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.’

The Dance of the Overseas Shipper

Now that we’re almost in the home stretch for the visa, we need to secure our overseas shipper. This has proved interesting. I’ve learned a lot about the process and a lot about the business. There are brokers, there are actual shipping companies, there are third party contract movers, there are consolidators and there are customs clearance agents on both ends. Then there is the storage side of things – both in the US and in Spain. All of these can vary in cost and all of them can COST ALOT.  Everyone has their hand out in this relay race to get our stuff to Spain.

I started early – like months ago. Almost no one wanted to even talk to me that far out. The first bid I got was for $1600. This seemed low and in subsequent conversations and other quotes told me it was ‘stupid low’. This is what is known in the biz as a ‘low ball’ and then they jack up the price after you’ve gone with them – because, well, at that point you have not time to switch shippers.

Then there are brokers who will contract out with other companies. These third parties can go rogue and hold your stuff hostage until you basically pay a 3X ransom to get it back. Now I know where the term ‘a Kings Ransom’ came from.

There are partial loads, 20ft containers, 40ft containers and the rest. There is also weight as a consideration. There is load at our house and seal. There is load at our house and transfer, then seal. Its a learning experience. And you learn to spot bullshit when you hear it. It’s funny, but I’ve had some shippers try to pull stuff I’ve read about and when I call them on it they change their tune. Most start out acting like they’re doing you a favor, bringing your stuff across the world. The true professionals aren’t like that. So it’s easy to weed out the riff raff.

I’ve read reviews on Google, Yelp, and asked for advice from those on some of the Spanish Expat forums I belong to. And the stories would curl your hair. So I consulted Jeff; floating the idea that maybe we should just skip the shipping. Maybe we just pay a little extra in baggage fees and call it good. We went for our usual 6 mile nightly walk and discussed it. We weighed the shipping/replacing the small amount we’re bringing. Then we thought about how we will feel to have a few things from home.

Oh, and there’s his beloved motorcycle. Jeff goes out in the garage nightly to wish it goodnight – So very many adventures they’ve had together. Prying that from his grasp as we leave the US, might prove a bit of a challenge. It doesn’t have name but it should; a specter that looms large in our lives. One wonders if he was forced to choose between me and that BMW adventure bike if I would be the winner.

I tolerate this piece of equipment after he was nearly killed a few years ago in a motorcycle accident. He got the helicopter life flight and the whole nine yards – on our son’s 17th birthday. Went out for a ride, promised to be home by noon and didn’t come home. When he pulls out of the driveway now, I have a little PTSD moment. And when he puts on the gear, I always hug him tighter and make sure I tell him how much I love him. If he got rid of the bike it would make me happy. But it’s part of who he is. I can’t deny him that.

I can tell you that if a shipper tried to hold his bike hostage he would go full commando, gather a posse of dark clothed friends, and find a way to break it out of whatever dark, dank prison they were holding it in. Ultimately, we decided that we would ship what we had originally planned. It’ll cost us, but we’ll have our stuff – about 98% less than we started with 18 months ago. Jeff is excited for it.

‘It’s like being in college.’ he said ‘We essentially have nothing. No ties to a place. We’re totally mobile.’

‘I am not having cider block shelving in a studio apartment.’ I assured him.

‘Cinder block? You could afford cinder blocks in college?’

I rolled my eyes and got back to work.

I was told we need to get a ‘Change of Residence’ from the Spanish consulate. They won’t give us this so we’ll have to pay some duty. But it will be worth it when it all arrives. Until then we’ll be sleeping on an air mattress and showering with the one bath towel we’re each packing. But in a months time – it will feel like home. We’ll be riding up the coast of central Spain on his motorcycle, with the wind in our hair. (Well, it would be if we weren’t wearing helmets). Jeff’s right, we will feel free.

The Packet

Yesterday was a big day. We got all our financial records stamped and signed. This is something that has no legal value in the US. We don’t sign or stamp our bank statements or investment statements – but when we enter Spain, they apparently want to see this ink scribble and the stamp with the name and address of the institution. Our banker told us we could order one online for $30, but he went ahead and did it anyway. Seriously, Spain. You gotta find another way to feel good about bank issued financial documents.

