¡Returning to Spain! (I Hope)
Today, my suitcase came down from the attic so I can start packing for Spain. I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to type those words. But I feel compelled to follow them with ¡Ojala! — a Spanish term meaning roughly “God willing and the Covid don’t rise.” Not only do Rich and I have a thousand things to accomplish before we go, but to add to the suspense, the Spanish government won’t send us their final entry rules, pandemic regulations, and instructions until 48 hours before our flight.
“I don’t care if they want us to tattoo the Spanish flag on our foreheads,” I told Rich. “We’re doing whatever it takes to get on that plane.”
Rich didn’t answer because, as usual nowadays, he was staring off into the distance, running through mental checklists. Yesterday over lunch he told me he’d had the furnace, air conditioning, and hot-water-on-demand systems serviced and bought something called a battery tickler. I thought this sounded rather exciting, but it turned out to be merely a device to keep trickling energy into the car battery while we’re gone. He also bought a gas storage solution he’ll add to the car’s tank to keep the fuel fresh. What? Gasoline goes bad? I decided not to ask, as my eyes were already glazing over and I felt in imminent danger of dozing off…
I jerked wide awake when he mentioned the skunks.
Oh yes, they’re back. We’d ousted our skunks with non-stop talk radio, then blocked off their den under the shed and saturated the area with ammonia-doused rags, bowls of vinegar, and blood meal, which we’d heard would keep them at bay. But apparently our skunks are made of sterner stuff, because as soon I switched off the radio, they returned. On Saturday friends told us of a service that removed their skunks for $1200.
“Worth every penny!” they said.
“Hmmm,” said Rich. “I wonder how much it would cost to just keep the radio on?”
I looked it up. Running a radio for an hour takes 0.02 kWh, and while I don’t pretend to understand what that is, I quickly grasped the fact it translates to less than a penny an hour. Six months of non-stop radio would cost $43.83.
“I rest my case,” Rich said.
He continued reviewing our pre-launch checklist: the best place to get our Covid test (required by the UK to fly through Heathrow), logistics of transport to SFO (Uber to the shuttle), and weight restrictions on cabin baggage (to be researched). I reported I'd retouched the kitchen cupboards, a task that had been on the to-do list since the day we arrived back from Spain in May of 2020.
Focusing (OK, obsessing) on the details is one way Rich and I cope with the emotional fallout of departure. Going back and forth between California and Seville for 16 years, we've become used to the disruption, but the past 16 months in California are the longest we’ve ever stayed in one place. We’ve gotten pretty comfortable, if not downright set in our ways.
“I always find leaving home difficult, especially after so long,” Rich remarked, topping up our glasses of wine during Sunday lunch in the garden. “There are always some pangs of resistance. But I remind myself that once we close that door, the world will open up to us.”
I, for one, am more than ready to live in a larger world. There are many, many things I’ll miss about America, including family, friends, the astonishing efficiency of online ordering, and of course, take-out burritos. But I am exhausted by the emotional pitch of our nation these days.
For instance, the Republicans are pushing to recall our governor, Gavin Newsom, and replace him with an anti-mask, anti-vaccine, climate-change-denying talk show host from LA. So I’ve been standing at a busy intersection at rush hour, holding up signs urging people to vote against the recall. While most people wave and honk in support, even thank me with tears in their eyes, I always get a few hecklers. Last week, four youths pulled up in a car and began shouting, “Sieg heil! Sieg heil!” Did they mean I’m a Nazi or they are? Another guy berated me for being “unconstitutional.” Hey, freedom of speech is literally guaranteed by the US Constitution, mister!
But while the messaging may be sloppy and ill-considered, it is delivered with full fury. Americans are terrified and they are lashing out. A major survey showed in 2014 American’s top fears were public speaking, heights, and bugs. Today we’re afraid we’re that last generation to inhabit a livable planet, the rest of our lives will be governed by runaway contagion, and democracy could come unglued on our watch. This is terrifying stuff. And if I’ve learned anything during the pandemic, it’s this: fear with a target becomes anger. That’s why people are shouting at me from car windows. And that’s what I won’t miss when I’m in Seville.
