Friday, December 31, 2010

Papeleo, papeleo

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From 450 pounds of luggage to pushing 450 pounds of paper, or at least that's how it feels. Never realized how much red tape is necessary to get set up in a new city. We are required to complete all kinds of paper forms and then, upon turning them in, the information is typed into a computer. Together we can think of all kinds of ways to streamline the process but for now, we'll just keep waiting in line.

The girls are being as patient as possible but it's pretty boring to hurry up and wait all the time. Unfortunately we all need to be present in most instances. So far we have set up a bank account but are still needing approval from the national police to get any sort of credit or debit card. We also need them to approve the extension on our visas. Monday we head to the police station in Bilbao with plans to take a ticket and wait in line. We'll arrive about 2 hours before they open and may still be sent away to return on a different day. We'll see...

With the daily help of MaLuz, one of my exchange sisters, we have cellphones, a landline and Internet among other things. We also took a walk to see the girls school but it doesn't open again until Jan. 10. We applied for library cards which will be ready at the end of next week. Perhaps the stereotypical impatient North American is a result of getting everything on the spot. Our expectations are pretty high at home but here, it is what it is and we just go with the flow. We are familiarizing ourselves with our new neighborhood. The slideshow above has a picture of the front of our building and a look down our street. Our flat is on a hill, just like in Madison only here it is due to the mountains.

We got our residency status and are now waiting for the paperwork to pass through the system so the girls are enrolled in their new school, Larrañazubi.  To do that we had to go into Bilbao to turn in some paperwork at what would be the equivalent of the Department of Education/Public Instruction. That gave the girls a chance to visit the park next to the Guggenheim museum. The funky silver building is the Guggenheim of Bilbao and the flower dog out in front is its mascot.

We have spent time getting to know the area in which we are living. Our location is great! We are only a couple blocks from the metro in the center of Algorta, lots of grocery and other stores in the area and about 50 meters from my exchange sister, Beatriz. Today with the help of MaLuz and friend Sara, we bought a TV and a few other items to fill our flat. The girls have settled in to their new home well and are very happy to have their own rooms.

We made one trip so far to Portugalete, where I lived in 1985, to see the rest of my exchange family. The night time pictures of the water in the slideshow were taken from inside the Puente Colgante as we crossed between Las Arenas and Portugalete. The bridge is a suspended car that serves to shuttle people and a small number of cars between the two cities across river Nervión. It was originally built in the end of the 19th century.

For lunch today we met friends and family to share a meal on the beach in Sopelana. It was a nice change from the running around we have been doing. The weather has been very pleasant, similar to spring in Wisconsin although it could turn at any time. The water was freezing but we saw several people surfing and paddle boarding.  The next couple of days will be quiet around here as everything is closed and the focus is on being with family and friends. We look forward to the break.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Happy New Year friends! 30 min. left for us.

Long Journey, New Beginning

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The trip here is always long but well worth it. Here is Dean's synopsis of our travels...
  • Got on the road 45 minutes late.
  • We were dropped off at O'Hare's international terminal 5. After our ride left we realized that Lufthansa flies out of Terminal 1.
  • Our flight was delayed 1 hour leaving because of the plane getting there late.
  • Morgan was the only one to sleep on the plane.
  • We arrived in Dusseldorf 1 hour late, but were stuck on the plane an extra 30 minutes because the jetway was frozen. 
  • We had to go through a second security check in Dusseldorf that we didn't know about. Of course, we had water bottles from the airplane and nowhere to dump the water. Lauren found a trashcan, which irritated the security guard a bit.
  • We got to our connection just as they started boarding, but we're delayed 45 minutes because of a problem with the plane's computer.
We arrived about 2pm local time, 7am CST. Sara, a friend of MaLuz, along with MaLuz and Izar met us at the airport to take us to our new home. No rest for the weary as we started to unpack. They had kindly prepared a lunch for us of tortilla patata, sandwiches and salad. It was perfect after a long flight and lots of sitting.

The girls managed to find enough energy to go ice skating. Skates here are all rentals. You pay at a kiosk, get a ticket with your "ice time" on it and when it is your turn to skate for an hour they give you the skates and a special plastic disposable sock to put on. A bit different from what we are used to in the states.

While the girls were skating MaLuz and I did a little grocery shopping and got a few items to start filling our flat.

I don't know how we would have ever done it without all the help we have received from friends and my exchange family. We will be forever grateful for all they have done for us.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

450 pounds

Years of dreaming, months of planning, weeks of packing and we're down to this. We fit into six checked bags, four carry-ons and four "personal items" (backpacks). The checked bags are stuffed to the gills and within a pound of the limit.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Probably won't miss this

This isn't the first snow in Madison this year, but it's the first big one: about 6 inches. Luckily, the temperature is supposed to plunge this week, with highs in the single digits and windchills well below zero. Weather in Bilbao this week: highs around 45°F with lows a chilly 36°F.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

14 Days 'til Travel

So, I have had several people ask, just how do you pack your whole family for seven months and three seasons. As with any "how" question my answer is, "very carefully."

We have been slowly weeding out content from our house that we simply don't need, don't use or have outgrown. By the time we are done, St. Vincent DePaul will be the proud recipients of a couple thousand dollars in used goods. Dean took the second big load over today. With less in the house, it is easier to focus on what needs to be packed for Spain and what goes into boxes for storage.

In addition to packing we have contracted for snow removal, will contract for lawncare this spring, inquired about issues related to shutting down the house so we don't have frozen pipes, vacation settings for some of the utilities, plans for the cars, etc. By March we will have some neighbors living in our house while theirs is being remodeled so we are preparing for them to come in as well.

Over the ocean we have been extraordinarily lucky as my exchange sisters, their families and friends have really been working hard on preparing for our arrival. They have found us a flat, connected with the school for Morgan and Maia, are getting Internet set up, and talked to the bank. By the time we arrive they will have our apartment cleaned and in move in condition. We certainly couldn't do it without their help.

So, for those of you still wondering how one prepares, in addition to very carefully, it takes a village and we can't thank the village enough for all the have and are doing to help us!