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First Impressions of Spain
A quick rundown of the culture shock impressions.

Courtesty of Sara Wilson
Sara and David strolling along the Mediterranean coast.

While I hardly claim to be an expert on the area, considering that I canít even communicate with the locals, I have learned some things since my arrival to Torrevieja on the 18th of June:

- Itís about 45 kilometers south of Alicante, which is where the closest airport is located. David (my husband) and his stepmom picked my sister and me up (this new adventure couldnít have begun without her by my side) by car. Quite a luxury considering that the taxi service to Torrevieja costs 55 to 70 euros! For all those who I hope will come to visit, Iím searching for a cheaper alternative!

- The windows donít come with screens hereónot good if youíre used to New York City where screens are an absolute must. On my first night here, I opened the window above the bed searching for air. Early in the morning, I awoke to Sushi, our cat, jumping through the window and walking on the very narrow ledge suspended four floors above. Trying not to panic, I remained calm and was able to grab him and pull him back inside. Needless to say, we havenít opened that window since.

- About 52 percent of the population is comprised of foreigners with the majority being British. Thereís also a big community of retirees who have left other areas of Europe in search of the endless days of sun here. (I was beginning to lament on where all the youth were until we went out on the 23rd and just happened to be out in time for the festivities of Las Hogueras de San Juan. Celebrated with massive bonfires, these festivities mark the beginning of summer. The beaches swarmed with hundreds of locals on the beach and hundreds of tourists taking pictures of the locals on the beach. Supposedly, this celebration has been around since ancient times when the villages of the Mediterranean would gather to celebrate the summer solstice with bonfires that cleanse and purify.)

- I have decided that the youth come out only at night. I went to Bar 222, a massive outdoor bar thatís on the northern end of Playa de Locos, recently, and I finally located where they all are. At 4:00 a.m., the bar was still going strong and I learned that many would continue on to Pacha, a club where they would probably be to welcome the dawn.

- The beaches are beautiful here. Yet, while they are topless beaches, the sunbathers leave a lot to be desired. Many of those choosing to go around without their tops on are the very ones who should be covered. My sister and I just couldnít imagine why a grandmother would choose to bare all.

- The days are, indeed, endless here. Dawn is around 6:00 a.m. and it stays light until 10 p.m. While this is a very good thing, it has thrown me off since I arrived because itís not the type of daylight that changes according to the time of day. In the U.S., I can make a pretty good estimate of what time it is based on where the sun is, but here the sun seems to always be just as bright. As a result, 5:00 p.m. feels the same as 10 a.m. I have frequently felt that it was the beginning of the day when really it was nearly the end (or at least the end for me on my American time table).

- Donít try changing dollars for euros here. After going to several banks with dollars confidently in hand and getting rejected each time, I discovered that they change everything but dollars in Torrevieja (donít know if itís the same in the areas around Torrevieja). It turns out that several years ago, they took a hit when people were changing fake dollar bills. Instead of finding a system to verify that the bills are real, it appears that they have decided to stop the practice of exchanging euros for dollars altogether.

- The news of Michael Jacksonís death has not gone unnoticed here in Europe. Carrefour, a big store that sells everything from food to electronics to scooters, was offering tribute by playing his music. Meanwhile, in Paris, my brother-in-law is deeply mourning the loss.

Thereís more to come (i.e. now that weíre here, what exactly are we doing here), but Iím anxious to get this first installment out so Iíll start with this. Thanks for reading!

Sara Wilson is currently working as a freelance writer and lives in Torrevieja, Spain with her husband. She has kept a record of her adventures living abroad which you can find here or on her blog: http://sarawilson.wordpress.com. Contact her directly at wilson.sara@gmail.com.

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