Sunday, August 30, 2009

Some more pictures...

I did a google search for my parents and low and behold I found there is a mission blog!! So click on:

to see some more great pictures of the Belnap's!!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I'm here - (Flo)

We are doing really well here in Spain, the language is still very slow. I want to put some pictures we have taken.

This is our living room on the left and our dining table on the right.

You can tell - this is our bedroom.

Then there is our bathroom it is pretty big. Delwyn and I can be in there at the same time with no problem.

This is the kitchen.

On the very right, you will see a towel hanging. Just to the right of that is a cupboard, that is my refrigerator. Then along the back wall, there is a cupboard on the bottom, just left of the sink. That is my washing machine. Directly above that is a long cupboard, that is the water heater. Pretty compact. My refrigerator is the size of the ones you see in motels. So can't buy to much ahead of time. We only have once sink in the kitchen. That makes it hard to wash and rinse the dishes, but we get the job done.

This is our laundry facility. We have a washing machine, but no dryer. So I have to iron most things.

In this picture you can see the pisos across the street. It can't be 10 yards away from our piso. There is also a oneway street between us. They park on both sides of the street and there is room for only one car to go through. The sidewalks are small. If you have to use an umbrella, you have to walk single file.

The piso is small, but it only takes me about an hour to clean. Dad vacuums and I do the rest. It is really great. All of the floors are hard wood. We have a square carpet in the living room, and one the same size under the table. They are really dirty. Wish Chad or Jace was here to clean it. Last night, I walked from my bedroom to the living room. It was 12 steps. Where the laundry is, is our little balcony. We can over look the street. There are no screens on the windows, and you have to have the windows open or you die of heat. It isn't really hot here, but it is pretty humid. I just need some movement and I am very comfortable. It has taken me a long time, with dads help, and others etc, and we are blogging. Thanks to Danette, we have some posts on our blog. I thought I had more pictures down loaded but I didn't so I'll do more next week.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009 - from Delwyn

Mom is going to try and work on her blog this weekend - so hopefully we'll get a neat picture or two, but until then - this is our weekly updated letter from dad and a picture from when we were at Zion National Park, UT in June this year. ENJOY!

It’s time once again to chronicle our adventures here in Spain. We’ve made it thru another week of learning and we’ve only been a little lost (probably because we haven’t been in the car since last Saturday). Our predecessors (Jones) left notes about where they did some of their food shopping but didn’t describe how to get there so we asked the Elders on Thursday if they knew where the stores are that the Jones used and they drew a map showing us how to get to a couple of them – short enough that we could walk. When we got home from the office that evening we decided to take a walk to see if we could find the stores they’d named – unfortunately we forgot to take the map with us. Near the Metro station we had to make a decision to go left or right around a building directly in our path – we chose left and should have chosen right. We walked half a mile to the end of that street and hadn’t found the store so we thought we’d go back on the street we could have chosen – it was another ¼-mile or so to the next street (remember – it seems that no two streets run parallel or perpendicular to each other) but we turned and headed in the direction of our piso. Soon that street split so we had to make a decision about which way to go – we looked a bit and before our eyes was one of the stores we’d set out to find right next to us. We checked out the store from the outside (didn’t want to be tempted) then continued up the street and saw a second store the Jones had mentioned so we went in and did some shopping (think we found oatmeal but not the powdered sugar Sister Jones says she’d bought there). We got back to the piso just before it started raining in earnest – our first real rain storm here – and it was still raining when we got up Friday morning but both thought the walk was well worthwhile.

After church last Sunday, the branch president asked me if I could meet with them on Tuesday evening – of course I could. So I went there, they discovered their English was considerably better than my Spanish and we had a pleasant time getting acquainted. He lives in a town about 100KM south of Bilbao, is an immigrant via Italy from Peru and was called a few months ago to be the branch president here. He works in Bilbao and commutes each day so it’s not quite as difficult as it would be if he only had to come here for church work but it’s still a major commitment of time and expense. In Peru he was a counselor in the stake presidency and a bishop twice – each time for 5 years so he’s had some experience in the church. He’s happy to have us here to help in the branch and we’ll be glad to get our language skills to a point where we’re useful.

