Mopping Things Up

Whenever you move from one place to another, there is always a period of time where you straddle both places. Bills from the old place that need to be paid. Banking from one place to another. Stuff like that. We have a lot of that stuff and today is the day to knock a lot of it out.

Our old bank in the US had us sign a bunch of papers before we left. I won’t bore anyone with the details, but suffice to say, they screwed it up and we’ve had to buy a printer, scanner and fax machine so that we can go back and forth to fix it all. The first one we bought last week arrived broken. But today? Success! We are scanning, signing and faxing and we’re finally getting it all straightened out – I hope.

I learned how to use our bank’s ATM and change my PIN so I can use the card at the grocery store now. It seems like a stupid thing but it’s been hanging over me and I have been putting it off. Now I’m good to go.

I still can’t log into our bank online. We finally have Spanish cell phones but you have to log in online to to change our American cell #’s to our Spanish cell #’s and we can’t log in until we get those damn short codes that we can’t get on our American cell phones. Ugh. So I can’t change my phone number on my account, so I can log in and change my phone number. It may require a metro ride and a chat with my friendly banker, Ana.

We’ve ordered all our appliances and by Friday I am assured that our clothes will be spinning in our very own washer/dryer. We will be wearing clean clothes again! Who knew I’d feel so excited about that.

On Saturday, we ordered our dishwasher. It will take 3 weeks they say. But then they always under promise and over deliver here. Which I find I LOVE!

‘It will be 10 days for your cell phones to arrive.’

Heavy sigh. Then 24 hours later I get an email that I can pick them up at the store.

Jeff’s monitor arrived and it works and is now set up in his office. He’s happy again and I know this because his corny, and very obscure, jokes have surfaced. On our walk yesterday through the Jardin del Real we were looking at the different palm trees. Each is signed with the Genus, etc.

‘Soon you won’t even have to look at the signs to know which ones they are.’ He told me.

‘Yeah, why’s that.’ I asked

‘You’ll be a ‘palm reader.’

Yes, that’s Jeff in a nutshell. And he’s back to being him.

Today, I’ll be buying a shredder – yes, I’m a little addicted to seeing important papers with my identity numbers cut into infinitesimal pieces while I watch. It’s a hobby now.

And in a bit, I’ll be heading to ‘El Chino’ to pick up yet more household items. They’re closed for siesta right now, so I have to wait. I can’t quite see the store from our balcony so when I tried to go earlier I found the cage across the door way.

Oh well, I needed to go to the Mercadona anyway to buy some salt and pepper and garlic powder. Not that I’m cooking anything. We still can’t figure out how to turn on the stove top and the landlord has been busy. Yes, we’ve downloaded the Balay manual in English, but the people before us had little kids and this place is over-the-top childproofed. I think it requires a code they set up. Ugh. Any way – like I said, we aren’t cooking anything but I like to have spices.Ā  It makes me feel better.

So I headed to the Mercadona and attacked their spice section. WOW! They had a lot. I held up Google translates photo app and decided to purchase one of each kind. I mean, when might I need sweet v. regular paprika? I have no idea, but when I do, I’ve got it! And the spices here are CHEAP. Garlic back home was like $5. Here it’s .55 euros. Crazy.

I’m used to being stared at now, so when I went up to the check out and put all my spices on the belt and heard others commenting on it behind me, I took it in stride. And then, just like everyone else, I put in my Spanish bank card and it worked. I feel almost like a local. Just like in every other instance, slowly but surely, it will all come together.

The Oracle of Jamba Juice

It’s been one of those days. There are bound to be a few as we navigate the world of visas and setting up our lives in Spain. The endless paperwork, certifications, Apostles and confusion.

I woke up this morning to a message from the bank in Valencia. Apparently showing that you have accounts with money in them isn’t enough forĀ Spanish bankersĀ to believe that this is the pile ofĀ cash you will use to seed the account you’re opening in their bank. I’m at a bit of a loss at how to overcome this one. Should I take a bunch out at the ATM and photograph myself rolling around the floor in it? Then I could tell them that I’d only deposit the ones that stick to my skin into their bank.

I called the Secretary of State’s office in our state to verify that they could Apostlize our birth certificates and marriage certificate from another state. They told me they could and gave me directions – 30 miles away, mind you – so I could get this done today. Off I went, in orderĀ to check another thing off my list. When I got there, they informed me that they could not, in fact, do this for me. I would need to contact the Secretary’s of State in those other states and find out how they certify these documents. I was stunned. IĀ calledĀ thisĀ morning before getting in the car!

On my way home from this 60 mile round trip from theĀ State capitol cityĀ – I decided to stop at Jamba Juice for my Greens and Ginger smoothie with some Boosts. The young man who greeted me asked me how my day was. He regretted it instantly, I am very sure, as his hair blew back from my tale of woe. Afterwards, he asked me nicely what I would like to order andĀ I looked at the menu. They didn’t have a Boost for curing ‘Document Hell’ or to rid me of ‘Bureaucracy Nightmare’ so I settled from some protein and vitamins. I thought about getting cayenne pepper added in,Ā to marry with the fire in my belly, but decided against it.

As he was handing me my drink, he said he hoped my day would get better and ‘Keep that smile on your face, and it will all work out.’ Little did he know that the smile was ironic, from chewing glass for the last 30 miles.Ā Ā But then I stopped and thought about it. He’s right – this Jamba Juice guy. All I could really do is laugh. This processĀ  might seem crazy to me, but it did guarantee that only the most persistent,Ā earnest expats would be living in my new country. We will beĀ mingling with a group of people who were veryĀ  serious about living in Spain. And you know how I know that? Cause I’m very serious about it too.Ā  Thank you, Jamba Juice guy. For the Boost of Perspective.

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 – Ā and I proudly, and loudly, announced my little success.Ā Ā Unimpressed, heĀ 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 timeĀ – I’m struggling to find the downside.

This little project of moving to Spain has fallen mostly to me and has become a littleĀ more than part time job. Its like a puzzle without the sharp, well definedĀ edgesĀ that I’m determined to put together. And it’s not cheap. To get a mailbox in Spain,Ā 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,Ā I foundĀ 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.Ā  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?Ā 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)Ā card. But you can’tĀ act in a movie without a ScreenĀ 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.’