Greetings everyone! It’s hard to believe that it’s already May 1st as I write this but yup it’s the truth. That means that the year is already one third gone. Well, I’m sure that all of you have been keeping busy over the last several months. Things here for us have been no different. As we like to do on this blog we’ll review our last month of April and share any lessons that we’ve learned from it. If your new to this blog we hope that you enjoy the content and experiences. We typically post new content every Monday which shares our experiences serving where the need is great in Spain. We’ve had this blog for over three years since before we moved to Spain. If you don’t know our story feel free to check out our About Us section to get up to speed. If you haven’t already subscribed to receive blog post updates as well as other cool stuff, feel free to do so below.
So let’s jump into it. How was our month of April and what did we learn from it? Well, like all of Jehovah’s people it was a busy month because of the Memorial and the related campaign. Being in a foreign language congregation (Yes, English is a foreign language in Spain 🙂 ) we had the goal to be able to cover our territory to a reasonable degree as a congregation. We focused on the confirmed English speaking addresses that we had initially and then expanded from there. We were really proud of the congregation as everyone worked really hard in support of the invitation work. The results spoke for themselves as we welcomed 76 in total to our Memorial with a large part of them being visitors. During the month of April, Kanicia and I were able to share in different forms of the ministry such as witnessing carts and rural territory. We really enjoyed being able to take part in these activities as they helped us to expand our horizons with what is really possible in our territory. We also were able to take time to enjoy our surroundings which we feel is important in order to stay balanced and enjoy our assignment. I was also able to obtain a new Bible study who happily attended the Memorial even though it was not easy for him because of his job. I look forward to trying to help him to draw closer to Jehovah as time goes on. Looking back on our Memorial and the related activity we learned that Jehovah richly blesses any sacrifice made in support of kingdom interests. This helps us to stay motivated when we are feeling tired or down for some reason. If you missed our post about our Memorial you can check it out by clicking here.
Another highlight of the month of April was having visitors from back home. Our friends Paulette and Jerry visited us from California which was really nice. We were able to do some sightseeing with them as well as work out in the ministry together. It’s always nice to have friends who know our background and history. One thing that we learned from having visitors is to really cherish our connections with others. Even though we may be separated by long distances or other factors it’s worthwhile to put in the work to maintain relationships. Granted, this isn’t always easy to do but it is possible.
One other very recent event that we undertook in April was our travel plans and subsequent road trip. Since we haven’t really shared much about how the trip went, perhaps now would be a good time. So our trip really started here in Spain on Thursday morning when we flew out from the Faro airport in Portugal. One of the brothers in our hall took us to the airport in Faro around eight in the morning. It’s a little odd going to an airport to depart where the timezone is different from when you leave your house. Since Portugal is one hour earlier than Spain we had to make sure that we got the times right in order not to miss our flight. Thankfully Faro is a pretty straight forward airport since it is mostly used for regional flights. We got there with plenty of time to spare after a nice relaxing drive along the motorway. We had planned to only be gone for the weekend so we only had a backpack each between the two of us. It makes it so much easier not to have to check bags when flying if possible. One thing that we do like about the Faro airport and Portugal in general is that people there make an effort to speak your language. It seemed like everyone there spoke English which was nice.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how differently you can be treated based on the country of your passport. As you may know when you fly internationally in Europe there are usually two lines for security with one for EU citizens and another for all other passport holders. Since I have a French passport I go through the customs and security in the EU line and I never have any problems. My wife on the other hand is a different story. She holds an American passport and this usually causes issues. We thought that we would make things easier by her showing her passport along with her Spanish residency card but it seemed to have the opposite effect. The first security official asked Kanicia several questions about how she got her residency card and how long she had been living in Spain and so on. He examined her card with a microscope, tried to bend it and even tried to see if the information would scrape off. Well when he was apparently satisfied he finally let her through the gate. This isn’t the first time things like this have happened and it reminded us of when we first were leaving for Spain back in 2013 and the difficulties we had. After Kanicia tried to go through the second security gate to board the plane they called the first agent to make sure that everything was OK even though she had already been cleared to go. Needless to say, we will be happy once Kanicia has an EU passport so she won’t have to deal with this type of treatment. After getting on the plane we gave a sigh of relief as we prepared to start our adventure. We flew with Easy Jet which is a British airline and we were happy with the experience. The flight was smooth and more comfortable than Vueling airlines and we didn’t have any problems on the plane. We would fly them again for sure. After almost three hours we landed in London’s Southend airport. The first thing that hit us was the cold! We were in t-shirts when leaving Portugal but after disembarking from the plane the cold wind hit us like a brick. One great thing about the Southend London airport is that the train station is literally across the street after you exit the airport. We boarded a train and headed to central London in order to continue our journey.
