España Update 5 ~ My Host Family

My trip to Spain came to an end several days ago.  Hopefully the blogging about my travels will continue here intermittently for quite some time.  I couldn’t let another day go by though without writing something in appreciation to the family who hosted me these last six weeks.  I hope you enjoy getting to know them a bit as well.

The Importance of Family

From the start of our relationship with Pedro three years ago, I watched him interact with family members back home over Skype and heard stories about his family gatherings.  I was impressed to hear how important family was to him.  On his initial student profile (filled out as part of his application process as an exchange student), Pedro didn’t mark “family oriented” as one of his personality characteristics.  I remember later telling him that was an oversight on his part.  I knew it then and lived it firsthand myself these last six weeks.

Rosa, me, Pedro, and Rafa, my host family for 6 weeks in Spain.

Rosa, me, Pedro, and Rafa, my host family for 6 weeks in Spain.

Over the last three years I’ve heard family member names come up in Skype conversations, received photos of new babies born into the family, and prayed through their trials and tribulations with them.  So besides Pedro’s parents, Rosa and Rafa, I knew I also wanted to meet his other relatives.

The Family Tree

One of our early conversations when we first met Pedro was about his family tree.  It was a very memorable conversation because as he tried to explain the familial relationships, we kept getting confused with the family labels he used.  It was really quite comical as we couldn’t understand how Pedro, who had no siblings, could have nieces and nephews.  It turns out that in Spain, his 1st and 2nd cousins are considered nieces and nephews.

Within days of my arrival in Madrid, the family visits started.  After the first one, Rafa, Pedro’s father, kindly created a family tree to help me navigate all of the names and relationships.  By the time I left Spain last week, I met almost everyone from Rosa’s side of the family, from her one year old great-nephew to her 93-year old father.  I met 26 relatives in all, from Madrid to Seville to Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain.

Rosa, outside the summer home in Soller, Mallorca, Spain--for 3 generations.

Rosa, outside the summer home in Soller, Mallorca, Spain–for 3 generations.

Living in a Large Family

Not only did I meet them, I also lived with many of them, at the family summer home in Soller, Mallorca.  This home has been in the family for three generations, and is set up to accommodate sleeping arrangements for over 20 people.  Pedro has spent every August of his life there.  Everyone extended me a warm welcome and treated me like family too.  It was an amazing gift.

In Soller, I got a bird’s eye view into living in a large family.  I witnessed the fellowship amongst adults and friendship between the children.  I observed their gatherings at meals, at the pool, at the beach, and at play.

I was immersed not only in Spain; I was immersed in family living.  Coming from a background of divorced parents and few relatives, there were times I felt inadequate around this large family, not knowing how to fit in, while also trying to overcome the language barrier.

A fond farewell with Pedro's grandfather.

A fond farewell with Pedro’s grandfather.

What I saw day in and day out was a family that put a high value on the children and was bonded in love.  With Carmen, the family matriarch gone, the grandfather is the glue that holds this family together.  It will be a mixed blessing with his passing, as the caregiver role that this family carries is quite heavy.  It was truly a gift to meet him. Although our communication was hampered by the language barrier, he was always trying to communicate with me—repeating the same questions over and over.  I didn’t mind though.  His attention was welcome, and it helped me with my Spanish too.

An Evening to Remember

My final night in Spain was spent at the family home with 19 other people.  It was filled with precious memories as part of this large family: help with my online flight check-in, hanging around the pool, meeting more family, playing board games and late-night Charades.

My parting gift to this family was a signed copy of Journeys to Mother Love, that includes the published story that brought us all together.  It was a poignant and sentimental moment for me—traveling 5,300 miles across the world and coming full circle with the story in my mind.

With my Spanish family on my final night in Spain.

With my Spanish family on my final night in Spain.

A Fond Farewell

I know that God gives us what we need in so many unexpected and special ways when we chose to follow His will and His ways.  When we opened up our home to Pedro, and made him part of our family three years ago, I never dreamed that I would one day be the recipient of that same hospitality.  When I traveled to Spain, I didn’t realize what kind of effect that would have on me—never having a close family or many relatives growing up.  Their kindness touched me in deep ways that even now brings tears to my eyes.

I left Spain with a bigger heart for this family and a deep appreciation for them opening their home and their lives to me.  I miss Spain.  I miss them.  But I know our goodbyes were not the end of this relationship.  It is just adios for now and on to the next chapter of the story that God is weaving between our families.

A parting gift from one of the grandchildren who touched my heart.

A parting gift from one of the grandchildren who touched my heart.

On a Personal Note

I am closing this post with a special thank you to Pedro, Rosa, Rafa, and my entire Spanish family.  Muchas, muchas gracias!  May God richly bless you for the many kindnesses you have shown me.  With love, Ardis

~ If this is your first time visiting my blog, you can start reading about my Spanish travels here.

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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

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