Happy Gratitude Day!

I’ve said it before. I don’t love Thanksgiving, for a host of reasons. But I’ll admit, it does feel weird to be walking around and it’s just another day in Valencia. It’s also weird that the ‘Black Friday’ signs are every where here. In Brazil the signs said ‘Black Day’, but its the same thing. Most retailers had a sale that has lasted all week. No ‘Destructor de Puertas’ here at 4 am on the Friday after Thanksgiving. There is no way the Spanish would get up early for that nonsense.

But in honor of the holiday I did cook a roast chicken and vegetables – we don’t like turkey. And I passed on my family recipe for Scalloped Potatoes to our oldest child. He’s clearly cooking up a feast in Boulder with his girlfriend and their cat. I was happy that someone in the next generation asked for the recipe.

While the chicken was in the oven, we ventured out and enjoyed a beverage and waited for it to cook. And we did our usual ‘What are we grateful for this year?’, that we always do. And with this being our first Thanksgiving in Valencia – a new country and a new city – we have plenty to be grateful for. So here goes:

I’m grateful we live here this year. Last year, it was still just beyond our reach. This year, we’re here, we’re settled. We’re home.

I’m grateful for all the people I’ve met who are part of my life now. Both in person and virtually. They’ve enhanced it in ways they can’t imagine, and I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I’ve needed to this year without them.

I’m grateful for letting go. Sometimes in life we let things build up. Old hurts or old baggage. Sometimes it takes us longer than we’d like to leave that stuff behind. No amount of compensation can speed up the process or grease the skids. I guess it takes as long as it takes. But I’m grateful I am making progress in that direction.

I’m grateful for old Friends. People we’ve known for years who are still in our lives. People who, no matter the miles, are still those we can count on. Who accept us for who we are – foibles, warts and all – and who know we will be there no matter what. And who will be there for us. There is comfort in that.

And, I’m grateful for Family. Both the one I grew up with, and Jeff and the kids; the one we made together. Families aren’t perfect. They can drive us crazy! But in the end, they’re ours and no one else knows us quite like they do.  But they love us anyway, and we love them.

My wish for you – all who read this blog – is that you know I’m grateful for you. Your suggestions and help has been invaluable over the last year. I hope you’re spending this day with people who make your life better. And that the next year brings many more blessings than the last. Happy Gratitude Day!

El Jefe y Keli

I couldn’t love our neighborhood more. Seriously. It reminds me of living in San Francisco in the early 90’s and in Seattle’s Belltown in the mid 90’s. In San Francisco in the Haight or in the Aves, you could catch Robin Williams working out new material in one club or another. In Seattle, you could catch Nirvana or Pearl Jam at the Crocodile for nothing when they were working on new songs.

Benimachlet has that same vibe, sans the famous people but I love it nonetheless. I sent Jeff to make hair appointments for us at our local hair salon. I figured his Spanish is good enough to work through it.  He sent me a photo of this post it. He is now officially El Jefe (‘The Boss’ in Spanish) and I am just ‘Keli’ since ‘Kelli’ would mean my double ‘L’s’ would be pronounced totally incomprehensibly. So it’s The Boss and Keli.

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Tonight, Sunday night, El Jefe and I went out in our neighborhood to have a drink and some tapas. Even on a Sunday evening there is alot going on in the square around our local church. A wedding had just finished and the revelers were in front of the church with their families.

We stopped for some wine at our favorite watering hole. We were there the day they first opened so we try to give them our custom whenever possible. But we got hungry and they don’t have a menu that was commiserate with our level of hunger. we went through the square on our way to another of our favorite tapas bars. On the way, we found a group spontaneously dancing. Not an organized thing, since when we walked home behind the folks with the speaker and the music, it was clear it was just a ‘lets turn on some music and see what happens’ type of deal. The crowd was loving it and readily joined in. Seeing dancers on the street in Valencias isn’t that unusual.

I love our tapas place. The owner is an old hippie and the food is top notch. The price of the cerveca and vino blanco are to our liking, as well. The place is cool and he totally digs us, so it’s fun to go there. The service isn’t typically hands off and it’s easy to get another drink and we feel at home.

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On the way home, we went around our summer outdoor theatre in front of the church. ‘Cinema a la Fresca’ enjoyed by all in the neighborhood on a Sunday night. We love the home grown eclectic vibe and the spectrum of folks who gather to enjoy a good film on a warm summer night. Back home, we used to go to Chateau St. Michelle and the Red Hook Brewery in Woodinville, WA with our kids in the summer to enjoy family movies outdoors. These are more arthouse films, but it’s no less enjoyable.

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Afterwards, walking back we passed by a shop front with an open door. A group of neighborhood gentlemen were beginning a game of dominos. We see this everywhere in the evenings around our apartment. Groups of older guys playing dominoes for money in cafes or parks. It serious business here. But this group was a fun and friendly bunch who was happy to share a ‘Guapa!’ as I took their photo.

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Before we moved to Valencia, I would never have believed we would live in a neighborhood like this. But every day, every time I turn a corner, I’m glad we chose to land here.

