It was Friday, May 14. The sign on the door of the Spanish consulate said, “No visa appointments on Fridays.”
“You have the email from the consulate, right?” I asked Michael. He pulled it up on his phone.
"All the documents are right; we can offer you an appointment on FRIDAY, MAY 14TH 2021 at 9.15AM. Please confirm your appointment answering this email,
“And you confirmed it, right?” I asked.
“Yes. But I didn’t get a response back. Maybe I should have called.”
“We’ll be fine,” I said, so grateful Michael had done this part of our Spanish visa application process. If I had done this part, I’d be second guessing myself over and over as we stood on the steps of the embassy on this warm, bright spring day.
A green-uniformed officer, gun at his hip, opened the glass door promptly at 9 am. Those ahead of us spoke with him in Spanish. He looked at a list to see if they were on it. One was let in. Three others, young men dressed in fashionable gym clothes and sneakers, were directed to a different sign on the door that indicated they had to send an email to someone. They read the sign and spoke kindly to the officer who patiently listened to them. One stepped aside to consult with his friend. The other pulled out his phone to call someone.
Michael and I were next. I let Michael do all the talking and wished I had studied enough Spanish to converse in the language. The officer consulted his list. We weren’t on it. “Christina Sanchez?” the officer asked, looking at me hopefully. “No,” I said, appreciating that he wanted to find me on that list while at the same time wondering how Rebecca Weston was anything close to Christina Sanchez. Michael showed him the email. The officer took out his own cell phone and snapped a picture of it. “I will check,” he said. A few minutes later he returned. “The person I need to ask will be here in fifteen or twenty minutes,” he said, apologetically. “Please wait here.” He went back inside.
Another woman arrived for her appointment and stood in line behind us. By now I had read all of the signs on the door including the one that indicated that if you had an appointment you should ring the bell. I encouraged her do so explaining, “We’re waiting.” She didn’t seem to be in a rush (or didn’t understand me?) and instead started a conversation with me. She was from Madrid and had lived in the US for 20 years. She was there to renew her passport.
“Where are you going to live in Spain?” she asked.
“Oviedo to start. And then Valencia.”
“Ohhhh. . . If you want to learn Spanish, I wouldn’t go to Valencia. They speak Valenciano there.” I knew this and had heard differing opinions as to how much Valenciano was actually spoken and to what extent I’d be able to learn it. I thanked her and again encouraged her to ring the bell, not wanting her to miss her appointment. When she did, the same officer came out. Turns out I had just met Christina Sanchez. I heard her mention the “Americanos” to the officer. I imagined she was joking with him about us or something, but before she walked through the glass door she said, “I asked him about you and he said you still need to wait.” Her kindness was touching.
I encouraged the next visitor to ring the bell. This time the officer told us it would be five more minutes. He apologized. I was just thinking, “At least he’s not coming out to tell us to leave.”
Ten minutes later, a woman in flowing pants and flats came out the door with the officer. Michael went through his explanation again. She asked to see the email herself. “Ah,” she said. “Okay.” She said something to the officer and went back inside. The officer said, “You can come in.” Woohoo!!
At a small desk just inside the door we filled out a form indicating we hadn’t been in contact with anyone with Covid, nor did we have any symptoms. The officer preceded us and now we could see him behind another set of glass doors. I looked at the small conveyor belt and pointed to my bag. He shook his head no. Maybe I didn’t look suspicious enough to have my bag scanned? We went through a metal detector. It beeped and showed red, but he let us through anyway and pointed us to the waiting area.
Flowing Pants Woman came out to see us, took our documents, and said she’d review them and come get us. We watched as a group of four stood laughing and chatting in Spanish with a consulate employee as they filled out forms on a table. Once they left, I went to look at the forms. “They’re voting,” I told Michael. “Madrid is having elections right now.” I wanted to take a copy of the candidate information forms so I could use them to study Spanish, but didn’t want to get into any trouble. . .
Ten minutes later Flowing Pants Woman returned. “Follow me,” she said. We got to a counter that looked like one at a bank. She pointed to the corner spot and went through a door so that she could stand behind the plastic partition. “This is the residence form,” she said, sliding a document under the partition towards me. “You need to sign here, Rebecca.” She patiently explained that she would send the information on to Valencia. “You should get your passports with the visa back in about four weeks.” We asked her some questions about the process which she kindly and patiently answered. “Oviedo? That’s my city!” she said. Michael asked her name. “If you have any other questions, just send them to the general email with my name on it and they’ll come to me.” We signed our forms and were finished.
As we walked out through the glass doors the officer called out to us to be sure everything worked out okay. We smiled and thanked him.
Outside in the fresh air we removed our masks and gave each other big smiles. I felt lighter. “We did it!” Michael said. I laughed. I couldn’t believe it.
“What were you thinking when we were waiting outside?” Michael asked.
“I was looking at the guys that came to cut the grass. The statue they had out front. I read all signs on the door–”
“You weren’t thinking that we weren’t going to get in?”
“I wasn’t letting myself think that. So I specifically focused on all the details around us.”
“I was going back over everything,” Michael said, “wondering if I made a mistake somewhere. I was nervous.”
But it all worked out. Just a month after we’d started gathering our documents together here we were, accepted by the consulate, and due to receive our visa in another month!