As the full moon rises in the east, hovering above the Pacific Ocean, I contemplate the year that has passed since we returned to Australia from Our Year in Spain.
Each full moon signifies a moment of reflection since it was on a glorious, moonlit evening two years ago, that we arrived to our new home in Granada. Whilst we imbibed the new and exotic wonders around us, we stepped onto the terrace of our new home for the first time to be greeted by a harvest moon rising from behind the Alhambra Palace. It was the view that would become the backdrop to our year in Spain.
Today, a year since we returned from our sabbatical in Spain, this evening’s full moon has provided yet another moment to contemplate the legacy of our time away.
Although we are fully immersed back in the present world of Sydney, we still carry the hallmarks of a year lived within the ancient walls that formed part of the great Al-Andalus empire of Southern Spain. I posed the question to my husband this week: “What has stuck with us from our year away? What is the legacy?”
Typically, it can be hard to answer that for oneself however there was no hesitation in answering for our children. We know they gained a broader perspective on the world and have come to celebrate and embrace difference rather than be wary of it. They now know that Australia is not the centre of the world nor theirs for that matter. We also thoroughly appreciate their newfound sense of independence, confidence and adventure. After having suddenly lost their voices and cultural bearings by arriving to a completely foreign place, and yet managing to adapt, make friends, learn a language and fully participate in a different culture, it has been an awesome lesson in resilience, perseverance and sense of personal achievement.
Beyond the behavioural changes, we have also gained a second home that will always be there waiting for us to visit whenever we can rummage together the time and resources. When I recently returned to Spain for a short visit, I was completely surprised and delighted by how easy it was to slip back to a place from which I had been absent for a year.
I have finally come to accept that our life is here in Australia and I have ceased scouring the international career pages in the hope of divining dream jobs for us in Geneva, London, Madrid or Amsterdam. The initial shock of our return home to a large, international, fast-paced, expensive and commercial city has well and truly faded and we are focused once again on our careers, study and community in Sydney.
However the pull to Europe is still strong and we hope to remain connected to life there. This connection to Europe has motivated us to work that bit harder and to look for opportunities that afford us the possibility to return as often as we can.
It may be perceived that our attachment to Europe is indulgent; a middle class ‘nice to have’ and not ‘essential’. Believe me, we are not in the game of gaining status through international travel and frequent flyer miles. No, for us, it is about our heritage and identity that are intrinsically linked to Europe. It pains me that we have no use in Australia for the foreign languages we speak with ease and pleasure. Each language and culture allows a different part of ourselves to be expressed and we miss that.
When I returned to Europe recently, I bounced between three languages, cultures and countries, and it reminded me of the multiple aspects to my identity, of which being Australian is just one.
So how will we manage to maintain those facets of ourselves while firmly planted in Australia?
The goal is to return frequently to Europe and maintain the connection. The sacrifice will mean living in a smaller home, free public school education for the children rather than flogging ourselves to pay for an elite private school, and no resort holidays to Bali and Fiji as is the preserve of many Australians. We are focused on returning to Spain, our friends, family and the parts of ourselves that are lived out differently over there.
Perhaps when we are older and retired with both our children living abroad and far from us, we may regret having provided them the world on a platter. And yet I believe, in fact, we will be happy if that is what they choose. Embracing diversity and the adaptability to live with change is a rich existence and if our children have that, I will be content as I recline in my armchair possibly and likely, several oceans away from them.
The imagining and living out of future experiences that have spun off from taking a leap of faith into the unknown for a year, is just one legacy that I am grateful for…