Thursday, February 25, 2010

February 21, 2010 - Update from Delwyn

Another week has passed so I’ll give an account of the stuff we’ve experienced. After our church meetings on Sunday we brought Elder Hansen to our piso and the three of us had dinner together, finished packing our bag, carried stuff to the car, made a stop at the office for the tool boxes and left at 2:30 for the drive to Ponferrada; we drove thru rain for the first 80-90 KM and had some wet roads after that but things went well and we arrived in Ponferrada four hours later. We dropped Elder Hansen at a member’s home where the missionaries were visiting, found our way back to the hotel we’d passed on our way in and began looking for parking. We had a call from Pte Clegg right then and, by the time we got done with that, we couldn’t figure out how to get back in front of the hotel. We put the address into the GPS but apparently didn’t get enough buttons pushed and it began taking us back where we’d dropped Elder Hansen – we recovered. We checked in, asked about parking and were told they have a parking garage across the street so we took our stuff to the room, checked it out then went back to park the car – that went okay and we were glad to have it off the street. Internet access was 5€/hour in our room but free in the lobby so I went there, had some trouble getting my mouse to work (apparently didn’t like the slick glass table) and sent last week’s letter. We did some reading of our Books of Mormon, discussed some plans and went to bed.
On Monday morning we showered & dressed, had breakfast in the hotel restaurant (won’t do that again; it was 10€ each for fruit & cold cereal), got cleaning stuff from the car across one street and went to the elders’ piso across another street. They’d done a lot of work to clean their piso so it wasn’t terrible but they just don’t seem to see the buildup in the kitchen nor the stuff that’s behind doors and furniture in the other rooms. We made some repairs for some of the problems they had and Flo worked in the kitchen to get that clean. We left after two hours with some instructions for things that still need to be done, checked out of the hotel (parking was 8€ for the night) and drove to Benavente – about an hour. It’s a new piso there so it was relatively clean and with an elder with roots in the ranch world of Lima, Montana, who knows how to fix and clean. I tried to fabricate a fix for a broken cabinet pull but didn’t have enough tools to finish the job. They said they’d ask a member for help to cut a bolt then asked us if we’d take them with us to León, our next stop. We got them, their bags (they planned to spend the night) and a baptism font heater (looked like a giant coffee cup heater) into the car and drove to the piso in León where four elders live together. They too had worked hard at cleaning their piso (we’d seen it in September when we went) but, like most others, they clean only what is readily visible. I pulled a couch away from the wall to look at some bed parts and it was obvious that hadn’t happened for a long time. We vacuumed that and the recesses of a bunch of other places and made a couple of minor repairs but they have a couple of major things that need repairing – I told them to call the landlord right away. At the entry for example, the flooring is loose and lifting to the point that the door drags and had left an arc of scratches. We bought cookies and supplies for sandwiches (consumed in that order), had lunch then worked till about 4:00 and we left with promises they’d address a few things that we hadn’t. Elder Strickland is there now as the district leader and I think he’ll follow up to finish the job. We ran into the evening rush hour traffic as we came thru Bilbao so it was about 7:30 when we parked (about 1030 KM) and went to the office – we were tired. We spent a few minutes there before coming home to do our reading and crash. Next week we have 4 pisos, 3 cities, 2 hotel nights to take care of – it’s that schedule for the next three weeks leaving us only 2-3 pisos left to visit.
We’ve had a pretty slow week in the office – had to make a few corrections to the help the elders gave in entering the proselyting numbers, got some piso inspection forms and processed mail in both directions. One afternoon when only Flo & I were in the office we received a call from a member in Italy who spoke only Spanish. Flo asked her to call back when the elders were there but she was rather distraught – her mother is in the hospital in Bilbao and is very ill - Flo asked me to talk to her and that didn’t provide a significant upgrade in the conversation. But I managed to get the mother’s name, the name of the hospital, a local phone number for a family member (not sure why she didn’t just call there) and a promise to call tomorrow to see what we had done. I told her we’d contact the missionaries in Bilbao and ask them to visit the mother or ensure that the ward would make a visit. She called the next day (Spanish speakers were in the office) and we’d determined that the missionaries were still working with the ward to visit and offer a blessing – apparently the mother is terminally ill. I’m hoping someone doesn’t die waiting for us to learn Spanish so we can save them.
We got some great letters from family this week – notably Alisa and Chad – and the shaver parts Danette had sent finally arrived on Friday. I put them on the shaver and they work great – I’m excited. We had a Skype call with Heidi on Thursday as an inspector was at their house inspecting for termites and both they and we were excited about the offer that had been made to buy their house. On Saturday we had a Skype call with Travis and he told us the buyer had backed out of the deal so I’m not sure where things stand today. Making a career change and moving the family at the same time isn’t really the time you’d like to have problems selling your home.
We had an ‘interview’ with Pte Clegg on Thursday and the point of interest for us was the plan for our time here in Las Arenas. He told us that they’re planning for us to stay here in our piso thru July so that we’re here for the full year of our contract and can help close the office then go to Barcelona. He forwarded a couple of emails he’d exchanged with Pte Hinckley including correspondence with a missionary couple serving there giving us some idea of the living costs based on their experience. Hna Sandoval, a missionary from Barcelona, came by the office and told us that prices in the area of the mission office are quite high but are much cheaper out of the city center. That’d mean some commute costs but the greatest challenge might be what/how to do the mediodía routine if we’re not close to our piso. We’ve had a few email responses about the change to Barcelona and all have commented that it’s a beautiful place to be so we’ll look forward to it.
Had some email exchanges with the Ramon Martinez family – they’re coming to our part of Spain in late April to visit places and try to meet family that still is here. Ramon’s grandparents were born in this area and the towns and villages named from doing family research are still on the maps albeit at least one is shown on Google Earth on a forested hillside – my guess is they’ve moved the wagon. We’re very excited about their visit and look forward to spending a little time with them.
We and the three secretaries went Saturday morning to Makro to try to get a resolution of my problem with the electric toothbrush I bought there. As a testament to the customer service offered, they agreed to take the toothbrush, do some testing and call me if they find it’s faulty. I can’t tell them whether it’s the brush or the charger that doesn’t work but the end result is that, using it as a manual brush, isn’t what I thought I’d signed up for when I bought it. The elders bought the ingredients for chicken cordon bleu while they were there – this place reminds me of Costco in style with some excellent buys and some turkey-like (so to speak) buys and the missionaries were like little kids in a candy shop. But Elder Anderson discovered, as we did, that some things are not well marked and some chicken wings he thought were a great buy turned out to be twice as expensive as he’d expected. We went from there across the river to pick up a new suit that had been altered for Elder Holmes (turns out I’m not the only driver who tours) – we finally found the place. While he was trying on the suit we were looking at the 70%-off rack of suits, I found one I liked, came close in size so we bought it. It has to have some alterations to both jacket and pants but I’m excited about having a new suit. We returned to our piso where Flo worked with them to prepare the cordon bleu and potato salad – it turned out very well.
We still study Spanish nearly every day, are still seeing a little progress and still have hope to one day understand what’s being said and respond appropriately – keep praying for us. Flo finished her Book of Mormon challenge Friday evening (read the book, in English; mark the references to Christ) but I’m pacing myself a little more and have about 100 pages left to read. We’re about 2/3 of the way thru the D&C in Spanish and have started to discuss what we’ll read when we finish the PoGP. I’m suggesting something doctrinal (for the gospel study) but written in modern Spanish to help us improve in the language – maybe manuals or something similar. If you’ve had experience with that sort of thing, we’d welcome your experience and suggestions.
Guess that’s enough of shopping and cleaning for one week. Start saving now in case we need help to pay the rent in Barcelona. We love you all very much, appreciate your love and support for us and pray for God’s choicest blessings to always be with you. Love, E&H Belnap

