Sharing through Song

Thursday night the Choraleers had the great experience to sing with five other college choirs from the Upstate of South Carolina.  We carpooled just over an hour to Southern Wesleyan University in Central, South Carolina for the Upstate Intercollegiate College Festival.  There we got to listen to, meet, and sing for choirs from Mars Hill, Clemson, Bob Jones, Presbyterian, and Southern Wesleyan.  Although it was a long afternoon and evening – we left at 3:30 and did not return to Due West until about 11:00! – it was worth the experience of being able to fellowship and share music with people our age who have a love of music as we do.  We get to sing for others all the time, as a choir, but it is not often that we have other choirs sing for us!

If you would like to hear the concert, it was recorded and you can find it archived on Southern Wesleyan’s website at:  http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/18437444 Erskine begins at around 1:12:00.  Enjoy!

What’s Great About Spain?

For a change of pace, I’ve decided to post a dual list of things I appreciate about Spain and things I miss about home, caveat being, of course, that such a list necessarily involves generalizations. So don’t take my word for it—come for a visit!

A random odd thing: milk in stores in Spain is kept in the open, along with boxes of cereal and other such dry goods. The pasteurization process used here is different, apparently.

Things I love about Spain:

In the village of Guadix in AndaluciaEveryone is friendly and most are extremely patient with language-learners

The weather is almost always balmy

Desserts like natias (a sweet type of pudding) and turrón (nougat made with honey, sugar, egg white, and nuts), and scrumptious traditional dishes like paella

One is never late (this is true even of me…which is saying something). If, for example, your bus is stopped for fifteen minutes because of some unidentified obstacle in the road and you are subsequently caught in the rain, all of which causes you to arrive at class twenty minutes late, no pasa nada (no big deal)—you’ll probably arrive *cough* before five or so other students anyway.

Cookies for breakfast. (Yes, every morning I eat cereal and galletas….You can also put butter and jelly on your cookies, but after a couple of weeks of this sweet breakfast diet, I switched to dipping mine in milk instead and only eat the butter-and-jelly combination on Sundays. As much as I love sweets, I just couldn’t feel at ease about eating cookies with such unhealthy toppings for breakfast. Although I suppose it’s not much different from the sugary varieties of cereal we eat at home…interesting how the psyche works sometimes.)

A completely different sense of time—the Spanish almost never seem to be in a hurry, and they always have time for fellowship. The tyranny of the urgent doesn’t seem to exist here…or at least, not to the same degree. I think this easy-going perspective on time is rubbing off on me, because I’ve found myself, for example, making the one-hour trip to an internship only to find that the office where I’ve been volunteering was closed for the day. The gals I work with there had forgotten to tell me not to come, and I consequently traveled two hours for no reason…and yet, I wasn’t at all phased or upset by this…strange.

Being in Spain, I think, is teaching me to better understand G.K. Chesterton when he says that “an adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” Indeed, some of my best adventures here have come about “by chance” when I was searching for something or waiting for something…I mean, even going to the grocery store for the first time here was an adventure! Everything—not just the language— is just different enough to keep me constantly learning.

Going to the movies. This isn’t particularly unique to Spain, but it was so exciting to go to a recent theater a few weeks ago and to discover that I was actually able to enjoy and understand a movie in Spanish! Sure, I may have missed a few details…but the experience was a more tangible proof that some of the reading, speaking, and studying I’m doing is actually sinking in!

Meeting new people and experiencing new things. It has been both fun and fascinating to converse with young people from countries as diverse as Turkey, Italy, Germany, Spain, Kazakhstan, Finland, China, etc., etc. It has also been such a blessing to be welcomed into church family and youth group here in Spain. Finally, I’d better not go into too much detail, or this post will become a short novel…but one of my favorite “new experiences” has been seeing the numerous cathedrals in various cities (they’re everywhere here!). Whatever your beliefs, these churches are breathtakingly beautiful.

Things I miss about home: ice and hot tea (these may see like strangely incongruent items to miss, but I’m both Southern and a lover of hot tea; and neither of these ends of the beverage spectrum are very common in Spain. I was, however, excited, at long last, to find a tea cup in Barcelona to add to my collection. Perhaps that particular souvenir item would have been easier to find in Great Britain, but anyway…)

Peanut butter (This is one food that I eat with great regularity at school, but it seems to be a rarity here.)

My car (It’s quite strange to have not driven for over two months. Consequently, I actually found myself fantasizing about driving the other day…and I don’t even like to drive!) Riding the bus, as I see it, is part of my Spain-experience, and I like it most of the time. But it is nice to be able to hop in the car and to arrive somewhere ten minutes later. Also, for someone who’s borderline germophobic (I may or may not keep a large container of Clorox wipes in my dorm room), becoming accustomed to the daily use of public transportation was somewhat disconcerting. The bus lines in Alicante, however (and in Spain in general, from what I’ve seen), and remarkably well-kept and sanitary. Still.

