Clean bill of health

I had two goals today. The first has been to shred all our old documents and files that have been moved from house to house and never sorted through. This means going through boxes of files and filing cabinets and my desk – page by page. I’ve located many copies of birth certificates of our kids, Adoption papers for our daughter, old art projects and report cards. I’ve even found nearly every annual review for both my husband and myself for our jobs in the last 25 years. Those were a fun read!

To help facilitate this, yesterday I bought an industrial shredder. My previous one could handle two pages at a time and shred for about 5 minutes, before needing a half hour rest break. For this project, I need much more power and stamina in my shredding. This will go on for days, based on what I’ve seen so far. Just the 25 years of tax returns will take hours.

The second thing I needed to accomplish was getting our Dr. to sign the letters the consulate requires stating that we have a clean bill of health. This is all according to the requirements in the International Medical Convention or some such. It goes like this:

Kelli is free of drug addiction, mental illness, and does not suffer from any disease that could cause serious repercussions to public health according to the specifications of the International Health Regulations of 2005. These contagious diseases include, but are not limited to smallpox, poliomyelitis by wild polio virus, the human influenza caused by a new subtype of virus and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), cholera, pneumonic plague, Bellow fever, viral hemorrhagic fevers (e.g.: Ebola, Lassa, Marbug), West Nile Virus and other illnesses of special importance nationally or regionally (e.g.: Dengue Fever, Rift Valley Fever, and meningococcal disease).

Some of these I had to look up. I am unfamiliar with the Rift Valley and ‘wild’ polio – that sounds worse than regular polio. But this was where I think my document karma is kicking my butt again.

I called our Dr’s office earlier this week and explained what I needed. This actually took two phone calls. The first time I left a message – that wasn’t returned. The second time I got a live person. I explained my situation – the importance of the letter and the exact wording. I also offered to bring it to them on a flash drive so they could print it on their letter head, sign it and stamp it. They said ‘No’.

Ugh. Apparently, for my convenience, I must communicate electronically with my Dr. using something called ‘My Chart’. They insisted, this is the only way I can get this letter. So I go out and try to set it up but it doesn’t work. I phone their help desk who tells me that this is the worst tool in the world, the instructions are crap on the website and that it will take me at least an hour to get this done. But I have no choice, so I sit on the phone while they get me through it. Finally, I’m in.

Next, I got to the messaging part of ‘My Chart’ and send all the instructions to the Dr. so I can get my letter. I cut and paste it all in there and then I wait.¬† The following day, when I’ve heard nothing, I send him another note and wait. Nothing. Finally today, I call them to ask if he’s gotten my two messages and when I can pick up the letter. They tell me he doesn’t have access to ‘My Chart’ yet and they’ll give me their letter head, to print my own copy of the letter. Then I can bring it back for him to sign.

OR…I can bring it to them on a flash drive and they’ll get it to me by Monday. Wait! Isn’t that what I offered to do before I had to got through all the ‘My Chart’ nonsense? Cause, I think it is. So I just ran it up to the Dr. office. I put it in the original .pdf format that I got from the consulate, and in a .doc version so they could easily make it work with their Office software. I told this to the woman who came out to get said flash drive. Her response?

‘This is highly unusual. I mean, we really need to use ‘My Chart’ (psst – they don’t have access yet) – and I’m not sure we can use this technology.’

It’s a flash drive! The world uses flash drives in jungles and sub-Saharan Africa! If my medical providers, who have all been to some sort of college, I think, can’t figure out how to get a document off a flash drive and print it out – I need to find new medical providers.

So, I’ve decided its not them, it’s me. It’s my document karma for this little project of moving to Spain. Luckily, in all these boxes, I found my stash of white sage. Everyone knows white sage will drive the boogey man and bad juju out of any building. So tonight, I’m doing just that. My house, and me, needs a clean bill of health – or a document karma reset!


Death by Inertia

I have a natural affinity for pilgrims or explorers. It’s not so much their tales of hardship, although I admire those. Or the adventures they had; those sound great too. But it’s the forward motion. Ahead is better than back, and that’s just where they’re going.

The last week or so, I’ve been restless feeling like my feet are stuck. All my organizing and sorting has been an attempt to kill inertia. The inertia of the ‘hurry up and wait’ ¬† bubble we’ve been living in for the last two months.

In the rest of my life, I’m a person who weighs options and then makes a decision. Quickly devising a plan, and then executing it. No hemming. No hawing – whatever that is. And I go – forward. Generally, my husband relies on my approach because all he has to do is sit back and watch. He’ll show up at the end when the champagne is uncorked, or to clean up the blood, when I fall down. We all have our roles.


But in this process to get ourselves moved 7 thousand miles away, the pace is slower than I have ever moved at in any other project in my life. Send a request for document – wait. Get said document and send it off to be Apostlized – wait. Order an FBI background check – wait (mostly to see if they accept my terrible finger prints after 3 months of, oh yeah, waiting!). I have found a work around and will be putting that plan into place shortly. And that’s only for US, stuff. Don’t get me started on emailing, calling or carrier pigeon to anyone in Spain! It’s like shouting into a well.

But today – the universe gave me a little gift. I got back both our birth certificates and our marriage certificate and they have been Apostilized! I’ve never been so happy to see things I didn’t care at all about 3 months ago. And I took great pride – though I had almost nothing to do with it – when they arrived in those self-addressed stamped envelopes.

