Friday, July 18, 2014

Thanks for the Memories - Goodbye Barcelona

(July 1) This morning we left Barcelona. The word that best describes how I feel right now?  Relieved. Yeah I wasn't expecting that one either. But not only have the last 9 months been some of the most trying of our lives, the last 4 or so weeks have been especially so with everything coming to a head with exploding hot water heaters, apartment repairs, moving, taxi strikes, problems with our house in the US, my MacBook deciding to kick the bucket, saying our goodbyes and so much more. 

So relieved it is. Relieved to be ready to move on to the next chapter. With so many balls in the air, one piece is done and we can focus on the future, starting with the next 7 weeks before we move to Amsterdam. 

But while I'm relieved, I'm also, of course, sad to say goodbye to a city that I unexpectedly fell in love with. I think I can vouch for Aidan that he feels the same. He tried so hard to hate it here (and did for the longest time) only to find himself calling it home more than the US, a surprise to us all. I think the move is hitting him the hardest of all. 

Barcelona changed us. I'd like to think it is for the better. There is a saying I like that I found a few years ago that I hold dear to my heart:

"And once the storm is over you
won't remember how you made it through, 
how you managed to survive.
You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm 
is really over.  But one thing is certain.
When you come out of the storm, 
you won't be the same person who walked in."

Barcelona was a storm that we had to weather. There were times when it was like a wild tornado with everything around in total chaos. There were other times when it was like a beautiful tranquil spring day when our lives just felt... Normal.  It took a long time for us to get to normal but it just goes to show what can happen when you just let life take it's natural course - things just fall into place. 

This experience of living outside our comfort zone was something I truly believe everyone should do at least once in their lives. It changes who you are down to the core. You find strength where you didn't know you had it. You find you are more resourceful than you ever realized.  You find that there is more to the world than the bubble (that you were perfectly happy in) you were living in.  You find you are capable of ... Anything.

If you can weather the storm that is expat life, really, the world is your oyster. There is nothing you can't accomplish. This life is not for the faint of heart. In a million years I never would have thought this would be our lives. NEVER. When the idea of moving to Barcelona came up 6 years ago (a year and a half before we actually ended up doing it), I thought there was no way we could do this - to leave the lives we had been perfectly content with, to uproot the kids and take them away from their family and friends, to go to a place where we did not speak the language. 

There have been times where it has been overwhelming, intimidating and even downright scary (never for safety though!). And there have been way more times filled with laughter, excitement and the joys of living a life less ordinary. This adventure was a leap of faith for us. It could have been a disaster. It's certainly had its disastrous moments, but it has been anything but a disaster. It has opened our eyes to the world in a way nothing else ever could. 

When we look to the people our children are becoming, truly third culture kids, it gives us a great sense of pride but also reaffirms that this was the right decision for our family. We've had our struggles like any other family - whether an expat or not. But as a whole, this has made them global citizens, something essential in this day and age where the world is rapidly becoming a smaller place. This experience will open doors and create opportunities for them that would not have otherwise existed had we stayed home in the States, opportunities that we probably wouldn't have even known existed. 

It will be hard for us to define normal again. We want to move back to the comfort of home again, some day. And I've heard mixed reactions about what that move is like. Some say it feels completely natural. Others say that it wasn't long before they had the itch to get moving again. And others say that they no longer feel like home is home but nor do they feel that where they are is home either - an eternal sense of limbo. 

We are thankful. Thankful that we have been able to have these amazing experiences and to give our children these opportunities to experience a different life. Barcelona has set the bar high and it's not going to be easy to top what we have learned about the world and ourselves through living there. But we are excited to see what new adventures Amsterdam has to bring to the table.

We will be back Barcelona. I already miss your beautiful blue skies - that special blue that only seems to exist here. We will miss your vida tranquila. We will miss our friends. And our school. And we will even miss those annoying quirks that may frustrate us but also make Barcelona a unique and special place to live. This is not goodbye Barcelona, just see you later - we will be back.

As we depart, I need to add this one last song that always puts a smile on my face when I think of Spain and I expect every time I hear it going forward it will remind me of all the amazing memories we have had here the last 4 1/2 years.

The day we arrived in Barcelona, January 5, 2009 - Liam age 2 1/2 and Aidan age 2 1/2 (taken at Barcelona airport upon arrival)

And the day we left Barcelona, July 1, 2014 - Liam age 7 and Aidan age 10 (taken at Barcelona airport upon departure)

Julie, Josh, Aidan and Liam

Adding Insult to Injury

There is no way to truly describe our last 9 months in Barcelona.  Trying.  Frustrating.  Depressing. Scary.  Difficult.  Broken.  I could go on and on.  In the end, it was probably some of the most difficult months of our lives.  Living lives in 2 different countries with no idea of what our future held.  It's a scary prospect when you don't know where you are going to be in a matter of months and how to prepare for the unknown when really, you can't prepare.

