August 18, 2009
Spreading God's Love and Message of Hope in Spain
So for a little over two weeks I have been in Spain. My reason for going wasn't just to see new sites. I was going to visit, help, and encourage missionaries in Malaga, the southern most part of Spain, Ponferrada, and Leon. Then I would teach and counsel music students from all over Spain at a music camp for the second year in a row. I arrived in the Madrid Barajas Airport and took a taxi to the Atocha train station where I boarded a bullet train headed for Malaga.
The flight was eight hours long and the train was another two or so hours. So I was pretty exhausted. Thankfully the missionaries I would be helping were at the train station in Malaga to pick me up. I don't think I would have been alert enough to drive given that I can hardly sleep in planes. Now something to know, if you ever want to go visit Malaga it is best to go in the Spring or the Fall. Summer months, anywhere between late May to early September, will mean you will have to withstand 90 degrees and higher with humidity. Most buildings do not have air conditioning or even fans so you really need to be able to handle extreme heat well.
I packed lots of loose fitting clothing made of cotton and avoided wearing black whenever possible. Spaniards look down on wearing jeans or flip-flops in public but if you're near the beach its acceptable. Flip-flops are considered shoe wear for in-home use only. I was for-warned so I had brought sandals.
Now some more advice about traveling. Spain has a lot of brick and stone sidewalks and streets so do bring comfortable shoes. You will do more walking than traveling by car. Pack as light as possible because most traveling from city-to-city is done by train or bus and you will have to lift your luggage up high for stow-away during travel. This is what I used for all my clothes, shoes, and toiletries.
Also, it is very important to have a small purse where you keep all your important documents such as your passport, travel itinerary, ticket stubs, and travel insurance. My small travel purse also has pockets for a cell phone and camera. And always keep your most important documents in front of you, not hanging over one shoulder, or hanging behind you. There are thieves at just about every train and bus station so be vigilant and constantly aware of everyone around you.
Malaga was hot, hot, hot. So I was drinking a lot of water. But that was okay because water is relatively safe to drink in Spain. Don't drink from water fountains though, drink from bottled water. Fruit and vegetable juices are good too. And don't expect the food in Spain to be very spicy like Mexico. Spaniards prefer to use spices for subtle flavor so most foods are very easy on your stomach. That's great news for anyone with a sensitive tummy.
It is possible to buy train tickets on-line now but it is recommended to do this in advance. Also, most Spaniards say that its better to buy bus tickets at the ticket counter because sometimes there are schedule changes in bus routes.
In my experience, if you get lost or are unsure about where to go just look for the information desk. And if you get on a bus and are unsure about where to get off just ask the driver. Sometimes even the fellow passengers will be more than happy to help you! The best thing to do, if your Spanish is limited, is to say the name of your destination and grab a map so that you can point to where you would like to go.
So anyway, back to my trip. After spending several days with the missionaries in Malaga I was told to take a bus to Grenada to visit the Alhambra Generalife. So, after all the recommendations to go I went and I loved it! Alhambra is breathtaking and if you go you absolutely must bring your camera! Spain, particularly southern Spain, was heavily influenced by the Moroccan architects and Alhambra is considered the crowning glory of this. Because there is so much to share about the Alhambra Generalife I will do this in a separate post. So stay tuned! Here are two photos of many that I took while there.
After spending most of the day in Alhambra I returned to Malaga, packed, and left via bullet train back up to Madrid. Taking a taxi to the Charmatin train station I caught a train headed for Leon where I spent several more days helping other missionaries who lived there. The music camp that I taught and counseled in for the remainder of my trip was holding a concert in Ponferrada so I carpooled with other performers and then spent two nights with yet another missionary family. They were wonderful people and I was able to help with church services and functions and also encourage the missionaries who at times feel lonely. They took me to the out-door markets and I bought a few things from the gypsies.
After Ponferrada I joined a few other musicians from the US and we all headed to the music camp via the beautiful mountains roads. We saw beautiful valleys and windmills, and huge sun panels.
Once at the camp things moved at a faster pace. Every day there were several rehearsals. We only had four days to prepare music none of us had seen before. And we had to perform three consecutive concerts for the public in Leon, Viademore, and Valencia de Don Juan.
I and all the faculty spent every morning in Bible study and prayer for the students. Most are christians but the camp is open to non-christians as well and we prayed for them the most. It was amazing to see how God worked through us and the Spanish students who were saved to encourage and bring hope to those who don't know God. All of the students in the camp did an outstanding job in the performances and all of my students had a chance to perform piano with the orchestra! I'm so proud of them!
In our final performance we did an accapella piece for choir called " Africa." We used our hands, thighs, and feet to create the sounds of rain and thunder. The source of our motivation came from the following youtube video.
This trip to Spain was filled with all kinds of emotions for me. In our concerts we had standing ovations, which is not common. In general, the Spaniards are very picky about music performances. But even more amazing still was that there were so many people stopping to listen to us that there weren't enough seats! People were dancing to the music and clapping along and some were even crying. There were over 1,000 people present! One of the audiences favorite performances was a choir and orchestra piece entitled " Praise You." Here is a clip from another group performing it in the US, if your curious.
I made several new contacts and great friends and it was very hard to leave by myself. I do hope to visit again next year if God provides the funds for me to go. And I am so grateful for his protection during all my travels and for my health. I hope that I was a help and encouragement to the missionaries I visited and I hope I was a good example and inspiration to my students in Spain. Who knows what God will do in my life next? :)