Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Rest Of My Spanish Story

I was going to post photos in this post… but I just posted a few hundred (no joking) photos on facebook that goes along with everything that is written here…So if you want the details and the stories of my last 2 weeks in Spain… please read on. 
If you just want to look through the photographs – head over to my Facebook page ;)

Here it is…

MONDAY July 21st

We woke up early today to go to Granada so what we could get tickets to go to the Alhambra next week. Adam and Antonio live here so they can get in for free… but we have to pick up the tickets a week before.

We had to wait in line for 2 hours for the tickets. I was so tired that pretty much everything was funny.

We embarrassed Adam a lot – as illustrated by him hiding his face, and turning around so that he wouldn’t have to face us. It was pretty hilarious. 

After a 2 hour wait, we got our tickets! then went and had breakfast and wandered around Granada for a while.

TUESDAY July 22nd

I got to spend time with Antonio's brother Jesus. IT was really fun! I love this kid! He is very talented and so sweet and I just love him!

He doesn’t know a lot of English and I don’t know a lot of Spanish – even still we can communicate really well with one another. The other day Jesus said to me, “we don’t need words!” haha – its kind of true.

We played some card and board games and talked about theatre and life and dreams and had some pretty deep conversations – especially considering our communication skills in the other persons language.

As I am learning Spanish I am MUCH better speaking one on one with people than I am in a group. When I am in a group they all speak so fast! It is hard to keep up with the conversation. I will understand a word here or there and get the gestures… but overall it is hard to follow a conversation.

FRIDAY July 25th

We had dinner with our friends Sara and Antonio. I told them that I would make them American food.  So for dinner I went with something that is culturally me… growing up as a Utah Mormon we would have Hawaiian haystacks. I have learned that this is very specifically a “Utah Mormon” dish. Even my friends from Hawaii have never had it.

But hey! Its got pineapple and coconut… so of course its Hawaiian!...right!...right…?
Adam likes to make fun of me for all of the “foreign” recipes that I make. He says its cause as Utah Mormons we are trying to be more “international” and “cultural”.
For example: Hawaiian haystacks, German Pancakes, and Mexican wedding cookies.

I don’t know… maybe its cause there are a lot of returned missionaries in Utah from around the world and they translate the names of the foods or give them nicknames?  Whatever the case may be… its good food!

Of course we had smores for dessert. I brought marshmallows with me but not ghramn crackers… so we improvised with Maria cookie biscuits. They were really yummy. They at least got the jist of what Smores are supposed to be like.

I am just sad when I find out that something as important as Smores was not part of peoples childhoods. Sheesh! Deprived!

SATURDAY July 26th

We went to some hot springs… I left my phone in the car… cause there wasn’t a safe place to put it while we were in the water.  Which is sad… cause the hot springs were really cool! There was one that was just a pool… but there were 2 more that had a small  waterfall that you could stand under.
It was really fun! I did get a few photos of the amazing sunset!

SUNDAY July 27th

Adam has a really cool service opportunity that he works with called shelter box. Shelter box goes and helps out communities in different countries when there are natural disasters and he has been able to go on his second deployment to Paraguay. He left on Sunday morning so I got to go to church myself again.

So I headed off to church, taking the usual bus route that I have before. It has been three weeks since I have been to the Granada ward because we were in Tourtenueva so we went to the Montril branch.

The first bus was normal- no problems ... Then I went to the second bus stop... And waited… And waited.... And waited some more.

A small shuttle type bus stopped and through my 5year old Spanish I think they said that bus was going to the city center- I knew that wasn't right.  There were more words exchanges that I could make out. Even some Spanish people on the bus mouthed something to me and shook their fingers and heads telling me no - while pointing to the ground ( bus stop )

Uhhhhh.... Ok - after 45 minutes I thought that maybe I just wasn't meant to go to church today. I started to walk back to the other bus stop and thought "man! How to you catch a taxi in this town?!... We are not in NYC any more todo"

Yes there are taxis here in Granada- but catching one on a Sunday is not the easiest thing cause most people are not working.

I walked up the street and there WAS a taxi there! Ha! Must have been a sign! I looked up the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and showed it to the driver. He agreed he knew where to go based on my map- so off we went!

