Today I will see beauty- Part 2

In my blog post last week, I told you that I wanted to see beauty in the daily grind of life. I wanted to intentionally notice.

I managed to get a photo from each day and multiple photos from several days. My self-induced challenge made me look for beauty, even when I wasn’t snapping pictures. I liked that.

There were a lot of photos I would have liked to have had and one I accidentally deleted… but instead of telling you about those, I’ll show you these:

(Most of the photos below were taken on my phone, so I won’t vouch for their quality.)

silvery underside of tree
Thursday: My favorite tree. When I pass under it, I love to look up at the silverly undersides of the leaves.
sun shining through clouds over city
Friday: After an early morning rain
trees and roses lining boulevard
Saturday: The roses are still blooming
silhouettes of two women
Sunday: Friendship
family of three with sombrilla and market bag walking along tree-lined boulevard
Sunday (again): A family walking home from the market
elderly couple seated on bench along tree-lined boulevard
Monday: An elderly couple enjoying the tranquil boulevard
open cupboard
Tuesday: Organized cupboards!
water bottle in case made out of aluminum bottle tabs
Wednesday: The water bottle holder itself is not very beautiful, but two things make it beautiful to me: 1) it was a gift and 2) it’s made from recycled aluminum can pull tabs.

Today I will see beauty- Part 1

Sometimes beauty gets lost in the daily grind of life until I hardly notice it anymore. Noticing the beautiful things in life generally doesn’t happen unless it’s intentional… at least for me.

snail gliding along tile sidewalk

Many days, I would notice the trash, but not the snail.

This week, I want to be intentional about noticing beauty.  I propose one photo or descriptive scene each day.

I’m making the “descriptive scene” an option because sometimes the best photos lodge themselves in my mind and never make it to my camera. Sometimes because pulling out my camera would detract from the beauty. Sometimes because the moments happen too fast. Sometimes I am trying to be culturally sensitive.

(Pictures speak a thousand words, but sometimes words can speak a thousand pictures because words come from human perception rather than a camera lens.)

So for one week, I will look for beauty in every day… and give you an update next Thursday.

Join me?

Tarjetas and tourists: what’s been happening recently

“What has been happening recently?” you ask. I’ll tell you, even if you didn’t ask. 

One of my favorite big events was getting my residency card, my tarjeta. FINALLY. All of the paperwork, the trip to the Chicago consulate, the phone calls that drove me close to insanity, the corrections, the visa, the move to Spain, the various trips to the extranjería (and the wonderful roommate who accompanied me on all of those!), and finally… finally… on the last trip, the man across the counter handed me my tarjeta. “Perfect.”

We celebrated with a trip to the mall, coffee and tostadas, and getting lost (as is our custom while on foot in Almería).

Last week, my roommate and I took a trip to Berja, a small town in the province of Almería. Away from our immigrant town, we noticed a more defined Spanish flavor, especially in the thicker Andalusian Spanish.

At a bus stop in the middle of nowhere, a man (one who would fit nicely into one of those “anti-smoking” commercials) climbed on board our bus. He sat in front of us but hollered over our heads to the man sitting directly behind us. After several minutes of thick and raspy Andalusian exchange, he turned to face forward and lean back in his seat. The seat was broken and little by little, it voluntarily reclined so far that soon there were three of us in our seat. I giggled. I couldn’t help it! The day was going to be an adventure…

In la villa vieja, we freely roamed the Roman and Arab ruins and enjoyed the silence of the forsaken countryside.

We walked part of “the route of fountains” to find the oodles of little fountains throughout the town. But more fun than finding the fountains was seeing pretty pieces of the town I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

We topped off the afternoon with a sumptuous “choto al ajillo” (goat in garlic sauce) which we bravely tried… and liked!

Of course, lots of other things have been happening too that I haven’t described in detail here (at least not yet), such as:

  • setting up a library corner at the store
  • watching a bus driver threaten to call the police to remove a disruptive and cussing passenger
  • walking with a friend in time to a spiritual discussion
  • seeing God working miracles through brothers and sisters in Christ who are willing to be a channel of God’s power and love
  • multiple trips to the bank to set up an account… to no avail until the fifth time I tried and the bank teller threw up his hands and hollered, “IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT!”

And more. Much more. But that’s enough for now, because I’m off to have another adventure. After all, there is an adventure in every day if we remember to look for it.

Interviewing Carmen

As I was reflecting on different aspects of North African culture, I realized it would be refreshing to get someone else’s perspective. So I talked with Carmen, a fellow foreigner, who lives in my city. (Keep in mind that her answers are paraphrased because I could not type fast enough to keep up with her thoughts.)

What do you like most about the culture?

I love the modesty. They have so much style and yet they’re so modest. Especially coming from Western culture. Although it may not be a true heart modesty, it’s physical modesty and that is nice.

Another thing I like is that people here talk about honoring God, and they’re just more open to talking about God in general. I went to a wedding in North America and there was no mention of God anywhere! It makes me wonder if God has a great plan for the children of Ishmael to have a greater voice for Him in the future; they’re already used to talking about Him.

What things about the culture makes you smile?

The colors of the traditional dress. They remind me of jewels. I went to a festival where everyone had on their best clothing and they looked like a flock of butterflies.

Do you find that people are friendly or easy to get to know?

I’ve found in our neighborhood that people are a bit harder. There is a foreigner barrier. They are hospitable but they have a limit. At the school where I teach English, that barrier is gone. They know that I’m the teacher and they are the parents instead of a foreigner and local.

Thinking long-term, what are some things about the culture that you will enjoy?

The coolest thing about being here long term is the chance to learn the language to make friends with people who don’t speak your mother tongue and don’t share your worldview. But when you get beyond that, you can share even bigger things; it becomes natural. Long term relationships are an investment and a privilege. I look forward to developing deep friendships with people from this culture. One of my best friends ever was an illiterate, subsistence farmer. I look forward to developing more of those kinds of relationships.

What are some things you might get tired of?

Not seeing what you most hope for. And if you work in the school system, lack of administrative support.

Why should someone visit North Africa?

To pray. There is such potential here in a culture that already acknowledges God. Will the Lord raise up a voice in this culture? Spirituality is respected here, not old-fashioned.  Whereas in the past, the West has been reaching out to the East, but will the Lord flip that and have the East reach out to the West?

One day of autumn

Autumn is my favorite season. This year I had one day of what I would consider true autumn: the sweet smell of damp and fallen leaves, apples, pumpkin bread, brisk air. It was lovely. I had to enjoy the entire season in only one day in that mountain town. But I think I succeeded.

Despite the Midwest feeling of that fall day, now and then there was a reminder that I wasn’t in central Illinois:

I forgot to see the sky

Trees were only trunks, lining my peripheral with motionless human beings beside the square tiled sidewalk. But at the rhythmic slapping of wings against broad leaves, I looked up at the silhouettes of startled birds in the bright sky.

The sky. When was the last time I had seen the expanse of soft blue, white, and gray? Far above the wailing streets of traffic and layered buildings was majesty. And it watched me with quiet pleasure, waiting for me to remember.