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.