|We love Spain|
I am wild about Spain. I love it here, more than I ever imagined. But much to my surprise, Todd is just as enthusiastic. As we were going into our third year here, he turned to me one day and said, “Let’s stay. Let’s get the visas going.” Retirement on the brain, Todd was eager to try out this laid-back Spanish lifestyle I’d been enjoying.
|Spain is fun|
I was ecstatic. Having missed more than 8 months of our three years here due to my mom’s illness, I was not ready to go home.
Oh, Spain. Land of flamenco and bullfighting…and bureaucracy. I had not had much to do with Spanish officialdom other than the security office on base and our run-in with the police on our first day in Puerto. Much to my chagrin and absolute disbelief, I kept being told that to get our visas, we had to return to the U.S. “But all of the paperwork gets sent to Cádiz for approval!” I objected. “That’s 20 minutes across the bay!" YES. "You mean I have to fly all the way to New York ?” YES. “To turn in our papers in order for them to be sent to Cádiz for approval?” YES. “Isn’t there some way I can turn them directly in to Cádiz?” NO.
|Not even military might helped me turn in my paperwork to Cádiz|
I tried. I really, really tried. I talked to everyone I knew, including several lawyers, the immigrant advocates, the base, and several people who’d been through the process. I sent a lawyer friend to Cádiz to talk to the jefe (boss man) of the Extranjeria (where all the extranjeros have to go—us foreigners, even though I don’t feel foreign here!). My Spanish military captain friend talked to the admiral of the base, who talked to the big cheeses in Madrid. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. The answer was always the same. You have to go to the U.S..
|Ignacio even put on his best uniform|
So I gave up and made my appointment. We pulled together all our documents, checked them thoroughly with the jefe de Extrajeria (now our friend), and booked one last military-sponsored trip to the States. Taking advantage of this forced trip, we decided to do a whirlwind tour through the East Coast, stopping in the Blue Ridge Mountains to see Todd’s aunt and uncle, passing through Washington, D.C. to pick up the infamous Hague Apostille (don’t ask) for our marriage certificate, traipsing down memory lane in Annapolis for a day (where Todd and I met and fell in love), swinging by New York for our appointment and to see some of the Big Apple, and then visiting for a few days with Todd’s brother Mark up in Boston before zipping back down through New York to pick up the visa and head out on a military flight out of New Jersey.
On a side note: The week before we left, just to make things more interesting, the bunny that Sasha had just gotten...added five more bunnies to our household. Sigh.
|You've got to be kidding|
We arrived in the Blue Ridge late in the autumn afternoon, the hills ablaze with fall colors. Unfortunately, Todd had misread his aunt’s email; she was arriving the NEXT DAY! After several minutes of scolding (we had driven several hours out of our way to make this happen), we had to move towards DC due to our tight schedule. We're sorry, Aunt Diane and Uncle Ron!
|Beautiful Blue Ridge|
It was our kids’ first trip to the Capital. I love this city. Truly love it. Todd and I lived here from 1988 to 1993, and while going to school in Annapolis both he and I came here a lot. It is multi-faceted and beautiful, spacious and in parts a little gritty, impressive and full of character.
|It looks just like the penny!|
|A shocking piece of history|
|Holding up the Washington Monument|
The girls loved the monuments, and we had dinner with my friend Chrystal and her husband William, who was about Tia’s age when I was her teacher her at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) in Anacostia. Chrystal is now a PAC nurse, and we had a good time reminiscing about “Our Little Prison Home” (as OLPH was affectionately known).
Todd started complaining about his feet. At first he just started walking slowly, then more slowly, then started talking about gout. He’d had a mild attack of gout during the summer, and one previously on the ship a number of years ago. Now things were looking serious. But he put on his game face and slogged through the touring, even enjoying lunch with friend Pete Fettner.
|Soup kitchen--a good history lesson|
|Glamming in front of the White House|
Annapolis, capital of the state of Maryland and home to St. John’s College, was rainy and cool, perfect fall weather. We made it to the campus and around the downtown, but then Todd started looking up which prescriptions he needed for gout. This was getting very serious now. Aspirin, dehydration, lengthy immobilization (on the plane), beer, heavy protein (think jamón), and lots of walking—all of which Todd had experienced in the past week—are all known contributors to a gout attack. Annapolis was lovely, but we were all a little too preoccupied to really enjoy it.
|Welcome to Tia and Sasha's future college|
|Todd and I waltzed here together...how romantic|
Off to New York. By the time we arrived at the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guard, and Airmen’s Club where we were staying, Todd’s big toe was on fire. “I’ve never had pain like this—this is the worst I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “Look!” Tia pointed. “Daddy, you can ride up the chair going up the staircase!” Too proud to do so, Todd collapsed on the bed in our 4th-floor dorm room and sent me off to the pharmacy. Then, not wanting to disappoint the girls, we bought tickets for the double-decker tour bus, determined to see at least a little of the Big Apple.
|Rainy New York|
|Rain won't stop us...but gout might|
The next day, the day of our visa appointment, Todd could not put his foot into his shoe. We limped off to a taxi and to the Consulate. In less than two hours we were done; all had gone swimmingly and we were told to return in several days to pick up the visa, so we got back on the tour bus before heading to Boston.
|A new World Trade Center: Proud to be an American|
In Boston Todd sequestered himself on the couch and barely moved the whole three days. I went to the thrift shop in search of old slippers to cut up to get around his swollen toe. We fed him sour cherry juice and avoided all protein, but still his toe formed a white disgusting gouty tofus that stretched the skin to the breaking point. Even so, we enjoyed seeing Mark and Bridget, and Tia and Sasha were in heaven surrounded by their five cousins. We got in a good visit with Todd’s mom Linda, who lives downstairs in the basement apartment of Mark’s house, and were SO sad to leave all too early.
|Whoah...that's a lot of cousins|
|Brothers with bed-head|
Our visas were ready. We swung back through New York and picked them up with no problem and stopped to see the Statue of Liberty just for good measure. Then it was off to New Jersey to try to catch a Space-A flight back to Spain.
|Peace to the NY skyline|
We were in luck. We caught a flight that day directly to Rota, an exciting ride in a C-17 full of bullets being air-dropped to help fight ISIS in Syria. Sasha won 20 euros from Todd by calculating how many bullets there were (17 pallets with 88 boxes per pallet, and 800 bullets per box).
Visa accomplished! !ÓLE!
|Anyone want a bunny?|