We finally got our rent and deposit paid this week – it’s been something of a nightmare for us but, thankfully, our landlady has been very patient. We didn’t work on it last week because we needed a contract drawn up with names and dates applicable to us so, when we got that done, I went to an ATM to get cash using my Visa debit card (that’s apparently been the arrangement for a long time with our piso) and was limited by my credit union to a 300€ ($500) withdrawal – I needed 1630€. I began an email exchange with the credit union and they eventually raised the limit. That’ll work okay with the current exchange rate but if it changes much (negative to the dollar) I’ll still be in trouble. I’d been withdrawing as much as I could each day and it still took me several days to get the money to pay for our piso. That was frustrating enough but, to add insult to injury, with each withdrawal, they’ve charged my account 1% of the amount as an ‘international transaction fee’ and the last withdrawal they charged me a $1 ATM transaction fee. So, in the first two weeks we’ve been here I’ve paid over $26 in fees to spend my own money. If you don’t know I’m too cheap to stand by without trying to do something about that, you don’t know me. I’ve been sending emails and looking at web sites of other financial institutions to see if I have another option. As an added irony, Flo has been buying the food with her Visa debit card and hasn’t been charged anything (but I’m not going to raise that as an argument with my CU)!

We got letters and forms this week from our health insurance company telling us that, under new legislation, we can disenroll in Medicare Parts B & D while we’re in Spain then reenroll before we come home and not be penalized. I sent email to confirm our understanding and they assured me we’d get a letter of creditable insurance for that period of time. If that works it’ll save us nearly $200/month (not enough to offset the DMBA insurance but it’ll help) so that was a bit of good news for us. I might mention that those letters closely followed a letter to each of us informing us that our health insurance premiums were being raised from $120/month to $161/month (each) “to help build their reserves”.

I wanted to tell you of a few differences we’ve run into in Spain: in addition to having no straight streets and highways with sane intersections, it seems like most of the buildings here are built with stores on the ground floor (a lot have underground car garages) and apartments above them – 3 or 4 floors. But they don’t start numbering the floors until you’re above the store level so, while we live on the ‘3rd’ floor, we walk up 3 flights of stairs. At the office, we’re on the ‘4th’ floor but have 4 sets of stairs to walk – it’s about our only exercise so we take the elevator only when we have heavy things to bring up. Bread, fruits and vegetables are among the bright spots for us – they’re good, they’re usually not more expensive than in the USA and there are so many small stores selling them it’s never inconvenient to buy them. Milk is a little different story – we buy it in liter cartons, usually 6 packaged together and it has a shelf life (unrefrigerated as long as it hasn’t been opened) of several months. That seems pretty amazing but the problem is the taste. Our first batch is apparently equivalent to skim milk and it is no fun to drink. We have it on our cereal and I love drinking milk for breakfast but this stuff is hard to take. We haven’t started drinking our second batch yet but it’s supposed to be equivalent to 2% and I’m hoping a little cream in it will help the taste – we’ll see. They say it’s here but I haven’t even seen milk that has to be refrigerated like we have at home. The toilets here are sort of rectangular shaped, the water’s a long way down and I have yet to see a flush handle like we’re used to. Ours has a button that you push (like the new one in our master bath at home) and the one at the office has a button that you pull up – none of them seem to be low flow and they run a lot of water thru them. We’re trying to get used to the gas water heater – if we open a faucet pulling any water from the hot line, the heater immediately fires up (we stand next to the water heater when we’re at the sink in the kitchen). There’s a tank there so I’d assumed we pull water from the tank a little bit before the heater starts – not so.

