A Taste of Honey: Sweetness for the Soul

Earlier this year, my husband and I had dinner plans with another couple in Seattle. Since we live in the suburbs, an evening in the city is a big treat for us. On the way to dinner with our friends, we all decided to stop at a wine bar for appetizers.

This spur of the moment change of plans was a big hit! We canceled our dinner reservations elsewhere and embarked on a youthful adventure of bar hopping around the city. I was eager to explore the Seattle nightlife because it reminded me of my late night tapas experiences in Spain a couple years ago.

Bastille Café & Bar, one of the hip stops on our bar hopping tour in Seattle.

Bastille Café & Bar, one of the hip stops on our bar hopping tour in Seattle.

Getting Started on our Food Adventure

At the wine bar, we started the evening with a dish of olives and a charcuterie tray (assorted cheeses and meats). To drink, I naturally ordered a glass of Spanish wine.

Before I ever stepped foot on Spanish soil in the summer of 2013, I was not a fan of olives. I would only eat them if they were buried in my food—like in nachos. And it wasn’t unusual for me to pick olives off my pizza.

My family on the other hand, were big olive eaters. I have many fond memories of my sons poking their fingers into olive holes—redefining the meaning of finger foods—and eating them like candy at the dinner table. It was a habit handed down from their father when he was young.

My sons loved their olives, January 2001.

Real finger food, my sons, January 2001.

While living in Spain for 6 weeks, I fell in love with olives. Olives in Spain are like chips and salsa are at a Mexican restaurant in America. They often come as a free dish to start the meal. In the peak of the Spanish summer heat, the salty flavor of local olives somehow quenched my thirst.

Now olives taste so wonderful to me—the strong and almost bitter explosion in my mouth is so inviting.  My new favorite—green Spanish olives stuffed with a clove of garlic.  Just talking about olives makes me hungry for one now!

A Surprising Taste Sensation

Even as much as I love olives, on this particular night with our friends in Seattle, it was the charcuterie tray that really got my attention. It wasn’t the customary cheese and meats that blew me away. It was the little dish of honey that accompanied the tray.

I am not a honey type of person. I don’t use it in my tea or use it to sweeten dishes. I don’t generally even like syrup. It is just too sweet for me—and not good for my low sugar diet.

I watched as our foodie friends dipped cheeses and almonds into the honey. I followed suit. Oh my word!! What an amazing taste sensation. I was hooked!

WP_20150516_004

Our charcuterie tray and side of olives.

It only took a dab of honey to fill my mouth with an explosion of sweetness that seemed to carry me away. It was truly satisfying.

We hopped to two other bars for small plates and drinks over the course of the evening. It was fun to be out in the crowd with good friends.

Feeding Your Sweet Spot

When we find something that is so gratifying and filling to our senses, we naturally want more of it. To some it is chocolate, or maybe coffee. They just can’t get enough and feel the need to indulge daily. (I apologize if I happen to trigger those with food issues.)

My daily dose of honey comes in the form of the Word of God. I’ve had a major renewing of my spirit this year whereby His Word speaks to me in greater ways. He speaks to me in deeper ways. Whether it’s the Word, in times of prayer, or in quiet meditation, I have been energized by this honey that nourishes my soul. It has a sweetness that makes me want to savor it.

A single Word from the Lord is enough to turn our day or our life around. Just think how much a dedicated time of prayer and Bible reading can sweeten our attitude and dissolve our bitterness.

bible-food

Along with my weekly prayer appointment with God, these are some of my daily selections for a taste of spiritual honey:

  • Experiencing God by Blackaby & Blackaby (A gift from a friend over ten years ago, I still read this on a regular basis. It is filled with color highlighting and written notes of spiritual milestones and applications of scripture in my life.)
  • Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (A great resource for learning to trust Jesus and find peace.)
  • Daily Hope by Rick Warren (Email devotionals or online site that challenges your thinking with thought provoking questions and application steps.)
  • The Daily Walk Bible (Daily reading that takes you through the Bible in a year, includes weekly commentary and reflection.)

I recommend any of the above resources to get a dose of sweetness for your soul.

What about you? What are you doing to satisfy your sweet spot and hunger for the Word?

How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. Psalm 119:103 (NIV)

A Journey to Brother Love, Part 1

Breaking the generational pattern of abandonment is not easy, but there is Light and Hope along the way. Where is your healing journey leading you?

Journeys To Mother Love

1996 Reunion With my father and brothers in 1996

Recently a new pathway of healing opened up to me: a “journey to brother love.”

My father married many times and had children from multiple wives—my siblings being the last. I grew up knowing about an older half-sister, but never met her. I didn’t know about a half-brother I had until 18 years ago when my father reunited with him after 52 years of separation.