But to add insult to injury over the last 9 months, we've had everything that can go wrong has gone wrong.  Now don't get me wrong (ok too many uses of that word in 2 sentences), I totally understand that these are first world problems.  But that doesn't make them any less frustrating when we were already going thru an emotional rollercoaster.  But to just name a few things:

Josh has travelled EVERY SINGLE WEEK since November.  Our household has not been the same without him there.

The furnace went in our Attleboro house... had to be replaced.

Our tenant in Attleboro contacted us about some carpenter ants.  Turns out when I had the house sprayed they also found we had termites... also had to replace the dishwasher.

There was a taxi strike as the kids and I tried to get back from our house hunt in Amsterdam.

Not to mention the week we were leaving our apartment, the hot water heater decided to explode with water shooting out of the top leaving us with no hot water for a good 4 days.

By the time we left Barcelona we did not have a signed contract on where we would be living in Barcelona.

And the straw that broke the camel's back - as we were finally getting ready to leave Barcelona, my computer hard drive crashed - 10 years of work... gone.  As I write this on July 18, I'm still in recovery mode.  And I'm still hoping that I will, in fact, be able to recover everything.

So while none of this is life threatening stuff, it just kept piling up.  And we just kept plowing ahead because what else can you do?  It was like at every turn something new was breaking or going wrong.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel...hopefully.  The kids and I are in the States now, Josh in Amsterdam.  In just about 4 weeks, we'll all be together again on a weekly basis for the first time in over 9 months.

Anyways, this was just a quick rant as I work on getting my blog posts back up to date!!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's Not Goodbye, It's See You Later...

We are at that stage, the final goodbyes. They started about a month ago we had some of Josh's friends from work over, we did some last lunches with friends and we started to organize our calendar to maximize our time spent with the friends we've made here.

Obviously the kids' friends are the top priority. As adults, we know this is not goodbye forever and have various methods to communicate. While Aidan, at age 10, is getting better with email and the such, he's still not an effective communicator. And so these last days have been especially important to both kids as we don't know the next time they will see or talk to their friends (though we are thinking of maybe a trip in May to visit). 

And so our calendar, especially since school ended on the 20th has been jam packed. Like scary amount of things we've had planned. And it's no wonder the kids are walking around like zombies. Let's recap the last 10 days...

June 20 - last day of school. We went with a bunch of friends to the park after school finished. It was the last day for Aidan to see Nicolau's and Liam to see Quinn as both were leaving for their summer trips. Liam slept at Quinn's that night for a little extra time together.

Max, Aidan, Nicolau and Guille

Aidan and Nicolau - one last goodbye as Nicolau was leaving the next day for Japan for the summer

Miles, Liam and Quinn - one last goodbye with Quinn as he was leaving for vacation the next day too 

June 21 - Liam play date with Mateo at our house, Aidan ended up with an impromptu play date with Isa that evening. 

Liam and Mateo on the wii

Such great friends!!

Isa was Aidan's first friend in Barcelona and they have remained great friends to this day!

June 22 - Both kids had a play date at Pablo and Luis' house in Valldoreix.

Pablo and Liam

1...2..3... Jump!!

June 24 - Liam play date at Mateo's in the afternoon. Picked him up and we brought Aidan to Max's for a sleepover.
Liam and Alyia - there may be 2 years difference between them but they are peas in a pod and have so much fun together!

Aidan and Max after a sleepover and playdate all afteroon

Just being silly

June 25 - While Aidan spent the day with Raul and Max, Liam had a play date with Miles. In between I dealt with the hot water heater repairs. Good times.

Aidan, Max and Raul

June 26 - Liam went to Shoma's along with Miles.

Shoma, Liam and Miles at the end of the day - such a great group of kids!

June 27 - Aidan went to Guille's for most of the day, the last photo of which is on my camera. I had drinks with my friends Eddy, Ricardo and Nasi that night. 

My going away gift wrapped in Catalan Independence paper - yes I did get a kick out of it.  And I loved my beautiful framed picture of Barcelona.  But I loved the words on the picture even more - thank you guys!!  xoxo  As the picture is already packed, I don't have a picture of it to post.

Eddy, myself, Ricardo and Nasi

June 28 - Aidan had a play date with David at a park and Max met up with them later. In the mid afternoon, Liam went to Mateo's for a sleepover. Meanwhile, Aidan's play date with Max turned into a sleepover and even a trip to Casteldefels to see Johnny. They got in at 130am. Yup he's tuckered out!!!

