I suspect we take paper for granted most of the time but since I have been here in Spain I am rediscovering what a wonderful commodity it is and what an important role it plays in our lives.
Thursday saw me return to Seville again in the hope of securing my identity card. This week it was much colder and there were about 25 people ahead of me in the queue and no friendly American to chat to. I spent the time jiggling from one foot to the other as I tried to keep myself warm for 45 minutes waiting for the sun to come up and the doors to open.
The tall thin chap from last week, who I’ve now named Scruffy, was at the desk all rugged up with a bright yellow scarf round his neck and a sweatshirt that had seen better days. I did notice he’d managed to have a hair cut since last week. Very pleasantly he gave me a number and shooed me into an enormous waiting room complete with toilets. It was a different one to last week with only a couple of people in front of me and desks with loads of staff so I thought it boded well for fast processing or maybe the fact that there were loos there meant things were going to take a lot longer!
My number flashed onto the board so I approached the nearest desk where I was told to go into the next room. I found myself back where I started last week faced with the same woman who’d told me I needed more paperwork. A glance at my papers and she still didn’t seem happy, told me to wait and left the room to consult with Scruffy, who seemingly must be fairly senior. Sour Puss returned, and without a word to me, bashed something into her computer, loaded paper into a printer and then looked up, smiled and handed me the precious identity card. I beamed at her and skipped out the door!
I made a quick dash to find the International Bookshop which my American friend told me about last week. Pushing open the door I inhaled deeply, allowing the smell of new books to permeate my senses as I walked through the store in search of the English section. The selection wasn’t huge but for someone starved it was like manna from heaven! I delighted in browsing through the shelves and came away with 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction, The Goldfinch, which is a lovely thick 864 page book.
At the bus station I grab my English newspaper which is providing not only news for me but is proving to be a source of great interest for several students who have never seen an English paper before.
Paper is definitely a most valuable commodity (not only in the form of my precious ID card), but because the sight, feel and smell evoke our senses stimulating our brains into absorbing, scribbling down our thoughts or simply escaping into the depths of a great read.
A national ID card is mandatory in Spain and I’ve got 3 months to get one. The only problem is I can’t get one locally so need to go to Seville which is easier said than done since I work the hours that the office is open. I’ve also heard many stories, and already had my own share of experiences, about how hard it can be to get paperwork processed in Spain so decided the sooner I go the better. Last Thursday I had no classes till 4pm so here was my chance!
It was still pitch black outside when I crawled out of bed at 6 am. Into the shower, a quick coffee and yoghurt, last moment check that I had all my originals of every document I received in Spain to date plus photocopies and I was ready. At 7 am I was standing on my street corner waiting for Ana (one of my students) who works in Seville and was giving me lift as the bus doesn’t start running early enough.
We pull up at the most impressive Plaza Espana just as the sun is coming up, I wave goodbye to Ana and find my way to the office which doesn’t open till 9 am but already a small queue is forming. I am number 4 but less than a minute later another 30 people turn up. We patiently stand in what has a vague resemblance to a line. I get chatting to the American chap in front of me, who tells me it’s his second trip here this week and he’s got a massive folder of documents but he’s an engineer so his case is more complicated than that of a Professora Inglese.
It’s finally 9 am and the massive wooden doors creak open to reveal two, gun toting policemen who step out and shout at us all in Spanish. I vaguely understand that we need to divide into two lines depending on what we need. The line starts to separate into two but I am not sure which one I need to be in and by this time there are about 150 people. Lucky for me my new-found American friend tells me where to stand. The officers come back out and shout again telling us that unless our lines are straight we are not going anywhere. Everyone suddenly straightens up and there is order – amazing!
The officers seem to have a personality chance because now they are beaming at us and tell a few of us to go inside. Luckily I’m still number 4 so I’m straight in. I now have to pass through the security point and then there are 2 more lines. When I am called to the desk the lady only speaks Spanish so I somehow tell her what I want and she points me the next desk where a man shoves a form and a number in my hand before telling me to go next door.
I sit down and look at my form which is all in Spanish. Bloody hell, I wonder if I can fill it in all by myself. Yep, I can manage most of it. My number is called and I step forward to the next desk, handover my paperwork along with the dratted form and smile hopefully. It must be okay because next thing the chap bashes away at the computer, asks me a few question that I respond to in tentative Spanish, and then prints off a piece of paper, stamps it whilst simultaneously yelling for a colleague to come see la Senora (me). I guess he’s worked out I am not exactly capable of understanding what is about to come next.
A tall fellow with a tatty T-shirt and hair that looks like it could do with a cut saunters over, smiles at me and says in English “now you go to the bank, any bank and pay” as he hands me the piece of paper. I look perplexed and he explains further “then you come back here and we give you the card.” Ah ha! The light bulb goes on in my head. I quickly ask if I have to get back in the queue as I have visions of myself being there till nightfall. No, he explains as long as I still have my number I can just walk in. Thank goodness for small mercies!
I walk outside into the sunlight and look carefully at the paperwork. It’s only E10.50 that I have to pay but clearly they have never considered an onsite cashier or EFTPOS, much easier to make us all find a bank. I stop two women walking past to ask where the nearest bank is and then head towards it and meet my American friend along the way. Together we find the bank, pay our money and walk back wishing each other success as we part company.
There has been a staff change by this time and the women currently on duty insists I need yet another piece of paper. I have no idea what she means but she prints out an official letter in duplicate, makes me sign a copy (I have no idea what I signed!) and tells me I have to come back in 10 days. I smile nicely, take my copy and head for a coffee shop.
Seems like everything here needs at least two trips and depending on which officer you see depends on what you might need to produce which is why everyone goes to appointments armed with the kitchen sink!
Back in Ecija I show the letter to Anne (my boss) who translates that they are insisting on a copy of some information that is already in their system but that this is Spain so we have to do as asked and I’ve got 10 days to produce it. Anne organised a copy of the required paper and guess where I am going this Thursday? Yep, back to Seville!
Ah well, it’s all a new life experience and I am still enjoying myself whilst appreciating how lucky we are to have EFTPOS at official offices!