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.

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.

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 –  and I proudly, and loudly, announced my little success.  Unimpressed, he 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 time – I’m struggling to find the downside.

This little project of moving to Spain has fallen mostly to me and has become a little more than part time job. Its like a puzzle without the sharp, well defined edges that I’m determined to put together. And it’s not cheap. To get a mailbox in Spain, 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, I found the downside.

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.

So You Say You Want to Move to Spain

The decision has been made. After spending the summer walking the Camino de Santiago with my daughter, we decided to move to Spain. Now for the hard part. The administrivia of getting from decision to getting on an airplane is fraught with missteps, frustration, misunderstanding and broken Spanish. But here we go!