Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #23: Celebrations

 

The patron of Salamanca, Spain is the Virgen de la Vega, or Our Lady of the Meadow.  Her festival is in early September, right when we arrived in the city to study for the semester.  It was a wonderful introduction to a fun and historic city.

To see more photos of celebrations, check out the original post.

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Lit Mag Poetry: Mi Salamanca

The shirt no longer smells like you;

I left it crumpled on the bed.

I wanna shoot whoever did up this room

(if they’re not already dead),

 

Because I’m so sick of harvest gold

and crying down the telephone,

But you’re here,

and I’m there,

and it’s 67 days ‘til home.

 

It’s Sunday night

and you’re begging “Never again, never again,”

and all I can say is “I’m sorry.”

Te echo de menos, but you wouldn’t understand.

Just say, “I miss you, too.”

 

“We’re halfway through,” this email reads,

but I feel I’m wearing thin.

I’m falling asleep to songs about hips and hearts,

and dreaming of your smooth skin.

 

And I’m so sick of going out alone

and wasting money on my mobile phone

Because you’re here

and I’m there

and it’s 38 days ‘til home.

 

And it’s Sunday night

and you’re begging “Never again, never again, no,”

and all I can say is “I’m sorry.”

Te echo de menos, but you wouldn’t understand.

Just say, “I miss you, too.”

DSCN0077
Salamanca, Spain

I couldn’t find my printed copy of this poem, but it was published in Confiscated, my college literary magazine, in 2007.  I wrote it in fall 2006 when I spent a semester abroad in Spain, mainly in Salamanca.  It was a wonderful experience, but I missed my boyfriend (now husband) a lot.  I was feeling quite lonely in a hotel room in Santander (with ugly decor in harvest gold…) and started writing this about it.

It’s actually a song, as most of my poems are.  I was listening to Fall Out Boy’s album From Under the Cork Tree on repeat at the time (“songs about hips and hearts”), and not only did it get me through that semester emotionally, it inspired me to start writing songs again.  When I submitted this to my lit mag, even though I removed my real name, one of the other editors immediately knew it was mine and picked up the FOB reference.

Te echo de menos obviously means I miss you in Spanish.  My husband does not speak any Spanish haha.

Some (rambling) love for The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy

Very often in YA trilogies, I am sucked in by the first book only to feel slightly let down by the subsequent books as the quality of the story trails off.  The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy (we need a shorter name for this) by Rae Carson was a surprise to me in that it actually did the opposite. *spoilers ahead*

GoF&TThe Girl of Fire and Thorns kicked off the trilogy in a promising vein.  The setting and the writing were both excellent.  Elisa is perhaps not my favorite protagonist, but I liked that she was more scholar than fighter, and I felt I could relate to her weaknesses.  Although Carson puts Elisa in a quasi-love triangle, she refreshingly breaks convention and resolves it by killing off both men, which helps the story neatly move on while raising the stakes.  I wrote a brief review of GoF&T in this post.

The Crown of Embers was one of those rare sequels that I liked better than the original.  In fact, I didn’t just like it, IEmbers loved it.  I read it once almost straight through, and then I immediately started reading it again.  I liked that we got to see more of the capital city of Brisadulce and then also embark on a questing adventure.  The character development was actually more satisfying: it was easy for Elisa to act like a leader in a strange rebel camp, so far removed from her real life, but here we see her start to mature into her real-life role as queen.  And most of all, the slow-burning love story was exciting–I was totally on Team Hector already from the first book!

The cliffhanger-type ending didn’t bother me at all; it’s pretty standard for a second act.  In fact, it is almost exactly the same as the ending of Empire Strikes Back, which leads so well into Return of the Jedi.

BitterThe third book, The Bitter Kingdom, carried the story to an interesting conclusion that was almost bittersweet.  Side characters like Storm and Mara continued to develop, and Hector’s new POV chapters, with a clear, distinct voice, were a welcome addition to the story, unlike in some other YA trilogies that have added viewpoints late in the series.

In the 2nd and 3rd books, the first-person present-tense POV really grew on me.  Never before have I felt that this tense added something to the story instead of being needlessly confusing.  But by the time I was done with the series, it seemed so natural that I started writing some of the scenes from one of my novels that way in my head.  So, now I am rethinking the narration in that novel.  I honestly never thought I would even consider using first person present tense.

