Discovery Trip – Day 3

Is it seriously Day 3 already?  The days are starting to blur into one another.  Once again we hit the ground running first thing this morning.  While 10AM is late for us, it’s relatively early in Spain.  However, Josh and I had work to catch up on so we spent the earlier part of the morning trying in vain to make the internet work fast at our hotel so we could check email.  What normally takes 15 mins took an hour.  Quite honestly it was painful and I hope it’s not how the internet over here works all the time… I just hope we were away from the central hub in the hotel since it was wireless. 

Today we are off to hopefully sign a contract on our new place today.  We’re very excited about it though of course going back and forth hoping we made the right decision.  Before meeting up with Mele, I decided to run down to grab some breakfast in the hotel restaurant while Josh was doing some of his work.  Thus far, neither of us have really used any Spanish.  Our contact at the bank spoke broken English, we stopped at VP where everyone speaks English and Mele speaks English and Spanish so she communicates with the other realtors.  Oh and at the hotel they speak English.  But I know that we can’t count on this always happening and I really feel the need to just jump in and say something just to do it.  Kind of when I ran my first (and only) 5k – I just needed to do it.

So anyways, I go down to the lobby and enter the restaurant.  I knew they would need my room number so before she could ask me, I said uno y veinteuno.  She said, “Marcus”.  I said, “si!”.  Turns out it should have been ciento y veinteuno but hey, she got it right?  Then the waiter asked me, if I wanted coffee/cafe.  I said, “No, zumo (juice) por favor”.  Baby steps, right?  I can handle phrases.  It’s complete sentences that scare me.  I was so proud of myself for just making the step to attempt to speak their language.  Then on my way out, I asked “donde esta el cuarto de bano?” (where is the bathroom).  I didn’t understand a word she said but she pointed and I made it there without peeing my pants.  So I’m going to call it a success!!!

Off we go with Mele to meet with the other realtor to sign our contract (hopefully).  We walked from the rental place to our new apartment – Mele wanted us to get a feel for the neighborhood.  We took a lot more pics at the house (all the ones posted from yesterday actually were from today) and took some measurements.  Storage is DEFINITELY going to be an issue.  We will be hitting IKEA this weekend.  Not far from our ‘hood is this beautiful Gaudi Church (I forget the name and if I have time later I will google it).  It’s been under construction for no joke, more than 100 years.  The guy died in the early 1900s and it’s still under construction.

This other realtor usually deals with short term rentals (over there considered 1-11 months, long term is 1-5 years).  This particular place they were looking to do for 2 years so it’s not their standard contract.  Similar to the US, often an owner will ask for a security deposit.  However, here in Spain they can ask for up to a year security and it can only be used as security – it doesn’t go towards rent or anything if you don’t pay.  We really lucked out and they told us it would be 2 months of security plus one month rent in advance plus 16% VAT (value added tax – also considered a commission there) on one month rent.  Plus we needed a letter from VP stating Josh’s salary and that he has a position here for 2 years.  We will eventually need to supply them with our NIE number (like a social security here but we won’t get it til we get there).

Not too shabby and could have been significantly more expensive – our luck is finally changing.  So how do we pay?  Apparently some places will deal in cash.  Sorry Charlie, I don’t play that cash game.  No receipt, no proof that we paid…uh uh.  Bank check?  Yup, an option.  The other option was a wire transfer which over there seems to work much faster than here.  So they gave us the amount to transfer and we promised (they are very trusting over there compared to here) that we would transfer the funds that afternoon.  Because we use the same bank as them it would likely go thru the same day.

Now on to the contract.  We signed a pre-contract – basically saying that we had paid the deposit and VAT and that they would be drawing up an actual contract that would need to be signed by Nov 15.  They will send that to our realtor who will interpret it for us, we’ll print it, sign it and scan and email back and be done.  Josh will pick up the keys when he goes the first week of Dec.  We’re hoping the contract goes smoothly and that we will have that early next week.

