Thursday, December 20, 2007

Surfacing and disappearing

Woah, now this has been quite something. I am not really feeling sick now, just cold and tired. Very very tired. I am logging 14 hours a night without trying too hard, alongside a good two naps a day. I am outsiesta-ing the Spanish. I am much better today, but my stamina is not what it should be. Groan.

Thank god the Xmas shopping is done. I can wrap later.

On to more exciting news, we are leaving tomorrow for two weeks in Seville with my family, including GM who comments here sometimes. We will be driving down, stopping to visit cousins, eat Paella in Valencia I hope, seeing beautiful sites on the way, we will be going to Granada to see the Alhambra, and we'll go to Cordoba to check it out as well. We will also cook and eat and hang out and and and....there is, however, neither a telephone nor internet at the place we are staying so I am going to be off the air until after Jan 6, or 5th I can't remember.

So

I may try and add to this later, depends on how tired I get today, and I don't know if I will have a chance to post tomorrow before we go.

If not, Bon Nadal tothom....

Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year while we're at it.

I hope it is kind to you.

Cheers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

SICK

AUUUuuuuuggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh.

headache, shivery and sweaty, my eyes hurt, my throat hurts....

weak and tired.

They took one look at me at school and sent me home.

I'm going to bed.

I don't know when I am going to be back on the air here...

We'll see.

'night.

Hope you're all doing well.

Monday, December 17, 2007

To the moon!

OMG what a day, Catalan class, Xmas shopping, Catalan oral practice, pick up the kids, do groceries,, painting class, then a end of season party in the local bar with the painting class, then more Catalan practice with another neighbour...this girls head is spinning, it's eleven thirty, I have to teach more classes every week now and probably give up the painting class and I am kinda bummed about that.

Time for bed.

Sorry for the poopy post,

OH! In Catalan class today, as an oral exercise we had to decide who would be the most likely candidate for an astronaut....yours truly got the nod!

Wooohooooo.


Oh again, and ever so slightly later....a dear friend whose birthday is today gave me a gift! On the weekend she went over to the boat yard where our beloved Oreneta is stored and took photos of her which made me almost cry with happiness....if you head over the her blog here you can see a couple of pics of our darling boat/home/love on the hard. She looks OK, a little gritty, but fine. Such a relief.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Waitresses

Table manners.

Now there is a boogey man if you ever heard of one.

They are brutally difficult to impart to kids. I wonder what the Queen did to her little bratlets? Then there are the cultural differences. Finally there are the more refined rules.

Once you get past chewing with your mouth closed, or eating with your elbows on the table (we still get armpits on the table from time to time), then there is the arcane and quite arbitrary rules about how to handle the utensils, and this is before you get to which one to use first. *tip* Start at the outside and work your way in. Always. I waitressed banquets for years and it was astonishing the number of people who didn't know that. If you aren't sure and the waitress doesn't look too much like a nasty witch, you can ask him or her too, believe me, they know.

Then there are the finer points.

Like at a dinner party when the person who sits next to you talks intently to someone either across the table or on their other side for the entire meal. R. U. D. E. RUDE!

This happened at the man's dinner the other night. I will grant, it was only for most of the dinner, and my language skills are not all that they could be making me less than an entirely enticing dinner companion, but still. I will also grant that one of the two participants was a Spanish speaker whose Catalan was probably as shaky as mine, so it was hard work for all involved. Manners weren't necessarily meant to be easy though. The woman beside me and the woman directly across from me talked intently and seriously about I know not what for the entire meal in Spanish. Ho hum.

It did mean that I got to talk to the man more, but he was also engaged in the conversation on his other side which was far enough away that I couldn't follow it. I also could hardly talk through the two women to the folks on their far side, so we were left with smiles and nods.

I have a story or three to tell from waitressing too. Some good, some bad. I waitressed one wedding that had 14 courses. We were practically family by the end and they made me sit down and eat dessert with them at the end of the meal.

Then there was another group that came in semi-regularly. They were the under 30 millionaires group. Something like that, and let me tell you, you don't get there based on manners alone. *gee willikers* They need to learn that you get nowhere (except maybe your first million) by making yourself look important by bugging the wait staff, or being obnoxious to them.

A cool group I waitressed was a bunch of businessmen and politicians from one of the G7 summits. I will not go into the various politics of globalisation, that is not the topic of this post, nor any of the other political hot potatoes that go along with it. I am talking table manners here folks. Let me tell you, these men had them. I will also point out that they were all men, or if there was a woman she completely escapes my attention. They were actually a very nice crowd to waitress for; courteous and polite. The only problem we had was that one of the underling brown-nosers wanted us to hand out cigars at the end. These guys wanted to hear the speaker not have us in the way trying to hand them an outdated idea that their doctors had forbidden.

The second most profoundly obnoxious group? Frats. OMG. Those little pimply peach fuzzed first years who thought that we would drop anything (including our pants) to simply know them. I am so sorry, but NOT. Gag puke gag. Rude and self-righteous and disgusting. The millionaires were worse though. And some of their women.

I dropped a ball of ice cream accidentally-on-purpose down the scooped back of one lady's dress. It must have dribbled it's icy sticky fingers everywhere.

You should be extra nice to waitresses at banquets. They don't get tips from individual clients, it's in the bill, so if your really horrid, you never know what will happen.

I was and am too in your face to spit in your food, but beware out there....never tick off the wait staff.

Ever.

And please, talk to everyone at dinner even if they are freakishly difficult to talk to, like me. Not if they are psychopathic misogynists though, just back slowly away, and get them to tick of the wait staff, really really badly. Heh heh heh.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Parenting 101

Sorry I didn't post last night, it was the man's Christmas dinner at work. It started at 10pm. Yup, you read that correctly, 10pm.

We're kind of getting used to this, but still.....

The food was quite uneven in quality, some was really fairly badly done, and some was fine, and there was one moment of pure epicurean delight that made it all worthwhile.

I had the lamb, I got a leg. It was a serving fit for Obelix. Honestly, I would have needed maternity clothing if I was going to finish it. It was good it was so big though because the man's bacalla, cod, was FAR too salty. Someone screwed up badly on the soaking and rinsing process there. He finished mine.

The one thing I had that was good was a croquette. Now, every single one of these I have ever eaten here has been unutterably d i s g u s t i n g. Picture deep fried wallpaper paste. Blech.

This one however was porc senglar, as in wild boar. There was definitely an Obelix theme to the night....it was crisp and gorgeous on the outside and savory and unbelievably delicious on the inside. No wallpaper paste in sight. Oh my. So so so good.

When we got home, that's when the fun really began. You see we left the dinner early, at 1am. We were far and away the first and everyone else was settling in for the fun, but the kids were home alone, the babysitter was sick as a dog, and at their age in a country where their communication skills are marginal and we don't have family to call, that was late enough for me.

But you see, when we got home we had a little problem. Normally here, they lock the door with the key when they are inside, and you need a key to get out again. I find this a hassle and also potentially dangerous in a fire, so we use the sliding bolt when we are home. One of those locks that you cannot open from outside when it is 1:30am and the kids are both asleep.

Hmmmmm.

We phoned, we buzzed, we pounded on the door, we rang the bell, we hooted and yelled, but our children sleep veeerrrrrrrrrrrry veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy deeply. They have slept through a hurricane on a 27 foot boat. In harbour I will grant, but you had to hang onto your bunk. They have slept through all manner of disgusting weather on the boat, where they are literally getting air time off the mattress, like at the top of a swing.

It was very difficult to get them up. Chuck was doing his level best, barking his head off, but without opposable thumbs he was not of any real use.

Eventually, around 2:30 am one of the guys living below us got up. Poor guy. His flatmates were still out partying. He got into the spirit of the whole thing though, invited us into his back patio, got a broom and hammered on eldest's window while I hollered and Chuck had a nervous breakdown in the kitchen. The children slept on. The rather heavy screen window fell off eldest's window, fortunately not braining our neighbour, nor knocking him off the stool, then another of the guys arrived. He is VERY fit. He chinned himself up onto our back balcony and tried to get in. I thought Chuck was going to just about die now, he was spinning in circles and barking continuously.

The children slept on.

