Sunday, June 18, 2017

Quiet on the Mountain

It appears that things have calmed down among our small group of neighbors and it has been five days since we have had any water issues. We like it that way.


Beautiful color on a recent walk to check on the water source


Spain is in the midst of a heatwave and we have learned to embrace the long afternoon siesta time. Most days it is ill-advised to be outside between 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm. 


Temps this past week on the Iberian Peninsula


The loveliest time is after 9:00 when the sun has dipped below the hillside to our West but the sky stays light for another hour. We enjoy sitting outside in the cool dusk playing cards and listening to the sounds of nature closing down another day.


Cards at dusk


This is my last post from Spain for a few months. At the end of June we will return to the States to visit family and friends, to welcome our first grandchild, and to distribute many of the items we currently have in storage. We will also sell the car that we've kept there, now that it is clear that our home is in Spain.

In one sense this trip is a trip "back home," however, without our own house in the States, it doesn't really feel like going home. We look forward to visiting with friends and family, but it isn't a vacation either as we throw ourselves on the generosity of others while we accomplish a long list of must-dos.

With the on-going political disaster in the States and the daily reports of violence, injustices and gun deaths, from a distance it seems as if we are about to fly into the eye of a hurricane. Our love for friends and family draws us towards what would otherwise be a situation we would make an effort to avoid.

We are leaving just as the apricots and peaches are ripening. Chestnut trees are in full bloom and the pomegranates are starting to form. We have enjoyed generous crops of strawberries, cherries and mulberries; all from our own land.


Each night I talk to the peaches encouraging them to ripen before we leave


Looking forward to gathering chestnuts in autumn


Anticipating pomegranates in November



Today my blog has reached 6000 views. This astounds me as my intent originally was to share our lives with the few people "back home" who might find it interesting. 

I've discovered that the viewers do not include our children. I joked recently about all the attention we showered on the kids and how each piece of kindergarten artwork, every report card, found a place of honor on the refrigerator door, but they can't find time to read through a weekly write-up about our life in Spain. I suppose it shows their independence and lack of concern for us, and that is no-doubt a positive thing. Right?!

I am thankful for those of you who have found your way to the blog. I suspect that many readers come because of my announcement on Facebook of each new post, but I have readers from places where I do not have any acquaintances: the Philippines, Russia, Belgium, South Africa, Turkmenistan, and beyond. I appreciate all of you who have taken the time to read a post or two, and I welcome you into this window on our lives.

I will post once or twice from the United States to share our observations after a year away. Until then, thank you for the support and encouragement that I get from sharing our story with you.


Paz y hasta pronto.



One of the last remaining poppies of 2017



Friday, June 9, 2017

The Bitter With the Better

We have entered the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer here on the mountain although the "lazy" part hasn't really started. Sam has spent nearly two weeks using his strimmer (weed eater) to cut the grass and weeds on our two hectares (five acres). I'm certain that most will wonder why he doesn't mow it, but the land is quite uneven, and very steep in places with many rocks, and a mower would not work. In addition, after June 1st it is forbidden to use a blade to cut anything, due to the fire risk. 

Sam strimming a hillside


And so he strims, or strimms? When he refills the tank or changes the strimming cords, I offer up food and water, but otherwise he is out working for 5-8 hours a day. This isn't really what we imagined when we moved from our high-maintenance yard in Oregon, and next year it will be managed differently. We don't yet know what that will look like, but this isn't sustainable.

A freshly strimmed section


The days are long with the sun coming over the mountains to the east by 7:30 each morning and darkness settling sometime after 10:00 pm. This week the moon is bright and shines in our window as we fall asleep around midnight. The days have been hot, but the evenings are pleasant and often we are still outside enjoying the cool dusk at 9:30.

Just before sunrise


The nearly full moon as seen through the netting over our bed

There is tension in our little community. The details are not completely clear and it is probably best not to share them in a public setting anyhow, but while we were on our little trip to Portugal and Galicia in May, a conflict erupted here at home. The immediate result was that an angry neighbor disassembled, and later removed, the water collection tank that Sam had installed at the fuente several months ago. The impact was that three houses, including ours, were no longer receiving any water from the fuente. We rely on this water source for all of our household water.