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Leon Elders & Vigo visits

Here is a cathedral in Leon. It isn't very big, but we were driving by and I took a shot of it.
Here we are cleaning the piso in Leon. They have 4 Elders living in here. It wasn't really to dirty, but we helped in the kitchen, what they hadn't done already. Elder Strickland, the Elder second on the left in white T-shirt, was one of our old Secretaries and knew what we were doing, so he had his companions clean before we got there. Delwyn did some fixing up. The Elders from left around are, Elder Hansen, Secretary, Elder Strickland, I'm behind Elder Strickland, Elder Pedersen, Elder Garcia, Elder Alverez, Elder Ciccio, Elder Carins in green, and Delwyn. Elder Alverez and Pedersen got a ride with us from Benevente after we cleaned their piso, to go to Leon for the rest of their P-Day. Elder Ciccio in the Branch President in Leon. Elder Garcia and Alverez will be going home this next week. They are all such good missionaries and the work is really going well in their areas.
We bought bread, ham, cheese, chips, and cookies for everyone to have lunch. They seemed be enjoy the few groceries we bought. In the back is Elder Ciccio, he loves to brake dance, and is always moving. I call him a monkey. He doesn't climb stairs, he jumps and hangs from a bar they have put on the top and he swings to the top. In this picture he jumped up just as the camera went off.

Elder Carins is from Scottland. It is fun to talk to him. I really have to listen to him to get what he is saying. The Elders said he can put on an American accent really well.
Elders Alverez, Strickland, Ciccio and Hansen doing their pose.
Elders Garcia, top, Carins, and Pedersen in their pose.
Here is the whole group waiting for the camera to go off. Not bad.

Elder Ciccio in his pose.
Now for Elder Ciccio's brake dancing. He is really good. He was up there for almost a minute.
Here are the girls in the Young Women. Sister Martin is next to me. She is 1st Counselor. Her sister, Sis Martin is the Young Womens President. She is in the middle on the bottom row. She went on a mission in the States. She was actually in Tucson and on Temple Square in SLC. She helps me with the language.

This last weekend, we were in Vigo. A very pretty place, however, It rained the whole time we were there so we didn't get to see much or take pictures. This one is from our hotel room. The sun came out for a minute so I took this one. The ride to and from (which was 6-7 hrs.) rain the whole time.

As we were leaving, we went by this statue of the horses. I did this as we were moving, so it isn't very good.
This is an Spanish tortilla. They are so very good. My next product I want to learn to make without burning it. All it is is eggs, onions, and potatoes. You have to cook it very slow.

Elder Garcia in front of the horse statue. I got this from Elder Anderson. It is a better picture.

I love this. Elder Anderson in front of the statue of fisher men. He is showing off his muscle's

