Sunday, November 27, 2011

Leaving London



It's a distinct place. This city is a masterpiece, truth be told. It's appeal stretches wide, and though I only saw a tiny fraction of what makes London London, I feel like I love this city. After spending two months living in Spain, the fact that they speak English is enough for me to come away feeling good about it. But, beyond that, there is so much life welling in from all sides. This city is active and alive, incorporating cultural influence from all over the world. It's quite a remarkable convenience, all of the uncontrolled culture emanating from its pores. I leave it today, as I'm sitting on an express train that should get me to the airport to fly back to Madrid to board a bus to ride to the station in Salamanca to walk back to my room across town. Traveling is not as much fun as arriving. Arriving is the gift.
Yesterday, I met up with Jon and Marta Wilcox, my wonderful friends that live in London and we hurried to the British Museum, where we spent a couple of hours wandering around. The British Empire stole a lot of amazing artifacts, a crime whose result spell an impressively full history museum. The highlight for me was of course seeing the Rosetta Stone, one of the post important linguistic artifacts in world history. Marta had a google doc that led us to all of the displays that contained artifacts with some bible significance. There, there are concrete pieces of history that directly correlate with Old and New Testament texts. It was amazing.
And that's the kind of thing I mean. London is this cultural centre of everything. Through the museums and the people walking on the street. I saw Van Gogh's Sunflowers, I saw original Rembrandt and Monet, I saw an actual battle standard of the Muslim sheik on whom the Sunni/Shi'a split was based upon. It was impressive. This city is impressive. Now, I take leave and return to non-tourist status. I look forward to coming back someday, fully expectant that it shall not be long.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Obligatory, Therefore Disappointing Update from London



I'm in the reception bar of the Queen Elizabeth Hostel in the Chelsea Neighborhood here in London. It's a place that invokes various reactions within me. It's fairly well-kept, but the patrons that are eating the 1 GBP continental breakfast give off a certain aura of having just broken out of dirty hipster prison. It's cold, the heater that is immediately at my side does not seem to be functioning. It's a raw sort of place, a place you either love or hate. It's my third day in London, the first being Thanksgiving day which saw a terrific dinner put on by an old friend, Marta Wilcox. It was great. Yesterday, I went out on the town with my Pennsylvanian friend, Stephen and his friend Alec, who studies up here. We ran through most of the major attractions, getting a taste of the better part of this enormous city. I like this place, it's huge, and as multi-cultured as any place I've seen. I don't really know how to sum it up, to be entirely honest. Let me go out today and walk some more, and I shall get back to you. Sorry if that's lame. London's awesome.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It came! It came!



my session with balconytv atlanta. these guys are good dudes. check them out here.

Impending Doom



I've hit a wall. Flamenco, Spanish Hip Hop, Mountains, Basque Country, Bullfights, Madrid, El Greco, Barcelona, Al-Ahmbra, Galicia, Wine, Soccer, Towers, Castles, and people and people and people. After three months, this country is still a complete mystery to me. Poverty keeps me grounded. Responsibility keeps me busy. There's so much left undone here in Spain. This time has flown by, and while there are still three weeks ahead of me, there is well more than three weeks worth of experience to be had. This weekend is London. Next weekend is Madrid. The following weekend is free but soon to fill. And then, that half dreaded/half revered day when I return to all that awaits me back home. Don't get me wrong, my waiting family, my old and blossoming friendships, my work and studies and church and future are all entirely appealing and stir within me feelings of excitement that I get to participate in them. But, there's so much here to know. I want to be able to play the guitar like a flamenco expert. I want to sing songs on top of mountains and cathedrals. I want to sit in front of Velasquez and study the details of truth that made it onto his canvases. I want to know Spain and to know her well. There is life here. There is truth here. And, the difference of perspective makes it all the more beautiful to me. I suppose that leaving Spain with a certain sense of mystery and wonder will only strengthen my love and affinity for this place. So, it's a bittersweet thought to say the least.
So thus must Spain be left, as I prepare myself to say goodbye, and try to run my fingers through as much of her as I can in the coming weeks. It's a beautiful place where Jesus shines through the darkness of this culture that rejects him. And, it is alive though it does not know it. That alone makes Spain beautiful. The rest is added bonus. I think that I shall be back someday…

