Over the past couple of years, we’ve tried to give an honest depiction of our family’s adventure – having undertaken a move to Spain. We’ve done our best to communicate that, despite it’s rich rewards, it’s not an easy road — from the visa process to the culture to the language. But what does that really mean? And I have been thinking of whether or not there is really a way to transmit the feelings of fear, stress, anxiety, loneliness, detachment, etc. that comes with being an outsider, a foreigner, a million miles away from everything that feels comfortable and all that you’ve known. In this Blog, I am going to do my best Bob Dylan and tell you “How Does it Feel” to be traveling this road.
UNCERTAINTY – Uncertainty is leaving the country not knowing if you are going to be able to be allowed back in because your renewal paperwork hasn’t been processed and you can only hope the one piece of paper given to you in Spain will be accepted by customs agents.
WORRY – Sitting in your apartment wondering what new tactic kids at Spanish school will use to try to bully your kids today. Will they be tripped and kicked on the soccer pitch? Will they have a piece of paper taped to their back that says “I am Donald Trump?” or will they just be laughed at every time they speak?
EMBARRASSMENT – Embarrassment is when you try to buy your kids underwear but end up telling the woman at the store in your version of Spanish that “she needs to change her underwear right now” instead.
FLUSTERED – The only thing Spaniards expect be done quickly is bagging your groceries. And you bag them yourself. If you buy more than one bag, expect to scramble to throw everything in, while paying at the same time, in another language, with a long line behind you because they have only one checker.
FRUSTRATED – Nobody will let you finance a car lease or rent a car long term (something the banks offer) because our visa was for one year and the renewal is for two. Even with proof of funds and a host of other documents, we were rejected time and time again and so we spent the past year renting from Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, etc. on a monthly basis as our only option. Once we decided we would remain here until the kids finished school, we bought a 20 year old car from a 93 year old woman in cash—another adventure all its own.
RELIEF – Discovering that your blind, nine-year old English Mastiff survived a flight over the Atlantic in a wooden crate to arrive safely in Spain. Cassius, who has a way with words, ruminated “I can’t believe Pi is going to die in a country he has never seen.”
Taking an old, blind, 200 lb dog down three flights of stairs because the elevator in your building is not working.
PERSISTENCE – Our first renewal of our residence cards took 8 trips to the Oficina fe Extranjera in Granada. Getting Jackson’s ficha to play futbol in Spain took 5 applications to FIFA that almost included more documentation than we needed for our visa. You can basically apply this same recipe to every other basic task you are used to – bank account, doctors appointments, dentist, fixing a washer or dryer, etc. The bureaucracy associated with everything in Spain is epic, and it will wear you down.
LONELINESS – Our first year in Spain was both romantic and lonely. On one hand, Karen and I had the incredible chance to spend lots of real, quality time together—taking long walks, enjoying the beauty of Granada, and heading out for Tapas. It was really a dream come true for us as a couple. But both the language and Granada’s persona of being a bit more “closed” to foreigners provided a real barrier when it came to making friendships….or at least forging them in such a short time. And so, aside from a small number of interactions getting together with other expats, Karen and I did not speak to any other adults in English on a daily basis or in a social/work setting for an entire year. That’s a strange way to live, even in a place as beautiful as Granada. To put it simply, it can can lonely at times. And for Karen, she had no “girl time” whereas I had Jackson and Cash to take to sports, play video games, and do all the immature things I like to do.
FEAR – Fear! Absolute fear is being pulled over by the Guardia Civil when they are searching for Drug Dealers or Human Traffickers. Despite the fact that I am on the boring side of boring, Karen seems to think my bald head or baseball cap or beanie and sunglasses give the Guardia Civil a differing idea before they have had the chance to get to know me. This has caused the men with the semi-automatic weapons to pull me over more than once. They even have another officer with a long chain of metal spikes to throw down in front of your tires if you have other ideas. It is scary, and I don’t think I will ever get used to it.
Look, we couldn’t be happier living in Spain. The boys are thriving and love school, sports, and their friends. Karen and I are managing our business and forging our own friendships. Pi is alive and well. We are all healthy. It’s beautiful and affordable here. But it’s not all roses either. Any type of adventure or quest or journey into the unknown is sure to be filled with moments of pause, reflection, and the bevy of emotions listed above. This one has been no exception. And although we wouldn’t trade it for anything, it’s been filled with moments that make the heart beat quite a bit faster than it’s accustomed to.
Missing your family and thoroughly enjoy living vicariously through your writing, Feliz Navidad.