Saturday, March 31, 2007

Oh my goodness, what to call it????

Reading Karen Connelly's One Room in a Castle. It is poignant in places, and some of you have talked of finding good travel writing, and this is very good...she won the Governor General's at 24. Her web site also claims that she is fluent in a mere six languages...yee gods, and I thought I had accomplished something with my life...and she's two years younger than me...

All that said, here is a brief excerpt...
Is nearing departure that makes everything seem mysterious, untouchable, too beautiful to hold?...By the time you receive this letter, I will already be in another world. How long will it be before someone says my name? And when they do, what will it sound like?

It rings very true for the traveler in me. I am only just now having people say my name.

Partir est mourir un peau. What else is this but a small dying?

The French means, loosely: parting is a small dying...

Here are some photos from Barcelona..they are in or near Parc Guell...

We still haven't get a strong feel for everything that is going on, it will probably take several years...a whole crowd of people and their kids just washed up our street, waited around outside the casal and the end of it, and then en masse wandered out again. A lovely lady from the library was there, and one of my had something to do with kids singing and Easter...I suspect it is a children's choir and it was rehearsing...the crowd going in was waiting for their kids to come out. That said, I couldn't hear any singing....a mystery. It was a bit like watching the tide ebbing and flowing.

On a different topic, my kids have periodically asked us if we are rich, usually after some friend of theirs recieves the umpteenth gift for no apparent reason. I find it very hard to answer. Certainly globally...we are stinking rich. Very nearly everyone in the western world is. I heard the line once that if you have a little pot somewhere in your house collecting pennies, you are in the richest 5% of the global population. Sadly, we never have. Compared to my children's friends, both here and in Canada..we are not. We don't have a car, we cannot buy whatever we want whenever we want it, they do not get gifts showered upon them very often, and frequently, by the end of the month, things are getting tight. Then again compared to some of the families that we have seen in the out-islands of the Bahamas, yes we are, especially as we could orginise our lives so that both my husband and I could leave work and go sailing for three years, only working for a few months a year. It is a difficult question to answer; but then I looked at it differently. We are that we have the ability to make choices. We can chose where we live, we can chose work we like, we have the education to get work in most places, and the opportunity to chose our lifestyle and our activities. I think that we are unbelievably wealthy because of that. I am frustrated sometimes because I cannot buy my kids what they want when they want it, because sometimes we simply run out of money. I am also not entire sure that this is a bad lesson for them either.

This is also part of why we are here. To give our children choices, to give them an EU passport, to give them another language or two, to give them a view of the world beyond brownies, be it allowing them the near continuous living within nature that they experienced on the boat, to experience that most people are good and kind, to know for themselves that there is more than one way to do EVERYTHING, and that one of the great riches of being human is the ability to devise a way whatever the circumstances.

This is also why my husband and I are both working so hard at learning the languages, we don't want to have to leave because we cannot communicate. It narrows our choices. It is why I am anxious about the elder daughter learning Castillian. I want to maintain my ability to choose where we go, and not have to leave because she cannot manage in the school. Looking at it sideways like that, and beyond the economist's bottom line...yes, I say to my kids...yes, we are rich. Even by western standards.

I'm going to end with another excerpt from Karen Conolly's book, "One Room in a Castle"
Why don't people recognize each other as the same species? Spanish, Basque, Catalan, southerner, northerner, Irish-Canadian, Quebecois, Chinese, American, African. Whatever arguments we make in favour of them, these labels of division never illuminate the mystery of human existence, and they never allow us to move closer to each other. Beneath all the trappings of culture and sex, of ideology and language, we are the same people. I know this. Our lives begin and end with journeys made alone.

Oh, here's something amusing. The kids got report cards today...apparently the eldest is only good, rather than very good at English comprehension. Can I add that she reads the Economist? Since the English teacher cannot write a ten word comment in English without making serious grammatical errors, I find this, well, strange.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Salty Sea Jewelry

Today I found myself singing aloud for the first time in I don't know HOW long....just a general overall happiness...

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feeling groovy

Hello lamppost, what'cha knowing
I've come to watch your flowers growin'
Ain't cha got no rhymes for me?
Doo-it in doo doo, feeling groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feeling groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life I love you, all is groovy

I have to admit I couldn't remember all the lyrics, but it such a sunshiney contented song it just fit.

Got paid,

Ate, ooooh, your going to love is Pasqua (sp?) soon...Easter, the kids finish school today, I finish work for a week, there are lots of goodies around. Picture this...I ate 3 of these....a croissant, filled with a custard type cream, and then dipped, yes ladies and gentlemen, dipped in CHOCOLATE!!!!! MMMMMmmmmmmm

The ladies at work are all SO lovely, and so nice and funny and tolerant of my crappy language skills, just plain friendly, the kids are at a friends house playing, the sun is shining, the man is home, life is G.O.O.D. Good.

But this topped off my already very nice day....I got a package in the mail with BOOKS!!! and get this, drum roll please,

The most beautiful necklace I have ever seen. I have had three compliments already! And that is just people who know me well enough to say something to me....and this is not as complimentary a culture as N. America...I caught many people eyeing it while talking to me as was made for me by my dear friend who used to be a cruiser and will be again, and who, despite going through a rough time of her own, could think of me, and put together this wonderful package that has made me SO happy. Thank you.

I will now SHAMELESSLY plug her beautiful stuff. You will have to click this link to her company, Sea Salt Jewelry and the link goes to the very necklace that is hanging around my neck RIGHT now! Thank you thank you thank you my dear friend. If any of you ever want to get some truly lovely and unusual jewelry, she is such a wonderful person, so creative and makes such beautiful things...I have a link up permanently on my site....

I adore this necklace, because it is a thing of absolute beauty, because it was made by my dear friend, because I know how much fun it can be to wander on beaches and collect glass, and because it reminds me of the Bahamas, and my sailing life. If you get to some of the beaches that are further out, there is an extensive wrack line filled with goodness knows what...ropes from nets, sea glass, sea beans, old shoes, fisherman's floats, garbage, and things that are lovely as well. This necklace looks, like a particularily stunning bit of the wrack line. Even the man, not the most effusive of individuals, upon seeing the necklace, and before knowing who it came from, said..."It looks like a beach." He is so right.

