Ever since I have moved to Madrid, I feel like I am constantly experiencing "firsts." This past weekend was filled with an exceptional amount. I took my first bus trip in Spain all by my self. Before I can even get that far though, I missed my first bus in Spain. Now, I know, after six and a half months, that Spain uses the 24 hour clock, but when you look at a bus schedule that says that a bus leaves at 1:00, do you think am or pm? I was thinking pm, but had I thought properly, it should have occurred to me that 1 pm is 13:00. Needless to say I showed up for my bus to Castellon 12 hours late. Unfortunately, no one else really seems to care about these mistakes so the only way to remedy it is to buy another ticket. So I guess this was my first time buying 2 tickets for one trip. Anyway, once I finally got on the bus, I was headed to Castellon, which is a smaller town on the Mediterranean where my friends, Kelly and April live. I worked on my day off last week so I could spend three days with friends and at the beach. Once I finally arrived, only 14 and a half hours after I was really supposed to, I made it to Kelly and April's flat with no other problems.
Just some back ground here, Kelly and April used to be on the team in Madrid, but took a one year hiatus so April could finish her masters but Kelly has still been working with Christian Associates just in a different capacity. Anyway, after they have their first child, due in October, they are heading home to the States to do some support raising and then returning to Madrid in the spring. I have gotten the chance to get to know them over the past six months and would consider them good friends. They, along with the rest of my team, make me want to stay in Madrid, just to be with all of them. (No Heather, Troy, Kelly, Kelly, and April that doesn't mean I have made any decisions yet, it just means I really like you guys!)Ok, back to the weekend. Friday I got up and explored Castellon a little bit. I had a wonderful walk through lots of shade, the sun is just too hot. Kelly had told me of a Bascillica that he and April walk to sometimes so I checked that out too. It was beautiful! Later in the afternoon, I experienced another major first, I swam in the Mediterranean. It was incredible, it was so different from any body of water I have ever been in. First of all, the water is warm. I mean, fill the tub warm. Unlike the Atlantic or Lake Michigan, which are more like stepping into a glass of ice water, this was warm. It still baffles me that you actually have to get out of the water after a while to cool off. Another oddity about the sea is the buoyancy. April and I tried with all our might to swim under water, but without fail after about 2 strokes we would bob back up to the top. I guess that's good news if you aren't a fan of drowning, and I'm not. It was great to be able to float and not have to use any energy what-so-ever. I could just lay back and relax. Treading water was a new experience too as all you had to do was kick your legs like once every couple of minutes. It was pretty spectacular! Besides experiencing the sea up close and personal, it was beautiful to behold from not so up close. Saturday was more of the same. Reading, relaxing, laying on the beach, and chatting with friends. I also spent some time just watching the families at the beach. It is nice to be out of the city and see some normal family interaction. The little kids are so much fun to watch. This one little girl was so cute and she was a very determined little girl. I watched her over and over again bring her sand toys to the water to wash them off, run back to join her friends in the sand and then moments later run back to the water to wash of the newly sand covered shovel and bucket. It was just too cute. It was another glorious day! Sunday morning was another first experience for me. I attended my first mass. It was really interesting. Seeing as how most of Spain, if they have any religious affiliation at all, is Catholic, I thought it would bee a good experience to see what it is all about. Kelly and April have been going to this mass for a little while so they can learn more about Catholicism. I definately learned more from this one mass that just what I have heard. I think there are some valuable things that the Catholic church is doing, I just question their means of doing them. It was impossible for me to participate in the service, despite the fact that my Spanish is inadequate. The entire service seemed choreographed, which in some ways I think it is. It is the same routine that I'm sure they have been doing every mass since the doors opened to this church. I was witness to a series of standing up, sitting down, singing, listening, repeating liturgy. None of this was posted anywhere so I just went a long for the ride, standing and sitting when everyone else was, but that was the extent of my particpation. Unless you have always done this or just determine to go and learn from week to week what is going on, there is no guide book. I wonder how significant those liturgies are to the people who have been saying them out of habit all their lives. Anyway, I'm really glad I went to the mass and got a chance to kind of debrief the experience with Kelly and April in a little air conditioned cafe' over breakfast. It was good to talk through the service and learn from what I observed. After breakfast, we decided the best way to spend my last few hours in Castellon was at the beach, so off we went. When it was time to finally go, I grudgingly packed my backpack and we headed to the bus station. I was on time and everything. Unfortunately the bus was not. It was 45 minutes late and once it finally got there I took my seat in the very front of the bus. This was a first for me as well, and I hope it will be a last too. Let's just say, when the bus driver slams on his brakes, I would much rather not be able to see how close we are to the car in front of us. I think I would instead like to be back far enough that I can't see and just imagine that we are really close to that car. I did manage to survive the 8 hour trip back, which should have only taken 5 hours by the way, and got home safely. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I feel as though I am somehow a little bit of a better person to have experienced so many more "firsts." Thanks again Kelly and April for your hospitality.