27 August 2005

No lights, fiestas, and such

Friday night I was already dressed for the Fiesta de Mujeres so I didn't want to exercise and get sweaty, but I wanted to do something. We weren't even leaving for the fiesta until 9:15pm, so I had to fill my evening. I strolled down the highway on ramp that leads from our current apartment to the little town area. A little supermercado down there seemed like a good destination. I'd never been there before so I was poking around looking at the various pastas and flours...when the lights went out. There was the universal, "ahhh" from people in the store. I watched the front of the store from my dark aisle and curiously they seemed to continue doing business. I got my vegetables and pastries and cautiously approached the front. I'm not sure how this works but despite there being no electricity in the rests of the store the cash registers were functioning. Made my purchases and walked home.

At the fiesta de mujeres I discovered that my language skills seem to have atrophied. I've learned many more words and verbs, but I'm paralyzed when it is time to use them other than to order in a restaurant. I'm assured this too will pass. I tried one of the boiled shrimp with the heads on. I pulled off the top third not really sure where the breaking point would be, peeled off the shell and ate the shrimp/tail bit I'm used to - not bad, no sauce though. Ate a piece of cold fried eggplant, some chow mein looking stuff that had something sweet in the veggies, maybe mandarins, ham pizza (lots of that here), crusty bread with tomato rubbed into the soft bits with olive oil and dried sausage slices on top, and tuna empanada - a kind of pot pie crust with something or other usually tuna in it. An American lady brought brownies which were snarfed up very quickly by the dessert deprived Spaniards. I didn't get one. I did understand more of the sermonette. Something about Mary and Jesus feet and having God be part of our entire lives not just part of it. I also had to pray in Spanish with a lady, I couldn't remember her name and butchered it badly in prayer.

Tonight was the last the English outreach services. We ate pizza afterwards...Regina for me (ham, championes, and acietuna-olives, for Dar tuna, acietuna, and red peppers. Got home and discovered a fiesta on the patio next to our apartment. Dar made me look out a window then flipped the lights on so everyone could see me spying on them. I chased him down the hallway calling him names alternately hitting and tickling him. And my weekend isn't even over...

25 August 2005

Site unseen

We picked out an apartment last week. The same day the container rush broke loose. Over here there don't seem to be any "for rent" signs and no apartment finders. There are fincas - realtor agencies that will help you, but for a fee of a months rent. Since we are in this for the short haul, the missionaries were trying to help us avoid the extra fee.

One little area has apartments and someone knows the lady etc. They showed us one apartment on our first visit. It was on the first floor and hadn't been cleaned yet from the last occupants. It seemed a little dingy and dreary, but after more searching nothing else turned up. We're only looking at a few months, but when we went back to talk to her some more it turns out there are other apartments. The beauties of communicating in a language not your own - even with someone fluent with you! We were able to see a 2-bedroom instead of a 3 in a different building. Liked it much better, but that one wasn't available it was only an example. Much lighter and brighter and cleaner. A cheery place all around. It would be another week before we could see the other ones she had coming available. People rent these by the week in the summer to stay by the beach.

A young man who turns out to be the estate agents nephew took us and pointed at the apartment he thought was the one coming available. It was on an upper story which we liked and seemed like it would have a nice view.Not that that is all important but it would get us up out of the danker atmosphere of the bottom floor. This one was on what is called the second floor here but the third floor by US standards. Ground floor is zero. The young man, Juan, is learning English and we are learning Spanish, so this works out well. We have established the words for closet (amario) and swimming pool (piscina) several times between us.

Rather than wait until only days before our move date, we decided to take the apartment without ever looking at it. Crazy? Perhaps. It just seemed like the right gamble. So for several days we had an apartment reserved we had never seen with a move in date of Aug. 30 or Sept. 1. The missionary lady helping us thought we were crazy.
The day we took our deposit by (in cash - they don't do checks here only bank account drafts), they said it happened to be empty. We approached the door marked L on the second floor with some trepidation. Turns out to be clean and bright. The furniture didn't gross us out, some of it was cute with blue plaid slipcovers. Extra beds for guests in tiny guest rooms and dishes in the kitchen, along with the washing machine. The balcony has a partial view of the sea and a big table for eating outside. The "dryer" is on the balcony - a big rack where you hang your clothes to dry.

In the winter, they drop off two space heaters that will be our source of heat. Should be interesting.

