Monday, September 28, 2009

An Afternoon in Madrid--Take Two

How do you have a wonderfully relaxing afternoon in the Plaza Mayor? Leave the kids at home. Just kidding…Anyway, Husband had received an email from a woman he used to work with, letting us know she’d be in Madrid and wondering if we’d be interested in getting together for lunch. Seeing this as an opportunity for a “do over” on our first afternoon in the city, we asked Tiff to join us while letting the kids enjoy an afternoon of movies and Guitar Hero. We planned to spend the afternoon talking over tapas and that sounded great to me!

We left for the metro station around 12:30pm, picked up Tiff around 12:40 and by 1:35 we were sitting under an umbrella at the Cafeteria Margerit in the Plaza Mayor. The Cafeteria Margerit is one of Tiff’s favorites and we were only too happy to defer to her for our restaurant choices as our tapas experience pales in comparison to hers. We had 25 minutes before we were to meet our friend at the “horse statue” in the middle of the plaza. That left us just enough time for a bottle of wine, warm olive oil potato chips, Serrano “jamon,” and cheese. Tiff held our table while we strolled to the center of the plaza to meet our friend, Jenn. We thought she’d be bringing along the friend she was staying with, but her friend was too tired from staying out late the night before. Jenn said she called it a night at 4am, knowing she’d be meeting us the following day. Her friend said that was fine and stayed out until around 5:30am…Only in Madrid!

We walked back over to Tiff and then decided to start fresh at another tapas bar, so we paid the bill and walked to a smaller plaza popular among the locals called the Plaza Santa Ana. Our path took us through the Puerta del Sol and past “Kilometer Zero,” the very center of Spain, from which all distances in the country are measured. Once we reached the Plaza Santa Ana, we went to another of Tiff’s favorites called Naturbier. One of the things I love about Madrid is how restaurants surrounding the plazas all set up outdoor café areas collectively in the in the center. Just sit under an umbrella marked with the name of your chosen establishment, and sooner…or later…a server will come along and attend to your every culinary need. This was our experience at Naturbier. Although Naturbier has its own microbrewery, we opted for their sangria. It didn’t disappoint. We ordered four different tapas to share: patatas brava (roasted potatoes with a spicy red sauce), some sort of sautéed whole green peppers, shrimp in a garlic and butter sauce and fried baby squid. As another friend named Jenn says, “Mommas don’t eat babies.” And as a rule, I do not. I did make an exception on this day, due to the fact that this is a very Spanish dish and squids are not mammals. Having now tried this dish, I must say it was not bad. It was as good as anything else I’ve eaten fried, but it was very expensive. I do understand why it’s expensive, though, after watching Jose Andreas, of “Made in Spain” fame, go baby squid fishing for his PBS cooking show. These fishermen go out into the sea in a rowboat, in the dark, with a lantern and little fish hooks, and catch them…individually. Yes, individually…talk about time consuming! We spent quite a bit of time at Naturbier. There is even a little playground in this plaza, so I think there’s potential for visiting it again with the kids.

Once we finished up at Naturbier, we still had some time before we needed to catch the metro. We thought churros y chocolate would be the perfect finish to the afternoon. We headed back to the Plaza Mayor to try to find a place Tiff had been to before. The sangria was playing tricks on her internal GPS, so we gave up trying to find “her” place and asked a bartender in a random bar on one of the side streets for a recommendation. He directed us to a place two blocks off the Plaza Mayor called Maestro Churrero. This cafeteria has been in business since 1902. Taste their churros dipped in chocolate and you’ll know why they’ve lasted so long. It was the perfect end to the perfect afternoon. We bid Jenn “adios” and took

the metro home! The kids had a great afternoon and so did we!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Trip to Abilene by Way of Madrid...

