Well, the time has come that, if our family is to receive an epistle this week, I have to get after it. We just returned from our church meetings (where I was asked to read from the priesthood manual and give the closing prayer) so I’m working on this letter while Flo works on our dinner – she’s better at her stewardship than I am at mine but we do our best, huh? The week has gone by quickly (at least when we look back) and it’s pretty sure that winter has come to our part of Spain. We’ve had a lot of rain with wind – it rains for a lot of minutes, stops for a few minutes then rains again. We’ve been able to walk only three evenings this week and Friday evening we had to take and use an umbrella to stay as dry as we did. I guess they’ve built a pretty good system for handling runoff because, regardless of how much rain we get, we don’t seem to get many big puddles (our parking lot excepted).
On Wednesday about 11:15 am, Russ Perkins called from San Sebastián where they were getting ready to board a bus for Bilbao (they’d hauled some stuff from Phoenix to Spain for us). We got instructions from the Elders about how to get to the Bilbao bus station, took our stuff to the piso and caught the Metro to Bilbao. We arrived before they did and it was a cold, rainy day so the wait outside was a little chilly but they got there ahead of schedule, checked the departure schedule to return to San Sebastián and we got back on the Metro to get to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. While I’d heard the name ‘Guggenheim’ a lot of times and seen the building – both on purpose and by accident – I sure didn’t have a concept of what it’s about. From the information we received at our visit I’ve learned that Solomon Guggenheim collaborated with others, donated his art collection to a foundation and Frank Lloyd Wright designed the first Guggenheim in New York City. They’ve subsequently built sister museums (not designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) in Berlin, Venice and here, they share some of the art works on a rotating basis plus each has its own works that are permanent in a museum. The museum here is built on a slope that goes from city level down to river level and is an unusual but impressive structure; we hurried inside (it was too cold and wet to be outside any longer than necessary), paid our money (old people get in cheaper than young people because we can’t see as much nor have endurance to stay as long) and were given hand-held devices to guide and explain stuff according to the room of an exhibit. In my frame of reference, to call this a museum is a misnomer – it’s an exhibit hall. Virtually all the things there are exhibits of modern or avant-garde designs and were interesting but not exciting to us. The largest exhibit is eight separate shapes that are designed for and large enough to walk thru – aisles with walls that bend and lean in different directions, spirals that take you to an open center from which you must backtrack to get out, concentric circles with leaning walls, etc. In an adjoining room are scale models of each figure with an explanation of how they were made by rotating ellipses, spheres and tori in different directions – quite interesting but not very practical. It apparently took a long time to find a manufacturer who could make the metal walls and do the bending needed to produce the shapes. The second floor is dedicated to a display of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture work and was more interesting to me – especially the exhibits and explanation of Taliesin (including Taliesin West in Paradise Valley). But there seems to be an inordinate number of architectural designs that were never built – I expect it was because the would-be builder ran out of money paying the architect and had nothing left with which to build. The third floor is more dedicated to art that hangs on walls but also has a number of videos – some silent, some with filthy language and some that appear to be more mistake than finished product – and other exhibits that fall into the class of modern art. There are a few other things scattered thru the building but there’s lots of open space and lots of glass that make it appear even more open than it is. We spent 2-3 hours going thru it, went outside to take pictures of the building and surroundings (had a little break in the rain but not the cold wind) and left for the Chinese buffet we’d visited the preceding Saturday. We had a nice dinner – even tried the stir-fry grill and liked the results – and were nearly finished when I got a phone call that was so broken up I couldn’t even tell who it was. Flo persuaded Russ & Jen to come to Las Arenas to see our piso and the Puente bridge so we returned to the Metro for the ride. I called the number from the restaurant call and it was Hna Clegg telling us Macro had called that our refrigerator had arrived – that was welcome news. We showed our piso, walked to the Puente thru rain & wind and, if you can’t go up on it (way too cold for that), it doesn’t take long to see what’s there. Russ & Jen headed back to the Metro for the bus station and, since they didn’t call, we assume they made their connections and are home now.
Thursday morning we went to the office with plans to go to Makro to buy the refrigerator. We asked the Elders the best time of day to find a parking space in Las Arenas and they suggested we go immediately – we did. With an ad, a little broken Spanish and lots of hand waving and pointing we went from the front desk to the appliance desk to the checkout stand where we paid for a refrigerator (there’s compelling evidence that 16% sales tax is a non-trivial number when buying a refrigerator) and a couple of ties, got delivery set up at the exit and rang the alarm when we went thru the doors. It turns out that there were two security tags on one of the ties and one had been missed at the register. We drove from there to Carrefour, got some groceries – including peanut butter (the price has actually gone down on it, just not as much as the $$ has devalued relative to the euro since we last bought) – and were checking out when we got another call that Makro was ready to deliver the refrigerator in half an hour. We hurried home, parked with most of the car in a mud puddle, got space prepared in the piso and waited for them to come – they were a little late but brought the thing up to our floor, unboxed it, installed it, gave us instructions in Spanglish and we went back to the office to work. We were barely back in the saddle when the Elders came with a proposal to join them for a pizza buffet at Telepizza – we went. The program there was to order three pieces, eat them and repeat the cycle as long as we wanted to – the Elders helped us out after the first round. But we were pretty well caught up in the office so it was a nice break for us to sit and visit with the missionaries as we ate and watched them go thru pizza.
On Friday we had an interesting experience with one of the Assistants’ investigators who had planned for baptism on Saturday. He called the Elders and was totally against baptism and the church and refused to meet or even talk to them. We all joined together for prayer in his behalf but, as of now, he hasn’t responded to any attempts to contact him. We’d like to get him to read the account of the First Vision and see the parallels in Satan’s work in trying to thwart the work of God. While we were studying Spanish Saturday a pair of the Elders came by needing new pants hemmed and, while they were here, a batch of bread came out of the oven so they stayed around to take care of a small loaf. We went Saturday night to Bilbao for another baptism – it was a very good service with 40+ members and investigators there. I’m impressed with the way members come out to support such events even though the weather was nasty and the service didn’t start till 7:30.
We haven’t figured out yet how to control the temperature in the piso – it seems like the thermostat is pretty sensitive on the high side but not so on the low side. It gets pretty cold in here before the heater kicks on and we don’t have enough experience with it yet to know where to set the thermostat to try to be comfortable. Even though we don’t move the setting, it gets colder in here than I can comfortably stand so I’m having trouble sleeping because I get cold in spite of covers and thermals – I’m thinking electric blanket if I can find one (with dual controls of course; Flo says she’s hot most of the time).
Well, since I started this earlier this afternoon, we’ve had fried chicken, potatoes & chicken gravy, vegetables and Jell-o salad for dinner, Flo has nearly finished making a batch of raisin-filled cookies and I’m nearly out of letter for the week. We love each of you and are delighted to get news from home. Be faithful, keep praying for us as we do for you.
All our love, E&H Belnap