October 14, 2011

Things that are Different in Spain

I’ve noticed a lot of differences over here, a lot good, some not as good. I thought it would be interesting to share with ya’ll!

1.      They are very energy conscious over here. There are windmill like structures on the hills everywhere that capture solar energy to be used by the cities. In our hotel, the lights in the hallways are motion-sensored - which is kind of scary when you walk out of our room at night into a pitch black hallway. The lights slowly fade on, so they take a second to really light up. Also, (I think this one is so  smart!) we only have one room key, and it is attached to this long tab thing, and when we are in our room, the we place the tab into this pocket on the wall, which allows our lights to come on! So, when we leave the room, all the lights automatically turn off, and we have to be in the room to use the lights. Also, we never lose the key; we always know where it is! Very smart. Here is a picture of the key in the pocket thing in our room:

2.   The elevators are tiny! They say the limit is 6 people, but I don’t think you could comfortable fit more than four people in one. These are the elevators at the hotel I’m talking about, they are different in every building, but in general they are small. Matt said the elevators at the hotel are huge compared to the ones at the apartment he stayed at before I got here! Oh, and the other thing is the elevators stay open on whatever floor they are on. So if the elevator is already on the first floor, the door stays open until you go inside and push a button. Here is a picture (notice the floor space!):

3.     On most doors, the door handle is in the center of the door, not on the side. I think it’s kind of cute! Here’s a picture of a door from an apartment inside the wall:

4.   A lot of people are always outside walking around, which is really neat. On any given day (not between 2-5, siesta time!), there are lots of people just being outside. The other day I went for a walk in the city, and there is a big open square by the cathedral, and all these kids were rollerblading and playing soccer, with their parents talking. It made me want to buy rollerblades! 

5.     They greet everyone with a kiss on each cheek. I was knew this before I came to Spain, but I can’t ever remember it! Maybe it’s because I worked in an office for two years, but I keep sticking out my hand to shake hands when I meet people, and they lean in for a kiss, and it’s just awkward. But I’m getting better! Also, according to one of Matt’s teammates from Portugal (who speaks Portuguese, Spanish, English and Dutch, by the way – wow) the greeting depends on what country you are in. In some countries, its 3 kisses on the cheek, in some it is one kiss, in some no kisses and a handshake.  

6.     In Spain (at least in central Spain, where we are – not on the coast) they eat a lot of meat. You would have a tough time being a vegetarian over here. Pig, Lamb, Roast Beef, Ham, everything. I went about 4 days of my dinner being some slices of meat, fries on the side, and some bread. Finally I got some vegetables and fruit included! Of course, we are just eating at the hotel restaurant, but it’s a really nice restaurant, so I assume this is typical. Most of the food I’ve had though is really good. 

Obviously there are a lot more differences, but from my week and a half here, these are the most interesting ones I could think of.

Catching up – Part 2

My first couple days in Spain, I started thinking “This is going to be harder than I thought.” I think it mostly had to do with knowing no Spanish and having no idea where I was. The first day I only quickly drove through Avila with FJ, then spent the rest of the day at the gym and the hotel. When Matt and I ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, the food was really different (looking back, I think I had my worst 2 meals the first 2 days I was here). The second day I slept in at the hotel while Matt went to shoot-around, then I went to his game, which was really fun, but everyone was speaking Spanish and I was scared to talk to anyone. All I could say is “Hola, Como Estas?” and that’s it. Not a very exciting conversation. Obviously I was so excited to see Matt, and so happy I already was getting to watch a game, but I was thinking it was going to be a tough year of eating weird food, not talking to anyone, and being by myself a lot.

But…the next day (Sunday) Matt had the whole day off and we went for a walk around the city. It is so beautiful here! We walked inside the wall and saw all the houses and apartments that are so cute and old fashioned, we saw the famous cathedral, we ate at Burger King, went shopping in some really cute shops, and even found a public library that had an “English” section with some books we had heard of! I think it just made me feel better to know a little more about my surroundings. The next day I walked the same path we had taken on Sunday and sat outside the wall on some rocks and read my Nook – it was so nice to sit outside and read surrounded by a beautiful place! (P.S. Mama - the Nook was the best gift! I use it all the time!)While I was reading, a Polish visitor asked me if I spoke English, and asked me to take his picture by the wall. It was nice to speak English for a minute, and he was the first of many people that I have met who are touring Avila (I didn’t realize it was such a tourist city)! This is where I sat to read:

Monday and Tuesday are Matt’s busiest days, where he is gone almost all day at practice – usually 9:30 weights and practice and he isn’t back until about 3, then he takes a nap, then another night practice really late, 8:30 to 11:30. They are on a really tough schedule! I was hoping once the season started it would slow down, which it has a little, he was on that schedule every day, but now they only have one practice on Wednesday  - Friday. It’s so funny though, they have to do a lot of community events, like visit schools and talk to the kids, they had to go to church for the Saint Teresa festival the other day, today they have to be present at a Saint Teresa ceremony and each put a flower on her statue (I get to go to this one). They are pretty involved in the community, which is pretty cool because in return they have a lot of fans at their games.
At dinner at the hotel I’ve been practicing my Spanish with the waiters, waitresses and Matt, which has helped a lot! One night he only spoke Spanish to me at dinner and made me figure it out – I learned a lot. I told him whenever he gets tired of me talking to much, just tell me we have to speak in Spanish only…haha because I only know about 20 words. But I am learning! I really like it a lot here, and I think once I learn more of the language and once we get our apartment I’ll like it that much more.

