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.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A thousand cuts and eye contact

I'm going to do it....I'm going to start changing over the e-mail address I think....so....as to that, if you already have my address, leave the same words before the @ and put gmail.com after it....

Now I have to figure out how to do a mass mailing without the cc's showing, and without having to send out 150 separate e-mails.

*groan*

If you know how to do this reasonably simple task, please feel free to pass on the info in the comments section......I would be most grateful.

I figured that since today was a day of a thousand cuts, I would go ahead and self-inflict a few more....

I went to catch a bus to a neighbouring town, arriving there five minutes early...a different but possible bus arrived a full forty minutes later. I might add that it is getting cold here now.

Then, I had to walk a fair distance to the office where I had to do the paperwork...the wind was blowing in my face and it felt like an icepick was being stabbed into my head. I am such a wimp...it just isn't that cold here, but my hat wasn't up to the task, and my sinuses have been bugging me lately...

I had to wait forty minutes for the return bus...

The poor dog has the runs and had a crap in the house

The medical center did not accept my FOURTH application for a health card I should have had ages ago, because one of my photocopies was not up to snuff.

The internet hookup was dicey today, especially irritating after my battle with Telefonica a few days ago....

Ho hum.

Now, onto the good bits...the class I taught was fun, though the kids were appallingly behaved, they were funny too....I went out with a friend for an hour in the evening, and I met, albeit briefly, a fascinating Senegalese man who is from the Casamance region in the south of Senegal, he has been here three years, speaks drop dead beautiful French, Woloff (of course), Arabic, Spanish and quite good English. I was most impressed.

I used to think that people always talk to me, but I realised a while ago, that actually I always talk to people.....I make eye contact, as long as they don't look freaky, and smile...then I get talking. I didn't realise that I did this for a long time, I just thought that people thought they could talk to me, and maybe they do, but I often start it myself.

I am supposed to be a city girl, brought up to not do these things, but there it is, I do.

I kind of like it that way. You get to meet some interesting folks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dog dynamics.

I was walking in the hills with Chuck today along with a friend of mine and her dog ...the dogs are good buds, and partners in crime.

Nona, my friend's dog is a greyhound, and a diva who is unafraid of anything or any dog however aggressive, and she defends my wimpy Chuck frequently, and so, with his bud by his side he grows much more assertive than he would otherwise be...today being a case in point....there are some folks here who leave their dogs unleashed and wandering. Unfortunately most of these dogs are not fixed, male or female, so their interactions have an intensity I am not used to seeing. There is one male who frequently joins us....he lords it over Chuck, being a freaking enormous German shepherd, but defends him against others...as in, "that's my whipping boy, thankyouverymuch". I don't really like him very much, but it is difficult to make him go away.

Part way through our walk we met a trio of other loose dogs. Giant Shepherd, Nona the greyhound, and the usually timid and friendly Chuck get into it....Chuck gets in further than he likes and finds himself cornered....I had to wade in yelling at this point....the dogs are very obedient to humans, well, at least they go away when you tell them to. As an aside I am learning more Catalan swear words during these interactions. A truly educational event.

Once I worked him out of the corner, Chuck decided he had had enough and trotted rapidly and contentedly down the road with Nona pulling up the rear...behind her the Giant G.S. Interestingly, as we looked back a little later, the enormous GS was sitting, just sitting in the middle of the road while Nona and Chuck retreated into the distance. The other three dogs were standing looking edgily at us as we retreated and more nervously at Giant GS....If I had been faster I would have taken a photo....Chuck seems to be the wimpiest of the lot, he isn't as big and has no where near as much attitude. For which I am glad.


It is interesting watching the inter-dynamics of the dogs...who hates whom and who likes whom...who beats up on whom and who defends whom....there is a very interesting interplay of size attitude and gender that goes on....


That said, I am not sure how much fun it all is.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Telefonica, language and service guys.

You know when you take your car in to the mechanic because it is making a weird noise and screeching when you brake, but once you get there and your driving around with mechanic and he is smearing grease all over your passenger seat from his dirty clothes and unwashed hands and the car doesn't do it at all...no screech, no ping or bang or knock and you feel like an idiot...and he looks at you like you are an inferior human because your a woman and when someone asks you what kind of car you saw you answer that it was blue????



That happened to me today.



Except it was the phone.



