Thursday, October 30, 2014

Goodbye to Spain

It's Thursday morning here in Madrid and we leave for home on Saturday morning.  Less that 48 hours remain of this marvelous experience here in Spain that has changed our lives.  It's not an overstatement to say our lives will never be the same.  Reflecting back over this almost 2-year period there is much that we have seen.  What fun it has been to travel down roads and into cities so rich in the history of the last 2,000 years.  I marvel at the accomplishments of man during that time period, knowing what rudimentary tools they had at their disposal and seeing the evidence of the colossal structures they built.  I often think, in comparison, we put so little effort and thought into the stuff we do today, and I wish we had a longer-term view of what we do, what we say and what we build.  In some ways they were better than us, perhaps more committed to the tasks put before them.
The restored Gospel touched these shores about 45 years ago and the gospel net has gathered over 50,000 saints during that time.  We have met some of them, in reality only a few hundred.  But they have astounded, amazed and humbled us.  What incredible people!  Their stories of conversion, sacrifice and commitment are beyond my ability to describe. And looking back over what we will miss the most, the history, the buildings and architecture, the climate, the food, the music, etc., there is no doubt it is the friendships of these people, who truly are the embodiment of the word "Saints".  It hurts to think that we will never see most of them again, and although the memories will dim with the passage of time, the feelings will never change.  We love this land and we love these saints, and we know they love us.  Parting is such sweet sorrow.

With the Chapples, the Jacksons and the Sisters in Alcala de Henares for the annual Medieval Fair

Heavy rains dampened the shops, streets and fair goers until early evening.  The resulting small crowds made our time there much more fun.

Herbs to cure any malady at the medieval fair

David & Ima who met online, fell in love and married.  Awesome couple

Armine Nalbandyan, one of 4 amazing sisters, converts to the Church and 3 of 4 served or are serving full-time missions.

Mariana Tabares, one of our Madrid returned missionaries, Viv and Omaira Gonzales, an MTC teacher

With Javier & Helen Cox Benito and their daughter, Carolina, in the mountains at the headwaters of the Manzanares River that runs through the center of Madrid, called Manzanares el Real, 
Lake at Manzanares el Real, looking from the ancient castle walls, recently restored.

Castle of the Mendoza family at Manzanares el Real

Picnic in the mountains at Manzanares el Real with the Benitos, who had baked a birthday cake for me.  They are wearing the BYU shirts we gave them.  Their daughter Carolina recently finished her masters degree in Provo.

Monasterio de El Paular, in the mountains north of Madrid.  Still an active monastery with about 20 monks.

Chocolate factory in small village near the monastery.  Yes, it was delicious and we're even bringing some home, but I'm not good at sharing when it comes to chocolate.

The Chocolate Shop

Our last YSA activity meeting.  Annie Bustamonte, leader of YSA, returned missionary and engaged to be married.

One of our absolutely favorite "JAS" (YSA). Fabiola from Peru, convert to the Church.

Group picture of final JAS (YSA) activity in the activity room of the Institute.

Ziane Pliha from Latvia, a teacher at the MTC.  Ziane was here when we first arrived and we have lots of wonderful memories with her.  We'll miss her.

The famous windmills of Consuegra.  On almost every tourist postcard of Spain.  The famous windmills in the ares of Spain known as La Mancha, spoken of in Don Quixote.

On the walls of the castle at Consuegra.  

From the walls of the castle with the windmills, or "molinos", of Consuegra in the background.

Closeup of the windmills.  They are turned to face the wind direction using the long black pole.  The tops of the windmills rotate.  Joe and Jean Riggs, our "chauffeurs", in the foreground with Viv.

Monument on top of the large cathedral at Cerro de Los Angeles, built on the spot that is the center of Spain, or "point zero".

Cerro de Los Angeles

Farewell luncheon for the Don and Teri Tenney, Temple President and Matron, who finished their 3-year mission just 2 days ago and flew home yesterday.

Despedida, or farewell, with our group of missionaries in the mission home with the Jacksons.  There were 11 of us going home this week.

Last weekly district meeting with our district yesterday.  Awesome missionaries.

Saying goodbye to Maria Cruz on the bench in front of our apartment building with the present from her, a Spanish fan.  Not a member but a good and friendly neighbor

Last day in Plaza del SOL, the center of Madrid.  A horse parade came through the plaza as we were leaving.  These beautiful horses are all thoroughbred Andalusians.  There were over 100 of them.

