Celebrating small wins

In my experience, people want to be helpful. At least that is what I’m finding in all my interactions with Spanish administrators, bankers, and the girl at the mailbox place in Valencia. And today I learned that I am a proud owner (renter) of a shiny new mailbox. I have never been so happy at 4:30am – the time I usually check my phone for emails from Spain.

My husband sleepily asked me why I was cheering – fist in the air – Ā and I proudly, and loudly, announced my little success.Ā Ā Unimpressed, heĀ promptly rolled over and went back to sleep. He’s insisted its foolish for me to try to live on Spanish time, and perhaps he’s right. But if doing business in the middle of the night means you can open a bottle of wine at 7am pacific timeĀ – I’m struggling to find the downside.

This little project of moving to Spain has fallen mostly to me and has become a littleĀ more than part time job. Its like a puzzle without the sharp, well definedĀ edgesĀ that I’m determined to put together. And it’s not cheap. To get a mailbox in Spain,Ā I had to wire transfer 85 euros – with my bank fee of $50 US – to their bank in Madrid. And that’s just the start. But I think it will all work out.

Every day in the mail, I get documents and it’s like Christmas holding up birth certificates, marriage certificates and notarized whoozy-whatsits. We are piled high with paper, and somehow I feel a deep sense of accomplishment at my archeological skills, digging through the file boxes of our life and coming up with something we will need to prove we’re upstanding citizens, or just that we’re who we say we are.

The bank person in Valencia is being very helpful and will also help me obtain insurance once I get the account open. Then I can travel to Valencia before Christmas and find a flat for us. By the time we get there in early March, I believe I will sleep for a week! And if I’m lucky – past 4:30am. It also means I’ll have to wait until 4pm to open a bottle of rose’. Ah,Ā I foundĀ the downside.

The Oracle of Jamba Juice

It’s been one of those days. There are bound to be a few as we navigate the world of visas and setting up our lives in Spain. The endless paperwork, certifications, Apostles and confusion.

I woke up this morning to a message from the bank in Valencia. Apparently showing that you have accounts with money in them isn’t enough forĀ Spanish bankersĀ to believe that this is the pile ofĀ cash you will use to seed the account you’re opening in their bank. I’m at a bit of a loss at how to overcome this one. Should I take a bunch out at the ATM and photograph myself rolling around the floor in it? Then I could tell them that I’d only deposit the ones that stick to my skin into their bank.

I called the Secretary of State’s office in our state to verify that they could Apostlize our birth certificates and marriage certificate from another state. They told me they could and gave me directions – 30 miles away, mind you – so I could get this done today. Off I went, in orderĀ to check another thing off my list. When I got there, they informed me that they could not, in fact, do this for me. I would need to contact the Secretary’s of State in those other states and find out how they certify these documents. I was stunned. IĀ calledĀ thisĀ morning before getting in the car!

On my way home from this 60 mile round trip from theĀ State capitol cityĀ – I decided to stop at Jamba Juice for my Greens and Ginger smoothie with some Boosts. The young man who greeted me asked me how my day was. He regretted it instantly, I am very sure, as his hair blew back from my tale of woe. Afterwards, he asked me nicely what I would like to order andĀ I looked at the menu. They didn’t have a Boost for curing ‘Document Hell’ or to rid me of ‘Bureaucracy Nightmare’ so I settled from some protein and vitamins. I thought about getting cayenne pepper added in,Ā to marry with the fire in my belly, but decided against it.

As he was handing me my drink, he said he hoped my day would get better and ‘Keep that smile on your face, and it will all work out.’ Little did he know that the smile was ironic, from chewing glass for the last 30 miles.Ā Ā But then I stopped and thought about it. He’s right – this Jamba Juice guy. All I could really do is laugh. This processĀ  might seem crazy to me, but it did guarantee that only the most persistent,Ā earnest expats would be living in my new country. We will beĀ mingling with a group of people who were veryĀ  serious about living in Spain. And you know how I know that? Cause I’m very serious about it too.Ā  Thank you, Jamba Juice guy. For the Boost of Perspective.

Baja – ha ha ha

My vocabulary is increasing by the day. Not my English vocabulary, but my ‘Moving to Spain’ vocabulary. I have learned what a Baja is, and after being told it was essential that I obtain one of these, by my US shipper, learned that only citizens of Spain can get one. Yup. Just another day of ‘Huh? What’s that?’ and ‘Oh, so I can’t even get that and it’s not essential.’ after hours and sometimes days of chasing my tail via email and phone calls.

What is a ‘Baja’? It allows you to import your personal goods from another country into Spain duty free. The consulate set me straight. ‘Oh, international moving gods’, I chanted yesterday ~Ā ‘How can I stop all this misdirection and misinformation from sending me scrambling?’Ā The answer came to me in a dream… OK, not in a dream butĀ by asking myĀ helpful Expats on the closed FB group I belong to. And Voila! I have a Gestor.

One might think that a person who is hired to amuse the King, wouldn’t be the best person to help us navigate the confusing world of moving to Spain. But its not that kind of Gestor. This kind lives in the country, is familiar with the bureaucracy and just gets how things work. They know the system and they make a career out of helping people who don’tĀ understand it, toĀ get what they need.

At first I was like ‘Seriously? I need a person to help me understand how to file paperwork?!’ but after several weeks at this, I’m like ‘Seriously – I need a person to help me file paperwork, get insurance, get an apartment, get my NIE card, register with the town hall…’ and on and on. And of course, I must pay for this person to do these things for me – because it’s an actual job. And it’s essential. And I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’m having a WhatsApp call with my new Gestor early next week, to lay out a plan. Funny, I don’t feel so alone anymore. It’s like I have been running around in a dark room, bumping into everything. My shinsĀ are bruised and my knees bloody, from falling on my face daily. My wonderful Gestor, Linda, will be turning on the light. The reality might be blinding at first, but with a good pair of sunglasses, at least I’ll be able to see the whole picture.

