Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Starting Line

It's a special day!  Ian is, at this moment, embarking on one of the most important and exciting adventures of his life: his formal education.  As long-term students and current educators, Eric and I couldn't be more delighted for him and the experiences he's going to encounter.  It almost makes us wish we could do it all over again....but then we're reminded of my 19 years and Eric's 24 years of schooling (whew!), and we're just simply happy for Ian. 

And he's so ready.  We have no doubt that he's going to take to full-day kindergarten like a fish to water.  His little brain is like a sponge right now, soaking up every bit of information and experience he can.  Exploring and questioning and retaining are second-nature to him at this stage of the game, and making new friends will be so fun. 

We wouldn't be honest if we said we weren't going to miss him, but our excitement for what he's embarking upon far outweighs any sadness over his being gone for the better part of every weekday.  It's just SO COOL that he's in school! 

So this morning was spent acting out all the school morning steps we'd been practicing all week:  up and at 'em at 6:30, hopping in the shower, getting dressed in his school uniform, having a good breakfast, packing his lunch, brushing his teeth, and walking around the corner to the bus stop.   He's already so good at the routine that we had about 15 minutes to spare, which was a good time for the quintessential first day of school photos on the doorstep.  Then, at the bus stop, he got his "game face" on, and climbed up those steps like he was an old pro, not even stopping to wave or say good-bye.  A little man, crossing the starting line for a great adventure. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Epilogue: Back Home

We've been back home for over a week now. Our trip home was a bit...interesting, but we finally made it about 7 hours later than originally planned (with our luggage another 12+ hours behind us).

Now that we're settled back in, having fought a war with some pesky ants and cleaned up the remnants of the tree that feel in our back yard, we thought that it would be a good time to share a few final thoughts. So, here we go.

1. In one sense, our month in Spain was the tip of the iceberg in regards to the work, preparation, and planning that went into the trip. In any major project I've been involved with, there has always been those moments were you quietly ask yourself whether or not what you are doing is worth it. Seeing our students thrive, forming personal connections and (for some of them) honing their teaching craft, made it all worthwhile. I chose to go down the path of being at a teaching school as opposed to a research school; watching my students grow like they did reminded me of why I made that decision. I think it is always a good thing to be reminded in the present of why you made certain choices in the past.

2. Speaking of students, it was a delight to live with a number of them for a month. As a linguist, I was able to collect all kinds of useful data on current word usages and slang. In short, it was tots (sp?) awesome.

3. Some people thought we were crazy to take a (then) 8-month-old and a 5-year-old to another country for a month while we led a group of college students on a missions trip. In response, I would have to say that yes, we were. That said, it was a very positive experience for both boys. I had the chance to spend a lot father-son time with Tobin, and Ian had his cultural and linguistic horizons broadened.

4. Delta Airlines as a company is awful.

5. However, related to #4, there are a number of Delta employees who are wonderful.

6. In regards to ministry in Alcoy, I feel confident saying that our team met one of the primary goals I had going into the trip. Namely, the students we took, through their hard work, prayer, and dedication, opened a number of doors in regards to the ongoing ministry of the Spanish church there.

7. Next up, Lithuania in 2013. Maybe.



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Just so you don't think it's all work and no play...

In an act of gratitude, the Spanish church we've been working with threw a party for us last Friday night. There was lots of food, music, and (Bethel-appropriate) dancing.

Here's a little snippet. Be warned, you might get motion sickness.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Some Nibbles

While we were settling in on our first day, a friend of Sammi's (the apartment's normal resident) stopped by to say "Hello". Wanting to get to know us better, Javi invited us to his house at 6:00 p.m. on a Friday in order to enjoy some "nibbles".

Friday came, and Javi swung by our apartment to pick us up. He drove us to his house, a small, red, single-story home on a hillside overlooking Cocentaina.

We arrived a little after 6:00, and we spent the next 3 hours enjoying various local snacks while we each shared about our homes, jobs, families, favorite foods, etc...

True to his Indiana heritage, Ian's favorite part of the evening was driving (and parking) a small John Deere tractor.

