Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009

Goodbye 2009 and Hello 2010!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!!!!

Well, this is going to be a short entry just to wish you all a very happy new year! I hope 2010 is the best year yet! 2009 certainly left a lot to be desired...

Once again I am celebrating the arrival of the new year in Ubrique, Spain. I am having dinner with a coworker and her family. Dinner will include an assortment of shrimp (normal and tiger shrimp!), crab, fish, pork chops, Spanish ham, cheese, bread...etc. :) And in the seconds leading up to midnight, we will each eat 12 grapes (as is tradition in Spain) and make a new year's toast with champagne. It should be a good evening...

Also...I put a few pictures up in my last post of the "after-flood clean up" in Ubrique when it flooded on Dec. 24...but check out these videos (see below). They do a much better job showing the gravity of the situation. And yes, if you were wondering, it is still raining - for the 12th day straight.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Eve Not to Forget

Well, once again I’m spending Christmas in Spain. This is my second year celebrating Christmas without my family, and I just have to say it’s not quite the same. But I make do. This evening I will be going to dinner with Reme, a teacher at my school, and her family. They invited me last year as well, and we had a really nice evening. Not to mention, ate quite well: lots of Spanish ham, cheese, shrimp, prawns, mussels, chocolate turron, etc. I have to admit I am quite excited for dinner…I’m already hungry and it is only about 4:30 pm in the afternoon…unfortunately, dinner is served around 10:00 pm. After dinner, most people go out to the bars on Christmas Eve (and celebrate till about 6 am or later Christmas Day). You can pay to enter a bar with a cotillion (an open bar and some minimal snacks) for about 30 Euros/40 USD, or rent a salon and just meet up with friends and family (and pay about 10 Euros/15 USD for beverages). I opted out of dropping 30 Euros on a cotillion, but was invited to meet up with some friends in a saloon they rented. However, I don’t quite feel like going out and celebrating tonight, so I think after dinner I will like just come home and watch a movie. Not to mention…it’s been an interesting day and many Christmas plans have been altered due to good ole Mother Nature. Let me explain:

I woke up about 5:00 am to a torrential downpour and extremely gusty winds. Since I have been in Ubrique (since October 1), it has only rained about 8 days…6 of which have been in the past week. As I woke up to the noise of the thunder, rain, and windows clanking around, I got to thinking that it was really really raining hard…and I wouldn’t be surprised if the river that runs through Ubrique overflowed in a few areas. About 30 minutes later, I feel back asleep.

At 7:00 am I was once again woken up by the wind and rain. I looked out my window, but to my surprise nothing was flooded. Lots of puddles, but for the amount of rain fall, very little water seemed to be on the ground. Then again, it was dark…and I couldn’t see much.

I left my flat to go for a walk and pick up a few things around noon. I walked by a pub near my flat, and was surprised to see it filled with about 6 inches of water and lots of people working hard to clean it out. There was a river of mud flowing down the street. Nothing else seemed to be flooded, so I kept on walking and figured it was just a bit of bad luck that water had entered that pub. I was quite wrong. I got to the Avenida Espana, the main street in Ubrique, and there were police cars, fire-fighters, and lots of heavy machinery running around the streets trying to clear the water and the mud. I saw the aftermath, but apparently missed the two feet of water that went running down the Avenida and parallel streets from about 7 am until 10:30 am when the rain finally let up. Restaurants, bars, and shops were flooded, thousands of euros in damage. When I was walking down the street, I was walking in about 2 to 3 inches of mud, and shop-owners and bars were working quickly to clean out their properties as best they could, and cementing a barrier in the doors and windows to prevent further flooding. After all, the rain continues to fall…

The north of Spain has been inundated with rain and snow for the last few weeks; however, in Andalucia (the southernmost region of Spain) we were still enjoying relatively good weather. Now the torrential and relentless rains are making news around Europe. The south of Andalucia has been (and will continue to be ) hit the hardest…and for those of you that don’t know your geography, Ubrique is situated in the southernmost province of Andalucia…so it sounds like we are in for an interesting and very wet Christmas season. However, we aren’t the only ones, much of Granada is flooded and without electricity, Malaga is getting swamped with rain, and Ubrique, well, for now we are hanging in there with just a bit of flooding. Merry Christmas…right?!

I hope the weather is a bit better for all of you! Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!! I miss you all and hope the New Year brings each of you good fortune, health, and happiness! Take care! Feliz Navidad from Spain!!!! Love to all – especially Mom and Dad (miss you tremendously).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Belen Viviente

Although I no longer live in the casco antiguo (historic district), I was invited to participate once again in the town's production of the Belen Viviente (or "living bethlehem"). I had the same task as last year, and worked in the Census, selling hand-made pottery cups and asking people to sign the guest book. The event started at 6:00 pm and we started cleaning up around 1:30 am...but there were still plenty of people at the bars. It was a great atmosphere - people buying handmade gifts, enjoying local tapas, and passing the night at the bars. The best part is that all the money we make, goes to a charity! Now that's the true point of Christmas, right?! In all, this year everything went flawlessly - it was not too cold, the lights didn't go out, and the turn out was good. In fact,there were lots of people from outside Ubrique - Jerez, Cadiz, Sevilla, Tarifa, Huelva - who came to see Ubrique's well known and beautiful Belen.

While there are Christmas lights and decorations adorning the streets, without snow and Christmas carols playing endlessly on the radio, it just doesn't quite feel like Christmas here. At least after the Belen Viviente, I'm a bit more in the Christmas spirit. :) I hope this post finds you all well and enjoying the holiday season. Be merry, spread joy, and pass along some holiday cheer!! Love to all!