In exactly five months our visa’s will expire and we will need to leave Spain as well as the entire Schengen area. And according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary it certainly has been an adventure: 1) An exciting or dangerous experience. 2) An exciting or remarkable experience. 3) An enterprise involving financial risk. The last definition caught me a little off guard when it popped up, but it is certainly true nonetheless. Being here has been an adventure and a challenge and awe-inspiring. I have loved seeing the history – the Roman aqueduct, castle ruins, the tomb of Christopher Columbus, the tombs of Queen Isabel and Ferdinand, restored castles, old tapestries, Islamic palaces, Catholic Cathedrals, roman mosaics, and the cities that have lived on for so many, many more years than anything we have in the U.S. I haven’t loved the isolation, frustration and loneliness that comes from not speaking the language and having no where to go during the day. I am awe-inspired when someone speaks Spanish to October or Scarlett and she responds back! It’s amazing to me the fortitude of my kids. Day after day I have dropped them off to spend five hours a day immersed with people that speak very little English (if any) and in a culture that was completely foreign to them only four months ago (both the Spanish culture and the public school culture). That part really is amazing.
We had thoughts that when our Visa’s were up we would travel around Europe. Ireland was at the top of the list. But as the time approaches and our homesickness grows and our wallets shrink, I think we will find ourselves on a jet plane sooner than we had anticipated. We’ve started looking ahead to what we want our lives to look like when we return. Almost everything is up in the air. Jeff will return to his job but I won’t be returning to mine. And I’ll need a new one. Our condo is rented until the end of November so we won’t be returning there either. We have yet to decide whether the girls will continue to be homeschooled or attend a Spanish-immersion public school or a regular neighborhood school. The opportunities are both exciting to imagine and overwhelming to consider all at the same time.
I’ve spent a lot time thinking about what I want when I return. Here it is: 1) To get involved. 2) Create connections and foster relationships. 3)To be physically active. In striving to not be over-run with the busyness that can come with a job, school, working opposite schedules as your spouse, and kid activities I failed to create and foster a deeper connection with people, my community and organizations. Usually in the way of remaining on the peripheral at school or girl scouts, not reaching out to meet for a drink or not making advance plans – so that I could be free to enjoy where ever the day took us. And I appreciated not feeling overwhelmed by places to be or things to do. I rarely scheduled more than one activity in a weekend. I liked being able to head to the beach or the creek or the forest or just reading by the fire or an impromptu get together with friends, free from other commitments. Yet at the same time, I have missed out on the sense of community that I long for. That I realize I need and I want. So in the new year, I hope to meet with friends more often, reconnect with old friends, create a support system among other friends raising their family far from family, go on more dates with my husband, become more active with the girl scouts, host parties, volunteer in the community I end up living in, join a fitness or sport group/class, enjoy more hikes in our area, learn with my family and create lasting traditions outside my family.
We really saw our move to Spain as a reset button. An opportunity to get out of our small condo, a opportunity to reconnect as a family, an opportunity to get our condo rent and sell ready, an opportunity to travel abroad and an opportunity to reduce the amount of stuff we have.
We have packed what we need or is important to us in a storage unit that is 15ft x 10ft x 8ft for the year. This included sofas, beds, dressers, tables, bikes, etc. And I really hope that all is well and safe. To get to this point though we sold our stuff, we gave away stuff, we tossed stuff and we donated a large amount of stuff. It’s quite amazing the hold that our stuff holds on us. We move it. We store it. We cherish it. We pay for it. We use our hard earned money to save stuff that we may not even remember we have! Yet, the very thought of letting it go can induce anxiety. I tried to embrace the philosophy of reducing our stuff will reduce my stress. If I didn’t remember it was in storage it must not be that important to begin with. Before we began to purge our on-going storage unit I tried to think what exactly was so important in there that I would pay a monthly fee to keep. I tired to embrace the idea that if I couldn’t answer that question without seeing the object than it really wasn’t important. I purged based on this ideal. I saved based on this ideal. I sold and donated based on this ideal. Is this item worth $X.xx per month to keep? Is it that important?? In reality, I am choosing my time (and the dollars that it earns me) to keep this item. Some items were things we no longer needed while other items were ones that could easily be replaced. Think board games like “Battleship” or “Twister” or modular shelving from Target. Things we can easily and cheaply replace if we want but not worth the storage space it requires. These are seemingly, insignificant items but when you picture an entire house full of small items it would quickly become a rather large storage space.
