Esto no es pan comido

viene la lluviaIn case you were wondering, I can assure you that our life in Granada is not all Rioja and roses.

Challenge #1
Taking the bubble wrap off the child.

I think we’re typical parents of our generation and class who—because we can—work energetically to shelter our child from discomfort and pain even as we acknowledge (intellectually) the importance of those feelings in healthy development. I will even own up to trying to deliver an idyllic childhood experience.

So when Lou repeatedly says “I hate school. It’s boring,” I want to make it better for him, especially since I agree that sitting at a desk most of the day doing workbook exercises is boring. But we are not in a position to change much about school. I am telling myself that this is our opportunity to cede some control and focus on supporting Lou as he advocates for himself, works to keep a good attitude, and finds ways to get the most out of second grade.

Challenge #2
Isolation/loneliness/excessive navel-gazing.

We have been warmly welcomed in Granada. Our landlords and other Spaniards have invited us to do things and tried to help us begin to integrate. And the many American families we’ve met are friendly and, like us, looking for ways to balance the support we can provide each other with our shared desire to experience Spanish life as fully as possible. But it takes time to make friends, and for me it’s going to be impossible unless I can speak English at least some of the time.

Weekends are tough. Unless we plan a play date for Lou (and so far his only buddies are Americans), he has to spend the whole weekend with adults. All of us see so much of each other that home sometimes feels claustrophobic. Beyond loneliness, not being able to talk with a wider group of people can, for me, lead to a loss of perspective and an excessive focus on myself and my situation. Each of these struggles has given us an opportunity for meaningful conversation as a family about the importance of friends, how they’re different from acquaintances, and how to make friends.

Challenge #3
Language.

Studying Spanish helps me appreciate even more how amazing language is. There are so many words and so many ways to put them together to communicate highly nuanced ideas, tell rich stories, make jokes, explain a technical process, say you’re sorry, and on and on.

Lou has a good enough level of Spanish that he can manage just fine in his classroom. But I think he has trouble understanding Spanish speakers who don’t adjust their speech for him, and I wouldn’t say that he can express himself fully in Spanish. I’m sure he’s making progress every day without having to work at it consciously.

Pete is our rock star who is making Spanish friends and starting a community ed class in creative writing.

Depending on my most recent interaction in Spanish, I either think “If I keep at it, I can do this!” or “I am spitting into the wind.” Earlier this week I had a relatively successful meeting with a conversation partner where I talked about what I’d done on the weekend. It was successful because I spent two hours writing about the weekend for my class (and received corrections), then I used what I had written to rehearse out loud what I wanted to say with my partner. Also, because my partner gives me time to speak and doesn’t rush to correct me or finish my sentences, I feel more relaxed and the words come more easily. Needless to say it’s humbling to require that level of preparation.

llegó la lluvia

Rainy day river and tributary

Challenge #4
Weather.

We live in a house designed to stay cool, and it does. Without the hot sun of late summer, the house doesn’t warm up, and hanging freshly washed clothes outside all day doesn’t get them completely dry. While we have central heat with a radiator in every room, it seems early to turn on something that has been made to sound like a luxury. (But it was only 45F when we walked to school this morning, and Lou is sleeping with me for warmth while Pete is on a visit back to the U.S., so maybe it’s time for luxuries.) I am definitely going to investigate the self-service laundromat with tumble dryers!

4 thoughts on “Esto no es pan comido

  1. merediemartinez

    Well said. I can definitely relate to the challenges of parenting in a new environment.

    Your post reminds me of the cold, damp weather in Chile. I studied abroad there during their winter season and my host family had no heat. I could see my breath in my bedroom when I awoke in the morning and there was mold growing on my ceiling. I remember how difficult it was to deal with the weather (which caught me off guard, being raised in a cold weather climate). Embrace the central heat and the laundromat!

    Reply
    1. ellentveit Post author

      Thankfully it’s only humid when it rains, and only enough to make the cold feel colder (and cause moss to grow on the shaded tile of our patio). Your experience in Chile sounds, um, character-building?

      The challenges and feelings we are experiencing here are a repeat of what we went through in Argentina. My hope is that having more time (a school year rather than not quite four months) will allow us (me) to get better at language and make some friends. With those two things, the rest – wet laundry, a teacher-fronted classroom, dog and cat poop everywhere in the Albaicin streets – will be more manageable.

      Reply
  2. Valerie Morris Spahr

    Hi Ellen, you always do such a wonderful job with your words (in English anyway) to explain what is going on, how you are dealing with it (sad or happy events). I am sure the more time you are there it will become more “natural”. Lou is a little dude that has continuously proven he is a “survivor” in challenging situations for a kid. You probably feel much like he does but you know how to put it to words. I love the cuddling in at bedtime…nothing like cuddling! I so miss you and our ‘talks’. Things are as crazy as ever here, so remember, “things could be worse” 🙂
    Take care and keep the stories coming
    Val

    Reply
  3. Julian

    This is a great post, Ellen, thanks for sharing. Sorry to hear about your challenges…they say we don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when things are hard! I’m guilty of feeling envy over your travels, but I hadn’t considered the problems you’d face.

    Reply

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