Day 8 – Visa Watch

We’re just waiting now. Checking email throughout the day to see if the ‘We like you, come to Spain’ email is waiting for us. Now I’m doing the housekeeping of sweeping up all the little things. Funny, I thought the list was almost done, but the closer we get I keep adding one thing here, another there. To Do’s I didn’t think about. Turning in cable boxes and routers, mailing important documents to my parents for safe keeping. Finding stray bins full of photos that I need to figure out what to do with them.

Today, I’m putting our entire movie collection on an external hard drive so we can avoid taking the dvd’s with us. It’s tedious but we’ll have entertainment when we decide we can’t get through the day without watching Harry Potter or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Music CD’s will come after that.

Yesterday, I made the inventory of all our boxes and wrapped them in plastic wrap and labeled them for the shippers when they come next week. And speaking of international shippers. Are they all flakes? I signed the contract with ours and their dispatch still can’t tell me what day next week when they will come and pick up our stuff. And when Jeff dropped off his motorcycle with a different shipper in LA last week, they acted like it was the first time they had ever shipped a motorcycle and were making it up as they go along. A process ripe for disruption, if I was looking for a business opportunity or a Start-up to start up.

Only one more document and our accountant will have all the documents he needs to do our taxes. Every day, I do small things now. But most of them have to done on a specific day, so it’s slowed me down. I can’t batch it all up and just muscle through, so it’s good I have this movie converting to do.

Jeff is still working an hour away and he has the truck so I’m home bound, for the most part. It’s goes against my nature. Before my son, Nick was born I was put on bed rest for 6 weeks for high blood pressure. It drove me crazy, even though everyone said I should appreciate the rest before sleepless nights became my reality. But I didn’t. I hated the inaction.

So, I’m determined to appreciate this time. Our last 14 days in the US. I’ll watch some of my favorite shows. Enjoy some foods I can only get here. Call friends and family. Take more walks in the neighborhood. But that doesn’t mean I’m not hitting refresh on my email – hoping against hope that we’ll be the exception and get our visas in record time. The biggest lose end tied up, at last.

 

Check, Check, Check

Yesterday, I sat near our open front door and waited all day for the overnight package from our translator so I could turn around and send it to the Spanish Consulate. Our mail carrier is flakey – a looong history of creatively avoiding bringing packages to our door and just leaving the ‘Sorry we missed you’ slip on the door when I’ve been home. Never ringing the bell and forcing me to go to the post office to collect them.

This time, I was going to outwit him. I sat on our only piece of furniture facing the door with it open. He was not going to get by me. Like any flu sufferer, I hit refresh on my laptop as I watched it get ever closer to our house. And then it stalled. Where was he? It’s like he fell off the radar. Refresh, Refresh, Refresh – Nothing.

Where could my Oh So Valuable package be? Where could this man I had to battle through high package delivery seasons like Christmas and Valentines Day? My postal nemesis was outwitting me and it wasn’t just the cold meds. Finally, I decided to walk up to the mail box and there it was. He had avoided coming to our door again and hadn’t put in the delivery status and it had been there for hours!

I grabbed it and like a wide receiver in the Super Bowl, I headed straight for the goal line a half mile away at the UPS store. Sure, I was still in my PJ’s and my hair wasn’t combed so when the UPS guy saw me come in the door wild eyed, he just shook his head. He and I know each other well.

‘Where are we sending this today?’ he asked, fingers over his key board. ‘Spain? Colorado?’

‘No. To the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles.’

He raised his eyebrows. ‘Weren’t you just there on Monday?’

Yes, the people at the UPS store have seen me so many times for copies, notarization, overnight parcels that they know my schedule and visa milestones.

‘We were, but they needed one more set of bank statements.’

‘Seriously? You gave them like 1000 pages already. I copied all of them.’

‘Yeah – but they wanted more. This is the more, and it’s all been translated.’

He shook his head and put together the label and the envelope. We worked together to put it in and seal it.

‘I hate to say this, but I hope we never see each other again.’ I said

He smiled and nodded. ‘I know what you mean. I’m too emotionally tied up in your visa process. I’m going to need a break.’

I paid him and waved goodbye, trying to smooth down my hair with some sort of dignity – wandering home in my PJ’s after the adrenaline let down. Happy I could finally shut the front door and take a nap.

Today, we delivered our Audi TT to the Dealer who purchased it.

