Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tv

Hollis and I bought an old TV so that we could use our Wii with it. However, I forgot that old TVs had a totally different input in Europe, and so even though we had an adaptar that changed the RCA to a Euroconector (or Scart), it still wouldn't work.

So after a lot of thought we decided to invest in a new TV. The best deal we found was on a 32" OKI. It was $30 off because it didn't come with the remote, but it did come with a "free" 4-year guarantee (the extended warranty cost 50€ but you had to get it).

We're planning on being able to resell it for 200€.

By the way, the movie you can see on the screen is actually "Fires of Faith," a BYUtv documentary about the translation of the Bible into English. It's really good! I highly recommend you go watch it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lessons from Paul

By Hollis

So, I have been reading through the New Testament this year in my personal scripture study. The last time I read all the way through it was my senior year in High School, and I don't remember as much as I'd like.

The last couple of days, I have been reading about Paul's testimonies in Jerusalem and before Agrippa (Acts 21-26) and my faith was strengthened, by the firm zeal of Paul. In the face of violent oppositions, he stuck to his testimony of the living Christ with determination and humility.

One excerpt I would like to share is from Acts 26. Paul is recounting the story of his vision of the Savior to King Agrippa.

12 ... as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
13 At midday, O King, I saw in the way a light from haven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast see, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
Acts 26:12-16 KJV

What struck me while reading this, is that the Lord did not appear the call Paul to repentance as much as he did to call him to the ministry. Repentance was expected and received. The Lord trusted that Paul would do what he needed to to change his ways, and cut the the heart of the matter, calling Paul as a Special Witness of Jesus Christ.

How often do I wish that the Lord would take me by the hand and clear the trouble from my way, or appear and call to repentance a friend or family member who has strayed from the strait and narrow path. What I have never understood is that with great miracles from the Lord comes the responsibility to be a witness of those miracles. Just like Paul, Alma the Younger (Mosiah 27 Book of Mormon) also was called to be a special witness and it dramatically altered the course of his life.

What this means to me is that no matter what we think we want, God has our best interests in mind when answering our prayers, blessing us, and helping lead loved ones back to Him. He won't give us more than we can handle. Even if you beg him for it. Why? Because He loves us, and is our perfect Father. I know that God lives and knows and loves me and each of you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Things Temporal and Things Spiritual

By Hollis

Today during my personal studying of the scriptures (which can be long and drawn out if I want because I am a stay at home husband and we don't have kids), I came across an article in the July 2005 issue of the Ensign (an LDS publication containing messages and stories of a spiritual nature) on the role of the Presiding Bishopric. It describes the role of the Presiding Bishopric in the LDS church as the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood as well as administrator of the temporal matters of the church. They are also general authorities and thus are likewise called to assist the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in any capacity requested. Bishop Keith B. McMullin, author of this article and 2nd counsellor in the Presiding Bishopric, cites D&C 24:34-35 in reference to the Lord saying that He has given no law that is temporal and goes on to explain what this means. I hadn't previously understood how every law could be spiritual, even those seemingly temporal.

He states,
"In most people’s minds, the temporal affairs for which the Presiding Bishopric is responsible are the business aspects of the Church. But in the 29th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says, “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; … for my commandments are spiritual” (D&C 29:34–35).

The Lord does not look at things the way we do. And so it is with the temporal affairs of the Church. Because a copy of the Book of Mormon is a printed book, to the unknowing eye it may appear to be like any other book. But this book is produced to introduce to the world the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. And so the “temporal affairs” that bring about the translating, printing, binding, and distributing of the Book of Mormon are rife with spiritual implications. This principle is true for everything “temporal” the Church does."

I just wanted to share that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Doce de Octubre (aka Columbus Day)

Remember Columbus day? For me it has always been the holiday that I remember only after somebody tells me that it already happened. In Spain, however, it is one of the biggest holidays of the year. It is very patriotic (I'd say it's as patriotic as our Independence Day). As you probably know, Columbus sailed the ocean blue (in 1492). His voyage was financed by Spain, so when he found America on October 12, 1492, Spain reaped the benefits.

Hollis and I went to Madrid to see the parade. I had heard that there would be parachuters, and I was not disappointed.

I tried to get to the plaza where the King and Queen were watching, but it was fenced off and we couldn't get within a block. So we settled for in the shade. The parade was a military parade. It was the first parade of this kind that I've ever seen. The tanks were quite loud and impressive.

We also loved the airplanes flying down the parade route. Sometimes they were trailing yellow and red smoke (the colors of the Spanish flag).

