Disclaimer: This post was originally written right after the 4th of July weekend.
It’s been awhile since my last guest blog post here… And I’m glad to be back! I was inspired recently by the “Letter to the Ephesians” topic being picked apart in my church in Barcelona. Our head Pastor, John, especially got my attention when he explained by saying: “It’s time to walk in the sonship and daughterhood that we have been offered by the Father.”
I think this is an important idea in terms of the key ideas that children need to understand. God is not some far away, idle being; but rather He is your Father, your confidant, your savior, and your rock. For me, growing up it was much easier to build a relationship with God thinking of him as my loving Father figure, as opposed to an untouchable, vague entity.
The other takeaway from the service was when John went over how to pray. Many, many Christians grapple with the issue of how to pray. Here’s the good news: it’s easy! If you’re someone who likes structure and routine, you’ll probably appreciate how they broke it down. A simple yet effective way to pray is to break it up into three parts: Give thanks, Specific requests, Give Praise. Not too bad, right?
So Part One: Give thanks… pretty self-explanatory there. This is my favorite part of praying. Every time I pray I start off by rattling off a dozen or so things for which I’m thankful. For example, “Dear God, THANK YOU for the sunshine today, for my family and friends, for fireworks, thank you for lemonade, for diversity, for my wonderful church, and God, I also want to thank you for all of my talents, my health, my opportunities, and my relationship with you.” All you have to do is thank God for whatever comes to mind; it is that simple!
Part Two: Specific requests. This is what people usually think of when they think about praying… “God please help me pass this test; God please say that I get this job,” etc. God already knows what’s on our hearts, but there is nothing wrong praying this way. Often times, it also makes us feel better in the moment. What is interesting, however, is if you try to switch from Heaven-up prayer requests to Heaven-down requests. So instead of sending your daily requests up to God, perhaps next time ask: “God, what should I be doing to better this situation?” or “Father please show me how to be a better sister” – that is more Heaven-down style praying. Mix it up!
Part Three: Give Praise! Conclude your prayer by rejoicing in your faith. You can make it as long or short as you like. I usually wrap it up with “Thank you God. You are so good, always. You fill up everything everywhere. I love you; I praise you.”
Don’t make praying harder than it should be. Through prayer we get to directly communicate with our Father and that is awesome! As our head Pastor reminded us, “He is profoundly near whether we feel it or not.” So pray, pray often, and pray with your heart! Happy Saturday everyone!
I’m not sure if I’ve already opened with this quote, but here goes anyways: “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experience on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” Quote by Joseph Campbell, given to myself by my friend, Woody.
My last week has been full of changes… the highlights including that Cass went back to Nebraska, and school started here for little ones so I back at nanny life with Mar (7) and Clara (3) before and after school. Thankfully Clara now goes to the same school as her sister so it’s a little bit less running around than last spring. Because Alba and Ferran separated, I now help Ferran in the mornings of his weeks to get the girls up, breakfast, dressed, hair done, and to school on time. Sounds WAY easier than it has turned out to be thus far. The first few mornings Ferran’s mother came over, showing me how the girls like their breakfast beverages prepared, where the hair ties are kept, and how to best regulate the much-requested before-school TV watching.
Well as fate would have it, come Wednesday morning when we were on our own, Clara decided that she simply would not be donning anymore clothing articles aside from her underwear. Clara is the hilarious, goofy, dramatic one of the two sisters, but she is also like a bomb; when she does not want to do something, there is a loud explosion followed by tears and usually sitting on the ground and not moving. And of course, Mar is the one who needs to be at school by 8:45 while Clara enters at 9:00. So Mar was getting really mad at Clara for making us late. Finally, we were able to get Clara’s outfit on and we hurried out the door whilst Clara continued to cry that she hated her shoes. Clara made it on time, but Mar was late and was understandably sad about it.
