Spanish Driving Nightmare Finally Over!

How to get dr lic in spain

(For those of you who thought I disappeared over the last few months, the following is why!)

I was getting a driver’s license in Spain.  It has taken me 5 months!   Any person within the European Community and about a dozen countries in Latin and Central America can trade their licenses in for a Spanish one regardless of any differences within their own country.     But a new Spanish resident from the US or Canada – whoa…..    Within 6 months you must subject yourself to being retested – both theory and a road test.

How to

Getting a license in Spain is a very, very expensive process, costing approximately 1200 to 1500 Euros per person!  That’s about a bazillion Canadian dollars and somewhat better in US Dollars.    Then add to this a really good doze of humiliation as you jump through all practical, theoretical and bureaucratic baloney.

First one must literally MEMORIZE a 267 page long manual – 2/3 of which consists of information that a driver of a car will NEVER need to use.    You’re allowed 3 fails between the theory test and the road test, but only 2 fails per type of test (road or theory).  And should you fail a second time (or third time) to recall the maximum speed of an electric lawn-mower on a dual carriageway in the fog, you must automatically pay a second fee – around 200€ – and start over!

We were able to procure a manual in English for 180€ – it was, however, translated from the original Spanish AND uses “British” English terms.    So you’d better learn fast that a dual carriageway is a “highway”, dipped-beam lights are your “headlights”, main-beam headlights are your “brights”, position lights are “parking lights”.    And you are repeatedly reminded to be careful not to “dazzle” other drivers.

You are quizzed on such things as:

“May a one-piece load overhang from the back of a vehicle not used exclusively for goods transport?”    a) Yes, up to 15 % of the vehicle length   b) Yes, up to 10% of the vehicle length    c) no.

“If you hold a B-Class driving license, are you allowed to drive a 125cc motorbike?”    A) Yes    b)   No   c) yes, but not taking a pillion passenger.   (WTF is a “pillion passenger”????)

“When driving a lorry that is over 5 m long, how far can your load protrude forwards and backwards?”    The choices were really too long to print……. So if you really want the answers to this nonsense, let me know and we’ll do a “pop-quiz” in another blog!

In order to pass the theory, we went EVERYDAY for over 3 weeks, 5 days a week for 3 hours a day to take computerized multiple choice theory tests, hundreds of these tests from previous exams.   Then we would quiz each other for another hour or so at home.

Then the big day.     We were allowed to take the theory in English thank goodness and we both passed first time!

Then we met our driving instructor.    Let me preface this by saying I have driven for 50 years.    I’ve driven in Nassau, Bahamas, New York, Los Angeles, and MONTREAL.   For those of you familiar with Montreal, that says it all.    I can’t remember when I last had an accident.

The instructor was Mr. Macho.   He delighted in grabbing the wheel as he said it wasn’t exactly in the right position to make my turn; he yelled at me when I came to a STOP sign as in Spain you must make a complete STOP every time you inch forward to look for oncoming cars; he patronized me when I couldn’t figure out which lane I had to be in to make an “indirect turn” within a round-about.   (Start in the right and then immediately switch to the left – but only if there are 2 lanes in the round-about – if there are three then you stay in the middle unless of course, you’re making a U-turn and then you take the left lane – honestly!)     OH, and did I tell you – the instructor did NOT speak ENGLISH – only Spanish.   So asking him WHAT I did wrong or WHY this was done this way, was impossible.   And there were two main variations to his theme:   the affectionately chiding “Ay niña”, meaning, “What are we going to do with you, you useless little thing, you?”   And the plainly exasperated, “Pero qué haces, niña?” More of a, “What the f___ are you doing, you idiot?”

So I cried – almost all the time.    I cried with him in the car.   I cried at home.   I just cried for 5 months!    I went from driving lesson (14 in all!) to driving exams – 3 fails.  Once you fail a driving exam you MUST wait 3 weeks before taking the next one.    The last fail was just 3 weeks ago.   I was devastated, humiliated, cowed and just a blithering idiot.   My husband, Jack, didn’t know what to do with me.    (He passed the exam the first time of course….. he’s a guy – but only after taking 10 driving lessons.   It IS a business after all.)

And one morning after the last fail I finally pulled myself together and said “ENOUGH”.   I researched driving schools that gave courses in English. I found two – one about an hour drive from here but I’d have to start over – and one in Barcelona (about 700 miles away) with a 2-day intensive course and the exam on the 3rd day – and it was available the very next week.

