Aitor and I were walking down a street while out in serv…”preaching”… and saw a Ghanaian man in the distance. It had been a solid Sunday morning and we were about ready to wrap up our day, but Aitor took the initiative to offer this man the magazines, as he was standing right outside his apartment.
Seconds into Aitor’s presentation the man grimaced. This magazine can’t be THAT bad, I thought.
“AHHH!” the man shouted out.
Were we gonna have to throw down before the meeting? I hoped not.
Again the man cried out, his expressions peppered with expletives. He was in pain.
“My leg! I am in so much pain!”
He was posted up against the front of his apartment building. We asked him what’s wrong, immediately curious as to how we could help him.
He explained that he’d just had a surgery on his side, and showed us the bandage, but that his leg, for some other reason, had been struck with a paralyzing pain. He told us that he had a friend who was on his way to pick him up and take him to a walk in clinic.
AItor chimed in, making the suggestion that this man, whose name was Henry, instead go to the emergency room so he could get faster assistance. While Henry at first was not so inclined, he eventually agreed to accept Aitor’s advice.
“Where’s your friend?” I asked.
“He went to go pick up our friend at the bus station, and then he’s coming to get me.”
Uhh some friend, I thought. You’d think he’d come right away to help his friend, who was screaming out in pain, as opposed to running a quick errand first… but hey what do I know?
Aitor thought fast and said he’d call the paramedics and get him taken to the local hospital ASAP. So he called, but they spent what seemed like forever basically interviewing him about the situation. It was definitely a difference from the States where a 911 call fundamentally has emergency services spending to get to you. It was like the dispatcher needed every possible detail about the problem before sending help.
We waited around with Henry, trying to keep him calm for about half an hour, by which time is friends FINALLY showed up. It was crazy that the ambulance still hadn’t come. But with the ambulance on the way and his friends here, Aitor thought it would be a good time to take our leave, but not without getting Henry’s phone number first.
AItor told me that he called Henry to the next day to check in with him in the hospital. And the following week we went to go visit him ourselves. Henry lit up when he saw us walk in the room. We spent an hour just talking to him (more so listening to him talk. He seemed to look a lot more energetic and lively, and admitted that he was feeling much better. He wasn’t sure what exactly was wrong, or at least didn’t share, but joked about having his leg amputated if they didn’t find out in the next couple of days. He told us that the day we called the ambulance for him, it never showed up! After waiting for about an hour total, his friends ended up just taking him themselves after even a second call to emergency services. Pretty sad to hear.
Of course, in our hour of being there, the conversation turned spiritual. Henry expressed so much delusion with the way things were with politics and churches. We got to share a few scriptures with him so he could see that the Bible expresses similar expressions. He really appreciated us being there. Just the fact that two young men took the time out of their day to visit him, even though we’d only met him last week when we helped him, really sunk in. He told us that he had friends who said a lot of bad things about the Witnesses. But he told us that he could see that what they were saying was not true at all. He really saw that we were good people and focused on just using the Bible.
We visited him again together, and Aitor went a few additional times as well to check on him through his lengthy three week stay at the hospital. Henry has since been keeping up with a Bible study.
The time came for me to get some more fun time in. And that happened with the coming of some well-timed visits from two friends from back home. The first was Aiprll, a sister in my congregation in California who was spending two months in Scotland and decided to come by Spain for a visit. We originally had plans to do a little weekend trip with a small group back to San Sebastian again, but that plan ended up falling apart. But that was for the best, because we ended up taking a couple of awesome day trips instead.
After letting Aiprll enjoy a day in Zaragoza service, she and I, along with a friend from the congregation named Lydia, took a train to a village called Jaca, which is in the direction of the Pyrenees. I’d never heard of this part of Spain before, but it’s probably got some of the most beautiful parts of the country that I’ve ever seen. As boring as it might sound, the most amazing thing there was… the grass. Yeah, of all things. It was so tall, bright green, and spread throughout vast fields that we enjoyed as we trekked through the more countryside parts of the town. It was amazing. And el Río Ebro, a river that even ran through Zaragoza an hour and a half away, roared through Jaca as well. The two hour excursion that we took into the “wilderness” of Jaca, was scenic without comparison.