Neighbour 2 then stepped onto the AC unit outside Eldest's window, which she sleeps immediately under, cranked up the blind, a noisy business itself, and hammered on the window. He cannot have been more than a foot from her. She slept peacefully.

Neighbour 1 started making plans for the man and I to sleep in their apartment. This fiasco continued for a while longer, my man pounding on the door so hard he was shaking the building. Finally Youngest woke up. She sleeps in the front of the building. Eldest remained blissfully unaware of the entire show.

We got in. At last. Youngest was VERY grumpy about being woken up in the night.

Got into bed around 3.

Gak.

Shopped basically all day.

I am vewy vewy sweepy.

It was very funny though too. I felt like one of the three stooges. Or one of the Romans.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Toto, we're not in Canada anymore....


These are things that make me realise that I am not in the culture I grew up in anymore....

One of the garbage men that comes past our place sings flamenco. Loudly. No kidding.

The Marquis that lives in the castle behind our house (now there is something that makes me feel like I'm not in Canada anymore as well, eh? How many Canucks have a castle in their backyard with a real live Marquis in it?) anyway, said Marquis (or one of his minions/serfs) was playing Olivia Newton John singing 'Summer Love' from Grease. That is weird enough in itself, but when is the last time you heard that anywhere in the States or Canada?

The Marquis was serenading me while I was breaking a sweat hanging up my laundry in shirt sleeves on the terrace in, get this, DECEMBER!!!! Woah Toto, something strange is going on here!

Now, as I mentioned yesterday, Theresa from The Rain in Spain very kindly gave/rewarded me with the button you see at the top of the page. Now that makes me happy. I am not sure I entirely qualify, but unless your an Olympic Gold Medalist I suppose you always think there is someone out there brighter, faster stronger, smarter or more worldly that you are.

That said, I have travelled a wee bit, and so it does feel good.

It also makes me wonder what constitutes a woman of the world...or man of the world or child, or I suppose even dog or cat, but lets not go there m'kay?

Can you be worldly without having travelled much? Is it purely a question of stamps in the passport, which is in fact now archaic as well as so few countries bother with visas and passport stamps the way they used to.

I also know some people who are very widely travelled yet remain, shall we say, provincial in their thinking, world view and outlook.

Certainly, I think it is easier to be worldly, or a woman of the world if you have seen a bit of it beyond your own front step, but I am not sure that it is an absolute requirement.

So, what goes into being worldly? I am NOT going to trot out some dictionary definition, like in all those reports that people did in high school...though if you google it, the number one and two sites are faintly alarming...s*nta's n*ughty h*lpers rise again...or....well....whatever.....

For me - and since this is my blog, however worldly, I get to trot out my opinions - it has to do with wisdom, long-sightedness (not literally) and an ability to think beyond the range of your footprint (possibly literally). Hopefully to be able to think about and empathise with people beyond your own doorstep, culture or neck of the wood.

Certainly, some people have managed this by going out and seeing what it is like in other parts of the world, but even within most hometowns there are people living in very different worlds. Heck, my family travels around this little village in a very Anglo little world...we are certainly living differently than our neighbours.

Indeed some writers and painters and artists who have provided profound insights into humanity and the human condition have not moved more than 100 miles from their birthplace.

So, in honour of folks who can look beyond themselves, their accustomed way of thinking, their own culture and beliefs and see that others can be correct, that they have valuable contributions to make and are worth knowing and loving, and who recognise that there is more than one way of doing EVERYTHING, I would like to pass this on



to Bullwinkle for her always humorous look on life, heck she even has a soft spot for Britney....but really, there is a woman who cares.



To Books Beth because she is always empathetic even when she has crap of her own to deal with...and she is funny too. Not sweet though. A little edgier than that, and that is a compliment.



To Nomad who has travelled a lot, but has always been fascinated about the world around her, and that is one of the things I love most about her....man this is getting soppy, and



to Trish who I have only sort of met once in person, but I peed in her backyard once...no really....I hope she can forgive me, and who has been to NY more recently than anyone I know....but who is also a thoughtful person who seems to be working her way through life with an eye to what is beyond herself.

Women of the world.

So.

Seriously, what do you think constitutes a woman of the world...please leave a comment about this, I am curious.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pilot:

Theresa awarded me a 'woman of the world'button yesterday, for which I am quite grateful. It is a compliment to say the least. However this potential woman of the world is bagged, overworked, has a sinus inspired tooth ache, and has had a rather frustrating day.

SOOOoooooooo

I am coping out and posting this very funny e-mail that we were sent by a friend. I hope you like it.

Theresa, I am going to do a proper post responding to you tomorrow I hope when things are a mite calmer.

Thanks.

Remember it takes a college degree to fly a plane, but only a high school diploma to fix one. Reassurance for those of us who fly routinely in our jobs. After every flight, UPS pilots fill out a form, called a "gripe sheet, "which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by UPS pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers. By the way, UPS is the only major airline that has never, ever, had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit
S: Something tightened in cockpit

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.


P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in wind shield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny. (I love this one!)
S: Aircraft warned to: straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

And the best one for last................

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget

There you have it. Hope you liked it. I did.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Oreneta Aground



Long long ago in a land far far away there was a family. It seemed a pretty normal family, a Mom and Dad and a couple of little girls all living in a house in a fairly large North American city. They all loved books and stories, every one of them. The parents also had a slightly peculiar passion for all things to do with the water and boats, so not unnaturally they got children's books that told fabulous stories about kids and the sea.

One of the absolute favorites of the whole family, even the Mom and Dad, who would come and sit down to hear the stories read aloud was an absolutely fantastic series written by a man named Aurthur Ransome who was himself passionate about books and the sea. He made several interesting voyages and lovedlovedloved both kids and boats, so he wrote a book called Swallows and Amazons which was the first in a series of books all about children and boats.

The stories are about a group of five children from two families who meet up in the Lake Districts in England and are wildly undersupervised. They sail and camp and are pirates and explorers, and they have untold numbers of adventures.

These stories are some of the best ever written. They are extremely British, and some conversation around the rather Victorian (read politically incorrect) phrasing may be necessary, but I cannot recommend them enough to anyone.

Well, this fairly normal family one day decided to do something not quite so normal. They decided to get a sailboat and move aboard her and travel around together seeing what they could see, being together and sailing, swimming, rowing, reading, drawing and painting...among other things.

So they started to look for a boat. This was not so easy because they did not have the biggest budget in the world, but they had a lot of determination. So eventually they found the perfect boat, and they bought it; but it didn't have such a perfect name. Adagio. Which is a fine enough name, but it wasn't perfect. So while this family scrubbed and swept and painted and polished and re-greased, and re-wired and re-reaved and all the other thousand and one things you have to do to get a boat ready for sea, they thought and they thought and they thought. They thought of many many different names.

The two little girls wanted to name the boat Swallow after one of the boats in their favorite books, but the Mom and Dad did not want to go through life in a boat nicknamed 'gulp'. The little girls were insistent. So the parents thought and thought some more. They thought that since the Dad was born in a different land far far away, and spoke a different language with his parents and sisters, they would look and see what the name for a swallow, the twittering kind, not the one that goes gulp, is called.

They looked and looked, and one day they discovered that a swallow is called an oreneta in the Dad's mother tongue, Catalan. Well, now they had the perfect name.

So they christened their boat Oreneta. And so they were called also called by the many friends they made while sailing...as are all people who live and travel on their boats, so if you ever decide to move onto a boat, you must have the perfect name or else you will forever be hearing something silly like, "Here comes the Mom's Minks!!! Do you think they can stay for dinner?"

Well, after this family had sailed their boat from Canada all the way down the east coast of the United States and across to the Bahamas and back to Florida while having many adventures and making many exciting discoveries along the way, they went back to Canada for a few months to avoid the hurricanes and to make some money. While they were there they got an offer to move to Spain and work. They needed to pursue papers and citizenship to do this though which was a long and painfully boring process, which has no place in this tale, but it also meant that they got to go sailing for another two years which wasn't boring at all.

After their third year aboard all of the papers were in order, they packed up their bags and moved to Catalonia in Spain where they are still, right now, and when the Mom started up a blog to keep in touch with all of their friends and family and to record, journal and think about this new not quite so normal twist in their lives she had to pick a name, and since she still felt rather like an Oreneta rather than anything else, but also an Oreneta that had suddenly found herself squarely on terra firma - as is their boat - it seemed a good name for the blog, because that is about how her life felt.

