Staying the Course

There are times in life when everything just seems to be going right. Right now is one of those times in mine. Not only do David and I feel like we couldn’t have found a more perfect business, but as we get to know Pepe and his girlfriend, Amparo, better, we’re realizing that we couldn’t have found better people to buy a business from. With Spain in crisis mode, many businesses are for sale and many sellers are desperate which means there is opportunity but also uncertainty as you don’t quite know who you can trust and who’s telling the truth. Pepe’s also desperate to sell his business but it’s not because he’s broke. Instead, it’s because he’s exhausted. And, as the weeks have passed, we’ve learned that he’s a man of his word and has deep set values that keep him honest. Together, David and I have marveled at our luck that we entered the scene at just the right time when this charming little business was available in a village that we adore. And we hoped that we might not stray off course or lose our way from this perfect path that seems to be leading right to where we want to go.

Then, on Wednesday, we received a letter from the office of immigration. It was in response to my residency application. The answer contained within would certainly confirm if we were still on track.

Getting my residency has felt like a full time job at times. It’s been on the top of the priority list since I arrived to Spain, but, as much as I have wanted it, it has seemed downright unattainable. At first, it seemed simple: just assemble some documents, make an appointment at the immigration office in order to submit the papers and wait a month for the official approval. So that’s just what we did.

We had our first appointment back in July. The officer looked everything over and David and I happily submitted the stack of papers which we had carefully prepared. Simple enough. A month later, we received the letter and were impressed by the timely response. But to our utter disappointment, the response wasn’t quite what we wanted to hear. The letter wasn’t approving my residency but, instead, claiming that we hadn’t included all the necessary documents. The missing document? Our marriage certificate. Surely, we had included that! That was the most important document after all to prove that I had the right to apply for my residency. That was the document that gave backbone to my application. We wouldn’t have forgotten to include that! Frustrated, we went back to the immigration office and resubmitted the papers, making doubly sure that we included a copy of the marriage certificate. And we waited another month, at which point we received another letter.

Incomplete application, the letter informed us. They were still claiming that we hadn’t included the marriage certificate. Except, this time, they included a key word that had been missing in the first letter. We were required to include an actualized marriage certificate. Actualized? What did that mean?! We had to prove that we were still married? Wasn’t it obvious that we were since we were filing the application together? We had a lot of questions and in our search for answers at the office of immigration, we got directed to yet another office at the police station.

By this time, three months had passed and we were determined to bring this long saga to an end, so we headed over to the station immediately and asked a policeman who we recognized vaguely as a friend of David’s dad how to go about getting this document. Getting an actualized marriage certificate required a number, he informed us. Oh no! At the mere mention of the word, “number,” images of early morning risings, long lines of people and limited numbers passed out per day instantly appeared in our heads. The news was bad and then it got worse. He went on to say that the office handled many different things – marriage documents being only one of them – therefore the amount of numbers handed out daily for marriage matters was extremely limited. In fact, he told us that it was one of the hardest numbers to obtain and that people got there very early and came day after day trying to get one.

Oh dear! Acquiring a number could, in and of itself, take months. Our hopes were dashed and we wondered when, if ever, we would get my residency. We also wondered if it wouldn’t just be easier to get married again in Spain. But, just when the implications of the number system started setting in, he motioned to David to step away from the other officers milling about and, in a hushed voice, delivered an important, life-changing message: if we arrived at 8:00 sharp the next morning, he would meet us in front and slip us a number. Really?! We couldn’t believe it. We barely knew this man – in fact, the only reason we knew him at all was because we had been driving by the police station with David’s dad one day and had happened to see him. David’s dad had pulled over and talked to him and briefly introduced David. Apparently, this brief encounter was as good as gold and we were cashing in big time!

We made sure to be in front of the building at 8:00 am sharp the next morning and awkwardly hovered around the entrance. A whole line of people had been waiting for who knew how long. We anxiously looked for the policeman and then finally spotted him within. He was walking around casually and we hoped that he hadn’t forgotten about his very hushed and secret promise. Then he made his way to the door, and we were relieved. He had remembered! But he didn’t show us any sign of recognition and we nervously waited and hoped that we weren’t being too obvious to the line of onlookers. Then, just at the moment when they unlocked the doors, he slyly handed David a number and told us to go inside. We slipped in and glanced at our number. It was the very first number of the day! Oh, sweet luck! How much time we had been spared! Barely five minutes had passed before our number was called and we explained to the lady that we needed an actualized marriage certificate. Did we have family or know anyone in Madrid, she asked. No, we didn’t, but why did that matter? Well, it turns out that because we got married outside of Spain, it was actually the immigration office in Madrid that was the keeper of such documents. This office in Torrevieja could do nothing for us.

We left empty-handed and pondered this new challenge. We could submit a form online and would receive the form in a couple of months or we could personally go to the office in Madrid and, supposedly, get it much faster. In the end, we did both. David filled out the form online and then boarded the last bus of the day headed for Madrid. And the next day, he was at the immigration office by 6:30 in the morning and joined the line that was already about 100 people long. And he got a number and saw an officer and when he found out that it should arrive by mail in the next 2 weeks, he begged the officer to please rush the document. She felt pity for him and put a special mark on the paper and assured David that we would receive it by mail in the next several days. Pleased that he had not only managed to get a number but had also convinced the lady to rush the document, David celebrated his victory by staying a couple of extra days to enjoy Madrid.

