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personal: when i lived in spain

España, Spain, Cádiz

With Spain currently deep in crisis mode & elections for President/Prime Minister coming up tomorrow, I sat back last night & thought about how things were so different when I lived in Cádiz in 1998-99. On a personal level, it was an emotional rollercoaster. I naively thought that my partner & I could salvage our relationship with a change of scenery. Silly me. My Spanish experience came to an end when we broke up, & I had to move back to Seattle. But what an amazing ten months.

I knew very little of the language when I arrived, only attending a 101 course in Mexican Spanish. Then I was handed a thick, gaditano accent & expected to understand that. Hilarious really. Fortunately a local guy & I did language exchange for almost that whole time. That helped immensely. But I’d never even been to Europe before we moved there. Trips to France, Greece, England, Portugal & Morocco opened my eyes to a world I’d always wanted to explore. In spite of being broke most of the time, the months spent in Spain changed my life for the better.

Returning to Seattle, I got my old job back but eventually connected with Rick Steves. Unsure of what to expect, after one tour as an assistant tour guide I was hooked. One major benefit of spending several months in Spain every year since 1998 has been witnessing so much change… some for the better, some not so much. Here’s a little then & now…

When I lived in Spain

…the Metro Ligero connecting the southern areas of Madrid didn’t exist. Neither did the airport connection. To get to the airport, we used to ride the subway to Canillejas (the end of the line at that time) then take a local bus. Now the Metro goes just about everywhere.

…a café was a mere 20 duros (100 pesetas = US$ 0.70  = € 0.60). Now the minimum is about € 1, often more.

…ETA frequently set off bombs in the Basque Country or signed then broke truces. Now ETA has agreed to end the use of violence.

Partido Popular leader José María Aznar ran the show. Now Aznar’s successor, Mariano Rajoy, is projected to win tomorrow’s elections. The Socialists were in charge from 2004, but things seem to be swinging back in the conservative direction.

…Madrid would have never been considered a target for Islamic terrorists. Now security is beefed up to prevent another 11-M.

…I managed to acquire a slight gaditano accent, for better or worse 🙂 Now my accent is Argentine after living in Buenos Aires for 12 years.

…the high-speed train (AVE) only connected Madrid to Sevilla. Now the network extends to Barcelona, Valladolid, Valencia & many other cities.

España, Spain, Sevilla, AVE, high-speed train

…there wasn’t even a parking lot to leave your car in Tarifa at the ferry dock to go to Tangier. Now there’s a modern, active terminal.

…I struggled to do my first guided tour ever for a group of university students inside the former mosque in Córdoba. Later, some of them told me that I should have been in charge of our first trip to Lisbon. Now I know enough to guide almost anywhere in Spain & Portugal.

…Cádiz used to be, well, a bit of a dump. Now the city has had a makeover with nicer plazas & more pedestrian streets. Seems almost luxurious, comparatively speaking.

All the changes in Spanish infrastructure, politics, economics & culture can’t even begin to compare to the changes I’ve gone through personally. It’s been a wild ride, & I hope we both continue to grow… regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s election!

Update: As fate would have it, I moved back to Spain in Aug 2016. Married to a sevillano, I couldn’t be more happy to be back in the south!

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