We all deserve a second chance. Returning to Spain with Claude was like a second date. The expenses in the States where coming in fast and furious, and my applications for work have not proved fruitful, so we decided to air in the way of caution and booked overnight bus tickets. Knowledge is power, so the new adventure would be a learning experience no matter how we looked at it. We embarked with bottles of wine and beer, baguette sandwiches and an iPad with movies downloaded.
In theory; you board, go to sleep, wake up and are there. “Convenience Stops” are made every three hours because they don’t open the restrooms on the bus and the driver needs a break to stay alert. I am convinced the stops are strategic, providing bus companies with kickbacks for the coffee and other tempting snacks to fill the empty hours in the dark. On a side note the gas stations in France offer real food not just microwavable crap.
The free Wi-Fi that is advertised on the web site is not on all buses, and the delays due to people boarding and disembarking at various stops delivered us 2 hours later than estimated 14-hour journey. What was to take just under 10.5 hours by car without stops, ended up take 16. Like experienced travelers we pushed thru the drowsiness and the sore backs to greet Comillas, Gloria and the family.
The past trip proved beneficial, and my “blocked,” Spanish skills slowly returned. I spoke a bit like Rainman, without the rocking, or toothpicks. Every third world was French; but somehow, I got the point across. The family was happy to see Claude and happier to see that I was not the pouting teenager of the previous visit. I was greeted in all locations with wine and beer, having established my reputation. In my mind, it was better to look like a drunk, than allow them opportunity to find another label for me
It was not as lonely this time around and it was like “Open House” at school as a kid. I showed off what I discovered, and in turn, I was taken to enjoy traditional local dishes passed down thru the family. Each home offered another spread made for the pages of a foodie magazine and I was in heaven.
I am convinced that if a nuclear bomb was to go off, this sleepy fishing town in northern Spain would be the place to be. The family is in a variety of businesses that would prove beneficial, such as Fishing and Cattle. Delighted to reconnect with my favorite Uncle Tony, who delivered containers of delights daily, I ate more than my share of fresh seafood directly off the boat. The delights were walked up to the Hogar del Jubilado, the family bar, killed cooked and served with something cold. Sea snails so small you eat them with a sewing needle. Tony also automatically buys me beer or wine whenever he sees me, even at 10 in the morning. I don’t bother looking for the women’s approve or not.
Over a hundred years ago there were two towns. The churches of these distant villages decided there should be another town in between them. They asked residents from each town to move to the new one to help it become established. Claudio was a fisherman and took his bride to start a new life here. They had 17 children and the first of the grandchildren was my Claude. Being Catholic and in a small village with nothing to do, it was not unusual to have a rather big family. They grew to be more than founders but a large part of the heritage.
The boys fished and the women tended cows both for milk and cheese and others for meat. Even the naughty boys would comb the rocks after the bars closed at the early morning hours pulling octopus from their holes before getting off to bed. The oldest daughter Gloria was sent away to find work to support the family. She ended up in France and most of the brothers and sisters at one point or another in their lives did the same.
Because the family continued to grow, Claude and his favorite uncle are the same age and spent many adventures in town before they became men with responsibilities’. Luis and his boys are still close to Claude and they lent him a bike and he was able to get back to the hills that he loved as a young cyclist. The boys have been on the edge of going professional and the loved for cycling obsesses half the family providing him with many good adventures, will I ran and found my bliss in the abandoned roads where the black sheep and donkeys surprised me with each turn.
The weather gave room for a quick dip in the Atlantic which proved to be exactly what this California girl needed and my mood was better for having the salt on my skin. We spent a couple nights out on our own finding old friends and new wine bars catering to the next generation of tourists.
I recall the first time that Claude had with his grandfather when we came to see I’m before he died. The same sense of joy and surprise was on the face of the Claudio Jr. when we showed up for a visit. The oldest son of the Grandpa is not expected to live beyond the summer, and the point of our coming was to say goodbye. The love in the eyes of the two men seeing each other after many years was better than a Hallmark special.
