*Author’s note: Because this is first and foremost a personal journal of our family’s experience, I’m trying to record events as accurately as possible, including the difficult or boring stuff. Thanks to those of you who read this blog, but I won’t be offended if you decided to skip around or stop reading all together!!! LLW
I feel like this second month in Spain has been all about building…building resilience, building relationships, building memories.
While Granada, and specifically our neighborhood of the Albayzín is still magical, this month we have had to become more resilient in the face of various challenges.
Challenge number one: the language. If we were to go back and do something different about learning Spanish, one thing I would have done was NOT take a week off between classes, and possibly not changed language schools quite so quickly. After our week’s vacation at the end of our first month, we returned to Granada and began classes at another local language school, Castila. While the school itself was great, having a week off between classes made it hard to get back on track, especially because Castila had a different way of teaching Spanish than our previous school, and, for Jason and I, they didn’t have a class that was right at our level, so we were put in a B1 class that was pretty challenging. Those of you who know Jason can understand that he took this challenge and ran with it, while I floundered and became overwhelmed. The kids had mixed experiences. They all felt they had learned more at Delengua, but Matthew and Gabi enjoyed Castila much more because there were more kids their age taking Spanish with them. After that first week of our two week session, I was able to move down to a different class, but I still didn’t progress as much as I’d hoped. After the two week session and because we’d already scheduled it, we took a break to go to the Canary Islands, tried to come back to classes for the last week before school started for the kids, but ended up just keeping Matthew and Gabi in language class that week. Now that the kids have all started regular school, Jason and I have decided to start private lessons, three days a week for 1.5 hours per day. We’ve also been told about free language exchanges that we can do with locals…you meet for an hour or so and talk to someone who wants to practice their English while you practice your Spanish. Resilience lesson number one: keep plugging along with Spanish.
Challenge number two: health concerns. During our first week of lessons at Castila, I ended up experiencing severe back spasms, which made it extremely painful to sit through the language classes and may have had a little bit to do with my difficulty concentrating. Because of the language barrier, I didn’t feel like trying to find a doctor or physical therapist. Luckily, my niece Holly who is a chiropractor in Kansas City, gave me advice on some stretches, the local farmacia gave me some meds and I started to feel better after a few days. I think the absolute cure though, was an afternoon that Jason and I spent in the Arab baths at Hamman Al Andalus. Experiencing various baths at different temperatures, plus a steam room and a massage at the end seemed to be the magic bullet for healing. The following week, Jason ended up with a painful canker sore that made it painful for him to talk, eat and drink. Pretty frustrating when you are trying to learn a new language and when you are surrounded by amazing and cheap food and beer! Lastly, just as we were both feeling better, we ended up getting food poisoning or some type of gastrointestinal virus on our trip to the Canary Islands. It took a good 10 days for us to feel normal again. Resilience lesson number two: this too shall pass.
Challenge number three: school. Poor Robbie. While Matthew and Gabi’s school Gomez Moreno had us register them back in March, IES Albayzín told us to wait until we arrived. Through various emails and my attempts at translating their website, we were under the impression that Robbie would be able to take most of his classes in English and even do some film work as an extra curricular activity. Well, when the school office reopened after the August break, we went to visit and register. From that visit, we gathered that classes were taught in English maybe once a week, and a student had to be 16 in order to work with the film program. There was also some confusion as to whether or not Robbie would be able to take any math or science classes that he needed in order to graduate on time from Ballard High School when we return to Seattle. We spoke with our landlord and another family we’d met whose children go to Granada College, a private international school about 25 minutes outside of Granada City and decided to look into that option. With just a few days to go before school started we visited it. While it was going to cost us some money, it would be a super long day, and various other challenges, it seemed to be an easier way to transition Robbie into school in a foreign country. As of this writing we are only a couple days in, so the verdict is still out. Gabi and Matthew also started school last Monday, and overall have had a good experience, but I’m sure after a full month in, we will have a better grasp of what the year ahead holds for all of them. Resilience lesson number three: go with the flow, and don’t be afraid to change your plans.
This second month hasn’t ONLY been about challenges however. This month we found ourselves building relationships as well, and that has been a wonderful thing. In just the past few weeks we have met a number of families with kids the same age as our children, embarking on the same or a similar adventure. We’ve met people from all over the U.S. (including TWO families from Washington), Australia and Canada. We have had dinners together, pool parties, “mom walks” through the grounds of the Alhambra, traded childcare and basketball practice duties and are slowly building that “village” that is necessary when raising kids, no matter where one is living.
Building relationships and continuing to explore this country we live in has allowed us to also build memories. Our trip to Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands was just one of the highlights of this second month. We won’t forget the fun we had parasailing over the bluest ocean we’ve ever seen, or the torturous hike across the burning hot sand dunes, only to end up on a nude beach (yes, many women go topless at beaches in Spain, but this was actually a completely clothing optional beach – I think we may have scarred Robbie for life!). Little memories of tapas nights, discovering favorite helado shops, hanging laundry to dry on our terrace, chasing strange cats out of our house, and finally picking up our residency cards are all part of building this life of ours here in Granada.