29 July 2005

Things I like

It's interesting to see my tastes for certain foods develop here. I'm still playing it pretty safe and I know my horizons will expand in future. Several things have already caught my attention.

I like fanta free limon. It's a diet lemon drink that is tart and bubbly. I like it a lot. I get on a lemon kick in the summer usually and this really hits the spot. It's only at the grocery store not in any restaurants - only coke, coke light, sprite. I also have found a slushy ice lemon drink at restaurant type places when you're out walking around. Not all of them have cups to take away. I usually want to walk, so if they don't have cups to take I don't get any. It's one or two Euros for probably an 8 oz cup. But it's a nice treat. I had just discovered Culvers (is that how you spell it?) has a lemon ice drink made with splenda before we left. No such giant size diet options here, but there are lemony drinks.

Cereal with chocolate. This is grown up cereal, not Count Chocula. It's muesli or bran or granola with chocolate flakes in it. The bran looks like mini-wheats only filled with chocolate bits inside. Me gusta mucho. It's nice to feel like I'm eating something decent for me with the chocolate mixed in for yummy flavor. On a side note, I have learned to eat this cereal with the boxed milk. It doesn't require refridgeration until it's opened and will last for months in the cabinet. I have tried several kinds and found a skim one that I like and don't even mind drinking straight. It's not the same as fresh milk but doesn't taste too bad.

Eating and grocery shopping will continue to be an adventure and a word game for me-maybe for a long, long time.

23 July 2005


This is a view from our current apartment. The foreground is our patio area, the swimming pool shared by our four buildings, then a dirt parking lot, you can't see the railroad tracks on the other side of that, and in the distance the Meditteranean sea.

This next picture is of the building where we have language school. We meet in a room on the ground floor that has air conditioning. The second floor is a dormitory/kitchen/living room where teams stay when they come. The third floor is just one room at the top that is currently like a chapel that would seat about 12-15 people.

The last picture for today is of another building on the ministry compound. Basically a big kitchen and garage where they can serve 50 people. The whole compound needs work but they are doing a lot with what they have. There is only one more building, not pictured here and that is where a missionary couple lives, another white & tile building.

The pace of life

Your work day is my evening generally. The work schedule here is interesting - go to work around 9 or 9:30, go home at 2 (no lunch break just a morning break (though I think they snack then). They go home at 2 and back to work around 4:30 OR 5 until between 8-9pm The restaurants don't open for dinner until 8:30 or 9. We hear people in our apartment building obviously eating dinner at 11 when we are getting ready for bed. (clanking plates etc.)

Our day? We get up at 8 am; my body still isn't sure that is isn't 1am. Meet S. who we share a van with to go to school by 9:30. The next two weeks we will be driving another absent missionary's van on our own, yippe, our own wheels.

School is about 15 minutes away down a narrow and getting narrower side road. We pass ruins that look hundreds of years old and olive orchards (are they orchards?) with gorgeous ancient stone walls on the way. Once you get to the neighborhood turn off it is a one lane road lined on one side by a stone wall. If someone else is coming you have to back up to a wide spot. The ministry complex has three buildings and sometimes the gate is still closed when we get there and someone has to get out and push the gate open.

We get out of school at 2pm but seems like there is always something to do and we aren't home exactly then, closer to 3.Our Spanish teacher gets off at 2 but we don't have to go back - we use the afternoon time to do errands once things open up again. Like the other day, we went to the post office at 6:30pm. A strange sensation to be transacting so late. It was quite the challenge. Everyone sort of milled around in the middle and booths all around are glassed in. There were obvious numbers above each booth and we realized we needed a number. I finally got up my courage to ask someone and she took us back outside and pointed to the machine as you come in the door. Hello? Hola?

We have eaten out a couple times at random restaurants, nothing classicly Spanish necessarily. It has been around 9pm but it doesn't seem late probably because it's like everything is just coming alive for the evening. The service is laid back and you have to ask for the bill at the restaurants. I really like not being rushed. We did miss the last bus back home last Sataurday night because we'd gone to watch an evangelistic outreach by the Spanish church here and then stopped for dinner. Since they don't rush and we didn't have a bus schedule, well the evening got away from us. We were standing at the bus stop trying to decide what to do when a middle aged couple from the church happened by...S knew them and they gave us a ride. Happily we didn't have to walk home. A great coincidence...God's provision.

16 July 2005

Fiesta de Mujeres

Last night I felt the culture. I drove a gold Chryseler van down curvy roads to a peach stucco subdivision of duplexes and homes. They all had high walls, the most private duplexes I've ever seen. The yard was closed all the way around the house, and the walls were growing thick with huge leafed ivy. Very intimate and pretty.

Another American lady and I arrived at nine a little early, so we helped set up the table and put olives and potato chips on plastic plates. The ladies from the church started arriving over the course of the next hour with a kiss for each cheek and an "Hola, Que tal?."

They brought tiny little plates of food, occassionally a big salad. These are portions so petite I would be embarrassed to bring that small of offering to a potluck at home. Good to know for future fiestas - don't kill myself making something huge.

