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Showing posts with label moving house. Show all posts
Showing posts with label moving house. Show all posts

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Spain in the Past Tense

Today is Sunday, December 7, and my life in Spain is now in the past. We left at 8:00 this morning, on a plane flying out of Alicante to Copenhagen. It felt strange to realize that I can no longer be considered a resident of España; even though I still have a residencia card, I know that I am now, once again, a resident of the U.S.--after all, I voted in person at the election in November, we have a year's lease on an apartment, and we have been actively looking for a home to buy. On Friday we put a Se Vende (For Sale) sign on the iron gate to our property in Spain. We have spent hours and hours sorting, throwing out, and packing up possessions to send back, and then recreating a pleasant environment to greet potential buyers. If I can't live here any longer, I want someone else to come along and have a great adventure in this house, as I did.

Right now, though, we both feel sort of brain dead, as we are tired of physical labor, and tired of decision-making, and tired of the knowledge that we are saying goodbye. We will come back to Spain again, we know, but it will probably not be until the house sells, or until it becomes clear that we need to find another sales strategy.

This afternoon we have been walking around Copenhagen in a cold, light drizzle. Copenhagen is a city that we both know and feel comfortable in, and Copenhagen in the rain is not a new experience at all, nor Copenhagen in the cold. If the people we have spoken with here today knew that we have just emigrated from Spain, they would probably think we were crazy. Even if we told them the truth, which is that we just stopped off here for a few days before proceeding on to our new home in the U.S., they would assume that we were on our way to Florida or California or the Southwest, because they can't conceive of anyone voluntarily giving up daily sun for the type of weather we have experienced today and that we can expect to experience in Ohio.

Pop singer Tini's "You Can't Have it Both Ways (this time)"
We had a memorable evening last night in Torrellano, the town near the Alicante/Elche airport.where w have spent many a night preceding an early plane trip. We drove north at 5:00 in the afternoon; it was still light but by the time w had checked into the Doña Isabel hotel, it was beginning to get dark and cold, so at 7:00 we walked out and found a restaurant close by, a new one for us, where we could enjoy a hot meal. It was a Turkish restaurant, and we enjoyed chicken kebabs with rice  and roasted vegetables and a glass of wine--the red wine was undoubtedly more Spanish than Turkish, we agreed. Then we walked back to the hotel and fell asleep early, and woke up a couple times before our 4:30 wake-up call sounded. We had a final breakfast of ham and cheese tostadas and cafe con leche at the Valor chocolate shop after going through security, and a quick run through the Desigual store--it was a good thing that I had absolutely no more room in my carry-on and no more interest in purchasing clothing after the recent purges. Then we went to the gate and were soon on the plane. The Norwegian airline welcome music played "You Can't Have It Both Ways" as we waited for take-off.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Final Days

We have just two more days in our house. Today we took 23 boxes of stuff to the Mailboxes Etc. Office in Torrevieja to send home. 300 kilos, I think they said, though I would have to check the papers to be sure. Some 1200 euros, and I have already checked my bank statement to verify the $1500 deduction.

Then we came home and did a mad sweep through the house to clean up for the cleaners, sweeping bubble wrap, plastic bags, duct tape (cinta americana here), a few remaining shoe boxes and miscellaneous bags behind the closed doors of the bedroom wardrobes, to reside there until we could sort out that mess. While the cleaners were here working their magic (and getting my oven cleaner than it was when I moved in--I should have asked them to do that before!)we took bags of accumulated treasures to two friends and said our last goodbyes.

It's amazing how clean and orderly and peaceful the house looks with 23 fewer boxes of stuff in it. It's not empty by any means. I still need to sort through my jewelry and some old financial papers, as well as throw out a bunch of papers and magazines and old toiletries, and dispose of pantry items. And then on Saturday I get to clean out the refrigerator...  We had our last evening meal here tonight, I just realized, for tomorrow we have been invited to friends and Saturday we will be at a hotel near the airport.

