Monday, November 30, 2015

I'm baaaaaack!

Rota, Cádiz - November 30, 2015
OK, so I sort of disappeared.  This blog is called Sailing Flamenco and the sailing part sort of disappeared when I sold Saeta.  I stayed busy with flamenco of course and that has gone very well until finally I actually began losing interest in chasing more flamenco.  I was totally satisfied with what we created here in Rota.  I didn't have much interest in writing about my performances because they were all about the same.  I had a lot of fun and was received by Spanish audiences in a way that I never thought could be possible.  But writing about the shows wasn't very interesting.
Actually, the high point of my life is my relationship with Ada - which has continued to be a total delight.  We are living a dream.  I never imagined this level of happiness.  We are approaching 5 years together now and every day is a new delight.
Lacking a boat, I distracted myself with motorcycles and that was fun enough.  But boats have been a part of my life for almost 50 years, so being without one was unusual.  So I was riding the motorcycle one day and made a swing through the marina.  I just happened to see a boat that was a miniature version of Saeta - a modern and attractive pilot house sailboat.  I stopped the moto and took a closer look.  It was a really appealing boat and on the side was the legend Eclipse 33.  After I got home, I googled Eclipse 33 and it turns out that it was built by Moody, a very reputable English builder.  In fact, there were 254 of that model built between 1989 and 1994. Without realizing that I was entering dangerous waters, I began to check YachtWorld, an international website with boats for sale.  There were always 4 or 5 Eclipse 33s on the market and so I studied the listings.  I really liked the interior. It is a brilliant design and gets a lot of boat into just 33 feet.  This was a size that appealed to me because it was small enough for 2 people (older people) to muscle around. There was a video that came out that I must have watched 50 times that showed the boat clearly.  It shows clearly how bright and cheery the interior is with 360 degree visibility - not a dark cave like so many sailboats. Here it is:

I really couldn't think of buying another boat since I was pretty committed to staying in Rota.  If I wasn't planning to travel, then why did I need a boat?  So a little voice in my head suggested that I buy the boat for David and Adita, Ada's kids.  They had a sailing charter business and were using a boat that I thought was very uncomfortable.  I convinced myself that I could buy the boat for them to use and that I could use it from time to time.
A boat came on the market in France.  It wasn't listed very effectively, so was very hard to find.  As a result, the owner hadn't received any offers and had dropped the price down the point where it was a real bargain.  I was hooked.  So a year ago, we all went up to France to inspect the boat. It was stored in a boatyard, where it lived most of the year.  The owner came down from the north of France to use his boat in August and then put it right back on land again.  So the boat was filthy.  Covered with leaves and trash, it was raining and when we entered, the windows were leaking.  The weather was lousy and the boat was a turn off to everybody but me.  I found it depressing, but still liked the space inside the boat.  We went back to Rota and everyone forgot about the boat - except me.
It fermented in my brain for a few months and finally I realized that I really wanted it.  If not for the kids, then I would have to buy it for myself!  It took a while to get to that level.
The boat still hadn't sold, so I went back to France again to make an offer.  The weather was better and the gloom was off the boat as well.  I made an offer that was accepted and we went for a demo sail.  The boat was grubby, but everything worked well and it was pretty impressive in action.  So I bought it.  Here is the boat when her French owner was using her regularly:

I really like boats with a pilot house since I don't much care to be cold or wet.  The interior of the Moody is very comfortable:

There is a second helm inside for when the weather is bad - or the sun too hot.  The table is big enough for 6 persons to have dinner.  There is a private double guest stateroom in the back of the boat and the owner's stateroom in the bow.  There is a bathroom with separate shower across from the galley.  And there are a few places in the boat where there is 8 feet of headroom!
I returned to France in May with David and Adita as my delivery crew.  We launched the boat and brought her down to Rota - 860 nautical miles in 6.5 days.  Everything worked perfectly and we all came to appreciate the boat's virtues.  We had pleasant weather almost all the time except for a few wild hours off Valencia when we ran into a small, but intense weather system.  The wind jumped up to 45 knots at the worst and we countered it by sailing downwind with just the mainsail.  The boat handled it without a problem.  In a few hours, it was all over and we returned to normal.  We stopped in Denia to buy fuel and here was the boat at the main dock:

What was unusual about this voyage was the absolute lack of sea life in the Gulf of Lyon.  For 3 days between the French Riviera and Spain, we didn't see a bird, a fish, dolphins - nothing.  I've never been in such a marine desert.  Finally off the coast of Spain we began to see some life again.  Our remaining trip to Rota was easy and pleasant.
Now that the boat was in Rota, it was time to convert her to a Spanish boat.  We changed her name to Platero, the famous donkey in the book by Juan Ramon Jimenez.  Platero was a friendly companion to an aging gentleman on his tranquil adventures.  Sounded about right to me.  Changing from the French flag to a Spanish flag was very expensive and loaded with paperwork - like pretty much any official transaction in Spain.  But we got it done.  Then I needed to get a license to operate a boat in Spanish waters.  It didn't matter that I had sailed half way around the world, but just another hurtle to pass.  So I did.  Now we are totally legal.  We have a slip in Rota.
Since the boat got here, every day has a project or two of restoration - making the boat pretty and making everything work the way I want.  We went into the shipyard and for the first time in my life, I had the luxury of telling them to do the work.  Before, I always had to do things myself to keep the cost within my budget.  I envied the rich guys who just turned the boatyard loose on the boat.  This year, I was one of the rich guys.  I'm not rich, but life here is so much less expensive that I can afford this kind of thing. So here is the boat in her slip after getting polished, new stripes, and a new name:

I don't know if anybody is still following this adventure, but it is back in balance again with flamenco and my eighth boat...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Long time gone, but really here all the time....

September 5, 2012 Rota, Spain

Well, I certainly have been a delinquent blogger.  Lots of great stuff has happened but I had promised not to publish anything about my personal life to avoid upsets.  But, I'm in a new life now and I'm quite sure that whoever didn't want to know about my life now knows everything necessary.  So I think from this point forward I am going to report on what's really happening.  Anyone who doesn't want to know about it can stop reading right here...

OK, so Ada and I have been living together for a year and 3 months.  Our level of compatability remains miraculous.  We have a lovely 2 story house in the more modern (and quiet) part of Rota.  We selected this house because it had a tiny lawn for the dog and 4-5 bedrooms for visiting family.  OK, so I stole a bedroom to make an office and Ada stole one to have a dressing room, but that still leaves 2 formal bedrooms and a basement room we call the "leonera" (lion's den).  The basement sleeps at least 8 and has it's own kitchen.  So when the kids come to visit (and they do because this is the Beach!) they have their own space. Here's the house:

It's a duplex and the white half is ours.

Since then so many things have happened that it is hard to summarize.  On the flamenco front, I have been playing as the house guitarist for our Peña in Rota and did a show with some of our singers - me among them.  I also am playing guitar for the Peña in Chipiona on Friday evenings, so I get my fill.  I hardly ever go out looking for flamenco anymore.  We have had visits from some pretty impressive artists, who came to visit and ended up singing for hours.  Needless to say, it has been terrific.  Ada participates fully in all this and sometimes when she is washing dishes and thinks she is alone, I hear her singing flamenco.  She grew up in it and even knew Camaron as a 5 year old.

But life is about more than flamenco.  This year, one of the big events was the wedding of Ada's daughter, Adita.  This was a big event and some of our Madrid family came down for it.  We all had to get new clothes for the occasion and I have to show you the pictures of us all dressed up:

Ada and I entering...
Adita and David in our hallway
And the wedding brought out all the relatives that I hadn't met yet, so now I am pretty well known.  It kept us busy for a month, but after that it was time for some vacation...

When I arrived in Europe on the sailboat, part of the fantasy was to continue on into the Med and visit Italy, Greece, and the Adriatic.  That never happened quite as planned, but intentions have a way of manifesting themselves.  It seems Adita is a travel agent and was able to arrange for us a 7 day cruise at ultra-cheap travel agent prices (can't mention).  So we flew from Madrid to Ravenna, Italy and boarded the boat.  Then we left for Venice and spent a day and a night there.  Following days took us to Dubrovnik, Katakolon, Corfu, Santorini, Myconos, and finally Athens.  I like cruising!! Somebody else is responsible for getting us around and my only job is to be charming and keep my glass filled.  We respected the fine tradition of gaining weight on cruises, but the food and drink were all included - and there were lots of opportunities.  When it was time to go ashore, Ada and I found that we preferred not to be part of the herd.  So we created our own adventures.  We walked, rented cars, and on Santorini, rented a motorcycle (that will have future consequences).  Sometimes we joined up with other couples to share car rentals, etc.  So we made some cruising friends. It's not easy to select 1 photo to capture a place, but I'll try:

A canal in Venice
Dubrovnik - a walled medieval city on the Adriatic
Olympus was immense, but this shows a tiny corner of it...
Actually, selecting photos of the cruise is overwhelming -there were so many.  Suffice to say, we had a marvelous time - sort of a honeymoon since it was our first major trip together.  In succeeding chapters, I'll bring us up to date with more current news.  But for now, time for dinner.

