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