Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Hello everyone in TV land!

I'm happy to say that I blogging this from a real computer at my Katy-home in Katy, Texas. (Hopefully I won't have as many typos thanks to autocorrect and lack of sleep)

It's good to be home. Our travel schedule on the way back was pretty tough.We had wake-up calls at 6 AM and left the hotel by 7 to head to the airport. Our flight left around 10 am to Barcelona, then a 2 pm flight to Miami. After 10 hours on the second plane we dealt with customs (which was pretty simple) and after a 3 our layover, flew to Houston. At this point we had been up for over 24 hours with plane-sleep. I got to see Rio on the long flight, and we were fed well, aside from the fact that most of the food was ham and cheese sandwiches. My dad picked up me up at the airport so I wouldn't endure the bus ride back to San Antonio and we went home to Katy so I could see Momma.

It's so nice to be "home" even though I'm still not in Austin. I showed them some of my souveniers and shared some stories and the gifts I had brought them. I said hi to the dogs and cats and then somehow made it upstairs to sleep for over 10 hours. I got up today and had eggs and refried beans for breakfast (YES!!!) and went to the gym for a proper workout. Lunch was a huge salad with greens. Oh, how I missed my spinach and broccoli.

What a trip. I am glad to be taking the rest of the week off to get back to my life. Laundry, cleaning my apartment, grocery shopping, etc. is a must. Life is going to come back to me like a slap in the face with a busy week of 20-somethings events and starting work again on Monday. The trip was the perfect amount of time. I was able to completely let go (and let God) of everything and focus on His call. I will appreciate everything that I have now and know what I can live without. I will be more patient, tolerant and see God in more things than ever. I won't miss the bread, the walking or my luggage, but I will miss the spirit, the Malagenos and the freedom.

I'm inspired now to continue to travel around the world. I think I'll mainly want to go on Catholic pilgrimages or vacations. I might even consider a work camp or a mission trip. I want to learn more languages and about more cultures. I realized that my geography stinks. I want to read more and do less. I hope my life doesn't come back and whisk me away so quickly that I'll forget to stop and thank God for everything He has done for me, my family and my friends.

While WYD may be over, I know it's only the beginning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Last day in paradise

Today was our last day in Madrid. We woke up in these awesome personal full size beds well rested for the first time in two weeks.

We had a breakfast buffet at the hotel that was like heaven. We have been used to a juice box, a Cola Cao (chocolate milk drink) and a prepackaged pastry full of preservatives for the last few days. This buffet had an array of fruits like kiwi, watermelon, dewmelon, oranges and more, cereals and granola, milk, yogurt, peach, pineapple and mixed fruit juices, breads, jams, olive oil and tomato salsa, meats, cheeses, eggs and sausages and of course, fresh coffee. It was amazing! This hotel continued to rock our world.

We spent our day shopping and looking at the modern art in the Reina Sofia museum. I was most happy to see more Picasso, including the Guernica. We had a really late lunch of pizza and headed back by 6 to take a power nap until 8:30 or so. Ashley was still tired, so I went to the lobby and chatted with a few people and listened to their stories. We had a meeting at ten, took some pictures and I passed on dinner since it was already 11 and I went up to join Ashley in packing al of the stuff we had obtained in Spain.

I'm sure I'll reflect on many things in future blogs, but as I am leaving Spain I know that part of me is thinking about how it is all over. But then I feel a wave of joy and hope and realize that the trip might be over, but that everything else is just beginning. I have much more to take home than souvenirs. There are lessons that were learned and experiences I will never forget. I hope that I can continue to recognize God working in my life in everything that I do and that I will see Him in others. I practiced my tolerance, patience and strength. I prayed a lot and have answers to some of my concerns and more things to discern. I have grown in my faith due to the challenges (physical and spiritual) and hope that I can keep the fire burning.

With God's help, I know I can.



Monday, August 22, 2011

The Vigil Mass

When I left off, we were taking a power nap around midnight. At one AM we got up and packed up to try and venture to the other side. We walked 3 miles in the dark with dozens of other pilgrims to attempt to get to our rightful section.

When we arrive there are dozens of cops and people at the gate. They stopped letting people in. We were really upset and so were plenty of people. They were not letting anyone in for anything -- no bathrooms either. People who had left couldn't even get back in to their families, car keys, stuff or children. Minors got separated from their groups and it was chaos as it was after 2 am and most of us had been without a proper lunch or dinner. Ashley went to wait with the stuff on the rocky hill with the other rejected pilgrims while I waited in a small mob to get some food. They were bringing trucks of boxes of the pilgrim's meals up to the gate to let us pick up with our coupons. I started talkin to a guy from Poland with long dreads and a nice young man from South Africa. We expressed our frustrations with the system. Apparently sections G, H, and J were for the locals and the pilgrims were "inside" the hill barrier in C-F. They made a HUGE mistake by not checking our badges and let in locals into he wrong sections so there was no room for us. Also our food was inside, not out where thousands of people were misplaced. There were two million people there! As I was talking, the South African grabbed my meal tickets. I freaked out at first like a WWII person with ration tickets, but then he explained his buddy was in line and would get my bags for me. It was super nice of him. Once we got our food, his friend told me that being inside wasn't very great because many of the people were being disrespectful to tue event and partying-- not caring who was on and at the alter! He also said girls were dressed like prostitutes (how good -- a man who knows modest is best!) and that people were drinking and playing music. I'm glad that at least we had quiet time during adoration.