‘We have no car now.’ I lamented to Jeff tonight.

‘Yes we do. The truck is still in the driveway.’

I pulled a face.

‘Like I said, we have no car.’

‘We have one, we’re just ashamed to go out and drive around in it.’ he conceded.

He’s not wrong. We will technically be able to convey ourselves around these final two weeks – before someone who actually wants Mary Jane (our old truck) comes to pick it up – but we will not enjoy it.

On Sunday we’re heading down to Tuscon and visiting Jeff’s Mom, for the last time before we leave. I want to see her face when we pull up in it. Its not lost on me that we gave away or sold nearly everything of value. And now, the final vehicle we own is something from 1985.  But the list is smaller. Only a couple more things to check off and we’re outta here.

 

You’ll come and visit, right?

Jeff says it’s stress and that I ran myself down. I don’t know if it’s that or what – but I have the flu again. Started yesterday and now I’m in the fever and chills phase. Cold then Hot then Cold again.

Maybe it’s that we went through three climate zones in 48 hours, each with differing humidity and 30 degree swings in temperature. But I’m down for the count, except when our translations show up in that overnight envelope I expect today from our translator. Then I’ll be walking a half mile to the UPS store to overnight them to the consulate. That should be fun. I’ll have to warn the UPS store personnel to fumigate their store after I leave.

Yes – we are down to one car. This means Jeff takes it to work and I’m home bound. It wouldn’t matter if I didn’t have to get this important last set of documents to the consulate by tomorrow, but suddenly I realize how much I miss my car. That zippy little thing that took me where I needed to go.

All this is just a reminder how much we’re giving up. It’s all going away. I woke up in the middle of the night and thought ‘Oh my God – in less than three weeks we’re homeless!’ But then I remembered that I have already rented an apartment in Spain. So we won’t actually be homeless. When we push off the dock on this side of the world, we’re rowing to a new dock on the other.

Sure, our stuff won’t get there for a couple of months, but we will have a place to lay our heads and shower, that isn’t a hotel. We will be fine. I know that. But I think it’s actually harder than I thought it would be. This letting go.

Sitting at the consulate on Monday, it hit me. We don’t know how to be anything other than tourists in another country. Suddenly we’re going to have to find out how to be locals. But we know nothing. And we will be at the mercy of new rules and customs, and my favorite boots will be on a boat going through the Panama Canal. If they lose those boots I’m gonna be pissed off.

OK, I’m free associating now, in a downward spiral. Deep breaths. I think Jeff is doing better now, than I am. He had to sell almost all his tools and he had his moment about 2 weeks ago. After spending nearly all his adult life putting together the shop of his dreams, it’s all gone now. I saw how hard it was for him and I’m there today.

Intellectually, we both know we’re going to have adventures, and that is exactly what we want, so that’s not the issue. It’s more the idea of losing control. We visited our friends over the last few months – in multiple states.

‘You’ll come visit us, right?’ I implore them in my most needy voice. I mean, we’re moving to Spain but I don’t want to lose my friends.

‘Well’ they say, ‘Sure, when the kids are out of school or maybe when such and such happens, we can come.’

Now I’m not stupid. My friend’s lives are full and they don’t revolve around us. But sometimes I wish they would just lie. We do have some friends who are already in Europe and we’ll see them right away. And our friends, Tom and Laurie are taking a Mediterranean cruise and will be in Valencia in October. She made me put it in my phone so I don’t forget the exact dates.

This is the intersection between dreaming and doing. We’re committed now but like any cross roads, it takes tremendous resolve and a lot of faith to take the leap at that last moment, believing you’ll be OK. Until that overnight envelope shows up today, I think I’ll take a nap and try to restore my energy for what’s coming.

 

The Wind at our Backs

We’ve spent months and months getting everything ready and today, we drive towards LA. On the way, we’ll stop off in Palm Springs for an overnight with dear friends, and then it’s on to LaLa land to spend, probably a sleepless night in great anticipation. Monday morning we have 2 meetings at the Spanish consulate on Wiltshire Blvd. to turn in our applications and pay our visa fees and tasa.

Feels surreal, now that we are very nearly at the appointed hour. We’ll be dressed up like we’re heading to our college interviews – just hoping they’ll like the cut of our jib. It’s a test you can’t study for.

