Monday, November 28, 2011

Residency Update, Again


Our trip back to the residency office was successful today.  We have all been approved for our temporary residence status.  Now we wait 45 days and then return to pick up the cards.  Of course, these are only good for a year, but hopefully the next time around will be without hiccups.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

I cannot remember the first time we particiapted in Operation Christmas Child.  It seems like something  we have done forever.  Pack a shoebox for a child somewhere in the world.  Originally it was all about giving to the less fortunate, especially at Christmas.  But then the more I learned, it was about sharing the hope of Christ.  It became a traditional way of "kicking off" the Christmas season for our family.

Then we moved to Spain.  Knowing that many traditions would need to be let go of we never dreamed we would be able to continue this one.  But Thursday night we met with our new friends for a packing party.  Together we packed nearly 20 boxes, sampled American desserts, shared where the boxes from Spain went last year, and I even got a chance to share how I had seen the boxes in "real life" in other locations. 

Operation Christmas Child is a smaller operation here.  The Disciple office (a Billy Graham Ministry) manages the boxes here.  All the boxes from Spain go to specific, spanish speaking locations in the world.  We are learning a lot about the process.  In fact, we even turned in our request to volunteer at their processing office later in December. 

It is so cool to be able to carry this tradition on!

Residency Update

We returned to complete the final step of our residency applications yesterday, or so we thought. 

Good News:  Scott and I have successfully completed the process.  In about 45 days we will return one more time to pick up our residency cards.  At that point, if we have not passed the driver's license test we will have to stop driving.  We will be able to get "real" bank accounts as well as other services or perks.  Of course, this first card is only good for one year and then we will have to repeat the entire process all over again.

Bad News:  The kids did not successfully complete the process.  As we were completing the final step it was discovered that the first step was done incorrectly.  The kids were listed as independent people and not connected to a parent.  They are minors so this is a big problem.... so, on Monday we go back to Aluche (an old jail that is now where residency applications are processed) and talk with the man in charge to see how to correct it.  The good news is that Scott can go to language school and I can take them.  Alex says the good news is also that he gets to miss school (he did not have Thanksgiving off).

Keep praying.  They say this is normal (to have several hiccups in the process) so we are not worried.  Besides, God has been faithful to this point so I have no reason to think He will not continue to be faithful.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Coming to live legally in Spain is not such a simple task.  If you have been following the blog for long you know that last April we began the process of collecting paperwork for our visa applications.  On June 13 we finally had it all together and we went and applied (all four of us, in person, in Washington, DC) for our visas.  Then in early September we received word that mine and Scott's visas were ready however the children's visas had not been issued yet.  Then yes, 3 days before we left for Spain all four were ready and along with a friend I made a quick trip to DC to pick them all up.  Then shortly after arriving in Spain, Hannah and I took an overnight trip to London so that she could enter the country after receiving her visa.  But the visa is only the beginning of the process.

Once here we had a few days to go to the ayuntamiento (local government office) to complete our empadronamiento (basically census paperwork).  In addition, we had 30 days to apply for our residency status.

Now the fun begins - here is how the process is supposed to work:
  • call, go online, fax, or go to the processing station and request an appointment to apply for residency
  • all adults appear in the processing station with a pile of paperwork and copies of everything and submit application
  • be awarded a residency number
  • go to a different location and request an appointment for fingerprinting (of entire family) and final application process
  • return to location for appointment
  • return 45 - 60 days later and pick up residency card
And here is how our process has worked (with each step including help from a co-worker who actually speaks Spanish:
  • faxed request for appointment and received a return call to go ASAP to a different location to set up an appointment
  • went to the location (a little more than an hour commute each way) and indicated we were there to set up an appointment, however, we had brought all paperwork just in case there was an available appointment that day
  • a nice young man said he had time to process us right then and 30 minutes later we were walking out of the office with residency paperwork - only to realize a little while later there was a problem
  • unsure how to handle the problem (we were assigned a residency status different than we wanted/needed) we forwarded all our paperwork to an attorney who has helped in similar situations
  • side note:  you have 30 days to complete the residency process once you are awarded a residency status
  • 3 weeks later (two days ago) we hear back that the easiest solution is to go back to the original office with all our paperwork in hand again and just attempt to explain the confusion (in Spanish of course) -and yes, still need to comply with the 30 days.
  • So yesterday, Friday, another co-worker takes us back to the original office to explain the problem and once again we were greeted by a very friendly lady who had to do some research - about 30 minutes later we were called over to sign our new residency paperwork and this time it is correct
  • but with the 30 days almost gone we were sent directly to another facility (20 minute drive away) to request our fingerprint appointment
  • We sat/stood in line for an hour to get our appointment and now next Friday we will return to sit/stand in line again to finalize the process.
Are you as confused as we are yet?  We are blessed with great, patient co-workers who have helped us with this process.  I have a whole new appreciation for immigrants coming to America without language.  If we ever return to live permanently in the states again it will be with a whole different perspective.