We’ve been asked about the daily schedule and attire – we get up about 7:00, get ready for the office (white shirt & tie, coat is optional; Flo in dress or skirt & blouse), have a light breakfast, assemble the stuff we want for the day and are there between 9:30 & 10:00. We usually take a quick look at email we’ve received, dump the junk email and do follow up on any email that needs it. I’m by myself in a back room (my office, but there are lots of files and supplies that are accessed thru the day by the Elders) while Flo is at the front desk working at answering the phone, opening the door for visitors (electronic locks), processing a lot of mail (virtually all mail to the missionaries comes thru the office) and doing other secretary-type work. I’ve finished inputting to the computer the data from surveys completed by the missionaries (came to me in two batches, 60-70 of them, 5-pages per survey) and someone in SLC has run a program to compile results and emailed them back to me. I forwarded them to the President and his Assistants from which they hope to get ideas for strengthening the mission and missionaries. The survey dealt with study habits, keeping of rules, use of Preach My Gospel, teaching, planning and conversion success. It’d be interesting to see data comparing our results with those of other missions but I don’t think that’ll happen. Much of this last week was spent in working thru piso reports that come from district leaders who inspect pisos once per transfer, complete & sign a report and send it to us. They try to detail any problems in each piso – furniture & appliance condition, walls & floors, any mold visible (it’s a chronic problem here because of the humidity) and general cleanliness. My job while entering the results into the computer is to suggest solutions to problems (as if I knew how to repair a Persiana!), follow up on previous reports and make sure inspections are done and reports are filed – for me it’s been a very slow process. We leave the office between 1:30–2:30 to come home for mediodía (mid-day time) – we prepare and eat our main meal for the day and usually do the dishes then return to the office where we work until 5:30–7:00 (usually closer to the latter). It’s been so hot and humid that we like to take off as many clothes as we dare when we’re kicking around the piso but we don’t usually change clothes unless we’re going out for a walk or shopping. Saturday is our P-day so, unless we have a church related event, we’re in our casual clothes all day to do some shopping, clean the piso, study and work thru some laundry. It’s taken us a couple of weeks to get there but the cupboards are pretty well stocked, we’ve got a variety of soaps (unbelievable how difficult it’s been to find bar soap!) and Flo has done a marvelous job of transforming what we have on hand into something good to eat – we had pizza today with chorizo as a topping.

The office elders had an appointment with an investigator who’s here for vacation and they asked if they could meet with her at our piso Friday evening. We had a pleasant discussion, we bore our testimonies about prayer, they set up an appointment for Saturday evening and asked Flo during a shopping trip Saturday morning if they could meet here again. So after shopping, cleaning, studying and relaxing we got into missionary attire and waited – no one came. They told us this morning at church the lady had canceled the appointment and they’d forgotten to call us. We’re getting a little better acquainted in the branch and I think I perceive that speakers are starting to ‘slow down’ a bit for us but it’s still real fast.

We love our family and hope all’s well with each of you. Don’t be reluctant to send us a note so we know how things are going. May God bless each of you.
E&H Belnap

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009 -- from Delwyn

Here is another cute picture from the summer of 08 at East Glacier National Park with Heidi's kids Carlee & Preston