I was in my early 30s, just starting my own family when my father called to tell me about my half-brother. It was an ‘Oprah’ type story of amazing coincidences that led to their reunion.

I felt like my world had been turned upside down.

My father invited me and another sibling to meet him. The half-brother lived across country and was making a trip to our area. I eagerly obliged, or maybe obeyed is a better word. This…

View original post 436 more words

It’s a Small, Small World

The first time I went to Disneyland was as an adult with my husband. Even though we didn’t have kids at the time, we did venture into Fantasy Land and ride one ride:  It’s a Small World.

At 'It's a Small World', April 2003.

At ‘It’s a Small World’, April 2003.

It’s a Small World, the Ride

I know that people love that song and that ride, but after listening to that song repeat over and over again throughout the ride, I couldn’t get the music out of my head—even though I wanted too.  (It’s no wonder; the ride was over ten minutes long.). Despite that I did make a sacrifice to my mental health and take my kids on the ride on a future trip to Disneyland.

The 50th anniversary of the opening of that ride was earlier this year.  Not that I follow those sorts of things, but I ran into someone who actually worked behind the scenes on that ride at Disneyland.  She was so excited about the anniversary.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her it didn’t conjure up pleasant memories for me.  Below is a short video marking the 50th anniversary.

 

Spanish Connections Abound

All of this is just fodder for what I really wanted to write about.  In all seriousness, it really is a small, small world.  It has become that way for me anyway over the last few years.  Of course, I am referring to my Spanish connection.

It seems that after Pedro entered our lives in 2010, references to Spain kept crossing my path.  Suddenly I would notice people speaking Spanish around me or run into someone who just returned from Spain.

Starbucks encounter

Hanging out at a local Starbucks

Case in point, just a few months ago while sitting in a Starbucks and reading an email from Rosa, Pedro’s mother, I noticed two women sitting next to me who were speaking Spanish.

I was having a hard time deciphering some words in Rosa’s letter.  She sends them to me in English (via an online translator), but sometimes the Spanish words don’t translate.  So I decided to introduce myself to these ladies and ask for help.  I’m so glad I did.

One woman obliged to explain the translation to me.  In turn I proceeded to get a better understanding of the language and why that particular word couldn’t be translated by the app—even when I tried.  She was from Southern Spain, where I traveled last summer, so we talked about that a bit.  It was wonderful to have this small connection over the country that I now hold so dear to me.

Evan to Spain 03

Evan heads to Spain!

Valencia Bound

The world got even smaller for me recently though when my Spanish connections proceeded to intersect with my oldest son, Evan.  He won a trip to Valencia, Spain on the ‘Magic The Gathering’ Pro Tour, where he would be participating in their next international tournament.  That was when my real Spanish connections came in handy.

Last summer while living and traveling with Pedro’s family, I met some of their family and friends who live in Valencia.  I didn’t travel there myself, but we all met on the island of Mallorca where the family goes on holiday.  These Valencian friends and family spoke very little English or none at all.  Unfortunately that limited my direct conversations with them, but we did spend time together on daily outings to the beach or at parties.

Our daily beach hang-out with my Spanish friends on Mallorca.

Our daily beach hang-out with my Spanish friends on Mallorca.

Language barrier aside, I proceeded to communicate with my Spanish friends with the use of an online translator, like I do with Rosa, and told them of my son’s upcoming travels to Valencia.  These people graciously showed my son around Valencia, took him out to eat, and even invited him to a family birthday celebration at a farm home outside of town.

I was tickled pink to receive photos via Whatsapp (free international texting app) of my son’s time with them.  The only disappointment I had with all of this is that Evan and Pedro couldn’t connect.  Evan traveled through Madrid and had a long layover, but their schedules just didn’t coincide.

A Taste of Valencia, Spain

Since my travels to Spain last summer (and those numerous posts), I’ve now learned how to showcase my photos more in my posts.  One of these days I hope to go back and insert more photos on those posts or write about those places specifically.  (It is quite an archive of over 5,000 photos.)

I’m pleased that I can now share some of my son’s photos from his adventure in Spain.  Special thanks go to my Spanish family for immersing my son in their culture and for their generous hospitality.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Is it really a small, small world?  Or is it because we have such a big, big God?  I’ll let you decide for yourself.  I’m just pleased that my world keeps getting smaller and the possibilities greater.

For a Heart Blessed with the Sound of Music

At the beginning of the year, I crossed another item off my bucket list—well, sort of.  I’m a big fan of the film The Sound of Music.  My actual bucket list item would be to take the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, Austria, where the movie was filmed 50 years ago.  But since that is fairly unlikely, I did the next best thing. I attended a Sound of Music Sing-A-Long at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle on New Year’s weekend.

