While we looked for a more permanent-type piso, Yolanda, our Airbnb host, allowed us to extend our stay day-by-day, lowered the price, gave us a bottle of wine (a drinkable wine, she assured us, when we said we didn’t really know how to like wine), didn’t charge for our last two nights, gave us sheets, towels and a Vitoria-Gasteiz apron, and drove us and all our bags to our new home when the time came.
The owner of our apartment, Marta, was entirely unconcerned when we didn’t bring enough for the deposit because we had reached ATM withdrawal limits for the day. Tranquila, she said, I’ll get it from you another time.
Marta saved us the pain of muddling through government websites by writing out what number to call to make registration appointments at the town hall, exactly what to say over the phone to make sure we made the correct kind of appointment, what documents to bring, which building to go to and how to get there.
She also annotated our lease in everyday Spanish to help clarify the long-winded legal language required for such documents.
Amin down at the print shop, who speaks English and Spanish to us, French to others, and Arabic to others, told us if we needed help with anything to let him know. We live on the same street, we found out.
It takes a while to get internet connected in Spain, especially when you want it to happen quickly so that you can watch your stories and do your work. So we bravely tromped upstairs to ask our neighbors if we could pay them to use their wifi in the interim and they responded so kindly and enthusiastically, and refused payment of any kind. Todos somos extranjeros, Youseff said.
Later, Youssef brought us a tray of Moroccan treats (he and his family come from Marrakesh), and every time we bump into him leaving or going into the building he asks how we’re settling in and how everything is going.
My colleagues have made me feel welcome in every respect. Some examples: Ana often treats me to coffee from the machine in the teachers lounge and even brought me a mug so I don’t have to carry mine back and forth. She speaks to me in Spanish when I want to practice Spanish, and English when I want a little break. In one class, Paco’s students told me about traditional Christmas sweets and the next day he brought me a turrón to give it a try.
Josh tutors a high schooler twice a week. When we met with her mom to receive his payment, she paid him extra (with the money tucked into a Christmas card), and said that, once travel restrictions are lifted, she’ll be happy to drive us on a sight-seeing tour of Álava.
One day in the BM supermercado a woman overheard our unmistakably American English chatter, and approached us to explain she’s from Texas and is married to a Spaniard, and to give us her number just in case we need anything.
Javi, the groundskeeper at Josh’s school, gives Josh and the principal, Arantza, a ride back to Vitoria-Gasteiz at the end of the school day. Every day, Javi puts on an English CD and they proceed through the lesson in turns: first Javi repeats the English, then teaches Josh the Spanish equivalent, then Arantza gives the English a go, and so on for the twenty-minute ride.