I went back and Ashley and I went to bed around 3 am on some rocky ground. We got up around 7 to find out that we could still not get in. Instead of waiting, (we both still had to go to the bathroom) we walked back the three miles with all of our stuff plus our food and found a spot near a large TV screen at least. We waited, ate some food and went to the lovely portapotties.

Mass was amazing. It was in multiple languages and over two million people were there. The communions song was Here I Am, Lord and it was so magnificient. After the long day and night that we had, the Mass with the Pope was the peace and healing that we needed. While here wasn't enough communion for everyone, the spiritual communion was sufficient. My favorite part was everyone saying the Our Father together with the Holy Father in dozens of languages. We are all one Church!

After that we knew that all of our suffering was worth it. We felt like real pilgrims and thought about how it must be in other countries. Or how it was at Pentacost, or during a medieval passage. We thought we had rights. A right to get into our section. A right for our food and bathroom access. A right to do what we wanted. We were kicked out. Moved. Told no and not given a reason. Other people got what we deserved and what we expected. We were very disappointed to be denied what we felt were our rights. It was humbling and surreal to feel like we were less than human. We had no control and had no say. It was an eye opening experience and I'll never forget it. Now I might understand how others feel and how it is to be on the outside. It was living the Litany of Humility to the extreme.

Going back to town was a mess too. We waited a bit and then walked 4-5 miles to a metro stop and waited in a huge crowd for our turn to get smashed and squished into a metro and get back home. We then had to get all of our luggage (heavy!) and walk to the hotel.

What a 180! The hotel is so nice! We walked in to a nice lobby and onto elevators that looked down into an atrium. Our first thoughts were that we each had a bed, multiple plugs, hot water and a TV. And we could control the air conditioner. The balcony had a beautiful view of the city and we had a huge mirror. It was amazing to lay on a bed and have clean bodies! We dressed up in dresses and went with our gang to have mass again with the Bishop since we didn't all get communion. After that Ashley and I went to find a nice Italian place for dinner and got gelato. It was such a nice evening after such a moving experience.



Saturday, August 20, 2011

Praying for rain

Continued from earlier... (if this posts out of order, please read other one first!)

It's 11:37pm and I'm sitting on our makeshift bed. When I left off we finally arrived to Cuatro Vientros. We are in E7 but due to some circumstances our section and the other sections on the inside were filled up with the wrong people. We waited around for a bit and camped out. We finally got some water and we felt better. We made some friends, traded stuff and waited. Eventually they told us to go set up in G and wait. Also, we couldn't get to the food sections where they take our coupons, so a few moms bought some overpriced sandwiches for us. It helped but it was still a small meal for all the energy that we had spent.

This is when it gets good. After all the heat, dehydration and sunburn, we notice storm clouds coming. The lightning was beautiful and magical until it got closer and brighter. We immediately shoved all of our stuff and ourselves to the middle of our tarp and went for cover. It rained for about 20 minutes and we huddled while praying a rosary. We seemed to have adopted a man from Kenya and his young son who had come with out a group. The child was squeezed in next to me so I put my arm around him and he tried to pray with us in his very best English. It was a magnificent yet scary moment.

After the rain cleared we got up and Ashley and I ventured to get information. We walked over towards the huge line of portapotties and got perfect timing to see the Pope lead adoration. We felt so graced and it was a moment I'll never forget. As we kneeled in the dirt on our flip flops, we thought of the long day we'd had, our futures and how spoiled and
fortunate we really are. We met some people and found out that we might not get to get to our section tonight, but we might try here in a bit after Ashley takes a power nap. People are leaving. Some are sleeping. Others are singing, banging drums and dancing. I hear tambourines, drums, chants and chatter.

This has been the toughest day that I can remember. It beats teaching Drum Corps or and camping trip. We tested our teamwork and our patience. We have felt true thirst and true hunger. We have walked until we could go no
more and then went more. We welcomed new people and witnessed the Pope in Adoration. The rain cooled us down and got rid of the dry dusty atmosphere and sent a fresh breeze.

Tomorrow after mass we flip our trip over and stay in a hotel. A bed, a hog shower and privacy. Many things we can take for granted. Hopefully we can get in dresses and enjoy our last night in Spain in style at a nice restaurant and celebrate all of the gifts God has given us.



The Ultimate Challenge

Here I am writing from Cuatro Vientros on a tarp in the middle of at least a million people, probably up to 2.

This is a combination of Woodstock, the Quidditch World Cup, ACL times 50, or some futuristic war refugee camp. We walked over 13 miles with about 15-20 pounds of luggage on our backs. We are here to camp out and see the Pope, if we can and have mass with him tomorrow morning.

