Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October 26, 2009 - Delwyn's weekly report

We’ve had a pretty busy week in the office (especially the early days) – we’re getting ready for transfers, most of the piso inspection forms have come back so I’ve been entering that data into a spreadsheet that we track problems with, I made it thru the process of entering data from the proselyting reports and we had baptisms last weekend that had to be processed. We had quite a few emails after our letters last week and sure appreciate hearing from you – it’s something we really look forward to and hope you don’t forget us.
Flo made a batch of oatmeal-raisin-nut cookies early in the week that turned out good – she took a box to the office and they quickly disappeared but she kept enough at the piso that I had cookies to munch on thru most of the week. And we received a care package from Lynda Belnap – that was an exciting event. When any of the missionaries in the office gets a package it’s cause for celebration and we’re no different. Flo was so excited to try her new stuff, we had pancakes for mediodía the next day so she could try the buttermilk mix and the maple flavoring - they really were good. Thanks so much Lynda!
We want you to know that you’re in our prayers. I’m quite certain there’s nothing special about a prayer in broken Spanish that makes it more effectual than one offered in intelligible words but we’re trusting that the Lord hears them all.
Since we’re preparing for the next round of conferences – leaders council & zone conferences – Flo has spent a lot of time with Hna Clegg planning menus and the baking needs to accompany them. Friday they went to the Makro to do a lot of the shopping necessary to have the needed food and, per plan, I got our car and met them there to push the cart (Pte Clegg had to leave town for a district training meeting in Santiago). One of the things I wanted to check was the status of our order for a refrigerator. They were to call us when their supply of the sale model arrived and they hadn’t called nor given us much specific about when we can expect something. So we had another ad for a sale that starts next week and we wanted to see the model going on sale – customer service at that store (and a lot of others here, according to the missionaries) leaves much to be desired. When we asked about the new ad, a lady pointed out that it didn’t start until next week and how dare we be asking about it already. But we returned to the appliance area to look at what was there (I’d only briefly looked at them when I got into the store) and found one that has the same specs as the one in the ad but has a fancier exterior and I think, if we can get one of those, it’ll be a better deal than what we’d tried to get before. So our plan is to meet the Cleggs at Makro on Wednesday morning (start of sale) and hope we can buy a refrigerator that they actually have – they’re supposed to deliver as part of the sale. Guess the bottom line is we still have a tiny refrigerator but have more hope that the situation is going to improve. On our way home (our shorter, simpler route) we missed our exit from the round-about and had to do another trip around it to get on our road but at least we knew and could see where we wanted to go. I didn’t recognize it at the time but it was a sign of things to come for us.
Saturday morning we were scheduled to meet at the mission home for a 5th Saturday (that’s mission talk related to the transfer cycle) breakfast – even breakfast burritos. Flo had boiled potatoes and made salsa for the event so we got ready, carried our stuff to the car (our open air garage was about 10 minutes away this morning) and left hoping to get there in time to make most of the preparations before the Elders arrived. It didn’t take long to realize we’d missed the first exit to transition from one freeway to another so we tried to turn around and make the recovery. Let me just say that the streets and interchange system here are sufficient to make one murmur. The more turns we made to get back onto the freeway, the more lost we became. Flo kept saying “we’re downtown” and I’d say “yeah but what town?” I kept looking to her for help and she had none to offer. Eventually we saw a city bus with Bilbao on it so we assumed we were in Bilbao. Flo kept calling Hna Clegg but it’s hard to give directions to your house if you don’t know where your guest is. Finally we spotted the Guggenheim which gave her a reference and she told us to take the freeway next to it (we could see it but were 40-50 feet below it) and follow signs to Mungia. With absolutely no interchanges visible to us we kept driving (much of the time that’s all we could do – the streets are one way and very narrow) and finally found a small street going up the hill – we took it. That might not have been the only thing to do but it was one of them – we found a freeway entrance! That took us thru a long tunnel (expected), we paid the 1.15€ toll and eventually got to familiar territory and were only 30-45 minutes late. As they finished making the burrito mix Flo suddenly realized we’d forgotten to bring the salsa – we ate without it and it still tasted very good. After clean up, we watched a video of Elder Bruce R McConkie’s final conference address – it’s inspiring – and left for home. Early in the ride we had one more miscue but were able to recover quickly and get back on track. We stopped at Carrefour to do a little shopping – found a sweater and a couple of things for Flo – and made it home without further incident. I’ve got to figure out a way to solve this ‘tour mode’ syndrome but, the last time we used our GPS it seemed to be more confused than we were (don’t laugh – it’s possible).
Spain went off Daylight Savings Time this morning so we got an extra hour to sleep-in and do some studying before going to church. When we got to the chapel, the outside door was locked (our chapel is a rented facility on the second floor) so we didn’t know what was going on. While we waited a woman came to us begging for money but we had none with us so were relieved of making a decision about giving or not (we see beggars on the street nearly every day). Soon a member came who had a key to the door, opened it and we were met by a member from inside who fixed the lock so the door wouldn’t close all the way. We had good meetings (they nearly always have four speakers, at least three of whom are adults and the meetings still are often short), are understanding more that’s said and like to be around the members to hear the Spanish and who are kind and helpful to us.
We only got to walk about three nights this last week because of schedule and rainy weather. It was quite cold early in the week then warmed up again and has been quite pleasant. We don’t know what lies ahead for us but plugging the wind tunnels into our piso has made it a lot more comfortable in here for us. We’re kind of anticipating spending our first winter here to see if a couple of old people accustomed to Arizona winters will be able to survive – stand by on that one.
We might have mentioned it before but we want each of you to know that we hold our family very dear to our hearts. We pray for your well-being – may the Lord be with each of you in your lives. We know the gospel is true, our Savior atoned for all on condition of repentance and we’re happy to be involved in sharing the message with the people of Spain.

