“So, how is it?” people would ask when I first moved to Spain.
And I would gauge how much of the truth they really wanted to hear. And how much of the truth I really wanted to get into at that moment.
Let’s put it this way: Imagine moving in your own country. Whether around the corner or a thousand miles away. Think about finding your new home, packing up your old home, moving, unpacking, setting up your internet, figuring out where the supermarket is, figuring out where the better supermarket is, finding new doctors, making new friends.
Now, imagine doing it all in a different language.
A language you hardly speak.
So no, I didn’t feel incredibly excited or euphoric or enamored with Spain from the moment I arrived. I felt stressed. And tired.
Thankfully, I had Michael to help with/take care of lots of things.
But as I explained to more than one person, “We’re not quite on vacation but we don’t quite live here yet, either. It’s an odd position to be in.”
And note to future self: do not even think about having visitors to your new country of residence until at least six months after you move there.
By the time my parents arrived, a mere three months after we did, I could hardly find my way around my neighborhood.
Well, I still can’t. So maybe that’s on me.
It wasn’t until October (four months after we moved) that I was finally starting to get into a “groove.”
- I knew not just one but many places to buy delicious produce. Well, actually, by this time I’d realized almost all of the produce here was delicious. As far as I can tell, people here grow food to enjoy eating it. . . whereas in the US most of our food is grown for maximum yield, not maximum taste.
- By this time, I’d found a doctor I liked. One who spoke both English and Spanish. By my second visit, he looked at me in disbelief when I spoke a little Spanish to him. “I thought you spoke English?” he said. “Si, pero estoy aprendiendo español.” He, like so many others here, told me I speak it well. I imagine they’re just being nice. Or are just stunned that they’ve met an American who speaks anything other than English.
- I’d also made friends. Mostly other foreigners. But I’d realized that those were the friends I needed at that point–people who understood how a phone call to make a dentist appointment could make me burst into tears. “You tried to make a phone call?” they said. “It’s hard enough understanding Spanish when someone’s in front of you! Just walk over to a dentist’s office a make an appointment!” Which is what we eventually did.
But it wasn’t until a year after I moved that I finally made an appointment to get my hair cut.
Not because I feared anything with the language. But because I had higher priorities.
And Michael likes my hair long. (If he had his way, I would never go to a hairdresser.)
“I’m just going to get it trimmed,” I’d tell him.
“Why do you need to do that?”
“It’s healthy for the hair.” I thought about trying to explain “split ends” but it would have been like trying to reason with a 2-year-old–there’s something in their brains that can’t process the explanation no matter how logical it is.
Michael, upon seeing a hair appointment in my calendar, would jokingly say, “You need to cancel that.” I actually, at one point, laughed with my hairdresser about this in Asheville, “If my husband ever calls to cancel my appointment, ignore him.”
So here in Spain, I’ve been easing Michael into the idea.
I chose the place I want to go solely based on its name. And when we’d walk by it, I’d say to Michael, “There’s the place I’m going to get my hair cut.”
And when one of my missions for the day was to make an appointment, Michael and I did so together after walking home from a morning coffee.
And then the day arrived. How did it go? I’ll tell you about it in my next post.