Nomad tried calling me several times the night before last, then finally e-mailed and commented that she couldn't get through. This alerted us to the problem. You see the phone doesn't ring very often around here. Then once we looked at it the little number things and the date and all on that preview screen thingy, well that wasn't happy either. The whole screen thingy was flashing on, then off, then on then off....sometimes we had a dial tone and sometimes not. The computer, which is hooked up to the same jack on the same line was fine....



Then the phone started ringing about every 10 seconds. Of course there was no one calling but our modern day poltergeist. Easily solved. Unplug it.



Then the computer access died.


Now that was a crisis.



Here's what really bites though. I cannot call Telefonica myself because despite the fact that I am living deep in the heart of Catalonia, the telefonica people on the 24hour customer service line ONLY SPEAK SPANISH.



Now, can you imagine living in Quebec, and we're not talking Montreal here, or even Quebec City, lets say, Trois Riviers, or Chicoutimi....and you cannot call customer service in French? Then the service guy that comes to your door, and surely lives in Quebec, and works for a national company...we're talking the Bell Canada equivalent here ladies and gentlemen, and he does not speak a word, not a single word of Catalan.



My my my.



No wonder they want to seperate.



SO



I had to get a woman from work to phone for me, as I cannot talk to them myself...talking on the telephone is dodgy even in Catalan...I cannot wave my arms about...in Castillian? Worse than hopeless. The Catalans I talked to thought I might manage in English (imagine that, customer service in a foreign language being more likely that customer service in one of the officially recognised languages of the country) but every time we tried there was not any English help either. Maybe they are all in Barcelona.



So my buddy organised it for me.....and I will grant that the phone company responded very quickly. He was due to arrive the day after we called, which was today, at 1pm. He arrived around 2:30 which given these sorts of things, isn't all that bad.



Except that the phone was fine. It behaved completely normally.



I am glad and all, but I don't trust it to keep working and I will probably have to pay for the service call that I didn't need.



What is it with these inanimate objects? And with Telefonica, about whom I think EVERYONE in Spain has an "I hate Telefonica" story.



Life otherwise is good. We started conditionals in the Catalan class yesterday when I wasn't there. I am afraid. Very afraid. Conditionals are those verb structures like....I would sing if. They are reasonably straight forward in English (says the native speaker) but the Catalan ones, predictably, are more complicated.



Keeps it lively.



They say that if you keep your brain active throughout your life you are much less likely to suffer from loss of memory and dementia when your older. Think of that when your struggling over something, like your kid's 'new math' homework assignment that you cannot figure out yourself, OK?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A rant and a little more

I hate hotmail.



I hate the ads.



I hate the difficulty using it.



I hate live hotmail, classic or full.



I hate how small the screens are.



I hate how slow it is to type on.



I hate that I cannot forward my e-mail to my gmail account.



I hate that when I signed up for messenger for my students all I got was porn.



I hate that it was difficult to uninstall messenger.



I hate that it is going to be such a hassle to switch over to gmail if I do it, which I am inches from.



Grrrrrr.



I just want my d*mn e-mail thankyouverymuch without ads for singles networks or e-bay. I want it to load quickly and neatly. I don't give a rat's behind what colour it is. Truly.



'nuff said.



I am going to go back to my thoughts at the MACBA...the modern art museum in BCN that I referred to on Sunday. There were two main exhibits on...one is called under the bomb, and is a look at modern painting between 1946 and 56 when the core of modern art work shifted from France to NYC. Where it seems to still be.

Be bomb was, understandably depressing in the first section...it is French painting during the occupation. There was one light of relief amongst the bleak works, a Matisse -how I LOVE Matisse - with colour. Objectively and in another context it was a rather alarming work itself, though a pastel coloured portrait, the woman looked mangled, if not flayed...flat faced, completely without shading and an alarming shade of pink...but STILL it was a delight to see the colour.

As I went through this show I discovered how powerfully I am attracted to bright colours. Mmmmmmm.

As the show moved on there was more and more English in the show....displays, video presentations, art work, entire movies...without the least bow to the Catalan or Castillian that is the home of this museum. This, of course, continued in the display of Joan Jumas' video installation/performance art piece...she is American...but still, I had to wonder how much the other folks there were getting out of it as so much of the show was in English only.

I guess it does illustrate the nature of the art world at the moment...the gravitational center seems to be in NY, not Europe.

