The decision has been made. After spending the summer walking the Camino de Santiago with my daughter, we decided to move to Spain. Now for the hard part. The administrivia of getting from decision to getting on an airplane is fraught with missteps, frustration, misunderstanding and broken Spanish. But here we go!
OK, so maybe I’ve emailed too many questions to the consulate. I’ve never had to go through the rigorous process for establishing residence in another land. So I’m not sure why I’m so wrapped around the axle on doing this. Perhaps it’s the conflicting information on their website. Or all the conflicting information on other blogs. But I decided today to just go for it and start filling out the paperwork, while trying to secure a medical insurance policy via email using only Google translate as my help mate. Needless to say, I ran out of printer ink for all the times I had to reprint forms due to mistakes and reversing ‘Nombre’ and ‘Social nom’. But I think I got it!
In researching Spanish health insurance, I find it’s pretty awesome and relatively inexpensive. I almost can’t wait to become ill when I get there! Based on the policy I saw today, I could lounge around in a hospital, post some kind of surgery, for a month at no charge. Then go to a mental hospital for another 60 days – gratis! OK, maybe that’s a little extreme but the coverage is pretty amazing.
Sometimes, I find the hardest part is just the waiting. Our FBI background checks – after finding out my fingerprints are woefully inadequate, while Jeff’s were ‘perfect’ – will take months to get back. Then they must be quickly translated by an official translator, before I can set an appointment with the Consulate. But we persevere.
Now I just have to figure out what an ‘Apostle of the Hague’ is, so I can get all our documents blessed by that person, and we’ll be good to go! Maybe I should call the local Catholic Church and see if they have one of those.
I’m no 4 year old. Which, they say, is the optimal time by which you should learn a language. I once watched a whole show produced by the University of WA on how we learn languages. Their conclusion: we will never speak like a native if we don’t hear the sounds of a specific language before we enter kindergarten. And learning Japanese? Forget about it. Being that I’m several – I actually mean MANY – decades past that time, it is proving challenging to get my Spanish on.
So I turned to our friends at Rosetta Stone. The tools produced by Rosetta Stone are easy to use and fully online, so I can learn when I travel. But there are things that confuse me and concepts I still struggle with. Here is a sample of some valuable things I can do so far:
• Comment on the color of the sky – ‘La cielo es Azul!’ I can see myself in my sun hat and beach bag, laying out my blanket and staking my umbrella. I will use this liberally at the beach with strangers, I’m sure.
• Count the number of green apples – ‘Hay quatro manzanas en el cuenco.’ Imagine if I’m at a friends house and they’re wondering if they have enough apples. I’ll fire this baby out like a pro.
• Notice out loud that a woman is eating rice – ‘La mujer come arroz.’ Think about a time when you’re looking for a certain type of restaurant and then you see someone eating something that looks good and you know you’ve found it. Most everything I like to eat comes with rice in some form.
And my favorite?
• The dog is running – ‘El perro es corré!’ Again, at the beach and people are looking for their lost dog and I just saw him go by. They will thank me for learning this one.
I guess I should be happy that my vocabulary has increase 10 fold from my days on the Camino, when upon entering a bar, ‘Dos café con leché, por favor’. And offering a hearty ‘Hola!‘ to everyone I met along the way. But learning Spanish by shouting out the obvious, while trying not to sound like I need to enter a mental hospital post haste, is taking a little longer than I would like. One wonders what I’ll utter at the Consulate during the interview. I know Jeff does. I can almost hear it now:
Interviewer: ‘Como te apoyaras mientras estas viviendo en Espana?’ = How will you support yourself while you’re in Spain?
Me: ‘Hay tres bicicleta rojas’ = There are 3 red bicycles
Interviewer: ‘Estaras viendiendo bicicletas rojas?’ You are going to sell red bicycles?
Me: ‘Si!’ (I say enthusiastically – thinking that sounds right)
Interviewer: ‘You are not allowed to work in the country. Visa denied.’
Me: (thinking) Perhaps he has a thing against red bicicletas.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg?’. Well, in this case it should be ‘Which came first, the permanent address or the bank account?’. Today I got the news. Pretty much everything in Spain is done using something called a ‘Bank Transfer’. Huh? What’s that, you ask? Well, sit down boys and girls and let me tell you a tale of how to chase your tail.
Once upon a time, there was a girl trying to get medical insurance in Spain so she could get a residence visa. To get Spanish Medical Insurance, a person needs to have a Spanish banque account, from which payment can be debited monthly. To get a Spanish banque account, a person must have a permanent address. And finally, to get a permanent address, like even a mail box, one must have a banque account, from which they can initiate a ‘Bank transfer’ to pay for either the mail box rental, or a monthly lease on an apartment, or their medical insurance premium.
