January 1st, 2018… back in Spain with my sister… all about Trust…

New Year’s 2018…

Our plane was schedule to leave at 12:30 pm from Frankfurt to the South of Spain.  I prepared my bag while kids were partying away in the basement.  My sister had never been in Germany for New Years, and as midnight approached, we started to hear the strong fireworks as they exploited.   All the kids run outside to burn their own… I refuse to buy any fireworks, by principle, and also in solidarity of my dear dog (Nuts)… who suffers every year.  As we came out with a glass of Champagne, we joined the neighbours… who I never see during the year… each was showing off competing who makes the loudest noise.  My sister and I, ended up hiding behind a tree, afraid of a scene that resembled a war scene.  We went to the balcony and could see fireworks in all directions…it seems Germany burns 200 million euros in fireworks each year.   Party was a success, they danced, ate the pulled pork that I had prepared, and at the end, I stayed up until well pass 5 am, until the last boy left the house.  I am not sure how many girls stayed over that night, one thing certain, I had a very short night sleep.  My sister went to bed early as a trade-off to wake up earlier to clean up… which she did.

After 25 years traveling alone with my sister…

I had not taken a trip alone with my sister for more than 25 years, so the perspective of going with her was enough to make me happy.  We packed a couple of nice outfits to go out, and dreamed together about what we were going to do…little did we know that the outfits would not even make it out of the suitcase.   When we were young, we were inseparable, and as life took over, we found each other living far for one another, raising our families in different continents, and doing the best we could… and as many women, making decisions with our families and children in mind… and often putting aside our own dreams.  But we were on our way to Spain, dreaming again, sharing that intimacy we knew so well, as if we had not been apart for one day.

Our one and only dinner out…

We had a clear objective, and that was to settle all my aunt’s legal affairs, ensuring a sustainable future for her.  At the airport, we rented a car and left directly to the nursing home.  My aunt had no idea we were arriving together, she was surprised and so happy to see us both.  That night, 1st of January, 2018, we found an open restaurant, drank some red wine, had our only dinner out, and felt completely convinced that my aunt was in the right place, and happy.  Now it was our job to make it happen.  As footnote, my sister works in finance, and has an amazing clear and analytical mind, so between the two of us, we had all the human resources we needed.  She was schedule to leave on Saturday, so we had four (4) working days to settle everything.  I ended up staying four (4) more additional days.

 

I had just renovated my house in Germany, so I was well aware of what implied to renovate an apartment.  We walked together that night throughout the apartment, looking for what would be the minimum we needed to do to upgrade it to a vacation rental.  I was looking at the electric plugs with fear… everything was linked by an electric extension cable…  The bathroom needed to be done completely, the floors were carpeted, we discovered a beautiful natural stone underneath. As part of my own house renovation, I changed the windows and installed additional ventilation, to increase energy efficiency.  And as we inspected the apartment, the windows were screaming back to me… they were the original aluminium windows, the closing mechanism worn out.   We talked about it, and I did not want to tell my sister all that went through my head, the job was bigger than what we first though.  At that point, I still kept it to myself.

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Cleaning and Clearing the apartment

After visiting my aunt Tuesday morning, we bought a couple of face masks and spent our Tuesday clearing the apartment.  We called Rafael, the man in charge of the building’s maintenance, he answered all our questions regarding what had being done throughout the years, he had been there for more than 20 years.… He also said he had some friends that could do the bathroom and polish the floor.  He gave us the contact numbers, and we called them immediately.  As if luck was on our side, one showed up on that same day and the other Wednesday morning.  I could not believe it, it was the second day of the year, I found myself in the same situation when we were remodelling our house in Germany.  Our furniture was schedule to arrive on the 20th of January and we could not get anyone to help us remodel the house until the 15th of January.  In Germany, most people working in construction take vacation leave until mid-January since they go back to their own countries to spend the holidays.

David… making our dream bathroom come true…

On Tuesday night (January 2nd), we met David Zambrana from “Multiservicios Inmomiel” for the bathroom renovation, at “Azulejos y Pavimentos Cabello S.A.” a family owned tile and bathroom shop.  Needless to say, as soon as I walked in I felt in heaven… the aesthetics of Spanish tiles are just great!!!  And then again, I am not sure how many people get excited about tiles and toilets…. We were!!!   We looked at each other with my sister, and she said to me “you know we both have strong opinions, so let’s do this as if we were a couple… and let’s make all decisions together”.  As it turns out, we were the most agreeable couple ever!!!  We joked about it, as we decided in less than an hour the complete look of the bathroom…. “yes, my love, it is ok with me”.  We had a general Mediterranean look we wanted to create, with earthy colours, greys, beiges, stone… We took the colour scheme of the original floor tiles for inspiration.

