EsCrazy

The story of how I quit my job and went to play in Madrid

Archive for the category “Madrid Adventures”

Escrazy Zombie Blog!

Like a zombie, this blog is coming back from the dead. Watch out! After a wonderful trip to California, and many requests to blog more, I realized that some people actually do read this! We will be back shortly with updates from our crazy lives in Madrid.

I’d love to hear from our sweet readers about what you think!

Have a happy Halloween!

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Our Friend Julieta

Earlier this month, we went to see one of my favorite artists, who holds a special little place in my Spanish-learning heart. Julieta Venegas surprised us with tickets to her concert! Ok, we bought the tickets, but details aren’t so important.

The show was at a famous little theater-turned-disco, Joy Esclava. We arrived early, grabbed an insanely priced beer and scoped a perfect spot.  We negotiated ourselves onto an elevated step that gave us a view of the whole stage, even without me having to hoist Margaux over the crowd to catch a glimpse.

The concert blew us away. Our girl, Juli, was rocking her iconic accordion and playing some of her fabulous new songs. Of course, when she busted out her classics, the crowd went nuts. Margaux proudly sang all the words to “Me Voy;” she’d been practicing for weeks. All of the new songs are soon to be classics.

After the show, I convinced Margaux to stick around for an hour or so to see if we could say hi to our buddy. There were only three or four other loyal fans who waited with us, everyone else bounced to go find some more modestly priced drinks, I imagine. Finally, our girl came out and we got all nervous and nerdy. Lucky for us, Julieta is gracious and lovely. We asked to take a photo, and she chatted with us for a few minutes about our city, San Diego, and learning Spanish. Margaux is convinced that now her Spanish will be improved because, “Julieta said I can do it!”

Our hearts were racing! It’s so exciting to meet someone you admire so much. Thanks Julieta, for being a cool famous person. ImageImageImageImageImage

The GOLD

Close your eyes and think back to what you were doing at 7 am on Thanksgiving morning. Sleeping, right? (Well, those of you with tiny kids, probably not.) Anyway, we were riding the metro to the Foreigner’s Office for our appointment to get the GOLD, our residency cards.

We show up, wait in the usual random line out front while we watch the sun rise. It wasn’t so bad this time, since we knew what we were getting into, and both of us were wearing two pairs of pants in order to ward off the chill.

The line begins to move and we even got in the right line this time. “We have an appointment, and we know what to do!” We kept high fiving each other, getting a little nervous that somehow this would go wrong again.

It’s our turn. A Santa-man points to the next available agent. We sit, and it’s the SAME lady from last time. Obviously, she doesn’t remember us. I proudly hand her all the documents that her colleague told us to bring. My heart stops, imagining that she will tell us no again. She casually flips through Margaux’s papers and then looks at us. “Do you have the Social Security papers?”  Without losing my cool, I remind her that last time, it was decided that Margaux didn’t need those. She held a finger in the air, and then nodded, like she remembered. (Maybe she didn’t remember, and was just testing us?) Maybe they never needed that anyway, all I said was that we didn’t need them and she believed me. Weird. Anyway, before we knew it, the lady was handing Margaux a tiny stamped receipt.  Five seconds later, after quickly “verifying” my papers, I received the same strip of paper and the instruction, “You. No work. Ok?”  Great.

We go to the next booth and a handsome young guy takes our fingerprints.  I ask him if the receipt we have will be good enough to travel with, as we are heading out of the country for a vacation soon. He says no, but you can get the permission to reenter Spain upstairs.

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The receipts that will get the gold!

So there we have it. These tiny receipts are the GOLD. A little underwhelming, sure. But they can be redeemed in 40 days for the real thing, a bona fide residency cards.

Now, for the dumb/funny part. Remember, we had to cancel our trip to Barcelona because of all this mess in early November. Now, we had planned an awesome trip to Rome over Thanksgiving, and had to change a few things around so we could get this receipt.  The guy who took our fingerprints told us we had to go upstairs to ask for a paper that would allow us to come back into Spain, since we didn’t have the real resident cards yet. Sounds pretty easy.

We go upstairs, wait in line for a bit, and then ask a guy sitting behind a computer for a paper that will allow us to leave.  I bet you can guess what he said: “Do you have an appointment?”  D’OH!  I’ll cut to the chase and spare you all the anxiety-ridden details. Basically, he said we could come back in 2 hours with the following things:

1. A print-out of an appointment confirmation. Even if the appointment says January, he said he’ll take it. He can’t see us without this paper.  So you need an appointment, but you can just come in this afternoon.

2. Copies of our newly printed receipts.

3. Copies of our passports.

4. Printouts of our boarding passes, to prove that we actually have a flight.

5. Pay a fee, at the bank, with this specific form. (Hurry though, the banks close in 1 hour and not all of them will accept this form.)