As I’ve blogged before, we were very lucky to have a friend "on the ground" in Madrid who helped make our transition as smooth as possible. With her help, at the end of our first week in Spain, we already had a house lined up and our furniture was scheduled to be delivered the next Tuesday. Since that was about ALL we could set up for the week, it left our Saturday free for more leisurely pursuits. We thought...let's go into the city! Everyone was excited, Tiff with her kids and us with ours. We loaded up her van and set off for the metro. We enjoyed the world outside the window as the metro headed for downtown. We would start off at the Palacio Real. This is the Royal Palace, in which the King of Spain sometimes works, but where the Royal family no longer resides. Strange, but true. It is beautifully ornate...very impressive as all palaces should be. You can take a tour of the palace, but we decided to save that for another day...being here for three years affords us that luxury at least. So we gave the palace the “Clark Griswold Once Over”...Yep, that's the palace...and moved on. Then, we walked over to the Royal Gardens next door..."Beautiful, beautiful, wish you were here," (another movie reference). This is from one of my favorites, French Kiss. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
The original plan for our afternoon in Madrid was to take an open air bus ride around the historic sections of the city. We planned to pick up the bus at the Palacio Real, but it was too crowded. There weren’t even two seats together, much less seven. We hoped to catch it somewhere else along the route. This meant walking, which, of course, the kids had NOT signed up for. They were supposed to be going on a bus ride. It all started going downhill from there. It was a warm and sunny Saturday in the city (translation--HOT and BLINDING). Husband, Tiff and I were having a great time walking through the city. We loved the sights and sounds as well as all of the beautiful architecture. For the kids, or should I say, for my kids, it was not so fun. In fact, to quote them, "It was boring." They kept asking when we were going to get there. We told them that we WERE there. This was it. We were walking through this wonderful city. That did it…They hit the wall! They were hot…out of water…hungry...they wanted to go to McDonalds, or Burger King, or Baskin Robbins, which we kept seeing everywhere, by the way. Husband was determined that we were not going to go to downtown Madrid for the first time in our lives and eat at McDonalds. He also reminded the kids that we all had just eaten before we left the house so they shouldn't be hungry yet anyway. So we continued walking, and walking and walking. This brought me back to a scene from “French Kiss” again, the one where Meg Ryan is wandering the streets of Paris penniless and without her passort after having her bag stolen in a hotel. Our situation wasn’t that hopeless, but it did bring the scene to mind. French Kiss had a happy ending, so I trudged on, hoping our day would end well too. Then, even Tiff's kids started complaining. They had left THEIR water in the car because they didn't want to carry it around. You gotta love it. As an aside, the prices for an ice cold bottle of water in the city were amazingly reasonable. It was only one Euro. You'd never find an ice cold bottle of water that cheap in any major US city. Seven wanted to go up to the newsstand all by himself and purchase a bottle of water using his Spanish, which he did. It was so cute and we were really proud.
With eating off the agenda, Tiff thought the kids might like to go to the park and play. She suggested the Parque del Retiro. So we thought about walking there, decided it was just too far for the kids to walk, and hopped on the metro instead. The park itself is a beautiful oasis full of fountains, shady spaces, a playground, and according to Tiff, the occasional amorous couple under a blanket. Thankfully, we saw none of those. Whew! The kids laid eyes on the ultra cool playground and suddenly, they weren’t hot, hungry or thirsty anymore. Funny how that happens, huh? They ran out onto what Eleven dubbed a "Modern Art Playground." It's what you would imagine a playground in Europe to look like, if, that is, you ever thought about playgrounds when you thought about Europe. It was sleek and modern. The pieces of equipment looked like sculptures, only they moved and you could jump all over them. The kids had a blast while we tried to figure out what to do next. It was too late in the afternoon to start the 17 Euros per adult, 8 Euros per child bus ride. And now that everyone really was hungry, we weren't near any restaurants. Even if we were, they'd soon be closed. It was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, so we settled on ice cream in the park for around three Euros per pop. As the kids wolfed down the ice cream, Husband, Tiff and I all started making little comments about how we didn't think this was how the afternoon was going to go. "Why were we here? Who wanted to go to the park? I thought we were going to eat! Of course, we weren't going to eat. Well, I thought we were going on a bus ride." We were all irritated and didn’t really know what to do next. We had three adults and fours kids and not a one of us with the same idea about what we wanted to do. It was then that I realized we had tried to go to Madrid and ending up in Abilene. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I didn’t either until joining my Husband's clan. Every time the family got together at Husband's house, and we were trying to decide what to do, Husband's Mom would say, "Okay, do we really want to do this? I don't want to go to Abilene." I thought this was a very strange thing to say seeing as how they lived in Virginia. I also couldn’t understand why they kept picking on Abilene. Finally I asked her about it and she was shocked. "You mean you've never heard of the Abilene Paradox??" When I said I had not, she told me all about it. Now I don’t want to go there either, in the figurative sense, anyway.
Here’s what Wikipedia.com has to say about the “Abilene Paradox:” The Abilene paradox is a paradox in which a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of any of the individuals in the group. It involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group's and, therefore, does not raise objections. A common phrase relating to the Abilene paradox is "rocking the boat."