But either way, we came home and I got out our packets. These are the individual collections of our documents that I’ve been assembling over the last 4 months. Included in that, is our declarations to support each other financially, and all other means, since some of our money is held separately. Jeff laughed when the person who notarized them was baffled at why we needed them.

‘Doesn’t the act of getting married cover this? I mean, do you have a prenup?’

‘No – we don’t. But in Spain, apparently getting married doesn’t really buy you anything financially.’

The person wrinkled their brow.

‘Huh.’

This brings me to the acquisition of our marriage certificate. I had one from when we were first married, so I had it Apostilled. Then I found out that I had to get a ‘fresh one’ because the consulate doesn’t like old versions ‘because you might have gotten a divorce since then.’

Well, I know a lot of people who have been divorced – myself included – and none of them want to move to another country with their ex-spouse. Not one.  And to go further, in the US, marriage certificates are just a record of the marriage taking place. They are not tied to a divorce decree. So I could get my previous marriage’s marriage certificate, and it would have no reference to our divorce. It’s useless.

But I got the newer version and got that Apostilled. BTW – it looks exactly like the first version – except the date of the stamp on the back. It’s now part of the packet that is about 2 inches thick for each of us. Then I called the State Department to check on the Apostles for our FBI background checks. Even with overnight delivery, both to them and the paid envelope to send it back, it won’t be here for another 10 days. Ugh. I’m not sure what we would have done if we didn’t use IDVetting to expedite our background checks.

So I reviewed the consulate check list, and sent off what I had to the ‘Sworn Translator’ from the list that the consulate publishes. This person lives in another state and will send me her translations via email, I will check them for accuracy (except I don’t speak or read Spanish), then I pay her and she overnights them to me. She’s feeling OK on the timing of the background checks, if I can get them to her right away when I get them. I’m less comfortable with things coming down to the wire – but I’ll take her word for it.

I’ve included other documents that others have mentioned they were asked for after the fact. Tax returns and birth certificates, even though we have passports and you can’t get a passport without a birth certificate. But it’s all in there.

I can almost see the finish line and as I went through our packets and touched and checked off each document, I felt a sense of pride. Not one of them was easy to get. Not one. And some cost a chunk of money to acquire. But here they are, sitting on my kitchen counter, just waiting to be judged for accuracy or relevance. I’ll hold my head high when we go for our appointment. If they give me credit for the sheer weight of it, I feel sure we’re in.

 

 

The Pep Talk

Tonight I required a pep talk from the coach in our family. Yes, I’ve been sick with the flu that’s been hitting the US hard. They say that cases this year are up 800% over last year, so I was bound to get some form of it. But it went beyond the fever and coughing and sneezing. I needed an attitude adjustment.

Jeff came home tonight and asked how my day was. Well, needless to say, it wasn’t good. I told him my tale of woe. All the road blocks and seemingly impossible tasks. Then I did the unthinkable. I suggested that maybe we should just stay here – in the US. It would be easier. I could just STOP all the stuff I’ve got on this list to get to Spain.

No more phone calls, no more begging for signed pieces of paper from US financial institutions. No more lost documents in the mail. No more explaining to people on the phone seemingly ridiculous, impossible requirements that we don’t do in the US, just to meet some sort of standard that no one I speak to can comprehend. It all flowed out of me and then I stopped to cough, blow my nose, and breath, which was Jeff’s opportunity to jump in.

‘We have almost all the documents. Let’s just present them in the form we have them in.’

I sighed. Oh how naïve he is – I thought. He’s not spoken or emailed anyone at the consulate.

‘They need stamps and signatures and stuff we don’t do here. And I can’t get people to even sign them, let alone stamp them – because there is no stamp – and they think it’s stupid. And even if I can eventually get them, they have to be translated. It all takes time. Time we don’t have before we are supposed to go to our appointment.’

He stopped me. ‘Do you remember why you wanted to move to Spain in the first place?’

‘Of course.’ I said, ‘I love it there. The people. Learning the language. The culture, the history and the food. And its beautiful. I missed it every day when I came back after the summer.’

‘I remember.  So you don’t want all that now?’

‘I do. But they’re never going to give us a visa if I can’t get everything I’m supposed to get in the way they want it. They even say it on their website and in emails.’

