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

Archive for the tag “Madrid”

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


Language Learning

frustration cartoon

Why do I feel this way sometimes?

Margaux here, and I thought I would give you a little update about my experience of learning Spanish so far.  Although my experience of learning a language has been positive and uplifting, I’m finding studying extremely hard. There are a thousand ways to practice a new language, but I’m not very good about self-discipline, and studying has never been my strong point. I do know however, that once I can put what I’ve learned into practice, its amazing! It’s what keeps me motivated.

I’ve never truly realized (until I put myself in the same situation) just how difficult it is to be an immigrant; not knowing the language, not really understanding the culture, and just trying to fit in has been a challenge. I mean, the language barrier alone could make anyone give up. I now have a new found respect for anyone immigrating to a new country.

Learning a language has been a very interesting challenge for me because I love to talk a lot and I can’t exactly do that yet. I am wicked ‘out of my comfort zone’, I have never felt so insecure before. It’s quite strange actually, but I’m realizing as I observe, listen and watch everyday that this experience is changing me. It’s changing the way I think and I think I like it. The biggest challenge is fitting Spanish into my daily routine. It’s more tricky than you might think. I work all day with my coworkers who are wonderful and speak English in order to get business done, then come home and speak English with Jean, and on the weekends, spend time with our new friends from all over England, Ireland, and the US. I know that it will take more time and effort to practice my Spanish, but it’s frustrating to not be at the level I want yet.

I’ve signed up for a second round of language classes, and am determined to keep at it until I can get by on my own. Meeting new friends at language school and practicing in class is my favorite part. Soon, I will be able to have real conversations!  In another week or so, I will be at pre-intermediate level, A2, which I am really proud of! I am just starting to learn how to speak in the past tense!

The positive side of my learning Spanish is however, that I fortunately have the best wife in the world. Although, she can’t teach me Spanish very well, she has been proactively immersing herself here.  She’s been wonderful with our landlord Miguel and amazingly great with all the bureaucratic issues we’ve had to deal with here. I’m so incredibly grateful my wife speaks Spanish and definitely could not be here without her. Thanks again Jean!

madrid living

Today marks our one year anniversary of moving to Madrid. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by, and I am eager for the next year to be filled with Spanish success!


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.


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!


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!

BureauCRAZY, The Sequel, Part Two

The saga continues, and I hope you have settled in with a glass of vino for part two.  In case you missed it, read Part One Here. 

Do this, then proceed.

Buckle up! This part may be the craziest yet!

The no-address, no-name building opens at 9am. Our advisors (a combination of Margaux’s coworkers, our lawyer, and some online forum strangers) recommend arriving as early as possible before 9am, because for some reason, there are literally over 100 people who show up per day trying to do the same thing. Where do all these people come from? How did we all get to this point? How did they find out to go to the no-name building? Why are there so many people? Over 100 per DAY? That’s only in Madrid, supposedly, the same scene happens in cities and towns all across Spain on a daily basis. We don’t know any of these answers. We just go.

We plan to leave on the first Metro Monday morning. 6:07am.  We miss it, but catch the next one at 6:15am. There was only a little teaspoon of coffee left, and so I had made some watery gas-station coffee for us that we slugged down before embarking on this adventure. On the way there, we are half-asleep and half-nervous. Once we make 2 connections, we arrive at the correct station. The “map” that one of our advisors drew for us gave us clear directions to the yellow building.

This is our helpful map, to the place with no address.

After walking around for 30 minutes and not arriving at the yellow building, we took another metro back to where we started and tried again. This time, finding a line of people in front of the ugliest yellow building ever. Did I mention that it was still dark outside? Like, middle of the night, stars, and moon, dark. So the yellow building was only discovered after basically stumbling upon it. It is across the street from the psychiatric hospital, where the old prison used to be, apparently.

This is what 7:30am looks like. Note, that tote bag full of precious gems, aka papers and copies.

The guys at the front of the line were standing arbitrarily halfway between the sidewalk and the entrance to the yellow building. We took our place, about 35 people in front of us. I looked at my hipster owl watch necklace. 7:32 am. Still dark and freezing cold.

For two and a half hours, we stood there, frozen. Occasionally holding our place in line while the other went jumping or jogging down the street to keep warm blood pumping. I told Margaux, “This would be more fun if we were going to get an iphone 5 or concert tickets or something.” Neither of us were 100% sure that we were in the right line, the right place, or if we would accomplish anything at all by standing there in the cold all morning.