Sound of Music MarqueeWhat is a Sound of Music Sing-A-Long?

I first heard about this event from the special features section of my Sound of Music DVD.  They showed a sing-a-long at the Hollywood Bowl in California.  People dressed in costumes and participated in various sing-a-long theatrics while the movie was showing (similar to what is done for The Rocky Horror Picture Show).  It was a comical idea, but I didn’t think I’d ever actually go to one.

Then last fall when I wrote The Little Girl Inside, a post about the significance of the Sound of Music to me and how it intersected with my trip to Spain, I searched for the sing-a-long event online.  I filed the Seattle event away mentally, not sure if I could free up the time over the holidays or who would want to attend.

As the days quickly passed toward the New Year’s weekend, I vacillated between going by myself, inviting others, and not going at all.  I ended up going by myself, and I’m so glad I did.  I didn’t quite know what to expect at the event.  I was having a rough time emotionally over the holidays and didn’t know how I would react to the production.  I wanted to experience it privately, so to speak—or at least to be anonymous in the crowd of strangers.  It was such a memorable event in so many ways.

What happened at the Sing-A-Long?

When I arrived at the theater, I immediately saw people dressed up for the costume contest. Thankfully they were in the minority.  There were nuns, people dressed in lederhosen, children dressed as the Von Trapp family, etc.  The contest preceded the movie.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before the movie started an announcer appeared on stage to give us instructions on how to use the goody bag items during the movie.  This was not a passive movie-going experience.  And you weren’t expected to just sing, you were to interact with the movie at prescribed times as well.

The announcer and his assistants demonstrate gestures for “Do, Re, Mi”.

The announcer and his assistants demonstrate gestures for “Do, Re, Mi”.

Other interactive ways we participated were when specific characters appeared on the screen:

  • For Maria, we cheered.
  • For the Nazi’s, we booed.
  • For Rolf, the love interest of Liesl, we barked like a dog, “ruff, ruff”.
  • For Baroness von Schraeder, we hissed.

And every once in a while someone in the audience would shout out a humorous remark. There were other ways that we interacted with the movie as well, but I won’t spoil it for others who may opt to go in the future, which I highly recommend doing.

Props from the goody bag: a swatch of curtain fabric, Edelweiss,
an invitation to the ball, a party popper for the ‘big kiss’, and flash cards.

On a More Serious Note

For me the best part of the event was the opening scene of the movie.  It started out with the announcer making comical comments and shouting to Maria, but his antics were quickly overshadowed by the grandeur of the movie.

The movie opens with the camera panning over breathtaking views of the Alps and Salzburg, Austria.  It eventually zooms in on Maria, played by Julie Andrews, coming up over the crest of a hill onto a grassy knoll.  The instrumental prelude for “The Sound of Music” main theme song is building in the background when Maria bursts out singing with her arms stretched wide:

“The Hills are alive with the sound of music,
With songs they have sung for a thousand years,
The hills fill my heart with the sound of music,
My heart wants to sing every song it hears…

…I go to the hills when my heart is lonely,
I know I will hear what I’ve heard before,
My heart with be blessed with the sound of music,
And I’ll sing once more.”
© 1959 Rogers & Hammerstein

I was lost in the moment as the song naturally flowed from my lips in perfect sync with Julie Andrews’ glorious voice, and the voices of over 2000 other enthusiastic movie fans.  A few tears were shed as I was overtaken by the magic and emotion of this sentimental memory from my childhood.  At the end of the song, the theater burst into applause, which they did after every song just like it was a live performance.

If you’ve never seen the movie, or you want to experience the opening scene from a sing-a-long perspective, watch this short video.

The lyrics were highlighted word by word for each song in the movie.

The lyrics were highlighted word by word for each song in the movie.

Singing Once More

A buried part of me came alive when my mother passed away three years ago; and music was a part of that awakening.  I encourage you to find the hidden treasures that are buried within you as well—the little creative things that give you joy.  When you do, embrace it as a special part of who you are.  And maybe like me, you’ll sing once more.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

España Update 6 ~ The Language

Obviously the Spanish language was another major change for me to adapt to during my six-week trip to Spain.  The one regret I have about my trip is that I didn’t spend more time learning the language.  I think it would’ve made a big difference—especially in group settings.

Preparing for the Language Barrier

Back when I was in high school, most colleges required two years of a foreign language for admittance.  So that was exactly what I took—the 2-year minimum, in Spanish.  Nowadays, most universities are requiring three or four years.  I would’ve hated that at the time, but in hindsight, I can see how two years of a foreign language is not enough to really communicate.  After all, when Pedro first arrived at our home, he already had eight years of English behind him.

