Alien Encounters and Signs of Water

Today marked our first visit to the Oficina de Extranjeros (Office of Foreigners).  We were out of bed at 5:45 a.m.  Did you know that the sun has not yet risen in Sevilla at 5:45 a.m.?

We had a healthy and substantial breakfast (buffet) at the hotel at 7 and headed off for the Plaza de España with our wheeled carry-on bag filled with well-organized (thanks, Jerry) paperwork in quadruplicate, including another set of passport-style photos (to meet residency card requirements) — photos taken Saturday at the camera department of El Corte Inglés  for the surprisingly cheap price of 9 euros for 12 photos. Another set of official photos of myself that I find hideous. So I’m glad they were really cheap.  Who is that old guy?  I’m seriously thinking it’s time to shave off the very gray beard.

We arrived at the office at 7:38 and waited in what appeared to be a randomly forming line along the colonnade — 20+ people along the wall and another 20+ opposite them (and us) along the stone balustrade.  But, when the doors opened at 8:30, everyone shuffled into their positions in the line against the wall and we were quickly processed through the doors in groups of about 10 to control the flow.

Jerry and I stepped up to the information desk and were greeted warmly.  I showed our visas and passports to the man at the desk, he issued us two numbers and told us to go across the hall and wait to be called.  We went across the hall but, as we entered the room to which we had been directed, a guard came racing toward us and told us we needed to sit in the large waiting room next to the information desk.  I told him the man at the desk said we should wait in the room across the hall, but the guard said, no, and that our numbers would be called.
We headed back to the information desk to confirm with the man there.  I told him the guard said we should wait in the large room and he said, oh.  So we sat down and waited.  The electronic tote had the number “9” displayed. Our numbers were 31 and 32.
About 20 seconds later, the guard came in and asked for anyone with a yellow ticket (that would be us) to come with him.  People with white tickets waited to be called into another large room behind the reception desk.  It was obvious the guard had things well in hand with managing the flow of people.  He brought us to the room he had only a moment before kicked us out of and then told us to go to table 3 or 4, where a female and a male, respectively, bureaucrat (Thing 3 and Thing 4) sat silently waiting.  We went to table 3.  I said “good morning” and apologized in advance for my Spanish making my over-used and always warmly welcomed comment that my Spanish was not very good and Jerry’s was “even less” very good.  Thing 3 didn’t smile.  Her face showed no expression.  Botox?  No, Bureaucrat.
I told Thing 3 what we where there for.  She asked where my appointment letter was.  I didn’t know what she was talking about.  She showed me a sample and I said we didn’t have one and asked how we would obtain one.  She said she personally couldn’t help us without an appointment letter and that we instead needed to sit down in the row of chairs against the wall and wait for the blond woman (La Rubia) at the unnumbered table to help us.  We did so.  While we waited, Things 1, 3, and 4 sat quietly staring at their computer terminals, not typing, not mousing, just motionless and staring.  Thing 5 worked with a family.  Thing 2 never arrived.  A line of people sat in the chairs waiting for La Rubia.  Another line stood outside in the hall waiting for the information desk.  The main waiting room was now filled with people watching for their numbers to be posted. The guard stopped by and asked me why we were sitting against the wall and not with Thing 3 or Thing 4.  I explained that Thing 3 told us to see La Rubia.  He scratched his head, shrugged, and walked away to help someone else.  He was doing his best to keep things moving.


La Rubia saw about five people before us — we shifted up in the row of chairs each time someone left.  At one point, Thing 3 called out to me from her solitary position and said we should go see La Rubia now.  La Rubia still had someone at the table and snapped back at Thing 3 that, no, she wasn’t ready.  After only about 5 minutes of waiting, she called us to her table.  I gave her our passports, visas, and NIE letters from the city of Sevilla.  She asked what we wanted.  I told her we were there to apply for our residency cards.  She said we needed to see Thing 3.  Thing 3 overheard this comment and called back that we didn’t have appointment letters.  La Rubia said something to me about needing appointment letters to obtain our student residency cards.  I smiled and said we were not students; we were retired (I said “thank you, but we’re too old to be students”).  I explained that we had retirement residency visas and that we did not work.  She then called that information out to Thing 3.  Thing 3 said, good, and that she still couldn’t do anything without an appointment letter.  I asked again, how do we get an appointment and letter?
Finally, La Rubia, pulled out two forms (forms we had been expecting to receive today) and told me we needed to take those to the bank, pay 15 euros and then come back on our appointed day to complete the process.  I again asked, “How do we get appointments?”  She took out her appointment book and copied our identification numbers into it.  She then wrote our appointments on the forms we would take to the bank.  We can go to any bank to make our payment.  We will then return — with our receipts — to the Oficina de Extranjeros on our appointed day and time to, supposedly, complete the process.
My brain is still rattling.  But, except for a quick trip to the bank in the coming days to make our two 15 euro payments, we can relax until 25 August.  Maybe we’ll then have the dubious pleasure of visiting again with Thing 3; maybe it will be Thing 1 or Thing 2.  Or perhaps the Cat in the Hat himself will make an appearance.


