Dear Mr. Prime Minister of Spain #2

What a week you have had! Between the press conferences and committee meetings I am surprised that you had time to do anything but brush your teeth and respond to my letters – obviously both of great importance for your personal image. I would not recommend ignoring either of those. However, we both know that if one had to go, which you would chose! On a side note, have you noticed that dentures have come such a long way in the past 50 years? But back to topic. Below I have provided you with a couple more issues to address with your cabinet and staff. I would much appreciate if you could handle these in a more timely fashion than my previous requests. Really, hombre. Priorities!

Parking: Why is there such a fascination with double parking – in the middle of the traffic lane – during the times of heavy traffic? I know it will only be for “one minute”, but nearly every Spaniard is much too friendly to get in and out of any store in a reasonable amount of time. If the driver is anywhere near as conversational with everyone else as they are with me, a complete stranger, they may want to find a parking spot and put a few euros in the meter.

“Claro”
You may want to talk with the folks down at the dictionary office about this one. Everyone keeps using this word, and I don’t think it means what they think it means. “Claro” obviously does not mean “clearly” because if it really were “claro”, I would not be asking the question or so surprised by the answer. Honestly, if I had a nickel for every time someone told me “claro” about something that continues to confuse me, I could have paid someone to do all the running back and forth for my visa paperwork. Obviously.
On a personal note, I would like to recommend a slight toning down of the “tactical force” to deal with the barking dog next door. I agree, we have all wanted to, but just because you “can” does not mean you “should.” Calling in the “heavy artillery”, while effective, may be frowned upon. Again, just my opinion.
I will see you next week

Befuddled in Bierzo,
Seth

An open letter

Dear Mr. Prime Minister of Spain,
It has been some time since our last written correspondence, but I would like to bring to your attention a couple of items which are of grave importance. I apologize that you have had to wait for these urgent concerns, but I have been quite busy lately. I know you spent many evenings bent over your computer screen, waiting for the notification of a new message from me, but I really must insist that you put more confidence in your own ability to direct the affairs of state without my help at every turn. Nevertheless, I hope these two items will give you something to work on over the next few weeks.
Parking spaces: Why do we have such small parking spaces in Spain? We are not hobbits, nor do we drive vehicles built for hobbits. Why then must all parking spaces be sized slightly smaller than a refrigerator box? Everyone else’s paint job will thank you if you widen them for me.
Bathroom lighting: Why do we insist on placing the light switches on the outside of the bathroom doors? We have junior highers here, right? Is there some back story behind why we can wait to turn on the light once inside the room for every other room in the home, except for the bathroom? Is there a safety hazard with allowing the occupant to be in control of the illumination?

And while we are at it, is it really necessary to set the automatic lights in public restrooms to under 5 seconds? I don’t know anyone who is in and out of the restroom in the amount of time given. I would have to argue that staggering around in the dark, running your hands over the bathroom walls looking for the activation sensor, is not necessarily hygienic. I could be wrong, but there is a possibility it would be frowned upon by the World Health Organization. Just a thought.
I trust your family is doing well you were able to resolve the issue with your cat and the neighbor’s parakeet. I completely agree that sometimes these things just escalate. Hopefully this next week will have fewer “complications!”
Your friend,

Seth

Reyes

One of the many new holidays in which we have participated was the celebration of Reyes. January 6th is the customary recognition of the Magi who visited Jesus according to Matthew 2. In Ponferrada, instead of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the Reyes throw candy.

Apparently it is a pretty fair trade.

Reyes from SCQuest on Vimeo.

Homesickness

Disclaimer: With our posts on this blog we try to be honest, but also lighthearted. No one wants to read a pity party or feel depressed after reading something. This post is more honest and a lot less lighthearted. The intent is not for you to feel sorry for us, or lead you to believe that we are disintegrating, but for you to see part of us that we don’t talk about often. It is our attempt at speaking truth to ourselves and others.

 

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Upon moving to Spain, our three year old daughter experienced homesickness. She turned her cousin into an imaginary friend. At first we thought it was cute how she would sit and talk to his picture, or make up stories about him. She would remind us what he was like, and tell us that he was coming to visit, as if her constant insistence would result in a reality.

She also demanded that we keep an oversized cardboard box from IKEA in her room for five months because that was her “brown house” – her disintegrating connection to her Nana, the great grandma that took us in before we said goodbye.

It used to be cute. But now it makes me weep.

Her homesickness moved into her rest. For months, nights were the poison we had to drink at the end of the day. She would lay on her bed and cry, afraid to close the door, afraid to turn off the light. She always needed one more drink of water. One more story. One more “snuggle for a really long time.” Like deranged convicts, the night terrors broke into our home night after night, too real to be dreams, too deep to be awoken from.
What do you do with a three year old who understands relationships but cannot make them because of a different language or hurtful words? She had to turn to imagination to fill the void that was left from leaving. Leaving everything.
I could see the homesickness in her, but it is just as real in me.
But how could I? There was a new country! New home! New language! New opportunities…New requirements. New decisions. New questions. New fears. New losses.
The fear of the unknown is only lightly masked by a veneer of adventure.

