So far, our decision to stay in Spain for a second year has paid off. Longing for some comforts and connections back home certainly continue but it seems as if we are each hitting our strides and already appreciating the additional time on this adventure. Hadley and Davis are having a positive experience so far with their new school and classmates and Quinton is very busy both with school and friends and is increasingly focused on his learning and study habits. The biggest indicator is that Hadley has actually expressed that she is now glad we are staying for a second year because she likes her school and classmates, is more comfortable speaking Spanish and “now I don’t have to go home and tell everyone how miserable it was and how I never talked in school!” George is great at reminding the kids that this is exactly what it is all about… living through a challenging and sometimes very difficult experience and sticking with it long enough to eventually feel rewarded by the hard work.
Speaking of hard work, Quinton is getting a true taste of the British curriculum at the International School this year. He is currently taking 12 courses including multiple science and English classes and an online world history class (a credit that he needs in order to return to American high school). The course load is intended to cover a 2 year period in preparation for the GCSE exams which his classmates will take as part of the British educational requirements for university. Meanwhile, Hadley and Davis are attending a bilingual Spanish school so even though most of their school day is in Spanish, they now have teachers who can speak English and some classes are half and half, English and Spanish. This doesn’t seem to be lessening their Spanish exposure as much as helping them feel more included. Finally, all three kids are playing basketball again and Davis is also keeping up his futból, although we are still waiting for him to get approved by FIFA to play in official games. FIFA monitors expat players very carefully and requires almost as much documentation as our visa application process, trying to ensure that players aren’t coming to Spain just to take advantage of futból training. Our process with FIFA began last February and we are hoping and praying to see Davis competing in an official league game, versus just practices and friendlies, in the coming weeks.
George and I are continuing with our Spanish class twice per week while I am trying to maintain a regular schedule of yoga and painting. In addition, we are getting back to work! While George has acquired new clients back in the States and will be doing some business traveling this year, I have stepped into the world of telemental health and am working with a handful of my old clients remotely via video calls. This has proven not only to instill more structure in our daily lives but has also helped integrate our two worlds in the US and Spain. For so long, one or the other has felt dreamlike but now we are starting to be able to hold both realities and trust that exist simultaneously. And like the kids, George and I are enjoying being on the other side of last year’s challenges. Our days now feel like there is less of an urgency to integrate and more like we have a natural rhythm of living in this Spanish community.
September and October, so far, have been much drier and warmer than last year. It has definitely felt like an extended Spanish summer but without all the humidity and the tourist crowds. Along with the good weather came several visitors. My college friend, Fish, came through town for a few nights followed by our Seattle friends, Kurt and Gary for back to back weekends and finally, my mother and sister came for a week in honor of my mother’s 80th birthday. The three of us spent 5 nights at a nearby hotel in Motril and took painting classes from two local professional painters, Annabel Keatley (Annabelkeatley.com), my teacher in Almuñécar, and Klaus Hinkel (Watercolours.es) from Frigiliana. We also explored the Salobreña castle and had fun driving the tiniest Fiat up the narrowest road to the top. I am so grateful for having a shared interest in painting with my mother and sister at this stage in our lives. What a great way to help my mother celebrate her 80th!
Another celebration that took place this month was our 20th wedding anniversary which felt like a milestone. George and I spent the day beaching it, hiking, and catching the new Downton Abbey movie. We even contributed our own love lock to the iron banister up on the Holy Rock. Then last weekend, I surprised George with a candle light dinner on the rooftop terrace of our old house while watching the sunset. The kids jumped to the occasion, served the dinner and prepared dessert for which they joined us, of course. It was a great way to commemorate 20 years of partnership and adventure!
Other events this fall have included Beach Clean Up Day with the kids and watching Davis play in a futból friendly in a neighboring town new to us, Vélez de Benaudalla. We also had the opportunity to participate in the Fiesta de San Miguel (remember last year’s fiesta that was set up right outside our front door?) but with the luxury of being able to leave when we were tired of the loud music and not being kept up all night long like last year. In fact, reliving some annual events like this one has added to our sense of belonging and settledness here. It really takes a whole year to find ones’ way and place in a new home and this second year is giving us an opportunity to try things on differently than the first time around. It took me 13 months to finally find the best packaged coffee in town and we are still discovering new restaurants!
Our new home this year is an apartment located at the very bottom of the hill that we used to climb everyday to reach last year’s Spanish home in old town. It is a good blend of greater comforts (more modern kitchen and bathrooms, individual bedrooms for the kids, an actual bedroom for me and George versus a walk-through room) and more traditional living; we still have a view of the castle, a Spanish terrace with morning light and sweet smelling jasmine and sounds of motorbikes whizzing by at all hours of the night. We are directly next door to the botanical garden and even closer to the beach. While the apartment provides us with a bit more space to ourselves, we have been pleasantly surprised to learn how easily we can live in a much smaller home than we are used to in the US and also live with so much less. The real trick will be to be able to maintain this way of living when we return to American culture.