Sunday, July 20, 2014

Butterflies and Virgins

Okay, so the answer to what the "teaser" picture at the end of the last blog was is "butterflys" - or actually, moths in that case. My companion and I went to the Butterfly Farm in a pueblo between Fuengirola and Malaga ( Benaldamina) a while ago, and had a great time!  First of all we had to get there. I really haven't had a need to drive yet, and the mission only has about 8 vehicles, so we set off not exactly sure how things were going to go down. We knew we had to take the Cercania (the train that runs between Fuen and Malaga) and then a bus, but we weren't sure where exactly they met, nor anything about the bus or how far it was, other than a number. The train was no problem, but when we got off, there were a couple of different bus stops, neither of which had the number that was on the Butterfly Farm's web site. Fortunately there was someone waiting at one, so I prepared to give it my best Spanish and said, "Do you speak English?"
  I count it a definite blessing that the answer was a resounding "Yes!" and she proceeded to tell me in lovely British English how she was down for a visit, and had just a little while ago visited there, and that she "happened" to be going on the same bus, and would show us the ropes, including where we should get off.  Thank you Heavenly Father! It was pretty crowded, so we couldn't sit together, but I kept an eye out on her, and we had no problem. It was quite a ways, so I was very glad that we didn't follow our original plan to walk!

Wally the Wallaby
The butterfly farm itself is a large greenhouse with lots of plants, butterflys, moths, cocoons with emerging new supplies of inmates, and even a wallaby named Wally!  The butterflys and moths were beautiful and interesting (they had feeding stations with magnifying glasses that you could watch them eat at), and although quite warm, it wasn't nearly as bad as we'd been warned. It seems that Europeans (esp. from places like England which are quite cool) have quite a low heat tolerance.
 I've been quite comfortable in Fuengirola (even when it gets hot there's a cool breeze off the Mediterranean to cool things down), even when others are saying how hot it is! Anyway, after the park we went across the street to take in the Mosque and beautiful views of the Mediterranean (always a favorite activity). Then we headed back to the bus stop and got there about 10 minutes early (as our friend had suggested), only to see the bus arrive and leave right before we got there.
Leaf disquise and beauty between. Cool!
 Fortunately there was a place to sit where the top half would be in shade, so we sat down on the beautiful black marble bench to wait ....  for about a microsecond. That baby was HOT!  We gingerly sat on the edge, and after a while it wasn't too bad. Soon some young ladies in VERY short dresses came up, and before we could think of the proper Spanish to warn them, they sat....  full on bare
The  Arroyo de la Miel Mosque
 legs!  It turns out that they were French, so even a Spanish warning wouldn't have helped, so I didn't feel too bad. And I was glad for my Pday capris :)
The Cercania
The bus finally came, and we made it back to the train and home, grateful for a fun, beautiful Pday in Spain!                                                                  

So I'll bet you were wondering where the "Virgins" part of the post came from... Well, having 5 kids, I can assure you it's not from me :)   This last Wednesday was (yet another) national holiday here in Spain - the  Fiesta del Día de Virgen del Carmen. This festival is several hundred years old, and celebrates the Virgin Mary as a protector of mariners and fisherman.
 They take a (very heavy) statue of Mary and Christ from the local cathedral on a platform attached to poles which is carried in a rhythmic march on the shoulders of maybe 40 sailors (in this case - I guess they do this regularly for various festivals). They proceed through the streets and down to the shore, where prayers are ceremoniously said blessing the fleet and fishing boats for the coming year. It was very impressive, and there were a bunch of boats congregated to receive the blessing. I went with a friend (Debbie) from the ward and enjoyed it immensely.

Afterwards there were probably 45 minutes of fireworks lit off the warf (which we had had enough of after 15 - 20 minutes), and then back they went to the cathedral. I'm very glad I went, but I'm also very glad that I have the true gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, and love that I am able to help bring that gospel here to the great people of Spain. I am so blessed!
View of Fuengirola (in the distance) from the Mosque

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Who Knew! Pretty Cool!