When I went to my hair appointment on Friday morning, I had a conversation with my neighborhood hairdresser, Pili, in Spanish. It wasn’t pretty, but she was so surprised at the progress I made, her enthusiasm for my particular brand of Spanish was infectious and made me feel proud of how far I’ve come. And then she threw me a curveball. Benimaclet is a very traditional Valencian neighborhood. People here DO NOT speak English so it’s easy to practice Spanish. But they also speak ‘Valenciano’ – which is another language entirely. Much like Catalan. And Pili is determined that I learn that too, so she’s coaching me. But the biggest compliment she gave me is that my pronunciation is ‘like a Valencian’, which I have been told before, so I’m on the right track.  I think we’ve found out home in Benimaclet. And, as everyone knows,  there’s no place like home.

What if we ever needed…3/4 of an Inch

Hell froze over today. Well, since it’s so bloody hot and humid I sort of wish it actually did, but our stuff ARRIVED at 1pm today. It actually came with a phone call and three guys who could not have been nicer. I paid for their lunch afterwards. I’m not a person who has ever held a grudge. Don’t have time for it so all that nonsense was in my rear view mirror 30 seconds after the first dolly load crossed our door step.

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They found parking and unloaded in record time. As planned, we had them bring all the boxes and bikes up to our apartment and we put the sofa in our parking space in the garage. We needed to measure it before I schedule the crane service. I was on cloud nine watching them go back and forth. Emilie stayed down by the truck to make sure no one made off with any boxes while the guys were filling the lobby.

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Seeing our things again was like reconnecting with old friends. And unpacking was so much fun!  All my kitchen stuff that was of such interest to US Customs and Border control made it with only one glass pot lid that was shattered.  All my Le Creuset – check. More of my Crate and Barrel dishes – yup. All our flatware and my box of odds and ends kitchen stuff. My beloved Vitamix made it. Jeff checked the amperage (I don’t even pretend to understand it) and it works on the electricity here. We just have to take it to a local place to get the plug/cord swapped out.

My pans are here too! And our golf clubs and bikes. Jeff’s computer stuff and his keyboard that he’s been waiting for. All the tools for his first love – the motorcycle. We spent the day unpacking boxes and washing things. Our bedding from home – sheets and towels that we could have bought locally but we loved them too much to leave behind. Then there were the more sentimental things. The things that, when you surround yourself with them, make you feel like you’re truly home.

Our refrigerator magnet collection from trips we took as a family. Jeff always hated how junky it made it look in an open plan kitchen. I loved the reminder of all the things we did together. Tonight, I put them all on the fridge and he came home and smiled. Emilie and I had fun reminiscing about each one and telling funny stories about where they were purchased and some crazy thing that happened.

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The pictures came. Our wedding photo and some of the art that we had on the walls. Emilie unpacked the boxes in her room and it’s just about like it was in the US – only 5 times smaller. Her books, photos and all the small things that mean so much to her.

I unpacked the vacuum packed bags of our clothes and it seems we brought more than I remembered. I appears my ‘What if we ever…?’ philosophy might have gone a little too far. OK, if we ever go to Iceland again I have my Canada Goose parka and Jeff’s Mountain Hardwear parka. But living here I don’t think there will be a day that we’ll need either of those.

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My most egregious and embarrassing miscalculation was my discovery that I had 5 full boxes of shoes that were just for me. Luckily, Jeff had run an errand when I pulled them out of the pile in the dining room. Yeah, I knew I had a problem anyway but today it was in my face and before Jeff got home I needed to find somewhere for 5 boxes of shoes in El Compartimiento. But where to put them? The only place I had to spare was in the kitchen Gabinete and I knew the minute he got hungry I’d be ratted out. Emilie just shook her head but she wasn’t one to talk. She had 2 boxes of shoes for herself – OK, I’m a baaad influence.

So I started pulling out drawers and cabinets. I was sweating and panicked. What the hell was I going to do? I looked around and then I remembered we have drawers under the bed we bought. And those drawers are mostly covered by the duvet. I knew Jeff was barely using his closet so he wouldn’t even think about the drawers under the bed. Sure enough, they were empty. But as I placed my shoes, boots and sandals lovingly into their new, hidden home, I started counting and, well, I’m just ridiculous. Who needs 5 pairs of high suede boots here? I brought 3 pairs of rubber boots!  What was I thinking?

But that isn’t the capper. Tonight we went down to the garage after I was done unpacking the rest of the stuff and putting it away. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and my ability to cram things in every nook and hidden crannies. Organizing things for easy access later. Winter closet, stored. Yup, I was at the top of my organizational game. I hadn’t over packed afterall. I was a ‘just enough’ goddess.

I got into the elevator with a confident smug swagger that only a truly organized person pull off. Then we measured.

My beloved couch is 43 3/4 inches deep. I don’t care about the height because it passed that test. Our living room window is broken up into sections that are 43 inches. Not 44 inches – 43. And they can’t get any bigger, even if you take the windows out, because of the custom shutters that come down in tracks. So my couch won’t fit. So we went down and took all the wrapping from the move off and I actually talked to the couch.

‘Please couch – I know you’ve been through alot in the last 5 months but I need 3/4 of an inch – that’s all. Please give me 3/4 of an inch.’ I begged and pleaded.

Jeff measured again. I don’t think the couch was very forgiving after spending months in a container ship. It didn’t give up a millimeter. There will be no couch (at least not one from the US) inside El Compartimiento. With every victory, there is also defeat. I had gotten a little cocky with the shoes.

Tonight, Jeff is sporting his Keens, he’s smiling in a fresh pair of shorts and a shirt he hasn’t worn since February. That’s good enough for me.

