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emigrating

LIEBSTER AWARD: I SAW HER BLOG AND NOW I’M A BELIEBSTER

Thank you to Sapna, owner of travelfoodnfitness who nominated me for the increasingly popular Liebster Award only four months after I decided to start blogging.  Her blog documents her wondrous journey for ‘fat to fit’, traveling solo and sampling local food. It’s a great follow for anyone interested in these areas. The ethical slant she adopts in her writing is my favourite aspect of the blog by far and I hope to see more of this in the next few months.  I’m sure you’ll find something you enjoying reading on her diverse site.  I’ve answered 10 questions asked by Sapna in accordance with the Liebster Award guidelines and you’ll find those towards the bottom of this post.

As it’s a valenciandoporlavida post, there’s a simple structure and a song reference in the title that you can guess if you so wish.  Simply scroll to the bottom of this post to see if you’re the musical genius Trivial Pursuit thinks you are!

I’ve always been one of those people who keeps a diary every now and then.  I used to write in my own English-French-Spanish-Italian mash-up mongrel language until two major life changes occurred.  The first of these was the introduction of Google Translate which meant that anyone wishing to decode my complex entries could probably do so.  The second was living in Spain and France for a while and completing my degree which meant that I could actually write a coherent diary in one sole foreign language.  Linguist goals and all that!

Any of my close friends or family will know that 2016 was, let’s say, an interesting year for me for a multitude of reasons and I actually began to keep my diary on the Penzu app with the main aim of ensuring that I would never let myself end up back in the same position again.

I’m a sucker for a lovely jotter, and the calligraphy set I have in my flat here in Spain pretty much sums up the kind of writer I am.  That said, diary-keeping online has many perks.  I’ve been able to add entries easily while travelling, add pictures and share the odd humorous comment with friends.  Reading the entries back is also somewhat easier as the layout is ridiculously user-friendly.  Indeed, the personal touch can get a little lost but if you’re wanting to avoid teardrops on the page or you want to write a little more objectively, an online diary is the way to go.  I found myself writing entries that resembled short poems and it’s actually really cool to go back and read them now.  The best thing about the whole process for me, is that I can remember how I felt, exactly why I made the changes I did when I did and, more importantly, the music I was listening to throughout the whole process.  It’s a bit more poppy and ‘girl-power’ heavy than my usual thing but all music is ok in the right context I guess.  Except Jedward.  That’s never acceptable.  Categorically.

Moreover, the website will forever hold little gems like this:

penzue diary.png

Now, back to the Liebster Award Nomination itself.  Sapna left these little questions for me.  These answers are about as personal as it will get on here so make the most of it.  Next week I’m looking at gender neutrality in gendered languages!

Q.1. Where was your first destination?

The first type of traveling that I would class as an adventure as opposed to a holiday was the summer as I spent as a 16-year old in Trebisacce, Calabria which is located on the Ionian see in the heel of Italy’s boot.  It’s my Puglia to your Tuscany or perhaps my Dundee to your Glasgow; it’s fantastic yet understated and somewhat overshadowed by its more popular, arguably trendier, neighbour.  I stayed with a host family with whom I’d chatted a couple of times on the 2001 version of Skype we used have on our ‘Tiny’ PC!  I guess it was organised very haphazardly through a contact at my secondary school and I’m lucky that my parents allowed me to go.  I spoke about 3 words of Italian when I arrived and two months, one ridiculous tan, two weddings and twenty-seven types of cake later, I could get the gist of most regular conversations. I returned the following year and it was just as fun!   This website features a lovely article about the unspoilt beaches of Calabria.
Q.2. What has inspired you to travel?

Languages, languages, languages!  All I want to do is learn new languages and practise ones I know already!  That’s a lie.  I also want to have ALL THE KNOWLEDGE about EVERYWHERE.  I really think that those who haven’t travelled are missing out massively.  I also wasn’t subjected to horrendous package holidays as a child. At time I somewhat resented the camping trips to Northern France, rural Scotland and the Lake District but now I’m so thankful that I wasn’t a Kids’ Club tot.  I think I may have run away never to be seen again! Hang on… I did that!
Q.3. Have you ever tried traveling solo, if yes, then where??

I went to Thailand on my own and it was great!
Q.4. Which one is your favorite travel destination and how many times you have visited there?

Barcelona. Three times so far and I plan on many more trips.  You have to experience it for yourself!
Q.5. What type of traveler you are- backpacker, luxury, destination, or any other?

A bit of both.  I like to backpack but stay in luxury hotels!  Sorry!  It great to occasionally challenge stereotypes.
Q.6. What is your travel bucket list for coming years?

Latin America, Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia for a start!
Q.7. What is your favorite mode of transportation to travel and why?

Tuktuk. They’re absolutely hilarious!  I would have written scooter but I fell off mine when trying to turn around!  Currently trying to pluck up the courage to get a scooter in Valencia!
Q.8. A place you always wanted to go and whether able to go there or not?

Bhutan.  Just click here.
Q.9. If you could live elsewhere, where would you live? Why?

I live in Valencia and I love it.  I’d like to be able to move to new cities more frequently hence why I’m building up my client base on Converse with Chloe quite nicely. 🙂
Q.10. What is your most memorable trip that you’ve had?

It’s so difficult to choose but I would probably say that it was a little jaunt to Wales with my boyfriend not long after we first met.  Just a casual date tackling the longest zipline in the world… See my insta for pics without blue spots @valenciandoporlavida or here.

Wales Zipline (2)_LI.jpg

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Improving your Spanish: Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, cinco, seis

Don’t forget to guess the song mentioned in the title!

