Our adventure began with a marathon of travel connections from Portland to Madrid. We left Anne’s house in Portland at 6:15 on Wednesday morning for an 8:10 AM nonstop flight to Los Angeles (which somehow included a stop in Oakland). We spent 4 hours in the international terminal of LAX convinced we had somehow already arrived in communist Russia. David was asked to sign a document acknowledging his responsibility to make arrangements should Spain find him unfit due to his lack of return plane ticket.
We entered the Aeroflot jumbo jet bound for Moscow amidst a din of Asian voices. Aeroflot was formerly the national airline of the USSR and then Russia. It was the cheapest flight we could find (the next cheapest flight was about $200 more) and in doing research were reassured that ball-of-fire, explosive crashes with no surviving passengers were a thing of the past. We both stayed awake for the 14-hour flight to Moscow, after which David indulged in a $9 cup of airport coffee before heading to Madrid.
As we exited the plane we held our breath and got our story straight about our plans that did not include overstaying David’s 90-day tourist visa. We had been warned that it might be a serious concern to enter the EU without a return ticket, but as David stood sweating before the customs official he was waved forward and his passport stamped without any words being spoken. We navigated the Madrid subway with relative ease and arrived at our hotel at midnight on Thursday evening – about 32 hours after we had left Portland.
We had a restful night’s sleep (11 solid hours) and wandered around Madrid for a couple of hours before spending the remainder of the evening in the hotel lounge trying to book our bus tickets to our volunteer destination in southern Spain. After some mishaps, Austin trying out her Spanish skills and a little running we got on the bus for an 8-hour trip to Velez Rubio where we ultimately met up with our host for a 30-minute off-road Land Rover ride to our destination and home for the next 7 weeks: Cortijada Los Gazquez.
We have been here now for 4 days and it has been pretty great and pretty close to what we expected. We are currently residing in an off the grid, solar/wind/wood-powered guesthouse with an English family of four (our hosts and the owners/creators/artists/chefs of Los Gazquez), a 24-year-old Canadian volunteer named Joe, one hotel guest named Linda, 7 cats and a dog named Max. We work 6 hours a day, which so far has included chain sawing, hauling and stacking almond and pine wood to fuel the wood stoves, deep cleaning, moving rocks, a little cooking and washing dishes. For our future work we anticipate interior painting, dog grooming, rock wall building and more cooking. We eat family-style with our host family and the guests and sleep in our own modest attic room above the two giant wood stoves that fuel the radiant heat floors throughout the home.
We have many more details to share with you, including the unique construction of the beautiful building we call home (simple design, concrete walls and floors), the kinds of food we have been eating (delicious home-cooked meals, more wheat than usual, fancy desserts), descriptions of the landscape (arid, alpine desert, clay soil, almond trees in bloom) and animal bones we’ve found (so far only a lamb, hopefully some bird skeletons soon), but this post is long enough as it is and we don’t want to scare you off.
Our access to Internet is limited, so our blog posts may be more intermittent than we’d prefer. Please stay tuned for photos soon!