One of the things I love about Spain is watching people hotly debate political issues — often with a great deal of leaping up, gesticulating, and shouting — after which they sit down and say cheerfully, “So, another beer?” And chat about soccer and their kids. They consider it their God-given right to criticize the government; 36 years of Franco’s repressive dictatorship taught them the value of democracy and free speech.
Another delightful feature of life abroad is that on the very rare occasions when somebody does yell at me in the street, I can never quite catch what they’re saying. So I always assume they’re wishing me a long and happy life, and I wave back and go about my day smiling.
What else will I be glad to leave behind? My disaster preparedness go-kits. Between wildfires (which have already taken 2 million acres of my state this year, including 44 acres near me), recurring floods in my town, and earthquakes, I live in a constant state of readiness for biblical-level catastrophe. I’ve stocked the Apocalypse Chow Food Locker and packed go-kits with supplies ranging from spare spectacles to rain boots to a miner’s headlamp for digging through rubble at night. In Seville, I’m equipped for any likely scenario if I carry a few euros and a light sweater. A bit more relaxing.
So when Rich hauled the suitcases down today, my heart lightened. Next week I will be back in Seville, an ancient city that’s constantly reinventing itself while remaining true to its essential nature: a vibrant community where family and friends matter more than careers, people sing and dance in the street, and politcial arguments can end in cold beers and laughter. To get there, we’ll pass through London and land in Spain’s coastal city of Málaga, “the land of poets,” one of whom dubbed the city “a martini of the sea.” What does that mean? No idea, but I’m hoping to learn while we overnight there. The next morning we’ll take the train to Seville, stroll to our apartment, and (as we always do after a long absence) begin falling in love with the city all over again. Can’t wait.
Amigos: I won’t be posting in the next couple of weeks, as I’ll be in transit and then running around trying to get my wifi reconnected and my residency card renewed. When possible, I’ll post on my Facebook page, so check there for updates. Wish us luck!
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9/8/2021 04:24:00 pm
I’m so happy for you that you get to return to Spain. Ojalá! I’m looking forward to hearing of your adventures in Seville. We are hoping to follow you to Spain early next year. Buén Viaje!
Karen K McCann
9/8/2021 06:25:28 pm
Thanks, Jan! I hope you are successful in coming to Spain next year. We have a number of friends who are hoping to do the same; I think they are looking at us as the canaries in the coal mine — if we make it OK, they'll follow. No doubt there will be hitches and hiccoughs along the way, but fingers crossed international travel is still possible in these crazy times.
9/8/2021 04:29:54 pm
OMG!!! Next week??? I was just going to write you to see when you would be coming back. So excited to catch up with you both. I know you will have so much on your plate when you arrive in Seville, if there is anything we can do to help, let us know.
Karen K McCann
9/8/2021 06:28:18 pm
Can't wait to see you and Enrique, and hear all about how the kids are doing. As soon as we catch our breath, I'll be in touch to get something on the schedule — preferably a dinner with plenty of wine. I know you guys will be able to tell us what are the hottest eateries in town these days, and which old favorites didn't survive the pandemic. We have so much to catch up on!
9/8/2021 04:35:06 pm
Safe travels to you and Rich. Hoping all is well in Sevilla. We are debating whether to go back in December. I miss Spain and our Spanish "sons".
9/8/2021 08:45:14 pm
Thanks, Kay! I'll check out Sevilla and keep you posted on what I find, so you can decide whether it makes sense to return in December to see your "sons." There is so much uncertainty these days — not a very comfortable situation, but a great lesson in living in the present moment.
9/8/2021 05:16:30 pm
9/8/2021 08:46:17 pm
Muchas gracias, Jore!
9/8/2021 05:29:25 pm
I’m so pleased you’re headed back to Spain! Safe travels.
9/8/2021 08:47:49 pm
Thanks, Laura. We're thrilled to be heading back to Spain at long last!
