will go seek my own tapas friends tomorrow night. I passed on going out to see the “nightlife” with the hostel group. In general I enjoy dancing and sitting and talking in bars, but I don’t like the cruising to take someone home mentality of nightclubs. So I went back to the hostel to catch up on sleep for tomorrow.

 

Full couple of days. Lots of awesome experience. Spain just keeps getting cooler. I have no idea how to get on their schedule though. I don’t really want to be out until 3am…Blah. Good night.

 

Grenada, Spain. October 26th, “There’s too much gold in that cathedral.” or “Tapas with Carlos.”

I owe you some description of Grenada. It’s this very beautiful little town pressed right up against the Sierra Nevada mountains. All of the buildings seem to imply that while it’s 80 degrees F right now in the afternoon, it’s most likely a billion degrees at other times. The streets are delightfully narrow, paved with cobblestones. In certain parts of the city the houses and buildings are made from this white plaster sort of rock. It gives those parts a feel of Caribbean village meeting mountain town. For the Robb Watsons among you one can simply walk 20 minutes and arrive in hills marked by scrubby bushes and rocks, once there the view of the mountains is incredible. The buildings carry this weight of history (maybe just for me) and seem to be trying for a very Paris-like architecture with lots of windows that look out on the streets with tiny balconies. It’s not a terribly large city and thus most things can be arrived at on foot.

Tapas is cheap here, and with 2 euros one can get tapas and a beverage. Tapas is like a small, cooked sort of snack. It comes on a small plate and either is awesome, or tastes pretty good. Not too shabby.

Yesterday I awoke and headed out to see the Cathedral and find an internet cafe (cheaper than buying tea in the tea house and sitting there forever). I did both. The Cathedral was rough though.

It’s a very beautiful building with lovely pillars and marble floors, but there’s this gold….on everything. Most of the time I would think “oh, well I guess it looks nice at least…” but this time, with it being Spain and knowing where all the gold came from (Latin American mines) I was very put out by the whole thing. They might as well have painted the cathedral in blood….I know that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the mining conditions for people at the time and the manner in which labor was acquired amounted to nothing short of the most foul sorts of slave-labor there is. Taking this shiny metal that is hacked out of the earth by the blood and sweat of someone forced to do it and then decorating a church with it made me feel ill. Honestly. I really didn’t feel well thinking about it. I don’t understand the mindset. At all.

Unfortunately in this case, with the whole one church united in the Holy Spirit bit, the sins and mistakes of those before me aren’t things I get to ignore. We’re all in it together as the body of Christ. When your brother blows it…you help him carry the burden. Exactly how we ever start to do that with several hundred years of nonsense in Latin America is beyond me for the moment though.

Anyhow, after that I found the internet cafe and took care of business. cool. Then it was time to go get tea at a special place up in the hills that Kate knows about. It’s run by what I’m going to loosely describe as an old gypsy man. It took about a half hour of walking and hiking to get to his tea shop. In that time, Nikolai from Denmark had made the statement that people who drive cars are idiots for polluting and being dangerous. I was irritated by his high horse of pro bike riding all the time. As though everywhere in the world is Denmark and surely it must be better to ride a bike everywhere. I want to drive a million cars all the time just to spite him. I won’t, but I’d consider it for a moment…

Once we got to old gypsy man’s place it turned out that he doesn’t serve tea on monday and tuesday. So instead we sat and chatted with him for about an hour. He was a quirky old man who had lots of funny things to say, I didn’t get drawn into the dialogue on psychological method that he, Kate, and a Swedish man who was there started talking about. Instead I listened to Nikolai talk about the place he lives in in Denmark. It’s a sort of hippy commune. Very interesting and very strange.

Eventually Kate needed to leave and I was super hungry so we went back down the hill. I got some groceries so I might to go the Alhambra today, and then set out with directions from Kate’s room-mate on how to find a tapas place that sold meat. I got there, but it was closed. So instead I went and sat at a bar called “pecado” or “sin”…I think I looked in it just to see why it might be called sin, then I went and sat hoping there was tapas and a way to talk to the incredibly beautiful server.

While I sat there pondering tapas, why I was hungry, and how to start a conversation with this lovely woman…a guy next to me started talking to me. His name is Carlos and eventually we talked for a long time and he discovered that I was seeking tapas. good tapas. So he took me to one of his favorite places where they serve seafood tapas. We talked for a good long time and ate lots and lots of tapas. Fried mostly…He was a really nice guy, but I think he might be a bit of a womanizer…hmmm. In any case, eventually he wanted to go back to talk to the attractive server again. I came with, but bailed early because I had to arise at 6:30 this morning to make it out to the Alhambra and get tickets.