And then we waited. And we waited some more. And the weeks passed, and it still didn’t come. The weeks turned into months. And, in the meantime, we left Torrevieja and moved to Altea. And then, in the midst of all the chaos of moving into – and then moving out of – Paco’s house, we finally received a letter in the mail. It was two copies of our actualized marriage certificate! But it wasn’t the one that David had gone to Madrid, personally, to get. It was the one that he had submitted the online form for. We immediately went online to schedule an appointment for the immigration office in Altea and got one for two weeks later: December 28th.

David left for the United States and then I left to attend my grandmother’s funeral, and because the appointment was so important, we both headed back to Spain the day after Christmas and arrived the night before the appointment. And we were at the office right on time the next day, eager to finish this once and for all. But we soon found out that was just wishful thinking for it turned out that David had scheduled an appointment for the wrong type of situation. This appointment was in the case that I was currently living outside of Spain. But, because I was already in Spain, we would have to make another appointment which would take another 2 weeks. Furthermore, the lady explained, it being the holidays, naturally many people were on vacation. Therefore, it very well could take longer.

We were tired, we were jetlagged, we were exhausted from this process, and David simply wouldn’t take no for an answer. Could he talk to a manager? No. He was on vacation. OK, well, we weren’t leaving then. He explained how long we had been waiting for this, the hoops that we had jumped through, but she seemed apathetic and unwavering in her judgment of our case and told us that others had been waiting for years. And I tried to get David to drop it. But he wouldn’t. Then, just when I felt that she was getting really annoyed by our presence and that the whole thing was hopeless, she miraculously picked up the phone, made a 2 minute phone call and told us that if we made another appointment online, the person who schedules the appointments would watch out for our names and make sure that we would get one soon.

We went home, made an appointment, and received an email confirmation that we had an appointment for 9:00 the next morning. Unbelievable. We happily headed back the next morning, submitted the papers – actualized marriage certificate and all – and we waited.

It was disconcerting that we hadn’t received any mail since moving into our new apartment. Other than what our neighbor had left for us on the dining table when he came to check on our cats over Christmas, we hadn’t received a single piece of correspondence. And, although we continued checking our mail daily, the mailbox continued to produce nothing. However, we had done everything that we could do to ensure the safe delivery of our mail, including clearly labeling the mailbox and replacing the broken lock for a new one.

But, when David checked the status of my residency online – as he had regularly been doing since the appointment – and saw that the status had switched from “In Transit” to “Resolved,” our lack of mail became downright alarming. Now that the case was “resolved,” the immigration office would be sending the letter with the final answer, and it was vitally important that we receive that letter. Surely, the fact that we hadn’t received mail in more than a month meant that there was something wrong with our mail service. David went to the post office to report our issue. And we continued checking our mailbox with renewed fervency.

But, day after day, the mailbox remained empty, and, little by little, our anxiety level increased.

In desperation, I asked our neighbor. If he had found our mail the short time he was watching our cats, surely there had to be an easy answer to the mystery of our missing mail. And, sure enough, there was. It turns out that, as much as logic says it isn’t so, the mailboxes inside the building aren’t the mailboxes where the mail is delivered. Instead, there’s a whole set of mailboxes outside and to the left. We had never seen them because we had always turned right. I ran out to check the mail and, there, in a mailbox with no lock, I found a stack of our missing mail! There were holiday cards, letters from my grandmother, and, right on top, a letter from the immigration office. It was the response that we had been waiting for!

I immediately ran to see David who was busy getting the business ready and showed him the letter. At the sight of it, his face broke into a smile and together we ripped open the envelope. And, there, in the center of the page, was the one sentence that would validate the numerous appointments and many months of waiting. It would also make me legal and legitimate in Spain. There, in beautiful print, the letter confirmed that I had been approved for a 5 year residency card!

And I began jumping up and down in excitement. Because that letter doesn’t just signify the completion of a very long and tiring process. The fact that it arrived at the moment that it did – when things are also finally coming together with the business – makes everything just feel right and seems to indicate that we’re right on course.

Now, we just need to make sure that we don’t stray.

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15 responses to “Staying the Course

  1. Everything is coming together in an incredible way – making you more Altean each & every day!

  2. I hope you knocked on wood when you wrote that opening sentence. No worries though, I knocked for you when I read it. 🙂

  3. I’m glad David is not taking no for an answer, It’s nice to have a “local” to know the difference between standing up for yourself and being rude. Those things are always hard to figure out when you are in a new country. He’s your little guardian angel.

  4. Congrats!! I am so happy to hear after all the hard work and stress you finally got your residency card! Everything is lining up quite nicely for you both and it’s about time!!!

  5. YAY!!!! finally….but hey, isn’t that how all your stories have ended?? you hit some rocks and bumps onyour journey but you always make it to your destination….and it has always worked out for the best!!!

  6. Soooo much stress and rigamarole!! But you and David finally reached this much anticipated milepost, and for that everyone reading and following your tale is happy. I am sending you both a virtual hug and smile and remaining a loyal reader…just know that this is merely creating the most fantastic story to share and look back on with great mirth. Love to you and David!

    • April, thank you so much for your comment and for your virtual hug! Although you’re far, your support is tangible!

  7. OMG finally and holy cow what a crazy story. I bet you and David are both so relieved. That is just insane and I can’t believe no one pointed that mailbox out to you any sooner. Hope all is going well with your right now and the business is moving along.

    • It’s a huge weight off our shoulders! Things are definitely coming together and going well. Thanks, Melinda!

  8. OMG this reminds me of all the hoops we had to jump through to just get our visas extended in Paris! I thought it couldn’t get worse! Congratulations!!!! 😀

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