Just like that…

It’s all disappeared. Seriously, in one day all the Fallas are gone. All the fireworks are over. We have heard not one today. Walking around this morning and all evidence of what has been going on for the last week is no where to be seen.

Crossing the road, the water trucks are hosing it all down and the bin workers are out in force. By noon, it’s just gone. If you look closely, you can see burn marks from the fireworks on our sidewalk, but that’s all that’s left of what has kept us up for the last week.

Today, went down to Central Valencia via Metro to see our banker and walked back home. On the way home, Jeff couldn’t seem to find a hair salon or barber open to get a haircut. Perhaps this is a day off for all Valencian hairdressers. I’m not sure what their patron saint might be but there is not one hair cutting place open, when the rest of Valencia seems back to normal. Perhaps it’s the patron saint of the first day of Spring.

I decided to head out on my own for a coffee and stopped into el Chino. I need coffee cups and a coffee pot – never mind I can’t grind the beans I bought, as I have not found a coffee grinder yet. But I’m optimistic that one will present itself. Our local el Chino is a big one so I knew they would have what I needed and they didn’t disappoint.

I gathered my purchases and headed to the check out. And what happened? Again, the guy gave me some free stuff, AND lactose-free milk.  I don’t have any idea why. Last time I spoke to our daughter, Emilie, on the phone, she was adamant this was a fishy situation.

‘I wouldn’t drink free milk. It doesn’t seem right.’

So I came home and showed Jeff my purchases and told him about the continuing GWP’s I scored.

‘That guy has a thing for you.’ he said.

‘No, he doesn’t.’

‘He never gives me free stuff.’ he pointed out.

‘Well. Maybe he gave me free milk because I was buying a coffee pot.’

‘Yeah. Well, last time he gave you free milk and you bought a garbage can.’

I thought about it. Perhaps he’s right. But it makes me uncomfortable. The guy usually fires rapid Spanish, and I think a little Chinese, at me. Waving his arms and pointing at stuff. And today he said the only words I’ve understood so far.

‘Angelina Jolie. Movie Star.’

‘What?!!’ I said to him, wide eyed. He pointed at me, smiled and then continued with our usual, unintelligible interaction. Now I’m not naive. Never in my entire life – even when I was much younger and unwrinkled, did I ever resemble Angelina Jolie on my best day, through rosy a camera filter, in the dark.

But the light went on. I’ll be getting free milk from el Chino from now on. So there is an upside to this crazy charade this guy and I have going on. Leaving with my bags, I realized, finally things are getting back to normal.

Working out the Kinks

Whenever you move – even if it was just in the US – you have kinks to work out. They’re are always issues and hiccups. But moving to Spain, with time differences, foreign banking and the like, it’s even more hiccupy.

We’re taking deep breaths. A lot of deep breaths. And it’s not just about how different things are here. We seemed to have worked out many of those. Sometimes it comes down to telling yourself it’s different and you just have to deal with it. Great – we can do that. But for things back in the US where there is a time difference, and it requires expensive phone calls at a $1 a minute, it’s incredibly frustrating.

We had put travel notices on our credit cards, but some of them have experienced denials and delays because of the sheer volume of purchases we’re making for things, and at stores we wouldn’t normally shop at if we were just tourists. How many people buy a refrigerator when they’re staying at a hotel on a beach for their spring break?

But now, Amazon doesn’t seem to like us since we’re shipping to a place we’ve never shipped to. And our billing address is also not something they’ve seen before. Discovering that .com and .es versions of their website are totally different and Prime in the US isn’t Prime in Spain. This was hard for Jeff to swallow as I heard swearing and heavy typing from his office.  Both our bank and Amazon want to send him a code via email to verify his identity. He’ll have 10 minutes to input it before it becomes invalid. But it takes them more than 15 to send the code. He is not happy.

I, on the other hand, got an email from American Airlines that they’ve bumped our daughter off her flight from school to Spain. And trying to fix this via email or chat? Yeah, not gong to happen. So I had to call them and racked up even more phone charges as I waded through the automated menu shouting ‘Customer Service!’ into their voice recognition software. I found that ironic.

Then the dealer where we sold our car before we left, hasn’t deposited our check. They said it would take two weeks and it’s been nearly 4. Ugh. Rattling cages in the US from a foreign country is an expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating business.  I’m just writing off this first month. It’s like being hazed at a fraternity or sorority in college. Sure none of it makes any sense. You’re dealing with unreasonable people, nonsense bullshit, but if you’re drunk, it makes it go down easier. Aha! I haven’t tried that. Note to self.

