Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Cog in a Clock

First off, I can't believe it's been more than 2 WEEKS since my last post! I really don't want to get lazy in writing this, as I truly enjoy creative writing.  I'm hoping this post will help me get back into the groove of things.  That being said, many, many exciting developments have happened in the past two weeks that I'm blessed to share with you all today!  I chose my title as such because certain recent developments, as you will see below, have made me feel more like a regular member of the community in the beautiful grandfather clock that is Santiago de Compostela.  To cover everything, I will have to use, you guessed it, a numbering system! I'm feeling very Latin today after seeing an ancient Roman wall in Lugo, Galicia, so let's use some Roman numerals, shall we?

I.  On Saturday September 22, I went with the Erasmus Student Network to las Islas Cies, a stunning archipelago just off the coast of Vigo, Galicia.  Part of the island is a wildlife refuge, so obviously my inner, conservationist Oregonian self leaped for joy when I heard that.  It started off quite sunny that day, but the weather changed very quickly, so for the greater part of the day we were fighting gale force winds (no joke: probably at least 25-30 mph) as we ascended to a lighthouse on the top of one of the islands.  Despite the sand in the eyes, the resulting tears, and the subsequent explanation that you weren't crying because you were sad or emotionally drained, the trip was really fun and presented some great photo opportunities, speaking of which . . .

II.  You know that saying, "God works in mysterious ways?" Well, I think the opposite is true as well.  Sometimes the Lord works in an overtly obvious manner which just puts a smile on your face since you don't have to guess if something is divinely ordained.  One day while I was checking my Facebook, one of my Brazilian friends Rafael (who up to this point was just a "friend" on the social network; I hadn't talked to him in person) started chatting with me and asked if I was Catholic.  He then invited me to join him and one of my other friends from Brazil to go to a Charismatic Catholic service on Monday, the 24th.  It's funny to think that only a few years ago, I would have been extremely uncomfortable participating in something like this.  Thank God (literally) that my attitude has changed! The service was really interesting and moving, and the group that ran it is made up of vibrant, welcoming Catholics, mostly university students.  On Wednesday the 26th, the group held an incredibly joy-filled Mass with seven priests celebrating and lots of upbeat hymns in the university chapel, which is very close to my dorm.  Afterward, we were all invited to the House of Spiritual Exercises for an opening reception (with lots of delicious Spanish food) of the year.  Every Monday there is the Charismatic service, every Wednesday Mass, and I believe there is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every Friday.  Needless to say, God has delivered in so many ways, and I'm so excited to see how my faith grows and develops with this group!

III. Turns out bringing my new vintage (oxymoron?) alto saxophone with me to Spain wasn't such a bad idea after all! In my first few weeks here, I spent many a time perusing the advertisements posted in the various academic buildings around campus, and one caught my eye in particular.  It was called "Drops: Escuela de Música Creativa," and I became increasingly excited when I saw saxophones as one of the instruments listed.  So, about three weeks ago I stopped by the business and talked with the director about details and such, and lo and behold I'm now participating in a jazz combo that meets once a week for an hour on Mondays.  It's cool for three main reasons: 1) Playing in a group is much better than playing by yourself. 2) The director studied music in the United States, so if I'm having a really hard time understanding he's there to help. 3) I'm the youngest member in the group; all the others are adults who play very well.  Our guitarist is actually a professor who teaches medieval Spanish literature.  We'll have a concert in one of the open plazas in the old town around Christmas time, so I can once again label myself as an international performer!

IV. Last weekend, I added another country to my list of travels: Portugal! A large group of us internationals went with the Erasmus Student Network to the city of Porto, the second largest city in Portugal after Lisboa (Lisbon).  Being in Portugal was a unique and humbling experience for many reasons: 1) Because many of the words look similar to Spanish, it should be easy to communicate, right? WRONG! I felt somewhat incompetent and embarrassed only being able to say thank you (Obrigado) and flailing my arms in weird gestures just to order a pastry.  2) In the two nights we walked around the city trying different discotecas, it was interesting to see the mix of people.  In Santiago, most people out during the night are under the age of 30, but in Porto, the young, middle-aged, and ancient all came together to dance the night away, albeit in different styles.  Because of the large size of these pictures, I'll include some in a separate post.

V. At the end of the month, I'm going to Barcelona with one of my longtime friends, Jenna Ahn.  She studies at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana but is doing a studying abroad program right now in Dublin.  Obviously, I'm so freakin' excited!!! Although I've enjoyed the organized trips through ESN, I'm stoked to organize for myself for a change and see a very, very different part of Spain.  One more thing: I'm going to get the opportunity to visit Jenna again in Dublin (going back to the Irish roots on my mother's side of the family) in December! With all of this traveling, feel free to call me the male version of Carmen Sandiego (without all the crime, of course).

Okay, I think that gets us caught up on the major events going on.  Classes are going well considering the system is still a little foreign to me (pun intended).  In the history department, we've started practical classes in which we present material we've researched or work in groups in class.  Crash course in talking like you know what you're doing in front of tons of native speakers! Random request: be sure to be an intelligent voter and participate in the democratic system! My ballot is on its way to the States as we speak.  As always, feel free to comment and check back often :)

Dios os bendiga,


  1. Ethan, no matter how busy my day unfolds, I ALWAYS take the time to read and thoroughly enjoy your musings. You are such a great writer and I laugh out loud at some of your statements. I am so excited that you are experiencing "Catholic" in a whole new light. The charismatic movement is such a cool experience. I look forward to hearing more about every aspect of this adventure. Give Jenna a HUGE hug from me and tell her I am enjoying keeping up with her adventure too. Bless you for sharing your life with us stuck here at home! But we are keeping the home fires burning for your return!

  2. Hola Ethan - loved the pictures of Portugal and especially the pictures of you. We are so proud of you. Keep the faith! Can't wait to visit you in the spring. Te amo, Mom & Dad

  3. Your reference to Carmen Sandiego had me laughing out lough. I haven't thought about that slippery villain in some time. I love the blog!