Monday, November 21, 2011

And, "How Learning a Language DOESN'T Work"



gosh. if only.

from "The 13th Warrior"

This Was Me Last Week



The gun: Our week-long Substitute Teacher
The dude: Mondo
The bullet: Grammar.

it was a long week.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Chronicles of Salamanca: Busy, Busy, Busy, or "Becoming a Bokononist"



It's been getting pretty cold here. That's a decent enough introductory sentence, I believe. Truth is that this city is changing. It's entirely possible, of course, that the change in in fact occurring within my perception of things much more so than within seasonally cyclical changes. There are hardly any trees in this city, as I've almost certainly stated before. The trees that I do come across on occasion are transplanted by people trying to beautify a park or a plaza. But, such transplanted trees do well to show any signs of Autumn, as their locational existence is about as unnatural as anything can be. There is one spot in this city, however, where the effects of Autumn can be found. Not far from where I sleep at night, there is a park that looks out over the River Tormes and across to the south of Spain. There, the trees are alive, as varied as the languages I hear on the street. It's a beautiful place, particularly in a place that is all cobblestone and concrete.
But, it is a beautiful city, this Salamanca. The book festival has moved out of the Plaza Mayor, giving we the inhabitants a chance to walk through it freely, soaking in the morning sun. You never know how much you love something until it's been taken away. I've been working up the courage to record video footage of some of the local street performers, as well as finding someone to help me record myself singing some songs in my favorite places around. I've got some beautiful ideas swimming in my head about what it would look like to sing a love song to my favorite plaza on video. We shall see what comes of them.
The last several weeks have been a very busy season for us at En Vivo. I've found myself with less and less free time that is not occupied with preparation for one of our events or meeting with new friends to get coffee and dive into the space between us. The people that I've come to know are beautiful people, from all over the world. In the last three days, I've had conversations with people from Japan, Taiwan, Guinea, Gabon, England, Holland, Australia, Portugal, Brazil, Colombia, Ireland, Cote D'Ivoire, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy, to name a few. It's been wonderful, grazing over the differences that make us all the same. That is by far my favorite human distinction; culture. And, there is plenty of it here to enjoy.
But, as busy as my life has been, it only promises to get busier in this last calendar month that is in front of me. This evening, we leave for Portugal for a retreat with 30 people to the freezing-cold Atlantic Ocean. One more stamp on the passport. I'm excited to be on this trip, as it should be a great chance to get away and enjoy a different context. Next weekend, I'm going to London to spend Thanksgiving weekend with my old friend Marta and her new husband Jon. I've never made it to the motherland, and I'm looking forward to seeing that part of the world for the first time. Should be a wonderful weekend with wonderful people.
But, alas, the countdown has begun until my feet touch American soil once again. It is both daunting and exciting, as I've come to settle into what life is here. Salamanca has been a wonderful adventure thus far, and it will continue to be until the day I leave it. Basking in that truth, I am simultaneously faced with preparing for another semester in Atlanta. I look forward to returning to some degree, though I am by no means anxious for it. My friends and family have been wonderful about sending me mail and keeping me updated as to what is happening in their lives. Thank you to those of you who have sent me said mail (Mom, Dad, Priscilla, Abby Mae, etc.) It's meant the world to me.
Otherwise, there is work now to be done. So, off I am to do it. I shall see you soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Liveblogging the November 9, 2011 GOP Presidential Candidates Debate (Postliminarily)

11:30p Here we go, another GOP debate. Let's find ourselves an alternative to Mitt "Vanilla Ice-cream" Romney.

11:31p Herman Cain doesn't care bout Italy. Let them eat Cannoli.

11:32p First applause break for no bailouts.

11:33p Ron Paul gets a question. That's a record for the shortest amount of time before Ron Paul gets a question.

11:34p Jim Cramer is intense. Too intense.

11:36p Who the hell is John Huntsman?

11:39p Oops #1. Mitt Romney loves Bailouts.

11:40p Mitt Romney is not a man of steadiness nor constancy, for the record.

11:41p 'Merica.

11:42p Oh, Rick Perry. You make hating you SO easy.

11:44p Newt Gingrich does not like Ben Bernake. Neither does the crowd, apparently.

11:44p Wait, Michelle Bachman's still here?

