Hola de Espana!
Day three is finally coming to a close, and I am just having a few minutes before bed and wanted to get write down a few key events over the past few days!
Kal and I made both of our flights to Atlanta and Madrid, and were even lucky enough to get seats on first class (thank you Aunt Duff!!) on the way to Madrid! We looked like little kids when we walked up to our seats and saw all of the amenities that first class came with. We each had our own huge space, with the giant chairs that leaned all the way down into beds (oh yeahh), blankets, pillows, a massager in the chair, two book lights, touch screen TVs, radios, plugs to charge your iPod and about a million other things. It was incredible and made the flight so much easier.
We got into Madrid on schedule and then had an interesting time trying to find the bus station at the airport. My Spanish is a little rusty, so that combined with the fact that no one was giving us clear directions lead us on a small tour of terminal four and let us meet every bus driver at the station, ha. We ended up finding the bus (turns out they just park where they feel like it and not where the tickets say they will....) and making it safely to Soria!
Soria is a small town (40,000ish people) 6,000 feet up in the mountains of Northern Spain and it is beautiful. They rarely have tourists, so there are only like 10 people here who speak English (the Cole's are the only Americans here). It's funny too because since they rarely have tourists, the Sorianos think that everyone who comes to Soria speaks Spanish. That's actually a good thing because it's giving me some time to warm up before classes start in a few weeks!
A few things about Soria and the Cole's:
1) many foriegners/refugees moved to Soria (and all of Spain) and were not greeted with welcoming arms. They are discriminated against (except for Americans, they love them) and not treated equally. The Cole's had lived in Soria back in the 90's and this past year felt called to come back here and reach out to the foreigners. Jimmy and Anjani both teach English in various contexts, and have built up several community groups in which they give out basic items: milk, diapers, etc. to some of the immigrant families. Jimmy (a rock star tennis player) just began to start tennis lessons for some of the kids at Carson and Currian's school at the local tennis courts once a week. They have also started a huerto (community garden) at one of the cathedrals that several families are involved in. They are hoping that all of this will help to bridge the gap between the immigrants and native Sorianos.
2) The effects of Franco are still very evident here. Franco was the Spanish dictator from the end of Spanish civil war (1936?) until 1975. While in power he enforced strict rules, one of which was making Catholicism the national religion, and basically forced people to go (there is more to it than just that). This left many people with ill-feelings about not only the church, but also God. The Cole's are here to love on people and share the love of the Lord and the grace He has for them. Since they are the only non-Catholic christian's (and Americans on top of that) in the town, everyone knows (and loves) them.Seriously though, no matter where we go, we have to allow extra time for seeing people in the streets and stopping to talk with them. It's cool to see how much the community loves and deeply respects this family.
Wednesday: Made it Soria in the early afternoon and had lunch with Anjani, got a city tour by Jimmy and got to pick the Carson and Currian up from school. Then, we got to go see the huerto (which is beautiful), came home for dinner- spanish torilla- yum! and then crashedddd.
Had an amazing breakfast of churros and chocolate and cafe con leche at one of the local cafes with Anjani. Churros and chocolate is a typical type of food here. The chocolate comes in a giant mug and you dip the churros in it. The Spaniards actually drink the chocolate when they are finished with the churros (this reminded me of me, Andy and Treg in Salamanca figuring this out for the first time), but I'm pretty sure that I would still be sick if we had done that. It is sooo think and rich, but incredibly delicious!! So if you can't go to guess- any kind of bootcamp healthy eating has been out of the window (sorry Leigh! this will change once we start traveling and grocery shopping). I forgot how good all of the Spanish foods were! As we were finishing up, Jimmy came by and we got to meet their british/spanish friend Paul. His wife Maite has been one of Anjani's closest friend's here in Soria.
After breakfast, Anjani took us to the mercadillo (outdoor market) that Soria has every Thursday. The sell everything from ropa interior (why would you buy that at a market??) all the way to wine and produce, so they have quite the selection. Anjani ended up getting a lot of fresh produce and meat for the week and we met/talked with some really interesting people. It was SO nice to hear Spanish all around again. I've forgotten how much I've missed it, and how completelyyyyy different it is than the Mexican accent. Fo reals.
After the market, we went home, packed a picnic then picked the kids up from school (they have a break from 1:30-3:30) and walked down to the river, where we met Jimmy for a picnic! The ton of Soria is GORGEOUS and there is so much outdoorsy stuff to do here. What's cool about it is that people actually take advantage of it too. I'm not quite sure how anyone gets anything done, because people are literally are out and about in the city all the time. Seriously. So, we just hung out for a while and then walked the kids back to school (they get out at 5:30... it's crazy).