Monday, February 15, 2010

February 14, 2010 - Update from Delwyn

Hello again to our dear loved ones. We’re healthy and reasonably happy (we wish we could be thin, have boundless energy and more money than we could give away) – there have been others who’ve observed that getting old has its downside. We had a couple of fun Skype calls Tuesday evening – one with Angela and one with Kay. Email is great for communication but there’s something special about being able to hold a conversation with someone and not have to wait days for answers to questions.
I guess I was premature last week to make statements about the improving temperatures and weather – it’s gotten nasty again here. As I worked in the office one day I could see thru the window that we had rain, wind, hail, snow, sunshine, lightning and thunder thru much of the day so I was glad not to be out in it. A major snowstorm hit northern Spain Thursday and left lots of snow and very cold weather in a wide-spread area.
We went early Saturday afternoon to Hidalgo’s where Flo had made an appointment to learn how to make paella. Their piso doesn’t have central heating so they move portable heaters from room to room depending on where they are. The heaters in the kitchen and living room where we spent most of the time kept us warm enough to be fairly comfortable. But as we left we went to a spare bedroom for our coats and it was cold as a meat locker – we couldn’t get our coats on fast enough. We asked how this winter compares to a normal winter and they told us it’s been quite a while since they had a ‘normal’ winter but that this year is unusually cold – certainly not what we’ve trained for in Arizona.
We drove Monday morning to Logroño as part of the piso cleaning campaign. The Hermanas had done a good job of cleaning theirs so it didn’t take Flo long to do the checking and touch a few things that could use some help. E Anderson and I worked on repairs that were needed – the plastic mounting brackets at the ends of an L-shaped shower curtain rod both were broken (in different ways) so we jury-rigged a couple of fixes for those. We won’t be applying for patents on them but they’re a lot more solid and, hopefully durable, than the duct tape we replaced. And we didn’t have a way to splice a broken chain that supports the corner of the rod but we made a major improvement to the aesthetics of that as well. As do most pisos, their piso has Persianas – rolling shutters – on all the windows and one of the spring-loaded reels had fallen off the mounting bracket. I straightened some parts, found new screws and remounted the reel but had no way to install the plastic shield that’s supposed to cover it.
Elder Anderson assured us that the Elders’ piso was five minutes away so we grabbed our buckets, tools and boxes and headed up the street – we couldn’t have driven there in five minutes much less walk and it was raining all the time we walked. With a box in each hand and another under my arm I could barely hang onto my umbrella let alone use it to shield me from falling water. But we finally arrived and they showed us thru the place assuring us they’d worked pretty hard to get it cleaned up. I’m glad we didn’t get to see it prior to their work – the place was so cluttered we couldn’t really see any dirt. They’d had a water pipe in the wall rupture and soak the wall board in the main hall and a living room wall opposite it – lots of mold growing there. We send out instructions every 6-weeks telling the missionaries how to kill mold so I instructed him to get a spray bottle and get to work on it right away. He did and in 20-30 minutes, nearly all the dark spots were gone. On the living room wall the mold was even worse and we moved a wall unit to unveil still more so they treated it and promised to stay on it until it’s cleaned up. As is pretty common, the doors were off the closet unit and standing against the wall – most of the screw holes for hinges were stripped out. We did repairs to the holes and I moved a pair of doors to check for problems there – they were okay but the dirt & lint behind them was pretty deep. I got a broom and swept that bedroom without moving the beds to show them a sample of what they’d missed – the dustpan was almost full. Flo and two elders worked in the kitchen for the more than three hours we were there so the kitchen is clean and would be a pleasant place to be if they had more than a 5-watt globe in the light – most of the piso is like being in a cave (until we urge them to do so, none of the missionaries seems willing to spend 50-cents to buy a light bulb). The other elder and I did more cleaning and repairing thru the piso but there is still a lot of work to do to get it clean and orderly. We took our cleaning stuff to the car, had lunch at a restaurant and made the two hour drive home. Sunday/Monday we go to Ponferrada, Benavente and León so we spend one night on the road and half expect a nightmare in León.
After we got home Monday and finished some work we had to get done in the office we went to see our friend Marcelo in the fruit stand close to us. We were too late and the business has been taken over by another, younger man and (we think) his wife. We visited (I use the term loosely) for a few minutes and went back Friday to buy some things – they were patient and helpful to us.
In a phone conversation we proposed to the Cleggs that, as they close the mission and specifically the office, that they let us stay here thru July and then use one of the cars to help us move to Barcelona and it was favorably received. But that was before Pte Clegg spent Friday & Saturday in Germany with the Area Presidency and other mission presidents to try to define a plan to get the logistics of the mission changes worked out. We haven’t had a chance to talk with him so it’ll be at least Tuesday before we can talk with him about it.
Flo spent some time this week working on the blog – she ran into some problem that left us unknowing as to whether or not the changes actually are there or not. If they’re not there or someone can’t fix the problems for her I guess she’ll have to redo the additions – I’m worthless at trying to help her. We still have periods of slack time but, for the most part, we have plenty to do and hope what we do helps others. It appears, by the number of investigators with baptism dates, that the missionaries still are working hard and being effective. I think it’ll take a little while to know whether the impending changes affect the dedication that the missionaries have had.
That’s all I think of to report this week. It’s apparent to me that Haiti and the Haiti rescuers need the gospel – just like the rest of the world. We love you all very much, appreciate your love & support for us and pray for God’s choicest blessings to always be with you. Love, E&H Belnap

