It's been a while since I've posted a blog because, after being her for five months, life takes over. I suppose it is interesting in itself that I don't feel like rushing to write something after everything that happens here. In fact, things are starting to feel rather ordinary. My sister came to visit in October and I tried to remember how things looked to me when we first got here. Now, that we are acclimating, it's good to keep paying attention to differences before we forget what they are.
One thing I have become immune to are the food choices during the 10:30 meal. In the United States, cafes advertise what sandwiches they have and you order. In Spain, they make bocadillas (a Spanish sandwich on fresh bread, usually with no vegetables) in the morning and display all of them in the window. So, you point out the sandwich you want, they spruce it up a bit or heat it, and it's yours. When they run out, that's it. At first it made me a little nauseated to look at these sandwiches and think that these are the ones I would eat. It reminded me of a fake display sandwich that some restaurants have out. Now, I just pick what I like, still admittedly avoiding sardines and tuna that has been sitting there all day. Conversely, coke machines don't display the drinks that you will drink. We have noticed that drink machines often just show empty cans as a display.
Even though much of the food people eat here is awful for you - primarily made up of coffee and bread, portions help control the amount people eat or drink. In America we are used to getting refills of coke, coffee, bread, and water. In Spain, you only get one. So, if you order a coke, or a coffee, you have to make it last. It's actually a good habit to get into. It keeps one from just guzzling something and then asking for more. And, I would feel embarrassed to ask for a second. Everyone looks at you like you are crazy or obese. So, there is some social pressure not to keep ordering. I have never seen anyone order a second cup of coffee, another diet coke, or another piece of "toast," the main snack here which consists of a half a piece of fresh french bread covered with either olive oil and salt, or squeezed tomatoes. And, you can't order coffees or cokes to go, which forces you to forego walking around with a drink. You must sit down even to get something quickly. In fact, most places don't serve ice. This is something that you would need if you ordered drinks to go, but personally, there is nothing more refreshing than an ice cold coca-cola served in a bottle.
One thing that I really like in Spain are roundabouts. You will almost never find a four-way stop at an intersection. Roundabouts are on the busiest streets and even highways. They keep the traffic moving quickly, but they also are a great help for people that don't know directions very well. If you aren't sure where to turn, you can just keep going around the circle until you figure it out. We still haven't deciphered how to know when to get into the first or second lane, but we can't seem to find a pattern. But, no wrecks so far, fingers crossed.
I keep coming back to food when I talk about differences, but eating is really such a basic need and ritual among people. We have adjusted to having bread with tomatoes, olive oil, and cheese for breakfasts, but it took us a while to quit missing pancakes. In the market, you can't buy syrup or oatmeal, so you just have to let it go. This is easier to swallow given the abundance of chocolate treats of all kinds. Spain definitely has the US beat in this category. Even if you think you eat a lot of chocolate, you haven't seen anything until you reside in Spain. Chocolate is a complete food group. And, it's needed to counteract the local Spanish favorites of pulpa (octopus) and baby suckling pigs.
I think back to the first weeks when we were so excited to encounter a bull being chased in the streets of Puzol. Now we know that they have a bull every Sunday night, as well as fireworks several nights a week. We don't run to the window any more as we hear the booming each night. In fact, we tune it out. There are so many holidays in Spain that it's hard to keep up. Most revolve around Saints' Days, but nothing is too small for fireworks and a bull.
Skinny jeans and leather pants are also a Spanish staple. Most women and girls, no matter the age, wear jeans or leather pants so tight that they must have a secret zipper to get them on. And, Spanish boys wear pants that are also skin tight and narrower at the ankles. My son, Carson, jokes that in the United States boys wear pants that are below their underwear because they are way too big and hang down. In Spain, pants come down past the underwear because they are so small and tight that they are pulled down when people walk. Boys must lie on the bed every morning just to get them on. Carson says that it's hard for some boys to walk quickly down the school halls because their pants are so tight.
I also left the United States drinking one cup of coffee in the morning. Now, it is my go-to beverage because it is the main thing people do during the day, and every meal comes with an after dinner coffee. In fact, one thing that I love is that almost any establishment, from the gas station to the gym has a cafe and a bar. When my daughter has a soccer game or my son a football game at some obscure field in rural Spain, there is still a cafe/bar on site by the field. So, at half-time one can go inside to get a cup of coffee in a cup with a saucer and talk to the other parents. Again, you can't leave with it, so sometimes you miss the start of the second half. This is one thing I know I will miss when I come back to the United Sates and find myself standing in line at a concession stand for a to-go cup and a pretzel.
Sally and her family have moved to Spain for a year starting July 2017. They are living in a little town called Puzol, which is about 12km north of Valencia. Her kids, Carson and Celia, are attending the American School of Valencia, an International School located in Puzol. The goal for the whole family is to experience another way of life, and learn Spanish. This blog tracks their travels and experiences.