28 March 2006

Open up, it's the police!

I was just typing an email and the front gate buzzer sounded. I ran down thinking the guys digging up our driveway had a question or were leaving for the day. It was the police. Oh boy, my first run in with the law in a foreign country. Of course, Dar is not at home to participate in the encounter with me.

A police woman with an automatic weapon strapped to her hip and a dark blue uniform shirt with a neon yellow shoulder plate advertising "policia" on the back starts speaking very rapidly in Spanish as I come down the front stairs to the gate. My first comment is I don't speak much, say it again.

The poor South American immigrant mixing cement in the street is the object of the problem, but I as the homeowner seem to be the source. Something is illegal. The city does not allow something. Pointing at the cement, which is now a smudge on the street - a half hour ago it was a hill, this will get in (pointing again) the drains. I was accused of hiring these men and thus violating the law, at least I think that's what she said. This was a very vigourous one sided discussion. The Spanish seem to like to argue about things and I think she was ready for one. Her male sidekick just watched the man scraping at the little mushy bits on the street.

I said something dramatic in Spanish, like, "I rent." I was still lectured, so I tried the word I hoped meant builder. "The constructadora sent them." I tried, "I rent" again.

She switched her tactic and went after the South American man in coveralls. He was demonstrating how he could clean up the smudgee bits of cement with his trowel and his shovel.

Finally convinced that the situation would be righted, the police left. I didn't have to show any identity information but I'm glad I've got my identity card now.

I felt like I sort of left the two guys in the driveway in a lurch by simply shirking all knowledge of what was occuring, so I went back out and asked if everything was okay. Said I didn't understand well. So they explained the same thing to me using other Spanish words, probably South American ones. I tried to be friendly by saying a very favorite phrase here, "No pasa nada." Which they use for, forget about it, doesn't matter. Like it had anything to do with me if it mattered or not!

27 March 2006

All locked up

Until last Thursday when we signed our lease and became legal residents of our abode, we only had one set of keys. We traded them back and forth depending on who was going out or coming back at what time. In order to open the front door you have to have a key - whether you locked it or not. So one day I declared my plans and left. I was locked out, but I was also locked in.

Our house like all the houses here, has a gated yard. The gate locks too. Without the keys, I couldn't open the gate. Without the keys, I couldn't open the door to the house to get the keys to the gate. I could go nowhere. In Spain, could someone starve to death on their front or back porch?! I buzzed the doorbell and Dar came and let me in and then out. There's a phone with a special buzzer for opening the gate without a key.

Last week, we got our keys. So no more being locked in and locked out at the same time, hopefully. But then Saturday, I thought everyone was in the car waiting for me (we were going on a day trip), so I locked the house and ran out. I got to the car and realized I forgot my sunglasses. I rushed back and opened the door to find our house guest standing there. I'd locked her in. She was trying to decide whether to call someone's cell phone or stand in the window and wave. You can't open the door from the inside without the keys once it's locked.

20 March 2006

Thanks for calling, how may I help you?

I'm more espanol than I realized. Last week I tried to call and change our address on our credit card. The names and words rolled off my tongue and bounced off of the American operator. Strange words, too many cities, too many numbers in my phone number. None of it was natural to her. Strangely it is my daily life and I don't think twice about it. I suddenly saw the strangeness of it all through her eyes. Calle (cawyay in espanol) became cali (with a long e)... etc. I didn't know that it sounds so normal to me in Spanish. I even hesistate to use "Spanish" or Espanol now because the language is always referred to as castellano. I find it interesting that the differences become more apparent when held up to the American-ness of home.

Another interesting point, I as a spouse was not allowed to change the address on the primary card holders card only on my individual card, thus the statements would still go to the wrong address. Dar had to call himself.

12 March 2006

I've arrived

This weekend was the first time I felt like I'm living in Europe again. We went into downtown Madrid for the first time purely for looking around and fun, not a task that had to be done. We didn't have to rush and I didn't feel like there was so much I wouldn't get to see. It felt like exploring a new town, with the knowledge I lived nearby and so there is no pressure to achieve total tourist success.

