Moving… Forward

In the dead of winter when the streets were empty, the village was quiet, and Altea once more belonged to its residents, Elia Torrecilla, a talented artist studying at the university, confessed that she had been having a hard time finding inspiration for a project that she was working on. One of her teachers had noticed and told her that the most important thing was to keep on moving in order to stimulate ideas in her head.

In Spain, things are coming to a dead halt, with taxes and unemployment numbers the only figures on the rise. And here in Altea, the summer has gotten off to a sluggish start with seemingly fewer tourists and more businesses standing vacant. Other business owners are talking about possibly closing after the Summer because, to put it quite simply, having a store can be more of an expense than an asset these days.

But, like Elia’s teacher said, the secret is to keep moving. So we are. The trick is to be aware of what’s going on around but not to the point that it stops you in your tracks. David forges on his with 1,000 ideas – making AlteArte hats, t-shirts and polos; working on the website; devising big-picture plans for the brand and products that we have created.

And despite the overall slow down, we feel the momentum building when our terrace fills up with our regulars or return customers. Or when a group of nine arrive announcing that we have the best mojitos in Altea – not because they have been to AlteArte before but because they had read about us on some website. Or when two girls come because they got personal recommendations from others. Or when a friend sends a link to a beautiful write-up of AlteArte that she accidentally found online. Word is spreading, people are talking, and, effortlessly, additional business is flowing in.

That’s not to say that it’s easy to not slow down. For, beyond just the normal challenges of the struggling economy, there are many other obstacles in our path, like the neighbors up the stairs from us. Keeping the peace with the neighbors has been a constant struggle and when we’re not at odds with one, we’re at odds with the rest.

This Summer, the battle is, once again, over a table. But, unlike last Summer, when we practically went to war with the neighborhood because we added a table of four down the street, this year, we got a written letter of permission from the store up the stairs from us to put two tables at the entrance to her store. (We couldn’t get a written letter last summer because we were putting the table in front of a declared ruin and couldn’t find the owner to get her permission.) The discontentment was quiet at first. The family of four (the parents in their 70s and two unwed daughters in their late 40s) simply stopped greeting us in the street, despite the fact that, for nearly three years, we have been carrying their groceries up the stairs, assisting the mother when her daughters or husband weren’t available, and buying their lemons at a whopping 7 euros a bag, an outlandish price especially when everyone else is giving them away – including Maria, the cousin who lives just up the stairs and whose lemons must come from the same trees. When the table didn’t move, one of the daughters went to complain to the store owners who had given their permission. When still nothing changed, they took more drastic measures like watering their plants on their balcony but also, accidentally or most likely not, watering the people – our customers – below. Things escalated when, just a couple of weeks ago, they threatened a group with children who were seated at the table that they were going to call the police. Never mind that it was midnight on a Friday when all the restaurants’ terraces were still full and it was hardly quiet out. Until then, they had never spoken about the table directly to us, and we decided it was best to stay out of it. But when Olallah, one of our customers who works with one of the daughters at the post office, explained to David that, for nearly her whole life, she had been sitting outside of the entrance watching the people go by and, now with our table there, she couldn’t quite sit so comfortably, it shed some light on why they would put up such a fight over that table and not the table just a few steps below. So, as a peace offering, David took up an iced tea so that she could at least have a drink while she sat on her chair watching the world go by. However, the peace offering was downright rejected and caused an uproar which has left things more tense than ever.

And when it’s not the neighbors, it’s some freakish electricity problem that causes us, and several of the surrounding stores and restaurants, to lose our power. That happened two nights ago – a Saturday night right at dinner time on the first day of the high, high season.

But, despite these obstacles, we keep on moving. So, despite the disgruntled neighbors, we keep our table there, but remove it earlier than the others in an attempt to show that we respect them but we also have a business to run. And when the power goes out, we light the candles, get to work washing the dishes by hand and try to continue going on as if nothing has happened even though we can barely see what we’re doing.

