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.

Gift with Purchase

Happy One Week Anniversary to us! Alot of ground has been covered so far. Setting up house is exhausting business and it makes quite the dent in the wallet. We spend our free time shopping.

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I’ve always been a savvy shopper, but even I am weary of it.  After a week straight of foraging in the wilds of Valencian shops, I want a day off. But we don’t have some of the essentials we need. I realized this yesterday when the guy who hooked up our internet asked for a glass of water and I had to give him a litre bottle because we have no glasses from which to drink. Jeff and I had just been claiming whole bottles for ourselves and drinking directly from them. Time to get a bit more civilized.

The printer we had delivered yesterday had a shattered glass copying surface so Jeff carried it back to the store (1.5 km) and we returned it yesterday. It was a sweaty business.

‘I need tennis shoes. These dress shoes aren’t cutting it.’ he complained on the march to the Worten.

He had sacrificed space in our luggage for me and now he was paying for it. So when we were at the mall returning the copier and ordering another one, we stopped into some of the athletic stores and browsed. He picked out some he liked and we asked the shop assistant for his size.

Jeff is tall, even by US standards. And in Spain, he’s freakishly tall. People stare. And when he asked for a size 48 shoe their eyes widened.

‘No no no. In Spain we are short. No 48. Maybe 46.5 but not even 47’

We heard it over and over. Jeff became demoralized.

‘Maybe we can find a clown store so I can buy shoes.’

‘Or you can order them online. Or we can go to Norway for a weekend – where your people are from – and buy you some clothes there.’ You might think I’m kidding but I am not.

Today we woke up and headed out early to pick up a few more things. Garbage can for the kitchen, printer paper for when our copier shows up later today, and a host of other things.

There are places all over the city that are filled to the gills with stuff imported from China – like the Dollar Store in the US. And in general it’s stuff we need. And they’re all run by Chinese immigrants to Spain, who speak Spanish better than I ever will. In my simple mind, I refer to the one near our house as the ‘Chinese store.’ I don’t actually know what’s it’s called but Jeff knows what I mean when I refer it. We headed there.

We filled our cart until we knew we were at the limit of what we could carry home and proceeded to the check out. The guy there is getting to know us and he actually smiled this time. He rang us up and because we were spending 67 euros, he came around the counter and handed Jeff a can of olives, and then me a litre of lactose free milk. I’m not quite sure what he was trying to tell me with that.

We didn’t really want these things and tried to give them back to him, but he kept saying something louder and louder like we were simple minded (OK maybe he’s right), and waving ‘no, no, no’. Apparently, we are good customers now and we get ‘gifts with purchase.’ Not unlike the GWP you get at the cosmetic counter at Nordstrom from Lancome or MAC. Except no extra lip stick or face cream to try out. Here we get olives stuffed with anchovies and lactose free milk.

Finally, we graciously accepted it and took our toilet brushes, light bulbs and the like home. And now I will have light to read by and a place to put our garbage. I’ll be ready if the copy delivery man needs a glass of water after he asks for my passport, again. Perhaps I’ll tip him with a lovey can of olives or some lactose-free milk. Since we’re locals now!

 

 

A Place to Lay My Head

We finally got to Valencia late last evening. Our day had been 35 hours long, including a near riot in the Madrid Airport over cancelled flights, perceived line cutting and general injustice by some of the passengers. The general mayhem and lack of anyone in charge only added to the seeming thirst for blood. To say it was a crazy day is an understatement.

I filmed the chanting and fist pounding that gained steam over the hours we stood in line to get re-booked on a later flight. I understood none of the ‘Protest Spanish’ I heard, but I started singing ‘We shall overcome’ under my breath until Jeff gave me ‘that look’ so I stopped.

Spain is an interesting country already.

‘Now this is why we moved here.’ said Jeff with a smile, looking around.

Only he could muster enthusiasm after being awake for 30 hours at that point. Watching the cast of characters with great interest.

Finally, we landed in Valencia and made it to our new apartment. Linda, our savior, was there to greet us with the keys and hugs.

‘How are you still smiling after all this?’ she asked. ‘You truly have had the hardest time with the visa stuff, and now this. Crazy.’

