Life in Spain: My first month and a half

Hello! Thank you for coming to read this post! It’s very long as I am commenting on my various adventures since I’ve arrived in Spain, a month and a half ago. Most of what is written was for a journal entry that was mandatory for my program. But I have added to that to share practically everything. I apologize in advance for its sporadic subject changes, length, and horrible format but that’s my brain so enjoy!

 (ps. go to the end to see some deeper things)

When I first arrived in Spain I didn’t know anything about my courses, my home situation, or life in Spain. I had many questions. After three weeks here I feel comfortable, everything is going well. I love my house and my host mom, the food is delicious, the city is beautiful and fun to explore, and I already can understand more of the language. It’s very different to not be living close to or with a lot a lot of people my age like at Cedarville and Horn creek. This is a totally new experience and I’m loving it!

In Valencia I live in an apartment with my host mom. She’s nice and we laugh A LOT! (I love it, as you know if you’ve ever spent time with me). It’s a new experience to be living in an apartment but it’s comfortable with plenty of space. Occasionally I help clean the house, sweep the floor, do the dishes, and other random little things to be of help since I am so graciously given this home. My apartment is a 30 minute walk from my school. I walked the first week or so but after a few days I was already tired of walking so I bought a subscription to Valenbici (the bike system for the city) which only cost 29€ for a year subscription. This cut my travel time from 30 minutes to 10 minutes. Initially I was intimidated by the city atmosphere; all the people, streets, traffic, and buildings all of which were unfamiliar. Now this atmosphere feels like home and I absolutely love it… the city life is calling my name! Although I was expecting the city to be all historic beautiful buildings, which it is partially, but the majority is modern. Living in a city is a whole different lifestyle for me and it’s difficult to no buy things as I pass various shops but I love it nonetheless.

11986374_1625325707723818_1095944904228434154_n
tower of the church in Plaza de la Reina. Now it helps me know where I am in the city when I’m exploring because I actually know its orientation now.
inside the church in la Plaza de la Virgen
inside the church in la Plaza de la Virgen
a piece of the cit of arts and sciences
a piece of the cit of arts and sciences

The first week here was a tad bit difficult; being in a new country with a language of which I am not a native speaker, no friends, or anything to keep me occupied. Then classes began, enough said. In the morning I have class from 10-12:30 then go home, eat lunch, do homework, take a nap, then back to class from 5-9, then back home for dinner, then time for bed. It’s a busy schedule having class in the morning and at night. The homework takes soooo much time because everything is in Spanish. My classes are tought in Spanish by Spaniards who don’t speak much English, but this is a good challenge. My literature class is especially difficult because it takes a long time to read any piece of literature, because it’s in Spanish but on top of that even more time to comprehend it,  in some cases well enough to “teach” it to the class (a presentation of sorts). I don’t like that we had to do this but it forced me to learn at a higher level and thus have a better reading comprehension. Also this was good practice “teaching” in Spanish, as that is what I want to do with my life. My other classes are also pretty rad. I love my grammar class but one day I had a mini crisis. We were going over the homework which was just a worksheet using subjunctive and were we had made so many errors… I realized that in three short years I will be teaching this to kids and currently I am failing at it. Later that day I realized that my level of Spanish has improved so much over the last year, and even since being here in Spain, that I have plenty of time to get better before I will be teaching.

My school has an intercambio program where we get paired with Spaniards who want to practice English. So I have 3 intercambios; one boy Arturo who is 17, a woman Melissa who is 32, and another woman whose name I forget. I have hung out with Arturo a few times and his English is pretty good only a few grammar mistakes here and there. We usually go to a café and talk but one time he took me to a museum, showed me his school, a park, and some other cool things around the city. Melissa is inspiring, she is from Honduras but has been here a few years now. She has two jobs, is learning English and German and is also getting some sort of business degree. So much ambition and hard work. I don’t know how she does it! I still haven’t met with my other intercambio but the program is just another great way to practice my Spanish.