Love, E&H Belnap

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 19, 2009 Delwyn's weekly update

Our week is coming to a close and it’s been a pretty quiet week for us. Pres Clegg had scheduled interviews on Monday with office missionaries but, as he explained to me, his time with us is more a visit than an interview. He wants to know if we have enough to do, if we’re enjoying our mission and we discussed a couple of issues facing us – primarily what to do about getting Spanish driver licenses. It appears we’re going to have to do that and he’s proposing that we pay 100€ toward the cost and that the mission picks up the difference. I suggested we see if there’s a church member who is certified to do that training so we have more assurance that we don’t get failed in testing just so they can generate more income. Early the next day he and Hna Clegg hit the road for the interview circuit and took the Assistants with them so the office was pretty quiet to Friday – there’s always a lot more activity when the President is here than when he’s not. With their departure our hope of getting a larger refrigerator this week left too.

My guess is that Pte Clegg sensed from his conversations with us that we could handle more work (and that’s a very valid observation) because Elder Anderson asked me if I could record the weekly proselyting numbers that come from districts via the zone leaders and he asked Flo to process data for expenses that missionaries submit for reimbursement. He took a part of one day to give me initial training in handling the proselyting numbers. Either someone developed or the system has evolved into a fairly complex spreadsheet with a bunch of inter-connected sheets that have to be treated cautiously so as not to mess up formulas that propagate across the sheets but I’ve used those before and think I’ll be okay with it.

The washing machine in the Las Arenas Elder’s piso had quit so we agreed to let them bring laundry to our piso and use our washer. Because the thing has such a small tub, we can’t put many clothes in it and still have them come out clean. We did a comprehensive job of studying the manual we have and concluded that what we’d been doing might be improved if we made changes to the setup. We tried that with a batch Monday morning and found that the cycle hadn’t finished when we returned to the piso 5 hours later. Thru experimentation we discovered that when the manual says ‘press this button’, it’s the opposite of what we guessed (you press the button to turn it on and press the button to turn it off!). Anyway, we learned some things that probably helped get the Elders clothes done better. And they were grateful – when they came to pick up the laundry they brought us a small bag of candy (an expensive commodity in Spain).

Wednesday morning before we left for the office, Flo made a pot full of beef stew and left it in the crock pot to simmer. There was a lot of stew so she invited the Elders to come to the piso for mediodía – they came and brought a couple of loaves of bread. We got everyone around our little table and took care of most of that stew – it was very tasty.

We’ve been able to take a walk (about an hour) each night this week and we nearly always go to the walkways along the river and bay. There are a lot of people that walk or sit along the walks but not many of them seem to be there for exercise. A lot of them look old (even older than we feel) so they saunter along at the speed of dark, there are a few runners, quite a few couples and lots of mothers and/or dads pushing strollers with small children. If there are 3 or 4 of them together it seems like they’re all talking at the same time and don’t care much if anyone is listening. We just thread our way thru them and keep going. The weather has been pretty nice this week but it went from being quite warm to being quite cold – even Hna Belnap put on some long sleeves Friday evening. She took her camera and snapped pictures as we went along so, if she gets them on the blog, it’ll give you a flavor for what we see as we walk.

