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We Find Gizmo and Celebrate Six Years of Marriage
After six years of marriage, Sara and David add a new addition to the family.


Courtesty of Sara Wilson
Gizmo flopping around on his back.


Torrevieja is beautiful. Located right along the Mediterranean, there’s a reason why thousands of tourists flock here every year. We live about 10 minutes by foot from the beach—in fact, when you exit our building you can see the sea in the distance.

While it’s great to be a short walk from the water, I found myself looking for something more. Perhaps I thought that Torrevieja would have it all: beach, sun, and European charm. I was expecting small, winding streets reserved only for pedestrians, I was envisioning little shops and cafes each offering a unique experience, I dreamed of beautiful, thoughtful architecture that demands admiration. Torrevieja does have charm, but it’s concentrated around the coast.

So David and I set out in search of charm and hopped on a bus to Alicante. Though we had both seen Alicante’s airport, neither of us had ever explored the actual city. About three times the size of Torrevieja, it was sure to have everything that Torrevieja has plus more. And it was that "more" that I was anxious to see.

In Alicante’s old section, I found what I was looking for. Small streets with beautiful restaurants and terraces, a performer setting the mood for diners, charming houses perched high above the Mediterranean, large squares that make it feel like a meeting point of many. But it was in a peaceful park right in the center that we found something more than we ever could have anticipated.

After much walking under intense heat, we decided to enter a park for a brief reprieve. We didn’t even have the time to find a place to sit when an older woman called us over and promptly showed us a tiny kitten huddled in the nook of a tree. I have been skittish of kittens ever since Bijoux, an 8-week-old kitten that we adopted in New York City in 2005, got unexpectedly sick and had to be put to sleep. They seem frighteningly fragile, but it was obvious that this one needed help. So, when David asked me if we should take it, I couldn’t say no. I was also feeling bad for Sushi (our cat at home) who has seemed a bit more complacent ever since moving to Spain (this heat will make anyone complacent). A little companion for him might be a very welcome addition.

So we put the kitten—named Gizmo—in a bag and took him on the bus with us home. We introduced him to Sushi (we didn’t quite do it the recommended way—separating them in two different rooms until they got used to each other—instead, we just threw them together). And even though Sushi looks like a lion next to him, Gizmo is the mischievous kitten biting his tail. They spent the whole first night chasing each other around the apartment, but have become fast friends and Sushi is being a good older brother to Gizmo (we named him Gizmo because he looks like a Gremlin). So we have added to our little family and now have a Spanish cat in addition to our American one. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law still waits for our little family to grow in a slightly different way—more on that later.

How We Celebrated Six Years Together
On August 2nd, David and I marked our six-year wedding anniversary. Six years! But, no, we didn’t have a romantic tete a tete in a nice Spanish restaurant, or stroll through a new city, or even take a nice stroll down memory lane. Instead, we were playing Bingo with my mother-in-law, Luisa (who just arrived from Paris and is staying with us for the month). And it wasn’t the stress free, just-for-fun kind of Bingo. This was serious stuff and we were playing for serious money—between 300 and 600 euros each round depending on the pot. We even got carded in the entrance! Walk into any pub or discotheque here and they could care less. But come to play a round of Bingo and you not only get carded, but they record information.

Barely had we sat down at a table of six in a room of at least 100 when we were given our first round of Bingo cards at 1.50 euros a piece. Embedded into the glass top table in front of us was a screen showing the current ball and previous numbers called. "What sophistication," I thought! But I barely had time to grab a pen and get a bearing of my surroundings when the round got underway. And get underway, it did. Instead of being a nice slow-paced round of Bingo fun as I imagined, it was a frenzied race to keep up with the numbers. With my elementary Spanish, just making sense of the numbers was a monumental challenge. It was my worst nightmare—not only was money at risk, but I couldn’t even keep up to see if I had won.

By round two, David had confiscated my card and was checking his and mine simultaneously. By round three, I pulled out, content to treat Bingo as a spectator sport and sit back while David and Luisa played.

Relieved of the responsibility of having my own Bingo card, I turned my attention elsewhere. The woman across from me was playing five at a time and I marveled at her ability to check so many cards at the same time. This was either an innate skill or an acquired one that cost a lot of money to obtain. But watching her was too stressful, especially as round after round passed and she didn’t win once. I next turned my attention to the woman diagonal. She had her own unique system of keeping track of the numbers. Before each round, she prepared by tearing up little squares and writing each number that was on her card on a square. Certainly, if I was to become a pro Bingo player, I would need a similar kind of system. Over at our table, I watched in agony as David waited for one final number to be called. Unfortunately, someone was waiting for another number which, only naturally, was called first.

As it turns out, Bingo is a favorite past time in Spain and is a destination spot for Luisa every time she comes to Spain on vacation. In fact, she only just arrived on Saturday night and she was already asking whether Torreviejo had a Bingo hall before we went to bed that night. So even though our anniversary was on Sunday, and the last thing I thought I would be doing on my anniversary was playing Bingo, it was the consequence of bad timing and there was no keeping my mother-in-law away. In any case, it was a place that I had to see before being able to say that I live in Spain.

And I suppose Bingo is preferable to the casinos (which are abundant here) or the slot machines (there’s at least one in each bar), so I won’t complain. The Spaniards are so smitten by gambling that if you enter a Bingo hall, a casino, or the corner of a bar with the slot machine, you’ll wonder what everyone’s referring to when they talk about the economic crisis.

After about a half hour of playing—quite a lot of rounds since everything moves so rapidly—we pulled ourselves away and called it a night, leaving the 5-cards-at-a-time-playing-woman with her next round of five cards. We didn’t win, but, instead of counting our losses, I concentrated on what I had gained. I walked out of there with a crash course in Spanish counting. And, by the end, I was able to understand the numbers without even peeking at the spinning ball in front of me!

Sara Wilson is currently working as a freelance writer and lives in Torrevieja, 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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