Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Playing the Victim," or Another Song Posted in Fashionable Mp3 Format

Here is a song I've been sitting on for a while and finally recorded. I wrote the lyrics sitting just outside of the walled portion of Toledo a month or so ago.

It's about wanting to believe someone despite all the evidence pointing to the contrary. Keep in mind, I wrote it a while ago, so there is no grudge behind this song. Not all of the feelings are still true.

Just saying.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I Prove My Critics Wrong, or "Lucas Has Class(es)"

Things have been busy in Sonseca, and that surely is not a sentence often heard.

When I first got here I put up fliers around town hoping to fill the extra hours of the day and perhaps to fill my wallet as well. Now I have to turn people away, as my days are in fact full (although the other has not behaved accordingly).

One new student is Natalia, who studies psychopedagogy at Toledo University. She plays viola in a Sephardic folk band and is trying to make up for a few years of taking no English classes. She always wears a hat of some sort, and we spend a good deal of the class time laughing over her mistakes.

Four hours of my week are now additional classes with my students from the institute, except I am the only instructor and I plan all of the lessons. The students are even wilder than normal, and are eager to turn the time into Sex Ed vocabulary sessions. I somehow managed to change the subject enough that one class ended with us huddled around my Bible, and I was glad.

One of my favorite new classes is with four professors from the Institute who knew absolutely nothing of English before we started. We began with simple things like numbers and salutations, and I have to giggle when I stop to think that I taught the town's priest to say "What's up?" This is how he now greets me in the hall, as well as all of his catechism classes. So far, though, he has yet to begin a sermon this way in Mass.

But I'm keeping my fingers crossed

(no pun intended)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Toledo Again

Last weekend I went to Toledo three times in two days, each time with or to meet different people. It was a lot of fun and was worth getting no sleep. But this weekend I wanted to take a "different" kind of trip. So I did.

Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day and I left the house with no jacket, taking only my camera and my Bible with me. I took the same bus as always but got off before entering the city, deciding instead to walk some trails through the pseudo-mountains. I walked slowly and deliberately trying to avoid being thrown off any rocky ledges by the strong wind.

I found footpaths and bridges that I had never taken before, so I followed them into the city. Beyond them were old ruins I had never seen before, so I explored them. Later there were turrets and bastions in the city's wall that I had never entered, so I climbed them and looked out over everything.

There were little villages that the local homeless had taken over and built up, old houses left to decompose artistically alongside the river, and playgrounds that no self-respecting four-year-old would use.

Lately things overall have been different, and for the most part this is a good thing. I am feeling different, and certainly not hurting like I once was. But for all this change and for all these different things I am experiencing, seeing, and feeling, there is just one thing that is no different at all: there is still only one person in the world that I wish I were sharing this with.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Rocio was Doing Poop." Yikes.

This is what you get when you play a game with thirteen-year-olds, haha.

Today I had class with a small group of students to focus on using the past continuous tense but they were not in the mood to do work in their books. I suggested we play the game where each person adds one word until you have a semi-coherent story that satisfies all. Towards the end the students began suggesting each others' names for added hilarity. Here are the results:

"I was playing tennis on bed and I was dancing in my house. The dog was running by my bedroom crazy. The dog was crashing to the grandmother. The cat was crashing in the wall with happiness. The object was broken.

"The trees were crazy but I was silly. He is handsome, and I am pretty. We are studying for the competition. Elena is playing with her Barbies and Marta was thinking about the Barbies but she is crazy and silly. Elena was singing and she was sleeping. The rabbit has a tail and it was beautiful.

"Rocio was lying down in the bathroom. She was doing poop. Lourdes was doing poop and she was smoking."

I laughed so hard at the phrase "doing poop" that I decided not to correct them, so as not to spoil the future enjoyment of whatever English speaker they come across many days from now.

Later in the afternoon I used an episode of "The Office" in a lesson, which feels like a moral victory. I pretended not to hear when my student asked the meaning of the phrase "that's what she said."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another Good Day at La Sisla

Sometimes I absolutely love my job.

