Gifts to send abroad

I’ve lived abroad for several years in different countries, and I am always so grateful and excited to receive any type of post from home, but when it’s a package, that excitement increases even more than getting a postcard. A huge thank you to everyone who has sent me postcards and letters over the years, I have kept every single one of them and I found some earlier, which prompted this post.

When you have friends of family living abroad, and want to send them a gift, here are some things to consider…not all home comforts can be sent abroad.

First and most importantly, I think you should never send anybody anything valuable. You should send things with the back thought that ‘it might not get there’, because trust me, not all packages arrive. Some are opened by customs or nibbled at by mice before it gets to the receiver and some just never ever arrive at all.

Food

Food and comfort food is always great to send. Always check the date on what you send, as parcels could take from 10 days to 10 weeks to arrive. Coming from the UK, I always request Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and it’s much better to send a multipack of individual bars, rather than a big 500g block. Because if you open a 500g bar, you have to either share it, or eat it all within a few days. 10 x 50g bars last a lot longer. Plain chocolate is always better than anything with caramel or sticky things inside, as they sometimes leak (creme eggs).

I missed cereals when I was in China, and a friend of mine had the greatest idea to send one of those Kelloggs multipack of cereals, you know, the ones for indecisive children. They’re light, so cheap to send and also nostalgic.

Stuff to read

If you’re a book fan, like me, you might run out of things to read. Even with a kindle, there is still nothing greater than a nice paperback book, a magazine or newspaper clipping from home. Most charity shops sell books for between 50p and £1.50, so they are not expensive to buy.

Cosmetics

Not all foreign countries have the same brands and types of cosmetics as they do at home. Asian countries that attach a high importance to looking pale, use a lot of whitening products in their cosmetics, so it’s nice to receive some moisturiser or hand cream from home, knowing that it won’t bleach your skin. Make sure it’s properly sealed, cos a leakage of creams could be devastating.

Teaching aids

If your loved one is teaching overseas, ask them if they need any teaching aids that you can’t get abroad – like blu tac, ‘well done!’ stickers or colouring books to make photocopies of. Blu tac really isn’t sold overseas!

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Things I Will and Won’t Miss About Spain

I am no longer living in Spain (boo!). After almost two weeks back in the UK, here is a list of things I’ll miss about Spain/Canary Islands (excluding the obvious – friends, weather and food!).

  • Working out on the beach – crossfit and ultimate frisbee
  • Coffees with condensed milk – barraquito, leche leche

    Me with the most expensive barraquito on the island
    Me with the most expensive barraquito on the island
  • How the butcher at the meat counter in the supermarket chops up your meat how you like it
  • English fails (Ana Botella) and the memes that come with it

    Relaxing cup
    Relaxing cup for everyone in Plaza Mayor
  • Tapas – nothing like some patatas bravas and tortilla
  • Saying hello to your friends as you pass them on the street
  • Tinto de verano!!!
  • Saints days
  • Cruise ship days spent laughing with/at tourists

    Tourists with a map
    Tourists with a map
  • Ice cream parlours
  • Eating outside on the terrace
  • Keeping a list of the local crazies

    Reggae Man
    Reggae Man
  • The billboards that say the time, date and temperature
  • Son las 5….las 4 en Canarias

  • When Espanish Estudents add an E to the Estart of some words
  • Can you repeat your name again?

  • Playing the “Guess where I’m from” game
  • Races!

    Arriving to the finish line!
    Arriving to the finish line!
  • Teaching my lovely students
  • Being known as La Inglesa Nativa “The English Native”
  • Seeing the sea everyday

    Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
    Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
  • Being part of a (winning) team

    Aldake Champions!
    Aldake Champions!
  • Parties that don’t start until 12am
  • Street markets and yummy sugar cane juice

    Street market
    Street market
  • The way people say Mcflurrrrrrrrrrrrrry
  • Supermarket baskets that have wheels on the bottom
  • How everybody uses whatsapp over texts (and the double tick meaning I know they’ve seen my message)
  • Having the beach to myself

