11 July, 2007

Where We're Living Now

We've been in our new apartment for about three weeks now and it's starting to feel like our own. We rented it furnished and that has been mostly a blessing but has sometimes proved to be a limitation as well. For example, we can't put any holes in the wall, so no nails and no pictures, etc. Fortunately, the woman who owns the apartment has great taste so it's been very livable.

The neighborhood we're in is terrific. We're half a block away from El Parque del Retiro, a tremendously cool place to have so close. The girls roller-blade, I run, Becca walks and there's endless people and dog-watching.

Mostly, I'll just post some pictures that show the street and the apartment. You'll notice how small the washer is. Maybe three pairs of jeans at a time, for example. And the dryer is a joke so we hang stuff on the drying rack...not very convenient and it means lots of ironing and groaning from Becca :-)

For more pictures of our apartment and neighborhood, please click on this album. It's only about half a dozen photos but does give you a sense of where we're living. http://picasaweb.google.com/bteaster/JuanDeMenaPhotos?authkey=37ZWBaF_0Dw

06 July, 2007

One more lesson learned

If you're going to get a haircut you should meet at least one of two conditions:
  • Speak the language the of the person who is actually wielding the scissors
  • You are comfortable with the fact that it's only hair and will grow back
The first haircut wasn't expensive, of course it wasn't that good of a haircut. The second one was but it made looking in the mirror not scary.

Fortunately, I meet the second criteria!

04 July, 2007

Things we're learning the hard/slow/expensive way

I've got a lot of catching up to do but thought I would just put some miscellaneous thoughts down to let you know that my silence hasn't been because we've not been busy:

  • You have to put a euro in most all carts (grocery, etc) and then you get it back when you bring the cart back and lock it up. Most carts are impossible to steer. And it's not uncommon for a homeless person to be hanging around the parking lot and offer to take back your cart and keep the euro.
  • You can't leave a key on the inside of the door and then unlock it from the outside. Thank god the porter in the building, Manuel, could explain what we needed to do and called a locksmith. That was an €80 education.
  • The fruteria across the street is a cool thing to have. The husband and wife have been running it for decades.
  • Only certain stores sell certain things. You cant buy a light bulb at all the El Corte Ingles (an amazing department store that's a cross between, Macy's/Target/Tom Thumb). Some sell chain saws...others only sporting goods. And it's a big deal that they're open the first Sunday of each month. They also deliver for only €6, which is one of Madrid's best bargains. Life would be impossible without them.
  • Everything takes longer. That's not all bad but it just does. Part of that is because we don't have a car. So we wait on the metro, or the bus, or we walk. Obviously, our lack of language skills adds another layer of complexity. We just had some friends from the US visit (more on that later) and they are impressed at how much we know. And I still feel mostly like a moron...all relative.
  • You have to pay an extra euro if you take the metro to the airport. You have to add it to your ticket in a separate machine and you need the ticket to open the turnstile. Lots of policia to make sure no one skates on the extra euro. OK if you're by yourself, harder with suitcases and kids in tow.
  • You have to have your ticket to exit the train station. No one told us that.
  • Walking through El Retiro to get to the metro stop to take the girls to their school is a delight. So far, and it is July, the mornings are cool and the sky is blue. a great way to start the day.
  • Some things seem arbitrary. I was able to take our wheeled grocery cart (empty) on the bus up to the store. When I tried to get back on the bus with it full, I got the finger wagging NO and had to walk the 20 blocks home. Again, no big deal but it just took longer.
  • Ordering pizza has been our most perilous task so far. There's a swanky neighborhood near our house called Salamanca. There's also the city of Salamanca about 200 km west of Madrid. When Becca tried to order pizza the first time, she called the pizza place 3 hours away...needless to say they don't deliver. We then tried Pizza Hut...what we ordered arrived on time but wasn't at all what we were expecting. Next time, she got what she ordered but it took 90 minutes (Pizza Hut is probably less than 3k away from our apartment) and was stone cold. This week, we wanted it delivered at 8pm...no deliveries till 8:30. Fortunately, we run little risk of starving to death :-)