Well this week as I was going to work I was reflecting on how transportation is so much different here for us in western Europe. What do I mean? Well having come from living in the San Francisco Bay area for many years, I have become accustomed to using a car and driving to get to most places. Like many Americans we usually take for granted having a car and maybe we even use it to get one or two items at the grocery store when it is literally one block away. While its true that certain cities in the United States utilize public transportation more like San Francisco and New York we never got to experience that to that degree personally. Back home I had a commute of 45 minutes by car to work as well as to the Kingdom hall one way. Many of our service meetings were similar distances or further. But this was what we considered normal and we tried to make the best use of our time. We knew that before coming to Europe that people here use public transportation much more in their daily lives or walk for many things. But it wasn’t until coming here that we realized to what extent this is true. When I speak about public transportation here in Europe (specifically in Spain) I’m referring to the metro, train, tram and bus. There are also other options available here in the Basque Country such as city bike rentals which are very reasonable and quite prevalent throughout the city.
The last time that either Kanicia or myself drove here in Spain was about four months ago in Murcia. So it has literally been months since we’ve driven a car and to tell you the truth we don’t really miss it. It’s not exactly comparing apples to apples when you talk about driving in Spain and driving in the States. The main reason for this is because of the vast distances that are usually involved in getting anywhere in the US especially when supporting a foreign language congregation. The nice thing about Spain is that usually things are relatively close to you. This is true of little markets, bread shops, banks and other things that you would need access to regularly. This is also sometimes true with meetings and service although foreign language congregations can be the exception. When we lived in Murcia our service meetings we’re all in our neighborhood and were within 5-10 minutes walking distance. Here in Bilbao our congregation is about 30 minutes away via metro and many of the service meetings are held there. The territory can be close or far located in outlying areas. The fact that we are the only English congregation in the Vizcaya region also affects the size of our territory.
We’ve learned something interesting here while in Spain. Distance is not measured the same- American standards and Spanish standards are different. When a Spanish person tells you that something is “far” to an American that means that it is a normal distance away and manageable. When an American tells you that something is “close” a Spanish person after seeing the distance may very well interpret that as far and out of the question. For example when Kanicia told the friends that we used to regularly drive 45 minutes to meetings in the US it was like telling them that we used to hitchhike for three days in the snow up hill both ways to get to the meetings. “Impossible, unbelievable, I would never!” So we are learning to adjust to the different perceptions of distance here with a little humor and are starting to put ourselves in the place of the local friends, instead of expecting them to see things how we do. We are in Spain after all not the States.
So this post is probably more rambling than usual probably due to the fact that I’m getting over a cold and am getting my voice back. I don’t know if its from screaming at my toddlers or if its from the rain and wind. Anyways I’m on the mend. One thing we like about Bilbao is that it is an incredibly walkable city. It is not an exaggeration to say that it takes 15 minutes to get anywhere. It reminds us of Boston in that it is a big city which still maintains its small town feel. If you do choose to take the metro or bus you can obtain a card which will let you have access to both and it is very convenient. This is what we use for the meetings when we take the metro. The metro stations here are actually pretty artistic like most things in this city. They are very, very clean and easy to use. You can take them all the way out to the coast if you want to go to the beach or anywhere within Bilbao. It runs on time and you never have to wait more than five minutes for a train at any given station. Another thing which is a welcome change is that the people are quiet unlike the BART trains in Oakland which we are used to. Since this is northern Spain most of the people are more conservative and you won’t find them blabbing on their cellphones or anything like that. Most are content to sit quietly until their stop arrives. We like this alot! Most of the time we walk which keeps us in shape and lets us see areas of the city that we would otherwise miss. My commute to work is now 10 minutes walking and we are about 10 minutes from a metro stop. Below are some pics of the Bilbao Metro. Have a good rest of the week friends!