Thursday, September 29, 2011

Debit Card!

I received my debit card for Santander in the mail today. It is a cool card with the flags of a bunch of different countries around the outside. It's awesome because it makes me feel like I'm more official.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My first solo Haircut

Hollis wanted me to cut his hair for about a week. However, it turns out that his hair clippers need a converter so we don't break them with European electricity. So after two trips to the electronics store, I bought this little beauty for 18€.

After charging up his clippers, I started cutting his hair. I just had to use some scissors to get the blending done. When I was finished, he had a hairy back (which he wanted me to show you for some reason).

After washing the hair and styling it, it looks great! Which is good because I don't have my sister-in-law L to take care of my mistakes anymore (Seattle is just too far away now for a simple hair fix).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Broken Glasses

So today we fed the missionaries. While I was cooking, I decided I needed something not in the kitchen. I turned around to leave and BAM! I ran into the door. I hit my glasses on the corner and they flew off my face. I was in pain, and I noticed that my glasses were missing a piece. I was so upset that I broke my glasses - I feel like I always do that! (See this post for the last time my glasses broke).

Anyway, this time it was better because the glasses could still stay on my face! So I went a couple of days with a missing piece on my glasses.

Thankfully, they were broken with the hinge intact, so we just glued them back together, and they still function like normal! Yay!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our View

We love our apartment. Pictures to come of the actual apartment, but I wanted to share this awesome view from our bedroom window:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Funny of the day

A couple of days ago I was out with Heather, the wife of one of the other American teachers at Michelle's school, trying to find hot pads. My Spanish is bad, but at least I can usually kinda communicate. Heather speaks almost no Spanish. We can't find the hotpads so we ask this old Spanish lady there if she knows where the things you put on your hands to hold hot things when cooking were. After a lot of gesturing etc, she got what we were looking for and went with us to ask someone who works there. As we found them, she started talking about how I was such a liberated man, you know, shopping and cooking and all. It was pretty hilarious. I am a big advocate of domestic men's rights.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Settling in, but not settling for second best

So, we aren't settled in, because we had to find a place once we got here. Before we could do that we needed a bank account and for both of those, we needed Michelle's work contract. So the first couple of days we got phones, looked for apartments, and got to know the city and then embarked on getting all of Michelle's necessary paperwork in order to get her work contract. We went to meetings, got to know the other people teaching in the city, and ate lots of Spanish food.

We got her work contract two days ago, and some friends of ours (two teachers, Troy and Joey and Joey's wife Heather) found a place. Another friend of ours, Jorge (we met him at church on Sunday) talked to his parents and they are letting us rent a room in their house until we found a place.

So once Michelle got her national ID number, we set up a local bank account, so her school can just pay her by direct deposit. And we got her contract, so yesterday we started calling people advertising on a real estate website about available apartments. Here comes the miracle.

Yesterday afternoon, we got an appointment to go see an apartment that night. We called 8-9 that matched what we were looking for, and found one that wasn't taken, not available yet, and the landlord was in town to show it. We went and looked at it and it was ok. It felt a little cramped, the location was close, but not ideal, the furniture was newer, but the decorations were a little odd (nude statue lamp, painted close up of the fingers from the Sistine Chapel complete with painted cracks, etc), the Kitchen was large, but not very nice. On the whole it was okay. 6/10. Michelle was really excited that we found a place that had enough room, was in our price range, and was available immediately. With some rearranging it could be pretty great. It reminded us somewhat of our last apartment before we moved in. It had potential, but I felt apprehensive about it for some reason.

That night, we came home and prayed about it. Michelle said that she felt okay about it, but not like it was "the one" or anything. Just that it would work if we wanted it. I had felt a similar impression. But I wondered why I was so apprehensive. I think I felt that we could find something better for the money. I also felt impressed to look on the website again. By this time it was really late and we needed to go to sleep, but I did anyway. After putting in all of our parameters, the first one to pop up was one I hadn't seen yet. Turns out it was posted at 6:45 that night. We had left after calling around at about 4:30. And had been out all evening. Most people advertising said to call them in the afternoon or evening. Spaniards don't do much in the mornings. Well, this lady said mornings worked best for her.

