Annoying… but effective.

This week I learned to teach Spanish to people who don’t speak Spanish all you have to do is speak Spanish really slowly and hand out papers like you work at a Kinkos.

No seriously, my Spanish teacher for the lowest level of Spanish, doesn’t speak a word of english. She literally just speaks in Spanish slowly and points to things on the worksheets she gives us and waves her hands around more than an Italian in an argument.

But you know what really pisses me off most?

It’s working.

Like, really well.

Forcing her class to listen and be dependent upon listening to Spanish for direction has caused our brains to work overtime to figure out the language. And it is seriously paying off. It’s like negative reinforcement on steroids: We literally cannot communicate unless we learn.

It’s annoying, but effective. Which brings me to the meat and potatoes of this update, I HAVE A NEW APARTMENT AND IT’S EVERYTHING I HOPED FOR AND MORE.

If you read my last post you know that my life was pretty rough starting out here. The flat I was originally assigned to was a prolific monument to the  phrase “You get what you pay for”. For a meager 200 euros a month, I was promised a flat in the center of the city with easy access to the shopping, public transportation, and more social event than you could shake a Spanish broom at (the street sweepers here I am almost certain hand craft their own brooms; that or they have a direct line to hand-me-downs from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry). Anywho, for those of you who didn’t see my last post, here’s the short version: the flat looked like Charlie Sheen took a weekend visit to Murcia and brought seven pounds of his finest cocaine. And then invited a bull over and gave him half of it and started playing indoor tag with him. $*** was not in good shape.

So I complained. A lot. Thoroughly. To anyone that would listen, and then a few people who wouldn’t.

14 or so emails and 48 hours later, I get one back:

“Moving will be no problem at all. Here’s the email for a landlord across the plaza from you now who is waiting to hear from you.”

I immediately opened up google translate and formulated what I can only assume was a completely irreverent stabbing of his language, explaining my situation, and hit “send”. Within two minutes I had a response. A quick text to my assigned Spanish buddy begging for his help with meeting the landlord and I had a showing (I didn’t just pull the trigger in case this place was also a dump with walls).

I quite physically felt like I was walking into an answered prayer.

This place has-

  • New full Ikea dressers in all 4 full size rooms.
  • New flat panel TV
  • New couches and matching chairs
  • New coffee table
  • New refrigerator
  • New washing machine
  • New flat-glass electric range stove with touch-sensitive controls
  • Free Wi-Fi with 50 mb/s download speed and no dropped connections
  • Fully stocked with kitchen-ware
  • A beautiful view from the balcony
  • 8 minutes walking to Merced (the small college campus)
  • 3 minutes walk to my Spanish class
  • The tram to Espinardo (the big campus) is just outside my building.
  • Grocery store is down the street, 4 minutes.
  • All the wires firmly inside the wall and attached to the appropriate appliances and outlets (vast improvement over what looked like a vineyard of electrical violations)
  • And lastly and most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, a coffee percolator so I can mainline caffeine at speeds my doctor has deemed unwise; aka the best way to beat persistent jet-lag.

So a payment of a single beer (1.20 euros) to my Spanish buddy and I had myself 2 hours of him translating the world of Spanish apartment rentals into slightly broken but understandable English. And boom. I moved in the next day.

As if to let the fact that this was a miracle be more painfully and wonderfully evident, the landlord brought a 40 ounce beer over when I moved in and sat and spoke with me in Spanish. Although I didn’t understand much of it, I really appreciated it. I had just came out of what (in my shortsighted angst and frantic emailing) I thought was the end of the world, and now could just sit and relax with this 50 year old short Murcian who I barely understood but clearly cared about me enough to just hangout, even if we didn’t understand each other verbally. I literally had the time to just sit and listen to stuff I didn’t yet understand and was perfectly at peace with it.

Which brings us back to todays lesson: Annoying, but effective.

People are very opposed to rocking the boat. From what I assume is a deep fear of upsetting someone or entering into an awkward uncomfortable possibly confrontational exchange with anybody, the vast majority of people don’t like asking for help or saying someone did something wrong. And that feeling is ok. In fact it means you care about other people. You don’t want to inconvenience them. But letting that feeling govern you to the point that you’re making yourself miserable is not ok. At all.

If there is a problem in your life that someone has the ability to solve at minimal cost to them, you take it. The uncomfortable emails and all. Yes it will be awkward, and yes 1-or-so times out of 10 it won’t work out, but that 90% success rate has way more upside than letting yourself get walked on. You are not being rude by politely asking the powers at be to generate some paper work or sweat to help you. You are simply being pro-active about your problems.

I could have suffered through, and I probably would have been fine. But I didn’t have to. I just communicated. And yes, I made a few peoples lives a little more… “interesting”. And definitely generated some paperwork on at least 4 desks that come to mind; but I’ll take that over having a stove that looked like it used gas tanks from the NASA Challenger launch.

In closing, your prayers were and are appreciated. I’m loving the city. I’ve nailed down a routine. The jet lag is fading fast. I’m sweating more than I ever have in my life. And I’m having one of the most incredible adventures of my life.

Peace and Love

Alex

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