Yes, by the way, we are still living at the hotel. The hotel is really nice though, so we don’t mind! The restaurant is right downstairs, they clean our room every day, and now they are also doing our laundry for us! So I really don’t have anything to do! The only bad thing is the restaurant has certain hours, so we get hungry sometimes and have no way to get food if its too late at night (the hotel is a decent walk to the city). Also its getting kind of tough living out of a suitcase for this long, there isn’t a dresser or anything in our room, so all my clothes are wrinkled and I don’t know where anything is. But that’s ok! Our apartment will most likely be on a different side of the city from where the hotel is, so I’m trying to spend some time outside and get to know this side of the city, then it will be kind of neat when we move to another area.

October 11, 2011

Catching Up (Part 1)

I was so excited about having a blog and a place to write about Spain, and I have only updated one time since I've been in Spain! Oops. And it's not like I can use being too busy as an excuse.

I wanted to back track and tell you all about my first few days over here. Let's start with the plane ride. First, I always get excited about traveling. I love flying, I love road trips, etc. I just don't mind sitting somewhere and reading a book and some magazines and hanging out with friends or family. To begin with, it is hard to pack for 9 months, and I was trying to only check 2 bags, and both had to be under 50 lbs, so I put everything heavy into my rolling carry-on bag. Great idea, right? Until I had to lift it above my head on the plane to get it to fit into a storage bin. Luckily they put my bag under the plane on the flight from Birmingham to Miami, but on the Miami to Madrid flight I had to deal with it myself. And no one helped me! I guess I'm too used to having Matt around who lifts anything heavy for me. I had to wait for a lot of people to go past me (I didn't want to hold up the line), so everyone in my area is already seated, and I was walking around trying to find a place my bag would fit, and trying to pick it up on my own (I'm pretty sure it was well over 50 lbs). Everyone was just staring at me! Finally one lady suggested I get a flight attendant to help, which I did, and the two of us managed to find a place to put the bag and lifted it into the overhead bin. So I felt pretty awkward (also, it seemed that everyone on the flight was from Spain and spoke Spanish, so in case I didn't stand out enough with the suitcase incident, I am the only one with blonde hair and I don't speak any Spanish). The guy next to me was from Barcelona, and spoke a little English, enough to say hi but that was about it. The plane was 2 seats, 3 seats in the middle, then 2 seats on the other side, and I was in the 2 seats with the guy from Barcelona.

Right after we take off and the seat belt lights go off, the man sitting beside me but across the aisle (in the 3 seats) gets up out of his seat -- and falls down - face to the ground - in the aisle! I noticed him when he got on the plane because he was a really large man, and was acting a little strange, kind of jumpy, but once he sat down he fell asleep immediately - chin to his chest snoring asleep. So he falls down, and on the way down grabs the lady's arm behind him and pulls the arm of her sweater down with him, but it was really weird, he just continued to lie on the ground with his hand in the air still holding the lady's sweater. So all the men around me jump up and gather around him, and the flight attendants come running and everyone is freaking out (of course we are all thinking terrorists). Well in my opinion I think he probably had too much to drink, or the other possibility is maybe he was sick? I am not sure. But the flight attendants got the other 2 people sitting next to him to move, gave him some water and crackers, and he stretched out across all 3 seats and slept the rest of the flight....with his feet across the aisle almost on me and snoring and coughing very loud the whole night. Other than that my flight was really smooth! Haha, quite an incident.

I thought the Madrid airport looked like Ikea - very fresh and modern with clear walls and very clean. Luckily most of the signs were also in English. Customs was a joke! I will be curious to see what customs is like coming back to the US. The lady looked at my passport picture, looked at me, stamped my passport and gave it back to me. She hardly had time to look at my name or where I was from or anything! She didn't ask me any questions or even speak to me. After getting my passport back, I went to get my bags and there were these little carts you could use if you had lots of bags or heavy bags - so I got one. And I couldn't make it go. Everyone around me was using them and mine wouldn't roll! So I tried a few different carts and realized it was me, not my cart, looked at the picture and watched someone else and finally got the brake to let up. That was my first experience feeling like a tourist. I got my bags and waited for a few minutes, just when I was starting to feel nervous about not finding FJ, he showed up. (Matt's practice got changed and he couldn't come to the airport, so FJ, one of his agents, was going to pick me up). We got to the car and drove to Avila, FJ speaks great English and was really nice, so that was great. When we got to Avila we ate breakfast at an "American Restaurant" called Malibu BBQ. I thought it was funny because under the Malibu BBQ sign was the logo of a surfer, but then all over the restaurant there were New York signs, which has nothing to do with Malibu. It made me wonder how many "foreign" restaurants we have in America where we get the country wrong. Anyway, so even though it was an American restaurant, I had Spanish food, because I didn't know what to order so I just got what FJ got, which was churros (kind of like a funnel cake without the sugar - fried bread/flour) dipped in hot milk. But I got chocolate in my milk so it tasted more like hot chocolate. Not too adventurous for my first taste of Spanish food. FJ kept laughing at me though, saying that most Americans get a ham sandwich or something their first meal, and here I was eating churros (I didn't really get why this was funny...).

