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.

Breaking News

Often, we watch the news, but we don’t see the connection to ourselves. Especially in today’s crazy political climate. The day’s headlines fly by and it sounds a lot the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons. ‘Mwha, Mwha, Mwha Mwha Mwha Mwha’. Nothing more. And then suddenly, it does effect you. Very personally.

On December 22nd, I overnighted our FBI background checks to the US State Department to gain the Apostle. I checked the FedEx website and they arrived on the 26th. I called them last Friday to check on the Status and they told me they had logged them on the 29th – 3 days later. I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t so concerned because they are supposed to ‘process’ the documents in 2-4 business days. I had included an overnight FedEx return envelope so I figured I would get them this week.

Today, I checked the FedEx website but they haven’t been shipped yet. So I called the State Department again. It seems with the ‘cyclone bomb’ we’ve all heard about that dumped feet of snow on the East Coast of the US last week – it’s going to be at least 12-15 business days for them to finally get them back to me.

But here’s the catch. Our wonderful Congress is threatening a government shut down and the timing of it, if they reach no agreement, means that next Thursday will be the first day where there isn’t an employee in the Dept. of Authentications at the US State Department. So if our background checks are not Apostillized and put in the FedEx envelope by Wednesday of next week, we will not be able to get them translated in time for our visa appointment at the Consulate on January 29th.

It seems unbelievable to me that our going to Spain hinges on the US Congress – so little confidence have I in that august body. And now their shenanigans have an immediate, direct impact on me and my life. But, after I took 10 deep breaths, I decided I’m not going to let it bother me. This final piece in the puzzle is so entirely out of my hands, I won’t let it drain my energy. I have other things to do.

I’ve found a few more boxes of old papers in the garage and I finished shredding them. Just when I thought it might be safe to let go of the industrial shredder. I’m considering these documents I’m cutting into tiny pieces, an offering to the gods that control Document Hades.

‘Oh controllers of all things certified and notarized. Please – I’m begging you. Just this one last thing.’ I said today as I fed paper into our shredder.

I’m thinking they heard me. Right at that moment, the shredder overheated and stopped working. A clear sign that someone is listening on the other side.

The Pep Talk

Tonight I required a pep talk from the coach in our family. Yes, I’ve been sick with the flu that’s been hitting the US hard. They say that cases this year are up 800% over last year, so I was bound to get some form of it. But it went beyond the fever and coughing and sneezing. I needed an attitude adjustment.

Jeff came home tonight and asked how my day was. Well, needless to say, it wasn’t good. I told him my tale of woe. All the road blocks and seemingly impossible tasks. Then I did the unthinkable. I suggested that maybe we should just stay here – in the US. It would be easier. I could just STOP all the stuff I’ve got on this list to get to Spain.

No more phone calls, no more begging for signed pieces of paper from US financial institutions. No more lost documents in the mail. No more explaining to people on the phone seemingly ridiculous, impossible requirements that we don’t do in the US, just to meet some sort of standard that no one I speak to can comprehend. It all flowed out of me and then I stopped to cough, blow my nose, and breath, which was Jeff’s opportunity to jump in.

‘We have almost all the documents. Let’s just present them in the form we have them in.’

I sighed. Oh how naïve he is – I thought. He’s not spoken or emailed anyone at the consulate.

‘They need stamps and signatures and stuff we don’t do here. And I can’t get people to even sign them, let alone stamp them – because there is no stamp – and they think it’s stupid. And even if I can eventually get them, they have to be translated. It all takes time. Time we don’t have before we are supposed to go to our appointment.’

He stopped me. ‘Do you remember why you wanted to move to Spain in the first place?’

‘Of course.’ I said, ‘I love it there. The people. Learning the language. The culture, the history and the food. And its beautiful. I missed it every day when I came back after the summer.’

‘I remember.  So you don’t want all that now?’

‘I do. But they’re never going to give us a visa if I can’t get everything I’m supposed to get in the way they want it. They even say it on their website and in emails.’

‘Let’s let them tell us ‘no’. If you’re the one who decides, it’s ‘no’ right now – giving up – then it’s for sure. We don’t know what they’ll say when we get to the consulate appointment with all stuff we have.’

He was being too logical. I was stubborn in my defense.

‘They aren’t going to care that it’s hard or that people refuse to cooperate. They can go to Spain any time they want and they’ll be perfectly happy if we aren’t there too.’

Yes – I admit I was whining.

‘Maybe. But I want to hear it from them.’

He hugged me and suggested perhaps I needed a glass of wine. But that, and the Nyquil I’ve been taking for my cold, don’t mix very well and I’d like to wake up tomorrow NOT in a coma. He’s right, of course. I can only do what I can do. Nothing more. I guess I’m just used to pulling rabbits out of my hat and today I reached in and there weren’t any more rabbits. And my top hat has a nice big hole in it.

But tomorrow is another day. I am feeling like I’m finally on the mend tonight, and with a little sleep, and my coach to keep me in the game, I may just get through it.


The Visa Slalom

Skiing is an apt metaphor for trying to get all the documents ready for our visa appointment, arranging to ship our goods overseas, navigating Spanish banking and all the rest. It’s winter, after all. But just like tackling the giant slalom, it’s tiring and about halfway down the hill, one wonders if one will make it to the end without breaking a leg or my neck.

The background checks weren’t done by the FBI when they predicted so we were able to get them done by a company called IDVetting. It cost a ton of money but we had little choice and now they’re out to the State Department getting Apostled. I hope to get them back next week.

Then there is the fact that our bank in Spain refused our wire transfers using a universal currency service every expat uses, that saves us tons of bank exchange fees and wire fees. No one has ever heard of this before. So I’ll need to figure something else out there – most likely just paying the exorbitant fees our banks charge.

Getting our US banks and investment firms to sign and date our statements, verifying that they are actually our statements, has also proved so incredibly challenging, it boggles the mind. And once they finally agreed to do it – somehow the US mail screwed it up and I didn’t receive them and have to call back and explain it all over again – to a new set of people who are baffled at the request and are not sure they are willing to do it. I’m in an endless loop and without these we can’t hope to get our visa approved.

Then there is the apartment lease that has taken 6 weeks to get to the point where we have something to review before we sign. But then I guess if we can’t get a visa we won’t need an apartment.

And finally, the overseas shipper we were going to use that turned out to be total flakes. I have finally found another that will pick up our stuff from our home in US in February, some time – if our visa is approved, and deliver it the our apartment – as soon as we sign the lease, in Valencia.

Until we get these documents – we can’t get them translated so we can meet our Consulate appointment. Each of them requires time, patience and persistence. And continued follow up. It’s crazy making and shouldn’t be this hard.

Everyone I know who has gone through this process has shaken their heads at how hard every step has been for us. I finally turned to my husband the other day and asked if it was all worth it? Is the universe telling me to stop with all this? Why is EVERY SINGLE THING like pulling teeth? Why has no one else ever encountered road blocks with each step required? Even then, we’re not ensured our visa will be approved.

He shook his head.

‘Maybe its so we will really appreciate all that it took to get there.’

I’m not so sure anymore. But maybe I’m down because I’ve been battling the flu. Then again, maybe I have the flu because I’ve been battling all this document HELL!! Chicken and Egg. I haven’t given up yet, but I’m close. I’ve got the towel in my hand and I’m almost ready to throw it in.