Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Relax, it's Spanish time

Today is October 24th which means I have officially been in Spain one full month!  It certain ways, it feels like time has flown by and in other ways, I feel like I've been here a lot longer.  One of the biggest changes I've had to make is to what I call "Spanish Time."  This not only includes activities at different times of the day, but also the way they view time here in Almería.

I am going to start by explaining the eating schedule here.  My roommates have explained to me that it is normal to eat five meals a day (I still just stick to three).  The first meal is desayuno (breakfast), which you eat whenever you wake up.  Breakfast is never a huge meal; there are no pancakes, waffles, etc.  Usually my roommates just eat toast or cereal or yogurt, something small.  Then, at noon they have a snack (almuerzo).  This is not lunch, it's just something to hold them over until ciesta (2pm) when they actually have lunch.  Usually this second meal is a sandwich or pastry of some sort (I personally have a piece of fruit and almonds).  Finally, between 2pm and 4pm when the students get home from school and adults home from work, the Spaniards have comida (lunch).  This is always the biggest meal of the day and usually includes bread, potatoes and some kind of meat or fish.  Then they have another snack-like mealed called Merienda around 5 or 6pm.  Usually this is a sweet bread, sandwich and warm milk or tea.  Finally, the have cena (dinner), between 9-11pm.  Dinner usually is a smaller meal, more like what Americans eat for lunch: soup, salad, sandwich or eggs and toast.  I thought it would been hard to switch to this eating schedule, but its works so much better with my work day.  I don't ever have to worry about bringing a bag lunch because I have time to cook lunch once I get home.  Also, because it's also the culture, about twice a week or so, I replace dinner with wine and tapas, but I'm planning on dedicating an entire post to food in the future.

The other big difference is the way the Spaniards view time.  In the United States, we are extremely prompt and the phrase "time is money" is often extremely relevant.  Here in Spain (and especially southern Spain where I am), everyone is more relaxed about time.  Here are a few examples
  • One day, there was a problem with my bus, and I got to school 40 minutes late, and my teachers were not mad nor worried about where I was nor how late I was.
  • One more than one occasion, my bus driver hasn't even been at the bus when it is scheduled to leave.  The bus drivers often have a coffee between their bus routes, and if they are five-ten minutes late for their departure, no big deal
  • My favorite tapas bar here opens at 8pm everynight; but, when they say 8pm they really mean 8:30 because both times I have gone right at 8pm to get tapas, they were still setting up and in absolutely no hurry to set the tables and open on time.
  • Recess at my school is only supposed to last 30 minutes, yet I have seen the teacher's let it go for 40-45 minutes some days.
  • Cabo de Gata
  • Meals at restaurants and getting a coffee with a friend at a cafe last about twice as long as they do in the US.  People are never in a rush to eat a meal or drink coffee. In fact, I have yet to find somewhere that I can get coffee to go (with the exception of McDonalds).  They eat/drink slowly and enjoy the experience.
Finally, Spain is a country that naturally stays up late.  It is normal to see kids wondering the streets on a weeknight all the way up until midnight!  Although that might seem late to us, that could be just an hour or play time after dinner for them.  The nightlife here is also extremely late.  A Friday night consists of tapas or pre-drinks around 10-12, heading into town around 3am, and staying out dancing until 6-7am.  Although this is fun, it has really taken a toll on my Saturday and Sunday mornings; I simply sleep the day away so I don't think I will be going out every Friday and Saturday here.  It's just to hard for me!

Although I am still adjusting, I really do love the life style here.  It has taught me many things including patience, relaxation and appreciation for mealtime. 

Jazz Concert outside the Alcazaba
Some other highlights of my past week including going to a jazz concert near the Alcazaba (the most famous landmark in Almeria, which I still have yet to visit!), visiting the natural park Cabo de Gata (see above), which had one of the most spectacular beaches I've ever seen, and scheduling my first tutoring lessons (I went from having zero to having six in one week, my first lesson is tomorrow).  I am also planning my first few trips coming up!  Madrid this weekend and Sevilla the next, can't wait to see a little more of Spain!

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