So Thursday morning went better, everyone was on time and no tears were shed. That brings us to Friday morning. We were off to a good start- both ladies were up, ate an adequate breakfast, and were in the process of getting fully dressed for the day. As I was trying to convince/ help Clara get out of her pajamas, Mar finished dressing and announced that she was ready for hair! I left Clara to pout and went to the bathroom to start Mar’s hair. I quickly took out my bun, and was about to re-do it, when Mar glanced at my hair down and all the sudden wanted to brush it… seemed like a harmless proposition. Next thing you know both Clara and Mar are hamming it up, brushing my hair as if I were a life-sized Barbie doll. About 30 seconds went by before I lifted up my head to look into the mirror. I simultaneously realized that the round brush Mar had been using was, horrifyingly stuck in my hair (Right side, front, all the way to the scalp).
Quickly Mar clarifies that it was not her doing, that when I lifted my head the brush got tangled… I manage to keep calm at first, as I try to gingerly then more desperately separate my hair from the brush, the brush from my head. You couldn’t move the round brush it was that deeply entrenched in my hair. As panic set in, visions of myself with a bald spot flashed across my mind. I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get this out by myself, that they might have to cut my hair, and that the girls were not going to get to school without me. So while Mar helped dress Clara, I gathered our things in a flurry and proceeded to wrap one of Mar’s sweaters around my head (complete with brush) like a turban but much less sophisticated. We left for school early in the vain hope that the hair salon on the way to school might be open. Low and behold, they were not. Hence, we walked to school my eyes on the ground, face red with that unwelcome sting of public mortification. Once at the school, I desperately asked an administrator if the girls could possibly enter early as I was (CLEARLY) having a bit of an emergency. The sleepy-eyed Catalan started at me and responded, “No, sorry, gotta wait.” Ok, perfect! So for another 15 minutes I just waited with the girls at the front door, knee-deep in both bewildered and sympathetic stares.
After dropping both girls off at the respective classrooms, I ran for the hills and stopped at the same hair salon that now appeared open. A graying man came to the entrance and said I’d have to come back, as he was busy currently. Tears filling my eyes, I said (in Spanish) that’s fine, thank you. While I’m dejectedly turning to leave, he goes: “Do you really have a hairbrush stuck under there?”…Yes. Shockingly this is not a joke. I take off the sweater wrapped around my head, which is when the man says “Oh lord. Come on in dear, sit down.” FINALLY SOMEONE GRASPS THE SITUATION.
A grueling ten minutes later, a small army of products used, the round brush is finally freed from my hair, resulting in a bird’s nest of tangled hair the size of a tennis ball. At this point I was crying tears of joy and relief that he didn’t have to cut my hair. To top it off, he wouldn’t let me pay him anything; now that is a good person. In the end, it was fine but holy shitty Friday morning. And no, I will never again let little people play with my hair. That proverbial bridge has been burned.
Aside from nanny duties, I said goodbye to Cass this last week. She flew back to NE with her family on Wednesday afternoon. It was hard to say goodbye to the one person who has been with me here since day one. I cried alone the entire walk back to what once was our shared apartment. Every time the tears would pause, I would unintentionally drift back to another memory we share from the last 15 months abroad. (Choking down hot lentil soup at Petra’s last summer, climbing Montserrat with Ben, wine nights at the apt, nearly freezing to death last winter, the girls trip to northern Spain with Larissa). We had quite a time together!
That being said, without Cass and Wi-Fi in the apartment, it has become a bit of a drag to stay there now. I will be moving all of my stuff into Damian’s on Monday, so I am excited for that…no more going back and forth all the time, plus I love Poblenou! This Wednesday is La Merce, the annual citywide holiday celebrating Barcelona’s patron saint. Not only am I looking forward to all of the La Merce festivities this coming week, but also am very excited that my friend Ben is coming to town to visit! Yay friends! Also this week I am planning on taking my first GRE practice exam. Then Sunday the 28th I will be running the La Merce 10k race, and Sunday happens to be myself and Damian’s one-year anniversary!
