I have to just say here, that I don't write about current affairs because I don't belong enough anywhere. I can't write about things in Israel, because I left, and lost my right to have a voice. I can't write about the UK because I didn't grow up here, I didn't go through the process of becoming an adult here, so I think it is rude and uninformed of me to try and say "I know better" or "I know at all", when I clearly don't. Also, I have learned that there is nothing that causes a rift and an argument more swiftly and easily than politics (except maybe for Football), and this is not that kind of blog. And lastly, one of the main things I love about being an expat is that I don't "have to" listen to the news, read the papers, follow current affairs. I can (and do) choose to do all these things, but I no longer have to, like I did when I lived in Israel, and with years of it under my belt, I love the freedom of having a choice.
I can tell you about Gib. About what it was like for me, living in Gib. Not many people know where Gib is. I know that before Hidai started working for his old company I didn't. It is a tiny place located in the South of Spain, and is actually a British Overseas Territory (I think I got it right).
And it is like no other place in the world.
|This is where Gibraltar is|
When you read anything about Gibraltar you usually read two things - the Rock & apes and the runway. It's understandable I guess, because the Rock is magnificent, the view from above is breathtaking, on a clear day you really feel you can touch two continents. And the apes... Well, I can't say I am a huge fan, especially since one stole a bag full of Yon's toys right from my baggy, but as I did get the bag back (with the toys untouched) I am trying not to hold it against all of them.
And the runway, well it is kind of funny, wonderful, really annoying (depends on how in a hurry you are) to see how they shut down the main road in & out so a plane could land / take off.
It's the quiet. You get a certain kind of quiet in Gib, that I haven't been able to find anyplace else. It comes together with "manyana". What's the rush? There is no rush. You're in Gib.
It's the work-life balance, that means all dads are in every school / nursery thing there is. Everyone leaves work and attends every sports day, parents meeting, assembly. For the first (and only) time for us, there was no work on the weekends, on nights, on holidays.
It's the distance. Everywhere is measured in walking distance in Gib. Many have a car, we got one after a year and a half, but walking is still what you do most of the times. Because wherever you want to go, it will probably be easier and faster on foot than braving the narrow streets and dead-ends. Especially when you're new.
It's the blue. I love the sea, and have always lived close to it. But never like this. We lived right on the Mediterranean. And when I say "right on" I mean every single cruise ship that entered Gib waved hello at us. There is no green in Gibraltar, except on the Rock, but there is so much blue and it is breathtaking.
|This is our old apartment|
|and this is the view|
It's the lack of bureaucracy. It's amazing. On the one hand they will go by the book (especially in regards to closing times) but on the other hand, they will do their best to try and help you with whatever you need and they can. When we were looking at moving to the UK and needed help with understanding the process we just went to the governor's office. You know, as you do. They actually sent someone to sit with us, go over the paperwork and explain everything.
It's Summer Hours. On paper it's supposed to be - start work earlier (or at least at the same time) and finish earlier because, well because it's summer and you want to go to the beach. In reality it means that everyone starts work late, and finish it early. And most of them come to work wearing bathing suits. We've never worked summer hours, and there are times in which you find it a bit annoying, but just the notion itself is enough to put a smile on my face. Summer hours.
It's the weather. They say Gibraltar gets 300 days of sun a year. When we got there in December 2009, it rained for 4 months straight, and you can't ignore the weird climate phenomena that happens because of the Rock - the fog and the wind. But mostly Gib has the perfect weather as far as I'm concerned. Really hot summers, not really cold winters, and nice autumn and spring.
It's the everyone knows everyone, and you can't go anywhere without knowing most of the people on the street, in the place you go to, on the way back. It's a small place Gib, and even us outsiders ended up knowing quite a few people. The locals? They know everything about everyone.
It's the Morrisons, because you have to love the Morrisons. It's the main supermarket in Gib, the biggest and the only one I know that imports everything from the UK. The rumour is it's the most successful Morrisons branch there is. I loved the Morrisons. I loved living across the street and taking the trolly home (and back. Of course we returned it), I loved how every time you entered it it was an adventure - what will they have and what you won't find (like the big milk shortage, when we learned to always have long-life milk at the ready), and then you have aisle rearranging when everything changes place suddenly, and aisle 8, or how I liked to call it - magic land. You never know what they will bring to aisle 8 (it's the seasonal things aisle), and because I still miss it.
|aisle 8 on Valentines|
It's the language. And the accent, and the mixing of English and Spanish in a way that only Gibraltarians understands. For us foreigners it's always seemed so impressive, the ease and speed in which Gibraltarians use both English and Spanish. They do it on Facebook too.
It's the school. Because we brought them a non English speaking child, in the middle of the year. And they accepted him and made him feel loved and at home from the first day. Because the head-teacher, deputy head, and the Reception teacher went well beyond their call of duty, and gave him & us the peace of mind we could only dream about before we arrived.
It's the tolerance. As small as Gib is, and it is tiny, it is full of expats. Mainly because when you get there you fall in love with it and want to stay (and that is why so many people will start their story with "I was just here for... And I couldn't leave. I love it here"), and because there are a lot of gaming companies there that needs people with different languages and knowledge. And it is amazing how at home everyone feels. How accepted.
It's the safety. Nowhere in the world is as safe and secure as Gib. It is so liberating, and different, and fun living like this. Real Gibraltarians don't lock doors. Or cars. Or bikes.
it's National Day. Where everyone's out on the main street, wearing red and white (usually with a "Gibraltar is British" slogan), drinking tinto-de-verano (summer red wine) from as early as nine a.m, eating calentita (the national food) and talking to everyone. I can't describe how much pride and love goes into National Day, but I can say that I loved being a part of it, even if it was for a short time.
And the fireworks. National Day fireworks are done from the pier in front of our apartment. And they are magnificent. Every year is a show to be remembered. But I have to say the first time I saw the other fireworks I was amazed. In Gibraltar, everyone lights fireworks, from their roof, from the Morrisons parking lot, form their balcony. You always fear someone will burn the whole place down. But no one ever does.
I could go on, there are things I didn't put in, but if I have to choose just one thing to describe Gib, it will be that Gib is existing in the present and in the past at the same time. It is as if you are living at the same time in 2013 and the 80's. And it's magnificent. I don't think there is anyplace like it in the world. I loved living in Gib. It has its downsides, like everything and every place, but for me, even though we've only lived there a short while, it will always be home.