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.

Sometimes

Moving to Valencia was made easier, I’m convinced, because we left Seattle two years earlier for Arizona. I had taken a new job knowing it wasn’t the end of the line. So we were out of our comfort zones for quite awhile before we packed up and moved across the world.

Arizona wasn’t politically our favorite place. We moved there in 2016, and all the guns, truck nuts and the like were not part of how we saw ourselves. Driving there was scary because you never knew who was packing and they might pull a weapon on you going 100 miles an hour on the freeway. But then everyone drove at least 80 mph on the 17 or the 101 freeway, so 100 wasn’t that much faster. It happened to Jeff while he was in the carpool lane on his motorcycle a couple of months after we got there. That incident started the clock on when we would move.

But even with all of that I still knew how to operate. How to find the Department of Motor vehicles, the paperwork I would need to get my license. Call a Dr. for my daughter and get an appointment. Nothing big but I didn’t have to think about it. I understood the bureaucracy. The System’. I’m thinking about it now.

Sometimes:

  • I wish I had a whole day where I ‘just knew’ and could easily figure it out.
  • I would like to get up in the morning knowing that going outside wasn’t going to present challenges the moment I interacted with other citizens.
  • I’d like to go to the grocery store and find my favorite foods. In the same packages I’m used to.
  • I’d like to get my mail from our US forwarder without paying for a FedEx envelope.
  • I’d like to be able to call on an old medical bill that finally reached me without the hassle of the time difference and the cost before I even get anyone on the phone.
  • I’d like to not have to pay .20 cents a minute to call my bank because they’ve denied a charge on my credit card or an ACH on my bank account because I’m still not in the US even after I’ve asked them to put notes on my account
  • I’d like to just get our stuff from that freaking boat we paid so much money to bring our things from the US – because they’re still not here!
  • I just want to go to that breakfast place we used to go to on weekends in Issaquah – where they knew us and we didn’t even have to order – they just brought it with unlimited coffee refills.
  • I’d like to not feel completely stupid trying to get small things done, being the only person in the room, store, office, that can’t express themselves like I want to.
  • I just want easy, familiar, normal, comfortable.
  • Sometimes…

And then I remember. I love living here. But sometimes it’s still hard. On those days we don’t leave the apartment and we just binge watch NetFlix. Shows filmed in LA or NY. Places we are familiar with and feel comfortable in. It’s like we’re recharging from home so we can go out again tomorrow and tackle it. We’re committed to living here – we’re not moving back. But Sometimes…

No Really, Where’s my Stuff?!?

Oh yes. Back in the dark ages – well, the end of February, the movers came and took our stuff to Los Angeles. They had promised to put it all on a boat that would sail across the sea. How do I know this? Because I gave them a pile of money and signed a contract to that effect. What day is it today? Hmm, oh yeah, it’s June 7th. And where is my stuff? A question not even the Oracle at Delphi could answer lying in her sulfur fog in her stone mountain top temple.

The first indication that we might have an issue was about a month after arriving here in Valencia, the shipper in LA contacted me and asked me ‘for an inventory list’. WHAT?!? I asked them why they would be asking me for that since the movers made a list of what was in each box – because I had already numbered said boxes and made an inventory list for them. Well, they didn’t have it. So I sent them another copy and pictures of each of the number items I had taken with my cell phone before allowing them to be loaded.

Yes, I’m just that organized. Ok – paranoid. But it was our stuff. And we cared about it enough to ship it half way across the world, across oceans and through canals. You can see how my blood pressure might have gone up a bit. I conveyed my displeasure to the person who was doing the asking. ‘Was this what I paid all that money for?’ She never directly addressed the question but assured me that now she could ship our stuff.

What?!? They had picked it up a month before. Where the HELL had it been, if not in a container rapidly steaming it’s way towards me with dolphins riding the bow wave guiding to Valencia?? I was pissed. They said it had been stored until it was put on the boat with other containers. What could I do? Nothing – so I decided to drink a glass of wine and take 10 deep breaths. It worked for awhile.

Before we went to pick up Jeff’s bike in Germany at the beginning of May, I reached out to them again and asked when our stuff would be getting here. I didn’t want it to show up while we were in Germany. They assured me that it would be arriving on May 23rd to Valencia. The customs people would contact me and arrange the paperwork and delivery. Ugh – but fine. We booked our tickets to Germany and off we went.

