Saturday, June 30, 2007
I went RACING today! I can't believe how much I love sailing. I was all tired out and almost didn't want to go, and then I walked down to the dock and I was so fundamentally happy it amazed me. I just love it.
We had a blast, the crew work went well and we had no major mishaps...which I am delighted with, I have a position on the boat that leaves you open to particularly obvious errors and I was pleased to not have made any major gaffs, some things could have been smoother and one hoist could have been faster, but overall it was fun. We didn't exactly set the world on fire, my Dad said that, "we made it possible for the winners." Which was a good way of looking at it, although we didn't come last either. Sort of lower middle class. A ton of fun, and I get to do it again tomorrow. I'll sleep in September in Spain. Honestly.
The girls went with my Mom to pick strawberries and raspberries and we now have the most outrageous volume of them...and we've given quite a lot away and eaten quite a bit as well. Then they took us out for dinner. How good is that?
A lovely day and great to get out and do something fun. The man is going sailing tomorrow in Spain. Apparently he will be rail meat, as in he won't have a job. Did I write that in the last post? I don't know. It'll be nice for him to get out on the water though.
The tenants have, for better or for worse, apparently left the house. I am going to go over in the morning and check it out. Cross your fingers for me that everything is fine. I hope it will be.
Friday, June 29, 2007
The weekend promises to be a good one, though still a bit busy and lord only knows when I will really get to see the kids. I am going racing with my Dad on his sailboat this weekend and the kids are going to hang out with my Mom. That is for Saturday and Sunday. The weather looks good, so it should be fun.
I miss the man....he is also going sailing this weekend in Spain, a first that we have not managed before. It is quite a hot boat, and he is just going to be rail meat...the translation for that is that he won't have a job of any sort and will simply shift from one side of the boat to the other, or you could say one rail to the other, to help keep the boat flat. It is not exactly tension filled, but is kind of fun, no work or responsibility, just a nice day out. I am going to have to be working harder this weekend.
I went mulberry picking again, this time with both my girls, plus the boy upstairs and two more boys from up the street, a friend's kids, and of course the dog. It was fun, they are neat kids and have a lot of cool things to say...one of the kids is the guy that walks Chuck every day, he confessed to losing Chuck's leash one day and having to chase him to get him back. Blessedly he got him. yee gawds. Cross your fingers for us.
I think I am a bit tired for any sort of intelligible post, I had planned to talk about a number of things, and I am simply finding myself a little stupid and tired.
Oooo, I just noticed UBS ports on this 'puter, wonder if I can post some pics?
Well, looky there...
A raptor of some form at the Don Valley Brickworks
Grenadier Pond again...
Maybe I'll manage some sailing photos too!
Thursday, June 28, 2007
It was a lovely evening, we had a picnic and hung out, I hadn't seen my buddy nearly a year and she is toying with moving to Spain too, and she has just finished school, well, back to school as an adult. It was exciting.
The dog also had an exciting night, I don't know what kind of critter was out in the yard in the middle of the night, but oh my goodness, he barked on and off for maybe half an hour. It was interesting because he cannot have smelled it for all that time, and was clearly remembering it, he would stop for a while, and then do this little huffing half barks because he knew I wanted him to be quiet. An unvoiced bark..then he would get more excited and start to bark for a couple and calm down again. (I hate this keyboard, it is so clunky)
I am a little sleepy this morning, but oh what a delight on the walk, there was a cardinal singing his heart out, I even got some pictures, but alas, no 'puter yet...and the mulberries are in season. I love mulberries, they are sweet and delicious treats that you can only get by foraging, which gives them a lovely slightly illicit flavour as well...
This morning I was meandering along in a dopey sleep-drugged way, I hadn't spoken yet and my mouth was thick and sleepy, then I popped in a mulberry. Oh it was so lively. Woke me right up...maybe I should get the kids up by dropping berries in their mouths. It is lovely.
I am going to be an unpopular Mom tonight, although they were much more pleasant last night...I forgot to lay out their breakfasts this morning. I leave before they get up. I made their lunch, but clean forgot breakfast. That's OK, they'll manage, but they'll let me know about it.
I fed the dog anyway.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I saw an older guy walking down the street here and he was wearing what I think are called saddle shoes. You know those black and white jobs that you usually see in a bowling alley but they also wore on Happy Days all those years ago? It was really striking. It also made me think of all the folks in Spain wearing Espardanyas...or Espadrills as we would call them, and not just the girls...the old men as well, with the laces that go around and around your ankles.
I basically live in a single pair of Birkenstocks, the ones the dog ate as you saw earlier...though I have some more...high tops, and some runners my God mother left me...in the basement of my house in TO I have a pair of red cowboy boots that I love and wish I could find. I will have a feeble look if I can this summer, but I don't hold out much hope...there is an awful lot of crap down there.
We went to a friend's end of the year music concert last night as well. He is seven and played the key theme from Beetoven's Ode to Joy...and he did well. He stopped in the middle at one point but had the composure to pull it together and sort himself out. It was very neat. The whole event wasn't too painful overall, the teenage slump walk was interesting to watch, like they are embarassed of their bodies, which they probably are come to think of it, growing and changing and popping out and generally being somewhat untrustworthy...
One of the kids, well, really he is a teenager, he was really very good...very impressive and quite talented. It was great to hear...it was also nice ow the teacher interspersed the older kids and the younger kids, so there was more variety over the show. Youngest decided that she would like to take music lessons, but from that teacher. This would be a touch difficult to organise.
The girls and I were out walking Chuck last night and we saw a fox! We are fairly near High Park and there are lots of them there. We always thought Chuck looked like a fox, but he is WAY bigger...maybe a coyote?
I also saw a heron the other day...it made me think of the boat and Florida.
There is more wildlife here, and more greenery...not really a big surprise, there is a whole lot more room.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The keyboard on this computer sucks rocks, really. It is a dinosaur, I feel like I am typing on an old manual. I am such a princess, no?
