Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Too Much

- I let too much time go by between posts and now I've got too much to say.
Ergo, the list.

- We have our car. That's about as much enthusiasm as I can muster over our road trip to southern Spain.

It was kind of a bust. The weather was rainy and the kids weren't feeling well. Alex was coughing like a smoker all through the night, and we decided that extending our trip to sleep in a hotel together might not be that much fun. So we skipped the plans to visit Ronda and Málaga and headed back to Madrid on Saturday.

 (Don't let that picture fool you, the Schore children do not sleep in vehicles. No. That would be too convenient.)

The only good part was catching up with a friend from Josh's language class who is stationed down there. We stayed at her place and the kids loved playing with her dog.

-We just chilled out at home all day on Sunday to rest up for the week.
This is Derek chilling out.

- For some reason we just can't seem to kick the colds around here. We lovingly share them with each other.
With love. And coughs.
Then just as one of us starts to improve, here comes round two.

I'm really looking forward to the spring and the end of cold season.

- We did stop along the way in two Spanish towns-- Córdoba and Sevilla. They were both lovely and I will upload pictures of each place. 

- I hath driven in Spain. The highways here are much like the ones in the States, which was a relief to find out.
The only main differences are that they really don't have any type of fast food along the way, or many rest areas. Also the roads were kind of empty.
I think I figured out why when we stopped to fill up with gas.
No one can afford to drive.

If my conversions are right, I think we were paying over $7.30 a gallon.

-Our car was shipped to a U.S. Naval Base in Rota, Spain. We had to go get it there, because they are equipped to get us our Spanish drivers licenses as well as complete some other necessary paperwork for our residency here.
This also meant that we had to take a written driving test. (Not to worry, it was written in English.) The large majority of the test was interpreting signs, and while I passed, I might need to study up a bit before I actually start driving through the streets of Madrid. I might possibly be a danger to others in my current state.

- While we were there, we went to the comissary (the base grocery store) to grab a few items that I haven't been able to find up here or that are crazy expensive to buy in Madrid. It was tempting to fill the cart to overflowing, since everything was much cheaper, but space was a limitation.

- I realize that I mention the cost of things quite a bit, because the prices are still rather shocking to me. But I should also point out that when you live in an area where things are much more expensive than in the States, the military pays a "Cost of Living allowance" that helps offset the costs. We wont be living off of ramen or anything ;)

- I'm getting the hang of grocery shopping here in Madrid. I have my preferred store, I know now to come with a specific denomination of coin to unlock the shopping cart, and I figured out how to buy produce.

The first time I went, I bagged up some apples and threw them in the cart.
Then, when I was checking out, the saleslady indicated that I had forgotten something. She kept pointing to the produce area and going on about a number.
Or something like that. I wasn't quite sure.
So I though, "Oh, none of these apples have a sticker, she must need me to tell her the number."
So I ran over and found the number and reported back.
Then she looked at me like I was possibly not quite right in the head.
Turns out there's a scale in the produce section and you weigh your own fruit and out pops a handy little sticker that has the price and goes on the bag.

Live and learn.
I feel stupid here quite a lot. Sometimes I want to tell people that in my country, I'm not so dumb. But I'd probably mess up the Spanish and then they wouldn't believe me. 

The grocery store delivers to the house, and it still feels weird to pay for the groceries and then walk out empty-handed. But I kind of like it.
They give you a window of time for delivery and voila, my groceries are delivered.

- We still have much to discuss, but my couch, book, and coffee cup are calling my name.

Feliz Martes.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fried egg

It's Friday morning folks!
My cold has run its course, I bought some heel inserts for my shoes, I was not foiled in my attempt to get off the bus by people-who-look-like-they're-getting-off-but-are-really-just-blocking-my-way, and so the day is starting off promising.

The beaurocracy proved to be too much for us to get our car this week, so toward the end of next week we'll have Road Trip: Spanish Edition as we get a chance to see more of Spain than just Madrid. Should be fun! And possibly even frightening as we take to the roads for the first time.

I haven't driven a vehicle in a long time. And I probably won't for an even longer time. But I will be the world's best passenger-seat driver for my man.