The students at the Sisla are astonishingly excited when we have class together, sometimes cheering as I enter the room if they didn't know I would be with them that day, or asking if I will return next year and making a pouty face when I answer. Today one class asked me to bring my parents back with me and move to Sonseca.

As I walk through swarming and swirling adolescent currents pouring down the hallways they call my name and ask how I am even though they don't understand the answer past my smile. If I leave one building to walk to another they poke their heads out of windows and yell to me in spite of the inevitable reprimand that follows from their teachers. I am slightly embarrassed when I am talking to another professor and the students interrupt us to greet me excitedly. . .and say nothing to the other teacher (who I happen to assist in teaching these exact students).

One day I was taking over a class for a sick teacher and needed to begin by going over a full page of homework. I was going to have each student answer one question to give them all a chance to practice, and this would have taken up much of the period. Instead a girl stood up and read the entire sheet as the rest of the class hurriedly checked answers and scribbled over incorrect ones. She finished in record time, sat down, and said, "Let's talk." They asked me questions for the rest of the period, and we all laughed very much.

The victory of the day came when Maria made a joke and referred to the act of urination as going "whiz whiz."

Yes, things are looking up.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Exile, or "How Vast Beyond All Measure"

Few things fail to fascinate me like the prophets in the Old Testament. These men who were called to preach to a hostile people who had become as deaf, dumb, and worthless as the idols they worshiped. A people who were anxious for political allies in ongoing wars but cared nothing for the help of the God of their youth. A people who were called and loved, that God never gave up on.

It looked like God gave up on them, though. First the Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom. Judah decided not to learn from this, or from her own past, and so Babylonia came. How could they feel like they were any god's chosen people?

The prophets preach a rage burning with a ferocity so frightening that some wonder how the same God could come as the loving Jesus. The prophets preach the words of a lover spurned, of a God incensed. Amos transfers this message: "I hate, I despise your religious feasts. I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them."

Hosea passes on: "What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears."

Jeremiah: "I will enslave you to your enemies in a land you do not know, for you have kindled my anger and it will burn forever."

And yet through Hosea he also says, "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? . . .My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused." In chapter 13 God announces, "I will redeem them from death!"

What a telling picture of the personality of God that no one wanted Israel to prosper and thrive more than God did. That no one wanted Israel to be shown love and care than God did! That no one wanted less for Assyria and Babylonia to triumph than God did! That no one wanted less for Israel to suffer, and to go into exile than God did! God wanted peace for Israel more than Israel wanted it.

How deep the Father's love for us!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What a Day!

Last night Sagrario had a birthday party. The night before she had come to my house to personally invite me, so I felt a little obligated to go. I sent her a text message and she called to tell me that she is sick. I guess I showed too much concern, because she changed her tone and invited me to go with her to Toledo the following morning (today). She had some work things to do for a few hours, so I would have some time to myself like last time.

In the car on the way there, she informed me that she had prepared a picnic lunch for the day and that we could enjoy it from a certain valley that overlooks the walled city.

"Oh good," I responded.

Then she gasped as she realized that she forgot to ask me to bring my guitar, so I could play for her.

"Oh," I responded, thinking: Whatever. This isn't too unbearably awkward. I just want a free ride to the book store.

We met back up later when she had finished her work and she wanted to introduce me to her friend Belen (it means "Bethlehem") who had eye surgery the day before. We entered Belen's dark and seafood-smelling apartment and were immediately served crawfish and cashews, assuaging the fears I had of the picnic but also sadly creating new ones. The shades were all drawn, to protect Belen's eyes.

Belen was incredibly chatty and engaging, and we talked about music and travel. She chided Sagrario for not seeing more of the world, and also for the second-rate potato chips that she had brought with us. Then she ran back to her room and brought out. . .a guitar! For me to play!

I acquiesced, reasoning that there were worse fears for a new acquaintance to play upon. I took the guitar and played an instrumental, hoping that would be enough. They told me to sing. So I did. When I was done, Belen was wiping tears from her face and thanking me. She explained that after the operation she has had to pump "fake tears" into her eye, so that she was actually weeping meant I could trust that she liked it. She kept asking for more songs until we had to leave for an appointment of mine.

