Monday, November 26, 2012

Getting to Know You

Bilbao from Above
Bilbao from above

Moving to a new place has its ups and downs. The last month and a half  of my Spanish adventure has had its share of both, from the struggles of apartment hunting and bureaucratic hoop-jumping, to the delights of discovering the small secrets of a foreign city. A list of my priorities might look something like the following. 

First mission: Find a place to live. Check.

Second mission: Make it legal. Check. (Or let's hope so.)

Third mission: Eat ham. Check!

The first and second items were a little tricky, but I feel that I have mastered the third. I live with two fun girls in the Casco Viejo, or the old quarters, of Bilbao. And after several visits, varying in length and pleasantness, to the foreign office, the police station, and the government building, I don't think that I will be deported any time soon. Until June, I can call Bilbao home, and dedicate myself ham eating!

my favorite ham store!

Casco Viejo in the rain

café con leche and a pintxo

Well... maybe not just to eating ham! I am also enjoying getting to know my students and picking up private classes. Teaching is another thing that has its ups and downs, but the amazing students you get to know always makes it worthwhile. Even if you are not an educator by trade, I would highly recommend incorporating some kind of cultural exchange into your travels, or even your daily life. Popular websites like, or if you are in Spain,, offer a simple way to connect with local people and share skills. 

speaking of ups and downs...

While I tend to be more of an introvert who likes nature, my roommate, Lucie, is interested in all kinds of cultural pursuits, so we are able to do a lot of everything. Spain is a great place to live, because it offers easy access to both. Bilbao is what I describe as a "manageable" city. There are plenty of goings-on to fill your calendar, but most places are within walking distance, and even the mountains and the beach are only a short hop on public transport away. 

My first weeks as a resident of the Basque Country have been filled with rambles and adventures. The famous Guggenheim museum celebrated its birthday in October, so I stopped by to grab some free cake and check out the exhibits. (With absolutely no emphasis on that order, then again...) Another auxiliar friend is rather entrenched in the underground arts scene, so one Friday night I packed into his apartment to watch some locals jam. To burn off my excessive ham habit,  Lucie and I joined a stampede of Basque natives on a traditional hike from the city center to the top of Artxanda, one of the peaks surrounding the city. The pinnacle of my cultural awareness, though, was probably my first ever visit to Ikea!

As I get to know Bilbao, the list of things I want to do seems to be always growing longer, not shorter! 

the Guggenheim's birthday
an "Americanada" party in San Francisco
adventures in Ikea
the nervión at night

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