That's code for Ebro and Altivo are now in the U.S.A! I received an email that they are doing very well and have normal temperatures. They will be released to the ground transport company in 48 hours and will be hauled to Arizona within the next few days. I hope to see them by the weekend!
I have to thank my husband and my dear friend, German Lady (name withheld to protect her privacy), from the bottom of my heart for getting the horses on the lorry in Barcelona since I am now back in the United States. German Lady said Ebro and Altivo were like "Olympic Champions" who travel all the time, as they were so good about loading onto the lorry. They are headed to Amsterdam by for their flight to Los Angeles in a few days. Then they have a ride on another lorry (horse van in the U.S.) to their new home in Arizona. I am now in Washington, D.C. for work. The horses should arrive home about the time I return from my trip. I'll be a little nervous until then. Buen viaje, Ebro y Altivo! Hasta pronto! (Bon Voyage, Ebro and Altivo! See you soon!) Godspeed.
Getting ready to load. Ebro, AKA the Frequent Flyer, 16 year old Thoroughbred originally from Chile, imported to the U.S., lived in Virginia and Arizona then exported to Spain and now going back to the U.S.! Altivo, 5 year old PRE (Andalusian) is from Andalucia and will be flying to the U.S. for the first time.
"If you're brave enough to say 'goodbye', life will reward you with a 'hello.' "
I spent four days in Venice with my family and left with some great memories. Gorgeous city. Amazing food. Out-of-this-world shopping. Highly recommended. Pics below. It was back to reality when we returned to Barcelona, and the next task at hand for repatriation was to get Ebro a passport so the horses can get out of Dodge. Plan A was to have them shipped out this week before I move back to the U.S. next week. So much for plan A.
An actual conversation I had this week (translated to English) on the telephone with someone from the Spanish government:
Me: Hi, I'm returning a call that indicated that you need more information for the passport for my horse, Ebro.
Her: Yes, your passport is up. Yes, I need the vet to call me because I need some more details about the horse.
Me: Umm, ok, what do you need exactly?
Her: Oh, the color and age and these details.
Me: Isn't that already on the application?
Her: No it's missing. Let me check. (insert sounds of paper rustling here). Oh, it looks like the application is complete today. Yesterday it was missing some information but today it is complete. I can do the passport today. The application is marked as urgent.
Me: Ok, wow, great! When will I be able to pick it up?
Her: Oh, one...or maybe two months. More or less.
Me: Umm, well, you see, I'm moving back to the United States permanently on Monday and I really need to ship this horse back as soon as possible. It really is urgent.
Her: (bless her heart) Well, it is possible. You might be able to pick it up this week. It is possible.
Me: Oh, fantastic! When should I pick it up then?
Her: Oh, maybe tomorrow...or Thursday...or Friday. But, it is a short week. It is Semana Santa. But it is possible.
Me: Umm, ok, so how will I know when to pick it up?
Her: You need to call Jordi Puig (name changed) at the Generalitat and arrange to pick it up in Barcelona. But first you need to go pay the taxes for the passport in Sabadell at the Generalitat.
Me: Ok, thank you so much.
Her: Ok, good bye.
We felt like a detective figuring out where the hell in Sabadell and Barcelona we were supposed to go to do this stuff. Somehow we figured it out and actually made it to the right places. Mind you there are about 15 different offices (all on different streets) for the Generalitat in Sabadell and in Barcelona. How we found the right ones I do not know. I did have help from my husband, so he gets a lot of credit.
The next two days were consumed with a trip to Sabadell to pay the 5 euro tax, a trip to Barcelona to pick up the passport (which consisted of 3 significant pages and about 50 blank pages), and a trip back to Sabadell to drop off the passports (Altivo already had one as he was born in Spain) to the transport agent. We met at Ikea and this time I felt like an international spy handing over secret documents in the Ikea cafeteria. I actually got an endorphin rush when it was all over from having accomplished the impossible. You have know idea what a big deal it is to get a government-issued document in Spain in less than two weeks time...it's a frickin' miracle, people. The crazy part is that the passport is only needed to get Ebro from Barcelona to Amsterdam and actually has nothing to do with getting him back to the United States. Go figure.
Now that we have overcome this huge hurdle, the next steps will happen very quickly. The horses will be picked up next Thursday or Friday, hauled on a van to Amsterdam where they will stay for a few days before flying to Los Angeles, followed by a few days there, and finally hauled in a van to their final destination.
I return to the U.S. on Monday, start my new job on Tuesday, travel for work on Friday and return the following week. The horses should arrive about that time. I have an endless list of people to thank who will help get the horses shipped; my husband, German lady at the hipica, the transport agent in Spain, the shipping company in the Netherlands, and the shipping company in California. This is no small task. I will be so happy once my boys are on U.S. soil.
I will spend the next 3 days in a packing frenzy and spending time with my family. Everyday something reminds me that these are my last days as a resident in Spain and that I won't be with my husband or kids for the next three months, and I get a little teary-eyed. But I know there are more great things to come, and I can always come back to visit. I've been snapping as many pictures as I can and trying to take it all in so I never forget what a beautiful place I got to live in, and how fortunate I am.
Note: I have decided that the clouds in Barcelona are officially the most beautiful clouds on the planet
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
I took a taxi at 4:00 am on my way to the airport for a flight to Germany on Thursday. It was pitch black out. The song Airplanes was playing on the radio. As I had nothing better to do, I really listened -for the first time ever - to the lyrics. I was sort of chuckling to myself about what a nice verse it was while I watched the white lights of airplanes take off ahead of my taxi. I started really thinking about the idea of airplanes as shooting stars and making wishes. I looked out the window to my right and watched in disbelief as a blue-green shooting star fell from the sky. It was surreal. And I was most definitely awake! I seized the opportunity to make a wish. Why not? It can't hurt. It's a wish I have made often. That night, it came true. And it was no small thing.
I came home Friday at midnight. I woke up exhausted yesterday and after spending the morning with my family, I thought about not riding. I knew if I could just get myself to the hipica and get on one horse it would be worth it. I was right. My exhaustion melted away and I ended up riding both horses. Ebro did the big hill route followed by some schooling in the ring. He's going very well in the French link snaffle, seems happy in it and is very light. No bucking at all. I tried him in the bitless last weekend on a hack and he was a bit of a bull in it, so we went back to the French link. He definitely hates single jointed snaffles but goes nearly perfectly in the French link and even lowers his head to put it on like he did with the bitess, so we'll stick with it for a while.
Altivo went next on a medium length route that goes on the edge of a big field. We were both startled by some loud rustling behind us and were blessed by the hilarious sight of a huge wild pig running like a Kentucky Derby racehorse across the field. Altivo was alert, for sure, but maintained his composure quite well. Good times! I only wish I had a camera to capture the beast.
What we leave behind and what we look forward to...top of post Horse and other stuff...bottom of post (lots of pictures)
Catalan casteller. We love it when a group of castellers spontaneously forms while we're out walking through our village! The youngest kids go on top. Sometimes the top kid is only about 6 years old and crying the whole way up. But once they reach the top you'd think they were the king of the jungle!
Now that we're heading back home to the U.S. after living in Barcelona for the past two and a half years, we find ourselves noting the things we'll miss and the things we look forward to. It is with immense gratitude that we look at our time here as truly some of the best times of our lives. It is an irreplaceable experience that has changed us forever. We are different people that when we arrived. More adventurous. More open-minded. More flexible. More able to understand and appreciate different ways of doing things. More comfortable, capable and confident in new and challenging situations. Less fearful. Less us vs. them. Never prouder to be Americans. If you ever have the opportunity to live abroad, I urge you to take it. You will never regret it. It is an education for your children that will trump one at Harvard.
Tonight the whole family was invited to our first ever "pica pica" (like h'devours or tapas) party where everyone spoke only in Spanish the whole night. And we did really well! It was actually fun! The other guests were from Spain, France, UK and Poland. We will really miss these kinds of opportunities. I think we will make an effort to find some international friends in our hometown once we return.
Here are are few things we'll miss, not miss, and look forward to (not necessarily in order)...
Some of the things we'll miss:
1. Iberian ham. There is nothing else on the planet like it. Prosciutto...bah, not even close.
3. The spirit of the Catalan people.
4. The Collserola forest.
5. Spanish tortilla (like a fritata or an omelette.)
6. Pan con tomate.
7. European bread and bakeries...we will never find the same thing in the US.
8. European coffee...we will never find or recreate it in the U.S., even with the European machine we plan to buy. We love cafe con leche in the morning and cortados in the afternoon.
9. European and Spanish food in general.
10. European cheeses.
11. Catalan traditions like the Caga Tio, Caganer, and Castellers. There is nothing else like them! We will keep up with the traditions of the Cago Tio and Caganer for sure.
12. The Mediterranean.
13. Being able to travel to so many different countries on a short flight.
14. The Spanish spirit.
15. Barcelona itself. What a beautiful, amazing, endearing city. One of the best.
16. Our village. It is honestly the best place we've ever lived. It's charming, definitely has it's own local flavor, is close to the heart of Barcelona, the airport, the Costa Brava, the Pyrenees mountains, and the French border. It's a short walk from our house to the beautiful village center. Everything we need is here. The hipica is less than a 10 minute drive or bike ride from our house. The Collserola forest is literally in our backyard.
17. The house we've lived in. It is modern, minimalist and has been the perfect place to call home during our stay here.
18. The laid back attitude of "don't worry".
19. The higher quality of personal life in Europe than the U.S. There, I said it. You might not like it, but in my opinion, the Europeans enjoy life WAY more than Americans, are less stressed, and less OCD about everything. People don't carry around hand sanatizer everywhere (the majority of them don't even wash their hands after going to the bathroom and somehow the population is thriving), they don't mind waiting, and they don't get aggravated about things that would drive Americans nuts. Mind you, that with this comes lots of the things we won't miss.
20. The idea of walking as much as possible.
21. The idea of driving less.
22. The opportunity to travel so easily.
23. Skiing in the Pyrenees.
24. Hiking and riding in the Collserola.
25. Meeting so many new international friends.
26. The fruits and vegetables that clearly don't have any preservatives or whatever crap in them like they do in the US. A fresh fruit or vegetable bought here is good for 1-2 days tops. They don't last for 3 weeks like they do in the US. That is not natural.
27. Barcelona sunsets.
28. Being able to speak Spanish in our daily lives. And being exposed to so many other languages in general.
29. European/real Italian pizza.
30. Bocadillos (baguette with jamon iberico or some other kind of cured meat)
31. Spanish chorizo (like a hard sausage)
32. Spanish green melons with and without jamon iberico. These are green football shaped melons that look like honeydew on the inside but taste 100X better. They don't have a special name. They're just called melons.
33. Fresh seafood from the Mediterranean.
34. Eating lunch at 2pm and dinner at 9 pm. We've definitely gotten used to this and it seems normal now.
35. Alioli. Garlic mayo...it is delicious on everything. This is one we can get in the U.S.!!!!
36. Patatas bravas. These are French fried potatoes with a sauce made of mayo and spicy red sauce. De-lic-ious.
39. Fantastic, inexpensive Spanish and French wine.
Some of the things we will not miss:
1. The local business hours of 10 am - 2 pm and 5pm-8pm. Closed on Sundays. Good grief. Try to get some errands done with that schedule. Good luck.
2. The cultural things that are perfectly acceptable to people here but that drive us nuts. I won't elaborate more, lest I insult our host country. No need for that. Plus, I've already done that in another recent post about the economic crisis.
3. The laid back attitude of "don't worry".
4. The beuracracy and slowness of things.
6. The bass ackwards way some things are done here, especially in stores or businesses. If it makes absolutely no sense and wastes tons of times, chances are they do it in some store or business here. Our little group of expats has a saying called "It's just Spain." When something makes no sense and you would normally get totally pissed off about it, you just shrug it off and say "It's just Spain" instead. Saves a lot of anguish.
7. Not fitting in with the Catalans.
8. Worrying about getting caught without a driver's license.
Things we look forward to:
1. American breakfast.
2. American barbecues.
3. Cottage cheese. This will be the first thing I run to the grocery store to buy. I'm not kidding.
4. English muffins.
6. Fitting in to our own culture.
7. The American spirit.
8. The convenience of everyday life...store hours, vast spectrum of available products.
9. Garbage disposals. They don't exist here and someone even told us they are banned. Why? I'm not sure. We buy a cheap strainer from the Chinese store every few months in place of a garbage disposal.
10. Dim sum.
11. Mexican food.
12. Arizona sunsets.
13. Shopping on Sundays. We didn't make it to the market today (Saturday) here in Spain. We're totally screwed for next week. The only option tomorrow will be a 24/7 store where there will be a line 100 people long.
14. Convenience stores.
15. Continuing to practice and use our Spanish. We will have to adapt our Castellano (Spain Spanish) a little to Latin American Spanish that is spoken in the U.S. But it won't be too difficult. We will have to drop the lisp for sure. No more Barthelona...it will become Barcelona.
16. Exploring the U.S. as much as we have explored Europe. We have a newfound appreciation for travel and new places and there are tons of places in U.S. we've never been to.
17. American style Chinese food.
18. Thai food.
19. Sandwiches. I am literally excited that we will be able to eat at Subway.
20. Mexican chorizo (like ground hamburger)
21. Making paella at home. My husband was taught by a Catalan and has mastered it!
It should go without saying that we look forward to being in closer proximity to our families.
HORSE AND OTHER STUFF:
It is freezing cold here in our village outside of Barcelona right now. Literally. We woke up to about 3 inches of snow on the ground this morning! The kids had a blast building snowmen and playing in it. The kids even went sledding in a paella pan...they're perfect for sledding as they have a handle on each side.
By midday most of the snow had melted but I took both horses out on hacks through the woods and got to enjoy what was left of it. Both horses were great. It was really muddy and Ebro didn't feel so sure of his feet so we stuck to a walk. He managed an unprecedented ENTIRE ride on a completely loose rein at the walk with minimal spooking. We practiced half halts, stopping and backing up throughout the ride and he came home very relaxed. Altvio, on the other hand, was completely comfortable in the muck and wanted to trot and canter. So we did. On the way back I passed another German rider from our hipica and told her how I was able to trot and canter on Altivo despite the mud, but had only been able to walk on Ebro. She said Altivo must be a "quatro y quatro"...a 4 X 4! :D After the rides both horses got bundled up in double blankets as it is set to be -4 degrees C tonight.
We just returned from our "pica pica" party and it's almost 1 am.
WHAT A FANTASTIC DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can't wait for tomorrow...I mean today (already). Must get to bed for at least a few hours. Have a great Sunday everyone!
Free Horse located in Barcelona...
Gorgeous, sweet 14 year old, 16 h bright red chestnut off-the-track, Jockey Club registered Thoroughbred gelding with blaze. 100% sound and very fit. Healed old injuries include a sprained suspensory ligament, bump on the front cannon bone due to a kick from another horse, corneal ulcer and fractured tuber coxae. Has been hauled extensively...flown from Chile to US, hauled across the US, and flown from US to Spain. Great for exciting hacks alone or in groups! Sometimes good for schooling on the flat in the ring...sometimes not. HATES dressage. Loves to jump and very good at it, but would need to start gradually since he hasn't done it in a while. Great around blaring Spanish loudspeaker music, dogs, ponies, kids, speeding mountain bikes, helicopters, gun shots, fireworks, and flapping Christmas decorations. Does not like furiously barking hunting dogs, large herds of sheep or frightening boulders. Manageable but can be quite spooky. So far has not kicked or bitten. Will occasionally buck and spin but feels bad about it afterwards. Ironically, goes well in bitless bridle (which produces the least amount of bucking, spinning and spooking) and less so in a snaffle. About to find out how he goes in a Pelham. Please email me if interested.
Just kidding....unless you are really interested. No, really, I'm kidding. Well, maybe if I found the right person. No, really, I'm kidding. I school Ebro in the pista once a week and he's always a bit squirly on the flat in the ring...much more so than out on hacks. While he loves to go out riding in the countryside to climb hills and gallop, he really doesn't like to work in the ring and he's "hot" (excitable) by breeding and nature. I don't show anymore and have no plans to, so I keep the schooling pretty simple, mainly to improve his fitness, topline and flexibility. He's particularly "hot" in the cold winter weather and it's really tough to find a balance between keeping weight on him and not making him hotter with feed. He gets grass hay only and a low-carb, high-fat feed to keep the weight on. Without it he becomes emaciated, especially in the winter. He's getting worked pretty hard about 4 days per week now and his weight is finally back up, so I've cut his feed by 1/3. Note to self...drop it some more.
Two days ago I started with a short, 30 minute uneventful hack in the countryside. He behaved but was quite snorty and spooky. We trotted and did some hill work and the snorting stopped, so I thought he would be pretty mellow to school in the ring. Not so much. He was OK for about 15 minutes of walk, trot and canter. At a later canter he put in a very hard buck and I made a conscious "it-is-better-to-fall-off-now-than-to-stay-on-because-I-can-control-my-fall-a-bit-now-and-won't-be-able-to-with-the-next buck" decision and hit the ground hard. It is the first time I have come off in over five years.
I landed first on my left lower back and hip, and then the back of the right side of my head. I still had the reins in my left hand, and as we were in the unfenced schooling area, held on to them as long as I could to prevent him from taking off. Ebro stopped and backed away a bit. I am not kidding when I say that he looked at me laying on the ground with an unquestionable look on his face that said, "OH SHIT! THAT wasn't supposed to happen. You usually stay on when I buck. Oh, I know I am in BIG TROUBLE."
And he was right. This was a severely punishable offense. I can put up with a lot of things, but not hard bucking that will get me out of the saddle. I was in so much pain in my left hip I knew that I would not be able to get back on immediately, but that he had to know that this was unacceptable behavior. I managed to get up and walk him over to the tack area to get my longe line.
Ebro bucks from excess energy. He does it without tack on the longe line, often squeeling with joy. He does it with a snaffle bit, less so without a bit (bitless bridle) and in multiple well-fitting saddles. He does not have any physical problems after being rehabbed from a tuber coxae fracture and has been cleared for work by the vet. And he did it before the fracture. This is not a teeth, saddle fit, pain, or meanness issue. I don't like to always longe him to wear him out before I ride because I feel that excess longing on a circle is not great for his joints.
But the only punishment I was capable of enforcing after my fall was hard work on the longe line. I put him into a very foreword canter to the right for about 15 straight minutes. At first he galloped on his own for quite some time, but eventually his energy started to wane. I was really amazed at how fit he was. Eventually though he was covered in sweat and breathing very hard. I did not want to risk bowing his tendons, so I finally slowed him down and he came to a walk on his own. By now I thought I could manage to get back in the saddle so I did. I walked him once around to drop his heart and respiratory rate, then put him in to canter. We went around the ring a few times, did a few more downward and upward transitions and called it a day.
He was dripping with sweat and still breathing so hard that it took 45 minutes of hand-walking in a fleece cooler to dry him and cool him down. I ignored him completely, brushed and blanketed him and put him away for the night. I didn't give him his extra feed (he did get hay) for the night and he looked quite disappointed when he went to check and found none.
I've been thinking a lot about the fall. A few of my thoughts:
1) First, I am so grateful that I was wearing a helmet. I hit my head hard enough to grind mud and dirt into the covering material of the helmet and I didn't suffer any head injury because of it. This further reinforced the idea that I will NEVER, EVER, EVER sit on a horse's back without one. NEVER. It is a universal FACT that a fall can occur with ANY rider of any level, on ANY horse, in ANY situation, in ANY kind of saddle, english, western or otherwise. The idea that one is only at risk of a fall while jumping or at high speeds is misinformed, ignorant, and frankly, crazy. My last fall in 2007 was on a placid school horse during a walk-canter transition. The horse tripped and fell to his knees and made a huge lunge up and foreward in the air to try to recover. I came off and landed very hard on the right side of my head, neck and shoulder. I herniated a neck disc, and pulled and injured muscles and nerves in my armpit and shoulder, and have severe residual pain and problems to this day. The horse was uninjured. I am 100% convinced that the helmet prevented a serious head injury and may have possible saved my life that day.
As a rider, a mom, wife, and daughter, I really consider the consequences of riding without a helmet relative to not just me, but to my kids, my husband, and my parents. Riding without one would mean totally disregarding the people I love most, as head injuries can result in death and severe, permanent impairment. I will not put that burden on my family. Of course, taken to the extreme, one could argue that horseback riding is too risky altogether and that it is selfish to even do it at all. I draw the line here. Riding is like breathing air for me. I will not live my life without it as long as I am able, as it is permanently part of who I am. I am willing to accept some significant level of risk to continue doing it.
2) I can work with Ebro more to school in the ring, i.e. more training. I will do this. I bought a more severe Pelham bit and will ride him in it for the next few rides to communicate that I am not messing around, and I am not to be messed with. This is a bit that has the action of a snaffle with one rein and the action of a more severe curb chain bit with a second rein when needed. We'll see how this goes. I have also seriously considered the idea of not schooling him in the ring anymore. He is a 14 year old horse and I believe that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" has some element of truth in this situation. I know for example, that Ebro will be spooky to his dying day. He doesn't particularly enjoy riding in the ring and I don't anticipate showing him in the future. There's no real reason we have to ride there. I have another horse to school dressage on the flat who actually likes it. Ebro is good out in the countryside and enjoys it much more. Why insist that he go in the ring? We'll see how the next few rides in the ring go with the Pelham before I make any "retired from the ring" decision. Getting rid of Ebro is not a consideration. Who would have him? ;)
3) I don't want to subject my body to more injuries from falls. Kids seem to have no problem bouncing right back after a fall. Their young bodies are more resilient and they recover more easily. Approaching-40-year-old bodies, not the same. I'm pretty sure I will have residual pain and stiffness for the rest of my life from this - and my last - fall. One more fall like this could really do me in. So last night I went out an purchased a 500 euro air bag riding vest. And I'm going to wear it. It is a Hit Air brand, adapted from similar vests used for motorcycle riding for horseback riding. It is very lightweight, low-profile, and well ventilated. It only expands, exactly like the mechanism in a car airbag, when I become disconnected from my saddle. It expands to protect the neck, back, chest, sides and tailbone. Once it is deployed it can be used again by putting in a new cartridge. Had I been wearing it during this fall I'm pretty sure it would have spared me the severe pain and bruising I have on my left hip right now. I don't care if people think I'm going overboard, if I look stupid, or what anybody else thinks about riding in a safety vest full time. It is standard practice for eventing riders around the world, and for kids here in Spain, where all ride in standard safety vests rather than the airbag style. Even some of the adults who take lesson ride in vests. My life is for sure worth more than 500 euros so the price was of no consideration to me. Great technology exists and will continue to be developed to decrease our risk of injury. I am all for using it.
Due to my injury I missed a ski trip with my family and friends today in the Pyrenees mountains. The chance of me falling again if I ride today is slim. The chance of me falling if I ski today is 100% and would occur multiple times. No thank you. I'm enjoying a day of true free time.
There is truly no end to the amusement and wackiness that can be found in the Collserola forest outside of Barcelona where I frequently ride my horses. I had planned to school Altivo in the dressage pista tonight, but it was too muddy, so I headed out for a hack. I heard bells coming from somewhere in the trees to our right as we walked along the path.
The last time I heard bells in the Collserola they belonged to a herd of about 600 sheep. I was actually kind of looking forward to seeing what was attached to the bells. My imagination ran wild because I have discovered that in the Collserola, virtually ANYTHING can happen. And I do mean anything. The prospects of what was attached to the bells were virtually endless...a herd of cows, a group of kids, a group of meditating hippies, a band of bell ringers, dogs with bells, people dancing with bells, people crafting bells...oh the possibilities!!!!
Just as I though whatever the bell-ringing thing was would emerge into view on our right, a very loud, crashing, scraping metal sound scared the bejesus out of me and Altivo. He leaped (leapt in British English???) sideways as we both spotted two guys "harvesting" large metal sheets from an old abandoned property to the left of the path. I pulled him up to keep him from taking off and he produced a lovely piaffe (looks like fancy prancing on the spot for you non-horse folks, takes years of training to properly achieve).
Hmm, turns out piaffe IS a natural movement for horses! I have never ridden piaffe before and wouldn't even know how to do it again, aside from scaring the crap of out Altivo. Probably not a good idea. He finally realized the guys weren't out to kill him, but was still a bit traumatized and transitioned into a lovely passage (looks like fancy prancing with some forward movement). We passaged - or were we sashaying? either way we had swagger - our way on down the path and never did get to see the bell ringing creatures...whatever they were.
Altivo and I turned the corner towards home after emerging from the forest trail to find 30 small children on bicycles stopped in line right at the entrance/exit to the Collserola Park. When I first arrived in Spain my first thought would have been, "Why in the hell did six adults (that's how many were with the kids) decide to stop a line of 30 kids right at the entrance, where no one can get around them?" After living here for 2+ years I just thought, "Of course you chose to stop 30 kids right at the entrance to the park."
My WTF? look at the three adults in the back of the line got me nowhere. So in Spanish, I politely said, "Excuse me" and pointed to the exit where we needed to go. Nothin'. I tried again, "Excuse me, I need to go over there," I said pointing in the direction of over there. Still nothing. No effort to tell the kids to scoot to the side. No, we'll be moving along soon." Just nothing. Totally typical. So I decided to just move Altivo right on through the line of little children. Out of 30 kids there was only one smart one who was so absolutely - and justifiably - terrified of the giant horse coming at him that he actually moved aside on the trail to make way for us. The others, not so much. It almost made evolution unbelievable.
Altivo was extra careful navigating through the herd of kids and was very cute when he would lower his head to look at them eye-to-eye. After we got past them they started moving, and proceeded to ride by us on their bikes about 6 inches away from Altivo. Dangerous, you say? Hell yes! Luckily Altivo had nerves of steel and was perfectly behaved. In the US (where I can't even envision this scenario happening) I would probably try to educate the whole group about riding bikes safely with horses. Here I knew there would be absolutely no point.
German Lady had a good laugh when I told her what happened. She had a similar experience recently riding a stallion when they came upon a group of handicap adults in wheelchairs who had been placed in the middle of the trail (that is used by high speed mountain bikers, galloping horseback riders, and hikers with loose dogs). Same thing. She let the caretakers know she needed to get by and was met by blank stares...and her Spanish is perfect so it was not a language issue. So, she had to literally weave her 1200 pound Spanish stallion through the group. Dangerous, you say? HELL YES!!!!
I now know to use the term "caretakers" very lightly here in Spain.
While Altivo has nerves of steel, Ebro has nerves of jello. He almost had a coronary today as we approached the forest entrance and he saw a grandma sitting in a lawn chair reading a book next to a baby stroller. After 2 years of living here this seemed perfectly normal to me. Not so much to Ebro. He jumped about 10 feet to the side. I was glue in the saddle. The rest of the ride was a blast and uneventful.
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Becasue almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important." -Steve Jobs
First of all, I'm not dying. Yet. But eventually I will. And I know Steve Jobs was onto something when he said this. And what he said is relevant to me right now as my family and I just made the major life decision to head back to the U.S.A. in a few months. This is bittersweet because Barcelona is truly the best place - hands down - we've ever lived. It is about as perfect as perfect can get.
I know my last ranting post didn't make it sound like I'm in love with Spain or Catalunya, but really I am, and always will be. Barcelona is mine - it's ours - now, and forever. Despite the cultural differences, despite the economy, despite the little things that sometimes drive me nuts, it is a fantastic place and the past two years here have honestly been the very best of my entire life. I can feel tears forming in my eyes as I write this and think about really leaving. And yet I'm smiling, because I know when it's time to move on, it's time to move on.
The job that allows us to live here involves travel. Lots of glorious, amazing travel to incredible places I never dreamed I'd ever see, to meet and work with amazing people I never thought I'd ever meet. On the flip side though, it's exhausting and means I miss a lot of time with my husband and kids. We've all adapted very well and the latter issue really isn't so much of an issue. And lest you think it must be awful for me to be away from my kids a lot, recall that executive working dads are away from their kids just as much or more and no one gives this a second thought. Right now, my husband "holds down the fort" and my family is quite happy.
But I'm no longer enthusiastic about the travel. Work travel is far from glamorous and I am convinced it is aging me prematurely! When I came back from holiday vacation in the U.S. I realized I'm done. I returned on a Friday and had the first work trip of 2013 to the Netherlands. The trip that resulted in my ranting about the striking taxi drivers in my last post. When I finally got home that night It became crystal clear to me that this is el fin (the end). I am no longer willing or interested to travel for work the next year or more. And that's OK. We knew this would be a temporary overseas assignment and that eventually we would move on. The time has come.
The very next day I found out a good friend and colleague back in the states announced she was leaving for another opportunity. This opened and opportunity for me, and after talking with my family, a day later I had made the arrangements to take a position back home. I know I'm making the right decision as I have a sense of relief I wasn't expecting to feel. Before the holidays we thought we would be staying here another year as we have so enjoyed our time here.
Soooo, now everything it took to move overseas has now to be done in reverse, minus one cat (R.I.P. Audrey, who died during our stay here), plus one Russian tortoise (Lumpy) and a PRE horse (Altivo), and amazing experiences and memories that no one outside of my family will possibly begin to appreciate as much as we do.
So, as I transition out of my role here, there's lots of work to be done over the next few months. I've already initiated the steps to get both Ebro and Altivo home. Ebro will earn double platinum Frequent Flyer status as this will be his third overseas flight. Altivo, will be a first time flyer. I have chosen John Parker International to transport my precious equines as they did a fantastic job getting Ebro to Barcelona from Amsterdam when he first arrived in Europe. They have years of experience moving some of the most expensive race and competition horses in the world. My horses are just my pride and joy and not worth millions of dollars. I really liked that I read in an article about John Parker that they treat all their customer's horses the same, whether they are dealing with a syndicated international racehorse or a backyard pet pony. I know my boys will be in good hands.
I'll definitely keep My Horse is a Frequent Flyer up and running through our move back to the U.S. After that, who knows? For sure, the blog will serve as a scrap book to remind us of all the great times we had here.
Many thanks for reading. I hope you have enjoyed the blog as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
Note: Race and competition horses are flown all over the planet every day and horses handle flying very well. It is a myth that they all have to be tranquilized and they go nuts while in the air. Keep in mind that some horses have to be tranquilized to even travel in a horse trailer for ground transport. This is no different. Of course there will be some horses that don't travel well, but most do just fine. They are accompanied by very experienced, professional grooms and have hay and water available. The grooms are experienced and trained how to deal with emergencies. The horses are shipped on cargo planes in large, bedded crates that can accommodate three horses side by side. If they're lucky enough to fly "first class", they get an entire crate to themselves. Ebro and Altivo will be flying "coach".