So, all around a fantastic day. I may go to the beach tomorrow with the girls to get more glass for her, we've had an onshore breeze for the last few days, and there should be good pickings....I've got almost enough for another package. Hey, if you buy something from her, you may even get some glass collected by yours truly!

Well, it may make for a less exciting blog, but it has been an absolutely wonderful day.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


One of the things that I am liking a lot about the kid's school...a nice balance for yesterdays irritated post, is the art program. They take it seriously here. For the eldest, every week they have something called Mira...which means to look. They go off to some darkened room, and the teacher puts up one slide of a piece of art from somewhere...and they look at it and discuss it for half an hour as a group. Then there are the art classes themselves, which seem to be happening on a theme basis in conjunction with the classroom teacher. A while ago I posted about this artist...the sculptor, Giacometti, and I also posted this link to some of his work from the Museum of Modern Art . After that, the kids all had to do sketches, really life drawing with the clothing on, of the teacher in various poses. Then they had to chose one and work it up...and this was followed by the creation of a sculpture in the style of Giacommetti. They used wire to make the basic form, and them tinfoil to beef it out, then coated it with plaster of paris, and painted it. They are very good.

Now the eldest is off on a field trip to the Miro Museum, lucky dog, and they are looking at SCULPTURE! Don't you love it! I think it is just fabulous the way they are tying it all together. If you want to see what she was looking at, click on the link, and then obviously English, follow up with exhibitions, and then temporary exhibitions. If I can find the piece of paper I will figure out who the artists are as the site doesn't seem to say. So happy about this. I am going to ask around and see if we can find someone to give the kids drawing and painting lessons, although sculpture would be welcome too. I don't want some 'oh, let's all draw today..." kind of class though. I am looking for someone to provide some rigorous technique and critique. They love to draw, that is established, and they are to my doting eyes, reasonably skilled, but to take it to the next level, they need better technique...I have a couple of leads. The advantage of a smaller get to know who is who.

Ooo, I found out who the artists are...Claes Oldenburg and Cosje van Bruggen. The site that the link holds has lots of information, but the images are kinda small... this site provides more depth.

I've been studying Catalan relentlessly today, we got a new book, by Andrew Yates, that CLEARLY defines the grammar in ENGLISH! That is what I needed. Many things are becoming transparent, now to memorise....the book is Teach yourself Catalan, what a surprising name, but it is good. We didn't get the CD that goes with it, but I have a couple of Catalan's around I can copy for the correct pronunciation.

I should manage.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Irritation, Catalan grammar, and a confession.

You know what bites me....? When the school sends home a message that the child needs to have something, and we're not talking a school book, THE NEXT DAY! I mean really. Can they not give me some notice please? What if I don't have time to get it THAT NIGHT? Or for instance I cannot figure out what the heck it is? I am sorry, but it makes me very very angry. Needless to say the kid's school did that last night. Grrrr. Dinner was late, Mother was grumpy, stories were short. Urgh.

This morning the husband didn't wake me up in time to walk the dog before work. Considering that he had diarrhea yesterday this seemed like a poor plan, but the unfortunate beast was left in the house without a walk since 11pm last night until 10:45 when I came home from work. I might add, that he was sufficiently, shall we say, energised by this lack of activity that I also ended up going to work without a shower, and without brushing my teeth. Fortunately for the man, he didn't crap in the house, because I would have left it there for him. If you carve a full 45 minutes out of an already tight routine it makes a person, or at least this person, grumpy.

Now at 12:30, the dog has been walked, I have showered, had a little more to eat, brushed my teeth, and I am working on my Catalan...which is confusing me without having anyone to ask. I may take it into work. I am still learning stuff, but not as much as I could. Life is better, and the dog is happily sleeping in a patch of sunshine.

Here's some grammatical boredom/confusion for you. This sentence:

Va a buscar la seva dona a casa seva i la porta a la seva segona residencia.

translates as:

He picked up(??this verb isn't in my dictionary) your wife from your home and took her to your second home.

We have here an unspoken subjective pronoun - they do that here - he, followed by a verb...'va a buscar', to pick up, followed by a possessive adjective, la seva...your, feminine third person singular...yes I have to conjugate all of those..then the direct object which is the noun 'dona' which means wife as well as woman, followed by an indirect object, 'la casa' the house...and then seva again, her again a possessive adjective, but because it is an indirect object, the modifying adjective 'seva' does not carry the article 'la' in this case, and comes AFTER the noun. Then we have 'i', which is simply the conjunction 'and', and then it gets confusing again. 'i' is followed by 'la', which is a pronoun(?) - there are two types in Catalan, strong and feeble, I don't know which this is, but it is referring, I think, to the wife again who is taken 'porta', in the present tense to the indirect object 'la seva segona residencia' which means: to your second residence. Your and second are both adjectives modifying residence, 'seva' here is again a possessive adjective, but despite the fact that this is again an indirect object, it is now coming BEFORE the noun, AND it is carrying the article. WHY? I don't know, and I am sure that if you are still reading this, you don't either.

Holy jeez.

....later, for those of you who might not have been able to sleep tonight worrying about this puzzling bit of grammar, I was mostly correct, BUT, the first 'seva', in 'casa seva' would normally come before the noun with an article, that is the grammatical structure, but in the case of the word 'casa', and only 'casa' it comes after, unless of course you really want to emphasise that it is YOUR the second sentence, 'la seva segona residencia' is the normal grammatical structure.

Sounds like offside rules in hockey doesn't it.

It took FIVE women, all Catalan folks, and all language teachers...four of them were confused by this, but the fifth, who does teach Catalan, and owns the school, knew. Thank goodness. In their defence, most if not all of these women never got the chance to study Catalan grammar. Under Franco, it was banned. There were no books or papers published, and the grammar certainly wasn't taught in the schools. It was spoken only in the privacy of your home, although I am sure that some villages were sufficiently small and tight that it was used more. There are many many highly educated Catalans who cannot read the language well, and write it poorly also as a result of Franco's policies. So while I find myself saying to people that it is that way in English because it is, I have at least in some distant past studied a little bit of the grammar. Catalans beyond a certain age have not. Franco died in 75, so Catalan probably didn't enter the schools officially till at least 1980. Maybe they moved faster than that, but I would be surprised. I am of course guessing here, and then you would also have to find teachers who could do it themselves.....

If you made it all the way through this post without deserve a prize. Maybe free Catalan lessons?