I am also hurting for the lack of a computer at home, I just don't have time for reading blogs at work, although I am not sure I have it at home either, but at least it opens another window of opportunity.
There are some angry and weird people in this city. That has been striking. I see more homeless people, and more people who are basically not very functional that I remember seeing before. A lot more. I wonder what is up.
There was one woman this morning in the park, who was apparently functional, but well actually kinda strange. I was walking along with the Chuckster, admiring the ponds and the reflections of the trees in the water with the lily pads, and having quite a Monetesque moment if you could ignore the strong smell of sewer coming off the water...I did see a heron yesterday. I saw this woman with her dog, it was an unusual looking beast. Picture a rottweiler, right down to the docked tail, and then give it border collie colouring. Very strange. I asked if it was a collie rottweiler mix. Well, let me tell you, that was the wrong thing to ask. She flew right off the handle that I might think it was a rottweiler, and refused to tell me what the dog was because, "Anyone who might think that the dog was a rottweiler, well...." *muttermuttermutter* as she stomped off.
Goodness gracious honey. I think maybe you need a little help, and I am quite glad your not my neighbour.
There were some rather nasty girls in the park last night as well, this little pack of creepy and unpleasant girls, all around 7 or 8. They left eldest alone, she was big enough but they took a run at both youngest and our friend, a boy about 7 years old...we left, life is too short. They were weird too, all over Chuck, but one of them kept trying to step on his tail, and they asked me for some of the food I had with me, NO thankyouverymuch, and they seemed to know us, although I swear we have never seen them before and neither had the kids....it was really kinda creepy, like something you see out of Hollywood...very strange and very unpleasant. It makes me realise how lucky we were in Spain with the kids there. No one even remotely like these little brats. Though brats seems strangely too mild. It was bizarre and uncomfortable.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
I pulled the ultimate goofy move the night before last. I woke up in the deep dark depths of the middle of the night, and being jet-lagged had no freaking idea what time it was. So I tried to get the fancy pants cell phone to tell me, but I couldn't remember how to turn the lights on the machine, especially as it was rather dark in the room. Now most sensible people would have turned on a light at this point, but I decided that as I had to pee as well, I would head off to the loo.
I toddled off, turned on the light in the washroom, thus rendering myself entirely blind when I emerged and discovered that it was, dishearteningly, only 1:30 am. I finished my business, and left to head back to the bedroom. Now we stay in a basement apartment while we are in TO, so it is some dark down there boys, and loser that I am upon occasion I managed to walk nose first into the end of the door.
I figured I was going to wake up with two big fat shiners, but no, and I don't even see a difference in my nose structure, which was not exactly petite to begin with.
I thought that would look great too, "No really, my husband is in Spain, I just walked into a door...really..."
The funny thing is that my husband has the most appalling eye-site, so we are pretty careful to make sure that all the doors are opened all the way and not sticking out at a ninety degree angle like they were the other night, cause he will walk into them. Well the man is in Spain, so I ignored these elementary precautions; to my detriment.
I would have looked great on the first day of classes with no voice, two black eyes and a swollen nose, eh?
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Brought the dog in with me as well as the day is so long and he is still a bit squirrely from the trip...also there isn't another soul in the building which I find kind of uncomfortable, but safer with dogalicious along.
It is weird being here in some ways, I keep trying to say Hola to complete strangers on the street like Crocodile Dundee in New York. How foolish. I went walking with the dog this morning and discovered whole new areas in the neighbourhood that I had never seen before, this hidden playground. No street access, only footpaths.
I am repeatedly amazed by the size of the playgrounds and the streets and the sidewalks, and the trees. I am also surprised that I am finding so many differences. When we had come back from sailing in the past I don't remember seeing such differences, but we did not integrate as thoroughly with the people and the community there so that may be why.
Folks are uptight here too....crabby ticket collector in the subway, he was all offended because I gave him too much money for the tickets I wanted. I mean WTH, this is your job buddy, maybe you should get a little anger management work done there. The flight attendants on AC were pretty uneven too, one of them seemed to hate us all just for being there.
Then in the airport I made the grave error of letting the dog out of his crate. Ooops, I got told for that as well. They confiscated the brand new, unopened bag of dog food as well. Apparently the EU guidelines for cleanliness are not good enough. Anyone who remembers my comments on the North American food industry here you would understand my urge to shout the man down, but I let that ride too cause I just wanted to LEAVE.
Bought me a new hat as well, I managed to leave both of mine in Spain, and I quite like this one...cheap too...I'll take a picture, but I don't know when I'll be able to post. I had better get back to work now.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
It happened today. I got fired up and excited about teaching this summer, because that is what I will be doing and why I am going back. The excitement has expanded inside me and is forging a smile and a sense of eagerness I have been missing.
For me, teaching seems to be an inherently creative act. Not like a painter or a play-write, but creative nonetheless. I strive to create a tiny fissure, a crack in the floorboards, a slip of opportunity to the students to look at things differently and to be conscious of things in a new way.
The students do not see it this way. They are looking for a body of material to ingest which is understandable as I need concrete provable verification that the required facts have been embedded, but what I am really searching for is simply the merest glimmerings of the sea change of consciousness.
There is a moment in tidal areas where everything hovers. This is especially noticeable in narrow straights where the tide reverses and floods through strongly. The students come in and study hard and all I am hoping for is that hovering pause when all the plastic bags and used condoms and Sargasso weeds and tiny brilliantly jewel-like fish hover and mill around and start to turn in another direction.
Where they go from there I have no control over, only hope.
Some of the students struggle. All of the students struggle. I feel I am standing, quivering. attempting to hold open this tiny fissure of opportunity I've been granted the chance to heave apart. Some of the students spy it and slither through like guppies, some get stuck like Winnie-the-Pooh in Rabbit's hole and are forced to spend plenty of time with tea-towels hung over their legs while they wait to be ready. Some search for the way to begin to get through. They've spotted the slip of the opening but stand outside it ramming their heads at it sideways and just cannot figure what the next step should be, but the fact that they've found the it and want to peer through and strive gives me hope and a chance to help. Some come up, take a single jaundiced glance and want nothing to do with it, but having spent time and money, and wanting a grade, they work their way through long enough to be deemed competent then march firmly out without a backwards look, untouched and untouchable.
