Friday, May 27, 2011

Be careful what you wish for....

The view from our new home in the Albayzin, Granada, Espana

The town of Guadalupe in the
Extremadura region of Spain
"Be careful what you wish for as you will likely get it." I don't remember who said that. Jiminy Cricket? But in our case, it is more like a dream come true. For 10 years we have been talking about moving to a Spanish speaking country, in order to allow our boys to learn the language from a young age. Growing up in Boston and Seattle respectively, my husband and I had little exposure to foreign languages and having not left the USA until I was 26 (Canada and Mexico notwithsanding), it truly opened up my world in a whole new way, literally. Ever since, I have had a global perspective on life having met fellow travellers from around the world and have circled the globe on my own. And although people may have dressed a little differently, enjoyed different foods and spoke different languages, they truly were just like me.

View from the bike trail
Later in life, while I worked in high-tech on "localization" (taking a product from english in to another lanuguage), I was drawn to people from other nations. And although I took 2 years of high school German as well as 3 years of college level Japanese, I have never been fluent. With the boys in their last year of grade school, we decided that it was finally time to live and immerse ourselves in another culture. My philosophy is that if every child was required to do a year long study-abroad program, there would be no more wars as people would learn that we are all just the same. And so, for these reasons, I want to give the gift of a second language to our kids as well as introduce them to cultures around the world so that they can be good global citizens. They are currently 8 and 10 so we had better hurry...
Bike trail in the Extremadura

So I started researching. Where to go? Spanish is spoken in many countries and some are very close to the United States, but with our shared history with Europe (I lived in London in the 90's and Nat spent several sabbaticals in Switzerland and Austria as a child), and with friends and family currently living there, we decided upon Spain. So where in Spain? Ninety percent of the Americans I spoke with landed in Barcelona which is a beautiful place, but Catalan is spoken there and we wanted to focus on learning Castilion Spanish. Turns out they speak Valencian in Valencia and Galician in Galicia so I started to look at the Andalucia region in Southern Spain as I had heard wonderful things about Sevilla. We also wanted access to the mountains (for skiing) and coast (for windsurfing). Somehow all signs started pointing me to Granada, a city I knew very little about. And even stranger, I kept being directed towards the Albayzin district which is where the famous Alhambra sits.

Then fate threw me a free plane ticket on my frequent flier miles and I had a week to make a decision. I flew to Malaga in mid-May and coordinated home tours in 3 locations in Andalucia and was even invited to join a bike trip to the Extremadura region with some families from the school I was hoping my children could attend.

Spanish bike trail
And so it was that I found myself in a car driving across Spain with 60 new friends, over half of them children and many from other countries as well (Germany, France, England). The bike trip was beautiful, 52K along an old abandoned railroad line that had been converted to a bike trail. The people were warm and welcoming, the food delcious (well, that pig blood dish wasn't my favorite), and the accomodations lovely. 

Over 33 children at the kids table
It quickly became clear where we should end up. Back in the Albayzin, my new landlord helped me fill out the paperwork for the local school and then proceeded to cook me an amazing pierna de cordero (leg of lamb) with fresh potatoes that I watched him dig out of our new organic garden. There will be an Icelandic family living in the apartment above us with two girls the same age as our boys. Could life get any better?
Home, car, school for the boys secured, I headed back to Seattle exhausted, exhilarated and a bit terrified for what was to come next. Time to rent out the house, pack for our year abroad, and work even harder on our language skills...

Our new casa en Espana

pierna de cordero

Abandoned railway station