Author Archives: Amit K.

My beefs with the Spanish police, and on racism in España

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For the most part, I’ve found myself pretty happy with the police forces around Madrid. In general, they don’t seem too bothersome, and they let you just go about your day. But I have had a few incidents with the policía that seem to merit mentioning, just because they seem a bit absurd.

A few weeks ago, my parents came to Madrid to visit me. I was super excited for them to visit, because I would finally be able to show them just why I love Europe so much. My parents arrived on a Thursday morning in Madrid, and we had booked a train to Barcelona Friday morning; so we decided that I should just stay in their hotel with them Thursday night so that we could stay together and not have any problems in the morning. We did it all by-the-book, paying for 3 people in the hotel and checking in with my Spanish ID card and all.

So Friday morning, we’re all sleeping comfortably in our hotel room. All of a sudden at 8:30 a.m., there’s this loud, incessant knocking at our door. I open the door to find two Spanish police officers there; I think it’s some problem with the booking. Everything from here on out happens in Spanish.

They say to me, “Are you Amit Kumar?”. I say, yes, I am. They ask me, ¿Tú tienes un aviso para detenerte? // Do you have a warrant out for your arrest?”. I say, of course, no. He says, “This here says you have a warrant out for your arrest.” He shows me literally a piece of normal computer paper with nothing but my first and last names scribbled, handwritten, on it.

They tell me I need to give them […]

A championship, a king’s abdication, and a welcome thank you

2014-05-25 21.39.53 ¡La Décima! Although I am a strong supporter for Atléti Madrid, it was definitely cool to witness a Madrid-Madrid Champions final. Because of the skill of every player on every team eligible, many people consider the Champions League crown the most important in the world, even more important than the World Cup (¡Aupa Atleti, todavía!).

King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicated his throne to his son two weeks ago. It's been an incredible experience to live in a modern monarchy, even more so to witness the abdication. King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicated his throne to his son two weeks ago. It’s been an incredible experience to live in a modern monarchy, even more so to witness the abdication.

These pictures are from Puerta del Sol on abdication day. They show a massive presentation by supporters of the Republic, who want to abolish the Spanish monarchy entirely. These pictures are from Puerta del Sol on abdication day. They show a massive presentation by supporters of the Republic, who want to abolish the Spanish monarchy entirely.

In grade 4, I've been helping the students prepare an incredibly important end--of-year exam (think PACT x100) since October. Remarkably, we achieved a 100% pass rate, which is unheard of. The next day, the kids really surprised me with an outpouring of thanks for my work over the course of the year. Warmed my heart In grade 4, I’ve been helping the students prepare an incredibly important end–of-year exam (think PACT x100) since October. Remarkably, we achieved a 100% pass rate, which is unheard of. The next day, the kids really surprised me with an outpouring of thanks for my work over the course of the year. Absolutely warmed my heart.

NEWS: Mass protests rise in Spanish capital again

2014-03-27 21.15.25

Spaniards crowded the streets in the Madrid center again last week in a fresh wave of protests against austerity measures set to soon hit the country.

Hundreds of protestors on bicycles filled La Gran Vía, a a major thoroughfare and the most famous street in Madrid, while chanting protest slogans against government cuts and the general malaise that has taken hold of the nation. Police were prepared, though, and had cordoned off the street in advance and had set up barricades with dozens of officers around the demonstrators.

The protest became violent at times. Fireworks or cherry bombs could be heard exploding a few blocks from Gran Vía, and there were a few scuffles between protestors and police. At one point a man burned a hole into the center of a Spanish flag as police officers watched tensely just a foot away.

The Thursday night protest followed a week of renewed demonstrations against Spain’s unemployment rate, the Spanish government, and drastic federal cuts in social welfare. The previous weekend, protestors organized a massive huelga general  (“general strike”), which they dubbed the “Dignity Marches.” While organizers of the protest said almost two million people participated in Saturday’s protest in Madrid, city government officials said the true number was closer to 36,000.

Protestors included workers for Coca-Cola, which […Pictures & more info from protest inside…]

6 things to know about the Auxiliares de Conversación program in Spain

1. This is your ticket to living legally in Spain.

For anybody who’s ever studied abroad in Spain, or Europe, or anywhere — or for anybody who just really enjoys traveling and living in foreign countries — this is a great way to get a visa and a legal job in the EU. Those Schengen visas are notoriously hard to come by, but the requirements for this program are pretty basic. Essentially, all you need is to be a native English speaker; have finished at least the third year of your undergrad; not have something horrible on your background check; and you’re good to go.

