So, today has been a rather weird and, quite frankly, wonderful day.
I got up super early this morning (well, at 7.30, don’t judge me, this is Spain!) and left home at 8.00, a time of day I’ve only rarely seen since my CELTA days. Why did I do this? Well, because my TIE card was ready for collection and I wanted to beat the crowds.
Perhaps I would have done a better job of beating them if I’d gone the right way. It’s not that I didn’t know where I was going or that I got lost, just that I was on autopilot and headed out by the same route I took last time. Only there were reasons I went that way last time – namely needing to call in at the station for photos and not knowing the best cycle route. But having scouted out the cycle route on the way home last time, I really should have taken it to get there this morning. I can only blame the fact that I didn’t on morning fogginess.
Anyway, so I got there at pretty much bang on 9.00 and joined the queue, which was longer than I might have liked, but also moved faster than it initially appeared to be. There was no special treatment for UK citizens this time, no special queue and no special room. But soon enough I was ushered in and this time I was attended to by a uniformed officer. He took my receipt, my passport and my green card. Then he took my fingerprints again to check it really was me and that was it. Passport back, card handed over. I was in and out in less than five minutes.
And so I’m now the proud owner of a Permiso de Residencia with rights to live and work in Spain. Yes, sure, the fact it confirms my status as a foreigner isn’t great, but at the end of the day, that’s what I am.
For now, it does at least confirm that – foreigner or not – I have a place here in Spain. It’s my home. It’s where I belong.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of belonging lately. Maybe I’m getting slightly ahead of myself, but I am starting to feel much more settled here and that I am, in my own small way, a cog in the wheel of the local community.
I mean, firstly there’s work. And boy, is there work! I’m now teaching 25 hours a week, which may not sound a lot but trust me, with prep, marking, set-up and cleaning time, it occupies a good 40 hours a week. But the thing is, I love it. Sure, there are things I don’t enjoy so much, like when a group of students absolutely refuses to speak to one another despite every trick I can possibly think of to make them do so. But there are so many things that I love, like the groups that you can barely stop speaking to each other (in English!). And yes, it really does help that the job pays the bills, but seeing my students progress is a huge reward in itself and it helps make me feel that I’m making a difference.
Secondly, I’ve finally finished studying Catalan on Duolingo. (Cue cursing from certain locals who will tell me I’ve learnt the wrong language. Fortunately, while there certainly are differences between Valencian and Catalan, they’re not so great that I’ve wasted my time. And indeed there are others who happily say they’re two branches of the same language. Either way, as long as I understand what’s going on around me, it doesn’t really matter.)
I say ‘finally’, but it’s only actually taken about a year, and less than eight months of studying every day. But despite me joking that finishing Duolingo makes me fluent, clearly I have a lot more to learn. Fortunately, I already have the resources to help me do that – plus access to a whole community of Valencian natives, thanks to the lovely young man who continues to brighten my life. And perhaps that’s what I mean more than anything about fitting in.
OK, so they’re not really my group of friends, they’re his. But they’ve pretty much accepted me hanging around and that makes me feel much more integrated too. As does the fact that communication between us is largely in Spanish. It’s not that I don’t like speaking English, or that I don’t love my British and international friends – I really do – but it is great to feel that I’m getting to know the locals too. And although some of his friends speak English, and some of them do speak to me in English, they speak to each other in Valencian and Spanish, and if I want to be part of those conversations, I have to damn well do my best to understand and be understood. And by and large, I do. I’m not confident enough to actually speak to them in Valencian yet, but that doesn’t matter. Maybe with time it’ll come.
Anyway, back to today. I was pretty tired by the time I got home (I’d only had about six hours’ sleep after all) but I decided to postpone falling back into bed to a more respectable siesta time and head to the supermarket. And while I was sitting making my shopping list (yes, I really do do that – although I subsequently forgot to take it with me!) the doorbell went – and it was the postwoman with the latest copy of my book. It looks pretty much good to go, so watch this space – it should soon be for sale in an online bookstore near you!
I did set aside an hour and twenty minutes for a siesta after I’d done my shopping, but with all the excitement of the day I didn’t manage to sleep at all. Oh well. At least it’s Friday and that means the weekend starts here. And as the clocks change on Saturday night, we get to spend an extra hour in bed… and what could be more wonderful than that?