My never-ending quest for protein has led me to smuggling chicken into the house and bringing it with me wherever I go, along with a bottle of chocolate soy milk. Unless you enjoy pork and its many offspring (sliced ham, chorizo, cured sausages, sick sausages) and the local diet of tuna, tomatoes, olives, and crusty bread that hardens three hours after you bought it, you can plan on starving to death here. Stressed and facing another move, the last thing I want is low blood sugar. So the chicken is with me.
Yes, I’m leaving Spain next week. After two weeks of struggling with my host-mom’s inconsistent directions, lack of positive recognition, guilt trips, and other charming qualities, combined with the heat, I decided to contact other families I had spoken with before I left the US. One, who I had seriously considered until I decided that three kids under five was too much for me, still hadn’t found an au pair, and I’m joining their family August 19th. They live in southwest England. Quick, everyone, Google Map Blackawton!
I look forward to having a slight familiarity with the local language, access to good curry, and a landscape, history and weather that appeals to me. After living with this family, caring for three children seems like nothing. My current host family’s children are 2, 5 and 8, each at very different stages developmentally, requiring three totally different forms of manipulation. If I was a lab rat hooked up to brain monitors when caring for all three at once, you would see three totally unrelated lobes lit up with activity. The English family has two 3 year old twins and a 4 year old. It may be bedlam, but at least it will all be the same bedlam.
I’m bringing this family’s toddler with me in my carry-on suitcase. Fond of house-echoing hoots and hollers, shoving unwanted food as far as his fat little arms will push so he has room to sob and wave those arms in the air, screaming with glee “Gat!” or “Gohgie!” whenever he sees a cat or dog, dancing to pop music when I turn on the radio, asking to be pushed on the swing for what feels like hours at a time, and kissing little girls, statues of chickens, and anyone else who comes in his way, this boy has stolen my heart. After spending marathon twelve hour days with him, and avoiding the rest of the family whenever possible, I’m eager to leave, but will miss the piece of my heart sewn onto his onesie.
Released from labor early this week, I returned from the family’s holiday home outside Barcelona, to spend the weekend in Reus. Here, I have the house to myself, and the friends I’ve made are wonderful as always about including me in their trips to the beach, clubs, and tapas nights.
Interestingly, of the shifting group of locals and ex-pats I’ve met so far, the three I value the most are German and Austrian. You can always rely on a Spaniard to walk through life at an easy pace, usually twenty minutes later than he said he would. He’ll look sensational and embrace you warmly at greeting, but he would not make reliable watches. Meanwhile, the German/Spanish woman, Austrian au pair, and German engineer I’ve befriended here do what they say when they say they’ll do it. Their direct manner makes sense to me. I think it would be fun to visit Germany, although I’d want to do it with a friend’s moral support, because I don’t think Germans are as sweet to tourists as the Spanish are.
That sums up my attitude about this country, at least, the small part of it I’ve seen. Lovely, affectionate, emotional, and easygoing, are the generalizations that come to mind. Dressed beautifully, hair silky or sunbleached, with children and grandparents nearby, always ready to kiss your cheeks and welcome you to their night out or house, they’re a lovely people in a lovely country. You can’t swim in the Mediterranean and not wonder if this is how a heaven would feel if it existed. There was no better place for me to practice going with the flow. But I’m not sorry the flow is carrying me out of here. If nothing else, I’m exhausted from fleeing the jamon.
Meanwhile, until Tuesday, I hope to relax as much as possible. It would be too easy to worry about the next family, about England, about how little money is left in my bank account, and how much I miss family, friends, my rabbit, my hairdresser, and New York. Too easy to waste time crying about things I have no actual desire to return to, yet. Skype and email keep us all in touch, for now. Who knows what the next six months will bring. Meanwhile, I’m watching Spanish music videos, taking the train from one house to another, swimming, dancing until three AM, exploring Barcelona, and learning that friendship is not gold, like I thought, but soil: much more readily available, much harder to live without, and capable of growing real purty flowers.