Antequera, Andalucia

Well, a year ago I was living at the foot of the Marisima, Andalucia, by Spain’s Doñana Nature Park,  the wooded flood zone of the Guadaquivir River between Sevilla and the Atlantic Ocean. The summer of ’08 in Sevilla County was very very warm. As in “don’t go outside until the sun goes down”-warm.  I was living in the stifling studio apartment of the church where I am a minister and music director.  The studio had no air-conditioning, just fans, to move the hot air. It was a very crowded, junky room where my roommate and I lived, slept and cooked. Sometimes we went to do something at 7pm and we were both surprised how hot it still was, it was draining and wilting to us- both for him from humid Venezuela and for me from dry Southern California.  Often it was over 41° C in the evening.  So Puebla del Rio, Andalucia, and the surrounding towns in the region known as the Marisima and the Aljarafe,  really come to life at 8pm during the summer.  I would drive late at night from the town of Espartinas through the Aljarafe’s back roads to Puebla del Rio, and the towns were the most active, full of crowded cafes and busy streets at 10pm!  The heat in the Aljarafe of Andalucia became much more reasonable after October, the same time of year that I saw snow hitting the Rockies and Nebraska this year.

Well, the buzz of Puebla after sundown was very likable.  The grass was yellow and the economy is slower than that of Pamplona, where I worked for 3 years before being transferred to Andalucia, but I liked Puebla.  Pamplona was a much harder city to be affectionate about.  Pamplona has tension in the streets from all it’s political strife.  Some people in Pamplona want to separate from Spain and create their own country.  It was in Pamplona where I watched ETA terrorists wearing ski masks marching down Estafeta Street in Pamplona, the street famous for the Running of the Bulls. I watched from a Chinese restaurant from the second floor as the separatists shouted anti-Spanish slogans in Spain.  The young terrorists of ETA would hold banners on the prominent street corners saying down with Spain.  Holding antagonistic posters written in Basque.     Some times these posters even were accusing people who HAD a job of being the problem, for not striking with the radicals in demand of liberation from Spain.   I saw Guardia Civil Police and Foral Police fighting the Pro-Terrorist Youth in Pamplona and San Sebastian. In contrast to all that chaos, Andalucia and my Puebla have no uprisings, it’s very welcoming   There are affordable cafe’s along the streets, even feet from where I was living up in my little studio.  I could get up in the morning and go down to the cafe to get coffee, orange juice, and toast for less than 3 euros.  It wasn’t half bad, but my teaching salary was gone by this point,  so once I got there, I was living on just missionary support at a time where the dollar had it’s worse exchange rate for the euro.  Meaning if I received $900 in missionary support for the month, that translated to only 600 euros, those were bad days for me financially.  So even with no rent to pay in the Church apartment, you can see how with little support and a residency visa expiring, I was huffing and puffing to find a way to get airfare back to the U.S.A.  I had little income, tough living conditions, and little way to make it better legally from Spain. I didn’t want to end up on some kind of Guardia Civil’s illegal alien list.  So I did, Providentially, get the airfare back to America at the same time I was literally fasting and praying.  I wanted to go back and get my visa to return to Spain in the shortest number of months possible.  Well, that was 13 months ago, this week.    Since that day I got airfare and the following week when I flew back to America, I’ve had to the pressure of, not getting out of Spain in time, but getting back to Spain in time.  It’s not gone was well as I’d imagined.  I imagined returning, going to the Consulate in L.A., showing my hard to get documents and getting a stream-lined visa process.  Instead, I had the reality check of having to re-do all documents from scratch and even having the daunting task jumping through even more specific requirements than the Consulate of Spain was asking for in 2007!

So now I’ve been here since November ’08 and it looks like I might get back to Puebla a year late!  They hoped to have me back in April ’09 and now it could be March or April ’10 at the worst.  I’ve now done my welcome home party and even the “bon voyage party” (way too soon), I’ve even had innocent flings of romance hoping to go back to Spain with the prospect of a wife (no success yet), but as nice as it is to be back where people understand me and to be “home” I’m still not at the place of my dreams, which is my place of employment.  See I’m not a missionary because it pays well and has benefits.  I’m not going to pursue a career in something that will easily forget me a month after I retire.  I’m working to build something that will last an eternity, I’m laying up treasures in heaven, and no one can take that from me.

My dream job, since I was ten, has been to serve God as a missionary in Spain.  And I have been pursuing this dream, living this dream for a long time.  So even though it’s nice to come back to California and see all my American friends, my heart is in Andalucia.  Yes, the grass is yellow there, my patio plants don’t survive long in the sun, and the Guadalquivir River which runs along Puebla del Rio is contaminated, but that’s where I’m happy, because working there is the acting out of my dream.

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