Dig Deeper…facing challenges as an expat

Dig Deeper…facing challenges as an expat

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…

Signing off-

Shamim Sobhani

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

Stay tuned!

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

Renting a bike is as easy as 1, 2, 3

Renting a bike is as easy as 1, 2, 3

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?

  1. Visit their website, BiciMad 
  2. Register and plug in your credit card information
  3. Receive a code in your phone
  4. Plug in the code into the machine at a physical bike rental station and a physical plastic card pops out for you to keep
  5. 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.

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

 

What’s it like living in Spain…

What’s it like living in Spain…

I’ve got to follow up on my recent post, Expat Coffee Talk – these are the days of our L.I.V.E.S. mainly because I promised you I would. But you have to read the post above, otherwise you won’t get any of what I’m about to share with you.

So what I can tell you is that the style of life in Spain is pretty much a completely different experience than that of Canada. I’m going to throw in the United States of America just because. I also happen to like the US (minus a few things to obvious to mention); it’s our sister nation so I don’t want to leave it out.

Before I continue, let me just say that I’ve been assumed to be American too many a time because people here me speaking English here. Because of that, too, I’ll be including the US in this post as well.

I’d also like to say that when I’m talking about Spain in this post, it’s always going to be about Madrid the city, unless I say otherwise. I live in Madrid, so I figure it makes sense.

One thing that pretty much differentiates Spain from Canada and most American cities are the beautiful palm trees. Need I continue? I could stop right there because that’s a big difference in alone. I live in a city, a pretty big one, and there are actual palm trees here. It’s so nice to see them. I, as a “cold” Canadian, think it’s pretty cool.

Sun. Say the word out loud, nay, merely think it, and you’ll have the sun at the back of your hands for days on end. You know what the even cooler thing is? That I’m not even talking about summer. In winter there is sun for what seems forever, day after day after day. Why call the season winter even, when my cold Canadian heart knows what real winter means in Canada? You want to talk about sun in the summer in Spain? Please, brace yourself because what I’m about to say is going to make you want to drop everything in North America and come here: The sun is around for weeks, weeks, and weeks on end. What does that look like? Come 8am, say good morning to the sun and expect it to stick around until the wee hours of night. I feel like it’s 5pm, as I’m originally from Halifax, but when I look at my watch it’s actually 10:30pm Spain time. It makes me feel like there’s something wrong with that picture. Let’s give it up for the Spanish dictator “_______” for doing something interesting in a positive way. You know what they about sun: less seasonal depression in Spain because we see the sun all year round. I just made that up, but it’s got to be true.

The list goes on, quite well, I may add. Stay tuned.

Palm trees and sunny days. This is the Spanish craze.

Signing off-

Shamim Sobhani