So she named her blog Oreneta Aground...and thus it has been ever since.

I hope that they all live happily ever after.

This story was brought to you by Oreneta, but prodded by Trish who came up with this fun meme...to explain our blog's name, and we are to tag people as well. Now, let me think...I am going to tag Jocelyn at 'Oh Mighty Crisis' and Nomad's art blog 'Poena' and anyone else who want to play.

Hope you have enjoyed it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

7 things meme

Beth tagged me with the seven strange things meme...so I have to come up with seven strange things about me that I am willing to share with most everyone; aside from the fact that I have personally purchased a statue of Dubbya having a dump...


1. Eldest and youngest both think I dress strangely (I disagree) they think I dress like folks 40 years ago...all that really means is that I wear pants that don't require the use of neat to go out in pubic, oops, I meant public there. *blush*

2. I just got a feed reader, for those of you that don't know what it is, that would seem strange, if you do know what it is, you'll wonder why I've waited so long.

3. If you were Catalan you would think that I was VERY strange because I want to drink cafe amb llet (espresso with lots of warm milk) AFTER 11am. That is very very very strange here. So strange I have trouble ordering it...you want WHAT????

4. I will eat most anything for breakfast, no sticking to that breakfast food rule...for instance this morning, it was bread with alloli, which is olive oil and raw garlic pounded together, and rice and bean soup from last night. This may relate to number 3 above.

This is tricky...hmmmm...

5. I hate carrying a purse. Hate it. Indeed I hate carrying anything at all...after years of carrying everything including the kitchen sink and a potty with the kidlets, lord leave me free.

6. I really like Pringles potato chips. They do not really resemble food in any way, and I have on occasion been quite the particular kind of girl about health food, but pringles....mmmmmmmm.....they are just so good

7. I dislike the use of soap in the shower. Not that I don't get clean, but what the heck, there you are all lathered up with shampoo, why not just spread some of the goodness around? Started when I was travelling and the soap was invariably slimy and cold and made a mess in my bag, while the shampoo remained neatly in it bottle...then I discovered that shampoo doesn't leave that gross ring around the bath that you then need to scrub off...well there you have it, why wash yourself with something that then forces you to wash the tub, leaving you feeling grubby all over again?

I don't know if that is strange enough for you, but it's what I came up with....as the girls said, I am kind of used to myself...everything seems kind of normal to me.

To tag or not to tag, that is the question....

I think I will leave this too anyone who wants to do it...

Trish has also tagged me, I'll do that one tomorrow...

OK Ok ok, I have to laugh. I just checked my stat counter and a ton of people found my site when searching for santa's n*ughty h*lper...a LOT of folks, looking for a little, shall we say, Christmas cheer? BUT...yesterday? They were greeted by GDubya's crap!!!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Go look for your p*rn elsewhere...you're in the WRONG place for that!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Painting and caganers

A pleasant and effective kind of day, we got a bunch of crappy little jobs done, plus I've done some reading in Catalan, a bunch of painting, a twenty page copy edit for a friend...oof...

This is what I have been working on...today it started like this...



then went on like this....though it has infact progressed further at this point, I'll just have to surprise you with the next bit of progress.



You may or may not recall that time eldest and I were at a gallery in BCN and there was a show that included photos of people outside the Berlin wall, around when I visited. I took this photo of eldest's shadow cast over the photo, and that moment is the germ of the idea for the painting...



Now then. The Catalan's have this tradition, that starts out sounding pretty normal to me, they put up nativity scenes, but in the back of all these scenes, there is a man having a crap. The statues leave little to the imagination. He is called the caganer. Why he is there? I have no idea.

This has developed into quite an industry since then. You can now get statues of prominent football player caganers, the Pope caganers, and prominent politician caganers among others. Now American friends came to visit us this fall and when they we mentioned this unique Catalan cultural tradition and the spin off versions, the begged and pleaded that we send them a 'certain prominent American politician' caganer...so you two, if your looking in today here is a preview, I'll mail it this week...for the rest of you...well, I hope you're not offended.



Yessiree Bob, that's him...



Check out the equipment there, he probably would be flattered.

Here's a final adieu,

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Hmmmmm....................

Eldest and I spent most of the day together, she had not one single pair of pants and about two pairs of socks. Something had to be done, despite my deep loathing of all things shopping...the kids have even commented on the fact that I am not so fun to shop with because I get so grumpy.

Ho hum

It went pretty well, she's got three pairs of pants now, and socks...turns out youngest needs socks too. Shoot.

It occured to me as I sat down to write and started to reflect on the day that I never really thought all day, don't get me wrong, cerebral activity was going on, chatting with eldest, dealing with traffic, finding our way through parts of the city we hadn't been too before, deciding on clothing, keeping my cool in the crowds...yet....

It amazes me sometimes how little we may really think in a given day.

As I said, I don't mean the standard day to day thought train that runs along as you work your way from moment to moment and meal to meal, but really thinking about something.

It is something we have been discussing lately as a family. The Spanish school system, in fact the Catalan in particular has been in the papers lately as one of the worst in Europe. (Hip Hip Hooray!!!) Looking at the work the students have to do now and further on, the biggest problem seems to me to be that they simply don't need to think. It is mountains and mountains of rote memorisation. I mean, really, get a load of this....in grade whateveritiswhenyouare14 the kids have to memorise the periodic table of elements.

Now excuse me, but WTF????

Isn't that something that you can, you know, look up?

What about making chemistry and chemical actions come to life? Let them think and work with the material, blow a few things up, burn sonething, create clouds of foul smelling stinky smog. If they are interested in the field they will want to learn the table of elements, but I am sorry, will they even understand what the elements are in any meaningful way if they are just set the task of memorising their order?

It is one of the challenges I am finding here teaching English, so many of the kids cannot be bothered to THINK.

As a culture we don't encourage this scary process. We are permanently anaesthetised by our MP3 players, our Tvs, cell phones (HI! I'm on the bus!) and streams of constant meaningless imput that prevents any real cerebral activity.

It is also a challenge I have faced teaching adults in Canada, they want to get through the course, regurgitate the necessary facts sufficiently well to get through and be gone, paper in hand. Our goal on the other hand is to give them enough info to begin to interpret and think, and get them trained in techniques for analysis, record keeping and writing...as in THINKING.

They hate it.

It is so hard and alien for them.

And there are days when I come to blog and I am distressed to discover that while I have been quite busy all day, I have not really had a chance to stop and think.

Until I sit down to write.

This may indeed be, for me, a lot of why I like to blog, why I continue to blog. It forces me to stop and reflect and think, if only for a little while.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The man



The man and I had a day out today, how nice was THAT!

The kids had fun day at school, eldest went skating, youngest to some sort of indoor playground, then to a friend's house for lunch, a real friend who volunteered to have them so the man and I could go out. After that they went to the local sport center for a dance, well youngest did, eldest felt ill and spent the afternoon on our friend's couch watching Spanish soaps, which is enough to make anyone feel unwell.

The man and I went into BCN which was WONDERFUL. I got some Christmas shopping done, had a coffee in a cafe while I waited for him. You see, we were kind of going at different paces this morning. I was all bustling along, list in hand, intent on completing as much as possible and honestly enjoying the freedom of moving at an efficient adult pace after YEARS of kid pace. The man however did not want to break a sweat (something akin to a death sentence and to be avoided at all costs) and so was sort of, you know, piddling along. We, as we often do, parted company and met up again a couple of times, giving me the chance to have a cafe amb llet while I waited. Mostly we went along together though...

Oh it was so nice....

When we got back to our town we went for lunch! Just the two of us, one of those lovely southern European two hour jobs.

The place we went is highly recommended as the best in town and the most Catalan of all the places. We started with a salad, I had water and the man a .75 liter bottle of wine, then we both had the mongetes, warm beans with straight warm bacon fat dripped over them and salt, and a couple of slices of pure fat bacon on top. We're talking winter peasant food here. It was delicious. I think the man is going to take an extra cholesterol pill today, I may snatch one of them too. The second course for the man was meatballs and sepia (cuttle fish) in a fishy romesco sauce. Very good.