While we were on our vacation we received numerous texts and phone calls from various neighbors about the situation. Perceptions and accusations were shared and hurt feelings and resentments were aroused. Needless to say, this greatly impacted our ability to enjoy our long-anticipated excursion. 

By the time we returned home, one affected neighbor had stuck the pipe back into the stream and, although the tank has not yet been reinstalled, we are all getting water again.

Just a pipe with some screen stuck in the stream where the collection tank once sat


Unfortunately imaginary lines have been drawn and we've been assigned a side by one set of neighbors. Actually, at this point, we have all been assigned to that side by these particular neighbors. It is unnecessary and unfortunate, but we can't control how others maneuver through this life. 

Sam and I came to this part of the world because we want to live quietly. We have raised four wonderful kids and we embraced all of the challenges and sacrifices that involved. But now we want to relax. We want the time and space to be still and to breathe deeply, and to enjoy each other without the distractions of a faster-paced life. 

We have been pleasantly surprised by the friendship of several good neighbors and we are content to smile and wave to those with whom we will never be close. But we did not come here for drama. And so we have stepped back from the current situation, waiting to see how the dust settles.

When I started this blog I promised to share the good, the bad and the ugly. Fortunately it has been very nearly all good. And it will continue to be, but real life occurs everywhere, even in paradise, and I wanted to let you know.

A poppy just because....





Monday, May 29, 2017

Camino Reflections

Two years ago today I started my forty-two day journey on the Camino de Santiago. I joined the ancient pilgrimage route in St Jean Pied de Port, in France, and six weeks later I arrived in Finisterre on the Spanish coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

On the Camino


The experience was life-changing in many ways and as I walked through regions and villages that had seemed near-mythical from my extensive research, I wondered if I would ever pass that way again. Over the Pyrenees, through the Basque country, across the beautifully barren Meseta and into the lush green rolling hillsides of Galicia; each day was better than the day before and I marveled at the varied landscapes and cultures of Spain.

Of course that was before I knew that just over a year later I would be moving to Spain. I had dreamt of a life in Europe, but I didn't believe it would ever happen. And so as I walked the 600 miles of my Camino, I wrote in my journal and took endless photos wanting to share it all with Sam, but assuming that he would never see any of it.

And now I live a road-trip away from all of it. In February we visited friends on the Meseta and I was able to share some of the route with Sam, and now we are just home from a trip to Portugal and Galicia where together we walked sections of the trail that I had enjoyed most. 

The Camino consists of numerous routes and it seems that we run into portions frequently. In 2004 we were in France and unknowingly walked parts of the Le Puy Way (Chemin du Puy) before either of us had ever heard of the Camino. 

Conques, France - 2004 before I'd heard of the Camino


The Camino Mozárabe passes through Granada and we have followed yellow arrows around town on several occasions, while running errands. In Seville we walked to a park and I discovered that we were walking on the Viá de la Plata.

Marker in Seville


Our recent trip to Porto, Portugal was to visit a group of five friends from my walk on the Camino. We had known each other for less than 24 hours, two years ago, but we've stayed in touch, and Sam and I were pleased to have a chance to visit with them in their lovely city. 

Re-uniting with Camino friends in Picturesque Porto


I randomly chose an apartment to rent on the edge of Porto, in Foz, where the Douro river meets the Atlantic ocean. I had no idea that the coastal route of the Camino Portugués, the Caminho da Costa, would pass several feet from our apartment window!  Each morning we watched as Pilgrims who began their Camino from the Cathedral in Porto, passed our window about an hour into the first day of their journey. I was delighted by this discovery but resisted calling "Buen Camino" to each one.

In Galicia we based our visit in one of the places I had stayed while walking the Camino de Invierno. The Invierno breaks from the Camino Francés in Ponferrada, and when I walked it I was the only Pilgrim for the (approximately) 230 kilometers of the route. The experience of walking that far alone was tremendously empowering. About half way along I stayed with Penelope and it was a joy to return and to visit with her again.

The Camino just before arriving at Penelope's


I was thrilled to show Sam stretches I had walked on the Invierno. Together we hiked a steep section that descends to the Miño river and we shared the view that took my breath away when the trees parted, giving the first glimpse of the steep hillsides covered with vineyards down to the river's edge.