 

The Strategy of No Strategy – At All

I’m a big believer in weighing my option objectively. This usually translates into some sort of Pros and Cons list. Not everyone in my household appreciates this approach. Jeff’s opinion is that I usually overthink things. Mine is that once I make a decision, there are no regrets. No recriminations. Just forward motion.

Quitting my job this year, and then ultimately spending the summer in Spain, required little to no Pro/Con list. There was so much upside, it would have been hard not to take the leap. But moving to Spain? Lock, stock and barrel? Well, that required a little more than a ‘Just do It!’ mentality, after way too many margaritas.

My Pro’s and Con’s were more practical and more emotionally satisfying:

Pros 

  • I never, ever have to utter the word ‘Strategy’ again, if I don’t want to
  • I don’t have to createĀ ‘decks’ unless they’re on a boat in the Mediterranean
  • No more Corporate training classes where we all learn how not to behave badly, like humans should already know how to do. If they’re humans
  • I don’t have to pretend, in a meeting with Execs,Ā that what the guy next to me just said didn’t come out of my mouth 30 min before, had been roundly rejected by the gathered assembly when I said it, but was now fully embraced as ‘Brilliant, Jeremy. Everyone – that’s exactly what we should do!’
  • I can do yoga every day looking at the Sea
  • I can drink wine at noon, like everyone else in the country where I’m living
  • I can take a napĀ every afternoonĀ 
  • Seeing Europe on the weekends is totally doable
  • Did I mention drinking wine at noon?

Cons

  • I speak no Spanish – so I’ll sound like an ignorant fool for quite a long time
  • I understand the system of bureaucracy – not a all
  • Sand in my house will become one of my biggest problems
  • Did I mention – I’ll be forced to drink wine everyday at noon?

OK ~ Perhaps my husband was right. I tend to overthink. When I got home from walking 800km on the Camino de Santiago, I said ‘Let’s move to Spain!’ One night a few days later, he rolled over before sleep and said ‘OK – Let’s move to Spain.’

No lists. No weighing considerations. Just jumping in with both feet. If I ever forget why I married this man, this is the kind of reminder I needed. My very own Reverse Christopher Columbus – ready to set out for the unknown.Ā  As we begin this adventure of moving to the other side of the world, I’ll add that to the Pro’s column every time.

Conference with the Sea

Today, we officially entered the home finding phase on the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City. Today, I spoke to my own version of The Great and Powerful Oz. My Gestor, Linda. Now that the time has fallen back to standard timeĀ in Spain – Arizona doesn’t bother doing that, at all – we are only 8 hours behind Valencia, instead of 9. This means almost nothing, except that I can sleep an extra hour and still return calls or emails in the morningĀ before their working day ends. I’m almost a real live girl again, who can stay up past 8pm.

Linda explained all the ins and outs of leasing a flat long-term.Ā The details of howĀ we will go about it when I’m there later in November.Ā Things likeĀ how to entice condo owners to lease to us, over the other guy, and how to have the utilities ready for us when we arrive in February.

Part of the mainĀ focus is to ensure that the owners get to know you, and feel connected to you, before they agree to crown you as the winner of the Rental Olympics. To facilitate this, I had to write a short bio to help convey who we are and why we want to live in Valencia and make it our home. This is harder than you’d think.

I racked my brain. What will they care about? What if they decide to buy my book on Amazon? Then they’ll know who I really am, andĀ I’ll admit, itsĀ a little crazy under the hood. Ā Whew. OK. Best to be short and sweet. Just the facts, ma’am.Ā So I wrote that up and sent it off.

Conference with the Sea

Next on the list was finding apartments that met our criteria. Even those that might be for sale, rather than for lease. To give Linda an idea of what we are looking for in our first year.Ā Just untilĀ we can get the lay of the land. My favorite part of this exercise wasn’t looking at the photos or finding apartments on Google street view. It was reading the descriptions that had been autoĀ translated on Chrome. Oh, Google. How you make me laugh.

Some of my favorites included:

‘A swimming pool that offers many possibilities…’ – I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to get at here. Usually, pools are for swimming – what else might they be implying?

‘A staircase of rise’ – As far as staircases go, I think it’s just up and down. I’m not sure pointing out that you can rise up on the staircase needs to be said. Unless they’re saying I can’t go back down it. That would be a problem.

‘Living room on the street’ – I think I know that they’re saying it overlooks the street. But as to the selling point, I don’t have the full grasp of the benefit of pointing it out. If I’m wrong – I’ll be watching TV on the sidewalk.

‘Great floor plan with public and private zones’ – aka living room vs. bedrooms?

‘Enjoy the dolphin show from you terrace!’ – seriously, I have no idea what they could possibly be talking about. How can Google translate something like dolphin incorrectly? But then if it isn’t dolphin, what the hell is in the show I’m going to enjoy from my terrace?!

‘Easy conference with the Sea’ – Based on the photos, I think it either means there is a view of the Med or that I can walk to the beach in short order and actually Conference with the Sea! I think IĀ just felt my blood pressure go down.

It will be quite a ride finding the right place but I’m sending many of these places to my new friend, Linda. Hoping perhaps she can help me tease out theĀ real meaning and find us the perfect place. ButĀ if I couldĀ advise anyone who is leasingĀ or selling property in Valencia – or any seasideĀ town on the Mediterranean – it would be to include that last oneĀ in your property description.Ā I don’t care about the possibilities of swimming pools and staircases that rise.Ā These peopleĀ hadĀ me at ‘Conference with the Sea’.