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.”


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.


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

  • Faster!
  • 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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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.

Cultural adaptation

Remember those golden years of Jr. High? Can you relive in your mind that glorious feeling of approaching a group of “cool kids.” The stomach in knots, the beads of sweat on the forehead, the fear of saying something stupid. Ahh the bliss.
Jr. High was a time of awkwardness, at least for me. Very few people I have spoken with have said, “Oh for the days of Jr. High!” (Read “zero people”). In Jr. High I was never safe. If my voice didn’t betray me, my words did. If my words didn’t, my clothing did. If my clothing didn’t, others did. I was a mess.
I think my Jr. High self is the closest comparison I have found to cultural adaptation. I am awkward. I have yet to learn the social norms and colloquial phrases. I look like an outsider. As soon as I open my mouth, everyone knows I am different. During nearly every interaction I run through the possible ways I could fail:

  • Will this person remember me?
  • How do I greet this person?
  • Do I shake hands or use the Spanish kiss?
  • How do I say ____?
  • Is it culturally acceptable to talk about this?
  • How long should I talk?
  • Did I say that correctly?
  • Oh no! I wasn’t paying attention to what they just said because I tuned out their Spanish. Now they are looking at me waiting for a response!
  • Did I say their name correctly?
  • Why are they touching my arm?
  • Should we really be standing in the middle of the sidewalk/isle/car lane talking and making everyone wait?
  • Oh no! They asked another question and I didn’t understand!
  • Etc.

With all this, it may sound like it is torture. Well, was Jr. High torture? Yes. Yes it was. So you would be correct in assuming that.

However, there are a couple redeeming factors.

  • My voice doesn’t crack…as much.
  • I have mastered the use of deodorant.
  • I am already married and very secure in Crystal’s love for me no matter what I wear. And I make sure to test that regularly.
  • I am a little more mature.
  • And I can smile.

I have found that smiling is a secret weapon. I can say nearly anything I want as long as I say it with a smile. People take what I say in the best possible way if I am smiling, and they know I care, or want to learn, or am genuinely lost.

And I can smile. I can smile because I am secure, not because I have the slightest notion of what I am doing, but because I am eternally loved. I have been accepted into the family of God on the merits of Christ by the work of the Spirit. So I am free to love. I am free to mess up. I am free to learn by trial and error because I am free from the shackles of people-pleasing.
So, it doesn’t matter if I goof up my verb tenses, or botch a greeting, or accidentally say a curse word that sounds really, really close to an ok word…again. I can smile, because I am loved.

To all my Jr. High fears I say, “Bring it on!” (In a slightly squeaky voice)

Our first visitors

This past week we were able to host a couple new friends. We didn’t know them until they arrived, but they proved to be an encouragement.

A group came to work with our coworkers, the Templetons, and not everyone could fit in their home. So we were able to help out. This was an added incentive to make more purchases for our guest room, and get things more “visitor friendly” around the residence.

Here are some of the ways Jeremy and Svatia encouraged us over the week:

  • Taking an interest in Tanzen
  • Listening to us as we shared our joys and challenges
  • Appreciating our city
  • Pointing out things about Ponferrada that we had grown accustomed to
  • Laughing with us
  • Sharing how Christ is working on them
  • Helping around the house
  • Being grateful
  • Taking their down time to walk the city with us and take family pictures


They did much more with the team that came to visit, but these are just a few of the ways they personally encouraged us while staying in our home. It was a joy to have them with us, and we thank God for how they encouraged us.



*I also need to mention that I appreciate Svatia’s ability to pick out the fruit filled with bugs so I didn’t have the scare.


Communication is important. Communication is not easy. But there are some tools that make it easier, albeit at times more overwhelming.

In the States it was pretty easy. You send a text message in the messaging app. If that was too long, you send an email. Although I am not sure the generation following mine knows what email is.

When I was a kid…

But since we moved abroad our messaging tools have hunkered down and multiplied. This is good because it allows us to continue communication with those in the States, and begin communication with those in other parts of the world. It just gets a little confusing when conversations start buzzing.

Those with iDevices still use the good old iMessaging, but not everyone has followed wisdom’s path and purchased one.

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The first app we had to add was WhatsApp, because apparently the USA is the only country to still send text messages.

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Then we added GoogleHangouts so we could keep our US number and still send text messages to those without iMessaging or WhatsApp. (Which makes it really nice as well to make phone calls to the States!)

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Then there are some hardcore Facebook users who swear by the Facebook message app. Maybe it is somehow tied to your Candy Crush score, I don’t know.

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We have so many options to choose from to try to maintain communication. But oh for the good ol’ days of simply using that ancient bit of email technology…

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A Baby Shower in Spain

I received a text on Thursday from a friend which said, “El sábado por la tarde hacemos un baby shower. Estais invitados los tres.”

Saturday afternoon we are having a baby shower. You three are invited.

The fact that he used English words tells me how natural this is for Spanish culture.

We had a great time and were able to meet many new people. It was an honor to be invited to something like this and be brought along side other family and friends.

The only downside was that Tanzen broke their clothes hanger because she thought they were monkey bars. You can’t win them all…