Where oh where to begin? Per custom, I shall begin by looking back chronologically aka that takes us to the last week of August. In the days leading up to Labor Day (although not celebrated in Spain on the same day as in the US), I was busy running, reading, nannying sweet Dylan, working on never-ending Aashi social media business, and having a bit of fun in between. Labor Day weekend I went out with Gabi, met her BCN friends in Borne, and then we hit up the recently converted Pacha Barcelona (what once was Sotavento). On the actual holiday, after work Cass, Brenden, and I met Damian at the casino in Vila, where we managed to come out 40 euro ahead! Booyah. Afterwards, we got drinks at Stoke Bar and then walked over to Jamboree, as Brenden had yet to ever go! It was a fun double date night.
On September fourth, Cass’ mom, dad, grandma, and neighbor arrived in Barcelona. Her mom, Mag, was kind enough to bring over an entire suitcase (filled with things from my mom) for me. When my mom told me she had decided to just pack a suitcase for Mag to bring, I had imagined a small carryon type, yet as it turned out the bag was actually one of the larger ones we own. Typical Mel! Special shout out to the best friend, Hayley, for making me a goodie-box complete with notes, Jack, a lip masque, and more! It was like Christmas to open that bad boy. The best part was definitely the goodies for Abril, Damian, Sergio & Mar, and Dylan. Needless to say, everyone was quite appreciative, myself included. Since they’ve been here, I joined them for Park Guell, walking the Rambla-La Boqueria-Port Vell, and more! It has been great finally having her family here to see our city.
Now that Cass’ brother, Anthony is also here, we went to Tibidabo (my first time during the day) on La Diada (Catalonia’s National Day). We climbed all the way to the top by the Jesus statue like in Rio. It was an amazing view of Barcelona and all the surrounding areas from the very tiptop.
I have also been making an exerted effort to soak up the last of summer… think nighttime gelato dates, AM beach time, and evening park visits. It has been much hotter and more humid thus far in September, than it was in August, helping to extend summer just a bit longer! Schools are all starting if not this last week, tomorrow though so it seems that fall is inevitable.
Yesterday Damian and I met up with Cass’ and the whole crew and Marta on Avenida Gaudi to eat at our favorite pizzeria; it was Damian’s first time meeting everyone aside from Cass. Lunch was fun and the weather was perfect to sit out on the terrace with everyone. Afterwards, we walked to the Dow Jones Bar for drinks during the FCB game.
Today I ran my third 10k, and in two weeks I will run in the La Merce 10k race, which I am looking forward to! I have recently finished Jess’ Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, and am now reading Emily Giffin’s Love the One You’re With. Beautiful Ruins was a much more intriguing, expertly interwoven story than I had expected; definitely recommend! Cass moves out of the apartment on Tuesday, while I technically have until the end of the month to move all of my things into Damian’s. Times are a changin’ folks. Damian and my one-year anniversary is right around the corner… crazy! I am hoping to do some day trips and weekend trips in the next month, namely to Girona, Figueres, Cadaqués, and Valencia; hopefully time and money allow. Until next time…
“I literally have to remind myself all the time, that being afraid of things going wrong isn’t the way to make things go right.” …eek! So true.
Happy Saturday all. This last week has been a solid start to August. This month, as many locals travel to apartments in smaller beach towns in Costa Brava or down south, I am watching Dylan more frequently, whilst Cynthia takes an intensive Spanish course. The lil guy turns two on the twentieth and I am looking forward to finding a cute lil babe gift to help ring in his big day! As usual he is a wonderful baby; his mom, Cynthia, is expecting to have another baby boy and is due in late November.
Aside from Dylan, workwise, I have also been doing one-on-one English lessons with Jesús, the adorable, retired Catalan man (from my old intercambio at the library) who also lives in Gracía. In loose terms, Jesús has become like my Catalan grandpa here in Barcelona. He is a gem of a guy and has so graciously invited me to visit his family’s apartment down in Torredembarra for a couple days in the upcoming weeks. Torredembarra happens to be just 12 km from Tarragona, so there is talk of going there as well, considering I have never been.
