Trying to temporarily adjust to how things work in Halifax while I’m back visiting for a few weeks, I discovered today that waving down buses isn’t necessary. I’m so used to doing it in Madrid that I carry the habit with me everywhere I go. It’s difficult to keep up with the complexities of an ever-changing, every growing metropolitan city like Halifax because it’s been just shy of two decades since I lived here. Also I can’t remember how everything works here.
Something else I discovered today was some beautiful shops along one of the streets in downtown Halifax. Pretty flowers adorn the outside. Some of them consignments shops, and others are cafe and restaurants, one of which is Turkish called Lemon Tree. I’ll be visiting there soon. Yum yum Red Lentil soup. Thank you Istanbul for opening my eyes to that utmost tasty dish.
Another pleasant place I visited was the Public Gardens where I had a nice “coffee” lunch at 12:30pm. I don’t have lunch till 2pm in Spain so I’m not used to eating early here. The ducks were hanging out at the pond, prepared to give them food, which I didn’t. They’d all flock towards me if I had.
Yeah, I couldn’t resist using another Shaun T’s quote again. I work out to his videos everyday, and even though it’s about exercising, I can apply it to other aspects of my life.
Sure, being an expat can be different and adventurous, even fun at times, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty parts…a prime and popular example is the language. Just the other day I wished a certain person a great summer and instead of being reciprocated the same thing in the same, warm way, the reaction I got was a writer’s block face. They stood there, with a blank expression on their face, and after what seemed like two minutes, they replied “you too”, but they had rephrased what I said every so slightly, and in a way which they were “correcting” me. All because I hadn’t phrased my “farewell best wishes” the way they’re used to hearing from the exact same people they see every single day. I felt like telling them that they need to open their mind a little (a lot) more and adjust their ear to people who’s first language isn’t Spanish, but who do make every effort to be understood. Heck, I don’t want to leave out the part where the thousands of expats like myself in that city have left their comfort zone and are trying to live a decent life in a place where English isn’t spoken. You must multiply people like them by millions because otherwise that example doesn’t serve any purpose nor have sufficient leverage.
So what I’m trying to say is that the more understanding and compassionate “native” people are to immigrants, refugees, and expats when it comes to speaking and understanding the language, the easier it will be for both sides.
When life gets tough, “dig deeper”. At least you’ll know how to react if a similar situation arises.
But what’s the point of life if we aren’t met with challenges which help us grow? Hmm…
What, you may ask, is it like returning for a summer visit (Canada) from my country of residence (Spain)?
It’s that time of year, where work comes to a close, where chaotic life pushes me to the limit just to see how far I can go without having a nervous breakdown. I experienced some episodes of crisis and victory prior to going on vacation for the summer. When I found out that my colleagues and I had to work a full day instead of a half day for the first two weeks in July, which was promised to us from… the beginning of time (!), I got so upset that I didn’t know how to handle it. That was the crisis. Life went on and I still haven’t dealt with it. The victory was that I saved some doh on not going to community swimming pools everyday for two weeks, as very eagerly planned. The second crisis was when we had to work like dogs due to low personnel those two weeks, but once those two weeks finished I was on vacation and headed to Canada. It feels good to look forward to returning “home” for 40 days. Especially when you know you deserve it after a hard year of working non stop.
So what’s it really like going back home for a visit? I go every summer, so it doesn’t seem like it should be anything new, but it’s refreshing every time. I need a change in scenery every so often, and this year I was overdue for one because I usually go on a side trip in the winter somewhere in Europe.
The moment I step of the plane, everything, from scenery to how people look and talk to public service is different. It all makes a significant impact in my sensitive mind. Is this what Culture Shock is? But wait a minute, “culture shock” in my own home country? Yep. Some of the most extreme culture shocks I’ve ever experienced has been right here in my own Canadian town and NOT in another completely different country.
But since I’ve got 40 days in this country as a visitor, I’ve got time to write more posts about this topic 🙂 Besides, it’s not something that can be covered in one sitting.
In the past year the first two electric car rental companies opened up in Madrid. Last year, Car2go was launched charging customers 19 Euro cents a minute. This year, a similar agency called Emov appeared in our lives offering the same rate but with a couple more benefits. Both agencies let you pick up any of their cars with a drop of a hat and return the car anywhere within the perimeter they’ve set out in the city. The unfortunate part of this story is that the first agency, Car2go, increased its rates to 21 cents after Emov was introduced. By this time it had accumulated enough customers and won their loyalty so it was a wise business move, I understand. A 2 cent increment isn’t much, I know, but it’s the principle of it that makes me less inclined to use its services. In fact, I refuse to rent from the company. As if that weren’t enough, subsequently Emov increased its prices too, to a whopping 25 cents a minute. Call me a rebel for saying so, but what a significant hike that is in so short a time (4 months). I’ve lost all interest in renting out either agencies’ cars. Is this considered boycotting? Probably. I know businesses increase their rates all the time, but really. Really. It’s not cool to increase your prices shortly after introducing your business and winning loyalty from new customers. From an opinion of a former electric car renter enthusiast, I must admit that I am disappointed.
