Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Where the Demons Dwell! Where the Banshees Live, and They Do Live Well!

First off, I respect you if you know what I am about to say judging from this post's title.

Today we went on a guided tour, which is kind of against everything that makes me who I am. I dislike them with the same sentiments I feel towards Guide Books and their amazing powers to make tourists stop suddenly in the middle of sidewalks, disrupting any possibility of natural movement.

Anyhow, the cost of travel and admission was not much less than the tour itself so it seemed a good way to have the entire day planned for us. Sure enough, we were driven around via a heated bus, called "my darlings" by the guide, and it was difficult to suppress my urge to say "baa" constantly as the herd moved from glass case to glass case.

But enough griping. This is a painfully brief walk-through of the day: First we went to Windsor Castle, which was a marvel in its decadence, housing the richest woman in the world (Her Majesty). From there we went to Stonehenge (and hence the Spinal Tap lyrics in the title above), which is hard to describe in words. Lastly we saw Bath and the Roman (wait for it) bath that is surrounded by a museum.

It is late and I am tired (and unmistakably ill), but I will put up photos one of these days, I'm sure. Sometime next year, I imagine.

Monday, December 29, 2008

London Calling

I am in a new country, on vacation from a country that is not my home. This is almost surreal.

But I am here, in England. Things are different, to be sure. I hear English while I am walking down the street, but I also hear French, German, Italian, and others whose categorical names I don't even know. It is very cold here, and the sun is gone by 4:30 in the afternoon. It seems that I am getting ill, and so my strength is usually gone by that time, too.

But I am seeing lovely things. The architecture is breathtaking, moving me to tears in St. Paul's Cathedral. I recited (most of) the Apostles' Creed there with many, many people and sang in a familiar tongue to God Most High, then heard a sermon in the same familiar tongue. Sitting there, surrounded by gold and decoration and praise and love and wondering how heaven could show all of this up, was one of the most beautiful feelings I have known.

Claire and I have spent a lot of time on the Underground, on buses, and on foot traversing this huge city. And we have barely seen a small portion of it. It is amazing to think of how many souls there are walking through the streets, lighting up the apartments, clogging up and stinking up the tube stations. And then to think that each of them has a fully formed, intricate life full of hopes and pain and love and hate and victories and failures. And then to think that God Most High knows all of this. Even though he feels so far some days, he knows. He is here.

I haven't much to say right now, but there is much on my mind. There are important decisions to be made, so please pray that I make good ones. (And to preempt any questions, I'm not talking about deciding on whom to smooch on New Year's) Yes, there is much on my mind.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Quick Note

This is a brief note to mention something that I may not have before. I am going to London on Friday. Has this been said? Even my best friend didn't know until yesterday. But that is where I will be, and I may be posting a bit from there when I get some free time.

I am surprisingly not as bummed as I was about not spending Christmas at home. Make no mistake, there is nowhere I would rather be right now than shoveling the drive with my Dad and listening to Sufjan Stevens's Christmas music with my Mom. But today I received a package from them that made me feel not-so-far-away, for a change.

I have the best parents in the world, it is worth mentioning.

Tomorrow I am off to the town of Socuellamos to spend Christmas with Sha'lon and Claire, and then we fly out of Madrid together the next day.

Aaand I just got a call, with an invitation to go to the local theater and see a concert. So I'm off! Until next time!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I didn't have to hop the fence to use the internet at the Institute right now because it is torn down for some construction project over break, which begins on Wednesday. And I am writing now because I am not sure if I will be able to tomorrow.

This was a good weekend. The party in Toledo was quite a lot of fun, and I remained sober. I am glad, not least because I would have missed the other teachers getting sloshed. (If you want to quickly learn who the creepy coworkers are, serve wine. Oh, gosh. I will write more on that night some other day.) And yesterday Claire and I went to Madrid, and were almost crushed by the insane crowds. It was absolutely wild, but not in the angry-consumers-beating-each-other way of the US. It was simply crowded and not obnoxiously so, at least until we tried to get onto the Metro.

But today, I was walking back from the bus stop and Alberto drove up with his kids in tow. He asked if I would like to come along for lunch and for a couple of trips, as the weather today was absolutely perfect. And so we went, to the top of a low mountain where we could see much of Castilla-La Mancha, and then to a watch tower built by Muslims in the 9th or 10th century. We climbed things, like men do.

But the real treat was this: all day, I got to watch Cristinita. She is not quite two, but is learning to recognize some words and has so much more personality just since I got here. She walked by my side most of the way, occasionally stopping to pick up a rock to throw at a fencepost. Then she would run up to me, and I would run just ahead of her which inexplicably made her squeal with laughter. I slowed down, and she grasped my pointer finger and we continued the ascent.

At the top, she and her brother became very tired. Cristina lay her head on my leg, and Albertito his on her shoulder. I put my arm around the both of them and we looked across the many miles of Spain. Once we left, I carried Cristina for a while after she got scared by a tiny old-lady dog. To get her mind off of that, I ran and made a sound effect like flying, which she imitated immediately. For a minute or so, our entire conversation consisted of making the same sound effect, back and forth, and throwing a fist ahead of us, and then we laughed.

She pulled the toboggan off of my head causing my instinctual head-shake to put my hair back in place. She found this very funny, and began pulling my hat off and shaking her own head in front of me, trying to get me to repeat the motion. Of course I did, and we laughed together more.

Many of the best conversations require no words. This was a good and lovely day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

El Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Today I went with the second-year students to Madrid with the goal of visiting the art museum named in the title above. The trip went off without a hitch, although I was not pleased at getting up so early. We got stuck in the typical traffic and Prado (our sub-director) got ill on the bus ride, and the students complained about every little temperature variant in the bus ride (have I mentioned yet that Spaniards are whiny babies? It is the truth), but we got there.

And it was special. When Prado announced the groups and their teacher-chaperones, the students cheered at being under my command. We walked through the three floors and I realized that I was having a great time explaining the seventy pieces we focused on. I have always enjoyed fine art and paintings, but I never knew that it was so fun trying to share that enthusiasm. Our art teacher Elena gave the chaperones guides of things to talk about, but my students and I simply conversed.

We saw an incredibly realistic painting of Jesus after his crucifixion and Tanya gasped at the pain displayed. I sighed over El Greco's mastery of color and texture, as I always do. I tried to explain some abstract paintings that were actually quite beautiful, and felt a rush of joy when the students leaned their heads back in realization and said, "Ahhh. . .". They complained towards the end of being tired (we did see a lot of pieces, and they are Spaniard Whiny Babies) but then rushed into the gift shop with renewed energy.

And on the bus ride back the teachers gossiped about who is going to get drunk at the Christmas party tomorrow, how super-sexy Elena is going to dress up for the occasion, and which of the students is dating whom.

And they are still talking about who got drunk at last year's shindig.

I spent most of the ride fielding questions from the students. They have a lot of questions, in truth. About how we celebrate New Year's at home, if I am going home for the holidays (I am not), why I am wearing sandals in December, and so on. They love talking about Obama, and ask me my opinions on absolutely every trivial matter you can imagine. Before I left, Maria asked me if I am coming back to teach again next year, and I was touched.

It was a good day, full of art and far away from the classroom. It was a treat.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Jimmy is my new student as of this last week, and I think you may enjoy hearing about him.

He called one afternoon as I was just about to go to another private lesson, and he spoke very softly from a "Private Number" on my Caller ID. He asked if I had time for classes, and I asked when he would like to begin, thinking he would try to book a spot for after Christmas break, but he answered, "today." So we settled on a time, and I left my house.

Later that night the hour came around and I didn't actually expect him. He still hadn't told me his name or anything, and part of me always wonders if new appointments are kids from school playing pranks after they get my cell number from the posters around town. But the bell rang ten minutes late (and thus, on time) and we sat at the table.

First he pulled out an English murder mystery novel, and announced that he would read to me. It was understood that I was to correct his pronunciation, but I enjoyed him saying that. I soon realized that he did not need much correction, and after a few pages he stopped and announced that we would talk to each other.

It turns out that he has only been studying English with any effort since one year ago, adding that his father always dreamed that his son would live in the USA.

His father died, one year ago.

Jimmy watches movies in English (which annoys the heck out of his family), listens to American music, and talks to anyone he can just to practice (often his younger sister, who also wants to learn the language). He broke up with his girlfriend so that he would have more time to study. He works daily with his mother as servants in the house of a Count (whose son I may be teaching after break), trying to save money so that he can see his father's side of the family again in Ecuador. Then he is going to be a pilot, in the States.

As he left, I suggested that he bring his sister along next time. His face was clearly showing worry when he asked how much that would cost, for two people, but then broke out in a bright smile when I told him not to worry about it.

As busy as he is, I don't know how much longer he will be my student. In the meantime it is wonderful to see the ambition and hope in his heart. If you ever have a pilot announce softly to the plane that Jimmy is your pilot, bang on the cabin door and give him one more person to talk to.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

To Be Loved

In my head I keep hearing what my grandfather told me almost two years ago as he lay dying, "You can always tell when someone likes you." He said this in response to me telling him that I was proud of the man he was, and that my father thought the world of him. He first replied, "I know it."

