Hello Friends and Family,
This week has been busy, fun, and full of learning! Here’s a look at what’s happened in Spain over the last week…
Sabado (el 8 de febrero)
After writing my last blog post, I got to babysit one of my professor’s daughters. We had a fun lunch at McDonalds and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. One of my professors in the States mentioned in class one day that she loves to go to McDonalds in different countries and see what is on their menu. I can now totally understand why. Some different items you can order at McDonalds in Spain are Dannon Greek yogurt, beer, and pineapple popsicles. The McCafe is separate from the main counter and is filled with fancy desserts like macaroons and layered cakes. They also have a guarantee that everything fried was done in sunflower oil. McDonalds here is just as busy as it is in the States and the burger and fries tasted great.
That afternoon (7pm is afternoon here) Emma and I headed out to the City of Arts and Sciences to see it at night. We enjoyed seeing it lit up at night and taking lots of pictures. We also found Berkley’s Valencia campus as we explored. (Side note: if you click on the pictures it will make them bigger).
Domingo (el 9 de febrero)
I attended church in the morning and made a new friend from Holland. It never ceases to amaze me how instant the connection is between believers around the world when we are all far away from home and looking for community. There is a sense of peace in knowing that the complete stranger in front of you has the most important thing in common. I am attending an Anglican church in the mornings and I enjoy seeing how their traditions differ from other churches I have attended. Although we may have a different type of Sunday morning service order, we share the same love of Jesus. This past Sunday was a special week. The Archbishop from Madrid came to visit to induct a new member into the Anglican Church of Spain and to appoint a man in the church to assist the Pastor in Sunday morning services. When the new assistant to the Pastor spoke to the congregation, he talked about how one of the things he loves about this church is the amount of languages spoken in the congregation. This reminds him of the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit allowed the apostles’s message to be understood in every language. I sat there and thought about how many languages were represented in the congregation and even in the Bibles that we held on our laps. It made me incredibly thankful for Bible translators who listened to the calling of God in their life and remain committed to reaching all languages with the Word of God. It also reminded me how incredible it is that God understands all of us regardless of what language that we speak, and that He will accomplish His purposes in us in spite of our language deficiencies. You can read more about the church on their website: http://iglesiaanglicanavalencia.org/es/
That night, I enjoyed a fun dinner with my host mom and her friends Arly and Petra. Petra is an incredible cook. We enjoyed a meal of pea soup, a German cucumber dish, potatoes, meatballs, and a raspberry sorbet and yogurt parfait. Delicious! As we sat around the dinner table sharing stories, I recognized that we represented four different countries (Spain, Germany, Denmark and the United States). That is one of my favorite things about Spain, continually spending time with people that represent so many different countries and learning about them and from them. I’m looking forward to seeing Petra again soon who has promised to teach me how to make homemade German bread.
Lunes (el 10 de febrero)
Monday was a day of classes with a short break in between. After classes ended, all the girls at the Institute went out to 100 Montaditos for 50 euro cent montadito day. Montaditos are little sandwiches that are typically eaten as a snack in between main meals, but you can make an entire dinner out of them. You order for your table and they bring out all the little sandwiches on a tray with chips in the middle. It was so nice to be able to unwind after a busy Monday.
A sampling of their 100 options can be seen here: http://spain.100montaditos.com/nuestra-carta/montaditos
Martes (el 11 de febrero)
Tuesday is always my low-key catch up day. Sometimes I catch up on homework. Other days, I relax after classes with my favorite Spanish tv show, Los Mysterios de Laura. Sometimes, I go explore something new in the city. This past Tuesday was my one day where I did not have anything scheduled, so I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon after classes at home.
Miercoles (el 12 de febrero)
Wednesday is by far my craziest day of the week. I have three classes and two Bible studies. This week was the first day of the GBU Bible study which is a group of college students in Valencia that meet together to study God’s word. There were 20 of us all together this past Wednesday. After eating lunch together, we divided ourselves into two groups to study the book of Hosea. We read Chapter 1 silently and then discussed our observations about the chapter and its application for our lives. We made a list of what we had learned about God in chapter one. Here’s a copy of it:
- God is just.
- God is compassionate.
- God is faithful.
- God is love.
- God remembers His promises.
- God lives independent of time.
- God’s words are going to take places.
- God has a purpose for His children.
- God wants to use us.
- Following God is not a guarantee of a life without problems.
After we had finished discussing the chapter and making this list, my Bible study leader remarked, “We only read 10 verses and look at what we learned.” It reminded me of the importance of being in God’s word.
