Oh Valencia. I can’t decide if I hated you or I loved you this month. I think I landed on the decision that Spain is lovely to vacation in, but a nightmare to live in for those with type A. And yes, I am type A.
The Spanish birthed the siesta culture – late starts to the day and long evenings, with a break in the middle of the day during the peak heat. (And it was HOT). For someone who is traditionally a morning person and loves to get an early start to my days, it was disarming to find that even breakfast places weren’t open until 9am or (in the case of an Acai Bar, 11am). Having things closed at random hours in the day or on Sundays is counter our (albeit very American) expectations to be able to get whatever you want when you need it, and provided minor frustrations - such as when one is trying to get brunch on a Sunday at 1pm.
Outside of providing inconveniences to the modern traveler, the Spanish are very much so go with the flow. The opinion is if it’s broken, someone will fix it tomorrow.
Spontaneity and going with the flow was perfect for the after-hours, non-work part of the days. However, this lazy, it’ll happen when it happens attitude was unconducive to working efficiently. The wifi in our apartment did not work and it took the entire month for our operations manager to find a solution. First, we tried a wifi extender, then a hotspot, then finally, in the last week repairmen were called out to install more routers (25+ apartments were sharing 4 routers), but alas their efforts were thwarted as some people weren’t at their apartment when they came by, and so on and so forth.
But perhaps my favorite anecdote about the inefficiencies we came across in the country occurred when a few of us went on a trip to Barcelona by train. Imagine a small train hall with a waiting area, then about 15 turnstiles that admitted you to the train platforms. We were all required to have printed tickets with a digital scanner in order to get into the train platform. Why we needed to have a printed ticket with a digital scanner and why the need for exactly 15 turnstiles was beyond us when the only way to get into the train platform was by waiting in a long, single file line to have your ticket hand checked (not scanned) by one lone worker.
The Spanish also do what they want to do, without much regard for others. Ironically, this month I spent more time being conscientious of how I am perceived. I made amends with those where tensions were previously high, and I was honest about my emotions.
And some days, I really hated everything. To my core, I hated it all. Was exhausted. So so so exhausted. I spent a lot of time catching up on missed siesta time by sleeping through the weekends. Personally, I needed to reevaluate if I was taking full care of myself and what that meant. I didn’t cook a single meal for myself this month, which resulted in a more social lifestyle, but less healthy than my usual routine. I didn’t call my parents or my friends back home as much. I was throwing myself fully into something that didn’t allow me to take pulse and think through balance and routine within the new normal.
I threw a tantrum. I cried and talked about how much I hated everything and every Spanish inefficiency. But through my tantrum and tears, I felt supported also. I realized that throughout our journey, we’re building a great support system of people who love and care about each other. I had probably the best birthday I ever had. Like ever. People put so much thought into specific gifts that were based on inside jokes or the things they knew I loved. It made it all come to perspective. When the surrounding might not be ideal, or frustrating, or so culturally different from your own, the days when it was easy to give up, it’s the community that catches you. And that is what helps me realize that this whole journey of self-discovery and growth is worth it.
I found my patience, conversations grew deeper. There were definite times of conflict, and definitely inner conflict, but all in all, people are forming meaningful relationships with each other and growing closer.
Wine Pairing Night + Carnival
We had a dinner event where we embarked on a multi-course wine tasting game. In three courses (appetizer, main, dessert), we were given 2 bottles of wine each, and we were tasked with guessing what was the underlying note for each wine (ex. Wood, apple, cherry) as well as which of the two dishes we received, it resonated with better. Obviously, we all won as we all left the event very drunk and had a wild time trying to guess as we went along. The cherry on top, however, was a spontaneous night out to the carnival after the fact, where four of us went and we went on multiple rides and played bumper cars. I don’t think I’ve had such an adrenaline rush in a long time!
What made my birthday so spectacular was how much effort was put into it by so many people. I truly felt so loved throughout the entire day. We have a “pay it forward” concept in Remote Year, where the person whose birthday was last plans the next person’s birthday. Mike, the person who orchestrated my birthday did so perfectly. He knew exactly what I liked, who my inner circle of friends was and what would make my day special. I woke up to a brunch with almost the whole group, which was so humbling and amazing, and was surprised throughout the day with gifts, cakes, flowers, cards. Each gift was so thoughtful and had a little of the personality of the person giving it to me as part of it. I ended the night with a delicious dinner and a night dancing with my friends. I could not have ever asked for a better day.
Carnival Part 2
Definitely the funniest moment for me thus far, just measured by amount of laughter. I went with one of the boys in our group, and since I went a week prior, I knew that I definitely wanted to hit the rides that we already did again. However, what’s life without expanding horizons? As soon as we got there we saw this octopus looking thing, and I said, why not? He asked, “what does it do?” And I responded, let’s not worry about that, we’ll figure out what it does while we’re on the ride! Well, we got on the ride and within 20 seconds, it was very clear what the ride “did.” Sitting in one of the octopus’s arm’s cars, we spun around the body of the octopus while also moving up and down. And this went on for far longer than necessary. We were already laughing in stitches by minute 1, and by minute 2, I think we had a full-on delirium – half from laughing so hard that our stomachs hurt, half from going crazy that we were still on the ride. Minute 3, we got a surprise: the ride reversed, and then for the grand finale (approximately minute 5): while going forward once more, we were sprayed by the octopus. Think about the last time you were on a carnival ride for 5 minutes – it’s probably 3 minutes longer than needed. We both left with tears coming out of our eyes and needing to reground ourselves after the conclusion of the ride.
Fourth of July
One of my first full days off in awhile during a weekday, I was excited to celebrate Fourth of July abroad. We spent the morning on a spontaneous bike ride through the city and ended at the beach, where we played games, got our tan on and relaxed. While nothing “huge” happened, it was a great day that begun the tradition of “brunch, beach, repeat” for the month of Valencia.
Tapas Cooking Class
I have to provide a shout out to Carlos, who was one of our local city guides this month. I don’t think he ever stops smiling. When asked about why he’s always happy, his response is: “What is there to be sad about?” Well a lot, but I admire his attitude. Carlos accompanied us to our tapas cooking class, where we were broken up into four groups of five, each given a different “tapas” to create. There’s something to be said for getting your hands dirty then being able to reap the reward of your efforts that makes the food that much tastier.