Got’em – With a Little Help from my Friends

Before posting on my blog about my allergies, I hadn’t really told anyone here. My friends in the US knew about it because they knew me when I was sick. But after I found out, I would try to not make a huge deal out of it. In restaurants I would order around them. I didn’t want to be ‘One of Those People’ who make a production out of placing an order with a waiter. I was sure people would think I was just pretentious, not actually afraid of what I might be eating. It meant I popped a lot of Benedryl in the ladies room and skipped the wine.

Fast forward – I did the same here when eating out. You kind of start to learn the places that are safe and the food – even though the menu is in Spanish – that works for you. It can be limiting and I know being a culinary pioneer isn’t in my future. But I’m resigned to it and just happy when I find wonderful food I can eat.

But then I posted about it and my new friends here came out of the wood work and mounted a full scale Duck Egg hunt.  Sort of like Easter Bunny angels. The results are impressive. Maria – you found me my first dozen at El Corte Ingles.  I brought them the link you sent me and while we heard the one phrase we hear a lot on a daily basis ‘No, Impossible’, we asked other people in the store and Voila! there they were, on a bottom shelve next to the empty spot for Ostrich eggs.

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And then my English friend, Trish found a store that sells only eggs in Russafa. They have duck eggs! Other people started messaging me too. Sightings around town and Google maps directions to shops where they had seen them.

And finally, the farm got back to me last night. They said they would sell me some duck eggs for a Euro an egg – what I expected to pay. But just this morning, they emailed me back. They had discussed it and decided since it was an allergy and not a preference, they would sell them to me for .50 cents. Now I even have a Duck Guy in Spain. Who could ask for more?

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So I am flush with duck eggs now. Thank you everyone who messaged, commented and WhatsApp’d me. I’m forever grateful. A little onions, garlic, olive oil and avocado, and I thought of you all and smiled when I enjoyed my first duck egg omelet in Spain. It wasn’t the prettiest one I’ve ever made but it tasted like the best one I’ve ever eaten. My life just got a lot better – with a little help from my friends. Namaste’.

Tribunal de las Aguas

A while back, I learned of the Tribunal de las Aquas. AKA The Water Board. No, not that kind of ‘water board’. There is no torture, and liquid never makes an actual appearance. But it is all about the water rights of the Valencian Plateau and the ‘Waterlands’ herein.

To recap, this is the oldest judicial body in Europe, dating back to Roman times in one incarnation or another. It’s actually called out in the Spanish constitution, post Franco, expressly and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural body. And in Valencia, it’s a sacred, beloved institution.

They meet every Thursday, at the Apostles gate at the side of the Cathedral, and convene at noon – precisely. Seriously, when the bells of the Cathedral ring, these guys ceremoniously file over and have a seat in their little ring. Ready to hear the important water cases that will be brought before them. The men represent the water areas controlled by the 8 main canals that draw water off the Turia River. Both from the right and left bank, the arguments are all oral, immediate and transparent. The representative from the water area in question abstains to maintain total fairness. It’s rules and laws are understood by all. And the ‘wisdom’ demonstrated by the Tribunal is sacrosanct.

I had told Jeff about it before, but he had never seen it. And since we were already in Central Valencia (Colon) at 11:30 looking at 360 degree cameras at El Corte Ingles. And since we had time and nothing better to do, we decided to go by the central Catheral, to the Apostles gate, and watch the pomp and circumstance of the institution. And we hit the excitement jackpot because they had a case. It’s not every week or even every month that they get a case. So it was packed.

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We got there early and watched the court bailiff and ceremonial head, set out the chairs. Each chair has the water area’s name embossed in gold on the back of the chair. These are placed behind a metal gated fence to keep out the riff raff – us. Then precisely at noon, the bailiff will lead the members of the synods from the palace across the street dressed in robes and carrying his ‘water staff’.

After they are all seated, he will call out each area twice. In the video, you will hear him use the word ‘Denuncia‘. This is not a legal concept we have in the US. When a person has a problem with another person, or company, or institution, they can officially denounce them. This generally requires them to go to the local police station and file an official denunciation. But to file a denunciation under false pretenses is a serious crime here.

We had a problem with a car rental company a few weeks ago. They never gave us a car and they still charged us the fee. I was so angry and a friend suggested I go to the local police station and ‘denounce’ them. I was clearly confused and he explained that if I did that, I would get a piece of paper with the official record of the denunciation. I could fax that to their head office and see if that would get me my money back.

This sounded scary to me and I asked if there were any limits on it. Can anyone denounce anyone? The answer is yes, anyone can denounce anyone. But again, filing a denouncement under false pretenses is a crime. He said that when we file to renew our visa, we will have to go to the police station and get an official record and it will list any denouncements against us. I understand landlords can make them against you and you can make them against a landlord if there is a problem. Its strange.

Anyway, for the Water Tribunal, the one party – the one feeling like they have been wronged, answers the call when the bailiff calls out and asks for any ‘Denuncia’ for the particular synod. And today, the call was answered. The crowd, like Romans in the Coliseum in Rome, were ecstatic.  A case!

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Jeff and I had become separated. This happens often because I’m usually trying to get to the front because I’m short, and I like to see the action. He’s so tall, he can stand further back, and people hate it when he’s up front blocking their view. We had gotten there early as they were setting up so I got right up front. I looked over and Jeff was a ways away, talking to a tiny little old lady who came up to his belly button, who only spoke Spanish and Valenciano. I gave him a questioning look so he messaged me in WhatsApp.