The Abilene paradox was introduced by management expert Jerry B. Harvey in his article The Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management. The name of the phenomenon comes from an anecdote in the article which Harvey uses to elucidate the paradox:

On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, "Sounds like a great idea." The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, "Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go." The mother-in-law then says, "Of course I want to go. I haven't been to Abilene in a long time."

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.

One of them dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't it?" The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, "I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.

So, what did we do when we found ourselves in Abilene...we went home. We went back to Tiff's, relaxed in the pool, had some dinner, and went to bed! Hasta luego...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Meeting the Locals...

We live in a neighborhood with lots of hedges and fences. It is nice to have privacy, but you don’t get to see much of your neighbors. I know people who have lived here for over a year and have never laid eyes on their neighbors even once. That’s why the morning we spent with our neighbor, Senora C, was such a treat. About two weeks ago, my friend, Tiff, came over to see if we needed anything after the kids went off to school. She and another “American Bus Stop Mom” continued to talk in front of my house as I went back inside to unpack more boxes. After twenty minutes or so, I wandered back into the kitchen and saw my friends staring up at a tree across the street. It seemed to be speaking Spanish to them. Knowing trees don’t speak Spanish, I took a step closer to the window, and saw they were actually speaking to a little old lady who appeared to be up in a tree. I strained to hear what they were saying and saw my friend reach up towards the tree. All I could think was, “Is she giving them some fruit?” No, no fruit…Tiff had called a Spanish speaking friend to translate because Senora C spoke absolutely no English. I told Husband I was going outside to see what was going on, and out I went…

My friends quickly brought me up to date…Senora C heard them speaking in English, so she climbed up on her rock wall, and peered through a tree to introduce herself and see if Tiff, who she thought was her new neighbor, had any children. She wanted to set up a play date between our kids and her grandkids so they could practice their English and our kids could practice their Spanish. We had often looked at the amazing little cottage we could see peeking over the fence of her property. It was like something out of a fairy tale, with a roof made of twigs and little gabled windows, just like in the movies. So when she invited all of us over to see her property, we jumped at the chance. I went back in and got Husband who gladly joined the three of us for a tour. This was a great opportunity to interact with a local. We were excited to get another chance to practice our Spanish. It’s so easy to slip back into English, but this time, we had no choice, she truly spoke no English. When we walked through the gate of the property, we were overcome by the beauty of her mountain views. I have a view of the mountains, but there are lots of trees. Her view was completely unobstructed and vast. She gave us a tour of a little play house. It was so darling with a kitchen, dining room, and living area. Then we saw the Hobbit-style cottage from the front, only it wasn’t a cottage at all. It was a fully-furnished, open-air, brew house with a beer-tap. It was so cool! Then she brought us around the back of the main house to an open-air dining area. Tiff and I made an audible gasp. It was so beautiful…old weathered chairs, grand tables, beautiful Spanish pottery. It was clear to us; this place was made for fiestas. She wanted us to stay for café con leche. We were only too happy to oblige, though our one friend left begrudgingly, having to hurry home to meet the handyman. The rest of us took a seat and had a delightful little chat, while waiting for our Spanish coffee. Senora C, whose husband, we gathered, had recently passed away, seemed to enjoy the company. We shared stories about our families and our travels, and she told us about a house she had for rent in the neighborhood. Between the three of us, we understood her most of her Spanish and she understood most of our English. She showed us how she makes her “Café Con Leche Rapido,” (see recipe below) and now Tiff, who never drinks coffee, is addicted! Besides having a taste of Spanish culture, we were also able to set up an appointment for one of our friends still looking for a house to rent here in Madrid. We would meet Senora C at 1pm with our friend to go over to view the house. Just before we left, Senora C’s son came to pick her up for an errand. None of us were dressed to meet this suave Spanish business man. We were in our working attire…manual working attire, to be exact. Ugh! He was very charming, spoke great English, and graciously paid no attention to appearance. We talked a few minutes, then said, “Hasta pronto” and headed back across the street, grateful for this truly Spanish experience. We hoped we made as good an impression on them as they did on us. We hurried to shower and primp before our 1pm meeting. We went with Senora C, her son, and our friend, to go see their grand old house. It was amazing, and to make a long story short, our friends will be our new neighbors and we have found a new Spanish treat! Here’s how Senora C makes it, in case you’d like to have a little taste of Spain yourself…

