Thursday, 28 February 2008

tuesdays

The other week as we crouched talking to a homeless Rumanian lady sat outside the gates of one of the most visited Catholic church buildings in Sevilla and offered her some clothes to protect against the cold a man walked past to enter the church gates and said irritably, "if you're going to get in the way, take her away from here". How far is this from the heart of the one worshipped only metres away. Champion of the poor and downtrodden; arms wide open to the children, the outcasts and the broken... he did not clear places of worship of people but of money and greed. I am not claiming to be any better than the man who walked past us. I do the same. Avert my eyes, take a wide path and try to ignore those sat at the sidelines waiting hoping begging. We are shocked by the behaviour of the priest and the levite in the parable but how often do we live like the 'Good Samaritan'?



An important part of my time in Sevilla so far has been a tiny step in this direction. Once a week since October or November i was privileged to join in with a small community ('Triburbana') consisting of people from the UK, America and Spain in giving out coffee to the people who live and work on the streets in their neighbourhood with the aim of getting to know them as friends. The Macarena is at the north end of the centre of Sevilla and is less well off and more populated by immigrants than other central 'barrios'. It's right near the Alameda, which i have talked about before. I actually lived on the other side of town but given a second chance it's the area I would have liked to live in.



Every tuesday morning at 10 o'clock a few of us meet up to walk the "route of love" armed with flasks of coffee, polystyrene cups, sugar and spoons. The idea is serving a pratical need while opening up opportunities for conversation and in taking the same route each week making regular contact with people...



Like the guys from Ghana, Nigeria and other north African countries who park cars legally or illegally and speak of their past travels and future hopes and the difficulties in finding work and processing documents


the men who sit in the Alameda with bottles of beer and their precious dogs


Lola who is always in Plaza de Pulmorejos near the shelter that gives out clothing and provides showers and is so skinny no trousers fit her and often so high that she doesn't recognise us


Laura an older Rumanian lady with a beautiful smile who sits outside the renouned Macarena church with a photo album of her family including her son that died, prefers to drink Cola Cao over coffee (Spain's version of hot chocolate) and sleeps by the river


the men who sit in the park outside the parliament building and asked for pen and paper to write a letter to the governor and the newspapers about the plight of homeless unemployed Spaniards in Sevilla


Then there are those we have just met once or twice:


The Polish men sat on discarded sofas on the street drinking vodka who had journeyed through Europe in search of work and had spent the past week sleeping in the skip beside them


The Bolivian ladies, one with a newborn baby and the other who had left children aged 1 and 3 years old behind in Bolivia


Xavier the violinist and the rather chubby flamenco guitarist who told us about squats in London and Sevilla


the man in the hat who went to spend the winter in Tenerife where it's less cold to be sleeping on the street and encouraged us to relax and speak our stilting spanish slower


It makes such a difference knowing faces and names, and seeing the false ideas of status disappear.

We've met the unemployed, the drunk, the wanderers, the angry, the sick,the dirty but at the same time seen humour, kindness, openess and wisdom.

Sometimes i wander if i kept going every week just because it made me feel better about myself, stopped me feeling guilty about having so much in a world where so many are fighting just to stay alive. I hope there was more to my motivations than that. I know i always felt a bit more alive afterwards. I don't know...

So maybe we are not changing the world in dramatic ways. But maybe one cup of coffee, one smile at a time we can make a difference to someone's day. And afterall we're just living life one day at a time. We cannot promise to solve their problems, all we can do is believe that love does make a difference and pray that our humble offerings will give a glimpse of hope.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

view from the balcony



this morning i noticed the view from Mary Alice's balcony properly for the first time. it's pretty cool! the cafe in the corner is a does nice breakfasts :o)

back

all that said about england and englishness, i did have a really great 2 weeks back there... it didn't feel too hectic but looking back i realised i went from stansted to oxford to wigan to manchester to oxford to brighton to oxford and back to the airport and managed to see quite a lot of people - some planned some random bumping-into's, like my dad's swedish cousin on the bus back to the airpost. random!