If anybody is still reading this thing, it would be nice if you would shoot off an email and tell me your news.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

So what exactly is an ADA???

February 12, 2012 Rota, Spain

If you just tuned in, go back to the post of January 12 and start there.  Then this one will make sense.

Before dealing with the question in the title, let's catch up to date on the story.  So the first coffee went well and so there was a second coffee and then there were dinners, and visits to the Peña, and so forth.  It got to where we were seeing each other every day.  And why?  Well, we were just amazingly compatible, that's why.  There's no explaining this, but we appear to be twins in so many ways.  This was totally unpredictable.  I wanted to date a Spanish lady just to see how it would be.  She really had no desire to date an American at all.  Rota used to be full of Americans when the air base was booming and she avoided them.  One of the really important things is that both of us are "we" people - we like to live as part of a couple.  That is something that I always wanted and something missing previously.  It got to the point where I had to ask myself, "Is it possible that there could be anyone more compatible with me?"  She is affecionate, smart, practical, tall, slim and likes flamenco(!)  Both of us were tall and thin when we were young - both felt that we were "ugly duckings".  Both of us like the same kind of books, movies.  Both of us are a little "different" from the rest of our cultural peers.  But when we are together, everything is totally effortless.  Although Americans are perhaps more likely to participate in personal growth education, she certainly has arrived at the same kind of consciousness on her own.  In short, she is a terrific human being.  So after a while, we became a couple.  Did we live happily ever after - well, stay tuned and find out.

Back to our question.  So what exactly is an ADA???  Well, Ada is a nickname for Inmaculada (like Inma or Conchi also are).  Actually Inmaculada is the short version for Inmaculada Concepción de la Santisima María!  Well, it's pretty clear that some shortening was needed and in the spanish manner, she became Ada.  Her daughter who has the same name became Adita (little Ada).  Ada is 7 years younger than I am.  For 40+ years, she was a schoolteacher, finally retiring here in Rota.  She knows most of the young people in town because they passed through her classes.  So she is different from most of her peers because she has a university education, which was pretty rare in the time of Franco.  She has four kids between the ages of 31 and 41 years old and remarkably they all like me!  Well, I like them so it works out well.
L to R - Fany, Yago, Ada, Adita, and Nacho

The oldest is Adita and then Yago (Santiago), Fany (Estefania), and finally Nacho (Ignacio).  They are a terrific group and when they are all in the house, it jumps.  Our Christmas this year was one of the best I have ever had.

Here's another picture of Ada and I at an art show at the local castle.

So as you see, I am no longer miserable.  An from this point forward, I can just report the news as it happens.

Don't be afraid to write.....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Just a coffee, please....

January 18, 2012 Rota

If you just dropped in and are reading this post as the first thing, please go back to January 12 and start there.  Then the next two will make sense.

So there I was in Bar Castillo, just across the plaza from my apartment, sitting at a table outside with my Kindle to entertain me, waiting for a woman that I had never seen before.  I was pretty much alone at the sidewalk cafe because after all, it was January.  But it was a nice day and at 4PM it is still pretty decent.  So I was drinking my coffee and looking around - trying to look casual because I had no idea where she would be coming from.  I was 15 minutes early because I didn't want her to have to wait for me.  After a while a tall woman was approaching from the direction of the cathedral. Hmmm.  There was nothing about her appearance that rang any bells.  I might never have noticed her except that I was waiting for someone.

She didn't have to work too hard to figure out who I was.  I was the only single person sitting outside and I was tall and looked like an American.  So she walked right up to me.  So both of us knew that we had made the connection.  Now, attraction is a funny thing.  All of us humans, admit it or not, have an image of our ideal mate - maybe several images, or a certain type that attracts us.  And often that attraction - chemistry if you want to call it that - is the basis for starting a relationship.  At some subconscious level we interpret that initial pull as an indication to go into action.  Well, in this case, there was none of that on my end.  She was pleasant looking.  Her hair was sort of the same color as mine - faded red or dark blond.  She was slim and shapely.  At 62 years old, she had some wrinkles, but had a smile and an animation in her expressions that was what caught your attention.  But I certainly couldn't say that I was swept off my feet.  But, nice even though not my stereotype.

