acceptance.

This is going to be one of my random artist-crush posts. Not a long one, but still. I wrote another one of Eric Whitacre ages ago, and now I’m gonna share a little Anne Lamott with you.

I’ve been re-reading/finishing Bird by Bird by said author, which was my playwriting “textbook” last semester. It’s a book about writing and it’s brilliant. Not only brilliant, but hilarious. She has a way of saying things that is fresh, funny, and profound. The book has made me cry, think and laugh aloud. I mean, that makes for a good author, no?

All throughout the book she says really profound things that not only apply to writing, but life as well. The other night I came upon this passage, where she is talking about writers block and how to overcome it.

 

The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. We’re taught to improve uncomfortable situations, to change things, alleviate unpleasant feelings. But if you accept the reality that you have been given — that you are not in a productive creative period — you free yourself to begin filling up again.

I remind myself nearly every day of something that a doctor told me six months before my friend Pammy died. This was a doctor who always gave me straight answers. When I called on this particular night, I was hoping she could put a positive slant on some distressing developments. She couldn’t, but she said something that changed my life. “Watch her carefully right now,” she said, “because she’s teaching you how to live.” 

I remind myself of this when I cannot get any work done: to live as if I am dying, because the truth is we are all terminal on this bus. To live as if we are dying gives us a chance to experience some real presence. Time is so full for people who are dying in a conscious way, full in the way that life is for children. They spend big, round hours. So instead of staring miserably at a computer screen trying to will my way into having a breakthrough, I say to myself, “Okay, hmmm, let’s see. Dying tomorrow. What should I do today?” Then I can decide to read Wallace Stevens for the rest of the morning or go to the beach or just really participate in ordinary life. Any of these will begin the process of filling me back up with observations, flavors, ideas, visions, memories. I might want to write on my last day on earth, but I’d also be aware of other options that would feel at least as pressing. I would want to keep whatever I did simple, I think. And I would want to be present. 

This was a great perspective for me to get here while I’m not necessarily comfortable or in my element here in Segovia. The issue is acceptance, perspective. I can be in a frustrating sitution (like writers block, or living in a different culture) and be frustrated, or I can live like today is my last day and enjoy the fact that I am having an adventure. Kind of like I said in my last post. Anyhow, Anne Lamott’s way of looking at it is a good one. Are we living like we’re dying? I mean, there are tons of cliché quotes and songs about this, but there’s a reason.

Gotta leave this café now, but just wanted to share that. Anne Lamott. Read her. She’s genius.

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feelin that refining fire, gettin’ crispy

Hi y’all!

 

I always have things I want to share on here, but with a constant mónton of homework and not much access to wifi, my inspiration comes and all I can do is jot some things down, and hope I remember where my mind was going with all of it. So maybe I’ll try to convey some things I’ve been learning/realizing, and we’ll see how it comes out. I might be pretty straight up real, but what else is new? When people travel, the people at home just want to hear that it’s amazing and GOSH like, Europe is so pretty and along with that life becomes Disney Land. And to some extent, there are always a million ways to look at a situation. Disney Land is one, and then there are other, more gritty, human experiences. This is usually the way I see things. However, I’ve been learning a lot about perspective. What a topic.

This past week or so has been, in all reality, quite the rollercoaster. From me getting sick with some sort of stomach bug during my weekend trip to Madrid, to beginning to get over the worst of culture shock, to the amazing opportunities I’ve had to look from the viewpoint of people who are 180 degrees different than me, to learning an incredible amount about myself… a lot has gone on in a short time. My perspective on life has been drastically changing… guess that’s why I’m here, right? 🙂

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Beautiful fountain in Plaza del Sol, Madrid

Have you ever had the overwhelming sense that complaining about circumstances would suddenly solve all your problems? And yet, at the same time, you hate yourself each and every time you utter a negative word or thought? In all honesty, that’s been my last week. I hate complaining, and usually I can censor and stick to the positive. But this past week is probably when I did the most of my complaining (even if a lot of it was just in my head, and came out of my mouth as sarcasm :P). I’ve had to remind myself again and again, comfort is not the be-all, end-all of life. At one point last semester I asked God to break me of my comfort-seeking ways. Friends, He answers prayers!! haha.

