"Vale" is a word found exclusively in Spain and roughly translates to "ok." Valencia is the city I was assigned to, and will work in for the next... undetermined amount of time, but probably at least 6 weeks.
European cities are amazing and unique, modern mixing with ancient in ways that should clash but seem to complement. I love it here.
We took a high speed train to Barcelona, spent a couple of days there doing necessary paperwork and getting the low-down of what being in the Spain Barcelona Mission entails.
A few years ago, a general authority visited the Barcelona mission and said that it was "a Lighthouse mission to the rest of Europe" because of how the church is growing, defying the stigma that you don't baptize in Europe.
My name (Alayna) is a derivative of the name Helen which means "torch-bearer" which seems downright profound right now. My mission scripture is an excerpt from Christ's words, and reads "I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Our mission goes by the nickname "El Faro" which is the Spanish word for lighthouse.
As missionaries, we go out in unfamiliar paths, to cities we've never heard of and places so different from where we've been before. We are called to be a light unto the nations, bringing the truth of the gospel to those who wander in darkness, kept from the light simply because they know not where to find it. (D&C 123:12)
I love the mission. It's full of little miracles and spiritual connections you can't find or recognize in any other way.
That being said, I still have a lot to learn. I was called to a walking mission (which basically means we don't drive or ride bikes) but what they should have called it was a metro mission.... we take that thing EVERYWHERE and it'll take awhile for me to understand which lines go where and what stops connect and such, but I'll try my best.
Our ward is smallish, and we have two other companionships of Elders. It's about as diverse as you can get. Latinos of every variety, an impressively large African presence, and only a few true Spaniards. And I love them.
My companion is Hermana Manwill. She's a Utah native (like ALL THE OTHER MISSIONARIES AROUND HERE) in her last transfer (but we don't talk about that. Apparently she's also a Sister Training Leader (which I didn't find out about until a few days ago), which means that she has to go to meetings in Barcelona once a month and go on splits with other missionaries fairly frequently. Entonces (then; so), I'll be here to hold down the fort a lot... so I need to know my way around. A fun challenge for my first week. :O
My Spanish must be better than I thought, because everyone compliments me on it... but everyone is also very nice, so it's hard to gauge. I introduced myself this Sunday for Sacrament meeting and was able to handle the Spanish pretty well, but when I sat back down, I realized that my chapa (missionary name tag) was on my jacket and that I went up there without it. :(
The missionaries practically make-up the ward choir, and I've already had the opportunity to sing at a baptism and in the Stake Choir Festival (They had Los Tres Reyes [the three Kings] come out at the end and give everyone candy, of which I was a fan. Those guys are bigger than Santa Claus here.)
I've been to a few lessons, made some street contacts, eaten some Bolivian food which they tried to convince me was cat (but wasn't... I think), and had more Dominoes Pizza than I did when I was back in the States. All things which combine to make this a fantastic first week in the mission field.
Thanks for all the love and support!
-Hermana Alayna Een
Summary: Vale Valencia. Only missionaries can sing, and Spanish isn't that bad. It's crazy at first and there are a lot of metros, but I'm adjusting and doing well. Merry Christmas!