As for the church situation I am currently attending two, one in the morning and one in the evening. In the morning I go to an Anglican church and most of the people there speak a good amount of English, this is annoying as I want to be practicing Spanish. At night I got to river valley where I am more involved and will soon start helping with the children’s program, which I am really excited about. Since I will be here for a year I am making it a priority to get connected and being part of the church as if I were living here natively, rather than just attending on Sundays. Church is a wonderful place to get to know people. At Iglesia River Valley I am also involved in a life group, which is basically a small group bible study type thing, and I love it (especially because most of the people there know minimal English so I amFullSizeRender forced to use my Spanish). I also go to GBU which stands for Groupos Biblicos Universitarios, basically students from all of the universities in Valencia meet and eat lunch and have a bible study. This meets once a week on Wednesday or Thursday in the afternoon. The first few times I went it was kind of boring and I had to leave early so I could get to class on time but now we are meeting in smaller groups in more convenient locations so it’s closer to my school and it also ends earlier meaning I can stay the whole time. It’s just another way to meet more people and also Jesus is a plus!

Being at church realized the power of God and how the body of Christ is international. Going to church for the first time here I felt comfortable and at home although I had never been to that church before nor knew any of the people. This was comforting after having felt a little lonely. Everyone is super nice and is interested in talking to me and learning about my life and how I’ve been doing. It’s great to know that people genuinely care. One woman told me that there was a reason that God brought me to Spain and he will carry out great things with me being here. And a big AMEN to that. I needed this reminder.

Lord Jesus, please use me!

Another note on the church situation… I love it and am getting involved too. Most of my life I was involved in church activities because my parents ran them, but I enjoyed it. Now that I’m here alone I have to speak up for myself and let people know that I want to help and get involved. Going to volunteer meetings and other meetings for specific programs I felt so independent. I’m actually doing things on my own because they are things I am passionate about. A big thanks to my parents for having me involved in every area of the church as a kid because although it was mundane back then I am passionate about it now!

Now on to family and friends at home as well as here

As for taking to family and friends from the states, it stared off strong and now is getting less frequent. I am getting busier as time goes on as I am forming a real life here. I talk to Joy Joy (Caroline) the most, over Facebook, but we’ve only skyped once. It was for two hours though and it was great to catch up with her and all of her college adventures. It’s amazing how God works.  I also skyped with Squad from camp individually but that needs to happen more frequently. Also randomly skyped with Alex Cicero one day and that was rad. I love that I am still connected with people from high school although I only have seen them two weeks or so in the past two years. It’s amazing to me that so much time has already passed since high school. I don’t talk to my parents as much as I should but it was good to skype with mom, dad, and gramps once. Especially gramps because I have no way to contact him because he doesn’t like technology.

I’m really missing being at Cedarville and in that university community with all the facilitated activities.  I really confuse myself because I love being with people but want to be left alone at the same time. When I go out with friends I love it but sometimes just want to walk aside from the group and take everything in, in my own little world, surrounded by people but not interacting. I still don’t know what to think about this but I’m going to try to explain it anyways. I am super busy and have my own schedule and friends to do things with but that usually doesn’t coincided or overlap with my classmates schedules. This confuses me because it was the same way at Cedarville second semester. I was running around like a mad chicken from activity to activity. They were so diverse of activities that the people involved rarely overlapped so I had no friend group, other than my unit mates who were always reliable for meals and such. I’ve also learned from camp and Cedarville year one that there are some relationships that I didn’t put the time into to get to know the person and got really close to a small group of people. I need to start working on getting to know a lot of people and branching out from my core group of friends wherever I may be. So I am beginning to do that here by involving myself in a variety of different things and leaving options open for diverse friendships. It’s a balance. Everything in life is balance.

Two years ago I had a pen pal from Spain and when I found out that I was possibly studying abroad I reconnected with him and found out that he was going to university here in Valencia. We’ve hung out a few times and he envied me to go out with him and his friends one night. How could I pass up the opportunity to experience Spanish night life? I took Megan with me and we had a blast, although we talked English most of the time because all his friends wanted to practice their English (which was minimal). But it was a great night of experiencing authentic Spanish night life and staying out till 6am; therefore, I took a taxi home. Safety first. Here it is typical to go to bars and just chill. At first I was a little apprehensive about this because I was thinking at a bar people would mostly be drinking although that’s the case they aren’t drunk (most of the time). Drinking is much more civilized here for the most part. So that being said we go to bars and get coffee or a coke and that’s totally normal.

night life with new friends
night life with new friends

Now for cultural experiences!

I have done various things to try to live the Valencian and Spanish lifestyle; from trying new food to going to festivals and regional holiday celebrations to adapting to the schedule (mostly siestas and eating dinner late). With all of this I have begun to experience the Spanish lifestyle, which I will further explain in the coming paragraphs.

Whenever I have the opportunity to try new food I do it. The first time I tried horchata it was disgusting, most likely because of where I got it from. But I was determined to find a version that I like. My second time it was at a restraint on the beach and it was much better, I actually liked it this time. The third time it was at horchateria Santa Catalina and there it was delicious. I’ve also ate mazapan fruits which consists of sugar and almond and its delicious. I had it before in a different form in Toledo when I was in Spain before but this time the fruits were special for the holiday of Oct. 9th where guy gift them to women in their lives. I strongly believe it’s necessary to try food of whatever culture you’re experiencing to get the full effect.

The weekend of October 9th was a holiday weekend for Spain and Valencia, with a Valencian holiday on Friday and national festivals on monody. Thursday night I went to watch fireworks that were shot off from in the “river” (what was a river but got rerouted and is now a park) and they were amazing and so loud. I can’t wait for Fallas (a festival in March, look to up or stay tuned till then). That night I also we to a jam session at a bar. OH MY GOODNESS it was amazing. After my heart was aching for music, I was missing jazz band so much and basically anything I have ever been involved in musically. Anyways, continuing festivities for that weekend there was a parade Friday afternoon so I went a little early to see how the city was decorated for the holiday. I realized that this may be the only time I am in Valencia for this festival so I need to take advantage of it while I can because it’s so unique and rare. It was fun to see Valencians with little stickers that said “proud to be a Valencian” (in Spanish of course) and little children waving the Valencian flag proudly. It was a new experience seeing such national pride that wasn’t American. I am constantly amazed by how rich regional culture is, so much so that people who have lived here most of their lives whose ancestry is not from here are not familiar with the miniscule traditions of the holiday or what its real significance is. It’s interesting to me that here there are a lot of people from South America. I haven’t met many actual Spaniards.

beautiful valencian fireworks for the festivities on Oct. 9th
beautiful Valencian fireworks for the festivities on Oct. 9th
statue of King James 1 that had decorations surrounding it to commemorate the repossession of the city from the muslims
statue of King James 1 that had decorations surrounding it to commemorate the repossession of the city from the Muslims
the christian women
the christian women
christian men
christian men
Muslims. By the way it smelt amazing and i was having flashback from semana santa and the processions
Muslims. By the way it smelt amazing and i was having flashback from Semana Santa and the processions

I’ve also went to many of the historic or well know sites of the city and some museums. The second day we were here Megan, Aaron and I went exploring and got lost but as time has progressed I have a better perception of the orientation of the city. So when new students come next semester maybe I can help them not get lost, although that’s half the fun. My school also has some planned excursions for us so we went to Peniscula and Cullera. Peniscula was exactly as I dream of the Mediterranean and beaches, partly due to the beautiful weather and the view of the castle. The water was clear and beautifully blue, sun shining bright (meaning I got burnt) literally a perfect day that ended in ice-cream.  Cullera the castle want as big and the weather was a little gloomy and humidity off the charts but it was a fun day none the less.

seeing the cuidad de artes y ciencias in the distance, a beacon of hope as we had been lost for hours in the rain.
seeing the cuidad de artes y ciencias in the distance, a beacon of hope as we had been lost for hours in the rain.
beautiful Peniscola
beautiful Peniscola

I just had exams the past two weeks and for the most part they went well. I was studying a lot and felt well prepared. A big thanks to quizlet. Flashcards are life. Anyhow that was a really stressful time period as exams always are but hallelujah it’s over. This also means that ¼ of my time in Spain is over. That’s really sad to think about. But December I’m planning to travel around and see friends; Tyler in Seville , stop by and see Sonsoles and also visit some missionaries and stop at some other cities on the way. In planning all of these trips; seeing what mode of transportation is the most efficient or cheapest, where to say (in a hostel or with people I know). Literally everything stresses me out so I made a spread sheet to keep track of the potential expense and the many options I have for each stop. While in Spain I want to travel around Europe too but I have to be intentional about spending and planning how much things will cost as I need money for next semester too. Throughout this process I am realizing how much work it takes to plan a trip. So with that I would like to thank anyone who has ever planned any trip that I have gone on, with the many hours of work planning, for granted. Mostly Señora for the first time I came to Spain and my family throughout the years. I am blessed to have had wonderful people do things for me. But now I’m learning to do it on my own. As I said when I was younger and is frequently quoted by my dad “I can do it myself” and a big amen to that.