We gambled and won it looks like. It will be a relief in some ways to get in our "own" place and unpack a bit more than we have. Though there are some major challenges too such as setting up dsl, buying appliances that thus far were already in the house (an iron, a computer monitor, toaster, etc.) As of today, we are also the proud owners of a Spanish bank account in order to participate in things like telephone service etc. The man who helped us spoke "a bit" of English that was a lot more than our Spanish.

Everyday is an adventure still.

15 August 2005

Back to school

Tomorrow we go back to school after two weeks of working at home. I worked on average six hours a day on the homework that we were assigned, so it wasn't bum around time in all respects. The thing I've really enjoyed is rolling out of bed and throwing on shorts and tank top. I dread having to get dressed everyday like a real person again.

I haven't seen any woman, who was not at the beach, and who is over say 10 years old wearing shorts out and around. They aren't necessarily what we think of as dressy over here but it's not shorts. So for school and in case we go somewhere afterwards I feel like I should wear real clothes.

Part of the problem is that for five years I worked solo in someone's home. My work uniform: shorts, t-shirts, jeans, and sweaters in winter. Then I was unemployed for five months, still jeans and shorts. Then itineration. That was shorts, sweats, jeans, except for Sundays and Wednesdays when I had to have serious paybacks for the easy days. I had to truly dress up for those services not knowing what type of environment I might enounter. Dressing up once or twice a week isn't so bad.

Thankfully, I don't have to be that "dressy" here, but still it's not the slouch wear I am most happy to throw on in the morning. I also feel compelled to fix my hair and wear makeup... not that I mind those things, but everyday?? The challenges of being a girl.

11 August 2005

Adventures in cooking

I was in the mood for Mexican. My favorite. I hunted the strange grocery store for all the ingredients. Even found the cilantro, was very pleased with that.

I chopped tomatoes and made black bean corn salsa, okay so there were no black beans, but kidney beans were a good substitute. Couldn't find any hot peppers, so I bought a can of verde sauce that had hot peppers in it and sprinkled some of that in the salsa. Not quite the zest of fresh summer peppers but it worked okay.

Zapped a can of beans in the food processor to turn them into refried beans (that was a suggestion I got from Doc a long time ago). I spiced them up with garlic, onions, more verde sauce. Pretty good.

I made my favorite homemade cooked sauce. I couldn't get the salt right. It seems like the sea salt I'm working with isn't as salty or something. It was a pretty close proximity to what I was after though.

I didn't have a shred feature on the food processor so I hit the white cheddar cheese from England with the regular blade. It turned the cheese into tiny clumps but it would crumble apart. When I go to buy my own food processor, I will check for a cheese shredder option.

We sat down to eat this burrito/mexican concoction with fresh tortillas made in Espana. About $5 for a dozen or so! And a bag of tortilla cheese chips. The chips were okay, the cheese flavoring didn't really have anything but color to it. I prefer plain chips for a meal like this anyway. They weren't very salty either, but they tasted crunchy with the sauce. The tortillas sadly leave something to be desired. Stiff and papery and not really much of a flavor to them. After all I'd put into the meal, the tortillas just weren't up to snuff. We still enjoyed our dinner though and have left overs for tomorrow. Especially lots of tortillas.

07 August 2005

Estereotipos o stereotypes in English

The last week we have had to do self study at home by ourselves as Profesora G is on vacation. Can I just say that learning a foreign language single handedly with books stinks? Not my forte. I am learning; I understand the two units but there's a lacking sensation in my learning. One week left to go.

So for one of the exercises (ejercicios) I had to read an article about stereotypes of espanoles, Spanish people. They say they have a reputation for being passionate, lazy, a bit disorganized, friendly, and talkative, a bit dramatic. Also noisy, sensual, vitalistic (I'm not sure what that means really and that WAS the English word), and they don't have a capacity to listen for very long. Some of this I can see from being here a month and some I don't know yet. (Has it only been a month?!)

I had to write a tiny essay version for our country. I couldn't think of what our stereotypes would be much. I said, loud, self indulgent, and informal. I said these because in northern Europe you could hear the US visitors a mile away talking loud and demanding something like ice in their drinks and complaining. You don't notice that as much here, not as many US folk or everyone else is loud, I don't know. Informal I said because we don't dress up. That's sort of an outsider look at "us." What are your stereotypes for estadounidenses (US Citizens)? (You're not suppose to say americano/a because that technically covers all of North and South America.)