To be loved is a wonderful thing. To know that you are loved, truly astounding. Here is a memory that helps keep me warm while Spain keeps getting colder.

This past summer I worked again with my church in Grand Junction, Colorado. I stayed later than normal, as I had no university classes to return to. It was different, trying to plan youth group stuff alongside all their school activities and seeing their attention fade and shift to other things, but it was a treat to be with them longer.

When my time came to a close, I had a lot of trouble in finding a good "last lesson" until deciding to tell them what I realized I hadn't explicitly said enough: that they are an amazing group of people, and I am proud of them. I am always impressed by their excitement in serving God and how good they are to each other, especially in light of the unhealthy aspects of my own youth group in High School. I them to have no fear in sharing the Truth and inviting others to church, because there is no place better for their friends to be welcomed, known, and loved. I added, "That is why I am coming back here, to be with all of you."

. . .and then they applauded?

I was surprised. Taken very off-guard. I hadn't even paused for a reaction, or effect, or anything. It is still confusing to think of. But it was humbling, and wonderful. It was a spontaneous display of love, and nothing could have proven my words about them better. It took a moment to steel myself for finishing the lesson.

It has been a while since I have felt loved. Especially like this. But to have my presence applauded, to be celebrated? It seems ridiculous.

But I suppose love usually does.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Posted Song Number Five

Here is a cover of a Derek Webb tune, which I remember playing one morning in Little Rock (but I try not to think about that).

Please tell me your thoughts on this song. Specifically, I have questions about one issue. I have never, ever in my life liked my voice. I can follow notes, but I don't like the way I sound. My best friend tells me that it is a good voice, as do some others, but I have trouble believing complements. So this is not fishing for them, as I wouldn't believe you anyway. But please share your opinion. Even if it is that my voice is jarring, but appreciable in a Neil Young sort of way.

I don't know if I will be posting songs over break. Will people still be reading this? Let me know that, too, please.

Thank you for your help. I am grateful, in truth. Thank you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


A common question I receive at school is that of where I live in the United States and what it is like there. This is sort of a difficult question, as I have had three homes in the past few years (Louisville, Harding, and Grand Junction). It is slightly more difficult, even, when you take into account that no one here knows the first thing about U.S. geography (and be honest: could you find Santiago de Compostela on a map?).

So sometimes I draw them a monstrous outline of the States, or a teacher will procure a map beforehand. And each time as I go over the map I find myself feeling, I don't know, a longing? a tenderness? a bit of, dare I say it, nationalism?

I never expected this, but I miss the United States.

As I explain the mountains and river in Colorado, the green hills of Kentucky, the. . .Arkansas, I feel closer to my country than perhaps I did while I was there. It is odd.

And so when my plane lands in a few months, I am going to do some exploring. Not any huge trip, but I want to see New York. A bit of New England. Then I want to take a friend along with me down some country roads in Kentucky.

Yes, this sounds right to me.

And two quick meta-notes: (1) I am not posting a song today because the wireless is down at my school and I am using an ancient computer. So maybe next week. (2) Sal, thank you for your comment. I just read it, and would like to keep hearing from you.

That is all for now.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I am exhausted, so here are pictures (unedited, although needing it) and few words. This weekend was a long one due to Constitution Day, so Kristin, Claire, and I went by train up to the northwest. We were directly north of Portugal, which is kind of neat. If you're into that sort of thing, I mean.

We saw churches, and loads of them. We walked on the roof (legally) of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which supposedly houses the remains of the apostle James son of Zebedee and was begun in 1075 AD. The Mass there was a little ridiculous, with four-fifths of the worshippers whipping out digital cameras to take pictures of the famous censer swinging around, spreading a sweet smell in the church. Here is the front:
And here is a pretty church:
And here I stand triumphant in a pretty stretch of woods as we followed a path of old water mills, aided by a sweet local:

And here is some pretty coastline in front of the Tower of Hercules:
I have nothing more to say, for now.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Posted Song Number Four and Pictures, some in Mp3

Here is an instrumental song I have had kicking around in my head for a while. The title ("Recently Untitled," I think) is not an attempt to be cute. It used to have a title, but now it doesn't.

I was going to put a cover song on here, but it was a busy week and my voice is tired. Tell me if this track sounds like garbage, please. How do these tracks sound when you listen to them? Do they sound like they are recorded on a headset-microphone into a laptop in my bedroom while sitting on my creaky bed? Because that is what they are. I am trying to create some illusion of production value, though.

Also, can no one see the pictures from my last post on Thanksgiving? The shot of the meal is nothing short of triumphant. I noticed that they aren't on Facebook's import of my post, so I will try to put them up again, right here. First, the meal:
And now the slightly out-of-focus my-face (which is out of focus for your protection):
And also an apple pie baked from scratch:
I'm traveling to the far north of Spain this weekend, and am looking forward to it. Until next time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving In Spain

Before I forget the good and little details, I should tell you about my Thanksgiving weekend. It would be hard to have had a better one.

I met Sha'lon in Toledo to find that, due to complications, I would not be able to see my friends Greg and Marie. We went on to Torrijos where Kristin would not be joining us. It looked like the weekend was starting on the wrong foot but the truth quickly took shape.

Loran, Claire, Sha'lon, and I walked to the supermarket and piled a huge amount of food in the hand-cart. Bringing it back to the apartment, we set to cooking a feast. It took a while to cook and coordinate the different dishes, but we ended up with a very satisfying meal, as you can see:

After we ate we walked with Loran to the train station. It began to snow ever so slightly on our heads and in my beard, but it was a joyful thing.

Saturday we went to Madrid so the girls could shop and get Starbucks. I got a Chai Tea Latte there and felt warm, probably to the amazement of the many people asking if I was cold as they pointed down to my sandals. We walked much and talked a good amount, all in English. I wore brown and the girls said I looked like a tree. We watched street performers and saw the opulence that is "Cortylandia," one store's presentation of all things Christmas. It was a good day.

Sunday Claire and I went to her local charismatic-esque church, which was lovely. The people were welcoming, even asking my name from the microphone. During prayer most members murmered along audibly with their own supplications. They drew out the "s" sounds in all words ("ssssanto ssssssanto ssssssanto") creating an odd and sibilant sensation, as if small things were flying past me at high speed. With closed eyes I imagined their impassioned words as those small things, and it reminded me of a dream I had when I was young of standing in a fire and looking straight up to watch all the sparks fly toward heaven.

At home, my bed met me and I went back over all the things that Hannah, Shelby, and others sent me in a package. Here is a blurry picture of me wearing the scarf that they sent that I needed. I made the full image smaller to spare you the sight of a six-foot my-face.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Psalm 101

I had a few things to write about and there are many things on my mind, but I came across this passage last night and was really quite taken by it.

I have been reading through the Bible since a little while after I got here in Spain, and was continuing this last night at the kitchen table/dinette set thing. Going through the Psalms alternates between an enriching and an infuriating experience, as they are so different that inevitably you cannot relate to many of them at a time. I cringe as the writer asks God to destroy his enemies in warfare, or I roll my eyes as David says "I have led a blameless life," and last night I was getting sick of reading so many calls to "sing a new song" and to "sing for joy to the Lord." God has given me a rich and good life, but right now. . .things could be better. I will not shout aloud to the Rock of my salvation. I barely have a whisper within me.

But then the 101st Psalm.

It is full of promises from beginning to end: "I will sing of your love and justice;/ to you, O lord, I will sing praise./ I will be careful to lead a blameless life. . ." to "No one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.// Every morning I will put to silence/ all the wicked in the land." But why does the writer make all these declarations of faith and vows of service? Near the start of this fervent yet frenetic fanaticism, he asks the Lord,

"when will you come to me?"

My prayers of late have taken on a pleading and bargaining tone. "How clearly your glory would be shown if you would just [whatever], God!" "What better time to prove yourself to a heart so beaten down?" "I have been mistreated and now left by a girl claiming love. Are you, too, now absent? Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

I have no more answers to my questions than I did yesterday. But this poem spoke in words that my heart was struggling to form, and it seemed worth sharing. And perhaps I am reading my Bible more, praying, fasting, making promises, with the goal that God will be far no longer, just as the Psalmist hoped.

I just wish it were that easy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Looking Forward to Loving You" and Giving Thanks, all in Mp3

First, here is a new and original song. I am very nervous to share it. It is longer than most things I write, but it is a story-song and thus merits it. I hope.

Today is Thanksgiving and I would love to be in the United States. But here are some things I am thankful for:

-Talking to my mother, father, and grandmother on Skype today.
-Having such a loving and beautiful family.
-Talking to Hannah on it, as well
-Having the Bible in English.
-Claire, Kristin, and Sha'lon.
-Getting to see Greg (one of my best friends since High School) and Marie tomorrow in Toledo.
-My students applauding me today after a very fun class
-Receiving a package from the United States with gifts from Shelby, Hannah, Jared, and others (one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me, and the hardest I've laughed in a while)

I hope you all are with loved ones today. If you read this, chances are that I love you, and I am thankful for you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Eyes Are Dry

Today I am dehydrated.