February 7, 2010 - Update from Delwyn

Hello again to our dearly beloved family. We’ve had a couple of Skype calls this week – 1 with Danette and 1 with Heidi. From those calls we think we can conclude that things are going pretty well in their families and hope the same is true of all the rest of you. This week we want to pass along birthday wishes to Alisa and Angela – ¡feliz cumpleaños! And we got a letter from Blair telling us Kason has remembered he has family so we’re much relieved at that news.
The announcement that I alluded to last week and about which we’re now free to communicate is that they’re closing our mission. The Spain Bilbao Mission will be merged into the Barcelona & Madrid missions effective July 1st. Our president, Pte Clegg, will become president of the Spain Málaga Mission (Pte Miller returns home after his 3-year term). The boundaries of the three remaining missions will be altered significantly with things like the Canary Islands moving to the Madrid mission, some of the Barcelona mission moving to Málaga and our mission being split with the Vitoria Stake going to Barcelona and our two districts going to Madrid. Of course the first question that popped up for us was ‘where do we go’. There was discussion about going with the Cleggs to Málaga, possibly going to Madrid to work in the temple or whether or not there’s need in either of the other missions. On Friday, Elder Joseph Wirthlin (son of the late Joseph B.), who’s currently serving as Director of Facilities in Europe, came to the office with the Cleggs to try to evaluate what it’ll take to close the office. He didn’t have many answers to specifics but suggested maybe they’d move us to Germany to serve in the distribution center in Frankfurt. Friday night and early Saturday, Elder Caussé (counselor in the Area Presidency) came to town to meet with Pte Clegg and went thru a long list of questions that he’d been asked to address. His decision relative to us is, unless going to Barcelona presents a financial hardship for us (we’re told it’s significantly more expensive), that’s where we should go. Pte Clark Hinckley (Barcelona) has told Pte Clegg that he’d be happy to put us to work in the office there so it appears there’s something to do. We’ve spent a little time thinking about the issue and, based on what we now know, think we can afford the difference and would enjoy the experience there. Pte Clegg has mentioned a couple of times that they might need us to stay here for a while after the mission termination to help with the closing so we’re thinking we’ll propose that we stay thru July. That will allow us to complete the terms of our piso lease (we sure don’t want to forfeit a $1200 security deposit) then move to Barcelona for our final 6 months. If they’d let us use one of the mission cars for the move, it’d make things simpler for us empty our piso and would be a way to get one of the cars to that mission. Of course, most of this is our speculation so we’ll have to see what develops as time passes and plans become more solid.
We were at our zone conference 10 days ago when Pte Clegg got the phone call telling him of the plans to close our mission and move him to Málaga. He told the office staff the next day and asked that no one talk about the announcement until he’d had the opportunity to meet face to face with all our missionaries to tell them. A day later he got an email from a young man in the US with a call to the Bilbao mission asking what it meant to him to have our mission being dissolved. Someone did some investigative work and discovered that a Málaga missionary, on receiving the announcement, had immediately sent email to family to tell them, who in turn had told a friend, who told a friend who is president of the called missionary’s stake. The president told the young elder who wrote to Pte Clegg even before the Pte could tell all the missionaries who are here. We can’t get much home teaching done in the church but we sure can spread faith promoting rumors! We were told the church will officially announce the changes – similar things are happening in Germany and Italy and maybe other countries here – on the 13th. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s anything new in the announcement. Pte Clegg has meetings in Germany in the upcoming week so if anything new develops, we’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, there still are pisos to clean in our mission. Elder Hansen came with me to Sestau to finish some repair work we wanted to make before vacating that piso and that afternoon the landlady came to the office happy about the condition of the piso and to return the security deposit. We cleaned two more in Vitoria last Tuesday and spent 2-3 hours in each working mainly in the kitchen and making repairs to door hinges. We have a chronic problem with doors falling off cupboards and closets – the screws work loose, no one is paying attention to it and soon the door falls off stripping screw holes. And most of the screws we see in these problem areas are slot-head screws so it’s difficult to work with them and get them tightened down like they should be. We go to Logroño Monday morning to clean two pisos there – it’s about 4 hours of driving and 2-4 hours in each piso so it’s going to be a long day for us. Then we begin visits to the pisos in the western part of our mission – most of those we’ll do a couple of pisos, stay overnight and do a couple more the following day before returning home. I’m easily able to contain my enthusiasm for this project, especially given the inputs we’ve had in the planning. We’ve really enjoyed meeting and working with the missionaries to improve their living conditions – they’ve all been very willing to help but haven’t thought about what it takes to get things really clean. And when we’ve finished, they’re very grateful for what’s been accomplished. If, on any given Monday morning, you don’t have our letter in your inbox, rest assured that it probably has been written but we might not have internet access to send it.
The weather has changed quite a bit for the better (except there was heavy frost the morning we had to be in Vitoria) and we’ve been able to do a little walking again. We’re still having quite a bit of rain but not as much wind, skies are sometimes blue and the temperatures get up to 50-60 degrees. We walked Friday evening and, as we came by the fruit/vegetable shop 3 doors from us, Marcelo waved us into his place, gave Flo half a melon he had and told us he’s closing down – Monday will be his last day. He told us his heart had been racing leaving him light headed and unable to function very well. He’s been very kind to us, has tried to help us with our Spanish and has learned a few English words in the months we’ve been here – we’ll miss having him so close-by.
Thursday, Flo had her first evening with the Young Women in our branch – she said it went pretty well. She baked a batch of brownies before going then made a batch with them for the activity. Apparently the Young Men came by to help as much as they could so it was a fun evening for them. One unusual thing about their mutual is that it doesn’t start until 8:30pm – we’re not sure whether that’s related to tradition or if leaders or YW aren’t able, because of work, to be there any sooner. I’ve needed/wanted some screws & washers for the piso repairs so Saturday, after my cleaning, I walked around looking for a hardware store. I’d been to one right after we got here but didn’t find it so I asked a man on the street and think he told me there wasn’t one that was open. I saw a parking cop so I asked him, he gave me a set of directions and I left trying to go where I thought he’d sent me. After going up and down the streets in the area he’d pointed to, I ran into him again and he led me nearly to the store before returning to his work. Turns out the store is on the same street in the same block as the office (it’s not the one I’d been to before) but I didn’t realize what they had (some of these stores are a little deceiving) – I was able to get most of the things I needed.
This morning (Sunday) we got up at 6:00, got ready for church and met most of our branch near the chapel to take a bus to the stake center in Vitoria. The announcement was ‘be here at 8:00; the bus will leave at 8:05’ but the bus didn’t leave till 8:35 and some had to run to catch it even then. But we arrived in Vitoria in plenty of time, had an opening conducted by a counselor in the Stake Presidency who announced the changes coming to our mission and the conference was a broadcast from SLC. The conference featured Elder Russell M Nelson who was preceded by three other speakers and, for some unknown reason, we couldn’t get the Spanish audio to work. Thru the first talk there was much noise and activity trying to solve the problem but that didn’t happen so one of the Assistants translated the second talk and the other translated the third. We were just fine with the broadcast but did feel a bit bad for the members who’d come but couldn’t understand what was being said. When Elder Nelson began, suddenly we had the Spanish translation and everyone settled in and heard his talk. We were told after the meeting that they had a room set up with the broadcast only in English but I wanted to hear the Spanish and think I understood most of what Elder Nelson taught. Maybe just maybe we’re going to get this language after all – at least enough to understand and give more meaning to our hand signals.
That’s all I can think of to tell you for this week. Where possible, always move into the lane farthest away when passing emergency vehicles. We love you all very much, appreciate your love and support for us and pray for God’s choicest blessings to always be with you. Love, E&H Belnap

Logrono Trip - 2-12-10

Here is a beautiful farm house on a hill. Very typical to the homes here in Spain. There isn't much flat land for them to build their homes. But I think it is so very pretty.
Dad took these pictures, and I'm not sure if this is another view of the top picture or just another farm house. Still very picturesque.
Here is a mountain that is all rock. We are not sure if this is a stone crusher or just what it is. But it is amazing the mountains of just rock.
Here is a picture of us after we had cleaned 2 piso. Not really pretty. First the Elder with the hamburger in his mouth is Elder Harris. He will be going home in March. A really good Elder. Next to him going left is Hermana Huntsman. She has been out only a few months and is really becoming a great teacher. Her Spanish is really doing well. Next to her is, Hermana Rudder. Note the Idaho State sweat shirt. Her brother plays football for Idaho. She is from Nampa, ID. Then our great Elder Anderson, one of our secretaries for a couple more weeks. He is looking forward in getting out in the field. Any thing to get away from cleaning these pisos. Dad is cleaning his mouth. and then Elder Crocker. He too, has only been out about 7 months. Doing really a great job. Wish my Spanish was as good as his. He came here just 2 days before we did.

