Friday, August 29, 2014


Note: this happened maybe a month ago?  I wrote it up for my writer's group :)                           

It had been a while since my last adventure so I was feeling the need to wander. The problem is, I had already hit about everywhere within walking distance of my piso. Time for a change in tactics. Since the Cercanias (train) is only about a block away, I decided to jump on and let the rails do the walking for a bit. I got of on the second stop, Torreblanca, and headed for the beach.
 To tell the truth it wasn't much different than the stretch I walk along most nights now, but it did have a little rockway extending out into the Mediterranean. I found a rock to sit on a ways out on it, and watched the sardines swimming around  in the beautiful clear water for a while. It was quite peaceful, even though there were a lot of people there also enjoying the day.                                                                                  
A view of the Mosque we had explored previously.
View of the dryness and Med.
At that point the hills come almost all the way down to the water, but of coarse where there's water there HAS to be hotel , so they had cut away some of the hillside to make room for them. And right behind them was the railway (but higher up). So when I decided to head inland it took a while to find a road that headed that way. Finally there was one that tunneled under the railroad, then headed up a steep road towards yet another development.  At the top were some fantastic views... and a closed road that of coarse begged to be explored. That led to another road that led down to yet another hotel, but there was a hill on the other side that I hoped would lead to somewhere interesting. I scrambled up the hillside, but when I got to the top, there wasn't much of any place to go except along the top.
Yup, ended going down - AND up this again!
I did spy some greenery a little ways away, though. It hasn't rained much here in recent years - I think only twice in the 3 1/2 months I've been here - so almost everything is pretty brown where it isn't stone and cement. That greenery enticed me onward and I ended up scrambling down the hill fairly near the hotel I was trying to avoid, and then taking a dirt road that soon became a path. There the sounds of civilization were very muted and the song of insects and water and the scent of flowers and greenery permeated the air. I found a tree to sit under and was in heaven!  Peace and nature - rich food for the soul for me. 
Bamboo, flowering bushes - a real mix

 Finally it was time to go though, so I continued to make my way along the gully my oasis was in, hoping to find a way to the beach. No such luck. It ended up beside the hotel, cut off by the train tracks. There was a trail leading upward, but it petered out in behind the hotel, with fences blocking the path. Fortunately (I thought) one was low enough to climb, and it looked like it led to the hotel's common area which I hoped would lead to the road by the tracks, but it turned out to be the common "back yard" of several room suites, and I got chastized by the neighbor who was enjoying a swim. Not only that but it was totally enclosed by a fence and all the gates were locked - inside and out!  So it was back to fence hopping.  That was okay though - I got to re-enjoy my little paradise, although I did have to climb the hill (this time via the road) to make my way back to the beach. Boy was it worth it though - I had a GREAT time, and feel very very grateful for being able to enjoy the beauty I found - safely no less :)  Didn't even get arrested! ;)  I took the train back home from the stop that turned out to be right next to the underpass I had used (Carvajal) because I was too tired by that time to walk all the way back to Torreblanco. A definite blessing finding that!  All together I feel very blessed at being able to be here in beautiful Southern Spain - able to enjoy both the "touristy" stuff, and also the more out-of-the-way treasures. Missions are awesome!

View from the top of the hill, Med in the distance.
The green spot in the middle is my "oasis" :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

State of the Mission

View from Mijas
 Every week at the beginning of our office staff meeting we have a "State of the Mission" report, going over how many baptisms, baptismal dates, "rescues", new investigators, etc. we've had for the week, month, and year so far. Well, this is kind of my "State of My Mission" report.  I say kind of, because my mission isn't really measureable by numbers (except perhaps by the number of referrals that have been coming in and going out, which fluctuates).  It's more of a "Sense of the State of my Mission" and this will probably amount to random thoughts.
"Burro Taxi"
Right now (written a couple days ago) I'm pretty tired. Which in a way is a good thing! It means I'm keeping quite busy, which I love. I just wish there were a few more hours in the day! It often becomes quite late without my even noticing, which isn't unusual for me when I'm immersed in a good book, but I don't even have any fiction here. But there's always facebook ...
Hermana Castillo and me
I'm always trying to think of ways to increase the number of referrals coming into the mission, and also ways to encourage my Spanish speaking missionaries to keep plugging away learning English.  I'm regularly filled to overflowing for gratitude. So MANY blessings!   The only thing that would make it even better would be if I had a "best friend" to come with me on my mission. You couples have it made - so get on out here! It's great going on adventures, but it's a hundred times better when I have someone to share them with, which I did today on P-day. Thanks Hermana Castillo! Check out my "addendum" at the end for details, and the pictures are almost all from today. :)

