Well things went pretty well with the talk. I’d spent some time localizing it beforehand (changing references to Fahrenheit degrees to Celsius, referencing more local landmarks, etc.), so that helped. Although it came to my attention later that my illustration about scuba diving might not have carried over very well to the Africans peppered throughout the audience. Something good to think about for next time!
That evening I spent hanging out with an engaged couple in my congregation, Ashlee and Miguel. He’s a local Zaragoza guy, who’s weeks away from beginning his practice as a doctor, and she’s a photographer from England. They’ve had a ton of work to do to prepare for the TWO wedding ceremonies they have in the coming weeks (one in England and one here in Spain). Sometimes, it can be a drag to be on third wheel/chaperone duty, but definitely not with these two. After that evening they invited me for a day out of town later in the week. They had some things to drop off in Miguel’s father’s village outside of Zaragoza and wanted to see if I’d roll along with them. I figured, why not take a chance to get a change of pace from Zaragoza for a day?
And so began a new week. I felt like I was really getting comfortable in my new surroundings and have a real sense of my place here in Zaragoza. I was getting to know the bus lines, where to shop, where he territories were, all things that had seemed to be pretty daunting challenges when I first got here. However, one thing I wanted to get more of a handle on was my Spanish.
I could definitely get around with my level of Spanish. I really hesitate to describe myself as “fluent”, because I expect near-perfection out of myself with things like this. But I can read, write, and hold a conversation (once I have a few minutes to warm up). So technically I guess I was. But I really wanted to get even more confident. I made plans with a brother in the Spanish congregation named Jonatan that I’d seen around a couple times and spoken with (often about our common bond of being tall). We met up at the Kingdom Hall that Wednesday, ended up doing my (English) study with Nicholas first, and then heading to one of his Spanish return visits. Although his RV had moved, I wasn’t too bummed about not getting to do too much actually Spanish service, because I got plenty of time to practice speaking with Jonatan himself, and that was what I needed.
On that study with Nicholas, I could really feel myself getting more used to how to teach the Bible here. Again, we went especially slow (there was no rush) and really broke down the lesson we were on. We’d skipped ahead in the brochure to the chapter about identifying true worship, since my talk a few days before was on that topic. I could see the information slowly sinking in.
In my mission to try and get out in service with all the publishers in the hall that I could, I made plans that Friday with Julie, the wife of our coordinator, Andrew. After I concluded the meeting for service, I checked with her as to what she’d like to do for territory, but she said we were all set with studies.
She was a machine.
I felt like we navigated all of Zaragoza, going from apartment to apartment, scoping out her return visits and students. It was great… so cool seeing how well she’d cultivated that interest here in the territory. The only bummer was that it was an off day for her visits. They were either gone, at the hospital, not feeling up to studying, busy with work… Julie, with her witty British sense of humor, blamed me for cursing the day. But things got better at the very last visit of the day.
Julie and I went to visit Joyce, a Ghanaian sister in our congregation with two little twin girls. However, Joyce has had some difficult health issues that have often left her cooped up at home. Joyce doesn’t read, neither in English, nor in her native Twi language. So Julie has been studying with her in “Twinglish”, using a lot of the material on the website to help Joyce out. I used Joyce’s tablet to help her download some of the newest magazines and KM’s in audio form so that she could listen to them, while Julie spent time encouraging her. We made sure to leave with a prayer, to give Joyce whatever extra boost she could get.
As we were leaving, we came across Simon, who was cooking in the kitchen. He lives in the same apartment (I think he’s part of another family that also lives there) and Julie has him as a magazine route. After placing the newest magazines with him, I could see Julie giving me the eye. So I started up a conversation with Simon as well. This turned into me giving him the Good News brochure and offering to come back and study the following week! It was definitely an encouraging way to end our long service day. I teased Julie that while none of her half-dozen or so attempts at studies that day happened, she helped ME start a study. That earned me a punch in the arm. I think we bonded that day.
I had another enjoyable time in service the next day with Alex, the very first person I met in Zaragoza. He came with me as I went to call on Fifi. He’s the one that lives around the corner from Nicholas and had been difficult for me to really nail down to study, or even find at home. But finally a Saturday came around where we actually had a chance to get together. I could tell that he’d dealt with Witnesses in the past. But it was really cool, even before having our first study, hearing him use Jehovah’s name and express his admiration of the Bible. We made plans to get together the following week as well.
