All posts by gwen kortland

Community for dummies – Returning the favor

Challenge accepted! But of course I don’t want to stop Juan from participating in this fun challenge. So, here are 5 photos, taken on July 14, 2024. All real, unedited, raw and part of the environment we live in.

We are curious the read this story behind… 😉

Juan blog challenge – Cervera del Maestre
Juan blog challenge – for sale sign
Juan blog challenge – leaf on a bench
Juan blog challenge – water source
Juan blog challenge – shadows of a couple in love 😉

Community for dummies – Normal

I have found a common thread. It is an interesting issue for everyone to consider. The question is simple. The answer maybe be a little less simple if you sit down and think about it for a while. The question is: What is normal?

This morning I walked alone to the garden, where everyone had gone to, to have breakfast. And during this walk I realized how different from “normal” my days look like here. There are always people around. How different from “normal” the environment looks. I saw the mountains and the sea in the distance. How different from “normal” the language around me is. I hear at least three languages a day. How different from “normal” the rhythm is. Lunch at 4:45 pm is perfectly fine here. And of course the question followed; but what then is normal?

What I was wondering was, who decides what is normal? Is it normal if most people do a certain thing a certain way? And is, what is normal, ever questioned?

I think we have made some “abnormal” choices in our lives. Especially during our time now as a family with children. The choices we made were always close to our hearts but sometimes miles away from what was seen as “normal”. A few examples of this are prolonged breastfeeding, co-sleeping, not vaccinating, baby-led weaning, homeschooling, but also the choice that only my husband is the earner in the house and I am at home with the children. That we don’t want a big car in front of our enormous villa, but that we prefer less luxury and more time together. All things so normal for us (and for a lot of others as well), but so abnormal for others. I like it when I’m not judged on my way of normal but than again, i also judge..

I think normal always changes. When I think about what I used to think was normal and what I think is normal now, I come to a completely different conclusion. The lesson I want to learn from this is that I should try harder not to judge someone else’s “normal”. I think that the judgement of someone else always comes from a place of misunderstanding, and at a deeper level perhaps mainly from fear.

If we figure out a number of basic principles, such as not doing harm to others, in the ideal world every person should be allowed to take his or her space to find his or her own normal without being judged by someone else.

More connection starts with an open mind and an open heart. And oh, how difficult that is sometimes. Because how easily we have already made up our mind. I always laugh at myself when my preconceived conclusion turns out to be anything but the truth. It happens a lot…

Doing things differently here also goes back to basics. Yes, water comes from the tap here and yes you can drink it. But you taste a little chlorine. So we get fresh water from the spring about a 10 minute walk away.

Maybe normal is a concept that doesn’t exist. Because no place on earth is the same, and every place has its own normal. No family is the same and every family has its own normal. And we still like the normal of FamiliaFeliz at the moment so we’re just expanding our own 🙂

Community for dummies – Language

In an earlier blog I wrote that we are together with people who do not all speak the same language. We are currently together with Germans, Spaniards and Dutch and there is also some Portuguese to be found somewhere. There is not one language that we all speak. So in FamiliaFeliz you can hear a mix of German, Spanish, Dutch and English all day long.

For the little things this is not so bad. With our hands and feet we manage a lot. So today when I got stung on my little finger by a wasp, it didn’t take much for me to ask our fellow FamiliaFeliz visitors in the garden, who speak German and Spanish, for help. (thanks again! I know they are reading this 😉 )

Fortunately, for the more complicated things such as explaining things that happened, we have Google translate. You speak a text in your own language, and he translates it into the other language. I’m probably the last one to find out about this, but you can even take a picture of a text that Google then can translate. I’m not a fan of Google, but in this situation it has often been our salvation.

Apart from some frustration of not yet understanding a language sufficiently, this environment is extremely good for learning other languages.

And I also see that a language ultimately does not have to be a barrier with the children in FamiliaFeliz. They took some time to get used to one another, but they have now found each other. This makes the whole experience, at least for our boys, a lot more fun. It is easier to express yourself to another child in a language that is not your native language than it is sometimes to an adult.

Going to see the dragon festival in town.

There are so many ways you can express yourself. If you are open to it, then learning another language is a real gift. And it is especially nice when the new language you are learning is the language of art.

Community for dummies – Food

We have been here for 5 full days now. The kids asked me today how long we’ve been there. For them it already felt like 2 weeks, said the eldest. The boys are doing great! Anyone who is a parent will understand that a happy child makes a happy parent.

Owenn learns from Juan to make a bench out of wood.
Javi and I accompanied Francesca to the garden and the chickens.

They adapt well to the climate and to being around “strange” people. They really seem to feel at home here. One thing that may take a little getting used to for them is the times to eat. The rhythm in Spain is so different from home. We are late eaters by Belgian standards, but the Spaniards really take the cake.

Add to that the fact that we often eat together and that this is not always something they know or like, can make for some grumpy children.