there were some first times, like making cheesecake (so proud of myself!) and watching a rugby league game (wigan warriors v castleford tigers)

there was some dancing, in manchester at abbie's 21st where we all dressed up as people from a different country and at a 60's night at komedia in brighton

there was a lot of eating (i got cooked for quite a lot!) and a lot of coffees and cafes ... but that wasn't the focus, the focus was time and friends and talking and listening and relaxing and being together with people that had such an important place in my life during the last 2 years at university in Brighton. it was good to feel myself again. and to look forwards to coming back there for my final year despite the knowledge that most of it will be spent in the library!

but at the same time it actually feels ok to be back in Spain. Back to 20 degree nights and cars beeping their horns at every available opportunity, back to euros and the Andalusian accents and friends. yey for friends. i am very blessed.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

englishness




The "F-word" and drinking and talking about drinking and moaning and talking about the weather and being not very friendly and rather superior about our own culture/food/language/etc.

these are the stereotypes, which sometimes i argue against, but then all my recent 'path-crossings' with english people ~ especially english-people-abroad, has seemed to prove this. it makes me... not want to be English. to be honest. My head is full of this today, after a flight back to England and first mass encounters of 'my people', beginning right from the airport in Sevilla where there were complaints floating into my hears from both ends of the orderly queue.

it makes me want to pretend i am Spanish. This plan will not work though for as soon as i open my mouth, or even before, Spaniards are practising their english skills on me. Is my face that English? Not that there's any reason for it not to be... I just didn't think there was an English "look" - except, by the way, there's also a general opinion that the English are uglier than many fellow Europeans and often pale and chubby. "Oh but not you of course", they say to me when they tell me. Well, you have to say that don't you?!

I've never really "felt" that English. And always felt slightly ashamed of it mainly due to our not-so-glorious past in my opinion - of domination and opression of others. And as an anthropologist I'm inclined to say that nation is a construction blah blah blah. As a Christian I'll never belong here anyways.

So... maybe it's best to look on the good things. Like in comparison to Sevilla I really appreciate the integration of different races and nationalities into our society. I know there's a long way to go but it's a long way ahead of Andalucia where people get away with really racist comments because hardly anyone is friends with anyone who's not white. Where black people (on the whole) only sell tissues at traffic lights or park cars and Chinese people stick to the Chinese supermarkets.


And... today i re-appreciated the 'green fields' as i went on my favourite walk near my house. And curry and apple crumble that mum cooked for tea. And i know not everyone is like the description i started out with. And i like it that we do laugh at ourselves and are in general quite aware of our awkward overly polite (sometimes) complaining selves. So... yeh. I'm tired. There's more, but I need to sleep. Maybe i'll add more tomorrow. Maybe not.

Monday, 11 February 2008

vamos a la playa!





this weekend i...


went to the beach. yey!! happy katrina! After amazingly warm february temperatures and much sun we decided it would be a fine idea. and it was :o) With 8 friends, from all over the place. We went to matalscaƱas which is the nearest beach to Sevilla, near Huelva. With a volleyball and picnics. Some of us brave ones swam in the cold sea. The waves were so strong they kept knocking me over. It felt good. (Not the actual being knocked over and turned upside down, worries of losing bikini and ears filling with sand and water... but the general feeling of being surrounded by something big and powerful).



This weekend i also...

Moved out my flat! So i currently am semi-homeless, which is surprisingly free-ing. altho i wish i didn´t have quite so much "stuff". Impressive how much you can accumulate in a few months! I´d love to just have one suitcase of stuff. That would feel good. Well if i keep going at the rate of losing things that i´m going at the moment it may happen soon... :o(

So i´m back where i started, in Mary Alice and Loyda´s flat. yey! But about to go to England for 2 weeks and then there´s new adventures to be had... but more about that next time!

Monday, 4 February 2008

a weekend in Sevilla

i had a nice weekend. here in Sevilla. so i thought i´d write about it and give a bit more of a taste of everyday life rather than the more adventurous/abstract posts of late... or of recent... i´m not quite sure how you´re meant to use that phrase!

