NOTE: We’ll include notes along with our blog and write them in blue. The purpose of these notes is to share cultural or language related tips with you as we learn them!
Just a quick note before getting into the details. The spanish word for ‘to arrive’ is llegar. The spanish word for ‘to break out in sores’ is llagar. I unfortunately used the latter to tell my company in an email that we had arrived!
When we stepped off the plane, we had a surprisingly easy time finding our way to baggage claim and an equally easy time of finding our way to the curb outside the airport…without first clearing aduana (customs)! After picking up our luggage, we were greeted with two options:
Option 1: Go through a door marked ‘Nothing to Declare’
Option 2: Go through a door marked ‘Something to Declare’
Naturally, since we had nothing to declare, we chose Option 1. Upon exiting the other side of the door, we were shocked to discover that those who chose Option 2 were exiting right next to us. We had just cleared customs! Huh?
Lauren was explicitly told by the director of the school to obtain a stamp in her passport on her visa, and clearly, there were no customs agents in sight. Instead, we walked to the information desk and asked in broken Spanish where we might be able to obtain a stamp for Lauren’s visa. She sent us to a window next door where a gentlemen abruptly dismissed us and sent us to the local police station a few hundred feet away. At the police station, the policeman informed us that we needed to go to the national police station a few hundred feet further away. At the national police station, the policeman told us to go back to customs. At customs, I located a security guard, and she told us to go to the customs window that we had previously visited. Only this time, the guy at the window was away because he was busy talking on his cell phone. Lauren held down the buzzer for what seemed like an eternity, and the same guy we had talked with previously stuck his head out of the window. We were ready to take it off! This time, however, he explained to us that her passport was stamped when we got to France and that this was good enough for Spain. When asked whether customs needed the paperwork on Bentley, he simply asked us if he (Bentley) was microchipped and told us that it would be sufficient. No need for the paperwork (or his weight loss, or all of our trouble). Welcome to the Spanish life!
Frustrated, we lugged our two giant luggage carts to the curb while onlookers gawked. I knew we should have plastered the maple leaf all over our luggage! A small cab pulled up and I explained to the cabbie that our luggage would never fit in his small car. He simply moved the cigarette to the other side of his mouth, opened the hatch, and crammed ten pounds of potatoes into a five pound bag. We were off!
As we sped across the city toward Mabel’s, motorcycles and scooters whizzed by us in every direction. It didn’t take long before we were stuck in traffic in the second rush hour of the day. People were returning to work from their 3-5pm siesta, and we were among the rat race. Several minutes later, the cabbie hopped the curb and pulled our luggage from the cab. I paid the fare and even gave him a one Euro tip…he was totally blown away!
Note: Tipping in Spain is reserved only for superb service.
Hundreds of thoughts raced through our minds as we walked in the direction of the apartment. Is Mabel real? Did we really just move to Spain? How much does a scooter cost (this idea was only in my head) The silence was only broken by Bentley’s meows and the calls from a woman on the roof of a nearby building…it’s Mabel!!!
Lauren went up to greet her, and I made the multiple trips up the ~70 stairs (four flights) with our luggage. We had arrived at the Atico (top floor). And the best part…Mabel’s real! Hooray for Craigslist!