The Andalucians have a great way of saying goodbye when going their separate ways. Instead of actually saying “goodbye” or “adios,” they more commonly say “see you later” or “hasta luego,” or just “luego” for short. It seems much easier than actually saying “goodbye” and often saves one from the grief of letting go without any certainty of reuniting. Needless to say, this expression came in handy as we concluded our 2-year adventure in Spain. We all agreed that having to say goodbye to our new friends was particularly hard so saying “luego” helped ease the discomfort. Meanwhile, my Irish friend taught us a much more direct approach of “I’m going to love you and leave you,” which I do love.
I mentioned to George how everyone should have a pretend goodbye as it is a time when people seem to come together in an unusual way. There is a noticeable effort to honor the connections made, reflect on memories shared and create hopes and dreams for maintaining the relationships. Our goodbyes with others in Spain unfolded during a final churros fest, while reminiscing over a giant paella, and picnicking on the beach. I visited my painting teacher, Annabel, in her home up on the hilltops between Almuñécar and Salobreña and participated in my last beach yoga class with Raquel. Coffee and dinner dates with friends were more intimate than usual and we felt renewed strength in friendships that had ebbed and flowed throughout the two years. Even our favorite master of helado (ice cream), “Jorge,” gave us our final scoops on the house!
We discovered how hard it was to extract ourselves from a community we had worked so hard to build and from connections that had become so valuable. Moving temporarily to a new place in the world, and then having to leave it, proved to be much more challenging than expected. We each processed differently what it meant to leave our Spanish home. Quinton expressed anger while Davis’ sadness was evident all over his face and Hadley coped by avoiding the whole thing. Meanwhile, George and I were planning our retirement in Spain.
In addition to time with friends, we tried to appreciate our Spanish surroundings one last time. We retraced our favorite walking and hiking routes, enjoyed our last swim in the Med and we took one final look at those 13,000 years old aqueducts. Challenging, for sure, was leaving behind the Spanish culture including the slower pace of daily life, everything coming to a halt for a 3-hour meal with loved ones, siesta, cheap avocados and smoked salmon, a healthy attitude about body image and a community willing to sacrifice individual wants for the benefit of the greater good as many of the Spaniards have done so well during COVID.
Alas, it was time. It was time for us to conclude this unique and memorable period in our lives and return to what we knew beforehand. It was time to take our kids back to where they feel the strongest sense of belonging. It was time to rejoin family and be present with aging mothers and reintegrate into our prior community. Despite our disapproval for America’s handling of COVID and our anxiety around the past and current racial injustices in the U.S., it was time to go home. And as much as we envied our northern European friends who had moved to Spain permanently or semi-permanently, we knew it was a much bigger deal for us to make that choice, when our home was halfway across the world.
To accomplish our extraction, we hired someone to transport Melegis, our puppy, we packed up our embarrassingly large collection of luggage bags and we rented a car to drive to Madrid, stopping along the way to see the beautiful towns of Jaen and Toledo in the 100 degree heat. To our surprise, our travel adventure out into the larger pandemic world felt safer than expected. Airports were like ghost towns and we all stretched out on the planes due to the limited number of seats that were occupied. Taking off from Spanish and then British soil, we waved goodbye to a continent, uncertain of when we would be able to return next. But we hope to keep our memories strong and our new friends close to our hearts. Thank you Spain for an unforgettable experience and to everyone who added so much joy and learning to our lives while we were there!