It is feeling very much like transition time again as the school year winds down and the hype of summer is in the air. While some of you back home are graduating (or promoting) your own kids, Hadley and Davis just graduated for the second time, getting ready to begin middle school (instituto, as they call it here) for the first time this fall. And we thought they were ready last year! We will also celebrate Quinton’s completion of 8th grade on our own as there is no graduation from middle school in Spain.
In between our travels this summer, Davis will attend futból camp here in town and Quinton will head off on a two week adventure of his own at an overnight camp just north of Granada. Hadley is still trying to decide how she will spend her time. One American family, who has been here for three years, just returned to the states while our British friends just purchased a puppy and are settling in with no exact plans for returning to the UK. So where does that leave us?
For months now, we have been plagued with the dilemma of whether to return to the States in August as planned or to stay for a second year and earlier this spring we made the decision to stay. This decision was in no way an easy one (it plagued us for months) and to be completely honest, has not necessarily been received with open arms by all 5 of us but George and I decided we wanted to do more than just scratch the surface here in Spain. Our Spanish skills are just starting to take off (more for some than others, of course) and our new community is establishing such that we are not quite ready to disconnect from it. And now that some language and friends are in place, we really want the kids to reap the rewards of all their hard work adjusting and learning this past year. George and I also feel that the aspects of this experience that have been challenging or uncomfortable deserve more time to work through. Ideally, our family would return with a sense of satisfaction and hopefully, some confidence and pride in how we have grown and in what we have learned. However ideal, to work closer to this, we need more time. Also, another hope, as a result of this decision, is that there is more time for our American friends and family to come visit us (hint, hint!). Of course, this means postponing access to the comforts of home and those we love, which is hard.
While imagining our second year ahead, I am reminded of the multiple ways to live like an expat. Some have used this town as a base while they travel around Europe every chance they get, dipping into many different cultures and communities. Others never leave town. Rather, they insert themselves deeply into the local community and perfect their Spanish. Both approaches have lots to offer and the nature of our personalities has forced us to try to straddle the two. The part of us that values global perspectives is grateful for our opportunities to travel while the part that values community and a sense of belonging just wants to grow our connections, contribute to our local surroundings and work on our language. Finding a balance is tricky. But I do believe a second year here will not only allow us to continue to explore but will help us insert ourselves locally with more confidence and further appreciate the benefits of embracing change.