Did you realize that you have a specific food culture? Food is a major connector for cultures and ethnicities. It ranks in the top 3 topics of how people relate to each other when they meet. Immigrants often talk about food patterns and customs, and food is one way that they retain their identity.
When we first moved to Spain, we began attending a church where there were many Central and South Americans. One Sunday after services, I found myself seated next to a woman that I did not know. In the process of introducing myself and trying to open a conversation, I found out that she was an immigrant from Nicaragua. It just so happens that while we lived and served in Costa Rica, we worked among Nicaraguan immigrants and refugees! So we had the beginnings of a connection. But the number one thing that surfaced was FOOD! The foods that we missed from that region. We found ourselves reminiscing about gallo pinto and fried yucca. We dreamed of guanabana juice and platanos fritos, of tres leches cake and Central American coffee. We were instantly connected as we remembered the deliciousness of the region and her eyes danced as we talked of foods that meant ‘home’ to her. It is no wonder that we are very good friends even to this day! We had good beginnings—a culture of food.
When I have met Peruvians outside of Peru, we almost immediately begin talking about food. Oh, how I miss Cordero al Palo, ceviche, pachamanca, and aji de gallina (my favorite!). What I wouldn’t do to have my friend, Liz, make one more Causa Limeña for me, or papas Huancaina, or Rocoto Relleno. Oh my goodness… I shouldn’t be writing this while I’m waiting for lunch! Yummmmm!!!!! (I just might have a problem with food…)
Here in Spain, there is also a specific food culture. Yes, there are specific dishes that are regional favorites and no self-respecting Andaluz would ever live without… porra and gazpacho, berenjena con miel (fried eggplant with honey), pulpo Gallego (octopus), and Spanish tortilla (crust less egg and potato quiche). But there is also a life and norms around food. Specific times of day for specific meals or breaks, and what foods are allowable at those times. For example, Spaniards do not eat eggs for breakfast. An omelet or a quiche or an egg casserole is considered ’too strong’ for a breakfast meal. Breakfast consists of breads and possibly serrano ham and a fresh tomato puree. There are social norms that revolve around food patterns. Meals are social events. Expect to spend at least a couple of hours over a lunch with someone… any less would be disrespectful and rude. Meals are to be lingered over and savored, and the company is to be savored even more! There is no culture of ‘eat and run’ or a ‘quick lunch’. Fast food is actually translated to “comida de basura” (trash food) and is looked down upon by all but the youngest generations. And portion sizes are scrutinized… a drink over 12 ounces is considered excessive, unless it is water. A local friend was recently appalled at the idea that soft drinks come in 32 and 44 ounce sizes in the USA.
In Spain, the lunch time meal is the big meal of the day. It is a time to go home from school or work and the entire family gathers around the table. This is the large cooked meal of the day. Businesses close down at 2pm so that everyone can go home for lunch. Then socialization and table talk. Then a rest. It is very common, if not expected, that after a meal and a time of socialization and rest, a walk is in order. It is very common to see entire families out taking a stroll after a meal. Then back to work at 5pm and work until 8 or 9. The evening meal is light… fruit or cheese or yogurt or a light sandwich if you are in the house. Many choose, instead, to opt for relationship and take an evening stroll in town, stopping for a tapa (small appetizer) and a time with friends in the cool of the evening… a couple of hours over a small bite in a café and lots of talking and laughter.
Last week, we were living in our own version of the Fiery Furnace, with temperatures well over 100 degrees. One day, we hit 113! It was not pretty here in The Drum household, being as we do not have air conditioning. We were moving slow, drinking lots of water, and wiping down our bodies with wet towels.
Literally, that was one week ago. Today, we are sitting in 71 degree Heaven! The evenings are cool and we are finally getting those beautiful Fall breezes that make life lovely! I had to put on a robe and socks this morning and cover up with a quilt to drink my coffee! Ahhhh… back to nice temperatures!
September has brought us ‘back’ to a lot of things. August in Spain is a very slow month. Almost everyone saves their yearly vacation time for August. School is still out and businesses close for weeks at a time. Even church cuts back to bare minimums… there is a Sunday service, but no bible studies or Sunday school classes or meetings. For us, that means that we spent most of our August doing coaching and counseling work via Skype for other workers around the globe, hosting visiting workers for coaching and counseling, and preparing for some upcoming trainings that we will be doing for other workers. But locally, not much happening.
It all changed on September 1st! Back to Business. Back to schedules and agendas and meetings. Back to bible studies and classes. Somehow, the slowness that is August here—that slowness that was making me bored and fidgety—changed to a steady busy-ness that now has me begging for the slowness to return!