The timing was good because Emilie was coming on the 19th. That would give her a couple of days to settle in before her stuff got here and we could spend days unpacking it all. The 23rd came and went – no call. So 7 days after the due date, I reached out again. No response. So, in my typical fashion I did a little digging and found the CEO’s email address and cc’d him on my next communication showing the string of untruths I had been told in the emails with these people going back to February. Voila! I got a response telling me our stuff was going to now arrive on June 12, saying they were sorry for the delay and all would be well. You can tell I felt much better. NOT!

Then an email came from a nice guy in Rotterdam in The Netherlands who told me he would be handling the customs paperwork for me when the shipment arrived in Rotterdam. AGAIN WHAT?!? I quietly asked my the HELL my stuff wold be arriving in Rotterdam since I live in SPAIN. And I paid to have my stuff shipped to VALENCIA. When was my stuff going to show up at my door in Valencia, since it was going to be all the way across Europe?

He assured me that they were going to truck it across the several countries between me and Holland and that process would start after it arrived in Rotterdam on June 12th. He as very cheerful. So cheerful that I couldn’t be angry at him because he had nothing to do with the entire thing. And because I need him  – a man with so many vowels in his name that when I email him I have no idea if I’m actually spelling it correctly.

So I filled out the forms he sent me and sent them back. Now I’m waiting – hoping – praying, that our stuff will actually get to Rotterdam. A city I never wanted it to go to. And that the richly voweled guy will take care of it and get it here, so I can discover whether my couch can be craned into the living room window on the 7th floor.

Here’s the lesson. If you move to another country – store you stuff in your old country. Put it in storage and happily pay for it. Because, when you get to your new country, you will have to buy stuff to get by while you’re waiting for your old stuff to arrive – thus creating duplicate possessions, like a tea pot and a frying pan. So when your stuff, after making it, apparently, through every port between Los Angles and Rotterdam, finally arrives you won’t actually need that crap cause you’ve already bought that crap – again.

After all this, I swear if that couch doesn’t fit through the window I’m going to put it out on the sidewalk and just sleep there. It will be summer – if they’re not lying and it gets here by July 1st. I could live off the orange trees lining the street. The weather will be lovely, and I might just meet more of my neighbors and make some new friends. I’ll put my feet up, watch YouTube videos on my phone and drink some Sangria on the sidewalk. The street cleaners can wake me in the morning when they come around. But I’ll have earned it. I will have waited 4 months for that couch – too large though it might very well be. But its mine, and perhaps, like me, a little worse for wear but still, all mine.

Random Crap

Everyday I learn new things. Most of them are small but this one was sort of large so I thought I would pass this and some of the other stuff we’ve gleaned lately. Because when things are different, it helps to know about them in advance so as to avoid confusion and delay.

I went for my follow up with the surgeon last night, after having the tests in the morning. In the US, the test results are automatically sent to the Dr. who is authorizing and requesting the tests. In Spain, that is not the case. You are sent the results – just like in the US – but you are expected to print the results out and take them to the Dr. He doesn’t have access to your test results for privacy reasons, unless you give him the hard copy.

So Emilie and I went to the appointment and waited – they squeezed us in – and found that I had no way to access the information and that the Dr. was expecting me to bring a hard copy. I was his last appointment of the day so going home to get my ID and password wasn’t an option. So I’ll have to go back for another appointment.

Of course, they apologized to me for my own mistake. The nurse and Dr. felt terrible about it all and I learned something new that I’ll never forget. So there was goodness all around. I told them not to worry.

Today, Jeff and I tried a new grocery store. I have never lived in city with so many different grocery stores so close to our house. In NYC, Chicago, or SF you’d have one choice of grocery store, and it would be very small and very expensive. In Seattle, living in the city was a desert of grocery stores. Although I know that’s changed a bit now with City Target moving in, and some others.

But here is the SuperCor, Carrefour, Super Carrefour, Mercadona, Super Mercat, and now we discovered the Consum. We started noticing Consum’s around the area and they looked like small stores. But while the entrance may look small, there is a HUGE store lurking behind. So we did a big shop there today.

We walked the aisles and it’s now become our favorite store. Why, when there is so much choice in grocery shopping would we choose Consum upon which to bestow our custom? Well, there are a couple of considerations here. Consum wins the award for best layout most resembling a Safeway or QFC (Kroger store) in the US. Things are just where you would expect them to be. That’s a novelty in every other store we’ve shopped in. You might remember my near ‘bleach v. laundry detergent debacle’ of mid-March.

