Do you remember watching Sesame Street? Sometime throughout the episode one of the puppets would say, “Today’s episode was brought to you by the number 7 and the letter Z!”
Well, this week in Spain is brought to you by the letter C!!
C is for the hours of time I spent walking the calles of Valencia. This Wednesday, I got lost and was over an hour late for a group activity in the historical district. (Thank you Amanda for waiting for me and helping me find the rest of the group). However, other than that incident I found used a map and walked with Emma for over an hour to the beach where we found lost of beautiful conchas with Lindsay and admired the castillos de arena. Afterwards we enjoyed frozen yogurt (the frozen yogurt here is sour and thick like Greek yogurt) on Colón street. In other news, I found my way to the Museo of Bellas Artes (without getting lost!!), but I did forget my camera. So expect a post next week about the inspiring artwork in Valencia’s fine arts museum. I am slowly but surely learning my way around this city. I get so incredibly excited when I see something that I recognize or I finally start to piece together a map of a certain neighborhood in my head.
If there is one c word that stands above all the rest as my constant companion throughout the week, it is chocolate. (Those of you who know me well know that I almost never eat chocolate because it makes me feel a little sick…but IT’S EUROPE and the chocolate is delicious! and I haven’t had it in so long…). The week of chocolate began with tazas de chocolate (cups of chocolate) towards the beginning of the week at a cute horchatería in the historical district of Valencia. For those of you who have never had the Spanish version of hot chocolate…let me explain. It is basically a cup of hot, melted, creamy dark chocolate that is so thick that they give you a spoon to eat rather than drink it. It is also common to order churros (yet, another c word) to dunk in the cup of chocolate. So incredibly rich and delicious. I think I made it a fourth way down my cup before I had to set it aside. It is especially common in Valencia to order churros and chocolate durring Las Fallas, the famous Valencian festival that occurs during March. I figured that if I had already had chocolate once this week, I might as well make this my week of chocolate. So naturally the week included many delicious chocolate-filled breads.
Another c word for the week is castellano. I am learning so much about the beautiful Spanish language. I catch myself thinking in it, and the times I have spoken to friends or family back home I can think of what I want to say in Spanish rather than in English. I am blessed to have a host mom who is a Spanish and English teacher and gently and frequently corrects my mistakes. Her understanding of both languages helps her to know and me to think through why I phrased something the wrong way. I have spent more time this week intentionally surrounding myself with Spanish: reading my Bible in Spanish, watching Spanish tv (suggested by my teachers), listening to the radio in Spanish, reading the news, and listening to the conversations around me. There are times that I just want to speak in English or that I feel frustrated that I cannot understand my host parents at times during dinner, but the greater amount of my day spent in Spanish, the easier I find the language to be. My goal for this upcoming week is to become even more intentional in surrounding myself with Spanish.
C is for the pan de calabacin (zucchini bread) that I just took out of the oven and has earned the compliment of buenisimo from my host mom. I know I’ve said this before, but I love my host parents. They have made me feel like a part of their family. We’ve laughed hysterically together and have also had many deep conversations about the world and life. They are also incredible chefs. I don’t think I’ve eaten one thing here that I have not liked, and they are happy and willing to teach me all their recipes. 🙂
C is also for the wonderful evening I spent tonight with the other students from our institute celebrating the cumpleaños of both TK and Ruby (our wonderful Oral Roberts University friends). We celebrated outside with birthday crepes and ice cream in the historical sector of Valencia next to the beautiful catedral. I cannot even describe what an incredible group of people I get to share this experience with. Everyone is positive, ready for adventures, and easy to get along with. We’ve already had many incredible memories together (and lots of laughter) in the short time we have been in Spain.
I think that the biggest blessing of this trip so far has been another c word, community. As I sat alone in the Madrid airport waiting for my flight to Valencia, it hit me that I was about to walk into a situation where I knew absolutely nobody except the few Cedarville students and our professor scattered throughout the city. I’m an extremely relational person and that thought left me feeling panicky for what lay ahead. I let my tears out on the plane to Valencia, slept, and walked into the airport excited and unsure for this next chapter.
I felt a sense of community when I was greeted on my first day by Isabel, the teacher and administrative assistant of our institute, in Spanish. I have felt a sense of community from day one among the incredible faculty and other students that I am sharing this experience with. I feel a sense of community in my apartment with my host family. I am beginning to feel it as I walk the streets of Valencia and am warned by elderly gentlemen concerned for my safety about waiting to cross the street until their is a green walking light. I feel it when I wait for my bus at night to take me home from school and see the same shop owner outside for her evening cigarette. I feel it when a woman I don’t know approaches me to ask me a question in Spanish, or I begin to understand some of the Spanish cultural norms. It feels so good.
One of the places I felt the strongest sense of community in the past week was church. I cannot describe what it is like to walk into a door and know that you are surrounded by brothers and sisters that you are going to spend eternity with. It feels so good to be the only new person and be surrounded by people who shake your hand, hug you, kiss you (that’s what we do in Spain) and tell you that you are welcome there. I also had the opportunity to attend a second church at night where the pastor was from Minnesota and his wife was from Wisconsin. They were so excited to have someone from Minnesota in their church and I was so excited to meet someone from home.
Tomorrow is Sunday, and I want to challenge all of you back home in the states (or wherever you are) to go out of your way to welcome that new person in the pew tomorrow. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to be surrounded by so many welcoming, kind brothers and sisters in Christ. They didn’t just welcome me and ask me what my name was but took the time to ask me questions about my life and get to know me. It meant the world to me to find that sense of community in the church in Spain. You have no idea where that person sitting next to you is from or what brought them through that door. So give them a handshake, or a hug and get to know them. I don’t think either of you will regret it.
I love hearing from you and enjoy reading your comments. Thank you for your love and support 🙂
Lots of love from Spain,