Today I give you over to new correspondent Lucy Culpepper:
“When we moved to Catalunya (Catalonia), in the northeast of Spain,” Lucy writes, “our neighbors were surprised to see me at their door offering a bag of fresh lemons. I had picked them the day before from the lemon grove outside the kitchen window of our previous home in Andalusia in southern Spain.
“Over the next six years, our Catalan neighbors grew to embrace our customs and habits and we theirs. My offerings of outgrown children’s clothes no longer insulted them, and Olga’s soup made with fizzy mineral water grew on us.
“But even after six years of exchanging ideas and traditions, the good people of Catalonia were not prepared for our yard sale.
“We had decided to take a sabbatical to explore Mexico and Central America with our two children, and so we wanted to sell everything from furniture and teaspoons to bicycles and Barbies. Everything was going. During our time living here, I had accumulated dozens of e-mail addresses of people in the area, so I mounted an e-mail campaign.
“The moment I sent out my alert e-mail (truly, within the first minute), I was deluged with requests to reserve, to measure, and to describe. Finally, I had to say, ‘No more! Come see for yourself on the big day.’
“We planned a full day to accommodate everyone’s shopping habits. The north Europeans are up early; the Spanish get up late and take looooong lunches; and the South Americans (typically Bolivians and Ecuadorians, who make up the domestic workforce in Catalunya) start shopping late in the afternoon after they’ve finished work for the day.
“Doors opened at 10 a.m. and the rush was…well, there was no rush. But by 11 a.m., our first customers appeared. As we’d expected, they were the ‘Nordicos’ (north Europeans, as referred to by the locals). They snapped up everything funky and from IKEA. And they were not afraid to negotiate, even with my 70-year-old mother. A Dutch family completely renewed their supply of pool and garden toys, a Danish family remodeled their bathroom, a Swedish couple bought our exercise balls, and a Norwegian mum-to-be went away with every wooden toy she could lay her hands on.
“As the morning rush died down, our Catalan friends and neighbors came over. They looked around reluctantly, focusing on the easy-to-reach items at first. They apologized for taking a closer look. They asked if I were sure I wanted to sell. When one of them finally took the plunge and made a purchase, though, then the mobiles came out. Everyone was calling friends and family. Do you need a blender? Doesn’t your nephew need a bicycle? Weren’t you thinking you’d like new china for your masia? (A masia is a Catalan farmhouse used for holidays and festivals.)
“By 6 p.m., our store was much depleted and our sales team was feeling ragged…but here come the Bolivian home help! And they mean to do business. Five of them even tried on my husband’s long-since-retired business suits. They were sizing them up for their husbands. Some of these suits had traveled from the Far East to California to the UK and thence to Spain…and now they are on the backs of Bolivians working in Catalunya. Recycling at its best!
“By the end of the evening, my Bolivian helper and her friends had cleaned us out. They had bought (and been given) so much that they couldn’t get on the little local bus, so we offered to drive them home.
“It was an exhausting and emotional end to our life in Spain, but I like knowing that there are little bits of us still all over Catalunya…”