Sunday, Aug 16, 2009
We’ve made it thru another week and it’s time to give a report. For those of us in the office, Saturday is our P-day and we were looking forward to it to try to get some organization in our piso and do some shopping. We’d appointed with Pres & Sister Clegg to do some shopping together – for us, for them and for the mission. We met them near the office and they drove us to Makro (a Costco-like store; they have a couple of membership cards and let us use one) where we got a few things but most of the buying was food for zone conferences next week. We then went to another big store (like Wal-Mart) and got more stuff – again, our schedule was pretty much dictated by their need to hurry for other commitments. We were trying to do the conversions of Kilos to pounds and Euros to dollars but we don’t yet have a good feel for what are good and what are bad prices (I just know that peanut butter is expensive here – about $6 for an 18oz bottle). Flo tried to get enough food to get us thru a week and we came pretty close. The meat department’s wares here probably wouldn’t pass inspection at home so it’s going to take some getting used to before we feel comfortable in there. It appears that Spaniards eat a lot of fish (the fish department is a very smelly place) and pork but beef is pretty expensive so there’s less variety. They have an interesting system here with shopping carts – they look like ours but are sort of chained together and when you want one, you insert a coin (something about Euro size) into the chain lock, the chain comes out and you use the cart till you’re finished then chain the cart back into a stack and your coin comes back to you. You sure don’t see any shopping carts sitting around where people finished with them. Another interesting thing is that stores are multi-level and to take a cart up a level, they have a moving belt with ribs that slip into grooves in the cart’s wheels so the cart doesn’t move until the belt disappears at the top. We got home and spent the rest of the afternoon organizing and going thru the piso. I searched for a while for an ATM (there are tons of banks around here) but couldn’t find one until we were on the street again waiting for Cleggs and saw one across the street – it even gave me English as a language option. I got some Euros, we went to the subway station, bought a ticket and rode the subway into Bilbao with Cleggs and several missionaries to attend a baptism service for a 30-ish year old man. On the way, one of the Assistants was talking with a couple of people near him, the Metro stopped and a thief (middle-aged man) tried to sneak off the Metro with Elder Bingham’s backpack. He didn’t see him take the pack but noticed immediately it was gone, jumped off the train and ran after the man who dropped the pack and walked away. Elder Bingham grabbed the pack and jumped back on the Metro before it left the station – a good lesson on watching anything of value. They had a good baptism service, many people from the branch attended and the man bore a good testimony to conclude the service.

The Elders helped us find the way to church on Sunday (it’s not far from our piso), the branch president had us sit on the stand with them so he could introduce us. We basically sit, smile and say hola & gracias and one of their young adults did some translating for us but we feel like we need to hear the speakers and it’s hard to do that and listen to a translator - we didn’t understand very much. I asked several people about how we’re to pay our tithing – I’d figured to just write a check each month and give it to the branch President. But they don’t have our membership records, don’t know what to do with dollars and I don’t know how to write a check in Euros – Pres Clegg finally suggested we just send it to our bishop at home. After dinner we tried to figure out how to operate the cell phone I’ve been given – I concede that I’m no wizard with a cell phone but this thing is ridiculous. It has messages back to at least 2006 and I can’t find anyone who’s been able to erase them – but I’ll manage.

On Monday the Cleggs helped us get ‘our’ car from their place to a parking area near us then later in the day we followed them out to the mission home (25-35 minutes away from our piso) where the focus was on preparing food for a Leaders Council on Tuesday and 4 zone conferences Thursday – Monday. Flo made and baked a batch of cinnamon rolls for tomorrow and they got the rest of the food lined out while I did some reading and helped Pres Clegg with some file issues on his laptop then was able to get a printer operational in his office. They led us back home and Flo put one of the roasts (they’re making taco salad for zone conferences) into our oven and discovered that the timer has to be engaged or the oven shuts off. The timer has a two hour limit so we planned our night for one of us to get up every two hours to turn the timer. But we apparently didn’t have the heat high enough (didn’t have a lid that sealed nor foil that we could seal with) and it wasn’t done in the morning. So we left it in the oven, met the elders at our car and a couple of them helped us negotiate the twisting, turning course out to the mission home for the Leaders Council. A word about streets and driving here: they have relatively few traffic lights, lots of very narrow one-way streets, lots of round-abouts, quite a few restricted access roads but no interchange like we know them and everyone wants to drive as fast as they possibly can. Surprisingly, there seem to be very few accidents (maybe these tiny cars can stop on a dime) but trying to figure out how and where to get on & off the freeways has been grim. We supported the Leaders Council into the afternoon (my sense was that the missionaries liked the cinnamon rolls) then drove our car home – got lost twice (didn’t leave the country either time) but eventually made it back to the parking area and went to the office to work. I’ve been working to enter data into web-based software from a paper survey taken in our mission a while back and had to have a couple of email exchanges with a church employee to get past hurdles in the process. Flo has been learning a lot of office procedures and getting materials ready for the zone conferences – it’s been a pretty busy time. A pair of sisters in Bilbao had reported a cockroach infestation in their piso so, after the baptism on Saturday, some of us had gone to survey the situation and I was given responsibility to get an insecticide. After a couple of failed attempts (just couldn’t find a store that carried it), we found a small place, he convinced us that an aerosol product he had would be the best thing we could get so we bought a can and called the sisters to tell them what we’d gotten (mainly they needed to feel that we cared about the problem). By Wednesday Flo had all the boxes ready for the zone conferences and on Thursday I finished inputting the survey data. That evening the landlady for our piso came to the office, we discussed (thru an interpreter) a couple of issues we have in the piso and signed a contract – seems like a very congenial lady. She told us what to do to try to fix a leak in the washing machine so, when we got home we pulled the soap dispenser out, washed the parts and put it back together but haven’t had opportunity yet to test the fix. Friday morning we did our morning rituals, walked to the Metro station where we met the office Elders and rode together to the Bilbao chapel for our zone conference. Pres & Sister Clegg, the Assistants and some of the zone leaders made presentations, we had taco salad for lunch (seemed to be a big hit with the missionaries – they’ve had sloppy Joes every conference for a very long time), introduced a couple of new missionaries (Elder Nye claims Kaysville as home), had testimonies from two Elders who’ll leave for home in the next month and were done. We caught the Metro for home, the Elders got off early to see an investigator, we continued to our station and made it home okay. Every chance we get we’re studying Spanish and still think we’re making progress.

