Friday, October 17, 2008

Some Weird Things About Spain

Driving: They don't seem to care too much for stop signs. They're more of a suggestion than a requirement. It is perfectly acceptable, while parallel parking, to ram repeatedly into the car in front and behind you. Also, about 90% of the cars are compact and mini. I've seen a few mini vans and maybe two SUVs, but even these were of a smaller version than you would see in the US. Also about 20% of the cars aren't cars at all. They're motorbikes, dirt bikes and scooters. This is only a small town thing, I'm told, but cars stop for pedestrians. Even if you're just kind of standing near the curb, traffic will stop to let you cross. This may be because pedestrians tend to dart from one side of the road to the other without looking. Still, when I first got here, I was constantly stopping traffic as I ambiguously stood near the curb for reasons other than wanting to cross. Also, the crosswalks aren't at the intersections of streets, like in the US. They're about 6 feet back.
Housing: Every apartment no matter how old has a low flow toilet, a front loading washing machine and an on demand water heater. The washing machines are freaking amazing! They use a tiny, tiny amount of water! There are no dryers. You are expected to go out to your balcony where you will find a metal contraption affixed at either end with cloths line running between them. Keep in mind, that when these are not in use, they are roosts for pidgins. Clean them accordingly. Oh and everyone has a balcony. Some people enclose them with specialized enclosing sliding windows to make it more of a sun room. But everyone has a balcony. Oh here's a good one that is fucking brilliant: There are light switches by the bed. There is also one by the door. So if you need to switch the light on in the middle of the night, because a pidgin has illegally entered your domicile, perhaps, (which has already happened to me, by the way) you don't have to fumble with clumsy lamp chords and switches, you have instant access to light! In the kitchen, the cupboard where you put the plates is right over the sink and has no bottom shelf. That part is open and you stack the dishes on a wire thingy. Therefore, you don't have to have a dish dryer taking up sink and counter space. You just wash the dishes and put them away and they drip into the sink! Exciting, I know!
School: I can't tell much about this because they won't even let me in the gates, but here's a few weird things I've seen. School in Spain starts at 3 years old. As in you can send your 3 year old to free public school, no super expensive glorified daycare pre-school like in the US. However, and I don't know if this is just in this town or not, you send your kid to school wearing normal clothes, but then you put a striped dress-thingy over their clothes. This could be because the pre-school playground is actually a fenced in lot with old tires in it. During recess the kids climb on, throw, trip over the tires. Seriously. There is no playground. They play with tires. My kids don't have a playground either. Blue plays in a fenced in pit with a basketball hoop and green plays on the soccer field. Also, kids don't eat lunch at school. They are expected to do that when they get home at two. When I first heard this I was shocked, "They don't eat anything all day?!?!" Yes, they do, but it's called a snack. But its brought from home and is usually a sandwich. So basically they have lunch, but it's not formal where they have to line up and march down to a cafeteria to eat it. They get to go outside and eat while they do other things. School here is only five hours. From 9:00 till 2:00. I can't tell you how nice it is to not have to get up in time to get them to school at 8:15! Especially since my kids are not morning people! Now, they get up at 8:30, are ready in time to watch and episode of Dorimon and then we leave at about 8:50 and arrive a little before 9:00 to stand at the gates with the rest of the hoards. And school doesn't start at 9:00, that's just what time the gates are open. So if you're a little late, no big deal. You don't have to go to the office and get a tardy slip, you just run like hell to catch up with your class. PE is also informal. It's basically just another recess. On PE days the kids have to wear "track suits". They also are supposed to bring a washcloth, face wipes, perfume and a hairbrush, all in a little purse type thing, so they can freshen up afterwords.
Animals: Flies are atrocious. They come from the pig farms and think they have the right to land right on your face. Did I mention that the town is surrounded by pig farms? When the wind blows the wrong way . . . gag! There is also a population of wild dogs and cats. Not wild in the sense that they'll eat your small children, but they are constantly loose and don't seem to have a home.
Work: Everything is closed between 2:00 and 5:30, but stays open till 8:30 or 9:00. And in this town, nothing is open on Sunday! Aggravating! Also if there is a holiday on, say a Thursday, they'll give you Friday off too. And it's paid! Wooooot!
Now I'm going to talk about the grocery store because I worked in one so I would like to tell you how it's different. When you go to the checkout line, the cashier doesn't have to greet you and make small talk, they don't even have to make eye contact. They just ring up your groceries. In RainyTown we were expected to make every customer feel like they were the best thing to ever happen to us. The cashiers here have these super nice swivelly chairs to sit in if they like or they can stand. In Oregon, we were expected to stand on these crappy mats that don't do shit to alleviate the discomforts of standing all day and like it. In Spain, they don't have to bag, but they will help you if you aren't fast enough for their liking. In RainyTown we were expected to be bagging experts and psychically anticipate exactly how the finicky shopper wanted all their precious groceries packed ("Oh, that's too heavy! Put each item in its own bag please!" "Oh, don't put the vegetables in with the cans! They'll get them wet!" "Oh, I wanted a large paper bag for this tiny bottle of vitamins! Why on Earth would you give me this small one?") In Spain, the customers understand that the checker is just doing his or her job because he/she needs to earn a living. Plus, the cashier isn't desperate to keep their job so they have health care or dental or paid vacation or paid holidays or retirement because they get that just for being Spanish, so at anytime, if say a customer is just to bitchy to handle or the manager tries to take away their cushy chair, they can take that job and shove it! So the customer doesn't get pissy if the checker doesn't say, "Thank you!" as they leave. They know they haven't done anything for the cashier. In RainyTown, the customers seem to believe it is your joy in life to serve them, that you would be there even if you didn't get paid because you so loooooove being around them and bagging their groceries just how they like and talking to them about whatever stupid thought pops into their heads. So they expect a big, giant, enthusiastic "Thank you!!!" when they leave, because they have so honored you with their presence and so kindly allowed you to serve them. Aren't we sooooooo lucky? Aren't we?? Gag.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

They stop for pedestrians!? Wow! Hey do the cashiers at the grocery stores have to wear polyester shirts? Just curious. You sound like you are more getting into the swing of things....By the way...Hog farms huh? Sound like my hubby's home state of Indiana. lol Nasty!