I enjoyed seeing her again, but he started to seem a bit creepy…oh well. Nice enough guy to me anyway. The tapas tasted great…HOWEVER…it turns out that fried seafood tapas and a couple beverages does not amount to real dinner. It amounts to a war in your stomach at 3am. Brutal. Good to know though. Dinner first. Then tapas.

Carlos had lots of interesting things to say about Spain, for example people here pay lots of taxes so everyone can have healthcare. I wondered why that’s what people in Europe are so willing to do, but people in the US aren’t. He also mentioned that lots of people never really get married here. That was interesting. I also learned that the people who serve tapas are really clever at remembering everything, but they don’t get paid much to do so. Also, that beggars can make a vast quantity of money by begging instead of working…and they don’t pay taxes.

I am not sure (and have not really been sure) how to handle people begging for money while I’ve been traveling. Sometimes I give it, sometimes I don’t. If society has options for them…should I be giving them money at all? Is that an excuse for being hardhearted? Jesus just healed people sometimes instead of giving them money…how do I show love to these people while not enabling them? Your thoughts are welcome. Prayers too.

Grenada, Spain. October 25th “Fun new couchsurfing friends!” or “I like tapas.”

I got ino Grenada yesterday at some point in the morning and waited with huge bags near the place I’d be staying for most of the day. I ended up drinking tea in a couple tea houses (they let you sit as long as you’d like) and then sitting around mostly reading. Not a hard day, but it was frustrating to have such huge bags that I couldn’t do much exploring until I had shed them.

Eventually though my host named Kate appeared and we sat and chatted with the other couchsurfer (named Nikolai) from Denmark. Kate is from Australia and is very kind and an overall great host. I am really enjoying staying at her place. Nikolai is an interesting character. A really nice guy, but a very strange hippy sort of fellow. Not a bad person to hang out with though. I just don’t really know a good way to articulate my thoughts regarding the things he says in a way that’s not raining on his parade.

In any case after we chatted for a bit I dropped my bags off and we went to go meet Kate’s French friend Benoit. He’s a really nice guy and speaks Spanish so we ended up having a great talk with Kate, Benoit’s sister, Nikolai, and a Morrocan guy named Willy. Everyone was very kind and we got tapas at this place with healthier tapas options. The owner was getting a bit frustrated. The reason is because to get tapas you’re supposed to have a beer. Apparently some people are having the tapas, but not the beer. He got a bit bent out of shape on it and was unpleasant to a couple people. As it goes, I like tapas, but I’m not keen on the vibe at this place. Afterwards we went to go look out at the Mirador de San Nicolas. Super great sunset photos were taken by me.

Willy from Morocco is a Muslim, so it was interesting to be able to talk with him a bit about that. He made a statement that religion is very useful for providing rules for people to follow. He said this in a positive way. I didn’t bring it up because it was loud in the tapas place, and I would like to know him better to flat-out disagree with him, but I don’t think that’s what religion is about.

Firstly, the word religion tends to bother me. It’s a very strange objective word that forces me to talk about my relationship with God at a very bizarre arm’s length as though I’m not participating in it when I’m talking about it. It’s generally something that’s frustrated me here in Europe regularly. Secondly, aren’t religions about people describing reality or trying to? I think the minute that “religion” gets separated from its truth claims it becomes a silly thing that people shouldn’t worry about. Honestly. Perspectives on God and the nature of humanity are either true or they’re not. Jesus either rose from the dead or He didn’t. Mohammed either was a prophet or he wasn’t.

The difficulty is that (I feel like I’ve said this before) we cant have more than one of these things be true. So, while there are similar sorts of actions that are good in Islam and Christianity this doesn’t change the fact that why they’re done is out substantially different foundational truth claims. If it’s all about making rules for society’s efficiency I don’t want it. I would love to have this conversation with Willy, maybe you could pray about that. He plays flameco guitar and I get to go see his show this evening. That will be fun.

After the tapas, Kate, Nikolai, and myself went to go watch a film about Palestinians in Israel. It was a rough film. Lots of anger, lots of people carrying the scars of several generations of oppression, lots of pain. I don’t think I have a side on the matter. Everyone is so entrenched on the issue and the people who are actually a part of it seem to simultaneously manifest such hate and pain that it doesn’t seem very likely for me to ever get to have an opinion that counts. The Palestinians are oppressed, the Israelis are threatened, everyone hates and kills each other. Who’s right when the actions of the “just” are the same as the actions of the “wicked”?

I know someone who lived in Palestine when it was occupied by Rome. He told/tells us to love our enemies. It’s a shame that a great number of people there aren’t putting that to use. The reconciliatory nature of the Gospel is the only hope that I can find for the issues at stake in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Otherwise we find ourselves looking at generations of hate and violence who never learn to see through the eyes of the One who was truly reconciled to His enemies.

I went to bed late. I should have brought a blanket. My bad. Still not as cold as Taize was. Today is a new day. Go team.