This was our first time in the UK aside from a layover at Heathrow airport in the past. It was great to be in a country that speaks English and to have everything be understandable, well mostly 🙂 . Another thing that we enjoyed from the British culture is that things get done. Things seem to be designed in a practical way so that you can just get on with whatever your doing. We liked this and it was a refreshing change. After arriving in London at the Waterloo station we were overwhelmed by the busyness of it all! There were people everywhere going in every direction. It felt like we were in New York and this was especially evident after having left sleepy southern Portugal only a few hours early. We probably looked like we were going in slow-motion compared to everyone else around us. I’m sure we looked like tourists as we gawked at the double-decker red buses and the hectic atmosphere. It had been years since I had seen someone actually sprinting to catch a metro car before it left even though the next one would probably be in only five minutes. In a funny way I was transported back to our life in the states where things were hectic and busy all the time. I can’t say that I miss that aspect of things.
After getting our bearings we started to make our way to the station in order to continue our journey to the south of England. I have to admit that we did get lost a few times in the massive train station in addition to just trying to stay out of peoples way as they darted across like crazed busy people, haha. One thing that was cool about London was the sheer diversity of the people. It was nice to see different races and types of people all around us. We finally made it to the place where we were to catch our bus. Unfortunately, because of the distances and some misunderstandings we ended up missing our transport that we booked in advance to take us to Southampton in the south of England. We ended up having to get two train tickets to make up for it which were almost 100 pounds! Did I mention that London is expensive? Yeah, it is. So that set us back on our budget but that’s life. After a nice if not expensive train ride we arrived in the south a few hours later. Our host was there at the station to pick us up and bring us to his home. Perhaps now would be a good idea to share how we came in contact with this brother and really how we ended up deciding to come to the UK in the first place.
Recently we were looking to purchase another car that we would be able to use during the summer. We had a few specific models in mind but we had found that cars in Spain are pretty expensive for what you get. So we decided to look in other countries such as Germany, France and the UK. A brother in our hall often buys cars from the UK so he recommended that we look in that direction. There was a couple visiting recently that are from the UK. The night before they left we went for tapas and we told them about our plans. They were really the first ones that we told about our plans to in detail. They said that they will ask around and see if they can find us a car. Remember, we told them the exact models that we were looking for along with how much we were comfortable paying. A few weeks later my wife receives a text message from the sister in the UK telling her that her brother’s next door neighbor is selling the exact car that we want and it’s within our budget! We couldn’t believe it. So after some back and forth we are able to secure the car and that’s when we started to plan our trip. That’s the short version of the story. So let’s get back to it.
The brother who is picking us up at the station is the brother of the sister that messaged us whose next door neighbor has the car that we want. As we drive to their house it seems strange to see all of the cars driving on the opposite side of the road. We know that we will have to get used to it because pretty soon we’ll have to be driving like that. As we drive through the quaint English town of Lymington we can’t help but think of all of the English shows and movies that we’ve seen. The town and area are quite beautiful and charming. Once we arrive at the home our hosts have dinner prepared which we really appreciated. It’s such an amazing feeling to be able to have a long day of travel and be exhausted and then you arrive at a home of complete strangers and you are welcomed as if you are old friends. This is only possible in Jehovah’s organization! After eating we go visit the next door neighbor who is selling the car. The man is older and the reason that he’s selling the car is because he upgraded to a bigger car. We ask a few questions, check out the paperwork and go for a test drive and then it’s a done deal! The car that we purchased is a Renault Kangoo. As happy new owners our first task is to drive the car from the previous owners driveway to the driveway of our host family across the street. As everyone nervously watches on we move the car with no injuries or damaged property 🙂 . That evening some local friends came over and we got to learn more about the local congregation and needs in the territory. It was refreshing to meet new people and learn about life in England. After a late night we hit the bed since we would have an early start the next day.
After getting up early around 5am we had breakfast with the family and said our goodbyes. We headed out for the town of Folkstone where the Euro Tunnel is located. I was initially doing the driving and I was nervous I have to admit. We had heard horror stories about English drivers and road rage. We also were intimidated to be driving on main M3 and M25 motorways along the edge of London during a part of rush hour traffic. We had heard that British drivers drive fast and can be aggressive. Then in addition to that we had to adjust (quickly) to driving on the opposite side of the car and on the opposite side of the road in addition to driving a new car with manual transmission! So how did it all work out? Well, everything went surprisingly smooth. We found the British drivers quite good and not aggressive at all. Driving on the motorways was smooth and easy with plenty of easy signs to read and follow. Driving on the opposite side of the road was not as bad as I had imagined. Although going in the roundabouts in the opposite direction was a little unsettling lol. The drive from the house to the main motorway took us through forested areas passing small British towns full of character. It was really a pleasant drive to say the least. About three hours later we reached the Euro Tunnel where we had an appointment for 10am. If you haven’t been through the Euro Tunnel it’s really quite amazing. Since you are crossing country borders (UK to France) you need to go through passport control and security. You show up in advance of your appointment and you are given a letter to place on your car. You can then go into a mall with restaurants and shops while you wait for boarding for your letter. Once your letter is called you then get in your car and get in line. After passing security you drive your car onto a train. Yes, onto a train! If you are claustrophobic then you may have some issues here. You then drive inside the train until you reach the other cars that are already parked in front of you. When everything is ready the train starts to move and you are basically traveling under water as you sit in your car. It’s pretty neat! The whole thing is super quick at only 35 minutes or so. Once you reach land you will be in Calais, France.
