Saturday, November 30, 2013

Como ayuné durante el día de acción de gracias

El cuento arriba están en ingles pero pronto, lo traduciré al español porque creo que más gente, de otras lenguas, pueden aprender algo a través de mi experiencia. O, al menos, espero que si.
Un beso!

Friday, November 29, 2013

How I accidentally fasted on Thanksgiving Day

I was invited to a Hispanic church near San Marco (Jacksonville) on Wednesday night to take part in their annual dinner. Though I did eat turkey this year, almost everything else on my plate was not traditional. It seemed to have followed suit with the theme of this year.

I did eat something later on in the evening on Thanksgiving Day but it wasn't the traditional fare. This whole fasting thing wasn't my original plan at all. In fact, I didn't know that when I woke up that morning, that I wouldn't be eating turkey and all the fixings that I'm so used to having on the fourth Thursday in November. It just happened and now I'm trying to put into words what I learned that day.

The day started out on the wrong foot. I mean, it wasn't that I overslept or had a bad dream. No, what happened was I got into a little fight with one of my roommates. I lost a part to something in her kitchen and not only did I forget that I lost it, but that I had failed to let her know about it. It's not like me to do either of those things but I've been under more stress lately than usual so I guess that's what can happen. Anyway, I spent a little extra time looking for it which ate up the time I needed to be spending getting downtown to volunteer for part of the day. I was frustrated that I couldn't find that thing but more for the fact that I added stress to someone else on one of the biggest family gatherings of the year. So...after I had looked, I had to tell her that I couldn't find it...and then I got ready and left the house. I was running late and there was nothing more that I could do or say.

On my way there, I try calling my mom to tell her about my plans and to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. I didn't get her on the first try so I called again a few minutes later. I've been doing my best to find new ways to enjoy my time here in Jacksonville but it has proven to be a challenge. If I went into detail about that, though, I'd have to write another post entirely. Needless to say the call lasted longer than we both wanted it to last. I vented a little about what happened at home but mostly focused on how I managed to misplace something of my own that is a serious deal-and the underlying thing that I was really angry about.

I still got to volunteer but it wasn't for as long as I wanted to. That was alright in the end because at least I got to do something for people who have it a lot worse than I do. And I got to smile and just all around be cheery. That's really one of the main things a person needs around this time of year. Especially if they are away from their family or have no loved ones still alive. Because I had arrived a bit later than planned, the serving at the rescue mission was almost over and almost everyone else had already eaten. It was time to finish eating and start cleaning up. The day wasn't about me, so I didn't mention to anyone that I hadn't eaten anything yet. I didn't even think at that point that I wouldn't be eating anything that afternoon. I helped clean up and the coordinators of the Thanksgiving program wished us well and we went our separate ways. 

My plans for the afternoon and evening were going to consist of reading and writing in a cafe before going to a store to shop. Don't get me wrong, I'm against shopping on Thanksgiving Day (and seriously smack the CEOs of any major corporations that opened their doors on Thursday) but this one particular shoe chain that was giving out a gift card to the first one hundred people in line. I figured, as one of my favorite pairs of shoes now has a hole in it, that it was worth a shot. Well, thanks to getting incorrect directions from the maps app on my phone and spending a little but too much time in Starbucks, I wasn't near the shoe store to get in line with enough time to spare before the clock struck 6pm. So...that didn't go as planned.

Keep in mind that during this entire day I was using public transportation to get around. The buses were set to a holiday schedule and some of them only ran every two hours they were that slow. And since almost every major store and restaurant was closed that day, there was little traffic on the major roads so every bus was on time. When my plan to go to that shoe store fell through, I decided not to risk going there at all. It wasn't worth getting myself stranded later on. I hadn't ever ridden a bus on a major holiday before (minus 4th of July) so that was an experience in itself. To say you meet interesting people is an understatement. Everyone I interacted with, from the drivers to the passengers themselves, smiled just a little but more and went the extra mile to help another person out if they dropped something or had a question about the route. I made sure to not only thank every driver who dropped me off but to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. Someone even helped me get something out of my hair that I didn't even know was in there (a leaf or something) which was very kind of them.