I have found someone else who can tough their nose with their tongue. Hermana Rudder. We sure don't look very cute, but we were having a lot of fun being crazy. Fun trip to Logrono.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Trip to Vitoria and Zone Conference

This is our trip to Victoria. I am spelling it right. It was hard for me to type it at first and leave the r out. We wanted you to see that we also have snow. It was pretty cold that day.
Here is a hill in the back ground covered a little more with snow. Sorry there are so many pictures out of the car window, but that is because we seem to be in a hurry all the times.
Here we are in Vitoria cleaning the pisos. This is Hermana Sieverts, and Hermana Bell. We just got through cleaning their piso. They had done a good job, but we worked on some places and cleaned their oven. Dad did quite a few fixing job too. This morning they called and wondered why their oven didn't work! I don't know what happened. I felt so bad. Hermana Sieverts is in Tauna Childers Ward. They had to call their owner on the oven. We went through everything we knew and it still didn't work.
We are trying to get a picture of a cathedral in Vitoria. We couldn't get it all in one shot. We looked pretty bad after cleaning. But their piso is clean.
Here is a better shot of the top. They are all pretty amazing building. One good thing about them, they have parking garages under them. That gives us a place to park. You wouldn't believe the parking here, there is none.

Here we are in Zone Conference. I wanted a picture of my girls. They are Hermana Sandoval, from Spain, Me, Hermana Fitches, Hermana Johns, Hermana Stosich, Hermana Miskin and Hermana Clegg. Hermana Fitches and Johns are in our Bilbao Ward. They are so sweet to me. I love them. Hermana Sandoval is also there. I wish I could speak to her and really get to know her better. She is new in the mission and they are all doing such a great job. They just had a baptism a couple weeks ago.
This is Hermana Johns, She calls me her mission mom. I love her. She is from Blackfoot. Maybe that is why we hit it off. She is pretty tall. Makes me look even shorter. How do you like my hair. Pretty short. No perm in it either. But now that it has been a couple of weeks, it doesn't look so bad. Maybe I am just getting use to it.
We had Chicken burros. The Elders make really big one and were really going at it. They were good. I had a salad. I'm really having a hard time with the weight here since it is so cold and we can't do our walks in the rain. Oh well, Hope I do better when it is a little warmer. For dessert we had brownies and coconut blondies. Boy were the coconut Blondies a hit.

Here are my sweet Hermanas again. They are so dare cute and nice. I love them so much. They are a bit neater than the Elders when it comes to eating. The Elders love to act for us, too.
I got this picture backwards. It should have been at the top. But they are digging in here. Everyone is really hungry by the time lunch is served. We eat at 2:00 here. That is why I don't eat any supper. Elder Anderson is looking at us. He is one of our Secretaries and will be leaving us next transfer. He does a really good job in the office. We will miss him. You can't see their faces very well. In the very back, the tall one in the gray suit is Elder Corbridge from Malad, Idaho. He is extending a transfer so he can help teach new missionaries. Most of our leaders are going home in June and July so we have two Traveling Teachers, Elder Moore and Elder Corbridge, to go around to each set of missionaries and help them with some of their skills.
We are on our way to the Bilbao Hermana piso to help clean. After we got off the Metro, we had to walk through this really pretty and neat park. Usually, it is full of people walking around. To cold for the natives also. You can see Elder C. Hansen and dad walking up front. Dad is pushing his cart full of supplies.
The Hermanas Piso is the tall brown building in the middle. You can see the big tower in front of it. It is a really old piso. We are trying to get them into something newer and nicer. It is so old and the Owners don't seem to want to keep it up while people are living in it. They just want the rent. Most of the buildings have hard wood all around. Even the doors, floor boards, furniture, most everything. They don't refinish them, and after many, many years of people living in them, they get run down pretty bad. The sinks are loose from the walls, the floors are so rough that I wouldn't walk on them bare footed for fear I'd get a sliver in my foot. They all need painted really, really bad. I can't explain how run down they are. And Missionaries don't do all they need to do to keep them up. That is why we are going into the piso, to teach them how to clean them. The Hermanas do a pretty good job. The Elders also, for what they have to work with. Like one Elder said. We know how to clean, we just don't take the time. They want to play on P day. I told them now that they need to take just a couple of hours a week and it would stay nice.

This is one of dads war wounds. He hit his finger with the hammer. When he is fixing things in the piso, he doesn't get a straight shot at anything he is working on. He missed the nail. That was really sore for quite a while. After a few days, he soaked it and was able to get most of the blood out so the pressure is gone, but still pretty sore. He will lose the finger nail though.

