Spanish Driver’s Ed 101

I tried to put it off.  I even considered going to Amsterdam to get my driver’s license because it was supposed to be easier.  You see in Spain, they don’t accept US driver’s licenses (or they do but only for 6 months after you have moved here).     I’d heard the horror stories of getting a driver’s license in Spain.  2 weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10A-6P) of classes followed up by taking a written test (30 questions of which you can only miss 3) and then in-car driving classes and a driving test!

Who has the time?  Oh.. and what’s the cost?  Upwards of 1,000 Euros… and in the case of my Argentinian Ob/gyn friend/doctor “No way” Jose… it cost him several thousand Euros!  So I put it off….

But then my wallet was stolen in Prague.  Someone reaching in to my purse-like diaper bag took my wallet.  Took my Spanish residence card.  Took my Ohio driver’s license…  At first, I wasn’t bothered.  I figured it would get returned… and I was grateful it was just those things.. Grateful for our health.. grateful for our happy life…

Until I realized I had NOTHING to show anyone if I were pulled over in the car!  And that’s when I panicked.  I went online and tried to see if the DMV in Ohio would replace my license and send it to me.. From what I could find out, the answer was NO.  And realistically speaking, legally speaking, I needed a Spanish license anyway… and so the journey began.

I signed up for my driver’s ed class in Sarria with Ed.  He’s an enthusiastic Will Farrell like character.  Funny, passionate, etc.  While I dreaded giving my weekends to driver’s ed classes, I enjoyed him.. and laughing.  It was 3 days of class and then 3 days (and more for me) of taking practice test after practice test on the computers in their facilities.   The classes were in English.. but the tests were in pig latin.. or maybe something worse than pig latin…  Basically impossible to understand or memorize.  Horribly written in American, British, Australian English translated by a Spanish person who had just begun to learn English.  You get my drift… It was PAINFUL!!!  And ridiculous!!

But I perservered.. studying 100+ hours taking practice test after practice test… and felt ready for the actual test when I took it.  And… well.. I passed!

Phase II was the in -car driving.. but I broke my ankle a few days before I was supposed to start, so had to delay it by 2 months.  And because we have a manual car here, I had to take the classes and actual test in a manual…

Marcos was my in-car driver’s ed teacher.  He prepared me for everything on which I would be tested.  Things like the parts of the engine (in Spanish).  The parts I would need to secure the spare wheel (in Spanish)…the depth of the tire tread (in Spanish)… and on top of that, putting the sun visor up and down at appropriate times, never having the car in neutral while driving even if you are coasting to a stop.  I was a mess.  Tears streaming down my face mess.  And unable to wipe the tears away because I had to have two hands on the steering wheel at all times..

I took 9 lessons with Marcos.  45 minutes each.  We navigated through the narrow streets of Barcelona, through the roundabouts, up by Montjuic… practiced parking, parallel and backing in.  And I dreaded all of the lessons.  Well Monday was the day of the test.  I almost skipped taking it.  I was ready to give up entirely.  But I didn’t…. and I passed.  Of the four of us that took the test in my group that day.. two of us passed.  One of the two others that didn’t pass had taken the in-car test 4 times…

I figure that while I had bad luck having my license stolen… it all worked out for the better.  But what a pain!  And now I am official!

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