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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Goldie's Big Day

It's 7:30 AM and I awoke to the birds chirping two hours ago. We were downstairs early, even before there was full daylight, eating breakfast in the small sunroom/entrance to our house. This was to be Goldie's big day.

We had kept our cat inside for five days so she could adjust to her new home and recover from the terror of moving once again, cracking the windows slightly open to let the smells enter into her unconscious memory but prevent her from squeezing out, and suffering ourselves from lack of fresh air and cross breezes. Yesterday had been particularly terrifying for Goldie, with all the noise of drilling to admit cable and men crawling on the roofs and clattering up and down stairs. Goldie spent yesterday morning cowering in a corner of the downstairs office, well protected by boxes of books and miscellanea.

This morning at 6:30 we slid the glass door wider open than the inch or two that she had been nosing at, and soon she was out the door. Not running and dancing for joy--she stopped on the top step and looked behind, seeming to inquire why we weren't after her to scold her or bring her back in. We sat tight, and she proceeded down the other stair step, then walked over to the yucca plant and sniffed. Soon she proceeded to the pineapple palm, and then she reversed direction and walked around to the other side of the front room and nosed around the plantings there next to the three-person outdoor seating area. The next thing we knew, she had hopped over the greenery to the garden path leading down to a couple houses behind our property. We left her to explore and went about our morning routines.

At 7:00 I heard a loud continuous noise and walked out on the rooftop terrace to investigate. A large piece of vehicular machinery with a flashing yellow light was coming down Avenida del Tomillo. As it got closer, I realized it was washing the street. Ah, perhaps every Wednesday is street-cleaning day. I'll try to remember that next week so we can park the car inside the gate instead of leaving it on the street. The machine and the person driving it didn't seem to mind, however, as they maneuvered around several cars on the street. The dog on the other side of the street didn't appreciate the invasion, though, and who knows what Goldie was thinking about yet more noise?

I went downstairs to see if she had made her return appearance yet. We had left the glass door to the sunroom open, but closed and locked the grating on the front door of the house. (Locks, keys, door and window grills and grating are a major fact of life in Spain--we have four keys to go through just to get into our living room.) I saw Goldie outside the sunroom, sniffing at the bougainvillea. Then I turned my back, asked a question, and went into the kitchen for another cup of coffee. I came out and looked from the living room through the grate and sunroom, and whistled to try to encourage her to come inside. And she appeared, totally unexpectedly, from behind me in the house! She can walk easily through the spaces in the grating.

For coming home promptly, of course, she got a special treat. If she continues to get rewarded each time she goes out and returns, she may soon not be able to fit through the grating.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Back in the World

We were in the process of moving out of our Roquetas apartment. Experience told us that it took a long time to close or cancel a utility service contract. So we asked a gestoria (management company) to stop or transfer accounts for telephone, water, and electricity, to be effective immediately after we left the apartment.

Suddenly, Thursday noontime, May 7, a full day before we were due to close on our sale, and some hours before I had planned to write business and personal contacts to say that the time was now that we were making the move that had been in the works for months, it went black. There was no phone. There was no Internet.

There began 18 days of disconnection from my world. I already knew that I lived, professionally and personally, through the Internet. If I had not realized it before, I would surely know it now. Wi-fi spaces are few and far between in Spain, Internet cafés are open limited hours, and resort hotels are more interested in providing a sandy beach, pool, tennis or golf, proximity to the paseo, good restaurant service, and live entertainment than access to the Internet.

We moved temporarily (for a planned two weeks) to a gorgeous holiday apartment in Torrevieja, perfect in every way except no Internet or even land-line phone. During that time we spent four days in Madrid at a lovely reunion of engineering college classmates and their wives. But I could buy wireless in-room Internet access from Telefonica for a rather high 14€ (US$20) for a 24-hour period. Balancing the social life and the hours available, I was able to stretch 2 periods of access over the time I was there.

Back in Torrevieja, it turned out that our host's offer of using his office's network connection was his home office. Fine, except for the fact that my U.S. conference calls and meetings were scheduled from 8:00 PM until 11:00 PM Spanish time. Perhaps OK for the Spanish, but a little too intimate for a new acquaintance, and definitely too late for me to venture outside of my home-away-from-home to conduct business at that hour.

Because it had been reserved by others, we had to move out of our temporary apartment two days before moving into our new house, so we found a beautiful four-star, newly renovated beachfront hotel for two nights. You would expect Internet purchase options similar to those I found in Madrid, right? But no. I was invited to use one of the two desks in the lobby, for free, to connect via the wi-fi that was available in the lobby only. Again, would I want to conduct business in a public hotel lobby at 10:00 or 11:00 PM?

