Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Open 24 hours

I went to the gypsy market in Jerez de la Frontera with a group from the base a couple of weeks ago. We shopped the aisles of meat and seafood, plants and flowers, spices, various types of olives, produce, clothing and shoes. A group of us were outdoors looking through the clothing, when I happened to come across this... Feel free to click on the picture for a larger view if you're unable to read the writing.

And FYI... I did not purchase this particular item, but obviously found it interesting, therefore I took the picture and now I'm showing it to you. So whaddya think? Would you like to add this to your Christmas wishlist?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Gibraltar ROCKS - Part II

I promised you more pictures from Gibraltar and I do keep my promises, but before I share those with you, I want to pass along a couple of trivia tidbits. Evidently Gibraltar is a popular place for folks to have quickie weddings (kind of like Las Vegas, NV or Jelico, TN) in that it only requires 48 hours notice and it's all legal. A couple of famous people were married in Gibraltar - Sean Connery and John Lennon (not to each other of course). And I didn't realize that the Rock of Gibraltar is the logo used for Prudential Financial. I LOVE trivia!

Okay, you were promised pictures, and pictures you shall have. Let's get to it...

I took lots of pictures from atop the rock! There are several of La Linea, the Spanish town that links Gibraltar to the Iberian Peninsula. You'll also see the military airport runway in a picture or two, and you might catch a glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea, as Gibraltar is located at the entrance. The best pictures have been saved for last and those are the ones featuring the infamous Barbary Apes, the definite highlight of our trip. Enjoy...

And now to the most fun we had all day...

Here come the best pictures of all...
Look at this face!

Should we be offended? I think we were just mooned!

Oh my!

Hey, keep it clean! Keep it clean! (The boys thought this was hysterical!)

This little scamp was probably looking to snatch someone's snack. Evidently, the Barbary Apes are known to be quite sneaky and will steal anything they can get their hands on, particulary food. And they'll bite if you're not careful.

Monkey see...

... Monkey do!

We saw this little guy at the very end of our visit with the apes and the boys were absolutely mesmerized. Of course they want an ape as a pet now. Um... no! We have enough monkeys at our house already!

We really enjoyed our trip to Gibraltar. If you ever have the chance to go, don't pass it up! Now we're looking forward to our next trip, wherever that may be...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Gibraltar ROCKS... pun intended!

Yesterday we hopped a bus from the base and went on a tour of Gibraltar, our first family trip since arriving in Spain 6 weeks ago. I realize I must be somewhat geographically challenged because I honestly had no idea Gibraltar was an entirely separate country and it's "owned" by the British. Who knew? You knew? So what?! Gibraltar is connected to Spain by a thin stretch of land and it's the entrance to the Mediterranean. You can look in one direction on the rock and see Spain and in the other direction you can see Africa, Morocco to be exact. Pretty cool, huh?

The drive to Gibraltar was interesting because it was obviously new territory for us and we saw some things we'd never seen. For instance, there is this old building structure along the way where storks build these HUGE nests and we actually saw the storks sitting in their nests when we passed by. Did I get a picture? Well, no I didn't, because I didn't realize we'd be seeing really cool stuff along the way! I missed taking a picture of the storks, but thought I'd have a second chance on the way back, which didn't happen because they weren't in their nests when we drove back. My husband said they must have been out making their deliveries.

When I realized I was missing out on photo ops, I got the camera out, ready for whatever might come next. I got a pictures of these... While you may think these strange-looking things are devices used to send signals to aliens, I assure you, this is not the intended purpose. These are windmills. Go ahead and click on the picture for a closer view.