Naively, I had brought a book to pass the time. But it sure is hard to read when the bus stop right next to where we were standing keeps blowing warm black exhaust smoke in your face. And the following bus passes fast and blows ice-wind down the back of your coat. Brrr. Plus it was dark. So, no reading got done.

We huddled together and didn’t talk that much. I think we were too nervous.

By 9:00 the sun had finally come up, and some guy whistled and waved his arm in a “follow me” kind of way. The herd of us shuffled down the sidewalk. By this time, there was at least another 100 or so people behind us in line. It was a living sociology experiment. People from all over the world, trying to hold their space in line, parading through the very loose security past the tired police. Once through the security it was a weird free-for-all to find the correct line to stand in. There was about 5 to choose from.  We followed the guy in front of us into the longest line, assuming our luck would put is there anyway. While Margaux held our spot, I went to see which line was really ours.  Except I realized that I didn’t even know the name of the thing we were there to get. Residence card? ID number? Visa extension? Pick up a residence card? The policeman said, “Huella” and pointed at the line we were in already. Huella?

WTF is huella? Fingerprint, I think. But we already had our fingerprints done (twice) way back in June! We wait in line anyway. At this point, my stomach was all twisted up with anxiety. The line moved relatively quickly, and before we knew it, it was our turn to sit at this little desk across from the person who would determine our future.

With a shaky voice, I explained that Margaux’s visa expires tomorrow, and we had all the papers for her to get the card, or the fingerprints, or whatever. The woman asked for our appointment confirmation paper. My heart sank.

My lack of coffee, frozen, 5am brain can’t speak Spanish very well.

“The information office, they say to for us to come. No appointment. Ok?”  I stammer.

The woman shakes her head. Nope, she tells us, only appointments at this office.

“We wait cold for the morning. Other people waiting have appointment?”

Yes, she tells me everyone else has an appointment. But she seems to be in a humane mood, so she asks for our papers anyway. (So you must have an appointment? But not really.) We pull out our stack of every possible paper anyone could ask for. We have everything. I mean everything. And about 3 copies of it.

All our papers, plus, some office supplies, JIC (just in case).

“Spanish Social Security papers,” she says.

Margaux finds the thick paperclipped stack that her boss says to give if they need social security papers.

“No, not these. This is not it.” the lady says, as I feel my face burn, and I ask Margaux if there are any other social security papers. Margaux pulls out a bunch more papers that all say “Social Security” on them. They seem to state that the company has all their stuff straight with the Spanish IRS etc. Again, the lady shakes her head. She pulls out a sheet. “It looks like this.” She shows us.

We don’t have that one.

My eyes well up, and I pray pray pray that I don’t cry. Margaux sees that I am upset and gets nervous. I ask the woman to write down exactly what we need, where to get it, and what we need to do next. She tells us we need that paper, but it’s not from this office, and that we will have to go to the Social Security office downtown and complete the proper paperwork.  She also doesn’t know where that office is, or how long it will take for us to do that.  Just for good measure, she let’s us know that this visa is very rare, and she hasn’t seen it hardly ever before.

Doing my very best not to lose my mind right there in the office, I point out that no one told us about this step and that we were operating on a very tight deadline.

“Her visa, it expires tomorrow. We used to have appointment that we wait three months, and it’s no good. Now they tell us to come here, but it’s no good.”  My voice cracks, and I feel my Spanish slip out of my head. Margaux squeezes my hand, and I know she is scared because she doesn’t even know what’s going on.

The lady tells us to go upstairs to the Information Office and they will tell us about what to do next. This is the same Information Office that told us to come here in the first place and obviously doesn’t give out very good information. But, what choice do we have?

We mumble, “Gracias,” and trudge up the stairs. Of course, there’s three lines for three different things, and we automatically stand in the longest one. I try to explain what just happened to Margaux. Basically, we have to go to another office, get MORE papers and come back, but probably we couldn’t do it all today. We stand there, not at all surprised, but super disappointed. And just barely thawing out from the cold.

10 seconds later….

The same woman from downstairs comes up to us and waves us over to the front of the information line.  She leans over to her coworker and whispers something that we can’t understand. The downstairs lady looks over her shoulder at us. Wait! Was that sympathy? Compassion, maybe? A little bit of problem solving? Could it be? Customer service???? I don’t get my hopes up.

The downstairs lady leaves, I thank her profusely, for what I don’t know.

The new information boss woman looks at us. We stand there stupid looking. We both are holding back tears. She asks for our papers again, and we give her a few stacks. She asks a few questions about whether we had sent a fax to the “Main Office.”

