Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday at Retiro Park

Every Saturday at 2 PM the Madrid MTC missionaries all go to the largest and most beautiful park in Madrid.  It is located closer to the center of town (the MTC and Temple Square are located in the eastern part of Madrid).  It's 3 metro stops, if that helps (smile).  Once we arrive, all the missionaries split up into pre-assigned pairs and go tracting and meeting people in the park.  They have several goals, but the two most important ones are:
1.  Place copies of the Book of Mormon and obtain commitments to read
 2.  Get personal information from those who would like to know more about the Book of Mormon and the Church, i.e., names, address, telephone numbers, and (very important), location of the nearest metro stop.
We were a small group today, less than 20, but in a month when our numbers will explode to over 80, this will be quite a sight.

Here we are leaving Temple Square MTC for the Metro stop just around the corner.

Going through the turnstiles underground.  All of Madrid is connected by an fantastic metro (subway) that has actually been in existence since 1903 (obviously with many many improvements and expansions), so everyone uses it; all 6 million (OK, that's a little of an exaggeration).

Waiting for everyone to arrive underground.  The sister in pants is Sister Almeida from Portugal.  She has been teaching Portuguese at the MTC for quite a while but this week is her last.  She's going home to get ready for her marriage in August, but she'll be back then to marry in the Madrid Temple.

Down one of the 2 escalators to reach our platform.  Elder Purkis from England in front
Then Elder Wilson from Brownsville, Texas, Sister Almeida, another teacher
and then my companion, sister Sullivan

Boarding the train.

Just entering one of the many gates into the park.  Sister Seastrand from Utah and Sister Norton from Aurora, Colorado wasted no time in finding someone to contact.  Neither of them can speak much Spanish but they are courageous.

Sister Peterson from Sweden going to Barcelona mission and Sister Carvalho from Cabo Verde going to Portugal.  They could not communicate with each other but managed to contact quite a few people.

Elder Johnson from Utah going to Malaga, Spain and Elder DePina from Cabo Verde going to Portugal.  They could barely communicate with each other but had a great day in the park.  Here they got a referral who accepted the Book of Mormon and filled out a contact card.
I hope you enjoyed a quick walk through the park with the missionaries.

Working with the Youth in Madrid

One of our main callings thus far has been working with the Youth in Madrid.  So far (not counting the very first time we met them and they didn't know a senior couple had arrived and been assigned to be with them, so hardly anyone showed up) we have had 2 activities with them; a St. Valentine's Dance a week ago and a WI party last night at the Institute building.  We had 150 at the dance and over 51 last night, which was packed to the walls.  We ran out of prepared refreshments and everything else in the kitchen before the night was over.  They are fantastic young people
Some of these are teachers in the MTC.  All are returned missionaries.  The girl on the far left is married to the boy on the far right.  They are the Diaz's.  She is a convert, speaks beautiful English and has a degree in law.  They are from Portugal and teach the missionaries going to Portugal.
Here are some of our youth having fun at the St. Valentine's Day Dance in the Stake Center
The girl on the far right is Anna Nalbandyan a convert from Armenia.  Her family found the Gospel here in Madrid, she served a mission in the States and is engaged to be married to an LDS returned missionary she met in Salt Lake City.  She is moving to the U.S. and getting married in the Salt Lake Temple in August.  We hope to keep up the friendship when we return home since she'll be living there.  The boy in the wheelchair is Julio Lopez.  His father is an Area Seventy, Elder Faustino Lopez, and incredible man and one of the first converts to the Church after Spain was opened to missionary work, about 1970.  He teaches and runs the Institute program here in Madrid.
A shot of some of the 150 youth at the dance.  We know some of them, but not all yet.
Ricardo in the foreground.  A terrific young man getting ready to go on a mission. Doing a "Wi" dance. This is the room at the Institute building where the Youth can "hang out.  The kitchen is behind me.  We make lots of treats for them which they love.  Tonight Vivienne made "Riisipuuro".  It was all gone in minutes.
Eva, on the left, recently returned missionary in Madrid and teacher in the MTC, 3 youth visiting from Manchester, U.K., and Armine Nalbandyan on the right.  There are 3 Nalbandyan sisters, converts, whose family, as mentioned,  immigrated from Armenia and then found the Gospel.  They are terrific.
Can't remember the names of the 2 girls on the left, but they are so helpful and just sweet.  They were there at the party an hour early.   Most of these youth are unemployed, many are students but not all.  Some can't afford to even go to school, but they travel on the Metro or by bus and come, some from as far as 1 hour away, just to be together.
They loved playing and dancing with the "Wi".

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mission Conference

We had a mission conference in Madrid on Valentine's Day.  President Jackson thought it was the largest gathering of missionaries in the mission.  We had all the young Elders and Sisters in the continent ( the Islands had a conference the day before) plus 3 of the couples.  President Jackson told us that we have 110 missionaries right now and expect to have double that come the end of the year.  We had Elder Patrick Kearon of the 1st Quorum of Seventy with us.  He is a wonderful man--a convert from England at the age of 26.  He was so kind and shook everyone's hand before starting the meeting.  He taught us how to be better missionaries, and encouraged us in such a gentle manner that we all felt like we would do anything  he asked.  He outlined steps we could take that were doable and gave us the confidence that we could succeed.  When a missionary asked him a question he would turn it around and ask "what have you learned about that?"  Often he would just say, that's correct, I really don't have anything to add to that.  When he asked them what they felt in a certain situation and they gave him a one-word answer he would ask "Is there another word to help describe it?"  It was so wonderful to be there!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