Saturday was an interesting day for us – we got up, had some breakfast, cleaned the piso, showered and dressed and left about 12:30 to do some serious shopping for food and a few things we need in the piso. We’d only gotten to the two big stores with the Cleggs driving or when coming from their place but Flo had some notes that we thought would get us there. We made it onto the freeway okay and expected that we’d see the stores from there but, we eventually concluded we’d gone too far so we turned around and drove back toward Las Arenas. We saw signs that we thought would get us to the stores so we got off the freeway and were immediately above the stores. But the road does some winding and we had to negotiate a round-about for which Flo’s notes said ‘go under an overpass’ – we could see two and took the wrong one. It took us back onto the freeway headed away from home so we got off at the next exit planning to turn around to come back but were staring at a long line of toll booths. We pulled to the side, discussed what to do, called the Elders for advice – they told to ask for help to get back to Getxo. We drove into a lane hoping to be able to turn around but an overhead light went red, a barrier came down in front of us and a gate closed behind us (there were already concrete walls on each side of us). We sat there for a while not knowing what to do and a uniformed man came to us – I told him we were lost and wanted to get to Getxo so he had us pay the toll (had no change so it cost us 1€), told us to go right 1KM to a round-about and come back. We did and it brought us back to the toll booth where they charged us another toll and we found our way back to the stores. Although they’re practically back-to-back, there’s a train track between them and we have to wander around to get from one to the other – both were closed, it was a holiday that we knew nothing about. We drove back to Las Arenas without getting lost again, parked the car and walked back to the piso in a mere two hours after we’d left. We didn’t shop but hopefully we learned something about getting to and from the places we want to shop. We ate and studied then took a walk to the river 3-4 blocks down our street. It’s been pretty hot the last couple of days but it rained for a few minutes before we left and that helped cool it off. There were lots of people at the river and, a couple of short blocks from where our street hits the river there’s a bridge with a walkway high above the water (take an elevator to get up & down) and a tram hangs from the structure that takes pedestrians and vehicles back and forth across the river – it runs every few minutes – it was an interesting break for us. We found our way to the church this morning without help (are we getting good or what?), sat thru the meetings understanding almost nothing and spent the afternoon in our sweltering piso studying and working on letters. I’ve been trying to do our letter on Friday or Saturday but, with the internet situation the way it is for us, I think I’ll try to do it on Sundays and send it Monday mornings. If we do it that way at least you can have some expectations about when to look for it. Let us know if you’re someone not getting it but want us to send it to you or you’re getting it and don’t want it – we’re flexible.