‘Let’s let them tell us ‘no’. If you’re the one who decides, it’s ‘no’ right now – giving up – then it’s for sure. We don’t know what they’ll say when we get to the consulate appointment with all stuff we have.’

He was being too logical. I was stubborn in my defense.

‘They aren’t going to care that it’s hard or that people refuse to cooperate. They can go to Spain any time they want and they’ll be perfectly happy if we aren’t there too.’

Yes – I admit I was whining.

‘Maybe. But I want to hear it from them.’

He hugged me and suggested perhaps I needed a glass of wine. But that, and the Nyquil I’ve been taking for my cold, don’t mix very well and I’d like to wake up tomorrow NOT in a coma. He’s right, of course. I can only do what I can do. Nothing more. I guess I’m just used to pulling rabbits out of my hat and today I reached in and there weren’t any more rabbits. And my top hat has a nice big hole in it.

But tomorrow is another day. I am feeling like I’m finally on the mend tonight, and with a little sleep, and my coach to keep me in the game, I may just get through it.

 

The Visa Slalom

Skiing is an apt metaphor for trying to get all the documents ready for our visa appointment, arranging to ship our goods overseas, navigating Spanish banking and all the rest. It’s winter, after all. But just like tackling the giant slalom, it’s tiring and about halfway down the hill, one wonders if one will make it to the end without breaking a leg or my neck.

The background checks weren’t done by the FBI when they predicted so we were able to get them done by a company called IDVetting. It cost a ton of money but we had little choice and now they’re out to the State Department getting Apostled. I hope to get them back next week.

Then there is the fact that our bank in Spain refused our wire transfers using a universal currency service every expat uses, that saves us tons of bank exchange fees and wire fees. No one has ever heard of this before. So I’ll need to figure something else out there – most likely just paying the exorbitant fees our banks charge.

Getting our US banks and investment firms to sign and date our statements, verifying that they are actually our statements, has also proved so incredibly challenging, it boggles the mind. And once they finally agreed to do it – somehow the US mail screwed it up and I didn’t receive them and have to call back and explain it all over again – to a new set of people who are baffled at the request and are not sure they are willing to do it. I’m in an endless loop and without these we can’t hope to get our visa approved.

Then there is the apartment lease that has taken 6 weeks to get to the point where we have something to review before we sign. But then I guess if we can’t get a visa we won’t need an apartment.

And finally, the overseas shipper we were going to use that turned out to be total flakes. I have finally found another that will pick up our stuff from our home in US in February, some time – if our visa is approved, and deliver it the our apartment – as soon as we sign the lease, in Valencia.

Until we get these documents – we can’t get them translated so we can meet our Consulate appointment. Each of them requires time, patience and persistence. And continued follow up. It’s crazy making and shouldn’t be this hard.

Everyone I know who has gone through this process has shaken their heads at how hard every step has been for us. I finally turned to my husband the other day and asked if it was all worth it? Is the universe telling me to stop with all this? Why is EVERY SINGLE THING like pulling teeth? Why has no one else ever encountered road blocks with each step required? Even then, we’re not ensured our visa will be approved.

He shook his head.

‘Maybe its so we will really appreciate all that it took to get there.’

I’m not so sure anymore. But maybe I’m down because I’ve been battling the flu. Then again, maybe I have the flu because I’ve been battling all this document HELL!! Chicken and Egg. I haven’t given up yet, but I’m close. I’ve got the towel in my hand and I’m almost ready to throw it in.

What if it All Worked Out?

As we’ve gone through the last few months of preparing to move to Valencia, we’ve spent time with friends and family. It’s been wonderful to connect and reconnect with people we haven’t seen in a while. They always have questions about the details and our decision.

I’ve also had to stop some of the subscriptions that we’ve gotten over the years. Things like a monthly massage club I belong to at a local Spa. And at times, I’ve had to explain why I’m stopping the service. Moving out of the country is one of the reasons I can stop contracts early.

When I explain what we’re doing, usually there is some kind of surprise. Always, there is a ‘Wow! Seriously? Why?’. Then I have to explain that we are indeed moving, that we love Spain and can’t wait to experience living there. And then I invariably get, ‘Are you sure its not just a mid-life crisis?’

