Its been a hard year with lots of challenges. One of the more stressful things I have dealt with this year has been getting my visa converted from a non-lucrative status to one where I can work based on the changing rules in Spain. With all the Spanish government office closures and Covid delays this has been a huge challenge. The attorneys that handled filing the paperwork were constantly reminding me that was only about a 2% chance of this working. It took 18 months, mountains of paperwork and more luck than a person could hope for but in September I was notified that I had been deemed a “highly qualified worker” and my new visa status had been approved.
I work for an international company who happens to have an office in Barcelona. However, the department that I work in is in Arizona. Except for some HR related stuff, I essentially have a typical US job even though I am a little further away than a regular remote worker. But in these Covid times most office workers are remote workers, and my co-workers in the US are all working from home as well.
As you might expect, my Spanish is not particularly good. The people I talk to each day all speak English and I rarely have the opportunity to communicate in Spanish unless its in the grocery store, getting my hair cut (even Rubin, my hair guy, speaks English), or getting something from the ferrtería. I can muddle my way through deciphering what words mean if they are written down, but my ear is simply not up to the task of understanding a conversation in real time. The exception to this is my ability to talk to delivery drivers. I have ordered more than my fair share of stuff from Amazon over the past 3 years and I have gotten pretty good at communicating with the person who calls to make sure we are home to receive a package. Am I home? What floor? Apartment number? These are all questions that I recognize and can answer in passable Spanish. It helps when the inevitable call is preceded with an email reminding me that a delivery is on its way.
This morning I got a call from a Spanish phone number that I didn’t recognize and Kelli was out at an appointment. We do not have any Amazon orders pending, and thinking that maybe something had happened to her, because, well it´s 2020, I tentatively answered. The voice on the other end went into a familiar pattern that I have heard many times. ´Is this Jeff?´, ´Am I home?´, ´Which floor & apartment?´. Obviously, there was a delivery on its way and apparently it was addressed to me. Puzzled, because I have not ordered anything, all I could do was wait to see what showed up at the door. It was a short wait. The delivery person slid a heavy box out of the elevator and had me sign for it.
The box had El Corte Ingles printed on the side and I saw a sticker on the end with my employer’s name on it, along with other stickers warning of liquid and glass. What could it be? I dragged the heavy box into the kitchen and opened it up.
We had seen these large sized boxes at El Corte Ingles in previous years. There is an entire department dedicated them this time of year when you step off the escalator. Last year I suggested to Kelli that we send one to her brother but she was pretty sure he and his family couldn´t eat that much Iberian ham leg in six months of Sundays – the booze she was sure he could tackle – but we skipped it.
This box contained an Iberian ham leg complete with hoof wrapped in black cloth, a bottle of gin, 2 bottles of wine, a bottle of champagne, aged sheep cheese from Navarra, several varieties of other cured meats, chocolates and several other types of sweets. Not exactly sure what to do with the leg but I have seen leg holders in the supermarket so I suppose we will be purchasing one of those soon. If it was Halloween we´d be giving out sliced ham instead of candy. In any event, this is definitely the most Spanish holiday gift I could have imagined. Kelli and I have joked about getting a leg for the past couple of years but now we actually have one. I don’t think we could possibly eat all this stuff before it went bad. Does it go bad? I don´t really know. The sticker says it was aged for 20 months `vente meses´.
In the US, company holiday parties were a thing of the past when we were both still working there. Most companies turned a blind eye if someone hosted an unsanctioned holiday party at their house. Kelli had a few of these for her teams. But no company, other than a start-up with a keg or a margarita machine onsite, would have provide alcohol as a Christmas gift. Nor would they have sent multiple bottles to your home. And a leg of pork? It would never happen because you can´t even buy them in a US grocery store.
This year we won´t have a tree as its buried in the storage unit across town. We thought we´d be in a house by now. Kelli hasn´t put up all the decorations she shipped over from the US as she normally does to make sure we know it´s the holidays. This year hasn´t felt like past Christmases. This time last year we were preparing to go the the US to see our families and friends on Christmas. It´s not possible this year. But this box got us both in the mood. We´re not big drinkers. Neither of us likes gin, and we aren´t big on the cured meats. But we´ll give some of it a go. This was so unexpected it will make Spanish holidays during the rest of the year interesting. It will be fun to see what shows up next.