A view that took my breath away


I drove him over mountains on deserted logging roads where I had walked for hours without seeing another human, and we wound along gorgeous river valleys; as we went he appreciated, even more, what I had done. He also noted that, had he realized I would be in such remote places all alone, he would have suggested I not take this alternate route! I will forever be thankful that I did.

Finally, as we drove back home from Galicia we paralleled much of the Via de la Plata. This Camino route stretches across the west of Spain from Seville following an old Roman road. We saw many Camino markers, and several Pilgrims as we whizzed past on the autovía covering in a day what takes Pilgrims weeks to walk.

It is unimaginable to me that I live where I can take a road trip from home to destinations like Porto, Portugal or to any of the Camino routes. I follow several Camino groups on Facebook and at any time there is someone I am aware of who is walking one of the routes. 

I am certain that I will find myself walking again before long.

The arrows are calling me


Friday, May 5, 2017

I did it! I got off of the Merry-Go-Round and I walked away.

I wrote this post on December 31, 2013. It is amazing to read it now and to see that I made it. When I read the list that I wrote then, of what makes me happy, it describes my daily life here in Spain. 

To those who imagine something different for your life - keep dreaming and keep moving forward. It can happen.


I'm spinning on one of those playground toys that goes around and around.  If it slows someone jumps off and pushes it faster and faster before jumping back on.  Sitting in the middle, the centrifugal force makes my head roll around in slow motion, nodding forward then leaning back and then forward and back.  I'm dizzy, but it is going too fast to jump off.  It slows and I want to make the leap but just then it is pushed again until the scenery is just a blur and I don't dare escape.

The Christmas lights went up just after Halloween this year and now on the last day of December they are being replaced with Valentine's day decorations.  Store shelves that only a week ago held last-minute discounts on Christmas supplies are now draped in red and pink with hearts and chocolates and cardboard cupids.  Next the Easter bunny will rest briefly on those shelves.  Before we know it the stores will be a blast of red, white and blue as we approach that uniquely American July day of celebration.  Then it is back-to-school clothes and supplies, just about the time we are ready to start wearing shorts and swimsuits in the summer sunshine.  And on and on it goes.

My e-mail box was loaded with Black Friday deals, then Cyber-Monday price-slashing followed by discounts that grew deeper and deeper as Christmas approached.  By evening on December 25th, the ads had switched to after-Christmas deals at "rock bottom prices."  Some people shop on the 26th to get cheap gifts they will give a year from now, stocking up on half-priced wrapping paper and Christmas cards that will be stored away and forgotten when it comes time to use it all.   And soon, about three weeks into actual Winter, the spring clothes will be out and it will be a frenzy of winter clearance sales.

My Oprah magazine arrives promising that 2014 is my year to shine - inside I will learn how to "brighten everything from my mood to my style, one easy tweak at a time."  There is a diet quiz that I can take and on page 130 I'll find "Oprah's Foolproof Stress Cure."  There is The secret to a great makeover and an "inspiring, powerful," new novel that Oprah has discovered.  I am worn out just reading the front cover.  Oprah has such high expectations.  Inside I am introduced to a few of her favorite things, a "Gratitude Meter," and a plan for finding joy.  Phew!  In this single issue I might find the power to really get my life together.

I want off.  I want to stop spinning.  Who is pushing this thing anyhow?  Clearly corporate America alone has the strength to make the Merry-Go-Round spin faster and faster without stopping.  And I have realized that every time I buy something that I don't need, I am adding strength to the push.  Each time I see an advertisement and believe that my life will be just a little bit better if only I had one more..., or a newer version....or a smaller or bigger or faster or shinier - whatever, I help the Merry-Go-Round spin.

And so I am going to focus on getting off of this thing.  I am tired of being dizzy and all this head bobbing is clearly not good for the mind in the long-term.  I want to put my foot out and drag it in the dirt to try and slow the rotation enough to jump off.  I won't take advantage of the after-Christmas or winter-clearance offerings.  Even if a shirt is only $10, that is $10 I don't need to spend because I already have too many shirts that I never wear.  I don't need more books on my Kindle - I have enough to keep reading for a year or two and even at $1.99, I don't need to add to my collection.  When I run out of things to read I'm sure I'll find a deal or two that will help me re-load my library.

I am not making any resolutions for 2014 - even that is some idea thought up to make us all feel inadequate so that we spend more money trying to feel better about ourselves.  Joining gyms, buying into diet programs, spending hundreds of dollars on containers so that we'll be more organized - if I want to get fit, lose weight or manage my junk, I can do that in March, or perhaps October - there is nothing powerful about January 1st.