Following so far? It’s kind of like when you break into the movies. You need to be in a movie before you can get your Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card. But you can’t act in a movie without a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card.
Google translate and I are becoming fast friends. As am I with a girl who works at a Mail box store in Spain. I’m not above begging and pleading. This seems perfectly acceptable, under the current circumstances. The fate of my Spanish Banque account now resides with a girl I have never met, and her willingness to help me find a work around.
When I complained a little to the very helpful insurance fellow I chatted with this morning he summed it up. ‘It’s Spain. You just gotta take a deep breath and roll with it.’
They say the first step is admitting you have a problem. Mostly this is applied to addictions like booze. In my case it applies to addictions like shoes. Yes, it rhymes, but its not the same thing at all.
Today is inventory day. This is the day where I get honest with myself about what I have, what I need, and what I’m actually going to take with us when we move to Spain in February. And about 15 minutes ago was the moment when I admitted I had a problem. A BIG Costco sized problem. A BIG Nordstrom sized problem.
Our children are grown, or nearly grown. The big house was sold last year. The one with the extra refrigerator and freezer. I used to go to Costco and fill up the extra freezer with stuff ‘we might need’, ‘just in case’ the grocery store ever ran out of food – or the entire University of WA football team dropped by. Neither of these things ever happened.
I used to buy 100 rolls of toilet paper at a time, because, well – I could. And I would just put them in the storage room and replenish as needed. I was a hoarder but one that American society applauds because when you buy in bulk, you save money. Never mind the fact that you have $200 tied up in toilet paper for 6 months. I would have been better off investing it in the stock market.
In the US, I was raised that more is better.
When we moved to our current house, I was proud of myself. I got rid of a ton, literally, a ton of stuff, and donated it all to charity. But half of ‘way, way too much stuff’ is still ‘way too much stuff’. It’s simple math, and I can’t take all this with us.
Jeff has now officially banned the phrase ‘But what if I ever need…?’ from my lexicon. Different weights of wool black pants, 5 different heel heights of a patent black pump, and his favorite – a rainbow of colors in Converse sneakers. Don’t get him started on my wedges.
Heading into the kitchen brought no joy. I have – no kidding – 12 frying pans. TWELVE. Jeff held them up.
‘We only have 4 burners on the stove.’
I am incensed.
‘They’re clearly different sizes and the sides are shaped differently. See, some are graduated and some are straight up and down.’ Duh.
He looked at me like I was speaking in another language.
‘Can the spaghetti sauce or the bacon tell the difference?’
‘No – but I can.’
‘You get 4. Four pans of varying sizes. And that’s assuming you use them all at the same time to cook a meal. The rest are going.’ He waved goodbye.
Next came the kitchen utensils. OK. I know I’m a little specialized in this area. I have an antique nut chopper, but hey, I use that at Christmas to make Russian tea cookies with pecans. Jeff reached in the drawer and held up something green.
‘If you can tell me what this is, I’ll let you take it with us.’
Oh the pressure. I hated pop quizzes in school. It was egg shaped and it had a scraper thing on the outside. So I knew it would scrap things, but I had never used it. I remember buying it on sale at Sur La Table in Scottsdale last year after croissant making class (p.s. I haven’t made croissants since then – who knew it was so involved?). But with the label gone, I had no idea what this thing was supposed to do for me.
‘I need to go to the bathroom! I’ll be right back.’
I grabbed my phone and ran to the bathroom and shut the door. Pro tip: Googling ‘green kitchen utensil with scraper thingy’ doesn’t return results that are at all helpful. And the pictures were nothing like what my husband was holding up. I waited 5 minutes and then returned to the kitchen, hoping he would have lost interest. But he’s too cagey for me. He stood there with the unknowable clasp in his hand.
‘So? Did Google help you figure out what this is?’
‘What? I don’t have to Google it.’
‘So what is it?’
I squinted and concentrated like a carnival fortune teller – but nothing came to me. It was green. I looked around the kitchen and my gaze landed on an avocado in the bowl on the counter.
‘Its an avocado scraper!! Duh? I can’t believe you didn’t know that.’
‘You can’t use a spoon like the rest of the civilized world?’ He looks at me with the contempt I deserve.
‘Not if you want your guacamole to be bruise-free.’ I say confidently.
Good thing we have 4 months to go before the movers come. We’ve only gotten through one utensil drawer and the pressure is killing me.