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Saturday, January 10th "Students arriving; Taxi drivers from hell"

There is little rest for those in the student exchange line of work, and being surrounded by people who are in this line of work puts me in the middle of their schedule sometimes. Students arrived the day after Reyes - the 7th of January. Shuttling them to hotels, meetings on safety, academics and program rules also make for long hours. Thankfully my participation was limited to the gymkana, or scavanger hunt portion of the group activity. One day from arriving the students had to make their way around Sevilla looking for clues or answers to legends and trivia about Sevilla. Along the way they might find a cyber cafe, a movil store or buy a bus pass, all things they will have to do during the year. My job consisted of sitting in El Rinconcillo, the oldest bar in Sevilla, as they found their way through Santa Catalina. There they provided answers to questions and received their next clue. Out of 7 groups 3 showed up before the deadline! I think jet lag and the lack of city walking experience had taken it's toll on them.

I did manage to meet a nice couple from Wisconsin who both work as Spanish Literature professors in Wisconsin and who had some experience with exchange programs in Málaga. After the hunt died down we managed to put back several beers and talk about the culture of the expat - never quite fitting in, whether in the US or Spain. Thankfully they spoke perfect Spanish and had been to Sevilla before so they likely had no problems finding there way home. I left them in the bar and had a hard enough time making my way back home for lunch and a long nap.

On their last morning in the hotel the students gathered in the lobby with their mountains of luggage. I would never tell them they bring way too much stuff - when it's your first time away from the country for 4-5 months the panic can set in - "I better bring this, or that - I can't imagine living without item X for 5 months". It's natural and I did it myself. I managed to leave several things at home I wished I had brought with me. I also managed to bring a ton of junk I hardly ever used, or would have been better off buying when I got here. But it is a guessing game, especially when it comes to clothes and knowing what people wear in Spain. You may bring a ton of clothes that you just won't wear once you get settled in and realize that those 5 baseball caps, two pairs of winter gloves and down jacket aren't doing you much good in Sevilla. So where am I going with all of this - Taxi drivers, of course!

You see, there are plenty of really good ones out there - nice guys who'll take you where you want to go, never complain and never overcharge you. Then there are those few idiots who chose to park in front of Hotel Becquer today, salivating at all of the luggage the students had with them. These guys could practically see the airport fares ringing up in front of them. These are the same taxi drivers who also line up at the airport from time to time to drag these same students with all their bags to the center. Hey, they get maybe 20-25 Euros from the airport. These same idiots however, upon hearing that the students were off to their houses maybe 5-10 minutes away, began to complain about the amount of luggage. Without the airport fare it was now "impossible" to take them to their destinations. I've never listened to more excuses for not doing your job in a five minute span in my life. After a while it just get's sickening - these guys trying their damn best to make any excuse not to take a student to their house. And then of course if another driver wanted the fare it was unjust for him to go, as they had been there first. So, what was their angle? Get each student in a cab instead of two students per cab so they could charge more. The outcome? Two people (myself and my brother-in-law) calling bullshit and 3 taxi drivers threatening to get physical, calling me all sorts of names. After staring one down for maybe 2 minutes, myself not saying a word (just breathing smoke into his face while I was maybe inches away from punching the guy) he decided to leave. The other left to our shouts of "Hasta luego, fuera de aqui". The other 20 drivers we used that day? - a few laughs, a little work and no complaints. I'll be sure to check the driver of every cab I hail before getting in over the next few months, too.