A Garden’s a Garden No Matter How Small

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Here’s a shot of our lovely new garden beds. Justin and Aaron found some unloved wood and used it to construct the beds, then the two of them and I filled them with horse manure. It’s really awesome, and is actually quite large. I’m excited to see what we’re going to grow for the spring. We haven’t quite decided, though Austin’s also working on learning to grow mushrooms, too, so that should be fun.
In other news, I started tutoring at the Edgehill Public Library. I helped two girls with their homework a couple of weeks ago, but I mainly working with one awesome student right now. I feel good about helping with homework, though I always wonder how good I am at explaining and clarifying areas where they might be confused. I’m sure I’ll hit my stride soon enough.
What’s really exciting is that we hosted Nakeisha Alexis-Baker over for dinner about two weeks ago. She’s founder of Jesus Radicals, a Christian Anarchy organization, and was one of the speakers for Belmont’s spiritual emphasis week. I’m super excited, especially because she’s a woman of color and I always find it neat to see and hear the radical ways in which women of color are living out their lives. And then, we hosted a discussion after her talk in the evening which I was excited about.
Our first discussion night went really well, and we even had members of another community house nearby come over. We’ve had a lot more interest from other people who want to come over as well. I’m really expecting some great things to come. Tomorrow night is our first potluck so I’m hoping we’ll have a good time together breaking bread.

The Best Birthday

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This week I turned 22 and I have to say it’s the best birthday I’ve had in a really long time! Between classes being canceled, my first show with my band (The Sweet Irony), and a wonderful evening with friends, next year will have to be out of this world to top this year’s celebration.
I think maybe God had a hand in this, but ALL of my classes got canceled (ahead of time) on the day of my birthday. Not that I mind going to class, but it’s nice to have a random day off, let alone your birthday. So, I went home for lunch and hung out with my parents. It was really nice to catch up with them. It’s funny, I only live 20 minutes away from my parents, but I’m always so busy between work, school, and friends, I feel like I don’t see them that often. When my dad went back to work, my mom took me shopping and we had a really nice time together. I got a new purse and wallet for my birthday.
Then my sister and boyfriend came and joined us after their classes were over. It was just a really nice calm evening with cake and pizza, until my friend Becka and her boyfriend, Cale, came over to practice for our show the next night. Since my mom recently had surgery and can’t walk we knew she wouldn’t be able to make it to our show. So, as a surprise for her we did our final run through at the house. She cried a little, which was to be expected, and we all really enjoyed ourselves.
The next day we had our show at Bongo Java. We had a lot more people show up than I thought there would be! It was really great to be up on stage again and singing the songs Becka and I have worked on over the past year, as well as a few fun covers. Hopefully we’ll be playing again soon.
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Finally, Saturday was the last day of celebration. A group of my closest friends and I got all dressed up and went to a really nice restaurant called Sambuca. We all enjoyed talking and catching up over dinner while a jazz band played. Although I’m usually never shy, for some reason I got really embarrassed when the singer announced it was my birthday and the whole restaurant clapped for me.
After Sambuca’s, we went back to my apartment where we played Beatles Rock Band (my boyfriend’s gift to me) and enjoyed ice cream cup cakes. The night was filled with laughter, music, and friendly conversation and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. :)