    All alone
    All alone
  • The bluntness of Spanish people – “Well he is a lot chubbier now than he was last year”
  • Shots of honey rum in mini beer jugs

    Arriba, abajo, pal centro, pa dentro!
    Arriba, abajo, pal centro, pa dentro!
  • Prince Alberts for pudding 😉

Things I won’t miss about Spain:

  • Euros – the coins for 10, 20 and 50 cents are all too similar in colour and shape
  • Steep streets and all the steps

    An example of one of the hills
    An example of one of the hills
  • Running up these steps (several times) during training

    200 steps
    200 steps
  • Tiled floors at home (give me a carpet any day!)
  • The customer service provided in shops and restaurants
  • Boring afternoons

    Not a happy bunny
    Not a happy bunny
  • The lack of 24 hour supermarkets
  • Giving kisses when you see people… it can end badly (eg cheek-butting, almost kissing someone on the lips, also what are you meant to do with your hands whilst giving kisses?)
  • Bad timekeeping – ahora and ahorita are totally different
  • Strikes

    People getting in my way
    People getting in my way
  • The way that even when the green man is on, cars are on orange and can still use the road
  • Hours spent searching the supermarkets for home comforts such as…
  • The BREAD – why can’t you buy seeded loaves?
  • Getting bitten by bugs
  • Pointless graffiti

    What is this trying to achieve?
    What is this trying to achieve?

When people take pictures of you feeling fatigued after a race

So attractive
So attractive

That’s all I can think of for now guys, thanks for reading. What do you like and dislike about Spain? Leave me a comment!

Put the kettle on

Put the kettle on.

I cannot wait to get back to the UK and here those four words.

Why?

Because in Spain, people don’t have kettles.

There is a kettle in the staffroom at school that only me and the PE teacher use (the other teachers all drink coffee from the coffee maker). After we’ve put the kettle on and are waiting for it to boil, there is usually another teacher who is watching curiously. In the last ten seconds when the kettle starts to shake and some steam comes out of the top, it’s normal for another teacher to run over and say “The water’s boiling, how do I turn this thing off?”, not knowing that it turns off by itself when it’s finished and imagining that the steam will keep coming out and set the school on fire or something. It might sound stupid but that’s because it is stupid that this country has no kettles!!

Simple, everyday things such as:

  1. Making a hot drink
  2. Boiling water to cook pasta, potatoes and vegetables
  3. Filling up a hot water bottle

become painstaking tasks.

  1. To make a hot drink in Spain (the land of no kettles) you have a few options:
    a. Fill your mug with water and microwave it for a couple of minutes – this never actually makes the water boil like a kettle does and when you put the teabag in, instead of the teabag puffing up, it lays flat and limp in the mug.

    b. Use a coffee pot – these are very popular in Spain, but still a hassle as you have to measure out the dried coffee, the amount of water and then leave it on the stove whilst losing your patience as this process takes at least 5-6 minutes when it could take two with a kettle!c. Use the hot tap 
    Imageprobably not the best idea in Spain as much of the water isn’t drinkable for British stomachs…also who wants a lukewarm tea?

    d. MY PERSONAL FAVOURITE METHOD Boil a saucepan of water and put the teabag inside the saucepan on the stove – I haven’t tried this one, but it was a great idea from one of my friends. The water boils and you are left with a whole saucepan of tea (at least three mugs) to last you for the whole afternoon.

     

  2. Boiling water to use for cooking pasta etc
    The only option you have here is to put the pan of water on the stove and wait for it to boil before putting the food in. It takes longer, a lot longer.
    Image
  3. Filling up a hot water bottle
    a. Use the hot tap – this is a reasonable option, it’s quick and filling up a hot water bottle from a tap is easy. But unless you’re really lucky, your hot water from the tap won’t be boiling hot and will stay at that lukewarm temperature.

    b. Use the saucepan trick – again as in number 2, filling up a saucepan with water and waiting for it to boil takes a long time but at least your water will be hot. The only problem here is how to transfer the water from the pan to the hot water bottle without scolding yourself. Pouring the water into a jug first, then into the hot water bottle is ideal.
    Image

Basically, Spain is lacking in the kitchen department. A lot of cooking tasks would be easier with kettles in homes, flats and offices across the country. Although they consume a lot of energy, they are a great invention and create shortcuts when doing things. Less waiting around, hotter water and faster than the methods named above…invest in kettles, ¡por favor!