So we woke up at about 8:45 and called her. She was available and Michelle set up an appointment for 9:15 that same morning!! Most people needed way more time than that. We got dressed and hurried out the door. It was about a 5 minute walk from where we were staying and is only two blocks from Troy, Joey, and Heather's new apartment. We met Manuella, the lady renting it out, and took a fifteen minute tour. Michelle and I like it very much. It was about as furnished as the other one, was less cramped, and had a brand new, never before used, more spacious kitchen. It was just what we wanted and all for €100 less a month. There was no apprehension and after I took a couple minutes and prayed about it while Michelle spoke with Manuella, we told her we'd take it. It was a good thing too, because we spoke to her this afternoon and she said that a TON of people had been calling about it and she just said, "Sorry, it's taken." They will clean it all this weekend and we can move in Tuesday.

We are very blessed and both very grateful.

Michelle is remembering her Spanish very well and both of us are learning quite quickly.

The weather here is hot and very humid. Also, being closer to the equator makes the sun soooooo much hotter, because it is all concentrated more instead of spread out over the earth's surface. We sweat all day and Michelle had to snuggle with a cold water bottle instead of me in order to fall asleep a night.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

What you need to do before you can even think about renting an apartment (date anytime)

Before we came to Spain, I knew the thing that I wanted to get done first was find a place to live. However, I knew that it would be difficult because I didn't have a Spanish bank account or a paycheck to prove that I could pay for the rent, and I knew that I needed to be able to prove that. And I needed a NIE card (sort of like a social security card) to get a bank account, and it takes about 1-2 months to get your NIE card. And I didn't want to wait two months to get an apartment. Our first few days were hard because I didn't want to go look at an apartment and fall in love with it just to have the person tell me that I needed a paycheck or a bank guarantee so I couldn't have it. Happily, a family in the local ward let us live with them for a lot less than we were paying at the hotel we were staying, so that gave us some more time.

A few days after we arrived I was informed of a meeting in Madrid. Hollis and I went to Madrid with all of the other first-year teachers and filled out a bunch of paperwork that started the process of getting our NIE cards. Yay! We were given our NIE number so we could go get a bank account. We were told to get a bank account and then go sign our work contracts so that our paychecks could be deposited straight into our bank account. Here is where a funny catch-22 started.

In most banks, to get a bank account, you need your NIE card. The number isn't good enough. But we had heard that Santander lets you get an account with just your NIE number, so we tried there. Turns out you need your NIE number, your passport, and a copy of your signed work contract to get a bank account. Great. We needed the account before we signed the contract, but we needed the contract to get the account. Awesome.

At the particular branch where we went in, the new customer employee was fantastic! He helped us through the entire process of setting up an account, but didn't finalize the process. We got bank account numbers that would be made permanent upon our return to the bank with our work contract. Hooray! There were four of us opening accounts, and it took us more than an hour just to give him our information (as he spoke only Spanish and my Spanish was the best in our group). Then we teachers took our bank account numbers to the DAT (equivalent of the district office) and after asking a few people for directions, ended up in the right room. We filled out and signed our work contracts (which took us about an hour or more because we also had to print out copies of our diplomas and teaching certificates). Once we got that done, we got a copy of our work contract that wasn't technically complete because the head boss had not yet signed it. That would take a couple of days. I hoped that the contract we had would be good enough.

So we trooped back to the bank. We had first arrived at the bank at 9 AM. It was now about 1 PM. The guy who had originally helped us was busy with another customer, so he asked his supervisor to help us. All that was left to do was sign our account, so I thought it would be quick. Wrong. The printer that they use is really old and specialized (it prints on paper and also makes a carbon copy). It took about a minute to print each page (okay, maybe only 30 seconds). And then we signed each page. The first four pages were just a law we needed to sign. The next seven pages were the bank contract. And then we had to answer some questions that meant something like "I will not use this account to launder money or commit fraud." And then we went and made a deposit and had an official account! Yay! It only took about 30 minutes. And then I wanted to get a debit card. That was another 4 pages to sign. But finally I was done! Only three more people to go.