I had peus, or pigs feet, following unintentionally the pig theme of the last post. I was worried I would be hungry at the end though. They were seriously good, cooked in a savory broth with artichokes and red peppers...I mopped up every single drop of juice with the bread.

I had crema Catalan to finish, along with my second cafe amb llet of the day, both decafinated I can happily say for the sake of my entire family. Crema Catalana is a creamy fatty yummy cream and egg mixture similar to creme caramel, but served in a small clay dish with burnt hard crisp sugar on top. My oh my. What a lunch.

You know what else I love about this, we each had a four course lunch, a full bottle of wine - which the man all but finished - a bottle of water and coffee each for 19 Euros!!!!

Mmmmmm

We then had a two hour walk in the hills with the dog, and the girls came home. The man had a nap (what a surprise) and we are having movie night tonight!

You know what I liked best? Spending the whole day with him...undistracted by anything or anyone else.

What a treat.

I'll have to send some Cava over to my bud.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Time



Like that jacket the neighbours have up? They're too young to have been there. Kind of a weird thing to sell, don't you think? Kind of like all the kids wandering around in Che shirts, and they have NO IDEA who he was.

Now...how about this?

Passen cinc minutes de dos quarts de tres

Falten cinc minutes pera un quart do cinc

This is how they tell time here...OMG

These read:

With an extra five minutes it is two quarters to three, or 2:35

and

Missing five minutes for one quarter to five, or 4:10

It is a wonder I ever get anywhere...the best I ever heard on the radio was...an extra five minutes for two quarters to six plus one...as in...5:36.

Youngest is trying to learn time in Catalan and the system is outrageous....though in some ways more logical than our quarter past quarter two as you may realise if you have tried to explain it to a child recently...either way, it's hard.

Poor kids.

And get a load of this....Theresa was right...there is urea, as in PEE in this. That said, it's working. Do I care? NO.



And check this out, the photo isn't the best, but look who we saw in the mountain? That's right a wild boar, isn't he enormous?




Now I have to confess, he is caged in someone's yard, I'm not sure why, but he has apparently been there for about eight years. Weird.

Here's two things I've been working on as well, this is a study for a part of another painting...



And this is a different painting as well...it isn't finished yet obviously.



It is also a little strange, but he looks pretty cheerful...

ID

Today in the my Catalan class we had to do one of those sesame street "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things is not quite the same..." Exercises (how many of you sang that as you read it? Hmmm?)...there were want ads for available jobs, which had silly requirements in them that were extraneous or illogical. We went through the exercise, but then I mentioned to the teacher that the ads that requested a photo with the CV would be illegal in NA, rightly so we felt. Certainly the requirement was extraneous and illogical.

She was surprised and asked why...we pointed out the rich possibilities for discrimination that providing a photo offers, and she seemed startled and thoughtful...one of the unbearable OLD SPANISH LADIES (OSL's) in the class of course had a lot to say. I ignored her entirely and continued to talk over her. I am so RUDE sometimes and they still don't get it....

Many people felt that asking for photos allowed for greater discrimination, some of them quite strongly, one of them felt it wasn't a big deal, we take photos all the time. Of course, my point being that our penchant for photos does not bear on your opportunities at finding work....then I mentioned that I found it strange that in Spain it is mandatory to carry photo ID with you at all times...technically I am supposed to bring my passport with me everywhere I go. Can you imagine? In BARCELONA???? The chance of keeping it for a year is next to zero...I am sure the consulates would be happy to go into nearly full time production of new passports while simultaneously posting Interpol warnings about stolen ones.

Many of my fellow students were surprised to discover that it is not mandatory to carry ID everywhere in Canada or the US, nor in the UK...in my frequently inflammatory style I mentioned that it is reminiscent of fascism....left some folks thoughtful, others laughed.

I do find that very strange though...very big brotherish....

They were surprised to realise that I NEVER hand in a photo here, nor did I in the Catalan class when it was requested. Interestingly, the only other person who didn't, that I know of, was the American in the class.

OH! My SECOND health card came in the mail today, after a record two weeks or so from application. Amazing. Now to apply for the pan-EU card...

This is the year of bureaucracy.

*groan*

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The delta...water and boats



One of the things I loved most about the Ebro was the myriad little waterways and the boats that were used on them. Mostly punts, as in there is a stick you put over the stern (back) and push off the bottom...



I love boats something silly. These were so lovely. I have got to make it down to the beach and take some photos of the traditional boats there as well....after the Catalan class ends. Urgh.

I loved also these rice fields, all muddy and wet and fallow.....



This is probably the last post on the delta for a bit, I am starting to be buried under holiday shopping and planning, I feel rather excited as well as somewhat harassed by it all, but it should be fun.

Seriously now, how far along are you?

Monday, December 3, 2007

chickens

It is once again late, I am once again tired, but tonight I will write.

This schedule is killing me, bring on the holidays and the end of the Catalan classes...please!

The Ebro delta is one of the most outstandingly beautiful places I have ever had the good fortune to visit. Honestly. If you get the chance...GO!

We were very lucky on the weekend because the weather was astonishingly wonderful...I dream of going down there by myself for a week, getting out on the delta before the sun comes up. Taking photos and painting, and wandering until after the sun goes down...alternating this with walks in the mountains that surround it...heaven. They grow quite a lot of excellent rice there, and I would love to be able to go down on a semi-monthly basis and see the changes in the land as the rice grows up and finally is harvested....

I came to the conclusion while I was there that one of the things I love about it, as I love about being at see is the long views...the tremendous distance you can see and the sheer size of the sky...

I have paintings I want to do, and photos I want to get blown up.....ho hum....

We were all very tired by the time we got home...and we have all suffered a bit of a fun-over as I think Nomad coins it....that let down after a fantastic time...even Chuck is wiped...he had an exhilarating weekend chasing chickens. You see, there are chickens at the finca we were visiting. Safely ensconced in a cage, and Chuck derived great joy from running over to scare them. He's a smart dog though, he realised that it wasn't so fun once they went into their house, so he would wander away for four or five minutes, till the chickens came out again, then tear over to scare them all over again.

The chickens had a rough weekend.

Not one egg.

They have my sympathy, poor things, walking around with their legs crossed.

They were getting used to him by the end though, some of them didn't even bother to go inside.

Chuck is wiped out. Completely exhausted, and hungry.

It's a dog's life.

More anon....

Sunday, December 2, 2007

That was an amazing weekend....

Hi all, there is so much to say and it is late and I am tired, so if the powers that be will let me, I will leave you with a slide show for now, and add some text later....



This is slightly disorganised, there are photos that are quite similar, and that will be shifted to other albums, but it is a longish (quite) view of our weekend....

Whatcha think?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Quin dia...what a day!

A strange and eventful day...quite...I think I may try to keep the kids from reading this post...so nena's if you read this, come and talk to me before you go on m'kay?

The day started out when I was walking the dog, there were these two guys right in the center of town trying to catch the pigeons, and no they were not apparently lunatics..they had one an a string and they were waving it around trying to get the others to come down. Chuck was barking manically at them and I wasn't trying to stop them...fly away fly away!!!

On further thought they may race pigeons, or have homing pigeons they were trying to recover....still it was pretty odd....

I ran around in the spare moments this morning buying yummy yummy food...I may not post tomorrow, and almost certainly not on Saturday and Sunday as we are going away for the weekend to see some of the man's family...they are kind wonderful lovely people who adore good food so I have been buying up some of the best that the local artisans provide....oh my...

In desperation I went into the local farmàcia for cream for my hands, despite the fact that the woman only spoke Castillian I got somewhere, though one look at my hands made it fairly clear what the problem is...I am now sporting two seperate creams..that pink eraser looking job is basically straight paraffin mixed with enough lanolin to hold the mess together, then a hand cream...offer up hope for me, I need it...




I got home from work, which mercifully two students had missed allowing me to work on my MOUNTAIN of Catalan homework...and it was brutal too. Conditionals and subjunctives and words that resemble English ones just enough, for instance: while, during and if, but used differently enough to leave me baffled...I got through it all thank goodness.