Are you actually cold or just pretending you have a winter?

Despite the Canary Islands being famous for their all-year round warm climate and sunny days, the autumn has arrived. The air is colder, it’s raining a little more and the temperature has dropped…by a few degrees. The Canarian people I work with, socialise with, work out with and even the ones who are on the street are all complaining of the cold. The amount of times I hear the words

Ay, que frío (Ohh, it’s so cold)

in a day are unbelievable considering the temperatures are still between 17ºC and 23ºC, which to us Brits is still ice cream and shorts weather!

I understand that my body will be a little different from theirs as I have lived most of my life in England where the temperatures can be as low as minus 10…but I don’t see how a drop in 5 or 6 degrees can affect an entire community of people so much. The scarfs, hats and thick coats have all come out. The only people seen wearing sandals are the foreigners (including me) and I get the impression that people judge me for wearing a light cardigan. I’m just not very cold!

Although I know that 18ºC is not a cold temperature (it’s the kind of temperature that us students try to keep our houses at – warm enough to be hotter than outside but cold enough to not spend buckets of money on the central heating) I can feel the difference in the temperature from what it was before. The air is colder…but I stand by the well known fact that if you can’t see your breath when you breathe, you surely cannot be feeling cold and have no right to complain about being cold.

I think that feeling cold can be a bit psychological, when you see people wrapped up in warm winter clothes and you hear people complaining about the cold and even the word cold….makes you feel a bit chilly. At the moment there are times when I feel chilly, which is totally different from feeling cold. There are also many parts of the day where I get hot because of the humidity in the islands. So, a bit like in England, I normally have to leave the house wearing a skirt, t-shirt and a light cardigan…but I have to have gloves, a scarf and tights in my bag in case I get the chills. Sometimes, it’s the other way around and I leave the house wearing jeans, a top and a jumper and within 10 minutes I am carrying the jumper and wishing I’d never put my jeans on.

Anyway, my question to the Canarian people is…

Are you actually cold or just pretending you have a winter?

Because it’s not cold!!!! You have a subtropical climate so quit complaining and man up!!!

Knock knock! Who’s there? Amos

A mosquito! bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Image

For a few years now I have been prone to insect bites that I am allergic too. I have been bitten and ended up with huge swollen circles on my elbows, ankles and wrists. On Sunday night I went with a friend of mine to a viewpoint above the city to watch the two cruise ships leaving the port. It was a great view, but we spent a lot of the time squirming, wriggling and slapping ourselves as the mosquitoes (or whatever insects they were) were biting us. When I got home I put Afterbite on the few bites I could see and went to bed.

On Monday I woke up and my once beautiful tanned, toned legs were covered in red bites, twelve on one leg and eight on the other. I also felt that my back was itchy, so at midday and before bed I took antihistamine tablets. They are quite strong and normally take away the redness and inflammation straight away. But this morning (Tuesday) I woke up with more bites and the ones from Sunday still hadn’t gone down. It was time to give in and go to see the doctor.

Going to the doctors in a different country is always an experience, I would have liked to have taken a friend with me to help me, laugh with me and experience the whole situation. In other overseas doctors surgeries I have witnessed injections in the bum, an unspoken queuing system where whoever runs to the door quickest is the next to be seen, a doctor greeting the patient with a kiss and even a doctor asking the patient to take off their clothes! It’s just better to go accompanied with a friend and not be alone when these types of things happen. But I went in the morning I didn’t have anybody to come with me. Boo hoo!