That night, I head over to the house of my pastor and his wife. We spent the evening discussing the importance of prayer and working through a series of focused areas of prayer together. We searched our Bibles and shared verses that had encouraged us about prayer and gave us direction on how to pray. After Bible study, we enjoyed eating dinner together. As I took my plate back to the kitchen, the pastor’s wife, Jodi, asked me how my experience in Spain had been so far. That question brought out a whole lot of random thoughts on the blessings that I have experienced in Spain, what I have been learning, and challenges that I have faced while being here. We discussed how living abroad (my pastor’s family is from Australia and are also living abroad from their home country) is a time where you realize that there hardly anyone who knows you in your new “home.” She talked about how we have so many choices that we can make in this time when we are removed from the accountability and familiarity of home and realize the many different paths that are open to us. Both Pastor John and Jodi have encouraged me to see this experience as a time to grow in my faith and to pursue God continually. I cannot express how encouraging that hour-long conversation was with her. I left feeling peaceful and encouraged..
That night I came home around 1 am to find a pink box of marshmallow chocolates waiting on the ledge above my bathroom sink from my host mom.
Jueves (el 13 de febrero)
Thursday was the last day of classes for the week. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my favorite days of the week because I have my favorite classes, literature. After class, I enjoyed tea and conversation with Lindsay in a cute little coffee shop by my house. I loved that the tea was served in my own little personal teapot (it’s the little things). It was so encouraging to talk with Lindsay about our experiences in Spain and to be able to do it all in Spanish.
That night I skyped with a good friend from home. I was tired (raise your hand if that makes you extra-emotional too) and when the conversation was over I felt so homesick. I went to bed and woke up the next morning….
Viernes (el 14 de febrero)
…Which I guess brings us to Friday. That morning as I thought about feeling homesick and missing friends, I started to think about contentment. Freshman year I did a Bible study called Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow. In one of the chapters Dillow gives a recipe for contentment that she learned from another woman. I have never forgotten one of the lines from that chapter, “Never imagine yourself in other circumstances or someplace else.”
It was exactly what I needed to remember on Friday morning. Yes, I miss my friends. Yes, I miss my family. Yes, I would love to have even one of them here with me to share this experience with. But, God put me here and them in the States during these months for a reason. I realized that morning that I only have about 80 days or less left in Spain. What? Where did that time go? In a few short months, I will get back on a plane and make the hours-long journey home. I realized in that moment that going home will mean leaving this new place that has very much become home behind. I will get back to the States and if I am like everyone else who has studied abroad, a part of me will wish I was back in Spain.
I realized that morning that I’m pretty sure regardless of what country I am in, a piece of me will always be in the other. As much as I love the pine trees, snow, lakes, and people of Minnesota, I also love the palm trees, flowers, ocean and people of Spain. As much as I enjoy Stoney Creek, Grace Baptist Church, and the people of Cedarville University, I also enjoy Cafe de Camillo, Iglesia Anglicana de Valencia and the people at the Institute of Spanish Studies. When I look for security and contentment in my circumstances, I am always going to be disappointed. I’m never going to find it. Because God didn’t put us in a place and surround us with people to find our contentment in them. They are amazing, incredible gifts that He has given us. However, our source of everything and the only stable, unchanging foundation in this world is in Him.
So I am making the decision to be fully present in this moment. To silence the voice in my mind that reminds me that this is not forever. Because what in this world really is? I am finding contentment in His unchanging promises and finding joy in being thankful for the amazing gifts that are all around me.
Oh yeah…I was talking about what I did on Friday. Well, after these thoughts and breakfast I made my way to meet up with Ruby, Lindsay, Natalie, Rachel and Helen at El Mercado Central, the largest indoor food market in Europe. The architecture was beautiful and the shops were filled with all sorts of foods from around the world. We tried different types of foods including candied hibiscus flowers (yum!) and enjoyed seeing items we have never seen in a market at home. One of the fish vendors asked us if we were British (everyone here thinks I am British…I probably get asked that question two or three times a week) and when he heard that we were from the United States, broke out singing our national anthem with his hand over his heart.
Yesterday was also Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is not a big deal here compared to how we celebrate in the States, but there were still beautiful pastries and I did receive a heart lollipop from a girl handing them out to everyone in the market. Yesterday also marked the one-month anniversary of the day we arrived in Spain. How time flies! I couldn’t believe it when Rachel told me, “We arrived a month ago today.”
After the market, we took a spontaneous trip up 207 stairs to the top of the bell tower in the Catedral de Valencia. You can see the entire city of from the top of the tower. We also happened to arrive in the tower right before the bell rang to mark the hour and got to watch and listen to it.
Later that day, I had churros and chocolate with Helen (yum! everyone needs chocolate on Valentine’s day!) and left feeling so encouraged after our conversation. The other girls on this trip are so awesome.
The night finished with dinner with my host mom. For postre she cut my pineapple into hearts. 🙂
I hope that you are fully present wherever you are in the world today, enjoying the incredible gifts you have around you, and seeking God as your contentment.
Lots of Love from Spain,
P.S. THANK YOU Aunt Marlene and Grammy for sending me mail this week. If you want to get in on the snail mail fun write me at…
Institute of Spanish Studies, C/O Breanna Schulenburg, El Bachiller 13, 46010-Valencia, Spain
I promise I’ll write you back 🙂