ShortcuttoSpanish.com, my favorite online study tool.

ShortcuttoSpanish.com, my favorite online study tool.

Over thirty years after my high school language classes were completed, I came face to face with the reality that I was going to need to speak Spanish for my summer travel to Spain.  I spent three months in advance of my trip listening to Spanish audio CDs and studying the language.  With that, plus a translator app on my mobile phone, I hoped and prayed that would be good enough.

Immersed in the Language

A true exchange student is normally immersed in their new language without much opportunity to speak in their native tongue.  That was not the case for me.  My Spanish family was very accommodating of my language deficiencies as they all spoke English to some degree.

My biggest challenge was communicating with Rosa, Pedro’s mother.  She had an English tutor for the last year to help her prepare for my visit.  Although our initial communications were somewhat clumsy, her English was surprisingly good.  We both relied on electronic translators to help us fill in the gaps.

I would've been lost without my trusty Bing translator on my Windows 8 phone.

I would’ve been lost without my trusty Bing translator on my Windows 8 phone.

Early on in my trip, I embraced the language and tried to communicate with my family in Spanish.  I wanted to learn the language.  I know I butchered it at times, but was rarely corrected.  They knew what I was trying to communicate.  I eventually limited my trying except for some basic phrases that I routinely needed.

The Emotional Side

While everyone spoke English with me, all other conversations were in Spanish.  Prior to my arrival in Spain, I hadn’t given that much thought.  I knew the household would be a mixture of Spanish and English.  It was rather disorienting to live in a home and an environment and not understand what was being spoken around me.  Of course, I asked at times or was filled in occasionally, but over time, I think it started to wear on me and fed into feelings of isolation.

The truth of the matter is that not knowing the language myself limited who I could talk to, when I could talk, and what I could say.  There were times I felt lonely and invisible—even in a room filled with people.  The emotions around this totally caught me off-guard.  Back in America, I would be able to process all of these feelings and cultural adjustments with a trusted friend or in a support group setting.  While in Spain, I mostly turned to my journal and to prayer.

I was very grateful for the occasions when I was able to speak English for an extended period of time—like having Pedro’s uncle serve as my personal tour guide throughout Seville, befriending a young Mexican woman who spoke fluent English, or spending a Sunday afternoon with English speaking Protestants.

My own personal tour guide in Seville, Pedro's Uncle Francisco.

My own personal tour guide in Seville, Pedro’s Uncle Francisco.

The Fun of Learning a Language

On the brighter side, I have some very humorous memories related to the language.  Pedro used my naivety with the language to coach me into saying embarrassing things.  I quickly learned and regularly repeated the phrase “no confío en ti,” which means “I don’t trust you.”

Rosa also mixed up the English words “kitchen” and “chicken” early on.  We never let her forget that mistake and reversed those words in our future conversations.  That led to Pedro and his father trying to confuse me on giving directions—to the left (izquierda) or to the right (derecha).  Our friendly teasing was always good for a laugh.

I loved how learning Spanish stretched my mind in new ways—even at my age.  I loved how at times we all mixed the Spanish and English in our conversations.  I enjoyed and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my mind started to think in Spanish, and sometimes subconsciously in my dreams.

Pedro and his family commented several times how much my Spanish had improved over the course of my visit.  I was just as surprised, although disappointedly so, that it all disappeared as soon as I was back in America.

Many restaurants had bi-lingual menus, like Casa de Valencia in Madrid.

Many restaurants had bi-lingual menus, like Casa de Valencia in Madrid.

Lessons Learned 

I have logged dozens of hours of Skype calls with Pedro since we met.  Not once did I ever feel like I needed to learn Spanish.  What I learned about the language from all of this isn’t really about the Spanish words or the grammar.  It is that we truly do live a world apart, and the language, no matter how much I learn, will always be a barrier between us to some degree.

I also learned many things about Spain, my Spanish family, and about myself on this trip of a lifetime.  After two weeks back home, I am still processing much of it.  One thing is for sure, I would not take learning the language so lightly for a future trip.

~ If this is your first time visiting my blog, you can start reading about my Spanish travels here.  To read the next update in this series, click here.

España Update 4 ~ The Food

For the most part, eating is an experience in Spain.  The way they approach meals is very cultural.  In America, our meals are often a rushed experience.  In Spain, lunch and dinner are a sit-down family experience, or one reserved for gathering with friends—especially dinner.

The Spanish Cuisine

Americans consume vast amounts of fast food.  We also use a lot of pre-packaged or prepared foods in our cooking.  In Spain, the ingredients are fresh from the market.  For instance with so much bread in their diet, they buy a fresh loaf almost daily.  (Bread is to the Spaniard like rice is to the Chinese.)  The bread comes from a bakery—no Wonder Bread, or other similar sliced and mass produced bread.