Recipe for Café Con Leche Rapido, Senora C Style
(Serves One)

1 cup sweet milk, heated (In the States, you can use Sweetened Condensed Milk)
1 heaping teaspoon of NesCafe Instant Coffee
Raw Sugar, to taste

This recipe uses hot sweet milk to make the coffee instead of water. This gives the coffee a rich, thick consistency in a hurry, with little need for additional sweetening, though Tiff and I did find a little extra sugar necessary to cut the strength of the instant coffee. Enjoy alone or with a piece of Nutella toast, my personal favorite. Hasta luego…

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Words Matter...

Words really do matter. This point proves even more true when you live in a foreign country and lack the mastery of the mother tongue. Case in point…We were sitting outside, enjoying the weather, when Sammy the Dog went tearing across the yard at a full sprint. I followed him around to the back of the house and found him barking at a little pair of legs sticking out from under the bushes on the other side of the fence. Once I saw that the legs belonged to a little girl, I thought I should introduce myself as her new neighbor. I could see she was fascinated by my little weiner dog. There are mostly German Shepherds and Yorkies here. I said, “Hola,” and asked her what her name was, all in Spanish. I was feeling quite pleased with myself and my Spanish. She asked me for my name. I told her and she said it was a very pretty name. She said she didn’t speak much “ingles” and I told her that was okay. I thought it might not even matter since I was doing so well with my “espanol.” I introduced Sammy the Dog. She seemed to like him even though he wasn’t too sure about her. He kept wanting to bark at her. I tried to reassure her that he was a nice dog and that he was just scared. So I told her in my best Spanish that “Mi perro es muerte.” She looked at me with a very strange look. I was pretty sure our landlord, Senor M, had used that word when I had explained in English that Seven was a little scared in our house the first night. Apparently not! Oh well, I switched gears and said, “Mi perro es nervoso.” She smiled and seemed to understand. We said, “Adios,” and she ran off calling for her mom. I was trying to remember the word for scared when the real meaning for “muerte” popped into my head. That’s when I realized I’d told the little neighbor girl that my dog was dead. No wondered she ran off yelling for her mother. Oh well, back to Rosetta Stone…I have seen her since and he father introduced himself and she waved and smiled excitedly, probably wondering was funny thing the Americana would say next.

This leads me to a little exchange we had last night with Seven at the Carrafour (think Walmart). We have discovered many things we love about Spain in our few weeks here. They mostly revolve around food, as we haven’t had time to experience much else while unpacking…soon, soon. At any rate, one of our favorite little grocery items is this crustless sliced sandwich bread made with olive oil. It is so moist. I can’t believe no one in the States has thought of shoving loaves of bread through a “de-crusting” machine! This process makes the slices perfectly square and just right for sandwiches. An additional bonus…I don’t need to pull the crusts off of Seven’s PB&J’s. The company that makes this manna from heaven is “Bimbo.” Yeah, I know. Well, just imagine your seven year-old walking down the bread aisle scanning the shelves while repeating, “I need my bimbo. I need my bimbo!” Hilarious! I’m sure many more funny and embarrassing language faux pas await us here in Spain. Hasta luego!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Living La Vida Loca

