I am happy to report that our wifi is fixed and much improved, George and I are slowly but surely recovering from some nasty head colds, and we have our first visitors from the United States! My mother, uncle, and cousin have made the trip. They met us in Madrid, where we spent the long weekend, and now they are here with us in Almuñécar.
We traveled to Madrid by train from Malaga and had some time to spare in Malaga before departing. What started out as a fun exploration of old town Malaga turned into a stressful morning of comforting and supporting Quinton after he realized he left his camera bag (with three different camera gadgets) on the city bus. He practically collapsed on the street when it occurred to him and Davis burst into tears of empathy. I was sure we would never get it back. Hadley immediately went into crisis management mode and came up with the idea of looking at our bus ticket to identify the bus number. And as Quinton tried to get a hold of himself, we turned a corner and found a bus information booth. Within an hour, the same bus driver handed Quinton the camera bag and we were all breathing again. Nothing like a giant leap in blood pressure to create a moment of family bonding.
The two hour train ride to Madrid was rapido and passed endless rolling hills of olive trees, looking more like a forested region than intentional orchards. George was a master at guiding us through the streets of Madrid in sunny, clear but chilly weather. We toured the city on a double decker bus, visited the royal palace, strolled through Madrid’s own version of Central Park and learned much about the food culture of this huge city. An enchanting book about Spanish food and culture, Grape Olive Pig, by Matt Goulding provided me with inspiration and intrigue during our visit. One example is a well known market, Mercado de San Miguel, which is filled with booths of exquisite food choices, many tapas-like, and with very little elbow room. But instead of everyone carrying their shopping bags, they were all walking around with a glass of red wine. Hadley and I enjoyed little sliders of fresh mozzarella, smoked salmon, arugula, tomato and balsamic while Davis and my cousin shared some paella, including black paella made with squid ink, and George chose to try Madrid’s infamous fried calamari bocadillo (sandwich). Hadley was on a macaron cookie hunt all weekend and we had to hit the Chocolateria San Ginés, a critical stop for chocolate lovers. And of course, there are meat stores everywhere! One of the most fascinating tidbits of knowledge that I gained is how pigs are fattened up in their final months with nothing but acorns!
As exciting as Madrid is, we were all happy to return to our little Almuñécar on the coast and have never felt more reassured of our choice of location to live. The kids now go everywhere on their own and they know almost every narrow path through the maze of old town. Since we have returned, however, I have taken our guests to Granada for a day and yesterday, we drove up towards the mountains to a charming little town called Frigiliana where we had lunch and enjoyed a beautiful view of the valley with the sea beyond.
I am also glad to report there is a noticeable shift in the kids’ adjustments. Davis had his first fútbol match and gave us plenty of opportunities to cheer with pride. Hadley braved school and a field trip on her own while Davis stayed home sick (yes, that’s a big deal) and Quinton is more often returning from school now glowing with pride from the Spanish conversations he is able to have more and more with friends and teachers. I’m now the one asking the kids for help in translating Spanish words-a good sign.
Familiarity is now a part of our lives here and reflecting on the process that got us to this point is always interesting to me. Going from overwhelming unfamiliarity and endless unknowns to feeling oriented with some predictability and even a routine is a gradual process involving brain connectivity and emotional trust and patience but it is inevitable with time. The more we can experience this process, the more resilient we become in a world of constant change and adjustments.