We run around the city looking for an internet place that also has printing capabilities. Not so easy to find, surprisingly. We run around, yell at each other to hurry up to 3 different banks to find one that accepts this form, or accepts us as non-customers. The day warms up and we curse ourselves for wearing two pairs of pants, because now it’s uncomfortable. In order to maintain our bloodsugar, therefore our sanity, we order breakfast. I accidentally order porkchops and eggs for breakfast. An old lady walking by stops and points at my breakfast and makes fun of it. Pointing, she says to her friend, “Mira! Que desayuno tiene!” (Look, what a breakfast she has!) Then tells me, “Tienes hambre, eh!?” (You must be hungry, huh?) Nice. Embarrassed, sweaty and a little stressed that we might not be able to go to Rome, we hurry up and bring everything back to the guy at the Yellow Building.

He looks at our morning’s work and prints off our permission to return to the country. Sweet!

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Permission slip from the government.

With these papers, we are free to go wherever we want! Thanks, Spain.

The next morning, we caught a flight to ROME!

Parque de Atracciones, Halloween Style

Last weekend, we went to the Halloween celebration at the local theme park. This park has the most creative name ever: Attraction Park.

It was no Knotts Scary farm, but it did provide some thrills!  We were lucky enough to bring my broken camera (which got broken when I fell down in Brooklyn earlier this summer) to capture the dynamic day.

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Also, check out our videos:

 Sorry this one is sideways. Oopsie.

Bienvenido Casa y/o Hogar!

I finally have regained consciousness after a whirlwind 3, or 4? days of trying to reset my internal clock ahead by 9 hours.  And. I. Am. Here!

Margaux picked me up at the airport on Tuesday morning, after a long 13 hours in the air.  I barely made my connection in DC, thanks to the folks who disregarded this announcement, “Some of our passengers have a tight connection, so please stay seated and allow them to get off first.”  I swear, a whole plane full of honey badgers not giving a shit. And I was at the back, having an anxiety attack. Good thing Dulles is a tiny airport. NOT. And good thing I like to run with a bunch of luggage and my tendency to trip and fall. NOT.  The important thing is, I made it! And my flight from DC was pleasant.

It’s so nice to be back in my apartment. I am just beginning to put my clothes in a dresser after being wadded up in suitcases for 5 months. I got to sleep in my own bed!

The very best part, of course, is to be back with my Margaux. She is adorable and decorated the place with signs hilariously declaring, “Welcome Hogar!” and “Beinvenido Casa y/o Hogar.”

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I brought some Halloween decor from home and while Margaux was at work yesterday, decked out the apartment. Check it out! We might have to have a Halloween Party now.

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That’s all for now. We are just getting back into the swing of things and enjoying spending time together (watching the Walking Dead).  More updates to come! Margaux starts language school next week!

The Back Story

For all of our readers, I believe its only fair to share the back-story of how living in Madrid happened. A few years ago, shortly after my father in law passed away, my wife, Jean began talking about how much she wanted to travel the world, go new places and explore new things.  We both realized that life is too short to put off these adventures, and if we waited until it was the “right time” or until we had “enough money” then we might never achieve our dream. The world is such a great big place to explore.

Needless to say, Jean and I had many conversations about how to make our dream of seeing the world possible. We discussed how much money to save, where  to go first, what our  goals will be, and of course the fun experience of doing it together.  Our travel plans were going to start in Latin America somewhere since Jean had studied in central Mexico and truly wanted to explore more of the Latin American culture. She began making budgets, fantasy itineraries, and planning our “escape”. We were going to see how much money we could save for one full year and go from there. We even discussed the date when we were both going to quit our jobs so we could travel full time for a while!

However, the only worrisome problems for me were that I love my job, its super flexible, and I work with great people.  The thought of me quitting was taking a huge toll on me mentally and emotionally. Do I put my career first or do I put my relationship first?  This was a very difficult decision as you can imagine. With the economy tanking, and the job market taking a nosedive, the very idea of quitting a GOOD SOLID position was just not happening for me. Of course on the flip side, the idea of being single again was also just not happening. I finally had a beautiful girlfriend (at the time) who is smart as hell with a great sense of humor, why would I ever give that up?

As time passed on, I realized that I had to have both,  the awesome job with the awesome girl, no matter what!  I couldn’t take it anymore, so I had to explain to Jean.  The next time we talked about it, I made it obvious that I was becoming more and more uncomfortable with the whole plan. Clearly, Jean was unhappy, but we have an honest relationship and telling her was the best thing I could have done for the both of us!  We needed to find a different plan and although we did save a good amount of money,  it was crucial for us to start thinking out of the box.

Remember earlier how I said Jean is smart as hell?

It was 100% her idea for me to ask my work if there was any chance of opportunities to live and work in a Spanish speaking country.  Opportunely, I asked the CEO about it on March 17th, 2011 at a St. Patrick’s Day work event and almost exactly one year later, Jean and I were living in Madrid!!

Now, yes I want to fill in our readers with the back-story, but there is a funny twist! We came to Madrid on March 12th, 2012 on our tourist visa (passport only) which is only good for 90 days. As a result, we needed to be out of Spain (do the math) by June 12th more or less. Naturally, on May 28th (my 33rd birthday) we leave the country and fly back to California to finish up my work visa and continue Jean’s resident visa process (not fun in the least bit)!

