Dear family & friends,
And, once again, I didn’t get my letter done by the 20th per my goal – this past month passed by very quickly. Thanks to those of you who sent messages to us – we really enjoy them. Our second month in Barcelona has been full of experiences that will be memorable for us. Flo and I share an office with the printer/copier and use our laptops for our computer work so we have to transport them to and from the office each day – it’s about a 25 minute walk up the hill in the morning and a little less than that at night. We’re into a routine to visit, clean and do repairs to a couple of pisos each week then do our other work on the days we’re around the office. Flo’s broken shoulder bone has healed well – she’s still doing some rehab exercises to increase strength and range of motion but no longer has restrictions and has been released by the doctor. We spend some time each day studying Spanish and think we’re gradually improving but recognize that there’s so much we don’t know that we won’t be described as Spanish speakers anytime soon. It seems like everyone here speaks Spanish but the primary language on virtually all the signs is Catalan and that complicates the learning for us – we’d like for everyone to speak Spanish here. We’ve done more ‘touring’ than I like but have been able to see several of the touristy things here.
There have been a number of questions posed in recent letters – I’ll try to address them. Our mission president is Clark Hinckley – one of Pres. Gordon B Hinckley’s sons. They came to the mission July 1st last year (the same time that Pte Clegg came to Spain) and we’ve found them to be very warm and kind. There’s a marked difference in the way Pte Hinckley does things compared to what we experienced with Pte Clegg but both seem to be very effective leaders. We are the fourth couple currently serving in this mission – the Hadleys (came last September) were called as CES missionaries and serve at the institute for the stake; the Lunds (came last December) are in the office as financial secretary and administrator; the Thompsons (came about the same time as the Lunds) are on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea (we haven’t met them) to help both members and missionaries serving there. Another couple was scheduled to arrive in the mission in mid-June but are having problems getting visas to enter the country and are now scheduled to come about the 1st of December. On shrimp: I don’t like the taste of shrimp – I’ve tried but never been able to enjoy them. Having those eyes looking at me just makes it more disgusting as I try to be polite in settings where they’re served. About our bathroom drain – they’ve worked on it until the drain now works – slowly. We weren’t in our piso when it happened but they’d told us they wanted to dry it out and pour boiling water down it – maybe that worked. The design & function of bathrooms here might explain the frequent sightings of people using the great outdoors to meet basic needs even if it’s a busy street or sidewalk. All bathrooms seem to be designed without thought for usability or convenience.
We’ve made three car trips to the Sabadell area to clean pisos and help the missionaries move into a new one. And each time we’ve been there, we’ve had problems with the GPS providing directions. I don’t know what happened the first time - the GPS seemed to know where it was taking us but we began to doubt that we were taking a sane route and haven’t been convinced otherwise. It eventually led us to the piso but it took 1:15 whereas Google says it’s a 30 minute drive. As we finished our work there it began to rain lightly and we were glad because it helped cool the air but it soon turned into a downpour and we had a problem with one of the wiper blades. I don’t know the history but one blade was missing on the VW van (we’d bought a new one but hadn’t installed it) – it was in the office. By pulling the arm away from the windshield (as if to wash it), that wiper arm just wiggled and we could use the driver-side wiper. That saved us because we have not seen it rain in Spain like it did during our drive back to the office – the freeways had standing water (as in 3”-6” of water) in some places. Traffic crawled along much of the way and we still made it home (totally dependent on the GPS) in less time than it took to drive out there in dry weather. The other couple of trips were problematic in trying to get back to town – work crews closed a portion of the freeway that we needed and we couldn’t get on it. We followed the detour signs for Barcelona but missed one (or something) and got lost – the GPS took us back to the freeway. We finally told it to avoid toll roads and, the first time, that worked pretty well and we got past the freeway closures and back to the office. But the last time, when we couldn’t get on the freeway, we told it no toll roads and tried to follow the detour signs again but soon lost the detour. The GPS took us up the side of a mountain on a road that was very narrow, had been but could no longer be described as paved, and reached a point where it told us “at the end of the road, turn right”. But before we reached what it said was the end of the road, we were in some family’s yard with our only option being to turn around (very little space to do so) and go back down. We found detour signs again and by following those we eventually got close enough to Barcelona that we could re-enter the freeway and get into town. We still had one adventure with the route it directed to get us to the office but we finally ignored it and took a route I knew – we’d spent an hour and a half for a 30 minute trip. At one point on the side of the mountain Flo observed that we were in a very pretty area – I almost wish I knew where we were. I think being lost three times in a week is a new record for me so I’m hoping things get better not worse.
