Sept. 4, 2008
I now find myself in Madrid for the sixth time; my first, second, and fifth times in the Spanish capital were mere stopovers on larger trips; my third and fourth times I had decided to relocate from Seattle, my hometown.
Getting back to the present day, I have moved to Madrid again because of my love for its way of life, the year-long blue sky, and a host of other reasons. This particular transition wasn’t in the cards after my previous stint here, but after having spent two years at the University of Washington doing a Masters in TESOL, it seemed like the logical choice. My time at the University was a necessary stop, as I felt that in the long term furthering my education was nothing but a plus. Furthermore, the chance to be a T.A. during my studies gave me the chance to gain more teaching experience while immersed in the academic rigmarole often associated with graduate studies.
But alas, I digress... I’m in Madrid again. After being here for less than a week, I’m more-or-less adjusted to the time change and am just barely able to get a wink of shut eye in early September heat. The weather is scorching compared to Seattle, but of course, those familiar with Madrid will know that the worst of the summer is behind us. This is important because if you’re about to make the move here, especially if you’re from more northern climates, perhaps you ought to put air conditioning atop your criteria for living quarters. Whether its air conditioning, a massive bathroom, or lots of light, whatever your criteria is, one advantage I am reminded of in Madrid is the fact that a vast majority of rentals come furnished. Unlike in Seattle and, from what I can tell, in much of the States, this is not the case, i.e. you must find all of your furnishings, whether a sofa or a set of spoons. For someone new to a city this can be a real hassle, especially when it comes to having to buy such necessities as a bed. Here in Madrid you will not have to labor over such details. Unfortunately though, like all travels and transitions, you will still have to remember the noun....patience.
I felt I was ready for the initial colas (lines) and waiting I’d have to do in order to get on my feet again. Wrong. I’ve been a little testy of late having to battle through meandering cues to accomplish what I thought were the simplest tasks. For instance, I need a checking account. You’d think that, unlike two years ago, having a girlfriend (she’s Spanish) help you would greatly facilitate the process. While she’s made the process easier and helped with some of the communication (my Spanish is pretty solid....except with civil servants), even she has been appalled at the bureaucratic nightmare. More specifically, three years ago I walked directly into a La Caixa (a local bank) and opened an account. It was as easy as 1,2,3...no joke. I walked out with a debit card in hand and was ready to order cañas and buy my monthly metro pass, which is a whole other story. However, the situation seems to have changed; after having spoken with several banks, having gone to a police station, and having waited at least 5 hours at two government offices, I am still without a checking account!! Although I have kept the term, patience, at the forefront of my mental capacities, have practiced deep breathing exercises, and have even recited profound motivational quotations, I still find that I’m kicking myself. Maybe this kind of regulation serves society in important and necessary ways.
My intention here though is not to discuss philosophy or politics. Instead, I am only reminding those who might be in my shoes in the future that you ought to be patient. If there’s a shortcut I’m unaware of, please share this wisdom. If not, then I must now move on to the next stages of the process. That is, I am obliged to fill out a ream of paperwork, after which I will have to return to the same government office and hope that there isn’t one more curveball awaiting me. Of course, even after all of this run around, I will not yet have a checking account.....Ahh, maybe I’ll just resort to digging a hole in my apartment floor and starting my own personal account.
Being an American, it’s important that I remind myself that if I were searching for the apogee of efficiency and productivity, I’d be in the U.S.A. That is not to say that Spaniards are not efficient or productive. No, not at all, instead I’m trying to point out that the way of being and the general world view in Spain (well at least Madrid) is peppered with countless pluses that more than make up for an occasional bit of frustration. Let’s take the rather conventional example of Madrileño street life. The mirth found in all public spaces, not just in a small downtown core, is something which draws one back again and again. For those profoundly pulled-in by natural surroundings, this may not be an immediate draw. But as someone from an island, as someone who lived his childhood in very rural areas, the chill dynamism of the life in the Spanish capital is nothing I’ve ever experienced in my short life in the States.