Friday, November 30, 2007

The Tale of the NIE

So I spoke to the lawyer who so miraculously got me through the initial NIE process in Madrid in under an hour and she told me that, in order to leave the country (or, more importantly, in order to return) between now and when my new resident card arrives, I would need to file an Autorizacion de Regreso. Authorization to Return. Very important, as I have to be in London on Friday for meetings and then in Germany for my birthday and then in Switzerland for Christmas. Okay, no sweat.

She also told me that I should go to the Comisaria (the police station) where I would find a line that should last no longer than 15 minutes for exactly this type of request. 15 minutes? Sounds too good to be true. And it was.

I arrived at the Comisaria in Barcelona at 9am without my trusty lawyer and went right up to the police officer at the entrance and explained the story: I am already processing in Madrid, I just need the Autorizacion, I've already been fingerprinted, and there should supposedly be a separate line for this sort of thing. Nope, he directed me to the regular line, the one I spent 7 hours in back in Sept 2006, and assured me it wouldn't be more than an hour.

So I got my number and waited. An hour. Then two. Three. Then a bit more... good thing I brought a book! Finally my number was called and I went to the window knowing that it should only take about 30 seconds to get everything done and go to the office. But when I explained what I needed, the woman told me I'd been waiting in the wrong place all this time and she couldn't do anything for me. Unlike in Madrid, where all these offices are under one roof, in Barcelona they are spread around town.

Hopped on the scooter and headed down to the port, and the office of the Extranjeria. Not before I had some words with the man who told me to wait in that line for over two hours, mind you. When I got to the next office, a very kind guard at the door listened to my plight and said he'd walk me through everything as long as I first moved my illegally parked scooter so it wouldn't get towed. How kind!

That done, he told me the following: Go to the next door, fill out a form. Make some copies of your resident card around the corner. Go to the bank across the street. Pay 5.67 euros in taxes. Get a stamp on your paper. Come back. Wait in line.

So I was off like a shot, because it was nearing 2pm, that dreaded time when all banks and most offices in Spain close. Got my copies, got my form, ran across the street to the bank. There were three in a row. The first one closed at 1pm. What?! At the second one a man entered just ahead of me and allowed the door to close behind him before I could grab it. Locked. Closed at 1:30 and it was exactly 1:30! He looked at me through the glass door and shrugged. Hopefully he tripped on something or stubbed his toe later that day.

At the third bank I was relieved to see they actually stayed open until 2:30. I got in the long line to pay my taxes and finally got to the front, where the man asked if I had a copy of the form. I responded flatly that I had been given one form at the office and they just said to bring it to the bank. He responded - more flatly, if that's even possible - that I needed another copy. Fine. Ran outside and around the corner where I had remembered spotting another copy shop. (You get very good at remembering where copy shops are in moments like these. I'm sure every immigrant can tell you all the best copy shops around the major government offices.)

I made five copies. Of everything. Just to be safe. And then ran back to the bank, waited in line, paid my taxes, left a copy, got a stamp on the paper, and ran back across the street to the Extranjeria, where I was given another number and told to sit and wait. Nearly an hour later, I walked out with a beautiful piece of paper that says I'm allowed to leave and reenter the country as desired between now and February 10, by which time I should have my renewed resident card in hand. Good thing, too... because it turned out I needed it two days later in London. But that's another story altogether....

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I apologize for not having written all week, but I can guarantee you that I have been through plenty of blog-worthy experiences since Sunday, including but not limited to:
  • A surprise farewell party for an American guy hosted by an Indian girl at an Indian restaurant wherein a dozen Brazilian girls danced an Indian dance.
  • Another surprise party the following night (Monday) for a Portuguese friend, hosted by his crazy (and I mean that in the best possible way) wife at a fondue place in Gracia
  • Six full hours of my Tuesday and my life lost to what is hopefully the final stage of my whirlwind bureaucracy tour 2007. A full post will be dedicated to that, fear not.
  • One of my oldest friends from San Diego but who is Italian by birth and heritage but now lives in Houston was in town the last two days with his wife and two geologist friends. (Yes, I was nerdy as a child, and continue to be.) Resulting in two straight nights of tapas and paella and alcohol consumption. And Champions League watching.
  • Tomorrow's trip to London for lots of meetings all day.... to be capped properly with a raging party for a crazy Dane.
  • This weekend.... which promises more birthday parties and more paella back in Barcelona
I promise... it won't be a boring post!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Very Thankful Indeed

Despite the fact that I didn't have Thursday or Friday off from work, I celebrated Thanksgiving nonetheless (not once but twice!) with a dinner on Thursday night at Calatrava and the annual IESE Thanksgiving on Saturday. No MC-ing or singing this year, just gorging and drinking... and that's just fine, thanks!

