The Odyssey

In high school many read Homer’s Illiad and the Odyssey. Although I don’t recall much about these epic poems, they have provided me inspiration for this blog entry. This entry is different from the others that I have documented in my adventure following retirement and you may not even find it interesting (assuming you did with the previous ones). OdysseyRegardless, I have been on an odyssey to obtain permission to stay in Spain (and thereby Europe) for more time than a visitor.  Unlike Odysseus and his ten year journey, my odyssey has taken five months and promises at least one more.

My odyssey began last September when I learned that I needed a visa to live in Spain. I really am uncertain what made me think I could just show up at the gates and stay! I learned this tidbit at the Spanish embassy in DC just by chance and “fortunately” they guided me to apply for what is called a “non-lucrative residence visa” which means if I am approved to stay, I can’t work (take jobs away from Spaniards). Given I was retiring, that idea appealed to me so I set forth somewhat blindly doing my research and collecting my documentation.

Documents include a letter why I want the visa, a medical report (that I had no contagious diseases), a police report (super legalized that I wasn’t a criminal), several applications that ask essentially the same things, verification of my pension (with proof that I have enough money to survive), proof of medical insurance (which guaranteed I wouldn’t put a drain on the Spanish healthcare system as well as a guarantee that if I got really sick, I would be taken out of Spain), numerous passport size photos, translation of the documents by a “certified” translator (found one at the local courthouse in PA), and then fees.

As it turns out the US is divided into eight areas by the Spanish government so I had to deliver my documents and fees in person in New York. I had my documents in pretty good order since I communicated regularly with the consulate to ask questions. My documents made it through first shot! Many don’t and people are sent home to get additional / corrected documentation. Two weeks later, I had to return to New York to pick up my visa. This was extraordinarily fast as the time usually is two to four months! To my surprise, I wasn’t yet done!

Although I now had a visa from the Spanish Government firmly placed into my passport, it expired in 90 days! The New York consulate told me I would need to go to the police station in nearby Malaga with additional forms to get a residency card so I could stay for a year!

So on return to Spain, I quickly took a copy of my lease to the Mijas Pueblo town office and received a letter saying that I am a resident. However, they gave me additional forms to fill out and told me to go to the police station in Fuengirola, instead of Malaga. Since Fuengirola is closer, I crossed my fingers and found a person there who told me I didn’t need those forms given to me BUT I did need to pay taxes at a bank (a new form), get finger printed and apply for the residency card after the New Year holiday. An appointment was set for today. I took my application, proof of taxes paid, my passport and a copy of every page of the passport except the cover. Yes, I submitted numerous blank pages as they requested.

Today, though, the woman who told me what to do wasn’t there and wouldn’t be until next week. Her substitute said that I didn’t pay enough taxes and I had to go to the police station in Malaga, anyway. Fortunately there was a man behind me who translated for me and the substitute capitulated and said it was out of his hands and that I should wait for an officer to review my documents and take my finger prints. An officer saw me and accepted all of my forms except my photo which was passport size and needed to be smaller. Outside the office was a photoshop for this very purpose! I brought the photo to her and my next step is to report back precisely in one month. If everything checks out okay, I hope to get the residency card then!

Key things I learned… try to deal always with the same governmental official. Laws, regulations and procedures are interpreted differently between and within offices. Know that you are going to be given incorrect information and roll with it. I think it is wise to take the next step in the process as quickly as possible because time is against you. Research what others have posted on the Internet.

This is an expensive process. I think I have spent around $4000 so far (including the transportation to New York, fees, and taxes. I hope I am done!

Entrances to Mijas Pueblo Homes

The residents of Mijas Pueblo take a great deal of pride in keeping the village clean and attractive. Almost daily the women are cleaning the stoops leading to their homes. In today’s blog I want to share several of the entry ways to homes in Mijas. Sometimes the decoration is very simple but as you can see from the photos, there are times when the residents get very creative and occasionally carried away with the plant decorations. An open entrance in Mijas Pueblo  IMG_1584  IMG_2035  IMG_2607 IMG_2261 IMG_2267

My Day Trip to Gibraltar

It has been a magical time here in Andalusia, Spain reminding me why I have settled here. Snow is beginning to form on a few distant mountain tops but not in the sea-side towns that hug the Mediterranean coastline in southern Spain. Oranges are ripe on the trees that line the streets in a unique display of orange spheres hung to celebrate Christmas!

The air yesterday was warm in the middle 60’s when I visited nearby Gibraltar and today as I blog with my terrace door open. Yesterday I shed my jacket to enjoy the warm air. And last evening from my terrace I could see the mountains in northern Africa seeming to spring from nowhere across the Mediterranean Sea as the sun dropped in the western sky in a beautiful blaze of red, orange and yellow!