Friday morning I was awakened at 5:00 by a ringing/buzzing sound that I couldn’t identify – I thought it must be someone on the street ringing our buzzer to be let in the door. I didn’t want to get out of bed for that but when Flo heard it she got up to investigate and came back saying it was my telephone. It had stopped beeping by then but in 5 minutes it started again so I got up and played with the phone long enough to find a way to turn off the alarm before going back to bed. We have no idea how the alarm got set – apparently sometime Friday.

Some observations on living in Spain: there is no handle on the outside of the doors we see – they have to be opened from the outside with a key. There’s a large, fixed knob near the center of the door that can be used to pull the door closed from the outside. And the locking doors I’ve seen have a deadbolt system integrated with the door latch. We insert the key, turn it one full turn and three deadbolts (top, middle, bottom) engage into the doorjamb; turn it another full turn and the deadbolts extend further into the doorjamb. And there are metal plates rabbeted into both the door and doorjamb thru which the deadbolts extend – I can’t imagine a casual thief breaking in thru one of these doors. The keys for those locks are unlike any I’ve seen before – they look like a straight key blank with small pocks of varying depth drilled in a random pattern on both sides. I’d love it if it didn’t sound like a prison door going closed and take so long to lock and unlock the doors – it’s two full turns to disengage the deadbolt and another half turn to open the latch. In the living room of our piso we have two vents – one near the ceiling and one straight below it near the floor. No one has been able to tell us what they’re for and, when it’s light outside, we can see the sky thru the top one. I think that’s the main contributor to how cold it gets at night (and probably how hot it is during the summer) so I resolved to do something about it. After our breakfast Saturday, I found a piece of cardboard, pulled screws from a vent and cut a piece of the cardboard to cover the hole thru the wall. When I reinstalled the screws to hold the vent in place it shut off nearly all the cold air pouring into our piso so I repeated the process for the top vent and think it’s made a difference already in the comfort of the place. We hit a couple of store for grocery shopping on Saturday – one is new to us and I liked it pretty well – and Flo bought sweat pants and sweat shirt for her walks at the other. We looked for jackets but couldn’t find anything that seemed appropriate for wearing with Sunday clothes on our walk to & from the office. Maybe we’ll just zip out the liners of our overcoats and wear them even though that might be a little overkill right now.

We went to the offices Sunday afternoon so she’d have access to the internet and Flo worked on her blog so, if you have time, you might go to it and see pictures she’s posted (assuming she’s successful). We’re still working hard on our Spanish and are understanding a lot of words we hear – especially at church – but when we hear something we don’t know the meaning of, we get lost and it’s hard to follow the thoughts understanding only part of the words. We love our family very much, appreciate all you do to support us out here and pray always for you. Continue to keep us up to date on your families – that’s very special to us. The gospel is true and we’re very happy to be part of sharing it with the world.

Love, E&H Belnap

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More of our walk

We had the Elders over for lunch one medio dia. After it was all gone. There was only a little bit of pan left. They are looking at it like, "that is all' It was fun.
This is a pretty little fountain we see.
You see only a few people on the walk now. But usually the sidewalk if full.
Few more of our friends. You can see the back of Delwyn. See the walk extend into bay there. That is part of our walk.

This is a little round about that we walk around. This is the part that extended into the bay.
I am taking a before picture of where we will be walking. We go along the ocean all the way around.

This is a small beach we go buy. No one was out today. It is getting cold. We have seen some topless ladies here. I tell Delwyn to turn his head.
They are making our walk larger. Now it is very crowded. There are walkers, runners and bikers along this small path.
We are now at the turn in the walk way. This is a pretty house with nice landscapeing.

More landscaping and homes. I'm not sure if these are pisos or single dwellings.
More pisos.
I took this picture on our way back. What I think is interesting, is how close these buildings are to the ocean.
...Our walk

our evening walks

We go for a walk every night. So I thought it would be fun to let you see what we see. We haven't been out of the city to show you anything new, so we are taking you on our walk. I just wanted you to see the many different types of houses.

This house is just between the road and the ocean...VERY close to both - so interesting!

This last picture is typical of a building with the stores on the street level and the pisos on the top.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

October 12, 2009 - Weekly update from Delwyn

I mentioned in our letter last week that we got to see some of the General Conference – we really enjoyed it. Because of the time difference (we’re 8 hours ahead of SLC), we went at 6:00 pm both Saturday and Sunday evening to get an internet feed of those two sessions. On Sunday morning they showed us the Saturday afternoon session and Sunday afternoon they showed the Priesthood session – so we got to see most of the conference close to when the sessions happened. Monday morning I went to the church web site and listened to a recording of the Tabernacle Choir then listened twice to Elder Holland’s talk – I love to hear him speak. I heard most of the other talks from the Sunday afternoon session but then office work got in the way and I didn’t get it finished. On Tuesday they had the video with the audio so I watched Elder Holland again and this time I could see him holding up the Book of Mormon from which Hyrum had read to the Prophet Joseph before their martyrdom – we and the Elders have watched it over and over this week. Since the BM is such an important part of the missionary work here, his testimony is a powerful motivator to use it even more.

