Friday, January 11, 2013


I suppose it would be par for the course to begin today with the classic blog apology. This, of course, is me sincerely apologizing for not updating this blog more often. Believe me, as they say, I've meant to write something. For so long. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. There was just too much to be said. No, it's not that I had nothing to say.

I had too much to say. And I couldn't figure out a way to encapsulate it.

Don't worry. It will all be in the book someday.

So here it is. The classic blog apology:


Today, I have to go down to the passport office in the Indautxu neighborhood of Bilbao. Some three-odd months ago, I went down there and made the official petition to get my visa term extended to nine months. This is important for me considering my contract does not end until May 31st, and I have already been here for a good-ol' long while.

However, staying true to classic tipical eSpaneesh Basque customs, I never received the essential documentation I was supposed to get in the mail. These documents, naturally, are necessary to be able to continue to process of renewing my visa. After my first pasaporte appointment, they were supposed to come in the fantastically ambiguous time frame of "14 to 35 days," but instead they came in the even more marvelous time frame of never.

So now I am beholden to go downtown and argue with funcionarios - Spain's [in]famous civil service employees. In reality, I am not going to argue with them, because unlike in other civilized, Western democracies, in Spain (and its occupied territories), los funcionarios are actually miniature dictators. They hold your life, and legal resident status/mortgage payments/tax rates/identification card validity/freedom in their hands. They rule with an iron fist over their own cute little dictatorships. Their powers over your are, in fact, limitless, and be not fooled by their cardigans and color-rimmed, fashionable glasses: they are tyrants, and they will execute upon you their every whim and will, be it for better or worse.

If they're feeling good that day, and they like you for some reason, it doesn't matter how long your card has been expired for. Sure, it may say "only valid for renewal within 30 days of expiry", but that doesn't really matter! They'll give you a wink and a smile and stamp your paper. They are the Roman emperor and they have just spared you, the wearied gladiator, from the starving lions of bureaucracy. Congratulations.

However, if their day is not going right...well, there is no one in the world who so closely remembers a power-mad, paranoid dictator than a surly Spanish funcionario. Oh, your paper says "Valid for a period of up to three months?" It's expired. Think you're in the right office? Actually, you need to go across town to this address, which actually doesn't exist - you'll be back here in a few hours. Oh, you have to be at work in 45 minutes and you don't have the required photocopies? Go get them. And get back in line. No, I don't know where a photocopier is. It's not my job to know. Have an urgent and pressing need? I'm going to keep talking to my cubicle neighbor for four or five more minutes while you sit in front of me waiting, and then I'm going to get pissed off and bitchy if you make any kind of body-language indication of dissatisfaction.

Oh, you never got your renewal letter? Your visa is expired? You already called and asked about it and we didn't tell your a single goddamn bit of helpful information, instead trying to pass the buck to another agency? You don't speak Spanish like a native?