Back to School. School children went back to school this week. Sarah started her second year of ESO (Escuela Secundaria Obligatoria), which would be equal to the 8th grade back home. She is continuing in the Bilingual education program in Spanish public school, which means that she takes some of her classes in 50% Spanish / 50% English, some classes are taught completely in Spanish, and she is in her second year of French language. She’s a typical pre-teen… excited to start school because she’s excited to be with her friends again, but not so excited about starting the classes again. Prayer Point—please pray for Sarah’s teachers as they spend the majority of their day with our daughter. Please pray for her friendships—for them to be healthy and life-giving, and for Sarah to be a light in the lives of her non-believing friends and their families.
Back to Training. Sarah had a full month off of her Equestrian training, mostly because her trainer got married. She continued to ride several times a week during the summer, but now we are back to training. She competed last week and came in 1st in one of her events, so she’s still doing great.
Billy and I are also back to training… back to planning for training workshops that we will be leading in the next months for other mission workers, back to language training and working with language helpers to refine and hone our skills, and back to training local leaders and workers in Spain. Prayer Point—please pray for teachable spirits, for open-minds and for a willingness to learn.
Back to Escuela Dominical (Sunday School) - We started the new Sunday School year this past weekend. Billy and I are the Directors of the Sunday School program at the church here. This year brings lots of changes to the program. Changes in teachers and placement, changes in curriculum, changes in classes and age-levels. Prayer Point—please pray that our teachers develop in to a team, pray that changes are embraced and pray that growth occurs in both the teachers and in the students.
Back to Study Groups—September brings new beginnings to the study groups and cell groups and home fellowship groups. Sunday was the beginning of the new study year for the Café con Jesus inductive study group that meets before church each Sunday morning. We had a full group last week! Pray for this group to continue to be a risk-fee environment where everyone feels open and vulnerable, yet safe… safe to bring important biblical questions and arguments to the table and have real discussion with others. A praise point and a prayer point here is that the pastor believes that they way to foster real growth and real change in the church and in the community is to have MORE groups like the Café con Jesus group! More opportunities for people to come together for authentic discussion and learning.
Another group that has started back up is our home fellowship group in Campillos (the small pueblo where we have an outreach about 40 minutes from here). We have two homes that are open for fellowship groups there, but normally we only have a small handful of people who are regular attendees. Today, we had 14 in the group! And 8 of those were new! Prayer point—please keep this fellowship group in your prayers, pray for the 2 homes that are open to holding meetings, pray for the 8 newcomers to the group, and pray for bonds and relationships and real community to begin to grow among these new believers. Pray for Pastor Miguel and Billy and I as we work to disciple this fellowship.
Back to Leadership—Our Leadership team is back together again, too. This summer was a time of furlough for part of our team, as they went back to Puerto Rico to reconnect with churches and family and friends. We stepped back during that time so that we could devote time to hosting other workers and doing debriefing, counseling, and coaching work. Now we are all back in the saddle and we have hit the ground running. Leadership meetings, strategy and planning are all in full swing. We will also be back to our weekly time of inductive study starting next week. Prayer point—please pray for this team as we work together. Pray for us to continue to be a beautiful example of Kingdom work, being an international team made up of different cultures and ages and backgrounds. Pray for us to continue to grow as leaders and to be teachable and flexible.
Back to Greece— October will send us back to Greece to work with refugees on the island of Lesbos. As of right now, we will be working in the Kara Tepe camp. Two friends from the USA will be joining our team this time, as will one Spaniard (from our Café con Jesus group). Prayer point—please pray for our travel to Greece, please pray for us to be good servants and to be ready, willing, and able to do anything and everything that is needed while we are there. Pray especially for Cristobal, our Spanish friend who will be joining us. He has answered the call to serve and is stepping out in faith and obedience, but he is terrified. Going out and serving in this way is not the norm for the Spanish church, and Cristobal is the only one to respond and go. This could be a big growth point for him (and for the Church) and we are waiting and watching with great expectation for what God is going to do in and through Cristobal on this trip. And, of course, pray for the refugee situation, for peace within the camps, for joy even in times of waiting and uncertainty.
URGENT UPDATE - Last night (Sept. 19th), a fire destroyed the Moria camp on Lesbos island. The NGO that we work with was spared - this is a miracle since every tent and every NGO around them was burned to the ground. Thousands of refugees are without shelter or services today. But, thanks to God, they still have NGO REMAR to feed them and be there alongside them this morning! Pray for this very difficult situation, and for the relief workers who are there to care for others in the wake of even more heartbreak and dispair. Pray that they continue to be a Light in the days ahead.
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!