About noon on Monday a tech from Dell Computers came to my office, took apart my desktop computer, replaced the motherboard and put it back together. It seemed pretty apparent that we were on opposite ends of some language spectrum so our only communication was via facial expression and hand signals. He ran several tests then I tested the software I use most of the time and everything seems to be good – I haven’t had a single problem with it since then. That’s good because I had to finish up the reports for September and get things set up for October and having the computer is pretty important to that. Not long after he’d finished the repair work Flo and I left to try a Chinese restaurant that we know of (hadn’t talked to anyone who’d actually been there so we weren’t sure what to expect) to celebrate our wedding anniversary (it’s only a couple of blocks from the office). When we walked in I asked in Spanish if they spoke English – one said ‘no’ and the other said ‘a little bit’ – that was sweet music to our ears. They seated us (we were the only customers in there) near a window at a table with a nice, white tablecloth and cloth napkins and gave us menus in English (more tender mercy, huh?). We’d brought a dictionary in the event we had to order from something we didn’t understand – remember, ‘it’s not so important to know what it is but it’s critical to know what it was’! We chose a couple of chicken based items and asked about rice – not included. So we ordered rice and he asked what we’d like to drink - we said water but Flo had been told that if you drink water you’d have to buy a bottle to get it so we ordered a bottle of water. By then other customers began arriving and soon there were quite a few people there – I guess our mediodía and theirs aren’t necessarily in sync. Our food arrived pretty quickly and was very tasty and well prepared – we both liked it a lot but resolved to order things a little further apart in the food spectrum because ours were very similar. We didn’t know if they have things like to-go boxes so we ate it all and then were too full to be comfortable. He brought the bill, I gave him my plastic and, when he brought it back, there was no place to add a gratuity. So we asked him about the custom and how to handle it and he assured us they don’t expect a tip at all – we wondered if he knew what we were asking. It was our first meal in a restaurant here in Spain and was a very pleasant experience – a little pricey in my frame of reference but we liked it. There are a lot of bar/restaurant combinations here but, based on what we’ve seen, the food looks more like hors d’oeuvres (and there’s something about shrimp eyes staring from a small plate that doesn’t appeal to me nor do stuffed green olives make my mouth water) than substantial food and I am not confident that they know how to handle a non-drinker in these places. Anyway, the combination of language barrier and observations has kept us out of those we pass every day in our activities.

In the late afternoon Flo went with Hna Clegg and the Assistants (delivery men) for the purpose of buying a larger refrigerator for our piso. She called later to report that the sale model they’d planned to buy was out of stock so the store had promised to have it in a week and would deliver it to the piso to compensate for not having it available so we’re still waiting – but with much anticipation now – for refrigerator relief. The one we have now is deceptively small and the small-gauge wire shelves sag with very little weight – for those of you familiar with the term blivet, that’s what comes to mind. Flo opens the door, reaches to get something out and a glass bottle tumbles out and shatters on the floor – it’s caused her to murmur.

On Tuesday we were scheduled to do some things (unknown to us) with Hno Sanchez from Madrid who the church used to finalize residency requirements. He came with an agenda to give Elder Strickland some training (who handles nearly all the preliminary residency stuff for our mission), discuss some things with Pres Clegg and take us to a notary where we needed to sign papers giving Hno Sanchez power-of-attorney for residency matters. When it was our turn for his attention we went to a nice office a couple of short blocks from our office, waited (it’s apparently an expected part of any appointment here – sort of like visiting the doctor), went thru papers, reached some agreements (the matter was complicated by our inability to competently understand Spanish) and were told to return at 5:30. Back at the office, Pres Clegg brought in 5 new missionaries (not all Spaniards but all are residing in Spain) for orientation. The combination of new missionaries, new companions coming to pick them up, orientation, dealing with luggage and the presence of Hno Sanchez made for a hectic afternoon. One of the surprises presented by Hno Sanchez was that, to comply with the laws of Spain, all missionary personnel who drive are going to need Spanish driver licenses. That means hiring a private firm to teach the laws and driving skills with cost running from 800€ to 1200€ and takes 2-4 months to complete. If one fails a test, the process has to start all over. So, especially for our Assistants & office Elders who might drive 4-6 months, it’s not a cost effective thing to do – for either time or money and we’re not sure what we’ll do. I’d seriously consider using buses and trains for our transportation needs rather than go thru the hassle – especially with my current language skills. I’m thinking we might wait for the Lord to provide an answer and hope it’s an easy one. Anyway, when 5:30 came we were standing around waiting for a package to be delivered for which someone had to be at the office. We finally gave up on that at 6:00, returned to the notary’s office and, after our obligatory wait, went to a conference room, I was handed the papers (Spanish only, no English) so I went thru them and got a pretty good idea what they were saying. Hno Sanchez read & explained a few things in English, we signed, they signed, we waited, we paid (about 47€ each) and left. So, the church had prepared all the papers, the notary had to review and sign them and we still had the time burning hassle we experienced. Hno Sanchez says it takes about 10 years of study to qualify as a notary here – I don’t know why.

