The experience of living abroad has been a positive experience. One that I would and hopefully will seek out again.
One that I believe has been great for my children.
When I speak with people here I am often asked if we had been placed in a big city like Madrid rather than a small, rural community if I thought my exchange program experience would have been better.
Some facets of daily life certainly would have been an improvement for me but those same facets would have been a detriment to my kids Spanish experience.
It was a big change for all us coming here. For me, I went from homeschooling three kids all day and then leaving for work in the evenings. I had play dates, field trips, Girl Scouts, school classes, exercise classes and a community of friends that filled my day.
I also had tasty take-out, a fully stocked big chain store, and a car we had fondly named “Sally”. I do miss Sally.
Being here in a small town without a job or homeschooling, field trips, classes and kids to fill my day was a BIG transition.
A very lonely experience. An experience that would have most likely been vastly different if I was in a big city.
Sshhh……I think maybe I like being in a small community!!
I’ve experienced life here. And I can imagine life here….with a car and language acquisition.
Last summer when we could only imagine our life abroad, I looked forward to walking more and eating more fresh foods. And these two experiences alone have been so positive it will influence where I will choose to live in the future.
I have never eaten as healthy as I have here. There are lots of fresh food options that are inexpensive in comparison to the U.S. Fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, seafood and bread are all readily available.
There is also not food coloring additives nor nearly the number of junk food items in the store.
When I want a chocolate fix; a GOOD chocolate fix; I am forced to make my own chocolate chip cookies.
The inexpensive wine and booze are another story!
Back home the girls couldn’t go into a store on their own; let alone walk there on their own. Here the girls have had the opportunity to go into stores on their own to make purchases. We have sent them to get cilantro, bread, orange juice, etc.
They absolutely LOVE the opportunity and freedom to go to the store themselves. (I remember going around the block to buy cigarette’s for my Grandma when I was a kid! She’s send me with a note and cash and back I’d come with her goods!)
This would NEVER happen if we were in a big city.
I feel safe letting them go on their own. Plus, from our apartment I can spy on them most of the time they are gone and I know that the store owners know who they are.
Another freedom that will be revoked when we return to the states is their ability to stay home alone. Yes, I said it. Sometimes we leave the kids at home watching a movie or playing Lego’s while we go grocery shopping or **GASP** out for a drink!
Grocery shopping, having a drink with friends or by ourselves while our kids are at home is a very new experience for us. It’s a little bit of wonderful!
I will disclose that when we do have a drink out, the kids know where we are and even will run between our home and the bar to come check in with us. There are two bars very close. Neither require a street crossing.
You, yes you, in the states….CAN YOU IMAGINE!!??!!??
In the states, the girls attended a homeschool program that was outside of our local district. Still close, but not so much that we would often run into families we knew while walking around town, at the library or out on a hike.
We had begun to build a community with the Coal Creek YMCA. We would run into other families from the Y in all sorts of places while we were out and about. But, we also had begun to recognize those from my work or the Issaquah library or Parks & Rec classes.
But because the girls did not attend their neighborhood school we weren’t recognized as we walked around the neighborhood. And to be honest, we lived in a large area. There are 3 “neighborhood” schools within two miles of our house.
Here, we are well known in town. The girls often have friends run over to them to say “hi” while we are walking to the grocery store or out for a stroll. I think the sense of community they are experiencing here is a welcome change for them.
Admittedly, it can be odd as well.
Participating in celebrations on a smaller scale has been nice as well. The girls Carnival celebration went through the streets and the Three Kings Festival was a manageable crowd.
The outdoors is the piece I appreciate the most being here in a small, rural town. When the weather has been nice, I often go for a run after dropping the kids off at school. There is beautiful scenery and a seemingly unending forest.
It feels so relaxing.
For the kids, the forest has been a great place to play and explore. We have carved our own little spot in the forest and call it the fort. The girls have tried to make a fort here and I’ve gathered rocks to weight lift with.
It’s really a nice quiet place in the forest. The walk there is 20 minutes and we rarely see other people out there either.
Outside of our town, I have enjoyed the opportunity to travel. To see new places and historic places. We have all learned and appreciated our travels. I hope our kids forever remember these experiences.
Through living abroad together we have learned to:
- Explore together as a family.
- Have more patience.
- Have more flexibility.
- Try new foods.
- Be more independent.
- Live with what we have.
- Plan ahead.
- Be courageous and brave.
- Be more understanding.
- Communicate despite language barriers.
- Speak some Spanish (some of us more so than others).
- Cuddle more.
- Live together as a family better.