For the worst thing is to stand frozen and not do anything, to let the world and life pass us by without taking action. By paying attention to her body and physcially moving, Elia was able to get her creativity flowing. Likewise for us – thanks to David’s clear direction – we have constantly been acting, putting forth energy, launching new product lines, introducing new mojito flavors and looking ahead.

And, by moving, we have created our own kind of momentum which has helped drive us forward even when Spain is slowing down.

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19 responses to “Moving… Forward

  1. Like all of your posts, this one catches so vividly the drama and the turmoil of all you experience in your daily adventures in Spain. But this one makes the point especially well that it is your attitude and our momentum that enable you to continue on in tight spots and to see humor and beauty even in places where none is apparent. It is this factor that will keep you afloat and laughing even when everything seems to be falling apart. As the oft repeated (somewhat trite and yet profound) saying goes: “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade!”

    Well done, you two! You are an inspiration to us all!

  2. It is hard to imagine your world slowing down when you have all that craziness going on around you! The neighbors alone provide great drama if they weren’t so frustrating to deal with!!! It is amazing to be able to jump into your world and be entertained with your vivid descriptions of your various challenges! And so life goes on… YOUR world is definitely not boring!

    • Yes, when we have drama from the neighbors, it definitely keeps things interesting! That’s one very positive way of looking at it.

  3. As always, a wonderful post! “Keep moving” is such great advice, no matter where you are in the world. Thanks for sharing, Sara–I’m still waiting for that novel!!! ; )

  4. Keep on moving is a great motto and attitude for everyone to embrace! Thank you, as always, for sharing your story and capturing an important element in the human experience! Miss you!

  5. Your posts are amazing. I can so vividly picture your day to day life with unfortunately never even being there.. YET! We can so relate to each of your interesting and comical stuggles with life as an entreprenuer, but each and every experience is something to learn from- and laugh about down the road! You and David have done so well and your magnetic personalities are what is keeping your place alive and thriving. I miss you! When are we going to reconnect in person!?!?!?

    • Beth, if we can achieve the same success that you and Jeff have in your business and your life, I’d be thrilled. So proud of you guys!

  6. Oh boy, this was a good post Sarah, and I can really identify. I own and operate a property management business with my husband here in Kennebunkport, Maine, and for the most part love what I do. But lately…oy…folks (tenants and landlords) have been difficult, and for no apparently good reason, and its caused me to feel low and uninspired this week. Thank you for reminding me, that no matter what, we must continue to put our best foot forward and keep moving…failure is NOT an option! Onward and upward my dear…

  7. David, the hubby

    Life itself is an adventure, but if you are with th eright person, it’s even more exciting! The good thing is nothing couldn’t been done if I was alone…Sara has this particular drive that makes you more and more motivated. She became a great counselor for all the Alteans. They love her, she is the core of AlteArte.

  8. Amen David….when you have the right person by your side, everything is possible!

  9. Next time there’s tension, offer the unwed daughters the company of a couple of the men sitting at the table 😉

  10. What a beautiful post. I felt like I was there with you, walking, talking and feeling Spain and this snapshot of your lives. And the poor, innocent table…can we talk about how perfect and cute it is–just the right shape and length for that space?

    If I know my friend who’s from that area, there’s some tad bit’s of stubbornness in the water over there. But if you can flip them to your side, they will be yours forever. You guys are doing the right thing. Keep up the iced tea, buy more lemons and keep the love. It will all work out–try listening to the Avett Brother’s cute story-song, ‘the Ballad of Love and Hate’ that song sounds EXACTLY like this situation. Love wins. Stay focused on that.

    I miss you…maybe next summer Spain or bust? We must sit at this table soon with you. I’m heading to your NYC stomping grounds next month. Eeeks big city fear! xo kiss kiss to Le David-deFabu. xo

    • Thanks for your comment, Anne! I never heard about your trip to NY! I hope that it went well… and you survived! 🙂 Would absolutely love to show you Altea personally.

  11. Wow, constant adventures at AlteArte! Bit it seems you guys are working with it all, not against. You have the right attitude! Hope the rest of the summer went well, and that things calmed down some with the neighbors. So happy for you guys and all the wonderful strides you have made.

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