I got our piso inspection forms into the mail to district leaders who do the inspections, finished vehicle reporting and nearly have wrap-up done for the September baptism stuff (waiting for a final report from SLC) and Flo got boxes & bags ready for the mission president to deliver to missionaries as he tours the mission for interviews. She also received a large order of materials from Germany as part of the monthly order she does and got those put away and/or sent out to missionaries. Elder Anderson had to travel to León to get his residency card renewed (the first one is good only for 1 year and the renewal is good for 3 years) so we had to be available most of the two days he was gone so Elder Anderson wouldn’t be alone. And we’ve made time to take a fairly long, brisk walk in the evenings when we get home from the office. Friday evening we walked out a barrier in the bay that’s been built, I assume, to protect the harbor from high winds – it’s in new territory and quite a ways further than we’ve been before and took us 1.5 hours to do it. We were both tired when we finished. Nearly every evening this week when we’ve gotten into bed, I could hear one or more mosquitoes buzzing somewhere in the bedroom so we’ve had to get up and plug in our mosquito machine to get some peace. These mosquitoes don’t seem to be nearly as aggressive as those at home but, Monday night while she was asleep, one stung Flo on a lower eyelid and it was quite swollen the next day. I guess we’d kind of expected them to be gone by now.

Saturday morning we had a leisurely breakfast then cleaned the piso and got ready to go per an invitation to a member’s home for dinner. We, along with Elders Anderson & Strickland, rode the Metro toward Bilbao, found the address and walked up the 7 flights of stairs to the piso. We were greeted warmly by the members (former branch president, wife & granddaughter), visited for a few minutes (he has just retired and she plans to retire soon), were seated at the table and they brought out a very large pan of food that consisted of rice, diced chicken, whole shrimp (those eyes detract – that’s all there is to it) and a couple of varieties of shellfish. When she dished up my plate I asked that she by very moderate, I loved the rice & chicken and got thru the shellfish and shrimp – there was plenty but I didn’t ask for seconds. They then brought out a large platter of fried pork loins – we each had two or more of those (we – two; elders – more) and they were excellent. For dessert she served large portions of a flan-like custard with ice cream that was very good. We visited for a while (the elders served as interpreters for us), E Strickland shared a spiritual thought and we left to return to our piso. We had a little time to relax and study then dressed in church clothes, rode the Metro to Bilbao and attended a baptism service there. There really is excellent support for baptisms in that ward – most of the chapel chairs are filled each time – and we met new people who were very kind to us (some love to use their English on us and we don’t mind – we try our Spanish on them) and got home about 9:00 to read our BM together (we still read 1 or 2 chapters/day together).

That about wraps up the report for the week – we’re happy to be here and are enjoying what we’re doing. There are a lot of good people engaged in trying to further the work of the Lord and it’s great to be among those who are doing so here. We love each of you and pray for your happiness and wellbeing and haven’t lost our zeal for receiving letters from home. There are some things that are worrisome to us – just like they’d be cause for worry if we were home – so please keep us informed.

Our love from España,

E&H Belnap

October 4, 2009 - Weekly email from Delwyn

Delwyn & Flo are front left -- with their mission district. So fun! Our beautiful hard working missionaries. Love them!

From Delwyn: For whatever reasons, we had very light attendance at our meetings in the branch last Sunday but we’re getting more comfortable as we become better acquainted with the members. After our dinner we studied for a while then decided to take another walk so we set out on a new course and walked thru most of the residential area in a SW direction and ended up next to the Metro track. We followed that for a while thinking it’d eventually get us to the river but we went quite a ways and still couldn’t see water so we turned and were soon in familiar territory – it was a very pleasant evening and we had an enjoyable time.

