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¡Voy a España! With 2 kids!?!
Elena&Notes
elenaciampa
This is my first blog entry ever. Muy bien.

I am writing this because my son's kindergarten teacher suggested it as a way to record our adventure in Spain this summer.  Thank you P, for the idea, and for the confidence that even I can figure out how to set up this thing (We'll see if that is true in a few minutes...or days...). 

I taught Spanish for 10 years before having my 2 kids. Learned it painstakingly in school, from a host of amazing and fluent teachers from 6th grade onward through graduate school, when I finally lived in Madrid for an academic year. Gracias, Mamá y Papá. Recently back to teaching through a long-term substitute position, I now realize there is no more waiting around. If my kids, 9 and 6, are going to learn Spanish with some degree of fluency, I have to get on it, like, yesterday.  But I need a jumpstart, something to give me las ganas, or the desire, to persevere through this rough terrain I have created for myself ("Mommy, speak English! I don't underSTAND you!"). I am going to have to be a mamá who sticks to her guns. Spanish all day long, nada de ese inglés. We are going to work on an organic farm in Lucena del Cid, a small town in Spain, for 4 weeks this summer, in exchange for room and board.   We land at Barajas, el aeropuerto de Madrid. We connect by metro to Atocha, la estación de trenes to catch el AVE bound for the east. Okay, maybe we will stay a night en Madrid, I might try to drag them through el Prado (it is right near the train station!) or el parque del Retiro, and at Café Comercial, we could learn how to drink chocolate (cho-co-LAH-teh).  True, they already know how to do that...but now they must do it en español.

But I have got to be crazy.  Bringing my kids with me, a woman, alone through a foreign country an ocean away from home.  But I speak the language.  But I still don't understand them when they get angry.  Oh what the hell, I have the tickets, I wrote to my farm family that we are coming.  The online ticket agency is not a farce. Sigh of relief. Inhalation of anxiety. Clapping of hands. Patty-cake. Stomping of the feet. Castanets snapping in my head. Vaya.

Lucena del Cid is located in the province of Valencia, maybe about 30-40 miles inland of the cities of Valencia and Castellón, which are located on the central eastern coast.  People there speak both castellano (the spanish that came to the americas) and valenciano (french-spanish-italianish. Right?) 

I learned about an organization called WWOOF, or Worldwide Opportunities in Organic Farming, from two friends.  (Thank you, M and B.  You two would love each other!)  I paid 20 euros via internet to wwoof España, and ya está-- I became a member and could browse Spain's many organic farms, gathering information about each one's location, approach, size, produce, farmers, etc.  I also had access to the farms' contact people. I emailed many, explaining about myself, my Eric and our kids, our talents, hard work ethic, and great interest in organic gardening.  I communicated (en español, but there was english all over the wwoof españa website, and as we know, the world is forced to at least try to learn English. If you are thinking of doing this and don't know Spanish, it is probably not an issue) back and forth with a few, and they were all very kind in their correspondence.  The people I finally settled on are a husband and wife running a small albergo, an inn, in the hills (mountains? we will see) near the cities of Valencia and Castellón.  They have a girl and a boy as well. I feel good knowing we will be in a family environment, and the 4 children will entertain one another.  The name of their place is Mas de Madalena.  "Masía" in valenciano means "house (M, gracias for providing me with crucial info like that word and a million other things)."  They also have their own home on the property, lots of land, orchards, and animals: chickens, goats, a donkey, cats and dogs, and possibly more that I can't remember right now.  My kids are very excited to gather fresh eggs.  Caracaracara...  (Spanish for "bok bok.").

The agreement I have made with Bea y Pablo is to work for 6 hours/day, 6 days/week, in exchange for room and board for 4 weeks.  For the 4th (and last) week, my sweet Eric will join us to work.  Then we will go off for a week somewhere else, I don't know where, and sit on a beach.  I hope to take them to see la Alhambra, in Granada, for a day during that week.  Then it's back to Madrid and home on the plane.

Theirs is one of possibly the 10% of farms I read about that automatically accept children.  Many places accept children as a negotiable component.  Of course I don't expect my children to work, but they might want to lend a hand on occasion.  They are busy people and might enjoy the feeling of "earning one's keep."  I look forward to seeing what they do and how they interact with their new Spanish friends.

We are leaving soon!  But... I have to get the dog's food all figured out, do laundry, get travelers' health insurance, take the kids to the allergist, map out  our train travel and our post-farm tourist accommodations, make dinner, see my friends, visit my mother, pack, learn all the organic farming vocab, teach the kids something in Spanish before we go, be a good wife to Eric, whom I am certainly driving crazy at this point, throw a birthday extravaganza for my girl, go to church, sleep, pretend I am paying attention to and interacting in conversations, not planning logistics in my head as I stand here smiling, then grimacing, then....

I really want to thank L, who thought she might just ask if I was interested.... This job, for which you thought I might be good, had me teaching Spanish again, after 8 years of being at home with children. Getting paid to leave the house and have fun with a bunch of very intelligent, creative individuals? Yeah!  And thank you to my other L; you unknowingly breathed life back into my love of Spain.  I never would have thought to do this, had I not had the opportunity to be placed within such a compelling environment, your curriculum. Gracias, mujer.

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