I've made some changes to my blog lately - nothing major but you might have noticed a few details. The first is that I renamed it "Me Gustan Tus Zapatos" instead of "Me Gusta Tu Zapatos". The former is the correct way to write "I like your shoes" and so I figure after almost 2 1/2 years, I probably should show that I've learned at least a little something in my time here :)
The other change I made is also on the subtle side. The subtitle to our blog has read "This blog is all about our adventures as we head to Barcelona, Spain for the next two and a half years". Well that's changed to, and for the second time since I started this blog. I never thought I'd update that subtitle once, much less twice! The new heading is "This blog is all about our adventures as we head to Barcelona, Spain for the next five and a half years." Yes, you read that right... we've extended...again.
Never in a million years would I have thought when we embarked on this adventure that we would extend not just once but twice. The first time was last year when we changed our contract from ending in December 2011 to June 2013. With Josh needing to give a year's notice to work as to when he is returning to the States, we knew this winter that we needed to make a decision on our future here since that year was creeping up quickly! Hence the update to our byline, you probably know what's happened - so now we'll be here thru June 2015!
We actually made the decision several months ago but for various reasons, we've had to wait to announce it publicly. The majority of our friends here already knew that we were staying or were at least thinking about it, and we've recently told some of our friends at home but not everyone knew and so I apologize if I'm blindsiding you with this new info. But those of you who have been supportive of us since the day we found out we were moving here are most likely our going to understand why we've made this decision. Our families have been incredibly supportive of this decision to stay, especially given that it means an additional 2 years that Aidan and Liam will be away from them. When the boys return they will be 11 and 8 which blows my mind since they were 5 and 2 when we arrived in Jan 2010!
So what was the process around us making these decisions about extending?
As we all know, I didn't think I was going to make it thru the first few months much less the first two years. Those first months were miserable and I'll admit, I cried... a lot. I missed home (still do), my family, my friends, my routine and the general easiness of my life by comparison to my life here. Around month three there was a bit of an intervention by some friends and things started to look up... and they've continued to do so and I will admit, I really love our lives here. That's not to say that it's not a complicated life in some ways because let's face it, I live in a country where I can't speak the language fluently, but in others, it's a much easier, laid back lifestyle. And that's the part I am embracing. I still very much miss the "easiness" of life at home but in the scheme of what will hopefully be a long life, 3 more years is not going to change what or where home is.
But regardless of my rough start, the first year flew by. Much faster than I ever anticipated. I'm not sure if it was because we packed in so much travel in that year that there was always something coming up to look forward to, or if the process of adjusting just made it go by quickly or if time just really does fly that fast. So when we had to make a decision before Jan 2011 on whether we were staying or not which was barely at year 1, I definitely had a little bit of ambivilence about it but at the same time felt that after how quickly year one was going, I didn't think I'd be ready to go back in just 12 more months as weird as that felt and Josh wasn't ready to give up on his work here. And so we had decided on our first extention. We made it a year and a half so that the kids would be able to finish out their school years rather than leaving halfway thru as we had intially done when we moved to Barcelona. So our end date would be June/July 2013 instead of December 2011.
Like the first year, this past year flew by so quickly and as we knew we were coming up on another deadline where we'd have to decide, are we staying or are we going? Once again, I felt like everything was creeping up too quickly. I've created a life for myself here. Yes, I have a life at home and it was incredibly hard to leave, beyond the point of heartbreaking for me... but am I ready to pick up and leave again and leave this new life and my new friends and go through that pain all over again? I don't know that I can emotionally handle that yet. I know it means going back to what I know and to the friends and family I have missed all this time... but to pick up and leave this new life just didn't feel right yet either. That being said, I have a few very close friends that I've made here that are leaving this year and that's not going to change - knowing this made the decision on my end a little harder because it took me some time to build this small circle of friends I have here and now two integral parts of that circle are leaving. I have new friends thru Josh's work that have just arrived, some new parents at the school that I've started to get a little closer with and local friends who have proven to me that I can have friends here beyond my ex-pat groups.
