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