Tomorrow we endeavor once again to get good directions for accessing our bank account here online--we have tried that with this bank before but never succeeded before the temporary access code ran out--but this time we are super-motivated. Then we do the final sorting and disposing to make the house look attractive to potential buyers, and pack up what we will need for three days in Copenhagen. A couple more final visits and passing of mementoes. It is hard to believe we will be back in our U.S. home a week from tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Packing Up

I sit in a mess of packing boxes, piles of stuff, things on and off shelves, and notes. We are in the second week of packing the most important things from this home of almost twelve years that we want to take back with us to Cincinnati. Monday morning--was that only yesterday?--we took ten boxes down to the Mailboxes, Etc. store to have them sent back to us via FedEx, which we have determined costs no more per box than an equivalent piece of luggage as extra baggage on a transatlantic flight. At the time, we thought we were almost done. Not so. I have since packed four boxes of kitchen and dining articles, winter and dressy clothing, and cookbooks and Spanish books, and I still have three big boxes of summer clothes and bed linens, professional books and papers, and "miscellaneous," I estimate, to pack tomorrow.

I have moved several times in my life, not always by choice, and I always dread it. But I thought that the decision-making about what to pack, what to throw away, and what to give away would not be too difficult this time. After all, we had decided to sell the house furnished, and not just furnished, but "move-in ready." So we planned on leaving not only furniture but dinnerware, cutlery, linens, pictures on the wall, even books and office articles--sorted, of course, so that only the functional remained and not the sentimental or worthless junk that tends to accumulate through time and neglect. And we had lived in our new home in the U.S. for more than four months, established ourselves and created an attractive and functional home, and bought the practical things we needed, so we certainly would not be tempted to pack the immersion blender, or the plates and dishes, or the sheets and pillows and table linens, or any of many other things, particularly since many of the things in this house are from Ikea and we only live 15 minutes from Ikea in Cincinnati. We would only have to transport back, we thought, those few items that had sentimental value, or that we might not be able to replace easily in Cincinnati...Danish language books and DVDs come to mind.

Well, I underestimated the amount of clothing that I value. Perhaps I underestimated the number of things that I have purchased in a dozen years here, but the greater problem, I think, is that I underestimated the number of items from the US that I have laboriously packed in my checked baggage or carry-on luggage and transported to Spain during my twice-yearly visits back home. I have now packed up a box of 15 pairs of shoes. I have saved  three pair of boots and shoes and slippers out to wear during the homeward journey (via a side trip of a few days in Copenhagen, which presents its special wardrobe challenges) and I am leaving several pairs here. I haven't sorted my handbags yet, nor my jewelry. And it was only today that I approached my Spanish language books and my cookbooks. I awoke this morning and realized that there were ten or more small items of family mementoes that I keep on the shelves at the foot of my bed: art treasures I made for my grandmothers in elementary school, opera glasses of an old family friend, now deceased, the wooden pipe stand my father-in-law made for my father, a box that a friend here brought me from her trip to  Cuba. We want to finalize the shipment boxes tomorrow or Thursday, and the Mailboxes Etc. store has run out of boxes! We have only three boxes left and I am now at the point where they all are planned and I am slipping small items into each as I find space--the normal accounting and valuation for customs has become somewhat lax.

One of the hardest things has been to sort the remaining items. They can stay and be sold with the house, or they can be given away to charity--we don't really have time to sell them via auction or advertisements, except for the car. I find myself confused because I come across an item that so-and-so would love, or that is perfect as a gift for another so-and-so. So I now have several bags  with name labels on them, which I am filling up with steak knives, Christmas decorations, books, small clothing items, or other household decorations that seem right for a specific person, and I just hope that we have the opportunity to see them and deliver the items before we leave on Saturday. If not, I guess, they will go back into an appropriate place in the house, or possibly in a tiny vacant space in our luggage, though those spaces are few and far between. I hope that doesn't happen, as it gives me pleasure to think of our friends using things that they have enjoyed in our home after we are gone, as it gives me pleasure to think that the buyers of our house--whenever they materialize--may enjoy some of the things that made our life pleasurable while we were here.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving in Spain

