What if we ever needed…3/4 of an Inch

Hell froze over today. Well, since it’s so bloody hot and humid I sort of wish it actually did, but our stuff ARRIVED at 1pm today. It actually came with a phone call and three guys who could not have been nicer. I paid for their lunch afterwards. I’m not a person who has ever held a grudge. Don’t have time for it so all that nonsense was in my rear view mirror 30 seconds after the first dolly load crossed our door step.

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They found parking and unloaded in record time. As planned, we had them bring all the boxes and bikes up to our apartment and we put the sofa in our parking space in the garage. We needed to measure it before I schedule the crane service. I was on cloud nine watching them go back and forth. Emilie stayed down by the truck to make sure no one made off with any boxes while the guys were filling the lobby.

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Seeing our things again was like reconnecting with old friends. And unpacking was so much fun!¬† All my kitchen stuff that was of such interest to US Customs and Border control made it with only one glass pot lid that was shattered.¬† All my Le Creuset – check. More of my Crate and Barrel dishes – yup. All our flatware and my box of odds and ends kitchen stuff. My beloved Vitamix made it. Jeff checked the amperage (I don’t even pretend to understand it) and it works on the electricity here. We just have to take it to a local place to get the plug/cord swapped out.

My pans are here too! And our golf clubs and bikes. Jeff’s computer stuff and his keyboard that he’s been waiting for. All the tools for his first love – the motorcycle. We spent the day unpacking boxes and washing things. Our bedding from home – sheets and towels that we could have bought locally but we loved them too much to leave behind. Then there were the more sentimental things. The things that, when you surround yourself with them, make you feel like you’re truly home.

Our refrigerator magnet collection from trips we took as a family. Jeff always hated how junky it made it look in an open plan kitchen. I loved the reminder of all the things we did together. Tonight, I put them all on the fridge and he came home and smiled. Emilie and I had fun reminiscing about each one and telling funny stories about where they were purchased and some crazy thing that happened.

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The pictures came. Our wedding photo and some of the art that we had on the walls. Emilie unpacked the boxes in her room and it’s just about like it was in the US – only 5 times smaller. Her books, photos and all the small things that mean so much to her.

I unpacked the vacuum packed bags of our clothes and it seems we brought more than I remembered. I appears my ‘What if we ever…?’ philosophy might have gone a little too far. OK, if we ever go to Iceland again I have my Canada Goose parka and Jeff’s Mountain Hardwear parka. But living here I don’t think there will be a day that we’ll need either of those.

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My most egregious and embarrassing miscalculation was my discovery that I had 5 full boxes of shoes that were just for me. Luckily, Jeff had run an errand when I pulled them out of the pile in the dining room. Yeah, I knew I had a problem anyway but today it was in my face and before Jeff got home I needed to find somewhere for 5 boxes of shoes in El Compartimiento. But where to put them? The only place I had to spare was in the kitchen Gabinete and I knew the minute he got hungry I’d be ratted out. Emilie just shook her head but she wasn’t one to talk. She had 2 boxes of shoes for herself – OK, I’m a baaad influence.

So I started pulling out drawers and cabinets. I was sweating and panicked. What the hell was I going to do? I looked around and then I remembered we have drawers under the bed we bought. And those drawers are mostly covered by the duvet. I knew Jeff was barely using his closet so he wouldn’t even think about the drawers under the bed. Sure enough, they were empty. But as I placed my shoes, boots and sandals lovingly into their new, hidden home, I started counting and, well, I’m just ridiculous. Who needs 5 pairs of high suede boots here? I brought 3 pairs of rubber boots!¬† What was I thinking?

But that isn’t the capper. Tonight we went down to the garage after I was done unpacking the rest of the stuff and putting it away. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and my ability to cram things in every nook and hidden crannies. Organizing things for easy access later. Winter closet, stored. Yup, I was at the top of my organizational game. I hadn’t over packed afterall. I was a ‘just enough’ goddess.

I got into the elevator with a confident smug swagger that only a truly organized person pull off. Then we measured.

My beloved couch is 43 3/4 inches deep. I don’t care about the height because it passed that test. Our living room window is broken up into sections that are 43 inches. Not 44 inches – 43. And they can’t get any bigger, even if you take the windows out, because of the custom shutters that come down in tracks. So my couch won’t fit. So we went down and took all the wrapping from the move off and I actually talked to the couch.

‘Please couch – I know you’ve been through alot in the last 5 months but I need 3/4 of an inch – that’s all. Please give me 3/4 of an inch.’ I begged and pleaded.

Jeff measured again. I don’t think the couch was very forgiving after spending months in a container ship. It didn’t give up a millimeter. There will be no couch (at least not one from the US) inside El Compartimiento. With every victory, there is also defeat. I had gotten a little cocky with the shoes.

Tonight, Jeff is sporting his Keens, he’s smiling in a fresh pair of shorts and a shirt he hasn’t worn since February. That’s good enough for me.

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 time¬†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 morning¬†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.¬†The details of how¬†we will go about it when I’m there later in November.¬†Things like¬†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 main¬†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, and¬†I’ll admit, its¬†a little crazy under the hood. ¬†Whew. OK. Best to be short and sweet. Just the facts, ma’am.¬†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.¬†Just until¬†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 auto¬†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 I¬†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 the¬†real meaning and find us the perfect place. But¬†if I could¬†advise anyone who is leasing¬†or selling property in Valencia – or any seaside¬†town on the Mediterranean – it would be to include that last one¬†in your property description.¬†I don’t care about the possibilities of swimming pools and staircases that rise.¬†These people¬†had¬†me at ‘Conference with the Sea’.

 

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 ~¬†‘How can I stop all this misdirection and misinformation from sending me scrambling?’¬†The answer came to me in a dream… OK, not in a dream but¬†by asking my¬†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’t¬†understand it, to¬†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 shins¬†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.

 

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 – ¬†and I proudly, and loudly, announced my little success.¬†¬†Unimpressed, he¬†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 time¬†– I’m struggling to find the downside.

This little project of moving to Spain has fallen mostly to me and has become a little¬†more than part time job. Its like a puzzle without the sharp, well defined¬†edges¬†that I’m determined to put together. And it’s not cheap. To get a mailbox in Spain,¬†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,¬†I found¬†the downside.

Seriously? Seriously. Seriously?

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.’