It’s been months now since we held our garage sale. Which I’m going to say was more difficult and time consuming than just donating it…albeit I have yet to do our taxes and see if donation was more worth my time and energy. I’ve had time to reflect on what I tossed and donated. There are a few regrets I have already. A couple were mere hours after they were sold or donated. The original doll clothes for my cabbage patch kid (accidentally sold) or my old college day planners (tossed). Others, I wonder if I will regret and maybe I shouldn’t have sold them. An old pair of overalls that were easily 50 years old, a hodge-podge mini-Christmas tree or the few albums and turn-table we owned. Most of which had been in storage or not used for the last ten years. Others I wish I had gotten more money for. I have to remember I am choosing more space, less stress and less stuff. All of which I hope will mean more time, more space, and more money. It still doesn’t keep me from awakening with anxiety on what I no longer have.
Our full storage unit right before we closed it for the last time.
I feel like the pregnant woman who’s not really enjoying her pregnancy. My big belly is out there for all to see, it’s suppose to be a magical, wonderful time and people expect you to say “of course!”, “wonderful!” when they ask you how you’re doing; but it’s really not.
I have posted very nice photos; the castle is amazing, the mountains surrounding us are amazing as well, the town is also nice and larger than I expected. The girls are doing well with school – although I’m not sure if they are so hyper when I pick them up because they have been inside all day or because they are imitating the behaviors surrounding them. And the idea of living oversea’s is great, but the logistical nature of living where you don’t speak the language is beyond frustrating. I’m not a gregarious, outgoing person so it’s unlike me to strike up a conversation with a stranger in the first place but add in that I don’t speak the language and even if they do they won’t speak English in front of me or their friends because they are embarrassed about how they sound (the gentleman that spoke English at the Guardia Civil was laughed at the entire time by his colleagues as he was helping me). It lends itself to a very lonely day. I’m trying to learn the language as fast as I can. Using Duolingo when I can get online, listening to Learn to Speak Spanish in your Car (which we started on our return road trip) as well as a few podcasts on iTunes. Everything seems to be an adventure in frustration. We still don’t have internet. I thought I had it all lined up but when they called back to go over the contract (details??) they told me we had to have a Spanish bank account; even if we were going to pay monthly at the post office. Argh! I tried changing my money at three different banks here in town; not one spoke English. So I can only imagine how opening an account and closing it 9 months later will go! Argh! I finally got my cell phone working — although I have no idea the phone number right now — by having it unlocked by At&t. We just ended up buying Jeff a new cell phone as we couldn’t get either one to work! Now, before you say didn’t you know it needed to be unlocked? NO! Our At&t phones are not contract phones, they are go phones, I bought mine at Target without a sim card in it! And now that I have a cell phone, I tried calling another internet company but the menu is all in Spanish and randomly pressing buttons was getting me nowhere except hung up on. I decided that making chocolate chip cookies would make things all better. But, after finally finding the baking powder and flour, I realized I needed some vanilla. There is no vanilla extract here – only a pod of vanilla. We made our own vanilla extract by cooking the vanilla bean and pod in vodka. There are no chocolate chips either, so we just cut up some candy bars. We also have no measuring utensils so we just tried to use a drinking glass and get the ratios correct. We did end up with what resembled chocolate chip cookies and with some tweeking could be good. Lastly, (I use this term loosely) I am trying to get a prescription filled here but that again has it’s challenges! The equivalent version according to the Spanish pharmacist is at a much different dosage. So not wanting to turn into she-wolf, I tried contacting my doctor to see if she had any insight. I got an email reply that said my doctor no longer worked for the office and I should consult a Spanish doctor. Argh! I refrained from replying with a one-fingered email salute.
And of course as karma(?) or maybe coincidence goes, every facebook post I saw this morning had some sort of reference to changing one’s point of view will change one’s life or don’t forget how blessed I am or refocus on what’s important or it’s my perspective that needs to change not the problems around me. Bite me. *sigh* Okay, okay I’ll go have a glass of wine and try to change my perspective.
We left Monday at 3pm after a flurry of activity all morning. The kids were insane. I was insanely anxious, which made the kids seem even more out of control. We had one last load to take to storage, the little red car to deliver to a friend, the Wi-Fi boxes to return and to return the rental car. I am always an anxious flyer but never having flown internationally before and never flying with so much luggage was adding to my stress and my nervousness. We got to the airport with lots of time to spare. Just the way I like it. We had dinner at the airport. The kids played. And the airline I thought was a budget carrier turned out to be quite nice. We had seats together despite me not paying the extra fee to book them in advance.
