Apartment v House? Where People Live..

Since we moved to France, at least three 'open' areas (fields) have been filled in with small, inexpensive, 'starter' houses.  They spring up like mushrooms overnight and are fully occupied within minutes of being finished.  Houses are becoming popular.  We, Brit's and Americans, tend to live in houses.  In the Mediterranean countries, people live in apartments, huge, endless complexes with fascinating names like 'Block A' or 'Block B'. When we lived in Andorra we lived 'on the hill', 3 kilometers and 1200 meters above our local village.  The Spanish and the Andorrans mainly lived below in the many apartment blocks.  There were 3 families on our little road, us, a Dutch couple, a mixed family (she was Spanish, he, Andorran) and an empty house.  Eventually, the empty house was sold to another daring local.  Watching the transformation of apartment-dwellers into house-dwellers was interesting.  The first thing they did was install a high fence all around the small property with locking gates.  We didn't even lock our house…crime in Andorra is almost non-existent.  Next the only tree, a lovely big walnut, came down…one wouldn't want to spoil the blistering hot summer sun with shade, after all.  They did, of course,  close every shutter tight every night – which made the third thing they did inconsequential to them:  they installed huge spotlights all around the perimeter on their new, high fence.  The place was lit up like a football field!  Our Dutch friend explained that she had seen this phenomenon before – when the Spanish/Andorran family moved across from her.  They grow up in apartment blocks; busy, friendly, neighbors close by and always within hearing (yours and theirs)and brightly lit.  Then they move up on the mountain and it's dark…and quiet….and lonely….and, though they wouldn't admit it, it's a little scary.  (I should insert here that none of our 4 houses were more than 5 meters or 15 yards away from the other, 2 on either side of the road – not exactly isolated.)  So the fences go up topped by the lights.  Don't worry, she assured us, within 6 months the lights will start burning out (light bulbs in Europe have an amazingly short life expectancy), senor's 'macho'ness will kick in (he'll be more comfortable) and he won't bother climbing up to replace them.  In the meantime we had a huge, glaring spotlight shining directly into our bedroom window all night long and this was only 1 of 8.  We put up with it for 2 weeks – let them get settled in and realize that they were the only ones on the hill lit up and fenced in like the state penitentiary.  Then mon mari took action.  You must realize that one couldn't ask them to remove the lights.  That may have been the right thing to do in the U.S. or Britain – request, logical explanation, lots of 'I'm sorry's' thrown in, etc.  but in Andorra that would not allow for 'saving face'.  We did it the proper, Andorran way….broke the lights.  Mon mari, knowing his way around an electrical problem, did something (I haven't a clue what) and the spotlight into our bedroom quit working.  Nothing was said.  The 'Hola, Bon Dia's continued as friendly as ever.  No one was seen checking out the 'broken' light.  A few weeks went by, then the other light that shown directly into our house ceased working (same manner).  Again, nothing was said or done, but the point was made.  Over the course of the spring, one by one, all but the light over the door quietly ceased to work (not by mon mari's hands, though). Once again, blessed darkness surrounded our house (almost) and we could spend evenings gazing up at the brilliant stars one only sees from mountains…      

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