Saying goodbye to our "adopted" granddaughters, Juliana and Mikaela.  Their mother works in the Temple and is from Italy.  They would run and hug us whenever they saw us.

Last of all was saying goodbye to our neighbors, the famous "Chicas de Oro".  We will miss them.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Closing scenes from Madrid

This may well be our last blog, depending on how hectic things get next week.  There are so many experiences that never made it on here; I feel bad.  But they're locked away in our memories of this wonderful place called Spain and will never be forgotten.  Most of them evolve around the people we have met, from literally all over the world, while serving here.
But here are a few shots:
Our last Sunday evening missionary singing time on the Temple steps.  This group was about 1/2 going to missions in Russia and 1/2 going to missions in Spain.  We sang both in Russian and Spanish.  And they sounded awesome even without our piano, which was shipped home several weeks ago.
Only 4 Elders going to Spain, the rest to Russia.  About 2/3 of the Sisters are going to Spain.  The Spanish missionary ratio was something like 18:4, Sisters to Elders.
2.  We finished inspecting 18 (or was is 16?) missionary apartments this past month.  Wonderful to see lots of missionaries.  Fun to see where they live, and HOW they live.  Most of them do quite well for first time away from home.  Some need a little instruction.  By and large the Sisters do just fine

Sister Toone from our Stake, in Madrid MTC, called to serve in Madrid
Rolf and Ruth Crapo with their son, Cade, just off his mission to Malaga, shopping in Sol district of Madrid. Rolf Crapo grew up in our ward in Sandy. Now his baby is a return missionary
Last Young Single Adult dance for us.  This was the scene in the Stake Center the last Friday of every month.  Usually had about 100-150 YSAs.

One of my favorite positions, listening to conference talk with my frozen peas ice pack on my knee

Elder Larsen getting a haircut.  I've done well over 1,000 haircuts while here.

My last excursion around the city.  Fun looking wood shop on calle Mayor

On last excursion, found the oldest church still standing in Madrid.  From the 1200s.

Bell tower was the main thing still standing.  Wanted to go inside, but unfortunately many of the churches are closed on Mondays, our P-day
One of the old Spanish guitar makers in Madrid.  The proprietor was inside working on his latest guitar order, with lots of sound boards and specialty woods laying all around the 3 rooms of his workshop.  This is a 3rd generation shop; some of the family lives upstairs.
Oldest market in Madrid, next to Plaza Mayor.

Inside the San Miguel Market.  Busy place at lunch time.  

Spanish lunch at my favorite restaurant next to the Plaza Opera.  We had lunch here with Dave and Heather and the boys when they visited us.  Best baked potato in Madrid, and the sausage - muy buena

Our favorite little girls in Spain - Mikaela and Juliana.  Their mom is from Italy and works in the Temple

Favorite Mexican restaurant - Rosa Negra

Rosa Negra with some of the missionaries, Riggs, Chapples and friend Stephanie Wenger

Going home on the bus at night, about 9:30.  Spaniard stay out late, having dinner about 9:00 pm most evenings, so it's a busy time on public transportation

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More Pix

The Hermanas of B6 with a girl who will be baptized.

The District--H. Rojas, E. Ridd, E. McWhorter, H. Fowers, H. Galvez, H. Clements, H. Hadley, E. Larsen, E. Nickerl.

Basketball on P-day--it's a vicious sport!
Here are some more random pictures of what we do.

Hermanas Sanchez and Frost in Segovia (I think that is Hermana Riggs peaking over Bruce's shoulder).

Hermanas Braithwaite, me, Schaumann, and Nydegger

Being the nurse.

She fell down the stairs and broke her ankle (not me).

With Elder Barlow--his grandparents were our dorm parents and we used to babysit his father when he was a baby.

One of the highlights of the week--singing by the temple.  We will miss this.  Our piano leaves for home next week!

With Elder Bartholomew--his mother is a friend of mine.

The Elders collect ties.  This Hermana collects scarves!

Giancarlo and Carla Giorgino--a very special couple from Italy that taught in the MTC

With our special friends the Giorginos.

These are boxes of petunias arranged to look like a bush.

Our dear friends Jack Tyndale and Marta Brossa on their sealing day.