In the small doctors surgery there is no A&E service in the morning, only in the afternoon after 5pm but I went in the morning at 8.30am before the doctors arrived at 9am. I gave over my E111 and drivers licence (I didn’t think to take my passport) and asked to see a doctor for my insect bites. The receptionists spent a long time looking for me on the computers, but with no success as here I don’t have a doctor and I haven’t been to the centre before. They spent ages talking between themselves about what to do and in the end sent me upstairs to “room 8” to be seen whilst they kept my E111 and ID.

Upstairs I looked for room 8 but couldn’t find it. Another man helped me look for it and the door numbers stopped at 7. Great. I was in a random doctors surgery, I hadn’t cleaned my hands with alcohol gel with no idea which doctor I was meant to be seeing and thirty itchy bites. We found it in the end and the doctor came out to call me into his room. We started talking about my bites and I showed him my leg when BOOM a receptionist stormed in the room…here is the conversation more or less:

Receptionist: STOP you can’t treat her until we see her passport, she’s not on the system, she doesn’t exist.
Doctor: What are you saying? She’s already here in my office and this señorita needs seeing to.
Me: I can go home and get my passport if you want? It’s not a problem but I live on the other side of the city, near the jail.
Doctor: What street? I live over that way too, we’re neighbours!
Receptionist: But look, she’s not registered on the computer you can’t possibly give her any treatment.
Doctor: Well you’re the one who’s messed up and sent her here. Ok she hasn’t got all the paperwork at the moment but it’s not my problem. She’s standing here in the middle of a consultation. I’m going to continue now, close the door on your way out.
Receptionist: Fine, but after you’ve seen the doctor, pass by reception and we’ll talk about your documents. Here’s your cards.
– Receptionist leaves –
Doctor: When you’ve finished here just walk out the front door, these fools don’t know what they’re talking about if you gave your E111 and ID that’s all that counts. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. Do you understand me? *Cheeky wink* 

After being told to ignore the receptionists, what clothes to wear, food not to eat and explaining the different medicines he was going to give me I was ushered to a nurses room where I was given an injection….in the bum. Hopefully my bites will soon go down, disappear, not get infected and not leave scars on my legs or back. I want to get back to normal life and stop itching!!!

My First Aquathlon

Today I competed in my first aquathlon, in the tiny island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands. I hadn’t done much specific training for it, as it was a 2.5km run along a flat avenue, a 1km swim in the sea and another 2.5km run along the avenue. I had been out for a few quick runs a few weeks before the race to work on my pace and swam twice in the sea. This week I was a bit lazy when it came to training as my Mum and sister were here in La Palma with me on holiday, we went out for meals in the evening and I generally couldn’t be bothered to train too much, preferring to spend time with them.

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132

I collected my number and had a man write my number on my leg and arm (which by the way still hasn’t come off my leg completely) and went to warm up with a couple of my friends who were also taking part. We watched some of the little ones do their race, running along the beach and swimming a little in the sea – they were so cute!

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Hat, number, shirt

When it was our time to run, I went to put on my two swimming caps as the green one was sure to come off and with the volume of my hair, I needed a proper latex one underneath too. My plan was to run in my swimming caps to save time at the switchover between the run and the swim. But one of the organisers told me that I wasn’t allowed to run in a cap, I asked why and she didn’t give me a proper reason, she just kept repeating that I couldn’t run in them. So I ran in my fast skin from my competitive swimming days and my Aldake tshirt.

In the first running section I took it easy as I thought the whole race would take about an hour and I wanted to save my legs for the second run after the swim. Everybody else seemed to go speeding off to the end of the avenue but I kept a steady pace and my split was 12 minutes. It was funny as the organisers hadn’t cordoned off any of the avenue so there were some grandparents, dog walkers and even a group of tourists on bikes to run around.

I ran into the water for my swim and the first thing that hit me was a huge wave. The water wasn’t cold, but it was hard to see anything except from different shades of blue. We had to swim around three different buoys in the circuit and sometimes when I lifted up my head to see where the next one was I couldn’t see it. I followed the green caps of my racemates and managed to overtake many of the men. Ego boost! When I was getting out of the water to carry on running a big wave took me to the beach, but also managed to throw me on the floor. I landed on my shoulder (ouch!), but got up quickly and carried on to finish the final running section. My split for the swim was 17 minutes which I was not expecting at all!