About 10 minutes later we were at church! But not the right now! Oh dear!!  At this point I started rapidly thinking through all of my options.

I called the elders, I texted Adam and Antonio, I though of just having the taxi drive me back to the bus so that I could go home. I called Adam, and both sets of missionaries.

I was talking to Adam when the missionaries called me back and I was able to ask them to explain to my driver how to get to the church.

When we were finally on the right track I thought to myself... Why? Why is it so very important that I go to church? It wouldn't be the end of the world if I missed one Sunday. Sometimes you just can't make it and that's ok. I sat and pondered about my testimony and what the church means to me. I wanted to go and take the sacrament -yes but again with how much trouble it was to get to church I usually would have figured it was a lost cause and for some reason I just shouldn't go today.

Yet something was pulling me - I needed to get to church.

So After some confusion and a much more expensive cab fair than I had anticipated I made it to the church. I had missed the sacrament - but still it was nice to be there.

After sacrament meeting I was going to go to gospel principles class. I usually go to that class cause the concepts are more basic and I can pick up more through Spanish.

As I made my way to class again I felt pulled in another direction...
"Go talk to Karen" was the prompting.

I had already said hi to her, but went back into the chapel anyway. Karen was talking with 2 other young adults and she asked me if I had heard about the conference.
"Nope, no idea... What conference?"

Oliver -who speaks English and is another Young Single Adult (aka: YSA or as they are called here in Spain JAS) told me that there was a YSA conference for all Spain the next week. They invited me to go.

Oliver started texting people and getting information to see if I could still go. And started sending me registration links and information.

After church I went to the Alhambra!
Antonio's mom was able to take Adams ticket and the 3 of is spent hours walking around the Alhambra and taking in the majestic beauty of the Arabic architecture. It was amazing!!!

When we got home later I looked over the information Oliver had sent me. And I was 1/2 excited and 1/2 nervous about the prospect of attending the YSA conference.... All in Spanish!

I thought that this would be a great opportunity to practice my Spanish... I also felt like maybe this was the reason that I really needed to go to church today! There is something at this conference that I need to hear? Or someone I need to meet? Or something that I need I do? I wasn't sure what- but Heavenly Father was doing everything to make it possible for me to go.

I registered online and packed my bag. Antonio helped me figure out a proper bus route to get to the church the next morning.

MONDAY July 28th

I got to the church without a hitch. It took 3 busses - but all was fine!

Buses in Spain are really interesting.
The bus driver just got off the bus and left me alone on the bus so that he could take a break.  I have seen this a few times in here in Spain. It's completely different! That would never happen in NYC! Haha

Oliver, Danny, Marta and I waited at the church and we were picked up by a bus that would take us to the conference.

I had a good time talking with Oliver-he knows English so we spoke in as much Spanish as I could but were able to have a good conversation because he can understand me and help me with my Spanish.

We arrived at the hotel in Toledo and had time to settle into our rooms and walk around.

It was really fun seeing all of the excitement of reunions as more friends arrived.

In some ways I was waiting to recognize someone and be able to take part in the excitement - but I had to remind myself that I am in a completely different country and the chances of me knowing someone here are way out of my odds!

It wasn't until the next day - that I realized I DID know someone! Miguel looked very familiar to me, but I had convinced myself that there's no way that I would recognize or know anyone... Haha... Well I was wrong!
And it was fun to see him and catch up!

Every day we were served lunch and dinner in a nice dining room, servers brought around our food to us and there was an apatizer, main course and dessert. The food was Awesome!

At the conference there was a dance every night with different themes. The first day it was a fiesta (party) that had random games around the outside.

TUESDAY July 29th

We would gather in groups every day to read scriptures and discuss what we learned. Today was our first day in those groups. We got to introduce ourselves to our group and start to make mew friends. This was done by standing in a rotating line and rapid fire style briefly meeting people – manes and where we are from, etc. This was a really great opportunity for me to practice my basic Spanish… saying the same things over and over again. 
I LOVED the reactions that I would get when I would tell people that I am from NYC! There eyes would get really big and they would be so excited!

