Tuesday, October 6


Disclaimer: I am trying desperately to keep this short but that has proven to be an impossible task. Internet comes to our flat this week, so I will finally be able to write less, more often. Bear with me here! Every day is an uproarious adventure and I just couldn't fathom not sharing the details. So read at your leisure and remember, you've been warned!!

Life is better in color. Check out the photos for the rest of the story!

I have but three words to say: AY. DIOS. MIO!!!! Let me tell you, the words tornado, rollercoaster and whirlwind are but mere understatements to describe our first week in Jaen. Starting a new life in a foreign country doesn’t sound easy, I’m sure, but it actually hasn’t been too tough. Not when you are able to take these daily challenges and LAUGH your head off about them!! And that is exactly what we’ve been doing ☺ It helps that we have a posse of people looking out for us, too!

After seeing six or seven pisos (apartments), we knew in our hearts the very first we’d looked at was our new home. Go figure that the dueños (owners/landlords) would be utterly insane. Firstly, they are just shy of 70 years apiece. Secondly, they don’t speak ONE WORD of English. And lastly, you know how you hear of the gypsies who live at the foot of the mountains in Spain? Yeah, that’s them! Thank the Lord we have Antonio Luis (my boss) to facilitate. I haven’t really had any trouble getting by here with NORMAL Spaniards who don’t speak English, but our dueños are one heck of a different story. Their names are Luis Cortes Cortes and his wife, Juana. Luis has one outfit he wears when he comes into town (they live on a ranch about an hour away), which consists of a matching leisure-suit type of situation, that is striped green and has a matching vest, pants and newsie cap. It’s definitely from 1972. One day he wore it with a purple shirt, another with a straw hat and I couldn’t help but stare in amusement as he wrapped his leg around his cane and just yelled. He’s not yelling AT us (it took us some time to realize this), but I don’t think he has the ability to speak without shouting at the very tippy-top of his lungs. Meet him and you will NEVER call me loud again! Juana is drenched in gold jewelry, including half her teeth with jet-black hair, streaky 80s blush and blue eyeliner around her entire eye. Total gypsy.

My first official day of work was on Thursday, but just as I walked into school, Antonio Luis said we had to go pick up Luis and Juana at the bus station. They were two hours early and had called Antonio Luis about 30 times already (what I have put this poor, poor man through). As we pulled up, there they were in their Sunday best, holding a T.V. and shower curtain rods. It was quite a sight.

We go to the flat where A.L., Luis and Cristobal (the 80-year-old man who does the day-to-day stuff with the pisos) review the contract and talk shop. All the while, Juana was pulling my arm out of its socket showing me all the things she bought for the flat. She was enamored with the rubber ducky shower curtains, so of course I pretended I was, too, as I helped her hang them. When some of the work was done, A.L. had to get back to school and told me to take the day off to get the house together. There were still a few things that needed to be bought, so while Jenna went to check out of the hotel, I took on the oh-so-amusing task of going shopping with Luis and Juana. As we walked down the street, it struck me just how much they stood out, even among their “own people.” Juana and I picked out dishes while Luis got keys made. We were yapping it up and let’s just say after asking me several VERY personal questions, by the end of the convo, she had basically promised my hand in marriage to her nephew, Chiqui.

After hanging out a bit, we were (kinda) like family. We had been invited to their ranch to ride horses and Juana was going to teach me how to make homemade bread, quiso (Spanish stew) and paella! They also wanted to take us out for the afternoon, so I found Jenna and we went into one of our favorite local haunts. The beer and tapas were flowing, as well as the very interesting conversation. They ordered practically everything on the menu and Jenna and I tried snails and coagulated pigs blood, a local delicacy. The snails I could handle, the sangre, notsomuch! We were there for easily three hours before they headed back to the other gypsies in the hills.

It would be impossible to capture the true essence of this afternoon, but when all was said and done, Jenna and I needed a little taste of local comfort, so we went next door to see Tito Andalusi (Uncle Andalusi), another bar owner who has welcomed us with open arms since our very first day in Jaen. We realized we were there at the exact time he said all the local boys come by and boy, were there a lot of them! We told Andalusi it was our first official night in our new home, but we didn’t have any sheets. The boys all work for him, so he summoned one of them to take us to the Carrefour (Spanish Wal-Mart), so we wouldn’t have to take the bus. Then when we asked for some tools to take apart the beds’ headboards to switch the rooms they were in, the boys went above and beyond and did everything for us. We have been totally pampered since we arrived. I think the people of Jaen are some of the nicest in the world... almost like a requirement to live here!

We’ve also met up with the other Auxiliares de Conversacion (my job title) and there are a lot of us here! We have become fast friends and won’t have to worry about being lonely here.  Not only are there a lot of us, but we get to meet each other's roommates too, many of whom are Italian.  Perhaps I will try to brush up on my Italian while I'm here... I've already been practicing with an import named Davide hahah!  Our third roommate, Megan, is the sweetest, most relaxed girl from Minnesota. We are thrilled to have her here with us for the next nine months! Another of our faves is Dustin, a fabulous Southerner from Alabama, whom we lovingly call Dustincito. He is SOOOOOO hilarious and easy to be around.

Every day is full of little obstacles to overcome, therefore every day feels triumphant. I have successfully signed a lease for a flat, obtained a cell phone, secured internet, opened a bank account and applied for residency in a foreign country, ALL IN SPANISH. Even the little things, like lighting a propane tank to get hot water for a shower, doing a load of laundry and trying to cook imaginatively with little space and fewer utensils (we have no oven or microwave and at this point, our freezer roars at us, so we'll see if we can ever use that!) are things to pat myself on the back for, every single day.

I am absolutely in love with our life here in Spain. We have been ever so fortunate in our endeavors, but I will never take that for granted. We've been surrounded by tons of friends, lots of support, buckets of laughs and one amazing backdrop of a city. More to come in the next couple days... I want to salvage your interest here!

With all the love in my heart to my favorite people in this world,