I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last wrote anything here. Where has that time gone? Although it feels as though nothing much has happened, the last few weeks have been spent adapting. Local life has been busy, interesting, challenging, funny, relaxing and weird.
The good news is that Lizzy has settled into nursery. She doesn’t particularly like it, but she goes without much fuss and I collect her safe and well. The people there have been so kind to her, and I can honestly feel the care and affection exuding from that place whenever we go. The ladies hug and kiss her as if she was their own. So although she may be too old for it the recommendation was perfect for our circumstances and she has gradually accepted her time there and made the most of it. She goes three times a week, from 9am until midday, which at least gets her used to some kind of routine. We have made the decision, however, that she will go to Selena’s school as of January, which will mean full time education as soon as she turns four.
She has been persevering with the language and repeatedly telling other children her name and age in Spanish. After an initial period of withdrawal, when she became frustrated at the effort involved in communicating, she has now become her confident self again and has made friends easily. It’s a regular occurrence now, when we wander through town, that she sees a friend that she recognises and interacts with. They may not understand each other but they know each other’s name.
Likewise Selena and I have had many conversations with locals and neighbours as we see familiar faces on a daily basis. Slowly but surely the language will become easier for us all. Selena has two Spanish classes a week and already the improvement is discernible as her confidence grows.
Our immediate neighbour opposite our house is quite a character. Our first floor terrace looks directly into her kitchen window, which is where she seems to spend most of her time. I think she has a cleaning obsession (not unusual for Spanish ladies) as she always seems to be standing at the sink scrubbing and washing, even climbing onto the units to clean the walls. If she’s not cleaning, she’s cooking. With three teenage children she is obviously kept very busy. Our terrace is a lovely spot to sit and read with a drink, but I have had to restrict my appearances there as she doesn’t wear a great deal whilst in her kitchen. This obviously makes things awkward. I try to keep my eyes on my book, whilst gravity works its magic with her insufficient bikini top, as she vigorously scrubs away at the sink. Inevitably, one or two things appear that I have no right to see!! In any case, there has been no ‘titillation’ to be had, so I have had no qualms about retreating indoors.
Another member of her family is a very loud parrot. This parrot seriously squawks at an incredible volume. The trouble is the semi naked, cleaning obsessed woman has an identical voice to the parrot! So even though I withdraw indoors to protect my eyes, my ears are assaulted by high decibel yelling at the teenage children. She has got a set of lungs on her. On several occasions I have thought that the parrot was going crazy at something, only to realise it was the lady shouting and rasping at her kids. The funny thing is that when I met her in the street she was softly spoken and genteel.
In other news we have gradually been working through our administrative obstacles. Our bank account is working and we have internet and television. After some difficulties and delays in becoming connected we opted for a local company in town who were able to install fibre broadband in a matter of days. They sent three workmen who arrived on time and proceeded to run more than 50 meters of cable outside, running along the front of the neighbouring houses and halfway across town. Inside our house they were equally effective, managing to run cable behind the walls so that none were on show. Having run over on their first visit, they promised to return and complete the installation as quickly as possible. I didn’t expect to see them for days, but the company called us on the next morning and arranged for them to return later that day, which they did. So for all of our frustrations about certain bureaucratic delays, this was very refreshing.
As summer has officially ended here I expected the weather to change, but it’s been deliciously warm. It’s certainly cooler at night, but the daytime and evening temperatures have been great. I took Lizzy back to our local pool a few weeks ago, which has now changed to its ‘winter’ setting. The roof is over the pool and outdoor garden area all closed off, which is a shame, given the beautiful weather, but that is standard practice from 1st September apparently. We were the only people using the pool but the lifeguard immediately seized upon us and said we had to wear swim hats. When I explained that we didn’t possess such things he duly provided one each for us to borrow! It seems they are obligatory in the pool from 1st September.
Thankfully there are no such restrictions at the beach. The lifeguards have all gone and our local beach bar has been dismantled and removed for the winter, but the sea remains a pleasant temperature. We had another couple of hours there today followed by an al fresco paella lunch at a lovely low-key restaurant nearby. I honestly didn’t expect to be enjoying a swim in the sea in mid October.
Back in town the endless weekends of bull running have continued today. It seems they do it for three consecutive weekends in one part of town, before moving to another part for another three week run. It certainly brings out the crowds, mostly the men, as they literally barricade off certain streets. They taunt and tease the bulls, goading them into charging but then running away and seeking refuge behind the huge steel barriers. It’s not particularly pleasant to watch but it’s a huge part of life in this town. Interestingly I’ve spoken to several local people that don’t like it and choose to avoid it or move away whilst these festivities take place.
We have recently entertained our first guests since being here, so it was nice to show them the sights and spend time with family. It also meant that we were able to act like tourists ourselves and take in some of the highlights that Valencia has to offer. The Bioparc is a lovely animal park in the city centre that is very cleverly done, giving the impression that the animals are wandering freely, and the area around the Arts and Sciences Centre is stunningly beautiful. We revisited some of our favourite restaurants, became more experienced in the public transport systems in the city, and just enjoyed learning more about the local area.
Selena has been pleased to have a couple of ‘holiday’ days off this week so we have done more exploring together, taking in different parts of the city, and climbing a local mountain ‘Monte Picayo’ which is also on our doorstep. She has adapted well to life here too, settling into her new job, and when she’s not at work our days spent together as a family are relaxed and enjoyable. With the weather being so good, we spend a lot of time outside, and everybody knows what a positive effect a bit of sunshine has on the soul. Heading out to eat and drink doesn’t cost a lot, and now we have the internet, staying in touch with family using FaceTime or Skype has been easy.
So far so good.