I wanted to take it easy to avoid getting cramp and I was really happy with the environment between competitors, all of them saying ánimo (come on, keep going) to each other as they ran the four laps of the avenue. On my fourth lap, when I wanted to run faster, I got a stitch and found it hard to carry on, but I was so close to the finish line now I had no desire at all to give up. I arrived to the finishing section, took my English flag from my Mum and ran with it to the finish line where I was met by some of my friends from my training team, with hugs and handshakes.

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Waving my flag

When I realised that I had finished in first place in the women’s category I was really happy. The race had gone amazingly, I had a really good time and being able to go home with a trophy was just the icing on the cake.

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Winner

Sport in La Palma

Basketball

Before I came to La Palma, I thought that I would easily be able to join a female basketball team, as it is the second biggest sport in Spain after football. I thought that within a few months I would have many pictures of me posing in my kit with my team members, from the end of each game. But I was very wrong…

I don’t want to generalise or make judgements, but from what I have seen, people in La Palma, well women in La Palma just aren’t into sports that much, much less team sports as there are no female basketball or football teams (to my knowledge) in the whole island. Only school teams where the players are under 18 and play in tournaments against the other schools on the island. 

When I arrived I remember desperately wanting to join some type of sports team/club as without physical activity I could see myself putting on the pounds and getting lazy. The teachers at my school didn’t know about any teams I could train with and when I asked some boys in the street who had a basketball and basketball kit on they pretty much laughed at me when I said I wanted to join an adult female bball team. I still find it hard to believe that on an island with over 80,000 inhabitants there aren’t more than 10 women who want to play basketball. Anyway, I am still involved in basketball refereeing when they call me to table official or referee games.

Walking/Running

There is a long avenue next to the seafront, maybe 3km in total and it is a popular place for people to go to run and walk….yes walk. It is funny to people watch here as you see a whole range of people from La Palma. There are people in sporty gear, shorts, crop tops, caps etc…then you see people in leggings, hoodies, full length tracksuits and jackets. Bearing in mind that the air humidity here is often over 70%. What is stranger is that it’s not unusual to see the people in sporty gear and flashy trainers walking along the avenue with their friends or whatsapping on their mobile and the people in hoodies running. I don’t understand it. 

There are many races here in La Palma, especially mountain races that are often 10, 25 or 40km in distance. I am not brave enough to go running in the mountains as one trip on a rock and I’d have a broken ankle or worse. But last weekend I ran in a 10km road and rocky race in the Military Quarters. My final time was 1 hour 14 minutes, I came 6th in the female “senior” category, which was for people aged 18 – 35. I was so pleased with myself for completing it and at the end of the race I ran with my English flag to the finish line.Image

Next Friday I will be competing in another race, this time a duathlon, with is a 2.5km run, 1km swim (in the sea) and then another 2.5km run. I am really excited about it as my Mum and little sister will be there to watch me and from what I’ve heard, not many people like swimming in the sea, so hopefully as an ex squaddie swimmer I will gain some ground on the competition in the water.

Aldake Extreme

Through a friend I met on couchsurfing I heard about an exercise/running/keep fit group called Aldake Extreme. It is led by a group of young guys and the main activities are crossfit training and ultimate frisbee. They also do running, athletics, hiking and other activities. They are a great group of guys and I’m really happy to have stumbled across them. The training sessions can be brutal and they are often on the beach, meaning I come home covered from head to toe in (black) sand. It is a lot of fun and I have met some great people whilst working out. 

For example, last night’s crossfit session included:

40 wall jumps (climbing up a wall that was at belly-button height)

40 squats 

30 press ups

TWICE! (in round 2 each exercise had 10 less repetitions)

Then a speed exercise, running on the sand through cones.

Followed by 10 minutes of abdominals and different types of sit ups.

It’s hard work, but I love it and during the night I sleep really well and wake up feeling more energised than ever!