On Monday we had someone from the church come to the office to meet with Pres. Clegg about the mission finances and no one was released when he left so I guess it went okay. President did say we are over budget in some areas but under-budget overall – I guess the accountants will know how to deal with it. When we came home for mediodía, Flo made a tuna casserole and a batch of cookies – mostly to see if new baking soda would help the cookies to have more cookie than tortilla appearance. The first batch that came from the oven wasn’t a rousing success – they were white-chocolate chip with nuts and, although they tasted great to me, they had the tortilla appearance, about as tall as a melted chocolate chip. But by holding my hand flat, sliding a cookie onto it and biting around the edges they were pretty easy to eat (I think it would have worked just as well to slide it off the edge of the table). The next two batches came out of the oven looking great (good enough to take to the office for the Elders to consume!) so maybe the tortilla syndrome has been whipped.

On Tuesday we got ready a little earlier than usual, met the Elders at the Metro station and rode nearly to Bilbao where we got off to go to a government office for residency processing. When we arrived there were ropes set up to make four lines – two coming from each direction, all were off the sidewalk in the street – and we were directed to the long line (but of course). We stood in the line (monitored by a pair of armed guards) for about half an hour, were directed inside where we stood against a wall until called to come to a desk. The purpose of our visit was to make an appointment to take the penultimate step in getting our residency cards (can’t be done over the telephone; has to be done in person). A stern-faced lady glanced over the paperwork and told us we could come back the next day between 9:00 am and 1:30 pm – we made immediate plans to be on time! We walked around the corner to a bank, paid 15€ each for some kind of tax (took a little while because, as we arrived, the teller had pulled a cable from the back of her computer with her foot and had to crawl under the desk to get it plugged in). She didn’t say anything to us until after she’d disappeared toward the floor and came back somewhat apologetic. We needed passport photos for the next day so we stopped at a little booth but didn’t have the correct change to operate the machine. We returned to Las Arenas knowing there was a similar machine near our Metro station but when we got there, it was out of order – decided we’d get change and get them the next morning. We worked on our end-of-month processing thru the rest of the day and I tried to figure out how to find and pay the property taxes on our house. Wed. morning we met the Elders (we only need Elder Strickland but can’t leave Elder Anderson without a companion) at the Metro again, rode to the exit station and went to the booth to get photos – the power was off. While we stood there discussing what to do a man walked up and told us the power would be back in 30 minutes so we decided to wait – it came back in about 5. We got our mug shots, went to the government offices and were sent to a short line. The wait outside was relatively short, we got numbers and the wait inside was just as long as outside then Elder Anderson took Flo to one desk and Elder Strickland took me to another as they put up our numbers. Flo was thru pretty quickly but our processor wanted an extra copy of some document so Elder Strickland had to find a copier and get a copy made (the two packets had exactly the same documents in them for processing). They fingerprinted us, had us sign a couple of documents and, once they’d stamped the papers, they have to be sent to church people in Madrid for checking, they’re sent to the government and they issue residency cards. The visas in our passports expire this month (they’re good for only 90 days) so we’ll be happy to have the cards and not have to carry our passports or the full sheet of paper we’ve been given. As we’ve gone thru this process I’ve thought more than once that it’s probably very much like this trying to this with immigration offices in the US.

We continued to work on the month-end stuff at the mission offices, we got our rent paid again and I began having problems with my PC when I got to the office on Thursday. But when I’d finally gotten it running, it worked okay thru the rest of the day – that was good because I needed it for a lot of stuff I was working. But when I went in Friday morning, it was locked up again so I recycled the power and finally got it up again but it wasn’t long before it locked up. I worked with it for a while, we swapped keyboards and the mouse but nothing we did seemed to help it. We got the church’s tech support guy (he’s in Madrid and speaks English) involved, he set up a conference call with Dell Support center for Spain (no English there) and we tried several things seeking to determine the problem. In the end the Dell CSR committed to send a tech on Monday prepared to replace the mother-board and I sure hope he/she solves the problems. After the failure Pres Clegg asked me for a report related to convert baptisms and I had to go thru the paper stack to get the information – it’s all readily available in files on my PC.

On Saturday we didn’t get up to see the sunrise but had pancakes for breakfast - about normal height this time but they have a different taste that might be related to the ‘milk’ we use. It seems to me that when you strip milk of all its useful properties and inject a taste that’s beyond bad, you shouldn’t be allowed to call it milk. Anyway, we cleaned our piso and Flo went with a less-active member to Bilbao to see/hear the Women’s Conference from a week ago. I joined her at 6:00 and we watched a broadcast of the Saturday morning session of conference (we’re eight hours ahead of SLC time). They had a Spanish version going in the chapel and an English version going in the Relief Society room so we listened in English so we’d understand more of it. Our member friend speaks enough English that she wanted to hear English so, for a change, we did a little interpreting. On Sunday morning we returned to Bilbao for a recorded version (over the internet) of the Saturday afternoon session, came back to our piso for lunch and I went back at 4:00 for a recording of the Priesthood session then Flo joined me for the Sunday morning session at 6:00. We’ll have to either find the Sunday afternoon session on the internet or wait till it comes in the Ensign/Liahona.

