Back in August, Billy and I were walking in town doing our errands (we walk everywhere in town - Spain does not have good parking in the cities) and we passed a fabric shop. We had passed it several times before and I always looked in the window and longed for the days when I used to sew and quilt and do all kinds of handcrafts.
This time, Billy encouraged me to go in and ask if they have quilting classes. Yes, I already know how to sew. Yes, I already know how to quilt. But this seemed like a good way to meet some new people and build some relationships in some new social circles in town, as well as a great way to learn culture. In case you hadn't noticed, women talk... a lot. So if you sit in a class full of women, you are bound to learn something about life in a small town! ;)
The owner of the shop was really sweet and she said that I could join in the Monday quilt group. It isn't so much of a class as it is a 'circle' or a community. For two hours each Monday, eight or nine women gather around a big table with their individual quilting projects and we work and talk and laugh and help each other out. I always learn new vocabulary in Spanish. And I am sure to learn some special intricacies of culture in the process. They talk about what they are going to cook that day (I learn about the typical foods that people are eating and where they get grocery items). They talk about the upcoming holiday weekend (I learn about a Spanish holiday that I didn't even know exists and about how people will celebrate it). They talk about the new project they are doing and about which colors they will use and why (I learn that color preferences are cultural, too... did you know that baby blue and brown are girl colors? And that rocking horses are only for boys? Even if they have a pink bow?) They talk about what they are getting their children and grandchildren for Christmas (I learn about the kinds of gifts people buy. I learn about budgets. I learn about appropriate giving and receiving.) They talk about faith and the Catholic church (I learn about what they like and what they don't like about their church. I ask questions for this part!) Yes, the quilt group has been a treasure trove of cultural learning for me!!!
At first, it seemed like I wouldn't ever fit in. It seemed like a pretty tightly knit clique that wasn't going to let a stranger waltz in without batting an eyelash. I have to say that the key, I think, was the day that I cried in class. I messed up my quilt block and my mentor/teacher made me rip it out. I was a little fragile that day, a little wounded that I hadn't done it 'good enough', and probably just a little hormonal, too. I tried not to cry, but silent tears spilled over as I ripped out the seams. I tried to cover it up and not let others see me cry, but I'm not THAT good... they saw. No one said a word, and I felt even worse. But at the end of the two hours, my mentor put her hand on my shoulder and gave it a little squeeze. One of the other ladies gave me a big hug when I left. No words, just physical gestures.
Ever since then, I have been accepted. I don't know why. Vulnerability? I don't know. But I'm "in". We talk. We laugh - A LOT! My opinion is asked, and valued. It is a little family of ladies sharing a couple of hours each week. There have been lots of physical gestures, lots of hugs and pats on the back, since my crying day, as well as lots of loving and kind words spoken between me and my new friends.
Today, as I was giving everyone a goodbye hug and kiss, I turned to head out the door and I overheard one of them say to the others, "I just love Laurie. She is so good for us." I don't know how 'good' I am, but I know how good it felt to hear that!
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!