Crikey MUm - posted on 06/03/2012 ( no moms have responded yet )
You've almost made it to Rota! Soon, your feet will be touching down on Spanish soil, the calm clean air will surround you and as you make your way to the 'very' small airport terminal, you will see, 'Welcome to Rota, Spain' set high on the terminal tower, prompting your very first (am I allowed to take this) picture of Spain. You will look around and the serenity and openness will make you feel like you are in some small country town in the middle of America...not Rota, Spain, the Gateway to the Mediterranean.
But, I'm not even there yet and when I do get there, then what? Where do I go? Who will meet me at the airport? Where will I stay? How will I get a drivers license? Can I even drive in Spain? Who am I?
Hold up there Panicky Pete, put the paper bag down and breath. Let's just take a few steps backwards, to say, when you first get your orders to Rota, Spain!
CONTACT YOUR SPONSOR!
Your sponsor is the absolute key to your first impression of Rota, Spain! Make sure that you contact your sponsor or new command upon confirmation of your orders. Your sponsor will arrange your temporary housing or Navy Lodge stay, your furniture, amenities, transportation, and provide you with an overview of the base, and the what things you need to do next...of which there are plenty of!
If efficient (we were lucky) he or she will be eagerly waiting for you inside the terminal, and will have already greeted you during your 20 minute cattle call completion of the necessary entry process (show passports, sponsor's orders including all dependents). Your luggage will arrive a few minutes later in the same area (I did say, 'very small' airport), at which time your sponsor will drive you, your family, your two dogs, a cat, and copious amounts of luggage to the prearranged (by sponsor) Temporary Housing or to the Navy Lodge, depending on availability and your family situation.
If you are staying in Temporary Housing, your sponsor will organize the necessary 'rent-a-furniture' (beds, sofa, TV) and basic items (pots/pans/utensils/shower curtains) to be delivered to temporary housing before your arrival. If you are staying at the Navy Lodge, these items already exist in the rooms.
NOTE: Temporary Housing does NOT provide linens (towels, pillows, shower curtains, blankets etc) for you! The last thing, I'm sure that you will want to or be able to do upon arrival is spend money on the same items you know will arrive in your household goods within a few weeks. Although Spain is renowned for it's warm weather (mostly) year round, the temperatures in December - April are rather cool, therefore consider packing blankets and pillows into your suitcases (we did) to not only save money upon arrival, but offer that homely feeling, given that you may be shacked up in temp housing for 30-45 days.
DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR?
Your current command will advise you on the required military shipping company and the specific details on shipping dates. The shipping company will require that you have your car cleaned inside and out, leaving ONLY the owners manual and spare tyre (if available) in the car. They will do a full inspection with you present, noting any scratches or dents and provide you with a signed copy of the report and additional company details (keep this).
NOTE: Your car will not be accepted if the tank reads over 1/4 full. Believe me and every cuss word under the sun that it is no fun, driving around for five hours attempting to empty the tank by doing endless drag racing starts, driving from Chesapeake to Newport News (three times), and still being a 'are you f*cking kidding me', smidgen over 1/4 full, ten minutes before a 5:00 pm deadline...NO FUN!!!
Once in Spain, you will receive a phone call advising that your car is ready for collection (that's a whole other blog post to follow), however, until then, I strongly suggest renting a matchbox car from Miguels (5 min outside Rota gate) or if you are a little nervous about going off base just yet, rent from the base airport terminal (approx $700 for one month rental). A rental will give you the freedom and flexibility to explore the base and surrounding areas, especially useful if you plan to look for housing off base.
We shipped our car the day before we flew to Spain and we were driving it approximately three weeks later on and off base with our temporary security pass which is easy to receive.
NOTE: You do NOT need a European drivers license to rent a car or drive in Spain, you're American or international license and/or passport is accepted, however as suggested, it is always beneficial to hold a current EU license. During ICR week you will study for and take the written Spanish drivers license test (no practical test required for a car license), and within a week or two will receive your fancy EU Drivers License.
Before you know it, you'll be honking at the Spanish drivers who cut you off at the roundabouts or just stop in the middle of the road to have a chat with friends while a long line of cars builds behind. Before you know it, someone will have backed into your car, opened their door onto yours, or scratched up the side, but, this is Spain and as you'll hear many a time, 'you have to expect that here'.