I'm extremely thankful for the following:

- My family, with whom I wish I could have spent this weekend.
- Barcelona, which was just so sunny and awesome and perfect today.
- My cool little flat with the incredible view all the way to the water on one side and Tibidabo on the other.
- Calatrava.
- My moto! I love you moto!
- My health, which, despite a few instances of food poisoning, has been remarkably good this year.
- Soccer. I will always be thankful for soccer.
- France, for the production of Frenchies. (Yes, a very un-American sentiment on a very American holiday weekend. I know.)
- Ski season, which is just around the corner.
- Grieg's 1st Piano Concerto, which I'm listening to right now and which just makes me so AMPED. Particularly the 3rd movement.
- Friends who know how to cook turkey.
- A pretty dope job and cool people to work with.
- 80s music, which gets me amped when I'm not listening to Grieg. Like this old Prince song, "When You Were Mine" that just came on! YESSSSSS.
- Having nearly made it to another birthday. I'm getting old!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


This morning I woke up at 6am to catch an early flight to Madrid in order to (supposedly) finalize my work permit paperwork. My flight was delayed, so I was late getting to the office in Madrid, but fortunately everything worked out okay. I squared away all my papers and went to some building which is one part police headquarters and two parts bureaucracy central. A huge line had already formed outside... and it was 10 degrees Celcius today.

Fortunately a woman was there to meet me. A lawyer! Hooray! She convinced the police that we should be allowed to skip the queue and after my shortest-ever wait in line, I was fingerprinted and stamped and apparently ready to go. Of course, while we were waiting, she noticed a few discrepancies in my paperwork... The company put Madrid as my residence on one document, but of course I empadronamiento'd myself in Barcelona, where I live. But, lucky me, she is friends with everyone in that building and managed to convince the woman wielding the stamp to start processing my paperwork and promised she'd be back with an updated version of that document saying I live in BOTH Barcelona and Madrid. Proof that I'm in two places at once. How cool is that?

And now the catch. I'm due in London a week from Friday for meetings. And in Munich with the Calatrava Guapos in 2 weeks for my birthday. But, contrary to what I requested, the Spanish consul in NYC only gave me a single entry visa. So I can leave Spain, but I can't get back in. And apparently it could take TWO MONTHS before I can go anywhere. Um, hello? If nothing else, Christmas is only 6 weeks away, and of course we're going to a non-EU country... Switzerland.

I think it was around when I momentarily stopped breathing that she hastily mentioned, "but I'm sure it'll be fine. You'll probably have it by Friday." Hmm. Two days is very different from two months. Don't you love how Spaniards seem to enjoy toying with your emotions?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Transformers on the Prowl

Having spent my last two birthdays with my Calatrava flatmates (even though they were in NYC last year for my birthday) I decided I didn't want to do anything any different this year. I need my guapos around me for my birthday.

So I sent an email to some of the usual suspects a couple months ago, knowing how quickly schedules fill up now that we're no longer students and all living in different countries. The executive leisure committee made a quick decision and Munich was chosen as our destination. Fine by me, since despite spending hours upon hours in Munich airport, I've never actually seen the city.

Frenchy and I booked our tickets last week and I sent George a message on Skype to let him know. Here follows the conversation, proof that even after living together for two years, and then apart for six months, you can still have a good old Calatrava-style miscommunication.

