In Thru the Out Door

We are less than a week from our 6 month anniversary of moving to Valencia. In that time, we’ve learned how to navigate public transport. Which super markets and restaurants we like. How holidays are celebrated and that fireworks will be our constant companion. We have started to understand how the bureaucracy works and when we need the help of others and when we don’t. We are expert. We know it all.

And then we spent the weekend getting schooled – again. Sure, we’ve been to the movies before. We can see movies in English at the local Yelmo cines. They have the look and feel of US movie theaters – thinking Lincoln Square in Bellevue, WA. And they even have Oscar Meyer hot dogs and movie popcorn. So it’s a complete experience, sort of, from home.

On Saturday, we walked up to the Yelmo that’s about a mile and half through the park from our apartment. We purchased the tickets to the ‘VOSE’ showing, which means the movie will be in the original language (English) with Spanish subtitles. And got our refreshments and climbed the lucite backlit stairs to the correct theater and sat down. The credits were running from the previous movie but we figured we would just wait with our two hot dogs, two drinks and a large popcorn for a whole 13 euros. But it was not to be.

The cleaner came in and started shouting at us. We were mid bite and had no idea what she was talking about. I find that when I’m shouted at, even in English, I struggle to comprehend what the hell is going on. But in Spanish? I’m completely lost. She could have been shouting my name over and over and I wouldn’t have understood a word. Jeff tried to reason with her. He gave her our tickets and she studied them like the Magna Carta. Then she hand them back, pointed out the door with more shouting and shook her broom at us.

‘I think we’re not supposed to be in here when she’s cleaning.’ I said to Jeff, after reading her angry face and threatening mimery with her broom. So we got up with our arms full of food and drink and left the theater. She followed us out. More shouting ensued and more broom waving. She practically pushed us down the stairs and kept pointing to the other side of the elevators in the lobby. We toddled over there like brainless idiots. We had no idea why.

On the other side of the lobby, unseen from the place where you purchase tickets and get your refreshments, is another set of stairs where there is a person who tells you that you can go up the stairs. There are monitors that say that a movie theater is open or if you must ‘Espera’. Or wait. So we went up to the guy with our tickets and he tore them and told us we could go up the stairs. We did, walking back to the theatre we were at one minute before. The cleaner lady looked at our torn tickets and said ‘bien.’  We went in to our assigned seats and sat down again. Our eyes were rolling in our heads.

The movie started. We were seeing ‘Alpha’. It’s a movie about a prehistoric clan who leaves a member behind after a buffalo hunt. It opened with Morgan Freeman’s deep voice – in English – telling us about life and the world, 20,000 years ago in Europe. Check! Time for a handful of popcorn. I expected Morgan Freeman and other English speaking actors because it was a North American film shot in Alberta, Canada. Sure, there might be some ‘Aboots’ and other Canadian ways of pronouncing ‘Aluminium’, but I would know what they were saying. Yeah, no.

The tribe in the film spoke only in a language that I’ve never heard. And the subtitles? They were in Spanish. Only Morgan Freeman’s melodious voice in the first and last 60 seconds of the film were in my native tongue. The rest was in a language that resembled languages of the people of the many tribes of North American, but was actually a made up language by a linguist from the University of British Columbia. This was not in the course description (I mean movie description) online. While interesting, I’m struggling with Spanish most days. We had come to the movies for mindless entertainment, and we got a job.

As we left the theatre, Jeff expressed surprise at language deal.

‘Well, I guess the good news is, I’m fluent in movie Spanish now, after reading it for 2 hours straight. But I did struggle a bit with the exact translation from made-up cave man.’

We walked home in the dark discussing the film . Mostly envious of the cold Canadian weather we saw and the fact that the main character was lucky he got to wear a coat.

On Sunday, we got up bright and early and walked down to the beach. The weather was perfect and the sun was out but the breeze was cool. The traffic on the main promenade was way down from peak season crowds. We chose a cafe and sat down.

I ordered a coffee and was promptly told that I was sitting at the wrong table. ‘ Coffee only there.’ The table he was pointing at was literally 2 feet away. So I lifted myself out of my chair and took one step and plopped myself into the chair next to me. The waiter walked the two feet, wiped down the table and asked me what he could get me.

‘Remember me? Una cafe con leche.’ I said.

‘Vale’ he said, as though we hadn’t just spoken 7 seconds before, and went away to get it. Ridiculous.

We finished the coffee. Jeff suggested we stick to what we know.

‘Let’s go out to Shopping City and knock a few things off our list before we fly to the US.’

I agreed and we got a taxi. We were half way to where IKEA is located in Alfafar, and I remembered it’s Sunday. I mentioned it to the driver and he said ‘No stores are open out there on Sunday.’ He had been wondering why ‘tourists wanted to go there’. Ugh.

