I’ve been told by other expats that have started blogs about their adventures that around November they pretty much give up keeping track of their experiences. I can totally understand how that happens, but I’m determined to keep plugging along so that at the end of this journey, I will have a decent record of our life this year in Granada. That being said, so much happened this month that this post is rather long!
The first notable adventure we had this month was a hike with students and parents of Matthew and Gabi’s school, Gomez Moreno. AMPA, the school’s parents association coordinates hikes just about every month, and we joined the first one. We were given information on the distance and where we would stop for lunch, but it was still pretty surprising to discover we hiked about 8 miles in six hours. If Jason and I had tried to do it on our own with our kids, it would have been non-stop complaining, but with this big group, the kids rose to the challenge. We had some amazing views along the way, and at one point we even had to “ford” a creek sans shoes!
As we have established more of a routine, Jason and I have decided Thursdays would be our day to explore Granada as a couple, while the kids are in school. Often times, it just involves long walks around the city. One day we walked all around the Realejo neighborhood and discovered its unique graffiti and another day we found ourselves visiting the Casas del Chapiz, which houses the School of Arabic Studies here in Granada.
If you are wondering what the rest of our “schedule” looks like, currently Jason is training daily for a Spartan obstacle course race in Valencia on December 3rd, the two of us are taking Spanish classes three afternoons a week, and we volunteer at Gomez Moreno on Tuesdays helping the English teacher in one of the 6th grade classes. To help with our Spanish immersion we are both taking “continuing-ed” classes through the University of Granada at Casa de Porras. Lori is taking Pilates two mornings a week, and Jason is in a meditation and mindfulness class on Wednesdays. Lori also meets once a week with a native Spanish speaker to practice her Spanish and help Mari practice her English. We notice that things seem to take a bit longer in Spain as well, so our days fill up pretty quickly just running errands. Our grocery shopping here is completely unlike it is in Seattle. In addition to the heavier items like beverages and cleaning supplies that we order online and have delivered, we shop at a local panaderia for fresh bread, salty rolls and pastries, and a spice shop for dried fruits, nuts and my favorite olives. Another stop is the fruit and veggie vendor and usually a deli for speciality meats and cheeses. Every once in a while we go to the large grocery and department store, El Corte Ingles for more familiar items like ranch dressing and tortilla chips! Extra-curricular activities for Gabi have started as well; she is taking cooking, science and circus classes after school at Gomez. Matthew continues to play basketball four days a week, so getting the kids to and from their activities also takes more time as we walk them everywhere.
This month the family also took a couple of quick trips. The first was just Lori and Robbie taking the bus to Madrid to see a concert featuring the music from the video game Zelda. In addition to the fabulous symphony performance, Lori dragged Robbie to the modern art museum in Madrid, Reina Sophia. One of the best parts of the weekend was a last minute meet-up with a family from Seattle who is spending the year in Barcelona. It was great to get Robbie together with kids his age and compare stories of life as an expat teen in Spain.
Our second trip as a family was a weekend spent in the beautiful city of Seville. We spent time walking around the city center, touring the Cathedral (the third largest in Europe) and taking a carriage ride through María Luisa Park and past the Plaza de España, built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.
While in Seville we all participated in The Color Run, a fun 5K where every so often people douse you with paint so that by the end of the run everybody is a walking rainbow. Gabi enjoyed it so much she wants us to do it when it comes to Seattle after we return.
In between these two trips we celebrated Halloween in Granada. While not nearly as big of a deal here as it is in the states (and especially in our neighborhood of Magnolia back home in Seattle), kids do dress up and go out to “truco o trato” but mostly to local businesses and a few neighborhood houses. We made a plan with about a dozen expat families and created a map that showed all our houses where we would be handing out candy and then went out in various groups to trick or treat. With our old neighborhood already a perfect “spooky” backdrop, it was a fun night of traipsing through our narrow streets to find the houses that were handing out candy. Robbie stayed back at our house to pass out candy and we got word back from various families that he was perfectly scary as Samara from the movie The Ring.
Speaking of Robbie, he had a big change this month, as we ended up switching schools and putting him in our neighborhood secondary school, Instituto Albayzín (the school we had originally intended for him to attend when were planning this trip to Spain). I spoke with the director and clarified some of the questions we had had over the summer that had caused us to change our minds in the first place. (The concept of “lost in translation” is a real thing!) Our neighbors have a daughter that attends Instituto and was willing to let Robbie tag along with her for a day. After that visit, Robbie decided it would be a good change. While Granada College is a great school, it really caters to local families who want their children to learn English. There was no way for Robbie to get the extra help in Spanish that he needed. However, the kids at Granada College are great, and Robbie has enjoyed staying in touch with a few of them and spending time with them outside of school. At Instituto he is being pulled out for extra help with Spanish, but is expected to do the same work as the rest of his class, so despite the shorter day he is actually getting more class and homework. He walks to and from school and is home around 3 p.m. rather than 6 p.m. There are actually more expats at Instituto, but not all from the States. At this point he is getting Spanish help alongside a boy from France and two sisters from Syria. It looks like this is going to be a positive experience that will really broaden his world view.
The end of this fourth month found us visiting the Alhambra, the palace and fortress we have been viewing from our home every day since we moved to Granada. I can’t do justice to the history and beauty of the buildings in this post or in pictures, but I wanted to note down that we finally visited. We received free tickets as residents of Granada, but plan to go back one day for a detailed private tour because there is just so much to learn about the history of this city from the Alhambra alone.
This month has really solidified the fact that we truly live in this magical city. It is wonderful to walk around and run into people we know, or to have Omar at my favorite heladería know exactly what ice cream I want without me having to tell him. We are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with some of our new friends and will be heading to Valencia and Barcelona next month to see some more of España. There will be plenty more to share next month … I promise!