When I got home the house was strangely disarrayed...now burglary never crossed my mind...we don't have all that much of value....I asked Chuck what had happened, he wasn't talking....turns out the telefonica guy wanted to come in...he ended up changing the box in the wall and gave us a new phone as well, all covered apparently...so that wasn't so bad, and I didn't have to do anything but sweep up after the guy...clearly all Spanish workmen believe that their mothers follow them around cleaning up after them...he didn't even throw his garbage out. Grrrrr....

I found these boots in the hill, they fit Eldest.....




Walked the dog, met a hunter in the hills complete with a gun. My buddy, a different one, pointed out that she could give me a lift part way to BCN next fall so I could do classes at that time even though I cannot leave our place till later as I will have to walk youngest to school every day as eldest will be off at the local high school....that makes me feel much better about not taking Catalan after Xmas....the pressure is off.

Work this evening was fine, but I ended up leaving early, as there was a house invasion just down the street complete with a gun....the husband of one of my fellow teachers went into the building because he heard screaming and was rewarded with a gun to his head. This was the second time in two weeks in the same house, the first with a gun. As the man says, that sounds a little fishy. They kept the kids that were in our building there for the duration of their lessons, and phoned everyone who was supposed to come for the next and cancelled it. I found out when I got downstairs. Youngest and the man had been walking past about five minutes before the incident when he picked her up from my work, and eldest was running around town with some friends trying to get a project completed.

Eeee Gads.

Everyone here keeps telling me that it is a small town, it's safe. It is old news in NA that small towns are no safer than a big city....same here.....though what is different here, I imagine like any small town, is that you know the people when these things happen, it is not anonymous at all.

Goodness.

Then again, this is what I had for breakfast...maybe it wasn't such a good idea...strange breakfast=strange day...tortilla with romesco sauce, blue cheese and cucumber. It was really very good..I had Earl Grey tea with it...very very nice...




Time for bed. I'll try to post tomorrow, but most likely not till Monday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The snow scene starts to settle a bit.

I just noticed that this is my 405th post...holy free-caboolies Batman, that's a lot of typing!!

Maybe I could write a book....there is this online writing course, only $500 bucks (ONLY!)....it has gotten great reviews from a bunch of folks I know....

Will I ever stop this? It's like an obsession....

Thank you all so much for your imput...I am probably not going to take the Catalan next term *mild sob* and I will paint and and and....paint, and study and paint and and and...start learning Spanish and and and......there are also a few writing projects that have all but disappeared from the radar as well...and paint and paint and and and....do crappy bureaucratic bull as well, but what the heck, it's pretty hard to avoid.

On that note,

Guess what???!!?!?!?

The PHONE isn't working again!!! What a surprise!

I have a new split on my hands as well...on the top of the middle knuckle on my left hand, I've never ever had one there before...the opportunities you get with age. I think my right index finger is going to go next, it's got that sort of tight tearing kinda feeling that presages something painful.

Realistically, what have I done today...studied, worked, winced and whined about my hands, thought about next term, made an appointment with the school to have a meeting about a certain teacher who is causing us grief AGAIN.....ran around doing errands, played cards with my kids, helped with homework, in three languages (yee gods)..cooked, blogged, walked the dog, hung out with friends, laughed a bunch, read in two languages - that's an exciting one - I have always been kind of embarrassed by my profoundly mono-lingual self, possibly one of the things that attracted me to the man, he has three working on four languages...wow...it's been a good but kinda crazy day.

I also talked briefly with a friend who is going quietly nuts working alone at home day after day after day...she has sworn that in January she is going to do something one morning a week, a class, whatever...she needs to get out.

Now this might just be right up my alley...I will have three newly liberated mornings a week, maybe I can find something that we could do...build a friendship and take a class in what-the-heck-ever, Kazoo for all I care, but the class would be in Catalan TOO!!!

We'll see. Then again, I should keep the time for painting and studying...maybe we could design our own curriculum and go to exhibits rather than a course, I could draw and sketch and take photos and we could hang out....have a coffee, pick up our kids after lunch. This is sounding good.
Yeah, I have to admit this is the option I am most excited about, we could find out what shows are on and have a fixed morning every week, when we can go in and check something out....*wriggles of anticipation*

I feel bad for my buddy though, she said she was crying on and off all morning today because she is just feeling so trapped and overworked and walled-in-uninspired. Been there, done that and I got the d*mn t-shirt. I have an hour free tomorrow morning, I was going to paint/study/work but maybe we'll have a coffee instead. Talk about what we can do in the New Year. After that I'll paint....or work...or study.....

Cheers folks, and thanks for your imput.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Debate



I have spent the day waffling. This is most unlike me.

I am usually profoundly, if not excessively, decisive.

I am debating going for the next level of Catalan classes next term. It would involve continuing the frankly grueling schedule that I have now. It would also include the continued rapid improvement in my language skills.

I am torn.

I love that my skills are improving, though I think my understanding is improving faster than my ability to speak and express myself, which was much needed.

But....

If I don't take the course I can paint. I can consolidate what I have learned. I can go into BCN and go to galleries. I could cancel going to my painting class :-( and see more of my family :-) because I could paint in the day and not have to carve the time out with a painting class.

Mostly I could live my life rather than scuttle through it like I have been.

but........

oh heck. I just don't know what to do.

If it isn't scheduled, the time will fill up with useless crappy bureaucratic nonsense that I could cram into less time like I am now...because you all know, as do, I that it takes phenomenal discipline to make these classes and activities happen all on your own. I study Catalan for four hours a day three days a week...will I do that otherwise? Absolutely not.

Then again I would have time to start with Spanish, which I really need to do as well.

Can you hear me vacillating? It's hard to miss.

Oh I hate these kinds of things.

I think in the end I probably won't take the class, and I think at some level I will be sad about that. But do I continue being desperate and exhausted and somewhat fraught for the rest of the year?...I think that isn't a good decision either.

Maybe I will dredge up the will power to do the work...or maybe I can schedule it somehow anyway..use one of the classrooms at work during the day to study rather than being here...but but but.....

The man is as usual being supportive of whatever decision I make, and leaving it entirely up to me. Love that one I do.

Oh crap.

What do you think? I cannot say what I'll do, cause I sure don't know right now, but what do you think?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Splits in my hands

It has gotten so dry here that my skin is splitting at the folds in my fingers. I hate that. My entire hands hurt; backs, fronts, fingers, the works. I had forgotten about this.

Every winter in Toronto it was like this, fabrics I couldn't touch because all the small bits of dry skin would hitch.

*shudder*

Splits in my fingers that never heal. Skin that feels several sizes too small. Blech.

I have taken to applying olive oil straight. It may help.

The most surprising cure for this, which I am not sure I would recommend, I discovered in the very early spring of 2003, the year we left Toronto on the boat.

One of the necessary though unpleasant tasks on a sailboat of a certain age which you plan to take out of the reach of handy-dandy mechanics, is to clean out your diesel tank. You see slimy sludgy crud can build up there, indeed there are greeblies that live there and their poop is also slimy and sludgy which does very nasty things to the rather delicate tolerances of a diesel engine, making it NOT GO. The only use for the d*mn things is to go, so I was cleaning out my tank.

One might think that there is a sophisticated system for this, but not for me. It was a chilly spring day, I was down to pants and a short sleeved shirt and short sleeved sweater. I took the face plate off the top of the tank, conveniently (I kid you not) located in the center of the floor in the cabin down below. This meant that I could lie flat out on the floor suspending my upper body over the void above the tank, and reach my arm in at all sorts of bizarre angles to wipe out all the crud.

For working on boat engines this is a paragon of comfort, virtue and intelligent design as I was not actually standing on my head.

First though I had to pump out the tank with a leaky hand pump designed for oil changes. This was very messy, and I smelled quite strongly of diesel by the end. The man made lunch. And fed me.

Once the tank was reasonably empty, and the fuel responsibly disposed of, I went to the highly technical system of wiping out the tank with paper towels I stole from the public bathroom in the marine yard. I had brought rubber gloves on the endearing premise that it might save me from some sort of health hazard incurred by bathing in straight diesel fuel for six to eight hours. However, these rapidly fell apart under the onslaught of chemicals.

This left my bare hands with splits in them the of a depth you could measure in centimeters. I was waiting for the day the bones would show through. They hurt. A lot. All the time. I hate dry skin.