The next day saw that same group, with the addition of Laia, also from our congregation, headed out to an area of Spain called La Rioja. This is the hub of Northern Spanish wine country and is known for its quality vineyards. We got to take a tour of the winery, of course with some tastings, and learn more about how wine is made, which is a surprisingly detailed process. I’m not much into wine, but this tour (which at parts felt a lot like a Bethel tour, ha) piqued my interest in wine-related things.
It was nice having a friend visit again from back home, but Aiprll continued her travels that weekend. But yet another spontaneous plan came to me. During my travels with David at the end of March, I’d made friends with Jon, who lives near San Sebastian and hangs out with the crew from that city. He sent me an interesting text telling me that he was going to a wedding in Mérida, in the south of Spain, and was gonna tour Sevilla afterward. He wanted to see if I wanted to meet him in Sevilla to hang out and tour the city.
I’d heard a lot of good things about Sevilla, especially about the weeklong festival that takes over the city every year (which had just passed). I’d wanted to go! But I began to reply to Jon, letting him know I just didn’t think I could. It just seemed like a lot. But then I thought about it. I’m in Spain… Why not?!
I got a sudden urge to just make this happen. How many other chances would I get to see the South of Spain. Aiprll left Zaragoza early that Saturday morning, and later that same morning I was on a train and headed down to Sevilla, just 3 and a half hours away by high speed train.
When I got to Sevilla, I was able to stay a night with the Carringtons, a couple who have spent about a decade serving in Sevilla’s English congregation. Since Jon was busy with the wedding that day, I took time to check out the town on my own.
I liked the vibe Sevilla had. It was super hot, the first of many days that saw a weeks-long heat wave throughout Spain. Despite the heat, though, I was able to take in a lot of the culture that the city had. I went to the city’s center, called Plaza de Espana, which had some fame for having scenes of one of the Star Wars movies filmed there. I met up with the Carringtons and some people from their congregation to grab some tapas and get to know some new people.
The next day, Jon picked me up the next morning, and we got some sightseeing done around Sevilla. We walked through the 3rd largest church in the world (Catedral de Sevilla), ate paella, drank sangria, saw the other landmarks around the town… all that good touristy stuff.
The highlight by far for me was Sunday night. My favorite thing about my one-day trip to London with David in March was stumbling across Ronnie Scott’s jazz bar. It reminded me of what we were able to check out in Sevilla… a flamenco show. What was cool about it was that it had an underground feel to it. It was in the back of this low-key seemingly empty jazz bar. But you could get there and tell that they weren’t looking for money, prestige, fame… they were just passionate about performing. They seemed to be a family. There was a woman in her 30’s who did the dancing. Joining her were four men… I feel like they might’ve been her two brothers, father, and grandfather. Assuming they were, one brother and the father took turns singing, while the other brother played the guitar. The grandfather was so old and seemed so out of it… but he was sittin there in a corner keeping the beat with his cane! Haha it was really cool to see. You could tell that probably 50 years ago, he was in his prime of flamenco performance.
They didn’t want videos taken but I snuck in quite a few. Some things you just need to be able to record for the sake of good memories down the road.
Jon and I took another quick trip the following day and went to Cadiz… and saw a sight that I hadn’t seen in a long time… the beach! Too bad it just happened to be cold and drizzly that day. But you could tell that during the hot summers, the shores surely had to be packed out with people.
Another friend came to visit as well. This was Yosani, who came along with her friend Clara from Chicago. Yosani used to be in my hall back in California, and began her European vacation with a stop in good old Zaragoza. She immediately gained quick points by bringing me peanut butter, which is difficult to find here, especially American style. So that was definitely a welcome gift! Although their visit was brief, we had a really good time. She got to get a taste of Zaragoza food, meeting, ministry and more food. Can’t ask for much more! It was great having Yosani and her friend stop by for a few days; they really loved the city.
It was nice getting some time to hang out with friends, new and old, and have a little impromptu vacation week. However, it was nice to get back home and prepare to get back into the routine of service and things. I was actually starting to miss my return visits and all. I didn’t have a ton of time left in Zaragoza, so I had to make it count.