Food: a dark colored sausage sliced in pieces on one plate, a couple tortillas (a potato omelette type thing), bread spread with some kind of creamy cheese and jamon (cured ham/prosciotto). Salads with raisins, ham cheese, corn, and lettuce (iceberg). Store bought flat foccacia looking stuff with onions on it, and other bread puffs that looked like pigs in a blanket - turned out to be some kind of tomatoe stuff in there, not bad. An eggplant spread with vinegar, good. Very interesting. We ate around 10 pm and there was no line everyone just crowded around the tables and jostled around til it they had something. Tiny little plastic cups the size of a small sytrofoam cup at home only skinnier. (I'm always thirsty.) No wine in sight only soda and water. A couple ladies went around with dessert. One was a cake in an 9x12 type pan - no icing, cut in little 1.5 inch cubes. It was sweet but mildly so like a muffin, not like a rich American dessert. Another tray had something like pound cake and some chocolates on it. Not very much for so many. Looks like they minor on dessert.

The young girls, teenagers, were there too some ladies brought gradeschool age girls too. Older ladies who had to be careful when they walked came too.I thought it was interesting that a women's ministries type event included all girls. The teenagers were respectful and hung out together at one end; they seemed happy to be there.

Everyone sat in a big circle on the patio. We weren't really ever inside at all. We walked around the side of the house to the back. After eating, we were shushed several times and the pastor's wife gave a talk. Something about the older ladies and mothers being an example and holding up the younger girls. At the end everyone was to pray with their daughter or someone younger (I didn't understand that part). The American lady and I prayed together. We decided a common language was close enough to the instructions. It was 11 when the talk got over and then the coffee came out. It was almost 12:30 when I got in bed. We were one of the earlier departures.

I'm glad I went and I would totally do it again. The ladies were all very forgiving of my really bad attempts in Spanish and one or two were trying to learn English so we exchanged words. I said things like - many years past I study Spanish in university. I am here to learn Spanish with Gabriella (our teacher goes to this church too). So my conversation is a little limited, but I understand some so it was fun.

12 July 2005

Como se dice...?

Language school is intense. One teacher two pupils, Dar & me. Lots of attention to every syllable that comes out of your mouth. We are both finding we remember way more from college than we expected.

The schedule is pretty serious. M & F we are with the teacher the whole six hours, except for our one break. T & Th we do videos and dvds while another pupil has teacher time in the morning. Afternoons back to us and the teacher. She's a fiesty lady about our age or probably younger; she seems fun, laughs easily. Today we learned the questions we want to ask or need to ask in Spanish, so it's to always be in Spanish now. (yes, after 2 days). Como se dice (How do you say...) Que significa... (what does X mean) etc. I can't keep going I already finished my homework and my brain is tired. Wednesday, did I forget to mention Wednesday? First we have culto - that's Spanish for service as in church service. We will be leading that service in Spanish within the month, something terrifying to look forward to. Then socialize in Spanish with the guests who came for culto. Then an hour of all the past and present students asking the teacher questions/clarifying things. Something else social I forget right now, and we end it up with an academic video regarding Spain. We don't just watch these videos. Watch twice, read the transcript, watch again. Take each paragraph and write down each word you don't know, look it up, and memorize it. And watch the video again. Basically.

The pace of getting things done here (other than studying) is so different. By the time we get out of school and do one thing it ends up being early evening. It's just a slower pace (read that long lines). Supposedly some of this gets better when the tourists go home in September. We've been eating dinner at 8 and 9 the last couple of nights. Perhaps we'll get the hang of the schedule and the pace and be able to plan accordingly. The free time of last week is now gone.

10 July 2005

Sunday - Day of Contrasts

It was sunny and nice so we decided to take a walk on the beach. NOW I know why they call this one the naked beach. Oh my, saw more male and female anatomy than I care to convey in print. Up til now there had been the occassional bikini top removed. Today I saw a middle aged couple strolling the waves - starkers, both of them. Yes, thanks for sharing. The good news is this was limited to one short stretch of beach that we passed as nonchalantly as we could and moved on. The other beaches we walked to seemed more family oriented with only the occasional missing top for the ladies and the more frequent naked babies, not so disconcerting to look at.

I spent the afternoon actually unpacking. I guess it took my brain a few days to accept the fact I wasn't going anywhere for awhile. Turns out my belts all got sent on the container...guess I'll be waiting a month or so to wear anything that requires a belt. At least, I hope they're on the container.