DONE.   ORGANIZED.    Papers retrieved from the current “Autoescuela”.  Hotel and train reservations made.    Three days later, on a Tuesday I arrived in Barcelona.  I met the instructor, Javé, (Autoescuela Corsa – www.autoescuelacorsa.com) the son of the owner.   We drove for 1.5 hours on Wed and another 1.5 on Thurs.  He was soothing, he was comforting, and he spoke English.  He was professional.

Car cartoon

It’s Friday and Javé is driving me to where the test will begin.  Barcelona is comparable to driving in New York rather than small town Cartagena town where I failed my other three road tests.   Could I do it?   Javé was confident.

The test itself is a group outing.  In the back goes the examiner.   Beside you sits your instructor who is not allowed to say anything, but has a set of brakes, clutch & gas pedals in case the “student” is going to get everyone killed! Squashed and nervous in the back sits a second, and sometimes third, candidate:    It’s all rather grim.  The test takes 25 minutes unless you do something like go through a red light and then it’s all over and the musical chairs start.

I began first.  The other “student” was an American guy from Texas – probably in his 30’s.  The car is a standard shift car (in Spain your license specifies Automatic or Manual and you can only drive one or the other!).

The road test is always in Spanish, but figuring out Left, Right, Straight, etc. in Spanish is not a complicated thing.    As mentioned, the road test is 25 minutes long unless you do something that automatically qualifies as a “FAIL”.      After 15 minutes of following directions, the examiner asks me to parallel-park and then he says “cambio” – change with the American in the back.

He had “Texas” drive for a good 25, maybe 30 minutes and I was nervous.  Why would he cut my time short if I didn’t make a “fail” kind of mistake?      When we returned, I was very unhappy.  We got out of the car and Javé delivers the news to “Texas” first.   He passed.  I looked at him in trepidation and said “I failed?”   “No” he says, “you passed!”

I burst into tears and Texas took me in his arms and hugged me and hugged me.   And Javé hugged me.

The examiner was also a sweetie.   When I came in the back seat, he said (in Spanish but I understood) “So you already took the test in Cartagena and came all the way to Barcelona for the pleasure of seeing me?!”    I looked at him, smiled and said “Si, senor”.   He obviously took pity on this old woman who was determined to drive in Spain!  Nice man!

Our total costs at this point for us both have reached about 3500E with the hotel, train and new registration fees.    A mere pittance for my sanity and peace of mind.

And, herein endeth my Epistle to Driving in Spain”.    It wasn’t fun.   But they do say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!    What a tough “B” I am!!!

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I’m baaaaaaccccccckkkkkkkk!

Lots has been happening during the last four months…..

We have had an “abundance” of visitors, so much so that since Sept 4, 2014 we have had a total of 12 days to ourselves. Yup, 12 days!   During the last 4 months, we have been to Madrid FOUR times; to Granada twice, Barcelona, Marbella and Malaga in Spain. We went to a wedding in Scotland on December 26th ((brrrrrrr!) then flew to Paris to spend New Year’s Eve with friends from the Bahamas (The Lowe Family: Tanya, Nathan & daughter Nicki).

Overall, we’ve had oodles of laughs:   Heaps of chuckles as we covered ourselves in therapeutic MUD in nearby San Pedro; brayed with a fake goat in Madrid (but a live herd of them here in Los Alcazares); giggled with new friends from Marbella (Robert and Kathy – introduced to us by Betty Webb); delighted in the incredibly wonderful things we saw at the Alhambra Palace in Granada; were mesmerized by the splendor  of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona;  smilingly shivered with cold, as we faithfully stood to pose for pictures OUTDOORS at the wedding in Edinburgh (double brrrrrrr!); rambled along with pleasure as we walked through Montmartre looking at the artists drawing amazing portraits (our friends had one done of their daughter); howled to ourselves when we realized that the fireworks and city celebrations on New Year’s Eve were NOT taking place in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (where we were), but rather at the Arc de Triumph where we were not!    Like duhhhhh!

All of these “Celebrations with Friends” and “Destinations” will be covered in the next few blogs I write, along with stories and pictures of our experiences, but for now, I would like to wish ALL our friends – those who visited and those who didn’t, an incredible 2015!  And if you didn’t visit, kindly hold off for a couple/three months so we can catch our breath!  After that, BRING IT ON!

