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Newcomers: Olazabals find a good pace in Spokane

Fri., March 7, 2008

Yesenia Olazabal missed her husband. As the owner of a produce business in Upland, Calif., Ozzie worked all the time – evenings, weekends, holidays.

“I worked every single day,” Ozzie says.

“He never spent time with us,” Yesenia says. “He was working all the time.”

Three years ago, the Olazabals decided it was time to trade their hectic lifestyle for a slower pace. A friend familiar with Spokane convinced the couple to take a look. Ozzie visited first, liked what he saw and brought Yesenia for a visit. They moved that July.

These days, Ozzie, who now works for Federal Express, gets to take the couple’s four children to school and attend parent-teacher conferences.

“I never got to do that before,” he says.

“We’re together,” Yesenia says. “We spend quality time together.”

Why Spokane?

When they reminisce about life in Upland – located in San Bernardino County – the Olazabals describe a work- and wealth-obsessed culture where people rarely have time for pleasantries.

“It’s so expensive. Everybody just cares about themselves,” Ozzie says. “There’s a lot of anxiety.”

In Spokane, Yesenia says, people make time. “The people here are very nice. They say, ‘How can I help you?’ “

When Ozzie recently got his car stuck in snow, three neighbors helped him dig out.

“Back in California, nobody stops,” he says. “Nobody talks to you.”

Real estate

The Olazabals bought a house a few blocks south of Corbin Park. The six-bedroom, turn-of-the-century home lacks the modern feel of their house in Upland, but the couple likes the hardwood floors and charming details. And they love the neighborhood.

“It’s calm and quiet,” Ozzie says. “I would like to grow old in this house.”

Settling in

Since moving to Spokane, Yesenia, who in 1990 moved to California from Mexico, became a U.S. citizen. She now works for a credit bureau as a translator.

“I’m really proud of her,” says Ozzie, whose family emigrated from Cuba in 1970. “She wants to be able to vote and participate in American life.”

“I did it for my kids, all my kids,” Yesenia says.

The couple’s four children, ages 3 to 14, are excelling in Spokane schools. Jessica, the youngest, is in Head Start. Luis, the oldest, attends Glover Middle School and takes advanced classes, Yesenia says. “The teachers here, they care about students.”

Yesenia’s younger sister recently moved with her husband to Spokane. The two families have made friends at St. Aloysius Church, and through work and school.

While Yesenia isn’t sold on the cold weather, her children love the snow. The family also likes the abundance of lakes and other outdoor activities.

“We got out of California just in time,” Ozzie says.


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