The third and final tier of my work life currently consists of a social media position with a prominent Barcelona nightlife promoter named Aashi. So far I have created his brand Instagram account, as well as two WordPress blog sites set up to serve his purposes. So now on a day-to-day basis, I update/maintain his Instagram and Twitter accounts, and continue to make progress on said blogs and traditional Facebook posts. I like the job so far… It kind of makes me wish I had studied marketing in college. Regardless, makes me wonder if I could see myself doing more (career-wise) with social media. We’ll see!
On the non-work front, I spent last Sunday at Damian’s house, celebrating Sergio’s birthday. It was a fun day filled with their family and friends; April and I had made a double-decker bizcocho cake topped with dulce de leche, the Obispo boys’ favorite.
Cass and Brenden have been in southern Spain this whole week. They flew from El Prat down to Granada, and have since been in Cordoba and Sevilla. I am looking forward to their return tomorrow and getting to hear all about their trip! This last Thursday evening, I met Damian down at Barceloneta beach for the free cinema series (Cinema Lliure). Every Thursday and Friday night in July and August, a substantial patch of Barceloneta beach hosts a free screening of a selection of international, alterative films. I picked this last Thursday because it was the only film title I recognized in the line up, and one I happened to be dying to see: Frances Ha. Weather-wise, we got a perfectly clear summer night. Subtitled in Spanish, the movie ended up being highly entertaining and witty.
Today I started off my day at Bogatell beach and finished reading Water for Elephants. Now I’ve started Henry James’ Daisy Miller. I am excited for the upcoming annual neighborhood festival of Gracía, which officially starts on the fifteenth. I am also looking forward to the challenge of firstly, deciding which graduate school entrance exam I am going to take, and secondly, studying my bootie off in preparation for said test. That is on the fall agenda!
“Keep yourself grounded and view the world through your heart. You will find balance.” – Ketut Liyer (via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love)
Well vacation is over, aka back to reality here in Barcelona (which is admittedly not such a bad reality). Damian and I took a 7am Renfe train from Barcelona Sants down to Alicante a week ago today. We both slept the majority of the ride. Upon our arrival five hours later in Alicante, population roughly 330,000, Damian’s aunt met us outside of the train station to accompany us on the bus back to their home. Damian’s family down there were super nice to let us stay with them for the first night in Alicante, as we had already booked hotels for the remainder of the trip. I soon got to meet the family including Uncle José, Emi, Mica, their little brother (which sadly I’m not sure how to spell his nickname), and the family dog, Rocky. Before you knew it, they were treating us to homemade Milanese Napolitano- it was delicious! Later that day, I went out to the town center and did some shopping with Damian’s aunt while the boys played soccer. We all met up in the evening again for dinner with everyone at 100 Montadito’s near the port area.
Friday morning we had a lazy breakfast at their house, before heading to our hotel – the NH Alicante. Sadly after we checked in and did a once-over on the grounds, we realized that the photo of the pool area that they boast on their website was a gross case of false advertising; the rooftop pool, aka the reason why we picked the hotel, was actually no bigger than 5 bathtubs mushed together on the otherwise desolate rooftop. This disappointment aside, the hotel was awesome; hence, we unloaded our things then set out to walk along the boardwalk till we reached the city center. With a population comparable to that of Lincoln, Alicante turned out to be a beautiful coastal city, not to mention walk-able and inviting. We eventually made our way to the 16th-centry Castillo de Santa Bárbara on the other side of the expansive beach called Postiguet. We took an elevator all the way to the top, where the castle then affords its visitors with sweeping views of the city and ocean. After exploring around the castle, we walked around the town center and stopped at a bar for a bocadillo lunch.
Thursday night we invited Mica and Emi over to the hotel, where we made mojitos in the room before heading out on the town with them. We eventually made our way to the old quarter and the area down by the harbor (the Paseo del Puerto), and Mica and Emi were great guides taking us to their favorite places and introducing us to some of their good friends along the way. As Alicante had already started citywide preparations for the upcoming San Juan festivities, the decorated old quarter reminded me of the nightlife area in Lisbon.
