Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Left behind

I am having one of those gloomier days, when the sun does not shine as brightly, and the colors around me seem muted by a strange melancholy. This afternoon, I finally was able to identify the cause of my strange mood: I am feeling left behind, in a way. The all-school retreat at Berean (the high school I attended my freshman year, back in CA) starts today. As soon as I heard that, tears started to well up inside me. Why? Because I long to be there. I miss all of my friends there dearly. And now just those at Berean, nor just those at BFA.

As of late, many of my friends have uprooted and left for college, be it a city, a country, or a continent away. And, no matter how many good friends I have around me at the moment, I cannot help but miss others close to my heart.

On this dreary day, my natural ability to be content in any situation has not quite kicked in yet. So, I am going to go eat ice-cream, then go jump in the pool, no matter what I am wearing, and either try and convince myself not to cry at all (having contact lenses is a very good reason not to cry. They get all hazy and sensitive to light if you cry too much) or let my gloom mingle with the chlorinated pool water. Either way, I will come back inside feeling much perkier, and I know that I will pray for and encourage my friends, just like I usually do, instead of wallow in this petty display of loneliness and a degrading self-pity.

Having said this, I am off to eat ice-cream, my true comfort food, and stick that smile back on my face, right where it belongs. Your now-almost-cheerful blonde signing off~ Take care!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


"The answer to any riddle, now matter how simple or complex, is, and always will be, Jello"

If you have ever heard this tidbit of wisdom, you probably have been talking to me recently. Or, you have been to a summer conference or winter camp with me. If you had never heard this, engrave it in your heart and mind, and know that it will come in handy before long.

As with most things, Jello is directly related to friendship. I prove this hypothesis recently when K decided to have me meet one of her friends. Although I am good at striking up friendships in person, over the internet is always harder. Especially seeing as I had no idea who this person was, or how I could connect with them. So, I crawl back to K, and ask her how to make friends. Now, the two of us have had many long, and extremely deep, serious conversations about this. Even so, after all of those beautiful discussions, we had never stopped to think of the internet as a friend-making environment. Boy, were we mistaken.

So, what do I do? Abandon all thoughts of "oh"s and "if"s and plunge mercilessly into this friendship. A day later, we are getting along like we have known each other for years, and are already planning our first meeting. It will include lots of food, some random fighting, and possible swing dancing. What else could a friendship want?

And, after all this, you might be wondering, however does Jello come into play? Well, that was my ice-breaker, and has continued to be the running joke throughout all of our conversations.

To all of you who are reading this today, let me just remind you that there are opportunities EVERYWHERE to make friends. And, if you cannot seem to get the conversation started, just refer to Jello. I promise that a lively discussion will ensue. Cheerio all!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Personal reflections on conference 2008

As usual, conference is more than just a time to hang out with friends. That is a major part of it, I will admit. Even so, for me, it is a sort of spiritual bubble, where I can go and praise the Lord with all my heart, sing my guts out to Him, spend quality quiet time with Him, and share an amazing feeling of fellowship among believers. This had been my pattern every year (I avoided turning it into a pattern, but that is what I naturally came to do).

This year, I was overwhelmed by the difference in spiritual climate. Never before had there been so many people struggling with, "God, where the HECK are you!?!?" And this year, even including myself, we all felt as if God has been distant for the past year/couple years. Even so, I was greatly encouraged by my small group leader, who has been going through the exact same phase as the rest of us. Of everything that she said, what touched me most was the following: "Even though I cannot feel God, I will continue to praise Him. Even though I am not getting any answers, I will continue to trust Him. Even though I feel almost like I'm being ignored, I will choose to love Him and follow His Word."

Thank you, Liz! You know the amount of questions that twirl around in my mind, and so, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart just for having been there, and willing to talk to us and share your thoughts with us.

Apart from the spiritual changes, I must admit that I surprised even myself with my personality. Characteristics that I have never considered that would come naturally to me poured out in torrents. Perhaps it was because it was my last year, perhaps because I am approaching grown-up-hood-ness. Who knows. Apart from playing a caring mother hen (totally naturally, and from my heart), I recognized compassion, helpfulness, cheerfulness, thankfulness, joy, peace, willing sacrifice, kindness, and a general justice-bringer/peacemaker in a strong yet gentle way. It is during moments like these that I stop and wonder if God is not actually so distant, and if it is more like we never stop long enough to recognize His presence. Although I am a caring person, compassion usually does not ring strong in me, nor does sacrifice. For example, a friend of mine needed to go running almost every morning to get herself back into shape before her Track activities started up at school. I hate to run. Really hate it. I can skip, hop, twirl, sprint, but no continuous running. Even so, I clenched my fists, and said yes. Not out of a sense of duty, but, because, she is my friend, and I want to do anything I can to help her. Even if that includes running until your legs cramp and feeling like you got run over by a truck the next day. Days after conference is over, I am still glad I went running with her, and I would not trade those moments we shared together for anything.

As I told K, I might actually be approaching grown-up-hood-ness some time soon. So, my prayer and hope for all of you reading this today is that, even though you might feel confused or frustrated or ignored by God, you will allow Him to reveal His presence to you today. Keep your eyes open, you never know. I had not even seen Him work in me until I finished writing this right now. Even at the beginning of the post I was planning on reflecting His absent-ness, and ended up realizing His present-ness. Amazing.

Sheep = Mission --> CANDY

So, what did I learn from this GEM-K conference? Well, first of all, if you yelled "MISSION" fast enough after they said sheep, you get candy. Oh, and, if you use the universal riddle-solver, "Jello", when asked to describe one of the leaders, they all recognize the practicality of Jello.