Lots of love, E&H Belnap

Friday, August 14, 2009

Yeah! An update from Spain!

Since everyone loves blogs for the pictures, and they haven't emailed any pictures from their mission - I'm going to start including a picture of them from the last year or so.

This is at the Alberta Canada Temple - 6-2008

August 9, 2009 (Delwyn)

I’m writing this today without having been able to read responses received during the past week. We don’t have an Internet connection here at the apartment and there are restrictions on being able to use the church’s wireless network at the office. I can share access to the Internet via an Ethernet line at the office but a few others use it as well so, between that consideration and the need to learn and get things done, there may be times when I can’t get on when I’d like to.

On Friday (7/31), we cleaned our room, laundered and packed our clothes, weighed the suitcases trying to ensure we weren’t over 50# with any of them and the MTC arranged a shuttle van to take us to SLC. The driver came to our dorm, we loaded our suitcases, checked out at the front desk where we ran into another instance of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Our travel instructions told us to take our blue, plastic cards with us to the MTC in Madrid but the people at the front desk had no idea what for. I showed them the printed instruction, they swiped the cards, gave them back to me and we headed for SLC. Our driver was a BYU student from Darby, MT, who drives while he’s at school – we had a pleasant conversation as he drove. He delivered us to Gene’s driveway and helped us unload our bags, we dragged them into the house and visited with Lynda until Gene came home. We’d had a report earlier in the week about Rey’s bout with infection, hospitalization and a fall so we wanted to see him while the opportunity was available; Gene drove us to Tooele, we had some fast food supper and went to Rey’s. My mom and Brian were there when we arrived so we joined them on the back patio and had a pleasant visit there. Rey looked pretty good and moved around quite well considering what he’d been thru so we were glad to see that. We kept him up later than we should have then drove back to SLC and slept well.
Saturday - we apparently didn’t have enough stuff to haul with us so Flo went out to do some shopping – offset the extra space she’d use with clothes by buying a larger purse! Gene and I spent quite a bit of the day trying to get a form to print but finally had to go to his office to get it done – we just couldn’t seem to match media and formats to his computer with a printer. Gene & Lynda’s anniversary was this week so they proposed a visit to the Prairie Schooner in Ogden – it’s where the annual siblings’ dinner in December is staged. Gene drove us to Ogden, we picked up Mom at her apartment and met Brian (Jackie & kids were rafting the Snake River) at the restaurant. We had a great dinner (I ate so much fresh bread and mushrooms that I couldn’t finish my buffalo steak) and enjoyed the conversation, took Mom to her apartment and returned to SLC where Flo made a batch of cinnamon rolls, we visited till fairly late then checked the rolls to make sure they were edible before going to bed. Sunday we attended our church meetings then, to break our fast, Gene prepared a Dutch oven of chicken, potatoes & carrots, Lynda made more good stuff, Chris & Marci and Scott & Stacy made more contributions and we had a great dinner around a table under the tree in the back yard. There were even a few cinnamon rolls left to top things off. Had another pleasant evening of visiting with Gene & Lynda before going to bed.