So here I was - my first date with a Spanish woman!  She was really easy to talk to.  Having been a teacher for so long, she was accustomed to speaking fairly slowly and enunciating.  So I could understand her.  That is the hardest part - I can say just about anything I want in Spanish if I just beat around the bush long enough to get the idea out.  So we started talking and found it really easy.
Really easy - so we kept talking.  One topic followed another effortlessly.  Who knew it could be so easy.  I usually have more trouble conversing in English.
After we finished our coffee, we stayed and talked for a while more.  Then I suggested that we take a stroll along the Paseo Maritino - a sort of boardwalk along the beach that was only 100 yards away.  So we did.  After going way up the beach and then all the way back again, we sat down on a bench to watch the sun set.  All this time, talking about everything under the sun, but at an amazing level of comfort.  We agreed on all kinds of things and liked all the same things.  Our values were amazingly alike.  So the sun went down and we went on talking until it got cold.  Four hours had passed!!!

Finally, I walked her back to her car and saw her off.  I was pretty exuberant because it had gone so well and we had obviously gotten along extremely well.  She wasn't looking for a pareja, but I think that she would probably like to talk some more.  So I'll send her an email tomorrow and find out....

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An anniversary....

January 17, 2012 Rota
Yes, today is an anniversary.  I year ago today I met someone special and today we are celebrating.  But let me start at the beginning.  You will remember that I had been looking on the internet for a companion.  Well, after a few adventures with Americans and English living in Spain, I was still dissatisfied.  It seemed like foreign women tended to run with packs of other foreigners and not mix very much with the Spanish.  Even the flamenco aficionados were that way. That group did mix with the gypsies, but sort of ignored normal Spaniards.  Well, I didn't much like that because my favorite thing about Spain and my reason for being here is that I love the people and their way of being, gypsies and non-gypsies.

So one afternoon, I was bored and decided to do a search limited to just Rota.  That way I was sure to find someone that I didn't need to drive all day to visit.  Well, in Rota I got about 50 hits.  It was pretty easy to weed out the ones who weren't for me.  Most of them smoked.... pass!  And then a lot in my age group were sort of typical middle-aged Spanish women - sort of like fire-plugs - short and squat.  Quite a few put phoney numbers for their weights, but it was pretty easy to read between the lines.  There were a few Americans who had divorced their military spouses but for some reason were still here.  But nothing attractive.

But, I did notice one woman who fit a lot of my criteria...non-smoker, tall, slim, and educated.  She was a retired school teacher, having taught many years here in Rota.  She didn't have a picture on her profile which always made me a little nervous.  But the text showed a person of substance - so many of the women wrote things about themselves that were really superficial or showed off their lack of education.  This one showed promise.  So I sent off a few indications of interest and a message.  And got a response in due course.  So we started trading emails.  After a while I invited her to join me for a coffee.

Well, on the other end, she was dealing with my emails with some concern.  She wasn't really actively searching for anyone, but her kids made her put herself on the internet.  As a divorced women, she had found that men were mostly looking for an "adventure" and even if they weren't, few of them held any interest for someone at her level of education.  So she had decided that she just wanted a "friend", but not a "pareja" (lover).  She was pretty conflicted about meeting me.  She asked her youngest daughter what she should do.  Her daughter knew me because she worked in the office of the marina where I had kept the boat.  She told her mom, "Go ahead and meet him.  He is a perfect gentleman".  The pressure was mounting.  But I had indicated in my profile that I was looking for a "pareja" and so she wrote to me turning down my invitation saying that since she wasn't looking for a "pareja" she would be wasting my time.

But by this time, I was getting really curious about her and so told her that it couldn't possibly hurt for us to have a coffee.  I had never had a coffee with a Spanish woman and so it would be a unique experience.  What did we have to lose?  So she agreed to meet me at a restaurant close to my house, right next to the cathedral.  And at 4PM, a year ago today - we shared a coffee.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The part I neglected to tell you....

January 12, 2012  Rota, Spain

During the last several years, I have censored my posts to keep from upsetting Andrea who didn't want to know anything about my "personal" life.  But I find that this blog has become a sort of diary and I can't just ignore things that were big parts of my life.  So let's fill in the gaps....

After Andrea left, I sold the boat.  And it sold almost immediately and long before I was emotionally ready I found myself standing on the dock with 15 cardboard boxes of personal effects, waving goodbye to the boat in which we had lived so many adventures.  A double loss!  And really sad!  But being alone gave me the opportunity to reflect on my marriage - and I realized that we weren't really all that compatible... which is why she left me 4 times. Her idea of relationship was very different from mine. I finally was able so see what I didn't want to see when I was crazy in love. I finally realized that I couldn't ever go back to that marriage.

