The Journey

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Leaving Seattle.

Our actual journey to Granada was a bit extended. On July 4th we took an early morning flight out of Seattle to Minneapolis and drove the three hours to Jason’s hometown of West Union, Iowa. We spent a great week there with Jason’s family, catching up with his mom, sister, brothers, and their spouses. Walks around the park behind Grandma’s house, daily visits to the town pool, and golfing on the “exclusive” course in town were highlights for all of us, but the best part was relaxing with family and catching our breath for the next big step.

On July 11th we drove back to MSP, and caught our flight headed to Madrid after a four hour layover in Frankfurt. We are a little concerned because we were supposed to enter Spain by July 15th, but since we ended up going through customs in Frankfurt on July 12th, our passports were only stamped there, not when we arrived in Spain.  We are hoping that because Germany is an EU country it will count (which is the very reason we didn’t have to go through customs again in Spain), but we will find out more this week when we apply for our residence cards.

After a delay receiving our luggage and two subway rides later, we made it to the center of Madrid, with just about a kilometer walk left to arrive at our apartment, home for the next couple of days. Coming up out of the subway tunnel on to Puerta del Sol in Madrid was a great introduction to Spanish culture.  Gabi wanted to know if it was a holiday because there were so many people about and everyone seemed so happy.  It was just a regular Tuesday night.  Jason’s response was, “Welcome to Spain!”  We had no problem finding dinner that first night, even though it was 11 p.m. before we even began searching for something to eat.  Chocolate and churros the next morning, then a trip to the local waterpark, many meals, much helado, the Prado museum (kids could have skipped that one!), and dinner with a former co-worker of Jason’s and his family, kept us busy until it was time to leave for Granada on Friday morning.

Carting our luggage up and down subway tunnel stairs first thing in the morning was tough, but we were able to make our 8 a.m. bus to Granada.  It was actually a nice bus ride, with screens in the seat backs for entertainment, and with very few passengers on board we were able to spread out.  LOVELY views of endless olive tree orchards, then a winding road up into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains led us to the bus station in Granada.  It took two taxis to take us all and our luggage to the meeting place with our landlord, Carmen.  After leading us through some very narrow streets that don’t allow car access with each of us dragging our luggage and backpacks down numerous cobblestone stairs, Carmen showed us our home.  It’s as nice, if not better than we expected.  As I type I’m sitting in our third floor (air conditioned!!!!) bonus room looking straight across at the Alhambra Palace.

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Now that we’ve made it to Granada, we hope to spend the next week getting settled in our new home, learning the neighborhood, completing all the rest of the necessary paperwork and just enjoying our new city.

PS:  Robbie has created a YouTube channel to document our adventures on camera.  Search for Wilbur Travel Forum (WTF, get it?  Robbie’s dig at his parents and this whole adventure…).  You can find the first video at this link.


The Preparation – Part 2

Preparing for this trip has also meant saying a lot of goodbyes. This week has been especially emotional, saying goodbye to friends, delivering the pets to their new homes, and packing items away. Boating on Lake Union, watching our friend play drums at a pub, sleepovers for the kids, friends having us over for dinner because our cupboards are bare – all of these occasions have made leaving a bit harder, but have certainly made these last few days in Seattle memorable.

Since my last post, many of you have been asking if we found a home for our cat. Thanks to a wonderful school family, the Van Hollebekes, Raider was moved to his new home just this morning. He seemed to settle in nicely, and when I left he was being petted by four teenage girls all at once. I think he’ll get enough attention this year.

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With just two more days in Seattle we have pretty much packed up the house, and set aside what we plan to take with us to Spain.  We have limited everyone to one travel backpack and one suitcase each.  Gabi had a pretty tough time deciding which three of her stuffed animals she was going to take with her, but even that is settled at this point.  Robbie’s video camera is charged and ready to begin recording our adventure (whether Robbie is ready is a different story!).  Matthew’s favorite item, our Xbox One, is unfortunately staying in the States, so he’s had to satisfy himself by appropriating Jason’s old iPad, and downloading all the Harry Potter books.

These last few weeks have been a great reminder of the wonderful friends we have made here over the five years we have been in Seattle, and while we are a little sad to leave, we are happy knowing that we have so many wonderful people to return to.  Hoping to get a few of you visiting us in Spain too!


The Preparation – Part One

I wanted to jot down a few notes about all the preparation we’ve done so far for this move to Spain. We’ve accomplished a few of the biggest milestones, so it’s time to celebrate those achievements. It’s also a good way to help us remember what else is left to be done before we leave.

