The comfort of community

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk

Exactly six months ago, Jim and I were flying into Barcelona, Spain, looking forward to a well deserved vacation. Our work was taking our full energy and we were feeling just about maxed out, so eight days on the Mediterranean coast of Spain seemed like the perfect remedy. We have discovered over the years that getting away from work needs to be exactly that, and crossing an ocean makes the separation between work and recreation a physical reality.

From Barcelona, we took the train to Valencia, our final destination. We gladly met our landlord when we arrived at our apartment and settled into a promising week of café culture, walking all over the city, and total down time on the outdoor patio. We were starting our second day of stress-free living when Jim suddenly developed a severe pain in his right side. And just like that, Valencia became our home.

We spent the next week and a half living as any Valencians would in the same circumstance: going to the hospital for emergency care, trusting the surgeon and the nurses who cared for us, dealing with medical paperwork and pharmacies, interacting with other patients, living one day at a time through pain and healing, making our way through the daily rituals not as vacationers but as dwellers.

We discovered in the process that even in an unknown place, there is community. Our landlord visited us in the hospital and brought us warmth, laughter and a book to read. He also gave us the use of another apartment, more suitable for Jim’s recovery and only a five minute walk to the beach. Right around the corner, the local pharmacist helped me find the right medicines and bandages I needed. On the other corner, the local baker asked me how I was doing as I walked in the door to buy bread, observant maybe of my worried face. I shared my story with her, and later, Jim and I returned so she could meet him, as she had requested. A family at the hospital helped me to decipher the metro system. Our landlord showed me the closest food market, bike rental and bus stop.

In a few short recovery days, we took slow walks on the beach, soaking in the sun, along with the woman out walking her dog and the father pushing a baby stroller. We made meals with bread from our local baker and produce from the local grocer. We lived day to day and then, flew to our home for the continuing recovery. Tonight, reflecting once again on this experience, we discover that Valencia has a new place in our hearts. We went as tourists but we came back with a whole lot more invested there.

When we live mindfully, our daily interactions make connections that create community. We felt those during our short stay in another culture and country. In this town, every day I feel these connections intimately and they make me care about what happens around me. Thank you for being a part of my community.

Paella
Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, chopped 
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 cup small shrimp
  • 2 cups chicken breast, in chunks
  • ¼ lb. stuffed sausage
  • 1 large pinch of saffron
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1½ cup water
  • ¼ cup white wine

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Fry the chicken and sausage in olive oil until brown and cooked through. Remove to an ovenproof pan.
  3. Fry onions until soft then add garlic. Add peppers and tomatoes.
  4. After a couple of minutes, add the rice and stir. Add chicken and sausage along with saffron dissolved in boiling water, salt and pepper to taste and wine.
  5. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the rice is almost tender. Then add shrimp and peas.Cook until rice has absorbed the liquid.
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