David and Aidan

Aidan, Max and David

Johnny, Aidan and Max
Getting in at 1:30AM

June 29 - I picked up Liam at Mateo's at 12 and went to get Aidan at Max's. We ended up staying for lunch and just hanging out (such a great afternoon) before meeting up with Liam's friend Shoma's in the late afternoon. 
Shoma and Liam on one last playdate - thank you Yukiko for making it happen!

June 30 - We had our home inspection and then it was off to see Luca and Roan for one final play date in Spain...for now - we will be back!

The boys in Sitges - having a great beach day on our last day in Spain.  We look forward to visiting them in Stockholm this year!

Probably the most epic photo bomb ever!  So much so it deserved the xlarge setting ;)

It warms my heart to see what amazing friends the boys have. We have been so lucky in that respect. They took the boys to their homes since we were moving and/or at a hotel, or they met up with us at various parks. It really meant the world to the boys and to us. 

We know this isn't goodbye forever. We hope everyone stays in touch, comes to visit us in the Netherlands and knows that we will be back to visit!!  It's been a crazy 10 days but every moment has been worth it!!


PS - On a separate note as I'm finally posting this post move, it was a really good idea (as of this moment) to go straight on vacation from moving - it really cut the emotion out of it as it felt just like a temporary absence rather than leaving for good.  Or at least this is how it feels now, we'll see what it's like when we get to Amsterdam in 5 weeks!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Moving Day #2

This post is delayed for several reasons - the first and most important being that the day we left for the hotel after our move was the day my hard drive decided to die.  As I type this 2 weeks later, I'm still in recovery mode because I couldn't do the recovery on our cruise.  Anyways, better late than never, I'll have a bunch of entries from our move to our cruise and our time in the States coming up!!

For some reason day 2 of the move was harder than day 1. Boredom perhaps?  No furniture to sit on other than the very uncomfortable dining chairs maybe?  The silver lining at least is that I was ridiculously productive during these two days and caught up on more work than I had in 10 years. For the first time in a long time, I'm caught up on all my projects. For now (and I never should have written that part because that's probably why my hard drive died).

Anyways, the move. I didn't realize how much stuff we had. When we moved to this apartment two years ago, the movers spent one day doing prepacking. Maybe it was because it was a cross city move rather than an international move, but not only were these movers more meticulous, but they catalogued everything. And I'm sure that explains why it took so long.

We also managed to double what we originally brought with us. We arrived with 110 boxes but are leaving with 230. Yikes!!  Now some I can explain.  Furniture that we purchased here, as we brought only one piece with us, electronics as we brought none... But does that really cover 100 extra boxes?  Apparently I have some purging to do when I get to Amsterdam.

The kids were painfully bored. Aidan went to a friend's for a few hours which was a relief. I don't think he could take one more day of sitting on the rug with his iPad. No toys, no tv, not even a pen and paper. Finally Josh decided around 4 to take them to the hotel to check in. But first he and I had to take care of tossing a few things - throw rugs and some old chairs that were on our roof. Plus returning our cable box.

It was just before 6 before they were on their way. And the movers were wrapping things up with moving truck #2. Yes 2. In my defense, they couldn't fit a normal sized moving truck on our street and my guess is they will transfer all the contents of the trucks to one large container for storage and then shipping in August.

So incredibly bored... ipads can only go so far over 2 days...

Using their imaginations and limited "toys"

Moving truck #2 is off - next stop - Amsterdam!

So part 1 is now done. The move.  We spent the night in a hotel in Poblenou, a cute family neighborhood where we really haven't spent much time as a family (but Josh worked there every day). I went out with some amazing friends for drinks to say goodbye (for now) and it was so strange getting into a taxi and not only asking to take me to a hotel, making me feel very touristy, but to not be going "home" to my apartment. It all still feels a bit surreal that we are truly done here.

Today, Saturday, we are having the apartment cleaned. Remember, here you turn in your apartment exactly as you received it, if not in better condition - there is no allowance for wear and tear.  The kids will both have play dates while I hang out at the apartment. Tonight Liam will sleep at his friend's house and Aidan enjoyed not one but two play dates today including an impromptu sleepover with Max. He was going to go to dinner with josh and I at Recasens, one of our favorite places in Poblenou, but now instead we lucked out with an unexpected date night (still to Recasens)!

Another play date for Liam tomorrow and then on Monday we do our final walk-thru with our landlord, hand over the keys and then head to the bank to release our aval money (this is the security deposit the landlord takes). The kids and I will head to Sitges to visit with friends while Josh has a dr appt and ties up any loose ends. Tuesday morning (way too early) it will be time to head out to Barcelona airport one last time as residents - the next time we come back it will be as visitors!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Moving Day!!

The big day is finally here... MOVING DAY!  This has been months and months in the making.  Most of those months we didn't know where exactly we were moving to but we knew we were going somewhere.  I've been slowly purging and selling things off (though still have more to sell - where in the world will this stuff fit in our smaller house????) and stacking things up in the garage, hallways or in the bedrooms.  Really, anywhere that stuff would fit, I've found a place to stack it.  