Being sick in a foreign country where you don’t understand the living customs isn’t fun. But God has continually been using my dicomfort to show me there is more… I mean, come on right? I have a roof over my head! I am learning Spanish! What an amazing thing! My brain is slowly but surely understanding two separate codes to convey information, and can switch between them with ever-increasing ease! I am not here for my own comfort or, in reality, even my own betterment, but yet so that I can be a blessing to others. I am being bettered, improved, worked-on, chiseled, sancitfied… whatever you want to call it… so that later, I can encourage someone else or love them better. What a crazy thought. Francis Chan says in his book Crazy Love that we are never given anything so that we can hold onto it tightly, keeping it for ourselves. Even our talents, time, money, it is all meant to be passed on. When I remember this, it gives me renewed motivation to learn Spanish with excellence and perseverance instead of frustration. Being able to learn this other language means that there is an incredible amount of people that I can be a blessing to that I never could have before. Not in the same way, at least.

So yes, I’ve been learning to not be a comfort-seeker anymore. Sure, the word hielo (ice) comes to mind each time I walk on the floor of my house without three layers of socks, sit on the toilet seat, or wash my hands. Cold and Jordan are not great friends… let alone ICE cold. 😛 These houses were made for summer, like me. BUT now when I’m cold, I have learned to say “whatever”… I have water and a toilet seat. I can’t choose my food, and maybe it’s not my favorite all the time, but I have food. So, I am slowly losing control, and being broken of my American ways of convenience. The funny thing is, I know this experience is tailored to teach me things, because other members of the group have more comfortable homestay situations. My roommate and I are both learning some lessons I think we both desperately needed to learn. It doesn’t always feel good but when I think about how good God is to refine me, I get excited and everything is okay. What was my prayer for weeks before I came here? To learn more discipline and stop seeking comfort. Aaaaaaand what a specific answer. Slowly but surely, I am learning. 🙂

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Sunbathed Toledo, where we went on an excursion this past Friday

So I know there’s gonna be at least one person who will read this who will be like, “DUDE, ur in sPaiN… y r u complaining about it being cold or, like, not perfectly awesome?” And that’s a great question. On one hand I want to say, you know what, you are completely right. This is an amazing opportunity. But if there’s one thing I’ve been smacked in the face with, it’s that I have totally idealized pretty buildings and “interesting, rich” culture. I’m an art history major! All I ever do is sit in dark lecture rooms, gaping at the bright powerpoint full of the beauty and culture in the world. I had never sat down and thought about it before, but I think part of me expected that visiting some of that beauty I’d seen on the screen or in my books automatically WOULD feel like Disney, or Hollywood, or something. Sometimes, it does. For about 5 seconds. And then I realize that there are people who walk the streets next to that building or that mountain view every single day, and they don’t feel more fulfilled or more happy because they see more natural beauty than I supposedly do in America. Being in a place with cool architecture and rich culture does not suddenly make life more full of light or somehow more worth living. After the initial thrill of buildings that did not undergo the Industrial Revolution and mobs of people who speak beautiful languages, you realize that there are just as many frustrations in the EU as there are in the US, and the people, while different, lead normal lives. It’s a profound thought, and perhaps obvious, but I’ve never felt so deeply that beauty and fulfillment do not come from your surroundings or novelty, but the people and purpose in your life. The presence of God in your life. Only he can fulfill… I know because the days I don’t spend time in His presence, there’s a deficit. I’m not with people who really know me (yet, at least), so I can’t feel known by them, clearly. I’m not experiencing all the pretty landscapes with my family or my close friends, and I honestly didn’t realize I’d care. But even without them, I get to see it and say, “Lord, you MADE that. And you know this city, even though I don’t. You know each and every person.”  While I don’t get to experience it with the people he’s put in my life whom I love, I get to experience it with my Father in heaven. And He is truly, truly enough.

