Saturday, 5 October 2013

Dealing with Spanish bureaucracy

Jack and I went into school on Wednesday and had a quick meeting with some of the English teachers at a local cafe. They said that one of us will be teaching in English classes and the other in history classes, which are in English, as the school is bilingual. They said they will give us our timetables and will try their best to give one of us Monday and Tuesday off and the other Thursday and Friday off, which will be fantastic if we want to travel around a bit.

Then we went home early and I was planning to go to bank to pay the fee to get my NIE, but when I got there they said something I didn't understand, showed me a form and gave me a piece of paper with the number 790 on it. In my desperation I posted a photo of the piece of paper on the British Language Assistants' Facebook group and someone said I need to get the 790 form to take the bank in order to pay the fee. I had no idea where to get the form and ended up in the police station, where they told me to go to the migrant office to get the form. Due to shorter Spanish working days, the migrant office was now closed. I then broke down crying at the idea of another ridiculous queue to get a form that I should have been given in the first place, going to the bank to pay the fee and then returning to the migrant office to queue yet again in order to receive the NIE. The deadline for sending my NIE and bank details to the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport was Friday 4th October in order to receive my payments and I had no idea how I was going to get everything sorted in time. The situation seemed hopeless and I felt like giving up. We had already been told that we may not receive our payments until December, but luckily I worked for the entire summer and have a considerable amount of money saved up.

In some ways I love how laid back the Spanish are because they are very understanding if you need a day off and we were given Thursday off, as we needed to go to the migrant office to get the NIE. In other ways it can be incredibly frustrating when you're trying to get something done. We got to the migrant office early and asked for the form, but were given ticket numbers and sent straight into the waiting room and I was preparing myself for another long wait. However, they called us in first and gave us the forms, so we were able to go straight to the bank to pay the fee and I then went to BBVA to open my bank account. I also managed to get to the tourist information centre and the pharmacy to ask for cream for my mosquito bites and a mosquito repelling bracelet. I felt that this day had been successful and was relieved to have sorted everything in time for the deadline.

The morning sunrise on the way to the migrant office

On Friday we had our first classes. I was quite nervous and wasn't really sure what to expect. I arrived at the beginning of the school day and really enjoyed the first class of 14-15 year old students. I was told to introduce myself and answer questions from the children, which included my age, my siblings and whether I have a boyfriend! The class seemed engaged in the activities and their English was at a good level considering their age. I was mostly observing the class, but the teacher sometimes asked me to read aloud so they could hear a native accent and I also commented on their performance, as they were doing restaurant role plays. The second class was similar, although there were more pupils and they messed around a lot. I think they were either younger or the lower set. They were still fairly friendly and the teacher said I could organise activities for them in the future, which I'm looking forward to because I brought lots of English things with me for them to see and try, including newspapers, magazines, train and bus timetables and tickets, leaflets, photos, postcards, tea bags, sweets, shortbread, mince pies, a Christmas cracker and a Christmas pudding (which all took up a considerable amount of space in my suitcase)!

I was only in the school for the first 2 lessons and nobody else needed me, so I had some free time. I went to the post office and got my ticket number for the queue. I had previously been in the post office, waited 30 minutes and been nowhere near to having my number called. Whilst at the post office I saw someone take their number then leave, so then went to the Vodafone store and the supermarket, returned to the post office an hour later and still had to wait half an hour before my number was called. I hope whoever receives post from me appreciates it!

I then went with Jack to meet the head of English in the city centre (by which time my feet were hurting considerably from walking up and down the hill to and from school and around the shops). She told me I have to be in on Monday at 10:30 for the English department meeting and she asked me to do private classes twice a week with her for her twin children (she says its easier for the twins to have a teacher each), who are 7 years old, which should be sweet and will help with the money situation. I may be doing more private lessons and also helping out during teacher training courses, which will fill my free time. I'm looking for a bike to save me walking long distances and the head of English said she knows someone who can sell me a second hand bike for 40 euros, which is pretty good and then I can sell it again when I leave. I don't want anything expensive because I won't be here for that long.

I felt like going out to celebrate my achievements over the past week, so I went out with the other assistants for a few drinks and then we found a club at near the port, which was small but still pretty good and we got talking to some locals. The Spanish daily routine, especially eating, is a lot different to that in the UK: they eat a big breakfast, a snack around 12pm, lunch around 3pm and dinner around 10pm. Therefore, if they're going out its usually quite late and bars seem quite flexible about what time they close, depending on the bar. I ended up coming home around 7am, so today I've been resting as I'm also pretty tired from the events of the week! I also think I've got a cold or something because I have a sore throat and the sniffles, even though that seems a bit strange in 30+ degrees heat. I don't have any plans for the rest of the weekend, but I'm really keen to make some Spanish friends so I think I might go to church on Sunday, although the idea of being a stranger and trying to understand everybody is a little bit scary. I want to see the other side of the city because from what I can see it looks quite historical  Maybe I'll see it tomorrow, because the church I might go to is over that side of town. I'll see what happens!

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