Having been thwarted by a power failure the first time, we went a second time to try to ride the aerial tram from the Mediterranean beach area to the side of Montjuïc. They packed 18 people into a cable car – there are no seats and not all 18 people can stand next to a window to see – and it took about 10 minutes from start to finish. It does afford a good view of the harbor/beach area as well as much of the city of Barcelona but I felt it was over-priced for what it gave us. There are a number of interesting and pretty things to see there on that part of Montjuïc so we walked and looked for a while then found the start of a second aerial tram that took us to the top of the mountain (it’s sort of a green version of Camelback Mountain in size) - that gave us some really good views of the city and the mountain itself. At the top they appear to be restoring the castle/fort that’s been there for a very long time and have flower gardens, lots of trails thru the woods and some nice overlooks in most directions. We then walked down trails to a Funicular (a rail tram that came straight down the mountain to a metro stop for our line; I think it’s called a cog rail) and came home – we were tired but it was an enjoyable day for us. When we got to our building, our key wouldn’t go into the keyhole of the exterior door – it was as if another key was already in the hole. I tried it on the other door and it went in okay but that door, on the weekends, is dead bolted at the bottom and can’t be opened with our key. We started ringing each of the pisos – 2 per floor – and were to the seventh floor before anyone answered our ring. Elder Lund was with us and he explained the situation to the guy and thought he told us he’d come down. When he hadn’t come in 5 minutes I asked a passing lady from the neighboring building if she had any suggestions. She talked to the 7th floor guy, persuaded him to come down and he seemed very surprised that his key wouldn’t go in the lock. But that gave us access to our piso so we went there assuming he’d notify the right people. We hadn’t had any problem for a couple of weeks but this past Saturday when we came home we ran into the same problem. It happened that another resident came to the door but he wouldn’t let us in, closed the door and proceeded to show us that his key wouldn’t go in either - he was totally surprised. He left but, a minute later, my key worked to give us access – go figure; we have no clue what’s happening. We’ve explained the problem to the porter but he doesn’t understand the problem either.
One day the Hinckleys invited us to go downtown with them – we needed some cards for luggage tags Flo is working on and they offered to show us around a little bit. We took the metro, found the store where they’d gotten a first supply and spent some time looking at the things available in the ‘paper goods’ store – paper that I’d never imagined, 500€ pens, etc. I had a conversation with a Japanese lady (appeared to be a supervisor) about the church and our calls as missionaries here and, as we left, she gave us her name & number for contact by the missionaries – that was fun. Hinckleys led us around downtown, told us of some historical events and showed us where they happened (e.g. Columbus reporting to Ferdinand & Isabel with his six Indian guests after he’d discovered America. Pte Hinckley is very well read, seems to remember everything he’s read or been told and was fascinating to be with. After we’d toured for an hour or so we stopped at a restaurant and had lunch followed by ice cream then returned to the office via the metro – it was a delightful, informative three hours for us.
That’s all we have to tell about for this month. Don’t know when it’ll happen there but keep your eye on the blog to see pictures of some of our experiences. We’re reading our scriptures, studying Spanish, trying to stay healthy and are enjoying most of our experiences. We agonize with you over health problems (especially our dear LRP) – some far more serious than we’ve had. We love you all very much, appreciate your love, friendship and support for us and pray for God’s choicest blessings upon you. Love, E&H Belnap