We had a Water Party and played games and then went to the pool, played water polo and swam and had a lot of fun!

There were 3 deaf JAS at the conference too! A couple of their friends learned Spanish Sign Language to talk to them and interpret for them in the classes and such.

Today I sat with them for lunch.
Between all of us we were speaking 4 different languages. Spanish, English, ASL, and SSL. It was a pretty incredible thing!

I also met my new best friend Klaudia! She was one of the JAS that has learned sign language. She also knows English as well! She was nice enough to feed me Spanish words when I needed them and we all had a good time comparing and sharing languages.

Later we had classes and then there was a dance- the theme for the dance was White.

As you can see in the photos I decided that the white rule didn’t apply to me. Haha… just kidding. I just didn’t bring any white with me. I actually don’t own an all white outfit or dress… I am thinking that maybe that needs to be fixed now.
So my options were pink, blue, purple, red or black. I decided that black made the most sense for our white dance.
Haha… I wasn’t the only one… but one of very few. Still had a really good time!


Today we had a special service activity. There were 3 options to choose from.
1- Donate Blood… no thank you! I very much dislike needles and I actually don’t that that I am allowed to because of some countries that I have traveled to anyway.
2- donate food… this option was out cause I didn’t bring any food to donate- oopsie! I did a rough read through of the scheduled agenda for the conference… but that is a con of finding out about it the day before. Not much time to prepare and pack white clothes and food. Haha
so we decided to go with option #3 – Sharing the gospel
There was probably 150 to 200 of us. Everyone got a copy of the Book of Mormon and some pamphlets and cards to share. We all wrote out testimonies in our copies of El Libro de Mormon. I wrote my testimony as well as I could in Spanish and then Oliver helped me fill in the blanks, and correct any errors.

They split the returned missionaries (RM) from the other participants who have not served missionas. Then they paired us. 1 RM with 2 others. Yes I served a mission and I street contacted… but never in Spanish. I was also paried with 2 people who did not know English! Haha! I was interested to see hwo this would turn out.
So off the 3 of us went  - into the streets of Toledo to do some street contacting and share the gospel. 

I would start to talk to people and then let my companions pick up the conversation when my Spanish abilities started floundering, We were able to talk to a few people and I was able to kind of coach my companions and help them to speak to people.

I was talk to them (in Spanglish) and there was a man who was walking close to us in the same direction.  He turned to us and in a British accent said, “I have never heard English and Spanish mixed like that before.” I started to talk to him. He is an English teacher and had been lving in Spain for 4 years now. 

I told him that we were sharing things about our faith. He told me, “I am not interested in religion… nothing against your religion specifically – but in general… because my wife died of cancer, she was only 47 years old.” 

I had a pretty amazing opportunity to tell him a little bit about the plan of salvation. And I promised him that he would be able to see his wife again! He said, “I sure hope so!”  I told hi, “You will.” It was a pretty incredible spiritual experience that I was able to share with him and testify of my knowledge of the truth of the plan of salvation.

I love that this opportunity came from me striving to speak in Spanish.

The dance tonight was 007 themed – so it was “fancy dress”

THURSDAY July 31st

We split into groups and went off to tour Toledo. It is a really beautiful place! We started out with a pretty big group… but a few of us really wanted to see more than we would have been able to with such a large group. So Gamma, Klaudia and I broke off to see as much as we could. We met up with another group and Niel ended up joining us too.

The dance tonight was in the hotel discoteca – it was an EPIC dance! And I don’t use that word often. But it was great music and we had a really good group of people in the center of the dance floor and had a really amazing time!

After the dance was over many of the JAS just hung around in the hotel lobby, on the couches, talking and continuing the fiesta in small groups.

Nathan, Klaudia, Memo, and I ended up playing Uno with a group of people… that eventually turned into just 5 of us playing for almost 2 hours. Memo didn’t win once. It was a hilarious time and we were up very late.

FRIDAY Aug 1st

The JAS conference was a whirlwind of meeting new friends, lots of besos (kisses), learning and practicing more Spanish, reading scriptures and going to classes, devotionals, fun activities, swimming, a talent show, service activity, amazing food, touring Toledo, and dancing every night!