I found this fascinating....especially as so much American culture is viewed as McDicks, Britney Spears and Walmart...which is certainly a dominant aspect...but there is so much more going on too.

I did start to feel like I wasn't in Spain any more...Toto.....


I love it that my google spell checker didn't recognise Walmart!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Painting class

I am definitely the fly in the ointment.

The freak on the doorstep.

The extra strange extranerjo.

The painting class is populated almost completely by men who are at least mid 50's and some quite a bit older. Many have been coming for years. They are quite nice, but I am definitely upsetting things. I once again feel like a kid...so much younger than everyone else. They all wear white lab coats...I was there in cargo cord camos and a leather vest. They all have the space they have been sitting in for YEARS...and now there has to be room for me. There is one other woman in the class, she is also at least 56 and Spanish, as in no Catalan. We don't hang much. The teacher is younger than me and a woman, and hilarious...as much as I understand her.

The biggest difference though lies in the work we are doing. All but one of them is doing work that is a copy of a photo or a print. They are, all but this one guy, very pretty. Blue seas, green mountains, white stucco houses, pretty flowers...churches in the distance. The grandchildren are going to wonder what the heck to do with all this stuff....

There is one man though who is producing a very interesting piece...his colours are fascinating and he is doing multi-media, to a certain extent...he is also the only other person there who is working out of his head. I do have to say that one of the men has been slaving over a drawing that he is creating on his own...he half jokingly asked me to model for a figure....clothed I am sure....many women over the ages have wanted to paint and ended up standing still for ages, probably in between cooking meals. I laughed him off. Firmly.

I am also an odd ball...always an oddball it seems. Not only am I the only one who is under 55, the only female, the only one who cannot speak Castillian and who struggles with Catalan, I am also the only water colourist...all the rest are working in oils....I work faster, and work on ideas out of my own head....I don't do pretty, nor flowers....

Awkward ain't I.

This is what I have been working on....I didn't document as I went...awkward again, what can I say...
This is the facade...the stores here all roll metal blinds down over the doorways at night...these get graffiti and paint on them...some are interesting. This is my own design, and please recall that this is still a work in progress....



Inside the doors open...these are a LONG way from completion...there are six internal doors on each side and each door needs...well, embellishment...action...whathaveyou....though I want the newsprint to continue to show through...I may add some fabric in here as well. And that white on the inside of the main doors...gotta go.



And then in the center....I haven't decided whether to leave those last doors glued down, or to let them lift...I may have to glue them for strength. In which case...they will be unopenable. Which is cool too...I am thinking now on a conceptual level, but if the physical structural requirements intercede...so be it.



I'm not going to tell you what it's all about...if you want to...think about it, if not, don't...in Catalan..."sí no.... no."

Let's try that photo again...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Time travel



This is an onion-like story with in a story within a story.

Eldest and I went to MACBA which is the Modern Art Museum of Barcelona while the MAN and youngest went off to sea to watch the start of the Barcelona World Race; a double handed open sixty non-stop round the world race. That is a different post. MACBA and the collections there were astonishing, and I could fill several posts with my thoughts from today as well....and I may, but here I have a story to tell....

We went into the display rooms for Joan Jonas who is a Performance Artist who was a pioneer in video installation performance art pieces, which I have a bit of a weakness for; indeed for most performance art. This too is an aside.

While we were in one of the rooms, and one of the stranger ones...there at the back I spotted a video of people at the Berlin Wall, just after it had come down, hammering chunks off of it. I was there back then. In the early early spring of 1990 if memory serves me. It was an astonishing time. I had been to the wall before, several times. I had been to the Check Point Charlie Museum, I had stood and looked over the wall. I had been intimidated.

That day though was surreal and truly unbelievable. The sun was shining, it wasn't too cold. Folks were hammering away at the wall with chisels and mallets. People were selling chunks of the wall as well....enough had been eaten away the you could actually climb through gaps in the wall and go and sit in no man's land which a few weeks or months previously would have been a death sentence. I climbed through and sat in the warm spring sunshine leaning against the east German side...pristine and unsullied by graffiti. I sat there and looked over the open area where many died trying to escape. Where I had peered over myself. It was frightening and astonishing and unbelievable and and and...I cannot imagine how the Germans must have felt.

Today at this installation show it was like I was back again. The weather in the video was the same. I kept looking for myself in the show. The chances were slim, but possible. I never turned up of course, but Eldest did.

