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

Archive for the tag “spain”

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!

VIDEO: Spanish Bureaucracy

I love this video. One of my Spanish teachers showed it to our class last spring. This is the source of my inspiration for bringing office supplies and a million copies of everything each time I go to process any paperwork.

We are going to become paperwork badasses like this one day.

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!


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).

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 ( 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


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,
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!

Ham Ham Ham Ham Ham

Ok, so the jamon obsession is going to take some getting used to. Yes, it’s delicious. Should we eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?  Everyone seems to think so. 

Vegetables don’t seem to be a priority. If you are vegetarian, good luck. Bring some granola bars. 

I would like to thank Anthony Bourdain for the heads up about the different types of ham. We had some delicious bites that come from wild pigs who only eat acorns. There are some that come on a hard roll, sometimes it comes just a plateful of ham slices with bread on the side. For those of you who are uninitiated, I am not talking about your Easter ham, or the kind that comes on eggs benedict. This is jamon straight from the leg hanging above the rows of vermouth at the bar. This jamon, dangling there from the ceiling, has been aging for some two years or more before it gets to be hand sliced and served to you. It’s delicious. It’s complex. It’s everywhere. 


Check out this link to learn more.

Our apartment and the Spanish bureaucracy, or How to turn the lights on in Spain

Obviously, we knew that things aren’t the same in Spain. We were prepared with our patience and open minds. However, we never imagined things would be this ridiculous. 

You may remember that I mentioned I thought we were going to be in our apartment last Thursday. Well, it’s now Tuesday afternoon, and we are not there just yet. Currently, we are staying in a little studio in the building next to our real apartment.  The problem, it seems, is that no one can turn on the lights.  

Let me explain.  Here’s the rundown of what has happened to us in the past 8 days regarding our apartment and the Spanish bureaucracy. I’m sure it will make a fun story someday…

1) Step one. Open a bank account. Sounds straightforward, but it took about 2 days, 3 trips to 2 different banks, and we still have yet to figure out how to get money in the damn account.

2) Prove to the leasing company that we have a bank account. We can’t prove this to them until the bank has the leasing company’s bank account information. The leasing company won’t give us their bank account information until we have an account. We can’t give them our account information until we get theirs. Spanish circular logic #1.

3) Two days later, pick up the paper that says we have the correct amount in the bank. This must be notarized before taking it to the leasing company to sign the lease. 

4) Arrive at the notary all the way downtown, and realize that a notary is a BIG DEAL in Spain. We are severely underdressed and uncomfortable in the office that looks like a big-time lawyer’s office in La Jolla or something.  A woman reads the lease out loud in Spanish for Margaux and I. Luckily/unfortunately, neither of us are very fluent in Spanish legalese, and we just sign everything she points to.  (To all my former students, never sign anything you don’t understand.) Then an old guy comes in and asks us if we understand everything. We say yes. Then he signs all the papers.

5) We take all these papers to the leasing company, where we sign some more stuff. The landlord (?)  some lady comes to sit next to us and nods when we look confused.  We go to another desk in the office and pay the deposit, the aval (which is a whole different headache) and some more fees. Then the landlord lady asks Margaux’s boss, who has been driving us around the whole time, if she can get a ride back to the apartment.

6) Before finally getting the keys to the apartment, we have to go to this tiny cigarette store to buy some stamps for the official lease. I asked if we have to mail something, and the landlord lady says no. We just have to buy $50 worth of stamps to put on the paper so it’s official. (Despite having notarized a million things just 3 hours earlier.)

7) We take our stamped, signed, notarized copy of the leasing papers to the manager’s office at the apartment complex. After this whole long day, we couldn’t wait to get into the apartment.

8) The Manager Miguel informs us that, yes, we can have the keys. There is only one small problem: the electricity is not on in our apartment. We said, uh, so what, go turn on the lights. The landlord lady says, well, I’m glad you got the keys, and bounces out. The Manager Miguel calls the electricity company, let’s call them SDG&E, and they say they will call right back so we can verbally sign the contract. Since we don’t have cell phones yet, we wait in the tiny hot office for SDG&E to return our call.  We wait. And wait. And wait.  2 hours go by and SDG&E hasn’t called back. Now it’s time for Manager Miguel to go home. And SDG&E is closed. So no lights today. 

9) Since we had already checked out of the hotel, we explained to Manager Miguel we can’t really afford more nights in a hotel, since we are already paying rent at the apartment, what should we do?  He says, well, you can go in there and it will be ok, you just won’t have hot water, or lights, or a fridge or stove.  I almost lost it right then. It had taken us 5 agonizing days to get the keys in our hand, the end was so close, but this???

10) Manager Miguel feels bad, guilty, human and lets us stay in a little studio that is conveniently furnished and has electricity.  We feel lucky, disappointed and frustrated. It’s especially awesome because the studio is equipped with a twin bed and a shower smaller than a phone booth. We take heart in the fact that we know we should be grateful to have anything at all 

11) Now it’s Friday and Margaux’s boss lends us a phone so SDG&E can call us directly instead of having to wait in Manager Miguel’s office for the call. So early the next morning, I get my best Spanish ready and call to get the lights turned on. An hour later, I had been hung up on 2 times, on hold for a reaaaalllly long time, and chastised for not understanding Spanish enough. Finally, the mean lady on the other end of the line says, “Quieres hablar en ingles?” “SI!!!!” So then I get transferred, on hold, and finally someone says, how can I help you?  I explain, and then she says, oh vale, all you need is the confirmation number listed on your boletin. I ask, what is that? She says, well, if you don’t have it, you have to get it from an electrician. 

12) Manager Miguel gets another visit. I need a boletin, please, I told him. Long story short, Manager Miguel calls SDG&E for us. He spends 2 hours saying bad words in Spanish to the electric company who will not turn on the lights unless we get a boletin. 

13) Apparently, no one in the entire complex has needed a boletin for at least 18 years. According to Manager Miguel. A boletin is a paper saying that the apartment is properly wired to have electricity. WTF

14) The crappy news is, by the time Manager Miguel finished cussing out the company, it was closing time and there were no electricians who would answer his calls. He says, come back on Tuesday, oh yeah, Monday is a holiday. 

15) A long three day weekend in a studio, and now it’s Tuesday. Today, I went to say hello to my new friend Manager Miguel, who says that maybe the electrician can come tomorrow. Once the electrician comes, he makes a boletin. 

16) Then we can call SDG&E to tell them the confirmation number on the boletin. Or something. That will take a few days to process, of course, and we should be able to get the lights turned on by Friday. 

17) Fingers crossed! 

It sounds crazy, but it’s actually more complicated than I can even explain here. We are in good spirits though, after all, this is what we signed up for, right?  Cheers and love to all!

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