Ahh, the beautiful Spanish lifestyle Ahh, the beautiful Spanish lifestyle

Another convenient thing about the Auxiliares program is that it’s directly through the Spanish government. You work for the government, so there’s no chance that you’ll have a problem with your work/student visa being denied. Plus, you don’t need to pay any fees to a third-party company, as is an option with study abroad or other volunteer abroad programs, to become an Auxiliar. The only fees you encounter for the program are the ones you need to get your visa.

2. This is not study abroad.

I studied abroad twice in college, so when I was looking forward to my year in Spain, I thought I’d have no problem moving to a new country on my own. But this is so different from study abroad, because it’s for such a long period of time. Most students who study abroad do so for a semester or a summer, but I will be in Spain for 10 months without going back to the States. You miss family. You miss friends. You miss loved ones. You realize that you are moving to a foreign country where you know literally nobody, and unlike study abroad there isn’t a program in place for you to instantly make 50 new friends who are in the same situation as you. It can be lonely, no lie.

In the same vein, because you work directly through the government and there’s no program behind you, you don’t have much help with things in general. Auxiliares have no assistance with […]

7 Things I’m Looking Forward to in Spain in 2014

As 2014 approaches, I realize that I’ve now spent 3 and a half months exactly living in Madrid, adjusting to the expat lifestyle and a whole world of newness. The Madrid natives say these winter months are hands down the roughest to get through in Madrid, but there’s plenty to look forward to in the coming months, spring, and summer! As I have just about 7 months left in my Madrid teaching position, I thought it’d be appropriate to list 7 of the things I’m most looking forward to in 2014.

1.  Barcelona

One of the many street performers in Parc Güell One of the many street performers in Parc Güell.

Ahh, Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya, the home of one of the greatest fútbol teams in the world, and one of the cities in Spain where you’ll have the hardest time trying to speak Spanish. There’s so much to do in Barça, I doubt the city could be covered thoroughly even if you devoted a whole week strictly to sightseeing. Parc Güell, La Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi houses, Las Ramblas, the beaches, the random pieces of modern art that pop up all over the city, the view from on top of Barça, the craziest bars you can imagine and discos right on the waterfront — the list goes on and on. Barcelona is definitely one of my very favorite cities I’ve visited, and I couldn’t be more excited to visit it again in January with some good amigos.

2. Semana Santa

“Holy Week” in Spanish, Semana Santa is the entire week just before Easter. If you want Spanish culture, this is the time to come see it. This unsurprisingly is also the worst time of the year if you dislike hordes of tourists infiltrating the cities, especially in Southern Spain, but that didn’t stop me from seeing some of the coolest bits of culture I’d seen my last time abroad.

A glimpse of a Semana Santa procession in Sevilla, 2011 A glimpse of a Semana Santa procession in Sevilla, 2011

You’ve got religous processions, floats featuring items such as a Jesus Christ made of pure gold and worth millions of euros, and the greatest passions and pride Spaniards will display. It’s something that can’t be accurately described, but must be experienced. I’m especially stoked because my brother will be taking time off from work to visit me and travel through Spain during Semana Santa this year!

3. Ibiza

Alrite, I’d be amiss if I didn’t admit that going to Ibiza was one of the first things that came to my mind after learning that I’d be spending a year in Madrid. IT IS HANDS DOWN THE PARTY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. What more needs to be said? I’m looking forward to Spanish beaches, […]

There is trash everywhere in Madrid

We are now in week two of the Limpieza strike in Madrid, by the city’s cleaners and gardeners. And I have to say, this is the first protest of the many I’ve seen since getting here that seems to actually be making an impact.

What the “strike” means is that cleaning services are operating at the very minimun possible — if I had to guess, maybe trash and recyclables are being picked up once every day or every other day. As a result, all the streets and trash cans are simply filled with garbage. In the plaza outside my piso, it’s difficult to even walk around because of the mountain of trash. It’s insane, and it makes Madrid look more like Delhi than a grand European capital.

WIth the education strike, it was a grand demonstration, but things went right back to normal the next day. The Cercanías strike is really not much more than a minor inconvenince. But this one, this strike by the cleaners, is something you see every minute of every day all around you. One-sixth of the workforce laid off, 40% cut in wages for those lucky enough to keep their job; I can’t say that I blame them.

Madrileños say this cleaners’ strike is unlike anything they’ve seen in Madrid in years, even decades. And as of right now, there’s really no end in sight.

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Must-read: NYT piece on youth unemployment in Europe

An excellent story in the New York Times last week, on one specfic aspect of Europe’s economic crisis. I already knew that youth unemployment in Spain hovered around 57%, but I was unaware of how widespread that trend was in Europe. These are thousands and thousands of educated, smart Europeans with bachelor’s and even secondary degrees, and they are struggling and fighting to work in supermarkets and stockrooms.

Definitely worth a minute of  your time.