I may as well make a start on this now that I have actual wifi which isn’t stolen from the neighbour (thanks, Carlos). I’m back in the world of blogging now that I’ve moved countries again (the links to my previous blogs are in the ‘About’ page). So much has happened already since moving here on 14th September that I won’t bore you by recounting each day individually in banal detail, like Samuel Pepys. Here are the main features:
Beaurocracy, or how I stopped worrying and learned to spell Bureaucracy
You know, I even tried to cut down on the amount of queuing we’d need to do to become accepted by the government, being proactive by calling the Edinburgh Spanish Consulate. Despite not physically being in Spain, the Consulate closes every day at 2pm.
There was firstly the ordeal to get a NIE, a number which you seem to need for all kinds of reasons I’m yet to fully understand. I’m going to write an article on this in the ‘How to…’ section for informative purposes, but the long and short of it is that it look two separate days, a variety of photocopied forms, a bunch of Euros and a large amount of patience. I have never been so happy to have a computer-assigned randomly-generated number given to me before.
Next came the procurement of a Social Security Number, opening bank accounts, getting a travel pass, and obtaining utilities. None of these things can be done online, and most services close at 2. You need to show your passport for everything – even topping up your sketch Breaking Bad Spanish mobile with 10€ of credit.
Home is where you lay your hat, and everything else you own: finding a flat
This also really needs a whole blog entry to itself in the ‘How to…’ section. In the meantime, rest assured that it’s a stressful and complicated procedure. We had booked an Airbnb for the first week, hosted by a really nice couple and their really horrible cat, whose hobbies included lurking, scuttling and scratching.
Our kitchen equipment is almost all courtesy of a mythical place almost lost in the folds of time called Wu’s Bazaar. Señor Wu is a purveyor of anything your heart desires, a veritable Mirror of Erised and Room of Requirement all rolled into one. Now that the basics are all purchased, I’m slowly beginning to sneak home fripperies such as enormous wine goblets, and I’m eyeing up a lucky waving cat and Virgin Mary statuette.
I’ll do more on the actual flat later, because it’s wonderful, but yesterday our neighbour accidentally drilled a hole in our wall so I need to deal with that first.
Never sit at a table when you can stand at the bar
That’s a Hemingway quote, because I genuinely don’t know how Hemingway found the time to write anything with all the time he seemed to spend drinking in Madrid. We have found so many new and exciting places to bev. One wine bar was discovered by virtue of sitting in another bar and noticing a guy had a paper bag from somewhere selling ‘books and wine’, and then finding it and heading there immediately – which I think is the plot of a Sherlock Holmes story.
Keep an eye out for posts on such places in the ‘Food and Drink’ category.
Started university, or Play it Again, Sam
Firstly, and most importantly, my university campus has its own Snapchat geo-tag.
University officially started last Monday with an ‘opening presentation’, which consisted of hundred or so Masters students standing in a hall, receiving a welcome speech from a couple of dudes in suits, and then somebody got up and started playing the piano. And then he just kept playing the piano for like ten minutes whilst everybody just stood there, until someone got up and said “thanks for coming”. Absolutely bizarre.
Aside from that, it has been the predicted stress of not understanding anything, and trying not to be the weird foreign exchange kid. I like to imagine that I have pals but the reality probably is that the gang I keep hanging out with can’t work out how to ditch me in a class of only thirty. My street cred will probably improve once I stop bringing a backpack to class and saying random words in Spanish, like Dora the Explorer.
Robyn and Samantha visited – the vino trio
The arrival of Robyn and Samantha for the weekend provided the opportunity to do all of the touristy things I had secretly wanted to do but either was too busy queuing in an office or too busy standing around trying to look Spanish. It was great to see them, and a highlight was the Food Tour we did, involving lots of market food and day-drinking. We also had the best tortilla I have ever eaten at a place called Casa de Paco, which is in Moncloa: one had black pudding in it, one bull’s tail (Spain…) and the other goat’s cheese and caramelised onion. And fabulously cheap wine. Free-pouring wine is truly one of life’s joys. We went to the Plaza Mayor, the Parque de Retiro, all the 1€ drinks bars, and Samantha and I explored the massive Parque del Oeste, which has the added quirk of an Egyptian temple in it. And, miracle of miracles, we all found something to enjoy at the Reina Sofia modern art gallery.
I’ll update again soon with starting my new job, but more importantly some restaurants I think everybody should know about.