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.

A Teenage Wasteland

Moving to a new country has a been exciting and challenging in many ways. I’ve chronicled many of them here. But none has been quite the riddle that is moving across the world with a teenager. Yes, Emilie is only here on school breaks, but a 3 month stretch with her parents in a strange location, without friends, without her US cell phone and the daily (moment by moment) hits of technology, (Snapchat) is about more than she can stand.

Sure, she talks to her boyfriend back in the US via WhatsApp on wifi, but it’s not enough. When I venture to ask ‘What’s up?’ I get blank expressionless stares and Spinx-like answers that give me almost no information beyond ‘I’m bored.’ At this point, my head usually spins around and I think, incredulous, ‘How can anyone be bored in Valencia?. There is so much to do and see.’

OK, perhaps me dragging her thru museums in most of the major European capitals when she was small, didn’t endear the experience to her. This past weekend, Jeff and I went to the ceramics museum but gave her a pass to stay home. It’s very cool, btw. A must see and it was free – we aren’t sure why on a Saturday at high season (3 Euros usually). Its in the mansion of a former duke. They have his carriages and the litter they used to carry him around in. And eclectic mix of this and that, to be sure.

But on Sunday, we trekked up to the Pre-History Museum of Valencia and she was made to accompany us. I was in heaven. I absolutely adore museums. History, art, music. It was a museum specifically about the Valenciana region and, well,  I’ll go to anything with the word ‘Museum’ over the door. I enjoy seeing how people lived, what they valued, how they evolved, what they created out of nothing. So I like to take my time.

Emilie was climbing the walls, looking my way with glares vacillating between wanting to kill me with an ancient spear (luckily contained behind shatter proof glass) or falling asleep in one of the many benches. Afterwards, ice cream helped. Like chocolate reviving her after a dementor attack at Hogwarts.

So finding things for Emilie to do has become important. So I did and Voila! Beach Volleyball. Today she starts Beach Volleyball lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays with other kids her age on Malvarossa Beach. I know she’s excited about it (you couldn’t tell if you saw her in person) except it’s 1 pm and she’s spent an hour in the bathroom getting ready and we aren’t leaving here for 3 hours. Whew! Something she might enjoy, just in time.

To jump start with my project of helping her meet kids her age, I reached out to some of my expat friends. I’ve spent 3 months developing a network here. People from all over the world that we have lunches, dinners, wine, and attend processions with. And they know a lot of people, apparently. People who have teenagers.

So, tomorrow afternoon, Emilie will take her first Metro ride alone to the station downtown and meet a friend of mine who is taking her to meet a couple of girls in their late teens. One is Spanish, and wants to meet someone she can have coffee with to improve her English for college. The other is English, and like Emilie, is bored out of her gourd. So they should be the perfect disgruntled pair. They can have coffee and moan and groan about their lame parents and their difficult, boring lives. That sounds like teenage heaven to me!

And moi, you might wonder? What will I be doing while she is otherwise occupied? Well, this evening the Royal Ballet is in town and I’ll be seeing Swan Lake with friends while she’s taking the tram back from the beach after her class. And later this week, I’m going to see an Opera. Neither of these activities are Emilie-approved, but now I won’t need to be concerned with that. Everyone will be doing what they like doing and I get to be as lame as I want going forward – which will involve a glass of something refreshing. Summer is shaping up to be just perfect!