At 2:30, I was met promptly at the apartment by the man from the water company.  He hooked up the water meter for our apartment in the main closet in the lobby and I simply had to turn on the taps to make sure it was working.  So, we’ve got water.  Now all we need is electricity and furniture!


Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

21 thoughts on “Alien Encounters and Signs of Water”

  1. Ugh! What a nightmare. And to do that in a second language seems to make that nightmare even worse. Bravo to Jerry for being so well organized. I have a Jerry too. I call him Fred. Good luck on your next trip in.
    Your Friend, m.
    p.s. don't shave the gray beard. I like it! m.

  2. Mark: It was a bit exhausting but extremely entertaining and at least we've got the process started. As for the beard, Jerry said the same thing. When we were in NY, my mother (the Dowager Duchess) told me I needed to color it. Jeez!

  3. it sounds like a very huge ordeal. My goodness, thank the stars for Jerry and his orginazation skills, I hope it goes well next time round.

    I must say the gray in your beard is very good looking I say keep it, you wear it VERY well 🙂

  4. David: So, am I the only one (other than my mother) who thinks I look like an old fart? But, thanks. And, yes, I am SO grateful for Jerry's amazing organizational skills.

  5. It still boggles my mind how some European countries bureaucracy can be so utterly overwhelming and yet so completely useless!
    Baby steps…you're getting there! You hope to be in your apartment within a week?
    Oh to answer your question at my blog – we lived in PS from March 2003 until August 2005. Did our paths cross? Two years was long enough!

  6. Mitch, I would never use the words old and fart to describe how you look…I can think of many words…but not those two for sure. Some day, maybe I will share just how handsome I think you to be 😉 `wink`

  7. It seems there is an International School for Public Workers. The bus drivers here have the same attitude as those back home (to be fair, this one lady started counting her change at the meter, holding the process up). But you didn't know about that form. Why didn't they just do it and get it over with? New Word: cabrona (bitch) — it also comes in cabron.

  8. >Botox? No, Bureaucrat.<

    So………..there's a difference?

    Word verification is: indless, which I'm sure is how your time in line[s] felt!

  9. Without a doubt this has been one hell of an adventure. Somehow I sense that you both just laugh about it. I would be bitch slapping people left and right. That is why I leave this up to the husband to do.

  10. Sounds similar, although not exactly, to the process we went through in France. Overall, our process went very smoothly, but we speak French, which I think helps, especially in our rural jurisdiction.

    Of course, none of us have gone through this process in the United States. I don't imagine that it's the model of efficiency we'd like to think it is, especially if you don't speak English all that well.

  11. Craig:
    The bureaucracy was pretty awful yesterday, but truly reminded us of many American bureaucracies we've experienced. (I'm still trying to close out my AT&T mobile account!) We were in Palm Springs 9/00 to 11/02 (

    Thanks for making my day!

    Yep, nothing really new here as far as bureaucracy (just new to us). And I still remind myself of our experience with the Spanish Consulate in LA; perfect. Train service here is phenomenal. Water company was exemplary this week. Oficina de Extranjeros simply provided a good story.

    Some of those word verifications are so appropriate. And, amazingly, although we arrived at the office yesterday an hour before it opened, we were already walking back to the hotel 1 hour and 48 minutes later! Could have been a lot worse.

    In the past, Jerry always let me handle the ugly stuff. He called it "hiring a New Yorker." No New Yorker here this time! We both just tell ourselves we're collecting good stories

    Walt the Fourth:
    I have a friend who completed the process in the USA a few years ago. Much worse (and she's fluent in 5 languages, including English); Jerry and I were not treated like criminals. And our language skills definitely make it more challenging for everyone involved.

    I remember those first two (patience, patience), but sometimes forget the third (patience)!

  12. Mitch – I recall that post now but didn't remember the dates. We were luckier than you as our home there almost tripled in value in under two years, although we did almost rebuild it during that time. It then crashed by the same amount the year after we sold! We're not usually that lucky!

  13. Craig: We timed sales right twice (San Diego and San Francisco). But, after Palm Springs, none of that mattered! I'm glad your timing was right.

  14. I've just looked up the word 'bureaucracy' en mi Collins' diccionario ingles/espanol, though I could have guessed it. (Sorry, I don't know how to get a 'tilde' to print here.) However, a more useful word for you, which I didn't know, could be 'papeleo', as it's more pejorative. I believe 'la molestia' must be the same the world over!

  15. Mitch,
    Its good to know that the US is not the only screwed up country. But in good fashion you have kept your eye on the prize and are moving forward. Congratulations and Good Luck.

  16. This is great, the closest thing to EA (expats anonymous.) one could hope to find.
    I am attempting this in France, and often think of moving to spain, germany or anywhere in my fantasies where it is EASY ….but the wisest comment here is from wcs about someone attempting this in the US. Also to do it without fluency in the language is..well, "backwards and in high heels" sort of thing.
    Thanks for the blog…my vote -keep the beard, don't tint either..big mess. LOL

  17. Theaterdog: Welcome to the blog! Can't wait to start reading about your experiences. Where are you in the process? And, thanks for your vote; I think the beard is staying. No way I'd tint!

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