Hi there! Remember me, from before I moved to Spain, and used to post here all of the time? Well, I’ve missed you. And I am also in a bit of shock that it’s been six weeks since we started our life in Spain! Yet, this also seems really short, for all that has happened since then.I thought I would just take a few moments to let you know all that’s been going on over here. So that when I post something normal, like a recipe or photos of our trip to Cadiz, you won’t be like, “Wait, what? Aren’t you going to say anything about your new life??”
Yes, I have a lot things to report– some big, some small.
1. We moved into our house.
It’s smaller than our English home, and newer. I wanted both of these things, so that it would be easier to clean and cheaper, in terms of energy bills. But it still has plenty of Spanish character, and a yard that is just big enough, and will be really low-maintenance. Hurray! We’re still unpacking. We haven’t hung anything on the walls yet, but we are getting there, and it’s feeling more and more like home each day. Really, it feels kind of like a vacation rental at this point– but one that is totally my style! We truly love it. After our first dismal house-hunting experience, I was pretty sure that one of the main sacrifices of moving here would be having to put up with a lame/ugly kitchen. I was ready for that, because living here would be WORTH IT. Most homes go all out in the bathroom department, and either totally skip or skimp on the kitchen.
Ummm… This is the best kitchen I have EVER had. It’s totally beautiful! All of the surfaces are marble, and it’s so beautifully finished with blue and white tile. We have a PANTRY. Tons of storage. The recessed lighting totally made me gasp and do fist pumps of joy when I turned the lights on for the first time!
It’s the kind of kitchen that you always want to leave really clean and tidy, because it looks so good that way. Words cannot describe how glad and thankful I am. I will do a kitchen tour sometime soon, but here’s a picture of it in action, from Instagram.
She just completed her first week, and she has done great! I have to say, emotionally, this is one of the hardest things we have done as expats. I couldn’t help feeling like we were tossing her into the deep end of the pool. I shared about it on facebook, and the response was amazing.
Here’s what I wrote, and if you want to see how awesome this community is, then see the encouraging responses here:
Expat Milestone: Putting our kid in her new school, where she doesn’t speak the language. This kid is such a champ!
So, Amelia is IN SCHOOL now. It’s been an emotional morning, but she is awesome and doing great. I stayed for the first 45 minutes or so, and just translated for her, her teacher, and her classmates. Her class is small and the kids are SO sweet.
She was assigned two special helpers, a boy who speaks English and a super helpful girl who will guide her through everything. She will have a tutor come in twice a week to give her Spanish classes. All of her classmates were clustered around her the whole time– they are all friendly and so interested in her. She asked where the bathroom was, and a little group of girls whisked her away.
At the beginning she was on the verge of tears. She had me explain to her classmates that she was feeling really shy, even though she isn’t normally shy at all. Everyone nodded with understanding and a little boy piped up, “Yeah, I was so shy my first day, too!” After spending time learning about the classroom, having me there to translate, and being with her classmates she looked up at me smiling and said that she was ready for me to go.
There was a special assembly this morning to celebrate a mural some of the parents had painted in the courtyard, and a lot of parents were there as well as all of the kids. We watched Amelia come out in a cloud of nurturing girls, and she was smiling the whole time. She blew us a kiss as she walked back into class with a friend holding each hand.
Good grief, she is a brave little trooper! We are so thankful, again, that the social environment is so warm. It could not have been any sweeter, and although Jeff and I are both feeling a bit bare about it all, we feel good about it, too. This is one of the hardest things ever about expat life. I know she will do great, though, and believe that it’s a gift we’re giving her, in the end.
3. People are wonderfully nice here. Seriously.
The smiles come easily, and I watch the people around us approach each other–often complete strangers– as old friends. And you know what? They treat us like that, too! From the package delivery guy, to the servers in restaurants, to the people we ask directions from on the street. Everyone is so nice.
I have heard that although people are friendly, the deep relationships and friendships are hard to come by. A parent at Amelia’s school told me that she is from the North and has been here for eight years, and most of her good friends are other foreigners. She finds it so frustrating. I am actually really OK with that at this point. Yes, I am hoping and praying to meet my next best friend soon, but in the meantime, I am just thrilled that everyone is so nice, and to feel accepted and liked by the people around me. It makes the harder parts of being an expat so much easier.
