Posts by Country

Thursday, November 26, 2015


On Thursday, the 19th of November, I rode to Cuenca to get my TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero AKA foreigner identity card) and transfer the bike into my name. That night I stayed in a nice local hotel (Pension Cuenca) for just 15 euros. The owner, Angel, told me I was the first international visitor there which was a surprise considering that Cuenca is the capitol of the region. Angel was a really friendly host; he showed me where I could keep my bike safe, gave me a quick tour around the city center and told me about his village of just 100 or so people. Angel moved to Cuenca about 40 years ago and loves living there. He told me that the city has a similar vibe to his village because the community of the city center is actually quite small.

The next day I started early at the Extranjeria so I could get my TIE and ended up going for donuts and hot chocolate with a couple other Americans. Apparently city life is a bit different in our program; they worked more hours and had less help with their personal arrangements, such as accommodation, bank stuff, etc. On the other hand, things in the city can be a bit more efficient than in the countryside. Unfortunately for me this was a harsh reality that I would be dealing with for some time. My bank (Caja Rural) was so hopeless that I couldn't even get them to give me a bank card or keys to access my account online... Well, it turns out that this was not just a countryside problem, but a problem with the bank in general! I went to the headquarters in Cuenca and they gave me the same runaround as in the pueblos - promising that my tarjeta (bank card) would arrive soon in the mail, giving me keys for online banking that didn't work, etc. As a result, I would eventually end up changing my bank... but only after another month or so playing their waiting game.

My first stop after the banking charade would be the Trafico office to see about transfering my bike into my name real quick... except that "quick" is a concept that does not exist here. Granted, I knew that going in but, nevertheless, the process was far more complicated than I could have ever imagined. Trafico sent me to the Hacienda for a NIF (same as TIE but required nonetheless) and the Hacienda sent me to another Hacienda to get transfer documents. That Hacienda had fees which I had to go pay at a bank before filing the documents back at the Hacienda. Then I had to take the filed documents back to Trafico (now closing for siesta) and submit them. Trafico needed me to pay their fees so I ran to another bank and returned to locked doors. Fortunately, I had left my stuff inside so they had to let me back in at which point I finished submitting my documents and received the title to my bike!

I figured I deserved a reward after all of that so I went and got myself a kebab. I love kebabs. After eating I went to a mechanic who assured me that my newly registered bike was doomed to self-destruct at any moment... brilliant. I then carefully drove it back to my pueblo and handed it over to the local mechanic with hopes of a rapid recovery - wishful thinking, of course.

At this point I still had a couple days left on my weekend (gotta love having four days off every week!) so I spent a day relaxing and preparing materials for school before heading off to Albacete with my housemate, Cristina.

In Albacete we visited friends Pepe and Consuelo for the day. We enjoyed some awesome home cooking and then walked around the city with Pepe as our guide. Despite Cuenca being the capitol in the region, Albacete is actually the largest city in Castilla La Mancha. Though, walking around in the chilly evening, one might assume that it was a ghost town. That's Spain though - slightest hint of bad weather and people stay home.

Over the next few days I worked and, on Wednesday, my last day before the weekend, I lost my voice! I could hardly whisper for the next few days during which time I tried to see the doctor. Now, Cristina assures me that you can just go and see the doctor anytime, but that was not the message I got from the receptionist. A couple days later I cancelled my appointment because my voice was coming back and everything seemed fine. Still, it seemed suspicious that my local friend could just go in whenever and I had to wait until it was no longer even necessary... not sure what to make of that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


On Thursday, November 12th, I went to Belmonte to have dinner with my colleague Cristina and we talked about me living there as an alternative to the place in Las Mesas. You might ask why this even came up? Well, aside from the smoking, loud television 24/7, walking in on me in my room/bathroom (oblivious granddad who also seems to have some sort of nighttime-only tourettes), broken shower and power outages from lack of "potencia" (basically paying power for five people in a house of six)... there was also the change of agreement in regard to the food. Apparently, they were told that I would be traveling EVERY weekend and they had calculated costs based on that. So, in order to make up the difference, they decided not to provide the "board" part of the "room and board" that we had agreed on. Basically, I was putting up with a family without getting the unique benefit of living with a family - local, home cooked food. Of course, they ate so many bocadillos while I was there that I imagine I actually wasn't missing much!

Well, the next day offered a solution contingent on one purchase - the bike. With the lack of public transport between the pueblos, a private vehicle is really the only practical way I could manage the move to another location. My colleague, Mary Bell, spends most weekends at her flat in Valencia - a place where motorbikes are quite common and, thus, affordable. That weekend Mary Bell invited me to visit so that I could see some bikes and have a look around the city.

That evening we followed up on one of the bikes on that we had called about and I ended up with a 250 cc moto for 500 euros! The next day I went to buy insurance, and make the bike legal on the road, but the guy at the office couldn't figure out how to put me in the system so he gave up... No problem, just means I risk huge fines for breaking the law until I find someone who can do their job. Later I had lunch with Mary Bell and her brother, who's a musician, and he brought us to a concert the next day. That same day we had some amazing authentic "Paella Valenciana" at the beach and then headed back to Las Mesas. For the next two days I tried to get insurance but the owner of the local "seguros" was in the hospital and I couldn't do anything. Finally, I decided I just couldn't wait any longer, so that night I packed up and rode to Belmonte.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cuenca & Beyond!

On Friday, the 6th of November, I went to Cuenca with my colleague Cristina and her daughter, Claudia. We went to the cliffs and saw the Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses) in the casco antiguo or "old town". Walking through the old town we saw many cool old buildings which were well preserved mainly due to the fact that the town was always well defended by its surrounding walls and challenging cliff faces.

The next day I went to Las Mesas and hopped on a bus to join my students for a weekend excursion. We saw the historic pueblo of Huerta del Marquesado, where they have a working watermill, followed by the walled pueblo of Cañete. There we had a big soccer match before making our way to a small pueblo called Henarejos for some magdalenas with chocolate.

That night we stayed in a nearby hostel called Maria Hosteleria. The next morning we had a breakfast which consisted of chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate! Not a place for people like my dad... he hates chocolate. That day we went to see the nearby cave paintings.

We went to a couple different sites and visited a cool country house before heading back to Las Mesas. A few days later my principal, Isidro, came to tell me he was very happy about the excursion and that they would be free for me for the rest of the year!

Thursday, November 5, 2015


I've started doing the extra classes after school and it has been very... interesting. I have some very friendly and fun students and other that are simply out of control. Often they hear me speaking this foreign language (English) and they literally just start wandering off. At least now I know that teaching infants is something to avoid in the future. In any case, the extra classes are a good opportunity and it is nice that I didn't have to arrange any of it. The extra income will help provide a little play in my budget so that I can travel around and still be able to pay on debts back home. I also have four day weekends during which I can recover, so I think I'll manage.

On Thursday, the 5th of November, I went to Belmonte with some colleagues and saw the Colegiata de Belmonte (convent), the Palacio Del Infante Don Juan Manuel and the castle of Belmonte. Unfortunately, the castle was closed but thankfully the classy pueblo of Belmonte had more to offer. El palacio (the palace) in particular was actually quite an interesting place with lots of history and some archaeological aspects as well. The convent and the palace both have grand halls and historical relics/artwork but something unique about the palace is that it has a dig site along with the spa and views of the surrounding pueblo. Personally my criteria for accommodation doesn't go much beyond a bed with a roof above it, but then I certainly wouldn't mind staying in the palace for a night or two if given the opportunity. In general, Belmonte is a little pueblo with a lot to offer and I'd say it's definitely worth a visit.