Ilivetolearn's Blog

October 6, 2005

first four weeks in Spain

Filed under: food/groceries,sewing/knitting,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 12:03 pm

Can it only be a little more than a month that we’ve been here? It feels like home, thanks to many trips to Ikea for furnishings and some diligent packing in August. Having heard many horror stories from families who shipped belongings from afar, I’m glad we carried as much as we did…every kilo to which we were entitled and a few more. Our house is near the end of a one-way street which fortunately is not a shortcut to anywhere; there is so little traffic we generally walk down the middle of the road coming and going to school or shops. The only noise is the neighborhood dogs. There is intermittent barking during the day and a lot in the evenings.

I’m still not used to all the walls and gates…each house is surrounded by waist-high walls topped by fences that are completely camouflaged by ivy or honeysuckle or (in our case) green plastic “branches” threaded through the wires. All one can see from the street level is the second story windows, most of which are closed and shuttered all day. This adds to the feeling that the neighborhood is deserted…and I think it really is a lot of the time. Spaniards work hard and spend a lot of time in restaurants and cafes and not that much at home. We do have a very nice family right next door (though we don’t know the people with whom we share a wall), which consists of a mom and dad and two girls in their 20’s. The older girl is a law student and just left for a year in Berlin. The younger one, Ali, is home and speaks good English. The dad is Rafa and has taken it upon himself to get Bill 1) out bicycling in the Casa de Campo, a huge park between here and the city, and 2) speaking Spanish. The mom’s name is Basque and sounds a whole lot like “Nothing,” which tickles the girls no end.

Our typical day starts at about 7 for Bill, who has been getting up early to study Spanish, and 8 or so for the rest of us. We eat cereal or bagels (which we just found at Taste of America, our favorite store selling foods we are homesick for) and then I walk Margo and Evan to the American School while Bill drives Phoebe to the Study Center. ASM starts at the civilized hour of 9 and the Study Center at 9:15. At 9:30 Monday through Friday our teacher comes to the house and gives me a 90-minute lesson and then Bill a 90-minute lesson. Jose Luis is good, speaks just enough English to translate things that are too difficult to explain en espanol, and makes us laugh while struggling with preterito imperfecto and all the dozens of other tenses.

Then lunch and an errand or two, before picking up the kids. This week they all began after-school activities; Margo is on the gymnastics team, which practices twice a week, and Evan is on the basketball team (ditto for practices), and Phoebe goes to knitting on Tues. and hip-hop on Thurs. Margo will also be a Brownie…organizational meeting this Friday. Don’t know whether there is a Cadet troop for Phoebe.

We’ve adopted the Spanish dinner hour…9 or 9:30, which really isn’t all that much later than we used to eat at home. After a fruitless search for a Weber (there was one available in a garden supply store but too expensive), Bill constructed a grill with some bricks I found next to a Dumpster on one of my walks home from school. So we light up the local charcoal–strange irregular pieces that clink like glass when they hit each other–and stick some chicken or beef or vegetables on the fire. So far the fish in the markets have been intimidating; unfamiliar species we’re not sure what to do with. Our electric cooktop and combination microwave/convection oven are quirky to say the least…each has the disconcerting tendency to turn itself off at random intervals. But we’ve managed to produce some decent potato dishes and soups and sauces. The tomatoes are wonderful.

Next entry…weekends!


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