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I enjoy traveling and have gone to several of the southern Spain communities. But recently I read a blog about Gibraltar and found a day tour for only 38 Euros. On clear days (like today) I can see Gibraltar on the distant horizon from my terrace, so yesterday I went exploring.

Although located on the Iberian Peninsula, Gibraltar isn’t Spanish but, by treaty, it is British! The language is English (and almost all of the 30,000 residents are bi-lingual) and everything is imported. They have their own currency equivalent to the English pound sterling. It is but 6 square kilometers big! The day was like being instantly teleported from one culture to another!

IMG_2549Gibraltar is famous for its iconic “Rock of Gibraltar” where the vast Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Through the Straits of Gibraltar international shipping commerce has taken place through southern Europe, northern Africa and western Asia for centuries. With a warm sea breeze atop the rock and a clear sky, I was in awe of the strategic rock looking out at places that have been and continue to be of major importance to our civilization.IMG_2555

Gibraltar is the town at the base of the Rock. To get to it our tour bus passed through Spanish and British passport control. Gibraltar has a one-of-a-kind airport (on reclaimed land) where the road from La Linea, Spain crosses the runway! Yes, when an airplane lands or takes off, the road is closed similar to when a bridge opens to permit a boat to pass under a highway!

To the north and west of the Rock is the town of Gibraltar (pictured with La Linea and the airport runway) and to the south is Europa Point with its lighthouse, mosque, World War II tribute memorial to Sikorsky, and a memorial to Harding’s Battery originally constructed in 1869.

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Gibraltar has numerous statues to honor its place in military history and the heritage from Spain, the Moors, Romans, and British. Monuments include a cemetery for those that died in Gibraltar from the 1803 Battle of Trafalgar in the Napoleonic Wars as well as monuments to the Corps of Royal Engineers (the Royal Engineers were formed as a military entity at Gibraltar in 1772) and to those who fought in World War I.

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The town streets have a definite British feel with stores like Marks and Spenser and pubs with names like The Angry Friar. This is definitely not Spain!

The Rock is over 400 meters high which is taller that the Empire State Building or the Eifel Tower. Inside are more that 50 km of tunnels large enough for trucks! A highlight of the day came at Saint Michael’s Cave (also known as the Entrance to Hades). The cave has beautiful formations BUT for me, the presence of numerous monkeys is particularly interesting. In all, it was a wonderful, splendid day!

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Visits to Fuengirola, Andalucia, Spain

Hello, Friends!

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On December 5 I received my Non-lucrative Residence Visa from the Spanish Government! Obtaining the visa was quite the challenge with two in-person visits to the Spanish Consulate in New York City and numerous forms, letters, documents, translations, photos, and certifications. In total I presented about 1 inch of documentation and paid several fees to get the visa which is good for 90 days (in addition to the 90 days permitted by the normal tourist visa). Within that time, I have to complete two additional forms, pay 15.30 Euros for taxes, get finger printed, register as a Mijas Pueblo resident and obtain a residency card that will permit me to stay for a year.

IMG_2058This morning I went to Fuengirola to the local Policia Nacional to get moving on the application process for the residency card. Fuengirola is the sea-side resort town which is about 7 kilometers down the mountain from Mijas Pueblo. I have been there several times since October and am today posting photos taken on various trips to town and one looking up the mountain at Mijas Pueblo.

In Summer Fuengirola has a large number of tourists mainly from all over Europe. On my first trip to the town in September it was quite hot in the 90’s and even today it is balmy in the low 60’s. Pictured is a woman getting a beach massage in October for 10 Euros. For those curious about the photo, all beaches in Spain are top-optional for women and approximately 20% choose the option.

IMG_1978There are several statues in Fuengirola and included is a photo of one taken at the port and one of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (of Columbus fame). Currently oranges are now ripe and several streets in Fuengirola are lined with beautiful orange trees, mixed with Christmas decorations.

liebster-award2I am planning to visit Gibraltar this week and will be posting another blog after doing so. Also, I want to thank Marigold for nominating my blog for the Liebster Award. I have not met Marigold but enjoy her blog and I will post more later about the nomination. Meanwhile, please visit Marigold’s blog at http://versusblurb.wordpress.com.

Traffic Jam and Optimism in Mijas!