In Spain they use the currency of the European Union (EU) called the euro (not all EU countries do). I’m not sure how large the bills get in denomination but we’ve seen 5, 10, 20 and 50 euro bills and they have 2, 1, .50, .20, .10, .05, .02 and .01 coins. They don’t seem to deal much with the .01 coin – even the post office will charge .01 more or less to avoid using them. And even though we need 800+ Euros in cash for our rent, the ATM just pumps it out in 50’s and smaller bills. The banks and a lot of stores use machines and wands (sort of an electronic pen) to check for counterfeit bills (I guess that’s what they’re doing when they take our money). We’ve taken a pretty good walk nearly every night this week – we usually go out a paved path on our side of the river that juts out into the bay. It’s not very long so we lap it a few times then go the other way till the walkway runs out – by then we’re tired enough to quit so we do. We’re still studying pretty hard to learn Spanish and are finding it’s a slow process but are encouraged by the progress we’re making. We had the digital picture frame at the office for a few days but brought it home and are enjoying it at mediodía and in the evenings. We have to learn how to use it to get more pictures loaded and probably extend the time each picture is shown.

I need to wrap up so we can read our scriptures together – it’s been a good week for us. We enjoy very much hearing from those of you who write to us. We love all of you, appreciate your love and concern in our behalf and remind you of the importance of staying close to the Lord and the church. May He bless each of you.

