HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!!!!
It’s been another fast but good week for us here in Spain – we now have the holidays (at least those that we celebrate) behind us, we’ve have a couple more Skype conversations and had some accomplishments in our work as missionaries. When we’d finished last Sunday with our letter and card writing the weather was nice enough to take a walk so we walked for about 50 minutes along our usual paths – it’s cool enough outside to wake us up. Having finished reading the Book of Mormon we started the D&C thinking that’s be a little easier for us to cope with – it’s actually been harder for us. There’s an entirely new set of vocabulary words in the Spanish D&C so it’s going to push us for a while (at least) to learn that language and understand the meaning of the scripture as we read it.
Monday was a fairly typical day in the office and it’s often our busiest day of the week there. We do quite a bit of end-of-week stuff where Sunday in the last day of the week (even the calendars here are printed that way) so we try to get as much of that stuff done as we can. I’ve been working on a couple of things with church administrators in Madrid and it appears that they’re on an extended holiday vacation – I get either no response or an out-of-office response to my email messages. We’ve been told that the biggest holiday of the season occurs Wednesday of this week – I’m not sure what it’s called but think it’s a celebration of the visit of the 3 Wise Men to the young Jesus. If it turns out to be something spectacular, I’ll tell you about it next week.
On Tuesday, I went with three of the elders in the office to meet with the landlord of the piso we’d vacated in San Sebastián. We’re not officially out of the piso since we’re paying rent thru January but we had to try to resolve some concerns about the conditions in the apartment. I’d seen the apartment when we moved the elders last month but was trying to hurry and attributed most of the mess to the fact that they were still packing and moving but was shocked at the state of the piso after they supposedly moved all their stuff – it was a filthy mess. The combination of total neglect on the part of both landlord and missionaries had created a dreadful sight. We went thru the piso room by room trying to assess what had to be done to make it livable – he accepted responsibility for painting and possibly refinishing the floors (they appear to have had nothing done to them but sweeping for a very long time) and we agreed to clean and try to restore furniture and furnishings as they were when missionaries had moved in 5 years ago. With that understanding we returned to Las Arenas and began making plans to buy some things needing replacement and return to clean. On Friday, Flo & I and 3 elders from the office drove back to San Se, met the two missionaries there (they’d had four in San Se until 3 weeks ago) at 10:00 and went to work. Flo tackled the cleaning of the kitchen which she says was absolutely the filthiest place she’s ever tried to clean while the rest of us worked on the other tasks. One of the major problems was that elders had turned a wall unit from one wall to the opposite wall of the living room – the problem was that the wall unit is longer than the room is wide. We got the base turned by lifting one end enough to make the turn but the top of the unit was too tall to allow that. We took it to the stairwell outside the piso and tried to turn it there – too much unit for available space. We tried disassembly but couldn’t move some of the screws to do that. We finally took one end down a hall and were able, by removing a door, to turn the unit like we needed it – we had to have spent two hours getting that task done. Elders had removed light covers and replaced bulbs to provide more light so we had to disassemble light fixtures to get the covers back on. One of the elders rewired a light as we reassembled, hit the switch and power went out in the entire piso – we’d blown the main breaker. I worked on one of the lights, got side-tracked for a while and, when I resumed work on it, got buzzed because someone had come along and turned the switch on hoping for light – at least it worked when I was finished. We spent over 6 hours working straight thru the day – hauled uncounted bags of trash to the dumpster, swept & mopped over & over and Flo turned the kitchen into a place that you could prepare food without endangering life. We’ve still got a couple of repair problems to address but the place now looks like humans could inhabit it.
We’d planned with Chad & Trisha to do a Skype call on Wednesday – we didn’t have info about how he was going to do it but we finally made a guess and called Angela’s userid. That was a good guess and we got to talk with them, say hi to their kids, hear about their Christmas and have a very enjoyable visit with them. I’m hoping any others who might want to do a Skype call will read into this the need to exchange userid information before waiting to answer a call from our end.
Blair, Brian & Jackie had prepared for a Skype call with Mom on her birthday Saturday – that was very enjoyable for us because we got to talk to Mom, Brian & Jackie, Blair & Vicky and Lynda and say hi to most of the kids who were there. We were on for about an hour & 15 minutes and the time sure flew by for us – we had a great evening and thank all of you for taking the time to talk with us.
I think I’ve mentioned before the concern here about using our US drivers licenses for driving in Spain. The mission presidents have basically agreed to take the drivers-ed courses to obtain a Spanish license – since they’re here for 3 years and do a lot of traveling, they’ve agreed to pay the costs ($1000+; everyone fails the first time because the schools charge based on the time a student spends in school). But for those in our situation, it’s hard to swallow the time and expense of a driver’s license when we do so little driving and our mission would be half over before we got the license. So this week I applied for an International Driver Permit which is good for a year and am hoping that’s sufficient for my needs thru the remainder of our mission.
We didn’t have anything to do (one can only study so long before the brain is fried) or anyplace to go on New Year’s Eve so we had a quiet evening in the piso. That is until the fireworks started in earnest about 11:00. They went for about 2 hours, hitting a crescendo around midnight – I’ve never experienced anything like that. It really sounded like bombs were falling all around us and even with everything closed & shutters down, it was impossible to sleep. The next morning our street was lined with drunks, streamers, glitter and other trash and there were occasional explosions going off around us all thru the day. I don’t know whether it was private parties, individuals, governments or who actually provided the fireworks but next year we might plan our evening to be in a protected spot with a better view to see what we could only hear.
On Saturday when I’d finished my cleaning and had run a couple of errands, I got a call from the office Elders that started with “Elder Belnap, we’ve just done something awfully stupid”. I sat down and they rehearsed that they’d taken the office van to a store for groceries, gasoline and to find new windshield wiper blades. The problem was they’d filled the tank with regular gasoline and it’s a diesel engine. They hadn’t driven it far but it was far enough for them to recognize something was wrong in the way it ran so they shut it down. I told them we’d better leave it there, call the dealership for advice and deal with the problem Monday. I drove out to pick them up, delivered them at the office (that’s where they eat and keep their food) and had just parked the car when Pte Clegg called (from Vigo) to talk about the piso cleanup we’d done. After that we talked about gasoline & diesel engines and a few other things before I could go home and prepare for Fast Sunday. He mentioned how interesting it is that, while observing the missionaries working with investigators and members, how totally awesome they are and 30 minutes later you’re led to question whether or not they have a brain. I guess these missionaries are transformed from kids to awesome and back to kids until, for most of them, they reach a point of maturity that we see in them when they return home.
After reading each day in the D&C we’re starting to become more familiar with the Spanish there so that’s helping us to grow and we started an assignment this week to read the Book of Mormon (in English for all whose first language is English) by April 1st and mark all the references relating to Christ. For me it’s been an interesting exercise these first 2-3 days but it’s going to add a little more study time for us each day – we’ll report how things go.
Well, that wraps up the report for this week. We’ve sure enjoyed the opportunity to see and talk to many of you and appreciate your efforts to set it up and adjust to our schedule. We love all of you, thank you very much for your love and support and pray the Lord’s choicest blessings on each of you. We’re grateful for the opportunity to be involved in the missionary work here – we’re getting better at what we’re supposed to be doing – and bear witness of its divinity.
All our love, E&H Belnap