Family and friends at home and familiar things. Need I say more? They’re just amazing.

All the world’s a stage…

What a week!  Last Monday through Saturday I spent at least four hours a day in our theatre and backstage, between dress rehearsals and three performances of our fall play, Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Overall, it was a great experience, but there is nothing so tiring (and fulfilling) as the final week of preparations and running a show.

Amber doing aging make-up on Rebecca, the Lady Gonzala

One element of theatre that I do not have much experience with is special make-up, but for this show I got to work a lot in this unknown territory.  I am used to doing normal stage make-up, but this time I got to experiment with aging and color make-up.  My friend Amber and I were in charge of making a few of the characters look moderately aged, so we had the daunting task of making college students appear on stage to have believable wrinkles and grey hair.  Also, for two of the characters I experimented with special color make-up to give the former (my character) sort of flames or wings around the eyes, and the latter spots of scale-like skin.  It was a daunting task, but we learned and it became easier every time.

Working on fancy eye make-up for my character, Ariel

Something that I enjoy about doing a Shakespeare play (every two years at Erskine) is the chance to work with a larger cast.  Because we have a smaller theatre department, we tend to do shows with a smaller cast; but when we do Shakespeare, as in this play, we bring many new people into the theatre.

On the other hand, there are challenges as well, the main one being that we do not have a very extensive capability for our sets and lighting.  Although we have a fairly good number of committed actors who have experience and skills on stage, we do not have very many students who specialize in set design or lighting.  However, we are all willing to learn and do what we can, so somehow we always make it work; for example, in this play we experimented more with the lighting, adding a little more to the effects of different scenes.

Although it always seems to be over quickly, after months of preparation it is nice to have more free time all of the sudden!  Besides, there are always new projects to be working on, and more upcoming performances to be preparing for at Erskine, so there is no shortage of enjoyable activities to occupy my time.  On to the next one!

The cast of Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Me, Oblivious?

You know you’re not observant when…

The bus I ride to classes each day

…you ride the bus in the wrong direction for fifteen minutes before it dawns on you that you don’t recognize this part of town and are now on the outskirts of the city. Whoops.

I inadvertently took just such a detour the other day and ended up being forty-five minutes late for one of my two-hour classes that afternoon. I was tempted to be frustrated (and may have indulged in a moment or two of said emotion), but then I just had to laugh.

Guess I should pay attention to my surroundings—even if I’m intently listening to the conversation in Spanish going on next to me.
And I hope the people on the second bus I boarded didn’t think I was having a seizure…it’s just that, once I was again happily on my way to the university and had a moment to pause and think, I had trouble containing my laughter over my little “mishap”.

Of all God’s gifts, laughter is one of my favorites.

Happy Halloween!

While Halloween did not involve a major celebration throughout my childhood, boy does it mandate one in the girls’ dorms! At Erskine, residence life is a huge part of campus life, especially in the female dormitories. Aside from the monthly cupcake decorating, spontaneous hot chocolate provided by the resident director, or necessary movie nights in the lobby, Halloween is a definite must. As you probably know, Due West is a small town. Well, small is actually an understatement. Anyways, due to the small population, there aren’t that many houses for the children to visit. However, with a college campus in town, they are provided with a huge opportunity to gain some candy. Opening the doors to both Carnegie and Robinson Hall, the halls become filled with little trick-or-treaters, and leave the residents wondering where all the children could have come from!

Beginning with the decorations, October must be started off right. Last year, it felt like every night was scary movie night during the month, but this year I think our schedules got the best of us. However, that did not limit the amount of activity on October 31st as several male and female students came dressed up, with bags and buckets full of candy. As hundreds of children dashed through the halls, I could not help smiling at their joy and excitement. Because I am an Early Childhood Education major, I pretty much live for this stuff. Some of the students from my teaching experience even came by to see me and were amazed at the fact they got to see my room and where I live. I forget how important those things are in a eight-year-old’s life. Even the President of the college walked through with his kids, one announcing that “his job is to figure out what he is supposed to be.” Man, he is only six and he has more figured out than me sometimes!

Well, Halloween is over, but now the countdown begins to Thanksgiving break. While Erskine is nice, and my friends are the best, there is still nothing like going home to a shower without shoes, a bed bigger than my body, and a house filled with family.

It’s Homecoming

I love Homecoming!!  It’s so exciting to see all of my friends that have graduated and are back at Erskine for a visit.  The homecoming festivities began with the Homecoming parade at twelve o’clock.  I was on the Homecoming court as a senior class representative so; I was able to ride in Erskine’s Model “A” driven by Buddy Ferguson.  The presentation of Homecoming Court was done during the half-time portion of the men’s soccer game.  I was so excited that my parents were able to come and be a part of my last Homecoming!  The representatives from each class filed onto the field and waited to hear the announcement of the Homecoming Queen.  Julia Price was named second runner-up, Amanda Reavis first runner-up, and I won Homecoming Queen!  I was so surprised!!  I was so excited and happy that I had won!  I have included some pictures of me with my friends and family at Homecoming!

