Now, I Wait

This morning I made the couple hour trip down to Washington, DC to finish up my visa application. Luckily, things went without any problems and they told me I should receive my shiny new student visa within 5 weeks!

First, I had to find the Department of State Office of Authentications which, in all honesty, was completely different from what I was expecting. The office was a small location very similar to a mini MVA setup. You walked in, stood in line for a number, and then waited for your documents to be completed. There is a form necessary for each authentication order which I already printed at home. There were several computers set up there for this purpose. I ended up chatting with the girl in line behind me about our mutual visa methods and experiences. She was getting everything together to apply for her visa to work in the UAE. I would recommend getting there EARLY. I arrived shortly after the office opened at 7:30am, but the room was already filling up.

Call me Bond, James Bond.

 

After my FBI letter received the Apostille, I took it to the convenience shop right next to the office. They made copies of the newly Apostilled document for me. I already made copies of everything else at home.

Next, I walked back toward the Foggy Bottom metro to the Spanish Embassy and Consulate. I was lucky everything was so close. The walk was only about 10 minutes. I was a bit early so I waited in the waiting room until the Consulate opened at 9am. I was the first one to enter the visa application line and in 15 minutes was informed I would receive my visa within 5 weeks! Apparently, I take my medical and criminal background check letter to a police station when I get to Madrid. There, they will give me my real student visa. The one issued here is only good for 90 days. Oh, and if you make friends with the guard it seems he will let you use the bathroom on the Embassy side! 🙂

The Stories Will Continue, but First….Visa Things

Two days ago I emailed the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. to find out if there is a limit on how old the medical letter can be in order to be accepted for visa purposes. I’m so glad I asked! The response I received (the very next day. Speedy service?!) said the letter could not be more than three months old. My letter was right about to pass the three month mark so I needed a new one. I called my doctor to see if they could just update the letter, but they said I needed to come in for a physical this time. The following day I went to my appointment, received my letter, and took it to Annapolis to have it notarized, certified, and have the Apostille placed. Now I’m good to go! All I have to do now is fill out the visa application, get passport photos taken, make copies of everything, and then run down to DC. Since I had the FBI criminal record check I need to get the Apostille from the Department of State. Then, I can copy everything and take it to the Embassy! That’s my game plan for next week.

Euro Venture 2011 Pt. I Spain “Just Getting There is Half the Struggle”

The next several posts will outline some of the highlights and hilarity of my first trip to Europe. 



As I briefly mentioned HERE, I signed up to teach English for a week on a resort in beautiful La Alberca through a program named PUEBLO INGLES. When I applied I linked the program site to a few of my friends and asked if anyone wanted to join me. After all, adventures on foreign continents are more fun with others. Right?? I was delighted to see my Penpal from Australia accepted my travel challenge. Now, I have known my Penpal since I was 11 years old, but never met her in person at this point. We began to plan our vacation while about 10,360 miles apart. The plan was for her to travel several weeks through the United Kingdom until a couple of days before the Pueblo Ingles program when we would both fly to Madrid. There, we would finally meet. Everyone I mentioned this plan to was in disbelief or made comments about  it sounding like a movie. Maybe one day.


The morning of my first transatlantic flight, I was still frantically trying to figure out what I could fit in my luggage. Apparently, I tried to pack more clothes than I could squash into my suitcase. We were pressed for time so I ended up throwing items onto my bed until I could close it. We had a two-hour drive ahead of us to the airport. My mom bid me a tearful farewell at Dulles Airport and I was on my way. Thankfully, Aer Lingus flies directly from Washington, D.C. to Madrid. My flight landed at 7:30am (Spain time) in the morning. I was meeting my Penpal in the hostal around 3pm so I knew I had plenty of time to myself. I decided to take the metro from the airport, in the east, to the hostal near the Opera station, in the west. I found out quickly there are no escalators in Madrid’s metro so be warned if you plan on lugging two bags and a suitcase from one end of the city to the other (like I did). Instead of escalators, there are stairs! Lots of stairs. 


Lesson One:  You have to work your legs to get around the Madrid Metro system.


By the time I emerged from the station I was tired, warm, and sweating, but I will never forget that moment. 


I am not sure why I expected my first glimpse of a street in Madrid to be anything like streets back in Maryland cities with their asphalt and tall, modern buildings. I was absolutely blown away with what I saw. Low buildings, scrolled metal for the windows and balconies, and terracotta roofs? I really hope no one saw me smiling like a crazy person. 


Next, I had to find my hostal. I knew the name of the street I needed, but not the direction or how to get to that street. The streets jutted out in different directions and I couldn’t find street names for half of them. Many seemed more like alleys than streets. I was able to practice my broken Spanish to get some directions. Thankfully, after that, I was able to maneuver my way to the correct street. At least I thought it was the correct street, but still did not see my hostal. I approached the only human on that section of the street at that hour other than me. He seemed to be a backpacker (i.e. wore a large backpack and sunglasses). 


“Excuse me. Do you know where Hostal Gala is?”


He pointed up.


Okay, well, that was a bit embarrassing. The only sign was on the top story of the building right behind me. I hurried inside hoping to find an elevator of some kind. I was greeted with beautiful stairs. I started to drag my two bags plus suitcase up those stairs. About halfway a woman,who was descending the stairs, came back up to me. 


“Tuyo?” She pointed to a dark lump on the stairwell behind us. It looked like a piece of cloth.


“Oh! No…. No, pero gracias.” 


She continued her way downstairs. I set my things down and stepped over to the lump for a better look. That’s my shirt! I peered further down near the entrance and spotted another cloth wad on the ground which turned out to be another shirt. After grabbing both I rushed back to my suitcase and tilted it so I could view underneath. It was split open! I saw shirts, socks, and a pants leg poking out from the bottom. WHAT exactly did I drop all over the airport, metro, and neighborhood!???


Lesson Two: Invest in luggage straps. 


By the time I reached the receptionist I was tired, sweaty and smelled so, and felt numb to the world. It was almost 9am by this point, but the room wouldn’t be ready until 3pm. I launched into babbling a bit about my luggage and that I was just going to sit and wait in the lobby area. I’m not sure what the receptionist thought of me, but I’m sure she has seen some crazy spectacles before. I bought myself a Coke from a machine and pulled out my iPod to check my email. Should I assess the damage and tally my missing belongings? No. I forced myself not to look. I just sat, and sipped, and waited. 


Luckily, my room was finished early so I was able to take a shower and rest before my Penpal arrived. It was a very clean and cute room. It even had a little balcony.

Have you ever been to a country or place which turned out to be completely different from what you expected? Do you ave any travel horror stories? 

When it becomes real…

I learned two things today. First, I have about three months until I move to another continent and country. Second, today is the day my family realized I am completely serious.

I was sitting at my desk when I realized I only have a few more months left. I’ve been selected as a recruit for the technical training staff. Basically, if I pass the three-day training this week, there is a high chance that I will be asked to instruct others in how to do my job. With this came the realization that even if I do accept the offer, I will only have the opportunity to instruct for a few months or so before I leave. Do I take the offer? I imagine Technical Instructor looks pretty good on a resume / C.V. To be quite honest, along with the moment of realization, I froze at my desk in thought. I have so many things to accomplish for the move and not much time. I should be doing more research about the move now, but I’m writing this post instead. I wish I could find a flat before I leave. I don’t want to agree to anything before I actually see the place, so this leaves me in a bit of a predicament. This entire thing has been a lesson in letting go…

Today, my mom asked me if I was actually serious about moving. When I told her I was it seemed that she never thought I would actually go through with it. As you can imagine, she did not take the news well. It’s difficult when you set a path and your family doesn’t support you. Every day, I hear something from my mom about how I am making the wrong choice; about how Spains economy is tanked or another passive-aggressive pity plea. Thankfully, my dad doesn’t say anything. I know what he is thinking though when he turns his face when he hears my mom talking to me. Is this a mistake? Maybe, but I’d like to think not. If for some unforeseen reason I actually loathe my time in Spain, I’d like to consider this as the time I did what I wanted for myself even when my emotions and logic warred inside me. Moving alone to a foreign country, quitting a government job to accept a job that pays four times less…of course it seems crazy, but I would be crazy to wait.

For those of you who rooted far from where they sprouted, how did you deal with the reaction to your choice? Did you ever choose to cancel your move? If so, Are you happy with the way things turned out? Do you regret it?