We've Built a Nest in Madrid

At long last, this past week we found a nice apartment in which to move for the duration of our time in Madrid.  There are millions of people in Madrid and THOUSANDS of apartments and with the economic hardships and people leaving the country we thought it might be easy and cheap finding and apartment.  Wrong on both counts.
Of course we needed one furnished (more on that in a minute).
Here, first of all, is a shot of our dormitory room at the Madrid MTC.  It had 4 beds, but thankfully we didn't have to share with anyone.  And we even had our own bathroom.  However, we had to be out by 12 noon last Wednesday because new missionaries we arriving.  The Madrid MTC has a capacity of 82 beds.  They are receiving 85 new missionaries in March, and the next batch is something like 96, not counting the North American missionaries, if their visas come through.  You don't have to be a rocket scientist to do the math and realize they won't fit.  President Sitterud is frantically looking for additional off-site housing.  We went to look at one place with him that could probably house 20 or more.  It's about 1 mile away.  Missionaries would have to walk back and forth; not too bad really unless the weather is foul.  We did not unpack our suitcases in the MTC; just wore what we had on and unpacked our personal care items.
 These photos are not in any particular order, so this next one is of the elevators in our new apartment building.  We live on the 6th floor of an 11-story building that's probably about 30-40 years old.  Thankfully our apartment is newly refurbished.  The elevators are so small; they only hold 4 people that are of medium build; it's a good thing there's 2 elevators.  This is looking from our apartment door.
 Here's looking from the elevators back into our apartment.  There are 4 apartments per floor.  Our address is 27-6D on Calle Valdebernardo ( I know, I wish I could have found an apartment on Calle Lopez, or Garcia or something.  Good luck pronouncing it).  The door has 12 dead bolts.  I think it's more secure than the vault at Ft. Knox.
 A peak inside the elevators.  Believe it or not, the Elders (2 of them) got our new bed and themselves in one of these.  It was like the old exercise of cramming people in a VW Bug.
 The living room.  Actually quite nice; except of course for the bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling.  We could buy fixtures, but it would come out of our own pocket.  Apparently "furnished" does not mean with light fixtures, OR, in our case, with a bed.
 Nice leather sofas though, and a dining room table for 6 with a nice china cabinet (behind wall to the right).
 Looking down the hall from the Living Room.  First door on right is into the kitchen.  First door on left is Vivienne's study/laundry&ironing room.
 Sister Sullivan in her little kingdom; the kitchen.  Granite counter tops and new appliances.  Well, except for the dishwasher and washing machine.  No dryer.  They kind of don't have those in Spain.  Go figure.  There's almost room enough for 2 people to pass each other in the kitchen.  It's "L" shaped, goes to the right where.......
 there's a tiny table that folds out for use.  The chairs actually fold up and slide underneath.  Nice oven and microwave with a gas stove.  Takes some getting used to cooking on gas, but today we had lovely grilled cheese sandwiches cooked on it.
 Anther shot of Sister Sullivan.  It was Saturday morning and we had been up until almost midnight with the Young Single Adults in the institute building on Temple Square.  They have a get-together every Friday night and many of them don't get off work, on the subway or bus, and on to Temple Square until after 9:00.  We feed them refreshments at 8:30 (after 1 1/2 hours of institute class for those who can make it), then they go into the classroom for another hour or so for help from the Church Employment specialist, Brother Serrano (who, along with his wife, is an absolute RIOT; the kids love him), then they come back into the activity room/kitchen just to fellowship and talk, etc.  They are really great kids and we had a blast with them.  But getting home at midnight and then up at 7-ish is really really hard at our age.
 Vivienne'e room
 Vivienne's armoir (full of books and stuff)
 Our bathroom.  If you think the kitchen is small, you should have the experience of being in our bathroom.  Tiny.  No shelves.  I really don't know how they do it.
 But even though it's tiny, the shower is awesome.  3-in-1; hand sprayer, vertical out of the wall shower, and overhead.  Each with their own controls.  The only problem is that the apartment only has a 10-gallon water heater.  I've had to learn to shave in the sink.  Even that was with cold water this morning.

Above is the extra bedroom for those who actually make it to Spain to visit us.  We have a 3-bedroom apartment.  This trundle bed actually sleeps 2, but were not sure how clean it is.  For now it's just our luggage and overflow room.
Below is our bedroom and our new bed.  Our pride and joy.  Michelle, this bedspread is really a beautiful spread with matching pillow covers that we found in a little Chinese shop about a block away from the apartment.  Lots of stitching.  I think you would like it.
 Main bedroom closet.  We have lots more shelving and storage than we thought we would.  It's nice.
 The night stands and dresser have beautiful pink marble tops.
 Home Sweet Home, or as they say in Spain, "Hogar Dulce Hogar"
 Main entrance to the apartment.  One really sad thing in Madrid is all of the graffiti.  It is everywhere.  Except on the Temple Grounds.  I guess since the unemployment rate among the youth in the country is over 50%, they must not have anything else to do with their time.  To me though it's ironic; they don't have jobs or any money but manage to buy lots of cans of spray paint.
 The view from our living room window looking southwest.
 The view from our living room looking northwest.  A nice little park below.  The other side of the building faces the Temple, which would have been nice, but much hotter in the summer.
 The courtyard of the main entrance into the apartment building.  Most of the buildings I have seen around the city look very similar as far as graffiti.
 Sister Sullivan and the main door.  Keyed and locked 24-7.
Looking from the main entrance of the Temple on Temple Square towards our apartment building.

So, the bottom line is, we feel extremely fortunate; the apartment is right across the street from the Temple!