So we had him drop us off at the Centro Commercial at El Saler. They have a Hyper Carrefour there and I thought perhaps we might have some luck in finding what we were looking for. We walked through their doors and there, like a beacon to school kids everywhere, were all the school supplies Emile and I had been searching for in the first part of August. The rows and rows of them looked just like the displays in every Fred Meyer or Target in the US.

We browsed a bit, but my heart wasn’t in it. I felt like something has been off for weeks now but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

‘I think we need to go home and pull the covers over our heads.’ I told him. ‘Something must be in retrograde because we seem to be missing something at every turn. It’s like I’m either too early or too late. Or just plaim clueless.’

So we did that. We sat and watched some Ray Donovan on Netflix and ate ice cream. Which everyone knows is the cure for almost everything. And since Mercury IS in retrograde, I’m not responsible for any of this.

 

 

The Escape

Leaving your own country and moving to another requires adjustment. We start Spanish language classes on Monday. 3 hours every morning in intensive immersion. We need language skills and it’s becoming more and more apparent each day.

I’m looking at volunteering at a local school to help kids improve their English skills, but also to meet native speakers and use my soon-to-be-acquired Spanish. We’ve met new friends but most of them are expats from English speaking countries like Brits, Irish or South Africans. And those that aren’t want to speak English to us even though they’re from Holland or somewhere else in Scandinavia.

We’re fumbling through on a daily basis and it’s either feast of famine on our ability to communicate. Sometimes Jeff would prefer not to have to think about how we’re going to get something done. His take? ‘Easy things are hard. Just wait for the hard things. Who knows how we’ll tackle those.’ I prefer to keep some of those things in a fog just out of my reach. I’ll figure out how to get a doctor later.

So to escape, sometimes you just need to binge watch TV from home. We’ve got no cable but we do have Amazon Prime, with our paid channels, and Netflix. I get my news from NBC online when I wake up in the morning. But yesterday, after staring at some wires that came snaking out of our wall, Jeff hooked up the cable that is connected at the other end to somewhere, and we got local HD channels – out of the air.

We have no idea where they’re coming from but in flipping through the channels we’ve discovered we can pay to get our Tarot cards read on no less than 7 channels – for a small and ever growing fee.  Once we learn Spanish, we can listen to the televangelists try to save our souls. There might be a fee involved there too. We will eventually understand sports here and after Googling some of the acronyms for the teams playing, we’ve learned all the Spanish soccer/futbol teams names. And then we discovered the channels of TV from back home. And that we can change the programming to allow the ‘original language’ to come through. BINGO! We have more US shows.

Sure, back in the US I watched a ton of Spanish TV and movies. It’s how I started tuning my ear and honestly, it’s helped a ton here already. Great investment. But on days when going out and doing things is tougher than you think it ought to be, it’s nice to sit down and lose yourself in something mindless. Something you don’t even have to think about to understand.

Today, I’m heading out by myself to get spices in the Central Market. Its like a big open market but it’s undercover in a building like an old train station in the center of the city.  I’m meeting up with a new friend for a beverage who lives in that part of town. After trying to stumble through purchasing things in Spanish, it will be nice to have a chat with someone who doesn’t require me to think, over a glass of wine. And to come home and watch some Big Bang Theory with cultural references that I totally understand. Its stupid, I know. But the little things take on more significance here.

Good Days and Bad

As humans, we are creatures of habit. And the older we get, the more those habits become ingrained. Its not the big stuff that make up our daily lives, but the little stuff. The things no one else cares about. The things we can count on, like the sun rising and setting and a cup of hot joe in the morning. And access to American Late-Night comedy, apparently.

Yesterday, was Jeff’s bad day. He’s been getting our wifi network set up and we’ve been looking forward to getting NetFlix and Amazon Prime video ready to go. Our TV was delivered in the morning and it kicked off swearing, a march to the Vodofone store, a disgruntled walk back, and then ‘effing Firewall!’ this and ‘effing Firewall’ that. Then a LOT of phone calls and chat sessions. I heard some ‘I can’t do anything in this country!’ and a few other declarative statements.

I sat our in the living room doing my own thing and then decided to make Jeff his favorite lunch – Broccoli Beef with basmati rice, just the way he likes it – to try to smooth the way a bit. Thinking the taste of home would help. It took ‘Hangry Jeff’ out of the mix, but it didn’t make his day that much better. We found out NetFlix doesn’t like us being in Spain. And resetting his Amazon prime password wasn’t working at all.

Normally, we could kick this can down the road a bit, but we’ve hit critical mass being here for nearly 4 weeks. Jeff’s favorite shows are starting up again soon (Game of Thrones and finding out Billions on Showtime started on Sunday and we missed it). His love affair with Stephen Colbert’s nightly monologue, and his lack of access to it, is proving harder than he anticipated. Something needed to give.