And then, two days before signing papers on the new house, we called to order the installation of broadband Internet service from Telefonica...only to discover that Telefonica could not guarantee accessibility in our nine-year-old, well-established "rural" area of 177 homes. This in spite of the fact that other residents already had Telefonica contracts for broadband.

Panic set in, but we located iAksess, a microwave provider, that promised to come and check the signal and then, it proving good, to place an antenna on our red-tiled roof to receive microwaves, and to install the wires down through the tiles and terraces and even behind the yucca and prickly cacti growing around the house. Thanks to the guys from iAksess, who spent the entire morning here, I am able to send this Sundays in Spain post from my new, connected office on Spain's Costa Blanca. And I feel as though I am back in the world again.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

All Boxed In

I'm up to my shoulders--well, perhaps above them--in boxes. That's because we're packing up to relocate to the Alicante area of Spain, back where this blog began some six months ago.

I'm a frequent mover, though most of my moves have been between houses in the United States. We are also mostly do-it-yourself movers, or at least do-it-yourself packers, because although I keep sorting and disposing of books, papers, clothing, kitchen utensils, household decorations and whatever else it is that brings comfort and clutter to my homes, there is always too much to invite someone in to relieve me of this personal task. I don't think it's true, but maybe I'm fooling myself and the only time I really do sort and clean out is when I move house.

Considering the fact that everything in this house was either acquired on this side of the Atlantic within the past five years, or carefully brought over in my two-suitcase allotment on biennial trips to the U.S., I've got a lot of stuff. But there's not too much time to sort through this time--we were told on Thursday afternoon that our buyers wanted to take possession of the apartment the following Thursday. That would be this coming Thursday. Given the economy and the turgid real estate market, what the buyer says, goes. So we were boxed in to an earlier-than-expected moving date.

In most previous moves, the main type of moving crate has been the time-honored liquor carton. When we moved from the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the Midwest six years ago, we started to drive to different state liquor stores to pick up boxes, not because I was worried that my soon-to-be former neighbors might think I drank too much, but because I was worried that the state store clerks would think we had too much stuff.

They do not have state liquor stores in Spain, but we have been living on the main street of town, within a ten-minute walk of three grocery stores, a stationery shop, and numerous bars and restaurants. (Lots of banks, too, but they aren't receiving any deposits in crates these days). We are also within reach of several trash/recycling centers, so we've started timing our daily walks to throw-out time. People are not supposed to leave cardboard boxes on the ground outside the dumpster, but thank heavens they do. Here, in contrast to most places I've lived before, the sanitation workers actually pick those up and dispose of them properly instead of letting them sit until the next day or the next wind and rain.

We have a very different supply of cardboard moving cartons in this commercial environment. I've explored my piles to see what markings on the boxes reveal about their former contents and discovered how little I know about the many consumer products of Spain. Here's what I can see:
  • Coviran Papel Aliminio - aluminum foil for the small grocery store next door
  • Hidalgo Pan Precocido - Prebaked bread, lots and lots of boxes from the supermarket down the street. So that's why they always had fresh bread coming out of their ovens!
  • Mercadona Barra Bolo - more bread variations from the supermarket
  • TempleOliva: 8X2L of olive oil
  • Vinagre de Vino Blanco Procer - vinegar to go with the olive oil, of course
  • Carnicas Roquetas - some beef product, judging by the silly cow on the side of the box
  • Aperitivas - a wide variety of snacks to nibble with your wine
  • the box from somebody's Phillips CD Sound Machine
  • a Humax 22" Easy Digital flatscreen TV box--I wonder why TV screens are measured in inches here?
  • a Tupperware Breadsmart machine box
  • something marked AllinOne - a dishwasher liquid
  • Plasticos Seguros - I'm not sure even after checking Google España. "Secure plastics" could be anything from baby bottles to plastic gloves, name it
  • Ibico binding covers
  • 12 unidades El Baño Aloe Vera marked Muy Fragile, so I used those to pack glassware
  • Nueces Cascara Hacendada - nuts in their shell, supermarket brand
  • something marked Girasol (sunflower) from Moldavia
  • Something marked that I never heard of before - seems to be a high-calorie fried snack aimed at kids
  • A couple gorgeous flat boxes sent to Modas de Ana, one of the nice ladies' clothing stores in town
  • something labeled Ron Brugal Añejo - a liquor from the Dominican Republic
  • and one fine box marked Johnnie Walker Red Label
Well, that's enough of a break. I still have some empty boxes to fill.