Cartas Españolas: Commuting and the Mini-Huelgas

After a long and particularly mentally draining couple of months, I left lovely Seattle to move to Spain and pursue a dream I've had ever since I was a kid: To learn another language. Funny thing about learning a new language and culture is that I have been messing up—a lot. But I think my mistakes and misadventures, like always, have yielded the most interesting learning experiences in this overseas adventure.

How interesting you ask? Interesting enough that I've decided to dedicate my blog to it over the next however long this chapter lasts. These posts will range in length, but will include anything that I've goofed on or found so damn strange that I simply had to share it with, well, someone. As always, thanks for tuning in. This should be fun.

It's my first few days in Spain, and the thought of leaving a whole life halfway across the world is really weighing on me. To avoid feeling totally adrift, and to put my feet somewhere near the ground, I had signed up for language classes in Madrid for a few weeks.

To get to class every morning, I take 653 bus, and then the yellow line subway to the green line (they have numbers, but colors seem to stick better) before walking Gran Via to my school. It's not a particularly out-of-the-ordinary commute, maybe 50 minutes total, but it's a commute, something I haven't experienced since I was driving myself to high school soccer practice. 

I thought it would be a total turnoff, but I have to be honest, it's kind of nice having a routine. Get up, eat, catch the bus, get this damn thing moving. There's definitely a rhythm to it all. Heck, I even get some reading and language practice in on the way.

But one thing that threw a huge wrench into the entire operation is something that none of us have likely ever experienced in the States, a partial, and seemingly entirely subjective, transit strike. Described to me as a mini huelga, or mini strike, this transit scrap is relatively common in southern Europe, but something that is so hard to wrap my head around. 

As in the U.S., this action was caused by a discrepancy between disgruntled transit workers and the government or powers that be. Unlike the U.S. these workers are only semi-disgruntled, and instead of shutting down the whole dang system like they would at home, they pick certain lines and certain times to shut down, namely the hours between rush hours.

For example, buses from a suburban line might not run from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., return to service from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then run only half of its buses from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. But that's just an example, as the hours seemed to vary each day, just enough so that this Guiri (the kind nickname they have given me, the foreigner, over here) could not figure out which strike he was participating in on any given day.

Somedays my bus never showed up, other days it came 15 minutes late, others right on time. If I tried to adjust my schedule accordingly, it almost always switched back on me, leaving me stranded upstream without a WiFi signal. 

Stranger still, it seemed like I was the only one inconvenienced by the whole thing. Apparently the mini huelga, like the siesta of years past, is a part of Iberian life that I will just have to get used to.