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