There are always two or more ways to see a situation. You can live with the eyes of faith, or the eyes of fear. I think there have been times when my perspective has slipped into one of fear, or confusion which leads to fear. But this past weekend God showed me a lot of things concerning contentment and perspective. I heard some testimonies that were encouraging. My iPod, which was on shuffle, playes really encouraging songs. I’ve been learning from people here, and just getting over myself. I feel ready to start this next week of classes, this time with the eyes of faith.

Lots of great lessons here. I have more things I’ve been inspired by that I want to share, so I’m gonna try and do smaller more frequent blogs (how many times have I said that..?) 🙂

 

Lots of love to those at home, thanks for your continued prayers. You are all in my heart with every day, every excursion, every cool building!

So thankful.

J

clases

Hola chicos!

 

Well I have a little more time now and I can tell you guys some more about classes here in Spain!

 

I have four classes:

*Art History of Spain

*Writing

*Culture

*Conversation

I like them all, and all of them are hard! I mean, I guess they’re just like normal classes, but in Spanish. So if you are having a bad brain day (see previous post), then basically, you can’t understand what the professor is saying and you can’t get anything out of the lecture. So then you might as well just get on facebook and twitter, because you finally are in a building with WIFI and you can’t understand anyway right… ?

But that NEVER happens to me…

 

Anyways, most days are normal brain days (I say normal and not good because GOOD brain days are those days where you feel like you took the Felix Felicis potion from Harry Potter… you know…. and nothing can go wrong? You can order food at a cafe and miraculously use the right lingo. You understand and speak to your host family with ease. You completely understand everything in class and can even contribute to discussion, maybe ask a few insightful questions. It’s beautiful. At the end of the day you sigh with contentment and think to yourself that you might as well be a local. BUT those days rarely come along. In fact… I’m exaggerating, I don’t think I’ve had THAT good of a brain day yet. But I will let y’all know when it happens.)

But as I was saying, most days are normal brain days. It’s a good mix of awkward moments, teeny triumphs, blank stares, and sucessful exchanges.

 

Art history class is a good class to have in the morning, because in the morning your brain isn’t quite turned on yet. And being an art history major, I usually know the general idea of what she’s saying. Right now we’re going through prehistoric and medieval art in general, which I mostly remember from freshman year. I’m getting to learn all the lingo in Spanish though, which might be useful someday? Never know. If I ever work in a museum and have to give a tour of Spanish art or something, maybe it’ll be useful to know that “aceite” is oil or that “lienzo” is canvas.

Writing is kinda crazy. The lady who teaches it can only be compared to a bird in the way she moves and talks. She’s so cute, but my brain isn’t comprehending when she talks. Instead it remains shockes and amazed at her energy, and keeps flashing a neon sign inside my head that reads, “MAS DESPACIO POR FAVOR, MAS DESPACIO POR FAVOR.” And those are the days when you wish you had taken some Felix Felicis. BUT I believe one day will come when I sit down in class, and understand every word she says. Until then, I’ll just keep marveling at her hummingbird-esque tendancies. When she’s not talking to us, that class is the bomb. I love when she gives us a prompt and lets us write for 25 minutes. During this time I learn a lot more vocabulary, and usually we get to go around in a circle and read our work afterwards. On the normal brain days, you write something and everyone understands and reacts. On the bad brain days, you try to be funny and no one laughs. But anyways, here are a few of my little writings that I’ve done for the class. I’m working on my grammar, I know it’s still not the best, but I guess that’s what this class is for! For you English speakers, I know you’ll plug them into google translate…. through which you might lose some meaning, but I guess la vida es así.

 

For this one she showed us a bunch of postcards with the images of paintings that told stories and then asked us to write something based on what we saw. She’s very big on just going with whatever inspiration you feel first, which I like.

Arte es una lengua que habla en una manera distinta por cada persona. 

Arte es una mujer misteriosa. Sigale y nadie conoce donde irá. 