We have just finished an extra-large lunch of the leftovers from yesterday's traditional Thanksgiving dinner with three American (or American-connected) friends. It's hard to celebrate the fourth Thursday of November when you are the odd people out.  Spaniards, and Europeans in general, know that Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and eat turkey, but they don't know exactly when, they don't know anything about the real tradition of it, and they certainly don't stop life on a weekday in the fall for a huge foreign celebration. So since one of our American friends in Spain is a mother with kids in school (from approximately 9:00 to 1:00 and again from 4:00 to 7:00 each day), we have often celebrated our national holiday on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We have been to restaurants before, but this year I brought the "fixings" in my suitcase from the U.S.: pecans, canned pumpkin puree, and well-wrapped fresh cranberries. I do wonder whether the TSA ever inspected my cardboard canisters labeled dried plums and raisins well enough to know that substitutions had been made.

Turkey roaster filling the oven in my Spanish kitchen.
Finding a fresh turkey is not always easy. I remember one year that I did manage to order one ahead of time, sight unseen; when I picked it up at the market early in the week, it turned out to be almost 40 pounds(!) and I had a hard time storing it in my refrigerator for a few days and an even harder time getting it into my small oven to roast. This year I had to fall back on a frozen turkey crown from Iceland, where the turkeys for the Brits' traditional Christmas dinner are already selling like hotcakes. I was able to gauge the size somewhat better for our small gathering of five, and I was even more pleased when I got it home that it fit in the cast aluminum Wagner Ware turkey roaster that I had been storing on the top shelf of my kitchen cabinets for years, used seldom but with affection, though never before in my ownership for turkey. I had previously ascertained that the turkey roaster itself would fit in the oven. It did, barely, with no room for anything else to either side, front or back, above or below. When Thursday morning came and I started the food preparations, I was disappointed to discover that the two turkey legs (jamoncitos) that I had purchased to add a dark meat selection to the white meat of the turkey crown would not fit in the roster with the crown, so I did them first and then set the crown in a couple hours before my guests came.

We had a leisurely dinner, from spinach square appetizers contributed by one guest to a fantastic pumpkin pie with lattice crust from another guest, and then sat at the table for hours afterwards talking and doing our darnedest to finish the last inch or two out of some of the various liquor bottles that had accumulated on the bottom shelf of the liquor cart over the years. This was a farewell occasion to some of our best friends. We also had another farewell dinner at our house, on Thursday, with other long-time friends, English, who had humored me several times in the past few years by celebrating Thanksgiving with us. This year we agreed to bypass the traditions of Thanksgiving and have roasted pork tenderloin and seasonal vegetables. That was excellent and easy, but I did give in to purchasing a small turkey tenderloin when I spied it in the grocery store, and throwing it into the oven thirty minutes before the rest of dinner was done, and I offered a cranberry compote with custard for dessert, so there was some tradition on Thursday itself.

We played petanca with our usual group this past Tuesday afternoon, and then on Wednesday evening joined 40 or so other members of the Danish Friends Club of Torrevieja for a club dinner at a restaurant in the La Siesta area--a restaurant where we had eaten for our first meal out when we came to explore Torrevieja six years ago, now re-opened under new management. Most of the Danes had heard that we were here to ready our house for selling, and they stopped by to say goodbye and wish us well. Then on Friday I had a lovely visit with my Danish Spanish teacher, that is, the Danish woman who started out teaching me Spanish conversation by discussing books, but who has long since turned from formal teacher into a close friend and fellow reader.

It has been a week of celebratory dinners, and we have been giving thanks throughout for good friends with whom we have shared the joyful, trying, and rewarding experience of living several years in a foreign country.

