Have you ever taken a 7.5 hour drive for a 5 minute appointment and looked THIS happy as a result? These are real, genuine smiles! On Wednesday we piled into the Nissan Pathfinder at 7am and drove from San Diego to the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles, arriving at 10:30 to collect our official residence visas in person. Their hours are from 8am to 12pm, so even though we hit a lot of traffic it was okay.
All family members had to be present to pick up their visas. Even the silly ones arguing in the back of the car!
The 70 mile, 3.5 hour drive wasn't bad though. We listened to an audio recording of "The Book Thief" on our way up. It was read aloud by a male actor using thick accents.
"I can't hear what he's saying back here!" said The Scientist. "The speakers are muffled."
"Mommy, I don't really understand what is happening in this story!" sighed Little Angel.
"I'm kinda bored..." said Soccer Dude. "Do we have any snacks?"
This was a vast improvement over the usual, "He's making a mean face at me!" type of commentary we experience during long family car trips. Señor Aventura and I actually enjoyed listening to the storyline, as sad as it was, about a foster child in Germany at the start of World War II. At some point at least one of the children fell asleep. We had a peaceful ride.
Picking up the residence visas could not have been easier. We walked into the pristinely clean office, waited about 3 minutes for an open window. It was the same clerk who'd helped us to apply. He called our names individually and handed out our passports one at a time. The residence visa turns out to be a special sticker placed into our US passports by the consulate, which allows us to stay as residents of Spain legally for three months to start.
"Is there anything else?" we asked.
"Nope," the clerk said. "You're all done."
"Wow! We're official!" we beamed.
Of course, once we arrive in Barcelona, there will be more steps. We'll go to the local police station where they will validate our documents and visas and extend the time frame to one year... and then issue us our actual N.I.E. (national identity) cards. We will be able to renew the visa while we are living in Spain, if we so choose.
Now we are back at home in San Diego and s&*t is getting real. Our furniture is disappearing - to storage, to Goodwill, to AmVets. I gave my mother half of the ingredients in our pantry.
Señor Aventura sold our Nissan Pathfinder today - that same car we'd just taken to L.A. He brought it into Carmax and walked out an hour later so much happier. He's wanted to get rid of that car for a long, long time! "It was leaking," he said. "Good riddance!"
I've easily packed 50 boxes in the past few days, and there are easily another 50 to go. At moments it feels overwhelming... but then I remember why we are doing all of this and the overwhelm turns to excitement - a fizzy, giddy feeling in my gut.
The best part about emptying out our house and our life to move to Spain is that we've gotten rid of so much stuff. Purged it all. Little things, big things - so many things we'd somehow accumulated throughout the years. It's like one crazy massive Spring cleaning.
We'll be living so simply. As long as I've got my kids, Señor Aventura, my purse and my passport... that's really all I need in the world. Everything else will take care of itself. They've got IKEA in Spain.
Ten more days! Ten more days to a new life!!!
Honestly? Making our lifelong dream come true feels pretty badass.