The olive booth at the Gypsy Market

A day in a country is unique and different thanks to that country’s people and culture. Today I am in Rota, Spain which is located in the southern region of Andalusia. I am staying with my dear friends Sara Medina and her daughter Carolina Medina. They have quickly become like family to me. They live here in Rota because the largest US Marine Base in Spain is located in this small Spanish village and Sara works as a civilian employee for their navy hospital. Carolina is in the midst of university and gets to enjoy school and international life from the beaches of southern Spain.

So today was what I have come to love as a typical day in Spain. I woke up without an alarm around 9:30am. Usually my body naturally rises round 8:30am or 9am, however last night I stayed up writing. At least that’s my excuse this time. And I had nowhere to travel to today and no one to meet this morning. I got up and did my “Morning Papers”, which if you don’t know what those are, please check out this amazing book to learn about it and consider reading it yourself: The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. I had the whole house to myself since Sara was at work and Carolina was meeting a friend for coffee, so I let in the handyman who arrived to fix some things in the house and I did my usual preparations for the day…making my bed, since I’m a bit of a neat-freak, and finally getting out of my pajamas and into clothes for the day.

La miel…the honey 🙂

Then came my favorite time of the whole morning (and I know…by this time it was the middle of the day): coffee and prayer. Perhaps some would call it meditation or quiet time…whichever you prefer. For me, it’s that precious time for myself and when I talk to God, all over a couple, or few, cups of fresh black coffee. Oh, and I can’t forget the honey that I add. I love honey.

On this particular day, this time also included a great little Skype conversation with my mom and wonderful girl-talk with Carolina when she got home. As much as we were enjoying the grey foggy weather outside and agreed it was a day to be “home-bodies”, we ended up talking ourselves into going to the Gypsy market that only happens on Wednesdays and was soon going to be closing if we did not hurry towards the center of town.

At the Gypsy market one can find the best fresh olives, nuts, even fresh seafood, and more than anything, clothes! And cheaply priced clothes. Some are cheaply made, but many of the clothes can be of pretty decent quality. But first things first…we have our priorities after all – to the olives! Carolina picked out the large green olives stuffed with garlic cloves and marinated in herbs. I chose a second batch of olives that is a beautifully colored mix of green and black olives with orange-bright carrot slices and vibrant red pepper chunks.

From there, we wondered down in between the random booths and tents of blouses, shoes of all varieties, baby clothes, bolts of cloth for sewing, and pants and under garments. Our progress went leisurely and we did not make it far before we got drawn to a tent that boasted “todo 2 euros” (everything 2 euros). There were two long tables, each covered, no wait – buried with clothes. The piles were high and a mess, which simply meant, we would have to go digging. Being the thrifty shoppers that we each are, we did not mind the sorting required and if the items were second-hand. The nice thing was, we did find out afterwards that the clothes are not second-hand (so they say), but are the left overs of items from other stores in the area. Needless to say, I think our efforts paid off. For women like us there is something exciting about seeing clothes thrown together and from a small flash of color or quick glimpse of fabric, to yank on a piece and pull out a surprise. Not knowing what you will discover and get, yet realizing that you are bound to find some hidden treasure of attire to be creative and fun with. For me, it’s a playground of creativity that is eye-candy to my easily stimulated mind. I came out with two different lite sweaters, one of woven wool that is a sage-green and has the neatest short zipper uniquely placed at the top right side of the neck, but running vertically and stopping just above the chest. The other is a simple and luxuriously soft wool v-neck sweater with sleeves that flair and are accompanied by a row of buttons toward the end. And it doesn’t itch – essential for this gotta-be-comfortable woman. Sara joined us for a short while, but since she had to go back to work and the markets were closing, we made our way towards home.