Fresh food in the local neighborhood market, Madrid.

Fresh food in the local neighborhood market, Madrid.

Since olive groves are plentiful throughout the country, it is only natural that they use olive oil in so much of their cooking.  The main use of olive oil in my American home is in the summer when we douse our vegetables in olive oil before grilling them on the barbeque.  It is a taste sensation.  In Spain, I use olive oil to fry my very American egg breakfast, to drizzle on my bread at dinner or for a vinegar and oil salad dressing.

Olive groves in the mountainous region of Andalucía, southern Spain.

Olive groves in the mountainous region of Andalucía, southern Spain.

The most common meat in Spain is ham.  But don’t picture the traditional American Thanksgiving or Easter ham.  This is a totally different type of ham (jamón).  This ham has been cured in special seasonings and is then thinly sliced—like paper.

I can only remotely explain it as a sort of cross between bacon in flavor (but not cooked like bacon), and salami in consistency.  It is everywhere and visible in restaurants or markets with the leg of the pig hanging upside down from the ceiling.  I ate this delicacy before ever realizing how it was prepared, etc.  The ham and bread (jamón y pan) are a staple of the Spanish diet.

Ham, Spanish style, a frequent site in restaurants and markets

Ham, Spanish style, a frequent site in restaurants and markets

Other popular Spanish foods are paella—a Spanish rice dish usually prepared with seafood or chicken and gazpacho—a delightful chilled tomato based soup (my personal favorite), and one that Pedro introduced to our family on his first trip to America.  I occasionally add this to our American summer menus.  I was delighted to find gazpacho available in refrigerated cartons in the market so I can still enjoy it while living on my own these last few days in Spain.

My first authentic Spanish paella, Madrid

My first authentic Spanish paella, Madrid

The Food Experience

I’ve done a lot of traveling during my five weeks in Spain.  It has given me a feel for the food in different parts of the country and lots of opportunities to have tapas.  Tapas are similar to what Americans would consider appetizers.  Most restaurants have a full tapa menu as people order multiple tapa dishes and share them amongst the table.  It is a feast of tasting different flavors, and different types of food.

San Miguel Market, Madrid, a popular tourist location for tasting Spanish food.

San Miguel Market, Madrid, a popular tourist location for tasting Spanish food.

I bravely decided to try everything I was offered—even if I didn’t know what it was.  It made for some interesting food experiences.  I’ve truly enjoyed some foods I never would’ve considered trying if I knew what they were—like black pudding.   On another outing, I ordered bull’s tail for lunch.  I’ve also had octopus (not sushi like in Seattle), Vichyssoise, a French soup served cold, made from potatoes and leeks and foie pate, a meat paste made from duck liver.

Sangria, a refreshing wine drink with fruit.

Sangria, a refreshing wine drink with fruit.

The Drinks

The Spanish also like their alcoholic drinks.  I’ve sampled and routinely drank many of these.  One of the main surprises to me is the way Spaniards consume their wines.  I had heard wonderful things about Spanish wine.  Living in the wine country of the Pacific Northwest I expected to taste many wines—as a compliment to my food, like I do in Seattle.

In the circles I traveled and parts of the country I visited, that was not the case.  In other words, wine was not ordered based on what food we were eating.  The alchoholic beverage most served with a meal was either cerveca (beer) or tinto de verano (summer wine).  Summer wine is basically a red wine with a 7-Up type of cola added.  It was very refreshing.

Other alcoholic beverages included Sangria, Mojitos and Valencian Water.  But beware, the latter two carry quite a punch.  One of my favorite drinking experiences was witnessing family members drink summer wine (tinto de verano) from a flask type of bottle called a porron.  It almost reminded me of something one might witness at a fraternity party, but was demonstrated by Pedro’s grandfather.  Pedro demonstrated it as well and I obliged to their initial urging to try this too.  (Like I said, I embraced this lifestyle and tried to fit in.)

Drinking summer wine from a porron bottle.

Drinking summer wine from a porron bottle.

A Virtual Eating Tour

Everywhere I travelled and every time I tried something new or unusual I took a photo of the food or the setting.  So I’m including some of my food adventures for your virtual eating pleasure.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eating On My Own

My last week in Spain is already here and I’m living on my own in an apartment with views of the Mediterranean.  It is amazing.  I am writing this at a Chinese restaurant (for a change of pace and taste) along the beach overlooking the Port of Soller and my apartment home across the water.

I’ve enjoyed the Mediterranean and its food, but after five weeks away from home, I am ready for American food.  Bon appetite!  (Oops, that’s French, but you get the idea!)

The food is Chinese, but the view is Mediterranean.