My contacts make sticky noises when I blink. I feel lethargic. I cannot clear my throat. I am nothing more than chapped lips and fingertips cracking from the cold wind. I am that and nothing more.

The hard thing about making a decision is the questions after: "Was that the best thing to do?" "Was that correct?" "What if I had done more?" "Is it too late to turn back?"

But then I think of the things she said: "what could never be again." Or to explain our entire relationship: "I didn't think."

There is no more water within me, and so I think back to downpour days in Searcy and watching the sheets of rain run over my windshield. I think of sitting there in my car and wondering when it would take me out of that drainage-challenged town. Now I look up at planes carving paths across sky and I wonder when I will return to the States, and what I will return to.

There, what could be?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


". . .is difficult," is how the title should continue.

Yesterday began with a bright sun and I left to buy bread in a T-shirt with no jacket. Later that night I went to school and returned home shivering on my bike so violently I feared I would jerk the handlebars and be bucked into a tree. I dismounted to walk under my umbrella when rain started, and after five steps pea-sized hail fell so hard that the ground was covered in half a minute. Then it all stopped.

And as I walked through the village today, the smells change quickly, too. From diesel fumes to barbecued meat, to rotting peaches on the outskirts of abandoned and nearly fallow fields. From sweet baked goods to the local and low-quality wine, to green olives, to manure. All of these as I walk and think and pray to forget what I am thinking.

Yes, how quickly things change.

People change. Much. But with no fault, as there is nothing inherently wrong in it. Why, just a year ago I was. . .disheartened over a failed relationship and wondering when that stage of life would be over. And look at me now?

In the face of all this change, what I wrestle with is what to trust. What to believe. When things change from beautiful to a nightmare, which do you trust? Which was real? How can love and hate coexist? What do I trust? What is the What?

One more change, though: I will not let my stupid heart be broken again.

On the other side of this, I noticed that several people have been leaving encouraging comments on here. It really means the world to me, knowing that people still remember that I'm alive even though I graduated and left the country. It is good to see people make the effort to show me that I am loved. Because love is hard, and it is easier not to try. But you do. So thank you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda, Here I am at Camp Granada, or "Worst Post Title Ever"

It is Thanksgiving break back home, so I doubt many people are reading this. That is fine, as I haven't much to say.

This weekend I went to Granada, in Andalucia. It was beautiful and smelled like Kentucky at times and looked like heaven. I walked much, ran some, saw lovely things and felt romantic feelings in my heart. The Alhambra had roses and oranges and pomegranates and a setting sun behind it. The paths were lined on either side with gentle but constantly flowing rivulets, turning trees, and golden leaves gliding to rest.

More importantly, I made a decision. A decision that is good - and good for me, for a change. It is hard, but the die is cast. The Rubicon has been crossed. Well, just insert whatever trite, overdramatic expression you want. And it's that.

No one pays for what they get for free. And no one will respect what they can take advantage of. So no more.

Here are two pictures from my trip, before editing.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Facing Fears and Shedding Tears, or Posted Test Song Number 2, in Mp3

Well, I haven't actually cried over posting this song. So that was a lie. (shame-faced) But here is another song, this time with guitar AND vocals. This is "Harvest" by my hero Neil Young, and you will probably hear more of his stuff on here in the future.

Let me know what you think, and thank you for having done so in the past already. It really does mean a lot to me.

And on a side note (but a very important note) a cell phone just went off here in the Teachers' Lounge and Irene unabashedly took her time in viewing who was calling, adjusting it in her hand, and finally answering it after some time. This was impressive, as the ring tone was "Take On Me" by A-Ha. Most people would jump to answer and hide that, but her anti-haste made me glad.

I hope you enjoy the song.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another Day

Today's classes were wild. One of them was my first time with the oldest group of students here. It was. . .awkward? The females quickly asked a succession of questions that typically are more spread out in conversation. "How old are you?" ("very young," they responded to my answer) "Do you have a girlfriend?" "Where do you live?" As I tried to decide between honesty and self-preservation, one girl nodded and said, "Yes, this is very important."

I cringed when the teacher announced that I offer private lessons, and that my phone number is on a flier in the main foyer. Then they asked to take a picture of me after class, which I declined. They asked if I prefer Spanish or American women but the bell rang, no doubt by the hand of God.

All this even after I grow a beard.

Thank you all for your comments about the song I posted. I will post another soon. The first was mainly to see if this set-up works, which it does. I will probably post a cover song, as I am working on my own and haven't set a deadline yet. Maybe one original song every two weeks? What do you think? I may put some covers up here and there, too, to try out different styles/ranges/etc. Requests are welcome.

My best friend told me that I am not easy to cast away. That I am not easy to forget, or easy to leave. In light of recent events, though, this couldn't seem farther from the truth. Could I have simply deceived everyone I know?

Monday, November 17, 2008

My First Song Posted as a Test, in Mp3

Here is a link to a test song. It is not much, mainly to hear from you if (1) it is easy enough to get to, (2) the volume is acceptable, (3) the sound quality is acceptable, and (4) anything you want to say.

Click here, and select to download the file. There is no danger of virus, because I copied that link and everything myself.

Feel free to leave comments here, or to write me on Facebook. I appreciate all honesty, as harsh as it may be. If I suck and need to stop, it would be better to find out from my friends than when I try out for American Idol.


Let's see if this works.

On the Way to Madrid

Yesterday I went to Madrid again in order to attend a Church of Christ that meets there. Mass is good and all, but no one talks to each other and they only sing one or two songs that people are supposed to just know. And of course I don't. So for the second time this weekend I awoke before the sun after a largely sleepless night. The bus was only late by fifteen minutes, and thus was on time.

While waiting, a man came over to a group of young men and shouted while gesturing wildly. He laughed a hysterical, exaggerated guffaw that brought stares from both sides of the street. In response to his histrionics, the boys laughed hard and exchanged knowing looks among themselves to say what couldn't be spoken in front of the man. Gradually they calmed down and I saw concern grow in their eyes.

The bus came and the man began chanting what sounded like "Royal Road," and I think that was his desired destination that the bus didn't serve. Or it was a drinking song. Whatever the case, the older folks crowded even more closely to the open bus door than normal, anxious to get away from the loud man before they were forced to interact with him. He stopped jumping and stood next to me, making obvious the smell of alcohol on his visible breath.

The boys he had entertained boarded the bus and I hung back to get on last, watching the man's eyes tear up as he said goodbye to us and apologized in slurred Romanian-Spanish for being "just a worthless old drunk." The boys reproached him for saying this and said, "we'll see you soon." He and I shared no words but I did not run from him or avert my eyes, and he gave me a loving clap on the shoulder as we nodded our goodbyes.

As the sun rose, fog from the River Tagus obscured Toledo and gave only faint glimpses of the empty cathedral and cranes anxious to make corrections and cover cracks. We have all got problems to hide, don't we?

This is a wonderful world. But it is a wounded world.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I went to Madrid yesterday, and it was a very good trip in spite of the fact that I had to get up at 7 to catch the bus to get to town in time to see the luthier about my crap guitar. My toes went numb before I even reached the bus stop (no pity expected, as I wear sandals all the time). A few hours later, I reached the store and found that the luthier comes on Mondays. I thought the man on the phone said Fridays, and I silently swore vengeance on Movistar for bad connections.

Rather than wait even longer for a guitar whose sight had begun to repulse me, I returned it and went to a guitar store just down the road. There, I heard some guys speaking English and talked to the backing band of Nick Lowe. I helped the guitarist talk to the clerk, and we chatted for a bit before I bought a much better guitar for not much more moneys (which is excellent, as I haven't got much moneys).

I left the shop with a big smile on my face, only to run into a comic book store. Feeling no doubt at the providence that brought me there (kidding), I went inside and bought a "Patrulla X" (x-men) comic. European reprints of US comics are worth nothing and cost only slightly more than that, which is nice. The clerk noticed my tastes as I looked over other titles, and asked if I liked Neal Adams. Then we talked nerdily about comic book creators and such and I was glad.

Needing a hat for the upcoming winter I stopped by a store called "The English Court," which has about fifteen or so locations in the city. I entered and was immediately overwhelmed by the nine floors of clothing, electronics, and groceries. I looked over the anoraks (as I might need one) and didn't quite know what to do with myself, looking at a price tag of 300 euros. It is a jacket! Sheesh. So I left.

So I went to the Plaza Mayor and watched street performers. I like seeing those living statue performers relax when they think no one is looking, adjusting their costumes while their Converse shoes and sweat pants peek out from under shiny robes. And a couple who were covered completely in mud sat with eyes closed near a Chinese violinist, adding a touch of sweet melancholy to their tiny dances and motions caused by a coin clinking in their cup. Occasionally (I imagined whenever they got lonely from being so close and yet unable to move until someone gave them money) they would lean in to kiss while shuffling their shoes.