‘You know I’m always a hit with the old ladies.’ he wrote – reference to our honeymoon cruise of newlyweds and nearly deads. He had been a big hit with the nearly deads at the Bingo games.

‘Who’s your girlfriend?’ I asked him.

‘I don’t know, but she’s determined that I understand what is going on so we’re using Google translate and she’s fascinated by it. A lot of pulling on my arm to say things and so she can see the screen.’

I look over and I could see her face through a break in the crowd and Jeff explained I was his wife. She said something to him and smiled at me.

‘She says you’re ‘guapa’.’ he said.

‘What does that mean?’ It sounded like Italian booze or that I might be crazy.

‘I don’t know – you look it up. I’m busy trying to keep up with her.’ She was pulling on his arm again.

‘Well, enjoy.’ And I turned back to the action.

We watched the case unfold. The President of the Tribunal had to abstain from this case because the party bringing the grievance was from his side of the river.  The Vice President led the questioning and the verdict was handed down. One party was not happy. The old man who won was gleeful! No documents, completely oral arguments and verdicts. No court record. And the verdict is final – no appeals.

I got out of the crowd and saw the old lady had absconded with Jeff. She led us over to the Water Tribunal museum across the alley, where she kissed us both and told us we were good people – in Valenciano. Then she left. I laughed.

‘You know it surprised me not at all that you attracted the smallest old lady in this square.’

He smiled. ‘Oh I know. She lives in Valencia and I think she just comes down here to watch on Thursdays for something to do.’

‘I think if you offered to put her on your shoulders, she would have done it.’ I said, shaking my head.

‘Definitely.’

So now he’s experienced the Water Tribunal and made a new, ancient, friend – and of course, he got the best one of the year so far. We agreed we’ll go back again in November on a cold drippy day, when tourists are thin on the ground, to watch it like locals. But they do put on a good show.

Good Wine, Good Friends & a Little Kindness

The days seems longer here. I think it’s because they’re so packed with things we’ve never done before. Navigating, learning how to do things and seeing stuff that leaves us in awe.

My day started with grabbing a Valenbisi bike (the best bike service anywhere) and riding 25 minutes to the city center to meet up with some friends, to go out to an area east of the city about 60 miles away. We were going to go for a full day of wine tasting and then lunch – or very late lunch by American standards. I am learning so I ate a very heavy breakfast.

Our first stop was at a winery called Chozas Carrascal.

http://www.chozascarrascal.com/en/la-bodega/our-vineyards.html

It sits on a plateau about 700 meters above the sea. When it’s cold in Valencia, it can be snowing up there. They have 100 hectres of grapes and 20 hectres of olive groves. A hectre is about 2.5 acres, for those of us unfamiliar with this measurement. They make wonderful wine and excellent olive oil. Both of which, I bought. The wines made at this amazing vineyard are unique in that they have varying special designations (Designation of Origin) as all the grapes in their wines are grown on those 100 hectres of land.

It reminded me so much of Napa Valley or even Eastern Washington state that I was homesick for about a minute. The gentleman who took us around asked me where I was from. I told him I had lived in California wine country for several years. He said he had never been there but had hoped to go someday. I told him he was wrong.

‘Look around. This is exactly like Napa Valley used to be 25 years ago. No crowds and a more simple feel. You have the best of Napa Valley right here. You don’t need to go there, you have this.’

They were lovely people and the tasting and tour were generous. At one point after we left, I broke the bottle of olive oil I bought from them (I won’t go into how), they heard about it and they saw that another bottle was brought to me to the village where we had lunch. I was so touched by their generosity and thoughtfulness.

Then we went to the town of Requena. Of course, it has it’s own castle. But we went to taste some wines and to take a walk into the past – the distant past. To the time when the Moors were ruling all of Spain and they utilized the caves below to store grain, (they weren’t drinkers) before the Spanish were storing wine in them. We all know the Moors are no longer running the show so the caves were converted to wine cellars and the rest is, literally, history. On some of the walls, you could see the finger prints of the people who had lined them with mortar centuries ago. Some of it was chipping off but most of it was still there.

In the winery we went to, the caves go back to times when they stored the wine in large terra-cotta vessels, so large we have no idea how they could ever have gotten them down there. We watched a video of donkey’s pulling them in 100 year old photos, but the stairs I went down couldn’t have been traversed by donkeys and there wasn’t an opening large enough to accommodate the immense size of the cisterns. But there they were, the vessels are still down there and you can see them in the pictures. The wine was great too and Anna, who showed us around, was very nice and while she said here English wasn’t good, it was excellent.

Our lunch at Los Cubillos Gastrobar, ( https://restauranteloscubillos.com/ ) right below the castle walls, was a Menu del Dia – of the usual 3 courses, but the food was local and one of the tastiest I’ve had since arriving here in March. The staff was really nice too. And spending two hours to eat lunch isn’t half bad. But if I get asked about American politics one more time I’ll jump off a castle. And here I can make good on that threat!

As lunch ended and it was time to go back to Valencia, my replacement olive oil arrived. I was so surprised. There was no reason for them to do this for me and yet they had – unbidden. I’ll enjoy it that much more every time I drizzle on something or dip something in it. A taste from a special day, with new friends in a place I’ve never been. I’m smiling thinking about it again already.