In Spain (not sure of all of Europe), the law actually protects the tenant more than the landlord.  We could trash this place and the landlord CANNOT kick us out.  He can only use the law against us if we leave prior to one year.  All long term contracts are for up to 5 years.  So technically we could stay on for 5 years and if he wanted to sell at 2, tough noogies to him.  We wouldn’t do that of course, but just to give you an idea of the way it works.  This guy wants us out at 2 and 2 works for us.  So that will be in our contract.

Once again I feel the need to point out the driving in Barcelona.  It is 100x worse than Boston or NY.  It’s downright scary!!  I’d also like to point out that I have seen, no joke, 3 American cars.  I’m not talking 3 brands…literally 3 American cars.  Lots of Audi, BMW, Peugeot, Rineault, etc.

We decided to take the metro back to our hotel and then walk from the stop to the hotel.  We didn’t follow Mele’s directions very well though.  We took the metro just fine.  It was the walking that was an issue!  We apparently went north when we should have gone east or something like that.  We ended up in Las Ramblas which is a big touristy area (with lots of pickpockets – beware if you visit).  Being somewhat pressed for time because we needed to do our wire transfer and then head out to see the kids’ school, we grabbed a cab, again… so success on the metro.  Not so successful finding the hotel.  All in good time I guess.  I find this frustrating because I consider myself to have a good sense of direction and I feel very displaced here at the moment.  I really need to sit down and study a map.

We stopped quickly at the hotel, did our wire transfer, stopped for a VERY quick bite to eat.  The guy was annoyed when 20 mins into the whole meal we asked for our check.  Everything is very leisurely here and people will take offense if you don’t act the same.  But we had places to be.  We went to visit the Benjamin Franklin International School (BFIS) where the boys will be attending.  We LOVED the school.  And the people we met.  The school’s primary language is English but there are children from 40 different countries represented in it’s 500 students (grades K-12).  So it’s a small, close knit school.  Aidan will do about an hour a day in kindergarten of Spanish.  Art is a VERY big focus here and you saw it everywhere you walked.  The kids are taught independence which I personally really like.  And each class has 2 teachers so while Aidan is in a class of 18, the teachers will often separate them into groups of 9 which will give a lot of individual attention, which we also very much liked.

I also though the school itself was pretty – it’s an old old building that they have added on to and made into a very small campus.  They have a building (2 small floors) of just K-5.  I didn’t get any pics of that, actually I only managed to take 2 pics because I was so busy chatting with my contact there.  And it seems that they incorporate the indoors with the outdoors a lot which is probably the norm in their climate, whereas you could never do that in Boston!  Oh and before I forget, I swear that I saw Ricky Schroeder driving by the school in a minivan!  Turns out I may very well have seen him – I just did a google search for him.  http://www.hollywood.com/news/Schroder_swapping_Hollywood_for_Spain/5721428

So after our very long day so far, we’re in for another late night.  We get back to the hotel around 5:30/6 to freshen up.  Tonight we are going out with some of Josh’s co-workers in the BCN office.  We thought it would just be the 5 or 6 people from CapDev that we ran into in the hallway yesterday. Turns out to be 25 of his co-workers.  And being excited to try some Spanish food, we were off…only to find out we were going to the same place we went to last night with Nick & Brenda.  Da Greco.  Good thing I liked the food there!!  But a bummer that we didn’t get to try a traditional Spanish restaurant.  I suppose we have 2 years to do that.

Aaron, the guy who organized the dinner, mixed things up and everyone drew a card with a number and that’s where you sat.  So not that I rely on Josh to help me with my conversation but we weren’t even at at the same table.  I had considered not going to dinner that night because I was just exhausted but Josh convinced me I should.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did – I met some really nice people.  But given that it wasn’t as intimate a group as we thought and we didn’t even sit together, I probably could have gotten out of it.  Oh well!  Best to enjoy our time out while we can since we don’t yet have a sitter and who knows when we will find one!

Will do the final update on our trip tonight!!

Julie

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