¿Hablas español? Un poco! For the past two years Julie and I have spent time in Spain while visiting with her family in the mission field. Noel and Patricia, along with seven-year-old Eliana and five-year-old Zeke, live in the town of Camarma de Estruelas about 25 miles southeast of Madrid, the capitol of Spain.
What I learned while living temporarily in another nation that speaks a different language is amazing. I am now able to understand what visitors in America must feel. There is a small butcher shop across the street from the Millers’ home, and I volunteered to go buy ground beef for the evening meal. How tough could it be to simply order a pound of meat?
Fortunately, after I pointed to the ground beef and tried to explain how much I needed, the young man behind the counter referred me to his father. With a smile, the father pointed to the customer standing beside me and explained, “Speaks English!”
“May I help you?” the lady inquired with a smile. She quieted her baby in the stroller, then explained to the market manager that I needed 2 pounds of the ground beef in a package, not in patties. The next problem for me was to pay for the meat. I could not translate the amount of money required, so I took the easy way out. Trusting the kind proprietor I held out a handful of coins and he smiled at me briefly. Then he selected the correct amount of money, and I walked away with packaged beef in hand.
On another occasion I went downtown for a bag of ice and some other groceries. There is an open area, sort of a town square, the social center of town. While elderly men and women sit on benches and talk, kids pull out a beat-up soccer ball and engage in wild contests. Grandpas and grandmas point at their Hooperdoos and proudly boast how good they are with their feet.
Some afternoons Julie and I accompanied Patricia to pick up Eliana and Zeke from school. The school building is modern and attractive, the teachers very professional and caring about the students. What really excited me was watching mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers waiting with great anticipation for their little ones to come running out the school doors. Laughter is the universal language of the world. All those adults want their kids to gain an education, go out into the world and be successful. That is the common experience across the nations, around the world — have kids and love them.
Since we arrived in Spain shortly after Christmas, a massive, beautifully decorated, artificial Christmas tree stood in the middle of the town square. Its presence seemed to add to the happy, festive atmosphere of children and adults alike. A few blocks away, not far from the school, Noel and Patricia took us to view the most spectacular Nativity Scene imaginable! We walked into a small building called “The Belen” with the entire inside area depicting the area around Jerusalem, the Roman barracks, the surroundings of Bethlehem, and the stable where the baby Savior was in a manger. Thousands of intricately designed miniature figurines were set up in the display. An organization of community volunteers worked to construct this amazing display since July. Imagine the committee of 11 senior-citizens volunteering months of their lives to focus on this incredible scene. There was no pay for this effort, and donations collected at the door are used to maintain and add to the display next year.
One of the volunteer workers was present when we viewed the Nativity Scene, and I asked Patricia to share with him our amazement and gratitude for the Christmas gift of his work. Humbly, he smiled and stated that one of their goals next year was to add a new area to the display. It will feature the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on their way to the Promised Land.
A few days later, Noel told us to dress warmly and prepare ourselves to view one of the most exciting traditions that Camarma enjoyed during the Christmas season — the Parade of the Three Kings. On Jan. 6 each year, the Three Kings arrive in three magnificent, lighted carriages on floats. Each King is attired in splendorous array, much as those first wisemen might have been. Happy children sat on the float as it passed by thousands of cheering onlookers. Of course, like all parades, candy was tossed out to youngsters carrying bags for their loot. After the parade concluded, the Three Kings and their followers went to a town hall, where they greeted the people and offered hot chocolate drinks and sweet treats. Ah, but the energetic Three Kings were not done yet!
The children did not know it, but countless parents, including Noel and Patricia, secretly took presents to a chosen area during the afternoon and left them with the adult volunteers. That evening, there was a knock on the door of the Millers’ home.
“Come look and see!” Noel exclaimed to Eliana and Zeke. As Julie and I watched in amazement, one of the Wise Men and his helpers gave the presents to the children! I have no idea how many homes the Kings visited that evening, but I’m certain it must have taken many hours. It was truly amazing to observe how this great cultural tradition is annually observed in the small community of Camarma.
At the end of our two-week visit, we gave hugs, kisses and farewell wishes, then Noel drove us to the Madrid airport. We arrived back in the U.S.A. and cleared customs with our belongings and lots of gifts and souvenirs. We flew out of Nashville, Tennessee, and a snow storm greeted us as we wearily drove homeward.
Friends asked, “What was the most exciting sight you saw during your two-week adventure?”
I thought about the castle grounds we toured one day, and the delightful Nativity Scene. The Three Kings parade was a scene I will long recall, as well. And there was the quaint Christmas Market in Alcala.
However, the scene that most delighted my heart was arriving home. Looking up the lane at The Ranch and across the pasture field where Style and Wrangler were peacefully grazing, I was thrilled. Luke Anderson and other good neighbors took good care of our caballos (that’s Spanish for horses) while we were gone. Back in our Evansville home, neighborhood children Jeremy and Hope took care of our three cats (los gatos) for us. Our friend Michael watched over our Yorkies, Raphael and Leonardo, (los perros) quite well.
So thanks to friends and family near and far, our adventure was exciting and successful. Jet lag eventually gave up within a few days!
Have a good week — es bueno!
Jim Beery can be reached at email@example.com.