Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blanca and Baseball

With PCS moves, the government allows you to ship one car from the states and so we shipped my little Mountaineer and agreed to buy, what's known as a "Rota beater" when we got to Spain. A "Rota Beater" is a small European Spec car that is bought and sold by Americans on base - handed down if you will - as people come and go.

There's a little Lemon Lot on base where people leaving park their cars with little (or big) price tags and the newbies (like us) drive thru the lot each day to see whats available.

We were blessed to have our Sponsor's car (who was still away in Training)for the first two and a half weeks we were here. But as he was due to return, our car was still crossing the Atlantic, and we didn't want to have to rent a car long term, we were fortunate to find our own little Rota Beater (pictured above), which Johann (who drives it, for the most part) has affectionately named "Blanca" - because its white, of course :-) .

Additionally, Johann has been recruited to play with his command's softball team. They have games weekly, usually on Fridays. Its been a fun way to spend Friday evening - cheering him (and his team mates) on against the other departments on the base.


Easter week in Spain is a huge event! It's called Semana Santa (Holy Week) filled with lots of pomp and circumstance. Each town has their own Semana Santa processions and the ones here in Andalusia (the Southern region of Spain) are the most notable. The processions are organized each evening from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday with some lasting up to 9 hours in and around the city.

People carry sculptures and models of biblical scenes around on floats or wooden platforms (these floats can weigh several hundred pounds), with an atmosphere of mourning (some singing, people playing instruments, etc). The floats will be of Mary, Jesus on the cross,... we saw one of Jesus on a Donkey that is carried on palm Sunday.

The parades culminate with the Easter Sunday procession with a float of the risen Savior and dancing and singing in the streets. This one is more like a parade and cathedral bells are heard ringing throughout the city. It's quite awe inspiring.

So, Johann, the girls and I were having some dinner in town when I about swallowed my tongue because I looked up and saw (what in my experience) was a group of KKK members walking toward us.


I reminded myself I was in Spain during holy week and not in America and took some deep breaths. Johann and I remarked later how neat it is that our girls are growing up here where their association with these robed men will be so different than that of which they would have been introduced to in the states.

So, we finished our dinner and followed the huge crowds. It seemed the entire town was out - and dressed for church. Small babies to the very, very old were making their way down the cobblestone street and waiting patiently for the parade to pass. We waited about 30 minutes in the crowds when the first group of mourners went by. The girls were ready to go and with the huge crowds we weren't able to have a good look anyway, so we went home, determined that next year, we'd plan better and see the procession up close.

The next day the base held a huge Easter Egg hunt. Complete with face painters, bouncers, arts and crafts, hundreds of eggs, the Easter Bunny and an Easter brunch in the galley. The girls had a ball.

Sunday, we went to church on base and met some nice people before heading home for Easter dinner.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Somebody's sleepin' in my bed...

Getting the girls to go to bed at a decent hour is a struggle in Spain since the sun NEVER sets. But, once they do go to bed (10ish), we're exhausted. So, one night after we'd been in Temp Housing for a few days, I'm downstairs watching CNN - trying to keep up with what's going on in the world...and Johann went upstairs to check on our sleeping princesses.

Then he comes FLYING down the stairs, eyes wild and grabbing the camera.

Johann: Babe!! COME ON, you've GOT to see this!

Me: (Tired, not really wanting to get up) What? Are the girls all snuggled together , or something? (Tuning back into CNN).

Johann: (Heading back up the stairs) Come on...

Me: (a little nervous)...What? A snake?!!! I'm not going up there...

Johann: ....

Me: WHAT?!!!

He starts dragging me up the stairs playing James Bond, hugging the walls and peeping around corners...

Me: There better not be a snake up here...

Johann: (stopping at the door to our bedroom) Look!

So, I take a peep...

Yep...there is a HUGE cat, not just IN our bed, but totally sprawled out, chillin in our bed, all in the covers, propped up on our pillows. Mind you, both of us are HIGHLY allergic to cats.

Me: (overcoming initial speechlessness) WHAT IN THE WORLD! How did he get in here! (then the giggles set in and I can't stop laughing).