The food is Chinese, but the view is Mediterranean.

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

España Update 3 ~ The Lifestyle

Like other Mediterranean countries, the Spanish lifestyle is steeped in tradition—from the pace of the day, to the food they eat, and more.  It is so very different from America.  Living with my Spanish family has given me a bird’s eye view into the typical Spanish home.

Thanks to hours of Skype calls and dozens of emails with Pedro and his family over the past three years, I knew a lot about the Spanish lifestyle and culture prior to my arrival.  I was ready to blend right in—or so I thought.

For all of the prep I did, language, exercising, dieting, etc., the one thing I didn’t consider was my hair color.  With my red hair, it is like I am wearing a sign that says “Soy Americana.” Other than that, I am doing everything in my control to live like a Spaniard.  Here’s an idea of what that is like.

Standing out with my red hair and enjoying the laid back lifestyle Spanish style (with Sangria).

Standing out with my red hair and enjoying the laid back lifestyle Spanish style (with Sangria).

Pace of Life

The Spanish lifestyle is much slower paced than in the U.S.  However, my personal pace of life has been very hectic as we tour parts of the country and sightsee almost daily.  The Spanish are hard workers, putting in a full day’s work, from 9AM to 7PM, but also fitting in a long lunch for the traditional summer siesta.  In the summer, families usually take a month long holiday (vacation), like I am now.

The Spanish pace of life revolves around their scheduled meal times.  With no set time to wake up in the morning in my family, breakfast (desayuno) for each of us has been on our own.  The mid-day meal, lunch or almuerzo, is generally at 2:00 in the afternoon.  Unlike America, lunch is the main meal of the day.  It is served in courses, with all family members finishing each course before moving on to the next.

Rosa wheels a cart with the family dinner to the dining area.

Rosa wheels a cart with the family dinner to the dining area.

The Siesta

With a big mid-day meal and an uncomfortably hot summer climate, the traditional siesta is definitely in order after lunch.  In America, I usually get a bit drowsy after lunch, but I fight the urge because I always have so much to do.

Before I arrived in Spain, Pedro asked me if I was going to participate in the Spanish tradition of siesta.  I laughed and told him I was planning on writing during the daily siesta time.  He jokingly told me the siesta is the best invention since electricity.  And now, four weeks later, I have to agree; I love the siesta.  Sadly that means my writing has suffered.

30 minute siesta to rest and rejuvenate.

30 minute siesta to rest and rejuvenate.

When I awake from my siesta, I feel refreshed and ready to continue on with my day.  The siesta splits my day in two and makes me feel like I fit more into the day.  The next several hours of the day are always very productive.  While in Madrid I tried to spend this time of the day with Pedro working on music projects or we would go out exploring.

When was the last time you answered your body’s call for an afternoon nap?  The equivalent in America would be the power nap—a rare luxury—something I am seriously considering instituting when I return home.

End of the Day

In America, the late afternoon hours are a sign of the end of the day. In Spain, there are still many more hours of productivity left in the day.

Between 9 and 10 PM when Americans are settling down for the evening and getting ready to call it a day, the Spanish are coming alive.  This is the normal time for dinner.  In my family home, dinner is followed by a late night movie, ending the day at midnight or later. (My tired body would normally fall asleep shortly after the start of the movie.)

Outdoor seating is common at restaurants in Spain.

Outdoor seating is common at restaurants in Spain.

For the young, or young at heart, the night is still early.  Many nights Pedro would go out late with his friends. I have experienced a few late night evenings while traveling in Spain with Pedro’s family.

I haven’t experienced the disco or bar scene per se, but I have been privy to the familial connections that transpires at these outings.  They aren’t necessarily drunken parties that the American news channels love to exploit.  They are times to relax with friends and family over a light and long leisurely dinner, usually tapas (appetizers), and drinks.

Two More Weeks

Today’s post marks the end of four weeks in Spain.  My time on the mainland is now complete, leaving Madrid and Pedro’s piano behind a few days ago.  I have captured nearly 3,000 photos on my adventure.

Blogging on the Wifi in Puerta de Soller, Mallorca, Spain

Blogging on the Wifi in Puerta de Soller, Mallorca, Spain

I am currently on Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain, on holiday with my family.  I will return home directly from here two weeks from today.  ¡Hasta la vista!

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

España Update 2 ~ Adjusting to Life in Spain

Writing doesn’t come easy in Spain.  In fact, it seems that not much of anything comes easy for me here.  That isn’t at all an indictment of the family I am staying with or the Spanish life.  It is just an indication of how different everything has been for me to adjust too.

Grateful to be reading chapter upon chapter of this part of the world.

Grateful to be reading chapter upon chapter of this part of the world.