That night at home, we put our own individual strengths to the test, while my sister went through all the files, I sat and draw the bathroom plans.  I had scheduled another meeting with David for Wednesday afternoon to go over the plans.   This was the second day of the year, we had not slept the night before, and we finally went to bed well past 2 am, as we did all the other nights while we were there.

 

Paco, Paco & Paco…

Wednesday was a decisive day, we hired Rafael’s son (the man in charge of building’s maintenance) to help us take out all the furniture.  Besides my aunt’s 40+ original paintings I found in my last trip, there were racks of books and just abundance of things.   We were scheduled to stay the whole day at home working, but I had to leave to do some errands.   As I came back, I bumped in the lobby with Rafael together with two men, Paco and Paco…  They were the contractors that had just finished talking to my sister about polishing the floor and painting the walls.  I asked them to come back to the apartment with me, and they did…

They were both called Francisco, nicknamed “Paco”.  So, there I was with Paco the contractor, and Paco the painter, looking at what needed to be done…. I kept telling Paco the contractor, that I wanted to do the least possible but with the most impact… And as we kept looking at each room it became more apparent to me and to him, that one thing led to the next.  Paco the contractor -I know now he is a perfectionist-  I am sure was listening to me that day thinking… “do you really want to keep this plastering on the walls, do you realize you need to open the walls to redo the electrical connections, do you realize that those things that you don’t want to do, would need to be done eventually”.   So, after a general inspection, we schedule another appointment with yet another “Paco” the electrician on Thursday.  As he left, my head was spinning, thinking this started as a paint job, and bathroom renovation, and was growing by the second.

 

Dreaming together with David…

As we continued to work, David arrived punctual to our afternoon appointment.  I showed him the plans, we looked at the bathroom, and we talked as if we had worked together forever.  In all Spanish style, we were loud imagining what could be done… The night before, we had looked at some bathroom designs and decided to have 2 showers.  David loved the idea, as much as we did.  The idea of having two showers came first because the place for the shower had a dead corner, so leaving that dead space for extra shower space made most sense.  As well, as this apartment eventually will become a vacation rental, and having three children, I know what it is like to come from the beach and listen to the fights to use the shower.  We made a final appointment to settle all the details.

 

As a footnote, we also talked to other contractors recommended by other people, and they were all great and friendly but not what we need it.  At this decisive point, we had a bit of a conflict, as I got to know Paco better, I realized that he was a general contractor, and he could do the whole job alone, without David.  David on the other hand, could also do most of the things that Paco was going to do, except for the floor… so Wednesday night was a bit of a struggle on what to do, share the job, or stay with one contractor.  At the end, we decided to split the job, David with his energy, he had taken the design of the bathroom as if it was his own project.  Paco an honest and straightforward guy, gentle to tell me things yet firm in his convictions, which I appreciated much at a moment when we needed to take decisions.

Kitchen and walls… out…

Friday morning, we met the electrician, and decided all electrical system needed to be upgraded.  Going through the old installation we discovered how the kitchen had being wired.  All the upgrades of the water heater and washing machine had being done with electrical extensions.  At this point, I looked at Paco, and said, just take out the Kitchen.  He had a face of relief and happiness, he could not hide.  On our last meeting before I left, we decided not only to take the kitchen out, but as well all the dividing walls, which would give a loft feeling to the apartment… My sister kept saying, are you sure, the ceiling is not going to fall on us?  They are not structural walls, and only 15 cm. wide, no trouble to take them out.   We made a quick stop at Ikea and again in record time, decided on the general look of the kitchen.  Stainless steel, with grey granite and wood.

