Powerlessness… And Another Set of Knockers

Well, we still don’t have electricity or water in our apartment, but progress is being made.  The building is managed by the law firm with offices on the first floor (the second floor by typical American reckoning).  We met yesterday with the principal lawyer and another lawyer on his team.  They have kindly volunteered their services (yes, that’s right, lawyers have kindly volunteered) to get the water and electricity turned on for us.  These guys have been so gracious, kind, and generous with their time.  Unfortunately, even with their help, it could take until the middle of next week before we have electricity.  We also asked them to help us with the process of obtaining our residency cards.

IT’S NOT MUCH, BUT IT’S HOME… FOR NOW (AND AN INCREDIBLE DEAL).

Each time we visit the apartment, we like it and the neighborhood even more.  We’re very excited to get in and hope we’ll be sleeping there some time next week.  Our shipped items are now on their way.  Minor apartment repairs — and new locks — will be taken care of over the next few days.  We’re going to start picking up sheets, towels, etc., and washing them in preparation for move-in day (we’re heading off to shop in a few minutes).  And we’ll head back over to IKEA to make our major purchases and arrange for delivery.  It’s all very exciting.  I’m gratified Jerry and I can survive so well sharing one room (in the hotel) for such a long time given our preference for personal space.

ENTRANCE TO EL PALACIO ARZOBISPAL (THE PALACE OF THE ARCHBISHOP).

This is not going to become the blog to visit for pictures of knockers.  But, I spotted a prodigious set today across the plaza from the cathedral on the doors to the Palace of the Archbishop and it was obvious to me that they should have been included in the “Nice Knockers” post.

YOU’D HAVE TO BE ON HORSEBACK TO REACH THE LOWER KNOCKER (RIGHT).
I HAVE NO IDEA WHO WOULD REACH THE UPPER ONE (PERHAPS A HIGHER POWER).

Nice Knockers

On our walks around old Sevilla, Jerry and I continue to see so many beautiful, unusual, and surprising sights.  Among these sights are the old and new, large and small, door knockers, which I believe are called “aldabas” in Spanish.  During our first week, Jerry would invariably (and innocently) comment, “Nice knockers” — not a phrase usually escaping Jerry’s lips (or even crossing his mind).  I’ve had to explain the double meaning to Jerry, but we really have seen some nice knockers (of the door kind… well, of the other kind too if I’m honest), and I’ve decided to share some of them here (again, of the door kind).  I especially love the very large, plain iron ring (the first image on the left below) I found in an ancient church door, because it tops a little speak-easy window. (“Pssst.  Judas sent me.”)

And, since I hate to be a tease, here for your viewing pleasure is a very brief video of BOTH kinds of knockers.

Erin Schwab at Hells Kitchen

We are leaving Minneapolis in the morning (Saturday).  We were supposed to leave this morning (Friday) but earlier in the week we found out that Erin Schwab was performing tonight at Hell’s Kitchen. We couldn’t possibly leave without seeing and hearing her one more time.

A TENDER MOMENT.  SHE’S GOT IT ALL.

The last time we saw Erin perform live was way too long ago (nearly 10 years) but, if anything, she’s gotten better.  The crowd tonight was international.  The performance was out of this world.  So, this is just a quick post to tell you that Erin alone is worth a trip to The Twin Cities (that’s Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota).

LOOK CLOSELY AT WHAT HANGS FROM THE CHANDELIER. 
THEY TAKE THE THEME SERIOUSLY.

To top it off, we had an amazing meal at Hell’s Kitchen (where they — justifiably — claim to have “damn good food”). 

ERIN, CAUGHT AFTER THE SHOW.

Why Move? Why Leave? Why Spain?

To the first and second “why” questions, there are so many answers.  But, the easiest responses are, because we can and because we want to (or vice versa).  We have talked for years about living in Europe.

I thought of moving to England in the late ’70s.

Jerry and I considered the Netherlands in the ’90s (those “Bush the First” years).  Coming from San Diego at the time, we decided we could if we had to, but the weather would be an adjustment.

Then in the “George Jr.” years, we considered Ireland (a job prospect in Dublin for Jerry) but again decided the weather would be an adjustment, along with some social/political/religious issues.  Not to mention the fact that we weren’t a legally recognized couple and I, therefore, would have no legal right to go/stay with him.

Our next thought during the George Jr. years was Norway.  Specifically Bergen.  We thought, well, we love Seattle.  And Bergen reminds us in so many ways of Seattle.  We figured, we can tolerate the weather in Seattle (well, no, we really can’t), so how difficult could Bergen be?  Our family in Bergen loved the idea of having us as neighbors (no, really, they did).  But they thought we were nuts if we believed we could tolerate the weather.

We then did some research and learned that Seattle gets 37 inches of precipitation a year.  The total isn’t significant except that it’s continual drizzles.  (Seattle Rain Festival: January 1-December 31).  But, Bergen, hold onto your hats, gets EIGHTY-NINE INCHES OF PRECIPITATION a year.  And it’s almost all rain.  And the rain falls sideways. There’s no escaping it.

Southern Spain is a popular and easy-to-reach tourist destination for Norwegians.  So, we thought we could spend half the year in Bergen and half in Southern Spain.  But that still meant at least, unscientifically speaking, 45 inches of rain.  And, as I just mentioned, in Bergen it rains sideways.

So, we’re still here.

Until we had our hotel in Palm Springs from 2000-2003 (that requires another post), we had talked a lot about retiring there.  And when we returned to Southern California from Vegas last year, that was back as the top possibility.

But the problem was that Palm Springs, although beautiful, just didn’t excite us anymore.  There isn’t anything new for us.  So, we bought “Retirement Places Rated” for the U.S. and studied.  And we still couldn’t find that spark.

A few months passed and we started to talk about Europe again.  We decided to list out our requirements in order of priority and then narrow down to regions, countries, and cities based on those factors.

The top priority (I’ll admit to being a bit shallow on this one):
THE WEATHER.
We realized a pleasant climate — a la San Diego — was what we required.  That knocked off a whole bunch of countries.

The second priority was political/social climate:
Admittedly this went hand in hand with weather.  Cuba’s sunshine and ocean breezes can be quite charming, but we’re not rushing off to live there.

Other requirements (and no longer in order of priority) were:
An interesting culture and history; a population that welcomes outsiders; safe and secure living conditions; a language we could learn; national/nature parks; good healthcare; good public transportation–local, regional, and national; easy/cheap access to other parts of Europe; and I can’t remember what else right now.

That led us to Southern Spain–Andalucia.  But we didn’t want to end up in an expat community surrounded only by other non-Spaniards (and Andalucia has a number of beautiful communities filled with expats).  So, we did more research, talked to more people, and finally narrowed down to Sevilla.  After deciding on Sevilla, we re-opened the discussion (we re-open discussions a lot) and decided to look in the outlying area for smaller cities where we could more easily relax (and where our money would go further).  We decided to follow the train line down from Sevilla to Cadiz.  And there it was, Jerez de la Frontera.  Home to sherry, the horse, and the flamenco.  Also  home to the Motorcycle Grand Prix (not really on our list of interests).

Speaking the Language

I’m immersed in Rosetta Stone Spanish for Spain.  I studied Spanish for 7 years starting when I was 12.  You’d think I’d be passably fluent, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve used it beyond a very superficial level.

I was in Spain on business about four years ago.  During that trip I spent an hour in a taxi with a driver who spoke no English.  We spent the hour in conversation… in Spanish.  At the end of the hour, the cab driver told me I did really well.  I said, like a 2-year-old.  He said, no, 5.  Trust me, he was being extremely kind.  After completing Level 1 (of 5) of Rosetta Stone, I feel like I now speak and comprehend Spanish like an at times slow and at times gifted 2-year-old.

I look forward to fluency.  I’m not very patient.  I’m no perfectionist.  I’m quite good at slapping something together and saying, “That’ll do.”  But I don’t like not being able to do something perfectly immediately.  The big difference between me and a perfectionist–in those situations when I can’t immediately do something perfectly–is that I might just throw in the towel.

But I love languages and I do pick them up quickly (I hear them as music in my head).  So, although I’ll get frustrated with my lack of fluency I won’t stop working at it.

Jerry speaks Russian.  We don’t expect that to come in very handy in Spain.  So, he’s counting on me to be translator (everything is relative) when we visit Andalucia in January.  Jerry’s sister and her husband rented an apartment in Nerja on the Costa del Sol last summer.  One day when they were out for their regular morning stroll, they were greeted by the owner of the local grocery.  As they walked by, she waved and said, “Buenos dias!”  Our brother-in-law waved back and said, “Aloha!”  I don’t think he’s going to be of much help.

Once we move in May, we’ll both immediately enroll in language immersion programs.

In the meantime, we are also trying to understand everything (well, a lot) about Spanish history and culture.  Jerry is the academic in this household.  He can get himself lost in any, dry, non-fiction tome.  And he can then quote information and statistics for years after.  I barely got through one academic hard-cover on Spain and I returned two others to Jerry after the first chapter.

I keep hoping to find a historical novel to give me all I need to know in a format like Michener’s “Hawaii.”  Michener did actually produce one book on Spain. Unfortunately, it was a work of NON-fiction.  In the meantime, I’m reading every travel guide and have just found a book “The New Spaniards” that holds my attention.  Surfing the web provides an endless source of info in as small or as large a bite as I’m interested in at any given time.

So, now it’s off to Peet’s for a newspaper and a cup of coffee.