Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Spanish Life {Swim Lessons}

Somehow I managed to become the Rota expert on swim lessons out in town at the local pool (or piscina).  I've been asked by so many people about the lessons we take and how to sign up that I figured it would be easier just to document it all here -- so skip this post if you aren't interested in learning all about swim lessons :)

Obviously this is our experience and everyone has a different experience.  What I am writing about here, is what I have experienced and learned by trial and error!  Hopefully this post helps those wanting to learn more about swim lessons at the local Rota pool.  And hopefully I covered everyone's questions -- feel free to message me or comment if you have any more questions!

How to Sign Up: Sadly there is no website for the pool -- you must sign up in person at the pool.  This seems to be the case for anything we have done in town such as registering for school or getting our certificate of residency paperwork.  Everything is done in person and no one seems to have a website!  And this means that you need some ability to speak Spanish since most of the people don't speak English.  There is one receptionist at the pool that speaks English but I could not tell you when she worked -- so just show up and hope for the best!  Everyone we have encountered has been super friendly and helpful, even with my toddler-level Spanish.

Cost: Lessons are much cheaper than those in the states or even on base.  We pay about 30 a month for 45 minute lessons twice a week (we paid this same amount when we did parent/tot class, so I am assuming twice a week lessons are all 30).  I do know that if you go three times a week, lessons are a little more, but not much.  There is usually a one time registration fee (most we have paid for the whole year is 9 if you sign up in September).  They will prorate the registration fee if you sign up after September.

How to Pay: Things are a little complicated when it comes to paying.  The first six months we did lessons, we were able to pay at the pool each month and it was great... then City Hall took over and you now have to pay using a Spanish bank account or at City Hall each month.  The bank account is the easiest way to go as the money just comes straight from your account and that's that.  If you don't have a Spanish bank account you have to go to City Hall (sort of -- it's not technically City Hall but right by the main building) and get a receipt/bill between the first and the fifth of each month and then take that receipt/bill to any bank and pay it. 
UPDATE: this year we have been able to email City Hall (must be in Spanish and include your name and attach a past bill) and they will then email you your bill, then you go to any bank and pay.  You still must pay within the time frame or your bill barcode won't work at the bank and you have to start over -- yes, speaking from experience here! 

Times: During the school year (September to June), lessons for kids are in the evening/after school.  Our lessons are from 6:15-7PM (when we did parent/tot class we went from 6:15-6:45PM).  I do know some lessons start at 5:30PM and 4:45PM on Tuesdays/Thursday but I am not sure about the other days.  During the summer (July and August), there are lessons during the day -- usually starting about 11AM or later and then an option for evening, starting at 7PM or later.  From what I have gathered all lessons are 45 minutes except the parent/tot class which is 30 minutes.  You can either take lessons Tuesday/Thursdays or Monday/Wednesday/Fridays.  There are no lessons on Spanish holidays and the pool is really good about putting up notices a week or two in advance when these days will occur.  There is also a Christmas break in December and early January -- usually the same two weeks that kids have off from school (so from right before Christmas to after Three Kings Day in early January).

Equipment: I talked briefly about what you need for swim lessons in this post.  But you will need a swim cap for anyone going in the water (so yes, if you are doing the parent/tot class, the adult will need a swim cap as well as the kiddo).  You will also need specific pool shoes -- these can be flip flops, crocs, whatever -- they just can't be shoes you wear outside of the pool/locker room area.  We use the family locker room and some parents use bags or little shoe protection things while in the locker room.  But I have seen people get scolded for wearing dirty street shoes into the locker room, so I make sure to always bring my pool shoes too!  Everyone heading out on the pool deck does wear pool shoes -- I don't think I have seen anyone go barefoot (kids, parents or even the instructors).  The best place to get all the gear is Decathlon which has good quality items for fairly inexpensive.