Church in Tarragona is only on Sunday night, so we got dressed and were picked up about 6:30, still very sunny. Drove to an industrial park where one of the warehouses has been converted into the Iglesia...I've forgotten the other words in the church name. I'll be back so I will learn it. They sang several songs that I recognized - Holy is the Lord God Almighty, the whole earth is filled with his glory...another: I want to see you Lord, and maybe one other I knew. It's weird even though I knew them I couldn't think of the English words; I guess because my brain was trying so hard on the Spanish overhead. Santo, Santo, Santo was the Holy, Holy, Holy part of one song I figured out. It was contemporary, loud, not dressed up though no shorts, a few spantz (see Dar's blog). Mostly young people only maybe 5 or 6 older people - 2 were a pastor's parents visiting from Argentina and the other 2 were the senior pastor and his wife (he's Spanish, she's from Sweden). I liked the idea that the young people here are hungry for a new taste of God, not settling for what was in the past, but I'm so used to the mix of generations at our home church that I missed it.

The people were friendly - you haven't been to church if you leave after service the missionary told us. It's expected that you stay and visit. It's always cool to be with a new body of believers somewhere, but here we couldn't understand the words much. The heart was evident and ernest. I did feel like I'd been to church though the sermon went completely over my head. Don't even know the topic. At the end, everyone stood in prayer and cried out for the city and for more people to come to know Christ (I know this because it was translated for me). It was a powerful moment - loud prayer I couldn't understand with my brain, but that I could join in wholeheartedly. Cool.

Our current supervising missionaries have asked us to participate in an English speaking outreach two weeks from now. Participate musically - that's Dar's department, so we'll see what happens. Nice to be involved in something already.

Language school starts tomorrow. Where's my brain?!

08 July 2005

Day two brings a little drama

Suddenly I'm Dust - I want to post everyday. You guys are going to be like enough already! But here goes anyway.

We forced ourselves out of bed relatively early to try to make the adjustment. We watched the water, read on the patio and waited to be picked up for a lunch appointment. Thankfully they haven't made us drive yet. The roads are narrow, and you have to drive kilometers out of your way to make a left turn by making a right and changing direction on the road...hopefully it's easier than it looks.

They took us into Tarragona's town center where we walked the new ramblas. Ramblas is apparently a major walking/shopping street that every town has. I had heard of the cool-ancient ramblas in Barcelona and didn't realize every town has something of the sort. They drove us through the old city - roads not really wide enough for cars but maybe one can squeeze down it. We drove on the sidewalk twice to get past things.

So we got to lunch at a Chinese restaurant on the new ramblas. (There's an old one too.) We got to try out our fledgling Spanish, ordering Chinese food, and saying thanks in Chinese. Where am I?

We were two tables from the open doorway. Two ladies came in and I didn't look at them but noticed they were standing behind the lady I was talking too, not taking a seat or anything. In my peripheral vision, one of the ladies standing reaches over and I see the purse strap of my dining companion swing into full view. The ladies talking over their cell phone leave the restaurant. I said, "Is your purse okay?" to S. Nope, the purse if gone.

S. gets up and chases the ladies who I am yelling went left out of the restaurant. S. catches up to them, says in English, "hey give me my purse back." She grabs it and makes it back to the restaurant - suddenly feeling shaky after the instinct to go after them wore off. We were all very thankful it was resolved that well.

On a lighter note, we visited a Roman aquaduct. The Roman soldiers built them in the winter to stay in shape and bring water to new areas. They said when Paul, the apostle came to Spain he probably came to Tarragona the then Roman seat of power here. Paul drank water from an aquaduct I walked on today. How weird is that? IT was very high in the air and I got vertigo and Dar pretended to fall off, so I could get completely freaked out.

07 July 2005

First Impressions

Today I first saw Spain from an airplane. A bird's eye view of the Pyranees mountains with snow bits still on the top dividing France from Spain. The valleys were filled with tan and green patches of rural agriculture. As we neared the city tile roofs came into view and the Mediterranean sea.

Barcelona was only an airport and a freeway. It was good to get here finally. We were delayed three hours in Atlanta by Tropical Storm Cindy.

We came right back to Tarragona where the Language school and ministry center are located. It's wonderful coming to an already established missionary community. The veterans pick you up and hand carry you every where. It gives the attled, jet lagged brain a break. (Though I slept fairly well on the flight and have been functional today, much to my delight.)

We've been in two homes - impressions - marble floors, metal slide down shutters, more contemporary furnishings, small rooms but more rooms than I expected. Square toilets, a variety of flushing methods.

A trip to the grocery store - a big super Walmart type of place called Carrefour. People dress up more here and seem friendly. We bumped into someone from church that the lady taking us knew and they all introduced themselves and their kids. (in Spanish of course). There was a whole isle for yogurt and one whole side of an aisle for varieties of sausage including big legs of hams (including the hoof). We didn't study this because we were just too tired. I couldn't make a decision about how many paper towel rolls to buy, fortunately the woman with us made it for me.

All the traffic signs and brands of groceries remind me a lot of the things we dealt with in Belgium, so it is bringing back lots of memories.

So far a good thing. Looking forward to sleeping in a real bed tonight. Yes, the home we are staying in the next few weeks does actually look out on the Mediterranean sea - I've never lived somewhere like that. It is about a two block walk to what everyone refers to as the "nude" beach. Lovely. We walked down but it was evening and too cool for anyone to be out on the beach. This will be a good place to learn Spanish and look forward to the next step in the process.