I am writing on this beautiful morning from our rented house in Spain. This is apparently an amazing occurence, time-wise, anyway. In the States, we are used to things moving at mach speed, and if it doesn’t, heads are likely to roll. According to our friends and family, who’ve lived in Europe, that is not the way it works here. The Spaniards live more in the moment and there is nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow. So the fact that, after just weeks in country, we are in a house with our furniture delivered and have telephone, TV and internet, is truly unbelievable. It’s been a crazy ride so far, but we know we are very lucky. We have to acknowledge all the hard work done on our behalf by our friend, Tiff. The face pace of our in processing has hinged on her desire to make the process as fast and easy for us as possible. We’ve been settling in so fast that it’s a little unsettling at times. The house is in chaos. We are making our way through the boxes all around us. This has been difficult because the movers crammed stuff everywhere. When you move overseas, your household goods get crated. In order to keep all of your things from moving around in the crate while crossing the big, blue ocean, they cram those crates as tightly as possible. For us, the cramming process was extremely random because the movers failed to inform us that they wanted us to leave our clothes in our drawers. We sent the clothes ahead a few days before in a small shipment that will arrive in country in around 30 days. So they had to stuff items from all over the house in our dresser, cabinet and armoire drawers. Every time we open a drawer to put something away, there is already something there that doesn’t belong. When you go to put that item away, there is something in that item's spot as well. The process is slower than I would like it to be, but I’m trying to embrace the Spanish way of living in the moment and realizing there is nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow. So before I hit the boxes, I’m going to sit on my terrace and take in the mountain views while sipping my café con leche…Hasta luego...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

First Day of School...We're Not in the States Anymore!

We went to orientation on Wednesday, and in a blink of an eye, it was Friday morning. And we were waiting for the school bus on some unfamiliar corner in an outlying neighborhood of Madrid. Thank goodness we weren't alone. We were there with Tiff and her kids who had gone through this same experience last year. The bus was on time, although it wasn't the bus from the route schedule we'd gotten on Wednesday. This would be a problem at the end of the day when the kids had trouble finding the right bus to take home. The school buses here are not like the big yellow school buses in the States. They are more like the posh buses you see the elderly taking to Atlantic City for the weekend. The only problem is the Spanish bus drivers and monitors don't like to use the air conditioning, resulting in some kids get overheated and nauseous at times. We took our "first day of school" pictures while waiting for the bus at the corner (will add them later by computer when I have access to the technology). Seven was very nervous and fell off the curb a couple of times. Luckily, he was fine. I told him that he wasn't allowed to break his ankle on the first day of school! Indulge me for a moment as I share this little side story... I was relating this "ankle" story to another dad during our improcessing and he told us a story about his daughter breaking her ankle on her first day of school in Estonia. Apparently, the school adminstrators thought it was just a sprain, so she went all day walking around school with a broken ankle. It is this kind of story that reminds me of my good fortune.

So the bus comes. It's a small bus without the kids from the route we are expecting...without Seven's only friend in Spain. Can you see where this is going? I have to say, he was a trooper. He got on the bus sat in the row in front of Eleven and his friend, but with the high seats, he could not see or talk to them. He pulled something out of his backpack and he was gone. I almost cried, and I'm not really a crier, although I do cry more and more over sentimental situations each year. Sigh...This was the first time I haven't taken Seven to school. Our last school, his only school, was a walking school. For Eleven, all this change is pretty exciting, but for Seven, it is terrifying. This experience will be really good for him, if it doesn't scar him for life! I knew he'd be okay, but I was struck with pangs of worry throughout the day.

After a very productive day of improcessing and signing our lease, we headed over to the bus stop at about 4pm. The time for drop off comes and goes and...no bus. No need to panic, my friend assures me, the bus is often late on Friday afternoons because of Madrid's get-away traffic. Another mom then tells us she's gotten a call from her daughter and they will be late...major bus confusion at the school. The kids didn't know which bus to get on since there were now two for our route, and they had Seven down as a "parent pick-up" and almost didn't let him on a bus at all. He cried, they believed him, thankfully. Eleven and friends were searching for him. They found him and after a few strong pleas from the kids, they let them on the bus they had taken to school in the morning. You see, my kids will be getting on at a different location, and thus, a different bus, once we move into our house. Confused? Yeah, imagine being seven and eleven years-old, speaking very little Spanish and trying to communicate with bus drivers and monitors that speak no English. I'm so proud of them for sticking together and making it back to the stop they started from. Husband had gone over to what will be our stop next week, just in case, but there was no need. Way to go, guys.