So my effort to slow down the Merry-Go-Round is not a resolution, it is more of a leap towards greater peace.  I know what makes me happy (in no particular order):

Hiking
Cooking
Time with Sam
Growing my own herbs and vegetables
Writing
Visits from the kids
Time with small groups of friends
Photos
Reading
Traveling


None of my truest happiness depends on things.  There is not a discount available that will enrich any of the activities listed above.  I'm letting my Oprah subscription expire- even that I tried to do a year ago but I was sent deal after deal until I finally bit.  She offered me a bag of some sort if I renewed my subscription at the low price of $12 for a year, but I had to hurry because there was a limited number of bags.  I kicked myself when the cheap, and not very attractive, bag arrived and then the monthly dose of what-I-should-be-doing hype.  Not this year Oprah - I'm on to you and I am also done with you.  I'm certain I will find more joy on my own than in the pages of a perfumed periodical.

I suspect this will take time.  If I put my foot out while spinning at a fast speed I might catch it on something and have to climb back on for a few revolutions.  I know that dragging my foot will kick up dust and those on the Merry-Go-Round might yell at me to either get off or get back on.  But I will do it.  I can't shake the image now and I feel empowered at the idea of eventually walking away while most will continue to spin and spin until they can no longer think straight.

No more spinning

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Poppies, People and Purchases

As I sit down to write this week's blog I realize that things once noteworthy are now just part of our new normal. For example, the other night we took a walk and the church bells were ringing across the valley but only after a number of clongs did I really hear them as something extraordinary. The views continue to thrill us, but we comment less frequently with amazement that we actually live here. This is certainly home now and I think we will believe that completely when we return from our trip to the States this summer. I have always wondered how expats feel when they return home, from their old home - which feels more like home? I'll be sure to let you know in September.

The poppies are in full bloom up and down the mountain. They began several weeks ago at the lower elevations, but now we have bright red blossoms punctuating our green fields and rock walls. I am thrilled by each bloom; they appear in the morning and then the petals drop off by evening, to be replaced by new blooms the next day. When I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2015 I wondered if I had taken a photo of every poppy in northern Spain. I could not get enough of them. And so it fills me with joy to have poppies here on our property. 
One of our own poppies

Last week we took the drive down to Ferreirola and this time there were fields of poppies where I had stopped to take almond blossom photos back in February. And not only poppies, but a mix of wildflowers arranged more artistically than if they had been intentionally planted. The colorful purple, white, red and yellow flowers are stunning against the broken stone walls of crumbling terraces and ruined Cortijos. 

What could be more lovely?

Wildflower canvas

We have enjoyed several social gatherings in the past few weeks. One would think that living in an isolated location might affect our social life, and it has, but only to make it more active than when we lived in Oregon. Friendships are essential when we go days without seeing anyone but each other, and connecting with people is part of what we have enjoyed most here. 

Two weeks ago we got together with a British friend who we first met in March of 2016 on the day that got this entire adventure started. He had come to the Sierra Nevada for a few days of winter skills training and we enjoyed his company while snowshoeing, and have stayed in touch over the past year. This time he returned to Lanjarón for some hiking and scrambling days with Spanish Highs Mountain Guides and we met up for drinks and tapas one evening with a group of expat friends. Several days later we enjoyed hosting him for lunch here at home; it was fun to show someone around and have him recognize things from what I have shared on the blog; (thanks Stewart for your enthusiastic interest and friendship.)

The day we met Stewart (second from the right) in 2016- Photo credit: Kiersten Spanish Highs Mountain Guides


We attended a lively afternoon barbeque with another group of friends at a home between here and Órgiva. That day our neighbors took their puppy along so that she could visit with her sister, adopted by other friends, and it was fun watching the two happy labs playing for hours. Part of what we notice is the ease of gatherings; everyone contributes food and drink, kids and pets are usually welcome, and the entire group comfortably visits for hours with no one needing to hurry off. 

Puppy siblings with endless energy

Another day we went to a birthday party for a one year old who lives a few kilometers down the hill from us; that day the group ranged in age from the one year old to a couple in their seventies, and one neighbor arrived by horseback. The buffet included British favorites of meat pies, sausage rolls, scones and trifle.

