That time a monkey jumped on my mom’s head in Gibraltar

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It’s true!  It really did happen.  And thank Jesus that it didn’t happen to me.

I was not a fan of these little guys.  Monkeys in general freak me out and these ones even more.

I almost didn’t get out of the car after one jumped inside.  Our tour guide had to coax me out of the fetal position on the floor of the van.  Afterwards I asked if there was a hospital nearby.

So beware if you head to The Rock.  The stories about the monkeys are true.

But don’t let them scare you too much because it really is a beautiful place.

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Remembering Lance

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Losing a friend is hard.  Losing a friend that holds a special place in your heart is even harder.  Losing a friend unexpectedly and without being able to mentally prepare yourself is the hardest.

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Finding out that Lance had passed away after a 2 year battle with brain cancer was devastating.  I wasn’t prepared when life threw this surprise at me.  And being so far away from home has intensified those feelings of loss.

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Lance was one of my closest friends and someone that had such a huge impact on my life.  I don’t remember the day I actually met him.  He’s just always there in my memories.

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Almost six years ago he came to visit me here in Spain.  I had just moved to Irun and he was touring the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Since Spain is just a short plan ride away, he came for a few days.  I hadn’t seen him in about six months and having that comfort from Reno was amazing.  I’ll never forget a lunch we had one day.  We went to the supermarket and got ingredients for arroz con pollo and tinto de verano.  After preparing lunch together, we sat outside on the balcony with the sun shining on our faces and enjoyed our food and drink.  Our conversation was light and easy until he wanted to know my reason for moving to Irun after living in Donosti for so long.  I had a very specific reason for the move but very few people knew it.  I skirted around the question for a while not really wanting to put a damper on our day.  He knew there was something more.  And it didn’t take him long to figure it out.  He finally got the truth out of me and while I was in the middle of the story, he stood up and came to my side of the table.  He gave me a hug and said “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”  I started crying and he just held me, telling me how strong I had been.  

That was the kind of guy Lance was.  Someone never to judge and accept everyone just as they were.  No questions. No faults.

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I’ll never forget our times at the Polo Lounge (our favorite hangout) in Reno.  Dancing until the wee hours of the morning.  Drinking Ketel One and sodas.  Singing along to the jukebox.  Lance was the life of the party.  He loved everyone and everyone loved him.

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But there was so much more to him than just partying.  We spent many nights watching Hoarders on TV and promising to never let each other become one.  After that we’d watch Chelsea Lately and laugh until our stomachs hurt.  We’d take Bella for walks and have deep conversations about life.  He was the person I could always count on to hear me out.  Not only listen to me but actually hear me.  He got me in a way few people actually do.

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When I decided to come to Spain, he was my support and encouragement.  He loved traveling and meeting new people.  While many other family members and friends haven’t always understood my passion for travel and living abroad, he got it.  He pushed me to discover the world and find out what was out there, beyond Battle Mountain, Reno and Nevada.  He loved hearing my stories and celebrated my triumphs (and sometimes drunken failures!).

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There are so many more stories and memories I have of him.  Probably too many to mention here.  Someone like Lance leaves a lasting impression on your heart and your life.  An impression that is not likely to go away soon.  My heart aches when I remember that our memory-making days are over.  

Going back to Nevada in a few weeks will feel different this time.  Something will be missing.  But my love and memories of him will carry on forever.

10 ways my 20s are different from my 30s

I think that by now most of us have seen the video circulating on social media about two sets of girls getting ready to go out and then in da club.  It’s a hysterically accurate portrayal of differences between 20 and 30 year olds.  Now that I am almost half a year into my 30s (wait!  when did that happen?!?!), there’s no doubting that not only a number separates us.

Here are the ten ways I am different now than in my 20s:

1.  Drinking- Confession:  I didn’t get drunk for the first time until I was 19 1/2.  While most of my friends were experiencing alcohol in high school, I decided to wait until college.  And I waited until my first semester was almost finished.  So I was late to the game.  But boy did I make up for it in the following years!  My best friend S and I would go out with our fake IDs Thursday, Friday and Saturday and depending on the week, even a Wednesday.  I had a part-time job and a full-time school load but drinking never got in the way.  I didn’t drink for pleasure.  It was simply to get drunk.  We drank a lot….and really horrible things.  Vanilla vodka and diet coke.  Midori sours.  Kalimotxos (even though I still love one every now and then).  Rum and pineapple juice.  Anything to not taste the alcohol.  Wine was out of the question.  But now I love having a glass of wine every night and I like the taste.  It’s not about getting drunk anymore.  It’s about relaxing and having a good time with friends.

