So it’s one month in. Can you believe that I have been living in my lil’ Spanish village for one month? I sure can’t. Time really does fly when you are living in a place where clocks might as well not exist. Might I remind you, that I am living in a pueblo that is the size of my high school. No joke. And as one can probably imagine, it hasn’t been a walk in central park adjusting to my new life. And it certainly hasn’t been a walk in El Campo. Sure, I’ve been lucky enough to do lots of traveling to beautiful, glamorous Spanish cities that you read about in the books (like Málaga, Granada, Toledo and Madrid), but that’s not my life on a day to day basis. On weekends, maybe. But not every day. As expected, I’ve gotten a plethora of questions from the states about what my life is like in the pueblo. Well, here is a list of answers. Venga.
10 Things I’ve Learned about Spanish Pueblo Livin’
1) The siesta is real. If you expect to do any shopping between the hours of 2 pm and 5 pm…don’t. When I say everything is closed, I mean everything. It looks like a real, live ghost town. Nobody in the streets, no stores with lights on, nothing. I learned that the siesta, derived from the latin meaning “sixth hour,” was originally created out of necessity during the unbearably hot summer months. It is claimed to be impossible to work under these scorching hot conditions, so people temporarily retreat home to eat and rest. If you want a quick history lesson, my mentor Maribel told me that the habits began during the times of the Spanish Civil War, when poverty was at its highest and people worked multiple jobs. The siesta was their time to see family, share a huge meal, take a nap, and then continue on with their work day. Whatever the origins may be, it is strictly observed to this day, regardless of the weather. And hey…an excuse to eat lots of food and then take a guilt-free nap? I’m in.
2) You go “ham” for ham. Or jamón I should say. If you don’t, you might as well consider yourself socially exiled from the village. Jamón is one of the primary foods of the Spanish diet. However, here it is more than that. It is a religion. And lucky for me, my region of Extremadura is said to have the best jamón in all of Spain. One point for us! Now, this isn’t ham that we think of in the US. It tastes and looks more like Italian prosciutto, with a dark richness in color and buttery, smoky taste. Mmmmm. No wonder the kids go cray’ for it. When I am teaching a class and can’t get the kids to relate to what I am saying, I put things in terms of jamón. Or fútbol. Works like a charm every time. And I don’t blame them…
3) Sheep are more judgmental than New Yorkers. Truth. I’ve started going on runs outside of the pueblo center, and I always see tons of animals. Horses, pigs, dogs, goats…you name it. All of these lovely, furry friends mind their own business as I am trollying along, except for sheep. So serious. They always stop what they are doing, and stare. What did I do to them? Just look…
Oh, AND they make me late to school. George Washington Bridge traffic ain’t got nothin on these sheep. Casie 0, Sheep 1.
4) El Campo. It’s the cool thing to do, and only a three minute walk from casa. I mentioned it earlier, but now I will explain. El campo means “the field.” It’s where pretty much everything goes down. It’s where families retreat to have family time in the open grass. It’s where kids go to play tag…and ride horses. And, my person fave, where us older folk botellon. Huge pregame’s are held in El Campo where youth loiter, barbecue, and drink lots of [insert alcohol of choice here]. For those of you who attended American universities, it’s like a huge tailgate outside the football stadium. Without the football stadium. Or to all my Penn Stater’s, a daylong. Minus beer funneling and the English.
5) People get really confused when they realize you don’t speak Spanish. And they look at you really weird. I often question as I am walking down the street if I have food on my face, or have spontaneously grown a second head. Especially los viejos, or the old people. Most of them have never talked to a native English speaker before, let alone lived in the same village as one. After all, I am only the 6th native English speaker to live in the village, ever. In the grocery store, people often talk to me in motion sign language, or like I have some learning disability. I must admit, coming from America where we often treat people that don’t speak English in this way, it is quite interesting to be on the other side.
6) There are strict scheduled eating times. And coffee times. This was a BIG problem for me. If you are eating at an abnormal time, you are abnormal. ESPECIALLY COFFEE. Here’s the sched:
8 am: Desayuno before work. You drink a cup of joe and maybe a small piece of toast if your feeling ambitious.
Noon: Desayuno round two. This time, you drink a cup of coffee with your co-workers, and a much bigger piece of toast.
2:30 pm: La hora de comer, or as I like to call it, feasting hour. This is the big siesta lunch, complete (in chronological order) with a glass of wine, a large crusty baguette, two main courses, a post-main-course cheese, fruit, dessert, and of course, more coffee.
7 pm: Merienda. More coffee and maybe a cookie.
10 pm: Cena. A smaller dinner, with whatever is around the house.
NOTE: You do NOT drink coffee during or before a meal. Or at night, when you want some energy. BIG NO. I made this mistake twice, and I felt like I was getting judged by the sheep all over again. One time, I went out to dinner and ordered coffee with my meal, because I knew I was going out afterwards and would want the energy. My waiter refused to bring it to me until after dinner. The next time, I was out to breakfast (during lunch time) and was in serious need of a coffee. So I ordered a coffee. First. Before my meal. The waiter proceeded to make some joke in Spanish under his breath, of which I did not understand but my Spanish friends did. Everyone on my half of the restaurant laughed. Oops?
7) Castles are normal. The town castle is the hangout spot. On Halloween, they even turned it into a haunted house. I think it says something that I didn’t make it out of there with any pictures to show…
8) There is no such thing as age rules. Don’t be surprised when you see your 9-year-old students running around town at 1 in the morning. Of course, no parents to be seen. Also, don’t be surprised when you see your 16-year-old neighbor out at the same bar as you. Or, you find yourself dancing next to the parents of your students on the local bar dance floor. Shi** can reaaaal weird, real fast. Ten cuidado.
9) Everyone in the village knows where you sleep. As creepy as it sounds, it is. I went to the bank to open up my Spanish bank account, and before I even opened my mouth the banker at the Santander says (in Spanish, of course) “Ohh, you are the new Americana in the apartment of Tino! You live above the farmacía.” She then proceeded to fill out my paper work FOR ME. No questions asked. I better not do anything embarrassing these next 8 months…
10) When the children love you, the village loves you. It’s a wonderful thing, really. As foreign as I feel, is as at home as I feel. It’s like I have 5,000 family members. All of which, if I’ve never seen them in my life, pass me and say “Heeello Cay-sie!!” in an adorable-y deep effort to enunciate my phonetically impossible name correctly.
In summation, life is pretty awesome here. I have been adopted by two wonderful families, who love to invite me over to hang out with their kids, and of course, feed me. I have even formed a group of awesome Spanish friends, who are “super guay” (shout out to Angel!) Sure, it’s taking some time to slow down from my metro New York cosmopolitan pace. I am still in the process of learning how to truly live the tranquila and no pasa nada way of life, where I can “relax” and “not worry about a thing.” But I am learning, slowly but surely. After all, there is no rush.
Do you have more questions about life in a pueblo? Do you have experiences to share of your own?! Tell us down below!