The Other Side of What If…

This first week living in Lugo has been all about getting things set up. We are almost unpacked. And finally got internet yesterday. So, no more posts from my phone. It’s been a learning experience, for sure.

Our address has been the problem all along. Or the lack of one that anyone in this area understands. The internet installers contracted to set up our access to the rest of the universe, and to allow Jeff to work, had sent me a text every morning starting a week ago telling me they were on their way. Then, promptly at 8pm, after we had waited all day, would send another one telling us they had tried and failed to do so because we weren’t home. Which was not true. One of us was always home. We made sure of it.

I went back into Melide and shook the tree a bit with the MoviStar office. They told me there was nothing they could do. ‘It is a separate company.’ And they gave me the shrug. To which I told them that I didn’t care. I needed internet. Or, really, it was Jeff who needed it. He was tethering to his mobile. Sure, he still was getting 60 up and 20 down but we needed dedicated internet.

Days went by. Then yesterday, suddenly the guy calls me – why he couldn’t do this a week before, I do not know. Answering the phone with my sad Spanish is always a challenge but I actually understood what he was saying and managed to offer to send him my gps coordinates via WhatsApp. And voila! it worked. He came, he fiddled, and he left. We have internet. And then the satellite guy did the same thing. Phone call, WhatApp, and he materialized.

Our new tractor was delivered in the midst of all this, and they insisted upon giving Jeff a tutorial on all its features and then driving it into the barn. The owner of the shop, who barely wanted to deal with Jeff when he pointed to the picture to buy it, was here to deliver it with his son. All smiles. Jeff said his ingles was surprisingly improved in just a few days. A Christmas miracle! Perhaps he had attended the local language school in Melide. The sign out front says they teach English, German, French, and, wait for it, American. What is American? We don’t know. But I am hoping I can get a job at the school as a native speaker with phrases like ‘That’s totally cool!’ And where I ensure my students understand it’s called an elevator, not a lift. And that they should put their groceries in the trunk of the car, because a boot is something Hunter or Stuart Weitzman makes.

During the tractor tutorial, Fernando – my guy, arrived. With his own guys. They are large men and piled out of a tiny black VW Golf. It was like a clown car. They went through the house with a comb as I explained the issues and our hopes for the future. We made a prioritized list of how we want to approach the work. They will be here on Monday to begin digging.

‘We must do a study, Kelli. Then I will give you a budget for each thing. We will do them one at a time. But we must solve your water pressure and hot water problem right away.’

My morning cold showers would heartily agree with him. His compatriots all nodded in unison and took notes in little matching notebooks. They had on the same shirts with the same logos. So, it looks professional. But we will wait and see. So far, they seem very nice.

And, another miracles of miracles – Amazon delivered our test order. Well, that’s sort of relative. They actually went to the next door neighbours. Looking out his upstairs office window, Jeff knew there was no way in hell our next door neighbour buys anything off Amazon – or even the internet. So he shouted down from his office.

‘Go to the gate! I think Amazon is trying to deliver our package. He’s at the neighbour’s gate’ Jeff was on a conference call.

I know why people here leave rubber boots by their doors. Nothing to do with farming or mud. It’s to quickly get to the gate to receive their packages. If you have ever seen the Chevy Chase movie Funny Farm, with the crazy mail man. Yeah, that. I ran out in my socks across the damp grass, just as he got to the gate. I think I surprised him, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t going to wait. I shot out of the door so fast I forgot my mask and had to cover my face with my arm. He just handed me the package and grunted.

Later, the same day, we got another delivery from regular Correos – Amazon had split the order – and that woman just laid on the horn until Jeff went to meet her (again, he forgot his mask). She threw the package to him and took off like a shot.

But we don’t care. All this proves is that we are here. Really here. We can get mail and services, and everything. Like real live people. And speaking of real live people, we found out we are number 84 and 85 of immigrants who have moved to Palas since 2006. It was in the local news paper and everything. 50% of the immigrant population, of which we are proud members, are Portuguese or Romanian. Many from South and Central America, or the Caribbean. But we are the the newest, and the Americans. Kind of an island unto ourselves.

We felt light as a feather yesterday evening, having finally accomplished so many things in just one day. It’s as though the dam is broken. We celebrated with a walk down to our local village and enjoyed a beverage on the terrace in the fading light. The same four guys play cards each evening, slapping the table loudly and shouting at each other. The bartender has seen us before so the snacks, the ones that come with the beverages, have become more customized. He now knows Jeff doesn’t eat the anchovies so he gives them a miss.

Over his beer, I heard something I wouldn’t have thought possible 5 years ago.

‘We have a list! Projects! Things to do! We aren’t looking at the four walls of that apartment anymore. Not afraid to go out.’ We each have our own lists. And space to do them.

Tracking the health data from our Garmin watches, we’ve both noticed a trend. Our stress levels in Valencia were in the 40’s and 50’s, so medium stress. Here? The meter struggles to get above 20. All of the other health indicators are moving markedly in the right direction. The air is so clean here, our air purifiers, which used to run 24 hours a day in our apartment, barely kick on unless we have a fire in the fireplace. And even then, they don’t go into the red zone like they did in Valencia on most normal days.

All of this tells me we made the right choice for us. I sit here looking out the window of my very own writing room, across a green field dotted with white buildings and red roofs. The wind is blowing and the clouds are drifting past suspended on a deep blue sky. Pilgrims peer through our open gate and some stop to look at the house. Just like we did. Dreaming of what it would be like to live here. Jeff counts them because there are so few this year with the perimeter lockdown. Sometimes, I hear the click of their poles in advance of their arrival. It took us a couple of years, a pandemic, and gobs of patience, but we made it happen. So I know what those people who look at our house are feeling. ‘What if…?’ And I can relate. Because, we’re just a few days on the other side of What if? And I’m learning just how good it feels.

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