Johann: (Putting the camera away and going all business) Ok, so, I'll scare him downstairs, you shoo him out the door.

Me: WHAT? No way! You're not shooing a scared cat at me! (me, picturing cat coming claws first down the stairs and at my face).

Johann: (advancing toward the cat, who has still not moved and is looking at US like what are WE doing there disturbing his nap). Ok, I'm going to flip the mattress, get ready. (He starts walking toward the cat who dashes under the bed...

Me: (Running down the stairs to open the front door and listening to shenanigans upstairs...nervous about the cat that is inevitably going to be running down the stairs at any moment)

Cat: MMMWWWWAAARRRRRRRRR!!! (Comes flying down the stairs and shoots past the door and me into the living room)

Johann comes down after it and finally gets it to go out the back screen door.

Me: (Going upstairs to strip the bed and wash sheets - the ONLY sheets we have since our shipment of things hadn't arrived yet). Well, could have been worse, right?

And in case you're wondering; after we got the cat out, we searched the rest of the house for other "animals", thinking maybe there was a whole family of cats in one of the closets or something...but no. He was the only one. The mystery is still out about how he got into our house/room/bed...but my money's on Rayna, who when we interrogated the girls in the morning answered as so:

Us: Rayna, did you see a cat last night?

Rayna: The black one?

Us: (Making eye contact with each other, silently confirming what we KNEW in our hearts) YES, RAYNA! The BLACK ONE! DID YOU LET IT IN?

Rayna: Huh? No, I didn't play with a cat.

Us: Sigh...

Temporary Housing

So, being in Spain is great and all, but living in a 400 square foot hotel room with two small children was starting to make us all go a little nuts. We met with the Housing Department on base and they told us that housing would not be available to us for about 3 weeks but that we could move into the Temporary Housing Units. So, we packed up and moved out.

Temporary Housing are designated units of the Housing community called Los Flores on base. They are cute townhome style places with 3 and 4 bedrooms.

The community of about 400 homes is also nicely situated so that there is a playground about every 200 or so feet in any direction you walk. And I am NOT exaggerating. It was heaven for the girls! We would go on a playground extravaganza - visiting no less than 5 playgrounds a day. And these playgrounds are awesome - slides, swings, teeter totters and stunning ocean views for the mommies being dragged from playground to playground.

And since the sun doesn't set over here till about 9:45pm, there was plenty of daylight for lots of fun!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reese's First Day of School

We arrived on Friday night, March 26th and Reese started school that following Tuesday morning! Not much time for her to adjust to jet lag, but she was a trooper...and excited about her new school, teacher and friends.

She now attends David G. Farrugut Elementary (DGF) school on the Rota Base. There are two 1st grade classes and she is in Mrs. Sweeney's class. When she started school, there were only 14 children in her class.

As this is a DOD (Department of Defense) school, children are always coming and going along with their parents who are being transferred here and there to new duty stations.

And being a DOD school, the teaching staff are acutely in-tuned with the needs of children and their emotional adjustments to moving - particularly since this is another country...and therefore, Reese was welcomed with open arms. She quickly made friends and comes home each day answering my question of, "How was your day, Reese?" with "AWESOME!!!" and filling me in on all the details.

The week at DGF (also known to locals as "Don't Go Fridays" - because of the frequency of Fridays off) consists of alternating regular class time (math, reading, science, spanish) with an elective of music, Host Nation - where they study Spanish culture, P.E., and art.

Here are some pictures of Reese and Rayna dancing at Pizza Villa (the pizza place on base) before the post 1st day of school celebration dinner! And below on her 2nd day of school, looking MUCH more at ease than on day 1.

(It should also be noted that Reese's 1st grade teacher in the states, Mrs. Crossley, was a phenomenal teacher and is greatly missed.
Reese had a very sad day about 2 weeks ago where she really missed her friends back home and mentioned that each time her class here in Spain says the Pledge of Allegiance, she thinks of saying that same pledge with her old class and friends in California. )

Friday, May 21, 2010


Two of Johann's new colleagues met us at the airport to take us back to base. We were exhausted but had new energy and excitement taking our first steps in Spain. Until, that is...I learned that only Johann's baggage arrived with us...My, Reese and Rayna's suitcases were all M.I.A!