Oh, and I have a confession to make... Trish, well, I ahhhhh, well, I peed in your backyard once.


Nomad was staying there once last summer, maybe the spring - and I had driven over to see her, and the traffic had been APPALLING, and by the time I got there, about four hours later, well things were desperate. No one home at your place, I don't know your area well at all, and so I wandered back to the end of your property, which I might add is stunningly beautiful, to see if I could spot Nomad or her mom, but no. I didn't know if there were people in her house, so I couldn't go over there, and then well, that back forty of yours, it has a lot of big bushes. I'm sorry, but I felt SOOOOO much better.

I did meet you once briefly last summer when Nomad was staying with you, and I again needed to pee, but fortunately you were home and I got to use the indoor plumbing.

Well, that's off my chest. I wasn't a blogger at the time, so it wasn't as big a deal as it might be now to meet you, but *whew* hope you aren't mad.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A bit of this and a bit of that

Quieter day today...thank goodness. Took the dog for a looooong walk this morning, on-leash I might add, before heading to the vet. He has about 6 or 7 cuts all over him, and he keeps scratching the one on his nose making it positively gory, plus he was due for his flea dope update. They have this system here where you put a liquid on their back in three places, and they are covered for a month for fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. The mosquitoes here are a problem because they can carry a disease that leads to gradual and fairly irreversible debilitation in dogs. No impact on humans. I am learning this in Catalan, so my understanding is of course limited. Chuck doesn't have this, but they take anti-mosquito measures seriously here.

The cuts are all superficial, no problem, we have been lent one of those silly dog head cones, that I am not using yet, and I have to apply the flea goo. Oh. Ah well. He is also getting some rice to eat as the stress has, shall we say, adversely effected his bowel. Had to hose the sucker off when we got home. He was pretty indignant, and as soon as I let him go, he went and tortured one of my socks, and then stole my shoe. Who could blame him.

Enough of the dog. Must be boring some of you to pieces. If you look at the sidebar with blogs I like, you will find Esben in India. He has a series of portraits on his site right now that are spectacular. May be worth a visit.

There was a little yellow breasted finch type bird sitting up on the television antenna on the roof singing his little heart out while I was hanging out the laundry. Wonder what it was. Gotta getta bird book too! There are a lot of birds here in the winter, many of them come down from Northern Europe and spend the winter, some continue on into Africa of course, but many remain here. When we first came in September we were alarmed by how few birds there were, but there are more now, which is lovely.

The eldest is putting on a play in religion..the story of St Jordi, the patron Saint of Catalonia. He may be more familiar to some of you as St. George, of the dragon slaying fame. The eldest is on the side of the dragon and is periodically indignant about the entire thing. Needless to say she wasn't given the part of the narrator. Indeed she has no lines at all, what a surprise. Easter is upon us, so this aspect of the kid's Catholic education is ramping up a bit. The younger one came home with a picture she had coloured at school of the last supper. Judas is labelled clearly with a bag with his name on it, and is seated only half on the bench like he is poised to run. Mysteriously one of the disciples on Jesus' left appears to be sleeping. He, although it looks like a she, has his head on the table and a peaceful contented look on his face. Jesus is resting his hand on his back. It is a
mite mysterious. The kids have all of next week off, and Monday of the week after as well, the man has to work for the first few days next week, and then is done till the following Tuesday. I also have all of next week off and Monday as well. Lovely, but it will impact on our cash flow. We may go to Tarragona, or Girona for a day trip, we'll have to see.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I lost Chuck

Well, I lost the dog today. We were walking in the mountains, just Chuck and I and I had him off leash. We were trotting along headed for the vet for a flea treatment and a look at a couple of cuts he got yesterday while charging around the mountain when out of nowhere came two enormous black labs running full bore for us. Chuck took off like the wind....gone. I called and called and called. The other woman's dogs came back, she eventually took them home, and came back to help. After about 45 min we decided he just wasn't there, and she gave me a lift home, also offering to drive me around the hills and town to try to find him. We stopped and asked everyone we saw if they had seen him, and as we got closer a couple of people thought they had....hope rose up in me. I was upset at losing him, and couldn't bear thinking about telling the girls....anyway. The good news is that he beat me home! (Those dogs are scary woman, I'm outta here...YOU deal with them you slow footed human) The man got home, and the front door buzzer went off, it was the lady from the refuge saying she had seen Chuck loose. My husband ran down the stairs and called him, but there were a ton of cars, and Chuck was a little freaked. He also still thinks of the man as a scary guy he trotted off. (He's got a bit of a fear thing about men...particularily Spanish men...It's getting better, but the husband is being tarred with the same brush a bit.)

The man ran upstairs and got shoes, and managed to catch him again without too much trouble. Chuck has several more cuts for his efforts, and is very tired. We gave him a little bonus snack at lunch, and he can sleep this afternoon while I work. I may try and take him to the vet this afternoon, but more likely tomorrow. He's busy grooming himself at length...lots of cuts to lick. When I left for work, instead of looking resigned and depressed, he actually looked pretty darn content. Glad to be home.

Well, I had a stressful hour or two, but he's home and basically fine.

On a funnier note, last night we were talking about a crab that we had seen in the Bahamas a few years ago while we were snorkeling off Big was walking vertically along the bottom on only it's very back pair of legs, holding the others stretched up above it's head...the eldest's comment,"Put your claws in the air! REACH FOR THE SURFACE!" Maybe you had to be there, but we all still keep falling into giggle fits when we mention it.

Thai sticky rice. Beth at Blind as a Bat asked what it is. If you go to a Thai restaurant it is the rice you MAY get. There are four main types of Thai rice. Jasmine rice, which is fairly common...a long grain rice with a beautiful scent when it cooks. Cargo rice, which is a red rice before it is can basically only sold as a brown rice, and was viewed as an invasive weed, but is now being marketed. There is also black sticky rice, which is a long grain rice, and is black on the outside, and is most often sold as a dessert in Thai restaurants but is the staple rice in, I think, the northern part of Thailand. It is black...duh, and if you cook it a long time, it globs together without being gluey...particularily cooked till it is like that then you pour sweetened coconut milk over it and eat with mangoes..failing them, peaches would be good...a sweet tart juicy fruit. It is also good on its own. Then there is Thai sticky rice, which is the white version of black sticky...obviously a long grain white rice, that keeps it's in it doesn't turn into wallpaper paste, but adheres into balls, and you traditionally eat it with your fingers while dipping it in sauces. It is slightly sweet, and is sometimes called Thai glutinous rice. The kids love it, and so do I. Both of the sticky rices are best if they are steamed.

