Let me just start by saying that being a woman is hard enough. I mean, seriously. Guys put on pants and a shirt and life's good. The biggest decision is between jeans and slacks, short sleeves or long. If they gain a little weight, they don't really care. And why should they? They lose weight without really even thinking very hard. I never understood that... how is it that I can eat like a bird and shun sweets like they carry the plague, yet I gain weight? All the while, my husband eats everything he sees and never turns down a dessert and his weight doesn't change.
So, all that to say, women already have issues with clothing and weight and all the trappings of being a woman in our North American culture. I didn't need the added issues of changing styles and sizes when I moved to another culture.
First was the shoes. I needed to get shoes that are stylish, yet good for walking. There is a lot of walking here. And it is cobblestone street walking. Add to that the fact that Spaniards do not approve of tennis shoes unless you are actually running or playing tennis. Tennis shoes are NOT apparel. So, I needed real shoes. "What size?", asked the saleslady. Oh great... I have no idea. I wear a 7 in the USA, but European sizes are different. I told her that I'm a 7 in the USA, so she says, "You need a 37 or 38 here." WHAT? That sounds absurd. But true... I now wear a size 37 shoe.
Then came the pants. My pants that I had been loving and wearing for several years were now close to death and it was necessary to go shopping for replacements. Again, no idea on size. There is no such thing as small, medium, or large. I looked for a conversion chart, to no avail. So I asked the saleswoman how to figure out what size I am in European pants. She looks at my butt (I kid you not) and announces that I am probably a 44 or 46. EXCUSE ME!!!! I DO NOT ACCEPT THAT! Mean spirited little stick figure woman... Except, she was correct. A 44 is exactly what now covers my not-so-delicate derriere.
Serious depression began seeping in to my soul... how could I live with being a 37 foot in a 44 pants? This is a serious attack on my ego...
Until I needed a bra. Let me just say that I have insider knowledge that the average 6th grader wears a size 90, and I'm not even CLOSE to that... I might need counseling.
And underwear... again, a sixth grade girl wears a 182 panty. I gave up... no new underwear for me. I can't take it. Just the thought of knowing that number is enough to make me have cold sweats and dizzy spells. I'm accustomed to single-digit underwear sizes. I can't do it. 37. 44. 90. 182. This sounds like a phone number, or coordinates on a GPS system. How can these possibly be the sizes associated with a woman's body?
So, I don't know if I'll survive the Great Size Crisis of 2015. Being a woman in a cross-cultural context is tough... I'm going to go eat a head of lettuce.
Sometimes, progress is barely perceivable. Sometimes, we're just looking for BNIs - barely noticeable improvements. Tiny glimmers that let us know that something is changing.
When we moved to our current house, we were excited to be out amongst farmers again. It seems to be our 'place' in life. We just seem to love being around the soil, the crops, animals, and plain country folks. We loved and missed that part of our lives from Peru. So moving to this house in between a wheat field and a field of beans and an asparagus crop felt perfect. And we met the farmer and his family next door. Great people! Instant love.
However, not everyone is super welcoming and warm. Quite the opposite for one farmer man who lives on our road. We pass him several times a day. He wears the same grumpy gruff facial expression each time. Never changes. Never smiles. Kind-of an Eeyore-type, only he appears more irritated than depressed. Almost as if just your meer presence in this world is a problem for him.
Nevertheless, we wave. We wave at him and smile. Every time. No matter what. Sarah and I stopped to talk to him once about some kittens that were at his gate, but we were not exactly met with warm glowing hugs and love. We were definitely not feeling the hospitality. Still, we smiled and thanked him, and waved as we left.
We affectionately named him "Mr. Sunshine". Not to his face, of course. We don't know his name. He hasn't shared that information with us. But in our car each day, we wave to "Mr. Sunshine" and smile a greeting in his direction. Every day. Every day. Every day.
Then one day, we saw it. A BNI - barely noticable improvement. A twitch of his hand in response to the wave. A very subtle tiny flick of the hand.
That was all we needed! The challenge was now on! We took it on as a family project. "We are going to get Mr. Sunshine to soften up if it kills us!"
We continued to wave a smile. Every day. Each time we pass his place. Each time we see him in his vehicle. Each time he walks down the road. Wave. Smile. Nod the head in his direction. Every time, we do it with the enthusiasm that says, "Hey! Sunshine! Great to see you again!"
I'm sure he thinks we're nuts.
Again, we saw it. BNI. A half-raised arm wave. Whoa!!! There may have been some shrieks of "wow!" and some cheering in the car.
Each time we saw a little improvement, we were more determined.
So now, nine months later, we are up to a full-arm over the head wave. Real acknowledgement! Honest to Goodness waving! On a good day, there is even a head nod. Progress.
I have dreams that one day Mr. Sunshine will actually smile. I'm hoping for an actual conversation one day. Maybe even grow in to his Mr. Sunshine name. Some folks are just slow to warm up. But for now, I'm celebrating the BNIs.
Sometimes, building relationships is about a wave and a smile - every day, every day, every day - and patience.
One of the typical foods here in Andalucia is churros and chocolate. These aren't the churros you might know from Mexican food stands or the county fair. The Spanish version is somewhat like a funnel cake-type batter that is made in to giant donut-shaped goodness. The hot chocolate is also not what you would expect. It is more the consistency of homemade cooked pudding... the kind your grandma used to make on the stove. Yummmmm!!!!! It is typical to order churros and chocolate for a breakfast food, or for coffee time (mid-morning or late afternoon).
Honestly, I LOVE churros y chocolate, but I don't do it too often. It's really rich and really loaded with calories. It is a special treat for us. But, today was a special treat kind of a day... I was out walking Hannah (our spring intern) around town and showing her where some typical places are that she would need to know... the bank, the post office,
I was just sitting here and realizing what a crazy multicultural mix of holiday experiences we had this year! We try to keep many of our own family traditions in place, no matter where we live and serve. We have added other experiences along the way. And we are always ready to learn something new and celebrate with someone else in their traditional way.
Our 'home culture traditions' that we carry with us:
In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
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! 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 via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!