Barcelona, Spain: Catedral de Barcelona

The hop-on/hop-off bus dropped us off in the Barrio Gótico, also known as the Gothic Quarter. I’ll describe the Gothic Quarter more in depth in a later post, but as we walked around the area, we spotted the Catedral de Barcelona, also known as the Cathedral of Barcelona.

After waiting in line, we finally entered the Cathedral, which was absolutely stunning.  Construction for the Cathedral began during the 11th Century, but whatever had been built was destroyed by the Moors in 985. Construction began once again a little later on and the central part of the building was completed in the mid 1400’s. However, the building’s facade was not completed until the late 1800’s.

There are twenty nine side chapels within the church, one of which is said to contain a “miraculous crucifix,” which supposedly helped defeat the Turks during the Battle of Lepanto (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).

Some other interesting facts about the Cathedral include the fact that the Cathedral is dedicated to Santa Eulàlia, the patron saint of Barcelona. During the Roman period, Santa Eulàlia was tortured to death, and her body lies buried underneath the high altar. February 12th is dedicated to her, as locals celebrate a day of feasting in her memory.

On the side of the Cathedral, there is a beautiful Cloister with additional chapels, tranquil fountains, and beautiful landscaping. It has been said that from this area, you can hear nearby geese. Years ago, the geese supposedly “warned against intruders and thieves” (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).

There is a small elevator inside the Cathedral that takes visitors up to the rooftop. From there, we saw incredible views of the city from such a unique and special vantage point.

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May This Be The Year

May this be the year in which we allow ourselves to grow
     Mentally,
          Spiritually,
               Emotionally.
May this be the year in which we allow ourselves to learn
     As much as we possibly can.
May this be the year in which we allow ourselves to love
     And be loved.
May this be the year in which we learn to forgive
     Others,
          And ourselves.
May this be the year in which we seek new adventures
     By putting ourselves out there more often.
May this be the year in which we follow our dreams
     And reach for the stars.
May this be the year in which we learn to surpass rejection
     And continue on our path to greatness.
May this be the year in which we share special moments with loved ones
     And cherish such memories for years to come.
May this be the year in which we learn to persist
     Bravely,
          Valiantly,
               And courageously.
May this be the year in which we learn to share our voices and listen to those who have yet to be heard
     By advocating,
          Caring,
               And helping our fellow human beings.
May this be the year in which we devote ourselves to a worthwhile cause
     And help those in need.
May this be the year in which we never forget to be thankful and appreciative
     Each and every day.
May this be the year in which we shine, and encourage others to do the same
     Brighter than ever before.

Happy New Year, and may it be blessed!

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Christmas is a beautiful holiday celebrated by a countless number of individuals across the globe. Of course it is a significant holiday due to religious purposes, but what makes this day even more special is that it is one of the few times during the year where families come together to celebrate with one another. Not only this, but the holiday spirit brings people even closer together, and there is an overall joyous feeling that engulfs us all—regardless of our religious affiliations.

However, once the New Year rolls in and we quickly return to our routines, the festivity disappears, as does much of the joy we shared with one another just a few weeks/months prior. As the holidays pass, we pick up from where we last left off by consuming ourselves in political correctness and a continuous argument regarding which religion is superior and why the beliefs of others don’t matter. Before you know it, the closeness and connectedness that brought us all together is long gone—at least until the following December.

If we each took the time to realize that when you put aside our exteriors including our physical features, skin tones, and other such minute differences, we are all the same. Much of our beliefs and values are so similar, but for some reason we cannot take the time to listen to those around us and try to understand that there are a great deal of resemblances in our beliefs. If only we could live in a  world where “holiday cheer” was simply called “cheer,” and we allowed the joyous breeze that is seemingly only found during the holidays to run through the air all year long. Then the constant bickering, discrimination, and hatred that we see all over the news would lessen significantly, and maybe, just maybe, we could have a much easier time living in harmony.

As I posted a short while ago, Mother Teresa once said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” If we could each make it a goal to try and spread some of the “Holiday Cheer” throughout the following year, we might be able to help make this difference which would ultimately allow us to live in a better world.

While spending this beautiful holiday with loved ones, let us enjoy the special time we are sharing with each other. Let us also think about how to make improvements to the upcoming year we have ahead of us, so that we can continue to have as many memorable moments as possible. With that being said, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and may this year be filled with an abundance of joy, cheer, and love for one another!

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Barcelona, Spain: Arc de Triomf

Once we left La Sagrada Familia, my sister and I decided to stop at a local restaurant for traditional tapas. Tapas are small appetizers or snacks that serve the purpose of helping one get through the difficult time before or in between meals (or at least that’s what I view their purpose as).

As we sat down outside—only a few blocks away from La Sagrada Familia—we couldn’t help but enjoy the beautiful weather and take in the incredible sights around us. It also didn’t hurt that we had delicious snacks in front of us to feast on.

Throughout our time in Spain, I found that sitting down to enjoy tapas allows you to put your busy life on hold and take a few moments for yourself. You aren’t necessarily stuffing your face (unless you order multiple items like we did), but you’re stopping the needless worries around you and putting all of that on hold for just a short while. That is exactly what we did, and it helped us better appreciate the fact that you don’t have to be somewhere unique or special to take some time for yourself to unwind. (But then again, this realization was much better seeing as we were in Barcelona).

