Monday, June 29, 2015

Buscando un piso: The Search for an Apartment

I've moved into a new apartment, closer to the city center where the action is. Well, new is not the word to describe it. It's quite old, like almost all apartments in Spain. It's also on the second floor, and the amount of heat it retains is quite a difference from the other bottom-floor apartment I was in. This new place has air conditioning, but it dries out my throat and uses up a lot of energy - hence, a lot of money. Until I'm able to buy a couple of fans, I've been cuddling up to my boyfriend, Mr. Cold Gel Pack, as I sweat myself to sleep.

Renting an apartment in Spain is a whole other ballgame compared to in your home country. The biggest barrier: language. I often relied on friends to call landlords and find out information. I can do it myself, but it's difficult via the phone. I also wanted to avoid using inmobiliarias (rental agencies), so nailing down appointments to view flats was a game in itself.

How's the new place?

It's a small space, with three bedrooms but really only room for 2 people. The kitchen, which has no oven (this happens sometimes in Spain), is tiny so only one person can fit. So far, every morning I have been woken up at 7 a.m. by shouting neighbors, renovation noise from upstairs, or the heat. I paid a fortune today for industrial-strength earplugs.

So why am I happy with the new place? Besides its great location near the center, I detect a good vibe being here. It's a place where I can put down roots. I know how long I'm staying, and I've already lived in Jaén for year, so I don't have that discombobulated feeling from having to move from one city to another. It's nice to be able to plan decorations.

Plus my new roommate performed an energy cleansing ritual, in order to dispel the negative energy of the previous tenant. It allows us to start fresh. I don't normally perform such things, but I do believe in the healing effects they can have. I felt refreshed after the ritual. The place feels like it has good energy, and that sensation has transferred to me as well. Home sweet home.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"I'm Melting!": Dealing with Andalucía's Heat

In the comfort of cool, low-temperature Canada, I'd see stories on the news about people who literally died from heat in Europe. My eyes widened at reports of temperatures reaching above 40 degrees. "My god," I thought, "how do people live like that?"

Cut to present-day Jaén, where daily temperatures of 35 degrees or more (I've seen 41) force me to work at home in booty shorts and slinky tank tops. Streets are abandoned by 3 p.m. as people hide from the sweltering sun, reinforcing the image of Jaén as “a big pueblo”. My obese cat has both a layer of fat AND a fur coat, forcing him to lay passed out on the cold tile floor. He is so sprawled out and still that I softly call to him, worried that the heat and his high cholesterol level have finally done him in in his old age. “Hey???” I whisper. He barely lifts an eyelid to look at me in a way that says, “F*** you for moving me to the hottest country you could think of.”

You would think there's a respite when the sun sets, but not here. This city is surrounded by sloping mountains that reflect and trap heat. So when you step out at 10 p.m., it's still hot, although it's dark. The temperature has barely dropped when you stumble home at 3 a.m., too.
This is a real photo of someone in Jaén. I swear.
I do what I can to survive, for example by walking slowly, and fighting other Jiennenses for the shady part of the sidewalk. I also don't let myself feel guilty for visiting the ice cream shop almost every day. It's honestly the only way to enjoy walking from one barrio to another. And of course, in honour of celebrating our war on the heat, my friends and I gather at night and toast with a cool, refreshing drink on the terrace.