One student struggled and strove and wanted badly, but she met so many obstacles she never made it through - she may think - but by my criteria, the sparkle of consciousness and a sideways slant at the world - she passed by miles. I hope she feels that way. This was simply not the opening for her and she had the bravery and wisdom to recognise this.
It is an exciting process to be in on and I am (finally and thankfully) eager to start again. Does this all sound like hubris? I hope not, my work is a tiny fraction of what the students do...I am merely pointing out the possibilities, they are the ones that do the real work in this collaboration.
This year packed on top of the last three sailing, with all the changes and study and struggle, coupled with this gift of teaching makes the inside of my head feel sandpapered bright and tingling with potential.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Take a good close look at that candy. One of the women I work with had that and I lifted it off her and took it home just to show all of you. What am I supposed to do with that thing? I mean really? It does have an impressive level of detail for a candy, that guy has an impressive expression of contentment on his face. My oh my.
He was cherry flavoured.
Here is another odd thing about here. They are paranoid about mosquitoes, you can buy three or four different types of meds to take or apply to avoid them, and there are bead curtains for over the doors, there are several different approaches for dogs, but you cannot buy mosquito screen at the local hardware store and no one has a screen door. Now why not? Does that not strike you as an elementary first step in the battle against mosquitoes? Rather than ingesting I know not what chemicals?
I am thrilled to report that the man remains and is completely well, so is youngest and eldest reported that she hasn't had a stomach ache all day!!!!!!!!!!!!!Hallelujah!!!!!!
I however still have a sore throat, but that's frankly small beans.
I broke down and made the list today, I am without a doubt a list girl...and I was doing alright on the calendar I have, but now the list has gotten to the stage where there are a series of disjointed items, all of which are necessary, but they don't hang together so they aren't easy to remember. It is impressively short though. This isn't half so bad as a trip either way to the boat, or coming here for that matter. My only question is if I can fit it all in the suitcase. We are only taking one for the three of us, and knapsacks each. I think the girl's back-packs will be nearly empty, but eldest is (as usual) fighting me on that. She always wants to bring more. I have to remind her this evening that the more things we have in the bags, the fewer children's books we can bring back. That ought to work. Books, or the third pair of winter weight pants.
The dog is, as expected, proving to be a hassle, but manageable so far. I am a little worried about the whole thing honestly, but it should be alright. My biggest problem so far is that I am having trouble contacting the airlines to reconfirm about him and it is SO painfully time-consuming. Erg.
I took the dog to the vet for his passport and check-up, and the girls to the doctor for theirs. No surprises anywhere and we have an appointment at the optometrists for September, the day after we get back...Yee gawds. I will have forgotten all Catalan and the Doc is sure to speak only Castillian and I will be once again horrifically jet-lagged and trying to function. Gurk. Maybe I should study Spanish this summer....which reminded me to bring the Spanish language CD's and book...I just went and did that. I can listen in the car and study...well, in my sleep, I'll put my book under the pillow. That really should work don't you think?
I have my last meeting with my Catalan language buddy today and then I DON'T work tonight so I can run more of the errands, and then....SLEEP. No. Pack then sleep.
I ended up taking the dog for his nightly walk last night as the man was crashing downwards...I have to say that it was absolutely lovely after the stuffy, well it isn't stuffy, but the claustrophobic feel of a household of sickies...and the bougainvillia are blooming like crazed things and it is overwhelmingly gorgeous...also the bats were out flying around. I love these little guys. They are small and amazing little aerobatic pilots...they resemble the swallows and swifts that we have around in the day, but they flutter more...still pulling the most impressive aeronautic stunts. And to boot, they eat the damn mosquitoes. So I walked along, obnoxious irritating mosquito free and admired their flying and the flowers. It was lovely.
The man managed a stunning recovery and is now fine. Thank God.
Youngest remains fine...she had her
The cold seems to have gotten me...the sore throat is now constant and I am starting to sneeze and the faint beginnings of a cough are emerging. I think I am actually glad. Better to let the damn thing run it's course than be teased by it forever and a day.
Eldest remains much the same. I am not sure that the antibiotics are working, she thinks it hurts less and for shorter periods, and she certainly seemed more chipper at lunch, but I am wondering if this is simply a placebo effect. We'll have to wait and see. Cross your fingers for me.
I have almost finished writing my report cards for the language school - in Catalan...now there is an entertaining process...I go through a two correction process...nearly done. Not too many this year anyway. They are so test and grade happy here I find that tricky. I definitely do fewer tests and give less homework than anyone else...my students seem to be doing alright anyway.
You may have noticed the sudden expansion of my blog roll and links...I will be leaving the computer behind when I go and my favorites list with it...so I plastered a bunch on the blog as a form of electronic memory. I will eventually have access to a computer at where we are staying in TO, although it may take a couple of days and I will have a computer at work of course. I will however be rather extensively and overwhelmingly busy so if my commenting decreases and the photos drop off, and the posts get a whack shorter...well you know why. Sorry. I will do my best. It will definitely be a bit before I get the photos sorted out, I don't think I can do it at work so I will have to wait for the new computer and then figure out how it works.
We fly in three days.
I got GOODIES in the mail...Nomad bless her darling soul sent me a book! IN ENGLISH!!!! WOOOOHOOOOO. Not only that, but given the first 22 pages that I have read, an EXCELLENT book. It is Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life". Well, I for one am very excited. I commented a while ago about trying to find an on-line writing courses, or workshops and while I haven't found any I can afford, this is certainly a big step in the right direction. This summer I am hoping that in all my spare time away from *cough* work, the dog, the house, sing-parenting, prep-work that needs to be done at home and -oh yeah- seeing friends and family, I will have a chance to hammer out a good portion of a first draft for a project I have in mind...which I need to be in TO to work on, although I can bring some of the materials here in the fall. This is a most timely and welcome gift. Thank you thank you thank you.....