The flight went well. Long. Very long. October and Lavender slept quite a bit. Scarlett stayed wake until 10 minutes before we landed (it was a 10 hour flight!) I managed a few hours of intermittent sleep. Jeff got some sleep. There was a person needing medical assistance during the flight. An announcement was made asking if their was a doctor on board. The passenger made it all the way to Frankfurt but was taken off the plane by ambulance.
We wandered with the herd through a seemingly endless maze of the Frankfurt airport. Went through another security screening process where I had the honor with Lavender of a pat down. That was surprising. We stood in several lines, followed a guy on a bike that took us to the wrong wing, passed through a passport screening station and are now finally waiting near our gate with the kids playing on a small playground. Our layover is 6 hours….so I am writing this from the Frankfurt International Airport! We’ve got another 2 hours to wait!
Tomorrow we leave for Spain. We’ve got most of our bags packed (and weighed), the girls and us are slumbering tonight on the floor in their room and I’ve got a detailed list of what needs to happen tomorrow. I never got around to getting Euro’s but do believe I returned all our library books. I’ll know for sure after it’s too late. I made a late night run to the post office and donation…well, leaving my stuff under the large semi parked outside Value Village is still considered a donation, right?? Our storage is almost all packed and dried! We have a few more boxes to add tomorrow. We have to drop off our little red car. I need to call and see if I can reserve our seats. I had NO idea I was booking a budget airline and had to pay $30 a seat to reserve our seats ahead of time. A bit problematic while traveling with small children. But maybe my loss is my win! Think of the poor person that gets stuck sitting next to Lavender for a 10 hour flight! The kids carry-on bags are all packed with extra clothes, their blankie, their stuffie’s, snacks and their updated (and age-appropriate) tablets. Oh – and with headphones.
At this point, I am much more anxious than excited. I was excited months ago. Long before, the drawn out visa process and the reality of moving out and renting our home. Now, it’s just nervousness and anxiousness. Scarlett & October are nervous about attending school in Spain. They realize that they will spend the day in a place where they don’t speak the language. I was excited long ago when I figured our visa’s would be in hand at least a week before our plane trip….not 2 days before. I was excited long ago when I didn’t know that the visa I was applying for was going to be a student visa valid for 90 days. To which now there will be more paperwork when we arrive (I’m told this is just part of the process). And before the reality of a 10 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany followed by a 6 hour lay-over and then another 2.5 hour flight to Madrid.
*Sigh*. It will be a grand adventure. I am excited to see the countryside. I am looking forward to not having a car. I am looking forward to sightseeing Castles and Museums in cities that are much older than any we have here in the U.S. I am looking forward to hiking. I am looking forward to many things. I’ve just lost my excitement for the moment while I instead spend my time being anxious and nervous about the nuts and bolts. Wish me luck!
It’s always nice to get a warm rain storm with a little thunder and lightning. Except when you have a fair amount of your belongings sitting out exposed while you try to apply your “bestest” jigsaw capabilities to optimizing the space in your storage unit. The morning started out with a steady, light rain. I asked Jeff if we should re-evaulate our schedule but it was best we just push forward with our plans for renting a moving tuck and moving most of our remaining boxes and big items. It may be raining just the same tomorrow. And by the time we got the moving truck and started loading it was sunny and humid. We stopped for dinner with the senior crowd at Applebee’s (no one had eaten since Breakfast). Even convinced the kids to order from the regular menu! I think the waitress was a little taken aback when I order chicken penne pasta without tomatoes or basil for Lavender.
All was going well for quite some time. I completely underestimated how long it would take for us to load the moving truck and even further underestimated how long it would take us to complete the jigsaw puzzle of our storage unit. It sprinkled. We told October not to say it outloud. Forty-five minutes later the looming dark clouds bust open. Busted. Open. Poured. Lightening. Poured. We got soaked and all puzzle solving went out the window. Instead, it became a game a how much and how quickly could we jam the remaining items into storage. Which by the way, included two bikes and a fish tank. I said it’d never fit; I was told to be positive or go home. (Oopsie, I decided it was only a little rain). Somehow the bikes fit. The fish tank and under-the-bed storage box went into an unlocked unit (which by the way was not empty so there’s some storage shed squatting going on). If it’s gone when we get back; oh well.
Each child got to ride in the moving truck once. Lavender was SO excited!
