the great leap east

I think I did not make quite clear in my last post that, not only have we set a date for our departure, we have bought plane tickets that obligate us to exit the country on that date. We are officially, definitely, non-refundably committed to moving to Berlin. Everyone can breathe now.

In other news, it is mid-June, high tourist season, high terrace season, high beach season…and very rainy. It has been rainy for days, and when it’s not raining, it’s menacingly threatening to downpour at any moment, and subsequently wrapping us in a heat- and moisture- trapping blanket of clouds. In other words, it is very uncomfortable.

Tonight, on this cool, windy, rainy night, it is the perfect time to curl up with a cup of tea (or pipe) and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It is a light rain, which, while bothersome, is not destructive or mean or intrusive. It taps lightly on the roof and trickles quietly down the window, making it all the more inviting to stay home and on the couch.

It makes me think, however, of those other rains, the wild, unrelenting winter rains, which are always accompanied by whipping winds and blistering cold, making it not only very unpleasant to leave the house, but some days, quite impossible. Many an innocent umbrella has succumbed to its unforgiving wrath. I think how much I dread walking to class in the winter, even equipped with rain boots, a tough umbrella (which just finally died this week…RIP), a warm coat, and the sheltering overhang of the city streets. But how did they do it back then? Back when the Celts first arrived to Galicia (assuredly, an even more savage and malicious Galicia) so many centuries ago, armed only with animal furs (albeit very warm ones) and thatch-roofed houses? How did they stay here in this solitary forest, so dark and lonely? How did they farm as the wind stung their faces and the rain poured down? How did they travel so far by foot without a place to stay for the night, without a dry bed, a warm fire, and a hot meal? How did they survive out at sea, when the shores are so foreboding and even the name (la costa da morte – the death coast) draws fear, where so many sailors have met a sad fate, and so many ships lie hidden below, ravaged to pieces against rocky shores? Why did they venture ahead when even the mighty Romans, upon arriving here thousands of years ago, decided that this must be the end of the world and turned back around? It always fascinates me that this place, after so many years, remains inhabited in spite of its unfortunate weather, its dark legends and superstitions, its dangerous forests, and its isolation from the rest of the world. It must be something special.

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so…

Some of you may know, but some may not, that Carlos and I are moving to Germany. Soon. In late July, to be exact. It sounds like news, but really we’ve been planning this since the day when, over a year ago, when Carlos and I had just started dating, I once casually asked him if he’d like to move to Germany with me, and he said, “Great! When are we leaving??” I think that’s when I fell in love with him.

We’re moving because we think the economy is better in Germany, because there will be more opportunities for an IT guy like him, more opportunities for an anthropologist like me, because it will be a better balance between Spanish laid-back-ness and American efficiency and productiveness, because we want to learn German, and basically, just because we feel like it. Plus…there’s bratwurst, giant pretzels, pumpernickel and black forest cake. What’s not to love?

I love the idea of going somewhere new. I’ve been itching to see a different world for some time now, and everything about moving to Germany seems exciting. We can’t wait to be in a place where people won’t smoke in our faces, where trains will arrive on time, where it won’t rain sideways, and where heat just comes standard in homes.

But…sometimes I realize how comfortable I’ve gotten here. Despite being a foreigner and speaking a different language, Spanish life has become second nature to me. I take for granted that I can watch television and understand jokes, recognize celebrities, or follow a high-paced political debate. I take for granted that I know about the government, the Spanish sense of identity, and the issues currently facing the country. I take for granted that the waiters at bars recognize me and smile when I walk in. I take for granted that I know where everything is, and that people mistake me for a local on numerous occasions. I take for granted that I know all the old couples in town, and that I know on which floor of our 7-story building each of my neighbors lives. I take for granted that I am able (as I did today) to try out for a Spanish game show…even if I didn’t make it. I take for granted that I know enough Spanish to be able to make up stupid jokes (que tienes cuando cruzas un perro y un gato? un pato!), to understand extreme street slang, to read the newspaper every Sunday without a problem. I know which Spanish brand of laundry detergent I like, which Spanish toothpaste I prefer, and which fruit stand has the best deals. I know the difference between fresa and freson, all kinds of grapes, and can easily differentiate between innumerable Spanish cheeses, wines, and kinds of ham. Everything here is comfortable. I will miss that. It’s like leaving home.

I am preparing now for headaches, wrinkled brows, many “Wie bitte?”s and “entschuldigung”s, many wrong turns, upside-down maps, detours, frustrations, and a whole lot of sausage tasting. Germany’s not home yet, but someday, it will be.

It’s always an adventure.