Piso. Literally translated from Spanish as floor – it’s the word most commonly used for a flat here in Madrid. Apartamento is a long word to say when you talk as quickly as a Madrileño!
Our search for a piso has been perhaps the most nerve jangling, frustrating few weeks of my life. I can’t remember any time in the past when I felt more exhausted, alone, ignored, ignorant, confused, motivated/demotivated (!), defeated, helpless, out of my depth, lost or unfairly denied. Apologies for bringing the mood down! For two totally tedious and fruitless weeks I trawled the internet, contacted agents and viewed pisos all over Madrid. No success. Landlords turned us down worried about my low income. Estate agents seemingly preferred to respond to offers from Spanish speaking tenants. One piso went to a group of students a matter of seconds after I’d told the agent we wanted the place and he’d responded by saying ‘it goes to the first party to pay the deposit’ – the students were in the apartment at the time on the phone to parents trying to arrange a transfer of funds. So gutting.
At this point I must inject some much needed positivity and gratitude into the story. Without some unbelievably sacrificial, kind and patient friends (from our new Madrid church), I wouldn’t have been able to view a single piso, let alone contact an agent or owner formally or express any questions or interest when viewing the flat. A team of amazing people provided accommodation and help – making phone calls and sending emails (even before we arrived in Madrid) setting up viewings, making offers and negotiating rent costs and taking big chunks of time out of their, in most cases, working days to accompany me to viewings and translate/speak for me. Incredible! Talk about being part of a community – man, what awesome friends to have. I have to mention names: Kev and Ness, Caroline and Hannah, Tom Repton, Tom Lee, Geofree, Dave. If you ever meet/see Tom Repton be sure to shower him with kindness – Tom did nearly 40 hours each week trudging around town with me seeing pisos and translating. What a legend!
Back to the gloom and doom. By the end of the second week, time and money were ticking down – the threat of having to rent a place by the day or move into a hotel was looming large, with the Bartlett family (where we were staying as base) due back from holiday on September 5th and still no sign of progress for us securing a place to live. Lydia and the boys had arrived – it had looked like we would already have moved into a place when they came on August 31st, but two pisos had fallen through at the last minute, having looked very promising. Doing all the negotiating and back and forth with agents was exhausting – not just for us, but those helping us too. Firstly, agents here don’t respond straight away, so you never know when they are going to get back to you. Also, in Spain it seems that phone calls and online communications mean very little in terms of closing a deal. What counts is face time. Getting in a room with somebody always gives you the upper hand, so by September 3rd, we knew that when viewing an apartment we liked, we had to physically show them the money right there and then. On that Friday, we did just that when we saw a piso in Tetuán and ending up riding (semi-illegally…we won’t tell anyone if you don’t!) in the back of the agent’s car after the viewing, into the centre of the city, to put some money down as a guarantee. The guarantee would mean that until close of play, the other side of the weekend, on Monday, we would be assured of pole position for the piso.
Finally, on Monday, rushing straight from my first day of orientation for my language assistant program, I was in the estate agents’ office, with the piso owner, ready to sign a contract on a piso in Madrid. Phew!
From top left to right, down: Our new piso – lounge, Yohan’s bedroom, hallway, Plaza de Castilla (centre north of Madrid, a transport hub, 15 mins walk from piso), main bedroom, terrace, sunset view from the front our block over the mountains and park, which is 1 min walk – great for the boys!
Before we got to that point, a significant period in our lives took place with regards to our faith levels. The emotions we experienced (listed above), though they probably seem fairly dramatic, were normal. There was a very real chance during the darkest moments that the dream of living in Madrid would be over before it had begun. We would not have been able to afford any time staying in paid for accommodation whilst continuing the property hunt around my work hours. I might not have been earning enough as a basic salary to satisfy owners and agents that we could afford the rent. We couldn’t have stayed indefinitely in Madrid without a home. However, these emotions can easily get the better of you. If this had happened, our energy and enthusiasm for the search might have drained, making it impossible for us to find somewhere. The reason this didn’t happen is because of our faith in God. Not that we found it easy to believe that He had a perfect place for us in His timing, but that He was giving us the strength to get through each day and to keep going. I have looked deeper into the heart of God through what was a very difficult time, than ever before. We wept whilst trying to talk and sing about His goodness when our very survival in the place we just moved to was up for debate.
BUT – we are still here. God is very, very faithful. He knew where we would end up and answered many specific prayers for the kind of place we were after. So the adventure really begins now. The stories of His unceasing provision are already stacking up. We are extremely grateful.