We just survived a three day fiesta right outside our front door. La fiesta de San Miguel is an annual festival that honors San Miguel, one of the three archangels who is known for fighting off evil. Our house was right in the center of the fiesta. And I do mean the center. A bar with table and chairs were set up right in front of our house and our front stoop served as a social gathering spot for the locals. The weekend-long event included flamenco and Zumba performances, live music (both traditional Spanish as well as hip hop cover bands), lots of eating and drinking, neighbors conversing and kids playing. Davis participated in a fútbol tournament and the kids had their first paella while we tried our first migas, a traditional Spanish dish made from leftover bread soaked in water, garlic, paprika, and olive oil and comes out tasting a bit like couscous. Most notable was hearing the music (and vibrating bass) until 3am both Friday and Saturday nights and until 11:00pm on Sunday night. Once again, the Spanish proved how good they are at enjoying life.
The fiesta gave us an opportunity to get to know our neighbors better and practice our Spanish (none of our neighbors know English). One neighbor, in particular, an elderly man, insisted on treating us to some food at the neighborhood community center where we sat for an hour and talked with him and others about the differences between Spanish and American culture. He then lead us down the street to watch the San Miguel procession (men and women carrying a statue of San Miguel through the neighborhood followed by a local band). Despite our limited comprehension of each others’ languages, we managed to have a great time together and appreciate each others’ company.
Our Spanish learning continues although George and I are slowly weaning ourselves from our formal class schedule while the kids are increasing theirs. Quinton now has Spanish class two hours per day, four days per week and we are hoping Hadley and Davis will receive the same soon. All three kids have started basketball and Davis has also joined a fútbol (soccer) team to which some of you may ask “wasn’t the point of getting away to have a more simple family schedule?” The answer is “yes” but unlike home, these activities are a 10 minute walk from our house and on different days. Plus, they provide more opportunities for the kids to interact and communicate with the locals.
While the fiesta was radically different from home, the fact that our kids have gotten sick at the start of school feels very familiar. All three kids have missed school in the past week due to a cold or fever and George and I are struggling to maintain our energy. I guess eight weeks of change, adjustments and acclimatizing is finally catching up with all of us. We may also be impacted by the recent shift in climate as it has cooled enough in the evenings and mornings that complaints of being “freezing”(!) have been expressed.
Finally, we are appreciating more of what it takes to be an outsider and to try to belong. Davis said recently, “the longer I am here, the more I appreciate home.” As the kids realize how difficult it is not to be able to communicate freely with their new friends, they have been reflecting on what it must be like for some of the foreign students in their American elementary school to adjust to a new school, community and language. They also remain curious about our choice of location. During the fiesta, Quinton asked why we chose to come to a country where people drink, smoke, and stay out all night (as a contrast to typical Brewster activities.) By all accounts from others, we are in the most difficult phase of transitioning but hearing the kids reflect and share their insights makes it all worthwhile.