Eleven loved school. He is always looking for the next adventure, can't wait to grow up. He has several people he knew from previous duty stations, so he felt more comfortable. He wants to be so grown up and it is really cute to see him so happy about moving up to the next level of school and life. He was bubbling over with excitement about his classes and the electives he gets to take. He wanted to show us his cool agenda and all his papers. He had a fantastic first day! Seven said he didn't have a very good day. He didn't make any new friends, but he did see his "only friend" on the playground, at least. He'll find his way, but it's harder for him to roll with the punches. It sounds like many in his class already know each other, so they were catching up from a whole summer of being apart. By the end of his lament, he did admit he'd met one boy and one girl who were nice, so there is hope. One day down, and around 180 to go. He has plenty of time...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Highest of Highs and Lowest of Lows...

I wanted to be able to post a picture with my next post, but as they say in Spain...manana...tomorrow...maybe! Well, we have run the gambit of emotions over the last fours days. Like the title says, we've had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Our hopes have been dashed and lifted back up within the span of just two or three short hours. We have been told "no," only to come back the next day and hear, "Why, of course!" Perhaps you are beginning to get my drift. Perhaps I'm getting a taste of what it feels like to be an immigrant to America or anywhere. After all, I have been completely exasperated at the DMV, the hospital, my child's school in the States. Dealing with the bureacracy was ridiculous, but it was a bureacracy I was familiar with, and that brought me some comfort, I suppose.

Yesterday, we went to Seven and Eleven's school for orientation. Luckily, Husband was with me, so we could divide and conquer as the Lower School's Director and the Middle School's Director were giving their talks at the same time. I went to the Lower School session, as I was a little worried about Seven at this point. When we saw the class lists before orientation, Seven was in the same class as another American boy he had already met and clicked with. Of course, I went on and on about how great that was, only to find out about twenty minutes later (after we'd met the teacher) that he wasn't going to be in that class after all. Why? Who knows? It doesn't matter, really, but seriously? He'd already woken up with night terrors the first night, threw up anything that touched his stomach for four hours on the morning of Day 2 (we think it may have been altitude sickness), annouced he wanted to go back to America, and now this! We had to go to the welcome briefing in the school auditorium, while my friend, Tiffani checked to see if he really had to switch classes. Because we were in the briefing, she had to tell him the bad news. He started to tear up, and she promised to take him to Toys"R"us. It was an effective remedy, but added to a "To Do" list that was too big already. Anyway, I think you can understand why I went to the Lower School presentation and Husband went to the one for the middle schoolers. The Director was wonderful, charming, and could relate to us parents raising "Global Nomads" or"Third Culture Kids" as she called it. She had raised two herself. She asked for a show of hands of who was not only new to the school, but new to the country. Most of the hands went up and she offered us a little advice. She said we'd were presently on a roller coaster ride. We were elated to find out we were coming to Spain and imagined how great it would be, and then we had to actually get here, get settled, deal with red tape, a new language, a new culture, and help our kids deal with it too. She told us to ask ourselves and our kids three questions when we were facing what seemed like a crisis: Are you alive? Are you safe? Are you healthy? She told us that if we could answer yes to those three questions, we'd probably get through it okay. I've been reminded of her advice a number of times and I only heard it yesterday.

It has been challenging so far, but exciting too. The Newark Airport people, or should I say, this one guy, almost wouldn't let Sammy the Dog on the plane to Spain. Aaaaaah! I convinced him that all my military vet papers were indeed USDA acceptable. All that arguing with my parents in my youth finally paid off. :-) Our plane was late getting to Newark, which left me time to listen to a few hundred people speaking perfect Spanish. A moment of panic was mine! The plane ride was bumpy, I worried about little Sammy in the cargo hold and didn't sleep a wink! The sun rose somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean and soon the coast of the Iberian Peninsula was in sight. A surge of excitement ran through me. As we crossed over the mountains of Spain, I couldn't help but think just how unblieveable it was that we were going to live here. As the Captain asked the flight attendent to prepare for arrival, we gave each other's hands a quick squeeze and prepared for a new adventure! We've been up and down with all the red tape we've had to go through, but we are finally seeing some progress...

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