If I had a dollar, even a NZ dollar, for every time someone asked me why I love Spain, I would be retiring to a charming village outside of Valencia right now. Sadly, I instead work for a living like everyone else. But still, the question remains, why Spain?
I was born and bred in New Zealand, just like my parents and grandparents. I am very kiwi. The story of my great-grandparents making the harrowing boat trek to this young pioneering nation is a story for another time. My father’s mother was dark, not unusual in this multi-cultural oasis, but it was because my father told me she was part Spanish. She died when I was very young, and I have few memories, but my interest in some European country I knew nothing about was ignited. Part of the place ran through me. I attempted to learn Spanish in high school, as the sole student of the subject in my whole school. I passed probably only because my correspondence teacher felt sorry for the idiot country kid and her strange desire to learn Spanish.
Years passed and my general interest in Spain continued quietly in the background of a career and marriage, but a huge part of my life twisted sideways into all things Italian. With a cache of Italian friends, their culture, their food and with an Italy based job for my husband, Spain dimmed until in 2004 when the chance to move to Valencia reared its head into my already full and complicated lifestyle. Still, despite all the obstacles, in 2005 my husband and I with our two babies fought the immigration system (a year’s worth of fighting in New Zealand) and won a place in Spain.
I knew nothing about Valencia or even its existence, until a Swiss billionaire decided we, in our line of work, should all move there. And move we did, in droves. I moved to Valencia with a ready-made groups of close friends from all over the world (some keen, some not) and the first three months felt like one long Spanish holiday. It couldn’t be better. After that, reality dug in as the Spanish summer eroded into winter, and day-to-day life in Spain took over. Added to long days and happy nights with wine and tapas collided with realities of emergency rooms, loss of comforts and serious illness a long way from home. Now, you can read these types of everyday life compliments and complaints on any expat blog, so I won’t dare go into it. But it dawned on me, about 10 months into the adventure as we signed up to a second property, that I could really make Spain work.
Fast forward a space of time, and I left Spain. I loaded my life into a container (which got lost for 16 weeks, in true Spanish style), and hubby and our four kids and returned to New Zealand for ‘three months’. The economy collapsed, billionaires argued and life changed forever. Loving Spain was confined to talking to friends who still lived in Valencia, endless reading and holidays. For the first long while, I hated everything about not being ‘home’ in Spain. But slowly I returned to life in New Zealand, and now love that I live at home. Home has few traditional comforts, for example, I have no family here. But I love my home and am proud to live in NZ. The lifestyle gives freedom to all, no matter where you start out in life (even those like me, who started right at the bottom). For work it’s a great place for opportunities, the education for my gifted sons is great, as is the health system, which is essential for my oldest boy. But it’s not Spain.
Is that a problem? Yes and no. I love Spain. Part of it runs through my veins. My lost Spanish relative is still a subject of interest. I moved to Spain young; only 24. It shaped me. The list of things I learned could fill a blog post. The most important thing was about chilling the fuck out. Spain does things in its own time. It both fires up and helps my anxiety disorder. Tranquila is probably my favourite Spanish word. The pull to the nation has existed for almost as long as I have. But I don’t live there.
Does that make me a bit of a ‘Spain fraud’? It can feel that way. I belong to #Wabas – the Writers and Bloggers about Spain group. All are people who have made a real effort to live in Spain and make the lifestyle work. There I am, surrounded by people who are legitimate Spain writers and entrepeneurs, and have to hope I don’t get found out as a fraud and deleted from the group since I live 20,000 kilometres away.
I consider my writing about Spain solid. I understand the nation (as best as it can ever be understood), I have travelled most of the country as well as lived there, and I have tens of thousands of hours worth of research on its history, culture and politics. I can write Spain in a fiction or non-fiction capacity and feel confident I have my facts right. In terms of Valencia, I know that place inside out. On my last trip there, I settled into the city in about five minutes, as if I had never left. My next book Vengeance in the Valencian Water is definitely the best book I’ve written and I have no doubts over its accuracy.
You won’t find me blogging from some charming white-washed village in Andalucia, you will find me blogging from Auckland, New Zealand, on the edge of the big city, and only planning trips to visit Spain, rather than live there. The why’s and whatever’s aren’t necessary. There is no answer why I, or anyone, loves Spain, because the place provides so much inspiration. I can’t argue the day-to-day highs and lows of Spanish life because I don’t live there. I’m not sure I even want to anymore. I’m not really interested in Spanish sightseeing trips, the foods and churches, the parks and the art, because life in Spain is all and none of those things. I get Spain on a level far beyond the tourist experience. And yet, I don’t have to be immersed in it. I am doomed to forever live on the edge of the Spanish experience.
But why Spain? Go there and see for yourself. You may find yourself changed forever, too.