Mijas shop
Okay, back to the "State of the Mission". In case you were curious, right now the number of referrals our missionaries usually give me hovers around the mid 30's for the week (a good part of which are for other, usually South American missions). This week we had a great week, though, and got in about 50! The number that comes into our mission (from within the mission to other zones, and from other missions and is usually in the mid 20's. This is quite a bit better than when we started, but we're always looking to improve. If you have any ideas I'd love to hear them!
I try to make the missionaries that call me with a referral feel glad that they called. And I try really hard to not make them feel guilty if they haven't called the person when I call (after 2 days) to check and see how it went, but to just gently remind them. Most of them are REALLY good at calling though. One fun thing about the call backs is when I get a Spanish speaker. One of the hardest times to understand a foreign language is on the phone. Usually between their limited English and my limited Spanish we figure things out, but there have been a few times I was left being not quite sure if I really got what they were trying to tell me. It makes life interesting! And it's so funny..  even the Americans will often speak Spanish to me without even realizing they are doing it, until I ask them to repeat. And it's really funny when they speak half Spanish and half English. I can usually figure it out though. But there are some letter pairs (or even triples) in Spanish that sound exactly the same, which can be pretty tricky over the phone when I'm trying to get the names of cities and streets. Thank heavens for google maps! And the Spanish i is our long "e" sound, and etc., which makes when they spell things out REALLY interesting when I'm not sure if it's the Spanish or English they're trying to say/spell!
Not today, but loved it!
Sometimes I just plain get tired! Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I went to the beach the other night and found a fairly quiet spot off the walkway (there are LOTS of people on the walkway) to calm my spirit a bit, which helped. Life can be kind of hard sometimes!   A mission can be hard!  The Lord tends to stretch you in ways that can be uncomfortable sometimes - but love and faith gets me through. This is not a job where you clock in, check off your list of responsibilities, and then clock out to go on about your life. The Lord tends to stretch one in sometimes totally unexpected ways, and sometimes it hurts, but the Lord is always there. As well as some pretty awesome people who become His hands and feet to help me out when I need it!
Hna Castillo told me to
look at her (while drinking),
so I got a face full of water!
I feel God's love so often and strongly here! I still miss the temple, but mission perks are pretty darn nice, too. And the knowledge that I'm doing what the Lord wants me to do is very sweet.
Material things become less important (and you realize that if you have done without it for a year or two, you probably don't need it!) .... A mission tends to focus one on the truly important things in life - The Lord, family, friends, and helping those family and friends we don't even know yet find the joy that the gospel brings.
I love the scriptures. I read them pretty much totally in Spanish now and I love it!
I am happy, fairly healthy, and  constantly amazed at God's grace and the power of His atonement. There's no better life!
Addendum:   Thanks for sharing the day with me today, Hermana Castillo! Today for P-day we went up to a little pueblo called Mijas that has burro taxies, beautiful views, and very fun little shops. It was a GREAT day! We bought each other cute necklaces, and then I found an awesome hand-made silver necklace from a little shop that I couldn't resist, so I got TWO necklaces today!  Pretty much unheard of. We shared some hand-made icecream and candied almonds, and wandered through lots of little shops.
There were original ceramics, photographs, and paintings in addition to jewelry, and of coarse lots of touristy stuff. We also went to the "Museo de Minaturas" (Miniatures museum), which was totally not what I was expecting, but still very fun. They had very tiny (some the size of maybe a dime, some on the head or even point of a pin or along a toothpick or hair) paintings and carvings. Very fascinating!  They had to have multiple magnifying glasses or a microscope to be able to see them.
Then on the way home I got to drive for the first time in Spain (no problem), so watch out, world! I'm on the loose!  ;)

Sunday, August 10, 2014


A while ago I decided that for my P-day I would do a bit of exploring. I'd already walked both ways along the beach pretty much as far as my hips would allow me, and a few other ways too, so I started off down the street next to ours that runs parallel with the beach, thinking that I would take off and explore up a side street if anything caught my fancy.  There wasn't much to stimulate my curiosity, but I was enjoying exploring some of the stands of post cards (my companion wanted some that represented the horse show we had seen and I'm always on the troll for some good cards), window watching, and in general taking in the Spanish ambiance. It was a beautiful, warm day, with lots of shade thrown by the corraled trees, and fountains and
other art to be enjoyed in the roundabouts that came regularly to regulate the traffic. I also think it's fascinating that the style of brick, block, or tile work changes regularly on the sidewalk,
and that many buildings are decorated by beautiful tile work. Still, I was looking for a bit of adventure, and it just wasn't happening. Then above the high rise apartments, into my view came THE BULL!  I'd seen him before and hadn't thought much of him, but there he was, big and bold on the crown of a hill that just might possible afford a lovely (and, I hoped peaceful) view of the Mediterranean.
I checked out my little tourist map (very sketchy) and discovered what looked like a little road that circed back behind the hill and came near my destination. Perfect!  It was a bit farther than was probably wise to go, but heck, I had all day! And what's Aleve for, anyway, if not to allow a bit of overdoing? So off I went, keeping my goal in site as much as possible. And yes, there WAS a road that seemed to circle behind and which went uphill. Finally near the top was a little parking place and a gate with a couple of trails leading in the general direction I wanted to go. I took the right hand one, but it soon pettered out, so I headed uphill through the bush a while, and found the other trail, which was soon going strong. And it DID lead to the wooden bovine I had been searching for! And for quite a while I was left alone to take in the beautiful views and fill my soul with the peace that God's beautiful creations bring. It was a very worth-while journey. By the time I was ready to go, a couple and two runners appeared, so I greeted them and headed back down the hill, ready to get back into the crowded city.
But of coarse I COULDN'T go back the same way I had come, so I headed down the other side of the hill. There I found the cutest little pueblo with white washed walls, little passageways with an abundance of flowers, and of coarse the ever present red tiled roofs.
 And there were other cool little streets to explore too, with there own houses filled with their own individual personalities. But by that time my hips were starting to complain, so I walked down to the beach and headed back that way. I had to rest a couple of times on my way, but eventually made it home, feeling very filled and satisfied. A wonderful day!