Walking around, people asked in Spanish for me to take a picture of them and we made idle chatter. And a pretty lady asked me for the time, which had me singing Chicago the rest of the day. There were couples taking cell-phone pictures of monuments, or others hunched together over maps and guide books, or others teasing and swatting while we all walked along and narrowly avoided being crushed by buses.

It was a beautiful day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lucas "Kicks It Up A Notch," or "Bam."

And thus marks Lucas's inauspicious entry into the foray of topical humor contained in blog post titles.

And thus concludes the same.

Anyhoo, I wanted to share a discovery and a victory with you. Both are the same event: I am a terrific cook! I bought a bottle of sweet sherry, because I read about it in a book about Spain WAY back when I was a student in college. Long story short, I successfully did not vomit after drinking it.

So I cooked it. With a porkchop, potatoes, onions, and carrots (which more or less comprise the accompaniment to every dish I cook, using the term dish lightly). In a skillet. With. . . heat?

Long story slightly more brief, it was really good and now I am anxious to cook it for someone else. So if you come to Spain and visit me, there is a porkchop in it for you.

Also, thank you to everyone that responded to my last post. It is a scary thing to beg for comments, because if no one responded I would have been crushed and retreated into an indefinite blogging hiatus. Or at the very least I would start ending posts with self-deprecating addresses to "the no one that reads this anymore" like I used to on my old navel-gazing, angst-ridden, emo xanga. (Note: is there really any other type of xanga?) I am going to Madrid tomorrow because there is already a problem with my guitar (which is very frustrating) but I hope to have this settled quickly and then I will begin posting songs. Which is a scary thing, just like begging for comments.

But what is life without risk?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Idea, and Begging

I went to Madrid yesterday in a hectic day trip after work. The bus ride was long and hot and smelly, just like always. I did some walking and talking and found a decent price on a trustworthy brand, and now I have a guitar. I am very, very relieved to have a guitar.

So now, my idea. I don't normally beg for comments or anything, but I really would like your input on this. Since I have many songs begun but yet unfinished, I would like to end that and get in the habit of writing with deadlines. With my finished and unpolished demo tracks, I would like to share them so you can listen to them and give me some feedback (as in, what you like, what is awful, what reminds you of a song already written, what a certian song needs, stupid lyrics, decent lyrics, Etc).

Options: I am thinking about putting them on purevolume, or posting them on my blog with a link to where you can download the track. Which would you do? Would you prefer to listen to them online, or download them and take them with you? The only thing is that I REALLY WANT FEEDBACK. Will you do this?

If you have read this post, please tell me! Even if you say "I will not listen to anything and I will not post comments," just let me know. Thanks.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sonseca Life

I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the smaller details of life here that wouldn't show up in other posts. To add a bit more color to the picture. If it bores you, deal.

I live in a house with another teacher here, Arturo. It is a big house with reasonable rent, the main thing keeping me here in Sonseca instead of moving to Toledo. The floors are all tile, and the windows have the typical persiana shades which completely block out any outside light at night. My bed is a creaky nightmare, haha.

I cook for myself, usually one or two meals a day. I eat a lot of potatoes, carrots, rice, and lentils. Olive oil goes on everything, and is salad dressing here. Wine is cheap and plentiful, and I have enjoyed it in moderation (don't worry, youth groupers; I am responsible). In truth, when I am sad I turn to prayer and Nutella instead of alcohol.

I do not have internet at my house, and it is not possible to have a good connection at any price. Even getting a bad service costs too much, so I mainly use the internet in the mornings at work in between classes. On the weekends I travel and so don't get online very much if at all (this may explain my tardiness in writing some of you back). One weekend I was anxious to talk to someone online, so I hopped the fence at my school and hid in a doorway to use the wireless. Pathetic, no?

Travel is easy, and I have been to Toledo four or five times by now, and Madrid twice. I am going back to Madrid today after school to get a guitar, because my roommate is slow and ruined my chance to buy one on Saturday (he wanted a sandwich, the cad). I am getting a cheap one, because I do not have much money. Hence, the potatoes and rice all the time.

My dear friend Alberto loaned me a bike, which is helpful. Even though it is a small town, I like to explore it and take pictures now and then. It is rare that I do not run into some students from school on my excursions, or friends of friends. I am getting to know people here, and the students are entertained when they see me at Mass (they asked me, and were impressed that I have read the whole Bible).

So I have learned how to live with very little, and that is no problem. I am still surrounded by blessings and luxuries, and indeed material-wise I have everything I need (save the guitar). I miss my church, though, in all of my states. Colorado is a good place to be, and I have never been loved so thoroughly by such a large group of people. Harding is a miracle that I never appreciated enough, densely packed with saints. Kentucky is less of a home to me these days, but I miss my parents desperately. They are two of the best people I know, and I love them.

But it is already part-way through November, and soon I will be traveling for Christmas and then I will be picking fresh flowers to press in my Bible and then I will be back in the States. So I will enjoy this while I am here. I guess I just get tired of forming so many memories by myself.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Yesterday was awkward.

I talked with some potential students about my private lessons, and their parents told me that they all refused to pay my asking price of ten euros/hour. They said that any more than five is asking too much, because that is comparable to what locals charge for math lessons and the like.

I explained, for one, that my price is set and that it would be unfair to charge less when I am charging this from other students. Also, I am a native speaker of English, which is (to me) a little different than Physics in the local tongue. Moreover, every teacher in my school told me not to charge less than twelve an hour, and that fifteen would be reasonable.

The mother (in particular) continued, though, saying that other local English speakers don't charge as much. I explained again that I am a native speaker, and that it seems curious to me that she refused to pay even half of the advised minimum, which I already lowered. What is more, some of the professors here have spent up to four years in another country just to learn English, and one teacher paid a private instructor thirty euros per hour in Ireland.

I really like these kids, but I can't let people take advantage of me because everyone else will hear about it in this tiny town. But I lowered my price AGAIN to eight, and they said it is not worth it. It became clear that it was now an issue of pride, and if one's pride is more important to someone than their child's education, they have more problems than not understanding English.

Oh, and their house is the biggest I've seen in all of Sonseca.

Vent vent vent. Sorry for a lame entry! I'm still doing well, just couldn't really sleep last night with this garbage on my mind. Ugh.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Congrats, USA

I am pleased with the results of the election. I won't get very political in here, mainly because it is unnecessary at this point in the election and all. On my old xanga, I used to write about politics very often. The other kids in the youth group made fun of me for being a democrat, and openly denigrated me for my convictions. This didn't bother me as much as it could, though, because none of them knew anything about politics. I did not know everything, but I was reading books by members of cabinet. And I think the past eight years have vindicated me, to some degree.

Mainly, I'm just glad that Palin isn't VEEP. I have this crazy opinion that one should know the functions of the office they are running for. I know, right? Ridiculous!

To tell the truth, before it came down to only Bush and Gore in 2000, McCain was my first choice. Since then, though, I feel he compromised a lot of the integrity I admired in him to appear more Republican-friendly. And inviting Palin as VP totally undercut his main argument that Obama was a poor candidate due to lack of experience. Meanwhile Obama reaching out to Biden seemed a mature response to this same criticism.

That is all I will say, except the main reason I wanted Obama to win is that at the very least we needed to send some sort of message to President Bush. His tenure has been almost a disaster, and a change in party means a lot more to the rest of the world than it does in the U.S. In reality, not much is going to change. I just hope that Obama honors his office and his populace with honesty and integrity, and shows respect to the rest of the world like we haven't done for too long. I look forward to better cooperation with our neighbors around the planet.

Hope I didn't step on any toes. Just some thoughts. Feel free to disagree.

Monday, November 3, 2008


It is November, and so that means that I have been here for more than a month already. This is insane to me, haha. And now that my schedule has been chopped up into steady, predictable blocks of work, private lessons, and travel, the now-seven months that remain don't seem all that long.

It is November, and so that means that I received my first paycheck. it would be uncivilized to quote the amount here, but minus rent it is enough for 230 trips to or from Toledo. But instead I am going back to Madrid to buy a guitar. Oh, and I can't cash the check until tomorrow, because banks here run from 8:30-2. Yes, my friends. It is true.

It is November, and so that means that the Presidential election is soon. Tomorrow, in fact. It is all over the news here and people ask me about it all the time. The Spanish make no secret over whom they support, and I am glad that it happens to be the man for whom I voted weeks ago.

It is November, and I am going very well, thank you.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Very Special Hallowe'en Memory

Friends, this past Friday was Halloween. The kids here kept asking me about it, imagining extravagant parties and decadent celebrations for this fairly insignificant holiday, so I didn't know what to expect from here.

It turns out that the teens just get together and drink.

For my Halloween, it seemed a much better idea to stay in and relax for one weekend, taking a Sabbath. I stayed at home (except for brief outings followed by regret due to the rain) and read the Bible, and had a lovely evening. Especially since our living room has a table with a heater built into its base, and so it is the only reasonable place to spend any amount of time at our house.

