Driving in Spain

It pays to know how to drive a manual car because in Europe it is much cheaper to rent one than an automatic. We don’t have our own vehicle in Madrid so we rent from Europcar. Zipcar hasn’t added Madrid to the map yet but they are in Barcelona. If you only want to rent a car for a couple hours every now and then in Madrid then you should check out Bluemove Carsharing. I haven’t tried it myself but I know a few friends who really like it.
There are a lot of car rental agencies out there with tempting cheap prices online but we always stick to Europcar. For a while there was a glitch in their websites between their US and Europe sites where you could rent a car with unlimited miles from the US site much cheaper than the Spain site but unfortunately they figured it out and corrected the glitch. Tip: always shop around. Also, renting from the airport and train stations usually adds on an additional cost.
When we rent we always use an American Express card. They have an auto insurance plan that costs $25 per use and covers more than the “packaged Europcar insurance”. Once we even had an accident where the frame was damaged, it would have cost us a lot without insurance (I can’t remember but it was over $400). But American Express covered it all, it just took a long time and some communication on our part to connect the 2 companies to settle the issue.
If you do rent a car, it doesn’t hurt to get your international driver’s license from AAA; It only cost $15. I’ve rented cars without one but you can never be too sure what to expect if you get pulled over.
Driving in European cities can be really annoying, there are a lot of roundabouts but don’t be intimidated. The roads and highways are fairly easy to navigate and it is worth the cost because you have more freedom to travel and can explore all the hidden places off the beaten path that Spain has to offer.


I will miss affordable care for everyone

I love Spain for their accessibility to healthcare, dental, eye care, affordable pharmaceuticals and educated pharmacists. For the most part I have had great experiences. Normally, in the states I’d have to make an expensive eye appointment to even see an optometrist to get my prescription information and they’d try to corner me into buying something new and if I were to see an opthamologist the price escalated. Here I can walk into an optometrist’s office, bring them my script or if I’m a regular they will pull up my file on the computer and order my contacts or give me my script for no added cost, no sales spiel, nada; I’ve even had them give me free samples so I can try a more economical generic brand.

I can walk into any pharmacy, tell them my symptoms and they will give me the most affordable cure, and they know what they are talking about!  So much is accessible without a prescription; this is great because half the time we know our symtoms and have had this same problem before and know what we need without the hassle of going to the doctor.  Or course it is always good to get checked out by a doctor but sometimes it is just a hassle to have to make an appointment with your doctor to get a routine prescription.

You can get the morning after pill ( la pildora del dia despues) at the pharmacist for cheap, birth control pills cost between 2-12 euros just show them the brand you used in the states and they don’t need a prescription. If you use an inhaler back home and forgot it on your trip, no problem 2-5 euros. The list goes on, it is wonderful. And there are other natural health stores if you prefer that. Of course if you are really sick then go to the doctor and the pharmacist will probably tell you to go because they know what they’re talking about. And with the insurance I’ve had here I’ve never had to pay for anything at the doctors, dermatologist, dentist…no co-pays no surprise fees, this is the way life should be.

Recently, my partner and I have been dealing with getting our immunization records from the states transferred to the grad schools we will be attending in the states, nothing that should be too complicated, right? And guess what! Our doctors want us to come in for a paid appointment just to pick up an old immunization form from when we were babies. A signature could cost us between $50-200. Thank god some loop holes still exist in the states and we could convince our high schools and universities to transfer our old records. I know there are good people out there, good doctors , nurses, etc. who bend the rules, have the time or just really care about their patients and help them make right and economical choices but they can be held back sometimes by rules, regulations etc. And I don’t know anything about how their world really works. All I know is that in other countries people’s well-being (for the most part) is a priority, not money.   And if you can’t find the help you really need at the least meds and some care are still affordable and accessible until you find the help you need.  Why is it that money can seem more important that people?

I guess I’ll soon find out what Obamacare really is and offers.  I hope it is as great as Spain’s universal coverage even if I have to wait in long lines.

1st Spain Hospital Visit

eyelid cutSo with every new city for me comes a new disfiguring injury. I’m accident prone or just cursed because almost annually between May- July something bad happens to me.