My response? ‘Yes, that’s exactly what it is! Except I prefer the term ‘Mid-life Revelation.”

They always look at me like I’m crazy. But if its a subscription service, the contract is voided. If it’s people I know a bit better, they sometimes have an off the cuff list of all the things that could go wrong, might become a big problem, or reasons we might reconsider. Then there are the things that ‘they’ve heard’. That someone they know, who knows someone, has had a terrible time with. It goes something like this:

‘I’ve heard their health care is like the third world. My friend’s went there and they had to go to the emergency room and it was awful. You know it’s socialized medicine?’ When I tell them that none of this is true and that our medical insurance is 1/5th of the costs is is here, with 0 deductibles, their mouths hang open. ‘Well, they certainly never tell you that when they talk about socialized medicine in the US.’ I laugh – ‘Yeah, I know. But it’s true.’

‘I heard, from a friend, whose daughter had a Spanish boyfriend, that their taxes are terrible over there.’ To this, I explain all the things that are supported by their taxes. Things like top notch higher education, social safety net, and a host of other things. Their roads, infrastructure and transportation systems are much better than the US. You don’t have to own a car to get around the country at reasonable prices. But no country is perfect. We should know.

‘Living in Europe is expensive. You’ll run out of money really fast and you’ll be back here before you know it. With nothing left.’ I love this one. It sounds more like a wish than a statement of reality. When I tell them how much a house or apartment costs – they choke on their drink. ‘How is it so cheap?’ they ask. I respond with ‘I don’t know. But even their groceries and home furnishing and clothing is about 1/3 of what it is here.’

Then the conversation often turns.

‘Well, you know we’ve always talked about maybe moving to somewhere cheaper. Keep me posted on how it all goes. We might consider it.’

I don’t blame them. I used to be in the ‘What if…?’ crowd. My husband, Jeff, has helped me let that go. When ever I went negative over the years. Coming up with all the disaster scenarios that might go wrong. ‘What if this happened? What if that happened?’ he would respond with, ‘What if it all worked out beautifully? What if it’s the best thing we’ve ever done?’

He helped me go from always preparing for the worst, to looking for a path through. And then looking at the bright side. It doesn’t mean we’re not prepared for challenges on this adventure. It just means that we’re more focused on the upside and all the fun we’re going to have heading off into the unknown. And as we do this, I think we can help others think the same way.

 

What a Cluster…

So, under the heading of ‘What can go wrong, will go wrong’, who knew that my mobile carrier, T-Mobile, would be the biggest roadblock as I complete all the tasks I set up when I was in Valencia over the last two weeks.

When I was there, I opened a bank account so that I could pay people, rent an apartment, pay my PA, my lawyer, and set up utilities. While I was at the bank, I was sent a ‘short code’ to my phone to validate my account. For some reason, I didn’t receive it so I called T-Mobile from my bank in Valencia. The person I spoke to at T-Mobile told me that I couldn’t receive short codes while I was in Spain and would need to wait to get it, and validate my account, when I got back to the US. This seemed strange but I trusted them. It didn’t really matter because I could initiate the bank transfers from here.

Now I’m preparing to pay people. I still haven’t received the short code, so I’ve spent the last several days in contact with the bank and in contact with T-Mobile.  I just found out (T-Mobile owned up to it, at last) that I actually have to BE in Spain to receive the short code. I CAN NOT receive it in the US. So when I wasn’t receiving it when I was in Spain, that’s when T-Mobile should have been working on it. NOT when I got back to the US. I was there for 5 days after I phoned them from the bank.

So my trip to Valencia may have been for nothing, since I can’t validate my account, or any other bank transfers I might initiate – even if I could access online banking. I can’t pay for my apartment or anything else with the euros I have stored there. T-Mobile says they’re working on it. I’m not sure what that means. If I had known, I would have gotten a Spanish cell phone and Spanish # when I was there. It wouldn’t have been difficult.

I’m trying to remain positive, but this one has knocked me sideways. If I have to travel back to Valencia, it’s thousands of dollars, not to mention my time, for something I should not have to do – and through no fault of my own. Mobile phones have made life more connected and convenient for so many things. But that means that our mobile carriers hold a lot of cards in the new world. And they can cost us in unexpected ways that we can’t begin to anticipate.