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Postcard from Valencia #5

Tomorrow evening will mark the end of our third week in Spain. Time to take a small step back and assess where we have been and how well we have done.

Without meaning to boast at all, I think we have managed this move from the U.S. to Spain extraordinarily well, so far.

True, there are still some loose ends flapping in the international breeze. We still must face the Spanish administrative gauntlet to obtain the all-important “Padron” on January 30 (proof that we actually live here) and then use the Padron in the residency or Tarjeta Identification Extranjero (TIE) card process, which includes getting our fingerprints taken on February 17. But our consultant is confident both meetings will go well, so we aren’t terribly worried.

Also, our small clutch of household possessions (clothes, art, some cast iron cookware) is still in a queue somewhere, waiting to launch its trip over the high seas to us. But the shipping company assures me everything is in order and it’s just a case of getting our shipment “synced” with other stuff going to the same place, so again, no worries. Though watch this space.

We have the apartment mostly how we want it. The Husband has shown persistence, ingenuity, and a degree of stealth I never knew he had in managing to get our free balconies stocked with flowering and non-flowering plants. Among their number are an olive tree and a lemon tree, the latter being only slightly more developed than the lemon stick his sister sent us to plant so many years ago.

Our non-free balcony has racks for hanging freshly laundered shirts to dry and little room for plants.

We still can’t get over the conflict between our climate and the calendar. Yes, it is January 15, but this past week the Husband was still able to haul back and plant a small trove of bougainvillea, different types of geraniums, the two trees, and others that I haven’t learned yet. And while one florist shop clerk asked him why he was so bent on planting things in “el invierno,” nobody else raised as much as an eyebrow. From Florida, my sister reported morning temperatures in the high thirties Fahrenheit. Here it was ten degrees Celsius or about fifty degrees on her scale, so Florida shivered while The Husband planted.

We have heat now. A portly man in overalls, black-rimmed glasses, and with an earnest expression came midweek with an official-looking black briefcase crammed with an array of blinking and beeping gadgets, all with digital displays, that he used while measuring different things around our water heater.

The heater, which is about the size of a large medicine cabinet in the States, lives in a box on our small terrace. The landlord accompanied the technician to monitor its vital statistics.

The two of them kept up a rapid-fire conversation in Spanish about different aspects of the heater’s age and performance. Since they spoke so quickly, I could only pick up about every fourth word, but heard enough to determine the landlord should feel happy. Afterward, he briefed me about the visit and reported the technician had declared the heater healthy enough to function but warned that several of the radiators in the apartment had valves that needed replacing. The landlord added a plumber would be by next week sometime to see about that and that one of us would have to be here to let him in.

Given the weather pattern I reported earlier, we haven’t really needed heat except we agreed that having some warmth in the early morning when we first get up and then a bit before we hit the sack would be nice. So that’s what we have been doing. The heat’s on from thirty minutes (roughly) before we get up until after we finish breakfast and then on again in the evening for our last three hours before bed.

Of course, we have yet to pay for any energy use. We are to pay utility bills on a quarterly basis and apparently, we moved in mid-cycle. Our agent negotiated with the landlord that when the next round of statements arrives, they will examine them, and we will pay the part that is our before we take on the responsibility for the property’s whole cycle.

Now that the must-haves of life here are working out, we are starting to turn our attention to some of the cultural, historical, and artistic reasons we move to Spain in the first place. A long-planned trip to the Oceanographic Park, part of Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences, is in the offing for next week, as is comida in the underwater restaurant that is part of the facility. Add to that, a planned trip to the enormous Botanical Gardens that are only a few blocks from our apartment and of course just continuing to get swept up in the day-to-day joys of living here.

One day this week I used my new range-top pressure cooker to make chicken soup based on a recipe from Spanish home cooking guru Karlos Arguiñano. Beforehand, I went to the Central Market to get some of the ingredients and stopped in front of a vegetable vendor who had some truly impressive looking apio, or celery.

“Digame,” she offered. Tell me what you need. Well, I have a recipe, I began…and we were off to the races. What recipe? Chicken soup. Where did I get it? Karlos Arguiñano. Muy Bueno. And she proceeded to gather all the ingredients for the recipe without my telling her any of them. At one point she ripped two stalks of celery off one of her beautiful celery heads because the stalks would be plenty, and I wouldn’t need the rest. In the space of about six minutes and for roughly eight and a half euro my entire recipe’s vegetable needs were fulfilled. “Come to see me again and tell me how it was….”

There are just too many of these moments to set down in the letters or I would be writing all the time, but I promise to try to keep getting things down. This is just such a remarkable and engaging place to live.

Until next time, David

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