Rainy Days in Spain They say the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plane...Sara begs to differ. BY SARA WILSON
Courtesty of Sara Wilson
A beautiful Altean street at night.
I thought that Spain was supposed to have endless sun, but for the month of September all Iíve seen is rain. I thought that it was dry, that its reservoirs were only half full and that just last year it was suffering from the worst drought in 70 years. But all I feel is wetness as it seeps through my Puma shoes and soaks my socks and drenches me within seconds. I thought that I was going to have a year-round tanóas Davidís (my husband) step-mother told me so when I first arrivedóbut I look up at the sky and only see a layer of clouds so thick that it seems impenetrable from any rays of light. And even now, as I write, the thunder is crashing just overhead. Soon, the sky will open up and the rain will fall, and I will be housebound for yet another day. For itís not just a light, Fall drizzle that wets your cheeks, kisses your eyelashes and makes you appreciate the changing of seasons. No, itís the pounding, unrelenting type of rain that forms lakes at your feet and is so unforgiving that it makes you wonder what in the world you did wrong.
David and I have gotten caught in it more than once. Out of pure denial, we have been flat out rebels. When we had an appointment to see a cafe/bar for sale in Alteaóour recently discovered paradiseówe ignorantly (and stubbornly) decided to do part of the trek by scooter and set out for the hour ride to Alicante. We proved victorious and arrived dry. But by the time we arrived by tram to Altea, the rain had arrived and there we were with our helmets in hand, no umbrella for protection, and the realization that there was no way to avoid the torrential downpour. Perhaps we could have found an umbrella if we had looked, but unlike New York City where as soon as the first drops fall the umbrella street vendors immediately set up shop, there was not an umbrella so conveniently in sight.
On our first visit to Altea, we had found the small streets all leading up, outright charming. On this visit, as we battled our way upstream as a small river rushed downstream, we looked beyond the romance and noticed the practical. The underground water passage covered by an iron grate that funneled the rainwater down the winding street and straight to the sea greatly aided certain roads from becoming flooded. The overhanging semi-pipe strategically positioned at the edge of a steep incline cleverly directed the water from the street above to the underground passageway in the street below. Altea was designed to accommodate floods and, in light of this ingenuity, I realized that Altea has much more to offer than just beauty.
We had arrived early and had several hours before our appointment so we decided to get lunch. We arrived sopping and in need of cover, and they opened their doors to us and seated us at a cozy table near a window so that we could gaze upon the rain that came down ever harderóand I loved Altea even more.
We visited the bar next. A cute little place near the old church in the center of the old town. And because the rain still wasnít letting up, we decided to stay the night and found a cheap room that barely offered the basics and cranked the fan up high and carefully laid out our shoes, socks and pants to dry. Later at night, when the rains finally subsided, we ventured out and hoped for mercy.
It was magnificent. The town was quiet and fully ours to enjoy. We stopped to pet a cat who started to follow us to the point that we named him Altea and wondered if we should take him home, and we marveled at Alteaís trash collection system (residents hang small plastic bags of trash from small hooks on the walls outside their homes), and we appreciated the jasmine that framed house windows and doors and added a beautiful scent to the evening air.
One of the upsides about not having a full-time job is that the day is not arbitrarily dictated by a certain number of hours at a desk. Feel like going to the beach on Monday? Go for it. Youíre the master and maker of your own schedule.
One of the downsides of not having a full-time job is that the days and weeks can slip by and youíre the only one fully accountable for making them productive. You can sleep the day away and thereís no system of checks and balances. You are ultimately responsible if nothing gets done.
Since David and I arrived in Spain, we havenít had a fixed schedule. Thereís no set time for doing things other than the hours set for us by the Spanish lifestyle, namely administrative hours, meals and siesta times. So we go about our day and Monday feels just like Sunday and bedtimes donít matter because the next day begins only when we choose to wake up. But as the days blend together and 5:00 p.m.óonce the revered hour signifying the end of a workdayóhas lost all its meaning, thereís one fixed thing that keeps us on course and provides us with some kind of tool to measure time: market days.
Every Friday morning, without fail, our immediate neighborhood is energized with the hustle and bustle of vendors selling and locals buying. Since it happens right outside our building and since Davidís aunt, uncle and cousin have a fruit and vegetable stand there, it has become our routine to head out to the market on Fridays. We step out our front door and brace ourselves.
Thereís something oddly comforting about the activity of the marketplace. Itís soothing to know that the market is a constant in a world that at times feels so unpredictable. Itís reassuring to know that, every week, all the vendors can be found in their designated places; that the olive guy can always be found with his twinkling eyes and charming ways. He has an uncanny ability to entertain while he scoops. He looks happy to do what he does and that makes people happy to wait even though there is another olive vendor just around the corner. Thereís the salt torte lady just down the way who always manages to sell David a little more than he intended to buy with her sweet smile and savvy selling tactics. And thereís Davidís aunt and uncle who, most weeks, send us home with a delicious bag of fruit: peaches, plums, bananas and grapes.
Each vendor is an expert in their offerings and are able to make their living by living off the land. And then, before heading home with our bags of fresh produce and treats, we invariably stop at the chicken roaster with his racks of chicken. And, while I divert my eyes and try not to look, David will get half a chicken for $5.
Itís also at the market that David can find his G-Star knock off shorts for $10 (the days of buying real are over). And itís at the market that Iíve learned that cheap can be cheap in all ways. The sandals that Davidís mom purchased for $5 were cute but the sole lasted less than a day and it wasnít long before the under wire in my $8 bikini top started poking through to the other side, forcing me to replace it soon after. I havenít bought many clothes from the market since; however, I still happily collect the discarded hangers to fill our closets.
But what makes the outing so special is that Davidís family works at the market. Besides his aunt, uncle and cousin who we see weekly, we spotted his cousinís cousin one day working the stall right behind the torte lady. And we were even able to track down his other cousin when we learned that he has a very successful stand selling baby clothes at the market in the village where Davidís mom grew up.
Since it had been 15 years since David had last seen him, we decided one day to see if we could find him. We had to work our way through possible vendors who may have been family, but as soon as I saw the third, I could tell that we had hit jackpot. He had the same skin tone and the same animated way as the rest of Davidís family. But David wasnít so sure. Didnít he look too old to be his cousin? Doubtful, David walked up and asked, "Is your name Luis?" Without batting an eye, Luis responded, "And you are David, the son of my uncle Ramon."
The market lures us in with its fresh produce and friendly vendors. It embraces us in its energy and chaos, and it reminds us that we have family and roots here in Spain. Fridays are our market days. Itís our one constant. It tracks the passing of time. It keeps our fridge stocked and our fruit basket full. It offers definition and solidifies our schedule and gives us good reason to say, "TGIF."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.