So, as reported previously, I rented an apartment and started putting together a new life.  Well, as the months passed, I realized that flamenco and parties with the gypsies only went so far in satisfying my needs for a fulfilled life.  I am not naturally a single person.  I know many folks who prefer being single, but I'm not one of them.  I like sharing life with someone special.  And my way of dealing with grief is to look forward, not backward.  So I decided to look for a new life companion as a way of coping.  And it made me feel better to look forward to someone new.

Now, I didn't expect to find anyone all that special, but I wanted to relate to someone of the feminine persuasion a bit.  The gypsies had their limitations.  Here in Rota, I couldn't see any possibility of meeting anyone interesting.  I met an Englishman living on his boat in the marina and he had been telling me of all the women he had been meeting on the internet.  So I wrote down a list of the sites that he recommended and put myself on a few of them.  Of course, that connected me with women who spoke English.  But it was fun to spend time reading about all the women who wanted to meet someone.  Matching someone with me isn't easy.  She would have to be tall, non-smoker, politically liberal, and I preferred slim.  Oh, and speaking Spanish with a willingness to be around flamenco would be an advantage. 

At that point, I still considered the possibility that I would return to the US some day, so I searched for women around Santa Barbara, assuming that I might like to live there.  There were lots of single, attractive women in my age group there.  In due course, I found one that appealed to me and wrote to her.  In short order, we were emailing daily.  It looked pretty good.  We were born in the same town and about the same age so we shared lots of cultural memories.  She was smart and cute.  So as time passed it seemed logical that we needed to meet.  She had a lot of air miles saved up and so decided to come visit me here for a week.  I put on my tourguide hat and picked her up at the airport.  I gave her the quick tour of the best attractions in Andalucia.... Sevilla, Cádiz, Jerez.  We had a great time, but I couldn't see a future there.  In spite of getting along well, I couldn't imagine leaving Spain and going back to a plain-vanilla American life.  And she was in the process of becoming a Catholic - and subscribed to a newsletter from Newt Gingrich.  So she went back to the US and after a while the emails sort of dropped off.

Next, I tried searching for women already in Spain.  There were quite a few ex-pats living here, both English and American.  However, most of them smoked or were living a life totally removed from Spain - playing golf in Marbella, shopping, and drinking in bars along the coast.  Nope.
Finally, I found an Englishwoman who was living in her own house in the country in the province of Malaga.  She was in the small town of Iznajar between Cordoba and Malaga.  I went to visit her one day (and played a benefit show in her town that same night).  We got along pretty well, so we had some more visits in my town and in hers. 
Then I found out that I was losing my apartment because the owner wanted to rent it to summer people.  So she offered to rent me a spare room there and I moved my 15 cardboard boxes and me to Iznajar.  There I discovered that living in the country is a lot more work than living in an apartment.  She spent her life working on her place and socializing with English ex-pats.  She spoke good Spanish, but only seemed to mix with the locals a little.  There was a very tightknit ex-pat community there with lots of drinking - lots of drinking!  But very little flamenco in the neighborhood.  By the end of the summer, it was pretty obvious that we were too different in too many ways.  And I missed my friends in Rota, so when the house on Calle Gravina showed up on the internet, I rented it.

I again buried myself in the flamenco life of Rota, taking a break only long enough to visit my son for Christmas - as shown in one of the posts below....  You will have to await the next chapter.  I can't imagine anyone is reading this - it is becoming sort of a confessional, but I need to do that before the next chapter.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Let's talk about Spain...

January 4, 2012 Rota, Spain

Rota is one of the warmer places in Spain during the winter.  Spain is sort of like California - it is warm in the South and cold in the North.  Spain has snow on the ground now up North, but I am almost as far South as you can get and on the ocean to boot.  So today, it is supposed to get into the 70's.  I think a walk on the beach may be coming up.

But first a bit more on the Spanish National Character.  Since I have been in a 100% immersion program, I note keenly the differences between the Spanish and American characters.  It's not a better or worse thing - just different. 