Its Official

Today, we got our Spanish National Identity cards. It’s a big moment that took place in a humble building on the other side of the city, and they’re resting in our wallets now. So we’re good to go until we need to renew our visas in 11 months.

Everything here is a process of doing something, learning you did it wrong, correcting your mistake, then going back and completing it. Hopefully, this requires only one additional round trip. The only thing I’ve done right the first time is getting us our permanent Metro passes. I looked it up, actually had all the documents it said were required on the website, took them all to the Metro station offices and we got our cards then and there. I know the agent was surprised by my baffled look when he handed us our cards. Nothing is ever supposed to be that easy here – and yet it was.

I think it emboldened Jeff. He went online and signed us up for Valencsibi – the bike ride sharing service that is a whole 36 euros a year. In three weeks time, when our cards come, we’ll be able to ride bikes all over the city, like the locals. Valencia is the most bike friendly city I’ve ever encountered. Bank paths are down every major thoroughfare and soon we’ll be taking advantage of them. Riding to the river and down to the beach.

These small wins are starting to add up and it’s helping my peace of mind. Slowing down and cutting myself some slack has happened organically.  And has come just in time. Moving to another country is stressful. We aren’t surrounded by a big family that might insulate us from every single thing that is different or new starting right outside our front door.

Expectations I had before coming here are all gone. Now it’s just a matter of getting up and just experiencing things. We can’t anticipate or control. And letting go of the need for either of these things is starting to make for a happier life. For both of us.

Standing at the immigration building today, I realized it’s only been a month since we were in that line the last time. ONE MONTH.  In so many ways, it feels like a year. We’ve accomplished a lot since then. Things aren’t so foreign as they were before and going back to a place I had been before on that first day, helped me realize that we’re OK. It’s all going to be OK.

The lists are done. Now it’s time to live – just like we did back home. Real life starts today.

 

 

Celebrating Fallas

We’re embracing the festival of Fallas and we’ve made some new friends who offered to show us what Fallas is all about. We met in the Plaza de Ayuntament, where the mascleta is blown off every day at 2pm and at midnight on weekends.  The large fallas in the plaza is the falla for everyone who visits the city. It’s so they can feel a part of the celebration, even though they don’t have a fallas of their own from their home neighborhood.

There are over 700 fallas (monuments or effigies) erected at intersections around the city. Each area has a group of Fallero or Fallera who plan, coordinate, raise money for and build the fallas for their area. It’s some people’s full time job. And in the photos below you can see why.

They are truly works of art and the tradition goes back a thousand years. It’s evolved over time and morphed during Franco’s time. He loved Fallas and had a balcony built just so he could overlook the mascleta and enjoy the parade from the town hall.

Each Fallas group selects a Fallara who will represent their fallas. Each fallas must have one of these girls to represent them in parades, etc. Each girl selected must have 4 dresses and all the combs, etc. which are very expensive. A dress is about 7-10 thousand euros – EACH! So you can not be poor and be a Fallera. Some families take out loans to pay for it – it’s an honor.

The fallas are both whimsical and play to local politics, the politics of Spain (think Catalonya) and international politics. In our pictures you will see ALOT of mocking of Donald Trump. I took some photos of those. My favorite is the one titled ‘Air Force Juan’ because I love puns. One Especial Fallas was titled ‘Egos’ and outlined all the events of the year where BIG Egos were front and center. You’ll see a photo I called ‘The Three Amigos’ from that Fallas.

Each of these fallas below, will be burned on the 19th between 10pm and 1am. It’s symbolizes the coming of Spring. Burning the old and welcoming the new. A very Buddhist concept in a very Catholic country.

After our 6 mile walk today, we sat down with our new friends and had breakfast and learned all about the area. Tomorrow, we’ll go to the lighting on Cuba street and I’ll post photos of those. It looks like it will be spectacular!

 

Nature
Rusafa – Fallas 2018

Rusafa 3
Rusafa – Fallas 2018

Rusafa 4
Rusafa – Fallas 2018

Train station
Nord train station – Fallas 2018

Colon
Colon – Fallas 2018

DT and PUTIN and UN
The Three Amigos – Fallas 2018

DT and UN missles
DT and RocketMan Fallas 2018

DT on Air Force Juan
Riding AirForce Juan – DT Fallas 2018

DT puppet
DT – Fallas 2018

Especiale 2
Fallas 2018

Especiale
Fallas Especiale

Fallayeria
Fallayera – Fallas 2018

girls on parade
Fallayera – Fallas 2018

Nature
Fallas 2018

New Friends
New Friends

Plaza de Ayundamente
Plaza de Ayuntament – Valencia Fallas 2018

Spanish Yoga

I have been neglecting my yoga practice. Even back in the US, before we left I wasn’t being diligent. I was eating junk food and not myself. So I looked up a studio near our apartment and emailed the yogi to inquire about classes. Could I take an introductory one, could I go if I don’t understand Spanish yoga terms very well? Sergio emailed me back and said to come.

So, I left Jeff at home and took myself to the yoga studio. It’s in an apartment building on Dr. Vincent Zaragoza street. The shady looking guy lingering in the doorway told me where to go. And it turned out he was right. I was greeted genuinely by the yogi and told – more mimed – how it would go, where to put my stuff and everything. I did as I was told and then he took me into the studio.

