Thursday, February 10, 2011


We all get frustrated – no matter where we live. Things don’t go right, you jump thru hoops, you feel that no one gets what your needs are and communication is nil. It happens to us all. But have it happen to you in a foreign country.

I’ve been lucky so far. Yes, lucky. The first few months here were really rough and very frustrating. My inability to communicate left me feeling helpless a lot of the time. For the most part time has healed all wounds and overall this feeling has passed. I still have helpless moments but they aren’t for the small things anymore… or so I thought.

For the last few weeks our cable and internet have been failing us on a regular basis. To the point where when it goes back on we do an excited dance (ok, maybe we don’t dance but we make a big deal of it nonetheless). Over the last year it might go out for an hour, maybe 2 but no more. We just took this as part of living in Spain – just like the power goes out when we use our dryer with any other major (or minor) appliance. There was this nagging feeling that I had that eventually our outages would increase and in fact they did. To times where it would be out for a half of a day and even once, an entire day.

But this week takes the cake. Josh is away in the States and I'm here on my own.  It is now Thursday mid day and I have been without a phone, internet or cable since when I woke up at 6:30 Tuesday morning. Who knew we were so reliant on these things til we don’t have them right? And at home I’d make the frustrating (there’s that word again – hear that utilities – frustrating!) call to Comcast and while I’d be on hold FOREVER, I’d finally get someone and most likely would have someone out there the next day or have someone walk me thru the steps to get everything back online.

So what do you do when you can’t speak the language (well)? My fear has become a reality – it was time to call the utility company. Now if you think the utilities are bad in the US, I’ve heard horror stories about them here. And that only made me even more ambivalent and anxious. So I waited… and waited. I let all of Tuesday pass hoping that the internet would go back on. No luck. Keep in mind that like most cell phones in the US, my Spanish cell phone cannot call outside Europe (and honestly I haven’t had it that long that I haven’t used it outside of Spain yet either), something I need to fix! So ALL of my communication abilities are cut off except email via phone.

I was sick Tuesday night so I took it as a sign that perhaps I shouldn’t be working and I should be sleeping. Though I did try to call them several times with no luck – if my interpretation was right (and it probably isn’t) the message said there is no one here to help you please call back in 10 minutes and it hung up (I tried for an hour and kept getting this message). By Wednesday morning I was feeling slightly better but still a little ragged – not really well enough to tackle the telecommunications company but alas someone needed to. I tried the number again and my frustration grew and once again the same message.

I dug thru some old files hidden away and found an old Telefonica bill. Whew it had a number… oh but that number you need to call from a Telefonica phone and mine doesn’t work (apparently they don’t take that into account). But they had a store front listed about a mile from me and it was on my way to the school where I needed to be at 1 (that’s a whole other story). Fingers crossed I set out to the store only to find it was a MoviStar which is their mobile phone unit. But I went in anyways hoping they could guide me in the right direction…

And they did. The guy who worked with me spoke some English though I was able to communicate my problem effectively in Spanish (It’s not that I can’t speak Spanish, I can’t do it on the phone – for some reason I really need to do it in person) and so between the two of us we figured out the problem and he called their technical service. But again frustration sets in… he gave them my mobile number and told me that they would call me that night or on Thursday.

Great… so they are going to CALL me. Remember what I just said, I’m good in person but on the phone I’m crap. Wednesday night passed and I finally relented and updated the money on my internet USB so I could at least have some access, after all I hadn’t done any work other than responding to emails using my email on my phone and I had other things I needed to get done as well.  

This morning I sent an email to Elise who works with Josh.  He suggested it since she works in HR and handles issues for the expats as well - yes, I'm an expat but after more than a year I really didn't want to have to rely on outside help so to speak.  I really wanted to do this on my own if I could for my own sake of pride.  But this morning when the internet still didn't work I sucked up my pride and sent Elise an email essentially begging her to call Telefonica for me.

Much to my surprise this morning, they did call. And spoke to me in rapid fire Spanish despite my protests to slow down. I was pretty sure they were coming to my house within a ½ hr – at 10:30. 10:30 comes and goes and my frustration gets all the worse. I have a vet appointment for Jake at 11:30 and as 11 grows closer I finally call up and reschedule it for tomorrow because I can’t take a chance that I won’t be here and they show up.  I emailed Elise and told her I was all set - does it count that I emailed her for help when I actually ended up doing it myself??

Finally around 11 I get a call again in Spanish and again asking me if my phone works and I have to explain that nothing works. He finally seems to sense my inability to mime over the phone and switches to some broken English (which is by far better than my broken Spanish) and asks if he can come by this morning between 11 and 12 (it’s already 11 so not sure how he was going to do that). Honestly I almost wept with joy. Seriously I had tears in my eyes. Have you ever gotten so frustrated that just hearing the words “I am going to help you” are the sweetest words you have ever heard?

But the guy that showed up was not my English speaking friend. He spoke only Spanish. But that to me is manageable. I have become the queen of pantomime – I used to be terrible at games like charades but now I’d kick your ass. And I’ve got my trusty iPhone with translation apps that I can use to assist me if necessary but for the most part the tech just does what he needs to do in order to get my stuff working again! And you know what, within 15 minutes he had everything working!!!! My life is back to “normal” and I never thought I’d be so happy to have my lines of communication open again!

Take that Barcelona - I'm taking back my internet (and phone and cable)! 


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