No worries...we're in Spain...of COURSE they are missing...they'll show up "Manana"...a term we have come to know does NOT mean, "Tomorrow", but "Maybe sometime in the future"...

Thankfully, the bags DID show up the next day...or so.

And we moved into the Navy Lodge - the hotel on the Rota Base. It was just getting dark when we arrived at about 8:45pm to check in. Another of Johann's co-workers who was assigned as our Sponsor (and who had been in contact with us from the notice of orders) was out of the country and left his car for us to use! So we ventured out of the base to check out our new town and get something to eat. It was about 11:30pm by this time and 2:30pm PST - well past our lunch time.

We walked outside the main gate for our first look and went to the first place we saw - a Tapas bar. We felt right at home as there were other children there, having tapas with their parents (at MIDNIGHT)! Johann joked, in the states that we'd all be in jail by CPS, but in Spain, the culture is very family friendly and children go wherever their parents go, even in the middle of the night apparently!

We tried an assortment of tapas which included: (I don't know the actual name of them but they were) boiled potato with a sour cream based sauce - which is a very common and popular tapas..its also very good and can come as fried potatoes too. We had some garlic chicken (small chucks of chicken grilled in garlic and olive oil) - delicious, some kind of tuna/potato saladish thing, something else that was greasy awful...AND...Bulls Testicles...unfortunately for us. And no, it wasn't good. By this time, it was very late so we went back to base and off to bed.

The next day, we left the base to discover Rota in the daylight. We fell in love with it instantly. The beautiful white sand beaches, the marina filled with sailboats, 13th century churches, the smell of fresh fried fish coming out of the little cafes, fresh baked bread and pastries at the panaderias and its very own castle.

That's it... We love Rota!

Off we go...

So, the movers came and boxed everything that wasn't nailed to the floor. We gave them coffee and donuts in hopes that we gained their affection and they would be kind to our crystal and china.

We're STILL waiting for these things to arrive in Spain (2 months later) so I'm not sure if the extra treats worked...stay tuned.

Two weeks went by in a flash and before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to all our family and friends.

It was a little tricky because for the most part, people were happy for us, but sad to see us go and it was challenging for us to express that while we would miss everyone too, we'd missed Johann so much (and he us) over the last year, that the opportunity to all be together again was all we were focused on (and the adventures awaiting us in Spain).

We did enjoy the time visiting on both sides of the families, also enjoying dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Downtown LA with my parents and the Rosemonds (including our godson whose birth we are anxiously awaiting!) on our last night in town

... and then up the next morning to my Dad's famous pancakes and hashbrowns before the LONG trip across the Atlantic.

Military members with PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders are allowed to have family members accompany them to the gate, so my parents and the Rosemonds were able to go with us all the way to the terminal at Ontario Airport and wait with us until our plane was ready.

We were a little nervous about the girls being able to sit still for so long, but they did SO well - supplied with their backpacks full of treats (a parting gift from their Granny and Grampy - with snacks, crayons, coloring/sticker books and DVDs.

We left Ontario Airport at 8am and got to Dallas around 6pm. R&R were excited to ride the "rollercoaster" (actually a train from the domestic to the international terminal.) We ate dinner there and then boarded the LONG flight into London. Thankfully, we kept the girls awake during the first leg of the trip and after about one movie (Cheetah Girls, of course), they were both sound asleep. They woke up just in time for breakfast before landing in London. But, as it was still about 3am Pacific Time, we were all pretty woosy.

At least the hard part (crossing the Atlantic) was over and we had only a few more hours to go! There was a very long line clearing customs and we worried we'd miss our flight to Madrid, but we made it to the Terminal just in time.

Madrid too went by in a flash and before we knew it we were on the short commuter flight from Madrid to Jerez (in Spanish it sounds like Her-eth) de la Frontera, which is the town about 20 minutes from the Base in Rota.

And FINALLY, we were here!

It starts...

