Dear family & friends,
This is edition nine of our monthly newsletters – we’re at the halfway point and still having new experiences and learning new things. The language we’d hoped to have good capability in by now is still one of those areas where we’re learning – it’s a struggle for both of us. Thanks to those of you who’ve taken time to write to us during the last month – we appreciate and enjoy them a lot.
Unless we’re assigned a similar duty when we move to Barcelona, we’ve completed the chapter on cleaning pisos thru our mission. And as we neared the finish we got a little better control of our schedule and were able to see some attractions along the routes we were driving and the missionaries were preparing better for our visits so it was more enjoyable. For our final piso-cleaning trip, Elder Hansen was driving us to Avilés and, about two-thirds of the way there, we were stopped at a police road-trap and given a citation for not having a current ITV inspection sticker & stamp for the car. I’d thought that we had all the vehicles current so I had no explanation for why our documentation in the car didn’t reflect that. Some might recall that we took our little car last fall to a station and had the inspection done and in my communication with the vehicle coordinator (Miguel) then, I’d gotten an understanding that everything was current. When we got back to the mission offices I did research thru the notes & records and sent email to Miguel (he was out for a 5-day holiday) and came to the conclusion that the car had never been inspected. The citation gave us 10 days to get it inspected so, per an appointment, we took our piso-tour car to get the ITV inspection done. I wasn’t driving so I’m unwilling to shoulder total responsibility for getting us lost on the way but I was trying to navigate and couldn’t figure out where to tell the Elder to drive. After recognizing that we had to be lost we again called the station, they gave us better instructions this time and we found the shop. This was a different shop than we’d been to before but I expected the same kind of testing. After checking in at the office we got into our assigned line and it didn’t take long to establish that we were in the slowest moving line of three. We spent an hour creeping forward until our turn came and they began the testing. For me there were a couple of noticeable differences in the test – they didn’t shake this car nearly as violently as they’d shaken our car last fall. But they went thru the same checks (even Elder Holmes had to ask a couple of times what the tester was asking for – the daily missionary vocabulary doesn’t include fog lights and ‘punto muerto’) and their final check wasn’t something we’d seen before. We drove over an open pit below the floor, the tester went down a flight of stairs and inspected the car from below. After a couple of minutes he called Elder Holmes down the stairs and showed him a significant bulge on the inside sidewall of a front tire. Because of that, we failed the test and were given a month to correct the problem and return for signoff. We got the front tires replaced, returned to the test station and got our stamps and sticker.
When we’d finished cleaning the pisos in Avilés, Oviedo and Gijón (we worked till 10:30 one night so we’d have some time the next day), we decided to drive to Covadonga and Los Lagos to see the sights. Our GPS took us on the shortest route which turned out to be a very winding road up and down the mountain range between the freeway and the site – we should have chosen the fast route. Covadonga (apparently named after someone who’d had a visitation of Mary) has a cathedral on a hill and a small chapel built into the mouth of a cave with a memorial built outside the chapel. Tourists are not allowed in the chapel but can visit the memorial (access either thru a cave or up a steep stairway) and take pictures from a short distance away. I continue to be amazed by the construction of these elaborate buildings, some in remote areas like that one, that has been done with manual labor and hand tools. The entire area is in a steep mountain valley and is a very popular tourist spot – there’s even bus service to it. We drove from there further up into mountains to see a couple of glacial lakes sitting near the tops of the mountain range. We drove past Lake Ercina and the road ended at a small lake where a trail leading to Lake Enol begins – we walked partway out the trail but it was rainy and we had neither time nor energy to hike to the lake. Flo has put pictures and some info on the blog if you have interest in seeing it (dfbelnap.blogspot.com).
Our daughter had sent some tax documents that I needed to prepare my income tax return (a mere 12 days between postmark and delivery) so one evening I spent about 4 hours working thru our tax returns (used TurboTax Online). There didn’t seem to be any convenient place to stop so I kept plugging along until I was done. One of the most difficult problems I had was trying to fix an obvious error but couldn’t figure out how to get back to the place where I’d misread the question and entered the wrong data – it could be evidence of ‘you get what you pay for’. Our circumstances – old, low-income, missionaries – resulted in a relatively low income tax liability and the bottom line said the Feds owe us some money. And we look so poor on the state return we might be eligible for county or state assistance in Arizona. If I hadn’t just finished paying my property taxes to the county, I might feel a little guilty about doing my share to support government employees
In one of our weekly grocery shopping trips, Flo’s debit card was rejected when she tried to check out at Makro so she had some email exchanges with our credit union and they could find no reason for that. She began wondering if she’d gotten her card mixed up with one she has on my account that had been terminated because of a Visa report that the data might have been compromised. We don’t have records here that would tell us which account any of the cards are assigned to so she made a trial cash withdrawal using what she thought was her card and it gave her the money - she cut up the card that had been rejected. The next day I discovered that the cash withdrawal had come out of my credit union savings account even though her request had been from checking. It took more email exchanges to learn that, in addition to the cards that had been blocked and replaced on my account, they’d also replaced the debit card on Flo’s account. There are one or two questions that we didn’t get answered but we don’t have to go thru the hassle of getting a replacement for the card the landfill now owns.
Via the internet we got to see live all the sessions of General Conference except Priesthood meeting. I went to the office Sunday morning and watched a recorded version of that – it was a great conference. It’s easy for me to see why these men have been called to the assignments that they have – they’re talented teachers.
One afternoon this month when only Flo and I were in the offices, a member called and asked to talk to the missionaries. After his second call I conveyed (we don’t really talk in the usual sense of the word) that we’d ask the missionaries to call as soon as they returned. When they did come back to the office we asked them to call, they did and the member told them that, somewhat circuitously, they been told that ‘two Mormons’ had been hit in the street by a car in San Sebastián and were hospitalized in critical condition. Except for missionaries, who would ever be identified as ‘two Mormons’? We began trying to call the elders there but got no response – no busy signal, no answer, no drop to message mode – so we began to be worried. We called members of the stake presidency for the bishop’s phone number, talked to him, talked to their district leader (who’s in Pamplona) and continued to call the elders’ phone. After an hour or so of frantically trying to get information, the San Se elders called the office – they were okay. They’d been in a visit with the phone turned off and, when they left the visit, had 26 missed calls on their phone – everyone from Pte Clegg to most of the missionaries who’d been told of the situation. The bishop had called the police and been told they had no reports of car-pedestrian accidents that day so we may have been set up by someone.
Pte Clegg had been in and out of the office a lot last week as he prepared to take the written tests for a Spain driving license. He’d signed up in a nearby driving school, had lots of materials to study and they highly recommended to him that he come to take practice tests before taking the test for credit. So he’d been going in nearly every day to take practice tests and says he’s been doing quite well on the practices. One day when he’d gone to take a practice test, we got a call from UPS telling us they had a delivery for him but wanted to confirm that he would pay the duty of 92€ when they delivered the package. Since the package was addressed to him personally, Flo wasn’t willing to commit to the duty payment and we finally got a message to Pte on the issue. At a break, he came into the office, identified the package as 6 short-sleeved white shirts they’d bought on the internet in preparation for their move to Málaga where they apparently have Phoenix-like temperatures in the summertime. Having already paid for the shirts, they were between a rock and a hard place so he made arrangements to pay the duty. I don’t know what the shirts cost but that much duty adds between $20-25 to the cost of each shirt – be careful in Spain what you order off the internet!
Once again, that’s probably enough report for a month. We appreciate your love and friendship, wish each of you the very best and are very happy to hear from any of you. Hope all’s well. Love, E&H Belnap