Vacation times are the best of times, no? Even if you are on a tour of the Balkans or cruise to the Caribbean or an African safari, where you have set things to do, you never have to do them. When we arrived in Gijón, it was over a year after the Corona virus had put an end to our vacations, as it did for most people around the world. So we had even more of a reason to treat the next act in our lives like a vacation and for the first month and a half we did. Jesse and I booked an Airbnb that bordered the largest park in town that is on a small cliff overlooking the ocean, and we walked it every day, even two or three times on some days. We ate out more often, went for drinks of Cañas of beer and Asutrian cider at Siderias and three-course lunches with wine and desert and late breakfasts of Churros and chocolate and late dinners of Chachopo and Doner kebob.
Sleeping until noon some days, staying up late, taking midday naps, shopping, eating out; these are the keys of a successful vacation. Though as fun as vacation living is, most of us humans we need routine, or at least some kind of structure in our daily lives. We are all not rock stars or actors and we come to learn that once the shows are over, they go back to their families and routines same as the rest of us (well, maybe except Bill Murray). So we knew we had to do some cooking at home and eat all the wonderfully fresh and tasty fruits, vegetables, breads, meats, and cheeses Spain has to offer.
The Airbnb had a full kitchen, so those first few weeks we made two semi-daily meals at home; one a lunch meal consisting of mixed salad (which we ate many times as a first course in Menu del dias) and lunch meat sandwiches with fresh sliced meats and cheese. For dinner, we ate scrambled eggs with chopped red peppers, green squash and yellow onions (huevos mixta con piemento rojo, calabacin y cebollas dulce) with fresh bread sprinkled with oil, salt and oregano. Of course a glass of wine accompanied each meal and we made sure to do as Spaniards do and not eat until later (for us that is about 8pm – 10pm). This was a lighter dinner, and if you asked us a year before if we thought we would be eating scrambled eggs, bread and wine for dinner consistently we would have laughed and said, “as if.” We had been living the no bread, daily smoothie, less than 1,500 calories California diet.
Anyway, back to routines. The first change to my normal, daily routine was that I started showering at night, because I had come to realize that (early) morning showering was no good on my psyche before Covid-19. I would fret and worry and sometimes be angry about having to go to work, and get caught up in negative thoughts, about the meetings or work to do that day, or the one co-worker who would always be rude, or talk about having a case of the Mondays on a Thursday, or the boss who you were never sure what kind of mood he was in, or how sober he was, on any given day. As we are on sabbatical and a big part of that is to not think about work (and our Visas prevent us from working) it was such a large part of our lives and daily living that it is still impossible to not think about former bosses, co-workers, work projects and such, but I am doing my best to think about these things positively (and there will be some posts in the future about work, so stay tuned!).
The next addition to our routine was signing up for Spanish language classes that the two of us take together, three days a week for an hour and a half (I will talk more about the class, our professors, and the language learning experience in a later post). Though we still want to sleep in most days, or really, it is more about having the option to sleep in, even if we choose not to do so. That is a bit of freedom, and that is a lot more freedom than I have ever had since, well, since summers off from school as a child/college student (and I realized as I wrote that how true that is. Damn).
Grocery shopping still has to be done and now we have our two fruiterias that we rotate between; as one has better bananas and apples and the other has better cherries and mangos. We have our Carnicería where we get our sliced salami, ham, mortadella, and cheeses, and now we’ve been often enough that they call us chicos. We have our Panaderia where the young lady that works there corrects our Spanish since we’ve asked her to. We have our grocery store, too, for the things we can’t get at those other places, like Jamón-flavored Ruffles, Olive oil, individual beers, toilet paper and such. Having to shop at all these places sounds like a lot of work, but it isn’t when we have more time to do it.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, well-grown, baked foods (except probably the potato chips, though they do have way less ingredients than those in the US) makes it more worth it too. When we went to the grocery store in the US, it was never enjoyable, because it was a chore that had to be done, that took the precious time we had away from work, which was supposed to be our time, instead we had to do a chore. So while we still have our routines, as all people do, and they of course make life easier, having the time to do them, to have the time to enjoy them, even if they are not the most exciting or enjoyable or even boring tasks, has made the biggest difference thus far.