Working like crazy today, so that's it for now.

Glad we got the Chuckster back.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

gone shoppin'

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, one night last week both girls grew three inches in their sleep, and suddenly none of their pants fit. Well, thanks to the spiffy new job I have, this wasn't a crisis, and in we went to Barcelona to go shoppin'. I have to say that I hate shopping, but we had quite a nice day overall. Started in Placa Catalunya, went to my "extreme Asian" store...really that is the name, and picked up some oatmeal...I know isn't that Asian? and peanut butter...that makes more sense...well, lots of goodies.

Then over to the bookstore for a Catalan text/work book...and we walked up to the Zara flagship store on Passeig de Gracia, but low and behold, it was closed. Ah well, we wandered over to the Barcelona market which is is an enormous outdoor market, some of it is more permanent than others...but the kids found a playground on the way there, again one of these plain dirt jobs, but it had a cool toy in it. They do seem to be creative with the playground structures here, cool buildings and cool playgrounds. It had the usual climber, but then it also to describe this. OK, picture this. Four posts in the ground, probably 15+ feet tall, in a square pattern, quite close together. Then put cross bars between opposites, so that you get this shape...X, and hinge them in the center with some spring to it, so that their range of movement is limited. Now suspend chains from the ends of the arms, and a disk. When level, the disks should float about four feet off the ground. Now, put kids on the disks. This was serious fun, fairly damn dangerous too, but boy....did the girls ever have a good time. It was essentially a giant teeter totter, but you hang off the bottom of it. If the bigger girl didn't push off the ground really hard, the littler one never even touched the ground, she just swung around wildly....

On the way over we had a series of typical and lovely interactions. Unlike usual, we hadn't managed to bring a picnic with us, so we stopped in a variety of places on the way. First a Forn...bread bakers. I went in and bought a baguette, but it was very light...a good sign that the lunchers would get hungry soon after eating. So I went in again to get a second one, and had to call the girls to bring me the bag with the first loaf...when they came in, the lovely man behind the counter very kindly gave them each little teddy bear shaped breads with icing sugar overalls. Mmmm. We went along a little further and found a green grocers, where I went in and waited while the woman in front of me got her stuff. The place was incredibly tiny, but had an amazing cross section of stuff, 'Ramon', this was obviously a local place they all knew his name, kept pulling stuff out from different spots. If you wanted something it was clearly good to ask. Every item was the basis for a good conversation and debate and a joke. Finally it was my turn. In my halting Catalan I asked if he had any salami or a little cheese for Upon seeing my disappointment though he told me where the little neighbourhood store was that would sell it. Off we went, and it was lovely too. The lady behind the counter there was also having long involved conversations with the woman buying stuff. Lots of laughter and chat. When our turn came I did the usual prefix to any conversation...pointing out the obvious that I don't speak much Catalan or Castilian, and then got the food I wanted, again with big smiles and halting jokes and laughter, and a language lesson as well!

The Barcelona market when we got there, having forced the children to leave the giants teeter totter, was amazing. I so love markets...the crowds and the amazing display of things on sale....we got a pepper grinder, now we need pepper, and the little one got me a colander, much needed. We got the eldest a new knapsack for school, and debated doggie beds. Going to go back there again sometime, with nothing else on the agenda but to wander around. What a great place.

Then it was off to the mall. Nothing new or different about this, except that this one didn't even post one of those maps and the info lady was permanently busy, possibly because there was NO MAP. I hate malls, and I hate shopping in them, but the little one has three new pairs of pants, and the big one has one. We're not done with the shopping, but the worst of it is over....glad to get home, and the dog was glad to see us too.


Long walk in the hills today, and I am making Thai sticky rice in the new colander for dinner. Yum.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


I was trying to tell my English students how opaque sports coverage can be if you don't know the language. It is filled with jargon, and tends to be quite colloquial. I speak the language, and this is still largely incomprehensible to me...

From the BBC I found it funniest when I read it aloud to the man....

India were 44-3 when Sachin Tendulkar fell third ball and despite Rahul Dravid's 60 they were all out for 185.

Robin Uthappa appeared to have been given a license to attack, as he carved Chaminda Vaas for successive boundaries in the fifth over.

Your reaction to Sri Lanka's victory over India

But he was brilliantly caught and bowled by the wily left-arm seamer two overs later with the score on 25.

Sourav Ganguly seemed to be playing more of an anchor role, having made only two twos and three singles in his seven from 23 balls.

But in the 11th over he tried an ambitious lofted drive and it skewed to mid-off where Muttiah Muralitharan ran round smartly to take an agile catch.

Friday, March 23, 2007

5,4,3,2,1,MEME...and a surprise

Kim at Stepping Stones got me with this MEME...aimed mostly at expats, so lets see how I do, and who I'll get, I don't read that many expat blogs, I may have to bend it a bit to make it fit.

Name five things you love in your new country:
1. The sea and the mountains, both at my doorstep, well, a very short walk away.
2. Barcelona...I don't really need to say more, what an amazing place.
3. Being able to have guest after three years on the boat where we really couldn't.
4. Eating.
5. The challenge of it all.

Name four things that you miss from your native country:
1. R O O M and S P A C E.
2. ummmmm,
3. hmmmmmmm.
4. lots of lovely trees and lakes and rivers and wildlife with NO PEOPLE IN THEM
(this isn't really fair, because Canada is fantastic and a wonderful place to live, but I am not great at missing things, well except the boat....)

So here, I'll name four things that I miss from my previous life as a cruiser:
1. My family
2. My boat, Oreneta
3. Sailing
4. Spending all my time outdoors, and living in and with the natural world all the time.

Name three things that annoy you a bit (or a lot) in your new country:
1. Hassles with the school. (though that is far from unique to here)
2. Dirt bikes.
3. Big, loud, aggressive dogs and dog sh*t everywhere.

Name two things that surprise you (or surprised you in the beginning) in your new country:
1. How easy so much has been.
2. Narrow food options in the grocery stores.

Name one thing that you would miss terribly in your new country, if you had to leave it:
1. The mountains.

