The flu hit our house just before Christmas. It hit hard and it took no prisoners. Just kicked us in the teeth (and the hips and the back and the head and every other possible aching thing) and threw us to the sofa. All three of us at once. Not fun.
Billy ended up with respiratory complications and we went to the ER twice in 24 hours. They gave him breathing treatments both times, did chest xrays and took blood tests and we don’t even know what else. No pneumonia, but some sort of upper respiratory infection to add to the awesome flu symptoms.
Illness in another country is never fun. Not that illness is ever fun, but at least in your home culture you speak the language fluently and you know the system. In another country, not so much. The one good thing we hear every time is, “You speak Spanish? Thank goodness. Well at least you speak the language.” Yes, we speak the language. But sometimes medical lingo is pretty specialized and we have to fumble around for the vocabulary that fits the situation.
Illness is never fun. Illness + insurance issues + culture + language barriers = YUCK!
We are currently in a season of both celebrating and losing our minds. Sounds funny, right? Well, let me explain – we moved to a house in town. Huge celebration! It took a lot of jumping through the proverbial hoops to make it happen, but it finally happened and we now live in a house that is MUCH more suited to the work we do with care and counseling. It is also proving to be a much better location for meeting neighbors and having meaningful relationships. All of that is really good, so we are celebrating this move and we’re really pleased with how it affects relationships and our work.
Along with a move, comes the ‘other stuff’ – packing and unpacking, figuring out all of the idiosyncrasies of the new place, realizing that the electricity is not exactly up to par (as in, the electrician is now in our house from 9am-7pm each day fixing issues), etc. On the first day, I opened the refrigerator and the door shelves fell out on my feet. That was when we realized that the fridge was possibly ‘mature’. It was being held together with duct tape and bandaids. Yes, I said bandaids. I kid you not, little sticky boo-boo bandaids were being used to hold the shelves in the fridge. That’s special. The oven needs a good kick and a sharp hip bump to get the door to close. There is one electrical outlet that is attached to nothing - it’s just an outlet glued to the wall. And the tub… don’t get me started. *sigh* All of this is a little stressful (okay, some days it is a lot stressful), but we are learning to work through it and even laugh at some of it. And, hey – we have met an awesome electrician and painter and several neighbors who are helping us settle and work through the kinks, so there is a silver lining in all of it! (but we DO need to buy a fridge!)
Part of what I love about this new place and new lifestyle in town is meeting our neighbors. It’s a reboot, of sorts. We are the new kids on the block, and we have a perfect opportunity to meet lots of new people. We live across the street from a bakery, and in Spain, people walk to the bakery every day to get fresh bread. That means a steady stream of neighbors walk directly in front of my door every day. We also live directly next door to a produce shop, and people pop in to pick up their fresh fruits and veggies all day long. About two blocks away is the butcher, and most people are in the habit of going to get their meat fresh each day, so I’m meeting folks at the butcher counter.
This may come as a news flash, but your neighbors don’t live in your house. So if you never leave your humble abode, you’ll never meet any of your neighbors. They are not going to bust up in your living room and introduce themselves. This means you need to go outside. Often. Daily. Consistently. As much as you can. Because that’s pretty much the only place you are going to meet people who live close to you. ~ The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements
Let’s not discount the fact that we live in a small town. Eyes are on us all the time as the newcomers to the neighborhood. It is not uncommon (almost an everyday occurrence) for people to say things like, “I’ve been watching you walk your dogs every day” or “You’re doing a lot of work in the house, huh? I’ve been seeing the workmen come in and out.” Nothing we do is going unnoticed. This is a new experience for us! Many people in the USA comment to us that they don’t know their neighbors or never have occasion to really connect with neighbors. Here in Spain, we haven’t lived in the house 2 weeks yet and we already know most of the neighbors. The fact that it is a social society and a very pedestrian society, we see and greet everyone in the street as we go about doing daily life – buying bread, shopping for produce, getting fresh meat for today’s meal, or taking the dogs out for a walk. One neighbor introduced me to another neighbor today as “the newest member of our neighborhood gang”, to which I was greeted with a hearty laugh and a kiss and an invitation to come to their house for anything we might need.
‘When we join God in His mission of hospitality (welcoming people in to our lives and our homes), we are actually creating a counterculture here on earth. Our homes become micro previews of heaven when we put God’s warmth and joy and presence on display. Imagine this: what if your house became known as “that house” in your neighborhood? What if your home became a little bright spot in your community, that when people walk or drive by your door, their heads turn a little and they start to wonder what’s different about you, because you don’t seem to think about your home the same way everyone else in the neighborhood does? This is possible for us, because we can reject the values of our culture (i.e. privacy, security, independence, seclusion) and pursue the values God intends for His people (i.e. community, relationship, inclusion). In so doing, we become a radical alternative to the world’s way of thinking.’ ~~ The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements
That’s what we want to be - the house that’s different. The house that symbolizes welcome and warmth. They house where everyone is always welcome to come in and share life. We look forward to meeting more people in the new neighborhood and sharing coffee and meals and lots of time together.
Gotta run… I’m making lots of loaves of pumpkin bread to share with the new neighbors as a way of sharing our celebration of Thanksgiving and showing our gratitude to them for welcoming us and helping us find our way in a new place. Happy Thanksgiving to you!!!
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!