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.
THE VIEW OF THE PLAZA DE ESPAÑA FROM THE NORTH COLONNADE AT 8 A.M.

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.

FILES ON THE READY.  WE ONLY PRESENTED TWO PIECES OF PAPER TODAY.

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.

WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE

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!

OUR MAIN BATHROOM.  WATER NOW RUNS OUT OF THAT SHINY CHROME TAP.

Present and Accounted For

We had great plans to have an early breakfast today and head back to the Empadronamiento to register. The intention was to enjoy the cool of the morning before the heat and humidity increased.

GLASS!  WHAT YOU SEE WHEN THE CENSUS BUREAU IS OPEN.

We woke up at about 8 (that is, by the way, extremely early for us in recent weeks). But we rolled over and went back to sleep and 9:32 arrived awfully quickly (and, for us recently, that’s still admittedly not bad). We finally headed out for breakfast at 10:35. By the time we walked over to the Empadronamiento, it was 11:15, the brief overcast had cleared, and the heat was increasing. For Jerry’s sake, we slowly sauntered.

We had success. Or, as is said in Spanish, we had “éxito,” which means success. It is one of those words I am grateful to understand; the initial assumed translation (exit) didn’t make much sense. Anyway, we are now registered with the census bureau and counted among the residents of Sevilla!

I saw a plaque on one of the nearby buildings in the warren surrounding the Empadronamiento.  Apparently, these buildings have been here since around 1585.  I am awestruck.

THE COURTYARD OF A GOVERNMENT BUILDING NEAR THE EMPADRONAMIENTO.

Now that we’re registered with the Empadronamiento, we can head Monday morning to the office for foreigners (Oficina de Extranjeros) in the spectacular Plaza de España to see how far we get with the rest of our registration process (to obtain our final resident cards). We have read online (expat posts) that you can make an appointment. We have also read online (expat posts) that you can NOT make an appointment and that you simply wait in line.  The posts that said you need an appointment said you phone ahead for one.  I tried phoning a dozen times today before they closed at 2 (well, their posted summer hours say they close at 2) and I never got an answer.  So, we’ll wait in line.  We’ll bring water and snacks and we’ll see how it goes.  We have also read on those expat posts that we need to wait in line the first time to obtain a form that we then complete and take to the bank.  At the bank, we submit the form and pay a 10-euro fee.  We then — we’ve read — go back another day to the Oficina de Extranjeros, wait in line again, submit the receipt, our visas, and all the other paperwork and proofs we’ve carried since submitting our applications at the consulate in Los Angeles, and we complete the process.  The web is so full of helpful as well as completely bogus information.  This should be interesting.

WHAT EVERY DRIVEWAY NEEDS.

The lawyer who manages our building emailed me a bit ago.  His English is slightly worse than my Spanish (well, maybe more than slightly).  And he kindly and unfortunately insists on writing his emails in English.  This is what he wrote:

“Next Monday to them 14.30h you have to be in the floor because they come to install the book-keeper of the water.”  

We at least understand that one of us needs to be at the apartment 2:30 Monday afternoon.  We have a general idea of the rest (a new meter needs to be installed), although the water is supposedly already taken care of and the lawyer does consistently confuse the English word “water” with the English word “electricity,” so it’s possible the new electrical meter is being installed Monday (especially since someone was coming from the electric company today to give a safety clearance so that we could have the meter installed and the power turned on).  In any case, I will be there Monday at 2:30 to meet someone.  I just hope that leaves us enough time to take care of our first pass at our residency cards. I think I’d better set the alarm.

Open for Business, Unless We’re Not

Now that we have our Spanish residency visas (obtained in Los Angeles in June), the first step on the path to obtaining our residency cards is to register with the Empadronamiento (the Census Bureau).  I found the office late Tuesday morning through an archway in an ancient warren of buildings — after insisting to Jerry earlier that morning that it couldn’t possibly be found through that unassuming arch.  The woman who helped me was very knowledgeable.   She gave me the two documents we need to complete and she explained the process.  On the back of one document, instructions and office hours are clearly marked.  This is going to be a breeze.