This conference was both one of a kind and an experience I wouldn't trade for any other. First of all, many of my dear friends were not present, including two of the most amazing leaders ever, D and A-P, and then many of my friends had other important things to do that week, such as move back to the States and start college. Likely excuse... So, before even arriving in Sopron, I mini-self-pep-rallied myself into a happy frame of mine, eager to enjoy the new and remember the old fondly, instead of wallowing in unnecessary self-pity. And, sure enough, I had a blast. With over 10 "first-timers", the dynamics of conference shifted a lot. Add on the fact that I was one of the "old" people, was good friends with two of the younger leaders, and had befriended many of the other leaders in years past... I ended up being a leader without all the responsibility. Well, that, and the life of the party (although I still do not understand it myself. K could explain it all, I am sure).

We honored previous traditions such as Nutella Parties (many of you reading this were sorely missed!) with an amazing 8-person Dutch Blitz game raging on, while Angie serenaded us on his guitar. VeggieTales songs and Disney movies were sung loudly at every random bus stop where we were present. A bunch of us hiked up to the cliff and watched the sun slowly creep out from the depths of the sleepy horizon. And, of course, K and I made the best of our short time together to sing our hearts out--DUDE! I even participated in the talent show!--

New fun activities popped up, such as nail art parties (kudos to K's amazing goldfish and dominoes, and I must mention my dots...), many aspiring jugglers (thanks to Fred's guidance), and SWING DANCING. That was definitely a highlight of the week. I still have bruises everywhere, but I love what they represent. You see, I volunteered to be the test subject for most of the spins, twirls, dips, catches, and flips that we ended up doing, thereby resulting in many test runs, with little adjustments here and there so as to not drop Annalisa again :) I loved every minute of it. THANK YOU J!! And, I even got Angie to be my dance partner--and what a wonderful partner he was! :)

The all-nighter was amazing always (although, in contrast to winter camps, there was only candy, no apple-roasting). It included many games of Psychiatrist and Maffia, as well as swing dancing, singing, laughing, coloring (they had left boxes of crayons everywhere this conference, with "perfect-tip sharpeners" on them... how could we resist?) and enjoying the deep bonds of friendship that we were either cementing or re-cementing :D

Although it felt odd not having some of my favorite people there (I kept turning around to mention something to one of you, but then suddenly remembered you weren't there... tragic, I tell you), I feel as if this was truly a good conference, full of delightful memories, food, and swing dancing. What more can a girl ask for?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Pase el agoa, ma Julieta dama

I've been running around the house chanting this 15th century villancico, "Pase el agoa, ma Julieta dama" (which, translated, comes across as, "Come across the water, my Lady Juliet). Some how or other, I must have sung it enough times to subconsciously make my mind fulfill it. This afternoon, I went over to A's house ( a guy friend of mine) together with B and G (both good girl friends of mine) for lunch. When I say lunch, I mean, of course, the full Spanish/Catalan meal: a three-plate course plus some aperitifs beforehand, and dessert after (well, some consider dessert to be the 3rd course. Some of us know otherwise). And of course, the full-on meal included A's parents, his brother J and sister E, J's girlfriend, and all of his grandparents, both maternal and paternal. There were a lot of us. There was a lot of food and noise :) Life is good. (Especially when they serve you chicken and escamerlans, oh boy, yeah.)

After lunch, we played an uncountable number of games of ping-pong. I lost every time, and in very embarrassing ways. 14 to 1 never looks good. Now, I could blame the wind (which there was a lot of, and never in my favor), or a lack of practice (although it has only been a few months), or my contact lenses. This last would be the most appropriate, seeing as half-way through our little tournament the air was so dry that my contact litterally dried up, and fell out. It didn't want o come back to llife, so I walked around half-blind all afternoon. Simple charming. Especially since I had a ping-pong tournament to play. Some would gracefully retire. I am not that bright, so I decide to continue playing. Even though my amazing reflexes scored me a point here and there, my depth-perception was totally skewed. That was fun :) It is always much funner to play taget-practice and hit the person across from you than try and hit the table. :D

The later it got, the less pity the sun had for us, and glared down at us with its "angry eyes" on.So, we headed to their little inflatable pool out back. Now, I had forgotten my swimsuit, but that has never stopped me from having fun. *sigh* Unfortunately, A's younger brother wasn't as thoughtful as the rest of my friends, and wasn't satisfied with my doing a grape-stomp around the pool. Splash number one. He drenched my entire right side with this itty bitty bucket. Without even hesitating, I drenched him right back. Bad idea. I ended up very wet, and actually ended up sitting down in the pool, with my clothes on, of my own free will. B and G just smiled, knowing me, while the two brother stared at me in disbelief and, well, amusement. It's not often that girls here drop their pride and decide to have real fun.

Many splashing wars ensued, and I ended up with battle wounds (two very grotesque looking bruises, one one each knee, and lumps here and there). But, I take pride in my achievements: I was finally able to dunk him, head under. Do you have any idea how hard it is to dunk a tall 16-year old in a kiddy pool? A very very very hard task. Now, he didn't find Annalisa hard to dunk at all. I have not been dunked in a while--mostly because, while I am used to playing with Joseph's friends, they are either all bark but no bite, or they are still scared of me, must be all those stories they heard from Joseph, and the nasty glares I give out when they try to dunk me. When strength alone cannot save you, glare. And, if you live in Spain, glaring becomes second nature to you . . . such as having staring/glaring competitions with random people on the metro, or trying to look as grumpy as the people walking past you. It is so sad when everyone around you looks sad or grumpy or bored.

Anyways, here I sit, typing up my day, proving that I ended up "coming across the water" and getting completely soaked, while propping up my wounded legs and singing "Dona Nobis Pacem". Hopefully, tomorrow will put aside any goings-across and head towards "Give us peace" Take care everyone!