Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Signs of Spring

Well, I thought it might never happen (can't winter be depressing in its will to freeze you down to your soul?), but it's here!  Spring has definitely sprung in Ronda, and I can't get enough!

+Flowering tress, everywhere!  And the lovely scents that come with them.  I particularly enjoy that here in southern Spain they go hand in hand with the palm trees (even in mountainous Ronda).
+Considerably fewer confused looks if I choose nude tights with shorts and no jacket
+Light & Day, Polyphonic style, even a little remains while watching the 9 o'clock news before dinner
+No more hoodies (or hat/scarf/gloves/three extra blankets) for sleeping
+More American Easter candy than I could possibly ever know what to do with, courtesy of the greatest mom in the world (and, I'm convinced, beyond).
+Remembering what it feels like to sweat a little (seriously, after freezing for 5 months straight, I guess I'd forgotten a little bit).
+The newly arrived presence of outdoor seating at all the little bars and cafes
+A somewhat stronger pull coming from the direction of the beautiful Mediterranean coast
+Toenail polish feels more necessary
+Windows open
+The return of a long-missed friend, allergies (I'm realizing I'm definitely not in a beach town like last year, but still nothing like the itchy, red-eyed, sneezy mess I normally turn into when seasons begin to change)
+Flip-flops instead of slippers for hanging around the house (oh how I miss carpet!)
+Laundry dries roughly 12 times faster

I must note, though, this post has been on my mind for a week or so now with the widely-approved arrival of this beautiful season, but as I walked home this evening I noticed the very trees pictured here are already losing their flowers and turning to big bursts of lovely greens... Spring seems to be getting shorter each year, and summer is already hinting at its plans for an early arrival...  How can it possibly be time?

For now, enjoying a couple more sunny Spain days before heading to Scotland with friends for part of Semana Santa with our very own Scottish tour guide.  Stories and photos to follow, I'm sure!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Life is good.

I think one of the main reasons I've slacked on the blogging this time around (other than pure laziness/forgetfulness) is that this school year got off to a somewhat rocky start.  That's probably not the correct word; I mean to say it's been a bit off balance.  A bit roller coastery.  Like any year in the life of a normal, complicated human being, there have been ups and downs.  Only this time the downs seemed more important or at least easier to dwell upon than usual.  Debbie Downer, turn that frown upside down; I know.  And so that's what I've done.  Because seriously, I've got it pretty great.  I'm living my dream of living in a foreign country, speaking Spanish on a daily basis, and meeting all sorts of new people.  So instead of constantly comparing everything that happens here in Ronda to what happened in Almería (this, I've come to realize, is the basis for much of the negativity, your typical "grass is (was) greener" stuff), I'm letting myself accept this is a completely different year with an almost wholly new and different situation.  I had a really great time in Almería, naturally; it was my first time living long-term outside the comfort of Missouri.  I had two American roommates who were consistently helpful in both providing doses of home and venturing out to try all things southern Spain.  My school was relatively new and small, so getting to know all my elementary kids on a personal level was a snap.  Tapas were cheap and came with a beverage, the beach was a twenty-minute walk from my house, and we had consistent WiFi in the apartment.  To bridge from that to a summer of four months back home to not knowing anyone all over again in (very quickly) COLD, tiny Ronda and living alone for the first time... it was a trying transition, to say the least.  There's also the fact I'm gone most weekends, so I didn't immediately build up any sort of comfortable life in this new city.

All that said, I think I've made the transition.  I've been here since late October, but I'm okay with the fact that I'm just now sensing some kind of normalcy in Round Two.  I love the traveling I get to do Thurs-Sun.  And to compensate being gone so much, I've exited my silly little comfort zone to find things to do and people to see weekdays after work.  I give private English classes to a few fellow teachers, I have a Bible study Tuesday evenings, and I generally see my American friends who are also here in Ronda at least once a week.  I've also embraced Ronda's size (really not that small, with around 35,000) because it means I see a handful of people I know every time I leave my house.  I like short conversations and friendly "Hellos" at the grocery store or local cafe.  I love hearing "Teacher! Hi!" while on my way to buy new shoes.  It's a good feeling, and with the recently arrived Spring weather, hopefully I'll be enjoying even more of it.