I invite you to argue my point. If you don’t agree with me blacklisting those two companies, then tell me why. I doubt you’d be able to change my mind but I’d like to see you try 🙂
Having grown up in a small city like Halifax, Nova Scotia, moving to a big city like Madrid has had its ups and downs. I don’t mean to be a pessimist but let me dwell on one “down” for a sec. Ever since I’ve moved to the hustle and bustle of Madrid, I have become part of the hustle and bustle. It’s been a continuous run to make the subway train, make the bus, and make it across the street before the lights turn red for pedestrians. It’s a nonstop race to get anywhere in this big city. It’s no fun dodging all the slow people on such narrow sidewalks, with pedestrians walking on the wrong side. If there was such a thing as sidewalk jaywalking, we’ve got experts here. I’ve got to hand it to Madrid though – it does have an excellent public transportation system. However, the fact that it’s a huge city means that it takes more than a minute to get anywhere, which means that everyone scurries to get to their destination on time. But I’ve realized over time that even when I’m not in a rush I still find myself literally running to make the next train or the green light, even if I’m ahead of schedule! I’ve caught myself red-handedly hastily making my way down, or up, the escalator of the subway. What’s wrong with this picture? Is this the destiny all big cities?
Something’s made me slow down my pace, and even made me relax a little. I was tired of my sandals getting worn out and the straps loosened, because it was uncomfortable to walk like that. I know this may sound ridiculous, but because of wanting to save my sandals from getting worn out, nay, keep myself from feeling tired because of how it’s affected my feet I’ve started walking slower, which means that I’ve stopped walking briskly as if I was in a walkathon and running like a maniac for nothing. Now I actually enjoy going from one place to another, instead of feeling stressed. I miss going on walks just for the sake of walking. It’s a pity that we let something as simple as our journey to a destination stress us out. We must go somewhere all the time, everyday, whether it’s for work or something else, so why not do it with ease? I think it improves the quality of our life.
The picture in my featured image is one I took as I was walking somewhere today. I noticed two cute little houses that stick out in a neighbourhood. Who knows how many times I’ve passed by these buildings but never really noticed them.
I’ll leave you with this quote by the famous Eddie Cantor:
“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going to fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”
The other day I wrote about how to avoid accidents with electric bike rentals in the city of Madrid.
So how does one actually rent out these bikes?
- Visit their website, BiciMad
- Register and plug in your credit card information
- Receive a code in your phone
- Plug in the code into the machine at a physical bike rental station and a physical plastic card pops out for you to keep
- To rent a bike, swipe this card at any of the rental stations that has available bikes
You can rent from any station where there´s an availability of bikes as long as you have enough credit in your balance. Download the BiciMad application onto your phone so that you can see a map of the stations. It costs roughly 40-50 cents per half hour and 1 Euros per hour. If you go over your time limit (2 hours), there´s a 4 Euro fine per hour from that moment onward. As long as you make sure you place the bike back when you´re finished with it into the slot at a station which has an available slot, and it won´t come back out, then you´re good!
Tourists can also rent out bikes but the rules are stricter and they go by a slightly different process.
As a Canadian coming from Halifax, NS, riding a bicycle in a decent, nay, warm weather is a luxury. That’s why I’m such a big fan of this fairly new public transportation system put in place in the city I live in, Madrid. Cycling from one point to another and then having the convenience of parking the bike at one of the many, many point-stations all around the city is something to be grateful for. If I need to be somewhere and don’t feel like walking or taking the subway or metro, or even driving a car, I can rent a bike at one of the stations near my house and ride it 5 kilometres and park it literally 2 minutes from my destination.
But let’s be careful and not make the same innocent mistakes I’ve made. Having trusted in other clients like myself, I didn’t think about checking the bikes to make sure it’s useable and rideable.
- Check that the chain on the bike is tucked in where it’s supposed to be. If the chain’s out, your bike will not move no matter how much you pedal. Oh, by the way, did I mention these beauties are electric and can be motor run if you want them to be? This makes the bike go faster and you reach your destination in a jiffy!
- Check that the tires aren’t flat. That can be a bumpy ride! Been there, done that!
- If the bike cannot be hooked back into the station, then you must write a note to the company at the big machine there. Let’s avoid a random stranger pulling out the bike while it’s still connected to your account, shall we!
That’s all for now. I had an all but lovely Saturday morning bright and early when I was confronted with all three of those mishaps I outlined above. Hopefully they won’t happen again.
Photo credit: tumblr.com/blog/alexeylin