Oh well, it’s Fallas. Starting tomorrow we’ll be jumping into the festival of it all and embracing our new city. We’ve been here two weeks now. Only two more to go and I figure we’ll have been through one full billing cycle for all the loose ends back home and the new ones here. Then its smooth sailing. Yeah right.  Just kidding.

Mopping Things Up

Whenever you move from one place to another, there is always a period of time where you straddle both places. Bills from the old place that need to be paid. Banking from one place to another. Stuff like that. We have a lot of that stuff and today is the day to knock a lot of it out.

Our old bank in the US had us sign a bunch of papers before we left. I won’t bore anyone with the details, but suffice to say, they screwed it up and we’ve had to buy a printer, scanner and fax machine so that we can go back and forth to fix it all. The first one we bought last week arrived broken. But today? Success! We are scanning, signing and faxing and we’re finally getting it all straightened out – I hope.

I learned how to use our bank’s ATM and change my PIN so I can use the card at the grocery store now. It seems like a stupid thing but it’s been hanging over me and I have been putting it off. Now I’m good to go.

I still can’t log into our bank online. We finally have Spanish cell phones but you have to log in online to to change our American cell #’s to our Spanish cell #’s and we can’t log in until we get those damn short codes that we can’t get on our American cell phones. Ugh. So I can’t change my phone number on my account, so I can log in and change my phone number. It may require a metro ride and a chat with my friendly banker, Ana.

We’ve ordered all our appliances and by Friday I am assured that our clothes will be spinning in our very own washer/dryer. We will be wearing clean clothes again! Who knew I’d feel so excited about that.

On Saturday, we ordered our dishwasher. It will take 3 weeks they say. But then they always under promise and over deliver here. Which I find I LOVE!

‘It will be 10 days for your cell phones to arrive.’

Heavy sigh. Then 24 hours later I get an email that I can pick them up at the store.

Jeff’s monitor arrived and it works and is now set up in his office. He’s happy again and I know this because his corny, and very obscure, jokes have surfaced. On our walk yesterday through the Jardin del Real we were looking at the different palm trees. Each is signed with the Genus, etc.

‘Soon you won’t even have to look at the signs to know which ones they are.’ He told me.

‘Yeah, why’s that.’ I asked

‘You’ll be a ‘palm reader.’

Yes, that’s Jeff in a nutshell. And he’s back to being him.

Today, I’ll be buying a shredder – yes, I’m a little addicted to seeing important papers with my identity numbers cut into infinitesimal pieces while I watch. It’s a hobby now.

And in a bit, I’ll be heading to ‘El Chino’ to pick up yet more household items. They’re closed for siesta right now, so I have to wait. I can’t quite see the store from our balcony so when I tried to go earlier I found the cage across the door way.

Oh well, I needed to go to the Mercadona anyway to buy some salt and pepper and garlic powder. Not that I’m cooking anything. We still can’t figure out how to turn on the stove top and the landlord has been busy. Yes, we’ve downloaded the Balay manual in English, but the people before us had little kids and this place is over-the-top childproofed. I think it requires a code they set up. Ugh. Any way – like I said, we aren’t cooking anything but I like to have spices.  It makes me feel better.

So I headed to the Mercadona and attacked their spice section. WOW! They had a lot. I held up Google translates photo app and decided to purchase one of each kind. I mean, when might I need sweet v. regular paprika? I have no idea, but when I do, I’ve got it! And the spices here are CHEAP. Garlic back home was like $5. Here it’s .55 euros. Crazy.

I’m used to being stared at now, so when I went up to the check out and put all my spices on the belt and heard others commenting on it behind me, I took it in stride. And then, just like everyone else, I put in my Spanish bank card and it worked. I feel almost like a local. Just like in every other instance, slowly but surely, it will all come together.

Visa Approved!!

Just heard – we are good to go. Its a little surreal. If we hadn’t had to provide one more month of financial statements, it would have taken only 3 days. I love the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles. Crazy! After all that – it was quick and painless.

Crazy Ideas

It’s strange. Thinking back, when we started this whole crazy idea of doing this – we targeted February 28th as the day we would fly out to Spain. And now it’s going to happen. In the end, I fooled the Gods of Document Hades – I think I wore them out!