Now who to tag??

I am going to bend this a bit. If you are living expat...then go ahead as is, or bend it as you want. If you aren't, I am looking forward to the different ways you'll warp bend it to suit you. Have fun. In no particular order, well actually in the apparently random order my computer has saved my favorites, without any logic that I can see, not chronological, alphabetical...I don't know. Must have to do with the bizarre inner workings of some computer programmer's brain:

Beth at Blind as a Bat
Beth at
Kate at Expat Mama
Nomad at Navel-gazing again
Dorky Dad at Basement Epiphanies
Trish at Coffee House Chatter
and Jocelyn at O Mighty Crisis

Well, I tagged more than five...sorry, you don't have to; and if you hate these things, well, skip it...I don't care, and neither will anyone else, it's your blog isn't it.

Back to my day and life...
Locally, the man got exciting mail today, which doesn't happen often. It looked pretty dull, if not a little alarming. There was a letter from the bank...dullsville central, and an 'URGENT' letter from the ajuntamin, city hall, a little alarming. Turns out the city hall is having a supper in June to celebrate the 50th birthday of any local people who hit that milestone this year, and he qualifies. It does cost 30 Euros, but still, kinda cool. The one from the bank we assumed was an update of some sort, we get millions of them, but NO! Turns out he won a wheely suitcase, complete with a zip on knapsack! WOAH. It's not a piece of crap either! WOW. Now that's good mail.

The dog has developed this new thing, he has gotten this desire to have bits of me in his mouth. That sounds strange, he isn't trying to bite, he just wants to put his mouth around whatever bit of me he can get a hold of, ankle, wrist, arm, hand, leg...whatever comes past. Usually when he is being patted, so it seems a little like a love kind of thing, but what do I know. It's a little weird, and I am not that excited about it, indeed I don't really like it at all. I tried simply discouraging it at first, but now I am jamming his Kong in his mouth whenever he starts. Sometimes he will take it and go and chew, but often he isn't interested. What is that? Any doggie experts out there know what's going on? I am his favorite person at this point...and I am the only one he does it to. ???????

Six word summary....
surprises frustration
warm cool
laugh climb

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Safety, a vet, Catalan and tall kids.

Jessica left a comment asking about where in Barcelona we like to go, and here is a link to a photo of the restaurant we ate the gorgeous cuttlefish we ate from the blog of the friend who was with us, and I will hopefully post some instructions about how to find the place when the man gets home, he may remember the name of some of the streets...

At work today we were asked to comment about some of the safety aspects of the school where we work. I went to town. The place wouldn't have been able to open in Canada without extensive structural changes. They had covered all the dangers like electrical outlets, and coffee makers, and the dangers of things falling on you, but the place is a firetrap....wood floors, and only one narrow stairway, and most rooms have no second exit of any form, plus no smoke detectors, no CO detectors, no fire drills, nor any posted plans....then there is the shutdown procedure, which they honestly don't need most likely, but there is nothing in place around non-custodial, or abusive parents, nor allergies, etc etc etc. They have exposed hot water pipes, that are very very hot... well anyway, I had a rather long list. They asked me......hope it is OK.

The Chuckster got a rabies vaccine today, they claim that they don't have it here, but as we are planning on flying the poor boy back to Canada with us this summer, we are going to need it. The vet was a dream, she is going to phone the consulate and make sure that we fulfill all the requirements (I am going to as well and double check) and make him a passport....and she spoke English, yippeeee. I know, I know, I need to practice the Catalan, but sometimes it is a relief to come out of an interaction being fairly sure that you have understood what is being said to you.

I also found a new Catalan text book at the library, which I am going to be buying. It has theory, followed by exercises, and then the answers. It is a little short on explanation, but as there is a school full of Catalan speaking language teachers, I have a good source of people to ask. There are moments that are rather amazing though. One person I was teaching today is most comfortable in Castillian, so we were working on English, when he got lost enough I would talk in Catalan...imagine how confused he had to be for me to do THAT, and then he would take notes in Castillian. Geez.

I looked at the kids today and realised all of a sudden that they have both completely outgrown their pants. I mean, two or three inches of ankle showing when they are standing....about time we do something about it, looks like we are going to be shopping this weekend. I have been pumping the other Mom's about places to buy kids clothes that are decent and not too expensive. It's looking like we are going to have to buy them quite a bit. Am I the only one whose kids grow three inches overnight, and the pants that, I swear, fit yesterday suddenly don't at goodness.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gym, ads, and a great cause.

Beth at BooksEtc's son is involved in a youth organisation called One Child which is fighting against kids being sold into the sex trade....they have a chance to get a $15,000 grant if they win a medal that is awarded by on-line voting. If your interested in helping them out, click on the link above and follow from there. I did.

I just finished reading "Everyone Worth Knowing" by Lauren Weisberger of "The Devil Wears Prada" fame. It's a beach read that Nomad brought down for me, which is great as there is a preponderance of classics around and my brain was wearing out....but two things about the book struck me. First, there were so many product placements in this book, I do seriously wonder if she is getting money for it. I mean really I don't think a page goes by without a reference to a specific brand. No one drinks vodka, they drink a particular brand of Vodka...etc.etc. Is this advertising? Because boy, it feels like it. The other hilarious aspect of it all is that I had never heard of most of the brands. The only ones I recognised were the names dropped around the main character's freaky left-wing enviro-feminist vegetarian parents. Heck, I use some of those products. Clearly I am not 'someone worth knowing' in those circles. Gee, I'm crushed. Does sarcasm come across well on-line?

The saga of the free-loading wanna-be boss's line is that if she wants to come with me to walk the dog, no problem. As that is all I am willing to offer, that is what I will call her and offer. If she turns out to be great and I like her, fine. If not, the Chuckster and I will be doing some intensive offroading and that should clear the air a bit. Bwaah haaahhhh haaah..........

The elder daughter has begged me to let her stay home on Friday morning, apparently there is some sort of volleyball tournament, and she has been put on a team with a bunch of grade six kids; one of whom is her chief antagonist on the playground, following her around and calling her names. She would not mind me saying that she is completely and utterly inept at volleyball. So am I. I rather hate it too. So the idea of being on a team with a guy who already harasses you, and KNOWING that you are going to let the side down, to the sure vitriol of some of the players, is an opportunity for public humiliation that I think we are going to pass on. Gym from hell. If she had been put on a team with friends of hers, none of whom were taking it seriously, she would have been right up for it...but lets not give this guy ammunition, eh? Some folks get just a little tiny bit too intense at sports events. I can predict with some certainty that she will be having a headache on Friday morning.

