by Sharon Mawer
(Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria, Spain)
When my husband and I retired (from London in the UK) we chose to live in a place where we had holidayed many times, Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.
At first I thought we had made a big mistake. They speak Spanish here rather than English, (as you would expect, it is part of Spain) and although I thought I could speak Spanish, its a great difference ordering in a restaurant to dealing with the authorities about tax, re-registering our car and trying to live normal lives.
I also realised that back in the UK, it may have been an illusion but I felt like somebody, my relatively small circle of friends and acquaintances thought that I was an expert at certain subjects that I could speak about with authority and a great deal of knowledge.
Suddenly I could hardly speak the language, I wasn't confident about speaking with the telephone engineers about our terrible broadband speed or the traffic authorities about why it was taking so long to get a Spanish license plate.
Also the first summer was uncomfortably hot. I was used to temperatures between 0 and 30 (32 to 90) and suddenly it was a range between 15 and 40 (50 to 110).
But as we reached our third year, things have turned around. I joined a conversation group and found that I was indeed, better at Spanish than most of the others. People started to say, whenever I spoke, they could understand me more even than the locals, maybe because I was slow and ponderous, thinking of what to say rather than jabbing on without a break which is how the Canarians seem to talk.
Also the things that always interested me, classic cars, craft beer, music, I found there were people here too that were interested also.
We have to travel to Las Palmas the city to attend any cultural events, theatres, concerts, sports are all in the city but that's only about 50 miles away and a drive that you can usually guarantee takes 45 minutes, we don't have traffic jams here unless there is a real problem.
I also found that my body adjusted to the new norms of temperature and it doesn't feel nearly as hot (although it is) as it used to. Recently we visited Northern Europe and it was less than 15 degrees (50) and I felt cold.
Also I found time to write and research and when I mentioned music earlier, I meant pop music from the 1910s or even earlier. And everybody knew that I was an expert on artists and songs they had never heard of before, I felt like somebody again. Of course it helped my research that finally the telephone company finally got fibre optic broadband in our area, and now we receive greater speeds even that what we did in London (600+ mbps).
I now have people around the world in contact with me and want to meet up when we travel to their countries.
I was depressed as some people newly retired here seem to be, and it took about two years to finally find myself again!
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