I was early so I did some meditation and breathing as others began to arrive. The yogi introduced me and others in the class were surprised to learn where I was from and that I know zero Spanish but am trying to take a yoga class. They were very helpful as I made some errors.

They asked me ‘Do you know yoga?’  I told them I did and had taken classes in many cities so it’s OK that I am not familiar with the studio here. They smiled and then the class began. This was not a ‘Scottsdale bored house-wife’ yoga. This was not a ‘Seattle intense hot’ yoga. Or a NYC ‘Quasi-soul cycle’ yoga. This was the real deal.

We weren’t flowing and just doing poses as best we could. Nooo. This yogi adjusted everything I did. We did ‘Oommm’s’ and other chants. There weren’t a lot of poses, but they were intense. Incredible controlled breathing. It was HARD. And today, I’m more sore than I ever was at any previous yoga class I have ever taken.

I’m going back again on Tuesday. I figure if I do this a couple times a week I won’t need to join a gym. And my chi should be aligned in no time. Namaste

A Place to Lay My Head

We finally got to Valencia late last evening. Our day had been 35 hours long, including a near riot in the Madrid Airport over cancelled flights, perceived line cutting and general injustice by some of the passengers. The general mayhem and lack of anyone in charge only added to the seeming thirst for blood. To say it was a crazy day is an understatement.

I filmed the chanting and fist pounding that gained steam over the hours we stood in line to get re-booked on a later flight. I understood none of the ‘Protest Spanish’ I heard, but I started singing ‘We shall overcome’ under my breath until Jeff gave me ‘that look’ so I stopped.

Spain is an interesting country already.

‘Now this is why we moved here.’ said Jeff with a smile, looking around.

Only he could muster enthusiasm after being awake for 30 hours at that point. Watching the cast of characters with great interest.

Finally, we landed in Valencia and made it to our new apartment. Linda, our savior, was there to greet us with the keys and hugs.

‘How are you still smiling after all this?’ she asked. ‘You truly have had the hardest time with the visa stuff, and now this. Crazy.’

I just laughed. ‘What choice do we have?’  She agreed, we had none.

The airline (I hate American Airlines forever now) had lost one of our checked bags, but at least we had 4 of them, so we got them up to the flat and Jeff got to see where he’d be living from now on. Remember, we came from a house that was 4500 sq. feet. He’s used to manicured lawns, gardening service, a pool guy. His face said it all and he swiftly dubbed it ‘The Compartment’.

‘I don’t think you can really call it an ‘apartment’ cause it’s so small.’

Clearly, he didn’t live where I did in college. But we unpacked and found that our luggage had been gone through by persons unknown. One of whom had left me her old, grungy tennis shoes and made off with a pair of my Louboutins. She should be easy to spot. The baggage handler in the high heels with the red soles. Black soul, more like.

Also missing, were some of my kids’s pictures, a bathing suit, some jeans and a few other things, including my thyroid medication and asthma meds. I sat on the ground, because we have not one stick of anything to sit on, and I couldn’t speak. I felt totally violated. This is all we have – until some larger things come on the boat. But this is the precious stuff. And someone rummaged through it.

I managed to get it together, as Jeff talked me off a ledge. We were already missing a bag that never made it out of the Miami Airport. Now this. Jeff tried to inflate the air mattress, but the converters didn’t actually convert and they caught fire. Yes, in the first 30 minutes in our apartment, our beds caught fire! The place was filled with smoke. The cherry on the shit sundae of our day.

‘Screw the air mattresses. We’re going to a hotel.’ And he took me across town, to the place I stayed when I came alone in November, on my scouting trip. We had dinner at 11pm in the hotel restaurant and hit the hay. But I woke up at 2 and couldn’t get back to sleep.

I kept thinking. ‘Why have we come all this way? Why would we put ourselves in a position to be robbed? What the hell are we doing?’

My crying woke Jeff up and he stayed up with me until 5am, before we both fell back to sleep. At 9:30, breakfast and coffee helped get me upright because we had a busy day ahead.

Linda met us and took us, first to register at the town hall. Armed with that paper and some hastily taken passport photos from the train station (not my best face day – Jeff looked like he just got off a Tahitian vacation, damn him!), we went to immigration and applied for our long term visa. The visa they give you at the consulate in LA is only for 3 months. The long term one is applied for here. It will take 3 weeks to get the card and then we’re good to go. But they gave me a white piece of paper that is more precious than gold.

We need the immigration paper to get internet. What?!  Yes, you heard that right. The internet provider wants our immigration paper to decide if we’re really staying in Spain long term – we have a long term lease on a flat – and then they’ll give us internet (maybe next week). This is my first ‘I don’t get it.’ But we have to do it, so we did.

I was a little woozy, standing in line with the other immigrants, but we did it all before noon. Then we decided to truly unpack – headed back to the apartment to face the bags again, get organized (I always feel better after I make a list), make a list of what we need urgently, and headed out to do some shopping. There is a place about 5 miles out of town that has everything. It’s like a giant shopping city. To call it a ‘mall’ is to diminish what this area truly is. It’s massive!

So 4 hours later, and tomorrow they deliver a bed, refrigerator, desk, desk chair (for Jeff), kitchen table and chairs and a few other things. We bought bedding and pillows and kitchen items that will not be coming on the boat in a few months, and we carried them home.