2.  Hangovers- Drinking, of course, leads to the morning after.  When I was in my early 20s, I would get a hangover every once in a while.  But I would have the greasiest hamburger or Jack in the Box tacos and a huge, ice cold coke and it was magically gone.  My friends, who were some years older than me, warned me about hangovers after turning 24.  They were right but nothing compared to a hangover at 30.  Instead of lasting merely a morning, they last all weekend.  Drinking now leads to a careful examination of the next day’s activities.  If I have even one class the next day, I’m sticking to my one (maybe 2) glass of wine.

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3.  Friends-  When I was in my early 20s, I was trying to figure out who I was and my place in this world.  Coming from a small town where I had had the same friends my entire life, I wanted to branch out.  I made friends with anyone and everyone.  People from college, work, a night out, friends of friends…I wanted to meet them all.  Most of them weren’t the most meaningful friendships however it didn’t matter.  But now I am happy to have a handful of close friends that have been there for me.  And i don’t want anymore.  Of course I’m still interested in meeting new people but I now know who my true friends are.

4.  Coffee-  I had my first cup of coffee during my first year in Spain.  A hot cafe con leche one rainy morning before Spanish class.  The jolt of caffeine it gave me was strong and enough to last me the 4 hours.  After that, I became accustomed to the Spanish cafe con leche or in the States a latte.  I wanted to taste the coffee as least as possible.  And I could drink a cup of joe right before going to bed and sleep like a baby.  Nowadays my tastes have evolved and a shot of espresso is all I need.  And absolutely no later than 4:00 pm.

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5.  Relationships with my family-  When I was in my early 20s, I still wasn’t too keen on my sisters.  They had been around my entire life and I was eager to get away from them.  Mostly they annoyed me and our relationship was strictly “as needed.”  Somewhere in the last couple years I have actually started to like the women they have become.  The annoyances are fewer and fewer and now are more reserved for special occasions.  We can all get together for Christmas or family gatherings and laugh and have a good time.

6.  Traveling-  Since I got my first taste of traveling almost 10 years ago, I’ve been hooked.  There is not a single place in this world that I don’t want to see.  However my traveling style has, without a doubt, changed.  Before it was seeing as many places as quickly and cheaply as possible.  Now it’s all about the experience.  I want to really get to know a place, understand it as well as possible.  And no more hostels and fast food.  If I don’t have the money to stay in a decent hotel and enough money to enjoy my time, I’ll stay home and save more until I can.

7.  Partying-  I suppose this goes along with drinking but I’ve noticed a big change in my partying style.  I was never a huge partier, staying up until 6:00 in the morning every change I got.  Which is not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of wild and crazy nights but it’s become much tamer.  In fact, the last couple weekends have been hanging out with friends, playing cards or games until the wee hours of the morning.  And I’ve had a blast.  No need to go out in the rain and pay for overpriced drinks when I can stay at home (or a friend’s place) and enjoy myself just as much.  However, I will say that I think all 20 year olds should be out partying as much as possible.  Do it while you’re young and get it out of your system.  Because once you get into your 30s, those wild and crazy nights are few and far between.

8.   Shopping-  I’ll admit that I’ve never been a big shopper.  I see it as a necessary evil.  But I do realize now that I buy even fewer things than I did a decade ago.  Before it was all about buying cute cheap clothes that were in style.  Now I look for clothes that are classic and well-made.  I don’t mind paying a bit more for something I can wear for years because it will never go out of style.  And instead of buying whatever is cool at the moment, I look for things that I really like and want to wear over and over again, even if it means paying a bit more.