[13:10:40]Noelle says: finally i bought my tix for munich :)
[13:11:45] George Kuruvilla says: yeah!
[13:11:55] George Kuruvilla says: so at what time do u land in Zermany?
[13:12:01] Noelle says: on thursday
[13:12:04] Noelle says: 13.45
[13:12:06] Noelle says: :)
[13:12:13] Noelle says: we leave sunday at 16.20
[13:12:19] Noelle says: so an hour and a half before you :(
[13:12:23] Noelle says: but it was the best we could do
[13:13:34] George Kuruvilla says: vale venga
[13:13:49] George Kuruvilla says: i will instruct quentin too hook up girls for me in advance on thurs evening then
[13:14:24] Noelle says: yes, we will be on the prowl ;)
[13:15:59] George Kuruvilla says: prowl?
[13:16:02] George Kuruvilla says: what's that?
[13:16:13] Noelle says: hmm
[13:16:17] Noelle says: what cats do
[13:16:19] Noelle says: when they are hunting
[13:16:34] George Kuruvilla says: if u google it i find robot images
[13:16:39] Noelle says: ?
[13:16:44] Noelle says: really???
[13:16:54] George Kuruvilla says:
[13:17:16] Noelle says: it´s true! me too!
[13:17:21] George Kuruvilla says: :)
[13:17:26] Noelle says: transformers
[13:17:40] George Kuruvilla says: ah ok so u will be two transformers
[13:17:43] Noelle says: yes
[13:17:46] Noelle says: we will be transformers
[13:17:48] George Kuruvilla says: i will come dressed up like power rangers
[13:17:52] Noelle says: this is how confusion starts

I promise photos of us dressed up like Transformers and Power Rangers at the Christmas Market in Munich will follow in about 3 weeks...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


It dawned on me yesterday in the middle of my work day that one of my favorite words in Spanish is "estupendo." I love the way it sounds, the manner in which it is used, and also the fact that it actually has the "e" in front in reality, unlike other words such as "escooter" and "espaguettis" which have a silent "e" in writing but a very loud "e" in pronunciation.

Another phrase I like is "estoy instalandome..." I'm installing myself back in Barcelona. It sounds weird in English, but in Spanish for some reason the idea of installing myself sounds perfectly natural and appropriate. So please forgive my lack of posting of late... I've been busy instalandome, and I'm getting there slowly but surely.

A phrase I like in English is "I have no complaints," and it's one I've been using a lot in the past week and a half. The weather is beautiful, my apartment rocks, my job seems to get cooler by the day, my colleagues are really nice, and I'm living in the same city, time zone, country, continent, and hemisphere as Frenchy for the first time in nearly five months. Even Spanish bureaucracy has been shockingly easy. I got a social security number in a total of about 12 minutes last week. And I re-empadronamiento'd myself (registered at my new address) in a grand total of 15 minutes.

Maybe THIS is what I get in return for all my crappy travel karma! And I tell you, I'll take it!

Monday, November 05, 2007

New Moon On Monday

No, I didn't end up mooning anyone in the office on my first day at my new post in Barcelona because MY CLOTHES ARRIVED LAST NIGHT! Woo hoo!

All three bags appeared, intact, delivered by a man with an elegantly uncombed mullet and an equally ravishing yet rather uncouth beard. Okay, I guess I was really tired at that point.

Just a quick one to say I'm no longer without clothing, my first day at work in Barcelona nice and chill (as one hopes on a first day) and the rest of the week looks to be very interesting. I'm looking forward to what the future will bring.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Skateboard Incident

I am writing this now from bed in Barcelona, under the covers because I have no clothes. But I'm way ahead of myself...

I checked in for my flight yesterday afternoon at JFK and everything was smooth sailing. After debating whether to carry my longboard (skateboard) on the plane or mail it to myself, I figured it'd be safer to bring it with me since it might never arrive in BCN or be destroyed en route. The check-in lady told me I could bring it with me, and that was that. I spent a luxurious hour in the British Airways lounge before boarding my Iberia flight to Madrid.

First a word about Iberia. I should have taken a photo of the inside of the cabin because, despite the fancy seats and the fact that this airbus was clearly brand new, it still felt like the 70s with their old school brown and orange motif. Maybe that's why I didn't sleep well last night... for anyone who has ever traveled with me, you know this is an oddity. I'm usually asleep not only before the plane takes off, but before my seat mates have even managed to sit down.