9/8/2021 05:50:37 pm
We will really (here insert great sobs) miss you guys btw hottest summer on record in Europe…..ciao baby!
9/8/2021 08:50:35 pm
We miss you two already. Wait, aren't we having lunch tomorrow? I guess we'll start missing you after that. So it's Europe's hottest summer on record? This climate change business has a LOT to answer for. Thank heavens our apartment has thick walls and more-or-less functional air conditioning. Hasta pronto, amigo!
Jorge From Riga
9/8/2021 06:06:33 pm
Dear Kared and Rich:
9/8/2021 08:56:50 pm
Wonderful to hear from you, Jorge, and thanks for the detailed research. Great minds think alike! Rich has been working on this and has filled out every possible form. We are now standing by until we arrive at the 48-hour mark. We think we have covered all our bases, but of course, Spain could still throw us a curve ball. It certainly keeps things interesting on this journey! Enjoy Madrid. If you head down to Seville let us know; it would be great to meet up again.
Jorge from Riga
9/9/2021 01:50:19 pm
Likewise if come back to Riga!
9/8/2021 07:03:23 pm
Buen viaje! (And I hope the form-filling-out goes with maximum ease and speed!).
9/8/2021 09:00:05 pm
Thanks for your good wishes, Tobey, and I hope you and Phil find a way to join us in Seville soon. It is a great refuge from the literal and figurative fire zones. And as the city is still relatively free of tourist crowds, it's the perfect time to visit the Alcázar gardens. So much to look forward to!
Julie and Deborah
9/8/2021 07:09:14 pm
We wish you a buen viaje and look forward to reuniting in Sevilla next February. Can't wait.
9/8/2021 09:01:24 pm
¡Gracias, amigos! Looking forward to raising a glass together in Sevilla in February. ¡Salud!
9/8/2021 09:04:39 pm
Maria, thanks so much for that wonderful word: Vorfreude! Pre-joy is a marvelous way to think of this stage of the journey. I shall hold onto that thought as we navigate the complexities of transit back to Seville and pick up the threads of our life there.
9/8/2021 07:49:38 pm
I will be excited to hear how you feel about being back abroad. Happy Birthday! I don't know the exact date but I am only a month younger. I can hardly read about the stress of getting ready but as Harvey reminds me, we now can buy almost anything we forget, and almost everything back in the US can be taken care of by texting. No more waiting at AE for the month old mail.
9/8/2021 09:13:30 pm
Happy Upcoming Birthday to you, Kitty! Mine's September 29, just after we get back and settled in Seville. As for prep stress, Harvey's so right; things are a lot easier these days. Those of us who remember collecting month-old letters and packages at American Express, and hunting desperately for stuff we needed at local stores, can rejoice in the modern conveniences. It does make packing less stressful!
9/8/2021 08:25:15 pm
Buen viaje y buen fortuna! Some day we will return to our beloved Italy. Simply hearing the language on the plane is enough to set my heart aflutter. You're right--each return is like falling in love all over again!
9/8/2021 09:16:55 pm
¡Gracias, Nancy! I hope all the stars align so you can visit your beloved Italy soon. Rich and I have been watching travel videos of Seville to remind ourselves why we're going through all this fuss and hassle to return. And whenever I hear people around here speaking Spanish, I get excited all over again.
9/8/2021 09:12:52 pm
Safe and happy travels to both of you. I have been wondering when you would be able to return; so happy for your sake that it is finally possible. You sound over the moon happy! I look forward to your next posting whenever that happens.
9/8/2021 09:21:47 pm
Thanks for you good wishes, Kim. Yes, we did manage to extract our money from the Spanish bank and transfer it to an international bank. Whew! Somewhere along the line we lost our Spanish phone account, as they refuse to recognize our international bank (it uses a code with a different number of digits, which sent them into a tizzy) but that's easily remedied once we get back. We'll be very busy for the next few weeks, and as soon as I get settled I'll let you know how it all works out.