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Dinner didn't appear till 9:30, and we all had a conversation about the fact that we weren't feeling very well, but then we realised the hour and the fact that most of us had eaten basically nothing all day and realised what the reason may have been.
I actually ended up helping make the food, while trying to breathe very shallowly so as not to infect the entire town. One of the women we know fairly well here was in charge of preparing the entire meal and she was starting to look a little frayed, and as it was already 9pm and the kids were DYING of starvation - it also makes eldest's stomach hurt more - I thought the best route to success was to offer to help...
I have mentioned pa amb tomaquet before - take lovely crusty white bread, smear with a sliced tomato and drizzle oil over top...well, when you make it for this many they had pureed tomaquet and oil in a giant bin, and we used paint brushes to slap it on...and on and on and on....we made a lot. Then we had to seperate out endless slices of meat from sheets of plastic which is tricky when you are wearing loose plastic gloves...though I was glad they use them.
We ate, we had a lovely time, they got the Karaoke out for the kids which was fairly painful but they had a blast... the girls did their performances and were gleeful about it all....
I am still sleeping like crazy...eldest still has a stomach ache although she has gone to her marathon 10 hour saints day party...from people we have talked to it is unusually long for here as well....we went for lunch at our friends house which was fascinating, and very good practice for my Catalan....*gasp*
Lunch here lasts a while. We arrived at around 2:30 and got home at around 7pm, although we did take her dog for a walk in the mountain, without Chuck whose passion would be boundless but, um, distracting.
We also had a fun-filled morning packing up the kid's stuff and getting organised to go. The kids are in school all day and I work Monday and Wednesday evenings, so I really only had this morning and Tuesday night as we fly out at 6am or something silly on Thursday morning....
A lovely day. My sore throat is persisting. I will wager money I can keep this in abeyance till we fly...then the lack of sleep and the dry airplane air will give these disgusting cold germs their window of opportunity and they will leap forth in strength and my first week in TO will be buried in a sea of germ-ladened illness.
now the man is sick.
Friday, June 15, 2007
We fly in six days.....
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I made a tactical error this morning while I was walking the dog. I stopped and bought the baguette that I would need for the kid's snack half way through the walk. Now, to get the impact of this, you have to realise that our amazing fly dog is also a passionate starch lover, preferably white crusty bread...so when I emerged carrying the baguette wrapped in a small piece of paper about it's middle, he was, shall we say, excited.
We managed this with a bit of dancing and went off to an area where I could let him run around without the leash. No problem here either, until I went to put the leash back on. This is a two handed operation so I did what is absolutely standard practice and tucked the baguette in my armpit. This left my arms free, but every time I bent over to put on the leash, the end of the baguette projecting forward from my body was waving directly in Chuckbacha's face...much to his excitement. I eventually got he leash on and though the baguette broke in half it was otherwise un-chewed or slobbered upon and remained fully edible, if battered.
When I got home, eldest got up and was once again in considerable abdominal pain. Florence Nightingale here took her off to the doctor in a moderately good humour, sort of, and the doctor sent us to the neighbouring town for an x-ray. Seemed a strange choice for a soft tissue issue, but it did rule out things like kidney stones I suppose, but given where the pain is, we were fairly confident on that front anyway.
We hand that in tomorrow along with a battery of samples. Suffering eldest is at school this afternoon, and I have to sing the almighty praises for the ladies I work for. I went in to tell them that I may not be able to teach my 3pm class because of this...the nature of waiting rooms and the one hour bus ride each way being the potential spoiler....the darling women.....one of them gave us a lift, and stayed with us throughout and talked to them all. She speaks no English but we can communicate. She has the skill of slowing down her speech and making herself understood. Plus, she's a local, so she knew which lines we needed to get in, and which not, she could talk to the nurses and receptionists and get it all done without a fuss. It was a million times easier than it would have otherwise been.
Thank you thank you thank you.
I am still strangely tired and lethargic, I think a nap is in order. Though as I type this I recall that I had a series of nightmares last night....I think the tension around returning to TO is making it's presence felt.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Today was market day today, and I bought five duck eggs as an experiment. Now some of you may be surprised by this, but being a city girl, I had never had a duck egg in my life!
I got them home along with the rest of the groceries, and proceeded to fry them up. As these were farm raised eggs from a lady in the neighbourhood, I figured that the danger of salmonella was remote to say the least, so I decided to do what I NEVER do and try them with a runny yolk. I am a touch paranoid on the salmonella issue, I will admit, and all eggs are cooked until the yolk is solid.
I placed these beauties on the table, one even had a double yolk and they were firm and upstanding. Eggs that are proud to be eggs. I cut into the first one...popped it in my mouth and it was
I didn't like the taste, and it was all slimy and gluey and stuck to the inside of my face.
Blech blech blech...
I headed rapidly in the kitchen in search of some vinegar to drink straight to 'cleanse my palette' (blech blech blech) *ptew ptew*
I saw the peanut butter jar first, nice coarse peanut butter. If figured that would abrade the foul tasting stuff off my mouth effectively. It did.
Slapped those babies back in the frying pan and cooked them up good, then still a little leery I also cut up some of the gorgeous tomatoes I had bought, sprinkled a little balsamic and some olive oil from a friend's property - am I spoiled or what? -and started again.
Much much better.
They were firmer than a chicken's egg and more substantial and there was a subtle difference in flavour that was more apparent when youngest had her duck egg boiled. She had a brutal time peeling it, sure sign of a nice fresh egg, but otherwise enjoyed it.
We also had some little bitty baby new potatoes, also with the same olive oil and some sea salt...the only kind you can get here.
We also had some cherries which are in season here as well. Hombre, they were GOOD.
Monday, June 11, 2007
I had walked into the store first thing this morning, it is getting pretty darned hot and hauling my groceries up these hills at noon is an option to be avoided. So I get my cart, and the staff are busy stocking the shelves, so I go between two of the cash registers to pass into the store. As I go by the space where the cashier stands, I glance down and there is a big fat crap sitting on the floor. I mean BIG. OK. Now that is pretty weird in itself, but, well. No it's just plain weird.