“Yes!” I tell Margaux to pull the fax confirmation, the faxed documents we sent, and the copies of all of that. The woman looks at it. She asks for the social security papers we had. She nods. It’s like a test, just to see how many papers we could possibly bring. THIS, a fax confirmation, is what convinced her we need our residence cards? NOT the paperwork they told us we would definitely need way back at the Los Angeles Consulate? NOT the copies of Margaux’s work contract, NOT our domestic partnership papers, NOT the application forms, NOT the copies of our passports? A FAX?

Whatever. At this point, they could ask me for my left tit and I’d give it up to get this over with.

She looks at the fax confirmation and looks up, confident that we have passed the test.

“This is a very rare type of visa. You don’t need any more social security papers. This is everything. But now you have to come back for this appointment.”  She stamps some official looking papers and hands it to us. Then she looks at me. “What about you? Do you have a visa to process?”

I nod.  We hadn’t even really thought about my visa, knowing that it was unlikely we could get both done. Margaux’s is priority because of the expiration date, I tell her.

“Let me see your visa.”  She takes a quick look (A QUICK LOOK? Do you know how long it took me to get that lady?!), stamps another official looking paper for me and says that both of us can come back for the appointment in two weeks and we will get our residence cards processed.

“That’s it? Will Margaux be ok with this date for visa? And me too?” I say, then quickly explain to Margaux what’s going on.

This woman, who must have magical powers the lady downstairs doesn’t posses, gave us the ok to come back again, but also a stamp on a paper that says Margaux won’t be deported. No extra trip to the Social Security Office.

We stumble out of that office and get through the gate before we hug and cry a little. It’s only 9:32am. We sort of accomplished something. I’m not sure if I am relieved, happy or sad.

We have to go back and stand in the cold again in two weeks, maybe for the last time. On Thanksgiving. This time, though, we will have an appointment, for both of us. And the official stamp (which we are slowly figuring out rules our lives). And possibly the help of two women who showed us the very first bit of actual kindness.

Today, we are thankful.

BureauCRAZY, The Sequel, Part One

I had to take a nap before I wrote this, to release the tension in my shoulders and behind my eyes. Loyal reader, I present BureauCRAZY, The Sequel, Part One:

Margaux’s appointment the Tuesday before last was a bust. This appointment was the one she had scheduled way back in August, and waited nearly three months to have.  This was the appointment that was going to get her, the GOLD (Residency Card), supposedly.

No gold…….

That day, I receive Margaux’s call as she and her boss, leave the appointment to tell me it was a worthless waste of time. Mind you, we had stayed up the nights before frantically and obsessively checking the requirements, mapping the location, and trying to decipher the Spanish government’s website(s) for clues about anything we might have missed.  It was all in vain, apparently.

They had arrived at some office on the other side of the city with everything in hand. The woman who met with them looked at them and said, “Why are you guys here? This is not the right office for you, no. No, I don’t know where you should go, I just know that it’s not here. Sorry.” And after a brief exchange, they left. With nothing.

Here’s the problem, though. Margaux’s visa is only good until November 13.  After that, she has to start all over again with the visa process, or live illegally in Spain, jeopardizing her career and her company’s reputation. Neither of these options work for us. After we realized that she had waited for months for the wrong appointment, we were in a crunch for time.

After scrambling for about a week, many faxes and emails were sent around in cyberspace containing Margaux’s work documents, hoping that they would land on the right person’s desk or inbox. We didn’t hear back from anyone in the “main office.” Meanwhile, I am at home panicking and generally feeling helpless, so I start my own internet search for the correct next step in this process. I found a phone number to the police station here in Pozuelo, where someone gave me three, THREE, numbers that were disconnected for the Office of Foreigners. Then I googled the name of the office that he had given me the wrong number for, called that office, and got another website for the Office of Information for Foreigners.

Ok, now here’s the kicker.  This Information Office says that we can just show up with all of our documents and get processed at the Brigada Provincial de Extranjeros, an immigration office, I guess.  Here’s the for real address and directions to this place: Ave. de Los Poblados, no address number. Near the metro stop. It’s a yellow building. Get there early, before they open or else you won’t get in.  Great.

This fine architectural achievement is the no-name, no-address immigration place that we have to find.

We had planned to spend the weekend in Barcelona celebrating the end of this mess, but instead we had to cancel our trip so we could go to this no address place bright and early Monday morning. There’s no vacation in the world that would be worth messing this all up at the last second. So, no harm no foul. Next time, we’ll book a refundable ticket.

