Monday, March 7, 2011

A run-in with the police!

So, I would say I am quite a upstanding citizen.  I don't do anything illegal and I don't harm anyone else.  So, it may seem hard to fathom that awhile back I had a run-in with the police that resorted in me having to get out of the car while they searched it.  We all know I don't do drugs, so what in the heck could the police have been looking for and WHAT in the world had I done?

Well, these aren't just any police, these are the Guardia Civil - the Spanish police or Civil Guard.  Like the States, each 'state' of Spain has thier own police force that takes care of the community.  However, because Basque Country has a 'terrorist group' called ETA, a seperatist and nationalist group that has been fighting for an Independant Basque Country since 1959, Spain feels it necessary to place national police in the area.  You might have heard of them in the news - bombs or kidnappings.  In total since thier start they have killed 829 people in thier attempt to have Basque Country liberated from Spain.  This is the reason that the Guardia Civil are in Basque Country - constantly to keep an eye out for possible terrorists or links to the secretive ETA.  Dressed in dark military-looking uniforms and always holding guns (to me they look like machine guns, but I am a girl and have basically no idea what kind of guns they are just that they are big, no pistols here).

My first taste of the Guardia Civil was when I first arrived and there was a demonstration in the street.  These green uniformed men scared me to bits with thier guns and I couldn't understand what warranted such a weapon for a peaceful protest.  Since then I have seen them from time to time.  They often set up road blocks and monitor each car that passes - looking in the windows to see if they see anything they might consider terroristy.  I have even had them board the bus with thier gun, staring at everyone's face.  Quite scary if you ask me.  Well, this brings me back to the day with the run-in with the police.

After our amazing trip to Sweden, Joseba's brother and sister-in-law came to the airport to pick us up.  On the way home, we saw the road block but didn't think much about it - they are everywhere and it just becomes commonplace.  However, this time was different.  They stopped our car, asked Iker (Joseba's brother) who was driving a bunch of questions - where were we coming from, how do we know each other, where was a flight landing from, etc.  Not satisfied with his answers, he asked us to all get out of the car and leave all belongings in the car and to hand over our identity cards or in my case my passport.  We were then told to stand with our backs to the car about 100 meters away in silence while they tore the car apart looking for something that could be suspect.  I was scared out of my wits.  Things like this don't happen to me and my head was somersalting around, terrified they would find a reason to take us to jail or send me home or something miserable.  On top of everything, the whole event was of course in Spanish, which when I am nervous I don't comprehend perfectly.  After about 25 minutes standing outside, the police man handed us back our identity cards and we were allowed back in the car - of course under the watch of many gunned men.

Back in the car, we were able to each take a deep breath.  For them, this has happened before and wasn't so shocking, but the most interaction I have ever had with a police officer is getting a speeding ticket (us Americans, we are always in a hurry!) so this was a whole new ballgame or me.

No matter how long I live here I don't think I will ever get used to the constant police presence.  So as many jokes as we make about our cops - donut eating and all - I definitley would prefer them to armed and masked Spanish Guardia Civil!

But no worries, in the end I didn't get into any trouble - nothing to put on my rap sheet.


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