Windows… windows…

One important aspect of the renovation are also the windows, since windows add a much-needed energy efficiency to any building, specially in countries where air conditioning and heating is used, air tight windows are crucial… the day before I left… I googled energy efficient window manufactures in the area… They were a few, and one that caught my eye was E3 Window system.  I called the number given, and there was no answer.  I moved to the next provider, and suddenly I got a call back from Pablo Isla, from E3 Window system.  We had a really interesting conversation, as I said, I had just changed my own windows at home, so what he was telling me made much sense… I was impressed. He even pointed out in his website “passivhaus”, and innovative climate friendly construction concept, that I find fascinating, and had read much about during my own renovation.  We had no further contact during my stay in Spain.  On the 16th of January, I sent him a message, to which he replied promptly.  We talked, and through WhatsApp and mail, we finalized the window specifications.  His suggestions valuable and knowledgeable.  I am looking forward to meet him in person when I arrive end of February.

 

Art exhibit for my aunt…

My aunt wanted to donate her books and some of her paintings to the nursery home, this was also a way to keep them close to her…  As it turns out, the last week of April they have a cultural week at the Nursery Home, so we planned to make an art exhibit with her paintings during that week.  Going through her documents we found enough photographs and material, to organize one.  My sister and I, we are scheduled to arrive on the 15 of April to organize it.  As I left my sister at the airport on Saturday morning, the car was still full of books, and I looked at them knowing I had little strength left… and had to take them to the nursery home, and arrange them in the bookshelves there, as we had already done before… and I did.

Saying goodbye to my sister…

Weather had been perfect up to this point, when my sister left, so did the sun, and I had non-stop rain until the day I left.  The prospect of staying alone was not one that I looked forward to, and then, there was no choice, I had to sign the paper work with the contractors, buy all the bathroom material for David, and what was most important finishing all the packing and labelling of everything we were keeping.  On Sunday, I took my aunt out to the apartment, and we spent the day together.  She was in shock to see the empty place, yet optimistic and full of trust of what we had jointly decided.  I must add, I did not tell her I was planning to take out the walls down… not just yet…

When I left Spain, my sister was already on her way home, after having spent a couple of days at my house in Germany.  Kids were happy to see her… always great to have some time alone with her.   Snow was waiting for me when I arrived home… and me happy to still have a little girl that is still exited to go out for a walk on the fresh snow.

It is all about trust…

Today, as I write these words, I am feeling optimistic and grateful.  Paco, the contractor started working the day after I left.  I handed him the keys of the apartment and hoped for the best, knowing we had no control over the day to day.  In my heart, I knew we made the right choices with Paco, David and Pablo.  An amazing exercise of trust from every side, my aunt trusting us, we trusting Paco, David & Pablo… they know even though we are far away,  we are holding them.   We trust their decisions, for we know they are looking after our best interest.  And most important me and my sister trusting each other…

 

This will be our second complete week of work, things are well under way.   All preparation for the electrician is done, walls are almost all demolished, the kitchen is cleared, bathroom is completely demolished.  I finished the Kitchen plans, to ensure the right electrical and water connections are done correctly.  All water connections will be done this week to ensure David can start working on the bathroom next week, windows are ordered.

Feeling inspired…

9 Comments Add yours

  1. giocka says:

    Wow! Hilda, this is hard work, but you must feel energized by it all. You can be proud!
    I’m dying see all the ‘after’ pictures… This is a huge work you’ve started, but I think you were right to do so : I reckon if you can afford it’s always better to do things properly right from scratch rather than make do and patch things up. The bathroom and kitchen will look stunning I’m sure, and these are the two essential assets any buyer will look for if one day you decide to sell the place, so it’s money well invested. It’s also what holiday makers check before renting a place too. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. giocka says:

    I must say the resemblance with your sister is uncanny!!!!!! With the mask I have trouble knowing who is who!! It’s amazing!!
    (Just checking : you’re on the left, aren’t you?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha Ha Ha…. yes, I am the one on the left…

      Like

  3. Maria says:

    WOW!! Increible verlas juntas en accion como en los viejos tiempos. jeje Un abrazo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Marianella says:

    Que belleza de doctoras!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Maria Elsie Luzuriaga says:

    Que dicha poder ayudar a tu tía. Pero no sabía que eras arquitecta? ???? Cuename donde estudiaste y que tal? Cuando vienes a Quito? Un fuerte abrazo, Mel❤

    Like

    1. Que chistosa!!! Mi diploma de arquitecta es una combinación de sentido común y dibujo técnico …. con el Pony!!! Ha ha

      Like

  6. Julia says:

    Your energy is inspiring and your knowledge and decisiveness an incredible asset. Can’t wait to see the results! And you and your sister have the exact same eyes!

    Like

    1. Thank you Julia for your kindness… I ❤️you too…

      Like

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