‘Shopping City’ as I’ve dubbed it, has a bus that takes you from the city center out to the big shopping area. IKEA runs it and if you become a ‘Family’ member, it’s free. So we did and actually ate at IKEA before coming back. Free cafe con leche. I’ve never enjoyed a meal more in my life,. Not the fanciest restaurant could compete with it today.

‘IKEA with no sleep, low blood sugar, and after 35 hour day we had yesterday? You’re a brave man.’ I said to Jeff, on the verge of tears for most of our wander through the maze.

‘No. You’ll feel better once we’re settled. We just need to bite the bullet.’

He’s right, and tomorrow – after booking us into the hotel again tonight – we will start to feel like we’re making strides to settle in. So far, we’ve only been yelled at 3 times today for doing things wrong. A bus driver, immigration person, a stranger. We have no idea what they said to us, and that’s a good thing. Perhaps, learning Spanish should be put off for a few weeks, until I feel less fragile. When I wake up and I know where I am and how to get to the bathroom. That’s when I’ll be OK being screamed at in a language I kind of understand.

Last Dance with Mary Jane

The shippers got the moving truck back to our house around 3:30 yesterday afternoon. I almost cried when they left. Our house is empty, except for the life raft (air mattress) in the bedroom and it  echos. Jeff can no longer mutter under his breath on the other side of the house without me hearing exactly what he’s saying. How do I know this? Experience.

All 14 computers are being recycled today and Mary Jane is en route to her new owner. Our goodbye in the garage was brief, but I did acknowledge how much she’s helped us get ready for today. Jeff drove off with the Bill of Sale and the title clutched in his hand. I’ll collect him from his office at the end of the day.

Today, there are only a couple of things I need to get done. A sweep with a garbage bag to open every cupboard, drawer, closet, cubby, and ensure that they’re clear. A guy is coming at 11:30 to take the last of Jeff’s tools, so I’ll let him into the garage to take them away.

Jeff was happy this morning. A man who has spent his entire life gathering stuff, feels lighter letting go.

‘I think everyone should go through this process. It feels good.’ He said at 5 am laying in the dark.  ‘Even if the boat sinks with all the rest of our stuff, I would be OK.’

If there had been any light in the room, he would have seen my jaw drop. Jeff has had a much harder time with this process, than I have. Shucking all he’s worked so hard for. But it seems he’s turned a corner. I relate, because I feel the same way.

Yesterday, I paid our rent for March in Valencia. It made us both feel better that we’re good to go when we land. It’s been a long process, but the time has been necessary. Evolutions take time. Growth can be painful, but it’s always good. We’re ready to go.

The Shippers are Coming, The Shippers are Coming!!

Just like Paul Revere of Revolutionary legend. Yes – we got the word. The shippers are coming today! Everything is ready to go – labeled, numbered, and on the inventory sheet I created. I’ll just hand it to them and off they’ll go.

Again, this is a prime example of how much communication is key to a happy life. I have been begging them for the last 10 days for the exact date and time window they might be here. Apparently, not knowing is ‘very standard’ in this business, until the truck is leaving the stop before yours, to pick up your stuff.

If they had told me that they wouldn’t know anything until 24 hours before, I would have felt less sick to my stomach, and my nightmares and contingency planning wouldn’t be so far along. But they let me know late yesterday that the crew will be here between 5:30-6:30 pm today to get it all. I just spoke to the driver. Blood pressure, officially lower.

Last night, I picked up a rental car at the airport and today I’m all over the last odds and ends. I have wheels now, so going to the post office to ship some precious photos I forgot, to my Mom’s house is easy. And sending our accountant our tax stuff is a piece of cake. And arranging some banking things? No problem, when you can drive. I’m checking it all off the list.

Last night, before getting a car, we weighed our bags. Yeah. They needed more editing. So we’ve made some tough choices, again. I know they have clothes and shoes in Spain or I’d be freaking out right about now.

The assistant I hired in Valencia is setting up our internet, and we’re virtually looking at plans and megabytes and features together. Thank God for WhatsApp.

Friday, Mary Jane (our old truck) will go to her new home with one of Jeff’s co-workers. Then I’ll drop off some of our cups, vacuum cleaner, etc. at Goodwill. Sunday, a guy named Guillermo is coming to get our last TV, which means I’ll miss the finale of ‘Victoria’ on Masterpiece. Ugh. But for all our scheduling and rescheduling – I’ll take it!

Jeff just remarked how much happier I seem, not being a shut-in anymore, with my one fork and coffee mug, and a desperate need to communicate with him when he walks in the door at night. We’re essentially living in our bedroom now – like we’re college students, minus the homemade white lightening and patchouli. But it’s kind of fun. 5 days from now I’ll be picking him up at his office and heading the airport for leg one of our journey to a new life via LA.

The Grief of Goodbye

There are points in life – graduations, kids going off to college – where we both celebrate and we mourn. We buy cards and gifts and we cheer. And then we cry tears of joy and loss as we see the back side of our children or grandchildren, as they go off to new horizons, without us. Blessedly Capable.

Today is a day of grief for me. It’s not really anything I can put my finger on. It’s just been here with me all day. I’ve been calling airlines and purchasing more baggage allowances. But I have found out that I have too many and I need to cut out a bag.

So I opened up the offending bag and I can cut it out. It’s not the stuff. Its the idea. We are already down to nothing. And now, we’re down to less than nothing. Sigh. I take a deep breath, and realize I’ll have to donate some more stuff. But it’s not even that. What is it? I don’t even know.

