Do you have questions about public school in Spain?

Can you help me out?  I’m working on a little project and your expertise is needed.

Especially if you are an English speaking foreigner living in Spain, I need your input.

Are your kids in public school in Andalucial?  Tell me all the questions you have ever had about your school.  What are the things you didn’t know when you started?  What information did you search in vain for?  What details do you wish someone had told you?

Do you still stratch your head sometimes?  What parts of the system baffle, frustrate or bore you?  What parts of Spanish public school do you appreciate?

I really want to know.  Let’s share notes and swap lies.  Please, please, PLEASE leave me a comment below.  And then, if you are curious, I’ll tell you what I am up to.

Death by Oranges

If you are Canadian, do you remember how special mandarin oranges were at Christmas?  When I was a kid in Prince George imported oranges were an exotic treat.  We knew Christmas was around the corner when the cardboard boxes, full of individually wrapped mandarins, arrived from China.  The crinkle of the tissue paper.  The novelty of an easy-peel orange.  Oranges were expensive in northern grocery stores 40 years ago.


Fast forward to my new life in southern Spain and fresh local oranges can be had for forty cents a kilo!  That’s 18 euro cents a pound! (OK, if you exchange to Canadian dollars it doesn’t sound so cheap.  But still, 25 cents a pound, 57 cents a kilo.)

I could just buy myself 10 kilos and juice away for a week, but that is no fun. Instead  I find friends to share the bounty with and we get a bulk delivery to my house.  So how many oranges did I order last week?

100 kilograms!

That is a beautifully monsterous pile of oranges.  I don’t really need 100 kilos, nor do I need to organize my neighbours’ produce purchases.  But I did it just for the sheer joy of seeing all that vitamin C piled up on my patio.  You might be surprised to learn that 100 kilograms of juicy, sweet oranges easily fit into a Ford Fiesta.  Juice dense oranges are a concentrated use of space.

So, you poor northern slobs, with your ridiculously priced food trucked in from California.  I will eat an orange for you. Maybe 3.  My little electric juicer will sing its song for you as it pumps out yet another glass.    I’ll even buy another 100 kilos of oranges to share with you when you visit me.  Cost to me, 40 euros.  Cost for your plane ticket, 1000 euros.  See you soon!

Setting examples for the kiddies at Christmas

Small towns make for big stories.  Nothing better than local politics for amusing characters and drama.

Unfortunately I didn’t witness this story go down.  Damn, I miss all the good stuff.   The truth is elusive and I’m sure it is stranger than the second-hand fiction I will recreate here based on the neighbours’ “he said, she saids” and various biased newspaper reports, some examples here and here,  all of which disagree on the facts and context.  But here is the Not So Spanish version:

Picture the scene: Christmas parade, small children, twinkley lights, good cheer.  Two local police officers sauntering through the crowd put a ticket on a car parked inside the parade route.  While the officers are still on the scene, the city councillor in charge of parades informs the officers that the vehicle is actually an unmarked car belonging to the city.  Official parade business, don’t you know.  The officer replies something to the effect of, “What, do you think I’m stupid?   This is your car, the street is closed, I am giving you a ticket”.  Shouting and general unpleasantness ensue.  The councillor’s parting jab is to demand the police officers give him a military salute since he is their superior.

Two hours later, the Mayor is enjoying a post parade beverage and cavorting with his citizens.  And since it’s a small frigging town, the mayor spots the two officers from his bar stool.  Mr. Mayor saunters out, drink in hand, and rips a strip off the officers for ticketing buddy’s car.  The newspaper reports that “elevated voices were heard by the many parade goers in the area”.  And to my eternal glee, my favorite detail of this entire story is confirmed in the union report.  The mayor did not put down his beer while punctuating the Christmas glow with verbal aggression, in front of his voting public and their under-age children.

Now, the two police officers high-tail it over to the health center to get a blood pressure test and are placed on immediate paid leave of absence.  Workplace stress they call it.  Those small town christmas parades are killer.  The traumatized officers charge the Mayor with harassment.   Your move Mr.  Mayor.

Upon realizing just how much shit has hit the fan, the Mayor reports the officers for subordination and lack of respect.  The city councillor excuses himself from the situation saying that his foot hurts, duh, that’s why he can park anywhere he pleases.  Even in front of his own parade.  And everyone drives their cars home.  Good chance their won’t be a road block tonight since the police officers are all at home lowering their blood pressure.

And the seasonal cheer has been packed up for another year.  The city workers are taking down the lights and sweeping the parade route.  The collateral damage articles are coming out.  Some call for the Mayor’s resignation; this is yet another example of entitled politicians thinking the rules don’t apply to them.  Others say the officers should resign, you can’t just run around putting tickets on important people’s cars, especially if they are filled with candy and are driven by drinking politicians.

I am still slapping my forehead for missing the show.





Gold Medal Recycling or Gold Medal Drinking?

Did you know, Tarifa recycles more glass per capita than any other town in our area.  Isn’t that great news!

The various towns in “Campo de Gibraltar” are engaged in some friendly competition designed to improve recycling rates and provide more photo ops for the mayors during election season.

Have you seen our prize for reaching this distinction?  A big gold recycling container.  The eyesore enormous trophy is now installed in front of the tourism office for all to enjoy.

gold recycle

I hate to break it to them, but the high rate of glass recycling here is not due to our conscientious population.  It is due to the unusually high summer consumption of 1-litre extra-large beer bottles.







But hey, let’s celebrate that big ass garbage can while it’s ours.  Because if La Linea gets in gear and starts drinking more beer, they might win it back.

Google Translate (is) for Dummies.