I was reading about the conquest of Canaan when the doorbell rang. My roommate is out of town, so it fell to me and I went to the door, having forgotten that it was Halloween. There before me stood two 12-ish-year-olds holding sacks, who blurted "TRICK OR TREAT" (in Spanish, of course).

I thought for a second, remembered the day and my social obligation to provide them with tooth decay, and thought about how my pantry would yield merely potatoes and lentils. While thinking, the boy asked, "You're not from here, are you?"

I ran to the kitchen and grabbed the only sweet-ish type things I owned, yogurt. However, these were no ordinary yogurts. They were the leftovers from a multi-pack of several fruit flavors, banana and coconut. Both are terrible, but I brought them to the door and apologized for not having candy. They shrugged and said they liked yogurt, and then they left.

My friends, this is how you celebrate!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lucas Rex

My friends, I have big news to share with you. I BOUGHT A CELL PHONE. I didn't even hit the caps hey there. My computer was just THAT EXCITED.

Yes, I went to the store, talked to the owner, and bought a prepaid cell phone. All in Spanish! In Spain! AND (get this) the phone has a color screen. You may not feel the full force of this announcement, but this is the first time that I have owned a phone that isn't prohibitively obsolete. When I got my last phone (which I still have), the Cingular guy went out back and unearthed a time capsule to retrieve the apparatus. With it were some buttons for Eisenhower. So, take that for what it is worth. But this one came in a box. One with no dirt on it. I walked home feeling triumphant.

Oh, and I get text messages now. My last phone actually sent messages via cuneiform on clay tablets, so this is a step up indeed.

More good things: with a phone, comes a phone number. With a phone number, I can advertise my private lessons and get some more bank. And travel more, and buy pearls and such.

Included is a picture of my phone. And a burgeoning beard.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Things are bound to be improving, these days

I have not felt like myself lately.

If you have read this with any regularity, you know I've been a bit down since coming to Spain. I've had more than a little trouble adjusting to being here. In truth, I don't think I have been here much at all. My thoughts had all turned to worry and my heart was far away from me. I prayed for an excuse to leave, hinting especially hard that God give me a temporarily debilitating disease that would leave no trace upon its exit the moment I set foot on a United State. It was not a time of moral or rational victory, indeed.

For your worry I have caused, I am sorry. For your emails, comments, messages, and especially prayers, I am grateful beyond words. For your care, love, and friendship, I thank our God.

I offered the whole-hearted love of a broken-hearted man to a beautiful woman. I became angry at myself, at her, and at God when things didn't go as it could have, and hope was hard to come by when what I wanted wavered continually between possible and impossible.

But then the realization. That simple truth, the love of my youth. How can I be angry? I am a sinner, and God forgave me. How can I rage and whine and waste a heart that could be better spent loving? What other option do I have in light of being forgiven? In light of all the glory that the Lord has made? Surely I cannot be angry. I must forgive, and love, in turn.

And so I decided. I am no longer waiting for what will not come, as doing so has spent and exhausted all hope from inside of me. I am going to return to being who God created me to be. Nothing great, nothing impressive. A simple man. A sinner become sanctified. A man that shows God's love to and learns God's love from every heart. A man that depends on God alone. The Lord will be my portion.

Yes, I think things will be looking up.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Return to Form

My hopes are that this entry will be more Spanish and less . . . emo. I thought it would be a good idea to tell you more about my work environment, specifically the teachers and students.

Most of my students are from ages 11-16, although I do meet with some that are older. They are very inquisitive, and seem to enjoy my being around. They ask great questions, like if I like the Family Guy and what alcoholic beverages we drink in the United States. One guy asked if I drink Duff beer, and I had to try really hard not to laugh as I told him that Duff only exists in the Simpsons.

The English program here is still in its infancy, and so we often have a failure to communicate. Even when they are asking English, I try my best not to turn immediately to the professor with desperate, entreating eyes, begging for an explanation. They are fascinated that I would drive so far to work in the summers, and overjoyed that I voted for Obama before I left.

The young ones are a handful, but they are entertaining. One day I wore my purple shirt and tie combo, and I caught a couple of the girls in the back actually doing that thing where they rest their heads in one hand, looking ready to sigh at any moment. Another girl was being teased for being enamored with a much older boy, and as I offered her relationship advice (as a joke, of course) one student fell out of her chair laughing.

The teachers are also fun. One, Elena, tries to show off her English in front of me and makes my day every time we are together. One activity had the students coloring shapes according to warm and cool "families," which Jorge found very confusing and he mixed the colors. Elena came over, looked at his worksheet, and told him plainly, "Your colors are ugly and your family is horrible."

Marta, the P.E. teacher, came in this morning and announced in English, "Good morning. Shut up." Another period I spent teaching the children knock-knock jokes, and they enjoyed the interrupting cow one especially.

My private lessons, though, are hit-or-miss. I began meeting with ten-year-old Andrea the other day, who spent almost the entirety of the hour crying into the notebook pressed against her face as her mother asked me about animal names.

My Spanish is improving and I am going to Toledo tomorrow and the day after. I get paid soon, which will be nice. I am very cold at night, and my pillow is only foam insulation stuffed in a cylinder of ratty cloth. Hahaha. I'll leave you with that visual.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Decision

Yesterday I wrote of being unsure what to do. Things have fallen apart around me and I have nothing to show for months of. . .whatever dramatic thing you want to call it. But I know what I will do. I have decided.

I will continue to love.

I will continue to write to her in my journal, to care for her, and to think of her. I will buy a guitar and sing for her, even if she does not yet listen.

Maybe then she will see. Maybe then she will turn and remember her love of old.

For love is greater than time or distance. Love is slave to no power, and will not end as long as my heart beats.

"Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy as unyielding as the grave."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Did she wake you up to tell you that it was only a change of plan?

I confess to you, I feel lost.

My greatest fear has always been that no one would be able to love me. Someone convinced me of otherwise and now. . .this. I thought things were getting better, but I was wrong.

I simply do not know what to do. What to do with the journal I kept for her? Or the necklace I bought in Toledo? What to do with the pictures of myself I collected to send her? What to do with the music mix I was preparing? What to do with the flowers pressed and drying in my Bible, in between poetry and prose and pictures of her? What to do with my Christmas break, since she doesn't want me to visit her?

I don't even want to acknowledge that Christmas will be. It is the holiday to spend with loved ones, and I will be here, alone. Now I have spare time and spare money and I don't want either.

I am sorry to write this depressing mess, but it is all that is on my mind. I cannot get my mind off of it. It is no easy thing to walk a mile and spend three dollars just to hear the One my Heart Loves tell me she doesn't even know how she feels about me anymore. And then to pour my heart out to her and find that she isn't even at the computer, reading what I said.

How can a heart change so much in four weeks? How can distance change a person?

It is all undone.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lucas Jumps Ship

I attended my first Mass yesterday.

You have no idea how desperately I miss church. I think back to Searcy where the churches were everywhere and full of loving people. I enjoyed Highway's preaching and singing very much, and there were always many friends to be found there. And the Bible studies on Wednesdays! There were innumerable options. And Dowtown's singing service on Sunday nights!

In Sonseca, there is my Bible and the waiting for Arturo to leave the house so I can sing. I tired quickly of worshiping as an island, and tentatively went to my first Catholic Mass.

Walking there, I saw several professors and students from the school giggled and shouted my name from farther down the street. I entered behind a man and mimicked him as I applied holy water in my first genuflex. I sat with my back straight as the board under me, waiting for signals as to what I should do. Some people were kneeling on the planks attached to the backs of pews (which are simply, like I said, flat boards) and praying, but I sat and waited. The priest came out and lifted his hands like I have seen in many paintings and prayed, inviting the assembly to join in the "Sacred Mysteries" of our Lord.

The choir sang from one side of the nave and it was stunning. Listening to them while I viewed the golden altar and decorations, I understood why cathedrals were built like this for so long. It really feels like some step between heaven and earth. We genuflected more and the rest of the brothers and sisters recited catechisms that I did not recognize, and similar songs. We stood and sat and stood again in a way that would make Harding chapel-goers groan loudly.

The priest exposited the "give to Caesar what is Caesar's, to God what is God's" passage while stressing that our faith is not one of slavery, but of freedom. Freedom through love, freedom because of love, and freedom to love.

I did not participate in the Eucharist, although I miss communion dearly. The priest lifted the plates and someone in the wings rattled jingle bells that I think marked the point of transubstantiation. After, the priest thoroughly and lovingly cleaned the dished with towels before sending them away by the altar boys.

Then it was over. The man next to me bolted immediately, and the rest of the believers crowded and pushed to get out of there as quickly as possible. Outside, the jocularity and idle chatter resumed once more and I headed home.

It was more thought-provoking than edifying as of yet, but hopefully this will change.

Oh, and the title of this post really makes me giggle.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I have now been to the city that I have dreamed about for seven years now. From the first time I saw "Vista de Toledo" by El Greco, I wanted to be there.

