It’s raining today. This area of Spain only gets about 10 days a year of rain so I don’t think it will last too long. It kind of fits my mood, though. A little grey, but still bright. Our transition to Spain has been harder than I thought it would be. I absolutely love Spain. I love the culture, the food, the weather, the language, the scenery, the funny way they lock up their shopping carts and even all their silly roundabouts. I just wish Spain were; 1) closer to the USA in time zone, and; 2) filled with more families just like us.
I thought I had the Formula of Relocation all figured out. In my head it is supposed to go something like this:
- Find housing
- Enroll girls in cheap but stimulating classes
- Make life-long friends
But somehow it’s not as easy as that. We are only here for 3 months due to the rules of our visa so it’s been hard to find classes that are of much value for just a few months. And we are definitely seeing the impact of a country with a higher wage. $44 per hour for tennis lessons? Nah… I’ll pass.
In addition, homeschool is either not allowed or not practiced here in Spain (varies by region) so there are not any homeschool groups that we can tap into for social time. Even expat homeschoolers are flying under the radar and don’t let their kids leave the house before 2 p.m. when Spanish school lets out, to avoid being questioned. It’s a real thing: police asking why the kids are not in school. We have met a few English (as in, British) expat families that we enjoy, but they are further up the coast and not available for impromptu get-togethers. There do not seem to be as many families in this high-vacation area. So all of that combined means we’ve had a harder time connecting to kids the same age as our girls.
So the experience here in Spain is different than experiences we’ve had in other countries. I’ve spent a few weeks trying to wrap my head around it and adjust to it being different than my expectations. Notice all the 1st-person point of view I’m using. That’s because the rest of the family is just going with the flow and it’s just me in Overthinkingville that’s been mulling all this over. For God’s sake, someone in this family has to overthink! I’ve got ya’ll covered.
So what is our experience going to be like? Well, now that we have less than 2 months left, it’s starting to take shape. Here are a few things that we’ll remember about our time here:
With lightning-fast internet and an apartment with lots of space, it’s a great time to get caught up on all that homeschool we put aside while we were be-bopping around Central America the last few months. The girls are working on writing with my good friend and teacher Colleen (formerly of the USA via Panama and now in Portugal – it’s complicated!). The girls are also in the middle of a college-level (ok, not really, but it’s HARD) genetics class with a Harry Potter theme. It’s time consuming but really interesting so it’s a great time to really focus on it. We are reading aloud and working our way through a book. The girls are also reading on their own time. We are doing math thanks to Kahn, IXL and a workbook. We are cooking and doing a lot of math thanks to the metric system. We are watching Downton Abby as a family and pausing a lot to discuss the social observations and the historical references. And finally we are watching Big Bang Theory from the beginning of the series, which is causing Haley to develop a love affair with all things chemistry. So we are actually quite pleased with the time and space we’ve been given to explore some new homeschool options. You probably didn’t realize Big Bang Theory was part of homeschool. Yep, that’s how we roll!
What? Puzzles? What’s that about!? Well, jigsaw puzzles are my hobby. I love them and for most of the last 15 years I’ve had some kind of puzzle table set up in my house. Travelling around the world doesn’t really lend itself to pursuing this hobby but I noticed that this apartment had not one but THREE different tables that would be great for puzzling. I also remembered that my favorite puzzle artist and brand came from Europe. So, that made me think: “I wonder if I could find my puzzle here?” and alas, the first day of looking… I FOUND IT! My very favorite brand, size and artist and one that I had not yet completed! I was blown away. Daniel was very kind to help me get a puzzle board suitable for relocating it around the house and now I am periodically shirking all my responsibilities in favor of doing my puzzle. The nice thing is that Zoe has taken up the interest and she’s working on one too. We fight for the table that is the most comfortable. The kids will tell you that not a day goes by without a peaceful sigh from me: “I just love having a puzzle again!”. So I’m a happy puzzler.
Spain knows how to do parks. And not just in this region with great weather, either. I’ve heard of some fantastic parks all over Spain. But we’ve discovered quite a few in this area so when we are low on an activity for a day or two, we just go to a park. We all benefit when we take Zoe to the park. The best thing is that parks here always have cafes so we can sit and have a nice snack while Zoe makes friends and pulls together a game of hide and seek. Hide and seek transcends language barriers (not that we have them thanks to Panama public school).The cafes at the parks serve full meals, including wine. I bet parents in the USA would spend a lot more time at parks if they served wine! We’ve also found several skate parks that seem to be popular with kids who have scooters so that’s next on our list to check out.
Pilates is another interest of mine. Before I left the USA I started doing reformer pilates. I did not expect to find it much in our travels but towards the end of our Panama stint there was a pilates studio that opened up and they saw a fair amount of our money and my face. My one and only experience with pilates in Mexico left me worried about catching some kind of skin disease so that didn’t last. But here in Spain… I found one! There is a pilates studio not far from our house and now that I’ve finally become comfortable with driving here, I’m off and running. Well, not running, but you know what I mean. I have also dusted off my Fitbit and found a lovely loop around a beautiful golf course that is my daily trek for some alone time and time in nature. Alone time is a rarity when you travel with the fam.
Our open schedule does allow us to volunteer our time and we found an animal shelter that welcomed us. We went on the dog-walking day but they assigned us to a group of 4 puppies that needed socializing. Play with puppies? We are up for the challenge! We named the four doggies Caramel, Charlie, Carlos and Jim (as in Parsons, from Big Bang Theory) and we have been back several times and are seeing great progress. They recognize us and are getting much better at walking and even accepting a bath and a combing. If we can’t have our beloved Phinny with us, at least we can love up on one of his species.
The one class we have discovered is a painting class taught by an Irish artist named Debbie. We have learned so much and really enjoy our time getting to know this gal. The girls appreciate that she offers tea and biscuits (read: cookies) every time we go. Debbie is quite amused with our lifestyle and was even more amused that Haley didn’t know what a radiator was when she saw it in the hallway. I had to explain that we have lived in 1) newer homes and 2) warm climates. Learning about radiators counts as homeschool, right?
It sounds like we’ve found some things to do and we have. But it’s still a little light for the 50% of extroverts in our family. But we adjust and we chalk it up to one of the many things we learn on travels like this: how to adjust to a different level of activity than you’d like. It’s an illustration that each country we go to will be a different experience. Some will be more integrated with the locals, some will be more full of activities with other kids, and some will just be a whole lot of chillaxin on a rainy day doing homeschool and a puzzle.