It is taking us a while to understand food here, and since food is such an integral part of culture, I'm sure we never really will. But, since watching the external workings of Spain is the only way for us to learn so far, I am paying attention to the cafes and restaurants. Spaniards flock to outdoor cafes. Except for the hours of 2:00 to 5:00, people can always be seen sitting outside little cafes and "cafeterias" all over town. In the United States, people tend to go out to lunch. If they go out for beers it's usually at night in a bar and for coffee it's for a meeting in the morning. In Spain, people drink beverages all day with very little food. My sister sent me a picture of her family out on vacation at an outside restaurant and it hit me as I saw the french fries and ketchup bottle. Spaniards don't eat quick meals outside. I would never see that scene in
We are finally getting into the Spanish schedule by accepting that 8:00 pm is when things really start happening. We feel a little self conscious all together with our blonde hair. Mostly we see families with smaller children, then it breaks into groups of teenage boys, groups of teenage girls, older women, and older men. We can tell that people are starting to recognize us as we stand out walking around together. Bernardo, the guy that takes care of our pool, came over last night briefly, dressed all in red. We thought it a little odd, but are not yet at the point where we can question anyone's choices. We went into town around 8:30 and it was evident that more than the usual promenade was going on. Cars were parked in every open lot and on all open roads. People were streaming into the heart of town from all the edges. We joined the stream of walkers until we hit massive wooden barriers blocking the streets. We discovered that all the streets in the middle of town were blocked off by these barriers that still allowed people to slip in. The streets were full of men and boys dressed all in red, like Bernardo had been. As we stood by a barrier trying to decipher
As in any new city, the metro can be its own unique challenge, especially when you are language handicapped. The town where we live, Puzol, does not have a metro stop. Eventually we will learn the bus system, but one step at a time. It still makes more sense to leave our car when going into Valencia because of parking, crowds, and accessibility. Cars just don't feel like a big part of Spanish life. Even the cities feel relatively traffic free. So, for our first metro ride we drove our mini to Rafabunyol, the nearest metro stop about 10 minutes away from Puzol. There is no parking area at the metro stop, just a hodgepodge of cars on narrow cobblestone streets. There was no problem fining a place to leave our car for the day. Entering the small, unattended, metro station began the days' lesson. There were several card machines in Spanish, which we couldn't decipher. When the metro arrived, we were still trying to buy a ticket. We thought we were successful when we saw some white slips in the machine. We presented them to
The first day we tried to order a pizza around 1:00, not realizing that nobody eats until 2:00. What Americans consider "lunch time," from 11:30 - 1:30, is the time in Spain when nobody eats. The pizza place we found was only open because the owner was making pizzas for the 2:00 rush and was kind enough to go ahead and make us something, although we didn't figure this out until later. There was some confusion, as he seemed to be asking us in disbelief why we didn't want lettuce and tomato on our pizza. He also kept saying "solomente carne?" which means meat only. We thought he wasn't used to people only ordering pepperoni and answered "si," while smiling and nodding. Self satisfied that we had ordered a pepperoni pizza, we glanced in relief at each other as he brought us our pizza. Then, about ten minutes later he brings out a meat only foot-long gyro sandwich. We were too embarrassed and language challenged not to take it. In piecing it together, when we had asked about euros, it sounded like gyros. He gave us as many opportunities as he could to correct him, but we didn't get it. Isn't it perfectly logical to have someone ask you if you want lettuce and tomato on your pizza? This, evidently, is not a new form of Spanish cuisine.
It's the little things that make you realize you're in a new country on a new continent. These things aren't expected because they are things you don't notice until you try to act as if nothing is different. Just like learning language, we all grow up learning how to function in our world. So, in addition to learning how to speak in a new country, it takes time to learn how to act, as well. We began our trip with high expectations, thinking that we would immediately absorb Spanish living. After two weeks, I now realize how mentally exhausting it is to do basic things like open a bank account, figure out a bus route, get your proof of residency card, fill a prescription, and the list goes on. I started off thinking I would write a traditional travel blog of what we see and eat and visit. But, it has become clear that what I need to write is how it feels to be dropped into another culture, with all its mistakes, confusion, and attempts to fit in. Along the way comes the magic of realizing that you can be truly amazed and filled with awe at sights and common day occurrences that seem familiar to those that live here.
Sally and her family moved to Spain for a year from July 2017 - July 2018. They lived in a little town called Puzol, which is about 20km north of Valencia. Her kids, Carson and Celia, attended the American School of Valencia, an International School located in Puzol. The goal for the whole family was to experience another way of life, and learn Spanish.