We stopped about halfway to Gibraltar for potty a break and snack at this place... We ate these sinful doughnuts and they were SOOOOO GOOOOODDD!
As we approached Gibraltar, we readied our passports (ooh... aah... our first stamp from another country since arriving in Spain) and searched out the huge rock that is Gibraltar. Unfortunately, it was a really cloudy day and we were unable to see the entire rock due to the fog and clouds. We have postcards though and know that the rock is doggone big! Here's the best picture I could get of the rock...
Here's a picture I found online to give you an idea of what it would look like on a clear day...
We had a few hours to shop and eat lunch before our tour continued up the rock to see the sights, which included a couple of caves, breathtaking views of the water and land surrounding the rock, a Moorish castle, lighthouse, mosque and of course the infamous Barbary Apes. We walked the streets and ducked into stores. The boys found stores that sold Wii games and Legos, so they were in hog heaven. They also spied a Burger King and insisted on having lunch there, however, my husband and I had a craving for English fish & chips. We were in British territory, after all.
Narrow streets meant we had to watch where we walked.
When did you last see one of these?
Here's the Moorish castle perched atop the hill...
Here's the lighthouse at Europa Point...
And here's the mosque of King Fahad of Saudi Arabia...
We could see both the lighthouse and mosque from the same location on Europa Point, and when we turned around to face the water, to the right we saw Spain beyond this ship... and to the left we saw Africa... I used the zoom lens on this picture so that it would be a little clearer among the clouds.

We visted a couple of caves - St. Michael's Cave, which is a natural cave with stalactites and the like as well as a huge ampitheater built for live performances...
... and the Great Siege Tunnels, which were manmade during the 1770s and 1780s...
Are you thirsty for more or are you bored? Hold that thought! I'm saving the best for last. I invite you to stand by for my next post when I show you beautiful aerial views from atop the rock, as well as the infamous Barbary Apes, which were the hit of the day for our family. I have lots of pictures to share with you, so do come back for another visit.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What we have here is a failure to communicate...

We are fortunate enough to have found a gardener here in Spain. His name is Manuel, but then again, there are lots of gardeners named Manuel around here, so the name alone doesn't exactly distinguish him from the others.

Manuel comes to do our yardwork once a week, usually on Mondays, however, sometimes he shows up in the middle of the week as well. We never know when we'll see him. At times Manuel comes bearing tomatoes from his own personal garden, which is awesome. He not only does the grass cutting, he weed-eats (sometimes anyway), trims bushes and will bring in new plants from time to time. Of course we've been told that some of the gardeners in the housing area have been known to raid other yards (supposedly those where there are vacant homes) in that they dig up plants and then re-plant them elsewhere. We're half afraid to leave for any length of time for fear our yard will be totally devoid of all plant life when we return!

Manuel is a very nice man, but unfortunately, we can't understand 95% of what he's saying. Manuel speaks very quickly and just keeps talking as if we've understood every word. I'm constantly thinking to myself, "Doesn't he see the total look of confusion on my face?" We've even told Manuel we don't speak Spanish, although we try. At times we say to him, "No comprende," but he just keeps on talking. Perhaps he doesn't hear well. I don't know! Thus far we've been managing well enough with hand gestures, which is probably quite comical to anyone who might be passing by. Sometimes I think I might just be on an episode of "Candid Camera," and I look around, expecting to see Alan Funt, Jr. come out from around a palm tree.

I'm going to have to learn how to tell Manuel what I want him to do because he comes when my husband isn't around, therefore I can't pawn this job off on him. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy the free tomatoes and continue to smile stupidly, all the while shaking my head "no" when Manuel asks me if I comprende.

Friday, September 26, 2008

He's got a crush...

Our youngest son has a crush on a girl in his class, but you didn't hear it from me. He'd deny it 'til his dying day and would be mortified that I just put it out there for everyone to read.

Little man told me a few nights ago that he likes a girl from his class. I asked him who and he said, "Layla." He then informed me that he didn't like her for a girlfriend, only a friend. Hello! Isn't that code for "I have a crush on Layla"? I went along with it though. I asked my son why he liked this girl and he said she was just a nice girl. Okay. Hmmm...

Later that same night the little man had a separate conversation about Layla with his dad, but this time he slyly asked if we had a school directory. When he found out there was no school directory, he seemed disappointed. My husband asked him who he wanted to call and he said, "Layla," and went on to say he liked her, but only as a friend. Okay. Hmmm...

Now we actually saw this little girl at a recent birthday party at the bowling alley, but we can't remember her to save our lives.

Friday night we took the boys to a kid-friendly event on base and each of them invited a friend because we were celebrating the boys' birthdays. Little man was scanning the crowd, looking for someone, and I thought he was looking for the friend he'd brought along that night, so I said, "Hey, your buddy is right over there." He said, "No, I'm looking for Layla. She said she was going to be here and I don't see her anywhere."