Let's start with Prudishness.  Americans have a huge streak of prudishness.  They are just as interested as anyone else in sex and natural body functions, but have a tendency to peek through their fingers instead of just looking.  I remember the scandal that followed Janet Jackson's breast in the Superbowl.  Here in Spain, the body is just natural.  Drugstores advertise skin-care products with huge posters of nude women on their store windows.  Almost all beaches are topless if women so desire.  On the Mediterranean coast, they mostly seem to so desire.  And I remember a TV show recently where the camera was passing a group of cattle.  There was a bull with balls that hung down amazingly far.  So the camera zoomed in on the balls for 15 seconds or so.  The commentator was talking about something else, so the balls weren't mentioned, but the visual was there.  I had to laugh because to do that in America would cause the TV station to get calls and complaints.  The commentators would talk about it for a week.  Here, it's no big deal.
And in conversation among friends, there are few taboos.  Bodily functions are discussed naturally.  And in normal conversation, you will hear a surprising reference to "private parts" of the body.  The word "coño" refers to the feminine part, but has become so common as an expletive that is is now sort of the way Americans might say "shit".  The current slang for the female part is "cho-cho" and you actually hear young girls calling each other "cho-cho" - or husbands using that as an affectionate term with their wives.  Seems incredible, no?  And men will greet each other with the phrase "picha" which is slang for the male part.  But the Spanish are great realists in their speaking.  I was surprised to hear a friend call his wife "gordi" as an affectionate name.  That would mean "chubby".  Well, she was a little chubby and they just acknowledge it as a reality.  Likewise, a person who is lame might be nicknamed "cojo" which means lame.  And so it goes.
Actual cursing is equally bawdy - a common expletive is "me cago en la mar" which means "I shit in the sea".  I won't elaborate on the cursing except to say that they seem to have more rich variations than the Americans.

The next topic is Tolerance and "vivo yo".  Those two topics go together.  Let me start with "vivo yo".  That literally means "long live Me".  To a foreigner, it shows up as a kind of insensitivity to others.  For instance, if someone is driving and sees a friend on the sidewalk, he may just stop and start a conversation.  The two of them will cheerfully talk for a while without much concern for the growing line of cars waiting to pass.  Or the checkout girl at the supermarket may stop working to talk with a friend, ignoring the waiting line.  Perhaps it's just in Andalucia, but here conversing seems to have the highest priority of all possible activities.  Employees are expected to be working except when they are conversing.  Then everything stops until they are done.  Or mothers pushing a baby carriage will stop to talk, without concern that the carriage is blocking the entire sidewalk. 
Another insensitivity is that people walking on the sidewalk will make no effort to move to one side to pass others coming from the opposite direction - resulting in a sort of game of "chicken" which is resolved by the minimum movement at the very last moment.  This has sort of surprised me since the Spanish are so "gracioso" in so many ways that they would be so insensitive with strangers.  As an American, I move to one side long before a collision on the sidewalk.  I never even think about it - until I find it missing in others.
And Tolerance is the other side of the same coin.  The Spanish tolerate quietly certain inconveniences brought on by the insensitivity of their fellow humans - perhaps because they also hope to have the same indulgence for their own behavior.  I was always amazed in my old house on Calle Gravina that the drunk Americans from the Irish bar down the street lurching through the streets at 3AM, cursing and shouting never seemed to result in anyone calling the police.  In the US, drunk foreigners in the streets making noise would produce cops in no time at all.

So those are some of the differences that I have noted.  But the difference that I like the most is the warmth that exists between friends and family members.  There is a lot of "touchy-feeley" and hugging/kissing.  And people who are friends make time to stay in touch.  I guess that their priorities are a bit more biased toward relationships.

Another small difference is the construction of buildings.  In all my time in Spain, I have never been in a building made from wood.  Everything is bricks or stone of some kind.  I have had to learn to hang pictures into brick interior walls.  I had to get used to using different tools here.  Well, that also means that the walls have very little insulation.  After a week of cold weather, the walls (and floors) are as cold as the mean temperature outside.  You don't go barefoot very much.  So your very own walls are radiating cold.  You have to get aggressive with the heating because the house wants to be a refrigerator.  That can be nice in the summer until there has been a week of 90+ degree temperatures to heat up the walls.  But at least at night you can open the windows.  A small benefit is that there seem to be a lot less bugs living in the house.  No spiders either.

All of the above is from my own observations and may not be true in other parts of Spain.  Spain has at least as many different regions as the US and there are strong regional characteristics.  I have spent almost all my time in Andalucia - although next Spring I want to take a jaunt to the Rioja region to sample the wines and food - which is reportedly exceptional.  Well, it isn't all that bad right here, so I am anticipating.  I send my best wishes for a Happy New Year.  Don't be afraid to write - same email as always.