Baby's first birthday

The neighbor's Spanish Water Dog came to the party


Most recently we hosted some neighbors for our first bi-lingual gathering. One couple (and their kids) did much of the translating and the conversation flowed easily. I enjoyed preparing a selection of Spanish and Italian dishes, and it was clear as the evening went on that good food and friendship are a common language.

Good friends in any language

This kid!


We continue to acquire odds and ends; tools and appliances that replace things we sold or gave away in the States. Since arriving here in August we have looked for an outdoor table and last week we found just what we wanted. We needed something large enough for entertaining, and heavy enough to withstand the strong winds that thrash the mountainside from time to time. 

We found the perfect table at AlCampo in Motril and planned to fit it in, or on, our car. As soon as the man brought the boxed table out on a trolley we knew that we needed another plan. It weighed so much that I was useless in lifting it and we quickly asked about delivery. For only 15 euro more they would deliver it to us a few days later. We adjusted our plans and called our gracious neighbor so that he could work out a delivery location for us. Two days later the table was delivered to the carpenter's shop in Soportújar, gracious neighbor picked it up in his truck, and somehow he and Sam managed to carry it to the patio. Now assembled it will remain in the same location for years to come!

Marble tiles make this table very heavy


Sam's latest purchase was a DVD player promised to play U.S. and European DVDs (did you know there is a difference?) The player arrived and we drove to Órgiva to pick it up. Sam opened the box and discovered that the player had a plug for the UK - gracious neighbor provided an adaptor so that we could plug it in and....it won't play U.S. DVDs (we shipped numerous DVDs from the States). We did not receive the player we thought we had purchased so now we need to begin the elaborate process of returning the player.

On the other hand I am very happy with my new mixer. We bought it from a small appliance shop in Órgiva. The man took the mixer out of the box, plugged it in to show me how it worked, and then demonstrated how to release the beaters and finally he carefully repackaged the whole thing. Perhaps we paid a few euros more than we might have at the mega Media Mart store in Granada, but it was satisfying to support the local merchant and his attention was worth the extra cost. 

I get a silly joy from having European appliances. Each time I plug something in without an adaptor I am that much more settled into my life here. 

It is little things that bring us smiles throughout our simple days. 

Life is good.

I love this village house






Sunday, April 16, 2017

The course of time is not controlled by the lives that leave ripples in it.

So...one day Pooh and Piglet and Rabbit and Roo are all standing on the bridge playing Poohsticks. They all drop their sticks in the water when Rabbit says "Go!", and then run across to the other side of the bridge to see which stick is the winner. 
-The House at Pooh Corner   A.A.Milne

When my kids were little, Poohsticks was a favorite game. We would often take walks to a high bridge near our home and when we got to the bridge the kids would each pick out a stick, drop it off one side of the bridge and then run across to see which stick floated out first. Sometimes only one stick emerged, sometimes neither made it under the bridge to the other side. But the water kept flowing regardless of what kept the sticks from making it through.
In a river, small objects get caught up in the current and are moved further down stream before settling again, large logs wedged against a boulder divert the water until the river seemingly follows a new course; small pebbles are buried under silt, and sticks left spinning in an eddy will eventually rot and disintegrate. But all the time, the water just keeps flowing. 
Waterfall on a recent hike

I have been thinking recently about the flow of time. Much like a river, time just keeps moving along. 
Living so far away from family and lifelong friends forces me to recognize that time for us, and for those we "left behind" does not stand still. While the relationships are alive in our hearts and minds, the day-to-day activities of life demand forward movement. The physical space that we once filled is now filled by others and likewise, new friends have settled into the flow of our lives. 
This summer we will welcome our first grandchild, and we will be in the States when she is born. Another ex-pat friend was just in the States to meet her first grandchild and I know that she left part of her heart there when she finally needed to return home to Spain. I recognize that we will also experience the ache of saying good-bye to our granddaughter when autumn arrives and we return home.
In the years ahead, friends and family will pass away and we will not be there in the final moments. In time, Sam and I will have injuries and illnesses, and no family will be near to help care for us. These are some of the more painful realities of choosing to live in another country. 
But there are others who fill in those spaces left empty by our move to Spain.
Last night we babysat for two delightful neighbor kids, and as I watched Sam "gallop" around the table during a rousing game of "Pony-opoly," it was clear that we are filling the role of grandparents to these kids, as their actual grandparents live in the UK. 
On a walk with one of our British grandkids.