I did not think that a prolonged bathing in diesel was the advised medical technique for open wounds, but that was the task at hand. The man's arms were rather to masculine and muscular and didn't fit in the access panel, and the kid's arms were too short. That left me.

Well, so far I haven't come down with any bizarre diesel induced diseases, but boy, the splits in my hands were gone in a day or two!

That was fantastic.

I am not sure I want to repeat the experiment though. Maybe I should just sit around with my hands in a vat of olive oil for a day. That ought to do the trick.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

grading.....

I tried that new blogger slide show button they were advertising, but Hombre, that thing was SLOW to load...so then I tried the Picasa slide show...meh...it's all sideways in the space and the photos are extra small because they have that black border....we'll see. I also consolidated the Bahamas photos into one album. Some are taken by us, and some by friends.

I've been grading all day. I hate grading. There has got to be a special place in hell where all you do all day is grade; with care conscience and consideration. It would be easier if I could just chuck the things down the stairs and the one that goes furthest gets the highest mark (a special on at Walmart for lead lined paper). Give 'em a grade and let them hang out to dry.

I read and re-read and re-re-read. I check grammar and content, I make general comments about the work as a whole along with specifics. Why can't people put together well formed sentences? I mean, that is trotted out fairly often, but oh my goodness gracious...you read enough and it starts to look pretty sad.

The other thing about grading that I hate is that it makes me feel that I have failed as a teacher. This only makes a little witty bitty bit of sense. Of course if your entire class hasn't the foggiest idea what is going on, there may be a problem there -with you. If the entire group is confused about the same issue, well you had better get on that, 'cause it's definitely YOU; but no teacher is going to take an average group of students and get A+++ from all of them. Yet every time I read an error, or a bit that is confused, I feel like I failed the students somehow. If I had said it differently, if I had offered the material in a different way, if I had recognised their confusion, if if if..... This is at best hubris, and definitely silly. They do have books, and more importantly brains of their own... I am not programming robots, and while some of the onus is on me, it is up to them to learn the material.

All the same. It makes me feel bad. Blech.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Abandonat

OK...my internet server is not making me happy....and I wish they had 3M products in this country, i tant (Man) the blue tack here SUCKS.

Even the librarian was complaining about Telefonica and how sllllooooooooooooowwwwwww it has been the last few days...I couldn't upload the photos I took today on our epic walk in the mountain, X and D were out for a mere 5 hours, N, Chuck and I for 6 because we separated at the end, and there is a tale to tell here so let me start at the beginning

....We went walking with a friend and her dog, Nonna....a greyhound who is utterly beautiful and good buddies with our comparatively neanderthal fuzzy pup...they turned off after the first three hours and we went on a little further.

Once we got to the top we had a little picnic...you have GOT to try cream cheese and salami sandwiches, they sound strange, but they are quite tasty, especially if the bread is good. Not low cholesterol, or low fat or anything, but MMmmmmmm.

Anyway while we were up there another dog appeared, a beautiful dog with a build like a grey hound but with Chuck's colouring...he had the most beautiful yellow brown eyes as well. The two dogs had a fantastic time playing. The owners walked further and further away.

Finally it dawned on us that they could not possibly be the owners and we had a stray/abandoned/escaped/lost dog on our hands. He came all the way home with us. Two hours. I don't have a picture of him as the two dogs were either running madly or giving the children a biology lesson. We'll view it as a field trip extension for eldests Naturals class which has been studying reproduction in animals of late. Only both dogs were male. Chuck seems to be quite open minded as these things go. Fortunately so was his friend.

Anywhooo, I must say that the dog was so lovely I was almost briefly tempted to keep him, then my adult mind woke up to the implications of that...24 hour s*x show in my apartment....vets, damage etc etc etc. No thank you.

Eldest and I finally got a leash on him. He was a mite skittish; but with Chuck's help in keeping his back end relatively immobile, this is a grey hound kind of job and very hard to catch if he doesn't want you to, we managed to get a hold of him. Then we very very slowly got him up to the town square where the local police station is. He was extremely skittish by this point, which speaks to an escaped or abandoned dog, and it was a very very slow walk. Finally we made it, the cops called the local animal shelter and off he went.

Chuck is profoundly tired. He's basically slept since we got home at 4. He's probably a little stiff to. The kids have been fairly quiet as well, I must say. Nothing like a six hour walk in the mountains for a little peace around the house.

Oooooh, and I am even understanding some of my Catalan books! I am SO excited.

So, what'cha do today?

C'mon, I really want to know, leave a comment and tell us all.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Angels and devils

We went to the opening of an art competition, that was semi-local, there were works from artists in the greater Barcelona area. Some of it, was very very good. Some, meh.....not so great. I came away rather intimidated I have to admit....when I go to a National gallery I expect it to be WAY better than what I can do. My my my, I am certainly quite a beginner still.


Nomad called this evening which was wonderful...in so many ways. I was telling her about this experience. The reality that we came to is that I don't want to be a great artist, I am not willing to make those kinds of sacrifices, I want to have some fun. So, it doesn't matter if they are way way better than I am, I can go and appreciate it just fine.

I got three books in Catalan out of the library to try and work on my vocabulary and practice the language and it's structure....one is a travel book to Iran...reading about Iranian poetry in Catalan should be quite the cross-cultural jaunt...Peter Mayle's A year in Provence, because I know the story, and Molly Moon, which if you have daughters of the right age you will have heard of, I am not sure it will be easy, but it might make a challenging read aloud...and I am hoping to tempt eldest as this is the third in the series of which she has read the first too.

Wish me luck. Hopefully one of them will be manageable.

One of the bureaucratic nightmares I have been dealing with is getting a health card. I went in yesterday with a Catalan friend to make my fourth application in the last year....we sent it off with good wishes. Well guess what came in the mail today?????? Yup, a health card. I wonder how many I will get in the end? I'm just glad to have one.

Today has actually been fairly brutal too, and I am glad it is over, but it is Friday, and everything looks better right now....tons and tons of work to do, but I am not as far behind in my Catalan class as I had thought, though I remain heartily confused, I missed too many classes in this unit.

Finally before I crash....here is a picture of a meal we had for dinner recently. It is made with a noodle similar to angel hair pasta....but cut short in a hot spicy sauce....




....eldest dubbed it 'devil's stubble'!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

happy?

Today has frankly been a good deal more trying than yesterday...in any number of ways.

SOooooooooo

I wanted to ask you about happiness....what does it take.

I need....
not necessarily in this or any order...I should alphabetise but I am too darn worn out

Family
Friends
Time and space for thought and reflection
Close access to the natural world
Enough cash to not have to worry about feeding and housing the kids...clothes, I can handle worrying about that, but food and shelter....
Not too many freaking chores/hassles/stupid little bureaucratic @Q#($#*&(*sh*t
something delicious to eat, look at, feel, smell whatever....now and then
having little enough to REALLY enjoy what you do have.
Sometimes when I am sailing just being there
Intellectual challenge, it's gotta be there as well.
Challenge of most any sort.

Oh my, well,

The hedonists thought it was a matter of pure pleasure seeking. The Stoics thought it was a matter of accepting what cannot be changed and enjoying everything else the epicurists think that we need liberty, reflection and I think it was friends, but I was having trouble following the Catalan voice over video...and it is far too late at night to look it up.

SO, what's it take?
What'cha gotta do?
Call Ghost busters?

What makes you deep down overwhelmingly happy?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Equilibrium



Sometimes when I come to post, I have firm and strong ideas about what exactly I have in mind to write. Sometimes I have no idea at all. Sometimes I have an idea that has been rumbling around in the back of my mind and is just about ready to roll out, then gets overtaken by something that feels far more urgent.

Here we are today.

I had a nifty little post outlined about happiness and what constitutes it, sparked by a video we were shown in Catalan class today and the subsequent discussion that followed it, some of it irritatingly naive....("the very fact that we get hungry and are slave to our bodily needs proves that we do not truly have liberty") *barf*

I have however been over come.

There has been a certain amount of complaint in this blog of late, I think. Bureaucratic hassles etc etc etc....and I am once again feeling that way.

