Dear family & friends,
Well, it’s time again to extend greetings from Barcelona and share a few of our experiences from here. First, a little family news - we had a note on Monday, Aug 30th, from Sam & Heidi telling us their baby (their third) had come and gave us measurements but didn’t tell us when she was born. That evening I opened Skype on my computer and it didn’t show that Sam & Heidi were online but, a few minutes after that, we got a call from Heidi on Sam’s phone. They were still in the hospital but were getting ready to check out and could only talk for a few minutes because of activity with the hospital staff. Their baby, Audrey Teal, was born about 8:30 AM on Sunday morning (Aug 29), weighed 7lbs13oz, is 20.25” long (as opposed to tall) and both baby & mother are doing well. On Monday we did another Skype call with them on the computers and both are looking great. The baby has quite a bit of dark hair and, would you believe it, blue eyes! Of course we’ll be glad when we have the opportunity to be with and hold the baby in a few months.
At our final visit with Flo’s doctor, we saw him for a couple of minutes and he pronounced her fit with no need to return unless she develops complications – just continue to do stretching exercises to restore range of motion and strength. When we went to pay (the usual 70€), the system wouldn’t take my credit card (that’s another thing we’ve gotten a little paranoid about) so she pulled out her debit card and the system wouldn’t take that either. Because I’d pulled money that morning for a rent installment I had enough cash so I paid with that but we were left wondering what was wrong with our cards. I filled prescriptions that evening and my card was okay and the next time I got on the internet I discovered one of the attempts to bill my card had been successful meaning we’d paid him twice. So during the next two weeks, we went three times to the office to try to get it corrected but they were closed each time. On my fourth visit I got in, explained the double-payment problem with my few words and phrases and they understood enough to bring me 70€ - I felt like I’d conquered a mountain even though the hardest part had been trying to catch them in the office.
We took one of our cars to a dealership for recall work – they said it might be ready that afternoon but five days later they told us it was ready for pick up. We needed the car and I was available so I carefully checked the Metro route I’d need to get there, made the right decisions and went to the service desk. While waiting my turn I realized I wasn’t sure how to drive back to the office so I tried to ask a couple of guys how to get to a main street I know but they apparently didn’t understand the question or didn’t know themselves. After half an hour they delivered the car to me and I started for the office. I was doing okay until I ran into a one-way street I was familiar with but couldn’t use because it’s one-way, the wrong way and from there, it seemed like every turn I made was into territory I’d never seen before. It’d be nice to say I was enjoying new scenery but I was so lost I couldn’t even tell where I was to call for help let alone enjoy the situation. I finally hit a major street I’d seen on maps, found a place to pull off on a side street and called Elder Lund for help. After his explanation I was able to make my way to the office – took me about 45 minutes for the 20 minute drive.
To help with the parking dilemma here, the entire city is parceled into zones that allow permitted cars to park on the streets if we pay 1€/week for a ticket that goes in the windshield. One day Elder Lund and I went downtown with what we thought were the papers we’d need to get a parking permit for the van we’d brought from Bilbao. He’d talked to the elder who’d last done the permit process but I had no clue what we had to do. We rode the Metro downtown, found the street we wanted but couldn’t find the office. Our walk looking for the office took us thru some wet cement (they were sealing some tiles in a walkway), we eventually found the place (office doesn’t face the address street) and waited our turn to present our documents. The agent told us we needed a signed letter from Pte Hinckley authorizing us to apply for the permit so we returned to our office, got the signed letter (we were lucky that Pte Hinckley was there) and went back down. We got a new agent who barely glanced at the letter of authorization, went thru our papers on the van and gave us the stickers we needed for the parking. When we got back to the office I made some notes that we’ll put into a file that we hope will make it easier for us or whoever has to do the process the next time.
