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Wishing on a Star
Sara and David wrap up the chaos of summer and look to the stars for a little help.

Courtesy of Sara Wilson, Illustration by Gabriel Lefrancois
Antonio, the balloon guy, always draws a crowd.

Ever since late winter, early spring, our friends, Warner and Pepa, have been telling me about the night of August 12th. It was a night not to miss, they said, when hundreds of shooting stars could be seen. They had witnessed it in years past and told of the spectacular sight that they had seen. Expectations high, I waited all summer for that day when we would be able to make hundreds of wishes upon the stars. And when August 12th finally arrived, David and I rushed the last lingering customers out of AlteArte so we could see for ourselves what we had heard so much about.

Exiting AlteArte at 3:00 a.m., we ambitiously set out with Pablo, one of our customers and now friends. We were going to walk to the river in order to get away from the lights, but we didn’t get far before we realized that even in the darkness of the river we would never be able to spot the abundance of shooting stars for there was an abundance of something else… clouds that blocked any view we were hoping to have. Under this blanket of clouds, stars could be shooting left and right, but from our vantage point on the earth’s surface in Altea, Spain, we never would have been able to tell. That night, we couldn’t see a single star—let alone a sky-full of falling ones—and the disappointment set in.

High expectations are good to have, but when things don’t work out quite as planned, it’s necessary to readjust your expectations to better coincide with a different reality. Ever since we considered buying AlteArte, we had heard about how busy the summers were, how every day was like a Saturday, how Altea swarmed with people, and how it got so packed that you could barely walk in the streets. So, naturally, we expected that we would be slammed each and every day of the Summer. Well, Calle Mayor, the street just parallel to ours, did swarm with tourists and the square in front of the church buzzed as the grand terraces filled with people and the outdoor artisans market got underway each night and Antonio, the balloon maker, got to work making balloons of all shapes and sizes for the kids. However, our street, just slightly removed from the action got traffic, but significantly less. And our small terrace, while it attracted good business, was restricted by law to four tables and 14 chairs, greatly limiting the amount of business we could pull in.

For us, this summer hasn’t been months of Saturdays, but instead months of unpredictability as a Thursday would be busy but the day after would be slow; or the electricity would go out, instantly leaving Altea in a blanket of darkness; or water would suddenly start sprouting from the basement of the restaurant across from us, flooding the street just outside. We expected to make lots of mojitos, which we did, but we didn’t expect that the bulk of our business would come from the locals and we didn’t expect to see so many stroller-pushing families navigating the climbing streets of Altea’s old town.

When the month of August drew to an end, I expected that we had gotten through the worst of the Summer heat, but then a heat wave swept through Altea, pushing temperatures past 100 degrees, into the highest temperatures this region of Spain has experienced in 15 years. I had to again readjust my reality as I wiped the sweat from my brow. The summer heat wasn’t over just quite yet.

The heat might be going strong, but the season is, indeed, coming to an end. Contractual workers hired just for the summer finished up on August 31st. The streets of Altea are far less busy and my Norwegian friends who returned to Norway for the summer are beginning to return to Altea. The art students will be starting school again and Altea will settle back into tranquility. And like us, the other business owners who have been working relentlessly day after day will all let out a sigh of relief as life returns to normal.

We survived our first summer, but barely. Even though we only had a handful of days where we got slammed, it has been intense. Late nights that often didn’t end until 4:30 in the morning; battling with the air conditioners and fans to keep AlteArte cool; moving the machines to try to get them to work more efficiently; keeping our supply of ice, mint, lime and lemons constantly stocked; running up and down the steps of our terrace; bruises, cuts and sore feet; coming home to find that Sushi, our cat, had fallen off our second floor balcony (rushing him to an emergency vet at 5:00 in the morning, we found out after a quick x-ray and 100 euros that he was OK except for a slightly broken nose). And, exhausted as I now am, I can only be grateful that not everyday was like a Saturday.

Fortunately, weaved throughout it all and keeping us going has been the refreshingly positive energy that our regulars bring to AlteArte, as well as some small details: sitting on our balcony at 5:00 a.m., drinking horchata, resting our feet and enjoying the cool breeze—my favorite moment of the day—trying every single flavor of ice cream including, banana split and mojito as David made his nearly daily visit to the seasonal heladeria just down the street; breathing in the sweet aroma of our neighbor’s Lady of the Night plant ("Galan de Noche") that let off its heavenly scent after dusk and greeted me every time I went outside to serve a customer on the terrace; and escaping from the heat with visits to the swimming pool with Luisa, my mother-in-law, who was with us for the month of August.

Shortly prior to August 12th, David and I spotted a shooting star while sitting on our balcony. It happened when I least expected it—as the best things often do—and, in that moment, I closed my eyes and made a wish. After all, all I need is one shooting star to carry my wish far and to make my dream come true.

Sara Wilson is currently working as a freelance writer and lives in Altea, Spain with her husband. She has kept a record of her adventures living abroad which you can find here or on her blog: http://sarawilson.wordpress.com. Contact her directly at wilson.sara@gmail.com.

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