February in Spain: An update on my life

On the way home from work today around 7 p.m., I noticed that the sky wasn't completely dark. The days are starting to get longer again... thank god. It looks like I may have survived another Winter. I hate this time of year so much, it's not funny. It just makes me crazy. Always has.

I haven't written very much about how things are doing in my life, lately. Well, here's the scoop. My wife and I are starting to finally get into a Groove. We both started jobs recently - Ana for the upcoming Banco Madrid, a new investment bank that's busily working to launch it's website in the next month or so - and I for the utility billing company working with a big Spanish consulting firm. We're both finally getting used to the daily routine of a working couple with a baby.

Ana's Mom has come up to Madrid to help take care of Alex during the day, which is really great because he's not with strangers or at a nursery. He's only 9 months old (on Monday - same as Ana's birthday!) so it's nice to have someone in the family take care of him. I and Ana would have liked her to have spent the first year or so with him, but the job opportunity came up and it's not something that could be delayed or passed by, especially here in Spain.

So now we have our morning routine. Ana gets up first because she's much more responsible and punctual than I am, and gets ready to leave the house at 8:30. Before she goes, she "rousts the boys" and Alex and I get up together sometime around 9:00. Alex is usually up and waiting for me, but he is preternaturally patient in the morning so he lets me doze for as long as I need it. 9:00 a.m. however, is the limit because that's when Ana's Mom arrives and I need to be up by then. She's got keys, but she thankfully buzzes the buzzer for those days when I'm pushing the sleep limit to the max. Grandma then grabs "el crio" and I get ready for work. It usually only takes me about 15-20 minutes to get out the door and to work and because - incredibly luckily - I only have to walk around 5 blocks to work now, I usually arrive around 9:30 or so.

Walking to work is wonderful, especially at this distance. It's really comfortable and wakes me up, but I don't arrived too bushed. Very nice. And I get to pass by the Apple store and a Mobile Phone store on the way, so by the time I arrive or am ready to leave, I've got lots of techy ideas buzzing around my head.

Work right now is incredibly frustrating. If you don't know, the project I'm working on is a next-gen billing system for Utility companies being done by my company in concert with a huge Utility company here in Spain. (All this is in the press release, no secrets there). I'm the classic Man in the Middle between two organizations of different cultures trying to get started on a huge project that's going last for over the next year and then some. If the Spanish aren't pissing me off with mind-numbing bureacracy common in companies of their size, the Americans - most who've never been outside of the U.S. before - are driving me nuts with jaw-dropping questions about where they can find the best Spanish burrito places. (In case you're a numb-nut also, burritos are a Latin American thing). There are days I come home from work ready to kill.

Spanish work days are very long. They normally work from 9 to 7, with an hour or so for lunch. On Fridays, however, at old-school companies like the one I'm working with, they work from 8 to 3 with no lunch. I don't know what type of company you work for, but in Spain and at this type of company, these hours are quite rigid. At 2 p.m., you can hear a pin drop as people zip out for lunch, and at 3:05 on a Friday, tumbleweeds blow through the cubicles. If you've added up those hours, you'd realize that the Spanish work 9 hours a day, except for Fridays where they work 7 which equals 43 hours a week. But that's only during winter. Staring in July, they work from 8 to 3 every day until the middle of September. They're called "continuous hours" and that's where they get those exta hours back they worked during the rest of the year. That and the fact that Spanish get a MINIMUM of one month a year off for vacation.

My American company, however, will have none of this "leave at 3" business, so I end up working too much every day. I try to go in at 9:30 and leave by 6:30 even though I rarely leave for lunch, but still, I get screwed and end up leaving later. I'd LIKE to leave by 5:30, since that would be an 8 hour day, but walking out at 5:30 is like leaving in the middle of the day. I want to scream "I'VE WORKED MY 8 HOURS, THANK YOU," but it doesn't matter to the Spanish who are stuck there and are expecting me to do the same. And since my bosses back in Oregon don't get to work until around the time I'm leaving, I invariably get a call or an IM message around 6 or 7 at night, and invariably when I say that I'm going home, they say, "Home? Already?" Ahh, such fun. It's a good thing that they're paying me relatively well for this. Not incredibly well, but a hell of a lot better than I was a month or so ago, so I'm eating this shit with a smile for now.

All this leads us to the evening, which it is now. Ana gets in from her 40 minute commute by bus around 8 or so and we unwind, have a light dinner (the big meal in Spain is during the middle of the day, so we usually just have a sandwich), play with Alex who surprises us every day with new tricks. He goes to bed at 10 p.m. and Ana goes to bed around midnight. Me? Well, if you've been reading this blog for any time you know when I go to bed.

So this is nice. A little routine. It won't last, since Alex will be growing and we'll soon have to abandon our little shoebox of an apartment for somewhere Alex can stretch his legs. Whether we'll last until we go to the U.S. or find somewhere else here in Spain is always the Big Question, but for now we're pretty comfortable. We bought a new crib for Alex the other day because he outgrew his "mini-crib" finally and it just about broke Ana until I rearranged the furniture last weekend to give us more space. I took apart a bunch of IKEA junk we didn't need and that helped. Who needs a foot rest anyways? It's just in the middle of the floor all day for 30 minutes of television watching at night. I never watch TV anyways, it's either WarTV in English - BBC World and CNN International - or in Spanish. Bleh. I'd rather blog.

Tomorrow is Friday and I'm quite happy that it has arrived. This weekend I may not leave the house at all and rather spend it hanging out with the fam and avoiding the zillion things I have on my "List to Rule the World" by blogging and browsing the web. This is all good. ;-) Just a month or two more and all this Winter will be gone and we'll have a reason to get outside during the weekend... which will be very nice too.

Excuse me while I step into my light chamber and pop my St. John's Wort Extract... ;-)


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