There was only one thing that bothered me about the study. It was a certain bystander. At first I ignored him, but I knew who he was as he lurked around the park in which Alex, Fifi and I were enjoying our study. It was one of Nicholas’s roommates, and he’s not a huge fan of ours. In the weeks past, when Bernard and I had stopped by the home, this roommate would be pretty terse and cold when we came by to request Nicholas. We ain’t here to talk to you, ran through my head each time he answered the intercom.
So, as if he weren’t distracting enough in my attempts to study with Nicholas, this guy comes and sits feet away from us as I’m studying with someone ELSE. Get lost, dude! I thought. He was like a little bug that just keeps buzzing around that you can’t get rid of. He would occasionally talk to Fifi as we were in the middle of studying, being a distraction. After the study concluded, Alex, none the wiser as to who this man was, graciously went and placed a set of magazines with him. I stood to Alex’s side as he did, politely and briefly greeting Nicholas’s roommate, but definitely with no intention of being buddy-buddy. But hey, who knows what could happen with that guy in the future, so I’ll be optimistic and have a good attitude. He could be on an assembly in three years talking about how that set of magazines brought him into the truth. And I don’t want him saying “and there was this big fool from California was NO help at all to me and my progress” ha! So I’ve continued to be polite since, and he has been less of a fly-in-the-ear.
So, the time finally came for me to get out of town with Ashlee and Miguel. We took the 90 minute drive by car to a town called Bot. The drive there was incredible itself. Hues of purple and yellow freckled the sweeping landscapes of bright green grass and majestic hills, all illuminated by the shining sun. We took some occasions to get out of the car for photo ops (and café con leche, of course) on the way there. We finally arrived at the village and I was blown away by it.
It was very small, and dense with small condos. But as we walked around the tiny village of Bot, we were able to get some incredible views. It was a mix of vineyards, massive mountains, green hills, running streams of water, which was perfect for our small hike on such a sunny day. If I was gonna spend a day out of town, then this was definitely the place to do it.
I continued my trend of feeling at home, with invites to come over to eat and spend time with the friends in different homes, getting a taste of America by seeing Furious 7 (in English, which is CHEAPER here… nice!) and looking to start some work. I made a poster with tear-offs to start marketing myself for English teaching services. Native speakers are in high demand for that here. It felt good to ride past some spots where I’d left posters and see that some of the tear offs had been taken, even within hours.
I was texting Sadie a few day ago, and she asked me an important question.
“Are you ready to come home?”
I had to think about that answer. Yes and no, I decided. Yes in the sense that it’ll be nice to see my friends and family when I do come back. However, the more prominent answer is “no”. In no way am I just pining to go back, desperate to go home and see everyone. My original plan, before the visa issue got in the way, was to stay 6 months to a year to start, and, at this point, I feel like I wish I could’ve done that still. When I get some English students, it’ll help me to get more of a sense of what real life will be like here. It won’t feel quite as vacation-y (and even as it is now, it doesn’t feel that way), and will give me a sense of what it would be like to really LIVE here… balancing my own apartment, pioneering, activity in the congregation, socializing and having fun, all while working too. I’m seeing how much less expensive it is to live here than back home. (I’m hearing that many 2 bedroom apartments can be the U.S. equivalent of about $500-$800 a month… crazy… and to think of that split with a roommate… definitely a huge difference from the $2200+ people could expect to pay for the same thing in Orange County.)
It’s got me thinking about short term goals, perhaps even joining a Spanish congregation for the time that I AM back in California. It would allow me to continue getting strong with the language and have me continuing to spiritually challenge myself, instead of allowing myself to get to comfortable. My home congregation, for lack of a better term, is very “well-staffed” with 9 elders, about a dozen servants, and over 20 pioneers. So I feel like I could be useful elsewhere too. But these are just musings off the top of my head. We’ll see what happens.
So to answer the question of going home and staying versus coming back… I’m not completely sure yet. I would at least stay in California for a few months for the sake of convention, friends’ weddings, my second round of pioneer school (which I recently found out I’m invited to and SUPER excited about), and just to spend time with everyone. And maybe I’ll remain there.
But I definitely really like it here in Zaragoza overall. I have a sense of attachment to my congregation and friends here. So coming back again/for longer is most definitely an option. I just gotta figure out where I go from here.
We’ll just wait and see what things He’s got in store for me…