FUN! It was so much fun! I don't think that simple word does justice to the amazing time that I had and the incredible people that I met. This conference was different from other YSA conferences that I have been to- I was very impressed and thankful for the opportunity to be there!

Instead of taking the bus back to Granada I took the bus into Madrid. Turns out that Nathan, Klaudia and I were all on the same bus. Klaudia decided to stay in Madrid for the weekend too! She invited me to stay with her at her uncle’s apartment. 
Klaudias family was so sweet to me and very accommodating! I was very grateful for them letting me stay. 

I was excited and it was fun to be able to see a little bit of Madrid. 


My main purpose of going to Madrid was to go to the temple!

I was going to meet with a friend to go to the noon session. But I didn’t make it on time. I went and did initiatories and then found out that my friends were actually gong to be going to the 3:00 session

So I met up with Klaudia again, we got some food and went to have some lunch. 

We ate with a few MTC teachers and even made plans for a group of people to have dinner together after church the next day. 

I then ran off to meet up with Efren and Vivina for a temple session.

The temple was AMAZING!!! It was so beautiful and such an incredible experience to be there! Wherever I am – no matter what city or country… when I go to the temple I am HOME! I feel like I belong! That is a blessing and a gift that I am so thankful for! What an incredible thing! 

Later we were going to go to into the city center. But Klaudia and I needed to go shopping so that we were prepared for our Sunday lunch that we had planned.  Then we ended up doing something even better!

I met 2 of Klaudias friends who were working at the MTC, Stephano and Bruno. Nathan, Klaudia and I all met up with them and we went up into the MTC to be “investigators” for the missionaries – to help them practice teaching. It was a really awesome experience, which brought back a LOT of memories!  

Lots of memories that I have not thought of for a long time – mostly surrounding my experiences in the MTC and on my mission! Very fond, and spiritual and special memories!

The lesson that the sister missionaries gave was great! The Spirit was present and it was a unique opportunity! I am glad that it worked out for us to be there!

Afterwards we ended up hanging out on the steps in front of the entrance of the temple grounds, It was a good time just hanging out and chatting with friends til late.

SUNDAY Aug 3rd

We had church today.
It was a lovely fast and testimony meeting.

After we went headed over to start on lunch. We ended up having a large group of people who all pitched in to cook together!

Klaudia made a Columbian soup and I made Hawaiian Haystacks.  I also made apple crisp for dessert. It was a big hit!

The JAS (young single adult group) had a service activity planned for that night. We made a bunch of sandwiches, and a big pot of pasta and took the leftovers from our lunch and we went out to the city center in Madrid. We handed out food to homeless people. We also brought a couple guitars and sang hymns.

It was a very successful and fun service activity! Everyone really enjoyed it and the homeless were so thankful! It was a beautiful night! Even after all of the food was gone we continued to song for a while and we sang songs on the train back to the temple!

Again there was a group of us that all hung out on the steps outside of the temple until late: talking, and singing and enjoying our time together.

I said my goodbyes to my friends… I was planning on taking a bus the next morning back to Granada.

When Klaudia and I got back to her uncles house (where we have been staying) I realized that I didn’t have my phone. Luckily Klaudia had Israel’s phone number – he lives close to the temple and he was able to go back and get it for me. I am very thankful that it was still there!

MONDAY Aug 4th

In the morning Klaudia and I headed back over to the temple to get my phone. I was happy that I got to see Israel and a few other friends again. Klaudia wanted to go and say goodbye to a few missionaries who were being transferred. And by the time we were done I realized that if I took a bus back to Granada then I would get in late and not have a way to get home from the bus station.

So I decided to stay in Mardid for one more night.

We ended up running into a few missionaries who were on their last 2 days of their mission, and had just had their exit interviews with their president. One of them actually went to Lone Peak High School where I did my student teaching years ago, and he is cousins with one of my former students!

It is amazing how small this world can be! Especially within the church!

We went to the park and saw a little bit more of Madrid.

We then headed back to the temple to go to the JAS Family Home Evening activity.  IT was fun to show up there and see my friends again… even though I had said goodbye to them already.