Last night we just walked around and tried to figure out where a few things were. We saw some scary stuff, like a street with sex shops and many, many prostitutes, very sad. We saw interesting stuff, such as rows of restaurants of all shapes and sizes, including a tiny bar with the heads of bulls who were killed in the ring, and the museum of ham restaurants, standing only at a bar for any shape and size of pork something or other you might want. We saw two major tourist areas where a lot goes on, plaza del sol, and plaza mayor. We saw PEOPLE. I'd heard Madrid never sleeps - wow there were a lot of people on the streets. It was getting on towards 10 when we headed to the subway, if anything it was getting more crowded, not less.

Today we went to El Rastro, the biggest flea market in Europe. (Don't tell but we missed church to do this.) The market was He-uge. Lots of t-shirts and repetitive stuff, then we got off the main drag and there were antiques and sort of garage sale stuff, plants, electronics, leather, fabric. And - of course- loads and loads of people. We're talking human traffic jam, human gridlock. Mucha, mucha gente.

We didn't go with an agenda, just went to see it. Definitely something to do once in a while not all the time. It wasn't that this weekend was so great, it's just that I'm finally not running on to the next thing. We've lived 3 places since July (not counting a week here or there having to bunk up at someone else's house). Each step has just been in anticipation of the next step. I'm thrilled to be in one place for what, barring unforseens circumstances (por favor Dios), will be 2+ years. I'm only sad that this can't be a permanent home, and we have to pack and unpack every few years. I'm glad to have a home city, though it is not Home with a capital H (that will always be KC).

10 March 2006


Sometimes you just have to be thankful for the small things. This week I have been contemplating the absolute bliss of having someone near and dear tuck a hot water bottle in the bed before you get there. It's one of the unsung pleasures of life I think. Those of you with an electric blanket know what I mean. At home we had a mattress pad that heated up. I can relax so much better when I'm not trying to get the sheets warmed up under me. So I'm publicly thanking Dar here.

It's been warm here this week, in the 50s or more at the high, but the nights and mornings are still quite cold. We aren't done with winter yet, thus the enjoyment of the hot water bottle. I did see my first lizard of the spring though this week with the sunshine and warm temperatures. As long as they stay that Florida-oh-aren't-they-cute size, I'm okay with that. I guess lizards are a sign of spring.

05 March 2006

Surprise, I'm back

I can't think of a way to summarize the last few months. I can't even explain the last couple weeks. Suffice it to say life keeps changing. I'm looking for some stability, I'm not sure it exists.

•Being excited about a new city and suffering culture shock again when I got here.
•I've eaten pulpo (octopus) after all and it wasn't bad. And grilled sepia, a cousin of squid, and itty bitty squid whole, and tuna empanadas. Probably some other things that I'm not thinking of... baby shrimp whole, that was today with my chinese food.
•Losing the bracelet Dar got me last year, and finding it after I moved away from where I lost it.
•Not being really messed up at not being home for Christmas. And Christmas lasting until Jan. 6. Sales not starting until after that.
•Giving a little testimony in Spanish to the ladies at church, even though my Spanish is rough.
•Understanding people's accents better in Madrid.
•How many times I have to look up the same Spanish word; and how many English words I can't find when I need them.
•Getting a phone line within a week of moving in (granted we asked for it 4 weeks before that).
•How much French I remembered when we crossed the border. It really messed up my pronunciation of Spanish and I got marked down on the final at language school
•Having house guests last weekend with less than 24 hours notice. Had to find a box that had the sheets for the spare bed in them.
•Not being able to find the right temperature in the shower. (I won't open the too hot or too cold discussion again, but those are my options).
•How tall my American matteress is.
•How big my house is (compared to mine in KC). I'm not sure, but I think we might have accidentally moved into the Leawood of Alcala de Henares. I find that disturbing.
•How hard it is to get back into blogging. I want to but there's so many things that still need attention in the house and I get so tired.
•That the can-you-be-the-secretary-and-bring-the-pie-attitude prevails in a "business" environment in the 21st Century. Oh yeah, I forgot it has to do with a church.
•How little God can use to do things. And how you don't have to have all the answers to go forward for God.