I’m living in Madrid now. I’ve been here for a little over two weeks, and it’s such a beautiful city. Everyday I wake up and feel as if I am living in some dream. I have met so many kind people, got lost in the metro, and even visited an Egyptian temple. I’m a little lonely and homesick even though I don’t really want to go home. Some days I have tons of adventures with all the new friends that I am meeting, and others I would give anything to be back in the Pacific Northwest rain.
One of the things that I have so appreciated in my time here so far is my host family. They welcomed me with open arms and have been so helpful in making the transition to Spain. The girls that I take care of may fight a little as all siblings do, but we have so much fun playing games and trying and failing to make food. I am grateful for everything in my life that has lead me here, and I hope to make the most of Madrid.
I want to write more about what has been going on but for now I’ll leave you with a video that I made about my first week here.
spain week 1
I spent a while in East Tijuana at Unidos por Siempre orphanage with María and some of the kids who live there.
One night Angelica was telling a story about how there is an evil spirit in her house. I fake pretended to be a ghost and said “espíritu” in a spooky way, only to be corrected very adamantly to not taunt the spirit and if I was going to say the word to say “espíritus” not “espíritu”, because if you say the singular form the spirit will come and haunt you. I also learned that you can tell if a spirit is malicious based on whether it moves objects and whether it will show itself at night or daytime.
I took a couple hours everyday trying to teach Fernando and Stefany the alphabet, as neither of them could read. Probably the most important texts that I have received for a long time were from my uncle (who used to be a special needs teacher) through María’s phone as I had no internet connection, giving me a few tips. After my first tries, much frustration, and feeling hopeless I cut out an extra set of letters to match with my first one. I told the Stefany and Fernando that we were going to play a matching game with a few of the letters and both immediately became more interested in the letters and by the end of my time there though Stefany could barely get through A-F, Fernando sometimes could do almost the entire alphabet. I do not know if I am cut out to be a teacher, but I certaintly learned a lot about patience from the experience. Progress was slow and uncertain and I had to stay calm even when Stefany would forget a letter a couple seconds after she had learned it, or when Fernando would run outside to see what the other kids were doing.
My spanish is good enough to understand most of what is being said and to read simple children’s books, but according to one fourteen year old boy my speech is “cuatro por diez”, or in other words I speak like an eight year old, which may or not have added to why he was so interested in my romantic life. However, language is not the only way to build friendship. Letting a little girl sleep in your bed at night because she is afraid of the dark, or the crowding around of two kids playing connect four can do as much to build relationships as long conversations about why someone’s dad only takes one sibling home for the weekend.
Most of my days were spent playing cards, helping with odd cleaning jobs, lazily reading and laughing at dumb jokes. This week was sabbath living. I was more fully a human being, and less of a human doing.
I am constantly in awe of the creativity of the women who help Rosa out with Day Camp. On Wednesday and Friday we revamped these old coke bottles using egg shells that the kids had brought, glitter and string. The children got to chose the colors that they wanted and when their parents showed up, many were super excited to show them.
On Thursday, the summer camp took a field trip to CECUT, which is an entire cultural experience distilled into one campus area. There is tons of art, a history of the Baja California area, a small aquarium, and something similar to an IMAX theatre. I wish I could have spent more time wandering around the exhibits, especially a series of black and white photographs from the last seventy years.
Friday night Alex took the preteam from Christ Church of Oakbrook out to their housing sites and I tagged along. My grandma (and recently passed grandfather) go to Oakbrook and getting to meet their youth pastor and other leaders was a very God-inspired moment of connection. We got tacos and shared some stories before digging into the logistics of house building and staying at the orpha.
These first few days have been overwhelming at times and a real exercise in being an outsider in a tight knit community. Walking the streets with Rosa, everyone says hello to her and she knows everyone in the colonia. At the materiales store as she went to pay for a part for a sink the vendor said that it was a gift for La Profe. It’s incredible to see the relationships that she has and the ways that Doxa is integrated into the community.