Apparently Javi enjoyed our time, because a week later Ian and I joined him and his friends for a barbecue. Then, this past weekend Javi's family came over for some "nibbles" at our place, followed by a walking tour of Cocentaina (both Javi and his wife grew up here). This next Sunday, I will be joining Javi for a 6 a.m. hike on a nearby mountain. I'll be sure to post pictures. Assuming I survive.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

La Capilla de Sant Jordi (St. George's Chapel)

The view of St. George's Chapel from the school
No matter where you go in Alcoy, you can almost always catch a glimpse of a lovely blue-domed chapel situated in the center of the town's valley.  The chapel is dedicated to St. George, the same St. George of British legend, who purportedly slayed a dragon in Libya, saving a princess and returning home a hero.  As it turns out, he's a hero in Alcoy, as well.

In the latter part of the 13th century, Alcoy was being invaded by the Moors.  As the story goes, in the thick of the battle, when all looked lost, St. George appeared on horseback in between two mountains overlooking the city and led a victorious charge on the Moors, thus saving the Alcoyanos from certain ruin.  With gratitude, the locals pledged to build a church in honor of their savior, and hence, St. George's chapel was designed and raised.

Nowadays in April, there is a yearly festival in honor of this event in which the people of the town dress in medieval costumes and take part in an epic "battle" of Moors and Christians, which is always won by the Christians following the appearance of "St. George."  It is widely considered Alcoy's main attraction. The Lonely Planet travel guide even goes so far as to say that for 51 and 1/2 weeks out of the year, there is no reason to visit Alcoy -- this festival occupies the half-week exception.  Of course, we obviously don't agree with this sentiment and have found many reasons to be here!


My job in Spain is a little bit different. Instead of working at the morning camps or teaching English in the evening, I'm the housekeeper, cook, babysitter, CFO, and of course, driver.

I've discovered there are two rules to Spanish driving:

1. Pedestrians always have the right-of-way when stepping onto a cross walk. They won't even look to see if you are coming; they just step right into the street at full speed.

2. Don't turn on red.

Actually, there's a third rule as well, but it relates more to parking than driving:

3. If at least two wheels are inside the parking space, that's good enough. It doesn't seem to matter which two wheels...

Thankfully, I haven't had too many scary moments at the wheel. For the most part, I find Spanish drivers to be the perfect mix of aggressive and law-abiding. Traffic flows really well.

The one mishap I've had though occurred when we were returning to Alcoi from Alicante on Saturday. Our TomTom kept putzing out on us, and we ended up taking about a 15 km detour. I had forgotten to bring my laptop (it had all of my good maps on it), so we spent about 15-20 minutes in the middle of nowhere trying to figure out how to get back home.

Fortunately, we made it and only wasted about 35 minutes.

Here's to two more weeks of accident-free driving.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pizzaria Pirata

On the first Monday night that we were here, we had just had a loooonnnnng day at kids' camp and a hectic evening of registration and placement tests for the adult classes.  Hannah, Ben, and I were pretty late getting home and Eric had already had supper with the boys, so the three of us ventured out around Cocentaina for something to eat.  Completely missing the tapas bar that had been recommended to us, we stumbled upon a restaurant called Pizzaria Pirata and decided to give it a try.
Holy yumminess.  Yes, that IS an egg in the middle of my pizza.  It's accompanied by whole green olives, tiny slices of chorizo, a perfect amount of cheese, and a thin layer of a simple tomato sauce, all on top of a crispy, bubbly crust.  Pure deliciousness.  Here's a close-up:  
Since then, we've made Saturday nights our Pizzaria Pirata night.  We all order our own pizzas for a little over 6 Euros each and have a feast.  I'm fairly certain that this will be one of the many things we'll miss after we leave.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ian & Jordi

In the first session of the kids' camp, Ian made friends with a six-year-old named Jordi.  It's been fun to watch them play together, eat together, and get in trouble together, even with the language barrier.

These two dudes have had so much fun together these past two weeks.  And here they are having some more:

Jordi fell on the playground last weekend and broke his arm.  Hence, the cast and the scrapes on his forehead.  This situation only gave Ian the excuse to a) pretend he was injured, too, and b) be a "helper" to his friend all week.

In his prayers at night, Ian has been thanking God for his friend Jordi, because "he's so funny."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Not-So-Local Celebrity

Our kids' camp made the Alcoy newspaper this week, and look who was the star!
For those of you who can read Spanish, here's the whole article (just double-click on it to enlarge): 

Tobin's Groupies

Tobin had some admirers these past two weeks!
These two loving ladies (among other people) were always more than happy to cuddle him, feed him, and entertain him so we could have a break now and then.  Consequently, he's been a super happy dude!

Thanks, Shannon and Sondra!