I am not sure if I can communicate this adequately...but I had been there, and felt that I might appear in the video. It was like watching a day in my life. A really remarkable and terribly strange day. Then I stood Eldest in between the projector and the wall, blocking the image. There was her shadow laid over the shadow that was me all those years ago. It's the photo at the top.

I didn't know my daughter was with me that day. Now I do.

The germ of another painting.....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Paint and raccoons...I love post titles like that, things you never thought would go together.



I have spent the entire day painting...with little concrete to show, it has been work on bits and pieces for another piece I am working on....and has been fun. I love it that my kids are big enough to tend themselves for long periods of time...and play with me too. Not at Polly Pockets either.

Eldest went on a sleep over last night and is EXHAUSTED...youngest has a friend over, the man is walking the dog in the hill, and I am painting away, and blogging while stuff dries...such is life with watercolour....I am working on a multi-media semi-sculptural painting, as it will not be purely two dimensional. At my painting class I have started on a painting of a Barcelona wall with a metal door rolled down over it and graffiti on top of the wall and doorway. The wall worked well...the door....meh, too dark and gloomy....so I am going to make it a real door....I will be slicing it open, gluing the entire mass to cardboard so that I can raise the painting clear enough to put things inside the doorway, indeed there will be a series of doorways, each painted and then a found object in the center middle....lets see if I can pull it off. I have been working on the internal doors, the cardboard mount, the stone trim for around the door....I don't feel any need to stick purely to a single painted sheet...it's fun to add and take away....we'll see how it goes.

This is a part of the trim for around the door that I will cut out and glue on.....



Jadepark who has a lovely, fascinating and beautifully written blog called "Writing under a Pseudonym" where I lurk regularly and comment infrequently, has just posted about seeing mice everywhere and what it could possibly be all about. I commented that this summer I was positively haunted by raccoons (along with an exponential increase in ocular bug suicides), and someone told me that if you see the same animal frequently, it means something...well, something more than frequent sightings...now this isn't entirely my shtick, coming in there alongside horoscopes and tea leaf readings, but I was curious so I did a handy-dandy google search and came up with this....

The raccoon is in some way the ultimate scavenger, able to open doors and garbage cans with his clever hands. Because of this and especially because of its mask, it is known as a bandit.
The mask, however, has a deeper meaning. It teaches us that none of us are quite what we seem, even to ourselves, that in our lives we can experience the freedom of many identities. This medicine helps us to assume and release the many roles we play.
Raccoon's lesson isn't that identities are negative, simply that -- just as this creature is dexterous with its hands -- so we can learn to be skilled at assuming identities with the same sense of appropriateness with which we choose clothes.


And this....

Raccoon: Clever, fastidious, curious Raccoons represent child-like qualities such as the need for play and "out of the box" thinking. With its tell-tale masked face, and tendencies for thievery, Raccoons masters of disguise and mischief.
Raccoon Animal Totems Facilitate:
Buoyancy of spirit, playfulness, light, airy fun feelings
Cleverness, unique perspective of thought that will lead to unique solutions to problems.
Luck and fortune, including ease in the search for finding what you desire

The change of identities rang home for me as I was in Canada at the time, and between the different job, house, language, culture, friends and responsibilities I do feel almost like an entirely different person though the fact that there were glaring spelling errors in the quote which I changed just for you all doesn't bode well for any sort of veracity they might be aiming to project.....the second one...well that didn't seem to have quite so much to do with anything...thought thinking outside the box could definitely be part of my job description....

Off to go and paint something else....hope your having a lively and lovely weekend.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Two things....

First....I watched the single worst movie of my life today...so bad it was good. Marrying Darcy. It was a trite, twee and fairly meaningless yet predictable romp through five peoples lives over about 20 years. Most of them sleep with most of the others, it was painfully badly acted and the sets and tech level were quite bad. I was saying to the man that it seemed to be something put together at by a bunch of university students...and it WAS! How it ever got translated into Spanish as well and subtitled....it really was almost good it was so incredibly awful.

Secondly, I found an all new use for a digital camera, for me anyway. I was up in the mountains walking the dog when a bug flew into my eye and died a thrashing and painful-to-both-of-us death. Now I don't know about you, but this happens to me a lot. Really, every month or so some poor fruit fly kinda job commits hari kari in my eye....I have not yet figured out why.