NOTHING VERY OFFICIAL LOOKING.

THE ARCHWAY.  I WENT BACK LATER TUESDAY MORNING AND FOUND THE OFFICE.

THE BACK OF THE FORM WITH THE HOURS CLEARLY INDICATED.
CLOSED AT 2 FOR SIESTA; OPEN AGAIN 4–8 P.M.

RETURNING WITH OUR PAPERWORK TODAY.  BUT I WAS SURE
THERE WAS A GLASS DOOR AND WINDOWS TUESDAY INSTEAD OF ALL THIS WOOD.

RENOVATED IN 2002.  ART GALLERIES, FLORISTS, AND THE EMPADRONAMIENTO.

POSTED HOURS: 9:30 TO 1:30.  WE WERE THERE AT 4:15.  I GUESS WE’LL BE BACK TOMORROW.

I didn’t see the special posted hours Tuesday because the wood doors were pulled wide to allow access.  And the woman I met was so helpful.  And the information on the form was so clear.  We have repeatedly read that we should expect to be surprised (AKA, disappointed) by “regular” business hours.  We’re learning.  Afterall, tomorrow is another day!

Powerlessness… And Another Set of Knockers

Well, we still don’t have electricity or water in our apartment, but progress is being made.  The building is managed by the law firm with offices on the first floor (the second floor by typical American reckoning).  We met yesterday with the principal lawyer and another lawyer on his team.  They have kindly volunteered their services (yes, that’s right, lawyers have kindly volunteered) to get the water and electricity turned on for us.  These guys have been so gracious, kind, and generous with their time.  Unfortunately, even with their help, it could take until the middle of next week before we have electricity.  We also asked them to help us with the process of obtaining our residency cards.

IT’S NOT MUCH, BUT IT’S HOME… FOR NOW (AND AN INCREDIBLE DEAL).

Each time we visit the apartment, we like it and the neighborhood even more.  We’re very excited to get in and hope we’ll be sleeping there some time next week.  Our shipped items are now on their way.  Minor apartment repairs — and new locks — will be taken care of over the next few days.  We’re going to start picking up sheets, towels, etc., and washing them in preparation for move-in day (we’re heading off to shop in a few minutes).  And we’ll head back over to IKEA to make our major purchases and arrange for delivery.  It’s all very exciting.  I’m gratified Jerry and I can survive so well sharing one room (in the hotel) for such a long time given our preference for personal space.

ENTRANCE TO EL PALACIO ARZOBISPAL (THE PALACE OF THE ARCHBISHOP).

This is not going to become the blog to visit for pictures of knockers.  But, I spotted a prodigious set today across the plaza from the cathedral on the doors to the Palace of the Archbishop and it was obvious to me that they should have been included in the “Nice Knockers” post.

YOU’D HAVE TO BE ON HORSEBACK TO REACH THE LOWER KNOCKER (RIGHT).
I HAVE NO IDEA WHO WOULD REACH THE UPPER ONE (PERHAPS A HIGHER POWER).

Nice Knockers

On our walks around old Sevilla, Jerry and I continue to see so many beautiful, unusual, and surprising sights.  Among these sights are the old and new, large and small, door knockers, which I believe are called “aldabas” in Spanish.  During our first week, Jerry would invariably (and innocently) comment, “Nice knockers” — not a phrase usually escaping Jerry’s lips (or even crossing his mind).  I’ve had to explain the double meaning to Jerry, but we really have seen some nice knockers (of the door kind… well, of the other kind too if I’m honest), and I’ve decided to share some of them here (again, of the door kind).  I especially love the very large, plain iron ring (the first image on the left below) I found in an ancient church door, because it tops a little speak-easy window. (“Pssst.  Judas sent me.”)

And, since I hate to be a tease, here for your viewing pleasure is a very brief video of BOTH kinds of knockers.