I go up to one of the ladies who works there and bring her over to point it out. She giggles, motions me to silence and tells me something about it...either it is from the night watch dog, or it is plastic, I don't know which...it wasn't smelly anyway...then she points to one of the other women and tells me it's a joke...
So the whole time I am in the store all the various employees, except the soon to be victim are giggling and laughing when they see me, because of course I am now in on the joke.
She hadn't seen it by the time I left.
Can you IMAGINE that at your local grocery store? I mean they would just about shut down two thirds of the place in the local Piggly Wiggly or Loblaws, let alone stand around and laugh about it. The manager was in on it too!
Just think what the food inspection agencies would do. OMG.
On another topic, I have been made a moderator and animator on the expat-blog website...you'll see the button further down on my side bar...this happened in part because I was active in a topic stream there about living in Barcelona. We unfortunately ended up with a person on the stream who was not happy in Barcelona, which is fair enough, no place is perfect for everyone, but he was making broad extremely negative bordering-on-racist comments about the Catalans and he was attacking and insulting everyone who disagreed with him. It was...unpleasant. It also was effectively shutting down an interesting and active stream of comments and discussion. I ended up e-mailing the founder of the site, and we discussed the problem. Eventually the unhappy and aggressive expat was banned.
Then I was made a moderator on several of the streams....one of the things I was asked to do was to clean up the Living in Barcelona topic. This posed me an interesting set of difficulties. Hardly earth shattering, but still...as I was working away I was faced with questions about ownership...whose site was this anyway...well, it is the founder's and this is how he wants the site to be...but then there is the fact that history is written by the victors...and now that the unhappy expat was banned, how much should I slice away of his opinion? Then there are censorship issues that rear their ugly head.
Where to draw the line? Some of it was no brainer easy. Broad negative comments about a group of people based on cultural background went at a sweep. Attacks on other commenters also went swiftly. Then....
Some of what he said was true, but was couched in such a loathing way it detracted from the value of his comments and seemed frankly bizarre. So I ended up removing some of the more extreme adjectives and adverbs that seemed to be lacking a basis in fact....and left it.
It still reads angry and aggressive and unpleasant but I don't know how much...The founder had previously deleted entire entries that were attacking other posters...
This also left more editorial questions about continuity...other people had commented countering this person, sometimes with considerable emotion, but since the offensive comments have been removed, their comments seem somewhat extreme now...
It is all a little awkward, although I was interested that I found myself awash in intellectual ethical debates as I did the task....I'll go and reread it all again tomorrow.
On a final note, some of you may have bird dogs, or sheep dogs, or hunting dogs. We are the proud owner of a FLY DOG!!!!!!!!
If any of you out there have a problem with flies, we have the mutt for you...no window is too delicate, no computer is too vulnerable, this dog will go to any length to leap after those pesky beasts and kill them for you! Unfortunately, though rather sensibly, he will only kill them, he leaves the carcasses around for you to tidy up...though he will go back, like the highly trained sentry that he is, and ensure that they are indeed still dead and haven't sneakily come back to haunt you.
WHAT a good dog!
The kids have to do English studies at lunch time, on top of their school work at school. The English requirements in the local school do not even begin to approach the level at which the girls function...no surprise there, and so we have a regime.
Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays are dedicated to spelling. Tuesdays they have to do a page of grammar from their text books, and Thursdays they have to produce an original composition and we edit it...this frequently generates the spelling words for the next weeks test. They are also required to write in a journal every day...well, not weekends.
For the last week or so as we realised that the school year is nearly done and we were not really nearing the completion of the grammar book, we have jettisoned the spelling and we are doing grammar and journal every day. Whew. Lots and lots of grammar. We should get it done though.
Youngest was complaining about the work, but cheered up when I pointed out that I had been teaching the same material to an adult college professor that day. Now that makes it all seem more interesting doesn't it.
As I was reviewing her journal with her, there was a phrase that filled me with confusion. Apparently her sister had been on 'filled tripe'. Now as a mental image this is a pretty good one. Tripe is that white jiggly corrugated spongy stomach intestine stuff. Now what could it be filled with, what would it be like to sit on and why on earth would she be doing it?
After a pause I realised she meant that her sister had been on a 'field trip', which if your eight is not really that big a spelling error, and funnier to boot.
One of the students today was also trying to tell me something about Denmark. He was talking about 'Peking goose' and gesturing to large ears like a bunny. Now this was pretty confusing to me...I had to go over it several times in my head, and you may need to say 'Peking goose' out loud several times with an imitation of a Spanish accent while waving your arms above your head imitating giant bunny ears. Now you need to explain why you are doing this to your nearest and dearest, or the guy in the next cubicle....
What he meant was 'Viking house' and the large bunny ears were of course the horns on the helmets. Again though I had a delightful mental image of a dish of Peking duck, in Denmark, with giant bunny ears. Surrealist painters must have been language teachers on the side. Such a rich repository of the strange and nearly impossible.
One of the students laughingly confessed that when confronted with an English speaking tourist the other day, he had dusted off his skills, given directions to the person, and told them that it was a good hotel, they sold both food and 'dreams'.
Now wouldn't that be great? Maybe the BFG works there.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Now youngest is sick. she was up in the night vomiting twice....she isn't too bad today, but I just know that my sister had that sinking feeling in your stomach that you get when you have to fly with a possibly sick child. You start to look at them as potential disasters, ticking, just waiting to go off....
I haven't heard from her since she was in BCN airport where she called because she was so ecstatic to discover a playground next to her gate. Now how smart is that, eh?
We head back to Toronto in a week and a half without the man...he can't come until Aug. I am not looking forward to it on the whole. Too much work and hassle....thought that is lightened by the delight of seeing friends and family....the kids are pretty excited. I had a three hour nap this morning, partially because I kept staying up too late to talk to my sister, but I honestly wonder if I am storing up energy for Toronto...the schedule is going to be horrible.
