40 Days

40 Days

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 ūüôā Besides, it’s not something that can be covered in one sitting.

Stay tuned!

Signing off-

Shamim Sobhani

 

 

What it feels like to be tricked by new businesses

What it feels like to be tricked by new businesses

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 ūüôā

Signing off-

Shamim Sobhani

 

Slow down, but city life?

Slow down, but city life?

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.”

Signing off-

Shamim Sobhani

Tips on how to avoid bike accidents in Madrid

Tips on how to avoid bike accidents in Madrid

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.

  1. 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!
  2. Check that the tires aren’t flat. That can be a bumpy ride! Been there, done that!
  3. 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.

Signing off-

Shamim Sobhani

Photo credit: tumblr.com/blog/alexeylin

 

A fun and interactive Saturday in Madrid

A fun and interactive Saturday in Madrid

Living in Madrid certainly is no boring¬†city. There’s always something cool to do any day of the week.

Today, I had the privilege of¬†being invited to my stylist¬†and makeup artist, Shimada’s¬†launch party. He was promoting his new eyelashes straight from Tokyo, Japan. And he also promoted his new Shine Frizz Control Color Protection Argan Oil hair serum. It contains macadamia extract so it smells (and perhaps tastes?) divine, mmm! If you’re interested in the lashes or serum, I’m sure Shimada would love it if you got in touch with him!

If you’ve read my post about being the model of the month, or¬†modelo del mes, then these pictures will look familiar to you.

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The one and only: Shimada! This photo was taken before I was asked to have some lashes put on my face, as well as makeup.

Shimada’s friend and makeup artist gracefully added some eyelashes and makeup on my face and made me look brand new! She used some M.A.C. products. Can you guess what by looking at the photo below?

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Can you tell I’m wearing fake eyelashes?

The balayage in my hair was done by Shimada back in January, so well over 3 months ago. The Spanish sun can do a number on it in terms of brightening it up.

IMG_1166

I couldn’t leave the party without taking a picture with the beautiful makeup artist herself. I didn’t even intend on being worked on when I went to the party. It just happened. If there’s one thing I learned about being a model for a makeup artist, it’s that when they ask me what I want done, “natural?” or “go all out?”, my answer is, “whatever you want”, because it certainly made this one happy! She let free and did her thang. She tousled my hair up and made it look like she did more to it because I looked way different than when I walked into the studio.

Last but not least, I went ahead and bought Shimada’s Macadamia Argan oil hair serum.

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That’s my thumb.

None of these photos, taken with my iPhone SE, have filters. So au natural baby.

Did you like looking at the photos? If yes, what was the most interesting thing about them?

Signing off-

Shamim Sobhani

Featured image credit: @sethdoylee

From Canada to Europe. Reflections of an expat

From Canada to Europe. Reflections of an expat

I’m a Canadian expat living in Madrid, Spain. Yes, I left Canada to live in Spain, but don’t get me wrong, I’m fond of Canada. Who doesn’t enjoy the benefits of free health care? Spain has it too, though. Canada has great people, and so does¬†Spain. Are you catching onto my point? If not – both countries are cool. Despite the similarities, they are different countries,¬†and within¬†that umbrella comes an array of different cultures. Sometimes the differences in the Spanish culture shine through like the sun, positively speaking, and other times it makes me ask myself if I belong here. I’m not a newcomer, so I have learned some things here and there, but there’s always room to learn more! It’s like a journey. The question of¬†integration always pops up; it never seizes to prove its importance.

Are you an expat and have faced interesting experiences dealing with the culture of your second home? Share them please!

Signing off –

Shamim Sobhani

 

 

 

How to validate a foreigner’s Spanish driver¬īs license in 9 steps

How to validate a foreigner’s Spanish driver¬īs license in 9 steps

Are you Canadian, or better yet, Nova Scotian? Even if you¬īre not, believe me, this post will be useful to you to some extent. If you are from somewhere in the world and you live in Spain, keep reading. This is a sequel to my last post, “10 steps to make the process of obtaining a Spanish driver’s license easier for foreigners”.

After acquiring your Spanish driver’s license, you now have the option of validating it. What does that mean and why would you want to do that?¬†A¬†validated license recognizes and respects that you already have a driver’s license from your home country. If you do not validate it, the government recognizes you as a¬†novice¬†driver. So, if you want to avoid excessive insurance prices when you purchase a car, or you want to rent a car within the first three years of having your new license, you must validate your Spanish license. This process can only be done¬†after¬†obtaining your Spanish driver¬īs license (going through the written and driving tests).

Step 1: You will have to contact¬†the Canadian Embassy¬†by email which is¬†on its website¬†here. The embassy is located a 2 minute walk from Bego√Īa metro (Madrid). This¬†link¬†will direct you the¬†“consular services” fees for the services I outline below. Before you¬†email¬†the embassy, read the rest of the steps¬†below to see what you’re getting yourself into.

