Zamora

Teaching English in Spain’s Bilingual Schools—My Experience

[Warning: this is a pictureless post.]

Bilingual education sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Madrid certainly seems to think so—the program, which began with 26 primary schools in 2004, included 379 primary and secondary schools during the 2012–2013 school year. Next year, there will be even more: 403 (313 primary schools and 90 high schools). (Source)

I worked this past year in a “bilingual” primary school.

But what is a bilingual school anyway?

(more…)

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1 Year Later

Right about this time last year—July 7, 2012—Mario and I were married in a small church called San Cipriano in his hometown of Zamora. It was a small, lovely ceremony filled with the people we love most (the Spain ones, anyway), as well as my parents, my brother Seth, and sister-in-law Colleen. It was one of the best days of my life, and I’ll never forget the joy I felt all day long.

Si Quiero

Happy anniversary, mi amor! Te quiero!

Want to read more? Check out some other entries about our wedding:

Why Are You in Spain?

Ah, the question. The question. I ask it a lot of others; they in turn ask it of me. I love and hate this question, because I love knowing other people’s stories, but I have no idea how to answer it without starting off on some ten-minute-long storytelling session, leaving my questioner with his/her mouth agape and mind reeling by it all.

So, let me just ask you, readers:

Why are you here?

Now that I’ve asked that, I can tell you why I’m here. As it says on my about page, I came to learn Spanish. I stayed for a boy. Mainly.

Would it shock you to know I kinda sorta hated study abroad? I was old enough not to get homesick, but I still did. I did not like living in a teeny-tiny room in an old nunnery with walls so thin you could hear your roommate typing late at night. I didn’t like having to wash my clothes in the shower because the laundry room charged upwards of $10 a load. (This was back when the one euro equaled something like $1.50.) I didn’t like feeling as if it were impossible to make friends except for drinking buddies and intercambios who weren’t really interested in hanging out with me after hours. I didn’t like seeing my bank account drain slowly down to almost nothing.

But I did like learning Spanish. I did like that, and so I dove in headfirst, as much as I could. I got another intercambio because one just wasn’t enough. I spoke to all the waiters in Spanish, even if they insisted on speaking to me in English (the bastards). I studied vigorously, even when all of my classmates were basically taking a semester off. I traveled as much as my budget would allow. I learned to love red wine, olives, and tortilla de patata.

But there was so much I didn’t know at the end of my stay! I didn’t know how to tapear, I hadn’t mastered the subjunctive, I had never had a real Spanish friend that I could text and ask to hang out with. This bothered me. I went back for my senior year unsure of the future and what would happen after May 2009.

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As senior year wore on, I had a decision to make—find a job or go back to Spain? I chose Spain, specifically Salamanca. I was excited to experience a new side of Spain, to live in my own apartment, and meet Spaniards. Oh yeah, and improve my Spanish.

I got back to Spain in September 2009, a year and three months after I’d left Toledo. A few days later, I met Mario. He came to the door of the place I was interning, and I was unintentionally rude to his friend and him, but he still went out to dinner with us. The next day, I pretty much asked him out, and the rest was history. My mother waited patiently by the computer to hear updates about this guy I talked about all the time, even though she’d warned me not to fall in love with any Spaniard (only because that could keep me far away from her). Oops! I was head over heels after a few weeks. After a month, I met the family. After three, I was ready to stay indefinitely, if it meant we could be together.

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Staying in Spain is not an easy task for many reasons. There’s bureaucracy. There’s homesickness. There’s cultural differences that drive me crazy at times. There’s times when I get so sick of Spanish, of struggling to find the word that I just want to scream, pack my suitcase, and get on the next plane to Chicago. Get me outta here! Mario knows this more than anyone. Luckily, although he wouldn’t feel the same way, he sympathizes as best he can.

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There are some expats that love Spain much more than I do (although, don’t get me wrong, I do love it), and they’d stay forever if it were up to them, boyfriend / girlfriend / husband / wife / lover or not. I wouldn’t, though. If not for this husband of mine, I’d be in the States, where my family is, where my friends are, where my history is. Living in another country wears on me, and I’d love to be able to just hop in my car and drive to my parents’, but right now it’s just not possible.

Right now we’re here; right now this is our home. It may not be for forever. That’s okay. When I married a Spaniard, I gave up that right to certainty about where home is. Home is here. Home is there. Home is Zamora, it’s Crawfordsville, it’s Bloomington, it’s Salamanca. It’s Spain and it’s the US. That’s why I’m here.

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What about you?

Marrying a Spaniard in 7 Easy Steps

Disclaimer: The word “easy” in the title of this post—take it with a grain of salt. A large grain of salt.

Wedding in Spain

Last year (July 7, 2012, to be exact), I got married in Spain. I got married in Spain to a Spaniard. We celebrated our wedding in a Romanesque church with origins in the eleventh century, the beautiful San Cipriano of Zamora.

San Cipriano

Source: Turismo de Zamora

Trying to get married in another culture, with all its requisite paperwork and bureaucracy, makes you realize that planning the actual wedding and reception is a lot easier than trying to get the Spanish government to recognize the legality of your upcoming marriage vows. And so I get emails from readers who are in the same situation as I used to be: they’re dating Spaniards; they want to marry them … but how? How indeed.

