It’s pretty amazing that a person can feel at home so quickly. We were only away four days on our trip to Salamanca, and had only come to Valencia on April 6. Still, when we arrived late last Thursday evening we heard ourselves exclaim, “It’s good to be home.” (Especially since the broken elevator to our sixth-floor flat had come back to life!)
We also felt we’d been traveling, though our train trip each way took only about five hours. I’ve probably already mentioned this, but let me say it again: We like traveling by train. No worry about parking, about observing traffic laws in strange countries, about the helpful suggestions of back-seat drivers. (Actually, that last bit was unfair. When I’m driving in a new country I welcome–need–those suggestions.) With a train you just board on time, store your luggage, take your seat and observe the passing scenery. Delightful.
And should the spirit move you, you can take a nap. The spirit always moves me. Much better to nap on a train than behind the steering wheel of a car.
One goal we set ourselves back in Valencia was to follow Nancy Storms’ recommendation and have a meal of paella. Visitors to Spain consider paella the national dish, but it’s probably more specifically a Valencian specialty. The name derives from the pan itself. There are as many varieties as there are chefs, it appears. Rice is always the staple, but the dish can feature vegetables (for vegetarians), seafood, chicken, beef, or a mixture of the above.
Joy and I chose the Valencian paella, which featured chicken and beef and green and butter beans. Rabbit is sometimes included, we were told, but not in our pan. Joy was most impressed with the rosemary seasoning and saffron coloring.
All types of paella are cooked in olive oil. It’s not just a meal; it’s an occasion, especially at La Pepica, which faces the city’s broad beach providing a visual feast to accompany our gustatory one.
We had a special treat on Sunday. The Bentleys invited us to go with them to their Spanish-speaking church. “We’ll pick you up at 10:45,” they offered. We accepted. We didn’t know until it was time for the sermon that Jesse was preaching. I wish I could tell you how good the sermon was. I think it was excellent. Every now and then I understood a word. He preached—fluently, it seemed to us—in Spanish. You’d think, with English speaking visitors in the congregation, he’d have switched languages for us. He seemed to be thinking only of the other 80 people who don’t understand English. Still, we were the visitors.
I’ve learned to look forward to being with people who are speaking and learning and worshiping in another tongue. Since I couldn’t understand what Jesse was saying, I took the few morsels I could grasp and constructed my own sermon.
In his introduction he showed posters for the TV series and the earlier Kirk Douglas movie Spartacus. These he contrasted with a picture of Roman crucifixions. Toward the end of the sermon he spoke of the disciple Thomas (“Doubting Thomas”), who wouldn’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection unless he could physically touch the scars in Jesus’ hands and torso.
The contrast between the hero Spartacus and the savior Jesus says so much about our natural human preference for violence over self-sacrifice. Spartacus brandishes his murderous sword. Jesus dies on the cross. Doubting Thomas, seeking proof that Jesus was alive again after his crucifixion, doesn’t ask (as he would have of Spartacus), “How many did he kill? How many did he cause to suffer? Instead, he sought as proof the signs of how much Jesus suffered: his nail-pierced hands, his sword-pierced side. Jesus chose to conquer by love and sacrifice and his own blood; the normal way is to conquer by sword that sheds the blood of others. Obviously, a quick survey of today’s national and international scene is overwhelming evidence that the whole world—often including, unfortunately, those who claim to be followers of Jesus—prefers killing to self-sacrifice, warmongering to peacemaking, looking out for ourselves regardless of who else gets hurt.
OK, that’s enough of a sermon from this old preacher. See, it’s better for me to attend an English-speaking church. Then I can report on what the preacher actually said!
On Tuesday we attended our last group event with the students at en Vivo. They call this gathering their “Speakeasy.” It’s an evening devoted to teaching English in the most light-hearted, easy-to-grasp way. Tonight’s lesson was devoted to English idioms such as “blow off steam,” “quit cold turkey,” “up in the air,” “under the weather,””piece of cake.” Spanish speakers had to give the literal meaning of these (and many, many more) and then their idiomatic meaning. An excellent exercise.
It was a hilarious learning-laughing-bonding time.
Sometimes you just do what you can when you can’t do what you planned. As a special treat to Joy I made reservations to visit the Lladro Museum in Valencia (this, too, was recommended by Nancy). When the day arrived I even hailed a taxi instead of going by bus (nothing is too good for my wife). I handed the driver the address and he proceeded to take us there. And let us out. At the wrong place. In a part of town that looked decidedly un-Lladro-like. I called the museum–time was running out–and the nice lady informed me that there were two streets of the same name in two different towns. Our cabbie took us to the other one.
It was too late to make the English language tour, so she and I agreed we’d return for the Saturday one. Then Joy and I tried in vain to find another taxi to take us back into the city. We weren’t in a taxi-attracting part of town. Fortunately we spotted Bus 16 and, just in time, boarded. We spent a serendipitous couple of hours doing nothing but soaking in the sights and sounds of this vibrant city. .
JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS