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Postcard from Valencia #1

Sabado, 31 de Diciembre, 2022

We reached arrived at a milestone yesterday. After four days in Valencia, we reached the end of the list of things we had to do (at least for now). And this morning we were able to do one of the things we wanted to do, revisit the Central Market.

Nothing I might say, not even photos, can convey what the Central Market is like on a busy Saturday. First, we wouldn't have gone on a Saturday except that we had run out of time during the rest of the week pursuing things on the need-to-do list.

Overall our expedition was a success. My Spanish got us past a couple of grumpy stall owners. We were ripped off once, on apples, which was partly our fault for not asking the price first on unmarked produce. We purchased one of those rolling bags everyone seems to have to carry our purchases so now we looked pretty much like everyone else and had one vendor express surprise we were "de los Estados Unidos." (He had pegged us as British).

Breaking free of the needs to do and getting on with the desires made me a little reflective about the needs list and the lessons our pursuit taught us this week.

First, slow down and remain in the frame. No matter how pressing a need seems to be, we have that need BECAUSE WE HAVE STARTED TO LIVE IN THIS AMAZING CITY IN SPAIN. We can't let the stink of the temporarily unmet need pollute our whole broader experience.

Second, the vast majority of the people we have met here have been willing to help. Yes, we met a few folks who were clearly having a bad day and for whom meeting a couple of foreigners who required them to slow their speech didn't improve things. But from the proprietor of our neighborhood cafe (who was originally from Guatemala and who knows what it's like to start in a new place) to the technician who installed our wifi and made me put his number in my contacts in case we had any problem with the service, to neighbors kind enough to express sympathy and a willingness to help when I locked myself out of my apartment, this week has been full of some outstanding folks.

Third, this week spent in a nation that puts time and family above money has been completely amazing and eye-opening. In the US this week Christmas has been dying down. Time to return the unwanted or impossible gifts, time to go back to work, back to the grind. But in Spain, Christmas only began to hit its stride this week. All week long we walked streets (not the big special streets but ordinary ones) crowded with families and kids and friends and tias and tios and everybody just enjoying each other's company and spending time with one another.

Does this have a cost? Of course, it does. We also met the small business owner who moved his business on December 1 but who still hadn't received his new business cards. "Christmas," he said with the characteristic Spanish shoulder shrug. "Nobody's working."

And no surprise they're not working. They're all too busy enjoying the life they have worked to have. They live in a society that works to live but doesn't live to work. It's just the kind of place we sought when we moved here.

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