9.  Starting a family-  If you asked me 10 years ago (hell, even 5 years ago) if I’d ever get married or have kids, my answer was a firm “NO!”  I was certain that I was never going to get married or have little monsters of my own.  I loved my nephew and he was enough to fill the maternal instincts I had (or lacked).  Plus, a weekend with him was the best birth control ever invented.  But now thoughts of having little ones creep in every once in a while.  I’m still not 100% convinced but I know that the hubby wants a family of his own and realize that it will (more than likely) happen.  It’s also weird to see that lots of my friends are starting or have already started a family and that I am, in fact, old enough to start one also (even though I don’t always feel like it).  Maybe it’s all a part of growing up.

10.  ????– I’m not sure.  I mean, I’m only half a year into my 30s and seeing all the changes I have made in the last 10 years, I can’t even imagine the ones I’ll make in the next decade.  Perhaps in 10 years I’ll even have a blog post about the differences between your 30s and 40s!

If you’re in your 30s, what  changes have you experienced?  If you’re in your 20s, what changes are you looking forward to seeing as the years pass?  Let me know in the comments!

What it’s like to have Basque in-laws

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Both sets of in-laws at our wedding

My very first interaction with my father-in-law was after the hubby and I had been together for over two years.  He had left a pendrive at my house and asked me to bring it over on a Sunday afternoon.  My friend K and I walked the five minutes from my house to his and rang the doorbell.  He answered and said he would be right down to get it.  While we were waiting outside this man appeared from a second story window and just stood there watching us.  Soon after he leaned out the window to get a better look and K and I thought “Who is this creepy man watching us?”  It didn’t dawn on me that it was my future father-in-law until K said “Do you think it’s his dad?”  Of course it was!  I had never met him and had never even seen a picture of him but knew it had to be him.  The hubby appeared a moment later and we asked him “Is that your dad hanging out the window?”  “Probably,” he answered.  “Why doesn’t he just come downstairs and introduce himself instead of spying on us from the window?” I asked.  “I don’t know” he said.  “That’s just not how we do things here.”

He wasn’t kidding about that.  It took another few months until we had a proper introduction.

I had been bothering the hubby to meet his parents for quite some time.  My parents knew him.  Hell, he had lived at their house for three months during his first visit to the States.  I was getting antsy and impatient.  So he finally set up a meeting.  Like any other time people here in Spain get together, lunch was involved.  They decided the best way to meet would be to have lunch at a fancy restaurant.  I spent extra time getting ready that morning to make sure I looked my best and was presentable.  I kept going over possible conversation topics in case of awkward silences.  I was ready to make an outstanding first impression.

Lunch came and went.  All those conversation topics I had prepared went straight out the window because there were plenty of awkward silences.  You see, I was expecting them to just open up and lead the conversation the way all my ex-boyfriend’s parents had done in the past.  Ask me about my life, family, hobbies, education.  Nope.  None of that.  Now that I’m thinking about it I actually don’t think they even asked me any questions at all.  It was so intimidating that instead of being the outgoing girl I usually am, I retreated back into my shell like a scared turtle.

At that moment I had no idea that that was going to be a pretty good indication of how our relationship would be.

Basque people are famously cold and distant to outsiders.  They’re sometimes even cold and distant to each other.  Coming from a country that is known for having friendly and open people, this was a big shock for me.  I really expected my in-laws to just accept me into the family with open arms and a smile.  Especially his mom.  All my other past boyfriend’s mothers had instantly loved me (sometimes even more than their sons).  I could see that I was going to have to work really hard to get integrated into this family.

Time passed and very slowly they accepted the idea of me.  Many more lunches and dinners were had and they opened up little by little.  I think it helped for them to see that the hubby and I were in a serious relationship and that I wasn’t going anywhere.

After almost three years together we moved in together.  All the progress that had been made in the in-laws department almost completely disappeared.  To say that they didn’t agree with our decision, isn’t saying much.  Disagreements and lots of heated conversations were at the forefront of our lives.  My in-laws pushed me aside even more than they had in the past.  They weren’t exactly mad at me but if I hadn’t been a part of the picture, this would have never happened.  Basque boys don’t leave home very often these days until they are almost 30 and their son was leaving when he was 24.

