One month

27 May

It’s hard to believe that a full month has passed since we arrived.

Things are starting to fall into place:

  • Rob now has his NIE & residency card, which gives him full access to his bank account, as well as the ability to sign other contracts such as signing up for Bicing, the city bike-sharing service.  We’re starting to transfer our utility bills into our name as well.
  • I (Aleta) also have a NIE and am registered as a resident! We expected to be turned away upon our first attempt at applying with a list of additional documents needed.  Instead, we got in quickly (no wait!) and walked out with an official letter in hand.  In another week, I’ll go submit photos to get my ID card.  The short of this is that with the NIE, I too can start planting financial roots here. I’m also free to leave the country and return again without being subject to Shengen visa limits.
  • The shopkeepers and restaurant staff of places we frequent are starting to recognize us as repeat customers, which gets us different treatment than tourists.
  • We’re getting the hang of the rhythm of life here: shops open around 9, and close at 2 for lunch, so grocery shopping is best done before 2.  Offices close at 5pm (3pm on Fridays).  Most places are closed on Sundays so Saturday is the day to stock up on groceries for Sunday.
  • We’ve hosted our first series of guests over the last couple weeks; it was fantastic to see friends from back home, and get to know their travel companions.  Hosting guests served both as a way to feel more like this is our home, and also gave us a reason to play tourist and explore corners of the city that we have not yet seen.

Although some aspects of our lives here are starting to get settled, the move still feels incomplete, as our apartment remains rather barren and we’re still living out of our suitcases.  The shipping container has yet to arrive (at least, yet to be delivered to our apartment) and we’ve been working on various logistics involved in getting it here for the past three weeks.  In the meantime, we are still wearing the same clothes that we brought in our suitcases a month ago, and generally making do without a lot of items that are still on their way.

The process of getting our belongings to our flat has been fraught with issues.  The shipping company had not discussed what would happen if our street was inaccessible by the truck that would bring our container to our door.  When we brought up this concern, they quoted an additional € 1800 in moving costs.  After a few calls to local moving companies who gave us lower quotes, we decided to hire another company to handle the last leg of the move.  About a week ago, when the container was due to arrive in the port, we were finally given the contact info for the local company that is getting the container through customs and delivering it to us.  They have been less than forthcoming with any information that will help us finalize arrangements with the moving company to deliver the goods to our apartment.  However in the meantime, they delivered a list of documents needed for customs.  The zinger was that they required a letter from our local government office in the U.S. listing the start and end dates of Rob’s residency there (the container is in Rob’s name).  Here in Spain, and most European countries, it’s required that you register with your local town hall when you move into the area, and de-register when you move away.  It’s like an ongoing census to help the country, province and city know how to distribute resources amongst its municipalities.  The document request presumed that the U.S. does the same thing, and that we already had such a document in our possession from when we de-registered from our last residence in the U.S.  When we explained that no such document exists, nor could it, they wouldn’t take no for an answer.  When we probed for more info, it turns out that what they actually needed was proof that we lived in our previous residence for more than a year, in order to qualify for exemption from duty tax on our personal possessions.  With the help of some amazing friends back in SLO, we pulled together a letter signed by Rob’s landlord showing that he had been at his previous apartment for 5 years.  However even this was not acceptable to the customs agent.  They want a letter from the consulate.

Meanwhile, Rob is spending a week in California, which will delay the container delivery since the consulate appointment to obtain the letter requires his presence. So it will be at least another week before we can really start nesting. Sigh.


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