PAULA MC CAUGHEY
9/8/2021 10:44:59 pm
Hi Karen, wishing you a safe and speedy journey back to Sevilla. I love reading your very entertaining blogs! Me and hubby counting down the days til we can return to Spain and Sevilla in particular. What an amazing city! The temperature should be just about bearable now. Really looking forward to hearing how the Big Return goes in future blogs!
Karen K McCann
9/10/2021 02:59:23 pm
So kind of you to send me your good wishes, Paula! I hope you and your husband do make it back to Seville. I'll post updates so you know what to expect. I did see that the temperatures will be in the 90s, so still a bit warm, but shortly after we arrive, it's supposed to rain. After our long drought, I can hardly recall what that feels like; should be pretty refreshing!
9/9/2021 01:20:21 am
Good luck, indeed! So happy to know you’ll be going back! Like many of your friends, I’ve been thinking of going back in January, and will look forward to hearing how it goes for you. Thanks for paving the way! And thanks also for your Facebook page, I hadn’t known about that. I am not much of a Facebook fan, but I will be following you!
Karen K McCann
9/10/2021 03:38:39 pm
Thanks for your good wishes, Elizabeth! I'll keep you posted on our return and resettlement in Seville. In theory, we've covered all the bases, but of course, this is Spain, so I always expect a few last-minute curveballs. Please do check out my FB page, and watch this blog for updates. Also, there's a great YouTube video series called "Spain Speaks" in which an Australian expat gives a quick update on the news affecting travel and expat life, so that might be something to watch as well. Hope you make it back in January!
9/9/2021 04:20:23 am
Karen, I can feel your joy and excitement for your return to Spain. Little pangs of envy on my part but so happy for you’ll! Will be looking forward to your posts!
9/10/2021 05:52:08 pm
Thank you so much, Faye! I am very excited and will do my best to keep you posted on how it all goes. Stay tuned!
9/9/2021 06:45:22 am
9/10/2021 05:52:41 pm
Can't wait to be back in España again, Victoria!
9/9/2021 04:22:28 pm
I am so happy to hear you are returning to Spain. I really missed reading your adventures in Spain and the marvelous excursions through Europe. I wish you a safe and happy trip. You give me hope that we will soon return to traveling abroad. All the best
9/10/2021 05:58:52 pm
Dave, it's kind of you to say you miss my European adventure stories and I hope to have plenty to share very soon. It's never easy to be sure when the time is right to make a move like this, and no doubt there will be some surprises along the way. But I know in the end it will be worth all the hassle to return to my home and my life in Spain. I hope you find all the stars align for you and that you will feel comfortable traveling abroad again soon.
9/10/2021 12:48:20 am
Safe travels and here's hoping the Spanish government tells you what you need to do BEFORE you get there! I'm excited to once again enjoy your adventures in Spain.
9/10/2021 06:03:29 pm
Shéa, I'm delighted you're joining us vicariously on this journey. The latest from the Spanish government says we need valid proof of vaccination, although so far we can't get any explanation of what this means exactly. Our shot cards? No problem. A European vaccination passport? That might be a little more difficult. Oh, well, I'm sure we will figure it all out as we go along. And the suspense just adds to the sense of adventure. I'll keep you posted.
9/10/2021 02:18:06 pm
Good luck! We just returned to the States via London. In addition to that test, make sure you have filled out your PLF, passenger locator form. It is required even for the shortest of layovers - ours was two hours long and it took nearly that long to fill out the four-page form. One per person as well!
9/10/2021 06:08:33 pm
Congratulations to you and Joel on getting back into the US, Jackie; it's no small task these days! I just checked with Rich and he has filled out PLFs for both of us — as far as he's able. Some sections can't be filled out until 48 hours before the flight, so those are on standby. I can see that Monday and Tuesday are going to be hysterical, between filling out the forms, getting our Covid tests, packing, and closing up the house. Lucky we have a night flight because I am really going to want to sleep on that plane.
9/11/2021 01:50:36 pm
9/11/2021 03:54:32 pm
Thanks for your good wishes, Sherry. I hope you manage to get back to Seville soon.
9/12/2021 06:15:29 pm
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