Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon… more or less. I went to the open-air market, kind of a bazaar, in the city. Vegetables are so cheap there! I paid the equivalent of fifty cents for three really good tomatoes – which is significant because the tomatoes in the supermarket are expensive and look really sick. I may have mentioned this before, but I have never seen so much candy in my life. The usual American stuff, but also things like German and Swiss chocolates. I may have to bring some back. Mmmm, chocolate.
The atmosphere of the market was very tangible – not unlike those of other markets of that type. Booths crammed with vegetables, trinkets, fabric, artwork, household wares and completely useless items, stall owners enthusiastically hawking their goods, customers haggling with smooth vendors (“yes, usually it’s fifty, but for you, I make it forty” “what! that’s a rip-off! I can get it cheaper in the store”), and the combined smells of fish, spices, and cheap perfume. So many languages, too, and different types of people – students, tourists, housewives, businesspeople, and tiny children constantly running about and somehow managing not to get tripped, squished, or yelled at. Mostly.
I went to a Lutheran church in a nearby city this weekend. I’ll quote the text at the bottom of this entry – it really hit home, especially in the university context. The congregation was quite small, but very friendly, and I realized exactly how much I’d been missing worship (which in this case was in two languages) and fellowship. It was also quite special being in a building that was well over a century old, if not older; think white stone, greyed with age, and stained-glass windows around a tiny sanctuary with a glorious pipe organ on one wall. There are a few more congregations that I’d like to visit before I choose which one to regularly attend.
I’ve been looking for a bike, because life is better on wheels, but so far have been unsuccessful. They have bike shops in the city, but there’s no place where you can waltz in and buy a sixty-dollar El Cheapo bike. A friend suggested craigslist, but since only Americans know about it, there was only one bike – a Trek 4100. I went over to take a look at it. The grad student who was selling it had bought it for roughly $350, new, and had never really ridden it. It was actually quite a nice bike, as far as knock-around mountain bikes go – great accessories – and I wouldn’t have minded buying it at all. However, I think it was a little too good for my purposes, and I wasn’t willing to part with $200. I’d rather get a really cheap bike here and save for a nice bike in the States.
There was a test this morning, so I was studying for it yesterday afternoon. Some friends and I went to a cafe later to grab dinner and study some more. (I guess I hadn’t realized how popular studying at cafes was until I came here. Maybe it’s more of a European thing, but at least half of the cafe’s patrons were students eating, talking, or studying.) I knew my stuff pretty well, so I didn’t feel guilty getting slightly distracted by a Real Madrid football game. There was also a conversation of the religion -> beliefs -> science and faith -> creation and evolution type, of which there have been several. People here are more ready to talk about personal beliefs, perhaps because it is more a part of public life.
One of my classmates once commented that “The first three questions people ask are: What is your name? Where are you from? and What is your religion?” I suppose another reason that people might bring it up so often with me is that because Christians are definitely a minority here. I’ve encountered a mix of views; some are absolutely set against God and view religion as a thing for those childish enough to need a God, some refuse to take any position whatsoever, to avoid making a decision about it, some are interested from a primarily intellectual standpoint, and some are genuinely wondering about life and God. It’s very hard to tell who is which – sometimes I don’t think they even know. But I’m definitely learning more than just language.
Today’s not-so-random quote (the text after this is pretty awesome, too): “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
Also, check out this xkcd: http://www.xkcd.com/303/