It's going to be 61 lovely degrees today and I am off to get showered and dressed.
You see, I take the kids to school looking frumpy because I can't bring myself to get up earlier than necessary. I am the only one on the metro in a hoodie and converse, but I'm embracing my unkempt American image.

They're probably talking about me, but I can't tell.
Ignorance is bliss.

'sta luego...

Monday, February 11, 2013


So my camera still hasn't made its tour of the piso yet. It's a domino effect-- I wanted to put the finishing touches on the rooms first, but for that we need a few things from IKEA.

Yep, there's IKEA here.

Apartments here do not come with everything that you would expect in the states. Case in point, light fixtures. We got lucky because our bedrooms, hallways, bathrooms, and kitchen all have recessed lighting installed. But the two big living areas have nothing but wires hanging where light fixtures need to be installed.
So we need to buy those, as well as rugs since the whole piso has wood floors.

Speaking of which, my heels hurt constantly. We walk a ton, and then there's no soft flooring to come home to. I think I need the world's cushiest pair of slippers.

So we need those things to put the finishing touches on the house, but we also need our car to bring said items home from the store.

And our car is in southern Spain, about 4 hours by high-speed train.
We all need to go down to pick it up, becuase there is a US Naval base there and they are set up to facilitate our Spanish drivers licenses that we need before we can take our car.

But we can't go there yet, because Josh's work unit in Germany is trying to figure out the funding for the trip down there and there have been a couple of snags.

Did you keep up with all of that?

No pictures because-- House not "finished" because-- Need IKEA stuff but first-- Need Car but first-- Need approval for funding from Germany.

Pretty much everything we try to do here is about that complicated.

But I will appease you with this, our building:

And they roll out the red carpet for us daily:

The kids love the glass-walled elevator. 

Did I tell you that our piso has 5 bathrooms? It does.
Every bedroom has it's own bathroom and shower, plus there's a half-bath off the kitchen. I kind of wish there were a couple less bathrooms and the rooms were a bit bigger instead, but it's fine. There's one bathroom that we've decided not to use at all, and two showers that we've declared off-limits to prevent unnecessary cleaning.

The piso was remodeled right before we moved in, so everything was new-- new oven, stovetop, dishwasher, washer, closets, bathrooms, floors. Nice :)

There are 7 different smallish balconies, beautiful details in the ceilings of the living spaces, and overall we feel that we've reached our peak in housing at too young an age.
It's bound to be all downhill from here.

We are beginning to settle into a routine. The kids go to school via the metro and home by the city bus. The metro is not too crowded in the morning, and it's a downhill walk from the station to their school.
It gets busier in the afternoons, and so we avoid the crowds by taking the bus home. Our passes work for both systems, so it's convenient to choose whatever works best at the moment.

Today while the kids were at school, I did some shopping and checked out one of the public libraries.
I was so proud of myself-- I managed to obtain a library card.
It's amazing how euphoric I feel when I accomplish anything in Spanish.
I paid my bill at the restaurant! I asked if they had my size in the shirt! I told the lady at the flower shop she gave me the wrong change! I am SUPER ERIN!


I usually eat out for lunch, because the menu del dia is awesome, and because I only get to live in Spain for eighteen months. I can go back to sandwiches and baked lays when I return to the U.S, right?
Besides, the dinner hour here is so late that we never eat dinner out. 

When Josh was in Germany I found a menu del dia for under 7 euro, which is the cheapest I've come across. So naturally I've eaten there 3 times in a week.

The menu is different every day; you get to pick from several choices for your first plate and second plate, and it comes with bread, a drink, and dessert or coffee to choose from at the end of the meal.

Today for primeros, I had a yummy lentil soup. Segundos was a mushroom omelet. I've been choosing coffee over desert, to try to be a good girl.
And maybe also because they bring a whole bottle of wine to the table and I've already drank my calories.

It's always a lot of delicious, home-cooked food. 

If you're thinking, Gosh, Erin. It sounds like all you do during the day is wander Madrid, shop, and eat out... Well.

You'd be right.

Come visit.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My nose hurts

I'm going to stop promising pictures now, because if history is any indication, when I promise to post photos I almost never do.