Two Weeks.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve officially been here, in Spain, for the last TWO WEEKS! Somedays it feels like I’ve been here much longer than that, and other days it feels like I just arrived. My Spanish has already improved immensely; I can’t even imagine what it will be like after spending 90 more days here!
A typical day in España involves…
8 am ~ Wake up, get ready for school, eat breakfast with my host family.
9:15 am ~ Leave for school (it’s a 10ish minute walk – perfect!)
9:30 am – 12 pm ~ School! Usually involves a combination of lessons in grammar, vocabulary, history, and literature. There are six other international students in my class: 2 are from Japan, 2 are from Germany, 1 is from Lithuania, and 2 of us are from the United States.
12 – 12:30 pm ~ Coffee break. :) usc.jpg
12:30 – 2 pm ~ More school. This time we focus more on practicing our speaking skills. Sometimes we have debates, sometimes we play games. My favorite game that we’ve played so far is “Simón dice” (Simon says). Who would have thought that such a simple game would be an awesome way to practice “vosotros” commands??
2:30 pm (sometimes a little later) ~ Lunch. Always the biggest meal of the day (and my favorite!).
3 pm – 7 pm ~ Hanging out with friends / walking around the city / shopping / eating churros … etc. Enjoying the beautiful weather!
7 pm ~ Homework…yes, it exists in study abroad programs too! Luckily, it hasn’t been too terribly difficult yet. When my host mom’s son, Nicolás, has English homework, I always enjoy helping him with it!
9 pm ~ Dinnertime. This has been one of the hardest things for me to get used to. I always eat around (sometimes even before) 6 pm, so waiting until 9 pm is somewhat difficult! However, as long as I have a few snacks during the day, I can usually curve my appetite.
9 pm – 11 pm ~ Watch TV, finish up any remaining homework, and read for a little while before heading off to bed! On the weekends, this is the prime time to go out for tapas.
Tonight, I went out for chocolate con churros with Cam and Ateia (the other two Belmont students who are here with me), and two girls from Japan. churros.jpg
We had such a great time!! Churros are, essentially, sticks of fried dough that are rolled in sugar immediately after frying. They are served with a delicious, sinful cup of hot chocolate. BUT this is not your typical cup of hot chocolate…it is infinitely richer. Almost like pure melted chocolate! It is absolutely divine. I could eat chocolate con churros every day, but I’m going to try to limit myself to once every few weeks. Or maybe once a week. ;)
*Photos*
1) La Universidad de Santiago de Compostela!
2) Chocolate con Churros. :)

Exordinary Piano Techniques

Last Friday, my friend Sara and I attended a very interesting music lecture in which some unique ways of playing the piano were demonstrated. Dr. Kevin Richmond, a piano professor at the University of Memphis demonstrated some modern and new ways to play the piano. Not only did Dr. Richmond talk about these different ways to play but he was able to demonstrate them using one of Belmont’s pianos. I could really tell that Dr. Richmond enjoyed teaching this unique form of music along with performing the actual music.
So you may be wondering what is so unique about the way Dr. Richmond studies. Well, he covered 5 different Tone Clusters.png
areas of modern music, the first being the cluster. Playing a cluster on the piano is when you play all the notes between two noted at the same time. A composer who uses clusters usually tell whether they want the pianist to play only the white keys, the black keys, or both by the color the of the note on the music. You can play these notes either with your fingers, knuckles, hand, one arm, or both arms depending on how many notes the composer wants you to cover.
Another area of modern music that he cover was sympathetic vibrations. Sympathetic vibrations are very cool, it is the technique of playing certain notes on the piano in order to hear other strings within the piano. The sound is completely different than just playing the note because the note isn’t really being played by the pianist but instead it is ringing because of the frequency of the actually note being played and its overtones.
Dr. Richmond also demonstrated how some composers even have a musician strum the strings inside the piano like a harp this creates a very unique sound. I really enjoyed the music lecture because it is music that isn’t heard that often. Next week, though, there is going to be several music presentations on African drumming that I am sure will be fantastic.

Saludos desde España!