Part Two coming soon. Did we get our GOLD? Will we ever go on vacation? Did we make it to the no address place? Will Margaux get deported? Find out tomorrow on ESCRAZY!

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.


Visa and residency madness Part 2. (Part 1 was everything up to this point.)

Now that we both have our visas, it’s required that we complete some more paperwork and go to some more offices and wait some more in order to get the GOLD: Residency Cards. Our residency cards are like green cards, they allow us to stay here legally for a year, and can be renewed. The Visa is just entry into the country and permission to apply for a residency card.

Anyway, this morning, we go to the Office of Citizen Attention to register where we live. Margaux says it’s like a census, I say it’s like changing your address at the DMV. Either way, it’s a pointless step that’s crucial to getting our cards. In order to “register” we need our passports and our lease, and we have to show up together since we live together and only Margaux’s name is on the lease. After making a brief stop into the copy store, the lady shuffles through our paperwork, types something into her computer and frowns.

Margaux goes, “What did she say?”

Me, “Nothing.”

The lady informs us that our apartment isn’t showing up in her “system” and there’s no way to enter us into the computer if she can’t find our address. So….? She types some more things and says that her computer system is very confusing and complicated. So…?  And then looks at our lease again and says, “You live on the third floor? Are you sure?”

Uh…. Yeah. I’m pretty sure that every time I get in the elevator, I press ‘3’ and arrive at my apartment.

Then she tells us that no one has ever registered from our apartment in the history of time. She can locate apartment #1, and apartment #3, but she can’t find ours, #2.  “You are sure you live in apartment #2 on the third floor?” she asks again.

Lady, seriously. We live in a black hole? Yes, it exists. And we are sure that this is where we live.

“You’ll have to come back on Monday, I have to ask my boss what to do about this. Oh, but don’t come back to this office, there’s another one on the other side of town. I’ll be there.” She writes the address and tells me how to get there. We exchange numbers so she can call us to tell us if her boss can find our apartment in “the system,” and either way, she says, “Come on Monday.”

Saturday morning accomplishments: 0

Reasons to love hate Spanish bureaucracy: 247

Margaux has an appointment for her residency card on Tuesday (may or may not require proof of registration).

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.”


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.


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!

My 28th Year

As promised, here’s my personal goals for the upcoming year, my 28th.  In no particular order, these are the top 20 things I want to accomplish in the next 365ish days.  All of these things are possible! I’ve accumulated tons of bookmarks and resources to make it happen. Check out the links for more info about where I got all these crazy ideas from.

  1. Travel to at least 8 different countries, wear my adventure hat.  My man, Rick Steves, will show us the way.
  2. Budget our money to make room for travel and put $xxx/month into our savings account ($x/year).  It’s been done.
  3. Spend money on experiences more than things.
  4. Become completely debt-free, and live debt-free with the exception of my student loan by March 2013. Dave Ramsey knows how.
  5. Get on the show House Hunters International when we move to a different apartment in the spring. My mom would FLIP.
  6. Exercise regularly toward a goal weight of xxx. (Yeah right, like I’m going to tell you here.)
  7. Eat well. Appreciate good food.
  8. Enjoy time with friends and family. Use skype and gchat to stay in touch with those far away.
  9. Make 4 new real friends in Madrid. Join Meetup groups.
  10. Write in my journal weekly. Finish reading Writing Away for inspiration and guidance.
  11. Begin learning German using Rosetta Stone and local language classes at the library.
  12. Practice Spanish with Margaux every day.
  13. Read 4 adult novels in Spanish.
  14. Start an online business to generate extra income.
  15. Stay in touch with contacts by sending 3 emails a week to people I haven’t heard from in a while.
  16. Identify and get involved with a job, volunteer position or activity that is meaningful to me and build a professional network of people in Madrid.
  17. Maintain EsCrazy and get at least one article published on Bootsnall, Matador Network or as a guest post on another blog.
  18. Complete NaNoWriMo 2012.
  19. Get to know the city of Madrid. Learn about Spanish art, history, literature, culture and food.
  20. Drink wine sometimes, laugh a lot, take pictures.

Adventure awaits!

I am so excited to get going on these! Let the adventures begin!


MY VISA WAS APPROVED!!!!!!!!!!! Hello one-way ticket to Madrid!!!!!!!

OMG I am so excited. It has been 9 long weeks apart, and an excruciatingly long 5 month wait for this visa. I’m out of here, with no return date, on October 22. See you later in a few years, America!


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