Restless nights and exhausting days chase one another in an unending cycle. Battling my mind to think in new words about new customs explained by new people turns quickly to battling fatigue and headaches. When my mind didn’t want to explode, it wanted to run home and imagine what could have been and what will never be.

And then there is the curse of the blessing. At times I am torn between wanting to know what everyone “back home” is doing, and then dreading the feeling of being left out. Is Facebook my friend or foe in my battle for contentment? What makes the difference? About a second, I guess.

Inevitably there is a trigger. A scent of food, or a familiar face. A text message or just a vagrant memory shuffling past the consciousness, asking for a place out of the wind. And that memory always offers more than it can provide. The sky was always clearer. The food was always richer. The *good ol’ days*. Reality was never as good as what my imagination tells me.

So where do I go from here? When we do eventually return to the States for a few months the sweet corn won’t be nearly as sweet as I remembered it. The day at the lake will not be as relaxing as it used to be. The smoke from the bonfire, or the flavors from the grill will just not be the same. They can’t. They can’t because my imagination is too good for that.

So what can I do?

A visitor from a couple months back mentioned a quote from another confessing homesick missionary. He said when he was homesick he would try to convert his desire to go back to the States into an excitement for going to Heaven. He battled longing to go home with longing to go HOME.

My imagination is too good to leave me satisfied after tasting what I dreamt about. However, my imagination is not nearly good enough to leave me unsatisfied after I have my first taste of eternity with Christ.

So I imagine. I have to fuel my mind with what Jesus promises. He is preparing a place for me. He is coming back. He will protect me in that city. He will stand before the masses, calling them all by name. He will wipe the tears and begin the banquets. He will start the dances and laugh the deepest. He will make all things right. I have to imagine those days.

Homesickness can be battled in the short term by comfort-food-eating, Netflix-binging, splurge-shopping, or voracious-reading. They can take the edge off the craving.

But I think my only long term weapon against homesickness is eternity-yearning. My guess is that if Jesus didn’t really want us to think about our future with him, he wouldn’t have told us so much about it.

Driving School part 2

Last week I shared that I passed the first of two tests, narrowly, no thanks to tricky questions about carrying gods in the trunk of my car. This week I would like everyone to know that I passed the second and final test! In the words of our Spanish tutor on her practical test, it was “algo divino.”

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The second test is the practical, the “behind-the-wheel…of-doom”. I did a couple weeks of behind the wheel, and then multiple sessions behind the person behind the wheel. I was the quintessential backseat driver as I listened to the driving instructor walk other newbies through the intricate maneuvers of parallel parking in a spot the size of a tuna can.

Since it was frowned upon to live tweet my experiences through my practical exam, I tried to note a few things down in my journal as I sat behind other drivers, or after I finished my hour behind the wheel. Here are some excerpts from my journal.

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Taking drivers lessons again is like having someone teach you how to brush your teeth.

  • Faster!
  • SLOWER!
  • Careful.
  • Good job!
  • you are going to hurt yourself.
  • You are a natural
  • What are you doing?!
  • If you don’t do this correctly you are going to regret it.
  • You need more practice.

____________________________

Student driving is the perfect time to practice my combat breathing techniques.

____________________________

The driving exams in Spain are just updates on the Inquisition’s best torture devices.

____________________________

I want to see a movie where Morgan Freeman tries to hijack a car with a student driver.

____________________________

About to take my practical driving test here in Spain. I did this once in the USA about 15 years ago but I still am nervous. I actually just googled, “Volkswagen turn signals” because I forgot which side of the steering wheel they are on. I’m a wreck. Oops. Bad imagery.

____________________________

My driver instructor may or may not have kept up a running conversation with the examiner in order to distract him from the mistakes I was making.

 

The final outcome is that I have my license (well, theoretically. I have to wait for a card) and all those poor chaps that nearly lost their lives on the crosswalks are learning to walk with their heads up.

Driving School

One of the joys of living abroad in Spain is the opportunity to brush up on my driving knowledge and skills. Here in Spain they require that those from the USA start at ground zero in their driving endeavors, which means back to the books.
In order to receive a Spanish drivers license one must first pass a theory test and then a practical test. The tests are separated by at least a week, and you have 3 opportunities to pass the two tests until you fork over another large sum of money.
My inner tightwad encouraged me to study in order not to have to pay more than necessary, so study I did.
Along with reading the driving manual as though my life depended upon it, I also took approximately 100 practice tests. A practice test is made up of 30 questions from any topic in the driving manual, of which you must get at least 27 of them correct in order to pass.
Because of the sneaky way the questions are asked on the exam, others encouraged me to take the test in English.
While the official test was translated well, the practice tests were “questionable.” Here are some of my favorites:

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Very important in case Thor or Loki is riding with you.

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I hate it when I brokes down!

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I get to a point when my eyes burst out fatigue, and let me tell you…

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I thought so hard about what this question could be asking I may have gotten a nosebleed.

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?

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Always, always, the rider of a motorcycle must riding wit free exhaust pipe. How many times do I have to tell you!

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If my car is ticking over too loud, I get upset.

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The right answer should always include extreming precaution.