My feet are disgusting. I can't name a body part that doesn't hurt. We were supposed to be fed by 4 and it's almost 8 and we have only had breakfast and assorted nuts. We are tired, sweaty, burned and fatigued. We walked for over 6 hours in the heat of the day. Even though our group of 21 that wanted to walk the whole entire way almost didn't make it, we made it here together. We had to stop a few times and we suffered some minor injuries but I know none of us would change anything.

God came to our rescue many times. There were no water stops that we found along the way, but the good people of Spain were pouring buckets, emptying water bottles and spray hoses out of their windows to douse us with water. We came across a few fountains on the way and we soaked our bandanas and other people jumped in. It was a relief. There were times when we were too tired to say anything, but we were able to pray the Divine Mercy and a rosary to offer up our suffering for the intentions that we brought with us from our family and friends. Everytime someone needed water, a snack, a break, pain meds or help, we were there to help each other. We sang songs and smiled a people along the way. After a while it got too crowded and we had to hold hands and go single file through the huge crowds. It was fun to see smiles from people as we passed and hear shouts of "USA!" and "Deep in the Heart of Texas". We waved at the locals and yelled out countries that we passed. One time I heard a group of Koreans singing a beautiful song and it moved me to tears.

Just seeing the huge amount of people here all saying the same thing in different ways is overwhelming. You see hundreds of flags in every direction. You hear songs and chants from all over the world. It's so unifying.

More later from the final mass...



Rapping for the Pope

On Friday, we got up as usual with our annoying voice and music. "Goood morning! Evreebody git ah-up!"

We made Texas bracelets to trade in the hallway while we charged our camera batteries. Did I mention we have one outlet for 30 people in our room? It's a mess.

We decided to go to Catechesis in another part of town so we could be closer to our buddy's performance. Joe Melendrez and some others had a stage set up right across from where the Pope was staying and had a Catholic rap show scheduled. We went to Catechesis for a bit and then ventured to get some breakfast and coffee. We found a cute shop nearby and I got cafe con leche, Ashley got hot chocolate and we both got amazing ham, cheese and egg sandwiches. It was much better then our morning pastry! We met some girls from Ireland and enjoyed talking about our homes. I got a little lephrechan key chain!

When we got over to the performance area, there were many policemen and cars. We've been yelling like Bon Qui Qui, "suh-curity!" There were also a group of young boys dressed and acting as a mini Swiss guard outside the Pope's hotel. We were shuffled around a lot by the guards on where we could stand to see the show. We met some French people and a whole lot of people from Los Angeles. We hung out here for a few hours for the show and danced around in the heat of the day with anticipation that the Pope would drive in. After a good deal of pushing and crowding (and waiting) the Pope came home from lunch and we got to see him! He was in an unmarked car but he did drive right by us. We shortly after saw the Pope Mobile too! How fun.

We spent the rest of the day shopping and decided to go by the Sports Complex where the English speaking events were. We found out that they were filming the Way of he Cross, an artistic representation of all the stations of the cross. We knew we didn't want to face the huge crowds to see the ceremony in person, but we caught the latter portion of the Way and enjoyed seeing the Pope up close and on the big screen, not to mention the artwork for each stations. The official WYD cross was carried by different groups from station to station and they represented their countries and their struggles. For example one group had suffered from drug addictions and another was made up of pilgrims from Japan and Haiti, since they represent the suffering from natural disasters. The program ended with a speech from the Pope.

It was a nice way to end the busy day. I'm beginning to reflect a lot on how fortunate we are to have the lives we have.

You are blessed and loved.



Friday, August 19, 2011

The Art of Crowd Control

On Thursday we went on our backpack free day. After a bit of Catechesis, we went to try and join a ProLife Flash Mob. We didn't find it, but we found some nice Irish people also here for the dance. Since it was a bust, we joined some Brazilians for a group dance. :D it was fun and in a circle that kept adding new people. Then we went to the Prado museum to see art by Raphael, Goya, El Greco, Velasquez, Rembrant and more. We rented the audio four guides and enjoyed some special exhibits based on Christ. It was amazing! I realized how much I enjoy museums and bcos j should go to the ones in Austin.

After that we ventured to the park (Berlin). We hung out in the grass for a bit and watched boys play with soccer balls and kids climb a jungle gym. Old ladies were chattering as parents took some time away from the park on some benches. It was a nice moment.

After we went by the Lifeteen XLT event for a little while. When we were getting on our way back to get some food, the metros were POURING out Italians and other CL (Communion and Liberation) members to a party. It was probably over a thousand people passing by us in a matter of minutes.

The metros are also filled to the brim. Pilgrims are everywhere. It's like as busy as Times Square at New Year's on every corner and in every store and pouring in and out of the Metro! Luckily Ashley and I travel in a party of two instead of 15, so its not bad to get through a group of people. We still get smashed in the Metro trains and have had our share of smelling body odor!

That's the last thing I will miss when I return.