View from "The Bull" (as is the first picture).

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Extraordinary Happenings

Most of my days here in Fuengirola are pretty routine. I wake up, read scriptures, write in my journal, do exercises, eat breakfast and shower. After that there's the block and a half walk to the office, checking for referrals, entering data, calling missionaries, writing letters... you know, the regular stuff.  And then there are those extraordinary days. This last little while I've had two such days.
Arlene between her aunt and the cousin that baptized her.
The first occurred on a recent Saturday. First to set the stage...  A month or two ago a beautiful young woman sat down beside me in Relief Society and we introduced ourselves to each other. From that beginning I grew to love Arlene, she of the vivacious smile and enthusiasm for life. She had decided that she wanted to change her life for the better and follow the path of her aunt, who is a member in Málaga. Every Sunday she greeted me with a great smile, double "besos" (the Spanish custom of greeting friends with a kiss on each cheek) and an enthusiastic "American" hug (awesome!).  I got to help teach her for one of the missionary lessons (she speaks both Spanish and English, so it was a mix of both), and soon she was ready for baptism.
But this was to be no ordinary baptism. Arlene's aunt lives out in the countryside on the other side of Malaga surrounded by beautiful hills. She has a pool with palm and olive trees and that is where Arlene was baptised. She was nervous, but it was a beautiful service and the Spirit was SO strong in that beautiful place. The beauty of God's creations out in nature usually brings the Spirit to me in greater measure than anything man made. She was baptized by her young cousin, which made it even more special, and almost all of the local missionaries (whom I've grown to love) were there, to complete a perfect day.
Elders Gonzalez, Thompson, Dansie,
(me), Adams, and Buckway from Fuen.
 They had a huge spread of food with lots of traditional Spanish dishes that I had never tried before, so of coarse I had to try a bit of each of them. I was very stuffed afterwards!  And they were delicious!  I'll have to write a future post on Spanish food.  I thought Elder Dansie was trying to hide in the rt side picture, so I was pulling him over to make sure he was in it too. He and Elder Buckway are the office Elders. Awesome young men!
Hermana Castillo and me (in our office clothes - it was the matinee at 6 :)
 Pictures courtesy of the Castillos since I forgot my camera :s.
The second dia extraordinario came once again courtesy of my great friends, the Castillos. They invited me to a  live Spanish production of Le Miserables (Los Miserables in español) in a beautiful old theatre called el Teatro Cervantes in Malaga. There were box seats, murals on the ceiling, and a small but well-done stage.
 Fortunately I had seen a movie version a long time ago (not the musical though), and had read the book, so I read the Wiki summary and listened to a lot of the music in English and went, hoping for the best. It was totally awesome. The voices were powerful, sets and lighting mesmerizing, and the overall production excellent (in my not all that experienced opinion). I was even able to follow it well enough to feel the power of the redemptive story such that I was shedding a few tears by the end. I count it a great blessing to have been able to go, especially with the wonderful Elder and Hermana Castillo. Thank you, my friends!
Afterwards we went "native" and ate dinner at the fashionably late hour of around 9pm. That's when Spaniards are just getting started. Often restaurants don't even open until 7 or 8 and you'll see families with young children wandering around in the streets at 11 or 12 at night. We ate in the shadow of a beautiful old church, and wandered around exploring the surrounding shop windows, which included a wedding gown display and a very old movie projector with celluloid film in it. Dinner was delicious, as was the company :)
So that wraps up my tale of two venues, one spiritual, and one cultural. One filled with the beauty of God's creations and His spirit, and one celebrating the Spanish  (and French) cultures and Redemption. As I've said many times before, I feel SO BLESSED to be here, and thank God daily and often for the chance to be here in Spain serving Him. I am truly blessed!
Another beautiful evening in Fuengirola. I love the Mediterranean!