11:47p Rick Santorum is Rick Perry for Yankees.

11:48p Oh, God. The sex thing again.

11:49p Mr. Cain. It happened four different times. It's hard to belive that you are the victim here.

11:50p Mitt Romney is the plain yogurt of Politics.

11:51p Milk that Occupy Wall Street crowd, Huntsman.

11:52p "Too Big to Fail" utterance count is at four already.

11:55p Mitt's giving a lecture on simple economics for all you Democrats out there.

11:56p "I want businesses to be successful" gets an applause break? Come, on people..

11:57p "Open for business agayin" Rick's really practiced his soundbites for this one.

11:59p Cain just pronounced "sneak attacks" as "sneak-attaxes." Is that a pun or do Black people really pronounce it that way?

12:02p Just realized that we haven't heard from Congressman Paul in 25 minutes or so. He's kind of why i watch these things, CNBC.

12:04p Ah, there he is.

12:05p Ron Paul says again that tax code problems are the symptom of the disease of spending. Making so much sense all the time. Why do we even need a debate?

12:13p Certainly there are some government regulations that don't create jobs but still need to be in place, Rick. Slow down.

12:15p Geez, I don't ever want to piss off Newt Gingrich. Dude's a badass.

12:17p I think that Herman Cain is still around because Republicans don't want to be considered racist. This guy's got nothing.

It's late and I'm running out of an attention span for this nonsense. Let me tentatively promise to finish this later. As it stands, this country's got an uphill battle to fight. God save us all.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.

"How do you get to West Egg village?" he asked helplessly.

I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.


F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Chronicles of Salamanca: Slow-drip Coffee and Stomach Viruses



It's a Saturday evening here in Salamanca, Spain. Winter was been continuing it's noisy stage entrance this week, nothing but rain and cold, rain and cold. Living in a city where the sole means of transportation is walking becomes a bit chore-ish when the streets are always wet and the air is freezing. For this, I've been spending a good amount of time "in" this week. Monday night, I was a casualty of Halloween as I spent the entire night awake with a stomach virus of some kind, throwing up. It was not great. Tuesday was spent sleeping for the better part of the day and it wasn't until yesterday that I woke up feeling more or less normal. Being sick in a foreign country seems to be an inevitable thing, from a merely logical stand point. But, in spite of its inevitability, it's one of the deepest emotional lows that I've gone through for quite some time. I was homesick, really for the first time since I came to Spain in September. The hazards of love, I suppose. But, as much as is possible, I'm back now.
There is some big news in my life, self-indulgent as it might be. I have happened upon an opportunity to play a show out here. I'll be playing on Wednesday night at El Sabor, a local club that has hosted En Vivo events in the past. It will be fun, although I'm always a bit unsure of outcomes in situations like this. I don't necessarily make perfectly trans-cultural music. Most likely, it will be a room full of friends that will enjoy themselves regardless. That's my hope, as the function of my performing is kind of moot when the audience can't understand the words that I am singing. We shall see. I will be sure to get some footage for the constituents back home.
As the semester progresses, I'm caught in an internal debate of sorts. Where I fit in, from a kingdom-building, ministry standpoint, has been a mystery to me. With the strengths and passions that I carry with me, it's a challenge to thrive in the short-term. So, my capacity to give during this three month period that is steadily counting down feels weaker and weaker with each passing day. But, it's kind of beautiful that way; I must trust that my effort is contributing to God's plan for all of this in some unseen way. Control is not mine, as it never has been. I would ask why "control" keeps coming up in my life. But, that would be a waste as the answer is fairly easy to deduce.
So, that is where things rest currently. Tonight holds a question mark, as almost all of my friends are out of town or working. We shall see what the night holds. Tomorrow, I'll be returning to the local soccer stadium to watch the Salamanca team play with some friends. Should be fun, as always. I should like to write more about the conversations I have with myself. I've been learning a lot about art and culture and creativity over the last few weeks. I think that once I return to Atlanta, I'm going to try and organize a small group for artists that love Jesus so we can discuss some of those internal conversations. More on that later, I suppose. For now, I've got Bob Dylan to tell me all about Rambling, Gambling Willie and a glass of Jack Daniels to savor. So, faced with such euphoria, I shall sign off. Take care of yourselves and we shall be reunited soon.