Erasmus so far – School Life

I think I can now say that I am settled into my work placement in a small primary school in the island of La Palma. It is a really cute little school, with classes of between 4 and 22 pupils in each year group. Some of the year groups are joined into one class. I remember in my primary school where there were always at least two classes of 30 pupils in each year group, so it’s very different from what I’ve experienced before. Although the school is small, it still has its dramatic moments such as

  • a three year old who came to school without being potty trained
  • fights on the playground between the older students
  • Mothers of students who complain about bullying and victimisation.

I am working as a classroom assistant in both English and P.E lessons, working twenty six 45 minute sessions a week. The mixture is really good and I enjoy moving between the English classroom and the playground, where I referee football matches and do extra long warm ups that the kids despise. The students seem to enjoy it when I join in with them in P.E and are not impressed if I don’t bring my trainers to school.

We told quite a big white lie to the students and parents when I arrived…that I was an English student who didn’t know any Spanish. I always speak with the children in English, even if they don’t understand or look at me in a confused what is she on about? way it is important that that they get full English exposure. I can already see the improvement of the confidence of the children. Even the younger students between 3 and 5 years old know that when they see me they have to say Hello instead of Hola. I go to breakfast with the 3/4 year olds twice a week and if they cannot open their straw, I make them say please and thank you before giving it back to them. Some people may say this method is cruel, but it is a brilliant way to learn and I can see the progress already, despite only being here a few weeks.

Some of the older students are “teaching” me Spanish, little by little which is really cute as they think of words to teach me, so far they have taught me

  • The numbers 1 to 20
  • Cat, dog, family
  • Parts of the face
  • Hello, goodbye, thank you.

They say to me

Leona, one in Espanish uno…di uno

and I repeat what they say to me. It is really cute of them to want to help me learn as I am helping them, but little do they know that I learnt how to count in Spanish when I was 11!

Old habits die hard and as I worked as a proof reader I am always correcting the children’s spelling, since they are unable to copy from the board. The most common mistake is changing the English Y to a Spanish I, so when I see alwais, Thursdai, Plai I recoil in anguish and am relentless with them. I take a rubber to their work and make them write it again properly. Other mistakes include missing the all important U in favourite and writing proper nouns without capital letters.

Overall I enjoy being in a school and helping the students and the staff with English. Although I don’t think I want to be a teacher in the future, it is a good experience and I enjoy working with children as they have so much energy and imagination. Each week I see progress and I am very happy to be in this welcoming school that has treated me so kindly.

Home Comforts – Shops I Miss

When living abroad, despite the obvious things you miss – family, friends, TV, food etc there are also some novelties that you find yourself craving, here is a list of the shops I miss from the UK.

Poundland/ Poundworld/ 99p Stores

As a student, the pound shops in the UK are a Godsend; knowing that you can stock up on sweets, buy stationary, a bottle of shower gel, fancy dress, tins of food, cleaning products and more under one roof is amazing. Even more so when every product is only a pound! Here in the Canary islands no such place exists and the pound shops back at home are perfect when you run out of pens or need a sugar rush.

If I could buy three items from Poundland now they would be: a four pack of KitKat chunkies, a bottle of Orange and Pineapple Robinsons squash and a nice smelling Radox shower gel.

Boots

I never appreciated Boots until now, it is a fantastic shop consisting of a pharmacy, make up counters, perfume shop, photo shop, sandwich kiosk and all the rest under one roof. In Spain each of these departments is a separate shop and you’d be lucky to find a street that has a winning combination of one of each of those shops, never mind everything in one store. The Advantage Card offers and points are great and don’t get me started on the meal deal! Their range of products is great too with eco friendly items and many specialist ranges for different types of people.

If I could buy three items from Boots now they would be: a decent concealer, Olay Gentle Face Wash and a meal deal (this definitely counts as one product) of a Southern Fried Chicken Wrap, a big bar of Galaxy Cookie Crumble and an Innocent Smoothie. 

