Day 7

“Muy motivado!” As I finish my second Spanish lesson, my teacher said this. I didn’t know what she was saying and asked for clarification. “Very motivated,” she said with a sense of thanks. This seemed to be given warmly, and it was warmly received. I again, leave the school grinning ear-to-ear.

Tonight we decide to venture out and try dinner here in Las Palmas. With the convenience of the SuperDino on the block, and just-eat.es we hadn’t needed or wanted to go out. The one obstacle to warm food delivered right to your door in a foreign location is the language barrier but with google translate all is normalized. Since we will be here a month, we cannot spend a great deal on food and eating out every single night would quickly rack that up. By ordering delivery, we can get 2-3 meals for the one we order, plus it allows us to be lazy and me to relax after work.

My mother had already decided where she wanted to eat tonight, scoutPaellaing this place out on her earlier walk, Restaurante Bella Lucía. I think she picked it because she easily found a menu in English. I have told her about paella that if there was a national dish of Spain that would be it and that she does not have a choice in trying it. Since this was displayed on their sign outside, I decided that is what we will get and she obliged. I stumble through Spanish and figure out that the paella is mixed, with chicken and fish. Having menus in English does not guarantee English speaking waiters, we quickly come to realize. “Is calamari squid?” “Yes mother, you like it fried.” “Oh, ok, yeah.” I can tell by her questions and comments that she is not thrilled to be having paella. “I guess it takes a long time to make?” I recall from my cooking class this past August in Madrid and explain the entire process. Good paella does takes some time to make, and it is a delicate process. “The yellow comes from saffron, expect some people replace it with things like turmeric because it is cheaper” I tell her. Her rebuttal, “Saffron is burnt butter right?”. It takes me a minute to process her query. It is my mother, and I will make fun of her for this question, but before doing so, I have to make sure she was serious with that question. She is really asking me this? She was. She is convinced that saffron is some sort of special butter.

I was quite pleased with the dinner, but my mother’s review, “It is alright, I am just not much of a rice person.”

Day 6

I cannot remember the last time I was this excited to learn. I am not sure I was ever this excited to learn anything during my school days, although I was a rather motivated student. I am slightly terrified as when I was setting up the classes on Monday, I was introduced to my tutor and she didn’t speak to me in English, at all! Does she even know English? Did I waste my money? Maybe it is a tactic to immerse me in the language? Surely that is the case, she has to know SOME English, right?

There are two men standing outside the door talking to each other in Sp20160207_175108anish and I take my place outside the edifice as well. Eventually a small, older Spanish man walks down the street with key in hand and unlocks the door. I assume I will have to wait a bit since I was early, but as I am in the motion of sitting down, I hear “Hola! Cayce! Muy bien?” Oh, jeez, ok, she is here early too. I proceed into the small room with one central rectangular table dominating it to begin our lesson.

All Spanish. She talks to me in Spanish, although I cannot repeat anything she said, I understood, at least some of it. Eventually she asks me in a mix of English and Spanish, if I minded explaining the books in Spanish, as it would be a waste to do so in English. I agree, terrified, but I know this will only help me learn more. I didn’t buy the Spanish books Oliver suggested on Monday. It is fine to spend 330 euros on the lessons, the extra 25 for books, pfft. She had printed out the lessons from the books, and asked if I was going to get the books that she went ahead and brought too, otherwise she would be making copies every day. I felt a little ridiculous at this point, and also realized the value of having everything in one place and said, yes, I for sure will get the books.

We continue through the lesson and she makes notes on a blank piece of paper. She was quite surprised at the end when I demanded to have it, instead of the trash. I want to review what we completed in our lesson, extra tidbits and all, of course I want that paper! While departing I say my awkward goodbyes in Spanish, something I am not confident in even though know these from high school. I take the books with me to the counter and pay for them and leave with a grin ear-to-ear. Oh how wonderful that was! I cannot wait for tomorrow!