People were everywhere, and I saw so many flags that I wanted one. But since I didn't know what I'd do with it, Hollis didn't buy one for me :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Semana Cervantina

Alcalá de Henares, the wonderful town we live in, is the town where Cervantes was born. Cervantes, you know, the author of Don Quixote? He's sort of a big deal. So much so that around his birthday the entire town has a huge medieval festival. It's called Semana Cervantina. The town gets decked out in banners, more than 100 people set up market booths and dress in period costume, and they have open pit roasing fires!

We bought some delicious cheese. Hollis LOVES it and I also enjoy it. It was expensive but SO GOOD! 12€ for a 1/4 wheel. I think the cheese was named after an Island, and I thought it was a Baleric island, but I can't remember which one.

Hollis loved the roasting pits. I mean, look at all that meat.

And the pigs that were roasting were amazing. This one looked like superman.

There were also parades of people. This is the only one we managed to catch - a musicians parade. We really liked the guy in front spinning the glass ball - it looked like magic.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Madrid

On Monday Hollis and I ventured into Madrid for our first day trip. Well, I had to go to Madrid anyway to finish applying for my NIE (resident card) so I can be legally in Spain. It's been nice because the Ministry of Education has taken care of all the filing of paperwork and I've just had to show up when they say to show up and bring the things they say. Also, there are no long lines when we go (because I think they make special appointments - yay working for the government!). So after that, Hollis and I headed to the Modern Art Museum - Casa Reina Sofia.

On our way there, we passed the BIGGEST Nutella jars that I have ever seen. Yes, they are bigger than my head.

Then we went to Reina Sofia. Awesome side note: because we bought Youth Cards, we got in for free! Yay being under 26!

There were some cool things that you would only find in a modern art museum. One of our favorites was this room full of embroidered world maps, each contry colored by it's flag. There were several different backgrounds, but we picked our favorites and had pictures next to them. We also LOVED this random stack of animals: a cow, pig, and sheep. They all had UNICORN HORNS! And they were carved with the skin missing and all the cuts of meat labeled. We also needed pictures next to those.

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We also really liked Guernica, but you aren't allowed to take pictures where it is displayed. So I found one online where someone broke the rules and took a picture so you could see how big it is. It was really cool because they have several pictures and preliminary sketches of the work. You can see how Picasso deliberately designed everything in the painting to be the way it is. Yes, he purposely made the bull face weird and be different colors. I know because it looked different in the original sketch. He kept changing it until it looked as it does here.

After the museum, we were quite thirsty. We had already eaten the potato chips, sandwiches, and cheese that we had brought from home, but we wanted more. I decided that what I really wanted was a Jamba Juice, and then we walked past this smoothie bar. So we got some smoothies.

Totally a coincidence that our cups spell out the company's full name: faborit. They weren't that good, but somehow still felt very satifying. I guess I really needed blended fruits with no sugar or anything else added. Mine was oranges and carrots. Yep. Only ice was added.

We then went to Parque de Buen Retiro. It is what used to be the royal summer grounds. We first walked past this large pond. I learned that mock Naval battles used to be staged in the pond for the King's entertainment. Or education. I'm not sure which. We then went to look at the summer palace, but it was closed (I'm in front of the closed doors). I was excited to see the crystal palace because it was sunny and it sounded beautiful. And it is beautiful (it's the glass building below). It too, however, was closed. Sad. But at least we could see inside the building.

While we were there we saw wildlife! I saw some beautiful black swans, eating a fish that they might have killed (you can kind of see the fish's tail if you look closely).

Then Hollis tried to call this squirrel over to him. I put my camera on high speed and managed to catch it mid-leap.

After all the walking we had done that day, our feet hurt. And Hollis's brown shoes wore out (sad!!).

Finally, we went to Atocha to catch the train home. I made Hollis walk even farther to show him the turtles inside the main atrium. I was surprised to see so many! So I included a picture of the turtles from four years ago so you can see the massive increase in turtle population.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fire!

The other night we were awakened at 3 AM by some loud popping noises. We assumed that someone was blowing up fireworks (not that uncommon). However, when we went to shut our windows, there was a FIRE burning! A truck was completely engulfed in flames. A few minutes later, someone rang our door phone and was yelling "¡Fuera! ¡Fuera!" or "Outside!" We assumed that meant "get out" so we quickly grabbed essentials (like keys) and ran outside.

