Getting from here to there

18 Sep

I made it to my NIE (Número de Identificación Extranjera) appointment last week without getting lost! First time since I have been in-country that I haven´t at least wondered ¨Am I where I am supposed to be?¨ Or wandered at least a kilometer or two extra because I wasn’t sure where I was going.

Like the day before the NIE appointment. Thank goodness for the trusty GPS on my phone. I forgot my map at home (not that it would have done me much good anyway. For almost ten dollars it is lacking serious detail.) I was on my way to meet someone. I consulted the map and even GoogleMaps before I left the house. I took the metro to what I thought was the correct stop and went up the escalators to the brilliant sky above. I asked at an heladeria if the street I was looking for was nearby and she assured me it was, but she couldn’t exactly pinpoint where, so I just meandered through all the crisscrossing pedestrain areas, looking at all the street signs written in a language I did not recognize. Then I asked a couple people, and they said they knew of no such street in this part of town. Trusty GPS, here I come! Only 1.6 km (approximately 1 mile) to my destination by car. How did my GPS know to convert to meters and kilometers? It’s an American phone. Amazing. So here I go walking, listening to the trusty GPS talk to me, butchering the names of these streets in Spanish and Euskera (Basque) like crazy. I laughed as I listened, and then laughed harder as I imagined what people must have thought of me, a crazy lady laughing to herself with her phone to her ear and then looking at it as though it bit her. I arrived thirty minutes later, thanks to the GPS. And learned I got off one metro stop too early.

While walking all these extra miles, I occasionally pick up some debris from ground. It is a rare occasion I must say and I was quite surprised when I read the warnings on a cigarette pack one day. “Smoking kills.” The other side read: “Smoking shortens one’s life.” The day that would happen in the US! People smoke the same here as in the US, although part of my rental contract is that any guests I have who smoke, they will smoke on the balconies!

But I digress. Walking around here is quite a treat. I have been to a few big cities in the US (Seattle, DC, Chicago) and there are many, many pedestrians in each of those cities. But you had better watch where you are going there and follow the “Walk/Don’t Walk” signs pretty strictly, less you get run over. Not to mention that the streets, for the most part (except in DC) run parallel and perpendicular to each other. Not so here in Spain! If I were to find a parallell set of streets, I might just faint! It seems as though all the street run in circles, angles and trapezoids to each other and any other figure you can imagine that is NOT a square or rectangle! Roundabouts (or rotondas, as they say in Spanish) are abundant, and I think I have figured out why — to slow people down for all the pedestrians. There are pedestrians crossways with stoplights in the middle of a stretch of road, at every corner, at every rotonda, everywhere you look. The amazing thing is, that even without a signal for the pedestrians to cross, the cars and buses STOP when they see a person APPROACH the pedestrian crosswalk. I am flabberghasted by this concept. Such manners. Such politeness. No revving the engine to beat the pedestrian, no gunning it to make it to the stop sign before the people walking do. They actually wait and allow the pedestrians to cross! What a concept! Perhaps we could learn from this. A rotunda to slow people down. They sure do add beauty to the cityscape!



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