The eldest has never been exactly keen on ball sports in any way, and with the disadvantage of living on a boat, where you NEVER throw things because they will ALWAYS fall overboard, indeed it is a punishable offense to throw things, well, you can see how she finds that whole catch and throw thing a bit of a challenge. The younger one shows occasional interest in playing catch, so the man or I will dutifully go out and toss around a hacky sack, or kick a soccer ball around, but the elder? Well she thinks the best thing about a family outing to the park to play soccer is the opportunity to drive her sister nuts by refusing to play the game properly.

They can row a boat, and sail and snorkel, and swim in 3 foot seas, and blow the lifeguards away when asked about boating safety..."What should you take with you in a boat to be safe?" 6 year old: "Well, life jackets, spare oar, spare oarlock, VHF, compass, space blanket, water, 100 feet of line and an anchor, bailer, reflecting mirror with aiming hole, knife, compass, chart, underwater epoxy......." Then if they get into the big boat they really blind them..."EPIRB, shortwave, life raft, VHF, charts, GPS......"

Different skills.

Beth from BooksEtc also left us a challenge to sum up our lives in six words. An interesting mental exercise. I would find my day in six words hard. May have to give this a go. Maybe a daily challenge?

Change, challenge
Question, Push
Ponder, Adore.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Que Morro!

I talked to the woman about the language lessons and I have to admit I am feeling a little bit bent out of shape about it. She is asking for free weekly language lessons including conversation and grammar for an indefinite period of time. Not only that, but I risk annoying my boss. I cannot imagine going up to a complete stranger and asking for a favour of this magnitude. Imagine yourself on the playground, and someone mentions that Susy's Dad is a chiropractor, and gee, your back has been acting up lately, so lets just waltz over and see if they could give you free adjustments for the next few months, even though you've never really talked to them before, and by the way, your only available on Mondays.

Que morro is a Catalan phrase along the lines of 'how cheeky'. A morro is a pigs snout. I get the impression that when the phrase is used, the person is a little ruder than just cheeky, probably more like, 'the nerve'.

They have not offered anything in trade of any sort. Too bizarre.

I do feel rather uncomfortable about it all. I mean, really, I am not so desperate for company that I WANT to spend time hanging out with Catalans who speak appalling English.

As I am scheduled to teach for a total of 8 and 1/2 hours on Monday, starting at 9 am, and working on and off through till 9:45pm, she is simply going to have to come with me while I walk the dog. It's the only time I have. That could actually be OK, although she looked pretty dressy. The difficulty is of course that the woman is the sister of a woman who has two kids, one in each of MY kid's classes. So there may be a payback for my kids, and if I get to know the family better, there may be a payback for me in getting more integrated in the community, which is why I am considering it. Reluctantly. Plus I feel a bit like if I say no, there may be some kind of payback to my kids, and not a good one. It does seem pretty nervy though. I mean really. What an awkward situation. She's going to have to come while I walk the dog or not at all, which right now I would prefer.

Oh, and it turns out that the younger child is also doing sweet d*ck all during the Castillian lessons, there is apparently not even a pretense of an effort at having her learning anything, she just goes off and plays with toys in a different part of the room. My oh my oh my. Granted, her Catalan is coming more slowly, and there is not the same urgency about it, but to not even try, especially when she is younger and neurologically more receptive!!!! *Grrrrrr* Gosh, this is a bit frustrating. I am writing late at night, and sounding a wee bit testy. Time for bed.


Well I am still feeling testy about both situations, but it is a beautiful crisp day, the clouds that went over yesterday were a front that has brought cooler air, and the dog and I just had a 2 hour walk in the mountains.

I would also like to announce that I have not had a headache all day, my sore throat went away, I don't feel grumpy or short tempered, and I feel HEALTHY!!!! Weeeehaaaaw. I did have a rather sudden and unplanned nap this morning, I was sitting on the couch working on some writing when I felt incredibly sleepy. Set the laptop aside, lay down, pulled the blankets up, next thing I knew it was 1pm, and the man was coming home for lunch. That was luxurious. Life can indeed be very very good.

Nap, Spanish, a delicate problem.

Well...the sea is pretty rough right now and there is the most spectacular line of big black clouds that past noisily through town and have headed off for Africa. The sun is shining again. The dog is on the balcony off the kitchen staring at the guys who live downstairs who are out on their porch, and I am off to work soon.

I have been posed a slightly delicate problem, one of the Mother's at the kid's school has a sister who wants some language lessons, primarily spoken...but they don't want to go through the language school. This is too small a town for more than one set up, and I would definitely be stepping on the boss's toes if I did it. I will most likely do it for free because I think it is pretty short term. They can cook for me in exchange or something...

I will however make sure that the boss is fully aware of the situation. Ho hum.

Had a nice long advised by Beth which was quite lovely, and I talked to the school about the fact that the eldest is not doing any Castillian at all. She is attending the classes, but they are grammar lessons for people who are speakers, and she gets nothing out of it. The press is that the year after next she has to switch schools and go to the high school. Half of the classes are in Castillian there, so there is a wee bit of pressure to get her Castillian going as well. The school is focusing on Catalan, and there is no question that it will be easier once she has that down, but lets not kid around here, she is not going to have fluent reading and writing in it, and if she also cannot speak Castillian at all, it will really be a disadvantage. I have offered to look for work books from the States that are in English, and she could do them at school during the Castillian class....we'll see.

Gotta work tonight so this is short as I am running out of time.

Have a great evening everyone!

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Big Fira in town today...sort of like your classic Medieval market without the mud and smell, or rats or disease or or or, but there was a band and dancing a traditional Catalan dance, the Sardana, and all the local artisans were out with their products at boots. A potter from whom we got a great big beautiful mortar and pestle. Actually the colours are a little ugly between you and me, a mustard yellow and green, colours I usually quite like, but, well. It is very traditional. It will also be very useful. i have felt a little cramped in the kitchen without one. They also had a potters wheel up and going, the man was amazing with it...I have seen potters at work before and it always looks like magic to me. The eldest and I both came away with a desire to learn to work it. Not so much for the finished pieces as the fun of making them.