Sure I am having the time of my life.  I am seeing amazing historical and religious sites.  I am living with a family that I adore.  But with a mid-life body, an American way of life that is entrenched in me, and having a 5,300-mile and a nine-hour time difference between friends and family, it has been hard to adapt.

I have come to realize that there are so many things that we take for granted in the US.  We don’t think about how different everyday life is in other parts of the world.

Most Americans don’t get an opportunity to experience living in a foreign country.  Those that do are generally doing it through a work requirement, a missionary trip or as part of an educational exchange program.

In light of that, I thought it would be of interest to share some of the adjustments I had to make to live in Spain and a few differences between our two countries.

Mediterranean Food

One of the biggest adjustments for me has been the food.  A few months prior to my trip, I made radical changes in my diet to get healthier—doing a cleanse and eliminating allergens like wheat and milk.  I was amazed at how much better I felt.  I knew it would be difficult to maintain this new diet, especially since bread (pan) is such an integral part of the Spanish diet.  The first few days I declined the bread, but that didn’t last.

Drinking gazpacho, a chilled tomato based soup.

Drinking gazpacho, a chilled tomato based soup.

Now I am embracing and experiencing all of the Mediterranean food I can, eating things I’d never dream of trying in America.  I have many favorites including some that Pedro prepared for us in his previous stays in our home, like gazpacho.  My food adventures will be fodder for another full blog post though.  İEs muy delicioso!

It’s Hot in Spain!

Another radical adjustment for me has been adapting to the heat.  Thankfully I leave for the Balearic Islands and cooler temperatures in two days.

The first week of my trip, the temperatures were in the 90s.  Pedro’s family kept telling me how lucky I was to be here with the cooler temperatures.  Last week, the mercury in the thermometer rose past 100 degrees and has remained there most days.  (I’ve also had to adjust to Celsius versus Fahrenheit temperature readings.)

Hace calor! 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hace calor! 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

For me, it hasn’t been just a matter of adjusting to the heat, it has also been staying hydrated.  We have been out sightseeing almost every day.  I finally wised up to carrying a bottle of water (aqua) with me whenever I leave the flat.  By the time lunch rolls around at 2PM—another adjustment—a chilled beer (cerveza) or glass of summer wine (tinto de verano) is in order to quench my thirst.

Unlike America, air conditioning isn’t as available–including the cathedrals and monuments I’ve visited.  At night I sleep with the windows open and a ceiling fan running—the same as I would at home in Seattle.  A shower doesn’t seem to help during the day either as I’m sweating as soon as I dry off.

Avoiding the Heat

One way women keep refreshed in the heat is by carrying a fan (abanico).  I carry my fan with me everywhere I go, a gift from Rosa a few years ago.  I’d probably stand out like a sore thumb in the States if I used it, but here, it is a common site.

The best way to avoid the heat though is by taking a traditional siesta (afternoon nap).  The siesta doesn’t necessary require sleeping, but is used to relax in other ways as well, to read the paper, watch a movie, etc.  It is a way of slowing down and not doing activity during the heat of the day.

Abanicos in a Spanish shop window

Abanicos in a Spanish shop window

Most shops even close a few hours in the afternoon due to siesta.  Only tourists and those unfamiliar with Spanish custom would dare be out in the streets at that time of the day.  I love siesta and how recharged I feel when I awake.

Hopefully that gives you a feel for some of the differences.  Stay tuned for more information about the Spanish lifestyle and sights of this amazing country–my home away from home for three more weeks.

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

España Update 1 ~ The Longest Day

I knew that dealing with a 9-hour time difference and jet lag would be a difficult process.  I had watched Pedro do it twice before when he visited our home.  Both times he was a real trooper, immediately attending welcome parties and staying up late on his first night in America to do a gift exchange with our family.

During the first few days of my stay in Spain, several times Pedro said to me, “Now you know what it felt like for me.  It was horrible.”  And now I agree.

The Longest Day

Actually I think I did quite well, all things considered.  I managed to get 30 minutes of sleep, basically a cat nap, the night before I left.  When my alarm clock went off at 3:15 in the morning, I felt ready for the day.  I had dreamed of this day and meeting Rosa many times in the months, weeks and days preceding my trip.  I hoped for lots of sleep on the plane and knew my adrenaline rush would get me through the day.

Approaching Madrid from the air.

Approaching Madrid from the air.

The flight and my first days in Spain are a complete blur in my memory.  What I can clearly recall is that it felt like the longest day of my life—and it was.  By the time my head hit the pillow for my first night’s sleep in Spain, 40 hours had physically passed.

