Here are a few observations about life in Spain compared to life in Ireland or Germany,
where I have lived over 20 years each.
*Free Fruit: We never realised that orange trees have nasty thorns, so have lemon trees. So beware if you are walking through an Orange Grove wear a hat because the thorns sit underneath the branches and will give you a bad cut.
One day we wandered around our area in search of Joaquim and came across Antonio in his vineyard, picking olives off his olive trees that border the field. He was so kind to give us a bagful of the most delicious oranges. We had a little chat and went our ways very happily. You will also observe people picking the prickly pear cactus fruits that grow wild along the boundaries. These are very prickly and taste a bit like kiwis. When I brought some home to try, with gloves and even being careful, I ended up with a thorn on my lips, my tongue and my finger. They are so fine and small you cannot see them, so that’s a bit of a drawback to free fruit.
* Recycling is up to your own conscience in Spain. There are no incentives to separate your rubbish and dispose of it carefully. There are ample rubbish containers for mixed rubbish all over the place which are emptied every day, so dumping should not be a problem but sadly happens. Everything goes into them: food waste, home decor, styrofoam, garden waste, building waste, plastic, and if it doesn’t fit inside it sits beside it, occasionally a garden chair, sofa, table etc. Strategically placed recycling bins for glass, cardboard and plastic packaging are also available and used more or less. This setup is paid through the general tax so nobody needs to pay extra when generating a lot of waste. And it is not monitored as it would be when the waste can be traced back to the owner of a private bin, as it is done in rural Ireland. There you have to take full responsibility and pay for your waste, which is cheaper if it goes into the recycling bin and more if it is mixed waste.
At the same time the Spanish are thrifty and will use what they can.
Several scrap yards and recyclers can be found in the industrial estate and people will collect timber beside the main road for their fire places.
At the corner of our road to the finca is a business that sells firewood and fencing posts and hurdles from Eucalyptus trees. And the father and son team also steam the Eucalyptus leaves to distil eucalyptus oil. The residual leaves are then used for the fire of the burner. The bark is sold for mulch so every bit is used and generates an income. This is where we bought our fencing stakes for the dog and pig fence around the house and garden.
*making friends is hard to do. Like the Germans the Spanish are reserved at first, until they have figured you out and know about you. That is only natural for a country that has seen many cultures invade and put their customs, religion and political system forcefully on top of what was already in existence. The other reason I imagine is that there is still a little bit of the Franco-Era mistrust around. This brutal military dictatorship was in place from 1939 to Franco’s death in 1975. Under his harsh regime unions, all religions except Catholisism and regional languages were banned and people were persecuted and imprisoned. [see https://www.biography.com/people/francisco-franco-9300766] .
But on the other hand we have been lucky in finding and being accepted by our friends here, which have been invaluable in helping us get settled and have been going out of their way to include us in their daily lives. We hope to build up good relations with our neighbours beside the finca also.
* The bureaucracy here is even worse than in Ireland or Germany. Everywhere we have to sign a contract for direct debit or register anything from a dog to a car we need to present our passport plus the NIE, the official card with our social number. We also have to carry this with us at all times, even our dog Sofie needs to show she is properly registered and vaccinated.
*Food, again. The Spanish love to sit and drink and eat together, but not in an overindulgent way. The folks around our neck of the woods are not overweight, they work too hard. A stroll around Almonte will reveal numerous cafes and bars where people sit and have a small coffee or a short drink. Rather than sit at home they seek the company of neighbours and friends.
*And they know how to celebrate. Most nations have their dedicated holy days and national days, but Spain stands out. In 2017 there were 43 holydays altogether; admittedly some of these are regional only. A comparison between all European countries reveals that Ireland is at the bottom with only 8 official holydays and Germany with 11 holidays, which apply to all regions, Spain had only 9 official public holidays.
In El Rocio, the calm-looking sandy town near Almonte, there are 38 different festivities scheduled from September 2017 to April 2018. These are all based on the catholic faith but as in most European countries nobody passes much heed for the church, it’s just another reason to celebrate and come together. [https://pagewizz.com/weihnachten-in-spanien-die-auszeit-im-advent/].
And our finca lies on one of the Caminos of the pilgrims into El Rocio, so often we see and hear gun fire, horse-drawn carriages, song and walkers passing by. On the main road from Almonte to Matalascanas every weekend on a Sunday evening the road out of El Rocio is gridlocked with cars returning from yet another gathering of the Hermanas. And yet walk through El Rocio on a Monday or Wednesday it is near deserted, like a Sleeping Beauty, ready to awakened again.
*Public transport is absolutely great here in Spain. In comparison to Ireland any decent system ismuch superior but even in this deserted holiday town, where from Mid-September to June 95% of houses and apartments are empty, there is a daily bus service between the different sections of this town, now shrunk to a population of merely 2,000 inhabitants. There are of course also buses to Almonte and Huelva and Sevilla, the next bigger towns. Even Germany has 1,000 km less fast-train tracks than Spain.
Las Tres Amigas – The three friends
Our baby Mastin Sofie is growing rapidly, she is putting on 4 kgs within a fortnight and will soon outgrow her friends Elena and Manchita. These are the dogs of our friends and have come to our finca during their holidays away. So the three girls have a whale of a time, running around, playing and ‘helping’ us gathering olives. But of course there are also there to fend off intruders and give a good old bark when cyclists, walkers, riders and cars pass our gate.
Elena is a Spanish Water dog, perro agua, with soft fluffy slightly wavy hair and a bouncy personality. These dogs love the water so are good to have when you live near the beach or a lake. Manchita is mastiff cross, a charity case, as she was in a bad way when she was taken on by our friends and has no hearing. She is quite big and runs like the wind; whereas our Sofie has a rather retiring nature. It already shows as she is a lot slower than her friends running up to greet us each morning and she will not jump, not even to get out of the boot of the car, which she hates. But she had to be ferried to the vet already three times for her injections and micro chipping. She has now more documentation than I have for myself.
Unfortunately hunting takes place beside and around our finca, and dogs will stray onto our land chasing after a rabbit. We have a good high fence, but dogs can burrow beneath this and push their way in. And then they need to be retrieved by their owners. So how can they do that? Only by cutting another hole in the fence. And that’s what’s been happening. Only when we secure the whole bottom of the fence will it stop or when we are permanently on-site.