It's not just about me though, we also have to take into account Josh's job. He LOVES his job here. When we finally sat down to discuss our plans, I asked him what his ideal timeframe would be. He immediately said, "at least 2 years more than what we have planned". He's not ready to leave what he's built here and he wants to see everything thru. He has always liked his job at Vistaprint - never once have I heard him complain about a thing... but there is no doubt he loves what he is doing here and that to me is a big difference. And so how can I not support him in his career? I do think he was a bit shocked when I said right away, "ok"... and I don't blame him. He's been here first hand to witness all my crazyiness (I don't think he'll ever forget the Ina Garten chicken sandwich night) when we first got here and the few sporadic episodes that were bound to happen since (thankfully there haven't been a ton of those once I got my shit together).
And of course we had to think of the kids. I'm sure from Aidan's point of view we were doing completely the opposite. He's not 100% on board with this yet. But he's coming around. Not only do we love this lifestyle for them and the opportunity to expose them to a ridiculous amount of culture, but we get better quality time with them. And we are so happy with their school that we just aren't ready to pull them yet and send them back to public school in the States. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with public school (Josh and I are both products of the public school system and I like to think we turned out pretty good) but this school offers so much to the boys - a network of friends from all over the world, teachers who are also from various parts of the globe, what I believe is a more well rounded education than they might (and I say might because I don't know this for sure since we haven't been in the school system in the US) have had at home and learning support for Aidan which we will need for the foreseeable future. Aidan has finally built some solid relationships here and seems to be working thru his guilt about leaving his friends at home (I can empathize on this one as it took me quite some time and I still have moments of guilt) and that it's ok to have friends both here and there. However, he also understands the life of an ex-pat well enough to know that his friends here may also leave at some point and this is a concern to him.
Liam is on board with staying, but then he doesn't really get the concept of time at this point and for him...this is home. He's been here just about 1/2 of his life and it's the only half that he remembers. Aidan on the other hand knows what it means to live at home and while he doesn't miss it everyday (at least he doesn't vocalize it), if I told him we were going home tomorrow, he'd have his bags packed and waiting by the door in moments. He defines his time here by what grade he will be in when he leaves - initially he was staying halfway thru second grade (which has now come and gone), then the end of third grade. Now it will be until the end of 5th grade. He's cool with 4th but not completely sold on 5th. I feel like by the time we even get to 4th, he'll be so integrated into the system and with his friends here it may be harder to get him to leave than we think.
Beyond that, we still have a lot to see here. We have been travelling like crazy for the last 2 1/2 years - a trip at least every 6 weeks if not more frequently. The cost of travel is so much more reasonable than in the US and for what would be one decent trip at home, we can do 3 or 4 trips here (if not more). We are currently planning out the rest of our year and it looks like once again, we are likely travelling every month... spoiled yes... are we ready to give that up? No way...
What it really comes down to is quality of life. Nothing is going to be perfect for us - we are torn in both directions, home or Barcelona. Both have aspects that enhance and also reduce our quality of life. We miss home, family and friends. They are a big part of our lives and that won't change and so far, we've found that with our true friends, we've found support in the decisions we've made over the last few years and with technology, we really aren't that far away and are able to stay in pretty constant touch. Sure we only get to see them once a year (unless you come visit - hint hint!) in person, but we pick right up where we left off. If we had moved to another state for work, it would have been the same situation - we are just 4000 miles further away. But the quality of our lives here is something that is hard to give up. The pace of life is slower, más tranquila, we get time together as a family that we weren't getting at home and we have exposed ourselves and our children to a life that most people won't ever get to experience.
And so with that, we are feeling pretty good about our decision to extend another 2 years on top of our current contract which means basically 3 more years from this June/July. We know there are going to be bumps along the way and that we are going to have people coming and going out of our lives (who may leave here physically but will stay a part of our lives forever), that nothing in life is perfect or always easy but then, nothing at home is always perfect or easy either, life as we know is a constant transition. We know that 3 years is more than we have already finished up til this point, essentially we are not even halfway thru our time here and yes, it's a bit daunting. But I think we are prepared to face that time head on, take full advantage of it in everyway and life this life to it's fullest.