Arte es una ventana bonita. No siempre una buena estética, pero es una luz trémula, una ojeada en la vida de una otra persona. Y la vida verdad es hermosa, no? 

Arte es un reflejo de Dios, lo mostra el poder y plan de El. El puede cambiar algo malo en algo bueno y hermoso. 

Arte ha cambiado guerras en celebraciónes de herencia, paredes blancos en algo vibrante, y da sentido a esta vida loca por siglos y siglos. 

 

Wednesday she asked us to pick a location and create two characters and write a dialogue.

Sitio: Zoológico

Personajes: Un mono, un hombre, y una guardiana zoológica.

Mono: Ay. Tío.

Hombre: Ah! Qué es este?? Un mono, hablando!?

Mono: Ya, hombre. No hay razon por miedo. Estoy en una jaula.

Hombre: Ay, estoy loco.

Mono: No estás loco. Puedo hablar. No te preocupes, no pasa nada. Todos los animales en el zoológico puede hablar español.

Hombre: ….vale…?

Mono: Pues. Qué quieres más en el mundo?

Hombre: Más en el mundo? Por qué te importa, Mono?

Mono: Porque, si me pones en libertad, estoy seguro que recibirlo.

Hombre: Cómo sabes?

Mono: Tengo conneciónes.

Hombre: Qué….? No te creo.

Mono: Escucha, hombre. Qué quieres más en el mundo?

Hombre: Una chica, pienso…..

Mono: Vale. Me pones en libertad, y obtenerás tu chica.

Hombre: No te creo, pero no me importa. Estoy loco. No estoy en realidad. Te pongo en libertad.

Mono: Ay, GRACIAS, hombre.

(el hombre abrió la jaula)

*Guardiana Zoológica: Ay!! Hombre! No abras esa jaula! 

(el mono corre)

Hombre: Ay, lo siento… él estuve muy persuasivo. Y ahora estoy tarde al concierto de Lady Gaga…. ahhhgh. Mono estupido! 

Guardiana: Te gusta Lady Gaga? Me también. 

Hombre: La verdad? 

Guardiana: Sí, no me encuentro muchos hombres quien le gusta ella. 

Hombre: Pues… te gustaría ir al concierto esta noche conmigo? 

Guardiana: … cómo no? Sí! 

Hombre: Vales… pues aqui es mi numero… (entre dientes) … que loco mono!! 

 

(An example of una broma ^.)

So that’s a taste of my writing class.

 

For culture class we talk a lot about the political history of Spain, and go on mini field trips. I love this class because the profesora talks really dramatically and slowly. She’s HILARIOUS. Her name is Marian, and she’s a dancer. She’s sassy. She has blonde hair and wears dark liptick, which accentuates the drama of her speech. She also tries to tell us things about the culture that no one else will. Yesterday she passed out a handout that explained all the Spanish cuss words, and their equivalents in English so we knew how to identify and NOT use them (she said). Hahah. That’s normal, right?? La vida en España….

Conversation is okay, but I think it’s harder because the class is at 7pm and at that point I’m seriously losing steam. The content isn’t tooooo hard because we just have to study a chapter per class and it’s mostly review grammar and vocabulary. We just talk during most of the class.

 

My favorite “class” that I’ve taken here is the pewter art workshop I signed up for. We go to an artisan’s studio once a week and get to make stuff! The dude, his name is Jesús, is sooo nice and fun. When I was there, I felt like I was in one of my studio classes at BSU (Except… Spanish…). It was the most at home I’ve felt since coming here. Jesús loves American music (as do most people here), and was blasting a mix of the BeeGees, Mumford, Bach, and other random stuff I’d never heard. Gosh, it was so fun. The project is very similar to printmaking, but I won’t go into detail about how it works. You basically use a rounded dry point to imprint an image into the metal of your choice. Next week, we get to make a box. I could spend all day, every day there. Here’s a couple pics:

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My friend Kate. ^ Jesús brought us a chocolate snack while we were working.