Greetings from Spain!!! I have dreamt about being in this country for years…it’s hard to believe that I will actually be LIVING here for the next four months of my life. I am LOVING everything about it so far! I arrived last Sunday, so I’ve been here for almost one full week now. view.jpg
My host family is wonderful. I live with a Spanish professor, Antonieta, and her 10-year-old son, Nicolás, in a quaint apartment on Rúa do Vilar (a street that runs through the heart of the city). When I arrived in Santiago de Compostela, I was met by one of the professors at the university, Pacho, who drove my friend Ateia and me to our homes. After about 15 minutes in the car (which was actually a van…and thank goodness because I wayyy over-packed!), we turned onto a very heavily populated cobblestone road, which didn’t appear to be a road at all! It is known as la Praza de Toural – appropriately named for its popularity with tourists – and it is basically the heart of the older part of Santiago. While “older” might not sound like a good thing, it’s actually quite fantastic because I am surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful architecture. ruadovilar.jpg Antonieta is incredibly sweet and always wants to feed me as much as I can possibly eat. So far she’s made empanadas, tortilla española (like an omelet with potatoes and onions), homemade vegetable soup (delicious!), and chorizo and cheese grilled sandwiches (did you know that chorizo comes in deli slices, like turkey or ham? I didn’t!). I am still adjusting to the mealtimes…for breakfast we have café con leche (yes, that’s typically all), around 11:30 am we have a small meal (usually a “bocadillo,” a small sandwich) or more café con leche, around 2:30 pm we have lunch (which is the largest meal of the day ~ yesterday I ate at a restaurant and had fresh salmon, potatoes, a small salad, and gelato), another snack during the siesta (anywhere from 4 pm – 6 pm), and dinner is usually served at 9 pm. The Spaniards actually consider 9 pm to be the afternoon! Nighttime isn’t until 10 pm!! From what I can tell, the streets are fairly quiet until 10 pm, but after that…it’s crazy! There is lots of music, dancing, eating, drinking, etc. etc. etc.
Although I miss my family and friends dearly, I am really having an extraordinary time. I can already see HUGE improvements in my Spanish speaking abilities and I’ve only been here for a little over 24 hours! catedral.jpg
In my opinion, studying abroad is the only way to completely master a foreign language. When I wake up, I speak Spanish…when I go to school, I speak Spanish (for the most part)…when I go out to eat, I speak Spanish…when I shop, I speak Spanish…when I need help, I speak Spanish…every interaction forces me to confidently step out of my comfort zone and trust myself. I also have to remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect; it’s okay if I forget a word or incorrectly conjugate a verb. Life goes on! And usually, people can figure out what you meant to say. Since she’s a Spanish professor, I asked my host mom to please correct me if I say anything incorrectly. That should be a tremendous help!
All is well in España, and hopefully it is in the United States too. Adios! :)
*Photo Descriptions*
#1: The view from my window!
#2: Rúa do Vilar
#3: The famous cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

So Much Fun, So Little Time

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Wow, let me just say, it has been a whirlwind of a past few weeks. I started my final year of undergraduate school on August 26th, but about a week and a half before that, I moved into a house with 5 other people (and our lovely exit signs) as a part of Belmont’s 15th Avenue Community through University Ministries “Service Year” program. Basically, we all come together to live in community with one another, while also learning what it means to serve in the broader Nashville community. For me, that is doing after school tutoring at the Edgehill Public Library, just minutes away from campus. For others, it’s working with the feeding programs for the homeless around Nashville, and learning how those work, for some it’s being an urban gardener for a foodbank on the east side of Nashville. A lot of great things are happening in small ways around here, and I’m excited to be a part of it. So, not only have I had the pleasure of taking a bunch of classes I really like this semester (Yay for Gender Studies and Eco-Justice and Faith!), I’ve also had the pleasure of learning to live with 5 very different, but all very amazing, people. And we’ve only been at it for a few weeks now, but I already feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself and about community and what that means for Christians. In addition to serving the Nashville community, we also try to serve the Belmont community by having two nights a month set aside for discussions about issues: the Church, and it’s role in society and our lives; service and what that looks like and actually means; race and it’s pertinence in our lives, how it divides and how we can be reconciled; and whatever other issues may be on the hearts of our fellow students. Finally, we have a potluck once a month, where can all come together and simply celebrate being together in community over good food. I’m so excited for this year I can’t even put it all into words, but I will definitely try!