It has been a whirlwhind of a week. I can hardly believe that a week ago today I was back in the United States talking to people at church about my upcoming experience, packing suitcases, and spending some last moments with my family. I feel like I have been here much longer.
The theme of the last few days in Spain has been walking. We walk everywhere in Valencia. Everywhere. The bottoms of my shoes covered in Spanish dirt can attest to it. Honestly,I am loving it. My feet hurt just about every time I put on my shoes, but the places I have gone and the activities I am doing are 110 percent worth it.
Here are some of the recent places my feet have carried me…
This was a huge deal for me. For those of you who know me well, directions are not my strongest suit in the world. I often find myself lost using written directions to a place I have never been. And if you give me directions orally or hand me a map…forget it. This week I started classes. For the first day of orientation I rode the bus with my host mom. I continued to ride the bus for the rest of the week because I had absolutely no idea where I was.
Valencia is a city of about a million people. There are apartments and shops everywhere. Many of them are the same and I found myself often turned around when the bus would take a turn. Saturday, we had an excursion to Sagunto, Spain and we met at the school. I walked there for the first time and did not get lost, knew where I was and was able to recognize general landmarks along the way. Woohoo!!
(Technically we rode a bus here, but we walked all over this town once we got there). Honestly, beautiful does not even begin to describe Sagunto. I don’t think my pictures can do it justice. We were surrounded by ruins that spanned several centuries of history. I saw the remains of a Roman theater that has been restored and is still in use today as well as climbed up to an old castle high on a hill. Throughout this excursion, Isabel (probably on of the kindest and most helpful people in the world who works at my school) told us about the history of the ruins we were walking on. It is crazy to walk on streets older than your country.
We also had the opportunity to explore the modern town of Sagunto, and spent time as a group wandering through streets, getting lost, and shopping.
Los Jardines Reales y el Parque
After the excursion and a quick comida (lunch in Spain), I headed back out to explore more of Valencia with Emma, Helen, and Alyssa. We started at school and made our way through the Royal Gardens onto several kilometers of a riverbed turned into a park. One of the incredibly fun areas in the park is the playground. It is a giant Gulliver from the book Gulliver’s Travels. Gulliver is made out of all sorts of playground equipment and the children who play at this park represent the tiny people who trapped Gulliver in the book.
There are so many flowers, fountains, bridges, and simply beautiful items in this park. Towards the end of the park it is possible to see the City of Arts and Sciences, some of the most famous architecture in Valencia.
This morning, I walked across a bridge over the park to meet my friend Amanda and head to the church she has been attending since last semester. What a blessing it was to meet with believers from Spain, Australia, and Germany and praise God together. In Spain, it is customary to greet everyone with a hug and a kiss on each cheek. I met everyone in the congregation. One man came up to me and told me in English, “You are welcome here.” What peace and joy that brought my heart this morning!
We sang familar and some new songs in Spanish, had communion, a sermon, scripture readings and prayer. The sermon this morning was about not worrying from Matthew 6. The pastor reminded us that we can trust God with all of our lives and that we have no need to worry. I loved that reminder, especially as I am adjusting to a different lifestyle in a new place. All of it is in His hands.
I was able to meet other college students at the church who weekly meet for Bible study and also attend church at night. It was such a blessing to feel so welcomed by them, and to see some areas where I can make some friends in Spain. Tonight, I am attending another church with Amanda and some of the college students from this morning.
I remember as a child that when my dad had a Sunday off from preaching we would often go visit other churches. I did not particularly enjoy this because I didn’t like the unfamiliar. Now, I am so thankful for the many churches that I have visited and attended throughout my lifetime that all make up the body of Christ. The church in Spain is active and I look forward to being a part of it in various ways these next few months.
I continue to be blessed by my host parents. I am so thankful that even when I do not understand everything, that they are so incredibly patient with me. I enjoy laughing with them around the table at dinner time and discussing everything from what to make for dinner to countries around the world. They have so many stories, and I love listening to their life experiences and learning from them.
One thing that I have been learning this week is to not compare or wish something was different about my experience. There are times where I have felt lonely wished for friends or family at home, or frustrated with the mistakes I am making in Spanish. (I’ve called blueberries intelligent among other things). I have realized that I have a choice in how to handle what is in front of me. So rather than feeling lonely, I’ve made plans with all different people next week. Rather than feel embarassed when I make a mistake, I record the error and try to remember what I did wrong so that I can fix it in the future. The other thing we all keep reminding ourselves is that we have only been here for six days–this isn’t an overnight process.
I hope that all is well with all of you and that you can see the evidence of God’s blessings around you daily.