I ran into a friend who I had met at the MTC a few days previous. She is here in Madrid teaching at the MTC and she doesn’t know Spanish. She has been having a hard time connecting to people and making friends because of the language barrier and stays at home a lot when she isn’t working. She wasn’t going to come to FHE but a couple of the other MTC teachers had convinced her to come.

I know that I was supposed to be here- for her! She was very grateful to have a friend there. Isreal gave a beautiful lesson in Family Home Evening and Klaudia was able to translate the lesson for her! 

I love how the Spirit works in our lives! And I am so grateful that Heavenly Father coordinates putting people in the right places at the right times to help us! I have seen SO MANY TIMES even in the past few weeks the hand of the Lord in my life- guiding me and pulling me and directing me to be where he needs me.  It has been a huge blessing for me – as well as for others!

Our Father in Heaven really does love us and is watching over us and taking care of us!

After FHE there was a group of young single adults still hanging out around the temple grounds. I was talking to Stephano who is from Italy and said that my friends lived in Trieste. Stephano told me, “Oh! That is where Bruno is from.”

I then turned to Bruno and said, “Bruno! You know Adam Branson and Antonio Marruecos!” He was shocked! And said “YES!” I then told him, “They are the reason that I am in Spain! They are my best friends!”

Then Bruno and I shared a moment and a bond that I cannot easily put words to. It was really so special that I actually don’t think I can explain it at all! Again! What a small small world! Bruno and his branch back at home loved Adam and Antonio so much! And I love them too! So in the moment Bruno and I became good friends as well as we shared how much Adam and Antonio mean to us in our lives!

What another incredible example of how the Lord is constantly orchestrating our lives and helps us to meet people and learn and grown in many ways that we wouldn’t have without very specific people and experiences!

I realized over and over that I was meant to come to Madrid! Not just for my original purpose of going to the temple (which was amazing!) But to meet new friends, Strengthen relationships, be directed and follow the spirit, have some incredible spiritual experiences. 

I am SO thankful!


I caught the bus back to Granada and was back at my home in Armilla 6 hours later. Antonio Silvia and I went into Granada so that I could do some souvenir/Christmas shopping.


I was worried that I would have to go to the airport a day early… so that I could be there for my flight early tomorrow. But thankfully Antonio was able to find and arrange a ride for me!

Today we went and got churros for breakfast, which we ate with hot chocolate. This is a thing here is Spain that I have heard a LOT about but had not tried yet… so naturally on my last day here- it was a MUST.

I then packed up all of my things. (packing is one of my least favorite things about traveling) and then Antonio and I spent one last day in Granada. It was beautiful! We got to go out for dinner with friends for Silvias birthday and Sara and Antonio stopped by so that I could say goodbye.

I will miss them all!!!


I got an hour of sleep and then got a cab at 3:45am to take me into Granada where my ride to the Malaga airport picked me up at a gas station. They were 2 nice men who didn’t speak much English, and were going on vacation to Germany. I got to the airport in perfect timing. Had to pay a ridiculous amount for my bag being overweight (UGH!!!) and then hoped on my first flight.

My layover was in Oslo. For 7 hours.  I met this really nice older couple and had a cool conversation with them. I tried to sleep for maybe an hour. And mostly just hung out, read my book and waited.

A few thoughts that I wrote down during my layover:
In the airport:
I am thinking in Spanish… I guess that is a really good sign!
Right as I started to feel more comfortable and be able to have more conversation in espaƱol is right when I have to return home… such is life.
I need to figure out how I am going to practice… make a schedule for myself and have some kind of daily study and at least a weekly opportunity to talk with someone for some time.

I eventually landed at JFK airport at 8:00pm Eastern Time. Having traveled for over 27 hours I was VERY thankful that my old roommate Kate let Jen borrow her car to come pick me up so I wouldn’t have to take the subway home!

SUNDAY Aug 17th

Sometimes it is hard coming back to the city. There are a lot of things to think about and I have a lot to do to put my life back together. It’s a lot of work.

For the first week I was home I keep waking up thinking that I was still in Spain then wondering where I am. Oh yeah! Back in Harlem again! My schedule was very off – waking up at 5 am, and getting really tired very early. I am adjusting to the time difference and making my apartment my home again.