Two weeks ago today, I arrived in my new city, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Alava in Basque Country greeted by glooomy skies and rain drops, and a kind English fellow who met me at the bus station with my 2 suitcases and backpack in tow. Also an English teacher, Lee has called Vitoria home for the last 7 years and I was relieved and grateful when he agreed to host me for a few nights.
In the last two weeks I’ve impressed myself with how much I’ve accomplished:
Finding a place to live:
Finding a modern piso in a record 2 days and sharing with 3 guys- 1 from Irun (Basque Country) studying history, civil engineer from Mexico but living in Spain for the last 9 years and an English teacher from Manchester, England. We’re rarely all home at the same time so I often have the apartment to myself but it’s really nice when we come together and hang out in our small cozy kitchen and chat. And in Spanish. Heaven knows, I need to be practicing.
I got into a Spanish class at the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas (EOI) after dealing with bureaucracy and a mean secretary whose all about following the rules to a T. “You don’t have your new foreigners card? You can’t sign up.” But I’ll be renewing in a few days, isn’t there anything you can do? Nope. “You’ve had since July to register.” But I couldn’t, I just arrived. Thankfully after unintended tears and a teacher who happened to be in the office helping me took my number and said he’d check with the Spanish teachers. I stopped by again a few days later at the recommendation of other auxiliar (teaching assistants) friends and was greeted by the same unfriendly woman with the same darn answer. It’s crazy- I just want to take a Spanish class and pay you money- there’s got to be some exceptions. This time folks in line recommended going to the adult school to inquire about classes. Despite following directions and asking many folks on the street where the adult school was, I coudln’t find it and scratched my plan for having lunch with my friend Sharon. Two hours later, the Escuala de Idiomas called me asking me to take a placement exam the following day. Take that secretary!
Applying for my NIE:
I applied for my NIE, Numero de Identidad de Extranjero(forigners card). My third day in Vitoria and I had an appointment (you can make appointments online, wow!) at the extranjeria and was greeted by good looking La Guardia Civil officiers and friendly folks. A nice change from last year. Turns out, despite the website stating this is where you come to apply for your NIE, it wasn’t because in Spain or in Basque Country, updating websites and making people’s lives a little easier is not on the agenda. A few days later I went across town to the Policia waited for them to call my number and handed in all my paperwork. I was annoyed when the woman asked why I didn’t just renew? Why did you get a new visa? Ah, because I had to. My NIE expired more than 90 days ago. I gave a brief explanation and thankfully she didnt’ question me, asked her co-workers and processed my paperwork. I felt a bit feisty inside but tried not show it. Really? I would have preferred not spending $300 to get a new visa to come to this lovely side of the world if I didn’t need to but as I learned last year, no one knows their right hand from their left.
I’ve been meeting all the auxiliars in my town. A good seven of us, like last year. And had a wicked great birthday celebrating till the sun came up.
This time last year, I still hadn’t applied for my NIE nor had the opportunity to take Spanish classes. I can already tell this year is going to be a good one, focusing on my goals and accomplishing them!