I digress....usually when this happens I am in a town somewhere, and as far as I am concerned the single greatest use for side mirrors is to assist struggling pedestrians with mosquitoes doing the back crawl in their eye...squat down, take a look and fish the little bugger out.

Now up in the mountains this is not an option. I had a brief debate about searching around for a piece of broken mirror. It would have been faster to go home and this HURT. So. Hmmmm, carrying a camera, all those glass lens jobs, maybe I can angle the sun the lens and my eye well enough to see in....well, you can guess that didn't work. Instead I had the brilliant idea of taking really close up shots of my eye while I pulled my eyelid down so I could locate the little gnatty thing...and it worked! I took a picture, reversed the camera, looked at the shot, located the beast, tried to remove him, took another shot....The thing is that by the time they have been flailing around in there for a while you start to loose track of exactly which bit of discomfort is the fly and which is where the fly was....I had to take quite a few photos, but I got the bug out.

I will not post the pictures. They were not pretty. If you want to see what it looked like, go to the mirror in your bathroom, stretch your lower eyelid down and out as far as you can and stand very very close to the mirror. Ugh.

SO, if you have your camera with you and gnats with a death wish come your way...you can thank me for this great tip.

Always trying to help.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A post that has been waiting for ages



I'm pretty tired and the day has been lovely and lively and nearly endless...so here I offer you a series of photos of the different type of motos there are. I feel pretty ambiguous about these machines. Kids can ride them from age 14 on, night and day, which is frankly insane...they're touring around the roundabouts with the giant trucks and *ssholes will jaguars....they die.

The idea of eldest on one in three years makes my knees go week.

By the same token, the idea of riding one myself has a certain appeal. They are so cool!



A girly bike..


Nice paint job! On the good ones you can store the helmet in the seat, and they all have this really cool clip where you can latch your bags or the top of your knapsack on so it doesn't slid off.


This ones catching some rays...


A beefier bike and a potential two seater


The yellow ones in behind are the official post office delivery vehicles...


The other style...a dirt bike. These are crazy annoying...they are incredibly loud and can go too fast, and the yobs on them do go too fast. Far to fast.


Rows of guy bikes. They have to carry their helmets, but that's cool, and they cannot carry anything on the bikes, so no errands are possible.


Nice comfy looking basic bike, it can take two easily...I like these friendlier ones that you can ride in a dress better.


A beat up bike....


This one is my favorite, by a long shot....SO COOOOOL!


We had a little excitement on the street today...there was a jack hammer running for hours and hours near here....it was severely annoying, but look what happened?





Sorry the photo's a little fuzzy, but my feet were getting wet. So were my shins.
I took the photo after the water was being turned off....it went up higher than that upper window and was thundering, rushing, roaring and torrenting down the street. The man had to go and get water from one of the local fonts and haul it back for dinner, just like his ancestors did for hundreds of years.

The water's back on now.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Barcelona

The Scottish football hooligans are in town. Help us all. What a singularly ugly group of louts. I had to walk through Plaça Catalunia today dodging drunken jerks at every step...praying only that people would NOT think I was British...if there is one day only I hope to look Catalan or anything other than British. Yee gads. They were all massively hung over as well. There are apparently 13,000 hooligans in town. OMG.

There was even one old guy bragging that he was here in 1972...when they came down and trashed Camp Nou where Barça plays.

If you want to see some photos of them in action..... go here and click on the fotogaleria called 'descontrol escocès' which means scots out of control.

SO as an antidote, I thought I would post these photos of some of the things I find lovely on my way down to class in the morning...









I took the photos early in the morning, and I love the play of light over the stones. I also really like the interplay of stones, bricks and concrete....solutions over many hundreds of years.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Culture vs. Nation

One of the things that has been smacking me in the face for the last few days is the difference between the maintenance of a culture and it's heritage as opposed to nationalism.

Does it happen to you that the same topic keeps coming up over and over sometimes?

Anyway, it all started when I was discussing Halloween with one of my students who is shall we say, quite nationalistic. He was polite and said that he was concerned about the maintenance of his culture and traditions, there is a festival the same night here normally but the kids frankly prefer Halloween. Now. This is not a simple thing. I come from Canada as most of you know, which is not exactly a nation that is aiming at world dominance, however we share many cultural traits with our neighbours to the south, whose government's aims about world dominance can sometimes provoke a little, um, hesitation in others. Halloween gets bundled into all of this political tension. The man I am talking to during this conversation has also been through a civil war, has had his language and culture banned and is still living within a nation he does not consider his own, and from which it would be against the law for the province to leave. It is, I am told, in the constitution of the nation, or whatever document fills that roll, that should any of the independent groups withing Spain chose to leave, they will be occupied by the military. And it has happened within these peoples lives.