This year I fainted. It was 3am and I awoke with stabbing stomach pains. I was scared because it was like nothing I have ever felt before. I felt dizzy in the bathroom which made me more nervous, I went for water in the kitchen and everything went starry dizzy. I awoke under my living room table bleeding from my eyelid, utterly confused and deaf in one ear.
Once I gathered myself, I tried to put the pieces back together but nothing made sense. Eventually I crawled my way back to the bathroom to check out my face…horrified I had cut my eyelid pretty bad. When my strength came back to me I woke my partner and we patched up my eye. Since it was super early and I was still shaking we decided to wait until transportation was in full mode to head to the hospital. I was worried but from past experience I was pretty sure there wasn’t much damage to my eyeball.
At 9am we were at the hospital, Hospital Nuestra Señora del Rosario to be exact. They were nice but proved to be like many emergency rooms all over the world, slow and lacking. I waited 2 hours to be seen; I was counting on my partner coming in with me because he speaks better Spanish than I do, but they wouldn’t let him in. I think it was domestic violence protocol, which is great but it just made me more nervous not having him with me. Everyone who worked there was helpful, they weren’t comforting because they seemed stressed out but they were helpful. They did the usual protocol of what happened, then a quick examination, heart exam, blood test and shooed me off to the waiting room again. They didn’t clean my wound or give me a tetanus shot which I found weird but the last time I was cleaned up in a hospital in Portland, OR I got an infection from the hospital and almost lost my leg; so I guess it is better this way.
After 5 hours I got my lab results and could finally leave; nothing was abnormal. Next Wednesday I have a follow-up with internal medicine and an in depth follow-up on more lab results with my own doctor. So I lucked out and the healthcare system here has been good to me. I’m lucky that Cigna healthcare, which is provided to me through my program Auxiliares de Conversación, will cover all this. After the hospital I went to the pharmacy to ask for more help. They gave me everything I needed; stuff for cleaning and sterilizing the wound, pain killers, and bruising ointment. Here is a link I found while searching for vocabulary to use, which I found very helpful. Please, feel free to share any hospital visits in Spain on this blog. I definitely wouldn’t recommend going to one if it can be avoided, go to your general practitioner if possible because hospitals are a hassle.

Madrid Rocodromos

rocodromoWhen we lived in Portland, Oregon we joined the Circuit Gyms. They were great bouldering gyms with planned routes that varied in difficulty and were rocodromoconstantly updated. In Ny it was just too costly to join any gym and there weren’t any close enough to home to make the cost worth it. But here in Madrid we can go bouldering for free at many of the city parks. Here they have built Rocodromos, man-made concrete climbing walls out in the open air. There are no set routes and some don’t seem to be planned out too well but that makes it all the more interesting because really that is how it would be in nature. Some rocodromos are even set up for those who do belaying if you bring your own equipment.

I want to bring this concept back to the states. I think every town, city, park should have a rocodromo. It is great exercise, keeps teens active and teaches little ones some key development skills. I am going to miss this luxury when I go back to the states. Madrid, you don’t know how good you have it; take care of what you got.


Festival de #RegalosUrbanos

Today in Madrid artists took to the streets. There were expositions set up all along Calle Principe and other nearby side streets. It was a street art project called Regalos Urbanos organized by La Galleria de Magdalena. Passerby’s could interact with the art and even take home parts of the project as gifts. Unfortunately, by the time I had made my rounds to each section, a lot of the artwork had already been taken. I really enjoyed the interactive wall of magazine cutouts. They had cut out different words, phrases and even pictures which were magnetic; anyone could leave behind a message. Another great project was #besamemucho, red stamped prints of the female genitalia which played with perception, created a buzz and some great discussions about femininity. I hope to see more projects like this around the city.

Valentine’s Day in Getafe

I spent Valentine’s day not with my boyfriend but with a wonderful girlfriend and colleague at the Auditorio del Conservatorio de Getafe.  We experienced a wonderful free symphony concert, the director was Francisco Aguado Marti and the program was awesome.  We heard Navarro, Respighi, Kimura, Soutullo y Vert and ended with Bizet a wonderful end to the night.Banda de Musica de Getafe

I can’t wait for the next concert.  You can follow them on bandamusicagetafe.es or even on Facebook.

CEX Madrid

cexI am quite the movie addict. I’ve seen my share of classics, a lot of good, bad and some I’m ashamed to even name; but what’s great about learning a new language is that you can watch even the bad ones and feel ok about it because it’s like a form of “study” even though probably a lot gets lost in translation. The best part about watching movies dubbed in Spanish is that the dub over stars here in Spain are awesome and sometimes make the characters more bad-ass when needed; it makes the bad movies endurable.  Here is a mini example of how Spain dubs can be 10 times better than other dubs: Adventure Time Opening
I also like to watch films in Spanish with Spanish subtitles and sometimes that is hard to come across online or just a pain in the ass. So if you are looking to find a series or some films that can be dubbed and have subtitles check out CEX.
They have a range of movies and tv series which you can browse online. They also sell video games, music and an assortment of used electronics and phones. The great thing about it is that everything is fairly affordable and can be sold back for either cash or store credit. Check it out. I’ve found many useful DVDs for school at only a euro and they have come in very handy when the school’s internet doesn’t work.

