Driving in Spain, finding my way

How is it already the end of June? Tomorrow is the last day of my Spanish class! I’ve learned a lot, been on some fun trips, and met some new friends. But now it’s time to move on to the next thing. Now that I have more time, I am able to volunteer at a local animal facility. I’ve only been there for 2 days, but so far it has been a lot of fun and I am absorbing so much information. Of course, everything is in Spanish, so I’m learning reptile and amphibian husbandry in Spanish, which is amazing to me. Animals I’ve worked with previously include fish, sea turtles, sharks, and other aquarium species, hoofstock, and wolves. Now I am adding completely different species to that list, including snakes, frogs, tarantulas, newts, iguanas, and insects. When you are in the zookeeping field, it’s advantageous to have experience with a wide range of animals, as you never know in which department a zoo may be looking to hire for. Besides that, knowledge is power!

At first, taking the metro was going to be my chosen mode of transportation to get to and from this place. However, Diego quickly pointed out that taking the metro there would set me back at least an hour each way. After some convincing, he’s set me up to drive there with our shared car.

The first day, he drove me so that I could see how to get there and test how much time I needed for the trip. The second day, I drove myself–and it was terrifying. For one thing, there are a ton of signs here that we don’t have in the US. I have studied most of them so that I’m not completely clueless, but sometimes you only have 1 second to think about what it means before you’re already down the wrong road or doing the wrong thing. Also, for some reason they love to name streets, then put a sign with the street name on the side of a building so that it’s impossible to read if you’re trying to turn onto said street. So good luck finding a street by it’s name!

There’s a lot happening here

For those who don’t know, Europe in general has a love affair with roundabouts. I’ve had a little bit of experience with roundabouts in the US, but they were generally small and one lane. Here, there are SO MANY roundabouts. They are literally everywhere, and you cannot avoid them. Some are one lane, but the vast majority are 2 or more lanes. Some are up to 5 or 6 lanes, and give me anxiety because I feel like I’m about to enter a washing machine of cars. These roundabouts also have traffic lights in them, which adds to the “fun”. Sometimes when you enter a roundabout, it’s difficult to get out because you’re trying to get over 5 lanes of traffic while driving in a circle and having to stop at the lights (and watch out for swerving mopeds and insane taxi drivers). Doesn’t this sound great?!

A roundabout in Madrid that gives me anxiety–it’s not even a circle!!
Why, just why?!

Another challenge driving here is the tunnels. Yesterday, as I was driving to class after volunteering, I went into a tunnel on the M-30 and my GPS lost signal. The crazy thing about that tunnel though is that it is very long. You can be driving for many miles in this tunnel, and yes there are exits, but I had no idea which one to take. So eventually I just chose one, got the GPS signal back, then re-entered the tunnel knowing where to exit.

This tunnel goes for miles and miles…

Last but not least, something we do not have in the US (that I know of): automatic radar devices on the highway. Here, you’ll see a warning sign reminding you of the speed limit, and telling you that shortly there will be a radar to measure your speed, and if you’re speeding, it will take a photo and send you the ticket by mail. It’s like the red light cameras we have, except for speed. It’s a really smart idea because it eliminates the need for police to sit on the edge of the freeway with a radar gun. At the same time, it’s a bit nerve wracking because you better be going the speed limit or less or else you can expect to get a ticket in the mail.

No one is escaping this!

Despite all of these things, I made it safely driving all by myself yesterday, and for that I am proud. With each day that passes, I feel a little more like I am assimilating into society here. I also have to share that back in March, I bought a novel in Spanish but quickly got frustrated with it because I had to look up so many words (which isn’t really a fun way to read). Now I am reading that book without a problem, so I feel like that is some type of measure for how much I’ve learned.

I want your feedback! If you have an idea for a post, or something you’d like to hear about, let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading 🙂

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