Living in Spain – The world was a different place in 1992

petersens in spain

The world was a different place in 1992. The World Trade Towers in New York City stood proudly, Columbine was the name of an alpine flower and Osama bin Laden was unknown.

It was the year that the Petersen family packed up their earthly belongings and moved to Barcelona, Spain. Tajma our cat was placed lovingly in a carrier and sent to Barcelona on a different flight so as to avoid British quarantine demands and Sheriff and Shasta (the two dogs) were sent to live in Canada and Chico respectively. We were on the adventure of our lives.

The Barcelona summer Olympics had just departed when we arrived on September 2, and Dave and I had celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on the plane ride over. Four months earlier, we had visited the city on a “preview trip” all expenses paid by Hewlett Packard in an attempt to wine, dine, and woo us to the country. They wanted David’s expertise in helping with a printer project in a relatively new HP plant. Staying at Agua Blava on the north eastern coast of Spain during our preview trip was a pampering and luxurious experience and completely won us over. How could we not come live in Spain, this beautiful country with the fabulous food?

I took a year’s leave of absence from teaching and planned to do a lot of quilting, needlepoint, reading, touring of Barcelona and private Spanish language lessons. The boys were ages 11 and 14 (6th and 9th grades) and had been enrolled in Benjamin Franklin International School on the preview trip. It was a grade K-12 school in the section of Barcelona called Sarria and quite a distance from our “torre” (a four level corner town house with a beautiful little back yard) in Sant Cugat. Toll roads were abundant and traffic was hectic-no insane- so the train was the way they got to school most every day. By themselves. In a city where the preferred language was Catalan, not Spanish. As I said before, the world in 1992 was a different place. Dave and I did not worry about their safety and we all felt a thrill of adventure most every day while living there.

At BFIS both boys met some incredibly diverse and interesting friends. There was Juan Pi, a Catalan young man whose father was a medical doctor and drove a huge SUV through the cobblestone streets which were more the size of alleys. Stefan spent some fabulous weekends with this family skiing and attending Barca futbol games. And Erick’s funny friend Carlotta who made some pretty great coconut macaroons was one of many Swedes living in Barcelona. In fact most times the Petersens were mistakenly thought of as Swedes in the land of shorter and dark-haired Spaniards. We liked that. There was a friend whose family members were slowly escaping the horrors of Serbia and coming to live in Spain. Stefan began babysitting and we became friends with many people through his efforts. But that said, it was still often a time of isolation and loneliness. Spanish television at the time was pretty bad and there were only so many times that we wanted to watch videos of Wayne’s World or Home Alone. Erick did a lot of reading in this year to escape those feelings. Stefan spent hours painting detailed tiny iron figurines.

We filled long weekends with explorations. The densely populated city of Barcelona held secret gardens filled with overhead flowerboxes, medieval courtyards where acoustic guitarists came to practice because of acoustical value, chocolatiers with masterpieces displayed in bay window displays, musty old shops specializing in crafted umbrellas or tiny crèche figurines, Roman and Greek ruins and art museums. The surrounding countryside offered wineries, “masias” or farmhouses turned into family restaurants, forests of cork trees and sparkling beaches. We travelled further out at times to Southern Spain, Madrid, France, Andorra, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands. What a learning time for us all. I think we realized that America was not the center of the universe and our country was an isolated youngster compared to all of this.

When the school year rolled to a close, we realized it was time for us to begin packing again in preparation of leaving our European home to come back to Poway. It was a bittersweet time. I was ready to get back into the work force and to see my dear American friends and family, yet the friends we had made in Spain were not easy to leave. For me, the thing most significant about the year was a chance to step out of the humdrum daily grind to see that there is so much to life. We only have to put ourselves out there, keep our senses alert and be open to experience. Not unwise advice for anyone on any day at any place at any stage in life.

Bon appétit!

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