You can find them on Calle de Atocha 40 and also Calle de Madrid 28,  in Getafe.

Navibus Madrid

We finally took the Navibus!And it wasn’t worth it at all.
We waited on line for 2 hours @ Plaza Colón (Calle Serrano, frente al número 30, junto a los Jardines del Descubrimiento).
Then it started raining.  But even if it wasn’t raining it wouldn’t have been worth it.  We sat atop a double decker bus and saw the christmas lights of Madrid.  Honestly, it would have been better by foot.  If you have kids this could be a fun distraction for them but even for the  2€ ride it isn’t worth waiting in line for that long.
If you do want to check it out buses usually start the 5th of December and run until the 6th of January.  You buy your ticket on the bus.

NavibusSpain 099Spain 107

Dentists in Madrid

I am so over taking advice from the Auxiliar de Conversación Facebook Forum.  I have reached out to different forums and found the good with the bad but when it comes to searching for a dentist in Madrid you just have to try them all out yourself until you find one that is up to your standards.  Last year I went to a dentist who was highly recommended by multiple young girls ( I should have known better) and I went to him to get a routine cleaning and ask about wisdom teeth.  He arrived a half hour late to my appointment and spent 10 minutes ogling over my fake tooth (from a past bike accident) he even asked his assistant to come look at it because he had never seen anything as nice as it before.  The cleaning consisted of fluoride put on my 2 front teeth and little use of a water pick which he asked if I had seen one before because most of his foreign patients were amazed by it…I was disappointed.  My teeth didn’t even feel clean after the visit.  And when I asked for an x-ray he said he didn’t have the capability of doing them in his office if I wanted to find out about my wisdom teeth.  Instead I would have to go to another clinic and then have the x-rays sent back to him.

Overall he was a nice guy, good looking (thus the defensive young girl recommendations) but he obviously lacked experience.  Most people go to him because he supposedly speaks English, honestly that is why I went to him but he never spoke a word of English during my appointment, he seemed very shy but said if we needed clarification he would try to use English yet never did.

This year I tried a couple new dentists and found one that I really like.  They are located above Retiro Park, Dentyclass.  I called and made an appointment but apparently you can make one online and some nights there is an English speaking dentist.  I went to a Spanish speaking dentist but he was great.  First I made an appointment for a cleaning and it was wonderful, my mouth felt amazing afterward.  Then I made a separate appointment to meet with a doctor and get x-rays at the same clinic.  The x-rays were digitized, they put them on a CD for me to take to another dentist if I wanted and it all got done within 10 minutes.  The doctor was very experienced and he knew exactly what was up with my wisdom teeth and he knew my insurance wouldn’t cover the work so he wrote a letter to the company stating that I needed oral surgery because of this that and that.  I haven’t gone to my insurance company yet to see if they will cover me in an emergency situation, I just haven’t had the time off work to go through with it but I appreciate the effort that this dentist went through to help me get the work I need done and covered by my insurance.

  And I would recommend them to anyone in Madrid looking for the right Dental Clinic.

Renewing the TIE Part 2

So I arrived back in Spain with no problems and a new contract with the Comunidad de Madrid’s Auxiliar de Conversación Program.  I wasn’t in a rush to sort things out with my new residency card because I still had my old expired TIE and no one seemed to question the expiration date.  But eventually I got my act together and set things in motion.

I never received my letter from the government where they tell you that your renovation has been accepted and send you an appointment date to start the process.  Instead I checked my status online here.

Even though I never received a letter, my status was favorable.  So next I made an appointment to finish the paperwork.  I didn’t go to Aluche to make the appointment like most people advise.  Instead I made the appointment online and arrived with no problem.  Don’t forget to print your appointment date and bring it with you to Aluche.  They will also inform you online of the documents you need to bring with you.  I needed 2 new photos for my new card and the photos had to be different from last year’s card.

To make an appointment for your hulleas (fingerprints) click here and fill out the form correctly. You can also make other appointments at this site.

If you are ever lost or can’t get a website to work, if you are trying to deal with visa stuff in Madrid then search here.

Everything worked out fine and in 35-45 days my new TIE card was ready.  Actually I picked it up maybe 85 days late and luckily it was still there.