Monday, February 1, 2010

January 31, 2010 - Update from Delwyn

It’s Sunday afternoon in Spain and time again to report the activities of our week. And just to whet the appetite a little for next week, we were given some important and exciting news this week with an accompanying directive that we’re not to discuss it with anyone until next week - that’ll give me at least one thing to write about. The weather here has been very wet this last week – we walked to the office and the chapel this morning in the rain but it hasn’t rained very much since we came home after church. But most of the days this last week have seen a lot of rain – it normally doesn’t come down in sheets but sometimes it rains for hours at a time and, when the wind blows, it’s cold and very uncomfortable. I’m liking Arizona weather better and better all the time.
After getting past some internet problems and working in the office for an hour we went to Bilbao to clean another pair of pisos on Monday – one for Elders and one for Hermanas. Neither of them was filthy but neither was they clean. We spent a couple of hours with the Elders first – Flo with a crew in the kitchen and me in the rest of the piso doing cleaning and fixing. One of the Elders was living in the Sestau piso when we cleaned it prior to vacating it so he already had a good idea of what to look for and he was one of the best workers in a bathroom. He’d removed a glass shelf from mounting brackets to clean it, had dropped it and it shattered on the floor – we’re still working on a temporary fix so they have a shelf until they find a glass shop where they can get a replacement. We moved from there to the Hermanas’ piso and they’d been working pretty hard at getting it cleaned up. But the place is so old and has been so neglected by the landlord that, the next day, I recommended to Pte Clegg that they find a new place to live. His response was to get it done. The neighbor below them (they’re on the third floor of about 12) has complained of water coming from above so they thought they had a leak somewhere. But one of the problems they pointed out to me is a ‘crack’ in the living room wall (opposite the kitchen). When I looked at it, it’s apparent that it’s because of water damage coming from somewhere above their sink level – I’m pretty sure it’s from a piso above them and how many floors, I don’t know. They’ve complained since we got here of a cockroach problem (I’ve mentioned that before) so we’d made plans and brought supplies to address what they considered the primary source of the traffic – a hole thru the wall under the kitchen sink. I cut a rough form to fit on the inside and around pipes, Elder Holmes held it in place and I squirted expanding insulation into the hole from the outside. At first it didn’t want to stay against the form but finally did build up to fill the cavity. We left it to dry as we went outside and got a couple of pizzas and other supplies we’d found we needed and, when we came back, I could see why the instructions said it’d expand to about 3 times the original size. The little door I’d worked thru was partially blocked and I couldn’t even see the wall let alone the hole I was trying to fill. If a cockroach can get thru that, he’s going to need attributes of a burrowing rodent! We tried to treat the sink drain for better drainage, repair a faucet stem so they’d have hot water in one of the bathrooms and could only suggest they try to scrape off the peeling paint from a bathroom ceiling. I checked carefully for any wet spots under the sink – it’s dry there even though the faucet just sits loosely on the back of the sink – there are only parts of a mounting ring left on the underside of the faucet. We got back into the office Monday evening shortly before 5:00 and worked till 8:00 trying to get our usual Monday work done and also get ready for our zone conference on Wednesday then came home and Flo made desserts for our zone conference – it was a long day for us.
Tuesday afternoon I began charging the batteries for the microphone and headsets of our translation system and they took it to our zone conference in Bilbao the next day. When we arrived, the first thing they said was that the system wasn’t working. I did some checking and, the sets we checked work okay if they’re only 3-5 feet from the translator but, beyond that, they get nothing. So they ended up grouping the Spanish-only speakers on the back row and one of the Assistants translated for them the few parts that were done in English. It was a good conference and all seemed to come away more excited about missionary work – especially the challenging task of contacting new people. When we got home, Flo baked again this time doing the desserts (brownies & coconut blondies) for the next two zone conferences.
Thursday morning we got a report from Elder Holmes (financial secretary trainee) whose father had undergone kidney transplant surgery the day before – things went very well and, barring rejection, his Dad expects to be released to return home on the weekend. And it was Thursday that Pte Clegg made his announcement that had us all talking but only among ourselves. The leadership left with a large load of supplies for the two zones in the western part of our mission and when we got home, Flo got to bake brownies. This time it was for the branch where she’s been asked to provide the treats for the next ‘n’ months for our monthly ‘night of the branch’ – the last Friday night of the month.
My electric shaver ate a hole in the screen early this week and I did some pricing of some here – they’re very expensive and appear to work only on 220V so I’m thinking I’ll try to get parts sent and use the old one. The Cleggs brought a couple of vacuum cleaners to the office that have been in the mission home but don’t work ‘they run but there’s no suction’. One appears to be quite new and I looked at it for a little bit and didn’t see the problem but Flo suggested we check the hose for blockage. That was the problem so we worked to clean it out and have at least one vacuum cleaner we can give to some missionaries with carpet on the floors (not many pisos do – they have hardwood floors and throw rugs). The other one reminded us of a couple of filthy pisos we’ve seen so we worked to clean it up and, after we’d cleaned some filters and thrown away the bag, it works pretty well. In the process we created a cloud of dust a couple of times that we hope doesn’t give us cancer right away. I’m certainly not going to be accused of being a visionary because I had no clue we’d be doing some of the things we are. I hope someone’s keeping track for us because, when it comes to books & judgment, I’ll probably need some extra credit.
Our Saturday was like a lot of others – we cleaned the piso, Flo baked for a zone conference next week, we did some shopping and some laundry and tried to stay dry. I’d bought an electric tooth brush that lasted less than two weeks so I returned it to Makro but was told I’d have to take it to a place in Bilbao that handles their returns of electrical stuff. If I’d had a little more Spanish ability I might have tried to argue the point but I’ll probably enlist some help and see if I can get a resolution of the issue. We went to Bilbao Saturday evening for a baptism service for a boy in our branch – parents aren’t members but a couple of older sisters are and he was excited to be baptized. After the service, Soiarxe (counselor in the branch presidency) asked us if we’d like a ride home and told us he’d take us by his shoe shop and give Flo a pair of shoes if she found some she liked. We went; he has a small shop in a suburb between Bilbao & Las Arenas but didn’t have shoes that Flo liked in her size 38. He promised that he’d remember and, when they make their next buy (they apparently travel to southern Spain to buy their supply of shoes), he’ll have her back again. They brought us home – it was a fun evening for us because we could try our Spanish while they tried their English. Soiarxe and his girlfriend (also a branch member) have offered to meet with us to help us with Spanish and we plan to do that – we just haven’t been able to find a time to do it.
In Sacrament meeting today, Flo was sustained as a counselor in the YW Presidency and I got to pass the sacrament for the first time. The ‘speak & understand Spanish’ learning curve doesn’t seem to have changed but we’re still making progress. We read D&C 63 last night and the language is becoming more familiar to us. Flo’s still 80 pages ahead of me in our BM reading project and we’re both ahead of the 6 pages/day schedule suggested to us by Pte Clegg when he gave us the assignment – we clearly read faster in English than in Spanish.
We love each of you and appreciate very much your support for us. And we cling to the hope that, even if you don’t write to us, you still love us. Stay faithful – it is God’s work. We pray for His choicest blessings to always be with you. Love, E&H Belnap

