|Whoa! That's a long way down!|
As many of you know, my husband just finished up Physician Assistant (PA) school in December. He then spent five weeks in Officer Development School (ODS) in Newport, Rhode Island, where he got to experience the fun of 4:00 am (or earlier) wake-up calls, having four impacted wisdom teeth removed, standing at attention with officers screaming in his face, shoveling snow during blizzards, swimming, filling out a mountain of forms, running, ironing uniforms, learning all the words to "Anchors Away," and doing push-ups until he couldn't push-up no mo.' You know, generally having all sorts of fun.
While he was off learning the ways of the Navy, I was spending some quality time with my family. I also managed to squeeze in a few creative projects, despite the fact that I was living out of two suitcases (and still am). I'll be sharing those projects with you here soon.
Once Josh returned from ODS, we had a couple of weeks to spend time with family and friends and say our goodbyes, then it was time to gather our suitcases and dog carrier (with Harvey in it, of course) and head off to the airport. Our flight was overnight, so we caught our first glimpse of Spain during a beautiful sunrise....
Once we landed, picked up our stuff, and cleared customs, we went outside and were met by our friendly and helpful sponsors. Incidentally, I can't say enough good things about the military's sponsorship program for people who are PCSing (that's military lingo for Permanent Change of Station, in other words, moving). Our sponsor couple, who have been fantastic, met us at the airport, and took us and all of our luggage to our temporary quarters on the Naval Base in Rota. They had arranged for us to stay in an empty house on base, which they filled with loaner furniture from the Navy and some thoughtful extra touches.
Thus we began an incredibly long day, not having slept much on the plane and having lost six hours to boot. Oh and did I mention that this was a week AFTER the American "spring forward" and four days BEFORE the Spanish "spring forward," so we got to throw two extra lost hours into the mix of some extreme jet lag! With the assistance of some strong and delicious cafe con leche (coffee snobs, visit Spain!), we staggered through the check-in process, grocery shopping, picking up our car which had been shipped over weeks earlier, and I can't remember what else... We managed to sneak in some showers and a short nap later in the afternoon (which were glorious), then we headed out for an authentic Spanish dinner with our sponsors.
Tapas, small plates of savory dishes - kind of like appetizers in the States, are a big thing here. We started off sharing a few different tapas. Those are some delicious roasted peppers with oil and rock salt on the left, in the middle is a baked cheese covered in a marinara-like sauce which went on crispy bread (delicious!), and of course, a selection of olives. We also shared a plate of roasted diced potatoes covered in a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce which were very tasty too. I tried some garlic chicken for my entree, and Josh had a pork kebab. I wish I had all of the Spanish names of these dishes to share with you, along with the name of the restaurant, but at this point I was completely exhausted and lucky to get my fork in my mouth and not my eyeball, so a photo will have to suffice. At any rate, it was a great introduction to traditional Spanish cuisine!
The following week we went through an orientation class which introduced us to various aspects of Navy life, the base, and Spanish culture. In the midst of that, we rushed to and fro, getting forms signed, studying for and passing our Spanish driving tests, getting new IDs, learning our way around the base, and trying to brush off the college Spanish that's lingering somewhere in my mind.
Our first two weekends have included day trips to Arcos de la Frontera, Ronda, and Cadiz (the topic of some future posts), and we celebrated Easter Sunday by visiting the church service at the base chapel and enjoying a delicious meal at our sponsors' home. We've also used our free time to do some house-hunting. While we were looking in Chipiona, we met a very nice Spanish couple who gave us a tour of their town, took us to dinner, introduced us to a local artist, Ceballos, and made us feel so welcome here.
The locals have been very warm, friendly, and patient with our very elementary Spanish, and I am constantly thankful for the many people who have reached out to us and helped us as we adapt to living in a very foreign culture.
The past week has been primarily devoted to house-hunting. We are in the process of deciding whether to live on base or in one of the three small towns nearby. Each option has pros as well as cons. I could go on and on about the advantages and disadvantages of all of the options, but to keep things brief, I'll put it this way:
Living on base would be easy, hassle-free, safe, predictable, and kind of boring. The houses and streets all look pretty much the same, but they're clean, have 110V outlets, and all of the conveniences we take for granted, like electric water heaters, garbage disposals, etc. It's like a little piece of America surrounded by a prison-camp-like fence. It does, however, have a great view of the ocean (minus the fence).
Living off base would be exciting, unique, culturally-rich, and somewhat inconvenient and unpredictable.
We are considering three different towns around the base, and each has a different style to it.
Rota is a lively, crowded town with lots of apartments and townhouses, plenty of restaurants, shops, a nice (but crowded) beach, neat sights to see, and probably a younger crowd more prone to partying late at night, as they tend to do here in Spain.
El Puerto de Santa Maria is a more family-oriented town with a lot of single-family, detached homes with yards; it is also the home to the neighborhood of Vista Hermosa, which is the most expensive "country-club"-type area around, with larger, older, and more expensive homes than the other areas. It also has nice, wide streets and more security. There is a beautiful beach nearby as well.
Chipiona is a smaller, more rural town that's about 25 minutes away from the base. It has an excellent beach, a thriving art community, a pretty cathedral, and a small-town, friendly atmosphere...but it is a longer drive, and you might encounter pothole-filled dirt roads on some of the side streets, or the random donkey cart holding you up in your morning commute...
So there you have it.
I have so much more to tell you about what we've seen and done since we arrived here in Spain, but for the sake of brevity (and of having something else to write about later this week), I'll wrap it up for today. I hope you enjoyed the little tour so far - I'll try to have some more photos for you in a day or two.
In the meantime, I'll take a little poll - maybe you can help us decide:
Would you live on base, in Rota, El Puerto de Santa Maria, or Chipiona?