So You’re Dating a Spaniard … and now you want to say I do / Sí, quiero in the church.

I Do

To get married in the church, you have to do all the things for the civil ceremony and a few additional ones for the religious part. I’m going to talk about the Catholic church, because … well, that’s my experience and it’s the most common in Spain. A helpful website for both civil and religious ceremonies can be found here. Also, remember that every region in Spain is different, so be sure to ask your local authorities about any special requirements they may have.

1. Get a copy of your birth certificate.

This is first and foremost. But, ojo, it can’t be a vintage birth certificate. It has to have been issued within the past six months, I believe. Silly? Perhaps, but you don’t want to play with their rules.

For Indiana, my home state (go Hoosiers!), I went through Vital Records and ordered two copies because I’m slightly neurotic. Your state is going to be different. They say it takes 46 weeks, but I got it sooner than that. It cost me $10 for the first copy plus a $1.85 identifty-verification fee (and $4 for the additional copy). The “problem” was the shipping. I wasn’t sure whether to insure it or not; in the end, I did. That ended up costing me about $17.

Next you have to get that sucker apostilled. An apostille is an international certification and is comparable to notarization on an international scale. The process for getting an apostille on a document varies from state to state. In Indiana, there’s no fee for the apostille service. I sent in my birth certificate along with the following to the Indiana Secretary of State’s office:

  • an original signature
  • a cover letter with the name of the country (Spain), my phone number, and information as to where the documents had to be sent afterward
  • a postage-paid envelope for them to send it back to me

I hope you are okay with spending some money. Bureaucracy requires paperwork, and paperwork requires money. Yours.

2. Proof of freedom to marry.

So, this document doesn’t exist in the U.S. I know, I know. Whaaaat? How can I be expected to produce a document that doesn’t exist? This will happen in Spain (see: getting your degree recognize by the Spanish government), and you will just have to suck it up and find your way over it, around it, or through it. One of those methods has to work.

In the civil court, you can accomplish by swearing before an American consul. In my case, I did so by swearing in front of my pastor and having him sign a document I found on the Internet. I signed it, and so did he. He stamped it … you know, to make things official-ish and all. Boom, done!

Note: apparently in Madrid, this is different, and the statement has to be made by the parents. What’s with that, Madrid?

3. Baptismal certificate.

We Protestants can be strange. I didn’t get baptized as a baby, because in my denomination this is frowned upon. Instead, I got baptized in my church as an eight year-old. I asked my mom one night before bed, and that was when I got dunked in a lukewarm bathtub in front of 200 blurry strangers. (My vision leaves much to be desired.)

Baptismal Certificate

My baptismal certificate was more like this one … not so official looking

But here in Spain, Catholics like to get all strict about baptismal certificates, and the one I got in Sunday School class wasn’t exactly cutting it. Nevertheless, we somehow convinced the 80-year-old bishop that it was indeed legitimate, and off we were.

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4. Certificate of consular inscription.

This isn’t hard to do. I just made an appointment with the American embassy in Madrid. I did have to wait a bit, but the process was simple. There is a small fee for the service.

Traductor Jurado

My official translator has two other degrees as well

5. Translate your documents.

Luckily for me, I’ve got a translator for life in Mario. You will need to have your birth certificate, the apostille, baptismal certificate, consular inscription, and proof of freedom to marry translated into Spanish. This must be a legal translation, so you can’t just do it yourself.

6. Application forms.

There are various application forms involved in this process. We filled these out and had them filled out for us. We had to visit the bishopric of Zamora as well as Mario’s dioceses to speak with the bishop and priest of Mario’s district. You could tell that this was a very rare occasion for them, as the paperwork often required us to explain the situation two or three different times in the same meeting.

7. Posting of Banns.

You’re probably asking yourself right now what in the world Banns are. I had the same question. Basically, in Spain, people are required to go through a process called “posting of banns” for a civil ceremony. This is a public declaration of intent to marry. It’s possible that your nearest embassy/consulate can provide a letter saying that this is not required in the U.S. In our case, our names and wedding date were posted outside the door of Mario’s church for weeks before our wedding. You know, just in case someone had an objection to the marriage.

What happens now?

Well, now you’ll be wanting your residency, right?

Libro de Familia

The libro de familia.

The libro de familia (literally family book), or Spain’s marriage certificate, can be obtained from the civil registry after the wedding takes place.

Get empadronado/a.

Because Mario and I had not yet moved to Madrid, I got empadronada (registered with the census) in Zamora, where we got married. I didn’t do this until after the marriage, but it’s important in order to get your NIE (foreign citizens identification number). Getting registered in Zamora is about 100x easier than in Madrid. That’s why I always advise people to get married in your future spouse’s hometown, if he/she is not from Madrid.

Apply for your NIE.

You can check out the process here. In this case, you are not a student, so you won’t be applying for the same type of NIE as you would have if you were in Spain as a Conversation and Language Assistant or on study abroad. I did this process in Zamora, and like I said earlier, it took much less time than it would have had I done it in Madrid, where foreigners abound and you have to reserve appointments months in advance.

What did I miss? Have you gotten married in Spain or another country? Do you plan to?