Catch-22

13 Sep

Frustration. And a couple of tears. But only a couple. Thus far I have made it with just one that made it to my chin and the rest have stayed wallowed in my eyes. But if you have had the same past couple of days that I have had, you may have just broken down and sobbed!

It helps being able to mostly speak and understand the language. It also helps that some of my Hispanic friends in the States hooked me up with friends here in Pais Vasco before I arrived so I am not totally alone on this journey. Without their help, I am not sure what I would have done.

It all started about three days ago when the cash that I had brought me with starting running low. Before leaving the States, I told my bank on three different occasions that I was moving to Spain and that I would need to use my debit card internationally. Pues, si. I went to a cajero to withdraw money and, lo and behold, I was not permitted to do so. So I went to a different bank and tried again, thinking it was just that bank, and again, not permitted. I tried to use my debit card to charge something and was not allowed to do that either. Oh my – was I in some serious trouble! I had twenty euros cash to my name! They don’t use credit cards around here – everything is cash! Even to buy a bus ticket at the bus terminal. So much for the Visa motto – everywhere you want to be!

I had to figure out something and fast. I needed to talk to someone at the bank, but how? Ah ha! Call my mom on Skype and have her call the bank while she and I spoke on Skype. But with the difference of six hours, bankers hours, and my mom always being outside in her gardens, ufff, what were the chances of all this coming together? I stayed on Facebook for a couple hours and messaged everyone I saw on there. I even e-mailed my ex-husband to call my mom. I finally got a hold of my sister-in-law on Facebook, and she was able to contact Mom. Mom came to the rescue. Through some fancy dealing with Skype and speaker phone, we resolved the problem with the bank. They did have a block on my account for overseas transactions but released it. Problem number one resolved.

Thus begins saga number two. I went to Bilbao yesterday. It is an hour trip one-way from San Sebastian where I am staying right now. A one way bus ticket costs 10,40 euros (because I still haven’t figured out how to buy the cheaper luralldebus card so I can ride for 6,04 euros one way.) I was going to go on Monday and had bought my ticket, but looked at what I thought was the horario (schedule) for the Luralldebus and saw that I wouldn’t get to Bilbao until 1230 or 1 pm, which was late in the day for Spain. Everything closes by 2pm for what I was wanting to do so it would have been a waste of time. So I took my ticket and went home, thinking I could just use the same ticket on Tuesday.

But NO! When I got to the bus on Tuesday morning, the ticket was for 10 AM and I was trying to board the 9 AM bus. This was not meant to be. The bus driver had already torn my 10,40 euro ticket so I could not get a refund — $13 wasted. I had to go buy another 10,40 euro ticket for the 9 AM bus and in a hurry (thankfully there was no cola!) I also discovered that on Monday, when I looked at the bus schedule, it was for a different bus company! Roger had been right — the company I had bought a ticket from did have buses that left every thirty minutes for Bilbao and all I would have had to do was wait just a few more minutes. Duh! Qué será, será.

Back to Tuesday. Tuesday was to be a full day: Meet the teachers at my school (I had no appointment but I wanted to at least introduce myself to them), get my appointment for my NIE (Número de Identificación Extranjera), open a bank account, and get a telephone. Pues, si. When I went to the bank, they told me they would charge me 6 euros each month with only my passport but with my NIE, it would be free. So I decided to wait and go get my NIE. By the time I reached the Comisaría de Policía Nacional, they were closed, by 5 minutes, and wouldn´t allow me to even make an appointment. And, of course, you have to make the appointment in person. Which is all well and good, because I later found out that I need to have my permanent address in order to apply for the NIE.

Mi amigo that accompanied me Tuesday helped me navigate the city. Thankfully, with his help and guidance, I was able to find everything I needed to find and he helped me relax when my frustration level was high. He was also quite helpful in translating at the bank and asking the right questions when I couldn´t think to ask them. The whole time I thought I should open my bank account and secure a phone in Bilbao and Iacob assured me that I could do it all in San Sebastian, because there would be branches in both cities. So we parted company, knowing the only things I accomplished that day were meeting the teachers at my new colegio and enjoying spending some time with Iacob, the faithful friend.

Day Three. NIE and  Telephone. So, Iacob assured me that I could apply for my NIE in San Sebastián, because there is a Comisaría de Policía Nacional here as well. So I woke up early this morning to go (I wanted to be able to get my cita for the same day). I arrived at 930, right on time (Spanish time, that is) and got my number. I only waited a few minutes before being called to the desk and the lady who helped me was so very kind. Once she entered my passport number in the computer she told me that she couldn´t help me, that I had to go to Bilbao for my NIE. She also told me that I had to have a permanent domicilio (residence) before applying. AY! Dios Mío. Although I was unable to secure the NIE, I did obtain valuable information. And at little cost because the police station is only three blocks from Roger´s piso.

Next challenge: telephone. So I brought an unlocked Smartphone with me (thanks, brother!) All I need is a SIM card and a plan. Should be easy enough. I talked with a store, decided on a plan and she asked for my passport and the always necessary — you guessed it — NIE. Can´t have a contract without an NIE. I thought I was doomed because how can I look for a place to live without a phone? And how can I get an NIE without a place to live? And how can I get a bank account without an NIE? You see, a vicious circle. Catch-22.

Yes, Roger has a phone, but phones work differently here than in the States. When you place a call, it costs 15 centavos to start the call and 8 centavos for each minute that you talk. It costs nothing to receive a call. So, no I am not going to run up Roger´s phone bill. But the clerk at the Vodaphone store came up with a solution for me. I don´t need an NIE for a pre-paid card. So I opted for that — it will suffice for the moment. It feels good to be somewhat connected again. I am still trying to figure out how to use all the apps for free texting-calling internationally, but I am sure we will figure it out.

So tomorrow, for day four, Thursday, I am off to Bilbao for the first steps I need for the NIE: search for a place to live and make the appointment for the NIE. Wish me luck!

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