A view of the old roman bridge from the river on my walk
Friday we went to pick up bank cards. Justin asked for our cards to be sent to the bank closest to us, but he received a text from the bank saying the cards had been sent to a branch outside of town. It’s not a big deal to go outside of town if you have a car. But when you’re relying on public transportation, that changes your strategy. So we got up early, got a taxi and rode the 20 or so minutes outside of town to the address provided. Only, there was nothing there. Justin realized the address we received from the bank was incorrect. They made an error and we needed the main office. Which is where we wanted our cards sent in the first place. Because that’s the office closest to us (a 5 minute walk from our apartment). So, we explained this to the taxi driver, said sorry for the mix-up, and 15 euros later, were right back where we started. The best part was when the taxi driver said, “No te preocupes, por esto es Espana.” Or “Don’t worry about it, this is Spain.”
This is Spain. Ha!
We learn new things about this place every day. Some stuff is fascinating, and other things frustrate the heck out of us. Some days we say “wow, how amazing is that!” and other days say “what?!? why?”
This is living outside your passport country. Some days you think ‘wow I’m so lucky to live in this place,’ and other days you’re like ‘why did I come here again?’ It’s helpful to know that these bipolar feelings are NORMAL and all part of the ebb and flow of cross-cultural assimilation. We have been living in Spain 4 months now, not naive to think we’re done making adjustments, but overall, settling into our life here.
You may wonder what living in Spain, or any other country for that matter, looks like for two Americans? In short, it’s creating a healthy blend of new culture stuff while attempting to keep a few comforts from your home culture. In my experience, you need both.
Some things that are still “new” to us. Meal times! The Spanish eat a very lite breakfast, a lite snack a couple hours later, followed by their main meal at 2 or 3. “Cenar” or dinner isn’t until after 9. While we’ve been following this pattern, I think my body is still adjusting. I get up each day around 7:30, have my coffee and breakfast, do some reading & studying, then get ready for the day. We are at language school from 10-2, with a short break in the middle. We get home around 2:30 and by the time our meal is prepared, it’s 3 o’clock. I’ve gotten better at preparing snacks to take, but some days I still forget. It’s hard not be starving by the time we eat again at 3! And there have to be others like me, where after you eat a large meal, you feel tired or lethargic. I’ve been trying to force myself to walk after our meal, and not lay down, which is what the Spanish do. Siesta!
As for the food, I’d say we’ve done well at trying new things. We like Spanish food, as the fare is simple, hearty, and prepared with quality ingredients. They love fresh fish and pork. Oh the pork. Those black-hoofed, acorn-fed, black Iberian pigs are the heart and soul of Spanish cuisine. It’s quite a tasty treat, and we enjoy sandwiches, varieties of cheeses and meats, and traditional dishes like paella, cocido madrileño and tapas. But at times, it’s important to make our comfort foods. I make tacos about once a week because Justin LOVES him some tacos. I make pancakes on Saturday mornings, because breakfast foods are the bomb. And when I need a little pick-me-up I enjoy baking my favorite batch of cookies or scones.
From L-R: Tapas- small portions of appetizer type foods, Cocido Madrileno- stew of chickpeas, chorizo, & vegetables, Paella- saffron rice with shellfish & veggies, and Iberian ham.
We love our walk-able city. We literally walk everywhere, there’s no need to take a bus. it takes 30 minutes round trip to the city center for language classes, and I’ll try to get in at least another mile or two later in the day. The farthest I have to walk for a store is 20 minutes. The hypermarket is like Walmart, only a European version- so not as sketchy, and I can find everything I need in one place. Although, I’m walking with items on the way back, so it limits what I buy in one trip. My handy cart can carry about a week’s worth of groceries. It’s kind of like a stroller, but for your groceries or stuff! Sometimes I miss having a car because it would be easier to drive to the parking lot and load whatever we need in the trunk. But I’m getting used to making more frequent trips and enjoying the time spent walking solo- Justin hates shopping! When I don’t have the stamina for a long walk or a big supermarket, there are plenty of little neighborhood markets within 5 minutes of our place.
Europe is different from the U.S. when it comes to cars and driving. Most people prefer to live in cities where they can walk or bike. And if they have a car, they only use it to go to the other side of town or outside of town. In general, people walk their kids to school, to the store, and to restaurants or cafes to meet friends. The pace of life here is different. We will eventually get a car, when we move to the smaller village. It’ll be necessary for our sanity to have a way to get out and about, to travel to bigger towns when we need more options for food and supplies, and to the airport when people need picked-up. Now, the crisp, cool air invites us outside, and we enjoy giving our bodies more excuses to move.
Sometimes you need to leave the sidewalks and let your feet touch the earth
We love our apartment, and using it as a space to welcome people. Justin says he enjoys watching me play hostess. For example, last night he invited his friend Miguel Angel (Michealangelo!!- how awesome is that name?!) over. He’s a fun, older Spanish guy who helps Justin with Spanish. The invitation was for coffee, but he came in to find lots of snack & beverage options and I think he was a little surprised. Justin tried to explain the concept of “southern hospitality” in broken Spanish, and we all had a good laugh. We’re grateful for this homey, little, inviting place, where people feel wanted. Even though it’s a 1 bedroom apartment, we have enough space & a dining table on our terrace, so we’ve had as many as 10 over at a time. We strive to host a meal a week, and share what’s been given to us. It’s also kind of a game for us to see how many nationalities we can have in our home. So far: Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, Egyptian, English, American, Russian, & Brazilian. That means there’s a wild array of beliefs, world-views, and orientations. Our ministry right now is to the people God brings our way, and we love all the wondrous variety and color!
For the next 2.5 months our “job” continues to be exclusively learning Spanish. After that, when we move, we’ll add other things to our plate, and still continue with some kind of language builder. We’re thankful for the experiences and challenges of living cross-culturally up til now, and look forward to more of what God has in store for us this year.
some cheerful neighborhood art near our street