I'm ready.  Josh is conveniently not here but arrives tonight around 10PM.  I know the kids are not ready to go.  Liam has a playdate this afternoon but I wasn't able to coordinate anything for Aidan unfortunately.  And the moving guys just asked if they can take the tv now (it's only 2PM!) - what do I say, no????  And so let the fun really begin.  Thank god for ipads!!  Perhaps in hindsight we should have done a hotel tonight too as I just went to make a peanut butter sandwich with my last bits of food and realized the silverware and plasticware are both packed already!  And so Oreos it shall be for lunch - a lunch of champions right?????  

But like I said, I'm ready.  This has been a long time coming.  We still have so many balls in the air at the moment and so many things happening over the next 7-8 weeks before we even get to Amsterdam that it will be nice to check one item off the list in the next few days.  I'm trying to not be overwhelmed by it all but it's hard.  So I'm chunking it up - moving, hotel, leave BCN, cruise, US before camp, US kids in camp and then back to Amsterdam to start our new lives (again).  

I remember the day we left Attleboro 4 1/2 years ago.  I cried so hard as we pulled out of the driveway. Josh and the kids overall pretty stoic (Liam having no idea what was going on as he was only 2).  That house had so many wonderful memories of our family as it grew.  We got engaged there, married, got both dogs, had both kids and spent so many wonderful days and evenings with friends and family there.  To leave it was so hard.  

What I didn't realize until we were settled in Barcelona is that while it's a house we've loved, it's just a house - the memories are ours no matter where we live.  And I think that is a piece of why I'm ok with us leaving Barcelona.  The memories will be ours forever - that won't change.  I will miss our friends here, though 90% of them have moved on and no longer are here - but the ones that are still here will be our friends no matter what - I know that these friends that we've made here will last beyond the Spanish border.  

That doesn't mean I won't be sad when we leave.  Just ready.  Too many difficult things have happened in the last few weeks that have just cinched the deal that our time has come (the last being the exploding hot water heater on Sunday that wasn't repaired until Wednesday) to say hasta luego to Barcelona.  For now.  If Aidan has his way, we'll be back in a few years ;)  

I'm heartbroken for the kids though.  I remember leaving home and my heart breaking for Aidan (again, Liam being too little for the move to have much impact) knowing that he was leaving his friends behind.  He wanted the school year here to last at least another month so he could extend out his time with his friends.  At least unlike the last time, he's better now about emailing and is starting to get into it. He's not very loquacious with his email but it's a start.  

Liam, on the other hand, sees this as his first move.  He knows we lived in Attleboro but he doesn't remember it.  So this is his first big move in his memory.  He's not happy.  And yet, he's totally going with the flow.  He's really good about expressing his emotions though and has told me how much he's going to miss his friends and he's excited to Skype with them.  I'm terrible at Skyping so I need to be better at that for his sake!  But he's accepting of the move and is kind of excited about a new house.  I just don't think he realizes how far that new house is from Barcelona.  

And so the movers are packing up everything.  They are going faster than I thought they would but I'm excited to see things happening.  Finally some movement in our lives!!  

Boxes I prepacked in the office and the kids chilling out before they took the couch (now apart in bubble wrap)

Aidan's room (they haven't made it up there yet but we sold off the bunk bed last week and repainted too).  And the playroom, also newly repainted and cabinet doors reinstalled.

Stuff I've been stacking out in the garage

Stairwell to the roof, full!  And the living room is full of boxes.  Good thing the table belongs to the apartment or I'd be sitting on the floor already!

Liam's room - just a few things.. and the playroom about to be put away til August!

Garage and hallway

Kitchen before they took it all!  And the playroom before we put the doors back up last week.

Stuff stacked in the kitchen.  And the playroom.

My glamorous room with my mattress on the floor.  And notice it says MUY FRAGIL on the boxes of lego sets that are already assembled - the test will be, do they arrive in Amsterdam assembled?  I offered to pack them but they said they would do it... fingers crossed or we are going to have one very upset 10 year old!

All the living room furniture except the tv and tv stand - how did our soft, coffee table and chair with ottoman end up in a stack like this??  I was going to toss the rug today (after 2 years of dog puke, chocolate milk and other food products, it's time to go) but it's the only place for the kids to sit so I guess it can wait til tomorrow!

So we're close.  They'll finish the prepacking today and then move everything out.  I always like to see what it looks like empty - the before and after.  Then the cleaners will come on Saturday and our key exchange and final walk thru on Monday and we head out of Barcelona on Tuesday.  The countdown is on - 4 1/2 days left to go!  More to come as we wind up things here in Barcelona!