Tomorrow I pack the turkey roaster to bring it back home to Ohio. As is the custom here, we are selling our house furnished, and in our case that includes cookware and basic dining service, because, frankly, it doesn't pay to ship it home. But not this piece, even though my 15-inch Wagner Ware Magnalite 4265 turkey roaster can be had on eBay for about $80 plus shipping (estimated at $20). My shipping will probably cost that--maybe a little less if you factor in all the small treasures I can fit inside the roaster when I pack it. But even if I were to buy another one, it wouldn't be the same. This roaster is from the town I grew up in, and the company where my father worked during my growing-up years. It is nearly as old as I am--maybe older. And it has cooked some wonderful meals for special friends in various locations throughout the years.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

It Feels Like Home

We have been away from our home in Spain for almost five months, but we arrived back in Madrid this past Monday, took the cercanias train from Barajas airport to Atocha station, got on the long-distance train southeast out of Madrid, and arrived in an expanded and refurbished Alicante main train station mid-afternoon to weather that was warmer and sunnier than Madrid, and much warmer and sunnier than the Cincinnati we had left on Sunday. From the Alicante terminal we wheeled our suitcases across the street to the car rental place, and soon we were driving the familiar route back to our house in Algorfa.

It has been a busy week of reacclimating ourselves to the time zone--six hours earlier than east coast United States time--and there have been many sleepless nights. But the days have been filled with the little rituals of our life here, as well as preparations for the bittersweet task at hand: readying the house to put it on the market.

This morning we took our traditional Sunday morning tour of the Zoco outdoor market, buying raisins, almonds, and prunes at the frutos secos stand for our breakfast, carefully selecting several small but really red and hopefully fresh tomatoes, scooping up the recent Norwegian free newspapers (we had already rounded up most of the free English papers during the week), and having a cafe con leche and people watching at our favorite outdoor cafe bar. We also saw three of our favorite couple friends from the Danish club and promised to talk more the coming week at Tuesday and Wednesday petanca, which we had not felt energetic enough to go to in the first two days after the transatlantic trip.

Speaking of transatlantic, I enjoyed discussing the book TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann, with my book group buddies on Wednesday morning. We had a longer and deeper discussion than many we had had in the past. I will really miss these women, individually and as the group they have become and will remain even though I won´t be present. On Friday we met other friends for coffee in Algorfa center at Badulake restaurant after their weekly Spanish class, the one I used to also attend, and where one of my classmates had happened to mention casually a couple years ago that her husband was American...and we have enjoyed each other ever since. On Monday evening we had a meal with good friends and neighbors in our Montebello community, taking pleasure in their company and the fact that Monty´s is again open under new management, with an excellent chef--and working Internet, which we also took advantage of. Our own Internet connection, we discovered, was dangling by a thread (of microwave antenna) after a severe storm last month, but it got repaired on Wednesday within 24 hours of reporting it and we were once again able to send email and load web pages--and live normally.

We did much more during the week, and we had the interesting experience of feeling that there had not been many changes, and that it seemed like just yesterday or last week that we had also been here. It still feels like home, or it again feels like home. We will really enjoy seeing more of our friends and remembering the wonderful experiences we have had living in this area for more than five years. And now, off to lunch with some friends who we also knew in our first home in Spain, in Roquetas de Mar, ten years ago. We have a lot to talk about.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seasons of Life

It has been a long time since I wrote, and that usually means that I have been out of Spain. This time was an unscheduled trip, because I have been home in the U.S. with my birth family as my mother, Mary, passed from this life, and for two weeks afterwards. Those several days that we (four sisters) spent together reliving our earlier lives growing up and renewing our commitment to each other as a family were precious.

Part of the reason I first started this blog was to share my experiences here in Spain with my mother. She was nearing 80 when she "got onto the computer" in order to keep in touch by email with her wide-spread family and good friends from across several decades of her life. She learned to use many functions, even though she never distinguished between the hardware, software, email, and the Web--it was all "the computer." Later as her eyesight diminished she had to stop using the computer herself, but in the early days of Sundays in Spain, I tried to keep posts short enough so they could be printed out on a single page by one of my sisters and read to her. I have gotten rather lax, I am afraid.

