Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fallas and Forget-me-nots

Fallas*: A Valencian tradition that takes place in March, almost the whole month from what I can tell. Activities include a daily firework show in the Center at Mediodía [noon], muñecas (Spanish women who dress in elaborate antiguo [old] garb and intricately woven braids that put Princess Leia's side-buns to shame), and the actual fallas are where they build giant, beautiful, and expensive statues... and then set them on fire.
Forget-me-nots: A little blue flower, often overlooked, and the title of a fantastic Uchtdorf talk that you should look up (and maybe my mom will put in a link for the blog.) https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/forget-me-not?lang=eng

This week has been great. It's also been really hard in some ways. Funny how those things always seem to work together.

I'd like to talk about this week but, to be honest, everything worth talking about started on Saturday, so I'll just say that we had some good days and some bad days. The bad- Souad (our candle-lit miracle Muslim) was progressing to baptism (fecha [date], lessons, heck, we even found a dress) and then one day she stopped answering our phone calls, won't answer the door, and called Mama Africa to tell her that she's moving to France and doesn't want anything more to do with the Church or with us. So. That was fun.
The good- Genoveva´s progressing well, and loves our visits.

When Saturday came around it was a little hard. We finished the first half of the 12 week training program including the "stress test".... and she got red. (Green is good, yellow is ok, orange is bad, red is "call the president immediately, because you need help." Just to give you some perspective). Hermana Manotas hates the metro (which we use a LOT, and will use more, now that the fallas cause daily complications to the streets), and keeps running into family members and friends here which... complicates things. I had a candy-bar bet with her that IF one of us left (that's a big if, capital letters and all), it would be me. But we were surprised once again on Saturday night when President Pace called (which is starting to seem almost normal for me) at 10 en punto [on the dot] to tell us that Hermana Manotas is being transferred to Bilbao to finish her training with Hermana Vance (a MUCH more experienced missionary) and that I will be finishing the training of a 6-week non-native missionary, Hermana Terraza.) How crazy is that?

The next few days were chuck-full of miracles, with surprises at every turn. This week (last two days especially) has been so chuck-full of miracles that I don't know where one ends and another begins or how to choose just one to talk about. We were able to see not only almost ALL of our progressing investigators and menos activos [less active], but kept re-running into old contacts in the street and were able to set citas [appointments] with many of them for later in the week. Probably my favorite miracle was with Bea. On Sunday morning we were planning to pass by some of our menos activos that were really struggling, and somehow decided to pass by Manuel first (we've always visited him at night because of his work schedule, but we decided to give it a try anyway). When we rang the timbre [bell] a woman answered and we were a little confused at first (I'm notorious for forgetting which puerta [door] people live in) but she said that yes, Manuel lived there, no, he wasn't there at the moment (sleeping), but that we could still come in if we wanted. It was a little strange, but we went up and as the door opened Hermana Manotas gasped and said, "I KNOW you!" It turns out that she (Bea) was an investigator in Hermana Manotas's home ward 3 years ago. She moved here a month ago and is renting a room in Manuel´s piso [apartment]. And that whole morning she was feeling lost and alone, praying for someone to come to her and comfort her... and then two sister missionaries knock on her door. I don't know that I particularly felt GUIDED by the spirit in this occasion, we were just doing our best and following our plans, and were there to be an answer to prayer.

And as it turns out we got to have one last preparation day together... so we went to the Fallas at Mediodía. Basically, we were crowded shoulder-to-shoulder while patriotic Valenciana music blasted from speakers until the fireworks started. The booming of fireworks shook the ground, echoed in my chest cavity and off the surrounding buildings in a never-ceasing torrent of sound as the streets filled with smoke. It was awesome. And slightly scary.
And then we also went to a tower, climbed a LOT of steps, took a LOT of pictures, and really enjoyed this last extra day together.

The Valencia Girls, Hermanas Lamoreaux, Birch, Een, Manotas, Jimenez, and Walker

Other surprises?
I'm going to the training meeting.... AGAIN (That´s 3 for 3, my friends. A record, for sure). Also, I just picked up my new companion from the train station, and we're going to be a trio tonight and then we'll all go to the meeting tomorrow. (I sure love 3 hour train rides...)

These last few days have been some of our best together, Hermana Manotas and I. But I know that this transfer is just what she needs.
(Spiritual thought/tie-in, is coming up!)

Hermana Manotas loves flowers. Every time we pass a chino (like... a dollar store?) she points them out.
She asked me not to forget her, and I never will.

And neither will our Savior forget us.
"Neither will I forget you, for I have engraved you in the palms of my hands"   Isaiah 49:15–16
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”
1 Nephi 21: 13. Sing , O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; for the feet of those who are in the east shall be established; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted .
14. But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.
15. For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget , yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.
16. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

I'm Hermana Een. I'm starting my fourth transfer on the mission with my 5th companion. I've trained and been trained (sometimes at the same time). I've seen many, many miracles, and I know there's more in store.

Summary: Still here in Valencia, still training... but it´s a different sister. Lots of miracles, lots of cool Spanish traditions, and lots of work still to do.

*Fallas is a Valencian celebration of the feast of St Joseph.  In the week of 19 March (the feast of San José), Valencia honors its patron saint with a spectacular fiesta called las Fallas. Fallas is the name given to the huge papier-mâché, cardboard and wooden sculptures depicting politicians and other well-known public figures which, amidst a deafening display of fireworks, are put on bonfires and set alight by members of competing groups, or falleros, who will have spent the previous year creating and building them. Only the sculpture which is voted best escapes the flames.  More about it at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falles  What an exciting month to be in Valencia!

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