Jeff likes that they have shelves and shelve of different kinds of tostadas. Those little toast things that you use as a tapas delivery system, or in his case, to dip into olive oil grown from ancient trees, for a mid-day snack. He’s become an olive oil and tostada snob, apparently, and shaking up his tostada selection is a top priority. He was in heaven.

They also win the award for most brands I recognize (Kikomon low salt soy sauce) and an ethnic food section that contains stuff I really, really like. Mexican foods, Indian foods, Japanese foods. They’re all there and some new things I’ve never tried. They had us at ‘Ethnic Food’ section. And they have paper towels that resemble the ones I could get back home. Yes, it’s the very, very small little stupid things that matter.

Finally, they win the award for nicest checkers, and since they have an in-store Coffee bar – with really nice staff, too – it’s doubly wonderful.

We came home and Emilie is thrilled that I found Golden Grahams cereal that is one she recognizes too. So we’re all happy. I’ll be adding this to my ‘Lessons Learned’ section under ‘Looking for a little bit of comfort’. Cause right now, familiarity is a high priority on my comfort scale.

The Color of Happy

Don’t hate me, but I believe I now own the most beautiful grocery trolley every made. Yes, as you can see in the picture, my new yellow, 4 wheeled, grocery trolley is safely ensconced in the foyer of El Compartimiento.  And I couldn’t be more proud.

Grocery Trolley

We woke up today, and headed out early. We used our new Valenbisi bike service to cycle our way to the central city to enjoy a coffee and then do a little shopping at El Corte Ingles. The other day, I had seen a credenza there that might just go in our living room and Jeff and I went back and bought it. It’s being delivered on Thursday.

Next, we went to the kitchen section. We are in desperate need of a silicone spatula (Jeff is pretty sure the perfect one exists) and we needed to check them out. We went up a few floors and came around a corner looking for kitchenware, and there, under a spotlight,  sat my bright yellow trolley from my dreams. I think I heard angels singing. I approached it with the reverence it deserved and found it was 20% off. It’s like it was begging to come home with me, right then.

‘Ditch that horrible Ikea trolley (we can barely call it that, can we?) you bought the first day you got here. Take me home and I’ll never let you down.’ I heard it whisper.

Very sure Barry White was playing in the background. Yes, I could dig it. But we had come to Corte Ingles for other priorities, so Jeff peeled me away from that lemon colored beauty, and we perused the kitchen utensil section. He found the perfect spatula for his grilled cheese sandwiches (Emile would be proud), but he saw me eyeing that bright yellow, 4 wheeled – not 2 wheeled – grocery trolley.

‘We’ll come back after we have lunch at the beach.’ he promised me.  Ugh. I reluctantly agreed and we set off with our spatula and Chromecast Ultra, to round out our media viewing, safely in his backpack.  We cycled to the beach and enjoyed some tapas and refreshments. The marina was, as yet, undiscovered by us and we took full advantage – enjoying an after lunch drink overlooking where they keep those big yachts they race in the Americas cup.  A gorgeous day.

Valencia Marina

Heading home, we nearly missed going back for our bright yellow trolley. It had been a long day. We were a little tired and got plenty of sun. But then we got on the wrong train and ended up having to go back to Colon to get the right train. So since we were already steps away from Corte Ingles outside the Colon Metro station? Well, that trolley was going home with me!

We bought it and went down to the basement Supermercado and bought a bunch of food to put in my new trolley. It’s not Harrods food hall, but it would do to christen her for the inaugural run.  No pulling this trolley. NO WAY!! I’m pushing it on it’s 4 wheels – all the way home.

Getting off the subway and walking on the sidewalk, Jeff chided me a bit for pushing it like a stroller.

‘You know, it would be easier on the uneven pavement if you pulled it. It’s not a stroller.’

I shook my head in disbelief. How could he suggest this?!?

‘I don’t think you get it. It’s got 4 wheels. I can now push it and keep up with everyone pushing their food trolleys in our neighborhood.’

He shook his head. ‘I’m just saying it’s not a kid.’

‘Well, think of it like a food baby.’

He had no comeback for that! We walked in the door and there sat our sad Ikea trolley. It couldn’t hope to compete with my new Yellow, super trolley and it knew it. It just sat there sagging. You could feel it hoping that it hadn’t seen it’s last run to the Mercadona or El Chino. I didn’t promise it anything, but Jeff told me not to get rid of it because we’ll need to do some big grocery runs when we have guests, and we’ll be happy we have it.

But for now, the star of our house is our new Canary Yellow trolley. As I write this I ask myself – What the Hell has become of me!?!