The Slow Roll

The next 30 days – Please, Please, Please give us a visa – has become our linguistic transition period. I’m +Babbeling, and Rosetta Stoning. I’m watching strictly Spanish TV and even trying out some of my new language on Jeff.

‘Let’s Go’ he says, to move me along to the store.

‘You mean ‘Vamonos!’ I say, with a wave of my hand. I’ve begun gesturing with my arms a lot more – like my new favorite Spanish actresses.

He rolls his eyes, but I’ll be the one laughing when we land in Spain.

‘Como llegamos al metro, por favor?’ I’ll say at the airport, to the first official person I see – right out of the gate. Jeff will be confused but follow in my wake – as he’ll have no other choice, being that he hasn’t been studying up for hours a day with La Casa De Papel and Velvet.

For our visa applications, we had to pay an official consulate-approved translator to translate our bank statements – and a host of other documents. So when we went to the bank to get them stamped and signed, the manager suggested that we switch our language preference to Spanish going forward. That way, next year when we want to renew our visas, we can just print them, get then stamped and we won’t be out the $400 to have someone certify that numbers in English are numbers in Spanish.

Seemed like a great idea until yesterday when we got a fraud alert via text on Jeff’s phone. And yes, now it’s in Spanish.

‘What the hell is this?’ asked Jeff, confused. ‘I think it’s telling me there has been some fraudulent activity on our account – but I can’t tell what it is.’ he groaned. ‘Shit! We had that guy at the bank change everything over to Spanish!’

I smiled. Seemed like a good idea at the time. So we logged into our account and Yup! its all in Spanish. Nothing like jumping into the deep end. So I called and got things straightened out, charges reversed and cards cancelled. They’re researching some of the stuff from a couple of days ago and today they sent me an email update – in Spanish. Jeff laughed.

‘See. Now YOU get to decipher what the hell this says.’

‘No problema!’ was my reply. And I sat down and figured it out. Sure, I had to look up a bunch of banking mumbo jumbo (Oh, how Google translate still owns me) – but I did pretty good before I broke down and used ‘the Google’, as my Mom calls it. And, if I’m honest, I’m a little proud of myself.

Not that I haven’t had my doubts about what we’re doing, the closer it gets. Serious doubts about how mad we must be to just up and move across the world. But I feel sure, when the days comes, I’ll do it with a hearty ‘Vamanos!’




Breaking News

Often, we watch the news, but we don’t see the connection to ourselves. Especially in today’s crazy political climate. The day’s headlines fly by and it sounds a lot the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons. ‘Mwha, Mwha, Mwha Mwha Mwha Mwha’. Nothing more. And then suddenly, it does effect you. Very personally.

On December 22nd, I overnighted our FBI background checks to the US State Department to gain the Apostle. I checked the FedEx website and they arrived on the 26th. I called them last Friday to check on the Status and they told me they had logged them on the 29th – 3 days later. I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t so concerned because they are supposed to ‘process’ the documents in 2-4 business days. I had included an overnight FedEx return envelope so I figured I would get them this week.

Today, I checked the FedEx website but they haven’t been shipped yet. So I called the State Department again. It seems with the ‘cyclone bomb’ we’ve all heard about that dumped feet of snow on the East Coast of the US last week – it’s going to be at least 12-15 business days for them to finally get them back to me.

But here’s the catch. Our wonderful Congress is threatening a government shut down and the timing of it, if they reach no agreement, means that next Thursday will be the first day where there isn’t an employee in the Dept. of Authentications at the US State Department. So if our background checks are not Apostillized and put in the FedEx envelope by Wednesday of next week, we will not be able to get them translated in time for our visa appointment at the Consulate on January 29th.

It seems unbelievable to me that our going to Spain hinges on the US Congress – so little confidence have I in that august body. And now their shenanigans have an immediate, direct impact on me and my life. But, after I took 10 deep breaths, I decided I’m not going to let it bother me. This final piece in the puzzle is so entirely out of my hands, I won’t let it drain my energy. I have other things to do.

I’ve found a few more boxes of old papers in the garage and I finished shredding them. Just when I thought it might be safe to let go of the industrial shredder. I’m considering these documents I’m cutting into tiny pieces, an offering to the gods that control Document Hades.

‘Oh controllers of all things certified and notarized. Please – I’m begging you. Just this one last thing.’ I said today as I fed paper into our shredder.

I’m thinking they heard me. Right at that moment, the shredder overheated and stopped working. A clear sign that someone is listening on the other side.

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.


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.



Pulling Teeth

Yesterday, was going to be another milestone on my quest. On Dec. 26th, the assistant I hired in Valencia Express mailed me our certificates of insurance. These are very important in getting our visas. In fact, we can’t get visas without these. Our health insurance must have certain components and this certificate will say the words they need to hear to check that requirement off the list.

I stayed home all day yesterday because DHL required a signature for the Express envelope. That was fine. I had a tracking number. I looked it up and saw it had made it to LA and it would be here by the end of day. It’s the holidays, so that’s a relative term. We’ve gotten things as late as 9pm.

So I waited and told my daughter, that if the door bell rang or she heard a knock, to answer it, because it would be important. It sounds strange that I had to tell her that but for my children’s entire life I had told them never to answer the door (stranger danger) so I felt like I needed to be explicit. She gave me the requisite ‘eye roll’ and a sarcastic ‘Got it.’

At around 8pm last night, I refreshed the DHL website to see where this very important, crucial document might be and found an interesting surprise. It was in LEIPZIG, GERMANY!!! Yes, they had sent it back to Europe from Los Angeles. Huh?! I called my husband over and he looked at it.

‘That can’t be right.’ he said.

To which I started laughing like a crazy person. He looked at me concerned.

‘Of course its right. This is the force field that surrounds me where these visa documents are concerned. They can’t actually see me. I don’t show up on radar.’

He shook his head and walked away.

Early this morning I called DHL and was told that ‘in the sort, sometimes this can happen’ like that makes it OK. But he gave me some good news. My document has made it to Cincinnati, so yeah. I’m sure it will find it’s way here eventually. I sent their CEO a nice ‘Happy New Year’ note to make myself feel better.

Now I’m sitting in the oral surgeon’s office while my daughter has her 4 wisdom teeth extracted. And again, I have to laugh. This whole process has been like one big dental appointment. ‘Pulling Teeth’ is the right metaphor and now I’m in a place today where they actually do it. Perhaps the gods in document HELL will see that and give me some sort of dispensation. But I’ve decided I just have to laugh. There is no other choice.

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.