Another neighbor is temporarily without a washer and I have done several loads of laundry for her; she said that it makes her Belgian mother happy to know that someone is helping out her daughter; and I hope and trust that others will be there for our kids in the same way when it is needed.
Laundry delivery

When we return to the States this summer there will be many changes, some more obvious than others. Everyone we see will be one year older, as are we. There will be new houses where last year there were only trees. Roads will be recently widened; favorite shops and restaurants may be gone. All reminders that time moves on. 
The course of time is not controlled by the lives that leave ripples in it. 

Meanwhile in Spain we continue to enjoy each day. Sam is working hard cutting back the spring growth of weeds, but he stops and looks around and tells me, "I love it here." 
Loving our view

We wake each morning when the sun comes in our bedroom window and I frequently comment, "Oh look, another beautiful day." 
The actual color of the sky most days.

Each night this past week we fell asleep smothered by the light of the moon as it shone in the same bedroom window.
Full moon shining in the bedroom window (the lights of Bubion in the distance)

Time flows on, but all we have for certain is this moment, and we remind each other regularly to stop, take in the moment, let go of the things we cannot control, or that simply don't matter, and accept the calm that our peaceful surroundings offer.
A poppy growing out of one of the walls.




 


Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Hike, A Festival, Official Residency and an Injury

We have enjoyed a full week of beautiful weather. Early in the week we went in search of poppies. I've been told of a particular area that will dazzle me with fields of red poppies, and I don't want to miss that. We drove up through Pampaneira, past the turn-off to Bubion and Capileira and on to Mecina. The narrow winding road down to Mecina recently rewarded us with fluffy pink almond blossoms, and now those trees have all leafed out, but we were too early for the poppies.

We drove on to the tiny village of Ferreirola and parked the car there. This is the village where we stayed when we first came to the Alpujarras in 2008 and we return frequently for the short hike to the old mill at the Río Trevélez. Each time we walk to the river we discover plants that we hadn't seen before.  It was October when we first visited Ferreirola and the chestnut trees were full of burrs, bursting open and ready to drop. We have walked there in winter when the landscape is barren, and now in Spring there are wildflowers, fruit and nut trees in blossom, and brilliant green young leaves unfurling on the trees. It is a place that fills us with joy.

Happy on my hike outside Ferreirola


Thursday we went into Órgiva to take care of some business. Traffic was backed up and it took three changes of the light to get us through town. It turns out that this weekend is the BIG religious festival for Órgiva; El Dia del Senor, the Day of the Lord. 

On Thursday the statue of Al Señor de la Expiración, Our Lord of the Expiration, is taken down from the wall behind the alter in the church while out on the street there are thousands of fireworks exploding. We arrived just in time to hear the fireworks and afterwards I went into the church where many people were waiting for their turn to kiss the statue (crucifix) of Jesus. Apparently the crucifix was carved in 1599 and this festival has been going on for over 400 years.

Inside the church in Órgiva with Al Señor de la Expiración



On Friday of El Dia del Senor, the statue is taken out of the church at 6:00 pm and paraded around the town throughout the night. We missed that, but we were able to hear the on-going fireworks echoing up the valley.

Yesterday we picked up Bea (a local woman who has helped us with translation) and we drove to Motril where we had an appointment at the Comisaría de Policía Nacional, National Police Station, for our residency application. This process can be cumbersome, but we were well informed about all that we needed to take with us. Our folder was full with multiple copies of our passports, both Italian and USA, the paperwork from Pampaneira showing that we have registered at the town hall there, our NIE documents (like a Social Security Number), our proof of private health insurance, and our bank statements demonstrating that we have the required income of 550 euros each per month, and passport-style photos. 

The room was packed but our wait was very short. We were greeted by Peter Garcia and he scanned the paperwork and seemed satisfied that all was in order. But he was puzzled about why we would leave the USA to live in the tiny mountain village of Pampaneira. I said, "One word: Trump," and he said, "Ah, sí!" 