I finally went to bed at midnight as he was still trying to troubleshoot continuing problems. At 2:30 am I woke up and found him on the couch, smiling, and scrolling through the Amazon Prime offering. It’s done! He figured it all out, got Amazon in Seattle on the phone and worked through it after – not kidding – 45 phone calls, text verification codes and emails. But we now have Showtime, HBO, BritBox and CBS All Access.

Today’s a better day. Now that we’re surrounded by some of our comfort shows, we’re ready to venture out and sign up for our Spanish classes and get our Tuin cards for our monthly Metro passes. I can’t complain. Everyone is entitled to tough days. Moving across an ocean, thousands of miles from what we have always known, can be frustrating. But Jeff proved that his ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ stick-to-it-iveness is undaunted. And everyone is entitle to a bad day.

Just like that…

It’s all disappeared. Seriously, in one day all the Fallas are gone. All the fireworks are over. We have heard not one today. Walking around this morning and all evidence of what has been going on for the last week is no where to be seen.

Crossing the road, the water trucks are hosing it all down and the bin workers are out in force. By noon, it’s just gone. If you look closely, you can see burn marks from the fireworks on our sidewalk, but that’s all that’s left of what has kept us up for the last week.

Today, went down to Central Valencia via Metro to see our banker and walked back home. On the way home, Jeff couldn’t seem to find a hair salon or barber open to get a haircut. Perhaps this is a day off for all Valencian hairdressers. I’m not sure what their patron saint might be but there is not one hair cutting place open, when the rest of Valencia seems back to normal. Perhaps it’s the patron saint of the first day of Spring.

I decided to head out on my own for a coffee and stopped into el Chino. I need coffee cups and a coffee pot – never mind I can’t grind the beans I bought, as I have not found a coffee grinder yet. But I’m optimistic that one will present itself. Our local el Chino is a big one so I knew they would have what I needed and they didn’t disappoint.

I gathered my purchases and headed to the check out. And what happened? Again, the guy gave me some free stuff, AND lactose-free milk.  I don’t have any idea why. Last time I spoke to our daughter, Emilie, on the phone, she was adamant this was a fishy situation.

‘I wouldn’t drink free milk. It doesn’t seem right.’

So I came home and showed Jeff my purchases and told him about the continuing GWP’s I scored.

‘That guy has a thing for you.’ he said.

‘No, he doesn’t.’

‘He never gives me free stuff.’ he pointed out.

‘Well. Maybe he gave me free milk because I was buying a coffee pot.’

‘Yeah. Well, last time he gave you free milk and you bought a garbage can.’

I thought about it. Perhaps he’s right. But it makes me uncomfortable. The guy usually fires rapid Spanish, and I think a little Chinese, at me. Waving his arms and pointing at stuff. And today he said the only words I’ve understood so far.

‘Angelina Jolie. Movie Star.’

‘What?!!’ I said to him, wide eyed. He pointed at me, smiled and then continued with our usual, unintelligible interaction. Now I’m not naive. Never in my entire life – even when I was much younger and unwrinkled, did I ever resemble Angelina Jolie on my best day, through rosy a camera filter, in the dark.

But the light went on. I’ll be getting free milk from el Chino from now on. So there is an upside to this crazy charade this guy and I have going on. Leaving with my bags, I realized, finally things are getting back to normal.

Beware the Wolverine

We were both up at many points last night. Both Jeff and I have begun having nightmares. I asked if he thought its because we’re subconsciously nervous about the big move. He just looked at me like I was an idiot.

‘Uh, Yeah. There’s no ‘subconscious’ about it.’

I dreamed that I was being chased by a serial killer who tried to frame me for his crimes and stole my laptop (and thus my finished book). He then published it and became wildly famous but the cops, for whatever reason, could never find him. I suggested calling his agent or ambushing him at his appearance on the ‘Today Show’, but they didn’t act on the clue.

That woke me up and after I went back to sleep, I dreamed that when we got to the airport in Spain, they had outlawed real food and everyone had tablets that they ate. But they only handed the tablets out one time to the entire country and we missed the hand out, so I had to beg people in the airport for tablets for chicken and rice.  OK. It’s weird.

Jeff’s, on the other hand, run more to the animal kingdom. His dreams have involved trying to keep my Mom from letting beavers into our basement at our old house near Seattle. He kept getting one out and she would let 4 more in. She would feed them – not a stretch from her penchant for making friends with squirrels in her back yard – and they would follow her in the house.

Last night, he dreamed he was being followed by a wolverine and he kept trying to get away from it. Finally, he opened the gate into our neighbor’s yard and there were two polar bear cubs in their back yard so the wolverine happily ran off to play with them.

OK – If you’re a psychologist, you’re having a field day with all this. But it is disconcerting and the volume of dreams we’re each having is going up the closer we get. I’m just glad that I know there will be no wolverines or polar bears or beavers in Spain. And they still food there – I feel sure. But my laptop and that book stealing serial killer? Well, I’m going to have to be especially vigilant with that one.