Now it was time for lunch and if you haven’t already learned, lunch in Spain is the largest meal of the day. I have this theory now that there is a reason why Latins tend to be people who are late places. Not always, but for the most part it’s true and I can say that because I have a Latin mother. This is to preface that we went to a small local rotisserie shop where all they do is make fresh rotisserie chickens and Spanish Tortilla. What a local experience and I say that with an ecstatic smile 🙂

To paint the scene for you, please picture with me the front door where you enter into a small space about big enough for four or five people packed tight. Here’s where two counters are in an “L” shape and that you look over to view the large wall oven where the chickens are slowly rotating on spikes. The savory tantalizing smell of cooked herb chicken permeates the air (and yes, permeates you so you walk out of there taking the smell home with you) and every now and then you catch a whiff of the latest Spanish tortilla being pulled from an oven hidden somewhere in the back of the very small store. The counters have a few shelves of  that day’s potato salad and freshly made arranque, which is a delicious spread of tomato, garlic, and bread puree mixed together. Bottles of cerveza (beer), soda, and water line the bottom tier, ice-cold and ready to drink. We entered to place our order of one chicken, a Spanish tortilla, and a container of the arranque. Fifteen minutes are what we were told it would take for the next tortilla to be done. “No worries”, agreed Carolina and I…this was a chance to go to the cafe next door and enjoy a tinto de verano, the traditional Spanish glass of red wine mixed with carbonated water and poured over ice.

When we arrived back at the chicken shop, I realized I was experiencing the epitome of that endearing characteristic of Latin cultures that I already mentioned…being late! We were fortunate to get a spot standing just within the door and good thing we did, because then the line started. People started lining up and occasionally those who don’t believe in lines started shimmying their way in past others to crowd into the very center of the small space…I have no idea why people would want to force their way into a small, crowded, sweaty-hot space to wait when they could wait outside and let others have their turn. And why was I standing there? Well at that point we were sort of stuck and didn’t want to lose our place or for that matter our lunch to another. But all of us were in good spirits and how could we not be with the owner’s entertaining personality provoking us to laughter with his quirky remarks. He especially loves to practice his English with Carolina, which mainly consist of his favorite phrase “see you later, alligator”. While he conversed with us and the growing crowds, he worked rapidly with his hands at cutting up and packaging the freshly roasted chickens. It was almost hypnotizing watching him cut away at the chicken with his sharp kitchen scissors and forked tongs – stab, snip, snip-snip, then stab and toss into a foil container…he definitely had a rhythm down. What seems to be such an everyday little task, ends up reminding me of the little things that make this culture unique and different from mine.

Almost an hour later, Carolina and I arrived back at home and starving for lunch. The wait was well worth it though. We added to our amazing fresh food some slices of soft bread, olive oil to pour over anything and everything according to our stomach’s delight, local artisan cheese, and a bottle of red wine as the finishing touch. We savored every bite, drawing out the meal by enjoying the intoxicating wine between bites and savory different ways to taste the food. Did you know that Spanish tortilla is typically eaten on a piece of bread or even tucked in between slices of bread like a sandwich? Depending on what part of Spain you’re in, this is the traditional way to eat it, although I prefer it without bread. The arranque spread is great on the bread and topped with pieces of the chicken. Adding a piece of the cheese to this combo was a delicious concoction as well!

After most of the lunches I have enjoyed in Spain, I am reminded why the siesta is one of the best ideas that the Spanish culture ever contributed to society. With such great food in your stomach and wine, it’s best to take a nap and give in to the food comatose. On this occasion though I fought it and instead enjoyed some writing and actually got more work done.

It wasn’t long though until my housemate and dear friend Carolina rallied for a walk to the beach. She kept mentioning something about a zip-line…zip-line I thought…what in the world am I in for? Well it turned out to be a great little playground down the street and on our way to the beach. It has a great zip-line, kid size of course but still a blast. From there we made our way to the where the wooden walkways took us over some small sand dunes and to the sea waves crashing on the beach. It felt so good to take in the warm sun and cool wind as we walked just within the edges of the water as it crashed and spread out on the sandy shore.

This fantastic Spanish day ended with another great meal, but this one with a particular twist: we had Mexican! I love homemade Mexican food so getting to stay with Carolina and Sara spoiled me since Sara is from MexiCali. Carolina made us chilaquiles for dinner. It’s a one-skillet creation with strips of corn tortillas, sautéed red onions, diced tomatoes, and green enchilada sauce, all smothered with cheese. Complimented with a side dish of frijoles (re-fried beans) and I was in heaven enjoying the first Mexican food I’ve had in over seven months now.

Funny, how no matter where I travel, I seem to enjoy diverse experiences there even while experiencing the local culture. Maybe it’s because I’m a mix of cultures myself…for me, this is another day in Spain. Just as Spain itself has many different regions and characteristics that differ with each region, so I am finding that each of my days here can be very different and full of great surprising experiences. Knowing me, it will be like that wherever I go! What did you do today?

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