I had planned to say something bright and descriptive and cheery about my sister's visit, but I think I am having a post-visit let down. I am also strangely weary, and blogger is driving me NUTS. It is as slow as molasses today and I have no idea why. It is taking me forever to do anything and making me as crabby as all heck.
Chuck found himself completely infatuated with my sister...in love...we aren't sure why he was so enamoured, but it was quite remarkable.
The girls caught this jelly fish at the beach, lovely isn't it...
The crate came for the dog's flight home, another source of worry frankly....good lord what happens if they lose him?
Here he is inside it. It's only for a bunch of hours...
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Friday, June 8, 2007
Eldest was still kinda sick this morning, and I had a weep at work when I was talking to the women there about the whole issue. I must say though that I have a great group of people I work with...they were all upset that I hadn't called them yesterday for help, though given the schedule I am not sure WHEN I could have.
They all said that I could call them if I had to go in and get anything done with the doctor again.
They all said that they would drive us to the hospital. At any time, day or night.
Three of them, including a woman who wasn't there when I was telling them about it called this evening to see how eldest was doing.
I am a lucky girl.
And my sister is here!!!!!!!!!!!
We went to the beach with the kids, we had a lot of fun. We ate, everyone else swam...it is too cold for me.....
We walked and talked and played and had a grand time.
The travelling cage for the dog came, finally....the kids all got in it...good babysitting possibilities there...
The man, my sister and I all separately bought dessert for dinner for the grown ups. Can you say yum.
And we stayed up far too late talking, so my blog's getting neglected.
No photos, little text, all the things I have thought of saying I don't have time for....
I took photos, no time to down load...
I'll get there eventually......
Thursday, June 7, 2007
It all started out pretty well, took the dog for a walk, enjoyed the quiet and listened to the bird song...
Getting home though...eldest's stomach is acting up. Again. Badly.
It's off to the doc we go...
But first to work. I left youngest at home with her as second in command...work was fine....
Back I came and we trotted off to the medical center. This is not leaving me happy here...sick kids don't. Gotta love that parental pendulum swing between being certain that they are fine, and wondering if they have cancer....
We see a lovely doctor, who is Argentinian, so speaks little Catalan and less English which doesn't exactly complement my non-existent Spanish, minor Catalan and English. We concluded that it probably is not mortal, and they prescribed an analgesic.
Eldest needs to go to the can so I run her home, I have 30 minutes till the bus...can you say irritation and tension....
I get into the farmacia, well, our temporary health cards are expired. We knew this. I went in a month ago to ask about this...and I changed the phone number which was listed wrong..but there was apparently no problem. I did leave with some of my usual confusion when dealing with everything in Catalan, but what the heck.
The man went back last week. Let me repeat that, it bears on the story of my day. The man went back LAST WEEK and was told that this was normal, the cards frequently take several months to come through, up to 8 or 10. No problem, don't worry.
Well, with 20 minutes left to catch the bus to meet my sister, the dog unwalked, the kid sick, the beds not shifted around so everyone has a place to sleep, and no one fed, I am told that NO, this is indeed a problem. Please go back to the health center.
Turns out that way back in oh, say, December when we filled out these forms there was a paper from the town hall we had to give them. We gave a photocopy, fully approved by the lady there. Well. It was supposed to be the original.
Now this is when I lost it.
You know, my Catalan isn't half bad if I am angry enough. You see, now I have to go to the Ajuntamin as well for a form, return and fill in more forms, and time is ticking away on me, my kid is sick, and I haven't got a lot of patience for bureaucratic bullshit in the first place, let alone in another language.
I ended up both shouting and weeping in the front hall of our town hospital to the stunned amazement of everyone there. Fortunately I have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about pitching a fit when I deem it necessary. This one had a large measure of frustration with it as well. I cannot speak the language well, and the woman I was talking too repeatedly slid into Spanish, and talked incredibly quickly in spite of my repeated requests that she slowed down.
In the end I got it all done. She called the ajuntamen about the form, I went over to get it, where they also looked at me in stunned amazement, I returned and bought the damned medicine.
Got home with about 3 minutes to spare...and, though I was sorry for my sister, her plane was delayed an hour. Thank God. I got lunch, dealt with a certified letter, the wine delivery and got some of the beds moved.
I have to add that my stress levels were also moving up there because we are having some issues around the rental of our house which are ratcheting my shoulders skywards, along with the pending hassles of returning to Canada...
But then I got on the bus, and BCN is LOVELY, and it was nice to be there with the beautiful buildings and the bustle....
I got out to the airport in time to go to the loo, which I had needed to do for about five and a half hours, and have a cafe amb llet...cafe con leche in Spanish....
And then my sister came out with her two kids.
Which was great.
They got a little overtired when we changed buses in BCN, but I've done little kids before and we weathered it.
And as a balm to my day, one of my neighbours saw me wheeling my sister's suitcase down the street. She pulled over, offered to drive the suitcase home and did so, waiting outside our place till we got there.
Maybe she had heard about my day.
It is a small place.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Yesterday I came up here begging you all to please please post something, anything. From the comments I got, especially Beth's (thank you very much!!), I realised that the problem might be in my computer....OK, so some of us take a while to figure these things out...I erased the history in the computer, and BINGO! there you all are, like looking behind a door I hadn't seen and finding a party going on!
Now I've got some reading to do....I hadn't gotten a post since May on most of you, some made it to June 2, but that was it!
Kate has a do it only if you want to meme up to post a picture of your favorite bird from your area.
Well, my favorites are the swallows. We named our boat, and this blog, and to some extent myself Oreneta because that is the Catalan name for a swallow. They are however lamentably difficult to photograph, so let your imaginations soar along with these lovely swift little birds that also do us the favour of eating lots and lots of flies and mosquitoes.
