We have been living in our great town of Almuñécar for just over 16 months. I often refer to it as our “little town” or “small village”, but it actually has a population of about 30,000. To me that is small, as I come from bigger cities like San Francisco, London, and Raleigh suburbs. Either way we stick out like a sore thumb, as we are the strange American family that always wears shorts. I guess you could say that has “tourist” written all over it, but I think they are really saying “Are they nuts?!”. Other than that we kind of just blend in with the rest of the people in our day-to-day routines.
We drop off and pick up the kids at school and socialize by the front gate with other parents. We go to the market, take walks on the beach and promenade, chit-chat with the neighbors and just go about our day like any other local. That said there are two key moments that pop out and warm my heart, which made me feel like we are accepted as locals.
A Trip to the Market
The first occurred in the height of tourist season in late August. This is when our small town turns into a bustling town with triple the population. There is no need to take the car anywhere, as the odds of finding any parking are slim. I do have to confess that Alan played chauffeur a few times, while I would run errands. He would drop me off and circle around to pick me back up. Anyway, back to the story.
I was at the market (Almuñécar Mercadona), just like I am most days, picking up a few things. This place was a mad house! Every check out line was beeping away, with loads of new cashiers and a queue full of tourists. Each and every one of them fumbling around trying to count out the correct money, figure out how to use the credit card payment or not realizing they had to bag their own groceries. It was quite frustrating for me, so I can only imagine the frustration the cashiers had.
It was finally my turn to pay and of course we always use our Chase Sapphire Visa, gotta get those points! I take out my credit card and the “new cashier” grabbed it out of my hand to swipe it for me. My first instinct was to grab it back and shout “I have done this hundreds of times”, but I refrained. Just a split second later one of the “regular” cashiers popped over and whispered to the new cashier “Viven aqui” (They live here) and gave me a smile. I was tickled pink that she not only recognized me, but she was actually standing up for me. It was kind of like she was saying “don’t treat her like a tourist”. That was the ultimate “I feel like a local moment”. I bounced home and of course had to tell the family about my day, but little did I know that moment would be topped.
Another Trip To The Market and My Ultimate Feel Like A Local
Yes, here it is a few months later and I now have one up’d myself on feeling like a local. Once again it was at the market and it was just a couple of days ago. Yes, we are at the market almost every day excluding Sundays, as they are closed. Due to the holidays the market was closed on both Sunday and Monday this week, so as you would guess it was crazy busy on Saturday.
You see when the store is closed for a day or two, everyone seems to get into a panic as if they will never eat again. It was pretty similar in the US as well, when there was a threat of inclement weather. Everyone and their mother would rush to the store and buy milk, bread and eggs. I always wondered if everyone was just going to have a french toast party or something. Anyway, it is no different here they just buy different foods.
Now back to my moment!
My moment was on Tuesday, the day the market opened after being closed for 2 days. I was there about midday and figured it wouldn’t be too crowded. Nope, it was crowded! Anyway, I was going along my usual path and made it over to the dairy section. I glanced down the aisle and noticed some familiar faces, we waved and approached each other for the hello. It was a couple we had met at a dinner party a few weeks back. We started to chat and then comes another hand waving from the end of the aisle. Over pops some friends from La Herradura, parents of a little girl who was in Anya’s flamenco class. We all chat for a while and then continue on with our shopping.
It was time to check out and I was standing in a very long line. I then felt a tap tap tap on my shoulder. I turn and it is the mother of one of the girls in Anya’s class. I always say hello to her from afar, but I don’t think we have ever really spoken. She reached over and gave me a big hug and the traditional 2 kiss greeting. I was stunned, as we haven’t really bonded, but then at that moment her husband also hugged and kissed me. We chatted for a bit and said our Happy New Year greetings and made small talk about the holiday break. Just then another mother from school popped over and gave me the hugs and kisses and Happy New Year! I usually get the hello’s, but to get the full greeting iced the cake for me. I feel like a local, I just need to practice speaking like one.
I couldn’t wait to tell the kids and when I did they had that proud look on their faces. They knew it was a special moment too. I know it is silly and petty, but these are the little things in life that I am going to remember. To me these little moments aren’t about seeing people you know at the market. These are the moments when I know I have been accepted into the community. I am treated just like any of the other locals. This is home!