Day 5

I have never been to Carnaval, in fact I know nothing about it, other than it is a very big deal in Brazil. I think it might be related to Mardi Gras? I know that I want to participate, in some way, even if it is a short window over my lunch break, but I have no idea what to expect. What do I wear? As my mother puts on a wide-striped navy polo with matching navy shorts and runners, I decide that I have to wear some color. That feels natural for what I remember of Carnaval images blasted on the news sites of prior years. I put on a royal blue shirt with a neon undershirt and pink earrings. That is the best I can do with my beachwear. I google the park name one last time, Parque de Santa Catalina 35007 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and set up my GPS on my mobile. It looks to be about a 15 minute walk on the isolated Las Palmas streets, hopefully my mother wont mind.

She does. She questions where we are going, even though she has no idea.

  • Mother: “The ocean is over there, can we not walk along the ocean?”
  • Me: “No mother, we are walking across the island.”
  • Mother: “WHAT?!”
  • Me: “Just the tip of the island! Come.”

Silence ensues after. I can tell another couple in front of us are headed in the same direction. They have the same quizzical aurora around them, although they look like 20160209_120028locals. They lead our same path for a while until one confusing cross-ways with slight breaks in the road, one slight ahead to the right, another slightly ahead and a little to the left and another slightly ahead to the left just a bit more. We took the one to the right after I held my phone with the GPS up to align to the right road, they took the one slightly to the left, as they look around and question if they are going right. We start seeing more and
more people, some with costumes and I know then we are in fact going the right 20160209_115548direction.As we continue to walk, we can see the water on the other side of the island, I know we are near the park. I don’t know what I expected, and wasn’t sure what we would encounter. We find the park and I see a giant and flamboyant stage set up, but nobody is playing yet. Everyone is speaking in Spanish, I don’t know why I expected more English speakers here, but I did. We walk around the make shift square, deciding not to sit on the temporary bleachers set up facing the stage.20160209_121734

We land on a 7up food and drink booth and I order two for us, and we take seats and watch
the crowd grow. Eventually the stage screens start playing Spanish interviewers as they make their way through the crowd of locals. I was disappointed that there was no parade, if I expected anything I expected a parade. It was right around that thought that I heard drums playing and we had to move are way around people to 20160209_121740find them. I see an opening atop a hill surrounding a tree, facing the music and dancers making their way into the stage area under the temporary bleachers. YES!!!! This is what I wanted, I feel a slight piece of Carnaval! We watch the rest of the parade and make our way
back to the apartment, across the tip of the island so I can take my afternoon calls.

Day 4

Paralyzed with indecision, my life every single day, and this morning was no different. I set my alarms for 7:00am, 7:02am, and 7:07am and by the 5th snooze sometime around 7:30am I was sitting up in bed, yes a huge win, but falling asleep as I waver about getting up and going to my first Spanish class. I decided no, then yes, then no, then yes. My issue was that my cold was still ever present, but this morning it was accompanied by a headache, ugh. Stay in bed my body told me. My desire for knowledge screamed get your ass out of that bed and walk down the street to language school. Eventually I did, although I was 15 minutes late than what I had planned on yesterday.

As I walked further down the street, my excitement grew as the pain for my headache seemed to dissipate. I wasn’t sure if I would start today, as nothing was confirmed, only discussed via email. I arrive, a little surprised that they are indeed open around 8am. I stammer through setting up lessons, pay for 10 only to be told we wouldn’t start until Wednesday the 10th due to the holiday on Tuesday. Holiday? “Yes!..” the man said behind the counter, with such surprise it made me feel a bit awkward. It was Carnaval! And the Canary Islands are huge for Carnaval I find out after I run home to google which holiday this man was referring to. I wish I could say I totally planned this out, but I didn’t, what a serendipitous coincidence! I am in Spain during Carnaval! I will have to sneak away from work on Tuesday to participate I decided. Thanks to my best friend Google, I find that Santa Catalina’s Carnival kicks off at noon tomorrow, and that will be how I spend my lunch break! The park is only about a 15 minutes walk from my apartment, and I make a date with it.