It’s a little strange to have to all of a sudden start driving on the a different side of the road when you reach mainland Europe. After arriving in France we continued our long journey back to Spain. If you’ve ever driven through France you know that they are notorious for their road tolls. They have many tolls and they are very expensive! When we last drove through France we remember paying tolls of 20 or even almost 40 euros. These add up quick! So since we would be driving through the entire country we decided to go the no tolls route. This added some time to our trip but we weren’t in a rush so we didn’t mind. One benefit of going the no-tolls route is that you get to drive through all of the beautiful French countryside and villages that you may otherwise miss if you stayed on the main motorway. As we drove along the French countryside we couldn’t help but be amazed by the beauty that surrounded us. There were many times that we wanted to stop and take pictures or enjoy the surroundings. After driving for a little while we stopped at a place for some mussels and fries. We then continued our journey. After several hours of driving we were tired so we stopped in a town near the center of France and rested. Eventually we made it to the south of France where we stopped again in Bordeaux. One amazing thing about France when traveling long distances is the rest stops. They are like little parks with benches, facilities and plenty of space. In France they call them ‘aires’ and they are great. After observing the locals we stopped at a local market and picked up some bread, brie and roasted pork to make some sandwiches for our next stop at the rest stop along the way home. After some more driving we made it to the Basque region of France and Spain. Since we had lived in Bilbao for a couple of years it was nice to be around familiar architecture and surroundings. It was great to see the mountains again since where we live currently is more flat. The Basque region is truly breathtaking in many ways but true to form it started to rain. The unpredictability of the weather along with the constant rain are reasons why we left Bilbao and we can see that things haven’t changed. After taking a break in northern Spain we continued our journey crossing the main motorways along Spain. We stopped at a town called Merida for dinner. We enjoyed the town and the meal of simple tapas. It’s great discovering new areas in the country that you live in that you’ve never been to before. As we left Merida we drove through some truly scenic spots as we neared the south of Spain. In general the entire trip has been along beautiful areas to drive whether in the UK, France or Spain. Once we finally reached home we were exhausted but happy to be back.
There are many lessons that we learned from this trip. First, unexpected things will happen and there will be things that are out of our control. In these cases usually the only thing that we can control is our attitude and how we react to the situation. This is something that will be good for us to remember in the future. Before we started this trip we had prepared a bunch of music, podcasts and recordings to listen to as well as movies and shows to watch. In the end we didn’t end up listening to a lot of the music or even watching many shows. While it’s good to plan for the future we also found that being able to just go with the flow and enjoy the moment goes a long way. Since we drove across many scenic and beautiful areas it could have been easy to miss if we weren’t paying attention. When we go somewhere in the future we will try to pay attention and be grateful for whatever we get to experience instead of constantly thinking about the next thing that we have to be doing.
Now that we are back home in the south of Spain we are thankful. We’re happy that we didn’t have any problems with the car, accidents or anything else serious happen to us. Today we went to the beach and enjoyed the t-shirt weather again. While the places we visited were beautiful we know that we are happiest here for now. It’s good to know where you will be able to give the most and also to enjoy your surroundings. This is something that we’ve learned over time through some difficult lessons. You may be wondering why we traveled so far for a car and what we plan to do with it. Well, we would like to convert the car into a campervan and use it over the summer as well as in service when working in rural areas or the camps. We want to add a stove, refrigerator and sleeping area for two to the Kangoo. When we travel to the Special Convention in Milan in July we will be using the Kangoo. We also plan to use it to travel around Europe after the program, Jehovah willing. We’ll share how things develop over time with you but we are really excited about what is possible!
On another note, we will be releasing the completed updated Online Teaching Guide this week. For all of you who have already purchased the guide don’t worry, you’ll receive the updated version automatically. If you still haven’t placed your pre-order for the guide you can do so by clicking here. This will allow you to get it at a lower price than what it will be once its released again. Also if you are going to be a delegate for one of the Special Conventions this summer and you are looking for a gift for the brothers go check out our store JW Convention Gifts where you can browse our selection of perfect postcard convention gifts. You may have noticed that we’ve removed some icons to social media at the bottom of the page. In the past we used Youtube, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to share content related to this blog. In an aim to simplify we have removed all of our accounts except Facebook and Instagram. We are not really posting on Facebook and will likely close down the page in time. We will still be using the Instagram page however. We’ll be posting there regularly and trying to increase the quality of our content and page. To view our content on Instagram just scroll down to the bottom of the page on a mobile or look to the right on a PC. If you would like to follow us you can do so at jwabroad and kcog09. We hope that you’ve enjoyed this post. Have a great week and bye for now!
Antoine & Kanicia