Search "Sundays in Spain"

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Trámites of Moving

Trámites in Spanish refers to to steps to be taken, or to procedures. Inevitably, these are bureaucratic procedures, and even though the word exists in singular form, it is most often seen in plural. There are always many steps to be taken. This week we have been occupied in the trámites of moving, the procedures one follows to officially re-establish residence in a new residence.

The first step is empadronamiento, the registration of your new address at the local ayuntamiento, or town hall. Even though we moved some two months ago, we had not taken this step yet because you need to produce evidence of the fact that you really live where you say you live. Evidence can be a water or electric bill, but since most people living in Spain these days have those bills paid automatically by direct debit from a bank account, and since monthly accounting statements have dropped to bi-monthly or quarterly statements, you may have to wait some time before collecting that evidence. We took a copy of the deed to the house we had bought, which itself took a few weeks to be forwarded to us from the registro of deeds.

That evidence plus our NIE cards (an ID card showing we are foreigners, but legal residents--Spain's version of the U.S. "green card") was accepted by the man behind the Información desk at the Algorfa ayuntamiento. We moved on to another desk to receive the paper copy of our empadronamiento. In addition to this certificate, we had to fill out and sign a paper to be included in the local census. Questions included age, place of birth, level of education attained, and occupation. This is important, we have learned, because it establishes officially that there is a large foreign population in certain areas, and it helps increase services to those growing populations.

In addition to what we are required to fill out for the census, we could elect to register to vote. I am pleased that my official residence, despite the fact that I am not a Spanish citizen, allows me to vote in local elections and in EU elections for representatives to the European Parliament!

Next task was the transfer of our health care cards from Andalucía, the comunidad where we previously lived, to Alicante, our new comunidad. This involved a couple trips, because the first centro de salud (health center) in Algorfa wasn't open and then we found we had to go further up the chain to the centro de salud in Almoradí. My husband came out with his new card and a new doctor, and therefore can now make an appointment for any health matter he wants to discuss or investigate. There was a glitch in my transfer. For some reason that was not important in Andalucía but is in Alicante, I don't have a social security number--that's right, there are not enough numbers in my life.

We had to go to yet another office in yet another administrative center further up the bureaucratic chain to register for my número de seguridad social. We found the office in Orihuela--I think we only had to stop the car and ask four times for directions--but at almost noon, the office was not accepting any more clients for that day. The remainder of that trámite awaits completion this coming week, when we expect to be at the office when it opens at 8:30 on Tuesday. Then, presumably, back to the centro de salud in Almoradí for the health services card. But perhaps not before playing tourist in Orihuela for a few hours and seeing what that old city has to offer.

We also spent time at the tax office finding out what taxes are due when on the car and the house property, and we still need to change the address for the car and driver's license. That gets done at the Dirección General de Tráfico in Alicante. Another day, another trámite. And another opportunity for a day out to explore.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer Heat Wave / Working on a Tan

Having been away from Spain for almost a month, I thought I was prepared to return in July to really hot weather. I got it, but I was not prepared nearly enough for it.

The heat was not too bad as we drove the six or so hours from Madrid to Alicante province; after all, we were cruising along (except for three construction tie-ups) in an air-conditioned car. It only became evident when we entered the house that had been closed up for the two days prior to my arrival. Central air conditioning does not exist in Spain, at least for me and everyone else I know. I have always considered central air conditioning a derivative of central heat, and we don't have central heat, or duct work to support it--and air conditioning--either. Instead we make do with wall-mounted heating/cooling machines that do work very well and silently, and can cool larger areas than the room in which they are located if they are positioned advantageously. We have a machine in the downstairs dining room, which I have discovered does not stretch to the living room, as I had hoped. And we have one in the master bedroom upstairs, which works fine but doesn't cool off much of anything else but the bedroom.

Other rooms can often be cooled by opening windows for a cross breeze, using the overhead fans, or using portable fans and even a portable air conditioner once we figure out how to set it up to empty water to the outside. But Friday there was not a breeze within miles, and temperatures reached the high eighties inside, or maybe more--I couldn't bear to look. In the afternoon we went out to play pétanque in the blazing sun, and there was hardly a breeze there. The combined effects of jet lag and unaccustomed heat did nothing for my game--I lost two and no one felt like playing the third game we usually do.

Saturday, and today, we have been blessed with slightly cooler weather at times, and with gentle but regular winds. I can keep my kitchen door and window open and get the temperatures down to pleasantly low seventies there, but I still have decided to adopt that old practice from the 1950s of cooking in the early morning hours and serving mostly cold foods for dinner. We can open two of the sliding glass doors that form the front conservatory at noon and make the room pleasant for our lunchtime salad. I keep the rejas, the metal rolling blinds, down in my office to keep out the warmth of the morning and afternoon sun that comes in, and the overhead fan on high, and only occasionally turn on a light to check my keyboarding or read a paper. But the best is that we can open the door to the upstairs terrace, which is located just outside my office door. It brings in light from the terrace and shoots cool breezes down the open stairwell to the dining room downstairs. Climate control in this house is mostly a matter of opening and closing doors.

Another sign of how much warmer it is here now than it was in June: In June I had to hang the towels from our morning showers out to dry in the sun each day. Now they just hang in the bathroom and are dry long before their next use. You would think, too, that the freshly laundered clothing that I hang on the lines on the upstairs terrace would be dry by the time the next load of wash is ready for the line. Alas, no. Something seems to have gone kaflooey with the spin cycle on the washing machine we inherited with this house--there is no centrifuge, so the clothes come out still filled with water. Nevertheless, they do dry within a day, though they are a little bit heavy to cart up from the kitchen washing machine to the rooftop hanging area. I think a new washer-dryer combination--and a new location for it--is in the near future.

But the real proof of the strong sun is in my feet. I had to bandage up a single toe on one foot as protection against a rubbing sandal top when in Chicago at a conference last week, and I neglected to take the band-aid off until two days after I was back in Spain. Now I have one toe indubitably paler than the other nine that have been exposed to the sun just by walking around. Just what I need for a summer task: working on a tan for my fourth right toe!