Step 2: The embassy will tell you to request a “driving abstract“, or otherwise known as a “client record abstract” from your province, which outlines your driving history.¬†It costs 18.65 Canadian dollars. Note: Specifically request that the letter date the day, month and year that¬†you obtained your Canadian license (not when you renewed it), because that’s the whole point of giving that letter to DGT, which is equivalent to the Registry¬†of Motor Vehicles in Canada. DGT wants to know the day you obtained your Canadian license (the day you passed your driving test). The¬†embassy will write up a letter for you explaining the classification of the vehicle(s) which you are permitted to drive. The embassy will need your Canadian license to attach it to the back of the letter as an annex. They will also write another letter. These two documents are for the DGT.

Step 3: The¬†embassy will issue¬†two letters for¬†you: a “statuary declaration”and a “statement letter”. The former is a statuary declaration regarding your Canadian license, and the latter explains the information indicated on that¬†license, which is the classification of the vehicles which you are permitted to drive. DGT needs to see these two letters in order to validate your license. I got away with not obtaining a client record abstract. Instead, I just gave my current Nova Scotian license (yes, the actual card and no, not a photocopy of it) to the embassy, which attached it to both its¬†letters as an annex. My Nova Scotian license was going to expire 5 months and I was heading back to¬†Nova Scotia¬†the following month anyway.

Step 4: Pay around 100 Euros to the Embassy for the issuance of those two letters. Refer to the embassy website again.

Step 5: You must get both¬†embassy-issued letters and your driver’s license (or the client record¬†abstract),¬†translated into Spanish, which costs around 115 Euros. The company I used has not given me the best¬†service (that’s an understatement, service was terrible), but they work for the ministry of justice department in Spain and they got the translation¬†done, even if it took them longer than anticipated. This is why I will not disclose the translation company name here. Working for the ministry of justice means that the translation company can officially translate legal documents and you would not need to have the translated documents certified by the ministry of justice. If you don¬īt understand this gibberish, it just means that it boils down to¬†less work for you to do.

Step 6: As I mentioned earlier, the Canadian embassy initially¬†told me that I needed to request for and receive the driving abstract in the mail from my province, which is Nova Scotia. I would have needed to take the abstract to the embassy myself and make a sworn declaration. I telephoned Access NS and they had no idea what I was talking about. I didn’t know that I was really supposed to ask for¬†a document to show my track record¬†driving history, so they printed out¬†something else. It was a waste of $20. Besides, someone had to go physically on my behalf and pick it up for me, send it to me (another $20 through registered mail). In the end, the document from the¬†Registry of Motor Vehicles which had printed out for me made no sense and was a bunch of numbers all over the place. As I explained earlier, the other option is to use your current Canadian driver’s license and the Canadian embassy attaches it to the two letters it issues. This was the most convenient and economical option for me, personally. When I gave those documents, including my newly obtained Spanish driver’s license, to DGT in Spain, it was sufficient. Spain loves seeing official and authorized Canadian stamps on papers handed into them. I thought DGT would keep that license for their records, but surprise, surprise,¬†they gave it back. There’s no way I could guarantee they would do the same to you, so be prepared to be detached (emotionally) from your license.

Here’s the¬†“client record abstract” I requested looks like so you know NOT to ask for it:

Driver's abstract touched up

I went to great lengths to hide my height as¬†I touched up on it in the picture above. Aside from that, as you can see¬†there’s not much going on in this document. It does not state the day I actually got my license. It’s very…abstract.

Step 7: Three weeks later you will receive a brand new Spanish license in the mail with the only difference being a code in tiny print on the back. When you rent or purchase a car that code is what will open up your options as opposed to the original Spanish license you received when you passed your driving test.

Step 8: Meanwhile, make the appointment with DGT online¬†here, because it the dates are usually booked up a couple of weeks in advance. On the website, in the drop-down button choose “Madrid” as the city and in the second button click on “Renovaci√≥n de premises¬†de conducci√≥n (solo UE/EEE)”. See box below. Book the appointment.

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Step 9: With the original (English) and translated documents, go to DGT, which is at this address: Calle de Arturo Soria, 125, 28043 Madrid, and fork over 25 Euros by credit or debit card only. No cash. Aside from the documents from the Embassy, you will need to show your NIE (ID card) and its photocopy and your Canadian driver’s license as well as its photocopy. In three weeks’ time you should receive your new Spanish driver’s license in the mail!

Question: Will you get your Canadian license back from DGT? I did, but there¬īs no guarantee that¬†everyone will. From first and second-hand experience, the way bureaucracy works in Spain is that there is no hard and fast rule. On the contrary, it usually depends on who the person working behind the desk is. Unfortunately.

The quote below from our distinguished Scottish philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, sums it up for me:

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak

I wouldn’t say I have a strong soul now, and I admit,¬†perhaps it’s a little dramatic considering that I’m talking about something as mundane as a¬†driver’s license, but it’s more than that. It’s about putting in a whole lot of dedication, time and patience to figure it all out while running around in a big city, communicating in¬†a language and culture that isn’t mine.¬†It would have been less of a headache if I had steps like the ones listed above to serve as my guide. I now have a Spanish¬†driver¬īs licence and its validation to show for what I went through.

Signing off¬†–

Shamim Sobhani