We left and Sagrario dropped me off in her usual awkward way. Then my water didn't work, so I talked to my landlord. In the process, his son of twenty-four asked me to hang out with him and his friends tonight. Technically tomorrow, because they begin at midnight. So I am going, in hopes of having one more story to share.

What a day!

Friday, January 16, 2009

"In Those Eyes," Now in Low-Fat Mp3 Format

This is a new song I wrote and am sharing, and I already see some things I want to change (haha). Mostly I want to change a few words, but in the meantime you can listen to it and tell me if anything else could be improved. I tried to make this a simpler song than "Looking Forward to Loving You," rather than shoving the whole story in there.

This song is about looking back after a failed love (we'll say this is theoretical) and admitting that although the singer's love was offered in truth and completely, it was not pure and he still made mistakes. And in the end what he thinks about from that relationship is not all the horrible things from either side, but rather when things were good.

But this is all theoretical, of course. . .right? Hmm.

Hope you like it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back in the Swing of Things

This week was a return to the semi-daily grind of work. As it is I am working the same schedule I had last semester, but (at least) four extra hours of classes each evening.

Tonight was my first class with two children of a teacher from my school, Claudia and Mario. She is 7, he is 5. They arrived and did not answer when I said "hello."

Sandra toted her children inside and apologized, saying that they are very shy and that she would need to sit in on the class with us. When I sat down the children silently argued over who got to sit next to their mother and at the end both slumped down in defeat.

I spent a lot of the evening laughing, because they are two of the most beautiful little angels you will ever see. Claudia turns red and barely talks until her mother prods her, and Mario hops from seat to seat and goes "huh huh huh huh huh huh huh" when I re-ask him the question that got his attention in the first place. (but he doesn't sound like Beavis or Butthead, and it gives me pause to consider that these might not be pop-cultural references anymore)

So by the end of the evenings I am pretty tired, and I guess that it is for the best to keep myself (and my mind) as occupied as I can.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On This Day in History

One year ago today was the first day of my last semester at Harding.

There was little worth remembering about the morning except my linguistics class, for which I was very excited until I met the professor. I felt a mixture of horror and pity as he spoke and immediately began plans to drop the class for being lame.

That evening in my room, I received a call from my friends Amanda and Courtney. They asked me to audition for their play, the Mousetrap, and I agreed although I had severe doubts about my acting ability and I was unhappy that I would have to put clothes back on to meet them. There I met a girl who I thought didn't care for me at all but in a few months she would tell me that she loved me, and I would believe her.

That night I went back to my room and listened to Scott Orr and Laura Veirs, wondering what would come.

(This may not mean a thing to anyone else in the world. In truth I suppose a blog is simply a charade of significance, so it is well written here. I have made a lot of decisions since January 14, 2008 and I am wondering if I made the right ones.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


It is continually confounding and yet amazing, the mind's ability to choose what it will believe and what it will ignore.

When Israel fell far from God and broke the covenant made with him, God was understandably furious. He tried in every way to get their attention and to bring them back. He sent Assyria and Babylonia in the end, but along the way he sent message after message. In locusts (literal and figurative ones, it seems), in droughts, in sieges, in military defeat. But despite all of his anger he also appealed to the Israelites' hearts, and he spoke tenderly of alluring them, leading his people back into the desert.

The desert, where they walked and complained after being rescued from Egypt. The desert, where an entire generation died without seeing the Promised Land. But this was the desert! The desert where the people were led by God himself! The desert where they saw him as fire and cloud, and saw his presence day and night!

So God speaks to them of "when things were good," hoping that it will matter. But this only matters to an honest heart. A hardened and calloused heart refused to remember this loving guidance, and put it out of his/her mind to avoid past beauty, and past obligations. It's a simple matter to remain positive when you ignore, or just "don't think" about what has been, and what should be.

God confronted Israel with her sin, and the proper response to his offer of love. But they didn't want to think about it, because that would require change. And change hurts.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Is it True?

The Bible shows that there is always a chance for redemption. There is always a chance for salvation. There is nothing beyond hope.

Is it true?