Deichmann

This shoe shop is my favourite as I find it has the largest collection of half-sized shoes for halfies like me. The prices are also very good and their sales make the shoes even cheaper. I know that in Deichmann I will find a pair of shoes that fit me well and won’t cause blisters, shoe shopping in Spain has been more problematic (especially when people don’t serve you, see my previous post https://leonahinds.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/can-i-be-of-service/).

If I could buy three items from Deichmann now they would be: a pair of smart black flats, a pair of ankle high wedged boots for rainy days and another pair of my famous plastic shoes, in red.

Greggs

Spanish people don’t seem to be big on savoury pastries, there are bakeries around including in the supermarkets but I find that the produce doesn’t seem very fresh and nothing is warm and served by a friendly lady in a hair net. I do love to eat a good snack from Greggs whilst window shopping and sometimes when I’m walking around the city centre here I want something similar but there is nada!

If I could have three items from Greggs right now, they would be a standard sausage roll, a vegetable pasty and some kind of Halloween biscuit which I’m sure is on the menu right now (if not then I choose a gingerbread man).

Siesta

In light of the article published this week in the Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/10329093/Times-up-for-siestas-delayed-meetings-and-late-nights-Spaniards-told-in-effort-to-make-them-work-better.html I want to let you all know my views on the Spanish siesta. The siesta is a two or three hour gap in the middle of the day between 2 and 5pm where shops close, people go home from work typically to eat dinner, rest and sleep. It was originally established because this was the hottest part of the day and it was impossible to work in such heat without today’s modcons like air conditioning. After this rest, people are ready to go back to work for another few hours, meaning that shops and businesses are often open until 9pm or even later in the larger cities.

I am still undecided on whether I like the siesta or not. After spending the summer in mainland Spain and the last four weeks in the Canary Islands, I think that the siesta in Canaries is much more exaggerated and frustrating. As a student, living a society that encourages mid afternoon naps is a dream come true…especially as parties in Spain often end at 6am, being able to grab a few hours kip in the afternoon before going back to uni is a win win situation.

Spaniards eat a big lunch and having a few hours rest to let the food go down before having to go back to work or uni is also a benefit for everybody. Instead of a rushed working lunch, the three hour void in the afternoon allows people to prepare meals and eat peacefully with no rush. It seems that here (especially in Canaries) the whole world stops when it’s time to eat and nothing is more important than sitting down to have a good meal (except Whatsapp…that’s always the most important thing in Spain I’ve noticed!).

Plaza San Francisco

However, while people are napping, spending time with their family or just lolling around watching tv, some people don’t sleep the siesta. This is where I start to get annoyed. If you don’t sleep the siesta everyday (like me) and want to go for a walk during the siesta, in La Palma you will find streets like this…empty!

Pretty much all of the shops close, so if you want to go clothes shopping, buy a newspaper or even a plaster to put on the blister that’s formed on your foot from the amount of time you’ve spent walking around an empty city, you have to wait until after 5pm. Coming from the UK where most cities have at least one 24 hour Tesco where you can buy anything, it is hard getting used to weird opening times and not being to buy or do things at the moment you want to. I appreciate the historical and the cultural aspects of the siesta, but we’re in the 21st century, cmon!

So I’m still in two minds about the siesta. On one hand it’s a nice long lunch break that breaks up the day and it’s socially acceptable to say that you did nothing in the siesta. The encouragement to sleep in the siesta is good too, but a midday nap often leaves me feeling more groggy and disorientated when I wake up.

On the other hand, it’s bloody frustrating that in a country where people need to be spending money in shops to regenerate the economy close for three hours of the day when people are generally free to go and spend their money. Even if Canarians don’t want to go out during the siesta, there are the tourists that come most Fridays on the big cruise ships. If they inverted a few euros into paying a shop assistant for these siesta hours on cruise days I am sure they would generate a profit.

To conclude, I think the Spanish should conserve their siesta tradition, but that businesses and the government should try to promote other activities to do during the siesta instead of eating, sleeping and tv being the only options. With a more active siesta, people can put these hours to good use by learning new skills, doing exercise or making money and I would be less bored!