Now if you spent the day helping your mom or grandmother cook and prepare the meal or ate three servings of turkey and traditional foods or watched football all day or didn't do any of those things but were with family, I'm not condoning you for doing that at all. I would have done most of those things too if I were home with my own family. The purpose of this post is to simply present a different perspective on Thanksgiving. One that didn't include a feast, at least not in the traditional sense.

During the whole day on Thursday, I felt fine. I was focused on helping others in any way I could and I felt calm and focused on the inside too. Even when I was serving and cleaning up food, I didn't feel any hunger pains gnawing at my stomach. When I didn't get to eat in the afternoon, I was almost thinking that God was disciplining me, almost punishing me in a way. Well, it turns out He was actually humbling me instead. 

In the last six years, I've spent two Thanksgivings with my immediate family. That wasn't what I needed to learn humility about exactly but it plays a part. My absence during a lot of major holidays has become the norm in my house. I can't come home for all of them due to finances and my family understands that. Sometimes I'm able to experience the Thanksgiving holiday with other families, as I did last year. I'm blessed to have had these families welcome me into their homes on such a special holiday. While I am still appreciative of them, I think this year, deep down, I really wanted to be home. Well, what I truly wanted to be home for was my mom's birthday the following day (the 29th). I haven't been home on her birthday in 7 years. I came close to it in 2011. Maybe I just don't understand why they're always there with me on my birthday and I'm never there on theirs. You can't always be home for everything like you were as a kid I guess.

The main lesson I learned through fasting was how much we take food for granted. Especially when we can have it in such large quantities on one or two days of the year and no one bats an eye. But what about those who don't have that luxury? I was compelled, due to my accidental fast, to think of the people who don't have enough to eat. The people who always wonder where their next meal will come from or how many meals they will eat today compared to yesterday. My unplanned selfless act of giving up the Thanksgiving meal meant that someone else could have a hot meal, as I can have them almost whenever my stomach growls. I gave of myself that day: of my time, my personality, my encouraging words and even my appetite.

And you know that? I think I felt even more full than I ever would have felt had my belly been full of food that day.

Whether or not I spend Thanksgiving next year with my family is not my main concern. Whether or not I maintain thankful and grateful heart throughout life, however, is.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

La recepción (The Front Desk)

Este cuento es uno de mis recuerdos favoritos de mi corto tiempo en Madrid este año....

Cuando entré en el hotel después de caminar de la estación de autobuses (unos 25 minutos), fui a la recepción primero y empecé a hablar en español con las damas allí. Yo creo que es mejor hablar con la gente en su idioma nativo (o intenta) primero y si pudiera hablar bien el ingles contigo, está bien cambiar de idioma con ella. Bueno, yo les dije a ellos que estaba buscando un huésped allí en el hotel y que él fue con un grupo universitario. Les pedí una lista o algo de los estudiantes en su programa. Todos los estudiantes y los profesores en el grupo de su universidad estaban quedándose allí. Ella me permitió llamar al cuarto de Nathan pero sabéis que pasó?  Llame el cuarto equivocado! jaja Es que ellos pensaban que he señalado con mi dedo a un nombre pero yo quería decir un diferente! Que va . . . Al final, cuando llamé el cuarto de Nathan, el no estuvo allí! Bueno, la primera cosa graciosa que pasó fue que yo hice las dos llamadas (a estudiantes que hablan el ingles nativo) en español y no en ingles! jaja No sé por que las hice así pero si, las hice. Bueno, en el segundo cuarto, uno de los chicos me dijo que probablemente él se fue a pasear afuera del hotel. Pero, también los empleados de la recepción me dijeron que quizás él estaba esperando el buffet en el comedor para el desayuno. Entonces, despues de pensar que eso fue posible, yo fui a la primera planta (arriba porque "la primera planta" en USA no es igual que Europa) para buscarlo y esperar si no estuviera allí.