Here is a cute little infographic I made to help Spanish learners improve their language skills and expand their vocabulary.  You can apply this to most language pairs!

improve your spanish infographic.png

 

 

Stay tuned for more simple ways to improve your fluency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the song is…

 

 

 

The Offspring – Pretty Fly for a White Guy

You know it’s kind of hard
Just to get along today
Our subject isn’t cool
But he fakes it anyway
He may not have a clue
And he may not have style
But everything he lacks
Well he makes up in denial
So don’t debate, a player straight
You know he really doesn’t get it anyway
He’s gonna play the field, and keep it real
For you no way, for you no way
So if you don’t rate, just overcompensate
At least you’ll know you can always go on Ricki Lake
The world needs wannabe’s
So do that brand new thing
Give it to me baby
Give it to me baby
Give it to me baby
And all the girls say I’m pretty fly (for a white guy)
He needs some cool tunes
Not just any will suffice
But they didn’t have Ice Cube
So he bought Vanilla Ice
Now cruising in his Pinto, he sees homies as he pass
But if he looks twice
They’re gonna kick his lily ass
Now he’s getting a tattoo
He’s gettin’ ink done
He asked for a ’13’, but they drew a ’31’
Friends say he’s trying too hard
And he’s not quite hip
But in his own mind
He’s the dopest trip
So don’t debate, a player straight
You know he really doesn’t get it anyway
He’s gonna play the field, and keep it real
For you no way, for you no way
So if you don’t rate, just overcompensate
At least you’ll know you can always go on Ricki Lake
The world needs wannabe’s
The world loves wannabe’s
So let’s get some more wannabe’s
And do that brand new thing

Autónomo or AutónoNO? Do You Know I’m No Good? [Freelancing in Spain 2017 and 2018]

Is it Worth Being Autónomo/a in Spain in 2017?23634367_10100381844335458_1269468209_o

Mention that you’re autónomo/autónoma to a Spanish friend and await their wince-infused, anxiety-inducing grimace.  It’s hard work, expensive and risky.  It’s also liberating, empowering and perfectly achievable… at least in the short term.

Almost everyone I spoke to when considering to ‘dar de alta’ tried to put me off.  I also had numerous offers from friends of friends to act as my gestor (accountant) if I did decide on doing it.

A few weeks after moving to Spain I decided to take the plunge and go freelance, taking advantage of discounted rates and avoiding having to earn money under the table.  I’d never been self-employed before; I’d always had the security of a somewhat fixed salary in a system with which I didn’t necessarily agree but at least one that I felt I understood.  So now I find myself working freelance in Spain – preparing invoices, juggling spreadsheets, discussing tax rates in castellano and declining 1$ lesson requests on italki.  I mean, a girl’s got to eat!

I’m not claiming to understand the intricacies of this system but by giving a brief of account of my personal experience hopefully it will give prospective autónomos an insight into this ‘el Revés’ (The Upside Down).  If you’re not a Stranger Things fan, then get on it now before Netflix tighten up their password sharing and multiple user protocol.  If Eleven (aka Once or Ce in Spanish) isn’t the new Emma Watson, I’ll eat my hat.  Or perhaps that of Jim ‘Indiana Jones’ Hopper.

Just to reiterate, this is my own opinion based upon my personal experiences and you should always seek legal/financial advice from experts before making any serious decisions or commitments.  TANGENT: as a little sidenote, perhaps don’t go ‘autónoma’ with your hair.  I decided to dye my own and the process was, let’s say, interesting.  It went from balayage with mega roots (which I kind of liked) to blorange in the picture below the song lyrics.  After using what felt like litres of purple shampoo, I then tried the Schwarzkopf Reaviva Color for rubio claros and it worked a treat.  It was more of a grey than purple colour and was much more effective in ridding my locks of the yellow tones than any blue or purple shampoo. There is even enough product for 5-7 applications too, at least on my fine hair, and it’s only around 6€ in Carrefour Campanar!

Back to ‘autónoma’.  So, the bottom line is that you pay a lot of money for the privilege of working for yourself.  There are different categories of autónomo/a which can be found here in English http://www.ine.es/daco/daco42/clasificaciones/cnae09/estructura_en.pdf.

In terms of Social Security, basically you must pay whether or not you are earning money, but the government have made some recent changes to the law which come into force in January 2018 to make self-employment and freelancing a little less detrimental to your bolsillos.  The flat rate is around 285€/month, whether your income is 500€ or 5000€ and everyone must join the RETA scheme.  Everyone who contributes (and earners have to – you can’t legally opt out of the system) is entitled to the same unemployment and sickness benefits. You can’t get around this by setting up a one-person company.  You can, of course, offer to pay more to increase pension contributions etc.  The only people who can avoid SS contributions are those who are legally recognised as neither employed nor self-employed.  For example, academics or lawyers who are on a salary but are then also paid additional money very occasionally by a different company or employed for one-off conferences.  If you’re emigrating from the UK, it’s almost certain that in terms of SS you’ll be worse off in Spain.  Thankfully, the cost of living is significantly lower in most areas and it’s sunny in Valencia so don’t worry too much about leaving Brexit Britain!

New autónomos* get discounts of 80% for 6 months (12 months if you become autónomo from 1.1.18). This is the flat rate (tarifa plana).  ‘New’ means those who haven’t been autónomo in Spain in the last five years but the meaning of ‘new’ is changing from 1.1.18 to ‘those who haven’t been autónomo for 2 years’.  If you’ve used the tarifa plana before you must wait until three years have passed before doing so again once the new laws come into effect.  To explain, for me this means that I pay around 70€ a month social security at the moment and after six months it’ll go up to 150€ because I stupidly registered before the new laws come into effect.  My discount is roughly 80% for 6 months, then 50%, then 30%.  There is little clarity at the moment about how new autónomos (say those who registered in 2017) will be treated in light of the new laws.  As far as I can gather, they won’t be affected by many of said new laws.

Advice: wait until January to register!

From 2018 female autónomos who already took prolonged maternity leave or leave to care for another dependent will also be entitled to the 12-month 50€ tarifa plana too.

There are many other benefits regarding multiple job holders, pensions, work-related accidents, maternity/paternity and fines coming into force with the new laws as of 1.1.18.  Read this for reasonably up-to-date accurate information in English https://www.citizensadvice.org.es/wp-content/uploads/NEW-AUTONOMO-SELF-EMPLOYED-LAW-2017-2018-A-SUMMARY-10.pdf and this in Spanish https://infoautonomos.eleconomista.es/seguridad-social/cuota-de-autonomos-cuanto-se-paga/.

