Monday, December 17, 2012

5 Things That Scare Me in Spain

Living abroad is a fun and intellectually-stimulating activity; I don’t at all regret making the decision to move to Spain for nine months or more. There have been so many opportunities to travel to beautiful cities full of historical sights and gastronomic delights, so many ways I have been challenged to get better at speaking Spanish, and so many differences I’ve picked up on between Spanish and American culture.

But doing life here in Spain isn’t always the magical experience it may seem from my Instagram feed or travelogue blog posts. I tend to stay in most weekends to save €€€ for the one city trip I take per month; Spanish schoolchildren, as cute as they are, tend to be loud and wild; and I struggle to understand what most of my fellow Spanish teachers are talking about because of their accents.

Sabiote, Spain at night
Sabiote at the blue hour
And although I’ve moved from one developed country to another, there are a few parts about living here in Spain for nine months that make me worried. Thankfully, I have been paid by my school for two months’ work so far (other language assistants are still waiting!), I live in an apartment (albeit a chilly one), and I cook food for myself each day that is both healthy and tasty. Yet, I worry about a handful of things happening every now and then:

1) Getting robbed/losing documents

Applying for and picking up my TIE (foreigner’s identification card) and getting a debit card for my Spanish bank account were a huge hassle, and I don’t want to even think about how I would go about replacing those cards were I to get robbed/mugged or misplace them. Even worse would be losing my passport—which I need to have on my person when traveling outside of Spain. Of course, there are ways of reapplying for your passport, but I hate headaches just as much as the next guy. Rarely do I worry about crime here in Úbeda, so it’s probably yours truly that I need to keep an eye on.

2) Computer dying

Like language assistant-turned-travel blogger Liz Carlson, my computer is one of the most important things I brought with me: I use it to keep in touch with friends and family back home (via Facebook, Twitter, email, Skype, etc.), upload pictures and blog posts of travels and daily life, listen to music, watch movies and YouTube, pay bills, do research for future travels, and resolve problems with living abroad. I often wonder how people used to live without the internet—I wouldn’t have been able to navigate Spanish bureaucracy, rail lines, or old towns without it. (I can guess how people did live: they talked on the phone, something which I absolutely dread doing.)

3) Spanish government collapsing

It’s happened both violently (the Spanish Civil War in the ‘30s) and peacefully (after longtime dictator Francisco Franco died in the ‘70s) last century, and could happen again if the Eurozone crisis gets worse. Since I’m working as a language assistant in a public elementary school here, my income depends on the Spanish government’s ability to remain solvent and sovereign. I know even the current state of the Spanish society led many potential language assistants to decline their placement offers this year. If, for example, Spain stopped using the euro and reverted to the peseta, you’d be seeing me on the next flight out of Madrid!

4) Earthquakes

Over the past few weeks here in central Jaén province we’ve had dozens (yes, dozens) of little 2- and 3-scale earthquakes hitting every few hours, and I’ve felt two of them. The Spaniards I’ve talked to have told me that nothing like this has ever happened to the area before; most earthquakes happen in the neighboring region of Murcia. However, this is southern Europe we’re talking about, home to the 1755 earthquake, which leveled the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, and Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius, which buried Pompeii in ash two millennia ago. Are these tremors harbingers of stronger things to come? I really don’t know, and neither do the geologists.

5) Dropping my laundry off the clothesline

This one is a lot more lighthearted than the others, but I probably worry more about this than all the others in my day-to-day life. I live in a fifth-floor apartment (that’s a fourth-floor apartment in Europe!) and, since this is Spain, there is no dryer. Enter clotheslines! From high above the patios my laundry dangles perilously, and I hold my breath every time I take a clothespin off. I’ve only dropped one clothespin three months in, but the wind blows strongly up here, so I tend to hold my t-shirts and towels with a death grip as I hang them on the line.

For current and former language assistants: what elements of living in Spain make you anxious? Talk about it below in the comments!
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