I’m back in the US. Got a house a little outside the city for now and I am still waiting on my things to arrive back from Spain, so it’s a mostly empty, cold old house with paper plates and two folding chairs. But man, it feels good to be home. I had a little bit of reverse happy culture shock upon arrival in October – humidity again – finally, my skin is so grateful, all the lush, green vegetation after coming from basically a desert, industry all around, traffic is so easy and light, I can understand people in public spaces again, such a diverse selection of food at the grocery stores, and I can drive legally. I got a car again. I am near friends again, I know where things are. I’m home.
My clothes dryer actually dries my clothes, what few items I was able to bring back. I was able to see an optometrist and get the correct prescription for my contact lenses for the first time in over a year. I’ve had to go to the ER twice since I got back, nothing life threatening ultimately but it was scary, and I was able to communicate with the doctors and staff and understand what was happening. I think of that happening in Spain and it’s horrifying. I lived in fear of medical emergencies the whole time I was there. Expat health insurance required all payments up front, and the nearest hospital with English speaking doctors was at least an hour from my house.
I came home with two suitcases and my cat and the cat’s carrier. Altogether, the cases and the cat and her stuff weighed 200 lbs., way more than what I weigh. I carried all of that through three international airports. My back hurt for a week after landing. I’m still reeling, still recovering, still in tremendous debt, still repairing many aspects of life and relationships that were damaged from the whole debacle, but healing is happening.
Since 16 years old, I’ve wanted to live overseas. Last year at this time, it felt like a long-held dream was finally coming true. I’ve learned that Spain life is not for me, not the way I did it at least, and I learned that all is not automatically better in Europe – daily life, politics, health care, social life, work life, etc. Of course, this is mostly particular to Spain, but I think I prefer the US over western Europe in most aspects. I am surprised to learn this but I have learned it first hand. This life here in the US is the one I’ve chosen.
And there is a particular breed of snide, smug, condescending metrosexual European prick that I’ve come to detest. The one at the airport Avis, in particular, in Madrid, the one that has illegally double charged my corporate credit card for a parking fee in December, two months after I left the country, a charge that I now have to fight and waste time on and pay late fees on while it is slowly, slowly maybe one day will be resolved because Spain, one more annoying, exhausting and frustrating loose end. Thankfully, there are only a few of those left and I’m handling them. Most of the fight is gone from me at this point and I’m not even trying to argue for reimbursement for questionable charges, I’m just paying them so they’ll go away and I don’t have to think about it any more. It’s not worth the stress.
I’ve spent Christmas break sleeping fully clothed on a mattress on the floor and dripping my faucets. All I want to do is sleep and read books. I have dreams about rain, about hurricanes. I feel like I could sleep for weeks. My neck has been stiff and sore for months, and my back stays cramped. I take a deep breath and my vertebrae pop, releasing a tiny bit of the stress that has built up in my body for 16 months. There were no gifts this year, no Christmas presents, I can’t afford them. Didn’t go see anyone, didn’t go to the city to see the lights and decorations. No decorations in the house, no tree, no lights – I’m not in the mood. I usually make a dark roux sausage gumbo, mulled wine and cheesecake from scratch – not this year. I couldn’t muster the energy to do anything or feel a certain way, and I felt resentful from the pressure to be cheerful, merry. Yesterday I just wanted Christmas to be over. I didn’t shower, was in PJs all day, read books, hung out with the cat and tried to stay warm or at least not cold. Wished some friends a Bah Humbug/Merry Christmas via text, counted my blessings, watched Trailer Park Boys til I fell asleep. Here’s hoping next year’s Christmas is happier.
I’ve been without almost all of my worldly belongings for a running total of 11 months now since last October. Almost a year I’ve gone without my photo albums, art, books, writing notebooks, most of my clothes, shoes, guitars, kitchen and bathroom towels, dishes, small appliances, my printers, rugs, furniture, heirlooms, electronics, everything I own and have collected over the course of my life. I’ve had to throw away or give away thousands of dollars’ worth of art supplies including all of my paints, food including an extensive spice collection, and bathroom items like toiletries and prescriptions and expensive lotions and face washes and first aid things. Twice. Both coming and going.
And much has been lost, damaged or ruined in this move. I can only claim damaged items with a monetary value, so my parents’ wedding photos that are irreplaceable or art I’ve done that was created at a pivotal, critical time in my life or 100 pages of poem drafts in a notebook potentially covered in mold now are deemed not worth reimbursement because they only have sentimental or personal value. There’s no recourse for items like these, the most important and most precious ones. But hey if they destroy my Ninja blender, best believe I’ll get a new one… as soon as I fill out a lengthy claim form, submit proof of purchase such as a receipt and photos of the damage.
I am ready to be settled in one place in a furnished home with a real office, not a folding table and a crappy back-destroying desk chair in a room that echoes. I am ready to have a sofa again. I had to leave my brand new sofa in Spain because it wouldn’t fit in the shipment, as well as a brand new NordicTrack elliptical – a loss of 3000.00 USD, which is a laughable pittance, a mere drop in the bucket of the total money I’ve lost in this move. I want to have a bed frame again. Tables. A never-ending limbo, this feels like, and I’m tired of camping in my own house, waiting, eternally waiting for my shit to show up. Again. I am tired of buying things I already own out of immediate necessity. I probably have 60 bath towels now. There’s a Goodwill down the street from me. They’re going to get a flood of donations once I unpack. Once the stuff arrives. Whenever that may be.
This is the last time, though. This is the end. No more shipping everything I own overseas ever again. I would advise anyone considering moving to Spain from the US not to do it, not like I did, not under the same or similar conditions and circumstances. Go if you know people there already, are already fluent in Spanish, can leave most of your belongings in the US or else have hardly anything by way of possessions that you care about, go if you don’t mind being passive aggressively discriminated against and ripped off and scammed because you’re American, go if you don’t intend to drive anywhere, go if you have native Spanish friends and support already on the ground, people who can help you navigate the rental process and the NIE card process and banking and setting up utilities and everything that requires contracts (which is everything) and that takes months, required printed paperwork and appointments, redoing the paperwork at least once, and seems pointedly designed to cause as much stress as possible, and it’s infused with apathy and waiting and stupidity and endless frustrations.
I’ll never do it again. It was hell. Daily life, trying to do basic things like get the mail or deal with the goddamn pool or get internet set up and reliably working, was hell. And it was every day, every day something went wrong or there was some sort of problem and it was a constant circus of miscommunications and confusion and language barriers and everything took hours if not days to resolve if it ever even got resolved. There is a reason Spain cannot compete in global markets, why the country is still economically depressed. They can never keep up with the work ethic or proactive best practices in other cultures and they don’t take certain international regulations seriously at all. I’ve seen it first hand from a tech perspective. There is no quality control. There is no audit trail. It’s meh, whatever, we’ll do it manana, or not at all, or only whenever we get caught and are forced to comply.
I plan on doing one solo trip a year again, but I may sit out 2023. I need a break from airports. So I’m keeping this blog active, and I may post about national trips for a while rather than my international hiking trips. I’d like to see Yellowstone and the Dry Tortugas and some other national parks. I have a list. I’m thinking of spending Christmas in Key West next year. Driving, not flying. Not flying again for a while. Happy to stay put for now. Very happy indeed.