Here I sit in a quiet, well-lit apartment in our corner of town. One week here in Spain feels more like three weeks, or even a month.
We have witnessed God’s overwhelming graciousness towards us in the weeks leading up to leaving, but even more so now that we are here. We booked a hotel room with a kitchenette for our first five nights in Alcalá de Henares, hoping that in that space we would be able to find and begin living in an apartment. Sure enough, our fifth day/night here, we signed papers to rent a one bedroom apartment in town, and moved in the next day. The realtor showing us the apartment was very kind. It turned out that we expressed interest in renting the apartment about an hour too late, as a woman who viewed the place in August finally decided she did want to move in. An upstairs apartment was opening in October, right when we would begin work. (And I kept thinking about hotel living until then, all of our belongings displaced in the room.) John boldly asked the realtor to see if the woman would be interested in the upstairs apartment (I would have just said “Vale, vale. Hasta luego!”/”OK, cool. See ya later!” Thank goodness I married someone who is a much better negotiator than I am!). To our amazement, she agreed, and the apartment we viewed and liked so much was ours for the renting.
We saw a total of two apartments, even though we emailed, called, and texted countless Spaniards renting out their places. Not only did we use the website Idealista.com, we also called apartment owners who put signs on their balconies indicating that an apartment was for rent. The second place we viewed was less than appealing, with its dimly lit bathroom reminiscent of a cheap, roadside motel, and its kitchen oven’s door crusted over with heaven knows what substance from a previous owner.
Our cozy apartment has a story, and is in a building that was built nearly a century before the founding of the United States. The realtor circuitously told us that this building used to be a hangout for prostitutes, and years later turned into a home of rehabilitation for women who had lived in prostitution. Is that a picture of hope, or what?
Another example of God’s graciousness is that some friends of mine who just left Spain introduced us to a couple living in our town that they were good friends with from church. Through email, we planned to meet up for tapas, and I can’t tell you how much it did my heart good to connect with people who have lived here going on five years and know the ropes. They very generously offered to take us to IKEA in their car to get supplies (our apartment had the big stuff, but no pots and pans, plates, towels, etc.), which I initially dreaded because it was going to mean riding on public transportation with huge, heavy bags in hand. (Been there, done that.) What a relief! The wife even instisted on taking all of our sheets and towels to wash and dry, since we don’t have a dryer and it would have taken us so much longer. We are beyond thankful for their kindness to us.
And so, one week after arriving, we are far more settled than I could have ever hoped to be. Plates and mugs are on a shelf, sheets are on the bed, and I’ve braved using the washer after attempting to read the user’s manual in Spanish. Yesterday we went to register ourselves at the local police station (this process is known here as empadronamiento), very easy as far as the hoopla of government paperwork is concerned. (We will apply for our resident’s cards next week.) John just called to say he opened a bank account (without our resident’s cards--amazing!), and he’s going to talk to the internet company about coming out to get us hooked up to the World Wide Web.
Moving abroad has its romantic moments, but I’ll be honest: many moments are mundane and simple, or frustratingly complicated. There are literal and figurative walks in the park, and we’ve looked at each other more than once over a midday, three course meal (the norm—and believe me, it’s not expensive!) and said, “This is the life.” But “the life” comes with its fair share of headaches (very literal ones for me), blisters, and lost-in-translation conversations followed by awkward laughter.
But here we are. Enjoy some photos. I hope you find our new city as beautiful as we do!