Haz el bien, y no mires a quién. -Spanish Proverb

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How to you spell inefficient? N-I-E!

So what does the NIE stand for anyway? I guess it’s Numero de Identidad de Extranjeros (Foreigner Identiy Number), but as I endlessly waited in line to apply for it in the street outside the office of the Policia Nacional, I thought of a few other things it could (and maybe should) stand for. How about:

Numbingly Inefficient Experience?

Nana-nana-booing of Innocent Expatriates?

Nit-picky Identification Endorsement?

Whatever you want to call it, it is a gigantic PITA, and not the kind you eat.

For those of you who do not know, applying for and obtaining the NIE is the most hated part of participating in the Auxiliares program. This is really saying something, as there a couple of complicated hoops to jump through before you even get to that point, namely:

1. Profex – the online application system for the program which is confusing, impersonal and astoundingly poorly designed.

2. Visa application process – Not only do you have to obtain an official background clearance from the FBI, you must send said clearance to the Secretary of State in Washington DC to obtain something called an Apostille of the Hague: a process just as horrible as its name sounds. Oh, and you have to present yourself in person at the nearest Consulate (Chicago in my case) to pick up your visa. Not a hassle at all.

If you successfully complete/avoid giving up for steps one and two, you get the privilege of moving on to step three: obtaining your NIE within a month of your arrival in Spain. This process is hands down the most-discussed topic on any of the Auxiliar Facebook group threads (followed by excursion and fiesta-planning, of course.) So, in case some day you have the honor of obtaining a Numero de Identidad de Extranjero en España, you will just need to follow these 10 easy (ha) steps:

1. Arrive at your local police station at approximately 6:30am any day Monday-Friday. Bring your passport, your work contract, your iPod, an umbrella, sunscreen, a jacket, a friend, and a lot of patience.

2. Prepare to be shuffled around from one line to another with the other 50+ people waiting in a seemingly entirely arbitrary manner which will definitely involve in you somehow ending up much further back than when you started.

3. Know that a police man will probably come up to you and angrily demand to see your papers, and when you ask what papers he is referring to, he will probably yell at you and ask if you brought anything at all. Evidently, he means your work contract.

4. Now just wait. Stand in the freezing cold or rain or heat or whatever pleasant weather conditions the day may bring for a couple more hours until the office actually opens. When the office opens, watch as the other lines are filed in and yours doesn’t budge. Consider getting out of line because you have to pee and your blood sugar is getting low.

5. Congratulations! Two hours later, a policeman cut the line off juuust behind you. You’re in! Now stand inside and wait more.

6. Your turn! Approach the open desk, present your passport, and receive a piece of paper saying that you get to do this all over again on the next business day, only with lots of copies and more important documents. You have an “appointment!” wOOt!

7. Head to the nearest bank to pay 15€ for the card. Why can’t this be done at the police station itself? No one knows.

8. Return to the Policia Nacional the next morning. Experience painful flashbacks from your recent “bad trip” on Spanish bureaucracy. Wait slightly less time today because you have an “appointment”, so you get to stand in a different arbitrary line much closer to the entrance. Score!

9. After standing outside for another hour or so, you’ll receive an official “wait ticket” with a number on it (fancy!) and you get to sit on a CHAIR once inside the office. Luxury!

There are only 11 people standing between you and FREEDOM!

10. Your number appears on the screen! Approach the open table and display originals and copies of every important personal document you own. Hope you remembered to bring three new passport photos too! If everything is approved, you’ll receive a small piece of paper with a number on it. This is your ticket to come back to this place, your new favorite hangout, in 30 days to pick up your NIE card!

So that was my NIE experience. I’ve heard worse (people working in Madrid, for example) and much less painful ones. The experience is definitely dependent upon where in Spain you’re working.

My fellow auxiliaries who are returning for a second year have told me that the renewal process is far worse than the original application. This makes absolutely no sense, but I don’t doubt that it’s true.

Most importantly, the pain is over for now. I have done what I can, and soon I will have another shiny card with my smiling face on it 🙂 🙂

I write to you tonight from my second home, the WiFi bar down the street from our apartment. We still don’t have WiFi at our apartment, and for reasons I can’t even begin to expound, it looks like we won’t for awhile. The bartenders here have become like a family to us, although I’m sure everyone will be happy when we no longer have to come here to leech off their Internets.

Tonight, however, we join our WiFi bar “family” in watching Bilbao’s beloved fútbol (soccer) team as they kick CULO against Navarra. Each time they score, the bartender blasts the Bilbao Athletic song, and everyone sings along. Adorable.

¡Aupa Athletic!



Back to Bilbao!

Shortly after I wrote my last blog post (over a YEAR ago!) a professor at UND told me about a Spanish government program that hires native English-speaking college graduates from a variety of backgrounds to teach in English classes in schools all over Spain. I remember thinking, “Yeah, I think I’ll do that.”

Nine months later, I was offered a spot in the North American Language and Culture Assistants program (NALCA) for the 2011-2012 school year. The placement came late and therefore unexpectedly, but when I received word that I had an opportunity to live and work not only in SPAIN but in a school just a few miles outside of my beloved former home of BILBAO, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. I’ll be working at a school in Amorebieta and living in downtown Bilbao.

Tomorrow morning, I’m flying to Chicago to pick up my approved visa from the office of the Consulate of Spain. Yes, you have to actually physically present yourself at the nearest consulate to pick up your visa. No one knows why. The visa process was horrendous and stressful, and it consumed much of my free time for the better part of the summer. The details of the process are hazy now as I’ve selectively extracted them from my memory due to the pain they caused, but I think this pretty much sums it up:

By this time tomorrow, I should have my Spanish visa in hand. Then it’s back to ND for a few more days to say my last goodbyes and throw my life into a suitcase.

For now, however, I’m off to Chicago.

¡Deséame suerte!