Bad Spanish to English translations are so fun!.  I enjoy feeling smug, knowing that I seldom make such embarrassing mistakes any more.  Seldom, but not never.

We English speakers are not immune to Google Translate abuse.  There are some hilarious translations from English to Spanish.  I always wonder, before printing large expensive public signs, why don’t the authors just ask a native speaker?

Exhibit A: 


The author of this sign thought they were politely asking people to turn off the showers, instead they instructed people to “turn around in a circle far away from the heavy rain”.

Exhibit B: 

wash tag

Following these instructions, you would “wash your hands, not fall down, and notice that the iron (as in the heavy metal) was arrogant”.

How many thousands of these tags do you think they printed?

Exhibit C: 


This smoke free facility is promoting the “ease of setting tobacco free.”

Google Translate is not your friend.

Chi Chi

There are so many good signs in Spain.  I mean so bad that they are good.  Here’s my favorite of the day.  It deserves a little translation and explanation.

Oferta Semanal:  Depilación Púbica (ChiChi) 7 Euros, varios modelos.


Hmm, a few worlds you can probably guess.  DepilaciónPúbica. 

Let’s start with the word “ChiChi“.  Sounds jaunty doesn’t it. A bit like “ChaCha”, like there should be some dancing involved.  Well,”Chichi” is a take off on the much loved Spanish word “ChoCho” which refers to the female nether regions.

I still have not gotten used to hearing Moms calling their daughters “ChoCho”.  In English it doesn’t sound so cute.  “Hey Vagina, dinner’s ready”.  Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Far more overused than “CHoCho” is its male counterpart “Picha”, which apparently they do not wax in the establishment above.  My husband refuses to admit it, but he refers to his brother as “Picha” (penis).  More common still, guys here refer to each other as “Cojones” (testicles.)  Insert “Conjones” or “ChiChi” anywhere that you would have used “Dude” in 1988.

I hear this in the street all day,

“Got a light, Cojones?”

“Love your Hello Kitty nail extensions, Chocho”

“What’s up, Cojones”

So the sign says, “Special of the week.  Pubic hair removal.  (vagina variety).  Various styles.” 

Although they have various styles, apparently none of them are suitable for your picha or cojones.

And that, ChiChi, concludes my short lesson of street Spanish.

Redefining Bull Fighting

Bull fighting is controversial.  It is deeply respected tradition in Spain, not to mention a money spinner.   But killing animals for sport is bloody, cruel and seen as barbaric in these times.

There is hope.  I think these freaks just nailed the future of bullfighting.   And a new generation of tumble-tot classes in Spain surely will help rebuild the economy.

Jump ahead to 0:39 seconds to get to the good stuff.




Redefining “Air Mail”

I have many stories about the snail-mail here in Andalusia.  Packages disappear.  Strange taxes appear.  Our mailman became the Mayor.   But our new mailman in Tarifa has taken bizarre to new heights.  3.37 meters high to be exact.

When I arrived home from the school run Friday there was a large package on the ground inside my locked patio.  How exciting. How strange.  How did it get there?

No one witnessed this mystery unfold so I can only assume this chain of events:

  • Mailman arrives to deliver a package.
  • Mailman rings bell, no one answers.
  • Mailman decides carrying package back to truck would be labour intensive and unsatisfying.
  • So, mailman throws large package 3 meters and 37 centimeters over the wall where large package drops onto the cement floor of my patio.

I measured. He threw it 3.37 meters in the air. That’s a little over 11 feet for those of you who don’t speak metric.

I can picture Mr.  Mailman looking at the wall, looking at the package, looking at the wall.  He probably turned the box around, searching for clues of its contents.  He gave it a little shake, muttering, “Doesn’t sound breakable”.  Then he took one last glance for witnesses, declared,  “F@&% it” and he pitched it over the wall.

My only question is whether the box made it over on his first toss, or if it bounced back onto the street a few time before clearing the wall.

Given my history with the Spanish mail service this experience leaves me elated.  The package arrived. It arrived in a timely fashion with no additional charges.  I did not have to stand in a line.

Thank goodness it was Lego and not a new laptop.



I’m back!

Happy Halloween.

Not So Spanish just won’t die.  This blog is rising from the dead in time for trick ó treat.

The school said the kids could dress up for Halloween.  The instructions said, “something scary”.

So they went as Spanish construction workers.  (Minus the ever-present cigarette).  Spanish construction workers scare the crap out of me everytime they enter the house.

This blog is in the middle of a messy remodel.  It could be months, I’m on Spanish time of course.  But I’m looking forward to clogging up your newsfeed again.


Dashing through the sand.

Boxing Day.  What is a good northern Canadian girl to do?  Take the family tobogganing of course!  No lack of snow can deter my cultural committment. Don’t fear, my little Canucks, we will have fun, like it or not.


“Ok troops, this is what real Canadians do on Boxing Day.  And we don’t even have to take off six layers of clothes before we pee.  So no complaining now and everyone UP THE HILL!”


“I saw her putting rum in that thermos.”


“Looks like the Mommy is serious about this tobogganing crap.  She isn’t even waiting for us!”


“Ok, now you just sit on the buggy board and slide down the hill.  And you laugh and scream and pretend you’re having fun.  Wipe that Spanish smirk off your face and start having fun, damn it.  I’m serious!”


The friction coefficient is all wrong, Papi.”

“You’re right son.  To make this fun we either need more slope, less clothing, or more rum.  I’ll check-in with your mother.”

“Hello down there.  Are we having fun yet?”

“Papi, I have sand in my underwear”

“I suppose it’s better than snow.  Let’s just humor her a bit longer and  I’ll buy you a toy bullfighter on the way home.”


“Who filled my thermos with sand?  Come back here, you little twerps!”