Yep, he's got a crush... on Layla.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

We may be doing something right after all

We're driving our oldest son to soccer practice while the boys are engaged in a movie in the backseat. Mind you, it only takes 5 minutes to get to the soccer fields from our house, but the boys start a movie in the event they get bored in that 5 minutes' time, ya know.

So... the boys have their headsets on and they're laughing at this particular scene in the movie, when we hear these words escape the little man's mouth...

"I'd just kick him in the nu... uh... I mean I'd just kick him in the privates."

We are about to turn around and correct him when he catches his mistake in mid-sentence. It's like he was feeling the heat from our disapproving glares before we even had a chance to react. How's that for effective parenting? Thank God for little boys with a conscious!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Boys' Birthdays

We've experienced birthday mania over the last few days in that both of our boys have a birthday in September. In fact, while they're 3 years apart in age, their birthdays are back-to-back on 21 and 22 September, which, I can assure you, was totally unplanned. We just obviously have a "lucky" month about 9-10 months prior.

Not having lived here for a long period of time, we opted to allow the boys to invite a couple of friends over to hang out at the house before going to a kid-friendly event on base, then out to pizza and eventually home again for cake and ice cream. They were cool with that. I have a really hard time throwing a huge party and inviting tons of kids when we don't know them and they don't know us. It would make me feel like people are thinking we just want gifts. Of course our kids DO want gifts, but I'm uncomfortable inviting both boys' entire classrooms when we're brand-new someplace.

The boys received some nice gifts this year... new bikes from us (much-needed as they'd outgrown their old ones), Star Wars models, Legos, money and of course the ever-coveted Wii games and extra controllers. Wii is where it's at these days.

So here's my oldest "baby," who is certainly no longer a baby at the age of 12.
And here's my youngest "baby," who just turned 9.
These boys are growing up entirely too fast! Next year I'll be the mother of a TEENAGER. Man, where did the time go?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Radioactive Waffles

My oldest son has joined the Boy Scout troop here in Spain and at their last meeting they were to decide upon a nickname for their patrol. The chosen name, winning by unanimous vote, was the "Radioactive Waffles," and their motto will be "Leggo my radioactive eggo." Things that make you go, "Hmmmm...."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spanish Telemarketers

Lately I've been getting phone calls on both our base phone as well as my new cell phone. By the way, here's where I got my cell phone... Don't you love the name - MOVISTAR? Makes me feel so cosmopolitan, so international, like I'm SOMEBODY... except I'm having a hard time figuring out how to use the doggone thing. I digress...

Anyway... the phone calls I've been receiving are evidently from Spanish telemarketers. That's my guess anyway because I clearly can't understand anything any of them are saying. The person on the other end always speaks so quickly. There's absolutely no way I can comprehend anything being said.

I don't like being rude to anyone, even telemarketers who won't take no for an answer, but the language barrier has given me an easy out in this situation without being rude. I can simply say, "Lo siento. No habla Espanol," and then hang up! I've just told the telemarketer, "I'm sorry. I don't speak Spanish." See? I haven't been rude. I've said I'm sorry and I've told the truth in that I don't speak Spanish. Then I can slam... uh... I mean I can hang up the phone without feeling guilty. It's a beautiful thing!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm a fashionista!

A couple of nights ago my husband and I had to "divide and conquer" with kid activities. I took one kid to soccer practice and he took the other to Scouts. I'd been in a bit of a hurry, trying to get my son to change into soccer gear and making sure I had my grocery list so that I could shop at the commissary while he was at practice.

Upon arriving at the soccer fields, I decided to go touch base with my son's coach so that I could tell him where I could be reached during practice in case something came up. As I hopped out of the truck (Yes, we now have our truck... more about that later), I looked down and saw these on my feet...
I'd left home without changing out of my slippers! And notice the evidence of having just taken off my socks? How sexy is that?

Imagining just how thrilled my son would be to have me accompany him looking so cool, I just told him where I'd be rather than going over to speak to his coach. I then called my husband and asked him how embarrassed he'd be to know that I was about to enter the commissary wearing a pair of bedroom slippers. Luckily he's not easily embarrassed as he laughingly told me to go for it.