Day 3

I have decided that my unborn children will live and study Spanish here in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. I have not even started my Spanish lessons, but yes, I have already decided this, 20 years out.

I am finally feeling like I have conquered whatever bug that engulfed me these past 4 days. I expect to be 85% recovered when I wake up tomorrow. The mornings proved to be the worst, and this morning I am feeling better.

We laid out and tried to soak up some more Vitamin D, but it was chilly today and after my suggestion, we decided to put some more clothes on and walk the beach. It really is so beautiful, the makeshift waterfalls formed by the volcanic raised rocks 50 feet off where the water meets the sand is just breathtaking. The water here is “ice cold” if you ask my mother. If you ask me, it is refreshingly chilled. My mother is starting to drive me batty but I have to remind myself to be patient with her. She is like a perpetual 5 year old. Look at this. What is that? “Is that man walking with ski rods?” “I don’t know mom, maybe they are walking sticks.” This is all new to her. She had never walked around a non-English speaking European city before this week, and I think at time it overwhelms her.

After a couple hours of rest, and a late lunch I decided I wanted to check out my new language school. I knew it was close, and also knew we were running low on coffee so we ventured back out after our afternoon walk on the beach. We walked on the street this time. My mother is uncomfortable walking on the streets here, I can sense it even before she says things like “I guess most people here enjoy walking on the boardwalk more than the street.” Or “it is much more isolated on the streets here.” I don’t bat an anxious eye at walking on the street. Normally, if I were alone I think I would be at least 20160207_174827more aware, but for some reason having someone that is 100 times more anxious then me, I am more at ease. I quite like the residential and isolated streets here. Alone, I have mastered the ambivalent, don’t fuck with me, I don’t give a shit and I am not lost look, enough that anywhere I go in Europe, people come ask me for directions, or speak to me in their local languages. But with my mother here, that has yet to happen. She reacts, if not verbally, then with facial expression, to everything, and I mean everything. I guess it is because everything is so new to her, and she has to process it al
l.

I locate the Language School and take a picture of the sign on
the door, just in case I may need it tomorrow morning, when my classes are supposed to start. As we were walking back to the apartment, 20160207_180027this time avoiding the isolated streets and walking along the beach, I notice a man standing on the “islands” as my mother calls them, holding a child. Pondering how did he get that child out there, I realized the water had reverted so far back the rocks were exposed for a hundred plus feet. People were wondering about on them, and I had to too. With just one slip from my 20160207_175618mother on the mossy side of the rock peninsula, we quite enjoyed exploring the geological anomaly. In all the beaches I have seen across the world, I have never seen anything like here in Las Palmas. It is lovely. The rocks and sand cohabitate here with finesse. If you want to swim a few hundred feet when the tideis up and stand on 5 foot by 5 foot island you can. When the tide is low, the sand and rocks are one level walking with ease from one to another.

I am so excited as I get ready for bed. I feel like I am in high school again. Thinking things like, what should I wear tomorrow to school? I wonder what my teacher will be like. In high school I dreaded Spanish class, now I am counting the hours.

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Day 2

Sleeping in until 10am is so foreign to me lately. So I was quite shocked when my body and mind allowed me to sleep that late. More times than not 4am is a normal internal wakeup time for me. Getting a good, long night’s rest still didn’t cure the 3rd world disease I must have picked up somewhere in Cork earlier this week. This morning was the worst, #dying. Whatever illness plagued me, it wasn’t going to stop me from exploring the area a bit more, including the gorgeous beach beneath my balcony. My mother and I get ready to head down to the beach, and it is at this point the mortification starts. I take a look at my mother, head to toe. She is wearing a beige Austin Police Association baseball cap, with masculine shaped sunglasses and a red, 15 year old tank swimsuit cover up with Myrtle Beach, SC plastered on it that goes to her knees. I think20160206_155615-1, yes, yes, people will know exactly where we are from.

