Friday, May 21, 2010

Journey Into Hope

Check out this video from ECMI called 'Journey Into Hope' to learn a little more about the context we work in here in Europe.  And wait for the end of the video to see a couple familiar faces!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Smells of Spain

It's interesting how closely the sense of smell is linked with the memory, and since we're in the midst of saying goodbye to one set of memories (our past year or so in Córdoba), we wanted to share our list of the Top 7 Smells of Spain (especially of Andalucía).

1. Cigarettes:  About 33% of Spaniards smoke, including anyone from 13 year old school girls to scruffy old men sitting in the park.  As a result, the smell of cigarette smoke was one of the first things we noticed when we moved here last year.  Even though there's a huge campaign against smoking and an ensuing debate on where it's OK to smoke, you can't help but smell cigarettes smoke here (it makes me long for the Lung Brush, the great fictional SNL product used to reduce the chances of developing lung cancer).

2. Coffee:  It's a way of life for Spaniards, and you smell it on Spaniards' breath all the time:  coffee.  Early-morning, mid-morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon, later in the evening...any time is a good time for coffee here.

3. B.O.:  I mean no disrespect here, but the truth is that after just a couple days of living here in Spain, I noticed that people smell a bit different.  And that's because deodorant is optional among Spaniards, though I believe that's changing among the younger generation.  Even so, suffice it to say that on hot summer afternoons in Andalucía you don't want a Spanish guy to give you a hug.  Now, take the B.O., mix in coffee breath and cigarette smoke on people's clothes, and you begin to get a good idea of what a bus ride smells like here in Córdoba.

4. Pechín:  I can't say that this is a pleasant or unpleasant smell:  it's simply a distinct and pungent aroma.  Pechín is the material that results from an olive getting crushed and pressed to produce olive oil.  Since olive oil is probably the greatest export from Andalucía, on any drive through the countryside you're likely to pass a olive oil processing plant and catch a whiff of it.  For Rachel it brings back memories of childhood, for one of our foreign missionary friends it almost made her puke, and for me it's just interesting.

5. Orange Blossoms:  Just after we arrived last May, we noticed a wonderfully pleasant aroma as went out for our evening walks:  orange blossoms.  Here in Córdoba many streets are lined with orange trees (they produce bitter oranges, not the nice sweet ones), so in the springtime when the trees are in bloom it smells amazing long as you're not standing near a street drain.

6. Garlic:  Walk by or into any apartment building just before lunchtime, and you'll know what we're talking about.  Garlic seems to be used in just about every dish here, and it's not too easy to miss.  In fact, Victoria Beckham was quoted as saying that Spain reeks of garlic, and if Posh says it, it must be true, right?

7. Spanish Bread:  Strolling down the sidewalk any morning you're likely to get a whiff of baking bread in a nearby panadería (bread bakery), which has to be one of the most delicious smells in the world.  Spanish bread is a little tougher and crustier than a french loaf, but it's equally as scrumptious, especially when it's fresh.  For us this provides a multi-sensory experience when we reflect on Jesus' words, 'I am the bread of life.'

BONUS:   After completing the list, Rachel reminded me about a smell that we complain about a lot:  dog poop.  You have to be very careful walking on the sidewalks here because just when you're least expecting you'll come upon a nice little pile of poo.  And even though there are signs like this one and owners are supposed to clean it up, many Spanish dog owners just don't care what their dog leaves behind for the rest of us to smell (especially in the heat of summer) and to avoid stepping in.