It’s been exactly 1 month since we got here. A very busy month – especially as time seems to flow differently here from “back home” (in Amsterdam / Antwerp)… Mostly because distances over here are so much bigger: a quick trip to the vet (and we made a few of those) costs us at least 2 hours every time, popping over to the supermarket is a 20 minutes drive (it used to be about 3 minutes by foot), and since I’m leaving my crutches at home a little too often, even walking a short distance takes longer than it should.
Another big difference between “there” and “here” is of course the amount of people we see every day. We used to live close to the city center – on a regular day we saw probably hundreds of people, and probably talked to 1 or 2 of them (the girl behind the supermarket counter, and maybe a neighbour or so). We now live in a village with less than 200 inhabitants (according to Wikipedia, there were 172 in 2013 – compared to almost 813.000 in Amsterdam), but we tend to have a conversation with every single person we bump into. About the weather, dogs and cats, and more about the weather (and its effect on the trees and the harvest!). If you consider the population density is (11 people per square kilometer in Lledo, 4921 in Amsterdam), I think that the less people we have around us, the more there is room to breathe and just be happy and communicate in a normal way.
Of course the biggest perks of being here are the peace and quiet, and the wonderful countryside that surrounds us. We wake up every day with a fantastic view of the Els Sports mountains – we get to see (or at least guess) right away what kind of weather it will be, and as soon as we get downstairs we get to walk the dogs to the viewpoint a bit higher up the road, with a panoramic view of the mountains and the surrounding villages. Compare this to waking up in a closed room, then getting to the living room which has a view of the buildings across the street, and then walking the dogs around the block… Yes, that is a big difference, and we are happy everyday for experiencing this.
But apart from differences, there are also a lot of similarities.
First of all, distance is a very relative. The last time I had to go to a hospital in Belgium, it took us about 45 minutes – the hospital was not that far away, but I made the mistake of falling down the stairs just in the middle of rush hour. Here the hospital is 40 minutes away anyway – but I cannot imagine getting stuck in traffic on the road there… In Amsterdam, we walk about 5 minutes to our favourite restaurant; here we get to the closest restaurants in about 5 minutes as well… albeit by car.
Then there is the availability of things we consider normal: we buy bread at the local baker’s (2 minutes walk, like in Amsterdam); get the same process at the hospital (waiting for a long time, and then getting the best treatment you could hope for); the supermarket has Corn Flakes and Nutella and meat with 85% meat in it – just like home; and last but not least there is internet – so we keep in touch with friends and family through WhatsApp and Skype, read our newspaper on the Blendle website, watch TV on our computer screens, and I just work the same way I have done for the past few years… only with a much nicer view.