We discovered with one whiff that the fresh milk was not so fresh this morning. Fresh milk here does not last as long as it does in the U.S. because it undergoes a soft pasteurization process, heating to 60 degrees C for 60 minutes or at a temperature of 70-80 degrees for 30 minutes, instead of the high heat pasteurization most common in the U.S. This allows the fresh milk we drink in Spain to retain 100 % of its original natural properties instead of being separated, fortified, and homogenized as we were used to back home. The down side of leche fresca is that if you don’t drink it within a few days, it goes sour. There would be no milk for my coffee this morning. Because the coffee here is “muy fuerte” (very strong), I need to have milk or creamer. The solution: stop at a café on the way to the market.
Secretly, I don’t mind the days when we are forced to have our coffee at our neighborhood café. Since it’s considered barbaric to drink coffee without having a small bite of something, I am forced to indulge in a croissant as well. When in Spain, right? Today when our waitress brought my café con leche, I noticed a message written on my cup! “Por que no hoy?” (Why not today?) I looked over to see if Rocky got the same message but his cup was plain on the outside. This secret message was for me alone.
Por que no hoy? I love this mantra. It’s very similar to a mantra I adopted when we were considering which apartment to pick in Gijon. Rocky had checked the Idealista online Spanish rental site daily for over a year before we finally made our choice. We both had a list of things that were important to us. He wanted a big kitchen and updated bathrooms. I wanted lots of windows and light. We both wanted a terrace or balcony, and a 2-3 bedroom apartment close to the water. We had seen quite a few apartments that checked most of the boxes but none that included everything we wanted. We were resigned to the fact that we would have to compromise on something.
Early on in the process, I let Rocky do the apartment shopping because I knew it was too soon to make a final decision. He often got really excited about something he saw and worried that it would not be available when we were ready. “This is the best one yet!!” he would say. Being much more frugal than my hubby, I reminded him we did not have a visa yet and it was too soon to put down a deposit. His finger would hover dangerously close to the select button before he would reluctantly move on.
When we were finally asked to send our original documents to the Spanish Consulate for approval, we knew it was time to find a place to live. We had been told that it would take about two weeks for the visas to be returned along with our passports. Once we received them, we would have 90 days to get to Spain. We opened Rocky’s favorites file and discovered that many of the ones he had hoped for were no longer available. He resisted saying, “I told you so!” but I could hear his voice in my head anyway, the result of having lived with this guy for 35 years.
We narrowed it down to two places. One had the big kitchen and bathrooms that Rocky wanted but skylights instead of windows. It was too dark for my taste. The other one had big windows but a smaller kitchen with old appliances, less than ideal bathrooms and a tiny balcony. We inquired about that one first and discovered they would not accept our dog Wilma, although there had been no mention of that online. I could not say yes to the dark apartment. I would feel like a mole living there, with the light coming mostly from above. Rocky reached out to the property manager and asked if he had any other apartments for rent resembling the one with the big kitchen and bathrooms that might have more light and make his wife happy.
Carlos, the property manager emailed a link to another property that he thought might work. Unfortunately, it was hundreds of Euros more per month than we wanted to spend. We decided to look at it anyway, just for fun. What could a few hundred dollars more get us? We slowly scrolled through the photos, getting more and more excited with each room. This place checked all of the boxes except one: the price. You can’t un-see a place like that, though! We were in trouble.
I went to the studio to teach that morning and we decided we would talk about it later that day. The apartment which was located in the historic neighborhood of Cimavilla on the Puerto Deportivo Marina, was all I could think about on the way to work. On the way home, I started making a mental check list of the pros and cons. The pro list was long: 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, huge kitchen with modern appliances, washing machine, two terraces, lots of windows, fully furnished and located on the water. The con list had only one word: price!
Bursting through the door of our tiny Tacoma apartment, my normally budget-conscious self said to Rocky, “If not now, when?” He stared back at me a little shocked. I guess I can still surprise him after all of these years. “You mean, you want the apartment?” “Yes!” That’s when Frugal Jeni came back to her senses. “How about if we send a counter-offer?”
Since we had planned to live on our savings for awhile, I had the brilliant idea to offer to pay a year’s worth of rent in advance if they would reduce it from 1600 to 1300 Euros per month. That would give the landlord the confidence that we could pay the rent and help us stay on budget. We waited anxiously for 24 hours for Carlos to talk to the landlords and get back to us. When he finally did, the answer was “No.” He added though, they would reduce the rent to 1500 Euros per month and did not want us to pay for a year up front. We would have to pay first and last month’s rent, pet deposit and a commission of one month’s rent plus taxes for Carlos, which is a customary practice here we were told.
We debated for exactly five minutes before saying, “Yes! If not now, when?” We started paying rent on February 1st but didn’t actually get our visas when we expected to, so we did not get to move in until March 6th. If you want to know our first impressions of the apartment you can read: https://upanddowndog.com/no-sheet/
After we finally met the landlord, I had a moment of embarrassment when I realized he and his wife were not impressed by our offer to pay a year in advance because they did not need the money. In fact they confessed to being amused by the offer and assumed we were crazy American gamblers to even consider such a risk without ever seeing the place in person.
This morning when the waitress served me the “Why not today” coffee cup, it made me wonder what else was on the horizon for us. I hope I can keep leaning into that mantra, embracing what’s new, unknown and unpredictable and welcoming new adventures to our life.
Since I do not have 100% mastery of Spanish, almost everything is a bit of a challenge, whether we are ordering lunch or buying face cream. Not all of our decisions have been good ones. I have a collection of hand cream, hair mousse, hairspray, laundry detergent, and dishwasher detergent that I will have to give away or throw away. Even after spending time reading the small print, I ended up with fragrances or products that I just don’t like. Those decisions are small gambles though.
Instead, I want to swim in the ocean, explore the many natural pools that form along the coast and be fearless. Por que no hoy? Well for starters, the water is too cold yet. There are many people who swim year around here, with or without wet suits, but I am not one of them. I’m not a strong swimmer either. At least not yet. I love the idea of it until I put one toe in the water and shudder. Maybe tomorrow. Or a few weeks from now, more likely. Por que no manana? (Why not tomorrow?) might be a better mantra for now.