Now for tax.  Once you’ve ‘dado de alta’ with the Hacienda (no, not the Manchester nightclub but the Spanish Tax Office), you’ll be paying your tax quarterly at a rate of 20% in most Comunidades Autónomas in Spain (this is roughly half to the central government and half to the regional one for local services etc.) You have to invoice companies you work for in order to get paid and they actually pay some of your tax for you through the retention system by effectively withholding some of your gross pay.  The rate is usually 15% but for new autónomos it’s 7%.  That means that if I earn 200€ a month from one company, they will pay me 186€ and keep 14€ to pay to the Agencia Tributaria.  At the end of the month, I’ll have to pay the remaining tax (13% / 26€) to the Agencia Tributaria via my gestor minus any tax reductions I may have earnt (electricity, fuel for business, equipment, etc.)  Warning: don’t live month-to-month in Spain.  You need a little cushion in case you miscalculate outgoings or if someone doesn’t pay you on time for example. Also, certain types of workers including those outside of Spain aren’t part of the retention system so you will have to keep this in mind during the quarter.

I haven’t touched on IVA (VAT) as teaching is exempt so please check this out if applicable. http://www.agenciatributaria.es/AEAT.internet/en_gb/Inicio/_Segmentos_/Empresas_y_profesionales/Empresas/IVA/El_NIF_en_el_IVA.shtml

In short, get a gestor (accountant) for between 40 and 80€ a month but check him/her out beforehand as many aren’t up to date with the new laws and some have been known to run off with all the money!

Did you guess the song?  Autónomo or AutónoNO? Do You Know I’m No Good

Scroll to find out and, if you dare, scroll further to see the state of my ‘autónomo’ hair…!

 

Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good

 

Useful websites:

http://www.advoco.es/hot-topics/43-guide-to-spains-autonomo-system.html

https://www.serautonomo.net/cuota-de-autonomos-2018.html

http://www.seg-social.es/Internet_1/Trabajadores/CotizacionRecaudaci10777/benefCotiz/index.htm 

 

 

InFiernes: Friday, I’m not in love

Any ideas on the song reference in the blog heading?  Of course you do. Whether you’re a music fan or fashion fan who wears Pixies and Metallica t-shirts for fun, you’re sure to have heard of this one.  Scroll to the bottom (preferably reading the post first) to find out if you’re right!

So the title of this blog stems from the very simple equation below.  Much liked the loved-and-hated-in-equal-measure Kimye, Brangelina and blast from the past Speidi, here goes my fickle fusion:

viernes + infierno = infiernes 

(Friday + hell = Friday from Hell)

It works much better in Spanish…obviously!  That’s why you should speak different languages! While you’re in that frame of mind, book an amazing class of mine at Converse with Chloe.  GO ON!  There are reviews of me on iTalki and Tus Clases Particulares too.  I’m 5* you know!  If you book now I’ll let you read the rest of the blog post!  If you’re a bit of a wordsmith and you like these horrid hybrid names, check out this tío for a little chuckle or nine.  Some of the suggestions are funny, some just groan-inducing. Private tutoring sites have been great for me so far.  Actually, scrap that and cue use of the pluperfect past tense:  they HAD been great until this morning. I received this little gem:

spank

Four times in the last three weeks I’ve been on the receiving end of the inappropriate behaviour of men.  In light of the whole #metoo movement, I actually typed out two separate statuses for social media, posted them on Facebook and very quickly changed my mind and made the posts invisible to others (‘me only’).  I think a couple of people might have seen them and sent some very lovely messages of support/encouragement.  Thank you, you wonderful folk.  We’ve all done it; the question is why?  I did absolutely nothing wrong in either circumstance but I almost felt guilty for posting this. I like to think of myself as a modern, liberal, woman-and-man-loving feminist (feminist meaning ‘promoter of gender equality’), someone who is prepared to stand up for quality and speak out when the wrong thing happens. For years as a form tutor in UK secondary schools I spent hours talking to many teenage girls about how they have the right to express themselves as much as boys, how they do not have to look a certain way to please any apart from themselves and how the world unfortunately is still a man’s one.  Despite Beyoncé’s greatest (and contradictory) efforts.  How can you say ‘who runs the world? Girls!’ and then ‘if you like it then you should have put a ring on it?’  No, I don’t love Beyoncé.  Shoot me!  Why do girls feel the need to brush their hair and apply make-up mid-lesson? In my experience, boys rarely do this.

I was even targeted myself.  Yes, by teenage boys.  No, the endurance of countless sexist comments is not addressed in teacher training.  Then again, I did train the Gove era.  What a mistake he is.  Sorry, I mean what a mistake that was… A wolf whistle, a sordid cartoon depicting how they imagine I look naked and the refusal of certain young men to listen to any female teacher whomsoever.  Feel free to vomit.

So the four main incidents that have happened recently:

  1. Being shouted at in the street a few times (general terms like ‘guapa’ and ‘rubia’).  Nothing too sinister but still something that no-one should have to put up with.
  2. Guy at a gig deciding to describe in some detail, to my face, about how large my ass was and how many of the stage lights I blocked out for him whilst on novio’s shoulders at a JAWS gig in Manchester (part of the amazing Neighbourhood fest). JAWS were pretty good, by the way and I did not have the biggest ass in the joint.  You know what though?  It shouldn’t matter a bit if I did. Someone’s got to have it.  neighbourhood (2)
  3. Being hassled by prospective students for ‘private lessons’ in return for ‘alternative methods of payment’.
  4. The ‘spanking’ request mentioned earlier.

spank

Thankfully I received a polite, apologetic and prompt response from the website concerned who blocked the user for good and promised to take more security measures to prevent repeat incidents in future.

<< En primer lugar decirle que lamentamos mucho que haya tenido una mala experiencia con un contacto realizado a través de nuestra página web. Desde ************com trabajamos para que los contenidos y anuncios de la web se ajusten a nuestros criterios de profesionalidad y rigurosidad, pero fuera de la página resulta imposible mantener dicho control.