Flo and I are back in the piso-cleaning business – we’ve done about half those in the main part of the mission. We made one trip to Zaragoza to clean the two pisos there, got lost trying to get from one piso to our hotel (we were taken unfair advantage of in that case – they’d closed the two streets it sits on for street work) but got the work done and wanted to see the cathedral there. We finally found a parking spot, took pictures of the outside (it’s so tall we’d have had to go across the river to get a picture of all of it) and went thru the inside (no pictures allowed, except to those callused to the request) and were very impressed with the ornate carvings and sculpturing all thru the ‘chapels’. In some places the gold and silver overlays were just incredible – sure wish we could have recorded it with the camera. An interesting point was that the signs called the building a temple and asked that reverence be shown. I don’t know if that’s recent terminology or if it’s been that way for a long time but there were no guides to ask. While we were cleaning a piso in one of the Barcelona suburbs we got a parking ticket that I couldn’t figure out how to pay. The instructions are in both Spanish & Catalan but part of the Spanish was missing and no one in the office knew what to do. Knowing that the speeding tickets we saw in Bilbao were paid at a bank or the post office, I went to a post office and asked about paying, got some instructions that I thought I understood but, when I went to try it, it didn’t work. While I was trying that at a pay station near the office, I asked a parking ticket officer how to take care of it and he told me I‘d have to go back to Cornellá to do it (that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true). I went back four days later to finish some repair work and we went on the street to find out how to pay the parking ticket, found the ticket-writer guy in nearly the exact same spot as we’d been parked and asked him what to do. He told us we should have done it last week but that we needed to put 4.20€ in the pay machine, keep part of the ticket is spits out, put the rest in a small envelope with the citation and deposit the envelope in a slot in the bottom of the machine. We did that and, if it turns out to satisfy the citation, that’s the cheapest way to park we’ve run into – I might try it again.
We went with the other missionary couples here to the Barcelona Aquarium – it’s a very interesting place. There are so many different aquariums and kinds of fish I have no idea of the count but the large, featured aquarium has a moving walkway to keep people from standing in one place for too long. There are several 5’-7’ sharks swimming around with thousands of other fish and the signs say one can make arrangements to swim with the sharks but I didn’t need to check into details on that offer. There are lots of eels, some sea snakes and huge numbers of fish with names I’ve never heard nor read – made me feel pretty uneducated. There was an exhibit of penguins that I’d loved to have watched for a lot longer than we did but we needed to keep moving. We were there for about 3 hours and I’m sure I could have spent twice that long and still not seen and read all there was to see.
A couple of weeks ago we were visited by a couple of General Authorities and their wives (Bishop Edgley & Elder Teixeira). At our staff meeting Monday morning the only topic was a review of our plans and preparations for their arrival and the time they planned to be here. Elder Parry (Pte Hinckley’s secretary) had laid out a 6-page schedule that, in some cases, was a minute-by-minute itinerary for their time in Barcelona. We spent most of Monday preparing the cars and office – Flo spent nearly all day cleaning and bringing better order to the offices and the Elders helped me prepare the cars. We took some thru the car wash but where we took them, they don’t have facilities to clean the inside so we had to do that ourselves. Below our office is an underground parking garage where we keep the President’s Toyota and Hna Hinckley’s Opel and I found an occasional electrical outlet down there. It’s so dark it’s like working in a dungeon but we took down the office vacuum cleaner and an extension cord, vacuumed those cars and one of the Elders brought down the VW Transporter so we could clean it. As he backed it into the area we were working he caught the driver’s side mirror on a column, broke the housing apart and shattered the mirror glass. We got the housing put back together, taped the mirror with packing tape so the glass wouldn’t fall out and finished our cleanup work. The visit was a very short stay – 1 day, 2 nights – but we had a couple of interesting and informative meetings and we enjoyed the short time we had with them.
That’s about all that I have time write and may be more than you have time to read. Thanks to all of you for your friendship, your love and concern in our behalf – we love you and pray for the blessings of our Father in Heaven on all. E&H Belnap
PS. Some have asked that we give our addresses so they’re below. Delivery is probably surer at the mission office – that’s where most of the missionaries have mail sent and, except on holidays, there’s at least one delivery a day into the office.
We live at:
Elder & Hermana Belnap
Travessera de les Corts 260, 6° 2
The mission office:
Spain Barcelon Mission
C/ Calatrava 10-12, bajos