In 2005 when I had to tell my mother that I was selling my house, which I had recently bought in Indianapolis in order to be within a couple hours' drive of my parents, and moving to Spain full-time, I was distressed and scared. My mother at that time was facing the daily challenges of living with the increasing effects of the Alzheimer's with which my father had been diagnosed a few years earlier. I felt guilty leaving them to be so far away "just" because my husband was ready to return to Europe during his retirement years.

My mother fully supported my move. I was near tears as I struggled to tell her that we would no longer be coming home to the U.S. for half the year, but she immediately said, "Oh! It's just like when your father and I went to Florida!" Indeed, they had left Ohio and moved to Florida for their retirement years at a time when she was just about the same age as I was moving to Spain. They spent 20 years there before returning to Cincinnati for the last years of their lives. Never in all those last years did she ever express displeasure or encourage guilt that I had moved to Spain. She even made a trip alone to our home in Roquetas de Mar in 2006 at Christmas time to see how we lived.

In some ways my life here in one of the "Floridas of Europe" is like my mother's life during the happy time my parents spent in a retirement village in Orlando. In many ways it is different. I try to write about the similarities and the differences, and I try to live each day happily.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"And sorry I could not travel both..."

This Sunday, and indeed most of the Sundays in January, I am not in Spain. Instead, today I am traveling west from Cincinnati to Chicago, where I will overnight in a hotel near O'Hare and slowly accustom myself to a long flight back to Madrid and then to Alicante.

The sun shone brightly, but it was cold as we gathered at the MegaBus stop in downtown Cincinnati Sunday morning. and even though I hate to end what has been a comfortable and happy visit with my family, I began to look forward to the 65 degree weather that my husband assures me is waiting in Spain. The bus was not full and though only a single piece of luggage is permitted, the attendant kindly accommodated the second suitcase that I had carefully packed with valuables retrieved from the depths of boxes in one sister's walk-in closet, which help me to integrate my past lives with my current life in Spain.

I gazed out the window as we headed west on Interstate 74 toward Indianapolis, where I had lived for a short time, and enjoyed the view. The sun continued shining onto idle brown farmland, and hundreds of tall, straight deciduous trees spidered feathered branches over the clear blue sky. I shot fleeting glances at the Middle Eastern-looking man seated in front of me, who had jumped on board five minutes late, after the luggage door was sealed, and even after the front door was closed, carrying only a white plastic shopping bag, jolting me into realizing that there had been no security check at all in purchasing my ticket and boarding the bus. He had immediately taken out his cell phone upon seating and spoken so softly and briefly into it that I could not tell what language was spoken. Inter-city train rides that I have taken in Spain require a baggage and person check now, and I am sorry that regardless of where in the world I live, the wariness that I felt is normal now.

As we neared Indianapolis I saw street names and places that I remember from the six or seven years ago that I was there, but we came through a different route to central downtown than I, then living on the west side, knew. I understood where I was and where I was going, but I didn't really recognize the journey. Beyond the Indianapolis pick-up we turned north onto Interstate 65 to continue our diagonal trip across this narrow state, and I sent silent mental messages to friends I remembered  in Eagle Creek, Zionsville, and later, Lafayette, and even later, Munster, Indiana.

I-65 beyond Lafayette has got to be one of the most boring interstates in the U.S. Not ugly, but the road stretches on forever through long stretches of flat farmland that now have only tiny groves of trees near a farm house or to delineate borders of fields. A large windmill farm appeared near a town called Fowler, the individual mills spaced much farther apart from each other here than those I have seen in Spain and Denmark (we have so much space in the U.S.) and all today turning slowly. What keeps you awake on this boring road, though, are the hundreds of 18-wheeler trucks zipping by on their way to and from the central states distribution hub of Chicago.

