We are currently waiting in the train station for our train to Toledo. The three days that we have just spent in Madrid have been so full that they seem to have blurred together into one. The past three days have been filled with lots of introductions: we have met so many beautiful and loving people. Before traveling to Spain I had begun exchanging emails with our church’s Madrid representative, Marina. Marina met us at the airport after our flight from Barcelona. She was wonderfully generous with her time, escorting us to our apartment and organizing a gathering on Saturday with other members of our church to welcome us to Madrid. Marina’s generosity and kindness was inspiring.

In Madrid we saw the Royal Palace and we also sat in on Sunday mass in La Cátedral de Almudena. Both structures were strikingly immense. As we toured the inside of the palace I was struck by the fact that human beings have an amazing ability to create beauty. I was also reminded, as we passed through a room dedicated to the conquest of the Americas, that human beings have a remarkable ability to destroy.

I have spoken a lot of Spanish in the past several days! I have learned, however, that the most important things can be communicated without words. Yesterday we ate lunch with Polina and Olga, both members of our church and both from Russia. Although Polina’s English was very good, that of her mother, Olga, was not. Despite a language barrier we were able to communicate and share with each other about our very different lives. One of the things which I came to appreciate about Polina and Olga was their ability to cope with their isolation. These women live in a city that is incredibly distinct and almost shockingly different from their home in St. Petersburg, Russia. Within Madrid they are surrounded by a different language and culture. While my mom and I are also surrounded by this different language and culture our stay is temporary. Mom and I are experiencing the sensation of being strangers in a strange land by choice. For two weeks we are out of our natural element and for two weeks the exciting sensation of being somewhere foreign is still fresh. Polina and Olga have been living in Spain not for two weeks but for two and a half years. For them the foreignness isn’t temporary: it’s their everyday reality.


Oh my Gaudi!

Today we visited two of Antonio Gaudi’s most famous works: Parc Guell and La Sagrada Familia. A modernist architect at the turn of the century, Gaudi must have been Divinely inspired. This man was a genius; it is hard to find adequate words to describe his marvels. Before touring Gaudi’s works we stopped at El Mercat de Boqueria, a market along La Rambla, a wide street leading up to the northern area of the city. Inside the market vendors were selling colorful candies and fruits. Further back slabs of meat hung from the ceiling and vendors were selling fish, eggs and bread. After breakfast at the market we headed up to Parc Guell.

Parc Guell was a maze of winding pathways traversing a hill side overlooking the city. There were so many panoramic views of Barcelona–the shining sea and skyline were exquisite. At the front entrance to the park was a beautiful building decorated with mosaics. We sat for a moment on the iconic mosaic benches lining the top of the structure. After lunch and a cup of coffee we hiked to La Sagrada Familia, an unearthly and breathtaking cathedral on which Gaudi worked until his untimely death in 1926. We stayed until closing. Although still under construction, La Sagrada Familia is striking. Soaring ceilings, intricate masonry, enormous stained-glass windows–this was just the beginning. Although I can try to describe the cathedral, I don’t have the right words to describe my experience. As I sat and prayed, admiring the otherworldly beauty surrounding me, I felt like God was right there sitting next to me. Whether or not you believe in God, or a Higher Power, Gaudi’s church is a sacred place of peace; it is a sanctuary. Gaudi had an incredible ability; he was a visionary and he left the world with a beautifully sacred space in which to contemplate life’s great questions.


First Day in Barcelona

We arrived in Barcelona early this morning, just as the sun was rising. After a cab ride to our apartment we met Miguel, the owner of the apartment. Miguel shared with us some of his favorite restaurants and a nap we decided to explore the Born, the neighborhood in which we are staying. The Born is home to Santa Maria del Mar, one of Barcelona’s most famous churches. After sitting in on some of Sunday mass we wandered around some more, walking by the Picasso museum. We eventually stumbled upon one of the restaurants that Miguel had mentioned. It was truly serendipitous–we thought we were lost and were just about to go back to the apartment to re-orient ourselves when we saw the restaurant, known for its Tapas style Peruvian Japanese food. Later in the afternoon we hiked around seeing the Arc Triomf and Parc de la Ciutadella. In the park we saw the Cascada Fountain, designed by Josep Fontsere and his apprentice Antoni Gaudi.

Spain 2012

Hi everyone!

It’s hard to believe that I am leaving for Spain this Saturday. My mom and I will travel around Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo and Salamanca over the course of our two weeks abroad. We will be visiting spiritual heritage sites as well as some museums. In Salamanca, I’ll be checking out the university as it is where I hope to study abroad in college.

My senior project has started a little early as I have been away from school with a stomach bug, but I am hoping to be fully recovered by Saturday.