As with all families, spending more time together than they should, conversation usually turned to family gossip after the initial reports on work and health. I could see that the hens clucking around the old guy was old and not welcome and engaged him in a course of knot tying lessons. Various sailor knots are framed in all the houses of the men and He was considered the nest in the family. Not need dont to speak, made things better for both of us and we found moments of happiness when I finally got a knot right. Of course, I can’t do one now to save my life, but I knew he needed something to focus on other than the fussing over him.
Returning to France was a bit easier, the delays seem to be a Spanish thing and we were able to score a couple rows to lay down and get some sleep after wine and Netflix. I needed to get back to business and was not sad to leave.
The house in San Clemente is being shown to prospective tenants and City Hall finally called about my ID. It only took 3 and a half months but they finally figured out that I am not French. Meaning, I am not eligible for an Identification card. Panic set in and feeling frustrated, I broke down to a husband that doesn’t deal well with tears.
Thankfully, an investor in his restaurant is a lawyer and recommended another who is known to be very good with immigration issues. We also were encouraged to seek out Dual citizenship. Of course, I should have thought of this sooner, but I have acclimated to European life and it just sort of slipped my mind between holidays and vacations.
Returning was also good for moral with the month meeting of the updated “Breakfast club“. Middle school is an awkward age for kids, and I think this is why they segregate them from other schools. When I was at Cerro Villa, The iconic movie was released, and like all the teens in my generation, John Hughes became our unsung hero. Basically, the film is about a variety of students brought together one Saturday for detention and they learn they all have similar and different problems.
The new club consist of my fellow classmate’s from Alliance Francaise. We get together once a month. Usually because I organize something knowing I need to try to maintain friendships that are mine and not by marriage. This month we enjoyed a free outdoor movie in Parc de la Villette
Where we saw Goodfellas and every person there arrived with a bottle of wine and no security stopped them, instead they asked if the had a bottle opener, since a table was set up to help you.
Immigration and life in France is always a topic of discussion. We try to share what we have learned and progress we have made despite being from different countries.
When my Visa expired, I was advised to call the US Consulate, that they could direct me. As I sat on the phone, I listened to the recorded messages that said that all visas are a case to case situation.
Tyler, is the best resource because he is American, but we still have differences in documents because he is PACS and I am married. PACS was a civil union for same sex couples that has become very popular with straight couples as well.
He was able to get a Bank account. This is no small feat here. This is the thing that holds me back from obtaining Social Security and cancelling the US insurance draining my account. The bad news is never far behind. He has accepted a job with the United Nations in Vienna and will be moving soon. His “wife” will remain here and he will be in town often, but with Him and Maeve gone, my native tonged speakers are disappearing with my sarcasm.
The process for the bank took him a couple weeks, but none the less, I started in on it and visited the Tribunal as suggested by City Hall. This was a mistake and I was referred to an Asterix cartoon about the same subject showing that I am not alone. Dual citizenship maybe easier since we have been married longer than 5 years. This isn’t a green card scam, but I am also seeing information about exams.
Exams = Study. I have committed to hitting the books and been very unsuccessful but, I have swum in several amazing places since getting back. My darling Juan Marcos and I have a standing Wednesday date to explore the various pools in the city and my favorite so far was in a canal in Bassin de la Villette. My Dad and I both find secret pleasure in my doing a remake of Burt Lancaster film, The Swimmer. He swims the county in a day by traveling between neighbors pools. I have secretly started.
I am assured that the summer and vacations will come to an end and people will begin to work again and I will have more luck with papers, work, language, the house being rented and a pedicure as the children return to school and the vacation tans fade. Although I am legal to be here with my Carte de Sejourn, I am not able to leave and come back. Let’s hope this doesn’t provide the universe a curve ball to throw at me.
I have acquired an interview for an English-speaking job tomorrow and hold my breath waiting to see what they say when I present my card. No one seems to know if I can work, so until someone tells me that I cannot, I’ll assume I can.
It is now a numbers game for me. I have pulled the slot machine handle enough times to receive a payout soon. In Hebrew Gematria, meaning “power”, “energy” is a word that corresponds to the number 28. I believe that as the days get darker and my language improves, I will get thru the next appointment, and somehow the year’s issues will be replaced by ones of less importance. Of course, I could be wrong, but at least the ride is getting more interesting.