There were people there who do fabric art, kind of like rug hooking, but much better and they work in three dimensions, and have different textures. They had also added other materials to the works. There were weavers making fabrics that I coveted horribly, jewelry makers, knitters, the local cheese maker....we bought some, it is of course unpasteurised, we got two types of goat cheese, mmmmmmmm. And we found out where to buy it whenever we want it. There were chocolate makers and sausage and meat curers, wood turners, metal workers, soap makers leather workers and fabric makers. A pretty impressive turnout overall.

One of the interesting things there were tables and tables of people buying, selling and trading the little metal caps from the tops of bottles of cava...the Catalan champagne. There are tons and tons of cava makers and they produce different tops every week, some of them. There was a special top produced just to commemorate this fira. Some of these caps sell for 150 Euros! I guess that it is like collecting stamps, just rather more impulse to try that out anyway.

The girls got tiny teeny smaller than a thimble glass animals, one hedgehog and a rabbit, they also got tiny little clay jugs from the potter, and some very pricey chocolate each.

Peaceful afternoon, artichokes, artisanal cheese, French buckwheat pancakes, red pepper and yogurt for lunch. Pretty good overall.

It is lunchtime 3:40. They shut down about an hour ago, and it will all start up again at around 4 or 5 and go until about 8. We'll go out again, the only thing I wanted to get and didn't was this amazing looking was huge, like the wheel of a bicycle, and tall as a loaf of bread and is a country style pate which I think basically means looked gorgeous and I want to try some.

My head doesn't hurt today, and the noise of all the festivities didn't bother me as much as I thought it might....noise has been rather irritating these last two days. So while I am still taking it pretty easy to say the least, things seem to be mending. I will be buying a big old pool noodle or something similar and gluing it to the offending bit of concrete. A two day headache and possible concussion is more than I really want to deal with again.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Big world books for kids.

Kate at Expat Mama and I have been talking about children's books that support openness to cultural diversity, and I had mentioned that I knew of a few good ones. I was planning on sending her a list, but decided to both e-mail it to her, and post it. So here it is. While I have linked the books to Amazon for the ease of making this list, I would like to express my absolute support of two sites/companies from whom I always order. They both are doing enormous amounts to help parents, children and teachers create and grow up in a more peaceful and kinder world. They are Chinaberry Books and Michael Olaf Montessori whose web site is not all that it could be, but who nonetheless provide a fantastic assortment of books and materials and also information about children's development. Chinaberry combs the market for books that nurture all that is wonderful in our kids and for really good books. You won't find the goosebump series here. I love this group.

Most of these books portray children living normal lives wherever they are growing up. What I like most about this is that it shows how much we as humans and our human children are alike, while still celebrating our diversity of culture and language. They also all treat the children as intelligent beings who are able to receive this underlying message without us hammering it into them, with over obvious moralising story lines. They are respectful.

Children Just Like Me is from Doris Kindersley, and has two page spreads of children from all over the world, showing their families, schools, favorite pastimes, foods and friends.

People is an absolute classic. Accessible for the very young

A Country Far Away Shows the daily life of a child in England and one is Africa...a lack of specificity I find a touch irritating, but it is handled from the child's perspective well..."today I stayed at home", and the pictures show what they did, which differ, and are the games, eat food, hang out with your family...

How Children Lived shows children over time from different parts of the world, again on two page spreads....

Children of Native America has a fairly self-explanatory title...lots of photos....I think it is mostly North American.

Another good thing to do is to find music from different parts of the world, to accompany these texts...granting that any culture has tremendous variation in the music it listens too, this is still another route of understanding between children and music is so available now and music is so natural a bridge between people and cultures.

Colors of Ghana is part of a series of books, including Australia, China, India, Japan, Kenya Mexico and the Navajo that show people from other parts of the world beautifully...there are paintings, information about the country and maps.

To Be an Artist shows children's making art around the world...the art includes singing and dancing poetry and theater as well as visual arts...there are many countries represented for each art form.

Material World is a telling and brilliant book, there are several pages for each family who are selected to be the median for the country they represent. There are photos of their daily lives, and information about the country, as well as a double page spread of everything the family owns out in front of their house with the family members. There is enough information for much older children to get a lot out of it, and the pictures are good enough for the very young to enjoy.

Tatterhood is a little different, it is a collection of stories and fairy tales that portray women as the protagonists, but not only that, they are strong, capable intelligent and don't just sit around waiting for Prince Charming to solve all the problems. selected from around the world. (Probably because there are so darn few of these stories...)

Another important aspect of this is to search out publishers, and some of them specialise in this, who produce perfectly regular children's books, but the illustrations feature families that are from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.

Festivals of the World the illustrated guide to celebrations, customs, events and holidays. Fairly self-explanatory. The book is of course necessarily something of an overview.

Ancient America A general resource book including maps and illustrations about the people who lived on North and South America before it was "discovered" Invaluable addition to traditional education today.

You and Me Together looks absolutely brilliant, it is a photo essay of Moms, Dads and kids playing together all over the world....I think it is done in conjunction with National Geographic, so the photos should be phenomenal.

There are of course many many more of these sorts of books, and a little searching will help immensely.

Still have a light headache, and my neck is stiff today as well *whine winge winge*

Friday, March 16, 2007


Well, I am a mite delicate today. I suppose that is the right word. You could also say crabby as all get out. Our stairwell to get out of the apartment has a unique feature. There is a special circle in hell for people who design these things. The ceiling over stairs normally runs smoothly down over your head. Sometimes in the event of an extremely old building, there are pieces of masonry jutting out. This building is not that old. The designer of our place has, in his infinite wisdom, decided that an interesting design feature for the building would to place a large sharp concrete ridge part way down the roof. I clear it by about half an inch.

When I am in a hurry, that is another matter. I was in a hurry today. A really big one. One where I was RUNNING full bore down the stairs.

I think I have a ditch running laterally across the top of my head. I didn't actually fall down when I hit it, but I cried and that takes some doing. I have had a headache all day. It hurts with every step I take.

Mom, because I know you read this....I have not taken any meds in case I concussed myself, but I haven't. I am fine pupils are not dilated, no nausea, no sleepiness, beyond the normal.... just a whopper of a headache and a certain tendency to grumpiness and weepiness. Blah.

