I have a special treat for you today. Rebecca — a Navy wife who blogs at Sink or Swim — is getting ready to move her beautiful family from Rota, Spain, to Hawaii. But before Rebecca says adios to southern Spain, she has kindly agreed to share what it’s been like living and traveling in the land of ferias, colorful dresses and picturesque villages for the past four years.
|Rebecca — dressed in a traditional sevillana dress, which is similar to flamenco —
poses for a photo with her family at a castle in Rota, Spain.
Q: Tell us about you and your family.
I am a mother of two kids, Mckenna who is 10 and Omar Jr. who is 4, and married to a sailor in the U.S. Navy. We’ve been married for 10 years and he joined the Navy not long after we were married. My husband Omar works at the AFN station (American Forces Network) that supplies the base radio and cable. In addition to being a mom, I also work full time and am getting ready to graduate with a bachelor’s in Environmental Management.
Q: You have a blog called Sink or Swim. What inspired you to launch the blog? What kind of information can we find on it?
I LOVE reading blogs, I have always loved to be able to peek into people’s everyday lives. I also love that I have been able to find information and opinions on just about anything. Even though I am an active blog reader I was very hesitant to actually start one. I am not a wonderful writer, but I do love letting people know about the places I’ve visited or restaurants to go to. So I finally bit the bullet and started a blog to share some information about living in Spain, questions you may have about moving here, also to document our own PCS process as we leave here and share our every day life. I also like having the ability to post photos and stories on here instead of on Facebook.
Q: What do you love about living in the area?
This is going to be hard to keep short, I love so much about Rota. First off, the people of Andalucía (the southern part of Spain) are just wonderful. Laid back, family oriented and super friendly. The weather is wonderful. The base is small so I see people I know wherever I go. It’s generally pretty cheap to travel, there are lots of discount airlines in Europe, so we have been all over the place while we’ve been here.
Q: What do you not like about living there?
The hardest part to living in Rota is being far from family – specifically, for our kids to grow up far away from the rest of the family. Both my husband and I grew up close to our grandparents, so we sometimes wonder if we are making the right decision. Also on my dislike list: paying for anything off base in Euro (ouch!), mold in my house in winter, the base being so small that you can’t avoid people you don’t like, the laid back attitude of the locals can sometimes drive you nuts when you want things done FAST.
|Rebecca and her kids visit the horse fair in Spain’s Jerez de la Frontera.
Q: What are your top three favorite activities to do in Rota as a family?
Our favorite three things to do as a family are to go to the beach, walk along the boardwalk or go out to eat.
Q: Where are your top three favorite places to dine?
My favorite places to eat are 100 Montaditos (a sandwich place), Bailey’s (a steak place) and any Doner Kebab place.
Q: What are your favorite places to shop for food or clothes?
While the commissary and exchange are the easiest, the selection is not the best in either one. We have some great malls around and most of them have a large grocery store in them as well — kind of like having Super Walmart as an anchor store in the mall. It’s weird but convenient. My favorite store is H&M, which I also used to shop at in the states. (Also C&A, Primark and Zara) I do like to buy produce from Carrefour (local Walmart).
Q: Are there a lot of activities available for kids in Rota?
There isn’t a ton for kids to do, especially off base. We don’t have a lot of the stuff that you get used to in the states, like Chuck E. Cheese or bounce-house places. On base one sport is offered at a time, rotating through soccer, football, basketball, baseball or cheer. Swim lessons are offered year round. Lessons are offered through MWR, but the selection is pretty limited and can change when instructors PCS.
Q: Do you or anyone else in your family speak Spanish? Do you need to know Spanish to get by in Rota?
I am the main Spanish speaker in the house and my Spanish isn’t all that great. I SWORE that by six months I would be fluent but it hasn’t happened! I took a few years of Spanish in high school and that has helped a LOT! I am comfortable enough to go out to eat or go shopping but I am by no means conversational! You don’t need to know Spanish to live here. Many of the locals speak English (especially at the local restaurants), however I think it helps a LOT to at least know how to pronounce Spanish words.
Q: Where can families take Spanish lessons if they wanted to learn?
There are lessons off base, lessons on base, the school teaches some Spanish to the elementary kids, and the day care center has a Spanish Immersion program for preschoolers. Just depends on how much money you want to spend! My recommendation: find a Spanish friend!
|Rebecca and her husband Omar traveled to Portugal.
Q: Do you live on base or off base? Why did you choose to live in that particular community? And what is it like?
We live on base. When we moved here 4 years ago there was no option to live off base unless you had a large family or there was a lack of available housing. That has since changed and you can live off base if you want. We would have LOVED the opportunity to live off base; you are able to experience the culture so much more! However, we live very close to the school (we can see it from our driveway), the base pool (5 minute walk), the commissary, exchange and my work (7 minute drive). My kids can ride their bikes in the street and walk to friends houses. Also, we don’t need to use transformers for anything as base housing is 110v.
Q: This sounds mundane, but people moving to Spain may want to know: Can they bring their American-made appliances? How about cell phones?
If you are living on base you can use anything with an American plug. You don’t need to bring anything big like a washer or dryer. They come in the house and if you live off base they will let you borrow one. If you are living off base you can also use American stuff but you will need to use transformers to convert it to 220v. Many people just buy cheap 220v stuff like hair dryers or coffee makers and then sell them when they leave. You can bring your cell phone but I can promise you, you won’t use it as much as you do now. I was a cell phone ADDICT, text-a-holic, games, etc. When I moved here I didn’t even use a phone for the first couple years. Now I have one that I never use that is dead half the time. Most people pay as you go with cell phone minutes and they are pricey!
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about living in Rota?
It is a really wonderful duty station but you have to move here with a few things in mind: It is NOT America. Things are different, the culture is different and you are going to have to adapt. Also, get off base! You will go crazy if you never leave and there is so much to see and do even within a few hour’s drive – Gibraltar, Marbella, Cadiz, Costa Ballena, Seville, Portugal and Morocco. It has been an amazing experience living here and I have some friends and memories that I will cherish for a lifetime!
* Do you want to know what it’s like living at a particular duty station? Need tips on how to prepare for a move? Or advice on how to handle a deployment? Tune in each Monday for tips and stories aimed at helping your next move or deployment go more smoothly. If you have questions, tips or stories you would like to share, send a brief email for consideration.