Soon we were off to the bank to pay the fee (for some reason they do not take money at the police station so a trip to the bank is always part of these procedures.) We enjoyed the walk into town and were fortunate to be first in line at the bank.  A quick stop at the Fotocopy store to make even more copies off all the documents and then back to the police station. In less than 90 minutes we accomplished the entire task of attaining legal residency status.  We now have cards that are good for 5 years and when we renew them, it will be good forever! 

Bea and Sam on our walk to the bank in Motril


Afterwards we took Bea for a celebratory lunch at a seaside restaurant where we enjoyed fresh sardines, lightly breaded and grilled to perfection.

Seaside lunch spot


Today we were up early and Sam was off before 8:00 for week #3 of the acequia cleaning effort (see last week's blog). 

A beautiful start to the day

He took his shovel and rubber boots because with the warm weather, the water is flowing and boots are necessary for the hours of working with snow-melt flowing over your feet. 

After a few household chores, I settled at the outdoor table with a mug of hot chocolate and a book. The birdsong was the only sound I could hear and the sun took the chill from the morning air. 

Settling into a peaceful day

Before the mug was empty I had a text from Sam telling me that he had fallen and hurt his shoulder and could I please drive up the mountain to pick him up. I knew he would need to ice his shoulder immediately so I threw some frozen peas into the insulated shopping bag and took off up the track to find him. I parked as close as I could and then started to walk towards where I knew he would have been working. I walked for several kilometers before finally meeting Sam who was making his way back out along the acequia with his backpack and shovel. 

Walking in the clean acequia on my way to find Sam

I traded one of my hiking poles for his shovel and we continued back towards the car. At one point there is a steep downhill and Sam lost his footing, falling again onto the injured shoulder and his wrist. It was painful to witness and I knew how discouraged he felt. Apparently he had dislocated the shoulder with his first fall but popped it back into place on his own and then tried to continue working before admitting that he really needed to take the day off. 

Finally we made it to the car and back down the mountain to home. A kind neighbor shared a "miracle ointment" and we strapped a variety of frozen vegetable bags onto his shoulder throughout the afternoon. A few ibuprofin and hopefully he will get some rest tonight.

We ended the day out on our rocks - just beyond the fence line, and right at the edge of our property. The view up the valley to Mulhacén and down to Pampaneira is stunning. 

Relaxing on our rocks

I shared a photo on Facebook and someone commented that I am living her dream. I realized that those are the exact words I used to tell friends who had moved to Spain or Italy and it hit me that actually I am living my dream


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Friendship, Muy Trabajo, Adventure and The Rest of the Story...

It has been a full two weeks. After enjoying a week of summer-like weather between visitors, the day that we picked up my high school roommate from the Malaga airport the weather changed. As we drove up the mountain in the thickest fog we have seen here, I know that Mary Jo wondered what she had signed up for. When we arrived at our cortijo, the snow began to fall. Fortunately I had laid a fire that morning and soon the house was warming to coziness. 

I've decided that weather reports are of little value as the forecast for Mary Jo's visit called for day after day of rain and/or snow; but after only one day of weather that kept us inside, we enjoyed sunny days and were able to do all the things we had planned. She had come from Ann Arbor, Michigan and told me before she arrived that she was leaving 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 Celsius) with wind, and that if I could improve upon that, it would be great! And it was great!

Showing Mary Jo around the area - Trevélez

A hike near the fire lookout


What a gift to have a visit from someone I've known for so long. Neither of us is where we imagined ourselves during late-night talks in our bunk beds at Boarding School, but we both feel fortunate to have ended up where we are.

Forty-one years of friendship


On the day that Mary Jo and I went to Granada, Sam joined about 25 others, a mixture of Spanish and ex-pats, men and women, and began to clean the acequia. This is an annual multi-day activity involving someone from each property that benefits from the water that flows down the mountain through the ancient water channels. During the autumn and winter, leaves, dirt, and other debris fill the channel, while wild boar do their part in collapsing rock and dirt walls. This all needs to be cleaned out and repaired before the snow melt begins and the water starts to flow. If the acequia remains clogged, then there will not be enough water to fill the albercas and cisterns for the cortijos and for irrigation.


Sam hiking in our leaf-filled acequia before the cleaning began

The acequia cleaning crew starts with the strimmers (weed-eaters) who clear anything that is growing in and along the channel, then come the "leafers," who scoop out the loose leaves and trimmings, next workers with hoes clean up the sides and loosen the compacted mud, and finally the shovelers toss it all out, heaving the piles of dirt and debris as far from the channel as possible. The Spaniards frequently bring a dog or two along and this can be a problem if a Retriever is in the group as there is a constant effort on the part of the dog to return what has been tossed out!