I just laughed. ‘What choice do we have?’  She agreed, we had none.

The airline (I hate American Airlines forever now) had lost one of our checked bags, but at least we had 4 of them, so we got them up to the flat and Jeff got to see where he’d be living from now on. Remember, we came from a house that was 4500 sq. feet. He’s used to manicured lawns, gardening service, a pool guy. His face said it all and he swiftly dubbed it ‘The Compartment’.

‘I don’t think you can really call it an ‘apartment’ cause it’s so small.’

Clearly, he didn’t live where I did in college. But we unpacked and found that our luggage had been gone through by persons unknown. One of whom had left me her old, grungy tennis shoes and made off with a pair of my Louboutins. She should be easy to spot. The baggage handler in the high heels with the red soles. Black soul, more like.

Also missing, were some of my kids’s pictures, a bathing suit, some jeans and a few other things, including my thyroid medication and asthma meds. I sat on the ground, because we have not one stick of anything to sit on, and I couldn’t speak. I felt totally violated. This is all we have – until some larger things come on the boat. But this is the precious stuff. And someone rummaged through it.

I managed to get it together, as Jeff talked me off a ledge. We were already missing a bag that never made it out of the Miami Airport. Now this. Jeff tried to inflate the air mattress, but the converters didn’t actually convert and they caught fire. Yes, in the first 30 minutes in our apartment, our beds caught fire! The place was filled with smoke. The cherry on the shit sundae of our day.

‘Screw the air mattresses. We’re going to a hotel.’ And he took me across town, to the place I stayed when I came alone in November, on my scouting trip. We had dinner at 11pm in the hotel restaurant and hit the hay. But I woke up at 2 and couldn’t get back to sleep.

I kept thinking. ‘Why have we come all this way? Why would we put ourselves in a position to be robbed? What the hell are we doing?’

My crying woke Jeff up and he stayed up with me until 5am, before we both fell back to sleep. At 9:30, breakfast and coffee helped get me upright because we had a busy day ahead.

Linda met us and took us, first to register at the town hall. Armed with that paper and some hastily taken passport photos from the train station (not my best face day – Jeff looked like he just got off a Tahitian vacation, damn him!), we went to immigration and applied for our long term visa. The visa they give you at the consulate in LA is only for 3 months. The long term one is applied for here. It will take 3 weeks to get the card and then we’re good to go. But they gave me a white piece of paper that is more precious than gold.

We need the immigration paper to get internet. What?!  Yes, you heard that right. The internet provider wants our immigration paper to decide if we’re really staying in Spain long term – we have a long term lease on a flat – and then they’ll give us internet (maybe next week). This is my first ‘I don’t get it.’ But we have to do it, so we did.

I was a little woozy, standing in line with the other immigrants, but we did it all before noon. Then we decided to truly unpack – headed back to the apartment to face the bags again, get organized (I always feel better after I make a list), make a list of what we need urgently, and headed out to do some shopping. There is a place about 5 miles out of town that has everything. It’s like a giant shopping city. To call it a ‘mall’ is to diminish what this area truly is. It’s massive!

So 4 hours later, and tomorrow they deliver a bed, refrigerator, desk, desk chair (for Jeff), kitchen table and chairs and a few other things. We bought bedding and pillows and kitchen items that will not be coming on the boat in a few months, and we carried them home.

‘Shopping City’ as I’ve dubbed it, has a bus that takes you from the city center out to the big shopping area. IKEA runs it and if you become a ‘Family’ member, it’s free. So we did and actually ate at IKEA before coming back. Free cafe con leche. I’ve never enjoyed a meal more in my life,. Not the fanciest restaurant could compete with it today.

‘IKEA with no sleep, low blood sugar, and after 35 hour day we had yesterday? You’re a brave man.’ I said to Jeff, on the verge of tears for most of our wander through the maze.

‘No. You’ll feel better once we’re settled. We just need to bite the bullet.’

He’s right, and tomorrow – after booking us into the hotel again tonight – we will start to feel like we’re making strides to settle in. So far, we’ve only been yelled at 3 times today for doing things wrong. A bus driver, immigration person, a stranger. We have no idea what they said to us, and that’s a good thing. Perhaps, learning Spanish should be put off for a few weeks, until I feel less fragile. When I wake up and I know where I am and how to get to the bathroom. That’s when I’ll be OK being screamed at in a language I kind of understand.