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My progress on imprinting a photo of me and Tay! Surprise! (didn’t get to Taylor’s face yet… sorry girl! <3)

Staring at the photo for two hours made me miss this woman soo much. She’s the greatest.

 

SO! That’s my life every day here! Go to class, do homework, and eat. Food is an entire event here. There is no “eat and run.” So it takes up some time.

 

ALSO. You know how I was all, “culture shock isn’t even AFFECTING me, I’m doing awesome!” during my first post? Well, turns out I’m pretty much a normal case of culture shock. And I even knew how it was supposed to go before I got here, but I suppose I thought my “high” was kind of even keel and thought I skipped it. I don’t know. It’s supposed to go kinda like this:

culture_shock_curve_new

You start out pretty happy and excited to be in the new culture, then you slowly start to be annoyed by the different things in the new culture, and miss the old culture. Then you slowly adapt back. I can probably safely say I’m close to out of the “honeymoon” phase. HA. But I do have to say, my “low” is rather mild…. I liked this image because it says “humor.”  I’m pretty sure I have only had short moments that could be described as “hostility” towards this culture, but mostly I’m sarcastic about it. Because that’s how I cope with life. Humor. So the good news is, I’m a normal functioning human being and have not dodged the throes of culture shock. I will say, however, that spending time with the Lord works wonders for culture shock. That’s probably how I can have a sense of humor already. 🙂

 

Speaking of God, a group of us have started a bible study. We’re gonna be studying 2 Corinthians. Last night, we went out for wine and tapas and heard each others’ testimonies/stories. Sooo good to hear some real life from these people, and get to know them better! I’m excited to see what God does. 🙂

 

Sorry this was a suuuuper long post but I kind of included three post ideas into one! Someday I’ll become a more sophisticated blogger.

 

I love you all, and clearly, miss you! I keep forgetting to post this, but here’s my address in case you would like to send anything!

Jordan Thomas

Inmobiliaria Ambito

Calle José Zorrilla 6

40002 Segovia Spain

Hasta luego!

Jordania

hashtag, language barrier probs

Everytime I think of a new way to explain it, I try and jot it down.

 

 

-A language barrier is like a tall fence. You can stick your arms and legs through the holes but you can’t quite get through.

 

-A language barrier is a door to which the only keys are hard work and time.

 

-A language barrier is a wall which very, very slowly dissipates.

 

-Language barrier~

Me: talking

Them: blank stare

 

-A language barrier means learning to be “totes fine” with awkwardness and looking stupid on a regular basis.

 

-A language barrier means having to go back to the beginning when it comes to understanding tone and syntax.

 

-A language barrier means having things called “bad brain days” or “bad food days.”

 

-A language barrier means just nodding and smiling.

 

Basically ladies and gentlemen, a language barrier is a humbling thing. 🙂 But aside from my expressions of slight discomfort, I hope you can see that a language barrier is REALLY good for expanding your mind and for growth as a person in general.

In general, I’m having a great time learning new things. I’m currently in a cafe with 5 minutes left until they kick us out (nowhere with wifi is open past 11!), but I’ll do a quick update. Sorry for my lack of pictures! (see FB :])

Clases are funny. All of my professors are women, and they are all crazy. In a good way. Also, I’m learning no one can pronounce “Jordan,” so I’ve officially just started telling people here that my name is “Jordania, como el río” 🙂 It’s easier… in the states I purposely write my name in cursive so people will know I’m a girl. Now, I don’t have to. Still do, but regardless.

Switzerland. Hm.. I’ll have to write a whole post about Suisa. It was a full weekend for sure! Lots of cool history, lots of confusion too. I learned lots: don’t travel in a group of more than 4 or 5, don’t book separate hostels that are 20 minutes away from each other, carry phones that work, and make a detailed plan before you leave. It was a fun trip for sure! I’m glad I went. I learned a lot about traveling, and about myself.

Welp, here’s the end of my short and vague update, more to come later!

Lots of love to those at home. I miss y’all!

Jordania.