What to Expect: For the most part swim lessons seem to be very similar to those in the states (or at least the ones I used to teach).  There is a lot of playing games to learn skills and the kids all seem to be enjoying themselves.  Swimmers are separated by age rather than ability as far as I can tell.  So Serafina is in a class with all 3 to 5 year olds.  The parent/tot class is for all kids under 3 and even though Serafina was ready to move up to the next class, she was not old enough so we had to wait closer to her birthday.  The swimmer to instructor ratio is different for each class -- our parent/tot class had one teacher and sometimes up to 15 kiddos.  Serafina's class has two teachers who are in the water with her class and I have seen as many as 10 kids in her class.  Most of the other age groups seems to have one teacher and they don't always get in the water with them.  You will also get a key card (like a credit card) that you will swipe to get through the turnstile to get into the locker rooms/pool area.  You card is registered to you and will only allow you to go into the pool on the days/times you have lessons.  You will need your card to get in and out so make sure you don't forget/lose it!  And obviously, all the lessons are in Spanish :)  We have met a few of the instructors and so far none of them speak much English, but they are so kind and helpful it has not been an issue for us at all.

Hope all of this helps -- we have absolutely loved our experience with the local pool.  Serafina looks forward to swim lessons and I love how much she has improved!  It also allows us to practice Spanish and be that much more immersed in our town!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Feria 2018

The best time of year to be in southern Spain has come and gone (sort of)... I am talking about féria season.  Féria means fair in Spanish but this is nothing like a county fair you'd see in the states.  While there are similiarities, there are many many differences but either way -- it is seriously the best party you will ever attend and the whole weekend is an absolute blast.  If you need to refresh your memory on what exactly féria is all about, including the food, drinks and clothing -- read my previous féria posts here (2016) and here (2017).
Féria seaon kicks off after Easter and usually with féria in Sevilla -- as the first of the season and also the biggest, most eleborate fair.  Then on following weekends most towns in Andalucia have their own férias, sometimes going all the way through the summer!  However, we usually consider our féria season over once our small town has had their féria.

This year my brother happened to be visiting the weekend of Sevilla's féria so we took a bus with some friends up to Sevilla for a day of experiencing the largest féria.  While Sevilla is a sight to see, sadly it is the most exclusive féria of them all -- all the casetas (tents where food and drink is served and dancing takes places) are all private.  You must know someone to be invited in or be a part of the club that owns the caseta.  There are a few public casetas but they can get pretty crowded, and with over 1,000 casetas on the féria grounds, it can also be a little difficult to find them.  Sevilla's féria is so big a map is needed!

However, the exclusivity of Sevilla's féria did not deter us from having an absolute blast!  We knew that the Calle del Infierno (Hell's Road) would be a great place to hangout for the day -- public places to eat and drink and also ride some rides!  Calle del Infierno is the name of the area (for all férias) where the carnival rides and games are -- and Sevilla's area was SO big -- easily the size of Rota's whole féria!  We had a little hiccup with our lunch being slightly more expensive than we had planned but overall we had a wonderful time -- drinking, eating and riding all the scary rides (which takes some serious talent getting into the rides with a féria dress)!

I know I have touched on the rides at féria a little in my first post from our first féria but I want to talk about them again.  On the ride up to Sevilla we were all talking about how excited we were about the pirate ship and other rides -- my brother thought we were crazy as carnival rides aren't usually the greatest!  But we tried to explain that the rides at féria are not ordinary rides -- they have the Spanish way of thinking attached to them: fun first, safety second.  The pirate ship where you stand in a cage and jump or the insane upside-down/flipping/holding on for dear life ride or the ferris wheel that lasts 10 minutes and moves at easily 25mph!  Féria rides are crazy and fun -- and last a very very long time, you most certainly get your money worth!
such a scary ride.... oh so fun and oh so scary
And then the following weekend we had our town's féria.  It was just as fun as it has been in the past.  We started out as usual going to lunch with Trevor's coworkers on the first day of féria in one of the peñas.  This could easily be considered my favorite day of the whole year -- we get all dressed up and eat and drink our way through the afternoon with some of our closest friends here in Spain!  We are then treated to an amazing dance show (flamenco dancing).  And once again, our sweet girl just loved the dancing and sat mesmerized for the whole show...  I now have pictures of her just in a trance watching the dancing for three years in a row (she is finally old enough to start lessons in the fall)!  It was such a wonderful afternoon and evening.

watching the dancing

We actually went all four days of féria -- Trevor and I were lucky enough to snag a babysitter for one night so we could enjoy féria just us (and of course with our friends).  We did take Serafina the other days to enjoy a carriage ride and some more carnival rides with friends.  She had an absolute blast and loved going to "the big party" every day!

Our féria season was amazing and of course we are already looking forward to next year!

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