Hope you all are recovering from the post-Thanksgiving food coma and are relishing the fact that new cooking will not be necessary for the next week or two. I guess Thanksgiving is never truly "over" until all of the leftovers are consumed. Just an aside, for my Thanksgiving I went out for some tapas with some friends, and we did the classic "what are you thankful for" table discussion, specifically relating it to our studying abroad experience. Although I could go on and on, I'll just mention one thing from my list which I hadn't thought about much until last night. I realized that I'm thankful for the opportunity to view the world as a global family. It seems like everyday I meet new people from all different areas of the globe, and it's so normal and comfortable for me now. It is true that our respective countries have various cultural differences, but at the same time doesn't each family member bring something unique to the table? I'll extrapolate this a bit and say that meeting and befriending people from other countries is NECESSARY for peace and fellowship. As I watched the images of the new Israeli-Gaza battle on the news and the ancient hatred that exists there, I thought to myself how things would be different if the powers behind those rockets had done a study abroad program together, taking a stroll in the park and doing karaoke in the evening. How much more difficult it is to order the annihilation of a group of people knowing that one of your friends is there! True, even in our families we have disagreements and may even be angry with each other for a time, but the mark of a loving family is one which is willing to fight the good fight to forgive one another. Are we not all children of the same God, created and loved by He that is Love? We must challenge ourselves to remember this constantly and think of countries as composed of human individuals, not as political entities.
Now, after that little tidbit, you may be wondering about the title of this post. This may sound a bit odd, but thinking of titles is one of my favorite parts of writing this blog. So, for those who have seen the movie "Catch Me If You Can" (highly recommended), the answer is No, the title does not imply that I am now an international criminal printing near perfect blank checks, forging identities, and eluding both the FBI and international police. Rather, the "Me" refers to my trip to Fatima and Lisboa, Portugal last week and the "You" refers to me. First off, it's important to note that I didn't really know anyone going on this trip, organized through the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Santiago. I was especially interested in Fatima, and I figured Lisboa would be pretty cool, so I bought the tickets nonetheless. After leaving very early from Santiago on Friday the 16th, we arrived in Fatima around 10 am or so and would only be there for 2 hours. Soon after eating breakfast, we went to explore the sanctuary of Fatima, which was a lot more empty than I thought it would be (you can see what I mean in the pictures). In that sense, Fatima does feel like a pilgrimage site since it appears people only come for religious reasons (i.e. not many tourists). The church was absolutely gorgeous, and when we entered they were starting Mass in Portuguese. Other people from the group just took a few pictures and left, but I decided to stick around and try to understand as much of Mass as possible. I left at the beginning of the homily and started to make my way back to the buses, but lo and behold my "Psych-like" memory had failed me. For whatever reason, I simply could NOT find the buses with the clock ticking, the heavy rain clouding my glasses (and lack of umbrella), and the sense of shame being lost since Fatima is really small. Muchísimas gracias a Dios (Many thanks to God) that I found a man who pointed me in the right direction. Upon entering the bus, I looked (and probably smelled) like a wet dog, but I just didn't care. In retrospect, I guess being left behind at a very holy sanctuary wouldn't have been the worst thing. :) Also, if you want to learn more about the Miracle at Fatima, check out this video from EWTN:
After that incident at Fatima, I told myself I wouldn't get separated from the group again. I even met three girls from the United States (two from Wisconsin, one from North Carolina), so I now had a safety net. We checked into the hotel around 4 and immediately walked to el Castelo de Sao Jorge (the Castle of St. George), located on a hill above the city. As you'll see in some of the pictures, the castle is incredibly well preserved, like many of the archaeological sites around Lisboa. After about an hour or a little more at the castle, it looked like people were starting to leave, so I found myself close to the exit. However, curiosity killed the cat, salted the snail (I've heard it both ways), and I wandered toward the back of the castle, taking a few pictures of an archaeological dig. Surprise, surprise, that I had inadvertently lost the group once again, this time in the heart of Lisboa. Despite being in such a large city by myself, I felt much better about being lost this time since I figured I could find my way back to the hotel (which I did, no big deal; on the way I even found a nice restaurant with great food and good prices). In summary, for the first day of the trip I definitely felt like I was constantly trying to "catch" the group, but having had that experience, I now know I can overcome it in the future.
Just a few final comments about the trip before some pictures:
1) On Saturday, we visited a small town called Sintra, which was stunning for its views of the cities below, its cloud forest, zip-lining (which I think only operates in spring or summer), and many castles and palaces. For some of the reasons stated above, it certainly reminded me of Costa Rica!
2) Pasteis de Belem (Pastries of Belem) were fantastic and a must have if you're in Lisboa.
3) On a more somber note, Lisboa is the first city I've seen here that has a serious poverty problem. Outside one business on one block, I saw at least 10 people, maybe more, sleeping on the streets in proximity to one another. Though I've seen many demonstrations (including the national strike on the 14th of November), the trip to Lisboa was the real eye-opening experience to what they call the "crisis" here in Spain and Portugal. To say that the crisis is hurting people would be an understatement, clearly. With poverty, I'm never sure what is the best way to help, but upon seeing this I will challenge myself to find what that way is.
Now, the link for the pictures and a few examples if you all don't have Snapfish:
Thanks again for reading! I wish you all the best as we conclude with our national holiday and begin to prepare for the preparation (Advent) for the universal celebration (Christmas). ¡Ciao!