I got off the bus and called my friends, getting no answer. I tried to suppress the same fear that I felt when the same thing happened in Madrid, and opted to start walking into the city. The first gate I decided to enter, there were Claire and Shalon! Being reunited is a beautiful thing, and we began to enjoy Toledo together.

We found the Plaza Zocodover and watched bizarre street performers, sitting down at a McDonalds to get a quick drink for the warm day. We caught up on our respective "Spain Experiences" and I was relieved to find that they think about going home every day, just like I do. They had frustrations, as well, but it seems that their school faculties have done more of an intentional job of welcoming them and showing them a good time. We all miss home and shared memories and surprise over the fact that McDonalds serves beer here (we got tea and ice cream, just to note).

We walked past the Alcazar, which is being renovated and is draped in a horrendous yellow construction net, thus ruining about half of the city´s famous skyline. We took pictures and looked like tourists and spoke in English and it was good. I didn´t feel homesick with them. We got lost together several times in the laberinthine alleyways, then I heard my name called.

Three people (one German, two Welsh) that I met at the orientation at the very onset of this trip were doing the tourist thing as well, and they remembered me. I was shocked at how much I had missed the sensation of unexpectedly running into people you know. And considering that it was in a different country, no less, it was special.

We observed a parador (old castles renovated into lovely hotels) and I took a lot of pictures. We went to a tapas bar and ate fried food. We talked relationships and marriage (typical Harding fare) and home and loneliness and it was simple and good. Our day ended at the bus station, eating sweets, Shalon telling me that a girl was checking me out, and a lot of laughing. I haven´t laughed so much in the entire time I´ve been in this country.

I settled into my comfy bus seat on the way back to Sonseca, happy to listen on my mp3 player to songs I had written long ago. I relaxed and ignored the girl seated next to me as she stared at me from time to time. I only smiled as I thought of warm memories.

Disembarking in Sonseca, the best way to end the day was visiting the local Chinese restaurant. I ate "Kun-Bao Chicken" and then found my bill comped by the owners, parents of one of my students from the Institute.

It was a good day, and one I needed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Address

I think I am meeting my friends in Toledo tomorrow, so, I guess pray that they go this time?

Also, here is my postal address, in case you want it.

Lucas Matthews
c/ Pasaje de la Ballesta #4
45100 Sonseca

I think that is enough, but go ahead and ask the Post Office workers anyway. They never have anything to do.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If You See Something About a Stolen Bicycle on the News. . .

But first some things to note.

One: I have begun giving private lessons to some people here, in English. The majority of the time is spent in Spanish, as their English is almost non-existent.

Two: I have now entered the local church as well as the shrine to the Virgin Mary. I will be attending the former on Sunday, I believe. I asked Mario what the services were like, and he had no idea what I was talking about until I remembered to ask about "Masses" instead. They are only one hour, in contrast to the stereotypes I heard from TV growing up. I will let you know how it goes.

Three: I have decided to grow my beard. I will post a picture when it is respectable.

So, there are good days and bad days here. Yesterday was a bad day and I wound up taking a walk on a dirt road until I found myself in the next town over, Ajofrin. Judging from the name, garlic must have been very important there at some point. I sat down in front of the church and prayed. I heard Julieta Venegas being played behind me and it made me feel in love. Then the church began ringing its bell, which chimed 83 times. I have no idea why. Then I walked back and read until I fell asleep.

Today was decent. I took my first trip to the equivalent of the post office here, which was something of an ordeal. First, I went by a papeleria to buy an envelope, and then I went to the school for a brief meeting. After getting directions to the P.O., I began walking and saw that I might not have time to get there and back before my class.

So I grabbed one of the bikes that a student left in front of the school and rode there.

It was something totally uncharacteristic of me, which left me giggling the entire way. I completed my business and came back, leaving the bike where it was before. No one was any the wiser, and I kept smiling all the way to class.

After school, some students came by my house for a lesson. We walked and they whispered to each other when they didn´t know what to say, but we talked poetry and had a decent time. Ana has an enormous house, and it is nice to be welcomed into another home always.

I suppose that is all for now. Making it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Brief Explanation

I wrote an entry the other day without knowing that more than a mere smattering of people read this. It turned out to be a slightly substantial smattering, and so I removed what I wrote. But I did not write it with the intent of denigrating anyone. On the contrary, it was written out of a powerful and painful love.

There is not much to say that I haven't already. I miss how good things used to be. I miss talking to her on the phone while I was in Hawaii, still getting to know her, and seeing a shooting star make its path across the sky. Much later, she came to Colorado and on top of mountains we saw several shooting stars together. We walked over rivers and through botanical gardens and watched two butterflies circle overhead.

Creations sings when we are together! Nature celebrates when we are joined! Because, clearly, things are as they should be.

That is what I miss, and what I yet want.

That is all I will say of the matter.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More about Madrid

In the interest of having something less maudlin meet visitors to my blog, here is more information on my recent trip to Madrid.

I found a local hostel where the owner seemed to see something in my eyes that kept him from conversation. I was grateful for this, paid the fee, and found myself in my room. Finding myself at the door, number 17, it was worth the cost of stay for the mere fact of using the key. It was one of those old, classic, archetypal keys that go in a lock through which you can see into the other room.

Entering, the room was a white 8' by 8' box with a bed that would cramp two people, a dresser, and a sink. I unpacked nothing and got into bed, almost shocked to find myself warm (at my house I haven't had much more than two thin sheets, and it gets very cold at night). I fell asleep very fast with tiny thoughts in my mind about how I should take my contacts out or how I should turn off the light. But I was gone.

The next morning I went to the Prado museum, which was a treat. Sitting in front, a man asked me directions to some Government Ministry and I sent him off still seeking. But I was grateful to be taken for someone who at least had some sense of direction, especially while feeling like I had none.

I wandered into the museum and got to see works by El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, Raphael, Heironymous Bosch, Rubens, and others. El Greco is my favorite painter, and I had to remind myself to blink while looking at his works. Two highlights include "Las Meninas" and "Saturno," the latter of which is one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen.

I left after three hours with very tired legs and resumed my trek through the city. I found myself at a Thai restaurant, where I got to sit by the window. I was amused to watch all of the white men reacting as I did to the menu, stopping and pondering. I was also a bit distracted by the fact that so many couples walked by hand in hand. It seems that everyone in that city has someone, and I was alone.

Madrid is no city to see alone. I was more excited to be going there to see friends than I was to simply be going there, and so my trip ended that night. I walked some more, was almost hit by a bus, and then rode to Toledo and back to Sonseca.

I learned a lot from my trip, at the very least. I learned how to pack better for the next trip. And I learned to wear either shoes or to simply wrap my feet in gauze, because they are bleeding all over the place. And I have never seen so many furniture stores or so much graffiti. And it was nice to speak a slower, more intelligible Spanish for a change.

Some beautiful things I saw: two fifty-year-olds sharing a brief and sweet kiss in front of Goya's portrait of Carlos IV's family, the many elderly pairs walking slowly and hand-in-hand, a young couple sharing a single cigarette between the two of them at the bus station, and a couple leaving the train station with one pack containing both of their belongings, each of them holding one handle of the duffle bag between them, never allowed to stray far from the other as a result.

And then the radio played "Karma Chameleon" on the bus ride back.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My First Trip to Madrid

"Was decent," is how the rest of the title should read.

I was very excited for this trip, and overpacked accordingly into my backpack and laptop bag. I went to the bus stop twenty minutes early, eager to see new things but even more eager to see familiar faces with which to share these memories.

My excitement and my face fell when the bus still had not arrived twenty minutes after its scheduled stop, so instead I hopped on a bus to Toledo with plans to find a Madrid-bound one at the station. This all happened without a hitch, and two hours after the trip began I found myself approaching a glowing city. The further we got into her, the more perplexed I became that any one city could require so many furniture stores. There were large chain markets like Mercador, Despenso, Leroy Merlin, and Carrefour. The most shocked I was, I am a little ashamed to admit, was when we passed a Burger King. It seemed like something from a past life; it felt like a memory. But it was only bricks and grease.

We arrived at the southern station, so I made expensive pay-phone calls to both the girls I was planning to meet and got an answer from neither. I had no idea what to do, but I knew that I was in the south of the city, so I began walking north.

An hour later I could feel my heels bleeding from wounds received the day before, but I pressed on until I reached a train station I recognized from my first view of the city. I searched for a store that was still open and bought a pack of oreos so that I could use the coin-operated phones and called one of the girls, who then informed me that she and the other girl had decided to wait two days to come to Madrid.


was my response.

You see, we had set out the broad primary plans for this trip last week on a Facebook discussion. There it was suggested that we meet up on Thursday and enjoy the weekend there and stay for church on Sunday. However, the two girls made other plans, I came to find, through private conversation. In the Facebook discussion, there was only a brief mention that they were thinking about a different day, but this was never followed up on or elaborated.

The payphone I was on ran out of money, and I was not unhappy. I have little patience for excuses. The simple truth was that there was a little miscommunication, a bit more noncommunication, and I feel excluded and unimportant.