I just booked our flights. I’m not sure how it all dovetailed together, but it did and our project planning all worked out. In software parlance, we finished UAT in plenty of time.

I included a photo in this post. Its a book my husband bought for me. He had no idea how may crazy ideas I could really have when he gave it to me. But he soon learned that the sky is the limit as far as my imagination is concerned. So, here we go!

If you could see me right now, you’d see a HUGE smile, that will be celebrated later tonight with the last bottle of champagne I’ve been saving for this occasion. The sound of the cork popping will be like the sounds of the fireworks of Fallas, we will get to experience in a few weeks.

Here’s to dreaming and taking roads less traveled. Here’s to all the crazy ideas and believing that anything is possible. Here’s to living the life you’ve imagined. It can be done. Ask me. I know.

Just One More Thing…

After driving to Los Angeles and staying in a hotel overnight, we made it the the consulate a bit early for our appointment. Their website details EXACTLY how you’re supposed to do everything, down to printing two copies of the document check list and the order in which those documents must appear in the packet. It emphasizes how important this all is and I checked and double checked it all. I had Jeff go through the instructions on the website himself, in case I missed something. Here’s how it actually went.

We got there early – I’m never, ever late to anything. And this appointment is too important to be left to chance. There weren’t any other people there to get visas at the moment we arrived, so they took us early.  Good sign – I thought. And they’re really nice people. I know they want to help us get our visa.

‘Just pull the financial documents out and let’s go through them first. That will be the thing that will keep you from getting the visa so if they are good, then the rest is easy’

Seemed logical to me. So out I pulled the holy scriptures of our financial picture – thick dossiers of everything and several months worth of statements.

‘Yeah – we don’t need all this. Just the beginning and ending balances. And being that this is February 5th and your January statement looks like it would have ended on the 29th – we will need that too. Why don’t you have that?’

I was incredulous. I had everything – EVERYTHING – related to our financial picture. It had all been translated for hundreds of dollars. And it all came down to our last bank statement??

‘There was no time to send it to Boulder to the translator and get it back in time for this appointment – 6 days later with a weekend in there.’

‘Well, we’re going to need that since it’s past the 29th.’

You could visibly seem my mouth hanging open. But of course I said, ‘OK’. I would get it.

Then they wanted to know why my translations weren’t ‘stapled by the translator’. I said I didn’t know. They were very concerned unstapled translations might be rejected in Spain. Jeff and I looked at each other. We could staple them ourselves but we remained silent.

‘Please consult your translator and ask why she didn’t staple them.’

I said I would and reached out to her in email from the consulate. Oh, No You Didn’t! She came unglued! She told me in her official translation certification, they expressly said that official translations are never stapled, she never staples, and she thinks it renders the documents unofficial. I was beginning to feel like I was caught between Mom and Dad and they were in a fight.

Ugh. Then we were told we needed more copies of our 10lb packets, so we had to walk across the street and get some made and bring them back. Great! We were all set – the guy gave me back some copies and we went back to our hotel to pack up and get Jeff’s motorcycle to the port of Los Angeles to ship it out. Then my phone rang.

They were very sorry but they had given me the wrong papers and I needed to come back across town and give them back to them so they could give me the correct ones. I will admit to having a melt down in the hotel room. The Gods of Document Hades were having me on again! But what could I do?

I went back through LA traffic and they squeezed me in to sort it out. It only took an hour. I left there and drove down to the port to meet up with Jeff – more than an hour away. I had all his gear, that was shipping with his bike, in the trunk of my car so he couldn’t complete it without me. This delayed us getting out of LA. And I know from experience, you never, ever delay getting out of LA after noon. Or it will take you FOREVER!! You will age on the drive from San Pedro to San Bernadino. It’s like dog years.

So at midnight last night – we rolled into our driveway. Yes  – midnight. And this morning I’m going to our bank to explain to some nice person that I need to get those statements stamped again. And then I’m going to scan them and send them to our translator, who has promised to do them quickly and get them back to me via overnight post, so I can overnight them to the consulate. She’ll probably put 50 staples in them just for spite. But I’m tired thinking about it.

I know we aren’t alone. While I was sitting there in my second consulate visit yesterday morning – I noticed almost everyone had a ‘Just one more thing’ to go take care of. Three weeks – we need that visa in three weeks so we can get on a plane. Crossing my fingers that our ‘Just one more thing’ is really ‘The last thing.’