January 24, 2010 - Update from Delwyn

Hello again to our dear loved ones. Another week has slipped by and I’ll try to report how we spent it.
On the near-consuming piso project – we went Monday across the river to Sestau to work with the Elders there to get that piso ready to vacate. It’s 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, large living room and 2-3 times larger kitchen than ours is and probably costs less to rent but it’s a lot farther from the office and we’re in a lease or I’d consider moving. They’d worked very hard trying to get it cleaned but trying to determine what to keep, what to discard and what had to be moved wasn’t easy. We repaired beds, drawers, door hinging, moved a lot of furniture (makes me wonder why missionaries have to move so much stuff) and cleaned a lot of floors, walls, mop boards and kitchen cupboards. It was nearly 2:00 when we finished the work (about 4.5 hours of cleaning & fixing), the Secretaries dropped us off at our piso and left to get themselves ready to go to the office. I showered & dressed while Flo worked on dinner - we had roast pork, potatoes & gravy, corn and fruit salad, did the dishes and went to the office for the rest of the day (that’s when we finally got the letters sent). The wireless internet system in the office has been down all week so anyone needing to have internet access had to use one of the two Ethernet lines that bypass the firewall that protects the church computers from outside access or contamination making competition pretty keen sometimes. I was just relinquishing my claim to one of the lines when Heidi called on Skype and we talked only long enough to set up a call for later in the day. I tried to get thru my Monday work and then we called her about 6:00. Many of you know the great news she had to share – they’re expecting a baby next August – and by now, a good part of Spain knows as well.
Tuesday started the missionary transfer movement – Elder Strickland, who arrived in the mission office the day before we did last August, left for León and the office was buzzing all that day and the next with calls about tickets and a few problems encountered during travels. On Wednesday, we got up at 6:00, got ready and left just after 7:00 for Pamplona. We drove in the dark thru heavy rain for much of the way and, although it was fully light when we arrived, we hadn’t been able to see much of the scenery that we’d hoped to see going thru the mountain range. The new GPS worked well but the Elder had entered the street name wrong and we ended up at an address different than the piso. Via the telephone, we got that fixed and made it to the piso with our tools and cleaning stuff. The piso is next to a plaza that someone said is the place they hold the bulls during the ‘running of the bulls’ in the summertime. The Elders there had done an excellent job of cleaning their piso. There were a number of things that required some repair work – a broken table leg, broken slats in a bed frame (requires replacement) and a baseboard pulling off. While trying to nail the baseboard back in place I nailed my middle finger with the hammer so it’s a mixture of purple & black in color and has been pretty sore but is improving. One of the Elders there had finished his mission time so we took him (and enough luggage to make some airline profitable) to the bus station for the trip to the mission home for his final night in the mission then we drove about two hours to Burgos with an Elders’ piso and a Hermanas’ piso. The transfer included moving the Hermanas out of their piso to other cities, moving the Elders to that piso and vacating the Elders’ piso – the Hermanas had left last night. We found the apartment okay but finding a parking space was another matter. With Elders Hansen & Anderson checking parking garages on foot and the Elders in the piso watching from their 7th story piso, we circled the block several times until we found an open spot and got into it. The parking situation is so bad there, we were told that cars can double park with the first row at & pointed toward the sidewalk and a second row parked behind them parallel to the street. Those parked behind must, by law, leave the car in neutral with no brake set so that, if an inside car wants to get out, he can push the car(s) behind him out of the way and back out – we saw that happening. The elders had done a lot of cleaning – except for the kitchen – in the visible areas. So Flo went to work, with some help, in the kitchen and I worked on the other areas. There were 15-20 spots of sticky-putty on the living room wall, bypass doors off the closets, bed frame damage, un-cleaned stains on the floor and lots of dirty lint wherever I’d move something. The living room sofa & chairs are totally trashed – I do not know how furniture can get to that condition. Each piece had 12-18” of torn/missing fabric along the front that allowed the cushions to pop open (like a popcorn kernel) and someone had put a few strips of duct tape at intervals along the front to keep it from being worse. The elders there said it had been stored in an extra room and they’d just moved it into the living room because that’s where it belonged as we vacate the piso (it ‘belongs’ in a landfill) – that’ll have to be negotiated with the landlord. As we’ve seen before, keeping the Elders on task isn’t simple but we finally had everything but the kitchen as clean and orderly as we could get it so we focused on that. Flo says the accumulation of filth in the kitchen rivaled that of San Se but, after about 4.5 hours of hard work, it was fit for habitation again. We moved to the Hermanas’ piso and were pleasantly surprised to find it very clean – we checked on a couple of reported problems, it’s missing several light bulbs and there are messages on the mirrors for the incoming Elders. The Elders’ move-in made it difficult to move any furniture to see if there’s hidden stuff but we were very happy that we weren’t facing another four hour cleaning task. While we still were cleaning they’d picked up a missionary coming to Burgos, loaded all of Elder Holmes (coming to the office to train as financial secretary) stuff into our van and we finally were ready to leave for home – another trip in the dark but without rain. So our tour of the mission - as this was labeled - has given us neither time nor opportunity to see any of the interesting stuff – we hope it changes for the better.
The rest of our week has been a mixture of routine and other – we’ve been hampered by the lack of internet on our computer systems but have been able to get most of our internet stuff done during the time we had an Ethernet line. Elder Hansen called us Friday night to tell us they’d gotten a new piece of hardware that allowed them to get the system working again so we think next week will be better. On Tuesday we put a load of laundry in the washer, started it and left for the office. When we got home it was not running but it hadn’t washed the clothes and Flo couldn’t get it to start. Since we were gone Wednesday, we couldn’t get a repairman to look at it and, when we got home Wednesday night, I played a little with the button and it finished washing our batch of clothes. The Elders had called our landlord about the problem and Thursday, while we were home for mediodía, we got a call saying the repairman would be by in 15 minutes. He came, we tried to give him a sense of our experience thru the problem, he worked on it and explained (I’m pretty sure that’s what he was doing) what had failed and that we should call again if we had any more problem with it. It was working then and it worked okay on Saturday when we washed a load of clothes so we’re hoping it’s fixed – when you wash 2-3 times a week there’s a dependency on the equipment.
When the repairman left I went back to the office to work but Flo stayed home to make cinnamon rolls and potato salad for the mission council meetings tomorrow – she worked till about 11:00 on that. And because of those meetings, we were the only ones in the office Friday until about 4:30 when the meetings finished – then there was a lot of activity. After we’d cleaned our piso Saturday we drove to the nearby mall to do some shopping – mostly for things we’ve found we need to clean and repair pisos. I’m getting a little smarter about looking up the Spanish words for things I need but usually forget something and then it’s an adventure trying to communicate what I want and what a sales person responds with.
Our weather has been several degrees warmer this week but we’ve still had a lot of rain – I don’t think we got to walk a single night. Our reading of the D&C is progressing pretty well – we’re in the low 50’s – and we’re doing okay with our assignment to read the BM – I’m a little ahead of schedule and Flo is nearly 100 pages ahead of me. Between the time we spend reading scriptures and our Spanish study time, it puts a strain on old brains - there are times when we’re more mentally than physically tired.
In Sacrament meeting today, they asked me to offer the opening prayer (hey, I still need prep time; but I gave them something) and, as they began presenting people to be sustained, we expected Flo’s name to be presented per the call she’d received last week to serve as a counselor in the YW Presidency – it didn’t happen. So after the meeting we asked the branch president and he explained that the person being released had not come today so they didn’t make the change – probably next week. I scheduled times with missionaries in Bilbao to go thru a couple of pisos tomorrow and we had a fairly typical Sunday – I love our Sundays.
Guess that’s enough narrative for one week. Please keep the country free while we’re gone. We love you all very much, appreciate your love and support for us and pray for God’s choicest blessings to always be with you. Love, E&H Belnap