Touchdown Madrid

The anticipation grew as I negotiated the Spanish airport signs, long corridors and what seemed like an eternity waiting for my baggage to slide down the carousel.  I expected long lines to get through Customs as well, but the agent barely gave me or my passport a second look.

I was so excited to communicate my first Spanish words to someone—even just a passing “Hola” or “Buenas dias” would’ve been enough to confirm I was on Spanish soil.  But no, he was just pushing paper and not at all interested in the journey I had physically, emotionally and spiritually traveled to get to this time and place.

Navigating Barajas International Airport in Madrid

Navigating Barajas International Airport in Madrid

With Customs cleared and baggage dragging behind me, I knew my next stop, per se, was connecting with Pedro’s family.  More importantly, it was meeting Rosa face to face for the first time.  My camera was ready in hand and somewhere in Madrid’s Barajas International Airport, Rafa, Pedro’s father, was waiting with his camera perched to capture this moment for me.  The only problem was I had no idea around what corner we would meet.  And then it happened.

Meeting at the airport

Meeting at the airport

Meeting Rosa

A large set of opaque sliding glass doors opened wide to reveal a group of people standing behind a gated area.  I heard cheers and saw smiling faces.  I think I even heard my name; and then I made visual contact with Pedro and his family.

Rosa was definitely excited.  She was shouting my name in her thick Spanish accent and didn’t let the metal barricade keep her from rushing up to greet me.  I reciprocated with the standard European hug, a cheek kiss on both sides of the face.  All of our initial words and greetings are now gone from my memory, but the excitement of those first moments are still lingering.

First Hours in Spain

When I got to their home, all I wanted to do was eat and go to sleep, but travelers are recommended to get on the new time zone by forgetting the time difference and embracing the current hour of the day.  My body knew it was after midnight back home, but at my new home the day was just starting.  Ay, (Spanish for ‘oh my gosh’)! I dreaded the thought of getting through this day without sleep.

Pedro and family outside his former school.

Pedro and family outside his former school.

My host family did allow me to take my first siesta later though.  It was sandwiched between two walks in the neighborhood.  On our first walk I was delighted as we toured the Catholic school Pedro attended from 1st-12th grade.  The halls were lined with the framed first communion photos from previous year’s classes.  What a treat to see Pedro’s young face and proud moment plastered on the school wall along with some of his friends, who at this point I only knew by name.

Our second walk was to Retiro Park, similar to Central Park in New York City.  I found my first geocache here—one I remembered Pedro telling me about two years prior.  Now it was my turn to “log a smilie”.  That’s geocaching lingo for finding a cache.  My camera, and my feet, got a real workout on both of my outings.

My first geocache in Spain, Retiro Park, Madrid.

My first geocache in Spain, Retiro Park, Madrid.

Priceless Memories

The real highlights of this longest day were the heart connections that confirmed my love for this family and why I traveled around the world to be here.  My first was watching Pedro play the piano minutes after my arrival to their home.  No words could describe the pride and joy that filled me in this moment—three years in the making.  And then when Rosa joined us, well, the tears naturally came too.

Later in the day when I awoke from my siesta, Pedro’s music was filling the flat again, and my senses.  Rosa and I had some quiet time together with his music playing in the background.  It was all so surreal to me, like a movie soundtrack was playing in the background.  It was priceless.

Pedro at the piano

Pedro at the piano

After 12 days in Spain, I have adjusted to a new way of living and my beloved Spanish family. What I haven’t adjusted to though is how and when to write.  I originally thought I’d be writing during the traditional siesta time, but I have fallen in love with my siesta.  Today I have foregone it to finish this post that was started days ago.

There is so much happening, so many sights, and so much emotion.  I am pushing myself hard to keep up with all we are doing.  What my mind and fingers don’t have time to capture on the computer, my camera is capturing ‘on film’.  That is enough to keep me writing and blogging back home for the months to come.

I am sending much love to my family and friends back home and beyond who made this trip possible.  It is a dream come true.  It is especially for them that I am writing today.  Tomorrow I will siesta again.

Until we meet again, que tenga un buen dia. (Have a good day.)

Rosa & me beaming over Pedro's music and the delight of finally meeting.

Rosa & me beaming over Pedro’s music and the delight of finally meeting.

  • WELCOME to my site!

    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.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

  • Returning to Spain

    Arrival on Spanish SoilApril 29th, 2018
    Vamos a España!
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 371 other followers

  • Recent Posts

  • Ardis A Nelson ~ Writer ~ Speaker

  • Most Popular Topics

  • Journeys to Mother Love

  • What I Write About

  • Songs Composed by Pedro Gonzalez Arbona

  • Copyright Notice

    © Ardis A. Nelson and MakingMeBold, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ardis A. Nelson and MakingMeBold with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

%d bloggers like this: