Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Just Another Diamond Day

We all wake as usual, at around 8am. She is fishing around underneath the covers for a book she keeps stashed there. I doze for another 20 minutes as she pokes at my face and chats away excitedly about different types of animals. There are mostly Italian words, A few English ones, a few gutteral sounds (those are ducks) and alot of her own personal language. S goes to the kitchen to make an espresso which I drink in bed. Black. I stopped eating dairy this summer in Puglia and have been set free from the need to buy milk. I drag myself out of bed and get dressed. The mornings are getting cold. I'm wearing ripped, holy jeans and a long-sleeved, stripey T-shirt, a short silk dress under the shirt makes me feel a little more femminine. I'm always dressed pretty strangely these days. All my clothes feel disposable. We have a room full of boxes and two metal shelves which hold them all. Just to cover my body and keep it warm until we move to the other side of the world. We clammer down the echoey stairwell. Those same, wooden stairs with their smell of B.O, marijuana, and that husky that sits in the window box on the floor below us and wails when ambulances pass over the bridge nearby. We are back in our 3rd floor nest. It feels the same yet different, as it's now full of boxes and our oven broke the other day.

 We get into the car and do some errands around town, all three of us. Then Coco and I get on a bus to Salamanca, and she sleeps beside me the whole hour and a half. It's luxury for me to have that time to read something that isn't for Uni. I finished my last assignment for the semester last week when we were staying at my friend's country house/recording studio.

I look out the window while eating dark chocolate with orange essential oil from the health shop next to the bus station. I wonder about chocolate and if it's any healthier when bought from a health shop. I decide the answer is no, and shake my head at myself.

 I love travelling back to places already known and lived. The confidence in my knowledge of a place makes me feel efficient, and truly alive, having lived. Like using the metro in Madrid, giving directions in Melbourne, sleepwalking over to the internet point in Singapore airport.

Coco wakes as we pull into the bus station at Salamanca and begins to chatter again, still half asleep. Her personality is bursting through her skin at the moment. Her ernest little expressions and new phrases suprise me so many times each day. Sometimes I laugh and other times the love is too much, and I can't do anything. I strap her on to my back and gather my bag and camera, jump off the bus and walk through the familiar streets to the square. This town is just so damn pretty. Luisa is waiting for us in the square under the clock, like she used to when we still lived here. She is so familiar in her vintage dress and chunky boots, leaning against the brick reading a book with her wild hair covering her face. I hear Coco's voice in my ear calling her name. We eat lunch on lounges in a trendy cafe. Salamanca has these types of places to keep all the foreign students happy. Spanish cafes aren't really like that.

 We talk briefly and then head down to the river. This route is like second nature. Past the university and all the tourist shops, around the cathedral and down the hill to the basket shop with the terrible incense. We separate at the roman footbridge, and Coco and I walk alone across the narrow, gushing, river- its clear water and bright, autumn foliage. At the other side, we deviate from the well-known path, Coco is indignant, but I insist. Our ex land-lady had spotted us on the other side. She is convinced we owe her money for bills though we left her with our entire bond. Why do Landlords so often think that the bond is a gift from their loving tenants? She is waiting for us under our old house, as we circled widely around the park, coming up to Sol's place from the opposite direction, walking past the houses bursting with pop-flamenco and gyspy women using their public clotheslines. We ring the bell and slip into Sol's courtyard. Hers is the only building in the neighbourhood with a security gate.

 We'd been there just 2 weeks earlier for a late Sunday lunch and lazy afternoon. Her and I sat in her studio where she'd prepared her autumn birth alter as our men talked about work in the living room. Her belly was huge, more pregnant than I've ever been at 40 weeks, and she was rubbing it constantly, quietly willing labour to start. As I left her that day I'd felt so emotional about how my friend's home was about to change so dramatically. There is a secret that only mothers know about, and this is the first time I've shared it with another woman. It is that moment, when your energy is channelled entirely into the workings of your body, and things like amniotic fluid, mucous plugs, and bloody show become daily lexicon and bright, exciting warnings. Never are we so sweetly in tune with our bodies as in the preparation for birth. I heard about Abril's arrival around a week later as we were in huddled the recording studio working on a new album. My heart fluttered and I felt so happy, excited, relieved that she'd had the safe home-birth that Salva and I had helped her carefully and meticulously prepare. I was sad that the news came through social media, it never ceases to sadden me when I see big news in print instead of hearing it relayed by a familiar voice. I was sad that I no longer lived across the road, that the preparations I'd felt so involved with had reached the crescendo of birth and post-birth bliss while I was living in another city.

Inside, there are hushed voices and dimmed lights. Just as I remembered it. There is a glowing feeling inside any house where there is a new baby, but I recognise the sacredness of the space after a home-birth. The harmony of the mother and baby unit that havn't seen the outside since the wild night of the birth. We eat cake and drink tea. I'd imagined myself helping in some way, but Sol has everything under control. The house is immaculate, as usual. Coco tries to give Abril toys to play with, pressing them into her curled newborn hands.

Then, at 8pm, we say goodbye and walk outside to catch the bus to the train station. The stop is right in front of our old house. We arrive, get the ticket and go inside to sit on the train. It stops every 10 minutes at little villages. My favourite is called Cantalapiedra. 

I look down at Coco on my lap who has grown into such a little person, and I feel nostalgic when I think about how quickly she's growing. Then she snuggles against me, and falls asleep at my breast as I feed her, and I remember that at 20 months, she's still just a little baby.

We arrive at our stop and walk upstairs again. Salva orders chinese food. Coco wakes up to eat it from the plastic containers, and then we all slip into bed.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Decision

When I moved to Valladolid to be with S in 2008, we didn't give much thought to the permanence of the situation. He knew the city, and didn't like it that much, but once we were living there together, and built our first nest together, it seemed such a simple, comfortable life.

As the years wore on though, we began to notice things we were missing. Waking up in a quiet house to the sound of birds, not cars. Walking on the beach. A wide community of like-minded people. We had forged a tight group of friends in the area, but it never seemed to expand, and when Coco was born, we felt deeply how little in common we had with most of the families in the area.

We were convinced we wanted to stay in Europe, and went to Antwerp, Cologne, Toulouse and Dublin and considered them as new cities to settle. Each was dismissed for some reason, too cold, expensive, complicated for immigrants. We put off any decision-making, and when Salva's contract at the uni ended, I was pregnant, so we stayed on to birth Coco in the wooden-floored nest we'd created in the heart of Spain.

Then, eight months later, we decided to move to Salamanca, just an hour away, so I could start my masters and that was a simple, quick fix. The change was a breath of fresh air but didn't really involve any risk of the new. We didn't need to sacrifice anything we'd built. Especially since my brother moved into our apartment and we didn't really need to actually move.

We'd only been living in Salamanca for a few months before Christmas rolled around and it was time to travel to Australia with Coco for the first time to spend a month with my parents and extended family.

We didn't do much for the month. Dad was desperate to show us a piece of paradise he'd discovered along the clarence river. It was breath-taking, but we spent the few days we were there taking turns with a very severe stomach virus that we probably brought with us from the international flight. Salva played with his new toy, a professional-quality DSLR bought by the faculty for a research project he is a part of. We spent New Years in Byron Bay, the first time I'd been back on the north coast soil of my upbringing in so many years. The smell of the air and the vegetation so sweetly familiar.

We kept our tradition of going to sleep before midnight on New Years Eve, and woke up to a beautiful warm day on the 1st. We walked both ways from Broken Head to the Lighthouse, taking turns to strap Coco to our backs.

We spent time with family, walked around the markets, Then, back in Coffs Harbour, I turned 26, spent mornings and late afternoons walking over the beaches and Macauley's headland with Coco. We slept long nights, ate good food, drank my parents' wine and watched movies curled up on the lounge until it was time to go home.

And the shock felt electric. The journey is so long but it still didn't prepare us for how far away we were going. When we finally arrived in Salamanca we caught a taxi from the bus station down the hill and across the river to our house. The taxi driver grumbled the entire way, his mood matching the dark, foggy weather outside.

The next few days were so cold that being outside for more than a few minutes was unbearable. I got sick again. Sickness is a harsh reminder to the breastfeeding mother that her job is 24/7, with no scheduled breaks. The jetlag meant that we lived a week in almost total darkness.

I felt so sad, and down, and it was suddenly so clear that this was not where I wanted to be. Salva asked if it was because I wanted to move to Australia and I relised that the answer was yes. He thought about it and agreed in a matter of days.

So. We made our decision based on the comparison of a summer holiday to the nasty Castilian winter of real life. It might not be the best way to make important decisions, but the more we thought about it, the more sense it made. Australia is my country, though I forget what it's like to live there. Salva loves the lifestyle. We are dreaming of a backyard full of growing food and a little bit of grass for my wild girl to run. Cosmopolitan, city life, so my man can play his music, I can do my gallery thing, but somehow be there for my girl and her future siblings, and make it all work.  I just never imagined that this is the direction we'd take on our lifelong journey towards our dreams. We've started the visa process. Time will tell.