It’s Emilie’s last week here for the summer. I can’t believe it’s already been 3 months since she stepped out of those doors in BCN airport. And now it’s time for her to go back to school. She’s had a packed summer with beach volleyball and new friends, but this last week has been full getting her ready to go.
August in Spain means that nearly all of the native population of Valencia leaves town for their summer beach homes or family chalets in the mountains. Most of the people left in the city are not from here, and walking on the streets means weaving around hoards of tourists. We are annoyed in the heat, as we are Valencians now. I appreciate why they come here. It’s for the same reasons we did – it’s beautiful. But I’m fed up by drunken, sweaty Italian students who grab my ass in the subway or seem to shout to the person 3 inches from them while falling into me on the tram. Are they all deaf? Next summer we will lease a place on the water, south in a beach town, for a few months during the heat of the summer, when those who can’t afford Ibiza spill into our city.
Prepping for our children’s school when we lived in the US was a ritual we could count on. And in general, we always knew where to go to get everything needed. If nothing else, the local Office Depot or Target would work. But here? We had no idea where to go for school supplies. The emailed list from Emilie’s school was pretty long so it’s been a bit like walking around in the dark looking for a light switch to knock everything out. And a very sweaty undertaking. Lesson Learned: I won’t wait until after July 31st to shop for school supplies next year, since about half of the shops are closed until after September 1st.
Emilie plays 4 sports – I still don’t know how she does it since two are going at the same time – but all of it requires gear. And finding that gear here isn’t as easy as it was in Seattle or Phoenix. There, we had Sporting Goods stores with brands we knew and walls and walls of shoes, clothes, equipment. Here we have a Nike store with VERY limited stock. And a Decathlon Store with a lot of stuff for many sports, including archery (not bow hunting, archery) and equestrian sports with full saddles. But not name brands for US basketball or volleyball. At least not the brands Emilie wants to compete in.
So it’s been a literal scavenger hunt that has taken days rather than hours. There are the notebooks and the pens she likes. None of which are the same. In Spain, they have 4 ring binders. In the US they’re 3 ring. So none of the fill paper here will fit the old binders she has back at school. So we’ve been through just about every open stationary store, papeleria, and any other place that might possibly look like they would have what she needs.
But finally, not far from our house, Emilie and I walked into a very small hole-the-wall shop where the proprietor was a stooped old man with a friendly smile. He spoke not one word of English but was nice and patient about my Spanish. The shop was a warren of shelves piled high with this and that. And in the back, we found several of the items on our lists. And an organizer, while in Spanish, that struck Emilie’s fancy. I think the man was happy to have a customer on a hot Valencian afternoon in August. And we were thrilled to have finally found some of our elusive items.
This week we’ve eaten at Emilie’s favorite restaurants and gone to the movies to see Mission Impossible at the Yelmo in Campanar. The film was in English but with Spanish subtitles so I felt like I improved my Spanish a little while we were watching. And we got to do something as a family.
Now Emilie is packed up and ready to go. We’ll spend this last day on the beach and then catch the train in the morning for Madrid so she can make her flight the next day at noon. She’ll be heading to my Mom’s in Portland for Fall break but she’ll be back here for Christmas and New Years. And in January she’ll turn 17. I think she’s itching to go and I know she’s tired of me asking ‘So you’ve remembered X.’ or ‘Don’t forget Y’. And I’ve heard the ‘Yeah, I got this.’ and ‘Mom, Stop, just Stop’, so many times as we’ve gone over the list. I know she’s probably more organized than I am – if that’s possible.
Time seems to be slipping through our fingers like water. But she’s on the right track and that’s what matters. I’ll try to remember that as we put our determined girl on that airplane to go so far away – all by herself.