May you be blessed with good health, good fortune and as many wonderful people in your lives as we have  in ours.   HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015!

Madrid autocollage
        Madrid Highlights
Edinburg:  New friends, beautiful wedding couple, lovely countryside
Edinburg: New friends, beautiful wedding couple, lovely countryside
Paris:  Happy New Year and Beautiful Nicki!
Paris: Happy New Year and Beautiful Nicki!

JE SUIS CHARLIE

 

Je suis Juif………

I haven’t written my blog for quite some time, but I felt I must write something today in solidarity with the people of Paris, the E.C. and the world.

pen

 

 

 

 

The PEN has always been mightier than the sword and this is the reason these terrorists cowards attacked CHARLIE HEBDO.     Freedom of the press is sacred and is at the foundation of our democracy.

I’ve been glued to the TV watching the events unfold over the last few days of the massacre of CHARLIE HEBDO and at the Marche Cacher in Paris (the kosher grocery store) and today of the incredible march through Paris of over 1 million people and 40 world leaders.

The Paris policemen who was shot by the terrorists was Muslim.   The employee in the kosher grocery store who is hailed as a hero in Paris (he saved many people in the grocery store by leading them into the freezer in the basement, turned off the freezer and the lights within) and told everyone to stay calm and quiet. He saved their lives.   He is Muslim.   He worked for a kosher grocery store.

It is unbelievable to think that a very small percentage of one of the world’s great religions – Islam – can fear monger and contribute to such terror and havoc in the world today. They must be stopped.     The WORLD must unite – not against Islam – but against these pseudo-Muslims who are attempting to change the way we live worldwide.   They are inspired by a few clerics who are driven by power and by many followers who are driven by insanity.

Unity is the best and most effective way of responding to these terrorists.     And today Paris is absolutely demonstrating (literally and figuratively) that they are united.     United in preserving our way of life: liberty, unity and freedom.   Whether French, American or any county that believes in democracy – we must all join together to fight this cancer within our global society.

Bravo to all the leaders who have joined in the march in Paris today. Bravo to all the people who have joined the march in Paris and Bravo to all who will stand up in the future to the few terrorists who threaten our precious way of life.

JE SUIS CHARLIE.   JE SUIS JUIF.   JE SUIS AMERICAN.

 

A blast from the recent past!

These pictures just came in from Molly Hoover, a co-worker of Jack’s at Otis in Florida.   I used her captions and adapted the whole thing for this blog.    I’ve been to a lot of retirement parties in my life and career, but the one given to Jack by the Otis Elevator Florida group was outstanding.   It was truly a night to remember….. 

Molly cover (640x491)

 

Retirement pg 1   Retirement pg 2 Retirement pg 3

Retirement pg 4

 

“Everyone you meet, they’re jamming on the street!”

Taken from Lionel Ritchie’s huge 1983 hit “All Night Long”, this is exactly what was happening at the SEMANA INTERNACIONAL DE LA HUERTA Y EL MAR  in Los Alcázares  this week,  14 -AGO 2014 – 23 AGO 2014.

One of the many festivals celebrated all over Spain,  this particular fiesta pays homage to the Orchards and the Sea, both of which provide for the livelihood of the greater part of the population here in the Murcia Region.   Comprised mostly of farmers and fishermen,  the region contributes to Spain being the 3rd largest agricultural country in the world.

                                  Entrance to the Fiesta, Aug 14, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A variety of kiosks offered a diversity of locally made things from fabrics, jewelry, glassware, and sausages (they love their sausages!) the area had a stadium built for the occasion where local groups perform everything from Russian dancing to Operas.

Beautiful local crafts
                                      Beautiful local crafts

And of course, the best part of any Fiesta are the many tapas restaurants located in and around the Fiesta grounds.   Spanish food rarely disappoints; it’s plentiful, fresh and restaurants have a good choice for everyone.   We were, however, somewhat disappointed with the choice of tapas  served by the restaurant on the site.   The menus were almost all identical and consisted primarily of variations on a theme of  “sausages”!     There were Blood sausages, little white sausages, spicy sausages and on and on.    Another favorite is the “Caracoles en salsa” or snails in a sauce (not butter/garlic like the French prepare it).    I personally found them to be pain to remove and not that tasty.   There was none of the superbly grilled vegetables, fried or grilled squid, or cod that is made in a multitude of ways.    Jack and I figured the reason for this was that the restaurants were so continuously packed with people, they had to serve fare that was fast and easy to prepare in advance.   Food was being served non-stop from around 8:30 pm to I’m not sure when as we left at 12:30 am and they were still lining up to eat!