That is the whole point of the Beatitudes, after all. As if to say, "The Kingdom of Heaven is extended even to those that seem most scorned, cursed, or forgotten by God." The poor, the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (but just can't seem to make it there), the persecuted: no one would say that these are the ones experiencing divine favor. But the Kingdom is open even to these. And they don't deserve it for being miserable, either, but God's love rests even on these, the unredeemables.

Israel was brought back from exile! The Temple rebuilt! They even had John the Baptist, after such a long time with no prophetic voice! And then God walked among them in flesh, showing that even the "fallen" human being can be redeemed and holy! God works miracles from the unredeemable.

I have been waiting for months to see something renewed that has been ruined and dismantled. I have even been counseled to give up completely, by just about everyone. I want to see the beauty of redemption. Like Israel! Like Naomi and Ruth! Like Hosea taking Gomer back.

Can this be redeemed? Is it true?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Lesson Learned

Next time when I do laundry, I will check the weather forecast for the night's low temperature.

Spaniards don't believe in "dryers" and so we hang up our laundry on clotheslines. This can prove to be an issue in January.

Below is a picture of my frozen jeans, leaned against the wall to display all of the glory:
You should have heard me giggle. I ran back outside to grab a t-shirt to balance on top, but I returned just in time to see my pants crumple on the floor. What a pity!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another Trip to Toledo

I think I inadvertently went on my first Spanish date last night?

Some lady here in town invited me to go with her to Toledo and hang out after she did some things at an academy there. I agreed, having planned on going there anyway. While she was busy I got to take a walk and watch the sun set behind the huge, historic walls. I went to a record store and bought a CD that I already own, "Recovering the Satellites" by Counting Crows. (My other copy is back in the States, and this has been one of my favorite albums since fourth grade. AND it was only the price of a meal from McDonald's, in contrast to the $22-ish other albums)

I sat in the Plaza and read Hosea until she was done, and even ran into a friend who used to be a substitute at my school. We talked and renewed plans to make plans to hang out one day, and he went on his way.

Sagrario finished her stuff and we ate dinner. Throughout the conversation I was pleased that she actually laughed at my jokes, even though she wasn't drinking. We talked for a while and then walked to a bar where a local blues band was playing. I was pleased to hear Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top, topped off with the strained vocals of a guy not much older than I. But who am I to complain about poor vocals, eh?

The drummer was incredible and even took an extended solo through the audience, banging on tables and the bar and working the drunk guys into a frenzy. One guy was VERY into it, dancing with reckless abandon like a two-year-old listening to Raffi. Another (and large) man wiggled his rump while losing not a drop from his snifter (yes, a snifter) of brandy to the delight of the young ladies. We left the club late with our ears ringing and smelling of smoke, and I was glad.

It was nice to be freed of making plans at the mercy of the bus schedule since she has a car, and it was good to have company even if it was slightly awkward at times. I'm going to go listen to my CD now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another Posted Song, in Colourful Mp3 Format

Here is a cover of a Beatles song, which shows my first attempt at multi-tracking in order to do the intro. Also one of my harmonicas makes a cameo. I tried to mix the vocals in a different way this time, so let me know if it sounds okay/better/pleaseturnitoffohgosh.

School starts back up tomorrow, so perhaps I will get back into writing on here more regularly. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 in Review

This past year was one of extremes, of opportunity and change. One year ago I was looking forward to my final semester at college and wondering how it would end. I did not expect what was, though. It was a blur of food from Sonic, CLEP tests, formals, and hope. My favorite times were either sitting in a tree the day I came back from Hawaii or listening to Gnarls Barkley in my car. The worst was when my best friend's engagement ended. Then I graduated and wondered what it meant.

The summer was warm and lovely, days spent hiking and climbing mountains and eating ice cream with my youth group, preparing lessons and praying they would be worth something, sharing sermons and repainting rooms and wondering why I planned yet another lock-in. My heart was full of worry those days and I spent my free time on my bike, only to find that even riding thirty miles did not exhaust enough to slow my mind.

The summer ended with a sudden shift in something I had been counting on to see me through the coming changes, as a promised love became a mixture of confusion and derision. The lightning-fast flux left me with questions: was the love I once saw the truth or the lie? Then what of the subsequent lack thereof? Which was Jekyll, and which Hyde? . . .and will “her” friends still talk to me?