I hung up the phone and let my hand rest on the receiver for a full minute before I turned to face the great sea of people before me. Then I turned back around and entered a Burger King, hoping that calories would quiet the grumbles inside of me besides just my stomach's.

I decided to stay the night (my only option, as it was already late) and leave the next day. I did not have money enough for so much time by myself, as I had counted on splitting lodging costs. I used that as an excuse rather than the feeling of defeat, which was another very good reason.

I suppose I will write more of the trip later. It was not terrible, just a little painful. So it goes.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

El Instituto La Sisla

I realized today that I have not told you much about my school itself. Before I left, I had no idea what I would be doing here besides teaching English, and I had no idea to whom or how or when or anything, really. All I knew was the order "show up in Spain" and the rest was up to me. It is still a little dizzying to think about all that brought me here.

But: my school is the typical middle and high school, except with some differences. There are six periods in each day with two small breaks, and the weeks are two rotating schedules, A and B. One week is A, the next B, and then A again. Clear? Here the students stay for the most part in one classroom and the teachers rush from class to class. This, I admit, is a bit more logical than my high school, where the hallways flooded and filled at every bell and just barely were cleared in time. But the classes here stay together throughout the day, and it would be silly to herd them around like sheep.

The program that I am in teaches English, but mainly through an immersion-type format. There is an English class devoted to grammar, but classes like Technology, Physical Education, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences are also taught in English (to varying degrees). French is also taught a bit, as I found some on the board when I entered my class today.

The teachers are very nice and professional, and love to talk. Many are intimidated by me thanks to the edict that they must talk to me in English (so that they can practice), so this has been a little frustrating for me.

The students are very curious, and range from incredibly shy (at trying to speak English, at least) to very adventurous and willing to say anything, even if they sound silly. My students are mainly 11-15, although I go to two classes a week that are not on my set schedule that are usually older, 17 or 18. The younger ones are more proficient at English, except for the girls that giggle when I enter the room and blush when I ask them what is so funny.

I am a minor celebrity here, and the students yell my name in the hallways and say "hello" as they pass, or they wave from their bikes or pound on the bus windows as they leave school and I begin my walk home. It is kind of fun, but I am trying to get them to feel comfortable with me. My goal has changed from "GET THE SPANISH EXPERIENCE!!!" to a real desire to help these students learn English, and in turn to do well in all of their studies. I made a deal that if they speak to me in English in the hallways, I will speak Spanish. They always smile devilishly when I introduce this idea to new classes.

So, this is a brief introduction of where I work, and I am glad to be there. It is a good school, and I hope to be beneficial to the staff and kids. At the very least, it is worth being here to be called "Mister Matthews."

Now I'm off to Madrid! I might write soon, or catch up in a few days.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Alberto, Cristina, Alberto, y Cristina

I mentioned the other day that I am very sad after leaving Alberto's house, and this is true. I got to the country with no plans and got to my city with no plans, and this man opened up his house when his neighbors think such an act to be foolish.

They gave me a bed, food, and let me be a part of the family for several days. They continually were afraid of being poor hosts due to watching after their two children (named after them, hence the title of this post), but in reality they showed me better hospitality than I could imagine. They fed me well after I went two days having only eaten a sandwich, and they drove me to nearby cities and invited me on walks.

I am so glad for staying there. I learned a lot about the city and country and the people that would have taken me months to learn otherwise, and I learned even more about how to have and to raise and to cherish a family that I could not learn from any other one place.

I watched as Alberto and Cristina smothered their two children in kisses, gave compliments for nothing more than having eaten food, talked seriously but with care about what Alberto Jr. learned in school today, and taught them both to speak better. How they celebrated when Cristina Jr. finished the word "RO. . .JO"! And how they looked at each other when Alberto was misbehaving, and they put him in the carseat in the garage for five minutes, all the while reminding him "I love you more than anything in the world, but you must learn." How they held and helped and hoped for their little ones!

I learned the words for both forms of relieving oneself by their children doing it in the kitchen while I focused much attention on picking bones from my sole (the fish). I watched them eat the last bits of the kids' food when Alberto Jr. turned his head, so that they could congratulate him on a clean plate. I watched Alberto drive and shift with one arm while consoling his fussy daughter in the backseat with his other. I watched them sit and go over the same words over and over, and share the same love over and over.

Alberto and Cristina (Jrs.) began to expect me, and Alberto Sr. told me today that his son asked where I was. After letting me teach him about my camera, taking innumerable pictures of him, and receiving a tiny kiss on the cheek each night before he went to bed, Alberto misses me.

Oh, I cannot wait to have children of my own, to teach them everything I know and to learn more just to share it with them. To love them fully, and to keep them safe. To show them the world and to help them see God's hand in it. To let them fall asleep on my chest. To take them to stores, on hikes, and on drives. To take such pride in my wife and my children, and the fact that there is nothing more in this world that I want beyond that.

I cannot wait to feel this sort of love.

My only wonder is that, in light of their two children being named after the both of them, what will Alberto and Cristina name the one growing within her right now?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Don´t read this if you are prone to worrying?

Today was an important day, but a hard one. I went to classes and they were nothing to write home about. Then I went home, slept to make up for a restless night, and then moved into my new house.

Normally this would be more of an ordeal, but I simply threw all of my belongings into my two rolly-bags, backpack, and laptop bag, and walked four minutes. Then I was moved? It is odd but this is the truth.

But moving in has made me feel very. . .off. I feel like I did the first night here, when I lay awake all night after desperately hoping to talk to people online in a crappy locutorio. Right now I am in the same locutorio, feeling the same loneliness.

I walked half of the city limits tonight, trying to find something to photograph, to make something lovely. But instead I was mocked by the early-closed restaurants, the couples walking hand-in-hand, and the apartments sealed up with lights inside ablaze. This city is well on its way into living, and I feel like there is no room for me here. There is no University and thus no one my age. There hardly appears to be anyone single, and I am not bold enough to strike up a conversation with a couple making googly eyes at each other.

I keep worrying over the fact that I left behind in the States a woman who cares about me. This seems to me a foolish thing. What if she tires of my being away? Such a good thing surely cannot happen twice, and even if it could I only want her.

And now I moved out of Alberto´s family´s house, and this is a scary thing. They took care of me, explained things for me, fed me, spoke slowly to me, and there were children to play with and draw pictures for. Now I have to buy my own groceries, prepare my own meals, and learn to be even more alone. They had two cars and food and great hearts. What do I have?

As I unpacked for the first time, a sense of semi-permanence fell on me. And the quiet of the house I share with another professor screams louder than the two children whose yelling I learned to sleep to.

I confess to you reading this, and this is no easy thing to type, that I am very lonely. My heart hurts. I do not want to worry you, but I am not a good liar. Please pray for me, I guess is what I´m trying to get to.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sonseca is for Lovers. . .and old men.

I am thoroughly convinced that the best way for a foreigner to understand and to know a city is to walk and become lost in her several times. To this end I am making great strides, but found myself today at my intended destination, a large plaza in front of a church. There is an arch, wooden collonades covered in vines, a fountain with children taking pictures in front of it, and many old men talking animatedly.

Now I will tell you a bit about what I have observed in Sonseca, my city. It is a fully Spanish town of 11,000 people, relatively new and still growing. There are some houses here with windows surrounded by bullet-holes from the Civil War that saw limited stagin here, but there are many buildings new and expanding. Driving out of Madrid I counted fourteen cranes in less than 1/2 mile, busy in construction, and here there are perhaps four in the city.

The past thirty years have been good and prosperous for the city, especially in the areas of furniture and fabrics. Lately, though, many of these factories closed to outsource production to China, resulting in a rash of defaulted loans taken out in better times. The city is limping forward but makes no scene of its troubles, and indeed hides them behind a cheery optimism manifest in the many new construction projects.

There is a strong Muslim influence and several smaller operations have arabic writing on the windows. Perhaps a fourth of the city is Muslim, but I do not see much evidence of their great presence besides small touches in the architecture and some women in shrouds.

I have seen no fast food here, and the bars are plentiful. Watiting at one for an acquaintance last night, the bartender looked up at all with a heavy-lidded stare from a downturned face while crashing dishes before people, attempting no conversation. The customers were not overly concerned by this. The other businesses I pass seem opportunistic in their names; I have seen a "Conde de Orgaz" and an "El Greco," but they are both restaurants and not paintings.

The people are garrulous and much taken to passing time in idle chatter, and I hope to be more included in this someday. Or to join the old men walking bent-over with their hands folded behind their backs, or the old men smoking cigarettes and riding bicycles. Perhaps I will be included. For now, I remain a foreigner, and lost.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I got up at seven this morning after two hours of sleep and left my bags with the wife of the owner of the hotel. It took fifteen minutes to walk to and find my school, el IES La Sisla. I went to the secretary where a man entered, sized me up and called me ¨Lucas Matthews.¨

So they have been expecting me. I wondered if they were aware of my existence, much less my arrival! I was brought back to meet the male group of directors enjoying a cafe and incomprehensibly greasy churros. These sounded unappealing to my yet-empty stomach, but I received them and dipped the latter in the former, in the fashion of the men. I was of great interest to them at first but receded into the background as they resumed conversation.