Late Friday morning we packed up our things, checked out of the hotel, and caught a bus to Benidorm. Long story short here folks, the next hotel that we thought we had booked in Benidorm turned out to actually be located in the nearby resort town of Calpe, a little bit further north in the Costa Blanca. Hence, after taking in the grand-skyline of high-rise filled Benidorm, we boarded another bus to take us to nearby Calpe. That being said, once we finally arrived in our hotel in Calpe, the little extra journey was worth it. The hotel was wonderful and Calpe certainly had more charm to offer than Benidorm. So the rest of the day Friday we spent exploring the hotel, the beach (Playa Arenal), and the old town area. Calpe’s most famous landmark is the Peñon de Ifach, a giant molar escaping through the sea and reaching up to a height of 332 meters.
Saturday morning Emi came to Calpe to spend the day at the hotel’s picturesque infinity pool with us. It was a perfectly sunny day; we soaked up direct rays for several hours before retreating to have lunch at a tapas restaurant along the boardwalk. Later Saturday night we had originally planned on going to Benidorm to go out there, but after realizing that the first return bus would not be until 8:30am the next morning we decided against that move, opting instead to give Calpe’s one discoteca a try. The night ended up being a lot of fun; we stumbled upon Calpe’s fashion week happened to be culminating that very night at the Camelon discoteca.
Sunday was a rougher day for the boys so I took advantage of some quality alone time at the pool. I am currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest work: The Signature of All Things, so I was more than happy to get in some good reading time in the sun. Afterwards, Damian and I walked to Calpe’s Plaza Mayor where they happened to be having a festival of sorts, which involved a dozen food and drink stalls to our pleasant surprise! We got several tapas, a paella, and strawberry mojitos and ate lunch in the shade at a picnic table. Later in the day on Sunday we said bye to Emi and got gelato near the hotel. Sunday night was a nice, relaxing night in at the hotel for our last night of vacation!
Monday we checked out and took a bus direct from Calpe back to Alicante. That bus ride unfortunately turned out to be a two-hour ride from hell. The bus was poorly air-conditioned, if at all, and I quickly went from feeling fine to being very motion-sick. Damian was great though; he rubbed my back and fanned me for nearly the entirety of the stop-and-go ride while I had my head in a H&M shopping bag. Such is life sometimes. We finally made it back to Alicante and had one last meal with Damian’s family there. Afterwards we took a Renfe train back to Barcelona, getting back to my apartment late Monday night.
Since then, it’s been back to the work grind! I am still nannying for the Henoa family every weekday. I also do several weekend English lessons/ nanny jobs that certainly keep me busy! Thursday marked the beginning of the 2014 FIFA World Cup (aka el Mundial); I am excited to cheer on my teams for the next month – USA, Spain, and Argentina. Last night Cass, Brenden, and I went to Ryan’s to watch Spain vs. Holland. By the end of sad 1-5 defeat, we were very ready to change locations because somehow Ryan’s had turned into a gathering spot for everyone wearing orange.
This coming week marks the one-year anniversary of Cass’ and myself moving to Barcelona! We left Nebraska a year ago on June 18th and arrived in Barcelona on the 19th. It’s crazy to think that we’ve already been here one year; it feels like just yesterday we were eating cake at Mar’s celebrating our three-month mark. Equally exciting, Cass’ best friend Larissa arrives in Barcelona for a two-week visit this coming Wednesday. I have been spending more and more time at the beach, slowly progressing from Casper-white to sun-kissed not pale. Cass and I finally got what we had been wishing for the last few months – summer is unquestionably here in Barcelona. It is hot, steamy, sticky, humid, and unrelentingly sunny- all of which makes for ideal beach weather, but rather uncomfortable conditions for an apartment without air conditioning. Fingers are proverbially crossed that we do not perish in our sleep from heat exhaustion! (kidding mom, partly).