For the past five years I’ve been splitting my time between Granada, Spain, and the US. I will never fully trade in my Wyoming lifestyle, but there are also many things to love about our European base. The slower pace of life. Beautiful roads to cycle on. Great wine. A society that prioritizes time with family and friends. But it also presents challenges. A different language and legal structure, new ways of doing the simple tasks we take for granted, and the complexities of being an immigrant.
Research tells us that one of the best things you can do to help your brain age well is seek out novel experiences. At my house we often joke about how all our frustrations and confusion are medicinal and how we’ll be better off for accepting the challenge. Along with flexing my brain while outlining my next book for the upcoming Fade series, here’s some of the “medicine” I’ve been subjected to lately…
A Renovation Project. In Spanish.
In 2022, we decided to commit to Granada and buy a place to live. When we started looking, a renovation was out of the question. Anyone who’s done one knows they are frustrating and expensive under the best of circumstances. In Spain, though, all that is multiplied by ten. Not only because of the language, but the fact that so much is done differently here. Getting the water company to hook up a downtown apartment? Three months minimum. And I had to ask our contractor to repeat himself several times when he told me that he builds all interior walls out of brick. I assumed I was mistranslating because that made no sense to me.
But, miraculously, everything seems to be more or less on track. Hopefully sometime in September we’ll be out of temporary housing and into our new place.
I wanted to take a photo of me sitting among all the other immigrants at the extranjería office, but I didn’t dare. This is very much a place where you just wait quietly with your mountain of documents and pray you get a government official who’s in a good mood.
It’s an unpleasant process that everyone should live through at least once in their lifetime to gain perspective. And let’s face it, if I get deported, it’s back to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Not Guatemala or Sudan. My experiences have been incredibly nerve-wracking, but for many it must be downright terrifying.
I really like strolling in cities, but it can be inconvenient when there’s too much to carry and it’s unbearably hot. It would be nice to have a car, but then I remember the many narrow streets. This one is particularly small, and tourists tend to ignore the warning sign at its entrance. A round placard with 1,8m on it means the street narrows to 1.8 meters or less than six feet. Cars get stuck here all the time and there are long scrapes on the buildings to prove it. I have no idea how they get them out. One day, I’ll have to stop at a café and watch with a glass of wine in hand.
While I enjoy the strange and fascinating world of travel, I know many people don’t share my enthusiasm for exotic food. We’ve done a pretty good job of leaving behind our staples and adapting to the ingredients available here. But I’m still not sure what to do with the whole piglets that I find in the frozen food section.
At times, I have strange experiences that make me question my ability to speak Spanish. I always assume because I’m working in a second language that the error is mine, but often, I discover that it’s not just a translation issue.
This happened again a few days ago when I went to the appliance store to buy a dryer. I explained at length what I was looking for and the guy just stared at me like I was nuts and kept saying “heat pump.” Of course, I replied that I already had a heating system. I just needed a clothes dryer. After a lengthy discourse, I discovered that the Spanish don’t really have dryers that vent outside and that they use heat pump technology to dry their clothes. I’m pretty sure that salesman has never been so happy to see a customer finally leave his store.