BUT

I think the core problems comes down to something quite different from the superficial irritants, be they dog hair, communication difficulties or dumb *ss bureaucrats.



My issue right now is one of balance.

I, like most mothers of kids gradually do at some point, have been emerging from the overwhelming, and near completely self-obliterating process of mothering small children. I am one of those Moms who feel that the process is relatively short, and the impact on the children's future is well worth the stupefying requirements. Not only that but I have and do absolutely LOVE being a Mom. (except when I want to send them somewhere far far away because one has been whistling the same tune over and over again, right in my ear for over ten minutes and at least 30 million requests that she stop and the other is yelling at me because I have done exactly the same thing I did yesterday and it was fine but today is the single most irritating thing that any mother ever did anywhere. Sound familiar? Mom? But I digress.)

By the same token, I have been absolutely enchanted by the slow re-emergence of 'me myself and I' as an individual; now that the requirements on me-as-Mom are becoming less profoundly dominant. Rediscovering and deeply appreciating my re-emerging abilities and possibilities has been and continues to be fantastic....

Sometimes though I become impatient.

I continually have to find a balance between my desire to do so much, and my desire and need to be elsewhere, and to lead a life that is sane in pace and demands.

This is hardly news. Something generation after generation of women has worked through.

There is, for me, a pendulum swing in my management of the process. Things swing out of hand, I am sleeping too little, managing to get too little done and am frequently frustrated, oh, everything.

I don't do frustration in a pretty way.

At all.

Then I stop and look it all over and come to decisions about balance. Between me as me, me as wife, me as mom, me as working person etc etc etc.

When we lived on the boat it was fantastic, and oh so easy - this aspect of my life anyway. It allowed for a neat and tidy dovetailing of all these roles. I could be there with and for my kids and husband 24/7, and they for me. There was time to pursue my own desires, and personal stimulation and joy in the sailing and navigation of our small home with the man.

Oh how I loved it, and sometimes miss it achingly. There are times when I cannot really think about it too too much.

Here it is trickier.

GEE WHIZ, what a surprise.






I am more compartmentalised. This is me at work. This is me at home with the kids. This is me in the few moments when I have time to do as I wish. Plus the demands on my time are infinitely larger. I.N.F.I.N.I.T.E.L.Y. More housework, more bureaucratic hassles, more grappling with issues, then there are the languages to learn, I work outside of my home, and I have to sleep darn it. How I wish I could be a nice and patient person on four hours sleep, but you know what? When I have slept that little I pretty much roll out of bed directly onto my broomstick, feet still virgin of contact with the floor, slap that pointy black witch hat on my head and start soaring around the house. Look out Sally.

So.

Here I am at 11:22, with Catalan homework I don't have time for and which I am having trouble understanding, painting I am dying to do, a book I am desperate to read, and chores I should do. Instead I am reflecting out here on my own little soap box/community bulletin board and thinking about how to handle these conflicting, stretching, seemingly impossible to hold together needs, loves and desires.

*sigh*

Some of it will be solved by simple scheduling changes, some will improve when the Catalan class ends. It is eating my life. By the same token, my Catalan learning curve will slump at the same moment, which I am not happy about.

Some will involve the devolution of some work to younger hands, who need to lift some of their own weight, however reluctantly. Some will come from my acceptance of the current limitations, which will be easier once I have a look at the reason and comparative importance of various options. (Don't look at my kitchen floor. It doesn't rank high let me tell you. The bathroom sink is pretty good though, and the dishes! Man, you could eat off them!)

It is a struggle.

By the same token, a good deal of what I loved about being on the boat, and here as well, is the challenge. I've got that in spades anyway.

People think I'm nuts when I say that, but it's true, I love the challenge. Really and truly. I also really enjoy the reflection on how to manage the challenge. Which brings the snakes mouth neatly around to his own tail again...one of the aspects that the film about happiness brought up today as vital for happiness is time and tranquility for reflection.

It may be 11:29 at night, but it is quiet and calm (eldest, the ever-ready bunny has FINALLY gone to bed, for maybe the last time) and I am getting a vital chance to evaluate why I have been frustrated lately, and what I need to do to bring all of our competing needs back into balance.

So thanks for being out there and hearing this. I am sure many of you have struggled with similar challenges. It's been nice (sort of) chatting. Thanks again for lending me your time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

All work and no play makes Oreneta a dull girl

Or at least an uninspired one.

So, I am going to accept the gauntlet laid down by Trish at Coffee House Chatter and do the meme she offered to anyone who wanted...partially because I am short on inspiration, partially because there are topics I could discuss, but it would not be professionally appropriate, and partially because I quite enjoyed reading Trish's responses.

Without any further ado...

1. How long have you been blogging?

I started a half ass*d half hearted blog about three years ago, but to say that I posted infrequently would be a profound understatement. The entries, such as there were, are at the deepest depth of this blog, while we were still sailing. The blog host was also crap so it was hard to find the entries, this coupled with the fact that we were out of e-mail contact for literally months at a time made it tricky. I started this blog in November-ish last year, hmmmm, there may be an anniversary of sorts in there, but I am not really one for that kind of thing. I get confused about which day my wedding anniversary is, the month? That I am good for, the day? hmmmmmmm. The man also so no one gets upset. It doesn't help that we actually got married twice, but that's another post. We like to be thorough.


2. What inspired you to start a blog and who are your mentors?

I first started to blog because we were travelling and it was (and is) so profoundly onerous to try to update someone on the last 6 months of your wildly changing life every single solitary time you go to write an e-mail...those of you who e-mail and ask, that's OK, I won't be rude, because now it is only a few folks who ask, not every-freakin-one. Don't get me wrong, I am happy that people want to know, I just started to hate sending e-mail because it took so long to bring folks up to speed in any kind of meaningful way.
The IT help line guys have an acronym I am told....RTFM, Read The F***ing Manual

Now my motto is: RTFB(log)

This doesn't sound very nice, but it actually makes communicating with friends and family better and easier, which is the whole darned point.


3. Are you trying to make money online or are you doing it for fun?

I tried briefly, because we needed it, but there was almost none to be had, and I hated the ads. Also pimping the blog is a lot of work, and that is not what this is about for me....I am trying to keep in touch with/keep up to date my friends and family. That is my primary goal, so sometimes posts my be a bit dull, or not universally entertaining and interesting, but for folks who know us, that's what they want. I found that when I started writing for $$$ of for comments, it wasn't what I wanted to say. So, for fun I guess if I have to choose. The fact that I have gotten to get to know some cool folks is a great bonus!


4. What three things do you love about blogging?

I like the creative aspect of it. I am not sure creative is the perfect word, but there is an element of distillation and clarification about the process. I am occasionally frustrated by what I feel I cannot post about, for anonymity, for professional reasons, because my Mom reads it (HI MOM, I had to put that in, the only thing I didn't post about was the dog's fleas) (JUST KIDDING. He never had fleas, bet I made you itch and twitch though!)

I like that folks can keep up with what we are doing, and we can maintain some sort of contact, and that when I e-mail them, I can just chat, and I don't have to go over the events of the day/month/year, it keeps it feeling less like a book report and more like a friendship...albeit somewhat one-sided as few of my friends blog.

I love finding all the other blogs out there, some are funny, some are inspiring, some are darned smart. These are the kinds of stories and histories that I find fascinating. It also scratches an itch for me, I'm a pretty social girl here and my language skills, lifestyle here is a little limiting in that way.


5. What three things do you struggle with blogging?

I struggle with what voice I want to put out. Do I write to those who comment? Mostly people I don't know personally? Fall into the trap of writing to increase readership? It is certainly a DRAG if NO ONE reads, but do I want 250 comments a day? No. I don't even want to comment myself on sites with that sort of traffic. To much like a big city high school. I remind myself that this is for me and friends and family.

I struggle with time like so many....to paint, to study, to blog, to read to to to to do the dishes, pick up the kids....etc etc etc work gets done.

I struggle with myself over comments. I love getting them (social girl who is isolated) and I wish more people I know commented (no GUILT or anything out there) But that is not the point either...it is for me to keep communication open, and not for anyone to feel obliged in any way, unlike Christmas letters, or mailed newsletters to peoples inbox....I love the voluntary nature of a blog, they can look when they want and as often as they want...Just say Hi sometimes folks....naaaa, never mind, do whatever the heck you want, m'kay? Thinking of you all.