It was interesting because we then knew what things we would grab on our way out the door. Not our scriptures (I distinctly thought "I can buy a new set") but I grabbed my journal. Pretty much I just threw everything on my nighstand into my school bag (the closest bag). We also grabbed our computer backup on our way out. I reminded Hollis that we have all of our stuff insured so it is okay if it all burns. Then we ran down our stairs. I also realized that if a fire ever started in our stairs, the only way out of our 5th story apartment would be off the balcony. There isn't a fire escape. We'd be relying on the trampoline catch or ladders of fire fighters.

Anyway, we got outside and this is what we saw:

That is a scooter on fire.

Right after the put out the flames:

And the next morning:

We didn't think to take a picture of the truck engulfed in flames. Well, I thought about it, but I wasn't entirely sure I wasn't supposed to be running away instead of standing in a gawking crowd. Hollis took a picture of the burned-out hulk the next morning.

Right in the middle of the picture.

Well, anyway, we soon determined that the helpful neighbor yelling "¡Fuera!" simply meant "Look outside! A fire! You should look at it." Oh boy. I really could have done without a frantic 3AM dash down the stairs. So we trudged back up all 5 flights of stairs and laid in bed, wondering how we would ever get back to sleep. We managed.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Azuqueca

José-Luiz is the bilingual coordinator at IES Complutense. He lives in a town called Azuqueca, just the next city over. Last week was his hometown's festival. He has several friends in Peñas, which are clubs of sorts. During the city's festival, the publicly funded clubs have to host a half-public tent with free drinks in the public half. If you are in the club, you get to go into the back half and eat food. They party all night long for a week. José-Luis's friends gave us stickers which made us honorary members of the Peñas for the night.

The first Peña served sardines and jamón. Yum!


The sardine I had was actually quite good. Hollis's wasn't as good as mine.


Oh, another thing about Peñas is that everyone in a Peña dresses the same. The big peña style is to wear a collared button-up shirt over a shoulder. At the second Peña we went to, a lady gave me hers to wear so I could be cool.


We danced down the street following this peppy band, but retired early (midnight). One thing I wanted to see but didn't was the running of the bulls. Azuqueca has a smaller version of the famous event that Pamplona has.

IES Complutense

I work at a secondary school called IES Complutense. It is a bilingual school. Right now, only the 1st and 2nd years (1° ESO and 2° ESO). They are the 12 and 13 year-olds. Each grade is divided into several classes, lettered A-F. 1°A, 1°B, 2°A, and 2°B are all in the bilingual section, which means that they take all of their classes, except math and Spanish, in English. Every group takes English, and all classes take some classes in English. For the non-section classes, they take art and/or PE in English (since you can understand what to do in the class even if you don't understand the language).

One major difference between schools here and the US is that the students stay in the same room with the same students all day. The teachers move classrooms. Also, the kids don't have the same schedule every day. For example, the students only have science class three times per week, but it isn't on a MWF schedule. Some kids have it Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Others Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. The director of studies has the job of arranging the teachers schedules so that the students get a full schedule and the teachers also get time to prepare for class. It is a hard job, and it is also very complicated. School has been in for 2.5 weeks and the kinks are still getting worked out.

José-Luis is the bilingual coordinator, and he has the job of arranging the schedules of the three American teachers: me, Joey, and Steve. He has to arrange our schedules so that we are with our subject area teacher as much as we can be and still leave time for us to go help with the other subjects that are taught in English. This year, the scheduling is complicated by the fact that the government fired about 3,000 teachers in the Madrid area just before school started. They also added two more classes to the teacher's schedules and reduced teachers pay by about 5%. The biggest problem with this is that the government did not explain why they were going to do this or even warn teachers that this could be happening. They just made the cuts. So the teachers are on strike sometimes during the middle of the week. This doesn't mean the school is closed, because that is illegal. It just means that several of the teachers don't come to school and the students are combined into larger groups for other teachers to supervise, and the students don't learn any of the required material.

I finally started work last Wednesday. I work mostly with the natural sciences teacher, Irene. I teach once per week in each class (this next week I'm teaching about the individual planets in the solar system in 1°A/B and cellular nutrition in 2°A/B). I am also helping José-Luis with 1°A English twice per week and helping Marina with 1°C/D and 1°A in Art. My role is primarily that of being a native English speaker and pretending that I don't know any Spanish. My schedule still isn't finalized because things could change. José-Luis says that everything should be completely settled by the end of October. It seems funny that it takes a month and a half for things to be arranged with schedules in the school, but I'm not entirely surprised because it is a bit Spanish to be a little late with everything.