Around 2am on December 2nd 2009, Johann called me at our home in Rialto, CA from Manama, Bahrain (where he was spending a 13 month unaccompanied tour w/ the US Navy) to give me the news we'd both been waiting 10 months to hear...that he'd FINALLY been given new orders for his next duty station AND that we would be moving to (drum roll, please....) Rota, Spain!

About halfway through the conversation (which I began half asleep), I was standing UP in our bed, jumping up and down, because this is great, GREAT news! Of course the best news is that we get Johann back for a shore duty tour (meaning he gets to come home every night and not gone on deployments or ships or whathaveyou's) but also, that we get to be a family in SPAIN!

Johann and I had discussed moving overseas several times over the last few years and what an amazing opportunity it would be for our family (particularly Reese and Rayna - aka R&R) to live in a different country, acquire another language, be a light for God on the other side of the world...and we checked out all of the possibilities available to Naval families (ie. Japan, Italy, Spain, Guam, Hawaii) You can imagine I had MY favorites... But God saw fit to send us to Spain...and so, our adventures began.

Johann was in Bahrain, so I had to take care of all the medical screenings (yes, that means shots...with screaming much as we love Dr. Chang, R&R are not fans of his needle toting nurses), passports, phone calls to San Diego to set up shipments of all our worldly goods, etc. - add working full time to this was exhausting. But the excitement of the end result enabled me to push through.

Fast forward to March 9th...My last day of work! I left after a great lunch with my Gal Pals at work and made a bee line for Ontario Airport to pick up my husband! R&R did not know he was coming in that day (they thought he was coming later that weekend), so it was fun to surprise them!

We snuck up on Rayna at her preschool (and had all her teachers in tears!) as she saw me, then did a double take to see that her DAD was there too! Her face was priceless...she's so little, with so much energy...she just started jumping up and down, then ran into his arms squeezing his neck as hard as she could! - Deployments/Separations are hard, but REUNIONS are priceless!

Next we went to our family friend/Childcare provider Extraordinaire - Bridget's to pick up Reese...Reese was off track and Bridget took them (Reese and her daughters - Ronni, Destiny and Ebony) for a day at Chuck E Cheese as this was also Reese's last day of childcare...they weren't back yet when we got there so I called Bridget to see how far away they were (minutes) and so we drove around the corner and staked out waiting for them to return...

Bridget hurried them all in the house and closed the door. I rang the doorbell and Reese comes up, telling me about her day at CEC when Johann walks up behind me and after a 0.0002 second beat, Reese screams "DADDY" and takes off into his arms, almost knocking him over and they stayed that way for a good 10 minutes...Reese kept saying, "Daddy, you're HOME"...tears all around.

The next two weeks were filled with lots of running around - Johann and I had to renew our CA Drivers Licenses since they were due to expire next year. So, we had to retake the written exam so we could extend our date by 5 we sat in the DMV for about 5 hours with R&R...they were good sports with their portable dvd players (Thanks Granny!) and we rewarded them for good behavior with a trip to John's Incredible Pizza afterward.

We had three shipments of our things...the first was the main "Household Goods" shipment which was pretty much everything...couches, tables, beds, trashcans, lawn mower, books, toys, art, lamps, etc...

There were two other shipments...the "Storage" shipment - for things we wouldn't want to take with us (ie. About 1/2 of my book collection -Shakespeare Anthologies, etc., our China Cabinet, our Ottoman, etc). And an "Express Shipment" of things we'd need right away (a COFFEE MAKER, some clothes, things for the girls).

Anyway, that all went away and we moved to San Dimas with my parents for two weeks. I should also add that we put our house up for sale. It went on the market on a Tuesday...that Friday we had 8 offers and we accepted one that Sunday afternoon. We could feel God's hand taking care of all of our needs and paving the way for this next move. It was a wonderful and comforting feeling to have things going so smoothly.

Also great, were the fun reunions with our extended family - Johann's Dad and Stepmom took us to Universal Studios - it was the girls' first time and we all had a BLAST! (Except when Reese was coerced (by her FATHER) to get on the Simpsons (yes, as in BART Simpson, which they aren't even allowed to watch) rollercoaster...sigh...Poor kid is traumatized for LIFE! LOL!

To Be Continued...