A certain sensitivity to the maintenance of cultural traditions is understandable.

But

but

but....

where do we draw the line here between nationalism, which for me is frankly a dirty word, and preservation of traditions. Now, I am a Bahá'í which is a religion if you haven't heard of it as many of you haven't, there is a link there and on the side bar...anywhoo, one of the central principles of the faith is profound importance of our recognition of the unity of humanity while still maintaining, respecting and treasuring the richness of our diversity.

This tips easily into nationalism. Another friend here, also deeply nationalistic, went to London recently and was delighted to see the diversity there and the range of people who were interacting...I wish his English were better, or my Catalan, so that I could ask him more about how this all dovetails together in his head....I am not being clear here...he has also invited us as a family to join a local group celebrating and supporting some of the local traditions...even though we are Canadians. Which is lovely of him, they also need bodies...but still, his Catalonia clearly is a place that has a language, fiercely defends it's rights to maintain that language and culture, yet includes anyone who cares to join and learn. At the same time, he is offended that some people working in a local restaurant were paid the same as he is, he being both a local and a Catalan, but once we teased it out past the language problems, his issue was that many of these people cannot speak Catalan, and don't care to learn...if they learnt it, they should be paid the same. He believes, probably rightly, that he has more skills than they, and so should be paid more accordingly. He also wants to spend the summer in London improving his English and getting to know the place and the next summer in Paris for the same reason with French. He seems to be dancing the line between cultural protection and Nationalism smoothly, though some might well argue with him.

There are Catalans who believe that you are Catalan if you can speak the language. I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams, anyone considering me Catalan. My kids, maybe, me? Sorry, I cannot picture it. Ask me in a decade if we are still here, but for now? Seems impossible. Catalan-ness, unlike being Canadian seems to be more than a language and a locale, a piece of paper, here I am again trying to draw the line between culture and nationhood....it's a slippery place and narrow to wander through.

It's fascinating to explore though...

It is also fascinating to look at it through the window of the Catalan experience as opposed to the immigrant/native dynamic that we get in the Americas.

So, am I polluting the local kids by doing introducing Halloween or no?


......later.........one of the women I know here told me that her son decided that he didn't want to do confirmation, no problem with her. Then he said he wanted to do Hanukkah. She had never heard of it (That Spanish Inquisition thing was VERY thorough). He had seen about it in a movie and thought that any event that got you a present every day for ten days had to be pretty good. An open-minded and opportunistic kid. I did my best to tell her the story behind it, clarified a few details for her around the number of days, the fact that it was an annual event of marginal religious significance compared to most of the Jewish holidays and explained to her that the presents are usually small. Still, he may well think that it is a great idea. Again, an interesting intersection of cultures. One of the things that is new here is having immigrants in any number. For a very long time Spain was mostly a place of emigration. This is a new experience that seems to be largely welcomed with curiosity and friendliness. But this is, as you would expect, not universal.

.....later still.....one of the Mom's came up to me after school very happy about the party. Her daughter had had a marvelous time, and she took her pumpkin home with her which they used, lit, as a centerpiece for their Tots Sants celebration. She was quite happy to blend both traditions.

I think there are probably as many variations of the answer to this tension as there are people, but if we can find an ability to share an interest in and respect for the cultures that we meet along the way, coupled with an understanding of the importance to each of their own traditions we'll probably come out all right.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hermits and art

We have a village hermit.

He's a young man who lives up in the hills, his hair is badly matted, although he is reasonably clean...at least he doesn't smell bad. He walks everywhere in bare feet and comes down into the town from time to time, for food, for work, to use the internet....

He is reportedly a young German man, with some English skills who came here in the past to go climbing. Since then he decided that life is too busy and crazy, too noisy, and cash-mad...and so he came here where the winters are less harsh and took to the hills.

Sounds tempting sometimes doesn't it?

Then again I think it might get lonely.

I came across him in the hills the other day in one of those door-in-the-hill places where the locals used to store I don't know what, everything from farming implements to wine and oil to arms and prisoners given what has gone on here in the past....