The bustle and goings-on around us more than made up for the lack of diversity in the menu.   It was a delight to see the strolling guitarists playing traditional Spanish music.    They would occasionally stop and be joined by about a half-dozen women from the crowd who quickly took out their castanets and started dancing with each other to the delight of all of those around them.    And the many activities were not limited to the fair grounds; on the beach about 1 block away, there were fireworks, music, and a gazillion people milling around.

After dinner we found a Mojito kiosk where they were prepared by a true-blue ex-pat “Cubano” lady.     It was a nice way to end a fab evening!

Collage Huerta & mar pics Aug 16-14
             “Everybody sing, everybody dance”….. what a great evening!

   

 

 

 

To Lisp or Not to Lisp….. a “Blog-Light”

Neither of us speak Spanish, especially the formal Castilian Spanish spoken here. We’re trying mucho hard to learn. We’ve got everything going from “Rosetta Stone” to a multitude of other audio-type lessons.   We are never without a dictionary in hand.   We constantly listen to Spanish radio.

All the audio lessons stress that Spanish is a phonetic language and that it is pronounced exactly as you see it, so that “Google” is GOO GLEH and Buchanan (Whiskey) is BOO CHA NUN.  You get the idea.

HOWEVER, here’s where it gets a little hairy because what you see is not what you get:   “C” & “Z” is pronounced as a TH and an “S” is often a “Z” sound.

We live in Los Alcazares – pronounced Los Al-cah-tha-rez;   and ‘National Competiton is:   competición nacional   OR

COM-PE-TI-THION   NA-THION-AL (try and say that repetitively and fast!).

So, you ask, where am I going with all this?   Well, if you have a lisp or if you’re VERY Gay,

“Come on over to Spain – you’ll be speaking the language in absolutely no time!”  

And there’s more.  Throw in the fact that a “V” is a ‘soft B’ and a “J” is an H, and an H at the beginning of a word is invisible to the ear (yeah, I know I said “invisible to the ear”), and two L’s are a “ya”…… double eeeeekkkkkk!

Just think, if Juan Valdez were a baseball player instead of a coffee maven, he, Huan Bal-deth would say:

“Beth-ball as bin bery, bery gud to me!”

Juan Valez - Coffee Maven
Juan Valdez – Coffee Maven
bigger baseball
Huan Bal-deth – Baseball Player

Lucky the Dog – and Lucky on the Mountaintop

We’re here. In Spain. It’s been just a few days.   We both miss Nassau terribly.   We miss Dirk and Lucky something awful.   Lucky was our step-dog.   From the first day we arrived to look at the house we would call home for 10 years, Dirk (the property manager) and Lucky, his 3 year old pooch greeted us and showed us around.   Lucky immediately adopted us, and us her.   Dirk got thrown into the package and became family.   Can’t believe that Lucky is 13 yrs old now.

Lucky sleeping
Lucky sound asleep on her favorite carpet

As I said, we miss Nassau terribly.   On our morning power-walks by the ocean, we occasionally (and I mean occasionally) see a “person of color”, i.e., black, (well they’re not African American for goodness sake!). My instinct is to go up to them, hug them and say, “Hi, I’m-from-Nassau-and-you-remind-me-of-home-and-I-miss-being-there-and- so-do-you-want-to-come-home-with-me-’cause-I’m homesick.”  At which point they would look at me as if I was totally “Loco in the head” since they most likely don’t understand a word of English anyway!”

OK, OK, it was just a thought and I am refraining from such undignified, not-to-mention, politically incorrect behavior……

Later that day, we decide to do some hiking in the Murcia region to a mountain called Cabezo del Puerto (528m).   We haven’t hiked for 20 years – when we used to go to Vermont and hike up to the top of Mount Mansfield.

Just starting our 528m hike!

