Stories. Telling stories. More specifically, my story. All day, every day, a hundred people ask me ‘Is this your house?’ I say yes. ‘How long have you lived here?’ I tell them. Then ‘How did you end up in Spain?’
My story used to take longer to tell. Sometimes, if I am not busy I will provide further color, but mostly, I just provide the much, much abbreviated facts. ‘Walked the Camino. Went home and told my husband we should move to Spain. He said yes. Six months later we landed in Valencia on a dark and stormy night during Fallas with four suitcases.’
Then, I finish their order. After their jaws re-hinge themselves, they always ask ‘And how did you end up here?’ Pointing to the house.
‘It was October 2020. No one was walking the Frances. We went for a walk and saw the sign on the gate. Se Vende. Called the owners and six months later we were living here.’
This elicits Oooh’s and Ahh’s. Some ‘You’re my hero.’ But for all of you who have faithfully followed this blog for the past few years you know it was a crazy, mad-cap journey of nonsense, potholes, skinned knees, heart attacks (a couple of literal ones), a car crash, and much much more. But I would never say any of that to these Pilgrims. Mostly, because I am bored of my own story. And none of them would believe it all if I told them, anyway. Besides, I’ve always believed forward is better than back. The future is where I belong. The past is behind me, and perpetually looking back is a fruitless exercise.
If it’s a quiet moment between waves of Pilgrims, I sometimes take them back toward the barn to show them where the cabins will be. Our vision for the future. Our dreams for an oasis where Pilgrims can chill out. Where we, Jeff and I, aren’t the epicenter. Where it’s their stories that will take center stage.
In the telling of our future story I sometimes get discouraged. Like a bedtime story, it feels like I’m telling it reassure myself. We have just come out of August holidays. In August, Spain shuts down. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, gets done during August. No permit approvals or rejections, no well digging, no laundry room/bathroom building. And getting Solar Panels installed? Nada! My attempts to get two truckloads of leña (firewood) delivered so it could dry in the heat of summer went unanswered. Next year it will be delivered in June.
My friend, Carmela, walked down the road from her little stone house up the way, with her sister, and we chatted about my lack of progress over many cervezas. We speak ingles at my house. Español at theirs. That’s our agreement.
‘You need to go to Lugo. This is what we did for our permissions. The guy smoked like a chimney in his office stacked with mountains of papers. When he offers you a cigarette, even if you don’t smoke, you take it. We smoked five cigarettes each while he looked for our application,’
I laughed ‘That seems like a fire hazard.’
They shrugged. ‘You smoke with the guy, he gives you the stamp. He pulled out our application from a stack’ she held her hand four feet high, ‘after looking for a hour, then stamped it and handed it back. You need to go to Lugo.’
I called Diego, our contractor, and suggested that this approach might move things along. We could go smoke with the approver. Diego is coming out to the house today to discuss it.
Maybe I am telling Pilgrims this future story to keep it alive for myself. There are days I wonder if it will ever really happen. Will I still be manning just the food truck next year? Or even the year after? Telling Pilgrims they need to move on down the road 300 meters to get coffee in the next village where there is a bathroom, because I don’t have permission to build one yet? I certainly hope not. It is costing me business as €€€ walk away.
Jeff gets frustrated. ‘This is why expanding the tax base in this country is nigh impossible. They aren’t set up to do business. They are set up to celebrate bureaucracy!’
At this point, I can’t disagree with him. But I am trying my best, in the midst of everything, to remain positive and hopeful. The walking season has just seven weeks left. And a lot can happen over a quiet winter when the Pilgrims are gone.
Things are looking up, a bit. Carlos, my leña connection, came today. He will deliver my two truck loads of firewood ‘Maybe Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, Kelli. We will see which day.’ Translated, this means it will arrive in roughly ten days, or three weeks, give or take. So I have that to look forward to. Our tractor is now set to arrive ‘any day.’ Which means within eight weeks. Mas o menos. And while it’s Jeff’s birthday this week, he’s buying me something to keep my spirits up. My new wood chipper should be here soon. So I can take out my frustration about everything going on right now on our mountain of branches from all the chestnut trees.
‘Take that Turismo!’ As I cram a giant branch into the hatch ‘How’s that feel, patrimonio?’
Like popping those sheets of plastic packing bubbles, there is something incredibly satisfying about chipping branches. Although, right now I am unsure if there are enough branches on the farm to alleviate all the frustrations generated by misty labyrinth that is Spanish bureaucracy. Please let this story have a happy ending. 🙏