As the evening blurred on, I felt the familiar heaviness behind my eyes. I glanced at my phone, and realized with a shock that it was 3:30 in the morning.
We stayed for another two hours.
The next day, I took my oldest son to a birthday party which lasted five hours. By Spanish standards, it was short. I know this because the following day, both of my children went to a birthday party—for a three year old girl—that started at two and ended at ten pm.
My children will be experts at college all-nighters, because they are learning from the best. Viva, Espana, the nation that never, ever sleeps.
People warned me that Spain does time differently. Well, it’s true. They do.
People begin work and school around nine, as they do in most places. Lunch is a two, followed by siesta. Most businesses close until five in the afternoon. People return to work around five, work until eight, eat dinner around ten, and sleep around midnight.
Children attend school from 9-2, and also eat lunch at home. If they do after-school activities, they begin around 4:30, lasting until 6 or 7.
It is routine for aerobics classes to begin at 9:30 PM. My landlady drinks her “afternoon coffee” at eight PM, and has hair appointments that start at nine PM.
When I plan my day, I need to consider that I cannot buy bread, milk, fruit, or clothing at any local store in the afternoon. I can’t order a pizza for dinner until, at the earliest, eight PM. And shopping at a mall or department store on a Sunday? Simply out of the question.
My oldest has one more week of school, and then we will travel to the States for three weeks. When we return to Spain, we will transition fully to Spanish hours.
My children are starting Spanish public school next year, and I want to prepare their stomachs, and their minds. I want them to enjoy the long summer hours, and rest in the long, weary afternoon hours.
I don’t want our urges and biology to betray us. When our neighbors eat, we eat. When they rest, we rest. We have been living two worlds here, attending American schools on base, and following those hours and habits. I held onto my five thirty dinners and eight PM bedtimes, because it felt normal, and comfortable, and healthy.
Except that life was still happening outside our doors. And we were missing so much of it.
So now, we’re choosing Spain. All of it. Even the exhausting, confusing, and possibly impractical pieces of it.
It’s simply time.