In order to make the two hour buffer advised for international flights we figured we’d need to leave by 7:00 so we got out of bed at 5:30, showered and got ready, had a light breakfast, Gene loaded our bags into his (in-town) pickup again and drove us to the airport. We suddenly hit stopped traffic in front of the terminal so we got out, unloaded the suitcases into the street and tried to get things organized to take them inside. I don’t know if it’s a function of them being too full or what but they don’t want to stand up when left alone. So we were trying to move them to the sidewalk, hold them upright and stack one on the other (6 bags and a purse) and finally managed to get them inside. We picked a line and were there for a few minutes before someone pointed out that it was for infants and the disabled (we probably qualified there) so we moved to another line that turned out to be an automated agent. When it was our turn I stepped up there and very quickly got lost. Sensing our ignorance, an airline agent stepped in, ran tickets and passports thru the machine and asked for my credit card – it cost us $50/apiece to check a second bag (we’d been told differently several times). We made our way with our carryons to the boarding area and were greeted with a sign saying our 9:50 flight was delayed until 11:00 (it’s that kind of efficiency that results in $50/bag charges!). So we sat there until nearly 11:30 when they began boarding, we finally pushed off and went airborne at noon. They didn’t make up any time on the flight to Atlanta but we had nearly 4 hours of lay-over scheduled so we were okay – many others weren’t and missed connecting flights. The 6oz drink & ½ oz of peanuts they served on the plane had left us hungry so we found a Panda Express, ordered some food and found a place to eat it. When we finished we carried our stuff to the boarding area and were there only a few minutes before they started boarding the plane (apparently if Delta originates the flight in their home base, they’re able to get some of them off on time). As we neared the checkpoint we realized we had to again show our passports so we struggled to find, show and get them put away as we moved down the breezeway. We found our seats – this time in a B-767 with more room in the bins and seats – got our stuff into the overhead bins and settled in. Soon a young family came on board and put two children in the seats in front of us, the mom sat with a two-year old and 6-month old baby in the center seats and the dad sat on the aisle behind them. Seeing our name tags they began talking to us – they’re LDS and going from Texas to Spain for a two year assignment. The kids did very well on the flight even though we spent 8 hours in the plane. We took off on time and had a smooth flight up the east coast – first over land to New England then over water till we were past Newfoundland and there was no land left on the ‘moving map’ we could choose on the seat back in front of us. They fed us dinner which was partly good and partly bad, we tried without much success to sleep and landed about 9:30am in Madrid. We retrieved our bags and were greeted by two brothers & a sister from the Madrid MTC (it’s CCM here) with a sign letting us know who they were, they helped us get the bags in a VW bus and drove us to the MTC. They had cute little name signs on the door of the room we were assigned to – they told us to do some unpacking and resting – lunch would be at 1:30. We made the beds, unpacked things we’d need, explored the facilities and laid down to rest – I woke up about 12:45 so we hurried to get ourselves ready to go to the cafeteria. A couple of singular things in the bathroom here – to reach the TP from the toilet required either good planning or 5-6’ arms (I have no explanation why) and the TP itself has a rough side and a smooth side. Not a bad idea but either way you fold the stuff you’ve lost one affect or the other. Lunch, as it turns out, is ‘mediodía’ which is fairly early in the afternoon and is part of a 2-3 hour break from work, business or whatever and is the main meal of the day. We were served large portions of fish filet (Meno – not a fish that left me craving it) topped with a shrimp still owning its eyes on one plate, another large plate with vegetable lasagna (not sure what all was in it but it tasted good) and there were fruits and other things to choose – we couldn’t eat it all. Back in our room I broke out the kit I’d bought to convert 240V to 120V and discovered that it was good only for appliances using 500W to 1600W – that meant the hairdryer would work but nothing else. We slept most of the afternoon, had dinner (another large meal at the MTC), did some things to get ready for tomorrow and went to bed.