Lots of love,

E&H Belnap

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

September 27, 2009 Weekly update from Delwyn

Another week has pretty much flown by – we’re still alive and well. We received the package with the digital picture frame (took 6 days enroute), got it set up in the office and have seen some of the pictures (it’s on Flo’s desk so she may have seen them all but I haven’t). Thanks so much to all of you – sending heavy stuff is an expensive venture so we don’t want you to do much of that! It costs us 0.78€ (ca. $1.15 at today’s exchange rate) to send a letter home so we’re glad we have email to help us communicate. We’ve had a pretty busy week in the mission – a conference for each of the four zones we have and the normal activities as well. Flo went to the mission home again Monday to make more hamburger stew as the main course for the conferences and says it went a lot smoother this week than last. We attend only the Bilbao zone conference (that was Thursday in the Bilbao chapel – a good experience for us) but do quite a bit of stuff to help get ready for all of them - especially Flo. She puts together boxes & sacks of stuff for each of the zones which include orders from missionaries for Books of Mormon, booklets and other supplies plus the mail that’s come for the missionaries since the last trip that was made to the zone. It means that it can be several weeks between the time a letter is sent from home, if it’s sent thru the mission office, and when it actually gets into the missionaries hands. We had a letter come recently that had a postmark of nearly four years ago sent from a missionary in our mission to his brother in Kenya. It had some pictures in it so we tried to find an address for the Bilbao missionary at home but the mission doesn’t keep those records very long and my searching in RM sites didn’t turn up anything for the name – we don’t know what to do with it. We had about 10 baptisms in the last two weekends and, after a baptism, the missionaries send the recommend to the office and we put it into our system that in turn gets it into the membership record system. Nearly each one that comes in has something missing or some other discrepancy (e.g. a mother & daughter were baptized together and the mother’s name was spelled differently on her recommend than it was on the daughter’s recommend). But I’ve been frustrated by one that came in with only a street and number for the address. I can’t even find the street with Google, I don’t know for sure which city it’s in, I’ve talked to the elders several times and they promise to get the info but I’m still waiting for the phone to ring on that one. I finally had to pull it from our system so I could send the rest of the batch to SLC and will enter it again when I get the address. A strong majority of the convert baptisms here are among immigrants from South & Central America and eastern European countries – they just seem more willing to listen to the missionaries. Maybe that Israelite blood runs a little stronger in their veins than it does in the natives here. There are a lot of converted, faithful people here (we have quite a few Spaniard missionaries) but some of them are pretty new in the church. We received a baptism recommend this week on which the brother doing the confirmation put down, as his priesthood office, ‘2nd counselor in Stake Presidency’ – sure makes me more appreciative of my heritage in the church. One of my responsibilities in the office has been to activate temple recommends as they come to us – most go smoothly and it’s a short process. But, with the creation of the new stake, responsibility for recommend activation for those units within the stake becomes a stake function and, early in the week, they weren’t able to activate. So Pres. Del Molino came to the office and we worked together to active 30-40 recommends mostly from printouts of email derived from scanning the pages of the recommend book – some of those were very difficult to read and we spent a couple of hours working on it. On Friday, Pres. Del Molino sent a page with all the numbers clearly printed but when I went to enter them, the names and numbers of the members in the stake are no longer in our mission database – I guess the transition has happened. We had an interesting experience Friday with a car inspection. In Spain, passenger cars, at the conclusion of their fourth year of registration, must have what’s called an ITV inspection and display a current sticker in the windshield. Obviously I’d never been thru one nor had the other elders in the office but Miguel had assured me it was no big deal – just go do it. Elder Anderson finally got an appointment with an inspection station (we were a month overdue) and we set out to find the station. The Google map took us across the Puente Colgante so that was a first for me. We waited in a line of cars and, as I pulled into the lane to enter the air ferry, it filled up. An attendant backed us back into the street and we waited for the next cycle to come around. When the cars had unloaded from the other side, we pulled in as close to the edge as we could get (there was a metal gate in front of us), cars filled in behind us, an attendant came by to collect 2.10€ and it took just over a minute to reach the other side of the river. When they opened the gates we drove off and spent the next 15-20 minutes driving the narrow, hilly streets following the Google directions. We had a couple of false turns but made it okay, parked the car and went into the office for instructions. They did the paperwork, extracted about $60, told us where to drive and we approached a station much like the emission testing sites in Arizona (large bays open on both ends). Someone took our paperwork, we drove to a station of equipment and they began shaking the car up & down and from side to side – they did that for front & back. He had me turn the steering wheel back & forth, brake hard, have it in & out of gear and run some switches (lights, wipers, etc.). Since I understood little of what he called out, my reaction occurred only after the Elders understood and translated the instructions. But he was patient with us, sent us out the opposite door to wait and, in a few minutes came out with the stamped document and a sticker for the windshield (thank you, Lord). We returned to the Puente (did a little touring but I was just following instructions!), waited for our turn and rode back to our side of the river (another 2.10€, thank you very much). The Elders wanted the Spanish version of Rahmen noodles from a store near the Puente so I dropped them off and took the car to park it – someone again pulled out of a spot in the jammed parking lot and I dove into it. It’s become evident to us that school’s back in session here – we see lots of kids both morning and afternoon in uniforms. The uniforms vary but we wonder if it’s not that different schools have different uniforms because it seems that the kids getting on the same bus have the same uniforms. The one thing missing is that we don’t see schools anywhere we go. On our street is a building with a small sign saying ‘Colegio’ but we don’t know if it’s a traditional school, a church school or even a school at all. There’s no way all the kids we see (and some look to be 3-4 years old) are going to that school. And the buses they ride look more like tour buses than like our school buses at home. It’s one of the things I’m going to find out about when I can ask someone and understand the answer (we’ve asked the Elders – they don’t know). We slept in for a while Saturday morning - it’s starting to be quite a bit cooler here, especially at night – so it felt good to stay warm and just doze. I don’t feel like I work very hard physically but there are certainly times when I’m exhausted at night and would like to stay in bed in the mornings. I went downstairs to the little market next to us, got onions and a bell pepper and Flo fried potatoes and onions, scrambled some eggs and we added toast for our breakfast – it was almost like being in a campground! After we’d cleaned the piso and done some laundry we set off to take a walk – ended up getting some fruit which we brought back to the piso. But then we walked for over an hour along streets and waterfront that we’ve seen from the car but hadn’t walked before – we really liked it but commented that it’d be nice to have bikes to cover the ground faster. We’re intrigued by what appears to be older architecture of homes and buildings (some look like all residences, some might be offices and some might be both) and the landscaping in areas where building is less dense. We’re trying to walk more and made it out about half the evenings this week and hope to improve on that. When we returned to the piso Flo wanted a loaf of bread but the shops where we normally get bread were all closed for mediodía. So we wandered around a bit, saw a lady carrying a loaf of bread and guessed where she might have come from – Bingo! – there was an open shop. We had our dinner, did dishes and finished some of the tasks we had going. Our Spanish is such that we can see progress - it’s pretty exciting for us to be able to understand something we hear and it’s happening more and more. We know there’s a long way to go but are confident we’ll get there one day. We got letters from a few of you this week and want you to know that we really appreciate it. We love all of you the same amount but I’m sure we can tell which of you love us because you write to us (just a little humor found in the truth). We plead with all of you to stay true to the faith – it’s the Lord’s work and we’re so thankful to be part of it and a great family that’s faithful. Lots of love,E&H Belnap