We only have a few more things on the list after this. And they are thus:

  1. Sell the Audi TT (lining up a buyer)
  2. Sell Mary Jane – our ancient Toyota truck (we have a buyer lined up and will deliver it the third week of Feb)
  3. Have the overseas stuff picked up – Already scheduled for third week in Feb
  4. Get Jeff’s beloved motorcycle to LA to be shipped out before Feb 25th – He will do this alone (I’m not riding to LA again).
  5. And finally – when they tell us our visas are ready – book our flights to Spain out of LA and pick up our visas at the consulate there, before heading the to airport – hopefully by Feb 28th. My searches and alerts on Kayak are making me antsy to pull the trigger on this!

That’s it. No more on the very long list that could have covered the refrigerator last September. I can see all the crossed off items in different ink – and remember how I celebrated each one. And how it happened? – I can hardly believe it, but it did.

We are 25 days away from lift off. I can hear the engines rev. We’re both anxious for it all to be over and to be sipping a drink on the plane. Human beings are powerful when their will is focused.  But first, you gotta believe you can do it, so you can. They say ‘Fortune favors the bold.’ Well, this is as bold as we get so I hope she’s smiling on us for the next few weeks, at least.

Grateful for Letting Go

When our children were growing up, we tried to instill a sense of gratitude in their character. They had things I couldn’t dream of when I was a kid. So I’m not sure I was always successful in making sure they understood how hard we worked to provide for them.

Over the years, we’ve amassed a lot of stuff and while I’ve reveled in the feeling of being lighter in the last few months, I’ve struggled with the tension between being grateful for the life we’ve had – complete with all the trappings – and letting go of it all. ‘Am I grateful enoungh?’ I’ve asked myself.

Attachment isn’t something I’ve ever struggled with. I inherited this from my grandparents, who picked up and moved on a regular basis my Mother’s entire life. It’s why she has lived in the same house for over 50 years and is afraid of swapping out a table cloth, let alone moving to a new house.  Perhaps it skipped a generation and I have a little gypsy in me somewhere back there.

Wading through our stuff, putting price tags on things that cost 100 times more at retail, felt strange. They need to go, so were priced to sell. But even stranger, was when people looked at those things, with the prices I put on the little colored stickers, and tried to talk me down further. And with 25 cars in our cul-de-sac, it was like being attacked by a swarm of bees.

The first time, my jaw dropped.

‘Do you want me to tell you the story of this rugby ball? I bought it in London on a cold foggy day on Portobello Road. It’s from the 1920’s. You can’t get another one of these in this state.’

The guy shrugged – he was wearing a National Rifle Association ball cap , so I think Portobello Road isn’t a top destination for him. But still, he pressed his case. Finally, I gave in. I’m not taking that ball with us. And my kids don’t want it. But how do you sell things to strangers who will never appreciate the provenance?

They don’t know the story of the pitcher from France we got from a dear friend for our wedding. She hand carried it 18 hours and I’ve kept all my kitchen utensils in it ever since. Or the crystal Tiffany champagne bucket from our wedding we use when something really special happens in our lives.

Some times – I had to just say ‘No’ the price is the price. I’d rather donate it than sell it for $5 less, to a person who doesn’t understand the value. But I admit, towards the end, I let some things go for nearly nothing.  Time is running out and there is no more room in the boxes.

Walking through the kitchen I realized – No more toast, no more blending, no more air popped popcorn – because we no longer own the things that can make that stuff. No cakes or cookies or homemade bread. From now on,  I’ll be making coffee in the mornings on the stove in a Turkish coffee pot that will go in my suit case.

Closing up the garage, there are only a few things left to make decisions about. Donate or send to the landfill.  For a moment, just a moment, I wondered if we were crazy. How can we be grateful for the life we’ve had and yet, practically, give it all away? It goes against the American Way. Every commercial on TV and every show I watched growing up. More – More – More. Walking away from those messages, so deeply embedded, is  harder than you’d think.

I need to remind myself that swimming in the same direction as everyone else isn’t me.  It’s time to find a new stream and that means letting go and traveling light. But I will say, it would have been easier if just one of the vultures that descended on our house this weekend had once, just once, said something nice.

We sold everything left over after Jeff’s initial website back on November. And the proceeds will pay to ship the things that are left, and will make their way to Spain on a container ship. I guess that was the whole point. And, at the end of the day, I’m grateful for that.