The Basque Country & Pamplona, Spain

June 26 – 28, 2019

Pamplona (Gaztelugatxe, San Sebastian), Spain – 2 nights

We had a great drive from Bilbao via Gaztelugatxe and San Sebastian and down to Pamplona. But then, we were back down in our emotional teeter-totter. All hell broke loose in Pamplona.

Gaztelugatxe was on my bucket list, as one of those Microsoft Windows preview screens that I’ve tagged a few years back. The last season of Game of Thrones made it even more popular and after visiting it, I can say it was a worthy detour. It was a hot day and a steep hike was tough but the views were spectacular.

San Sebastian was beautiful too, more in line with my expectations of coastal experience than the southeast part of Spain (Valencia/Malaga/etc). It was packed and touristy but water was warm and views were pleasing.

By the time we got to Pamplona, we were tired. We stayed in an apartment right on the path of the famous Pamplona Bull Run that was taking place a week after. We walked the same streets and had tapas in a restaurant on that path. Maksim and I did some math work in a nearby café and that experience was surprisingly pleasant. He was motivated to get to the midpoint of his 3rd grade math book before we were to leave for South Africa. Working with him in that café was probably the most pleasant school work we’ve done together in a while. Having a motivated learner is half the battle but keeping him motivated is a constant struggle.

I remember thinking of how efficient we got in a month of road tripping through Spain and Portugal. As we arrived to our apartment in Pamplona, I started unpacking while Pedja and Petra went to park our car outside of the old city. We got into the groove of packing, unpacking, stocking food, figuring out our immediate neighborhood, all in our natural, typical roles.
Petra would usually go with Pedja to drop off our car to a parking spot (in these older cities, parking was usually outside of the center), they would walk back ‘the long way around’ and explore our immediate neighborhood, scouting the best grocery stores and pharmacies, restocking our supplies if needed. I would start unpacking with the boys, getting any leftover foods sorted out, finding my way in a new kitchen, starting our meals/snacks. We finally found our grove after traveling more than 2,000 miles and staying in 9 previous locations over 4 weeks. The mechanics of the road tripping became easier but the emotions that were brewing along the way were reaching their boiling point.

/*edit*/ The most emotionally charged part of our stay in Pamplona was with Petra. She was back on the downside of the teenage emotional teeter-totter. The world seemed bleak to her and consequently to us too. Pedja and I were questioning everything about our parenting, this trip, our future plans. We put together a few puzzle pieces that formed a new picture of our child that was transforming right in front of our eyes. I remember hearing other parents about how these transformations (to a full-fledged teenager) happen suddenly and how drastic they can be.
Looking back to that time, now almost 2 months later, I see that we were all growing and transforming in our roles, Petra as a teenager and Pedja and I as parents. It feels better now looking at that time 2 months removed.

I’ve read books, I’ve heard more experienced friends talk about this subject and I thought I was prepared for these changes. I was wrong.
My Ana warns me constantly to not project too far into the future, to not think that I can predict where our kids are going, who they are growing up to be, what grater challenges they might be facing later on. I’m learning to hear her voice when my mind wonders too far into the future, to reel myself back to the moment, back to now.
I’ve always been a talker but everyone knows that talking is not what teenagers need. I’m actively practicing listening and just being there, resisting the urge to fill up the quite space with my noise.
I’m also learning not to take every word Petra says to heart, listening not only to the words spoken but more to what was not said between the lines.
Whatever I’m writing here is common sense for any parent with a kid older than mine.

Still, it’s taking me a while to put our puzzle pieces together and form a clearer path forward for us in the most meaningful way.

We spent those two days in Pamplona mostly in conflict with Petra, trying to (unsuccessfully) cheer her up, in conversations with each other about the state of our union, Petra’s health and the overall outlook of our plans. We were all tired of this road trip, moving from place to place too often, being stuck in a car with each other for hours at the time.

Even though we were getting good at it (road tripping), it wasn’t the right thing to get good at. We needed to slow down and were looking forward to our next stretch of time (of 11 days in one place) in Barcelona.


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