Thursday, April 3, 2014

On a More Positive Note...

My last post was negative. No getting around it. We all have bad days (weeks, months, etc).  It doesn't matter where you live whether your home country or abroad.  Bad days happen.  But those days are just there to make us appreciate the good ones. 

Like my other posts, I find this one cathartic.  Even more so than some of the others because it's at this time of uncertainty where I need to remind myself of all the once in a lifetime, amazing things we have experienced over the last 4+ years.  Sure those experiences came at a price but I don't for a moment have regrets on us having taken this journey. 

So without further ado, here are a few of my more positive things, in no particular order, to say about our lives here in Barcelona and I think they far outweigh the negative ones from the other day:

1. Our kids are truly third culture kids and have become global citizens.  They are friends with kids from all over the world. Their school is comprised of kids from 40 different countries.  There are only 3 American kids in Liam's class including him - it is a diverse group.  They are being immersed into cultures daily.  They have become more independent because of this experience and despite living in a city, have more freedoms than I would allow them in the US.  In addition, this is really the only life that Liam knows, having been only 2 when we moved here - this is home to him. And Aidan isn't much far behind, having lived here almost half of his life now - he loves it and has a great group of friends. When we travel they understand and respect the differences of cultures in each place and ask great inquisitive questions.  They also understand that this is a very unique experience that the majority of their peers at home will never have.   Aidan is at a point where if English is spoken it's a bonus but he likes hearing other languages.

2.  Speaking of languages, our kids now speak more than one, something essential in this day and age. While not totally fluent, they are getting close, especially Aidan (who also has an amazing accent). Even tonight they boys were chatting in Spanish - it wasn't a lot but it was still enough to know that they are getting it and it's sinking in.  I've asked Aidan how he would feel if we left here and he said "I'll miss all the Spanish and Catalan everywhere - just seeing English would be boring."  Wherever we end up, we will hire a tutor so that they don't lose this gift.  And while I'm not fluent, I'm pretty conversational and this has also helped when we have traveled to other romantic language speaking places as I am able to use my fairly solid base to help me interpret menus, directions and more. Josh... Well let's leave him off the language piece ;)

3.  But Josh gets big credit for all that he's done here at work.  He put together an international team of developers.  He was a key member of the executive leadership team, leading directives that would help define the BCN office.  And let's not forget that he not only was a key player in the acquisition of Albumprinter but has also become their interim CTO.  He has proven himself time and time again that he is a leader.  And he has also shown amazing adaptability  (something I have struggled with) with each culture, office and the team players - an attribute that does not come naturally to most. 

4.  This city is beautiful.  And while it provides certain daily challenges, if I am to be challenged, this is a beautiful place to do it in. You can't beat the climate. Mild winters, almost no rain and hot summers (though stay away in August!!).  And a beach only a few metro stops away or a 3 mile walk.  We are able to be outside every day and we are even if it is just walking down the street to the grocery store. There is something about breathing in the fresh air (albeit city air vs country air) that makes you feel renewed.  And to be surrounded by such stunning architecture at every corner - it's breathtaking.  In addition, we are lucky to have the works of master architect Antoni Gaudi all around.  It is a very clean city to top it off - outside of Switzerland I don't think I've seen anything this clean for a city. 

5.  Speaking of walking places, I'm going to get fat when we go back to the US because I've become so accustomed to walking everywhere.  Everyday I walk.  We managed 3 years without a car and while it had it's challenging moments, we never once regretted choosing to live without.  And even now we only use our ONE car for picking up from school, getting to play dates and events and the occasional trip outside the city.  In a year and a half we have put only 6200 miles on it.  I do almost triple that in the States. There are not many cities that are so easily walkable, have great public transportation or the climate to enable you to be outside most every day. Try to picture walking the streets of Boston with your granny cart thru 2 feet of snow!!

6.  Shopping. Ok I mean grocery shopping because all other shopping is rather expensive. But groceries are not. And while I may complain about having to go to 5 different stores for my groceries, there is also an old world charm that I'm appreciative of. I love that when I go to the butcher shop, his speciality is cured meats, cheeses and some other small items.  He is an expert in his area.  Same with my fruit and veggie vendors.  Hell I have a guy I go to just for bananas because they are always the yellowest of any if the competition. And they all know me - they don't know my name but because of the small town feel, even in a city, people have a local corner guy they go to for these things.  They always remember what I order and ask questions about the kids, our lives, etc.

The grocery store has the basics. There are no toys or books or other items. It is groceries, some cleaning items and a small selection of hygiene items. That is it. And your choices are limited. There are not 50 kinds of cereal. There are 10-15. Who needs to choose from 50 cereals?  Our grocery store is smaller than your local CVS.  It takes me less than 10 min to get what I need and get out.  And the ultimate bonus is that the majority (certainly not all) is preservative free.  Nothing I buy, unless it's canned or boxed (like cookies) lasts more than a few days - you will not find strawberries in my refrigerator from 2 weeks ago still looking as red as the day I bought them.

7.  Travel.  I could go on and on about travel.  And I may.  We have done a ridiculous amount of travel. We have traveled at a minimum every 6 weeks, at times even more frequently, like every 2-4 weeks depending on the kids' school schedule.  With only 2 more trips planned in the next few months as we likely wind down our time here in BCN, I feel like we have only covered the tip of the iceburg with so many more places out there left to be seen.  Thanks to low cost airlines like RyanAir, Vueling and EasyJet, we've jet-setted to locations that others dream of for pennies.  Like 21€ to Ibiza (yes that was roundtrip), 40€ to Budapest, 50€ to Lucerne and so on.  With prices like that, how can you not travel as much as possible?  We've seen once in a lifetime things - we've been to places we only dreamed of, never thinking we would actually get to see so many of them during our lifetime.