I sat here on the couch and cried. Not about anything specifically, but the tears flowed. Perhaps it’s when I booked my daughter’s ticket to Barcelona in May. We won’t see her until then. Maybe it’s because today, my son is opening his own bank account. One that I will no longer be on – he’s nearly 20, so it’s time and I won’t be banking at that bank anymore. It’s like the threads of the ties that bind are fraying all on the same day.

I wanted to tell the woman at American Airlines that I needed that suitcase. Please let me take it – it’s part of all I’ve got left. But she wouldn’t have cared. I’m not sure why I care so much. But I do.

We went to Iceland a few years ago. We visited the spot on the earth where the North American and European plates are born. Where deep in the earth, the crust is being created and pushed towards the surface. I always imagined it to be a very painful process as the rock reaches the light of day. I guess that’s how I feel now. Like we’re creating new ground – and sometimes there is pain in doing it.

Today, I’m just going to sit in it. The sadness and the grief of letting go of an old life before embracing a new one. But as the pain washes over me, the grief of goodbye has overwhelmed me – no explanations, no excuses – it just is.

Visa Approved!!

Just heard – we are good to go. Its a little surreal. If we hadn’t had to provide one more month of financial statements, it would have taken only 3 days. I love the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles. Crazy! After all that – it was quick and painless.

Crazy Ideas

It’s strange. Thinking back, when we started this whole crazy idea of doing this – we targeted February 28th as the day we would fly out to Spain. And now it’s going to happen. In the end, I fooled the Gods of Document Hades – I think I wore them out!

I just booked our flights. I’m not sure how it all dovetailed together, but it did and our project planning all worked out. In software parlance, we finished UAT in plenty of time.

I included a photo in this post. Its a book my husband bought for me. He had no idea how may crazy ideas I could really have when he gave it to me. But he soon learned that the sky is the limit as far as my imagination is concerned. So, here we go!

If you could see me right now, you’d see a HUGE smile, that will be celebrated later tonight with the last bottle of champagne I’ve been saving for this occasion. The sound of the cork popping will be like the sounds of the fireworks of Fallas, we will get to experience in a few weeks.

Here’s to dreaming and taking roads less traveled. Here’s to all the crazy ideas and believing that anything is possible. Here’s to living the life you’ve imagined. It can be done. Ask me. I know.

Check, Check, Check

Yesterday, I sat near our open front door and waited all day for the overnight package from our translator so I could turn around and send it to the Spanish Consulate. Our mail carrier is flakey – a looong history of creatively avoiding bringing packages to our door and just leaving the ‘Sorry we missed you’ slip on the door when I’ve been home. Never ringing the bell and forcing me to go to the post office to collect them.

This time, I was going to outwit him. I sat on our only piece of furniture facing the door with it open. He was not going to get by me. Like any flu sufferer, I hit refresh on my laptop as I watched it get ever closer to our house. And then it stalled. Where was he? It’s like he fell off the radar. Refresh, Refresh, Refresh – Nothing.

Where could my Oh So Valuable package be? Where could this man I had to battle through high package delivery seasons like Christmas and Valentines Day? My postal nemesis was outwitting me and it wasn’t just the cold meds. Finally, I decided to walk up to the mail box and there it was. He had avoided coming to our door again and hadn’t put in the delivery status and it had been there for hours!

I grabbed it and like a wide receiver in the Super Bowl, I headed straight for the goal line a half mile away at the UPS store. Sure, I was still in my PJ’s and my hair wasn’t combed so when the UPS guy saw me come in the door wild eyed, he just shook his head. He and I know each other well.

‘Where are we sending this today?’ he asked, fingers over his key board. ‘Spain? Colorado?’

‘No. To the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles.’

He raised his eyebrows. ‘Weren’t you just there on Monday?’

Yes, the people at the UPS store have seen me so many times for copies, notarization, overnight parcels that they know my schedule and visa milestones.

‘We were, but they needed one more set of bank statements.’

‘Seriously? You gave them like 1000 pages already. I copied all of them.’

‘Yeah – but they wanted more. This is the more, and it’s all been translated.’

He shook his head and put together the label and the envelope. We worked together to put it in and seal it.

‘I hate to say this, but I hope we never see each other again.’ I said

He smiled and nodded. ‘I know what you mean. I’m too emotionally tied up in your visa process. I’m going to need a break.’

I paid him and waved goodbye, trying to smooth down my hair with some sort of dignity – wandering home in my PJ’s after the adrenaline let down. Happy I could finally shut the front door and take a nap.

Today, we delivered our Audi TT to the Dealer who purchased it.

‘We have no car now.’ I lamented to Jeff tonight.

‘Yes we do. The truck is still in the driveway.’

I pulled a face.

‘Like I said, we have no car.’

‘We have one, we’re just ashamed to go out and drive around in it.’ he conceded.

He’s not wrong. We will technically be able to convey ourselves around these final two weeks – before someone who actually wants Mary Jane (our old truck) comes to pick it up – but we will not enjoy it.

On Sunday we’re heading down to Tuscon and visiting Jeff’s Mom, for the last time before we leave. I want to see her face when we pull up in it. Its not lost on me that we gave away or sold nearly everything of value. And now, the final vehicle we own is something from 1985.  But the list is smaller. Only a couple more things to check off and we’re outta here.