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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spain goes blue

Original graphic from El Pais                
Since I've been out of Spain, I didn't pay much attention to the political debates leading up to the general election in Spain last Sunday, November 20. Still, I was aware that polls predicted a big win for the Partido Popular (PP), the opposition party to the current socialist government under President Zapatero of the PSOE, which has ruled since 2004. Nor was I able to read much analysis immediately after the election, which, as predicted, gave a "crushing victory" to the PP.

According to the article in the CoastRider, which I am beginning to recognize as the best of the bunch of free, English-language weekly newspapers in our area, the PP will have an absolute majority in Congress, having won 186 seats, with the PSOE ending with 110. There are several other minority parties in Spain, and an article in News from Spain reproduces the above graphic from El País that shows how many there are and how little influence they will have. In a widespread move to the right, the PP will rule in 11 of Spain's 17 comunidades autónomas," regions comparable to U.S. states, and when a nation calls its states "autonomous" you can be sure they have power.

Reportedly Zapatero went down to widespread discontent with his failure to handle the economic crisis. Not a surprise: Denmark recently went red, booting out its conservative government for failure to handle the crisis better. Unfortunately it is easy to vote against the status quo and hope that the opposition will have a better plan. Hope is about all that the Spanish have, though, since the new president, Mariano Rajoy, didn't really talk during the campaign about the direction or extent of the cuts to be made to improve the economy of Spain.

Meanwhile it should take only another three weeks to form the new government, or maybe a little less, since Zapatero has pledged to speed up his release of power as much as possible. I noticed that less than three weeks passed after the Danish election in September before its new government legitimately took charge. This sure beats the almost three months it takes for the USA to inaugurate a president after November elections. So what do you think the chances of getting Republicans and Democrats to agree to a constitutional amendment to change the date of U.S. inaugurations might be?

Home Again in Spain

Given the fact that I had just returned from a trip home to the U.S., it doesn't make sense that I have now spent the past week in Denmark. But this trip was planned some time ago as just a quick visit to Danish-American friends of long standing. We left on Monday and returned on Friday very shortly before midnight, which was fortunate because, we were told, the new airport in Alicante closes at midnight and if your plane hasn't landed by that time, it will be diverted to Valencia and you get a free bus ride lasting a couple hours back to the outside, presumably, of the Alicante airport. Even though the Ryanair flight was late in leaving Billund, we made it in to Alicante under the wire, and I have never had checked baggage delivered as quickly as I did Friday night.

Denmark was lovely with Christmas decorations and leisurely shopping--not the rat race of Black Friday sales, as there are few sales in Denmark and no Thanksgiving to mark the beginning of the shopping frenzy. We did not have bad weather. This is the most positive statement that one can hope to make about weather when one travels to Denmark from Spain in the month of November. Gray days, but mostly dry, and cold enough for two layers on your legs and three up above when you are out and about. What Denmark lacks in sun at this time of year it makes up for with that lovely notion of central heat, and the luxury of underfloor heating in the bathroom. I am still wondering whether I will succumb to the temptation of having the tiles I love in our bathroom dug up to install heating fixtures below.

It didn't rain until Friday, and then it was indeed cold and dark and damp. Even though we had left Spain on Monday after an unusual rainy weekend--but we seldom complain because we always need the rain here--we looked forward to arriving back to warmer temperatures and sunnier skies. There are many good reasons for visiting Denmark, but one of them is that it will probably make you appreciate the weather in Spain more.

Warmer temperatures and sunnier skies did appear on Saturday morning when I finally woke up at almost 10:00. I've been unpacking, and doing laundry and grocery shopping ever since, and just generally getting back to normal after my two trips. Since I have had the privilege of enjoying Christmas decorations in the stores of two countries in the last month, I am inspired to get started with my Christmas preparations now. I'll be able to pull out the decorations from storage pretty soon--but first I need to pack away the cotton summer clothes that were perfectly appropriate when I left a month ago, and which I could still wear most days now in the sunny afternoons.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seasons of Life

It has been a long time since I wrote, and that usually means that I have been out of Spain. This time was an unscheduled trip, because I have been home in the U.S. with my birth family as my mother, Mary, passed from this life, and for two weeks afterwards. Those several days that we (four sisters) spent together reliving our earlier lives growing up and renewing our commitment to each other as a family were precious.

Part of the reason I first started this blog was to share my experiences here in Spain with my mother. She was nearing 80 when she "got onto the computer" in order to keep in touch by email with her wide-spread family and good friends from across several decades of her life. She learned to use many functions, even though she never distinguished between the hardware, software, email, and the Web--it was all "the computer." Later as her eyesight diminished she had to stop using the computer herself, but in the early days of Sundays in Spain, I tried to keep posts short enough so they could be printed out on a single page by one of my sisters and read to her. I have gotten rather lax, I am afraid.

In 2005 when I had to tell my mother that I was selling my house, which I had recently bought in Indianapolis in order to be within a couple hours' drive of my parents, and moving to Spain full-time, I was distressed and scared. My mother at that time was facing the daily challenges of living with the increasing effects of the Alzheimer's with which my father had been diagnosed a few years earlier. I felt guilty leaving them to be so far away "just" because my husband was ready to return to Europe during his retirement years.

My mother fully supported my move. I was near tears as I struggled to tell her that we would no longer be coming home to the U.S. for half the year, but she immediately said, "Oh! It's just like when your father and I went to Florida!" Indeed, they had left Ohio and moved to Florida for their retirement years at a time when she was just about the same age as I was moving to Spain. They spent 20 years there before returning to Cincinnati for the last years of their lives. Never in all those last years did she ever express displeasure or encourage guilt that I had moved to Spain. She even made a trip alone to our home in Roquetas de Mar in 2006 at Christmas time to see how we lived.

In some ways my life here in one of the "Floridas of Europe" is like my mother's life during the happy time my parents spent in a retirement village in Orlando. In many ways it is different. I try to write about the similarities and the differences, and I try to live each day happily.