Now that I am in my second year here, there´s a comforting familiarity to things. Although of course I continue to stumble across day-to-day things that seem a little strange (like this Spanish keyboard on my new laptop!), now I have a kind of rhythm to my life here that I like.
Today is Día de todos los santos, or All Saints Day. This is a public holiday, but living on the coast, one often misses the significance of this days. So many businesses here are foreign or follow a secular calander, that many work today. In fact most of my clients will have worked today. This year I scheduled it off work, rather than the last-minute scramble last year to organise the time off when Rafa & I went to Tarifa (I recall we went skinny dipping in the sea!) This year we were more conformist and enjoyed a family day in the country. In the morning tradition dictates that people go to the cemeteries to pay respect to deceased relatives and put out fresh flowers (or extremely gaudy plastic ones!) on the tombs or in front of the small, "multi-storey" alcoves where most dead people´s ashes are interned.
Then follows a big family meal and today was no exception. When we arrived at Rafa´s family´s summer house near the tiny Ronda village of Cartajima, Rafa´s aunt and mother were already busy preparing a huge paella on a special stove on the terrace, in the shade of a old chestnut tree. After some heavy rain last week, it was good to get back the sunshine and warmth and enjoy some time outdoors, collecting chestnuts that littered the countryside around the house. After the paella came cakes, chocolate, and of course roasted chestnuts, prepared in a perforated pan over the same circular gas stove that cooked the super-size paella earlier in the day. The whole family was there – 17 people including the kids; and a year on my experience was richer as I could share a joke or chat more easily when before I was self-consciously quiet, struggling to string a few words of Spanish together. The latest addition to the family, Rafa´s nephew, Cayetano, only a few months old, slept contently in his pram during much of the afternoon as everyone noisely shared the meal, talking over each other, laughing and joking. It seems that still here in the south, kids have a good family life, where they are included in everything most days, until late at night when the parents go to bed. They seem more relaxed and friendly for it too.
At the end of today I realised I´m lucky to share this family lifestyle in Andalucia – a wonderful contrast to my life on the coast. Oh, and I´m really lucky that my adoptive Spanish family love to eat!