Como le decíamos, lamentamos lo ocurrido y le agradecemos que nos haya informado de ello. Nuestro equipo de moderación ya ha bloqueado al usuario >>

 

I do feel that more should be done, though, especially considering that some minors use that website and may not feel confident enough to reply to such vomit-inducing messages with words as strong as the ones I utilised.

So, I’ve been to uni, I’m reasonably intelligent, I speak a few languages, dress to express myself (thanks, Cate), work hard, act professionally and that’s the thanks I get.  Yea, go figure!  That’s pretty much why I’m behind the #metoo campaign, although I do not believe that women should feel obliged to share their stories.  It’s a personal decision.  I don’t know any woman 18+ who hasn’t fallen victim to some sort of sexual harassment, belittling, mansplaining or abuse.  This doesn’t even skim the surface.  I’m asked at least once a week why I don’t have my own children.  I work in education in which the majority of employees are women yet the majority of managers, directors and headteachers are men.  Again, go figure.

Girls generally outperform boys at GCSE level, and have done for some time now, and I just read that in Spain this year, in 13 out of 19 Comunidades Autónomas woman outperformed men – read more here. This is not reflected in today’s society.  Trump, Weinstein, Kesha. Say no more.  I kind of agree with the argument Clinton makes here.  I’m actually currently thinking of the best feminist project to start up. If you have any ideas, please pop them in to the comments box below.

BACK TO INFIERNES:

Needless to say I was experiencing a slight resaca from the previous night’s shenanigans [Hinds gig, drinks with the support band, bathrooms with transparent doors, beers and one large G&T] so me quedé en la cama a little longer than usual, got up around 11am, rushed around ironing clothes with my housemate’s amazing steam iron and finally packed a few things to take to work with me so I could go directly to Cabanyal after work.  Why?  Because my novio was coming to visit. YEY!  I wanted his first time in Valencia to be perfect.  I wanted him to come back.  He’s more than alright, that one, after all. So having literally rammed eight Mercadona own-brand Belvita biscuits down my throat, I set off for my appointment at the local Social Security office to ‘dar de alta’ (register as freelance).  It’s a shame that my gestor (accountant) used my old surname (remind me, why do men not change their surname?) so it was assumed that I was some sort of illegal psycho alien dressed as a blonde British girl, here in Spain only to infiltrate the realms of private tutoring and translation and write meaningless blog posts about how good life is compared to this time a year ago.  Hang on a second…!  Anyway, I managed to convince the extremely pleasant yet suspicious civil servant that I was, well, ‘me’ by showing him photos on my phone.  Thanks Mam for looking like me and being on Stalkbook.

I rushed back to my apartment, grabbing the usual cheese sandwich on the way.  Correction, I didn’t ‘grab’ it.  I ordered, chatted with the overly gregarious and quick-witted panadera on Av. Cortes Valencianas and then discovered that I had 67 cents in my backpack (along with water, to keep me hydrated of course) and no purse. Mi monedero había desaparecido.  Mierda.  I definitely didn’t lose it the night before which was one saving grace. But where was it?  Rushed home.  That Valenbisi journey was 8 minutes long but it felt like an eternity.  Ran upstairs to the sixth floor instead of taking the lift; the lift beat me anyway.  Open the door. Key got jammed.  Left key.  Slipped on Corte Inglés plastic bag in the corridor. Caught my top on a door handle. Almost did the splits.  Opened bedroom door.  TA-DA!  PURSE.  FOUND!  Then, the whole day went smoothly…

Jokes.  Of course it didn’t.  I wolfed down the sandwich, headed to work and realised that I was going to be late, jumped in a taxi and got my bag strap caught under the seat, adding 3.5 minutes to the 4 minute ride.  It would have only been 9 minutes by bike!  Once at work and settled, the classes were great; Fridays are definitely my favourite day.  Morrissey wasn’t right after all, with his Friday Mourning.  Novio arrived, hugs exchanged, wine drunk and some food eaten.  Black squid ink and random fish innards were moved around on the plate: how do people eat that stuff?  Taxi couldn’t find me so after a 10 minutes of walking up and down the same street, we eventually made it and set off for the bright non-city lights of Cabanyal coast.  AirBnb lady was hostile to say the least but her parents, who were there on our arrival, were amazing.

Wine, cute Cabanyal surfer bar, mosaics aplenty, casual strolling and my favourite person later and finally…

Friday, I’m in love.

 

Yep, you guessed the song!  You WordSMITHS you!

 

 

 

The Cure: Friday I’m in Love

I don’t care if Monday’s blue
Tuesday’s grey and Wednesday too
Thursday I don’t care about you
It’s Friday, I’m in love

Monday you can fall apart
Tuesday, Wednesday break my heart
Thursday doesn’t even start
It’s Friday, I’m in love

Saturday wait
And Sunday always comes too late
But Friday, never hesitate

I don’t care if Monday’s black
Tuesday, Wednesday heart attack
Thursday never looking back
It’s Friday, I’m in love

Monday you can hold your head
Tuesday, Wednesday stay in bed
Or Thursday watch the walls instead
It’s Friday, I’m in love

Saturday wait
And Sunday always comes too late
But Friday, never hesitate

Dressed up to the eyes
It’s a wonderful surprise
To see your shoes and your spirits rise

Throwing out your frown
And just smiling at the sound
And as sleek as a shriek
Spinning round and round
Always take a big bite
It’s such a gorgeous sight
To see you eat in the middle of the night

You can never get enough
Enough of this stuff
It’s Friday I’m in Love

I don’t care if Monday’s blue
Tuesday’s grey and Wednesday too
Thursday I don’t care about you
It’s Friday, I’m in love

 

BisQuit Playing Games…

atardecer

Buenas tardes 🙂

So, it’s been quite a while since my last post on valenciandoporlavida which means that I have a montón of things to talk about today!  Wahoo!  *Don’t forget to try to guess the song reference in the post title* What would your life be like without puns?  Actually, don’t make me think about that.  I don’t like it one bit.