It occurred to us a while ago that while I unenrolled the girls from school, I hadn’t done anything to indicate where they were moving to and begun wondering if they were going to show up on a truancy report somewhere. Since the girls have been taking homeschool classes through the public school system they are officially public school students; albeit ones that only attend five hours a week. When I thought we were leaving at the end of August I didn’t really even think about it. When I thought we were leaving mid-September I figured by the time they showed up on a truancy report we’d be gone. Now that we aren’t leaving until the end of September, I probably should have filed a Declaration of Intent to Homeschool to prevent them from showing up on any truancy reports. *Shrug* paperwork.
Tomorrow will be moving day! We sat down last night and made a detailed schedule of all the things that need to get accomplished and those that we want to get accomplished before we leave on Monday (Fishing for Jeff, Girl Scout apple cider making, IMAX movies, ladies book club). We’ve also scheduled out where we will be eating out or getting take-out from. Thank you for gift cards!
With tomorrow being moving day I need to get the kids and myself mostly packed for Spain. I have mostly set aside what I think we will need to take to Spain for the year in regards to clothes, shoes, coats, winter clothes, school books, electronics, and paperwork, the unknown is how much all of this weighs. I may have WAY more than I can actually take based on each person’s bag not exceeding 23kg. If I have too much, I have to pair it down and get it in storage. Which we’ve decided is going to be tomorrow. I need to get the house picked up, I need to clean the dishes to be packed, I need to decide what is going to storage and what will be tossed on our way out the door. The couch, dining room table, grill, kids bed’s, our bed, dining room chairs, t.v., dishes, bikes and remaining toys will all go to storage. I don’t want a bunch of stuff to go to storage on Monday nor do I want to make a bunch of trips to storage for stuff we just didn’t get packed up and moved tomorrow. We’re going to leave out the kid’s mattresses (1 – twin size IKEA foldable and 3 – crib sized) and all sleep on the floor together in sleeping bags until we leave. The camping pads have long been packed.
In the coming days, I’m betting their will be lots of children shouting “ECHO, ECHO” around the house.
Every homeowner has that list of repairs and improvements that seem to just sit on the back burner and never actually get done. Until they need to be done. We have been working hard cleaning, repairing, improving, painting and packing over the last few weeks. Most all of our belongings are packed up in storage or are now sitting in opened boxes around the house while we continue to live in a house that we are at the same time packing up. I’ve reached my limit on the mess, the chaos, the cleaning. Oh, the cleaning, how I have reached my limit. I got a high-five from the grocery store cashier today when I replied to her question of how I was doing with “Well, I’m going home and drinking.” It was 1pm. She said she was doing the same. I left out the part where I was also going to be scrubbing toilets and bathrooms….maybe she had something worse to do. And I guess when you add in the reason for the work is that you’ll be moving to Spain any sympathy would likely dissipate.
The trim looks amazing! Jeff has done a great job with it. I wish we were here to enjoy it more. The kids are not enjoying it as much as I keep getting after them about not touching the walls, not walking in the kitchen, touch only the door handles! I have deep cleaned the kitchen floor tile, the bathrooms, the kids room, scrubbed the closet doors, washed the blinds. I have painted all the door trim, the chair rail, and the odd touch-up painting.
Be sure to notice all the nice trim work!
We have been working hard to get our condo in shape for it to be rented out. Although, truth be told every time I talk to the property management company I want to run into a hole and hide. It’s just so much information and so much unknown. And risk. I hadn’t really thought about the nuts and bolts (and risk) of renting out our home. Jeff is more than eager to get out of our condo and seems to have already thought through the risk — he was quite surprised when I freaked out about it the other day. I hadn’t thought about the cost if the rental goes awry. If the renter floods the house and the two houses below. If the renter….okay you get the idea. I think I’d rather just leave the place vacant. At least then I know EXACTLY how much money I will be losing versus the potential of how much I could lose. I guess it’s a rather fatalistic view but I’m nervous about it. I’d be less worried if I knew the renter but we’re going with a property management company who will do all of the tenant screening, leasing, maintenance, rental collections, etc. In fact, our condo will be re-keyed the day after we move out. Which makes sense if you’re the renter, you can have peace of mind that the owner isn’t going to come in one day but for me it’s a rather tangible awareness that I’m not in control (yet, still have the financial obligations). *SIGH* *deep breath* I’m just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other and have faith (and a good landlord policy) that everything will be all right. And maybe, just maybe it will be more than all right.