I mentioned before my love for the setting.  I pronounced all the character and place names the Spanish way in my head, for example Joya = Hoya.  It was fun to get little insights into the world from the Spanish-derived words, like Joya d’Arena meaning Jewel of the Sand.  I was glad to finally see a map in The Bitter Kingdom, because in my head I apparently had the geography of the world flipped exactly upside down and backwards.

I very much liked the way religion was portrayed in the series; it fit well into the story (even its fantasy aspects) without overbearing real-world parallels.  The church (which has strong Catholic influences, fitting the Hispanic setting) is shown as well-meaning but flawed.  Elisa has a real, personal faith, but not all the characters do, and she doesn’t push her beliefs on them.  And after she loses her Godstone, she must start to navigate her way without any response to her prayers, which is how all of us in the real world must practice our faith.

Elisa and Hector are both pretty young, but I appreciated that their relationship ends up being stable and mature.  Through the books they struggle to mesh their professional and personal relationships.  Hector fills a role as Elisa’s protector, which is a common dynamic in fictional romantic relationships, but can sometimes come off as unbalanced, with the protector being too controlling (not a healthy trait to extol).  Elisa, however, has no problem telling Hector to back off when she feels smothered; she knows that as queen, the balance of power is actually on her side of the relationship.  And in fact, part of her growth as queen is learning to let Hector do his job as her Guard, because she really does respect his opinions and knows he is good at what he does.  I like that they do find a balance in their relationship, based on their mutual respect.

After I finished the trilogy, I still wanted more, so I was thrilled to discover that Carson has also written 3 short shortsstories in this universe.  The were originally published as e-novellas (which is how I read them), but they’ll be out in a paperback collection later this year:

  • The King’s Guard: This story is the best of the three, told from Hector’s POV as he tries to make it into the Royal Guard as a teenager. I would recommend reading this story after Crown of Embers (or even after Bitter Kingdom), because there are a few small things you will appreciate more.
  • The Shadow Cats: From older sister Alodia’s POV, this prequel is set just before GoF&T. It fills in more of the dynamic between the two sisters, which has always been interesting to me, and some of the background leading up to Elisa’s marriage to Alejandro.  It can be read after GoF&T, or at any point in the series.
  • The Shattered Mountain: The only story NOT in first person, and I think I would have liked it more if it were.  This is Mara’s story of her journey to the rebel camp, taking place during GoF&T; I felt it was a little less exciting because we already know how it ends.  I would recommend reading it before/during/right after Crown of Embers, when Mara starts to play an important role in the story, because it does shed some light on her character.

Tl;dr 5/5 stars– I loved this trilogy, and if you like YA fantasy, you will, too.  The 2nd book is the high point.

A few more photos from Europe

One last round of photos from our trip to Europe last year.  I am making progress on my digital scrapbook.

Our last stops were Venice, which I liked more than I anticipated; historic Dubrovnik; Tindari in Sicily; and my favorite, the lovely Palma de Mallorca.  I have visited so many parts of Spain and I have loved all of them; ending our trip with Palma felt like coming home.  And I got to try a tasty “ensaimada” pastry.

La Sagrada Familia

I’ve been wanting to write a little about some of things I saw in Europe last month, so I’ll start with my favorite site of the whole trip: La Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, Spain. I have seen a lot of European churches, but I had never seen anything like this.  I was totally blown away.  This was the most beautiful, inspiring church I have ever seen.  (Even more so than St. Peter’s in Rome, which I also saw on this trip.)  And it’s not even done yet!  The church has been under construction for over a century and will not be complete for at least another 15 years or so. The church has a true Gothic basis, building off the great Gothic churches of Spain, but it is buried under the layers of Modernisme style details.  I was not expecting to love this church; I had thought it looked weird.  Strange shapes, too many things going on, etc. What changed my mind?  In a word: feeling. Almost as soon as I entered the site, an incredible feeling came over me.  It was in parts awe, peace, joy…really, these words are insufficient.  The shadows on Jesus’s face as he knows he is about to die.  The ethereal light filtering down through a forest canopy, like the primordial garden of Eden.  The intricate glory of Mary’s assumption.  I did not see the scriptures in Gaudí’s work–I felt them.  Here was a man who took his talents and worldview and dedicated their beauty to God.  If that’s not inspiring and fitting for a church, I don’t know what is.