When I read the email asking to share our experience of living in Valencia, I had to jump in because it is just such an opportunity not to be missed. We have recently bought a place here because, after having previously lived in three different countries, we feel Valencia is our settling down city for the next years.
Let me first introduce myself, I am Diana Mariella Borja Dologh born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. I am the third of four siblings. My story starts, after graduating from a Catholic nun-ran high school at 18 years old when my parents decided to send me to England to study English. This was quite unusual as normally people from Latin America will choose the United States for being much closer. However, my eldest sister was already there married to an English man so my parents felt at ease as I would have her to help me with anything. And, of course, have an eye on me. After learning English, I applied to English Universities and got accepted by a few but I chose The University of Kent at Canterbury. I loved its campus and the magnificent view of Canterbury Cathedral. It felt to me the right choice, and little I knew it would be a choice for life as there I met my future husband, Christopher from Turkey. So after four years I earned my degree, a BA with Honours in Politics and International Relations. Then, it was time to go back home. With a heavy heart we said goodbye and planned to have a long distance relationship.
I moved to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, as I got a job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was planning to start my career as a diplomat. In the meantime, I went to Turkey to visit Chris, he came to Ecuador to visit me, and we continued to see each other. This continued for two years until we agreed that I should move to Turkey where we got married in a beautiful church ceremony. I must mentioned that although Chris was born in Izmir, Turkey, his family from both sides were European (father’s side Hungarian-German and mother’s side Maltese-Italian) that settled in this Aegean region of Turkey and were considered “Levantines” (the descendants of Europeans who settled in the coastal cities because of trade), and, therefore, Christians. That is why we had the church wedding just if you were wondering. So you can imagine, marrying an Ecuadorean (with Chinese, Spanish and Italian mix) just enriched even more this already multicultural family.
We lived in the beautiful port of Izmir for 16 years. The most challenging factor for me was learning the language. Adaptation was not a problem as Izmir was a manageable city and very international, many multinational companies, and a NATO base were a source of foreign friends and a way to continue speaking in English/Spanish while trying to learn Turkish. Turkish people are so welcoming that my learning journey was fun all along, however, challenging! I could not compare it to any of the languages I had studied before (and I tried quite a few: French, Italian and German). After four months I decided that I knew enough basic grammar and that I should just try to speak it and learn from my mistakes. I can still say that I continue to learn Turkish. I believed my turning point came after I had my two daughters -- their school years were the best practice for me. Our house was a fruit salad of languages, I spoke always to my girls in Spanish, with Chris in English, he and my mother-in-law spoke to the girls in French (it is the Levantine common language) and, of course, Turkish everywhere else.
During my stay in Turkey, I tried different lines of things to do. I worked for a textile firm attracting foreign customers, became a trader for marble exports, then graphic designer and my biggest hobby: Photography which I still practice here in Valencia. Meanwhile, my husband was working for his family business, an olive oil firm founded by his maternal Maltese grandfather, Anthony Micaleff, in 1938. An 80 years old business that was a pioneer in Turkey by doing its first olive oil brand in 1945. Their logo is a ship symbolizing the ship that brought the Micaleff family to Izmir. Chris is the third generation working in KRISTAL and having the vision to expand it all over the world making it an international brand. The idea of exporting from Spain and opening a company here in Valencia was the next step to follow as Spain produces 50 per cent of the world’s olive oil production.
Many signs led Chris to decide on Valencia: First, KRISTAL’s partner company in Turkey (a growing shipping holding) already had an office in Valencia; and second, during an International Food fair he had made contact with an olive oil company from the Comunidad Valenciana, Aceites ALBERT. In the meantime, I was unaware of all this master plan until one day Chris asked me what I thought of the idea of moving to Valencia. I was in complete awe, I said wonderful! I though that I will be so much closer to my family in Ecuador, I will be speaking my mother tongue after so many years. I had also good old friends living in Valencia, everything seemed just so right that we started looking for schools for our daughters. That seemed the most difficult part because of their ages, two teenagers. It was not going to be easy to make them love the idea of moving as much as we did. However, things went smoothly, and they were accepted in an English-speaking school, which facilitated the transition as they studied in a bilingual school in Izmir. We did not want them to struggle with another front by putting them in a Spanish school. Although they spoke the language, they had never studied in Spanish. We do not regret the decision, as they are happy in their school – and that is what matters. Also, they love how safe Valencia is – for instance to have to take the bus or just walk around the city, we all just feel comfortable.
We also love the slow pace of Spanish culture; we were living a fast pace life that was not letting us appreciate small things of life, like a walk in the park, having a “tostada” mid-morning, enjoying a siesta after lunch, riding a bike around. It might be difficult at the beginning to adjust, but just try to understand it and it will be easy to adopt your new way of life. It has only been two years since we moved to Valencia, but we believe Valencians know how to live life. They enjoy what they have and take their time to do so! They don’t live to work; they work so that it gives them enough to live and enjoy their lives.