On July 5th, my work visa was ready for pick at the Los Angeles consulate. Wow, a success for me, I can now officially work in the country of Spain for at least 2yrs. YAY, my dreams to have both the great job and the great girl are coming true, holy snap fish!! Just one more requirement left, shouldn’t be too difficult as we’ve come this far.

Nope, Jean’s resident visa paperwork has now been submitted for about three months now, which means she is stuck in the USA while I am here in Spain.  Keep in mind, remember how I told you earlier, this was 100% her idea?  Well, here I am, by myself and it’s been oh maybe 35 days or so. Damn, I’ve never been all by myself before; it’s a bit scary, but surprisingly I kind of like it, kind of. I guess, in hindsight, I forgot this was also part of the challenge I was asking for.  The good news, I am on my way to starting Spanish classes and I also joined a meetup for expats (meetup.com). Life is certainly interesting and this is really our life, circa 2012…….Jean stuck in California while I’m here working and living our dreams.  Go figure! EsCrazy!

This is what we are dealing with

Here is one of the emails I sent and the response I received from the Consulate of Spain in Los Angeles.  This one is my favorite, due to the vagueness of their answer.  The added emphasis is mine.

This is what I looked like when I wrote the email.

 

September 4, 2012

Hello,

My wife is currently living in Spain with her work visa. I have applied to be able to join her, and am wondering how long it might be. It is very difficult financially and emotionally to live apart from my wife, and we would like to be together in Spain as soon as possible. My NIV is: xxxxxxxx. 
 
I need some information so I can decide whether to come pick up my passport and go to Spain on a 90 day tourist visa and return to Los Angeles again once my visa is ready, or if I should continue to wait here in the USA. 
 
Please, can you tell me about how much longer I should expect to wait? Two weeks? 
 
Thank you for your time,
Jean
September 6, 2012
Miss L, 

This is what I looked like when I read the response

 
We are sorry, but your visa still pending of approval. We do not know exactly how much longer it will take. It could be a few more days, but it could also be another 3 months. So it is up to you, if you want to pick up your passport that is fine. Just remember that you can only be in Spain 90 days. If your visa is ready before you come back we will send you an email and you will have 30 days to come in person with your passport to pick up the visa.
 
Saludos cordiales,
Visa Department
Consulate General of Spain
5055 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 860
Los Angeles, CA 90036

What would you do?  ESCRAZY!

A Report from Madrid

Margaux writes from Madrid:

I’d rather have a million friends than a million dollars and some people would disagree, but what’s fun about being rich and lonely? Some people view loneliness as wanting being alone; a great example, my wife, she loves loves being alone, but me on the other hand, completely the opposite. I am not a fan of being alone and I dislike the idea that I have to indefinitely. Living alone in a foreign country and not speaking the language is clearly no fun for me because if you all know me well, I love socializing!!

I get it, sometimes you just have to face your fears for the sake of long-term opportunities, but more importantly for your family or in my case, my spouse. As many people have said, ‘It’s good for me and will make me stronger!’ Again, I get it, but I don’t necessarily like it!

I fortunately have a great place to live with a gigantic swimming pool that sort of forces me to go swimming (with this 100 degree weather) and mingle with my neighbors. This I like because there are people around me, YAY!! So although I am absolutely ‘sucking it up’ as my wife likes to say to me (just wonderful), I at least have others to be around even if I don’t say one word! To be honest, I prefer to listen naturally since I cannot yet speak Spanish! Plus, it’s very good to practice listening as my dad always said!

I do have to mention that the best part about this loneliness is my work; the people are fantastic, friendly and most speak English, YAY YAY YAY!!! Triple YAY for my socializing personality. Now, I need to be friends with these people, not just co-workers! This way I’ll have English speaking friends to hang out with making me completely forget that I’m even alone! Me Gusta!

My wife can come home to Madrid now!! I’ve been ready for her!

Language School!

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10 students in my class

9 teachers completing their masters degrees in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language

8 languages spoken among my classmates (Mandarin, Thai, German, Armenian, Korean, French, Russian, English)

7 classes I missed for laziness, missed bus, or appointments with the electrician

6 week intensive Advanced Spanish Class at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid

5 days per week

4 hours per day

3 bus transfers to get there

2 field trips (Prado Museum, 15 de Mayo Celebration)

1 level away from C2 proficiency!

Biking in Madrid

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This adventure was from Margaux and my last weekend in Madrid before coming home for the summer. Thanks to Pat and Laura, who got us a gift certificate for this bike tour adventure!

We rode for 3 hours all around the city with our tour guide, Jose. We got to see lots of things we are excited to do more of when we go back.  Our favorite: the Egyptian Temple of Debod in Madrid’s Parque del Oeste. I can’t wait to have a picnic here. The park overlooks all of Madrid, and we could even see the big church by our apartment from the top of the park. It’s also right by the Royal Palace, which makes it an awesome tourist watching location too!

When you, yes, you, come to visit us, we will take you here!

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