Just when I thought I was going to get everything put away and picture-worthy, I came down with a cold. And I've been too busy blowing my nose to do anything else.

Also, my husband abandoned me in my hour of need because he had to go to Germany to in-process with the unit that oversees him.
They are located in, you guessed it, Germany.
I wasn't so much afraid of being left alone with the monsters and a cold, as I was being left alone in a country in which I cannot for the life of me figure out what anyone is saying.

People. I studied The Spanish. I even understand the dang subjunctive. Kind of.
But these lovely Spaniards never pause between words. Or sentences.

I avoid eye contact when I enter stores, because when I don't, the nice saleswoman rattles off what is probably some variation on, Let me know if I can help you, Is there something you're looking for?, or How's the weather out there?

I don't know if I should say thanks, or I'm just browsing, or kind of windy.

So I just smile and nod.

Would it be rude to ask them to write it out? I'm a pretty good reader in Spanish.

Anyway, my husband was gone and I tackled three important things:
1) I answered a phone call from the Internet provider to arrange to have the line installed.
This is a big deal, because if face to face interactions are tough, the phone is ridiculous. No body language = No good.
But the lady was very nice, and spoke slowly and repeated.
Mañana, entre once y uno.
Got it.

2) The aforementioned internet guy came today, which is yesterday's mañana.
I was able to both buzz him into the building, score 1, and successfully get a line installed in the area of the house which is the exact opposite of where Josh wanted me to direct him. Score back to zero.
He insisted that what I was asking for, No funciona. Wouldn't work.
Got it.

3) I paid the crazy ridiculous bill for the kids school lunches for January and February. This had to be done in person at the school, well, because that's the only way I knew how to do it.
The folks there are all very nice, but this time I had to try not to make a fool out of myself in front of people I need to see on a regular basis.
More at stake, if you will.

Totally nailed it. They were as nice to me as if I were paying them.

Oh wait.

So there you have it, I was on my own in the big city for three whole days, and Josh should be home later tonight so I can go back to being less adventurous.

And get busy taking some...


Ha. You thought I was going to say pictures didn't you?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Getting there

We're living in our new "house" and we kinda sorta love it.
Except for the big piles of stuff everywhere. It's detracting from the zen.

Moving day went really well. The movers worked quickly, and had everything in the piso and unloaded in about 5 hours. There were a few things damaged, as usual, but that's why we don't buy expensive furniture. That way it hurts less when it arrives with a tear in the leather or when the legs on a dresser look like they've been chewed by a stray animal.

You may notice that I'm blogging, and it hasn't been three weeks. No, we are not so fortunate that our internet was hooked up that early. But we are indeed fortunate that someone lacking in electronics know-how has left their internet unsecured.
We can pilfer from the kitchen only, but we'll take what we can get.
Thank you, Default, whoever you are, both for the unsecured internet and the obvious lack of desire on your part to give your WIFI a name.

FYI-- in Spain, you pronounce it wee-fee.

Usually when we move, we don't have the movers unpack our boxes. Well, usually they don't offer and/or they move so slowly all the live-long day that when you ask them to unbox things at 5pm they give you a look that would make you think you ran over their dog.
The benefits to that are being able to open one box at a time, put it away, then move on to the next box. Orderly like, if you will.
And that works fine for us, because they are generally willing to come back a few days later to pick up the boxes and packing materials.
Here, we didn't have that option, nor can we load up the car and head to a dumpster. So they unloaded for us.
No boxes to deal with, but also no order. There were piles of clothes on the beds, the kitchen counters were covered, the dining room table was covered. Basically every flat surface was holding all of our worldly possessions.
This makes it a wee bit overwhelming as I look around the house.

So I'm blogging instead of looking around the house.

But that being said, it's so, so nice to have space and for the kids to have their toys.

I've been keeping my little washing machine humming these past few days, and we're finally getting out from under the pile. But laundry will be another post in itself.
We've made the first trip to the neighborhood market. They deliver if you spend a certain amount, which is nice.
Still lots to put away and even more to clean, and then I'll take pictures and show you our place.
And then you'll want to come visit!