I figured I'd see everyone I knew because that's usually the way it goes when I look my worst, but I was spared the humiliation as I only saw a couple of people I recognized, which is part of the beauty of being in a new location.

Yep, I'm a regular fashionista... a trend setter here in Spain. Next thing you know, EVERYONE will be wearing their bedroom slippers in public. Just wait and see...

Only in Spain...

Yesterday I attended a brunch with several other Air Force spouses. The hostess lives on the beach in a beautiful, large, airy Spanish home. Yeah, I feel really sorry for her too.

We had a wonderful time eating and chatting, getting to know one another better, and then we went to a local nursery. This place is massive and they have LOTS of stuff - plants, pots, furniture, home decor, etc. What was really surprising to me, however, was the fact that there were lots of animals here as well. In the middle of this nursery is a regular pet store.
There were pigs...

... and puppies...

... and feathered friends

But what surprised me most of all... ... is the fact that you can shop and then have a beer in this place. You gotta love that!

Only in Spain...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Eating out in Spain

We went to our first Spanish restaurant as a family last night. There's a small eatery located not far from the base which had been recommended to us by neighbors, so we decided to check it out. I don't know if we were way early (7:30pm) or if there just isn't a lot of business on Sundays, but we were one of only two families in the place. Sometimes that's not a good sign, but we didn't want to look it that way.

Of course I brought along my little Spanish-English dictionary to help us figure out how to order. What was nice, however, is that the menu was in both Spanish and English. I wanted to try paella, but they were either out or hadn't made any yesterday; I'm not sure which was the case. Anyway... my husband and I decided to split a fried seafood platter with fries. Of course the boys weren't particularly enthused about anything authentic, so they chose cheeseburgers and fries.

We received our meals and the boys started to dig in, but soon stopped eating with such gusto. They said the meat didn't taste right. We tasted their burgers and no, they weren't quite like what we're accustomed to eating in the States, but they were okay. Our boys will eventually have to accept the fact that even McDonald's isn't quite the same here in Spain as it is in the States. It's just the way it is. Of course we've found that the Subway on base is pretty doggone close to "back home," therefore my oldest, in particular, wants to eat every meal there. Sigh... I have a feeling it's going to be a while before these guys want to go to another Spanish restaurant.

Like I mentioned before, my husband and I got the seafood platter, which had lots of different kinds of fish and I think some squid. Lord knows I wasn't sure what all was on the plate, but we tried it all and thought it was pretty tasty. What was fascinating to the boys was the fact that some of the fish was brought out still staring at us in that the heads hadn't been removed. The boys couldn't believe we were going to eat those fish! Of course we didn't eat the heads, but we offered them to the boys. They were mortified!

I couldn't help but think of the scene from the movie "A Christmas Story," where the family is forced to eat Christmas dinner in a Chinese restaurant because their turkey feast was ruined by the neighbors' dogs. The family is served roast duck, with the head still attached. Hilarious!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Scenes from Spain

I've been asked (TOLD by some people) to post a few pictures of our new surroundings here in Spain. Give a girl a break, okay? I've only had internet service in my own home for three days or so. I'm on it!

We haven't been that many places yet as we've been busy settling in, starting school, meeting people, drinking sangria (Mom, I wasn't drinking the sangria, only the other people we were with were drinking the sangria)...

I've snapped a few pictures here and there and will certainly continue to do so every opportunity I get. I thought I would share a few with you here...

This picture and the next were taken at a local beach near Rota.
Palm trees are in abundance here. I couldn't resist taking a picture of this one with the sun setting behind it. Beautiful!

The following several pictures were taken during a recent trip to Jerez de la Frontera. I went with a few new girlfriends and we had a great time. This was a walking tour, so we got some exercise, took in the sights and learned some things about the area. These trips are awesome! We went by bus, so none of us had to drive our own vehicles, nor did we have to worry about where to park once we arrived. Perfect!

I know our tour here will be over before we know it as two years goes by very quickly, therefore I want to take advantage of every opportunity to travel and see the sights. I'm sure I'll be posting lots more pictures here in the very near future.