Soon I found myself in another country. After stepping off the plane it hit me that I was completely on my own. I spent the first two days trying to arrange a means of travel to two different podunk cities and did not eat more than half an apple. All the while my eyes scanned each street for an internet cafe.

Now I am no less a foreigner than when I arrived, and I have never been more tired. My hopes for the near future include preparing a working portfolio of photographs, sharing some original songs, and finishing my current read-through of the Bible that I began in late October. For the far future, I look forward to getting a job that pays in dollars, starting a band, and falling in love.

At the risk of sounding Dickensian, 2008 yielded some of the very best and the very worst that I have known. Some day I will look back on it fondly, but for now I am ready to move on.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What Would We Be Without Wishful Thinking?

Tonight is my last night in London. I get to leave the hostel at 4:45 tomorrow morning to take the Underground to a bus to the airport to Madrid to Toledo to a house that I rent. But there await me my guitar, my harmonicas, and my toothbrush. I have missed all of these terribly.

Kidding on the toothbrush. I don't even own one!

Being in England has been odd, to be sure. It was a good trip, but I confess that I am tired in body and spirit and am looking forward to resting back in Sonseca. But there are little moments here that felt weighty, that felt significant. Little glimpses of beauty like seeing people spray champagne as fireworks marked the transition to 2009 or drunk people yelling and congratulation strangers, or walking past a young man that had too much to drink and lay on the street in a pose utterly unfaithful to his expensive suit and expensive haircut. Or a girl whose friends were trying to convince of her inebriety and offered to call a cab as the poor rich girl stared off into space with the most depressingly lost gaze I have ever seen.

Or sitting in a bus coming back from Stonehenge and reading Old Testament prophets, and wondering how to show to same love and fidelity that the Israelites refused to accept. Or looking out the window in the same bus and seeing no landscape, only fog. A deep fog like the night I left Searcy for the last time, praying earnestly for engine failure before I left the state.

Or this very night, going to see a show. (God once again blurred the lines between his sense of humor, irony, and cruelty in that one of the only shows not sold out [and in the end the one we saw] was: The Mousetrap.) It brought back a lot of memories of when days and thoughts and feelings were brand new.

Or watching Trafalgar Square erupt with cheers over nothing more than a page turned on cheap wall calendars and being glad in my heart. Just an hour before these people were shoving each other aside, shooting untrusting glances at others standing too near, and booing the police. Now they were united in an optimism that many people need desperately. The foolish ones drank away their chance at sharing this joy.

Those of us who remained sober and smooch-less were caught up in something magical. This was far from home, but this was a time of hope. And I leave with memories of seeing Abbey Road, of winding my way down Baker Street (thinking of Gerry Rafferty makes me long for Colorado mountains, though), of exploring and getting lost and wondering and loving. Yes, this was a good trip.

A (New) Year

How curious!

Indeed, how very curious. It is a new year, and yesterday was the end of another. Of course there is nothing more "new" about today than there was to yesterday, andour notions of time are relative and arbitrary, but last night I felt the full weight of this relativity replace the load already on my shoulders as I walked alone through the streets of London.

I listened to the Shins, Aimee Mann, and Sufjan Stevens and remembered walking through so many other cities by the same songs. Suddenly before me were little memories, little moments that are long gone but somehow strikingly vivid. Before me were faces of girls I had loved, one beside me as I drove, another guiding me as we walked, another sitting along in the backseat as my father drove us from the airport.

And there were worries in my heart in each of those times, too. And somehow the memories, those time-places or temporal stations, those seasons are beautiful still. I look at them fondly and treasure them. My current worries lost their cumbersome immediacy and with it their power, their weight.

As Sufjan Stevens's "Transfiguration Motif" played in "Chicago," I felt changed myself. I imagined that my problems now will see little resolution regardless of the New Year, and will be with me for some time. But they are no end, in and of themselves! They are no crushing sum total of life and my time here. They are peripheral. Soon I will look back on these days fondly, and they will be beautiful still. I will take the good with the bad.

For the first time in a long time, I am hopeful of the days to come.