The pigeons and doves here are prominent, indeed there are no gulls on the beach, but there are pigeons. Before I got here I was unaware of their flight and glide abilities, mostly having seen those over-stuffed undernourished street versions. The slimmer wilder versions can actually do some quite credible flying. Their idea of a nest though is a joke. We saw a nest up close in Tarragona before I got the camera...it was a couple of sticks laid haphazardly in a, well a heap would be to dignified, in a clump...a mess.... No they were not even laid in anything. They were strewn about at random on the window sill, and one egg lay morosely in the middle of the chaos.
This nest that I found today on my walk is clearly not a pigeon nest. I have no idea what it might be though except small.
I also love the feral or wild parrots that you find in BCN, they hang with the pigeons, beg, pick, bathe in the puddles, but are a startling green and have the most raucous call.
I also really like the myna birds. I am not even sure that is their name, and I am fairly certain that is not how you spell it; however they are black and white members of the crow family, and have their mischieviousness, cleverness and skill at mimicry. There is one that lives near by who does a very credible cat imitation.
This one seems to have lost a battle of some sort though.
When we first got here in the fall we were distressed by the lack of bird life, especially after being spoiled by Florida which is a bird paradise...over the winter thought there were more. Many of the Northern European birds pass through here or winter over here. Unfortunately we don't have a bird book for here in any language...so life remains a bit of a mystery on that front.
So glad that I got the computer out of it's suspended animation and me along with it....
Is there anybody out there?
OK fellow bloggers, I know you all have lives to live and life can get busy, but I am starting to feel like the only one in a giant blog vacuum...every single blog I read, including ones that aren't listed here yet, are sittin' there. No updates for at least 4 days now. Ladies and gentlemen, I know they're your blogs, and you can do whatever you want and all (blah blah blah), but Puhlease...get writing....it's getting lonely out here!
Thank goodness folks are commenting here and talk to me about the whole thing, or I would think I was the only one that hasn't heard about the freeze tag game....
Moving right along....
I was in BCN again today, buying sheets and underwear. Life is fun and exciting all the time, eh? I didn't bring the camera and regretted it. There was one store I went by called, "Video BUM - Stop" Yup. I thought that was pretty amusing. There were others, but the sieve I use for a brain has not retained them at the moment...the buildings were gorgeous, and I picked up some more sailing books. Yahoo!
I also saw this chocolate bar...
Care for a toke?
On that note, I saw the teenage son of one of our neighbours smoking what looked suspiciously like weed, although it may have been a hand rolled cigarette. I think not though. This was in our local bar. His Dad walked in and joined him to have a coffee. He finished off his smoke quite companionably with his Dad. He didn't offer to share. I am not sure what was in that cigarette, but it was certainly interesting to watch.
Monday, June 4, 2007
The two balconies...
Now we have one door without glass or a latch, and one that has been liberated from it's latch only. Progress is wonderful isn't it?
He decided to take the dog on a run with him. Now the man routinely runs 10 or 15 Km up into the mountains and down again. Dogalicious was one tired little pup by the time he got home. He made it all the way, but was lagging far behind on the run in, and has been sleeping ever since. He does get up and stagger stiffly from one spot to another though....
After the Atwood, I decided to go for some brain candy...Celia Brayfield's Heartswap...well. Brain candy is a bit generous. She lifted the plot first of all, although she may not even realise it, to be generous. We are reading Don Quixote for bedtime stories. We have an edition that has a brilliant translation by John Rutherford, who uses accessible language - read fairly modern - so it is much more interesting. Not so modern that it is silly, but enough that we can manage it without an undergraduate degree in Spanish History. I doubt it would be viewed as rigorous by some of the more arcane academics, but heck, it's a good story.
There is a section in it where Quixote, Sancho Panza and a group of cohorts are hanging out in an inn, reading one of the manuscripts that happen to be on hand. It is the story of a husband who has just married a beautiful, intelligent, and most important of all, virtuous wife, and he decides, stupidly, to test his wife's virtue by setting up his friend to try to seduce her. He succeeds, and they all die morose and predictable deaths, because such is the morality of the time, like the 1950's in the movie industry, that anyone who violates the cultural hegemony on acceptability must die or at the least lose out.
This book takes the same basic premise...two female friends are both engaged, and with the connivance of another woman decide to test out each other's fiance's loyalty by trying to seduce them. Predictable. But enter the 1990's morals, although the book was actually published in 2000, and not only will they succeed, they will discover by this fraudulence that they were actually better suited to the other....though I am not sure about one of the couples, one of the guys is such a smear of froggish toe-jam that I am not sure he is going to go anywhere but D O W N with all the readers cheering.
While the book is not exactly brilliant, it is interesting to look at the two works as expressions of the cultural norms and values...clearly in the latter, the end justifies the means, and indeed sleazy con-inspired back-handed trickery can be the route to happiness. Weird. It is also not a world I can identify with. Maybe there are folks like these characters out there, but I don't know them, nor do I wish to. Interestingly, all of them have MBA's...the women that is. The men are more varied.
What I wouldn't give for the Toronto Public Library....The only drag with this lifestyle we've been living for the last four years, no access to good choice in reading. By the same token, I have read books that I otherwise never would have. Although that has frankly not always been a great thing. Hilary Clinton's biography comes to mind as a case in point here, although there were elements of it that were interesting from a cultural perspective. I also waded through Moby Dick. Now there is a great story in desperate need of some good editing. The man can say the same thing over and over in six successive paragraphs.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
The most recent local festival to raise money for cancer had a bunch of kids activities attached to it as well. There was a children's entertainer who was frankly mediocre. There is a lot of work for these guys, every villages seems to have about 100 festivals every year, as far as I can tell. That isn't fair, but they have a solid 50 and there are children's entertainers booked for most of them, sometimes more than one. This leads to a lot of folks doing this, however it doesn't seem to improve the quality. This guy was reasonably talented, he had some neat tricks, but very little crowd presence or timing. He looked like he needed to go through the crucible of some serious street busking where you have to work your *ss off to keep the crowd there and entertained. The kids were more interesting to watch than he was, they were drawn moth-like to the large open dance area in front of the stage and there was good music playing as a backing for the show. Some of those little kids had MOVES. They also were not watching the entertainer over much.