So then he drove me to the gym and I got to see the rest of Matt's practice! I was really excited to see him so soon, I thought I would have to wait until he was finished with practice. I had this romantic picture in my head of seeing him for the first time in five weeks at the airport, and I would run toward him, and he would pick me up, and I would cry prettily...haha so my first time to see him he was in the middle of practice and smiled at me but couldn't come say hi. Then he ran up in the stands after practice but was really sweaty so we just kind of hugged. haha, so not picturesque but I was so happy to see him! Luckily he had the rest of the day off so we got to see each other a lot and he got to show me around the city.

I think this has been long enough, I'll add a catching up part 2 later. :)

October 5, 2011

My Birthday Dinner

Yesterday was one of Matt's really busy days, where he had practice pretty much all day long, so we are celebrating my birthday today (only one practice - yay!). Last night I went down stairs to the restaurant to eat dinner (while Matt was at practice), and I was a little sad about eating by myself on my birthday, but I figured it was better than eating by myself somewhere in America, at least here I didn't know anyone or speak the language, so I don't really care as much what people think about me (yet).

I was also nervous about eating alone because I don't speak any Spanish! But Matt and I have eaten at this restaurant several times, and I know several of the waiters, and usually they just bring us whatever food Matt gets without us ordering (his food is provided by the team, and they usually just bring me a plate of the same thing). I like not ordering, because I wouldn't know what to order in the first place. So I go downstairs last night, and of course there is a waiter that I haven't met yet. So I smile and point to myself and say "solo" which means only (me). He sits me at our usual table, so at least he knows who I am. (Another thing - Matt and I aren't really sure if we are being charged for my food or not...the hotel is a sponsor of the team, and we haven't seen a bill yet, but they may be billing it to the room...but we aren't paying for the room....anyway). I didn't bring any Euros with me so I rub my fingers together (in a money gesture) and point to my room key (I think I'm asking "Can you charge it to the room?"), but the waiter says something in Spanish and makes a gesture like "Don't worry about it" - so maybe we aren't being charged for my food. Who knows.

Anyway, to the good part - the waiter brings me a menu (which luckily has English on it also), but before I order he brings out a plate of fancy bread and something else. I point to Dessert on the menu, asking if that is what he brought me, but he points to Appetizer. So I tried it - the middle was a delicious caramelized apple like tastes, but I have no idea what was on the outside and it wasn't very good...looked like meat? Not sure. (Luckily Matt had told me the day before that in a restaurant it was not rude to not eat all your food, so I didn't eat the meat part). Then I try to gesture to ask the waiter what entree he would recommend (none are familiar to me, roasted pig suckling, lamb something, no normal food - it's a fancy restaurant by the way). We settle on "beef steak", which turned out to be just regular steak and was so good. The waiter brings out a plate of the steak and fries, then adds a salad which was nice. Then he comes out with some wine, and asks if I would like some, but I say no because I figure it would be expensive. He says a lot of stuff in Spanish then pours me some anyway! Haha. At this point he's bringing me so much food to try I assume we aren't paying, at least not for all of it. It was red wine, which I haven't liked in the past, but this is my first wine in Europe, and it was delicious! It was so good, especially for red wine. So then he brings me ANOTHER plate (my 6th plate of food sitting in front of me!) of this fancy looking ham that Matt likes. I wish Matt had been there to help me eat everything! At this point I'm starting to feel bad because there is no way I can eat all this! It was so much food! It was so sweet of him to bring me all the different food to try and the wine, and he didn't even know it was my birthday. So I did my best to make a dent in as much of the food as possible, then he brought be not one but two yogurts for dessert! It made me feel so special to have such a nice dinner on my birthday, I just counted it as Jesus taking care of me :).

Anyway, so it was a great dinner, but not long after I go back up to the room Matt comes back from practice and he got elbowed in the eye and had to get 2 stitches! They were going to give him 3, but they said for the 3rd one they would have to shave off his eyebrow, so they just gave him 2 and told him to be careful - haha I'm glad they didn't shave his eyebrow! So he is at practice now but sitting out for a day so he won't start bleeding again. After his practice we are going shopping for my birthday, so I'm excited to go out and see a different part of the city. I want to backtrack and write about my flight and being over here, I will get to that eventually! I will sum it up by saying 1. I'm so happy to finally be with Matt again and 2. I already miss the states a lot!