When we were waiting in line to make an appointment we were seated on benches in a tent outside.  Periodically an employee would come to the tent, allow the first row to enter the building, and then in a very orderly way the rows would snake their way around so that there was a new first row.  There was no pushing or shoving and little frustration.  The air was filled with a chill, yet you heard a variety of languages.  Made me stop and ponder how those coming to America through Ellis Island must have felt.  This was much less crowded, much more orderly, and we had a Spanish speaking person helping us through the process, yet - totally at the mercy of a country with a different language and procedures and processes we don't understand.  Those first immigrants to America were mighty brave!

All in all, we have had an easy process with friendly people.  And just think, all of this expires in one year and we do it again!
  • not sure how

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Day in the Pueblos

Saturday was gorgeous here.  The temperatures were nearing 70 degrees and although quite windy the higher we went, we couldn't avoid being outside.  We decided cleaning and organizing could wait for a rainy or cold day and headed out to explore.  We had been told one pueblo not too far from here was pretty, so off we went.  When we reached the original town we didn't find a lot to see so decided to just keep on trekking (thank goodness for a GPS).  We ended up stopping in several towns, doing a little shopping, a lot of tasting, and even finally went to the "city" to stop at a mall.  

I have been looking for a rug for the living room that I could afford and was so excited when we stopped at a farmer's market and found one that was the right size, color, and price.  But I didn't want to carry it around while we shopped so I left and thought I'd just stop back by when we were ready to leave.  

So, after about 30 minutes of walking around and buying a few items I went back ready to buy the rug and it was gone.  I was so disappointed but the stand owner proceeded to tell me in Spanish that if I could wait 30 minutes he could get another one.  Sure, why not.  30 minutes is just enough time to find the local pasteleria (pastry store) for a few samples.  I have fallen in love with Spanish chocolate or cream filled Neapolitans and any excuse is a good excuse to have one.

Sure enough, 30 minutes later we returned and he had a carpet for me.  It looks perfect in the living room.

On the way home we stopped at the mall for lunch and had American food, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King and shopped for Alex's birthday (he turns 13 Tuesday).  Ended up buying both he and Scott bikes (not setting Alex free on these roads for a long time).  He is quite excited.

We are definitely not ready for rain and winter to return.

Friday, November 11, 2011

God is moving and working in Spain.  We can see it all around us.  There are so many opportunities available in these days.  Today is 11-11-11 and the country is having it's largest lottery give away, 11 million Euros.  Elections are right around the corner and major changes in the government are predicted.  Billy Graham Association is hosting a 3 night television program called Mi Esperanza (My Hope) in early December.  People are seeking for the truth.  Will you pray Psalm 67 for Spain?

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
   and make his face shine on us—
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
   your salvation among all nations.
 3 May the peoples praise you, God;
   may all the peoples praise you.
4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
   for you rule the peoples with equity
   and guide the nations of the earth.
5 May the peoples praise you, God;
   may all the peoples praise you.
 6 The land yields its harvest;
   God, our God, blesses us.
7 May God bless us still,
   so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day Light Savings Time

I am not a fan of day light savings time!  Actually, it falls on my list of things I REALLY don't like.  The days end too early, the evenings are too long, and the life schedules don't change to match the daylight hours.  However, last night I found a new joy in it.

Alex has soccer from 5:30 - 7:00 in the old part of Alcala.  It is filled with historic buildings, cobble stone streets, and interesting sounds and smells.  I usually go to a coffee shop for part of the time, but last night I was drawn into the streets by the sights.  It was the first time I had been in the area as the sun was setting.  A whole different view of the town.

Streets are lined with bars, cafe's, and restaurants - many have outdoor seating because
 you can no longer smoke inside restaurants.

Gate at Alex's School

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Market

Another food post - I promise I do more than just think about food.

One of my favorite foods here is fresh squeezed orange juice.  It is orange season and oranges and clementines and mandarins are everywhere.  I bought a juicer attachment for my mixer and we have fresh squeezed juice several times a week.  The best place to get the oranges is at the open air market.  It is on our side of town on Tuesdays so I thought I would share a pictorial journey of going to the market today.

A look at the market.  It is about 5 blocks from our apartment. 
It runs the length of a street that is closed off on Tuesdays.  It
occurs regardless of the weather and you can buy mostly fresh produce, underwear, pajamas, and a few purses.  There are also usually a few "odd" things for sale there.  In addition, you will findmany gypsies standing on the opposite side of the street selling things directlyfrom their hands or off a tarp on the ground.

Although I may head to the market in search of a single item I always come home with a cart full.  I use this "granny cart" whether I am going to the open air market or to the grocery store.  Amazing what all can fit in it.

This is what made it home with me today.  I spent $10 Euros (about $13.75 in US Dollars).  It included 8 kg of juice oranges, 3 kg of green grapes (which by the way have seeds), 5 small pears, 3 bananas, and 3 kg of vine ripe tomatoes. 

Monday, November 7, 2011


My new favorite snack is called Gofre.  That is spanish for waffle.  It is a snack that does something crazy to your mind because it looks just like a waffle.  The first time I saw someone eating one I was totally confused - why would anyone eat a cold waffle out of a plastic package?  Then I tasted one - they may look like a waffle, but they aren't.  They are solid and topped with crystalized sugar.  You can even get them topped with chocolate.  They leave a little waxy feeling in your mouth - but well worth it!  Apparently you can also find fresh ones in bakeries topped with everything from whipped cream to fruit sauces.  I am definitely going to be on a gofre hunt in the near future!