Spain's also been an up and down adventure in general, both years.  Lately, though, it's showing me I should just swallow my pride and accept that although slow and lacking in some areas, it has a lot to offer.  Small reminders of why I love this country - its food, its people, the Mediterranean and all that comes with it - are abundant.  Case in point: my contact lenses just aren't lasting as long as they should, and my "one year supply" certainly isn't going to get me back to the States without switching permanently to my glasses.  I've been on the prowl for all sorts of new and improved contact solution to try and keep my poor tired eyes from needing new lenses so often.  At this point, normally I'd call home, see what my optometrist could do, and wait for new lenses to arrive.  For whatever reason, I decided instead to try an optician's here.  I took a suggestion from a coworker (there are hundreds, it seems!) and found it after leaving work today (I got out an hour early because my fifth graders had a test, love my life).  This is basically how it went:

"Hi, I was wondering if I could get an appointment..."
"For an eye exam?" (Here there was some confusion as I quickly discovered I need to brush up on more technical vocabulary.)
"Oh, we're not too busy, so no appointment needed.  Just go upstairs and have a seat."
I proceeded upstairs and waited maybe 15 minutes for the doctor to finish with the two people in front of me.  While I waited, he brought out a basket of sweets in case I wanted one while waiting.  They were like strawberry taffy, and they were delicious.
The doctor called me into his office, and I explained my general situation.  He checked my eyes and adjusted my prescription (generally the same as any experience in the States except one of his machines, I swear, magically converted a huge gray blur into a lovely picture of an open road in the countryside).  Additionally, the "Read the lowest line you can clearly see" part went more like this:
"Can you see the top line?"
"The middle line?"
"And the last line, too?"
"Okay, great.  Other eye."
I guess the honor system applies with eye doctors, too.  Then we were finished.  It was at this point I realized I had forgotten to ask how much an eye exam even cost.  He looked at me a little funny when I asked.  It's free.  Naturally.  Then he explained my contact lens options and prices.  We agreed on monthly and he then sent me downstairs, 3-month contact supply and brand new B&L cleaning solution in hand, to pay for my items.
So to recap: eye exam, contacts, contact solution, glasses adjustment, 45-minute convenient/walk-in visit -- 42 Euros.

And thank you, Spain.  And as if that and the week's worth of sunshine weren't enough, I had notices in my mailbox when I got home telling me two very important packages had arrived and could be picked up tomorrow!  It never ceases to amaze me how big God is and how much He takes care of things, big and small, whatever country or continent I might be in at the time.  Life is good here in Ronda, Spain!

I'm back...

(Feb. 1, 2011) 

...And I've been this side of the ocean  for my second round a whole 3 months already.  I talk too much about time flying, so I'll just skip it for now.  This time I'm in Ronda, and in bus schedule terms that puts me about four and a half hours from where I was in Almeria last year.

It's been interesting, to say the least.

As part of my newly "normal" Spanish life, I sometimes see commercials here and have to wonder if they exist in an English version in the States.  The most recent is one that warms my heart every time I see it.  The first time I saw the kids sitting in some auditorium singing along with the acoustic guitarist about being free and seeing images comparing the number of bad things in the world to the good (think "for every war tank built, __ teddy bears are made" etc.), I couldn't help but wonder what caring organization put the spot together.  Naturally, it gets to the end and it's for Coca Cola.  But with the message "hay razones para creer en un mundo mejor," I can't get myself to care that it's from a huge, sugar-pushing, billion-dollar-making company; the message is too good and too important.  And true.  There ARE reasons to believe in a better world.  What would we possibly do if there weren't?

A little taste of Ronda...