After our mid-day snack, we walked back to our hotel to get dressed for our evening activities, but on our way, we came across some more fascinating sights. Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition in 1888, and the Arc de Triomf (pictured below),  was built as the main entryway to enter the fair.

 

 

 

Barcelona, Spain: Casa Battló

After lunch, my sister and I reserved a time slot to visit Casa Battló—another incredible building designed by Antoni Gaudí, which is located near the center of Barcelona.

Between 1904 and 1906, Gaudí designed and built Casa Battló for a wealthy man by the name of Josep Batlló. Battló lived in the bottom two floors with his family, and rented out the remaining floors, which were used as apartments. As you can tell by looking at the pictures, Gaudí used colors that can be found in nature, but more specifically, marine life.

The outside of the building is designed to look like it is made from skulls (which are the balconies) and bones (which are the supporting pillars for the building). The roof is designed to look like a dragon, and as you walk around the exterior and see the different angles of the house, you’ll notice different colored tiles on the roof. These are meant to represent the scales of the dragon’s spine.

As you walk inside the house, the shapes and colors of the rooms and features are constantly changing. There is something to be seen everywhere you turn. The railing for the staircase is meant to fit the palm of your hand, as are all the door knobs inside the house. The banister itself represents another spine of a large animal. With incredibly large ceilings, Gaudí shaped each skylight like the shell of a tortoise, and made sure that there is an even distribution of light throughout the entire house.

This can be noted in one of the pictures below where the tiles from the bottom floor going up start off as a light blue. As you continue walking upstairs, the tiles become increasingly darker. There is also a glass casing on each floor by the staircase that provides a special effect. So, when you look at the blue tiles through the glass, it seems as though you are underwater, and the different shades of blue really accentuate this. And as if the inside of the house wasn’t beautiful enough, the various views of the city that can be seen from the rooftop are also stunning.

Below, you’ll find a video provided by Casa Batlló that shows the house come to life, as Gaudí originally imagined. It is truly a spectacular piece of art, and besides being a historic and fascinating staple for Barcelona, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

http://vimeo.com/81086090

Snapshot Challenge Saturday

This week’s Snapshot Challenge is one that is very special and meaningful. A member of my community just returned home from his service in the military. His family and neighbors all came together to welcome him home and thank him for his service to our country. So with this beautiful gesture of everyone coming together, I’d like to dedicate this week’s Snapshot Challenge to the men and women fighting for our country, as well as their family members anxiously awaiting for their loved ones to return home.

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Mami Leo’s Legacy Will Always Live On

This past week was a very difficult one because the world lost an incredible human being on Sunday, March 8th. Whenever the medical mission team I volunteer with would go to Guatemala and stay at the orphanage Mami Leo founded nearly thirty years ago, she would remind us to not forget about the children upon our return to the states. Our group stayed at the home for only one week, twice a year, and that’s it. For the other 355 days in the year, Leonor Portela, who was more affectionately known as Mami Leo was at the home with the children by herself. Through the hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, and the days with no electricity, Mami Leo was there protecting her children. It takes a special person to dedicate her life just to provide a life for others, and that’s exactly what Mami Leo did.

I flew out to Guatemala City early Wednesday morning and arrived just in time for a beautiful mass held in her honor. The entire church was packed and there was not an empty seat in the building. Looking around the room and seeing just how many people Mami Leo has impacted throughout her life was an incredible sight, and knowing that this wasn’t even close to the amount of people she saved and inspired was even more incredible. The funeral procession commenced once the mass concluded, and it was just as difficult as you can imagine. When the funeral concluded, we drove to the orphanage in Sumpango, Sacatepequez where we all gathered around and talked, sharing stories of Mami Leo with one another.

We lined a bunch of tables next to one another and sat down for dinner in a long rectangular set-up. I sat by the center table, and as I looked to my left and right, a sense of peace overcame me. It was truly a beautiful sight; the table was filled with children of all ages who had been saved by Mami Leo (some of whom are pictured below). Even young adults who no longer live in the home came back to spend time with Memo Leo before her passing, and celebrate her life following this terrible loss. In looking around and taking in the surrounding environment, I realized the true impact of Mami Leo’s life work. Some of the people sitting at the table were among the first few children Mami Leo took in years ago, and they were sitting here with children of their own whom you can tell are provided with unconditional love and support.

The love that Mami Leo gave to her children has been carried on to their own children, and Mami Leo has successfully helped them break the chain of abuse, neglect, and abandonment in Guatemala. They are well-integrated members of society, many in Guatemala, and some in the United States. And what is just as special is the fact that they all still treasure where they come from, the beautiful home Mami Leo took them into, Misioneros Del Camino.

So while we mourn a tragic loss of what I truly believe is a one of a kind saint, we also rejoice in knowing that Mami Leo’s legacy isn’t going anywhere. We can all come together to help fulfill her mission and dream of providing love and support to such children in need, and more importantly, we will never forget Mami Leo, her work, or the thousands of children whom she is survived by. And as she once said, plain and simply, “If you don’t dream, you’ll never make it.” Descansa en paz Mami Leo.