The biggest part of preparing for our year in Granada was putting together all the paperwork for our visas.  We must have done it correctly because our non-lucrative residential visas were approved last month and we flew down to San Francisco to pick them up in person.  Aside from the five-hour delay of our flight home, it went smoothly.  Once we get to Granada we will take them to our “town hall” and apply for our residence cards.  Visas – Check!

In order to pick up our visas we had to show proof of our flights to Spain, so we made our reservations.  We leave Seattle July 4th, stop in Iowa to see Jason’s family, and leave for Spain on July 11th.  We will spend three days in Madrid getting our bearings and recovering from jet lag before heading to our home in Granada on July 15th.  Fights to Spain – Check!

The most stressful aspect of this move was finding someone to rent our home for a year.  What could have been a difficult and time-consuming project was made so much easier with the help of our friend and realtor extraordinaire, Maura.  The second family to look at our home decided to rent it.  Bonus, they want it furnished, don’t need the garage so we can use that to store our personal items (no paying for a storage space) and, wait for it…they want to lease Jason’s truck while we are gone so we don’t have to worry about storing that either.  AND our new renters were kind enough to send us some wine as a thank you.  House rented to awesome people – Check!

With a little internet research and a lot of help from Google Translate, we have schools picked out for the kids. We have decided to go “all in” and put them in the local neighborhood schools.  Matthew and Gabi will be in grades 6 and 4 respectively, and will be attending CEIP Gomez Moreno, a public primary school in our neighborhood of the Albayzin.  We’ve registered them and have spoken with a couple expat families whose children have also attended there.  The school is used to hosting expats and has a specialist to help kids for whom Spanish is not their first language.  Robbie will be attending secondary school at IES Albayzin, also a public neighborhood school, but one that has a multi-lingual program.  He will be allowed to take some of his classes in English (or German or French if he prefers!).  Secondary school in Spain is a little different from the U.S.  Children are required to attend school until they are 16, what would be the end of 10th grade in the U.S.  After that they have the choice of getting a job, doing two years of a baccalaureate program and then attending university or attending a two-year vocational program.  Each of the secondary schools in Granada has different vocational programs.  IES Albayzin’s program is the academy of image and sound, and while Robbie won’t be able to take film classes during the school day, they offer after-school film classes for students in the compulsory grades and also host a film festival every year.  So, while he will be missing a year of Ballard High School’s digital film program, he still will be able to participate in movie-making to some degree in Spain.  Find schools for the kids – Check!

Our wonderful friends, the Bulsons have agreed to take our black lab, Rigby, while we are away.  He is going to have a great home with lots of attention and may even get some rides on a tugboat every once in a while.  And most importantly, they will let us have him back when we return. Home for dog – Check!

Today happens to be Jason’s last day of employment.  Hoping he’ll do a blog post soon about that.  It’s kind of a big deal.  Quit job – Check!

Lots of things still on our to-do list, but two of the big ones are selling my truck (2008 Yukon Denali XL in case anyone is interested!) and finding a home for this guy…

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Meet Raider, our nine-year-old tabby.

The Preparation – Part Two, coming soon.

 


The Uneasiness

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Our extended family is probably not going to enjoy reading this post, but I feel like I should address it.  Every once in a while, something happens that makes Jason and I stop and think differently about our decision to move overseas.  The terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13th are one example.  The on-going refugee crisis.  Today’s terrorist attacks in Brussels.  Europe in general feels much less safe at the moment.  Is it really a good time to be moving with our children to Spain for a year?

We are not big news addicts in this family.  Most of the information I get about the world comes from listening to NPR when I’m driving my kids to and from school.  I’d much rather watch House of Cards on Netflix, or read a novel than watch CNN or read a newspaper.  It’s probably a little irresponsible of me, but that’s the way I am.  My point is, we are not bombarded on an hourly basis with all the terror, sadness and pain that is going on in the world.  We are also not taking this move to Spain lightly.

The areas that are now known as Spain and Portugal were under Muslim rule for more than 700 years.  Granada, the city we are moving to was the last stronghold of Muslim rule on the Iberian Peninsula until  1492.  The beautiful Alhambra is a prime example of Moorish art and architecture.  The  Albayzin neighborhood where we will be living is described as the “Old Muslim Quarter.”  We will be surrounded by Muslim history, art and people.  But that’s OK.  We don’t equate Muslims with terrorists.  They are not the same.  And that’s what we hope to teach our children.