Armed with one bottle of water and an orange (yeah, really), we start up, and up and up. We are absolutely the only ones on this mountain. About an hour and a half into it, almost at the top, we stop for a sip of water.   We look to the right and down the very steep drop; we look up to an even narrower path and rocks – lots of rocks.  And we look at each other and come to the realization that we’re two old farts and what the heck are we doing on the top of this mountain????   There’s absolutely no one else around and should either of us even sustain a minor sprain – we are proverbially “fudged”.

Doesn’t look hard! Ha!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We turn and descend forgetting from our Mount Mansfield days that going down is as hard, if not harder than going up.   Easier on the cardio, but way harder on the knees.    And who would have thought that 528 meters is actually 1732 feet?   I mean, 528 meters sounds so, well, achievable.    Now you know why we call the blog “Living La Vida Loca”!

On the other hand, we’re not going to give up hiking, but we will join one of the many hiking clubs around here so that if something should happen to either of us – at least there’ll be witnesses!

“Declaration of Independence”

“Declaration of Independence”

Tears, hugs and kisses.   “We’ll see you in December”, say Tanya & Nathan as they drop us off at the A.A. departures at Linden Pindling Airport in Nassau.     With a very heavy heart, we head to the departures counter.   When the agent says “One way?” I start to cry!

At US immigration, we present our passports and the “Declaration of Our Independence” Form required when carrying more than $10,000 US dollars into the US…. after all we ARE moving, leaving and starting a new life somewhere else.   Our plane leaves in 1 hour.   The officer wishes us luck in our new adventure, and politely brings us “to the back office”.     We need to register our form with Immigration.   That’s not the problem.   The fact that our plane leaves in less than an hour and there’s a long line – that’s a problem.

Can’t say boo since we technically should have been there at least 2-3 hours in advance.     Someone else complains.   He’s shot down with the 3 hour rule!   Eeeeekkkkkkk!       One guy named Mohammed who works for the IRS and is an American, complains that he ALWAYS gets harassed, but his vociferous protestations only get him sent to a private “back room” with a supervisor. Personally I think it was because he’s an IRS employee??!!   Ya think?

We finally get processed with 20 minutes left to catch our plane, arriving at the gate only to find it’s late by 1.5 hours.   Our connection in Miami will be tight but at least it’s the same airline so we’re not too worried; and yes, we do make our connection.

We’re on our way!

Almost there! And Lola gets a new home.

Our flight to Miami left Nassau at around 1:00 pm so we took an 8:00 am flight out of Freeport as it’s only a 35 minute flight into NAS.    We were also getting picked up by our dear friends Tanya & Nathan who were keeping our 2nd oversized suitcase at their place since it was no use schlepping it to FPO, pay the overweight, and pay it again to come back!

As flights go, ours was inevitably late leaving FPO due to thunderstorms in the area.   The “Higher Powers” were sending us off with much fanfare and we appreciated it, but since our airline wasn’t flying out, none were.   Since we were surrounded by ocean, there was no other way but to fly!    Finally, the skies clear enough for our prop to take off.    We get to NAS at 11:00 am, just enough time to get to Nathan & Tanya’s, have breakfast and return to the airport!   A bit frazzled, we were delighted to see Lola sitting at the dining room table smiling at us!

Lola is a full-sized, inflatable doll that Jack got for his 50th birthday (no, not from me).    After we sold, gave away or got rid of pretty much everything we had, I found Lola, but didn’t have the heart to “terminate” her.    So I thought and thought, and just knew that Nathan was the best choice.  He would look after her and Tanya would be more than tolerant (Tanya is very sure of herself and has no problem with inflatable “other women”).

True to form, when we walked in the door, there was Lola in all her glory – sitting at the dining room table.

Nathan & the other woman

We were happy.   Lola was happy.   Nathan was definitely happy.   Tanya?  More or less happy!

The Bureaucracy Part or “Say what? You need all those docs?”

Living “La Vida Loca” in Retirement!

The Bureaucracy Part – Or – how do we get there?

We started the whole bureaucracy thing about 6 months in advance.    As with any immigration process, there are a bazillion lawyers ready to take your money and process the necessary paperwork.    I decided I was as smart as most of them and with a LOT of research on the net and the help of the local Spanish consul we applied for a Non-Lucrative Residence Visa.     You will not be able to work with this kind of Residence Visa, but then again – you’re RETIRED!!!    So who cares?   Continue reading The Bureaucracy Part or “Say what? You need all those docs?”