Now this is Spain here, so when he decided to juggle flaming torches immediately above the children's heads, none of the parents moved to get the sweet dumplings back from the stage...these kids run the correfoc for goodness sakes, and he was reduced to hopping down from the stage and scattering the children by running around amongst them with flaming torches in his hands. They backed up briefly, and then when he returned to the stage they all came back, albeit slightly more loosely gathered. One woman got her 14 month old. Fortunately nothing dire happened. That would make me sweat though. Can you imagine how he felt? A mediocre juggler tossing around flaming torches above the bobbing heads of 50 children under 6?
Then there was the bouncy shark-turd toy. Yup. This was one of those bouncy castles, shaped like a shark. The kids run up it's mouth which closes after them, and they fling themselves down it's gullet emerging from it's backside...weird eh? It would have been fun if they had emerged bagged in brown paper....
Shark bait....to shark turd all in one easy step.
Saturday, June 2, 2007
We discovered yesterday that we have been washing all of our clothing in fabric softener since we got here. Hmm. That explains why we've had trouble with stains. It is amazing how clean the clothing came in fact...most of the dirt here is plain old dusty dirt which does just rinse out, and with the laundry hanging in the sun, all the little greebly bacteria are killed....but still. Lets see what the clothes look like now.
Atwood...I am starting to skim. This book is boring. She is taking the entire story and telling it three times over, like overlapping short stories of little intrinsic value. She needed a fierce and brave editor, but clearly this one was unwilling to make the necessary stand against the Atwood mystique. It is boring and repetitive. Two adjectives I never thought I would apply to her writing. She is not good enough to carry this story structure, that has moved beyond mere clunkiness into the ridiculous and I am losing interest fast. I may skip to the end and call it done. I'll try a different book next time. Maybe. Bleach. It think I have Alias Grace kicking around somewhere here...
There has been a big Fira today to raise money for cancer...it has been a lot of fun...as usual it is a bit of a marathon...they started selling at 10am, we got there around 11, elbows out, ready to defend our turf, and got a bunch of stuff we don't really need or want, but that isn't entirely the point at these events. We did get some plants and flowers plus a teapot shaped like the Pedrera by Gaudi...it is kind of cool...they had a lunch there for five Euros, salad, paella and desert. At 6pm there kids park opens up, face painting and I don't know what all else, and then dinner is at 9:30 with jazz music and dancing. I am not sure we have the stamina to last through till dinner, but as lunch was at three, I am not sure I really want to eat earlier.
Sideburns are all the style here, I am now quite used to it, but boy, it's a strange look. This hairstyle is also in here.....shaved all over and then dreads at the back...this one isn't as bad as some. The ones I really loathe have dreads all up the back of their heads.
The girls are having a tea party now and I can hear the music coming up from the park....the man lost the dog when they went walking today....we looked down off the porch and there was Chuck patiently waiting for us to open the door. My husband appeared about ten minutes later...some large German Shepherd saw him off. Chuck did at least look relieved to see the man returning home. Went all the way down the stairs to see him.
Friday, June 1, 2007
If we were in Canada this would be a no-brainer...fast easy simple straight-forward no. Absolute and one of those ones that the kids don't even bother to fight. But it is amazing how much your, or at least my, decision making is effected by place and culture. I am seriously contemplating the reality of getting a Vespa for eldest in a mere three years when she is 14 *eeeK*. Something I would never have even thought about considering for her entire life anywhere else. So earrings? *wiping a bit of a tear*
For me growing up, this was a serious right of passage. It required extensive begging, or at least planning with your friends, careful timing...it was one of those things that meant that your not a kid anymore. It still kinda means that to me, which is why I am finding this one a bit difficult. They still are kids...
Here, all or almost all the kids have them, and had them before they were 5. It bears no social weight that way, and people look confused when I ask them about it. They don't understand why this is an issue.
Nor does the man. When we talked about it last night...another out for more thinking time..."I have to talk to your father about this as well, it isn't fair to make this decision alone..." His comment? What's the fuss, at least it's just their ears."
So when I picked them up for lunch I told them we were going to go and get their ears pierced. Now. They were stunned, delighted and then very very nervous. We stopped to debate it, eldest wasn't sure, youngest paused and thought and then said, "YUP, I'm going for it!" So off we went. Eldest now getting swept into it and thinking maybe she will...but they were closed.
Lots of questions over lunch. Eldest is getting less and less sure. This is permanent, even if she takes out the earrings and lets them grow over, there will still be a mark. She realises that this involves a permanent mutilation of her body. Youngest is wavering, but still keen.
They are going to a friend's after school, which gives them time to think and then we'll see what happens tonight.
Seems I called their bluff on this one. Unintentionally. I just wanted to do it before my nerve broke. They are so perfect and beautiful...I just cannot picture how putting holes in them to hang ornaments off will make them better or more wonderful or smarter in any way.
More to follow.
They did it.
Youngest was still keen, so after dinner we went over, the man and all...youngest was very brave, she didn't waver although she had the giggles and turned an alarming shade of green after she saw the gun...she said she felt sick and she looked it. There was a garbage handy...she didn't need it though.
She had the first one, very relaxed, and though it hurt she got the second as well.
By this point the elder figured she could handle it, and decided to get it done as well. For the record, it hurts. It has continued to ache for a few hours longer. Hopefully they will not wake up in the night.
The night was still ripe for adventure though...having gotten home and giggled and admired the earrings, which even I will admit look nice, one of the doors jammed closed. The mechanism inside the knob broke. Fortunately the man was on one side with a tool box, and I was on the other...and we can reach from the kitchen porch to our bedroom porch quite easily, so we passed tools back and forth, tried to force the latch, to no avail...the hinges were lift-offs that need an open door....we removed the knob, with no affect, then the man removed the trim holding the glass panel in...thank goodness there is one.....
He held it gently in place, and I pushed it gently too him, and down it came....there is kind of a high sill to get through to the loo in the night though...
Good for a flood?