Villalba from the balcony of the zone leaders' apartment
A residential street in Villalba
The entrance to the church in Villalba and Elder Valenzuela
Hello my family!
So just to answer your questions that you had at the end of your email, as far as cooking is concerned I haven´t really seen any restrictions except that here in Spain, they don´t believe in PAM, the spray oil, so we use butter or oil to grease the pans. Cooking things for me would be rice, which is easy to make. All you do is for every one cup of rice, two cups of water, and salt so that the rice isn´t tasteless. I also cook Cuscus, which is pretty much the same as rice, and I also try to buy lentejas al jardín, o garbanzos [lentils or garbanzo beans]. PBJ sandwiches are always an option too, but I prefer what I´ve mentioned above since it´s different and more delicious. In every piso [apartment] that I´ve been in, there has always been a stove and an oven, as well as a microwave so I never really have a problem cooking things. I´ve baked really good brownies in the oven too so yeah!!! Super good!! Anyway, on to my week.
So I didn´t bring my agenda so I don´t really know too much of what happened this week, so I´ll just start Sunday. So Sunday was pretty good. Elder McGrath, the Zone Leader, planned out intercambios [companionship exchanges], and we all decided that I would go to his area with his companion and that he would go to Parla. So I´ve been out of my area for the past few days and it´s been fun!!!!! I really enjoyed my time! So the area is called Villalba [if you look it up on a map, use the term Collado Villalba], and it´s just such a cool little town!!! It´s about half an hour outside of Madrid on bus and I just loved that area!! What made it super cool is that it´s in the mountains of North Madrid!! The air was clean and cool and it didn´t get further up than 30ºC [86ºF] unlike Parla and its 36ºC [97ºF]. The nights were cool too so I got to take a warm shower without dying!!
So I was going to be there Monday, and Tuesday, and Elder Valenzuela is pretty new and tried to set stuff up, but everything failed us. We did contacts pretty much my two days there, but it´s all good!! I loved it! Elder Valenzuela is from Chile and is also a convert to the church. Last night he was telling us (us because we went to sleep at the B1/B5 piso) about his conversion and it was really cool!! He was baptized a year and 3 months ago and he made a huge change!! He had his hair all the way down to his shoulders, and a lip piercing as well as a smoking problem. He´s super nice and super awesome!! He´s 25 too so yeah, just thought you wanted to know that, hahaa.
Anyways so Monday we also had the family home evening there at the church at 8:00, but we had a miracle moment happen before that!! So at around 6:00 or 6:30 we were walking just outside our piso [apartment] and this African lady cames running to us and tells us that she´s a member of the church, but hasn´t been to church for about 12 - 15 years because of her husband. She moved to Villalba and got there about an hour before she saw us to get away from her husband. When she saw us, she said to herself that she wasn´t going to lose the chance so she ran to us asking where the church was and telling us all of this. We told her where it was and it´s not that far from the piso, just 3 minutes walking, so we went with her to show her where it was. The church bajo [I think he means the entryway to the church – but I’m not sure] is really nice!! White walls and the chapel is pretty big too!! So when we got in, we thought that no one was going to be there, but there was. There were young men and women practicing for the dance for EFY or youth conference, as well as the relief society president!! The African lady also wanted a Book of Mormon in English so we told her that we would go to our piso really quickly and get her one.
As we were both walking to the piso we were both really happy!! This lady that when she got married had lost contact with the church because of her husband for 15 years. Now within hours of leaving Madrid and arriving to Villalba, she happened to run into us, we happened to be 3 minutes away from the church, and when we got to the church, the relief society president HAPPENED to be there. Three things that are pretty much impossible to happen in a matter of 10 - 15 minutes, happened!! That´s no coincidence, but that´s just a miracle!! I really enjoyed the look on the African lady´s face when she walked into the church and the first thing that she said was, "I´m back home." Super cool!!!!!!!!
So we were just overly happy after that and pretty much couldn´t get sad. We went to a person´s house, they weren´t there so we went to Family Home Evening at 8:00. It was pretty good since the message was about the Book of Mormon!! The members of Villalba ward are really cool and nice too!! They all...I can´t think of it in English so I´ll just say it in Spanish. Todos me saludaron [everyone greeted me], and it was all good!! We then played a game afterwards and it was that the person outside of the circle, we were all a chain pretty much, and he assigned us fruits, and whichever fruit that he called out, had to pretty much drop and the rest of the people had to support them. It was pretty cool, and I was impressed with my strength when Elder Valenzuela fell and I held him up!! I felt strong, hehe. That was pretty much the end of the day.
Tuesday we had to go to Madrid to Barrio 1/Barrio 5 [1st and 5th ward church] to have District Meeting, and it was really good!! Tell Grandma Karlene that Hermana [Sister] Kartchner-Hauley was there and we talked for a bit too. It was pretty fun!! President Jackson has told all of the leaders that the District Meetings have to be more practice based and this one was. It was a practice of how to begin teaching and it was really good!! We then returned to the piso and did some contacts before Ward Council. We then ended up not having Ward Council and so we returned to the piso, I packed my bag so that I could come to Madrid and not have to wake up early to get here. Today the plans for P-Day are that we will go to Palacio Real [royal palace] in Madrid and watch the change of guard or something like that. I´m glad that you guys are doing well. I hope that all is well and that everything goes the way that you guys have planned. Tell Giselle that a letter is coming for her, I sent it last week so it should be there soon. I also put in two memory cards full of pictures and videos of how Spain sounds like when they make a goal in fútball. Pretty funny!! Anyways take care and I´ll talk to you soon!!! Love you all!!!
Alex in front of the Palacio Real [royal palace] in Madrid
Another picture of the Palacio Real, with missionaries in front on P-day
Catedral de la Almudena - the cathedral next to the royal palace
Puerta del Sol - an important subway hub in downtown Madrid