On the way back from dropping off the kids, Anjani, Kal and I intended to go back to the house and rest until it was time to get the kids again, but as the Cole's know everyone, we got stopped by some friends who owned a local bar/cafe. We ended up talking with them for a while, then they invited us to stay and sit and half drinks. Since Kal and I are from Texas, they gave us Paxaron (pa-cha-rone), a licqour made from endrinos, a berry found in Soria. The gesture was so sweet, but the Paxaron tasted like cherry Robitussin. So, we sat down at the bar with them outside (where we intended to stay only 20-30 minutes) and ended up staying for about two hours. We got to meet several of their friends and it was nice to just relax. The Spaniards really know how to enjoy la vida and never overbook themselves to the point where they have to rush from place to place. They are so relaxed and enjoy being able to stop for drinks with friends for two hours. They all seem a lot less high-strung because of it. Anjani is completely fluent in Spanish and it fun getting to hear her and her friend's talk (they go sooo fast). It was definitely a HUGE help getting me back swing of things and thinking in Spanish again. I know it's only been three days, but I can already see a huge improvement in my listening and speaking skills. :)
At 5:30, we picked up the kids and went for a walk and played in the park for a while. Then, we came home and had delicious family dinner of chuletas (lamb chops). After the kids went to bed, got to spend several hours just talking with Jimmy and Anjani. It was awesome to hear all about what had been going on in their lives and how their transition to Spain had gone/is going. They are such incredible people, and it has been a huge blessing to spend this time with them. While chatting, Kal and I had two cups of tea, which turned out to be caffeinated... so as we tried to go to bed at 1am, we were wired and stayed up talking until 4am.
After our 4am bedtime last night, Kal and I didn't wake up until 11 this morning (whoops!). Jimmy was at work and Anjani went out to coffee with a friend, so Kal hung out at the house, and I went for a jog in the park. I had talked with Anjani the night before about whether or not joggers were normal here, and she said they were, so I thought nothing of it. So, I got dressed, went down to the street and started jogging towards the park. Well, it turns out there are joggers, but only in the park. However, I didn't realized that until I was jogging through the streets (which were PACKED) and getting TONS of strange looks from about everyone. Eh, way to make an impression, right? Haha.
Later that afternoon, Kal and I went to pick up the kids from school for their break, and then came back and we all had a big family meal. Here in Soria, lunch is the biggest meal of the day and is a time that is meant to spend with family and relaxing. Today definitely fit that. :) We had sopa de calbacin (zucchini soup) and pollo con romero (rosemary chicken) and potatoes. Delish. We have definitely been spoiled with delicious food since we've been here.
After lunch, Anj, Kal and I took the kids back to school, and then we walked up the mountain to go see the city's statue of Jesus and the beautiful views of Soria. By the end of this trip, I am seriously going to have the best legs ever, we climbing about a zillion stairs up the mountain today and have been walking many miles each day! At the very top of the mountain is a Parador, which is a historical (and super fancy) hotel that overlooks the city. We stopped in for cafe con leche and had awesome conversation. It was awesome just to talk with Anjani, get to know her better, hear her testimony and be encouraged by her!
After our afternoon excursion, we picked up the kids, dropped them off with Jimmy and went back to the huerto, were we got to meat Tanya, her son Elias (2 yo) and Carina and her daughter Jesse (1.5 yo). They are Bolivian immigrants and have been an integral part in getting the huerto up and running. They both were so sweet, and had precious kids! Kal and I got to play with them and try and decode their beginning stages of talking... in Spanish. Elias would say "gua" from agua and "os" for vamos- it was adorable! When I have kids they will definitely be bilingual. Little Spanish speaking children are the cutest (right Miranda??).
Tonight, Kal and I got to babysit the kids so Jimmy and Anjani could go to a friend's birthday party. We ate pizza and watched movies and had a blast! It had been a while since I've babysat the kids, and we had so much fun tonight. They are two of the most good-tempered, well-mannered children... basically in the history of ever.
Well, that about sums it up for now. Manana we are going to La Laguna Negra and on Sunday we are going to go to Playa Pita! This has been the best way to start our trip and has been a huge blessing. There are some pictures below and more to come on Facebook.
Okay- miss you guys and love you all!
View from the Cole's back porch.
Kal, Carson, Currian and Anjani in front of el rio Duero.
View of part of Soria from the side of the mountain
Anjani, me and Kal at the Parador!