Encontré algunos de sus compañeros de clase allí y hable con ellos. Unas chicas me surgieron, al contarles a quien estaba buscando, que yo debería volver al vestíbulo abajo para encontrarlo. Entonces, volví abajo por asesor y después de unos pasos mientras estaba mirando alrededor del vestíbulo grande, allí estaba Nathan, sentándose en una silla mirando a su iPod! La verdad fue que él estaba sentándose allí todo el tiempo mientras que yo hablaba con la recepción y llamaba a los cuartos. No nos vimos a causa de las columnas en el vestíbulo y él no reconocía la voz mía cuando hablaba en español! Miraba a la recepción por unos segundos y vi una mujer con una mochila violeta (yo!) pero ya que yo estaba hablando en el castellano, pensaba que yo era una cliente normal, como una española! A las 7 por la mañana, hombre, anda que no! Ah, que situación super graciosa, no?!

Creo que Dios tiene un sentido de humor muy único a veces porque, mirando al fondo, no habría querido reunirme con mi hermano en España (por primera vez) en ninguna otra manera! Despues de abrazarnos, él y yo fuimos a su cuarto (en la quinta planta de diez plantas creo). Fue la primera vez que visité un hotel en España porque mi cartera y yo preferimos los hostales y nada más -como un estudiante! jeje Saquemos unas fotos allí y bajemos para que el podría comer y luego, salir por el día.

Y lo que se dicen el resto es historia. . .

I've told this story before in English but as I was reminiscing the other day, I wrote it all out in Spanish. I'll translate it into English tomorrow but...for now, see how much of it you can understand! If you dare, that is. ;-)

The Front Desk

*This is one of my favorite memories of my short stay in Madrid earlier this year...*

When I entered the hotel after walking from the bus station (about 25 minutes), I went to the front desk and began to speak with the women there in Spanish. I think it's best to speak with people in their native language first (or try to) and if they can speak English well with you, it's okay to switch languages with them. Well, I told them that I was looking for a guest at the hotel and that he was with a college group. I asked them for a list or something of the students in his program. All of the students and professors in the group from his university were all staying there. She let me call Nathan's room but do you guys know what happened? I called the wrong room! haha It's just that they thought I had pointed to one name but I really meant a different one! Ahh.... Finally, though, when I called Nathan's real room, he wasn't there! Well, the first hilarious thing that happened was that I made both of those calls (to students who speak native English) in Spanish and not in English! haha I don't know why I did them that way, but I did. Well, in the second room, one of the guys told me that he was probably taking a walk outside around the hotel. But, the staff at the front desk told me that it's possible that perhaps he was waiting for the buffet in the dining room for breakfast. So, after thinking that that was possible, I went to the first floor (above because "the first floor" in the USA is not the same in Europe) to look for him and wait for him if he was there.

I found some of his classmates there and talked to them. Some girls suggested to me, after telling them who I was looking for, that I ought to go back to the lobby downstairs to look for him. So, I returned back downstairs via the elevator and after taking a few steps while looking around the huge lobby, there Nathan was, sitting in a chair looking at his iPod! The truth was that he was sitting there the whole time while I was speaking with the front desk and calling the rooms. We didn't see each other due to the pillars in the lobby and he didn't recognize my own voice when I spoke in Spanish! He glanced at the front desk for a few seconds and saw a lady with a purple backpack (me!!) but since I was speaking in Spanish, he thought that I was a normal customer, like a Spanish lady! At 7 AM, psh, of course not! Ah, what a super funny situation, right?

I think God has a very unique sense of humor sometimes because, looking back on it, I wouldn't have wanted to meet up with my brother in Spain (for the first time) in any other way! After we hugged, he and I went to his room (on the fifth of 10 floors I think). It was the first time I had visited a hotel in Spain because my wallet and I prefer hostels and nothing else - like a student! hehe We took a couple pictures and then went back downstairs so that he could eat and later on leave for the day.

And the rest, as they say, is history....