My directora found me and speaks a heavily British English, which is charming. I sat in a meeting of English teachers who seemed intimidated to speak to me in my tongue. They (eight women, one man) asked me how I say my name and laughed saucily at my pronunciaton as if I had said something flirtatious.

I attended two classes where the students were very shy, the young girls blushing and giggling to the point of being unable to speak. I waited and fielded questions, like ¨Do you have a girlfriend?¨ (this was the first question, and is much too difficult to answer in my current situation, so I replied ¨More or less.¨) After introductions Sra. Prado sensed my fatigue and let me go a bit early, so I sat outside to write this.

A bell rang and the school exploded with noise from every open window of scraping chairs and pushed desks and closing bags and idle chatter being picked up only to die out gradually when the bell rings once more. This is a different school than mine, no doubt, but the students are still awkwardly stumbling toward pubescence and still sporting the unfortunate bangs and mullets and windbreakers. They kick and threaten and clap and call out ¨Tu madre¨and tease the opposite sex and perhaps I am not so foreign after all.

But this is not home. One teacher asked me where home is and I almost replied, ¨Harding University until she leaves there¨ but on a quick second thought I decided that ¨Kentucky¨was much simpler, even though their only point of reference for this is the fried chicken of which they are enthusiastic devotées.

The students are yelling at me and waving from windows on the second floor, and merely staring from the third. I do not mind being an oddity, for it brings with it the assumption and usually illusion of being special, unique, and valuable. To these I make no claim, but for now I will correct no assumptions either.

Things are getting better, no doubt. I just ate my first true meal in two days, and I feel strong. Now I just need a decent internet connection that can support Skype.

Feel free to comment, to let me know that you are reading. I have no idea if anyone sees this.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Betraying a Feverish Mind

Although these are written in succession, I am updating from journal entries I have been keeping the past couple of days. This one is fresh from my mind.

I am in my city, Sonseca. I got here by meeting up with my friend Claire at the orientation, and meeting her friends Dean and Nick. Dean lives here, and drove to Daimiel in his car and would be passing through Sonseca, so they gave me a ride. I am here, still with no contact from my school, but I am here.

Part of the agony I felt yesterday was, no doubt, due to this illness that is now recurring in my body. I woke from much-needed sleep feeling surprised that I am in Spain, and then disheartened at the growing impression which that thought left.

I am exhausted from jet lag, from carrying all of my belongings (about 130 lbs. altogether) down narrow cobblestone paths, and from loneliness. This illness is making it all worse.

I will make it, and I will live. I am running short on cash, and will not be paid until the end of November (I discovered today). I imagine the teachers will help me, or I will sleep at the school or in the streets. I got to my city with no plans or connections, so this will happen, too.

I know that God will provide, but I don´t understand how. I don´t know how God works with prayer, as it seems he has ignored so many of mine as of late. Friends and their families with their cancer and their hurts are all still here. Why would he take care of a clueless, scared white boy when he turns a blind eye to these great sufferings?

This is nothing more than ramblings from a fool. I am nothing before the Lord, with too many words.

But I will not cease praying that he protect Mary.

Reflections on Land

The airport in Madrid was warm and comfortable, with workers sympathetic to clueless foreigners. I came to appreciate the pitying smiles and simplistic speech.

I landed and realized that I had absolutely no plans to get to my city. I bought a train ticket and then ran into travelers in the station in Ciudad Real. We walked and toted my entire set of belongings a mile to the bus station and got to Daimiel. From there we met two Germans and one Irish, all girls, and we promptly got lost trying to find a school for our Orientation.

Finally we arrived and I went to my room and clasped a perfumed letter and watched videos on my laptop, because it finally hit me that I am here and there is not one person in the program that cares about me. My school has yet to contact me, and these people I meet are friends of convenience and I will not see them after tomorrow. I am all alone, and why am I here? I left a woman that cares for me in Arkansas, and I left a church that cares for me in Colorado, and I left a family that loves me in Kentucky. What could Spain offer me more than this? I already had everything I need. I made a mistake in coming.

I wrote before that it is easier to be the one doing the leaving, but this was a fool´s lie, made out of ignorance. I left a beautiful woman. How could I leave her? Will her love remain, or fade like the weakening perfume off of this letter?

I will wait for her.

Thoughts from a Descending Plane

We were over land for about a minute before I realized it by small roads, probably more like paths, marking dry ground. Soon I saw, far off, small breaks in a sheet of clouds. It took a moment to see that these were mountain peaks taking the role of Moses, but parting sky rather than sea. As I began to see more roads, small towns, and even the swift rotation of great white windmills, terror began to sieze up within me. I tried to tell myself that this was jitters from little sleep or shudders from the poor coffee they served, but this is fear.

Now the ground beneath me is a brown patchwork, like a fine basket or more like an earthen-clay mosaic. I was unaware there were so many variations on the one brown. These new shapes and contours transfix me, and the country below is great and terrible, indeed. There is so much of her, and so little of me.

Here and there lie outposts with roads radiating out like the spokes of wagon wheels, and yet somehow the towns do seem connected in some as-yet-unidentifiable way. Roads weave improbably and then wind up concurrant like snakes winding about each other.

I am here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I am in Louisville right now, leeching free internets from a cafe. I received my visa in the mail on Monday, turned 23 on Wednesday, and am not particularly enthused about either. Receiving my visa was nice closure, but yielded mixed emotions.

I fly to Madrid tomorrow.

I don't know when I'll be able to get online there, seeing as how I don't even know where I will sleep or live or anything. I'll let you know.

Also, look for me on Skype and I'd like to hear from people. One person in particular, but others, too.

This is a lame update, and I am sorry. I'll write more soon. Take care.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Life Lessons from Old Women

Every other Tuesday, several of the advanced-age women at our church meet here to put together quilts. They give these quilts to sick people, to children pulled out of abusive homes, to families who have lost loved ones, and so on. They also gave me one after my first summer here.

This summer, they have taken to inviting me down for lunch with them when they take a break from working. It is typical potluck fare, including some homemade bread, so I always join them.

And I love it. I try not to talk at all, so I can hear all the more, but I still am fascinated that 60-70-year-old women would talk to me almost as a peer, instead of asking me what I want to be when I grow up.

Sometimes I just sit and listen to them talk over each other detailing their personal ways of cooking oatmeal or what diets they have tried, what items they forgot or lost in the past week, or their gripes over crummy businesses in town (especially automotive services). But my favorite is learning from them.

They talk of the rare times their husbands will do the dishes, the times when husbands are practically obligated to do the dishes, wishing their husbands would let them help with projects around the house, the special vacations they took before they had children, the different-sort-of-special vacations when kids did come along, going camping with the whole family, and all the little day-to-day moments that gradually and then suddenly make up a lifetime.

Frankly, I can't wait to share this with someone. I want to grow old with someone. I can't wait to share stories with friends and grandchildren, to brag on my wife. I can't wait to take a picture with her in front of our first house. I can't wait to debate over names for children and paint colors for rooms and when I am going to get around to fixing the heater. To ask her to hold something while I frantically pound nails into it off-kilter, to work on her car, to surprise her with breakfast in bed (french toast, maybe), to drive across states with her, to serve her.

I am glad that men don't read my blog, haha. Well, I don't think anyone reads it anymore, so my masculinity will remain intact. I'll write about sports next time.

Monday, September 8, 2008

My Dream

This morning I woke up with the oddest memory in my mind. I was in a hotel room with several people from my church in Colorado, but we were in Searcy, AR overlooking a river. On the other side of the river was Lake City, which we decided to drive through and explore. We were impressed by a large and architecturally impossible bank, and then we returned to the room. We heard that there was a tornado coming, so I looked out the window to watch it traveling down the river. The bank was in the background, with huge plumes of smoke rising from it. I looked down to find that our hotel was right on the river, although I was not overly concerned.

The tornado petered out gradually, but for some reason a boat doing water-donuts in the middle of the river started it back up again. The funnel enveloped our building but left it unscathed.

Soon we were in the same room, but in a cabin in rural Arkansas that had existed at least since the Revolutionary era, judging by the racks of muzzle-loaders just outside the window. I contemplated getting some in case any problem arose, but didn't. My friends all left and I was alone,and I looked out the window again to see a band of well-armed men stalking the cabin.

They opened fire and I grabbed the one rifle inside. The projectiles were small pewter balls, like the ones that Johnny Tremain smelted himself. I blind-shot a few out the window just to send them back, and I heard the leader advise a young man to set fire to the cabin to smoke me out. The boy approached with a rag soaked in gasoline, and I stood up to stare him down. He left, and the volleys continued until I ran into the back room to wait for them to break in, figuring I had a better chance at fighting them hand-to-hand in the smaller space.

I looked down at my bayonet to find that one of my friends had replaced it with a spatula. I grimly reflected that it would have to do, and I awaited my attackers.

Then I woke up.

What could it mean???