Friday, April 29, 2016

My Roomate Almost Killed My Cat

  You all remember how much I love my cat, right? So much that I paid a fortune to fly him over here with me. So it goes without saying that when I received a panicked call last week from my roommate, saying that my cat had escaped while the front door was open, I wasn't exactly pleased. But when he explained why he left the door open, I was pissed.
   Background info: my roommate likes to meditate. He had a small altar in his bedroom, a cardboard box covered with fabric. That morning, he lit a candle and read a book during his session. He then left the apartment without putting out the candle. Which was burning beside the book. And both were on top of the fabric-covered, cardboard altar.
  He came home hours later to find the apartment filled with smoke. He suddenly remembered the candle and ran into his bedroom, only to find smoking remains.
  Not only had the altar burnt down, he'd also charred a wooden desk, which luckily didn't burn. A piece of fabric that hung on the wall caught fire and burned, melting the plug of the air conditioner that sits near the ceiling. Luckily we're not in Canada, where there's carpet, whereas Spain has non-flammable, marble tile floors.
  When my roommate called, saying the cat had escaped because he'd left the door open to clear the smoke out, what had actually happened was that my cat became scared of the fire and smoke, and hid behind the television. My roommate found him several panic-filled minutes after calling me.
  I came home, furious, and checked on my anxious cat. Normally I'd forgive a mistake such as leaving a candle burning, but he obviously hadn't learned his lesson. Right before I arrived home, we had run into each other in the street, as he was throwing out the burned book. I went upstairs alone, only to find stick incense burning, which in itself is safe but not on top of paper and not near the sofa (!). I also saw that he'd left the gas on while boiling a pot on the stove. When he returned to the flat, I asked if he wouldn't mind putting the damn incense out. Needless to say, my cat got extra cuddling from me this whole week.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Why I Always Use a Seatbelt on The Bus

Taking the bus is extremely common in Spain. It's one of the cheapest forms of transportation for vacations, or when working in a pueblo while living in a bigger city. Sure, there's Blablacar, which I used to use when travelling but now I try to avoid it. I'll explain why, but first, a question: when you take the bus, do you buckle up?
  I ask because several days per week, I take the bus from Jaén to a pueblo 20 minutes down the highway. And I seem to be the only one who buckles up. For as long as I can remember, I've always done it. I recall two years ago that a woman boarded my bus and placed her toddler in the seat next to me and sat in the seat across the aisle. In Spanish, I asked the child, "Do you want your seatbelt?" to which she nodded no. Minutes into the trip, the bus braked suddenly, and the mom threw her arm across to try to hold her daughter in her seat, but several seconds too late. The braking was too sudden for anyone to react quickly enough. Only after that incident did she buckle up her child. The bus filled with the sounds of clicks, as other travellers did the same.
  Last Christmas, a seatbelt saved my life. I was in an extremely serious highway accident, in which the car I was in flipped several times across the road. During the flipping, the extremely large suitcases that were beside me in the backseat, with almost all of the items in the car, went flying out the windows. All of the glass was smashed, of course. When the car came to a stop, it was sitting on its roof and we were suspended upside-down by our seatbelts. Myself and the driver were extremely lucky; we crawled out with hardly any physical injuries. But our friend, who was sitting in front of me, died. Everytime I think about that night, I realize how lucky I was. 'What ifs' play across my mind, such as "What if I'd unclicked my belt, for just a second? For example, to remove my coat?" I recall times when I was young, removing my belt so I could crawl into the backseat and grab a snack or CDs, while speeding along the highway. So foolish.
  Having had healing and enough time, I'm now able to sit in the work carpool without feeling anxious during the 20-minute highway journey. I'm still cautious though, and haven't used Blablacar since the accident. A friend told me that years ago, the car he was in broke down, and when the Blablacar passengers asked the driver to call a tow truck, he said, "I don't have insurance." Although I pay more and spend more time taking the trains and buses, I prefer that to the risk of unskilled / uninsured drivers.
  I hope my story reminds people to use seatbelts, even when it's not the norm, such as on buses. It's a stupidly simple action, but it can change your life.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Reluctance of Going Back to School

Now that I've lived in Spain for many years, and have passed the C1 DELE, I see several options in my goal to obtain more translation work. I have applied to several companies, but many ask for proof of formal education or training. Besides the classes I took at the local university, and my DELE from Instituto Cervantes, I don't have much else at the moment. I wonder if I need to take formal training, in case my experience and exam marks aren't enough.

Some people go for a Masters. That's two years and thousands of euros out of my life. Besides not wanting to sacrifice so much of my life and money, there's also the fact that I never enjoyed going to school when I was younger. I'd look at the essay assignments that required a 200-word answer, and think to myself, "The answer's easy; it's either 'yes' or 'no'. Wtf." I really wish I had the drive and life stability to sacrifice that much time, but alas that's not the case.

I suppose I could try enchufe (using a personal connection to get a job). I'm sure if I really tried to meet people, eventually someone would think of me the next time a conference came up and they needed a translator. Or perhaps one of the hundreds of students that are obligated to write a summary of their thesis in English may remember the Canadian they met at the last party, and give me a ring.

Then there's online courses. This certainly could be an option, as it's much cheaper and a good way to spend my summer. But I wonder if they're considered valid in the eyes of future employers? Once I make a decision on what to do, I'll let you know. In the meantime, I'm keeping my eyes peeled.

Friday, April 1, 2016


I'm writing to say this will be one of the last posts I write in Spain. In a couple of months, my contract will be over, and I have decided to go back home.

I haven't enjoyed my time here lately. It's too hot, there's so much noise I can't stand it - whether at home or in the library, of all places. I hate the way people stare at me. After almost three years living here you'd think I'd get used to it, but nope - I still feel like an alien.

I've tried very hard to integrate myself, but no matter what I do, there's one thing that will never change - the way I look different from everyone else. And in Jaén, that's not a good thing.

But I would like to thank all of my friends that tried hard to make me feel welcome. You'll always have a friend in Canada, should you ever decide to visit. Thanks to you, I went to lots of great parties, and celebrated some important moments with you all. Muchísimas gracias, desde el fondo de mi corazon, y hasta luego.

P.S. In case you're not familiar with the North American calendar, today is April Fool's Day. The above post is completely untrue. I'm still loving my life here and I'm intending to stay!