The bank was super nice and actually stayed open 30 minutes past closing time (until 2:30 PM) to get us all finished. To celebrate our feat of getting bank accounts, we went out to lunch. After lunch I called the school to see if I should go in (it was the first day of school, even though we missed the whole day trying to get everything set up). I was told to come in "right now" and so Joey and I went to the school. All we did was hand this paper to our principle that says that we were supposed to be there (I think that's what it said, I'm not really sure). And then we went home. Now I could finally start really looking at apartments because I had the necessary documentation.

Monday, September 12, 2011

We are here

Update: We are both here in Spain! Hooray!! Living situations are in progress...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Passport Woes. Wo Wo Wo is Me.

Here's the scoop for all of you trying to follow our 'going to Spain' highjinx.

First, the visas took so long to get processed that we had already moved by the time the prepaid, preaddressed envelope shipped containing our passports newly outfitted with visas. We had been planning to fly out on September 5th ever since the passports have been supposed to ship for the last three weeks.

Second, even though we had changes our address with USPS a couple weeks before, the envelope didn't reroute to the new address, but came to our old address and our previous land lady, in a fit of not really thinking about what this package may contain, informed the mailman that we had moved. A couple minutes later she realized what it probably was and felt more than adequately sorry. She makes up for it later, just wait. We call the post office around 12:15 and between Michelle, close to tears, and myself, close to uncontrolled rage, manage to get the extremely nice post office lady to call the mail man and get him to redeliver our package. Enter repentant land lady who accepts the package and saves the day.

Third, my passport is not inside. Du du duuuuuuuuhhhhhhnnnnnnnn. Cue lightning. Turns out, they only processed the visas for the people who are going there to work and NOT their loving family members who are planning to fly with them and near as we can guess they had retained mine to continue processing the visa. Mistake!! Luckily we hadn't bought tickets till the visas came in and the Spanish consul in Seattle got the consulate in San Francisco to overnight my passport, so we could fly out Thursday. Here's a hitch. It was Saturday before Labor Day. They wouldn't even be able to get the overnight package out until Tuesday the next week. Cutting pretty close for our Thursday mornin flight. But that's what they do.

Fourth, (this is getting longer than I expected.) it ships Tuesday and doesn't arrive Wednesday. The consul uses the tracking number emailed to him from San Francisco and there is no record of it yet. He calls the post office. No known record of the package to track. So we pray about things and inquire about dates to change flights to and decide Michelle should leave Thursday morning as planned and we book a flight for me Friday night. Give two days to arrive. Next day she flys out and I patiently (or at least try to) await the arrival of his important package gone MIA.

Fifth, Thursday I get a call around 1 from the consul. Still MIA. there is the chance it is lost in Regular mail and won't resurface. Least of all in time to catch my flight the following day. the consul suggests preparing to get a new passport the next day. Under special circumstances such as mine, they have been known to issue a visa in one day. So I start the process, get a new copy of my birth certificate (all of our other copies are in some file box in Wenatchee.) I set up an appointment for the following morning with the passport agent in Seattle, and am feeling pretty good about things. I get back to our friend Ben and Rae's house who are so graciously letting me crash in their spare room for as long as need be and eat all their vegemite, and punch in the tracking number just for kicks, and what do I see?? It was scanned in in California yesterday afternoon. It says it is guaranteed by noon today. Well, I decide to hang my hat on that hope and save us $200.

Presently it is 7:30 AM on Friday morning, I'm blogging, I'm supposed to fly from Seatac to Charlotte, North Carolina tonite at 10:20 PM and the package was scanned in in Seattle at 5:45 this morning. Here's hopin'!!!!!!


P.S. I've already checked in for my flight and so I can't cancel it now. Even for a fee.