On the other hand, sometimes it’s tricky, trying to figure out these new dynamics…. As I shared on my page recently:
Can I just say that it has been completely nuts to move to Spain after living in England for so long?
Culturally, it’s the polar opposite. Usually, that’s great.
The trickiest thing so far is processing the personal space differences.
In England, people often seemed bummed out when I would reach out for a handshake.
Today my landlady came over and talked to me about two inches from my face for 45 minutes. A few times she grabbed the fringe of my scarf to make a point, and one time she insisted that I just FEEL how hard her tush is, as a result of the aerobics class she wants to take me to. I don’t think I’m quite there yet!
I never know when someone is reaching out for a handshake, a hug, or a double-cheek kiss. Usually, it’s the kisses, and for some reason I’m always expecting something else. My favorite is when I totally throw off a new acquaintance by grabbing his right hand while he’s in the act of kissing my cheeks. Awkward. We’re loosening up and figuring it out, though!
4. All of my dreams are coming true. Big things and small ones.
- We live in Spain!
- Amelia is learning a second language.
- We are near the sea!!
- All of my favorite foods grow here– citrus, great seafood, avocados, olives, almonds, peppers, tomatoes, etc.
- Outdoor living! Our home is smaller, but we have a small dining room and living room on our patio now, and it’s heavenly. I am sitting in our outdoor “living room” and typing this right now. In the sunshine.
- I have a home office for the first time! It makes me want to write a book or something… And now of course I’m always torn about where to hang out– in my office or on our patio. Such a great problem to have!
- I will be driving here– my Spanish license is in process, and we are buying our car this week.
- We can eat out again. The food is great and inexpensive. It’s such a joy to be eating out again. There’s a spot we’ve been going to for our Sunday lunch, and it has fantastic seafood and a great play area for kids, which Amelia loves. We’re treated like old friends, and get to sit outside. Bliss.
5. It’s not all bliss. Moves like these are hard, and no place is perfect.
It’s been tough at times to see that conditions around me are so good, yet internally I have been so depleted that I couldn’t enjoy it. Also, having Amelia out of school for five weeks was rough, especially with almost three weeks of rainy, cold weather interspersed with the sunshine we’ve enjoyed.
There’s always that tricky negotiation between the two extroverts and the introvert in the family. For me (the introvert), when everything is new (and exhausting), I just want to hide and not do anything or see anyone… To limit my exposure to new people, things and places while I get my bearings. And the other two really need to do some fun exploring, venturing out for more than errands related to getting set up here. So, we work it out, but it’s not easy and there are points in which no one is quite getting what they feel they need. I think we’re graduating out of that now, though.
I am still trying to figure out how to source good organic products and quality meats. It’s a very different story from England and the USA. A lot of crops here are GMO, and it’s virtually unheard of to buy grass-fed beef. So, that’s been disappointing. Yesterday we drove about half an hour to visit an English butcher who works at sourcing quality and humanely raised animal products. We’ll be able to do a weekly pick up nearby, from now on. We still need to get in touch with an organic farm and find some good eggs, etc. It’s even more important here to support the people who are doing things right, since there is little support for it, comparatively speaking.
We’re still at that weird point of not knowing where we fit in with the people around us. There are more opportunities here to connect with the base community, and I have joined a book club. We live less than ten minutes from base, so going there to do stuff is much more practical now. Amelia’s school is so far from our home that it’s not an easy way to connect with other families, plus she rides the bus so we miss out on seeing everyones’ faces each day. But we will work at getting involved there. Both of the houses next to us are empty (for sale or for rent) and most homes have big walls around them, including ours. So we just don’t see a lot of neighbors, which is a bit disappointing (and isolating). On the other hand, it’s easier in general to strike up conversations and build familiarity with the people we do see, so I think it will just take some time.
There are some other things, but I honestly don’t like reveling in the negative– we are feeling incredibly happy and thankful to be here!Last night, Jeff and I got to have a date. We walked to the beach from our house, and from there walked about a mile or a mile and a half– in the water– to this beach. We had some sherry and then some gelato, and walked back and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset along the way. For me, it really doesn’t get any better than that.
We are still so amazed to be here.
By the way, I share snippets of life here most days on Instagram– so if you want to see more, you should definitely follow me there!
Thank you for keeping up with us and this exciting journey! Do you have any questions about life here or the transition?