Okay, so I'm addicted to pictures of the beauty of Fuengirola. Who could blame me?  But there are also a lot of things around here that are maybe not so beautiful, but that are still pretty cool.  For example, when you go grocery shopping you can either "free rent" a regular grocery cart (you put in any coin I think larger than .50 euros, and that frees the cart from the line of carts. Then when you're done you put it back and your coin comes lose again. Saves the employees from having to round them up.
But if you don't want to go the cart route, there are these nifty little baskets (Spaniards rarely buy enough to fill up a cart as they have to haul all the stuff home by hand usually) that you can use. They have a long handle and wheels so you can set them on the ground and pull them around.  They are usually just perfect for what I want to get. Most of the stuff comes in fairly small compact packages (again, easy to haul around), including the boxes of milk (1L) that last for months or years, and the bagettes of bread that don't last more than a day or two (and is bought pretty much every day by most people. VERY yummy bread!).  Other interesting "grocery" facts:  the raisins are HUGE (I cut them in thirds or forths usually) and usually have seeds (crunchy! So I make sure I get the ones without). The sugar is quite granular, and there are little shops like "fruiterias" that have YUMMY fruits and that are fun to shop at. So that's how stuff comes in to the piso (apartment). You might ask - so what do you do with all the garbage then?   Well...  stuff comes IN in little packages, and it goes OUT in little packages too. They're very big on recycling here and have underground garbage bins -
you put stuff in the chutes, separated into "organico" - stuff that can be composted - plastics, glass, cardboard, etc.  Then every once in a while a cute little garbage truck comes by, they raise the bins up, then dump them into the truck (of coarse different trucks for each type). It's pretty cool, and they have groups of these bins (some of the dry stuff is above ground sometimes) about every couple of blocks - they're pretty convienient. And they have small garbage cans (nice looking black ones) every half a block or so for whatever is left, and which they empty every day. Pretty cool.
Some pretty cool stuff around the house - we don't have a dishwasher (to go with the clothes dryer we don't have), but they have these nifty drainers that are contained in the cupboards, so you just wash your dishes then put them directly into the cupboard. Ours has a plastic tray at the bottom to catch drips, but my friend's is totally open underneath and drains directly into the sink and onto the drain board. It makes for a neater kitchen, and easier dishwashing too!  Oh, one other kind of crazy kitchen thing - if you ever come to live in Europe and you like to bake, make sure you bring a set of your own measuring spoons and dry measuring cups!  They are pretty much impossible to find around here (they use scales to measure stuff by weight), so we use a small tuna can for 1/4 to 1/2 cup, poke a finger in flour and fill for half a tsp of baking soda, etc. And they rarely bake (who would with all the yummy bakeries etc. around!), so some apartments don't even come with ovens, and the ones that do are very small.
This is a picture of our "utility room". Notice the small washer that likes to "walk" around when in use, and the tanks of Butane that are used for the on-demand water heater (which starts with what seems like a small explosion when the butane is getting low) and for the stove. The week before last our water heater tank ran out, so we switched over to the spare (everyone keeps one spare), no problem. But it was near the weekend, so we didn't order a new one... well, that Monday we were cooking batches of macaroni fix macaroni salad to feed the missionaries (Zone Leaders and SHE's come for concilio -leadership council) and just as the first batch was finishing, the STOVE butane tank ran out. So we quick took our showers (it was fairly early in the morning), then switched the tank from the hot water heater to the stove to finish up. It all worked out though.
We got clean, the salad got made, and our awesome office elder brought some fresh tanks up that night so we didn't have to keep switching them off. I just count it a blessing that it quit after the batch was done and not in the middle of a batch!
This is my bedroom. Notice the nifty window blinds. They lower from the top, and you can set them to leave little slots between them so it lets some light and air in (so it doesn't get too stuffy in the heat), but keeps out a lot of the light and noise. I love them!  Also notice the blue oblong items at the foot of the bed. They are my handy-dandy 13 lb cockroach killers. Very handy when the little critters come to visit in the middle of the night!  (Even cockroaches can't resist them. Fortunately I've only had to use them once so far). And notice the made bed, Kay :)
And that small light up there is the only built in light in the room, so I have a small lamp, which is good because otherwise the print is WAY to small in my books at night!
And last but not least, the bathroom...   I won't say anything about the facility on the far left (it has remained unused), but notice the sink (I haven't seen one with a cupboard below), and the toilet. It is a very effective low-water user, and see that button on top?  That's the flush lever. Some you pull up, some you push down, some have an option for lower-water need flushes or higher need flushes, but they're all on top. And the bathrooms all seem to have their light switches on the OUTSIDE of the bathroom (dangerous around some people). And the light switches usually turn on by pushing down, instead of up. And I won't even go in to door handles right now....
Anyway, these are some of the things that I have found to be a bit different than at home. And as a teaser for next time....