We got up and had breakfast, got ready to apply for Spanish residency cards and met a young attorney at the secretary’s desk about 9:00. They gave us money to buy subway tickets, we walked to one office (worked like a DMV office) near the MTC and the lawyer did something with an agent, put the papers in the folder and led us to the subway. We bought a 10-ride ticket, spent 20-30 minutes on the Metro with two transfers then walked a short distance to another government building. As we entered we could see long lines but he led us past them and upstairs, did some paperwork and had us sign it. We made a short stop outside a bank (something to do with taxes – I’m assuming on income we make here) and went back to the Metro for the return trip – took us a couple of hours and it has taken some missionaries days to do the same things. We returned the change and Metro ticket to the secretary who asked us to pack our bags and weigh them because their office pays excess baggage fees (anything above 23Kg) and it’s cheaper to do it online. We went to the temple (100’ from the MTC), met Pres. & Sister Moore (Gary Lines cousin), were witness couple in a session (those earphones are a little tricky at times) and made it thru okay. Pres. Hill (MTC Pres) took me to a nearby store to buy a different converter but the store was closed and we didn’t find another close by; after dinner Flo and I returned to the store (we’d assumed it was closed for mediodía as the sign said) but it was still closed. We found a couple more stores as we wandered around but we couldn’t find anyone who’d admit to speaking English that might help us and the stores we found didn’t have what we needed. We did our packing and weighed the suitcases to make sure we were within limits, gave the numbers to Sylvia and went to bed about 10:00 knowing that wake-up time was 4:30. I did not fall asleep all night and Flo didn’t do much better so the alarm wasn’t really unwelcome. We showered and got our stuff ready to go, put suitcases in the elevator and went to Pres. Hill’s door – he came out to tell us that our driver (Daniel) was making his way thru a police roadblock and would be late. When he came we loaded our stuff, drove to the airport, Pres. Hill & Daniel got us thru the lines and to the security checkpoints. They examined everything very carefully and found a small pair of scissors that Flo had forgotten to put in her checked bags – they threw it in the trash can. We put our stuff back together, found the gate we’d been assigned and waited nearly an hour for an agent to appear and start boarding. We flew Iberia Airlines to Bilbao (from what we could see from the air, it’s a beautiful place), claimed our luggage and were met by Pres. & Sister Clegg who helped us get the bags outside and into their VW bus. They drove us to the mission home (their residence) – it’s a nice home (not luxurious but comfortable) owned by the church with the one drawback being the distance to the mission offices. We visited with them for a while, Flo helped Sister Clegg fix lunch for those in the mission office, they showed us around their home then we took a load of stuff to the offices with a stop along the way to overlook part of the city – it’s truly beautiful. They have one underground parking spot associated with the office so we dragged the bags from there to the fourth floor offices (missionaries came down to help), we toured and were introduced, they finished lunch preparations and 9 of us gathered around a smallish table and had a really good lunch. We did some clean up (the rest was left for the elders to do this evening – they’ll eat there tonight) and they began teaching us our duties. But in a little while Sister Clegg and a couple of the elders helped us take our bags down to the street (we used the small elevator for the heavy stuff) and we pulled them to our apartment (which shall be henceforth known as our piso – it’s shorter). It’s not a big place but neither is it tiny – we have a living-eating-kitchen area, a bathroom and a bedroom each with its separate door. As we’ve been here we’ve discovered a lot of useful things that have been left here by other couples, we think we’ve solved the electricity conversion problems (our Reliv mixer failed and we’re not sure if we burned it up or not). The Cleggs had bought a few groceries for us and, after we left the office, we went to a small store nearby and got a few more things – we had a light supper and went to bed about 10:30. Flo woke me the next morning at 9:00 (even after that much sleep I still felt kind of tired), we got ready and spent the day in the office learning our duties (I’m supposed to manage the pisos and cars in the mission; Flo’s the receptionist) and trying to be useful. Our internet capability went down in the early afternoon and the technical elder spent much of the rest of the day on the phone with people trying to get it back up. The final word Friday night was that they hoped to have the parts we’d need by next Wednesday - we’ll send this as soon as we can. Here are a couple of addresses if you want to use snail mail:
Spain Bilbao Mission
C/ Bidearte, 6 - 4° dcha.
48930 Las Arenas, (Vizcaya)
That’s the mission office and is probably the best bet; put our name on it somewhere. (You can get the funny little ° from symbols in Microsoft but I’ve seen mail get here without it.)
Calle Gobela, 15 3° Dr
48930 Getxo, (Vizcaya)
That’s the address of the apartment and, although we’ve haven’t had any, we’re told they deliver mail here.

The gospel’s true, we’re happy to be here and look more and more forward to the day we can understand and speak the language – it’d sure be useful.

PS. The elders got the internet up over the weekend (just restarted everything) but we’ve been with Pres & Sister Clegg nearly all day yesterday and this morning helping get ready for Zone Leader Council and Zone conferences being held this week and next (Flo made her first batch of cinnamon rolls). Will fill you in later on details of this week.