They slowly came around and visited our house one Sunday to have lunch.  They saw that we had a nice apartment and it comforted them.  A few weeks later we told them that we had decided to get married.  That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  They couldn’t understand how we could want to do something like that.  My mother-in-law even said that she felt like she was losing her son.  The hubby disagrees but I still maintain to this day that if I were a Basque girl (or at the very least Spanish) they would have made it much easier for us.

We started preparing for the wedding and after one particular conversation, the hubby’s mom said that she didn’t want to talk about the wedding any more.  As far as she was concerned, it didn’t exist and to not expect her to attend.  That hurt me but it hurt her son much more.  But we decided that we couldn’t dwell on her attendance or lack thereof and we went forward with the preparations.  During the eight months leading up to the wedding, some not so nice things were said about me but I just kept a smile on my face.  I hoped and prayed that she would come to the wedding and she did.  She cried almost the entire day and made it well known that she wasn’t happy to be there but it didn’t matter.  She came and that was all that mattered to me.

In the two years since we have been married, things have gotten significantly better.  I can now say that I am part of the family.  There are still moments that I feel like an outsider but I think they have finally accepted me.  I feel mostly comfortable around them and the awkward silences are becoming fewer and fewer.  My mother-in-law prepares us a homemade tortilla every Wednesday along with croquetas and pimientos rellenos.  She buys us fish from the pescaderia and fruit from the frutero.  Basque people aren’t great with words so I know it’s her way of showing she cares.  My father-in-law calls almost nightly around 8:30 pm and we always have the same conversation: Gabon! (Good evening).  Zer moduz? (How are you?)  He playfully teases me about anything and everything and that’s his way of showing he cares.  Words don’t mean much in this part of the world.  It’s all about the actions.

It’s been a struggle for me getting to know and love my Basque in-laws and I sometimes get so jealous that my hubby has had it so easy with his in-laws.  They’ve definitely made me work for it but I think I appreciate it so much more now that we’ve turned a corner.

Anyone else out there with Basque in-laws?  What has your experience been like?  Let me know in the comments and we can compare notes!

The next step

A little over a year ago, I started this blog with the intention of  connecting with people around Spain, giving myself something to do when the rain won’t stop and being honest about what was happening in my life.  Well, there’s been one BIG thing I haven’t talked about on here.  After being tied to Spain and Euskadi for almost a decade, I’m moving.  Back to Nevada.  Permanently.

Whoa….those are some powerful words.

This may come as a surprise to many of you but it’s something we’ve been thinking about and working on for almost 2 years now.  After we got married and the hubby finished his university degree with starting thinking about our future and our place in this world.  The hubby immediately started looking for a job here in Spain but with the current economic situation, it’s been impossible (and not for lack of trying).  After a few months we realized that there was a possibility of having to look for employment somewhere else.  I mentioned the idea of trying a new country and the hubby mentioned the States.  Neither of us were convinced of the other’s idea so we decided to spend the rest of the year thinking and trying to come to an agreement.  Conversation after conversation I pushed hard for moving to  a different country.  South Korea and anywhere in South America were at the top of my list.  The hubby was sure the States was our best bet.  But after nine months of difficult conversations we decided that we would give the States a try.

I don’t usually give in easy and am quite stubborn but I saw the conviction in my hubby’s eyes and knew that we were moving back home.  Whether I liked it or not.  As soon as I mentioned it to my parents, they were surprisingly 100% on board.  My sisters and little monster of a nephew couldn’t hide their excitement.  So, it was decided.  We were making a big move.  The next step in our life together.

I knew at the beginning of this year that I wasn’t ready yet but I told myself that by the end of the year, I would be.  I still had so many things to do here.  Some many places to see.  So much food I haven’t tried yet (the most important thing!).  But I had a year to get ready and be at peace with our decision.

10 months later and I’m no closer to being ready.  I keep joking that my hubby is going to have to push me on the plane.  I’ve created a little life here and I don’t want to leave it.

An international move is not going to be an easy one.  But the thing that reassures me is the fact that Spain will always be here.  And the coolest thing is I get to have two homes now.  The US and Spain.  Not many people are lucky enough to get that.

All that’s left (minus all the packing) is to just take a deep breath and take the next step.