In our first year running AlteArte, my feet ached, I regularly woke up with searing cramps running down my leg, and there were nights that I fought to keep my eyes open not having yet adjusted to the Spanish lifestyle. Now, in our third year, my feet no longer ache as much, it’s been a long time since I suffered from a leg cramp, and I no longer get so sleepy. But, after two years of mopping the floors, putting out the terrace and making mojitos day after day, a different kind of fatigue has been gnawing at me – the fatigue that comes with routine. No longer fueled by novelty, there are days where my motivation runs dry. “Can we just close today,” David will ask, mirroring my own thoughts perfectly. Yet, we both know that, as much as we wish that we could just crawl back in to bed or take the night off, we have a business to run. So, from deep witin, we summon the energy to clean, open and see another day through.
But just when this fatigue was starting to get disturbingly frequent, a series of events happened – like Julie’s unexpected appearance. One of the few Americans I’ve met since my time in Altea, Julie only had a week left in her stay when she stopped by AlteArte for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Julie was looking for WiFi, loves mojitos (to the point that she makes her own at home), and had fallen in love with Altea’s old town just as I had. She possessed a strong New York energy that instantly revived me, but it was in talking to her that I recharged. She listened as I told her about Pepe, the previous owner who we bought AlteArte from, and how extremely generous and kind-hearted he and his family are. She was fascinated when I told her about Ivan, our customer turned personal farmer who brings us eggs and vegetables straight from his land and who we’d eventually like to use as the sole provider for all of the mint for our mojitos. And it was in sharing with her how we came to live and run a business in Altea that I was reminded of how truly special our story really is. And as she swooned over the details, I did too. And by stepping back, out of the day to day, I was able to see the big picture and fall in love all over again. Julie came at a crucial time. I needed her energy and enthusiasm to get my own energy up for the busy season and I gladly drank from her resources to replenish my own.
And as she sat there on her very first visit to AlteArte, the details of our story came to life, for the locals started arriving to watch a soccer match. And when I finally was no longer busy serving and had time to reflect, I realized that pepe and Ivan not only were there but they were sitting next to each other talking, and I excitedly pointed them both out to Julie. And, the stars must have really been aligned because on Julie’s next visit to AlteArte, Pepe’s father, Tony, who owns Hotel San Miguel and one of the best paella restaurants in Altea, invited us, out of the blue, to a paella dinner. All we had to do was say for how many people and what time, and he would have it ready the next day for us to pick up and bring back to AlteArte. And just like that we had a paella party in the works and Julie had a personal invitation from Tony, himself.
By the week’s end, Julie had met a number of the Alteans and residents, had enjoyed an impromptu paella dinner, had gotten a personal tour of Karl’s gallery/house (the artist who lives across the street), and, was so enamored with Altea that she is playing around with the idea of returning in the Fall to live here for a while, and I cradled the idea that, thanks to us and AlteArte, Julie had had a richer and more colorful Altean experience.
Another type of magic has been happening recently – like when Sissel met Lynda. Sissel is one of my closest friends here. Lynda is an English woman who I’ve known since I started the Book Club about six months ago. A couple of weeks ago, Lynda came to our Spanish conversation for the first time where she met Sissel, and they totally hit it off. On another ocassion, Sissel and Irya, a Finnish woman who I know from Spanish class, were at AlteArte on the day that Ivan was making an egg delivery. He had thrown in some onions and garlic, and I happily showed Sissel and Irya the delivery as I never cease to be impressed by the idea of being able to live off the fruits of the land which is just part of life in Altea. They were so swept away by the notion that we went and visited Ivan at his home later that week and they purchased vegetables straight from his land and each adopted a hen in order to get fresh eggs just as we do. And the best part is it’s a win win. Ivan sells his produce, one of his sole sources of income since he closed his business at the beginning of the year. Sissel and Irya get to make this unique notion of local produce a part of their daily lives in Altea, and now they all know each other, having met at AlteArte and bound by produce. Through instances like these, the people who make up AlteArte are getting to know one another so that eventually there will be no division between our friends and our customers but just one large community of people from all different nationalities.
The novelty of running AlteArte may have worn off, but glimpses of a different kind of sensation have taken its place. Glimpses of a seed that we planted more than two years ago taking root and starting to flower, and the consequent rewards are ten times more intensely satisfying as if two years of dedication and hard work have unlocked a new level of consciousness. So when a couple of American guys comment that they’re a long way from home, but when they come to AlteArte, they feel comfortable as if they could stay forever, or a Polish girl brings her brother and friends to AlteArte having described it as a place where you can meet people from all over, these comments and observations mean the world to us. For they validate everything that we envisioned for AlteArte and prove that we have created a unique and special place. And they keep us fueled and give us the energy to see another day through – knowing that that might just be the day that a new flower blooms.