And to think that our kids have seen them too is a by-product that we could not be more thankful for. When our boys study geography and history in school, they can say that they've been to some of these places that made a difference in the history of the world.  They've visited cities, towns and villages that date back hundreds, if not thousands of years.

While Josh and I always enjoyed traveling, this experience has opened our eyes to all the places in the world that we have yet to see.  And it's a thirst for knowledge, new experiences and different cultures that only enhances that desire to live a more global life.  

8.  Our friends and family have been very supportive thru all of this.  They've listened to us complain about this "glamorous" life.  They've been there when we are unsure of the decisions we are making along the way and encouraged us to listen to our hearts, enabling us to make what we've felt are the best decisions possible for our family. They've helped us to manage our lives at home even though we are 4000 miles away - since we didn't cut our financial ties to the US when we moved here, there are still things we need to deal with from abroad like our houses and a car that we need hands on help with.

And beyond our friends from home, we've made incredible new friends here along this journey. People from all over the world with experiences both similar and very different from ours - the reasons why people have ended up here vary and their stories are always fascinating.  And while it is difficult when people move on to a new location or back to their home country, we know that they are still our friends, and bonus, we have a new place to visit to go see them!!!

9.  Our marriage is stronger for having chosen to live a life less ordinary.  We've been thru the ringer and yet, here we still stand, stronger than ever, though at times, perhaps a little worse for the wear. While I certainly had moments of resentment and even doubt, we will come out of this storm stronger for it.  My mom always said that if your marriage can survive building a house together, you'll be just fine.  Well, I think an overseas move and at this point living for 6 months in two different countries says a lot about our commitment to each other and our family.

10.  The challenges that we have faced have shaped the people we've become and I'm pretty proud of who we've become in the last 4 years. This experience has not been easy, as you saw in my last post, but it has proven to us, and especially to me, that we can go outside our comfort zones and not only survive but thrive.  If you had told me 4 1/2 years ago that I'd be living in Spain alone with 2 kids while Josh commuted to Amsterdam every week, I'd laugh and say there is no way I can do that by myself. And yet, here I am.  I look to our kids who have proven themselves to be more adaptable than I ever realized - it took some time, especially for Aidan, but when I see the people they are becoming as a result of this, I can't help but feel that we made the right choice.  Often I think that challenges come in little pieces and we don't recognize the hurdles that we have overcome to get to where we are.  And where we've come is a long way!

11.  We've learned to take better care of the environment around us.  Now, we certainly aren't tree huggers, but I think we've learned better ways to reduce our carbon footprint thru living here.  What we need to do is to make sure that we transfer those lessons we've learned to wherever we end up next.

Walking instead of driving, which of course depends on city or suburban living, but even with suburban living, we can reduce the amount of milage that we drive.  And while neither Boston nor Amsterdam have the warmest of winters, there is no reason why we can't still hang our wash out to dry on nicer days and reduce the electricity we are using on that dryer.

Learning to live with less.  While I certainly have possessions in our apartment, I have realized that we don't have a need for much.  When I look at my shopping habits, part of which I think were out of boredom, back in the US, compared to here, they are vastly different.  And while we still spend that money, it's now on travel instead of things.  I have a quote on my pinterest that says "travel is the one thing you buy that makes you richer" and it's true.  But by purchasing less "stuff" we are still reducing our carbon footprint, at least a little bit.  

12.  Siesta and Sundays.  Ok, so I still don't like siesta but as it was a subtitle for my last post, I thought I should keep it.  Though it's concept, I'm cool with.  Just the American in me, even after 4+ years, is annoyed that shops close in the middle of the day.  But if I were Spanish, I think that siesta would be essential and I applaud those that continue to follow tradition and go home for their daily meal, spending more and better quality time with their families.

But Sundays, Sundays I have grown to love.  Everything is closed.  Well, everything but restaurants. There is no running of errands.  There is no busy schedule with the exception of the occasional playdate.  There are no sports or games.  And while it took us some time to get used to, we love our lazy Sundays.  They aren't always lazy in the sense of sitting around and doing nothing, but more so that they are spontaneous and relaxing, in addition to being good quality family time, something we were overlooking at home because of our intense social calendar.  Our goal, in our next location will be to remember how important it is to have this downtime, not just as a family but as individuals.  The week is spent getting things done - work, home, school - that to just relax and enjoy our lives is an important thing we need to remember to do.

13.  Technology.  Ok, this isn't a specific Barcelona thing.  But without technology I don't think I could have done this.  Technology has enabled me to be in regular touch with friends and family daily, making the 4000 miles seem more like 4 at times.

14.  Living a life less ordinary.  I've said it before.  Nothing was wrong with our lives before we made this choice.  In fact, we were incredibly happy with where our lives were headed.  But taking this chance, this risk, it proved that perhaps the unknown kept us from fully living our lives to the fullest. We didn't know what we were missing so how could we miss it?  But now that we've had this chance to live a life that is truly unique, at times we think it will be harder to go back to "normal".   I'm in a quoting mood, so here's another - "In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take."

15.  Our future is strong.  While we are unsure of where our immediate future will be from a location standpoint, one thing is for sure.  We will be together.  And whatever comes with that, we will face it together, as a team.  For all the difficulties we've faced.  For all the challenges and moments where we think we can't take one more thing on our plates we've found that it's all about the outlook.  When one door closes, another opens.  And so wherever this journey ends up taking us, it will be where we were meant to be.  And as long as we're together, we'll be fine :)
And so today is a new day.  It's a day where I woke up and decided that no matter how challenging these times are for us, I'm determined to embrace every moment of it and do my best to be more positive - I don't want to waste another moment of this experience feeling woe-is-me.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel - and we're almost there, I know it...


No comments:

Post a Comment