My friends and I at Homecoming

                After homecoming I had to rush over to Bowie Arts Center for my big event of the semester, Fall Fest.  As chair of the Erskine Entertainment Board it was my job to make sure each person on the board knew their tasks for the day to make the event a success.  First, we had to meet to set up the lights and sound with the crew from Custom Audio.  This was an intense process and required most of the board to help lift and unpack.  When the stage was set, the bands began to arrive.  Sequoyah Prep School was first to arrive and they began a sound check to make sure everything was ready for the concert.  After our other band Prettier than Matt completed their sound check, the bands were fed and the gate was opened for students.  SCA had provided pumpkins for students to carve while they listened to the concert.  My friends printed out pumpkin carving templates and you can see them carving their pumpkins in one of my pictures!  Mario also made h
is famous homemade hot chocolate and apple cider to keep everyone warm.  I have included a picture of Mario with his family who came to help him distribute the drinks to the students!  Everyone loves to see Mario at an event because he is such a great cook!!  Prettier than Matt which features an alumni, Jessica Skinner, was first to perform.  She played some original material mixed with cover songs.  The students seemed to really enjoy her music!  I have included a clip of her singing “Hey Soul Sister” by Train if you click on the Prettier Than Matt link at the bottom of the page.  Everyone was excited for Sequoyah Prep School, the headlining band!  They had so much energy on stage and got the crowd off their feet!  All in all it was a great night! Such a busy day but well worth all work everyone put into Homecoming and Fall Fest!!  I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Mario and his family

My friends carving their pumpkin

Prettier Than Matt

A Saturday Outing

Yesterday morning I went to have breakfast with my friend Sandra. She is one of the wonderful Spanish friends God has brought into my life since my arrival in Alicante, and it has been such a pleasure getting to know her. How did we meet? Randomly enough, while waiting in line at the TAM (Transporte Alicante Metropolitano) to recharge our bus cards (though not randomly at all, considering how our good God cares for His children!). When I first saw Sandra, I figured that this confident-looking, beautiful Spanish gal would hardly be much interesting in talking to me. But I said “hello” anyway and asked her where she was from, and as it turned out, she was extremely friendly and happens to be studying English as part of a tourism management degree. We exchanged phone numbers then, and from there we’ve developed a wonderful friendship that I’ve no doubt will continue once I’ve flown back to the States.

Sandra and I

Sandra, like a number of patient friends here, has the uncanny ability—or, perhaps more accurately, makes a concerted effort—to speak in a way that is crystal clear and refreshingly understandable. (Which, considering my level of Spanish is quite an accomplishment on her part.) And if I am ever confused by a particular word or phrase, she is quick to catch on and to explain until I am un-confused. Sandra and I enjoy talking about all manner of different topics, but we also often end up simply discussing numerous different words, phrases, and language-features of both English and Spanish—a fascinating exercise for anyone who loves language. It has also been incredibly interesting to learn about Spanish culture from her. We talk about topics ranging from travel and entertainment to politics and systems of education, and I always come away from our get-togethers with an enriched perspective on Spanish culture. Sandra possesses an infectious sort of curiosity about the worl
d and a lively interest in travel and culture that seems to rub off on me when I’m with her.

During yesterday’s breakfast, after we’d chatted for a bit, Sandra kindly invited me to launch into a somewhat heated account of the difficulties I’ve been having with my prepaid phone. (I won’t bore you with the details, but basically, be careful if you ever use a prepaid phone in Spain—companies will swindle you for all you’re worth if you’re not careful. Such is the price of naivety, I suppose.) Anyway, once I’d explained, Sandra kindly offered to accompany me to the mobile phone store, which she subsequently did. Next, she took me to H&M and helped me shop for winter clothes. Several times during our three-hour outing, I felt the need to tell her that she really didn’t need to accompany me and that she should let me know if she had things to do and needed to go. Her response was, unvaryingly, that she wasn’t in a hurry and that she would be delighted to come with me. Which brings up a cultural characteristic that has repeatedly caught my attention
since I’ve been here: the Spanish always seem to have time for people. I mean, when was the last you accompanied someone while they ran errands or—as various neighbors have done when I’ve been with Spanish friends—woken up from a Sunday-afternoon nap to invite people into your home for tea and a spontaneous visit? This is type of hospitality and selflessness with one’s time that, to me anyway, seems comparatively rare in the US. It is, of course, important to be a good steward of one’s time and to strike a balance between focus and fellowship. But perhaps our priorities have become a bit skewed when we can find time to watch our favorite TV show each week, but don’t have much time to really love people and share our time with them? It’s food for thought, at any rate.