To avoid wasting any time here I’m pulling out the big guns first…BISCUITS!  After a sneaky one-hour shift at work yesterday (to make up for the six years of torture teaching in the UK state sector!) I had a routine trip to Mercadona and picked up a few delights including strawberry-flavoured gin and some lovely little bargain eye gel patches for travelling (only 1€ which is so cheap compared to the ones I’ve seen in Boots.  Hoorah for Mercadona!)  The eye patches are currently in my travel suitcase (as Manchester Neighbourhood Festival and a weekend wit mi cariño approaches) along with the obligatory hair straighteners, a teeny travel pot of foundation (minimal make-up needed with top tan – wahey!), geisha-style dressing gown bought in Thailand as a pick-me-up when I had inflated legs after 8 flights in a week and my new coat from Zara that I can’t wear here because it’s still too hot and sunny.  Did I mention that?  It’s 27 flipping degrees still and I am still getting mosquito bites.  This little Zap-It has been my hero! 

zapit

TANGENT ALERT: While we’re still on the topic of food (mosquitoes are food, aren’t they?), I’ve been looking for sourdough bread for ages in Valencia as a certain someone may have got me hooked on it.  I’ve tried artisan bakeries, smalls supermarkets and even an old lady who lives in my apartment block.  On one rather grim Sunday evening just after my novio left and I’d been feeling pretty ill all day (two mutually exclusive events, I promise!), I had a 9pm ten-minute cycle to Carrefour, a throwback to my Dijon uni days especially the time when I was forced to steal a trolley just to transport my two-monthly settling-in shop to the bus stop.  I remember calling my friend almost in tears saying ‘you’ll have to come and help me.  I bought too many things and can’t carry them.’  Talk about First World problems… Que vergüenza.  Anyhoo, back to this particularly sad domingo when I trekked to Burger King near the BioPark in the Pobles de l’Oest and discovered that this is where the locals hang out all day and evening when almost everything else in the non-touristy parts of Valencia is closed for the sacred day-of-rest-and-paella.  I didn’t order the expected ‘queso con beicon’ sino (but rather) ‘cheese con beicon’.  It’s the absolute best speaking English with a fake Spanish accent and having the 17-year old supervisor grimace at your failed attempt to speak your own language badly.  This is definitely yet another reminder of spending Sundays in McDo in Dijon and one time actually being given a free tombola ticket and winning nothing less than a Phil Collins DVD which I subsequently bequeathed to a very puzzled étranger.  The point of all of this was to say that even Carrefour don’t do pan de masa fermentada (sourdough)but what I did eventually find in Mercadona was pan de espelta de masa madre and I think it’s the best that this self-confessed food snob is going to get. No, the food snob isn’t me.  I dunk my biscuits. Twice. Sometimes I even use a second biscuit to retrieve the first one that unsuspectingly plopped into the mug.  What a feeling that is when you manage to get it out…

Ok, back to the biscuits.  Well, actually before that let’s just briefly mention this disgusting gin I bought.  It’s probably my own fault and I foolishly bypassed the Ophir-style €15 good-value-but-not-bathtub-gin situated next to the fresh fish counter.  Mercadona, please move your fish counter or get some smell-proofing or something.  Yuk!  It was only about 8€ but strawberry-flavoured.  I mean, come on, who can resist such a pretty little bottle?  The problem may be with the gin but also potentially with the water.  I had to drink it with agua con gas instead of tónica as after 23 minutes of searching round the alcohol-aisle with Spaniards mainly browsing sophisticated Rioja (white Rioja too – which I’d highly recommend) and local Marqués del Túria.  Sorry Aldi and Tesco but there’s not 6 bottles of prosecco for £20.  While I’m here, why have middle-aged women and young women who act like they’re middle-aged already ruined prosecco for the world?  It’s like when chavs stole Berghaus or K-Swiss.  I used to love those £5 work trainers from JD Sports.  Those were the days… What an improvement from Original Shoe Co. where my boss called me and my brace-ridden mouth a pink toolbox, where I sold two left trainers to a deaf lady and had to chase her through the MetroCentre and where finally I quit my job because I ‘needed’ a holiday.  Some things never change!gin

DSC_1728[5444]BISCUITS:  So all I wanted to say on this matter was that I’ve found the most amazing biscuits ever.  THEY TASTE LIKE CHEESECAKE.  Like REAL CHEESECAKE.  I kid you not.  Roll over empanadillas and tortilla de patatas (which I will be doing a blog post on soon FYI), these are the Spanish delicacy you’ve all been waiting for. Like un-cheesy Ritz crackers with a lemon cheesecake filling.  Paraíso total.  Plus, they’re 99c and they have changed my life in the last 24 hours.  Mainly because now I look super curvy in a bikini! Check out my very Spanish despensa and its contents.  (No, despensa means cupboard, not body, or anything else inappropriate that you may have thought of! Go meditate or repent or something.  Arrepentirse – a great word I learnt recently which means to regret or repent).

DSC_1726[5442]  

Stay tuned for more really soon including a week of fun with the favourite person, empanadillas, my non-expert view of the Catalan referendum, Valencian Day, all the seafood, Cabanyal, going autónoma, the brilliant band HINDs and the lovely MYNTH.

 

Oh the song was a cheesy one to match my biscuits:

QUIT PLAYING GAMES by the one and only BACKSTREET BOYS.

Don’t listen to that song though, listen to them trying to sing Despacito instead here (3 mins in).

That Golden Rule: Five Random AvocaDOs and DON’ts in Valencia, Spain

Remember to guess the song/artist reference.  Is your brain biffle-baffled yet?  (Yes, that’s una pista – a clue!)

