Sunday, October 26, 2014

Seville part 1 - the Alcazar

Last Thursday Elder Castillo, Hermana Castillo, and her two sisters and mother took me to Seville where we saw the Alcazar  and the Sevilla Cathedral. I took WAY to many pictures to do them both in one blog, so I'm starting with the Alcazar.
The Alcazar was the palace of many down through the centuries, from the Moores (in the 1100's) to the Christians (who built a new castle on the Moorish site in 1364 and added on to it over the centuries).  It's pretty wild being in something that old when your own country is less than 250 years old! And it's still in use - the royal family live in the upper three levels when they are in town.  It is built around a number of patios, which are quite stunning. The one to the left is called the "Courtyard of the Maidens" and has a beautiful reflecting pond and gardens. The whole palace had a LOT of arches, too.

It also had a lot of very large doorways, some of which had little doors built into the very large doors that accompanied them. To the right is a very elaborately carved wooden door that I thought was pretty neat.

To the left is the Hall of the Ambassadors, which was used for ceremonial events. It had really cool horse-shoe arch ways that you can see, exquisite tile work,

and a magnificent dome ceiling. This was created in 1389 in the Moorish style out of interlaced wood. I spent a lot of my time looking up as all of the ceilings were very cool.

Some interesting tile work with both the symbol of Castile (the castle, for Isabella), and Aragon (the lion, for Ferdinand), who financed Colombus' grand voyage.

More cool tile work both floor and wall, and another courtyard with multiple levels. The design work was unbelievably intricate and continually shifted my eyes from one pattern to another. VERY interesting.

The grounds were HUGE and included fountains (one 16th century), gardens, maze-hedges, and other neat stuff.

This was a REALLY cool feature - it's a water organ and played music by using a waterfall (you could hear it if you got up close) as a source of air to play a pipe organ.

This shows not only a beautiful fountain and other features, but also the ingenious irrigation system that let them water everything (anciently and today) so they didn't have to haul water to all the trees etc. Beautiful gardens!

All in all I REALLY enjoyed my trip to Sevilla, but the very best part was spending time with my great friends, the Castillos, and Hermana Castillo's sisters and mother. What great people and what a great family!  Although Spain is awesome, it's not the place, it's the people that I enjoy most of all. Thanks for including me!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

La Plaza de Toros y la Doma Vaquera

Like I promised, here are pictures of the caballos and Spanish riders we got to see demonstrate their skills at the Paza de Toros (Bull fighting ring). They don't do bull fights much any more, but the demonstration these horses put on was absolutely fabulous!  I went with my friends, Elder and Hermana Castillo,  and we went into it not being quite sure what we were in for. We were totally delighted with what we found. The moves were similar to some of what we got to see in Jerez at the Royal Riding School, but we got to be closer and this time we got to take pictures!  So prepare to be inundated :)

One rider worked with a pole, circling around, changing direction under the pole, and here, circling around the pole with it just laid on the rider's shoulder.

The horses performed to music and a
running commentary mostly
incomprehensible to me, but were beautiful
and elegant, as were the riders.
They did many changes of leads,
controlled , high-stepping trots (including
 in place), diagonal lines, tight circles,
sudden stops and starts, and etc

This boy was 5 or 6 and performed with his father and alone. He did many of the moves the older riders did. Very cool!

A Favorite of mine - he was very powerful and controlled, and had a beautiful silver coat that glistened.  He would turn in circles with first his hind end stationary, and then his front end. Impressive!

Another beautifully colored horse that did lots of quick stops
and backing in his routine.
This horse worked taking his cues from just the
reins and a quirt. He was very excitable, but
did an awesome job!


                                                                                                                                                                                      This elegant lady did most of the same moves using a side-saddle! Very impressive.

Part of the "grand finale"

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Horses, Horses, and More Horses. Oh, and a few Trajes Gitana (dresses) and suits too!

One thing about the Spanish - they do love their horses!  The week before last was Fuengirola's "Faria", which is a week-long celebration during which there were not only the usual carriage horses on the streets, but also random people riding around in their Spanish suits and dresses.

"Public Parking"
It was pretty cool occasionally coming upon a group of riders arrayed in front of a small restaurant refreshing themselves with drinks (still on horseback). They had a parade at the beginning of the week, with the traditional parading of the huge (and heavy) Virgin Mary statue and lots of horses and carriages. At the end of the week all the riders and carriages gathered at the Faria grounds, and paraded around the grounds, and even into the streets nearby (there were a LOT of them), showing off their traditional (and beautiful) Spanish dress.
Speaking of dresses, a month or so ago I went to a Trajes Gitana (Flamingo dress) fashion show where they had a brief Flamingo demonstration before-hand that was pretty cool. I was way behind a bunch of people, so couldn't see the fashion show too well, and the pictures were taken with the camera way above my head, but it was still fun.
But for the Faria just about everyone (young and old and everywhere in between) wore their traditional finery, and many brought their horses, which they would ride down the street amongst all the cars, buses, and scooters as just part of the traffic. You could tell everyone was having a great time!