Anyway, all was well. The food was surprisingly good, we left right on time, the staff was nice. The only annoying thing was the guy next to me who couldn't stop playing with his motorized seat, which caused my seat to vibrate every few minutes, usually after I'd just drifted off to sleep. But I digress.

We got to Madrid right on time at 7:15 am and all I had to do was go to my next gate in time to board my 8:40 flight to Barcelona. Piece of cake! Until I got to security, where I was told I couldn't bring my skateboard on the plane. After a moment of discussion, I was allowed to proceed through security, where I was told by another person that my options were the following: 1, leave the board and it will be destroyed (god forbid!) or 2, go through immigration, get a new ticket because I'd surely miss my flight, check my skateboard, and get on a later flight. So I took option 2.

First I passed through immigration, which I would've done normally in BCN, and which took about 20 minutes. Then a train to a different terminal. Then I had to go downstairs 4 flights and then back upstairs 3 to get to check-in. At check-in they told me my flight had just closed (it was now 8:10 and boarding started at 8) and they couldn't check my skateboard. So they sent me back downstairs to collect ALL my bags, and bring them back up to be rechecked on my new flight.

My bags never appeared and I spent ten minutes looking for someone who worked there . Finally I found a desk and the woman there told me that my bags didn't appear because the people upstairs are idiots and shouldn't have sent me downstairs at all... the bags had been pulled from my flight but would automatically be put on my next flight unless I had specifically requested to stop traveling in Madrid.

Back upstairs again, where I went back to check-in and explained everything again to a different agent. He checked me in for an 11:30 flight, but didn't have a box for my skateboard. 5 euros and 10 minutes later, I returned to him with my plastic-wrapped skateboard (why are Spanish people so obsessed with plastic wrapping their stuff? They are like spiders) and he gave me a new ticket and walked with me to another area because the skateboard was slightly too big to go in a plastic bin on the belt. So we went to another HUGE belt and put my poor little skateboard on there, where it dropped into nothingness and as I mouthed a silent prayer for its arrival in one piece.

With three hours to kill, I went to the Sala VIP (pronounced "beep") and had some orange juice and snacks and checked my email. At 11 I boarded my flight to Barcelona, which arrived more or less on time at 12:45. Everything seemed to take forever: the drive to the gate, the arrival of the bus, the turning on of the bus, the actual movement of the bus toward the terminal... probably because I really needed to use the ladies room and also because I was so tired of traveling after 24 hours.

We finally arrived at baggage claim and after racing out of the bathroom I ran to the claim area for my flight. My skateboard appeared. In one piece! And.... that's it. My three bags holding four month's worth of my belongings and, more importantly, all my work clothes for 9am tomorrow morning never appeared. And so that's how I came to spend another 20 minutes of my life explaining the story in Spanish to yet another Iberia employee, who promised my bags would be on the 3pm flight and would be delivered to me. Five hours later, and I'm still waiting, but at least I received a text from the airline saying that my bags had indeed arrived and would be delivered to me this afternoon. (Does 8pm count as afternoon?)

And now for the most important question. Is nudity a good excuse for missing your first day of work at your new office? Surely it's better than "I'm sick" or some other such feeble excuse... Either way, I'm definitely riding my skateboard to work tomorrow.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Every Cake You Bake

When I was 4 or 5, I had three favorite songs and, thus, three favorite artists. "Our House" by Madness (a song my mom hates to this day because apparently I sang it in the car incessantly), "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson, and "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. Those are still among my all-time favorite songs (and artists) and while I never thought I'd get to see any of them live, the one I least expected to see was the Police.

But my luck changed last year when they announced they were getting back together for a world tour. I knew I had to be there, and I had my sights set on Sept 27 in Barcelona. Cut to several months later, and I'm in Boston when the Police are in Barcelona. And I'm in Barcelona when they're in Boston... so the only option was the show Nov 2 at Madison Square Garden. And I think I chose wisely.

I'd heard from various sources who saw them play at various venues that the concert was lacking. Kinda boring, not so impressive musically, etc. So I was really not expecting much, but even if I had been, I still would've been totally blown away last night. Maybe they've improved and learned to enjoy themselves more in the past month or two, or maybe they just really dug the MSG crowd. Whatever it was, they put on an amazing show that definitely belongs in my top ten concerts of all time list. Which already has 11....