 

AvocaDOs and DON’Ts when moving to, or holidaying in, Spain:

 

1. Don’t expect to be able to speak English everywhere.  Learn the basics, at least. Check out my website conversewithchloe.com for lessons and free resources.  Try language learning apps, podcasts and Youtube vids.wesbite 4

2. Do greet people verbally but don’t smile without saying anything.  This is a very subtle cultural difference but one to be noted if you don’t want to look like a total wally.  Take it from experience, my experience, that smiling at people in the street makes you look weird (especially if you have no eyebrows and can’t be bothered to pencil them in – see photo!)  However, you should definitely say ‘buenos días’ or ‘buenas tardes’ to your neighbour in passing.  Resting bitch face readers amongst you, happy days! 🙂  Those of you with a smiley disposition like me (well, sometimes) may just have to learn how to smile on the inside… and no, that’s not meant to sound like a cheesy drinkable yoghurt advert!

3. Do make the most of the cheap cost of living especially in cities like Valencia. I had this lovely brunch for much less than 10€ in Bluebell Coffee Co. in the hipster area Ruzafa and the paella below for a bargain 5€ with optional tinto de verano (basically a red wine spritzer with lemon!)

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paella-e1506001676341.jpegDSC_1067

4. Don’t expect avocados to be cheap.  I am actually outraged at the price of grapesthem even in the mercados.  4-5€ per kilo.  Holy guacamole!  Most other fruit and veg is cheaper than the UK and of a much better quality, however.  I’m getting a little bit addicted to 30 cent nectarines and these mahoosive grapes.  Yes, that’s a Spanish crossword puzzle in the background and it’s great for learning new vocabulary!

 

5.  Do stock up on toiletries before you head out here.  I can probably guarantee that you’ll miss Boots or, dare I say it, even Superdrug or Bodycare.  Reasonably-priced toiletries are available here even in supermarkets (with Carrefour probably stocking the widest variety) but anything remotely specialist (purple shampoo, silvery-blonde products, porcelain foundation, good primers, etc.) will cost you quite a lot and you’ll have to seek them out.  Dry shampoo-lovers are urged to proceed with caution!  I’d definitely avoid pharmacies for toiletries too as the prices are somewhat ridiculous.  They are great for extra-strong medicine though, especially those little Lemsip-style sachets you mix with cold water.  Positives to note are the huge bottles of shower gel on sale (which you’ll need to combat the 60% humidity with thrice-daily showers obligatory in Summer), aisle-upon-aisle of mosquito repellent plug-ins (none of which seems to work for me) and the 319 varieties of conditioner for pelo rizado and dañado (curly and damaged hair, respectively).

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the music reference is…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biffy Clyro – That Golden Rule

Son of Henry, I’m the first in line
To the throne, smell my mustard gas
I slash swords through your wooden spine
Well it cut my heart and it blew my head
We made love at the side of the road
Reflex, you better know this flows fast
This river is particularly sinister
Close your eyes and take my hand

I wanna scream one last death medley
I am looking for a reason to secure a forward motion

Love that golden rule, that golden rule
Need that golden rule, that golden rule
Secrets are the truth, they are the truth
We need that silver rule, that silver rule

Face to face with the ball and chain
I’ll poke my head up till its red
I tell my secrets and you took my pain
About a broken heart and I will do it again
Son of Henry, I’m the first in line
To the throne, smell my mustard gas
I slash swords through your wooden spine
Well it cut my heart and it blew my head

I want to scream one last death medley
I am looking for a reason to secure a forward motion

Love that golden rule, that golden rule
Need that golden rule, that golden rule
Secrets are the truth, they are the truth
We need that silver rule, that silver rule

How NOT to be an illegal alien. Get your NIE and Social Security Number in two hours in Valencia (EU citizens)

How to get your NIE and Social Security Number in two hours in Valencia if you are an EU citizen.  (Yes, this currently includes Brits, thankfully)

No, your eyes are not deceiving you: you absolutely CAN get you NIE and SS number within the space of two hours, at least in Valencia. You need the NIE for everything: work contracts, banks, businesses, utilities, phone contract, etc.

At peak times (especially July-September) be sure book up to a month before you want to attend the actual appointment and make sure you turn up early and explain that you have an appointment (tengo cita previa).  If all else fails, show your passport and email booking confirmation.

Simple steps to getting your NIE and Social Security numbers in Valencia:

A) Book the appointment:

  1. Book an appointment or ‘cita previa’ here or on the official app
  2. Select ‘Valencia’ and ‘Certificados EU’ if you are from the UE of course
  3. The next pages tells you the documents you need to take to your NIE appointment.  Click ‘Entrar’
  4. Fill in data. Click ‘aceptar’
  5. Click ‘solicitar cita’ and click the time and date
  6. For city centre-dwellers select the ‘Calle Bailén’ office.  That way you can get your social security number straight aftersede

If you don’t have access to a computer or wifi etc, get yourself to a ‘locutorio’.  There are a few listed on Google maps but if you ask locally you’ll be sure to find one within half a mile or so.  They’ll look something like this one that I found in Benicalap:

locutorio.jpg

B) Do the paperwork:

  1. Complete the NIE form, called the ‘Model EX-15.  You can collect one from any comisaría that deals with foreign affairs (Extranjería) but also online right here, in fact!  Complete and print TWO COPIES at least.  An example but unofficial model document in English is available here for reference only.
  2. Photocopy your passport a few times.  It obviously should be valid and in good condition.
  3. You should have a Spanish address. Use your Airbnb, hotel, friend’s or work address for now.  I couldn’t get a rental agreement until I had my NIE so there was no chance of using my ‘home’ Spanish address because I was stuck in a catch-22.  Luckily my boss let me use the office address. That worked fine!
  4. If you have a work contract, take a couple of copies of this in Spanish.  If you are studying, it’ll be your offer or enrolment documentation.  You get the idea, anyway!

C) Pay for the NIE

The next rather odd part of the process is visiting the bank to pay fees associated with obtaining the NIE.  A lot of the advice online will tell you to visit the police station, then the bank and then the police station again.  This is not necessary. You can download the Tasa 790-52 form here, take TWO COPIES OF IT at least to almost any bank (I used Caixa) with around 10€ and you should get a little bit of change.  The current rate is 9,54€ (see picture below).  You’ll be given a copy of the form to take with you to the NIE appointment to prove that you have paid for the privilege.  Go between 8.30am and 1pm to make sure the bank is open and avoid weekends when opening hours are limited.

pol

D) Attend the appointment and get the NIE

Be chilled, polite and speak in Spanish if you can.  Something like ‘Hola, tengo una cita previa para la asignación del NIE. Tengo todos mis documentos y he pagado ya la tasa’ should work a treat!  You should be given a meat-counter-from-the-90 style ticket and be sent to the waiting room.  If you get there ten minutes early you won’t have to wait more than twenty to be seen on an average day.  Have your passport and all your documents ready.