What does give me pause however, is how close we will be to Morocco and the ISIS terror cells located there.  The rumors that ISIS wants to control Spain by 2020.  Traveling to major cities in Europe while we are living there.  But then I get angry.  I will not give the terrorists a chance to win.  I will not stay locked in my house in Seattle, or allow my children to be afraid of the world.  We will be careful, we will be alert, but we will not let fear rule our lives.  This year will be a gift to our family, and we will take advantage of it.

*On a lighter note (I think), Matthew asked recently, “If Donald Trump becomes President, will he let us back in the country after we live in Spain?”


The View

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Trading this view of Mt. Rainer…

One of the things we love about our life in Seattle is the scenery.  It doesn’t hurt that we wake up most mornings to this view.  After moving from Arizona, to Washington, to California to Connecticut, Jason and I decided that it was time to pick a “forever” spot and let our kids finish growing up in one place.  Jason is originally from Iowa and I am originally from Southern California.  We discussed the places we grew up and all the places we had lived previously and decided that Seattle felt most like “home” for us and our family.  We moved here in 2011, eventually found a house we loved, and set about making our life here.

Fast forward to 2016 and our decision to move to Granada.  One of the biggest questions was where will we live?  (And how do we give up our view?)  Serendipitously, an expat family we have been in contact with during the past few months is moving out of their house in Granada just before we plan to arrive.  They put us in touch with their landlord, and everything fell into place.  Below is a picture from our home for our year in Granada.

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…for this view of The Alhambra Palace.

We will post more pictures of our home and neighborhood when we arrive.  Can’t wait to experience this view in person!


The Process

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All our paperwork ready to turn in to the Consulate General of Spain in San Francisco.

I’m not going to go into all the details on how to apply for a non-lucrative visa to Spain, basically because the process is quite boring if you are not actually applying. And if you are, Jed from Bucking the Trend has a wonderfully detailed post about applying for Spanish visas here. He and others who commented on his blog made this process so much clearer for us!

What I will tell you is that our family of five had to fly from Seattle to San Francisco to turn in our paperwork in person.  Yet at the appointment our case worker barely glanced at our three children as they walked in the room, and I highly recommend to anyone who needs to fork over a bunch of money to fly to their consulate, to just borrow a couple kids off the street for your appointment and save yourself some cash.

Now we wait.  We were told it will be about six to twelve weeks before our visas are ready, and then we will all make the trip back down to SF to pick them up.  I’m a little nervous about hiring kids this time, because they may actually check to make sure the visa pictures match the kids, since those are the documents that will be letting us into the country, so we will probably suck it up and spend the money on another airline flight.  Fingers crossed we’ve filled out everything correctly and won’t have any issues getting our visas.

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Outside the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco.  Notice how thrilled our oldest is.

 


The Kids

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The kids on our 2014 trip to Costa Rica.

Pretty much the second question we are asked is, “What do the kids think about it?”  I wish I could say that they are all extremely excited about moving to Spain, are trying hard to learn Spanish already, and are anticipating all they will experience.  Oh, and how thrilled they are to be leaving their friends and going to a new school for a year.

I wish I could say that.

The reality looks more like this:  every day, one or more of the kids complains about moving to Spain, about having to take extra Spanish lessons right now, about how they will miss their friends or their friends will forget them, how they won’t be able to do well in school because they don’t speak the language, having to share a room with a sibling once we are in Granada, not being able to see movies in English (that’s from our 14-year-old movie buff and future filmmaker) or any other number of things.

The reality is also slowly turning into questions about Spain, what Granada is like, what the food will be like, what kinds of things we will do there, what their schools will be like, where else in Europe we will travel.  I would not say they are coming around exactly, but they are definitely showing a little more interest and a little less frustration with this (what appears to them) life-changing decision.

Jason and I expect that the first few months will be really tough, especially when it comes to school.  We are going to try to prepare the kids (and ourselves) as best we can for that, but what we can really only hope for is that this experience shows our kids that they can handle tough situations.  Robbie, Matthew and Gabi have been so blessed to not have to struggle with much in their lives.  We are hoping that this move will be a struggle that will prove to each of them that they are capable and competent individuals.  We are also hoping that it will inspire a love of travel, an eagerness to try new things, and a realization that things can be so different in other countries, yet there are human traits or characteristics that everyone around the world shares.


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