So today started as a typical day for me. Got up and quickly got dressed to take the kids to school. As we are getting in the car my wife waves us good bye… only to have the wind slam the door shut behind her. This wouldn’t be a problem in most houses but we have a security door. Its metal, and the doorknob doesn’t open from the outside even if unlocked. I tried pushing the key with my own from the outside but it didn’t work with the key inserted from the inside. I tried pushing it with my Leatherman, using the small screwdriver bit as a poking tool. I have done this successfully before with a safe key, the kind common for houses in Argentina. In that situation EDC saved the day, but not today.
Survival lesson #1 of the day was: Make sure your house is hardened against home invaders but make sure you can get in if locked out yourself. The front door is basically bullet proof, a metal security door with poured concrete structure and masonry brick walls. The back door was also locked. It has a sliding window but also a metal grate door which was locked. It is in moments like these that you start thinking like a criminal trying to break in. If you find that doing so is easy, then you have a security problem. If not, then that’s great, just have a plan in case you get locked out. Fortunately, my wife had just opened the windows and pulled up the shutters from the kid’s rooms in the second floor. The problem would be getting up there…
So now I have to take the kids to school, we’re locked outside and my wife is wearing summer PJ’s, just to make things interesting. You know what’s funnier? Only now while I write this do I remember that I do keep an extra set of clothes for each family member in the car. I mentioned it to my wife just now and she said its too hot anyway for jeans. I’ll see about putting a pair of shorts for each one in there as well. Lesson #2: Keep spare clothes (and other supplies) in your vehicle and make sure they are adequate for the local climate.
We drive the kids to school and hope our neighbour is home when we get back. Turns out he’s not. I do see another neighbour further down the street that is already staring curiously.
Lesson #3: Although I usually prefer not having people nearby, it is true that when you need help its nice to have neighbours you can count on. I also notice that this particular neighbour was paying attention and noticed the suspicious activity in my house. He already knew who we were and no doubt had it been faces he didn’t recognize he would have called the cops.
I wave and head down there. This is a British couple. They don’t speak much Spanish but I’m ok with English. Make that lesson #4. A second language is an extremely valuable tool, for life, for employment, especially for expats, especially if you’re fluent it open a world of options with people that don’t speak your language.
As soon as they see I speak English their entire attitude and body language changes and we start talking. Turns out they’ve been living in Spain for nearly 20 years, left England looking for a better place to raise the kids and haven’t looked back since then. Their kids are all grown up now, one is a professional football player and the other one is a teacher. The woman mentions that people in England used to be more social back when she was young, but that now everyone stays in their homes and keeps to themselves. In contrasts their kids made childhood friends here with which they still keep in touch till this day. It’s nice to see that other people basically reached the same conclusion we did. My nephews had a similar experience living in London and are already looking to move elsewhere.
After talking a bit I mention the problem I have and ask if they have a ladder to get up to the window in the second floor. They do, one of those expandable ones painters use.
Now here I try to be extra careful. These are traditional Mediterranean houses, with high ceilings to keep the house fresh during summer and ceramic patio floors around it. Falling from that height means you get the famous “serious injury or death”. I know of people that have died from falling from their roofs either checking a leak, installing an antenna or God knows what else. Statistically speaking, this is the kind of moment when you don’t want to screw up.
I set the ladder properly and take my time to securely climb and open the window and move the mosquito net aside. I must have looked hilarious crawling up there. But you know, I remembered something we had done in a tactical shooting class, the correct way of climbing walls. It’s funny how all these things come back to you. One guy would position his hands, you’d step on them, grab onto the wall, step on his shoulder, pull yourself up but keeping a low profile against the edge of the wall. Arm, torso and one leg over the wall, the drop one leg over the other side, slide your body end up hanging with your hand on the other side and then drop to the floor. The “spiderman” technique, we called it. Of course it wasn’t the same here because I couldn’t hang with my body weight on the fragile window but I did keep my profile as low as possible, which helped keep my center of gravity low so as to not lose balance and break my neck. My wife was holding the ladder below. She later said the only reason she didn’t burst laugh out loud as she saw my feet hanging there in the window was that she was terrified of me falling.
Lesson #5: Get in Shape and stay in it. I’m not nearly as fit as I would want to be. I’m not nearly as fit as I CAN be if I just stop coming up with excuses and actually get off my ass more. Make no excuses, Self-criticism is your best ally when it comes to health and fitness. Don’t be like those clowns in reality TV shows like “My Big Fat Fabulous Life”. There’s nothing fabulous about being fat. Especially for what concerns us, survival and preparedness, being overweight directly impacts your health which is by far the number one cause of early death. Not only that, it directly impacts your quality of live and it directly impacts of course your physical capabilities. How many miles can you walk if you need to make an effort during an emergency? How well can you fight to protect yourself and your family? Does your physical and fitness level impair what kind of jobs you can get and apply for? How strong are you when you need that strength to work, move around supplies, wood, food, or like today pull yourself through a second story window? Sure enough I did it, but I could have done it a lot better and there’s no excuse for it at my age and having no health problems of any kind.
Its little events like these that remind us all the time of the areas in which we can and must improve on. If we do notice them and take action not only does our level of preparedness improve, but our general quality of life does so as well.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”