Once again you need to take:

  1. Passport and two copies of the photo page
  2. Proof from the bank that you paid (probably on a green piece of paper)
  3. The NIE form you completed earlier (EX-15) and a copy
  4. Some sort of evidence of your reason for needing a NIE. Verbal evidence may suffice here.

 

You should be given a really formal-looking document with   your NIE number written on in felt-tip pen, ressembling something like A1234567Z, with two letters and two numbers.  Take a picture or copy of it as you will need it for almost everything in Spain.  You should only ever have one NIE too, even if you move back to your home country and then back once again to Spain.

Now go to the parc or a terraza or something and relax! 🙂

park

 

For the Social Security, all you’ll need is one simple form, the TA-1, which you can download here.  If you just came out of Calle Bailén comisaría, then literally cross the road to calle/Carrer de Bailén, 43.  You’ll need your NIE number (felt-tip document will suffice), TA-1 form (which you’ll have had to complete online and print) plus a copy and evidence of your work contract or similar in Spanish.  This literally took me ten minutes on a rainy Thursday morning in August and then I was good to go!  Suerte!  

 

 

 

 

The song?

Scroll for the answer…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Englishman in New York – Sting

I don’t drink coffee I take tea my dear
I like my toast done on one side
And you can hear it in my accent when I talk
I’m an Englishman in New York

See me walking down Fifth Avenue
A walking cane here at my side
I take it everywhere I walk
I’m an Englishman in New York

I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien
I’m an Englishman in New York
I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien
I’m an Englishman in New York

If “Manners maketh man” as someone said
Then he’s the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien
I’m an Englishman in New York
I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien
I’m an Englishman in New York

Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety
You could end up as the only one
Gentleness, sobriety are rare in this society
At night a candle’s brighter than the sun

Takes more than combat gear to make a man
Takes more than a license for a gun
Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can
A gentleman will walk but never ru

If “Manners maketh man” as someone said
Then he’s the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say [3x]

I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien
I’m an Englishman in New York
I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien
I’m an Englishman in New York

 

7 Day Weekend in Valencia

I took my boss’s words literally and applied them directly to Friday: ‘descansa antes de que comience la locura‘ (rest before the madness starts).  So I spent most of Friday just looking after myself:  swim, gym and eating tapas!  Spent a few hours on my teaching website conversewithchloe.com and was over the moon to discover that my Voovit boxes had arrived from Newcastle, filled with loads of unnecessary teaching gimmicks and random items I’ve collected over the year.  Much to the dismay of the event organiser I decided to bail on the meet-up I’d arranged to attend but literally because of torrential rain.  I was also rather enjoying listening to my new compi, to steal his word for compañero/a de piso, playing the guitar and singing.  He used to be in a band in San Francisco so was recounting tons of tales from times gone by accompanied with his own score of old gypsy songs mixed with modern takes on classics.  My favourite was Mala Mujer. Have a listen here

Saturday involved more of the same, chilling by the pool and almorzando with a new friend.  I was introduced to the Valenbisi scheme (valenbisi.com) which I’d totally recommend to anyone new to the city or just visiting.  It’s only around 30€ for an annual pass and you only pay extra (1€ per hour or so) if you keep the same bike for more than 30 minutes.  It also takes away any worries you may have about your lovely vintage town bici being stolen or getting a flat tyre etc.  One potential problem that’s begun to arise already: getting too ripped too quickly!  I don’t want this new muscle turning to fat over the Christmas holidays!

Disclaimer:  To protect the integrity of the English dictionary and prevent any Spanish natives amongst you referring to skinny 30-something English ladies as ripped, by ripped I mean ‘slightly-less-bingo-winged-and-a-bit-tanned-which-also-helps’.

army

So as a new ‘intercambio’ aficionada, I went to another one on Saturday night.  Fun it was, although I’m not sure it’s the best place to go to improve your Spanish. I’m really not wanting to learn other people’s lexical or pronunciation errors so I might steer clear and just seek out more Spanish amigos, in a 100% non-creepy way, ¡por supuesto!

 

Oh, and the song I referred to was…

 

 

 

 

Keep scrolling, scrolling, scrolling…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Day Weekend – The New York Dolls

 

Well, I wish that I could have myself, a seven-day weekend
Tired of sittin’ on the shelf until the weekend
Friday after school, I pick my baby up
We dance an’ party till Sunday night
That’s the only time I get to hold my baby tight
I wish that there could be a seven-day weekend
I’m gonna make a plea for a seven-day weekend
An’ if it came about, life would be success
I’d run on out an’ have a ball
An’ never go to school at all
Monday, seven picture shows
Tuesday, you know, anything goes
A-Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, too
I’d party an’ Twist the whole week through
All day I dream about a seven-day weekend
I sit an’ scheme an’ scheme an’ scheme
‘Bout a seven-day weekend
The teacher calls my name an’ I’m in another world
I’m just thinkin’ about a seven-day weekend
Yay-yay-yay-yay-yeah
A-well, Monday, a-seven picture shows
You know, Tuesday, yeah, anything goes
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, too
I’d party an’ Twist the whole week through
All day I dream about a seven-day weekend
I sit an’ scheme an’ scheme an’ scheme
‘Bout a seven-day weekend
The teacher calls my name an’ I’m in another world
I’m just thinkin’ about a seven-day weekend
Yeah! A seven-day weekend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One More Cup of Coffee in Valencia

coffee cheers

You know that excited yet ‘where-on-earth-am-I?’ feeling of waking up in a totally new place, usually when you’re on holiday?  Times that by a hundred and it probably describes my 7.30am wake up courtesy of señorita sol pero no me quejé – I didn’t complain.  It’s the first time in months I’ve woken up with such urgency and a ridiculous to-do list.  If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from spending a bit of time in Spain a few years ago is that the more you stress about something, the less progress you’ll make; you may as well just succumb to the ‘Spanish way’, chill out and know that everything will happen when it’s meant to.  Besides, the only type of stress I’m entertaining here is in relation to polysyllabic words.