But all this indirectly creates interesting situations for me. Being used to doing things my own way and then coming into a community with more people to take into account are really two different things.

I’ll try to explain what happened. Yesterday in the afternoon we agreed that we would eat fries (fries = happy children). The five of us went to do some shopping in a village nearby. That took a long time and we were back late. I was under the impression that people would already be busy making the fries. But that turned out not to be the case. Dinner was made in the evening, but something completely different which I wasn’t sure who it was for.

Then several things happened. I am a huge conflict avoider. I don’t want to bother anyone with my problem and I don’t want to make anyone feel like they didn’t do a good job. But I was also annoyed that it was now late, the children were not getting what they were promised, they were hungry and grumpy and I, as a mother, had to deal with it.

What I should have done was ask. Ask what happened to the existing plan. Ask what was going on now. But the above mentioned qualities stopped me from doing so. So what I did was not communicate, make soup for the boys that they liked and solve it myself. This is how I’m used to doing things. There is a deep-rooted feeling in me that I have to do things myself and that there is no help or that others do not want to take care of me or us.

I know where this comes from and I also know that this feeling and behavior is holding me back to be the best version of myself. Both for myself and for others. What is beautiful and at the same time very difficult is that community living gives me a lot of opportunities to break free from these unserving beliefs.

But for someone who doesn’t want to make mistakes, it is sometimes a real challenge. Old pain surfaces and may be resolved. I think I knew this would happen, but I secretly hoped that everything would go smoothly.

Very unlike me, I had a conversation about this today and luckily there was nothing but understanding and support.

I understand that this sounds like something small to some, but for me it is the beginning of a new life, a different view and an interesting learning path.

Community for dummies

In February of this year we dared to take the step. We as a family of 5, with no experience with community what so ever, drove over 1600 km to stay for a week in a real community.

Well, with real community you might think of a place where many people live together, where everyone has his or her task and where expectations for each other are high. If that’s the case, then we maybe didn’t go to a real community.

FamiliaFeliz is an un-intentional community. And this fact, the no intention part, does not necessarily make it easier for a dummy. Maybe even the opposite. If you know what is expected of you, you know what the intention is, than you can do it and you don’t have to think about anything. But then, here in FamiliaFeliz, that is just not the case. So we dummies came here to figure out how things are done here.

This week at FamiliaFeliz was amazing and also a bit overwhelming. We talked to a lot of people, considered a lot of options and most interesting we fell head over heels in love with the town. With a head bursting of information and with a lot of questions about “what now” we went back home.

In May we made the same trip again. This time, due to circumstances, we did not stay at CASAdelDRAGON, which gave us the space to view the area around in a different way.

Now it is July and we are here for the 3rd time. This time we will stay in CASAdelDRAGON for 6 weeks and really immerse ourselves in what life would be like if we want to move here. Because that is our idea.

For anyone who is interested in FamiliaFeliz, community life, emigrating with children, or just wants to follow our journey. I’m going to try to document these 6 weeks for you. The ups and the downs. The honest story.

I am writing this blog on the 3rd day we are there.
The children found the swimming pool. They are 13, 10 and 8 years old and can easily go to the pool on their own. Cervera del Maestre is a charming, small and well-organized village. With peace of mind I can let the children do their own thing here. For now they are having a great time. They enjoy getting their groceries in the supermarket or the bakery. We don’t speak Spanish very well yet, but luckily they don’t let that stop them.

Ben, my husband is still working remotely for the first 3 weeks. It takes some time to figure out how and where he can best do his work. If all goes well, from tomorrow he will have a place outside the house so that we don’t have to get in each other’s way as much.

And for me. The first day was arrival day and settle down day. Plenty to do and little to think about. Yesterday things got interesting. The kids did their thing. I didn’t necessarily have to do anything. And so I walked around a bit like a headless chicken. Fighting that feeling that I needed to do something. Looking for a mode that worked. I read a bit in the Spanish sun, but I didn’t get much more out of it. In the evening we enjoyed each other’s company with a BBQ on the roof terrace. Today was already better. I got behind the laptop to do some work and wrote this blog. I enjoy being creative and this can be done in different ways. There are a number of plans for the coming week to express this. But life can also be slow here, if you want. And I think this suits us to.

In the community now there are 9 of us in CASAdelDRAGON. 5 adults and 4 children between 14 and 8. Some speak English some speak Spanish but not everyone can speak both which makes for funny situations but also for a great learning opportunity. This composition will not be the same for the entire 6 weeks, some will stay, some will leave, others will join, some will come back. Since last week, 3 people have also been living in the garden of FamiliaFeliz. We will certainly meet them these days, but yesterday’s thunderstorm threw a spanner in the works.

My husband and I walked through the village yesterday evening. Every time we do that our heart beats faster. We both agreed that before we went, 6 weeks seemed like a long time, but now that we’re here it feels like 6 weeks isn’t going to be long enough. Whether that is really the case, you can read along with us here in the coming weeks.

Thanks for joining 🙂