January 17, 2010 - Update from Delwyn

It’s been another fast week for us here – it’s warmed up a little and we’ve had a couple of days with very little rain during the day so we even got to take a walk one evening. I did a little searching with Google Earth to find our elevation – on the street at our piso it says we’re 7-meters, at the office we’re 15-meters and out at the mission home where we experienced the snow first hand, it’s 102-meters. With all that climbing necessary to get from our piso to the office twice a day, it’s no wonder we’re tired at night, huh?
The project to clean and repair stuff in the pisos of the mission appears to be taking on a life of its own. Hna Clegg has planned the secretaries into the crews and they’re all excited because they’ll get to visit (and maybe stay overnight in) cities where they’ve served as missionaries. We’ve had three secretaries (one in training) for the last six weeks and will have three for the next six weeks so, if we get into serious cleaning situations, we’ll have a little more manpower. On Wednesday Pte & Hna Clegg took Flo & me to a Chinese buffet for mediodía to discuss a proposed schedule (he describes it as an opportunity to tour the mission; when I tour I don’t want it to be in the dead of winter), the new travel secretary got involved that afternoon and proposed some major schedule changes and soon was calling missionaries telling them to have their pisos clean when we come (i.e. pass the Hna Belnap ‘white glove’ test) or they’d be sent home (hopefully that was just in fun). We went Tuesday to the piso here in Las Arenas that houses the Assistants and secretaries as our first inhabited piso. The visit had been planned so they’d spent a good amount of time the preceding Saturday trying to get their place ready for our visit and they’d done a pretty good job. Flo managed a small crew in the kitchen – the big job was cleaning the refrigerator - and got that looking good. I went thru the rest of the piso with Elders and we cleaned floors (that’s entire floors, not just the middle), walls, listed burned out lights, a toilet seat that must be replaced and some things in the bathrooms that have to be cleaned. The 7 of us worked pretty hard for a couple of hours and all agreed that it’s a much nicer place to live than it was. Next week we’ve got another piso close to us but across the river then a trip to cover three more – in Pamplona (bulls aren’t running now) and Burgos (we’re vacating a piso there) – and will tell you how that goes.
It’s transfer time again in our mission so this was the most exciting week for the missionaries – they got the telephone calls Thursday telling them where they’ll be and who new companions are. We have two missionaries going home and two of our best elders (one of whom extended his mission by 6-weeks to fill the assignment) are being given a special assignment to be ‘traveling trainers’. They’ll spend 2-3 days at a time in each city working with the missionaries to try to help them be more effective in their work – I guess it’s a bit like the zone leaders we had in my German mission who had a car and purported to work with the elders throughout the zone. Anyway it’ll be a busy week next week for some who have to get ready to move to a new city but have to thoroughly clean a piso before they go.
And it was another week of working issues with our translation system. After a couple of phone conversations with the church purchasing agent in Madrid, she found a source for the batteries we need and asked us to determine if there are problems other than the batteries, identify those headsets and she’ll take them for repair in the next few weeks. So I went thru each of the 20 headsets, cleaned the batteries where needed (several of them were badly corroded) and cleaned the terminals for the charger positions and finally got all but one (no battery in that one) to show light as if the battery were charging. I left it plugged in (per instructions) for the weekend to see if we can get a good charge on the batteries, determine which sets are functional with good batteries and proceed from there. If I get some of that stuff to work I may count it as a ‘confirmation’ if not a baptism.
We got the final car in our 5-car fleet cycled thru the dealer service shop for an annual maintenance inspection and service. Only Pte Clegg’s van gets enough miles on it each year to meet the mileage requirement for 15K-KM service intervals – the others we take for service as per the church policy for vehicle maintenance. And I assume it’s symptomatic of new bishops in our stake coming up to speed that they’ve sent, via the missionaries, requests for lists of the convert baptisms in their wards during the last year+. It hasn’t been too bad but I’ve had to go back thru records that I didn’t keep and find the names of those in a given area. I’m hoping it serves a good purpose and we can keep new converts progressing or re-activate them if they’d dropped off the radar screen.
Saturday we went out to the mission home for a farewell breakfast for Elder Strickland (Kearns Elder that Carla knows), had a nice meal around French toast, did some clean up and I went thru the offering of tools in their garage and a closet looking for help with repairs – it’s pretty grim. We then did a major shopping stop at Makro (mostly food) and to Carrefour where we got a new GPS system that we hope will guide us from home to pisos and back. We got our piso cleaned for the week, Flo baked a batch of bread and we studied and rested during what little time was left in the day. After our meeting block, our former branch president asked me if we’d like to come home with them for dinner today. Flo was with a branch counselor receiving a call to serve as 2nd counselor in the YW presidency so, when she came out, we had a very short discussion and accepted the invitation. It’s the same family that had invited us 2-3 months ago for paella so I was a little apprehensive that we might see more of those bug-eyed critters from the ocean. We rode the Metro to their stop, went to their 6th floor piso (the elevator installation has been completed so we didn’t have to walk this time), had vegetable soup, meatballs in a sauce that I liked very much and fresh fruit for course #3 – it was excellent. Since they speak virtually no English and the gift of tongues was not present, we spent most of the time trying to determine what the others were saying. When they spoke slowly (Hno Hidalgo has almost no teeth so he’s especially hard for us to understand) we got the gist of what they were saying (there were still some words that we don’t know and we’d get lost) and, with their help in guessing what we wanted to say, there were a lot of questions and answers – it was a delightful time for us. We came home to write letters and study then made some preparations for the cleaning trip tomorrow morning – we expect a busy week ahead.
We love each of you and truly want you to know how we appreciate your love and support. This work called life is not always easy but hopefully each of us gets enough of it done to qualify ourselves to return to our Father in Heaven. We pray for the Lord’s choicest blessings always to be with you.
Love, E&H Belnap