Acequia cleaning, day #2


The workers gather at 8:00 and work until 17:30.  This year it is expected to take 4 or 5 Saturdays to complete the 14 kilometer stretch for which our "neighborhood" is responsible. Yesterday was the second Saturday and the further they progress, the longer it takes to walk into the day's section, and then back out at the end of it all; it also seems that there are fewer participants each week. 

Last night our neighbor came over for dessert and he and Sam talked at length about "there has to be a better way." It was agreed that cleaning the acequia is muy trabajo, very hard work. Our neighbor is 38 years old, so even the younger men find it a physical challenge.  The Spaniards seem to accept this as something that just must be done, and there were some very old men doing their part. It is so important to understand all that is involved culturally for these men who have done this all of their lives, but it is hard to resist imposing a bit of other-culture strategy on it all. 

Yesterday while Sam worked like a "medieval slave," as our neighbor described it, I drove into town for some groceries. It was a beautiful day and much warmer down in the valley than here at home. After stopping at the necessary shops I decided to go on a short adventure.  

Just outside of Órgiva, across the Seven Eye Bridge (named for the seven arches), I turned right, went through the narrow tunnel and drove on for a couple minutes.  There is a pull-over on the right hand side next to some high rocks, and I've been curious about why the pull-over is there and have wondered what I have been missing each time we pass on our way to or from the coast. It seemed like a good day to explore. 

Who could resist climbing to the top?

There are paths all over the hillside, but it quickly became clear that the paths have been made by goats, and following goat paths is not always fruitful for a human. The animals care nothing of views, and their sure-footedness meant that I ended up in places where my lack of sure-footedness became alarmingly apparent. 

As I scrambled up a precipice, small rocks and dirt fell away from me, and I wondered if perhaps I should have told someone where I was going. But curiosity drove me on. I ended up high on the rocks with a stunning view towards home. The Rio Guadalfeo flowed far below in front of me while behind me, seemingly tiny cars enjoyed a Saturday drive along the twisting road that hugs the side of the Sierra de Lujar. Wildflowers are scattered across the rugged terrain and I breathed deeply taking in the scents of a warm spring day. 
Tiny cars far below

Towards home 

Wildflowers

The Poppies are starting!


And now, the rest of the story....I have mentioned our fuente from time to time and in my last blog I shared some photos of the rusty barrel that has served as our first place of collection, amongst the ferns, about a kilometer from home. On Wednesday Sam and our neighbor Joseph decided to take on the task of replacing the barrel.

We were off early to Pitres to see what the building supply yard had in the way of small water tanks. Sam and Joseph teamed up to find the necessary Spanish to describe what they needed and then we discovered that the merchant, Antonio, has quite a bit of English. So our needs were spelled out in broken Spanish and then summarized back to us in English. 

Yes, it was understood what was needed, but something would have to be ordered. I think we were all relieved that the job could be delayed for another time. But then Antonio had a thought; he might have just the thing! Keys were uncovered and a door unlocked and there sat the perfect item. A small tank intended for making wine, but exactly the size that we needed. Having settled that issue, the three men sat down on the floor and sorted through a box of valves and parts until everything necessary was collected.

On the floor sorting through a box of parts


It took all afternoon to dig out the old tank, make a deeper hole, drill holes into the new tank, replace the intake pipe and hook it all up. I busied myself at home until Sam called. His first words were, "Don't panic." Does that ever help anyone NOT panic?  

Joseph had cut himself badly. Sam wrapped the cut tightly with teflon tape (the man is resourceful and calm in an emergency!) and now Joseph was on his way home to stitch it up himself. Sam thought I should walk up to see if I could help. Fortunately Joseph assured me that he could take care of it and he would be fine. I walked on to the fuente to check on the progress and before long Joseph returned, bandaged and back at the barrel replacement effort. 

Teamwork


By dusk the project was completed and the new system is working perfectly. 

Finished project!


Water is everything.


For many of us, clean water is so plentiful and readily available that we rarely, if ever, pause to consider what life would be like without it. - Marcus Samuelson