Also, the Saturday before this they had a show at the Fuen bull fighting ring that I went to with my friends the Castillos. We knew it had something to do with horses (it was called "Doma Vaquera"), but we didn't know quite what to expect. It turned out to be a horsemanship show/demonstration that was absolutely fabulous!  Watching the horses and riders "dance" together was very moving to me, and I'll write more about that later, as I have a TON of pictures I'd like to share :)

A few more random thoughts - I have now been on my mission for six months - hard to believe!  I'm progressing with learning how to speak Spanish, and am working on it pretty hard, although silly things like referrals and the office tend to get in the way (seriously - I am still really enjoying working with the missionaries with the referrals, and it has been very gratifying to know I have contributed a small part in bringing some of the great people of Spain to the joy that can be found in the true gospel of Jesus Christ). I really don't think I'm speaking much better than I did 3 or 4 months ago, but I'm starting to get the hang of all the tenses and different endings and exceptions that I have been struggling with and hope to actually be able to use that knowledge in my speaking before too long.
At Zone Conference with the Hermanas and Hermana Wiscomb (one of our awesome Sr. Missionaries)
 I'm continually depending on God for help with all the different things I do here as I am stretched way beyond my comfort zone in quite a few ways. Communicating (kind of) in Spanish,esp. calling and talking on the phone (not my favorite activity, esp. when I can't understand all or sometimes even much of what is being said) is one challenge. I have also been teaching adults (Gospel Doctrine class - sometimes it turns out pretty well, other times, not so much. The ones that are the best are the ones I  prepare hard, but then turn it over to God. My own ideas?  Well....), playing piano in Sacrament Meeting (even the "easy hymns" can be a struggle for me, esp. in front of people. Today we had someone from the States that could play again, which is always a great cause for celebration for me! I will NEVER take the pianist for granted ever again!), cooking, instructing groups of missionaries, and going out with the missionaries on appointments. Okay, that last thing is just a pleasure - I LOVE going out with the missionaries. They are awesome!  :)  Anyway, I keep pretty busy, but also find time for some fun, as you can tell. One of my favorite things is still going for a walk along the beach and spending time just looking at the beautiful sky and water. City life just isn't my thing, and that helps. Through all of it, though, I have felt the hand of God, and it has been much easier than I would have thought possible. Things that are hard have been made light, and even fun, which has been pretty amazing. Once again - I have been so blessed!  Missions are awesome.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Sounds, Smells, and Tastes of Spain

View out my bedroom window (if I lean WAY out).

Some of the things that I will miss when I leave Spain have nothing to do with the beautiful vistas, but are the sounds, smells, and tastes of everyday life.
First, Sounds. Many times a day a bell that reminds me of the Polar Express sounds outside of our window, followed by the clop clop of horses' hooves on the street, and an occasional whinny. Fuengirola has quite a cadre of horse taxis, and unlike many other places, the horses are almost all beautiful, well take care of, and go about their jobs with enthusiasm. Taking a ride in one is on my list of "things to do before leaving Fuen".  Then there's the morning cry (a couple times a week) of the guy that delivers butane for the neighborhood stoves and water heaters. I still haven't figured out what he says, but I think it's to let anyone who might be in need know that he is there. The not quite so pleasant side is the noise made in the early hours of the morning by all night party goers as they yell and sing at the top of their voices down the streets (especially after a big soccer game), and the guy that insists on power washing the plaza across the street at 3 in the morning. Because the narrow streets have great acoustics, it sounds like it's right outside my window. Not so fun.

Other sounds are really amplified too - dogs, babies, etc.  And of coarse there are the pigeons and seagulls!  Down by the beach there are the sounds and smell of the sea, of coarse (the smell really got strong after a storm the other day - made me homesick for the Pacific), and in the summer, LOTS of people, and things like bumper cars, a double-decker carousel, and street musicians. Some are actually pretty good! Another feature of the narrow streets is that the wind can get whipping down them pretty strongly, rattling windows and making for other interesting sounds.  
Next, Smells.  First I'll get the not-so-pleasant out of the way. Fuengirola has a lot of dogs - and very little grass. Store owners have to wash down the lower walls and walkways (especially the corners) outside of their shops pretty much every day, which most of them do. You can sure tell the ones that don't though! The taxi horses all have little bags under their tails, so that isn't a problem, although there are occasions when there are a lot of  extras wandering the streets (like for the faria that was this week) that aren't so careful. And of coarse there's the matter of the not-so-great deodorant (and no antiperspirant). The great smells include my daily "fix" of bread and pastry scents from the bakery I walk behind every morning. Heavenly!  Good thing it's behind and not in front! I also love the smell of the sea and of fish roasting over the boat fires down by the beach and other delicious foods. And there are some great flower smells too!

And finally - Tastes!  I'll have to get a picture of my favorite pastry (chocolate filled of coarse) - an excuse to get another :)  but the fruits are pretty amazing too. It's fun perusing the little shops to find new fruits to try - the first picture has the usual, plus the paraguayos (or doughnut peaches) which are melt in your mouth sweet, and the pele de sapo (toad skin) melon which is also very good.
A yellow pomegranate (which I thought unusual) is to the left, along with the totally amazing Cherimoya, or Buddha's Head fruit. Most of it are these huge seeds, but the part you can eat is very sweet and delicious.  A good part of my food budget goes to fruit :).   I've also had the chance to taste some of the traditional Spanish foods, which I have mentioned before. Great on the pallet, not so great on the waist line!
So that is some more of the great things of Spain. But before I go, I want to celebrate one other great thing - family!  Not so good - not being there for special family events like the birth of my two grandchildren the last couple of months. Very good - having healthy, happy grandkids that I can see on Skype most weeks :)   Welcome Xander and Catherine!  I love you!