The Shippers are Coming, The Shippers are Coming!!

Just like Paul Revere of Revolutionary legend. Yes – we got the word. The shippers are coming today! Everything is ready to go – labeled, numbered, and on the inventory sheet I created. I’ll just hand it to them and off they’ll go.

Again, this is a prime example of how much communication is key to a happy life. I have been begging them for the last 10 days for the exact date and time window they might be here. Apparently, not knowing is ‘very standard’ in this business, until the truck is leaving the stop before yours, to pick up your stuff.

If they had told me that they wouldn’t know anything until 24 hours before, I would have felt less sick to my stomach, and my nightmares and contingency planning wouldn’t be so far along. But they let me know late yesterday that the crew will be here between 5:30-6:30 pm today to get it all. I just spoke to the driver. Blood pressure, officially lower.

Last night, I picked up a rental car at the airport and today I’m all over the last odds and ends. I have wheels now, so going to the post office to ship some precious photos I forgot, to my Mom’s house is easy. And sending our accountant our tax stuff is a piece of cake. And arranging some banking things? No problem, when you can drive. I’m checking it all off the list.

Last night, before getting a car, we weighed our bags. Yeah. They needed more editing. So we’ve made some tough choices, again. I know they have clothes and shoes in Spain or I’d be freaking out right about now.

The assistant I hired in Valencia is setting up our internet, and we’re virtually looking at plans and megabytes and features together. Thank God for WhatsApp.

Friday, Mary Jane (our old truck) will go to her new home with one of Jeff’s co-workers. Then I’ll drop off some of our cups, vacuum cleaner, etc. at Goodwill. Sunday, a guy named Guillermo is coming to get our last TV, which means I’ll miss the finale of ‘Victoria’ on Masterpiece. Ugh. But for all our scheduling and rescheduling – I’ll take it!

Jeff just remarked how much happier I seem, not being a shut-in anymore, with my one fork and coffee mug, and a desperate need to communicate with him when he walks in the door at night. We’re essentially living in our bedroom now – like we’re college students, minus the homemade white lightening and patchouli. But it’s kind of fun. 5 days from now I’ll be picking him up at his office and heading the airport for leg one of our journey to a new life via LA.

Moving Voo Doo

Ok – My international shippers are giving me acid reflux.  They gave me the estimated window for picking up our stuff about a month ago. Promising to refine the estimate to an actual day, and then further to an actual time. I have neither in my possession right now. I have emailed repeatedly. I’m trying to stay away from my inbox for a few hours to calm down.

Everything we’re shipping is stacked our dining room, so Jeff stops hitting his 6 foot 3 inch head on the light fixture. This includes our bicycles and our couch wrapped entirely in plastic. I lamented that we no longer have anything to sit on, other than our two air mattresses in the bedroom. Our last TV is on a cardboard box in the bedroom until the guy comes to get it on Sunday.

If I had actually met the ‘customer service’ people from our shippers, I would be crafting Voo Doo dolls of them with the old cat hair in our vacuum bag, and some paperclips and old string I found in a drawer. I have no straight pins left, but I found nails in the garage, so I figure this would work in a pinch. Their back pain and migraines would force them towards their inboxes to email the information I require.

Jeff has assured me that we can still use the couch.

‘It’s gonna be moist, but my grandma had her couch covered in plastic for like 40 years, so I”m pretty sure we could sit on it for a few days.’

I declined, since it’s pretty sweaty in Arizona and I’d like to keep the skin on the back of my thighs for later. My confidence in these people isn’t as high as I need it to be. They’re going to be in possession, of all our possessions, for up to 16 weeks. I think my favorite boots actually cried when I closed the box.

I’ve learned to trust strangers on two continents in the last 6 months. I have no choice, I have to. But I don’t have to like it. Those shippers better watch out. I’m a woman with ALOT of time on my hands, until that truck pulls up – please let it by by Friday. And I’m feeling particular crafty in my doll making skills.