On Thursday, the 19th of November, I rode to Cuenca to get my TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero AKA foreigner identity card) and transfer the bike into my name. That night I stayed in a nice local hotel (Pension Cuenca) for just 15 euros. The owner, Angel, told me I was the first international visitor there which was a surprise considering that Cuenca is the capitol of the region. Angel was a really friendly host; he showed me where I could keep my bike safe, gave me a quick tour around the city center and told me about his village of just 100 or so people. Angel moved to Cuenca about 40 years ago and loves living there. He told me that the city has a similar vibe to his village because the community of the city center is actually quite small.
The next day I started early at the Extranjeria so I could get my TIE and ended up going for donuts and hot chocolate with a couple other Americans. Apparently city life is a bit different in our program; they worked more hours and had less help with their personal arrangements, such as accommodation, bank stuff, etc. On the other hand, things in the city can be a bit more efficient than in the countryside. Unfortunately for me this was a harsh reality that I would be dealing with for some time. My bank (Caja Rural) was so hopeless that I couldn't even get them to give me a bank card or keys to access my account online... Well, it turns out that this was not just a countryside problem, but a problem with the bank in general! I went to the headquarters in Cuenca and they gave me the same runaround as in the pueblos - promising that my tarjeta (bank card) would arrive soon in the mail, giving me keys for online banking that didn't work, etc. As a result, I would eventually end up changing my bank... but only after another month or so playing their waiting game.
My first stop after the banking charade would be the Trafico office to see about transfering my bike into my name real quick... except that "quick" is a concept that does not exist here. Granted, I knew that going in but, nevertheless, the process was far more complicated than I could have ever imagined. Trafico sent me to the Hacienda for a NIF (same as TIE but required nonetheless) and the Hacienda sent me to another Hacienda to get transfer documents. That Hacienda had fees which I had to go pay at a bank before filing the documents back at the Hacienda. Then I had to take the filed documents back to Trafico (now closing for siesta) and submit them. Trafico needed me to pay their fees so I ran to another bank and returned to locked doors. Fortunately, I had left my stuff inside so they had to let me back in at which point I finished submitting my documents and received the title to my bike!
I figured I deserved a reward after all of that so I went and got myself a kebab. I love kebabs. After eating I went to a mechanic who assured me that my newly registered bike was doomed to self-destruct at any moment... brilliant. I then carefully drove it back to my pueblo and handed it over to the local mechanic with hopes of a rapid recovery - wishful thinking, of course.
At this point I still had a couple days left on my weekend (gotta love having four days off every week!) so I spent a day relaxing and preparing materials for school before heading off to Albacete with my housemate, Cristina.
In Albacete we visited friends Pepe and Consuelo for the day. We enjoyed some awesome home cooking and then walked around the city with Pepe as our guide. Despite Cuenca being the capitol in the region, Albacete is actually the largest city in Castilla La Mancha. Though, walking around in the chilly evening, one might assume that it was a ghost town. That's Spain though - slightest hint of bad weather and people stay home.
Over the next few days I worked and, on Wednesday, my last day before the weekend, I lost my voice! I could hardly whisper for the next few days during which time I tried to see the doctor. Now, Cristina assures me that you can just go and see the doctor anytime, but that was not the message I got from the receptionist. A couple days later I cancelled my appointment because my voice was coming back and everything seemed fine. Still, it seemed suspicious that my local friend could just go in whenever and I had to wait until it was no longer even necessary... not sure what to make of that.