Reflections on one year

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My wife and I just got done dropping our boys off for their last first day of school in Spain.  It was fun and the usual beehive of activity.  Many people, kids and adults alike, haven’t seen each other all summer and were reunited with hugs and greeting kisses.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year we were all a bundle of nerves, stumbling over our Spanish.  A bit overwhelmed by the welcomes from our new neighbors.  At one point I remember seeing our boys encircled by their new classmates.  Bless them, they were eager to see who the new kids in their class were.  But I could tell the excited pelting of overlapping questions in their hurried speech and invasion of personal space may have been a bit startling to our guys.

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2014 – First day of school

Fast forward to this year, and they grabbed mom’s phone to snap some selfies with their buds.

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2015 – First day of school

Some years ago, we seeded this dream.  And there’s a great satisfaction knowing that it has bloomed.  Much like a tree’s branches, our experiences have sprouted off in many unpredictable directions but the end form is still recognizable and beautiful.

Many other expatriate families that we met last year have returned home.  I hear from some of them, mainly through text messages.  One friend typed:  “You made a good decision staying another year.  Forgot how frantic life is in the U.S.”

Frantic.  It’s true.  Our lives are pretty much the opposite of frantic.  I’m not sure what word is its antonym, but life here seems to flow.  There are definitely things I miss about the U.S. but they largely revolve around family, friends, and conveniences.  What’s striking is that I don’t necessarily miss the lifestyle – the hectic pace, exhaustive preparation and schedules.  Those things do exist here, but in ways that feel more elective and to a lesser degree.

We still talk about “when we get back…” to the United States and the things we’re going to do or not do.  It’s our way of acknowledging our former, pre-Spain lives and the things and people we miss.  We do look forward to being back to familiar routines and geography.  We also talk about what parts of Spain we want to bring back with us.

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We’ve been able to spend a bunch of time together as a family.  Our twins, now 10, seem to be walking that line between being little boys with stuffed animals and ever-nearing adolescents that periodically inquire about the past, the future, or how the world works.  It’s great that we’re usually around to catch them in their chatty moments and to be able to fully hear them out.

I’d say both my wife and I wish our language skills were better at this point in our journey.  We can get by with daily activities, but having any sort of meaty conversation still can only go so deep.  Fortunately many of our local friends speak English that is better than our Spanish so the conversation can continue.

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Our boys, on the other hand, don’t have this problem.  They are immersed with local speakers for 7-9 hours per day most days.  While I know they aren’t “fluent” and probably won’t be when we leave, they are damn proficient.

We’ve been lucky to have many visitors stop by.  There is a great satisfaction that comes from “showing off” this place, the people, and how we go about things day-to-day.  Likewise we’ve been able to meet and establish relationships with other expatriates and locals alike that will no doubt carry on beyond our time here.

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Ultimately, I really feel fortunate in where we ended up.  It feels like “home”.  We’re here.  We’re embedded, integrated.  Just been a gigantic thumbs up all around.  We traveled the entire month of August outside Spain and there were days toward the end when we ready to be home and there wasn’t any question that that place was here in Granada.

Our neighborhood has a long history of welcoming new faces from all over the globe and this year is no different.  As I meet the influx of fresh families to take in their own year, I’m reminded at just how disorienting and new even the most mundane of tasks are.  I’m looking forward to the upcoming year being much less about orienting ourselves and more about becoming a little better woven in with the local experience.

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Our white barrio opposite the Alhambra

And just like that, in a blink, amongst all the excitement and newness, a year has passed.  And I know the second may go by even quicker.

In the end, I’ve come to love and appreciate this place and its people.  I think Anthony Bourdain summarizes it best in only a way he can.

Source, from Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Spain)
Source, from Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Spain)

16 thoughts on “Reflections on one year”

  1. Anthony Bourdain’s show on Granada (and other parts of Andalucia I recall) certainly made us want to spend a while there! He’s a modern day philosopher.

    So this is your last year in Spain? Sounds like it’s been a wonderful journey so far.

    I like what you said about the frantic pace of life here in the US. I watch it from the sidelines like an observer spectating an alien species. 🙂 But I get reminded how life-sucking it is whenever friends mention their busy work-kid-obligations schedule that has them on the run almost all day six days per week. No thanks!

  2. I remember starting to read your blog when you were posting about your preparations and I’ve enjoyed following along in your adventures.

    A year already?

    Enjoy the coming year. Soon enough I’ll be writing a comment:

    Two years already?

    1. Thanks for stopping by and the well wishes. I look forward to reading more about your summer travels as well. We were also busy hitting 6 countries during the month of August (well 7, if you count Lichtenstien for a half-hour). Easy to do when in Western Europe.

  3. Another bonus to being out of the US for 2016 – you won’t be bombarded 24 x 7 with politics! Congrats on a good first year. We usually made it about 2 years before the bug to return ‘home’ really bit. Then, when you get back, you can have a fresh appreciation for all of the crazy things people take for granted (like 24 hour super-stores full of 10 different kinds and prices of everything)…

    1. Good point about the politics, Steve. Although they are still hard to escape, even here in Spain. I have a better understanding of how far the ripples of U.S. politics reach. We still hear about what Trump had for breakfast here too.

      What I’d do for a full-fledged grocery store that was open on a Sunday!

  4. Time sure does fly! It’s been 2.5 years for us..and still not ready to head back there. We might hang around Seville for another year we’re thinking at this point. We’re loving the slow life, but if we move, it might be some other part of Spain with a bigger airport 🙂 . They will thank you one day..

  5. What a wonderful experience for your kids at this age. I’m still at the nerves stage as I get used to how school works and start learning Spanish more seriously. Are you taking lessons this year?

    1. Hi Georgia. I haven’t decided on classes yet this year. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grammatical base but just really need practice speaking at this point. I think doing more ‘intercambios’ (language exchanges) are probably the best thing for me at this point. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Congratulations on one year! What a well-written, reflective post.

    My wife and I have set our sights on spring 2017 for our own one-year trip to Spain with our two little girls. We have heard from several fellow FI bloggers about your site and experiences, so I can’t wait to dig in to old posts and follow along with new ones.

    We loved Granada on our trip there in the past. We explored right in the barrio where you are. We are just now starting to think about where we want to be. I hope we can ask your advice as we narrow some down.

    Keep up the great posts! Thank you.

  7. What a great post! We are in the application process and are submitting our paperwork. On May 18th. And are looking to move to Granada in August! Still amazed by the application process. Specifically that u have to have a signed lease and paid up health insurance prior to know whether or not u were approved for the non lucrative visa. We love your blog!

      1. My wife has visited Grenada and based on what others have said we think it would be an ideal place for our 2 kids to be for a year or two. We are going in for our application in late May and hope to get approval by August and are trying to find a house that is near the city center and is in a good school zone. Hard to sign a lease on a place sight unseen but I suppose that’s what we will need to do. Any recommendations for us? There doesn’t seem to be that many furnished rentals available of Size. Thanks for any help or advice!!

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