So with a work contract and quick obligatory besos with the new jefe, I made my way to Plaza España in the centre to desayunarTA:  I love the different words for eating in Spain (desayunar, comer, almorzar, merendar, cenar, picar, picotear…)  I guess it reflects the importance of eating regularly, enjoying the whole process, heated discussions, catching up with friends and family.  My Spanish compi thinks that Spain is unique in this way, that in no other culture in the world do you find people eating so late in the evening or dragging out a meal so much.  I argued that Italy was pretty similar but we agreed to disagree on this particular point!  Anyway, the breakfast was muy rico (un café, un zumo de naranja, una tostada con tomate all for 3,20€.  The waiters in the café were very hipster and didn’t one bit the fact that I spent an hour and a half there reading The Handmaid’s Tale (which I highly recommend, for the record!) Through some miracle of Díos  I managed to get my NIE (Numéro de Identidad de Extranjero) and Seguridad Social number in the space of about two hours.  Keep an eye out for another post which will tell you how to do this is you’re moving to Valencia! I’ve met people who’ve had a real pesadilla trying to sort this out because they simply didn’t know what the trámite was.  On my first visit to Valencia this year I was sent to the wrong comisaría as the official I spoke to just assumed that I was from Canada without actually telling me that she had made this assumption.  I ended up in a line for visa/refugee applications for three hours until it dawned on me that something didn’t quite feel right.  I must say that the sad state of affairs that followed was a real eye-opener.  I was only treated with an ounce of respect and dignity once the policeman dealing with my ‘asignación’ saw my British passport.  I wonder two golden the British passport will remain post-Brexit?  Had better get accustomed to the visa queue.  After all, us Brits like queueing, don’t we?

After this, it rained buckets so took shelter for a while and just people-watched.  I went to my first Meet-Up here too later that day, a dinner in a quirky Italian restaurant in Ruzafa (total hipster area) with around 25 other girls.  Pretty nice bunch of open-minded and friendly autónomas who I’d definitely like to get to know more.

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Side notes:

  • Daughter album is out – pretty good but why so many instrumental songs?
  • NIE & SS done – ridiculous sense of achievement
  • Friends made.  Phew!
  • Cabify driver offering lifts ‘particulares’.  Proceed with caution!

 

 

Did you guess the song?

Scroll down to find out!

Bob Dylan – One More Cup of Coffee

Your breath is sweet
Your eyes are like two jewels in the sky
Your back is straight your hair is smooth
On the pillow where you lie
But I don’t sense affection
No gratitude or love
Your loyalty is not to me
But to the stars above

One more cup of coffee for the road
One more cup of coffee ‘fore I go.
To the valley below.

Your daddy he’s an outlaw
And a wanderer by trade
He’ll teach you how to pick and choose
And how to throw the blade
He oversees his kingdom
So no stranger does intrude
His voice it trembles as he calls out
For another plate of food.

One more cup of coffee for the road
One more cup of coffee ‘fore I go.
To the valley below.

Your sister sees the future
Like your mama and yourself
You’ve never learned to read or write
There’s no books upon your shelf
And your pleasure knows no limits
Your voice is like a meadowlark
But your heart is like an ocean
Mysterious and dark.

One more cup of coffee for the road
One more cup of coffee ‘fore I go.
To the valley below.

Day 0: Absolute Beginner

Day 0: Absolute Beginner

As an outlet for my music-loving geekiness, each blog post title will feature the name of a song (a decent one at worst, in my humble opinion) or a pun thereof.  Try to guess the artist before you reach the bottom of the blog post or cheat if you want and scroll past my ramblings!

day 0  

So, 100 kilos of life (all the meaningful stuff, I promise) packed up into one suitcase, one travel bag and two Voovit boxes.  TANGENT ALERT!  Even the luggage itself tells a few stories; the suitcase was bought in Madrid with money borrowed from a friend’s flatmate as EasyJet smashed my case and Halifax blocked my cards, the travel bag belongs to someone who can only be described as the male version of me (poor guy!) and the Voovit boxes are a throwback to the days of Erasmus, gaining 1.5 stone of bread-and-wine weight and 135€/month rent!  Predictably late, only by an hour, our two-hour buffer came in somewhat handy!  We arrived at the airport in good time; enough time for a few tears, necessary help with luggage, a hug I never wanted to end, a chat in a lift with a stranger who bore a mild resemblance to Will off of The Inbetweeners and una gran copa de Pinot Grigio with complimentary tap water. TA! Possibly my favourite Italian word, culaccino, was all I could think about at that particular moment.   Apparently there is no English equivalent of this word; I imagine this stems from the British appreciation for coasters… maybe!  Culaccino actually also means ‘the end of a salami’ and ‘the dregs left in the bottom of a glass’.  It comes from the word ‘culo’ meaning butt, which is exactly the same in Spanish.Image result for culaccino

 

 

 

After an easy flight and short taxi ride from the airport I was greeted by my AirBnb host and over the luna to discover a beautiful apartment.  He’s a top guy and it’s such a relief to live with the epitome of non-narcissism and non-neuroticism!  A glass of red later and it became evident we had a lot in common and are both pretty fácil para vivir.  We decided to only speak in Spanish too, which is going to be excellent for me!  This morning feels like a lifetime ago already…

Did you guess the song?

Scroll down to find out!

David Bowie – Absolute Beginners

I’ve nothing much to offer
There’s nothing much to take
I’m an absolute beginner
But I’m absolutely sane

As long as we’re together
The rest can go to hell
I absolutely love you
But we’re absolute beginners
With eyes completely open
But nervous all the same

Read more: David Bowie – Absolute Beginners Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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