Finally, after five hours,  one time zone change, and slightly ahead of schedule, we arrived near Union Station, Chicago, where I retrieved my two suitcases and found a taxi to take me out to my O'Hare hotel. This is proving to be an excellent place to harbor myself as I slowly take leave of the U.S. and move myself, my things, and my mind back to my home now in Spain.

Monday, August 3, 2009

If It's Tuesday...

Tuesday this past week was the day we set out to be at the office in Orihuela early to go through the trámite of getting my social security number. We didn't make it quite by the 8:30 opening time. Just as well. When we arrived at 8:40 there were already people outside the door, standing, some smoking, most talking, waiting their turn. We hurried inside and picked up our number: number 105!

The inside office was packed, but it was air conditioned. Needless to say, the few seats were already taken. We stood at a counter-top desk along the far side of the room and worked on a sudoku. After a few minutes, we checked the sign that told what number was being served. It was number ten.

At 9:30 we went outside for a little air. We walked around the corner and found a cafetería with tables in the sun. The air was still fresh, and we sat out with a cup of coffee. There was a kiosk down the street, and we added a morning newspaper to the paperwork we had with us to pass the time.

Back at the social security office, we checked the number sign again. As in offices everywhere of this nature, there were multiple desks--at least six--and as in offices everywhere, not all of them were working. I saw three in operation, and we calculated that the numbers were moving along at the rate of about 30 per hour.

More sudoku. More newspaper reading. More watching the people as they came to the intake desk to get a number. And then we noticed that no more numbers were being given out. It was only 10:30, but the "appointments" for the day were filled. The lady at the reception desk simply said that there were no more numbers: "Mañana. Come back tomorrow." This was small comfort for the multitude of people--Spanish, English, a few German--who were coming in to an office that is open from 8:30 to 1:30 and who had expected to be served that day. It's not an unusual state of affairs in Spain, and most Spaniards took it philosophically. Some English were a bit more panicked. One woman explained that she had been there before and never seen it so busy, but now she was going to England on holiday at the end of the week, and needed the European card that extended her healthcare rights out of Spain and throughout the EU. Some new EU regulation had revised procedures and required the issuing of new cards.

We went out for another coffee and a tostada, this time at a cafetería in the shade. Thus fortified, we returned for our final wait. At 11:30 we passed the 100 mark and began to inch our way toward the front of the room where the consultation desks were staged. For the first time, I saw that the room was much larger than I had noticed before, and there were many more seats toward the front. But they were still all filled. Finally, number 105 was called for desk number 6.

We explained to the young woman at the desk that we had moved our residence from Andalucía, that I had to exchange my previous health card for one valid here, that we had completed empadronamiento, and that we had been sent here by the Almoradí centro de salud. My heart sank as I heard her explain that, since I am not a European citizen, I qualify for the health card only through my husband, who is a European, and could she please see our marriage certificate. We had gone through that process before, when I originally got the card in Roquetas. It involved finding the original of our Ohio marriage certificate, going to Denmark, establishing the fact that we had indeed been legal residents there long ago, and getting an official translation (to the tune of 300€) into Spanish of the marriage certificate and the Danish residence papers.

Presumably we have that paper in our files somewhere, but it had not occurred to us to take it with us this morning, because I did have my Spain residence card and the prior health card, which I could only have gotten after showing those marriage papers. Too much logic! But in time, we convinced the young woman that she didn't need to see those papers once again. At noon time we left the office, a signed and stamped letter authorizing me to receive health benefits in hand.

Wednesday, we took that valuable piece of paper back to the centro de salud in Almoradí, where it took a relatively short time (a half hour, but that's another story) to get my health card.

We had intended to have a day out and play tourist in Orihuela after getting the paper, but by early afternoon, we had energy only to find our way to the tourist office, pick up a map and brochures, and retire to a cafetería for a bit of lunch and leafing through the literature. Seeing more of Orihuela than the 50 meters around the social security office will have to wait for another day.

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.

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.