We head down to our apartment lobby, and find the door that outputs us onto the walkway before getting the stairs that lead directly onto the beach. The beach is not crowded, but it feels a bit awkward to have people standing directly over you as you bake in the sun. We roll out our towels, get our books and bodies into position and start the tanning ritual. We both take intermediate breaks from our books to comment on the things we see, or the people we see. My hands and feet are mesmerized by the sand. I have never experienced sand like this. It is not white, tan or blank only, but all three colors. It feels like silk, the softest beach sand I have ever felt. And it clings to you, like that teeny-tiny styrofoam packing material. It is so soft that when it does stick to you, you don’t even feel it, and if you cannot see it, you wouldn’t even know sand was on your body!

I decide that today I need to do nothing but soak up some Vitamin D, that will be the best thing for my ill body, and that is exactly what I did, nothing else the rest of the day.

 

** Anybody that thinks I am too harsh on my crazy mother, or purposefully shaming her, know her response to this post was uncontrollable laughter with this sarcastic response in her thick Arkansas accent, “You ought to be ashamed talkin’ bout your Momma like that.”

Day 1

After 4 hours of rest with a cold, I woke just before my 430am alarm, after waking about 20 times throughout the night. We had a 7am flight and I still had to empty the dishwasher and take out the trash. Experienced served me well after leaving my dishwasher closed with dirty dishes. I had billions of new friends growing on the plates and silverware upon my return. After that, I am obsessive with making sure all the dishes are dry, in the right place and just in case, the dishwasher stays open for my duration abroad.

As I finish my ritual chores and my mother polishes her makeup, I app my way around hailing a taxi. Half-conscious hurry her out the door while we ungracefully manage our suitcases. I have a migraine, maybe a sinus headache, not which either is more pleasant and going on 4 hours of sleep. I am a Taurus and we don’t do well with that little sleep, even when we are healthy. I knew the plane ride would be painful. With my cold accompanying us, I knew the stabbing and pressure in my ears would exacerbate whatever headache I had that morning, and I was right. About 2 hours into the flight I succumb and take some medicine for it. Most of the time I would be deep into a book, with music so loud it would have the potential to annoy the person sitting next to me, but I had no energy for that this morning. I just sat and slept, sat and slept, sat and slept.

I was so reluctant to come. I had planned this trip 6 months prior and I was beyond excited then for this adventure. I dedicated an entire day to researching and deciding where to go. I was in my co-workers bed, working from her apartment and holding down the cat-fort in the center of Madrid while her family vacationed in the south of Spain last August. I knew I wanted to come back to Spain and practice mi muy malo Español and what better place than the Canary Islands. I had heard so much about these islands from friends and co-workers, it is a hotbed for Irish and English tourists. The Spanish islands are off the coast of Morocco and I had to experience them. And now, I am here. Sitting in my pajamas, overlooking the ocean, writing this while I wolf down manuka honey. Something told me to get a jar and take it with me, so glad I did.

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The apartment is exactly what I expected, thanks to the pictures on Airbnb, and my incessant questions to the host. Through all my travels this year, this is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to sit on a balcony and overlook the ocean, and be inundated with the sound of the waves. Tanzania was far away and blocked by trees and other hotel buildings, although they marketed it as ocean view room. Malaysia was a high floor and I was separated from the ocean sounds by children screaming by the pool and restaurant below the room, although I felt closer. Malta was across the street from the beach and because of the geological formation of the island, the waves were suppressed because of the lagoon like enclave. But this is enchanting, this is what I wanted but feared I wouldn’t get. Not because of my failed attempts the previous year, but because my friends didn’t have wonderful things to say about this island. But so far I am very pleased.

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Yeah, this will be an interesting journey with these participants.

The first day here we really only walked around the block, to get our bearings. There is a SuperDino on our block, about 30 steps from the front of the apartment building. This brings me comfort knowing that we can get what we need, and it is so close. Staying a month in an apartment abroad in a foreign speaking land can be scary, especially if food, water and soap are hard to find or you have to transverse public transportation to get it.