Oh, the joy of intercontinental relocation.
Today I visited my work place, the European Software Institute, for the first time. It is located in the Zamudio Technology Park, a large garden-like campus that hosts a variery of technological companies and research centres. Zamudio itself is a very small village, with an old church, a pharmacy, a few bars and a video rental shop. The essentials, so to speak. I met my boss and was introduced to a few people, whose names and faces I have already forgotten. I will start tomorrow again.
The weather is amazing. Since we arrived, the average temperature during the day is 5 degrees Celsius, and it rains non-stop. I had almost forgotten the crisp touch of the cold in my face and the soothing sound of rain throughout my whole day and night. As I type this in the middle of rural Basque Country, rain rolls down my window, its intensity sometimes growing and sometimes almost disappearing.
We are staying at Ibarrondo Etxea, a rural house, some sort of farm stay in the countryside barely 12 km away from Bilbao, a sizable city in the north of Spain, and 9 km away from Zamudio, where I work. The house is large, solid and with all the fancy stuff such as wireless Internet and an ISO 9001 certification. The house is managed by a very nice lady, whose also nice husband grows flowers in the greenhouses at the back. There is two dogs and a large kitchen/dining room for our exclusive use.
Last Thursday, just after arriving in Bilbao and after the “ostia” incident, we realised that all our Spanish bank cards had expired. Fortunately, the Australian cards work fine and we made do. How could people cope decades ago with no computers and communication infrastructures in their banks? Ohmygod.
The house is great but not suitable for permanent living. We are trying to find a house to rent. Houses are expensive here, over 1,500 euro/month for rent and over 500,000 euro to buy. Apartments are also expensive, over 600 euro/month to rent and over 300,000 euro to buy. Most of them are large, well built and quite nice, but expensive. Well, expensive for Spanish standards, at least. Our best candidate at the moment is an apartment in Zamudio that rents for 650 euro/month. It has 4 bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, garage, central heating and double-glazed windows, and is only 3 years old.
We have also bought a car, a red Renault Megane. At 15,500 euro, is good value for money in my view. It also has a great rear, even better than JLo’s, and all the techy gadgets that I need to be happy.
Isabel is starting to learn Basque already. She is reading some bilingual leaflets and comparing the Basque and Spanish versions of the same text, and she is detecting some patterns and creating her own version of a very rudimentary Basque grammar. She is so intelligent that sometimes I feel embarrassed. I need to say at this point, for those who are not aware, that Basque is a language isolate, i.e. a language with no other known related languages. It is as different from Spanish as, perhaps, Japanese to English, although it shares with Spanish the same alphabet. At least we can read it!
Bilbao is a very nice city. It has many stately houses and nice avenues. It is not too large, and its 350,000 inhabitants seem to live within a quite manageable area. There is good train, streetcars and buses. There are many little cafes, very chic, with their macchiati and donuts and ham rolls and “lubina a la bilbaina”, and all those nice things that feel soooo well when it is raining and cold outside. The Guggenheim museum sits on the bank of the river looking like a spreadeagled pressure cooker. Puppy the puppy is there too, a large dog made of living plants. Sometimes flowers sprout off its face.