Now there is a hermit sitting in them keeping warm and dry.

I was kind of startled when I saw him...I had been past this particular doorway a week or so before, right after a strong rain...I had seen his footprints in the mud....no one else is barefoot and I had smelt a faint odour of wood smoke, but still I was surprised when I saw him there...the door was a little ajar, but there was no noise or smell...it was a warm beautiful day, so I peered in...I'm a little nosy about those rooms in the hills, and there he was sitting on the ground shirtless.

I had twin responses to it all, a mixture of concern that most women would have around a questionable man in a remote location, and curiosity...should I talk to him?

Instead I called the dog and walked on. I still am not sure if it was the right thing to do....but for now....it was.

On another note....my man seems to be improving, eldest to some extent.

On a third different note I brought the camera into BCN today because there were a few things I wanted to take pictures of to post but between the late bus and the cloudy weather, that didn't happen, so instead, you get an blow by blow of a painting I have been working on. After Nomad started up her art blog Poena I debated doing the same but decided that no, I would continue to use my doodles as blog fodder....I am not sure if this piece is finished or not...I blue tacked it up onto the wall to look at for a couple of days....here goes....








At this point I liked it, but knew it had a fair way to go, so I let it sit for a while and thought about what might work....so this is what I did last night....





Still thinking about it.

I overheard this today too, it was a child speaking...."I always thought of Mark Twain as a political type of person, didn't he invent communism or something?"
Adult, "No, that was Karl Marx"

Not too hard to confuse, huh?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Out with the youngest....

NaNoWriMo is on...National novel writing month or something like that and I would love to get that organised, but I have to admit that between kids, work, Catalan studies, the dog and trying to maintain a semblance of a relationship with my husband, let alone paint a bit, I am not sure that is going to happen. I also need to start Spanish...that said, if I was driven enough I would FIND the time for it, but well, guess I am not.

Youngest and I instead went into BCN today. Eldest is still hurtin' and the man is recovering...so it was youngest's choice of what to do...we went SKATING!!! It was pretty cool, they have a hockey rink in the ground floor of a building, and there were skate rentals...it was all fairly pricey especially if you are used to the free neighbourhood rink, but man we had fun. There was some mandatory safety wear, which seems a good idea, except that it was a pair of gloves. Yup, I had to cough up for a pair of regular knitted gloves...high tech safety wear. No helmets available, god forbid you might mess up your manicure though...very strange. We saw several children whack their heads pretty hard too, two on the ice and one slid into the boards...we are not looking at a collection of highly competent skaters here. No fingernails were damaged though I am glad to report.

Youngest caught on quite fast in fact. Especially since she went skating once last year, and then once about five years ago...she was doing a Klingon to the boards at first and by the time we left two hours later (oh my poor feet and abraded legs) we were whizzing around the rink, passing people and dodging incompetents. Now that doesn't mean she could do anything as fancy as stop or turn in any major way, but we had a good time.

No pics. Sorry folks. But the camera is pricey and bulky, BCN is a hive of thieves, and I wasn't sure of the security options...and the chance that I would fall and wreck the camera completely were pretty high....

After that we went and had a little food, the mandatory hot chocolate...that was a bit of a wash-out. The Catalan's make AWESOME hot chocolate, but not this café...though he did throw some chocolate milk in the nuker for us...it was kind of like the stuff you get out of the machines at arenas so it fit the bill. We also had sandwiches which were as always excellent and we stopped at a patisseria that would warm any one's heart.

Finally we went to the Antoni Tàpies foundation, which I had wanted to see, but youngest said was Booooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrinnnnnnnnnnnnnnng.

I liked some of his work, it is abstract and vigorous, and I love his use of just about anything that comes to hand in his paintings and sculptures...and the sheer size of the pieces...that said I am not sure how much I like his message...a mite grim, and his chosen pallet is a bit harsh and dour....



Tomorrow back to the grind....it has been a lovely weekend, but it is a shame that a full half of the family has been under the weather....ah well.

The girls also wanted me to show some of their latest work....this is Youngest's (8), she is very happy with how it turned out....



And in the multimedia category, Eldest's blue tack art....



I see a contest, or exhibition in here somewhere...a challenge of sorts in fact...let me think about the details, maybe we will have a blue tack art contest....announcements to follow...