As for culture shock, I don’t think it has happened yet but maybe I just spoke too soon. I sometimes forget that I’m in a foreign county and this feels so normal and like home. I also haven’t really had a crisis because of not understanding Spanish. I can understand the majority of what people are saying and actually comprehend it (but have to ask to have it repeated when it’s really fast). I think I am beginning to think in Spanish because I can read and not have to translate things to understand them and also my reading rate is increasing. Also when I went to the movies with my host mom I didn’t struggle to understand what was happening nor was I translating it in my head so that I could understand it. So that’s exciting.

Wow! I have covered a lot of information and topics some of which is in my weekly update videos and some that is not but hopefully this is a sufficient summary of my life.

Now for some more profound and meaningful things

excerpt from October 17th 2015 that I posted on Facebook and don’t feel like rewriting

“Today I had the opportunity to participate in the walk for freedom. This was such an amazing picture of reality in every way possible. We walked for freedom, being the voice for those enslaved in human trafficking who have no voice. It was a solemn time to put all attention and prayer on this subject. The most touching part was that while us women we walking, in a straight line silently, some men on the street began to approach the line. One of the men that was helping, distributing papers and talking to people who were wondering what we were doing, came stood between us and the men that were approaching. This was so touching as it was a picture of what we need to be doing for those who are trapped. Being a force to break this horrifying injustice and protecting those who are vulnerable. I was also amazed that the police were also a part of this, stopping traffic so we could walk down the street and escorting us the whole way. After, we had the opportunity to walk around and talk to people about what our shirts meant and what we had been doing. It was really cool for me to be able to use my Spanish to inform people about what is happening and the goals of the amazing A21 ministry. I am left inspired to

“use my voice for those who can’t speak”

(In the words of Tenth Avenue North) and believing that with God anything is possible! (Matthew 19:26) Hallelujah for the body of Christ being a light to this broken world!”

#A21campaign #caminandoporlibertad
#A21campaign
#caminandoporlibertad (photo cred to Iglesia River Valley – probably Tim)

While being here I have developed a few life goals one of which is to run a marathon at some point. Although I am nowhere near being capable of that now I know I can work my way up to it. I also want to do the Camino de Santiago. It’s a combination of a spiritual experience, traveling, and hiking. Can life get any better? I think not.

Once again God has been faithful to make my transition smooth. Why do I doubt? Matthew 14:31 is a beautiful picture of what the Lord does for us, continuously coming to our rescue even when we neglect him. I am scared for my financial situation and future, as I will probably be for the rest of my life. But above all I have faith that God is good and will carry me through whatever his plan is for my life. Some scripture that I find myself repeatedly coming back to

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your                                  hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”’                                Philippians 4:6-7

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”                                     Psalm 27:1

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.”                        Isaiah 41:10, 13

“No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”                                    Joshua 1:5,9

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”              John 16:33

His faithfulness never ceases to amaze me!

I’m learning to live life one step at a time and surrender my everything to the Lord. All I need to do is cling to him and his word. I had a mini crisis about life, questioning my purpose, but that turned into conviction and I came to the conclusion that my goal in everything I do should be to resonate Jesus and make him famous. I am not focusing on Jesus as much as I should. It’s a repeated encounter with this subject…. How to actually do it? Well that’s a little more complicated and I’m still working on that part but a good place to begin is with praying these beautiful lyrics by Lauren Daigle

“let me heart over flow with passion for your name, let my life be a song revealing who you are”

I can wait to see what is to come and what more I will learn!

Thanks for reading 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Life in Spain: My first month and a half

  1. Hi Rach, your dad sent your news to me. I loved it and pray for you and your family too. They miss you and Carol. I am doing well. I will stay here till Ems play. we had snow this weekend and it’s cold. Love gram ‘T’

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