Hmmm, I thought there were seven questions, but seems there are only three.

Is there anything I missed? What am I going to wish had been asked after I am in bed?

Blogging also forms something of a journal of our lives and what we are doing, which I think is pretty fun...and the feedback, and communal nature of it keeps me going when I sometimes peter out with private journals...that isn't true entirely, my private journals (though not really that private) are a totally different format, multi -dimensional....and stuffed full of treasures too, but very different.....


Anywhooo, hope you enjoyed that, I liked reading Trish's

I am not going to tag anyone, if you'd like to run it, have fun...

Monday, November 19, 2007

She did it!

Eldest talked to her teacher.

I didn't ask her if she was going to, this had to be her agenda, and she didn't consult me about what to say or how to say it....but when she came home from lunch, she told me that she had talked to the teacher about the racial comments that had been made.

Reportedly she got the teacher when he was alone while all the other kids were playing soccer...a real team sport fan my eldest is...NOT! She said to me that she told the teacher that she had many friends in Canada who were from a variety of Asian countries, spoke a variety of languages, and none of them sounded like the teacher's version. She also apparently informed the teacher that there are over 300 Native American languages, and none that she knew of resembled what she had seen and heard in class. She said she started to choke up a bit while she was talking, but that he looked embarrassed and apologised when she finished.

Then she went and climbed a tree to read.



Can you say recovery time?



You GO girl!



My little arboreal Buddha.



Well. She isn't even really all that little anymore.



She used to be.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

On a lighter note,

This little guy is not strictly in chronological order, but he was so cute, I just had to lead off with him....or her. What do I know? It's seriously adorable though.


We went out of our place and there he was tied up in the park near our house, I guess his owner wanted to get a drink at the local café?????

Back to a proper order here...Saturday morning I got started on this painting that was inspired by last weeks visit to the MACBA with Eldest. You can read about that here if you want.


When walking in the hills I came across a whole bushel of these cacti that had so massively overproduced fruit that they were not only sagging under the weight, but actually breaking. Poor things. Prickly too.


We went into BCN over the children's wild protestations to see this ancient Benedictine Monastery, that was founded in 912. Unfortunately we were not able to get inside, so there is only a photo of one part of a lintel and....


This bike leaned up in the courtyard. BCN has now got BiCing, which is a bike share program. Just brilliant. For 24 Euros a YEAR (yes you read that right) you get a card that entitles you to use a city maintained bicycle for a period of 30 min or an hour as many times a day as you want and as many days a year as you want. They have stands for the bikes everywhere, and I really mean everywhere....and it is so fantastic!

I also like the juxtaposition of the bike and the ancient monastery and it's stone work.

Some one dressed Chuck up.

Poor Chuck.

He actually didn't seem to mind much, though he shook the pants off pretty fast.

We went to the local teams football game, soccer in NA. The good guys got trounced 4 - 0, so Beth I can so relate. A 4 - 0 loss is a complete trouncing in soccer. Ah well. It was deliciously warm watching the game, the sun was shining, there was no wind...I was all hot and getting sunned. Mmmmm I felt just like one of those lizards you see lying out, soaking up those warming rays.....so good.

And there was a little bloodshed at the end of the match. An accident, but it almost made me feel at home, watching a hockey game. These soccer players though...sorry guys, but SHAKE IT OFF!


When we got back from the game the man and I sat out on the porch reading, chatting, planning for Christmas break, and struggling with paypal...

urgh. It was HOT! Woo hoo... I LOVE Spain.

This is the fire I lit in the house tonight. We have this really funky little fireplace in the kitchen wall, that we have never used, though guests of ours have.....


See it there?

My idea had been to roast a pumpkin in there. Have I mentioned that we still have quite a lot of pumpkin left. So I fired it up!

Only I didn't time this very well, because I forgot that at 6pm the man and I were going to church. Now before those of you who know us well drop down and wind yourselves, there was a choral concert on....so I had to remove my flaming-gradually-becoming-nice-toasty-coals bits and dunk them in the sink. Filled with cold water. You see, we just didn't think it was a good idea to leave the little fire-thingy lit while the kids were home and we went out. Even if the kids weren't home, it just seemed to need us to be there.

The concert was great...btw.

Because of this, I didn't get to roast my pumpkins...which looks suspiciously like butternut squashes that got really round.

Here's what I did on the spur of the moment, and you know what? It was great.

Grate up your pumpkin job-y, mine was about the size of an acorn squash. You peeled that first, right?

Now in a big heavy frying pan, preferably cast iron because I love them so much. They cook so well, clean up easily, hide any dirt you don't get, and keep your iron levels up...no kidding.

Wait, I digress. In the pan, on med-high heat, warm olive oil...good stuff. Ours is grown locally and delivered to the door. (sorry, that wasn't nice) In it, put some rosemary, preferably fresh and coarsely chopped. Let that stooge around and get to know each other. Meanwhile grate up an apple, a good big firm tart one, like a Fuji or something...drop the whole mess into the pan, turn the heat down a bit. I put the lid on at first to make sure it would all cook through, and then took it off so it wouldn't get too soupy....stir it somewhere between fairly-often and now-and-then....I thought I would have to adjust the seasonings, as in add some, when it was nearly done, but NO! It was AWESOME. Tart and sweet and soft and textured....oh so good.

It was so good that we ate it all up and I don't have any photos. So sorry.


There you go, hope you had a nice weekend too.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Racism. It is wrong.

Chi*g C*hong Ch*ing Ch*ong....

Do you remember the whole Rosie O'Donell ch*ing ch*ong incident? ....then there is this eloquent response by the poet beau sia which points out the ignorance of the comment and the pain it can cause.

Well, we have our own personal ch*ing ch*ong incident -please excuse all the stars, I am trying to control who finds the site through nasty google searches- one of the teachers at the kid's school cracked a ch*ing ch*ong joke, and for good measure one about Native American languages too. Though the teacher implied that there is only one indigenous language in the Americas, neglecting the approximately 150 languages in the South American continent, which are the few survivors of the approximately 1,500 languages present at the time of European -read Spanish- contact in that region. This also neglects the approximately 28 Central American and Mexican indigenous languages, and the approximately 300 North American indigenous languages.

This joke was racist.

The fact that the teacher did it for a laugh and not in the context of trying to build cultural awareness and what can hinder peoples open-minded approach to the diversity of our world...

made it worse.

The fact that the teacher is a teacher...

made it worse.

We are drawing up our own response.

We do not anticipate being able to approach the eloquence of Beau Sia, especially as we have to have the conversation in Catalan, this however does not remove the importance of the issue.

I truly do not believe that this teacher is a racist. In that, I truly believe that he would not treat a child in his class differently if he or she came from another culture...that said, racism is alive and well here. I also truly believe that this teacher made an ignorant and harmful comment and needs to be called on it. Let's be nice and say educated if you want.

Here in Spain we are treated differently than other immigrants because we are immigrants from the so-called first world.

This is wrong.

We are not even called immigrants as this refers to poor people who often look different from the Spanish, as in not white, and often face economic challenges, most likely at least in part because of this labelling.

This is wrong.

Laughing at other culture's languages, or other people's faces

is wrong.

Doing so in an educational setting

is tragically wrong.

This country is one of the most open nations in Europe in their policies, in their admittance of refugees, in their willingness to provide every single person with medical care and education, but it is a nation that is new to having immigrants. It is something with which they are working, actively and diligently, on a daily basis.

But this behaviour, which I have also seen in other contexts,

is wrong.

It is not supportive of tolerance, which is this teachers job.

Tolerance is only the first pathetic baby step.

Tolerance implies merely a willingness to endure. It implies to me an element of distaste.

What we need is an open-minded welcome; an interest in and fundamental respect for all people and all cultures.

This behaviour does not support it.

What we need is a fundamental belief that the diversity of people, whether as individuals or as groups, by whatever commonality they are made, is one of the greatest riches that we posses as humans.

That we are one people, who are all different, and that this diversity is fundamentally and profoundly important is vital.

This behaviour does not pass on this message.

Now to pass my daughter's message about this subject on to the teacher.

In Catalan.