When I held them up to Jeff he told me to put them away and to ensure that nothing happened to them – so precious are they.

‘Don’t take any chances, considering the process of getting new ones.’

I almost laughed. If we had to get new ones, it would be me who arranged for them. Him, not being a person who ever fills out the form or follows up on the minutia of the mundane.  When our children were little and came home with the packet of forms to be filled out on the first day of school every year, Jeff was the one pacing behind me complaining about the redundancy.

‘They went to the same school less than 3 months ago. Why do we have to fill out the same forms? Nothing has changed.’

‘We just do.’ as I filled in two sets, for both the kids.

‘It’s ridiculous.’

‘Yes, perhaps, but unless you’re going to take up a pen and start writing on same said forms, I don’t have time for the musings.’ It was probably 11pm.

‘Someone should do something about this. It’s crazy.’

‘Well, ‘someone’ could go to the Parent meetings and complain. I don’t have time for that either, so I’m filling in the forms.’

But in this case, I understood Jeff’s concern for our Apostlized documents. They are precious cargo and represent progress.

Today, the universe kicked inertia in the ass. I have forward motion again! Something to celebrate. Perhaps we won’t wait til it’s all done to pop some champagne.

Baja – ha ha ha

My vocabulary is increasing by the day. Not my English vocabulary, but my ‘Moving to Spain’ vocabulary. I have learned what a Baja is, and after being told it was essential that I obtain one of these, by my US shipper, learned that only citizens of Spain can get one. Yup. Just another day of ‘Huh? What’s that?’ and ‘Oh, so I can’t even get that and it’s not essential.’ after hours and sometimes days of chasing my tail via email and phone calls.

What is a ‘Baja’? It allows you to import your personal goods from another country into Spain duty free. The consulate set me straight. ‘Oh, international moving gods’, I chanted yesterday ~¬†‘How can I stop all this misdirection and misinformation from sending me scrambling?’¬†The answer came to me in a dream… OK, not in a dream but¬†by asking my¬†helpful Expats on the closed FB group I belong to. And Voila! I have a Gestor.

One might think that a person who is hired to amuse the King, wouldn’t be the best person to help us navigate the confusing world of moving to Spain. But its not that kind of Gestor. This kind lives in the country, is familiar with the bureaucracy and just gets how things work. They know the system and they make a career out of helping people who don’t¬†understand it, to¬†get what they need.

At first I was like ‘Seriously? I need a person to help me understand how to file paperwork?!’ but after several weeks at this, I’m like ‘Seriously – I need a person to help me file paperwork, get insurance, get an apartment, get my NIE card, register with the town hall…’ and on and on. And of course, I must pay for this person to do these things for me – because it’s an actual job. And it’s essential. And I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’m having a WhatsApp call with my new Gestor early next week, to lay out a plan. Funny, I don’t feel so alone anymore. It’s like I have been running around in a dark room, bumping into everything. My shins¬†are bruised and my knees bloody, from falling on my face daily. My wonderful Gestor, Linda, will be turning on the light. The reality might be blinding at first, but with a good pair of sunglasses, at least I’ll be able to see the whole picture.


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 for¬†Spanish bankers¬†to believe that this is the pile of¬†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 order¬†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. I¬†called¬†this¬†morning before getting in the car!

On my way home from this 60 mile round trip from the¬†State capitol city¬†– 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 and¬†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,¬†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.¬†¬†But then I stopped and thought about it. He’s right – this Jamba Juice guy. All I could really do is laugh. This process¬† might seem crazy to me, but it did guarantee that only the most persistent,¬†earnest expats would be living in my new country. We will be¬†mingling with a group of people who were very¬† serious about living in Spain. And you know how I know that? Cause I’m very serious about it too.¬† Thank you, Jamba Juice guy. For the Boost of Perspective.

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.¬† 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?¬†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)¬†card. But you can’t¬†act in a movie without a Screen¬†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.’

Questions, Questions, Questions

OK, so maybe I’ve emailed too many questions to the consulate. I’ve never had to go through the rigorous process for establishing residence in another land. So I’m not sure why I’m so wrapped around the axle on doing this. Perhaps it’s the conflicting information on their website. Or all the conflicting information on other blogs. But I decided today to just go for it and start filling out the paperwork, while trying to secure a medical insurance policy via email using only Google translate as my help mate. Needless to say, I ran out of printer ink for all the times I had to reprint forms due to mistakes and reversing ‘Nombre’ and ‘Social nom’. But I think I got it!

In researching Spanish health insurance, I find it’s pretty awesome and relatively inexpensive. I almost can’t wait to become ill when I get there! Based on the policy I saw today, I could lounge around in a hospital, post some kind of surgery,¬†for a month at no charge. Then go to a mental hospital for another 60 days – gratis!¬†OK, maybe that’s a little extreme but the coverage is pretty amazing.

Sometimes, I find the hardest part is just the waiting. Our FBI background checks – after finding out my fingerprints are woefully inadequate, while Jeff’s were ‘perfect’ – will take months to get back. Then they must be quickly translated by an official translator, before I can set an appointment with the Consulate.¬†But we persevere.

Now I just have to figure out what an ‘Apostle of the Hague’ is, so I can get all our documents blessed by that person, and we’ll be good to go! Maybe I should call the local Catholic Church and see if they have one of those.