Anyways. Saturday day time was spent studying as I am still in the middle of exam period, although mountain trips may suggest otherwise. "study break" i call it. I have had 2 exams and have 3 more to go, all of them quite different as all authority is held by the professor so it´s up to them how the exams are administered, what language the foreign students can write in, whether we´re allowed to use our notes... etc. Hopefully i´ll pass them all, well, i Need to. so. yeh.

Saturday evening i went to the Brasilian church that i frequented last year, but had not returned to yet in 2008. I´m not sure why i hadn´t, because i was reminded again how much i like it; how comfortable i feel among the people there (despite them all speaking portuguese, which i can vaguely understand but definitely not speak!) and how i enjoy being there. So saturday night was good, and the pastor said a lot of things that i know... but had forgotten... and it was good to be reminded of truth to hold on to when other things in life don´t feel so clear.

Afterwards we celebrated Carmen (a friend from the church) ´s birthday by going bowling. It was a lot of fun, more because of the big characters of some of the Brasilians, and because other good friends came to join, than an actual passion for bowling. I´ve only been 3 times in my life (this being the third), and it is not a strong point of mine. "i throw like a girl". I got 51 points (second last by one point!). I don´t think thats so good. I either seemed to get 9 down, or more frequently, none. and the bowling ball made my thumb bleed. rude.

Anyways, good times good times... I felt more like myself than i have done in aaaaaages, so that was cool. don´t ask me why, just did! Afterwards i hung out at a friends house on the otherside of town and so slept there till sunday...

SUNDAY was a proper rest day. lie - in, then meandered down to a cafe on the Alameda with 2 friends. where between us we consumed hot chocolate, coffee, beer and orange juice and took photos of the random decoration and read and wrote our diaries. or journals. never sure what to call them. There was a random mixture of people there at 1pm on a sunday in the smoke filled dimly lit bar. the three british girls in the corner with notebooks and bibles out on the table. couples smoking and drinking red wine. dreadlocks and suits. transvestites and children.

Which kind of sums up the Alameda, a large rectangular square... if that makes sense. An area that used to have the reputation of being quite deprived but is now becoming a popular social gathering place. An area surrounded by bars and cafes, community buildings and a police station (not so popular!), tatoo parlours and night clubs. where homeless people hang out with their dogs and drink beer, kids play football, art exhibitions are held, squatters protest, students enjoy the sun and drink coffee.. everything and anything. i like it.

Later i cycled all the way along the river to clear my head of the smoke and the thoughts and when i got home i actually read a book in bed, which i can´t even remember when i did last. ('Punk Monk' by Andy Freeman and Pete Greig). It´s getting me thinking...

famine

we suffer from a famine of a different nature.

I.e. not n a t u r a l

Shortage of sustainance to the heart
to the soul.

Physically materially we have more - way more - than enough.
Yet people are starving. Starved. Starved of love and relationships. Our personal space increases until we forget how to approach or be approached. Our own hands wrapped around ourselves instead of reaching out to someone else to hold. We cry out for depth. for reality. as conversations barely scratch the surface of our hard shells. Science ignores feelings and drugs confuse them until we are paranoid of the imaginary.

This famine is not accessible to film crews and charities. It is invisible. And sometimes we wish we did suffer from something tangible... a lack of food and water. At least then it would be obvious. then someone might stop and help.

And we might be able to justify the aching emptiness inside.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Stars/Mountains (/anything big and beautiful and natural)

More stolen lyrics to express my thoughts...this time from Swtichfoot! except it was the mountains that made me think this. You can´t see the stars so well in Sevilla.



STARS

Maybe I've been the problem

Maybe I'm the one to blame

But even when I turn it off and blame myself

The outcome feels the same

I've been thinking maybe I've been partly cloudy

Maybe I'm the chance of rain

And maybe I'm overcast

And maybe all my luck's washed down the drain


I've been thinking 'bout everyone,

Everyone you looks so lonely


But when I look at the stars

When I look at the stars

When I look at the stars,

I see someone else

When I look at the stars

The stars, I feel like myself


Stars looking at a planet

Watching entropy and pain

And maybe to start to wonder

How the chaos in our lives could pass as sane

I've been thinking 'bout the meaning of resistance

Of a hope beyond my own

And suddenly the infinite and penitent

Begin to look like home