IMG_1683Today is cool in Mijas Pueblo, Spain with the temperature in the fifties (Farenheit). It has been raining on and off for the past two days BUT I am thankful there is no snow. Yes, living in a place where there is no snow is something to be thankful for. I will be able to see snow in the mountains all around me this Winter but the weather now is likely as bad as it will get until Spring. In living in Mijas I think about my family and friends and the stark weather contrast with the Northeast US. For me the last two Winters put me over the edge with snow and was a motivator to find places to live where it would be by choice to be in it! It will be nice to enjoy snow-capped mountains at a distance!

As I said, there has been a lot of rain the past two days. People just take it in stride. I have noticed among all the people here (natives, expats and visitors) a sense of optimism. In between it raining today I took a walk and I saw a woman putting her wash out to dry (no driers here). That’s being really optimistic as it could rain more! I also watched people optimistically dealing with a traffic jam today!

In a town that has few one-way cobblestone streets, a traffic jam must be a rarity! Well, today I saw one. It occurred were a single lane, one-way road (going south to north) merges for 20 feet with a single lane, one-way road (going north to south) so people traveling either direction can take a westerly road which is in the middle of the merge area.  The merge area is large enough for only one vehicle. A delivery was being made to a produce shop at the intersection of these three roads. The truck blocked others going any direction.

How did everyone cope with the situation? They knew there was no other choice for a way to go. They knew that it was good to have that shop there selling produce. They knew that it would eventually get sorted out. And it did! I can imagine how this scenario could have played out elsewhere! Today’s picture is of the street going in the westerly direction where the Mijas six car and one truck traffic jam occurred. The pictured road is key to get though the village. It is one-way, cobblestone, and always shared by vehicles and pedestrians.

Forever thankful that it isn’t snowing here in Mijas Pueblo.

Barry

La Cucaracha (The Cockroach)

imageSome services are delivered in Mijas Pueblo in ways that are interesting to me. As a child I recall bread and milk being delivered to our house so it really should have been no surprise to see home delivery of some services in the village.

Bakeries have contracts to deliver fresh rolls and bread to restaurants and some individuals. I am uncertain how early these deliveries occur but I have at times gone walking before 7:00am and have seen bread hanging on doors as pictured here. This photo was taken at a house so can you imagine a large plastic bag of rolls and bread delivered to a restaurant also hanging on the door? Fresh bread is really important in this Spanish community.

Another experience I have had is the reason for the title of this blog entry. You see, the homes and businesses use butane to provide heat for cooking, hot water, and to warm the house. It is delivered in orange canisters that are similar to propane tanks in the US. One enterprise goes through town in a truck filled with butane canisters and residents come out to exchange empty tanks for full ones. The residents know he is there because he has wired his truck horn to loudly blast the tune La Cucaracha! It is just a unique way for the villagers to know that if they need butane to get it then!

That’s today’s blog entry. If there are topics you would like me to describe or reflect on during my adventure in Spain, please let me know.

Toros y Matadores

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Last month I went to a bullfight in Mijas Pueblo. They are held each Sunday at the Plaza de Toros located in the Parque de Muralla. As someone has since observed… “It isn’t really a fight because the bull doesn’t stand a chance.” Actually, the observation is correct. As soon as the bull enters the ring, he is doomed to eventually be worn down and die. That sounds awful but I also don’t want to detract from the bravery and skill that the young matador demonstrate in the ring. If you are like me, I am sure you wouldn’t want to be face-to-face with and inches away from an angry bull, pawing his hoofs and anxious to gore you with his horns!

As  pictured, the Plaza de Toros was built in 1900. It is different from other bull rings in that it is an oval outside with the circular bullring inside. Seating is at two ends, “Sol y Sombra”  (Sun and Shade). As it was quite hot when I went, I chose sombra even through it was a bit more expensive. The seats are concrete and stone. It does have a livestock odor to it. The ring has places for the matador’s assistants as well as the band (like a small pep band) that I will describe later.

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I am not going to include the gory parts of the fight in these notes. It is bloody and, in my opinion, cruel at times. Bullfighting is close to being a national sport. Futbol (a.k.a. soccer) certainly is the national sport, however! Recently I was in Ronda which is the home of bullfighting for almost 400 years. There you will find monuments outside the city bullring dedicated to the most famous toreros including Pedro Romero Martinez who allegedly fought 5558 bulls without being seriously injured! Across Spain are 30 foot high monuments to bulls and the sport.

I am enclosing a few photos taken during and after the bullfight. The pricey event was an hour and a half long. This included flamingo dancing as well as two fights. It also was interesting that a small high school band was at the bullfight and added music to the various activities such as the matadors entry, and bull entering the ring, building excitement throughout the bullfight, and finally the dead bull being dragged around the ring after being killed, the bull’s ears given to the matador, and the matador being carried off on the shoulders of others as a hero!

Until next time, “Ole!”

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