Then to compound the joy, while I was taking Chuck out for a pleasant walk in the sun, we met up with a loose dog. There are a few of them around here, and I have met this one before. While Nomad was here in fact. He follows us relentlessly, and spends his entire time with his nose pressed to Chuck's butt. We don't go very fast because Chuck doesn't like it much. Can't say I blame him. If I shout at the dog, he goes away a step or two, but doesn't leave. This is a mite frustrating if you want to do more than spin in circles and yell. To compound it all, the local people think that the dog belongs to me, and I am obnoxiously allowing my dog to sniff them etc. etc. etc. He is a really freaking big German Sheppard too.

The man and I have come up with a solution. We're going to get some rope and if I meet him I am going to tie him up to something, then go on with my walk. On my way home I will let him go, if he hasn't chewed himself loose, and then he can follow us home from there if he so wishes. Hopefully after a few goes at this, he will avoid me.

That is two people that I have roundly cursed today, the designer of our stairwell, and that dog's owner.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Who is that hairy low-browed man?

The eldest went off on an exciting field trip today to the Ajuntamin...the town hall, where she and her classmates spent most of the morning questioning the mayor of our little village no less. She said it was exquisitely boring, especially so as it was all in Catalan...the other kids were reported to have enjoyed it, and like politicians everywhere, she came back with a big old bag of candy....more than she's gotten in some loot bags!

She mentioned that she was going this morning, and typical parent, I said to her that I assumed it had to do with the work that they were doing in Social Sciences on the Catalan political system.

"No," she assured me, "we're studying Neanderthals now."

Here's a couple of photos from around the town...

I guess I like the mountains better than the buildings.

I substituted for a sick teacher tonight...6 year olds and 14 year olds. Substituting is at best tough, but doing it in another language adds a certain air to the entire thing....

Here's another little joy about the evening, that directly ties into the Catalan lifestyle. Picture a room full of 6 year olds, who have been in school until 5pm, followed by a large chocolate croissant and a chocolate milk....then take them to about 6pm. was a noisy place...they COULD NOT sit still. Nothing on Earth or the heavens was going to keep their bottoms down...we did some fairly active language. They also thought MY accent was funny. They of course are too young to realize that their English accent also leaves a little to be desired. The teenagers...yeegads. I held my own, and they did learn something...but oh, what a contest of wills. 'nuff said.

I now have to go write report cards in Catalan!!! weee. They will check them over before they are sent out needless to say.

On a final delightful note, I now have a contract, and a social security number in Spain....I have landed. The other good thing is that I have work already lined up for next year...they asked ME to come back. Although after tonight........gack.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pictures of Chuck!!!

Pretty nice looking, eh?

Sleepy dog

Wondering what the heck I am doing holding that thing up to my face.

Waiting for a walk.

Ok, he looks kind of nervous in this one, but we took it a long time ago...he doesn't look like that so often anymore.

There you go folks, the long awaited photos of the dog...I've got a couple from around the town I may try tomorrow.

Bought peas and favas at the market today....and get this...2 KILOS of artichokes for a Euro...we've already eaten six and haven't started trying yet. Mmmmm. I love spring. The cookbook came too, and some of the books the kids ordered as a birthday gift from my sister...massive excitement all around.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Festivals and field trips.

Well the man had the end of his truck-based physical, no big deal, they just took some blood. The younger daughter is off on a field trip today, which we found out about yesterday, or my kids would have won the loser award again with no lunch at all. Turns out that the teacher had written in the agenda that my daughter has, but I had not been shown the agenda by my littlest munchkin. Not really her fault, she is eight, which is not an age of GREAT reliability. We think that they have gone off into the mountains to look at rocks, and presumably talk about Geology, and then to look at the quintessentially Catalan animal, and the adopted symbol of the people, the burro...a donkey. Yup. Hee Haw. Until quite recently they were used by people for delivering everything and both my husband and his cousin rode in wagons pulled by donkeys to deliver goods when they were small. The man has even seen a donkey pulling a cart in a nearby town, and there was an IKEA bag in the back. It must be one of the very few IKEAS that still requires a trough.

Food Festivals still continue apace here, I swear, you could live here your entire life, going to a festival every weekend, and you would still miss some. Upcoming is the pea festival. You've got it. I like peas too, but a festival is a whole new level of excitement. They have a discussion about the most traditional and simple way to cook them. A stew with peas, spring onions, I am not sure exactly which type they mean by that, as the article was in English and Catalan has more names for onions, tender garlic, a bit of bacon there are two types here, smoked and before it is smoked, I don't know which they mean, a branch of peppermint, boutifarra, both black and white. These are very traditional sausages here, that I want to cook sometime, but I haven't yet. I thought the simplest was to shell them and eat them sitting on the back porch!
Another festival is the asparagus and olive oil, there is a map and calendar in the paper of all the different festivals for just the next couple of weeks! There is a cod festival, a little more fitting with the Lenten season, a festival of fish tripe, I kid you not, and get this, a pig slaughter festival. We missed that one unfortunately. I would have actually gone to that, without the kids. I think it would be fascinating, and it seems to me that at some level we should see exactly what happens with our food before it hits the table. It seems more honest. Needless to say pork is on the menu at this event.

The history for the massive popularity of pork here is, in my humble opinion backed up by some reading I have done, tied up with the Spanish Inquisition. All those many years ago, the Jews were (once again) being persecuted and driven out by the ruling people. Many left, many were forced to leave, and many were tortured and killed. Some converted, or hid their Judaism and pretended to be Christian. The traditional Catalan feast food is a complete, top to bottom, violation of Jewish food laws. Usually first a seafood dishes, by this I mean shell fish, then often Canelons, which are like Cannelloni made with a jumble of meats all ground together including pork served with a white sauce (as in milk and butter), then a pork roast or chops. There is often a stew, made with the snout floating intact in it, you can buy them in the market, and a treat before hand is deep fried pigs ears. Haven't tried them either but you can buy them at he market. Can you say, "No I am not Jewish please don't torture my children." any more clearly. When this sort of genocide goes on for hundreds of years like it did here, well it leaves a mark. Of course everyone had to eat like this, because if your neighbour took a particular disliking to you, or you dissed someone in the street, they could accuse you of being Jewish, and thereby condemn you to trial - usually by torture - so keeping the pig and seafood eating up was a good idea.

Now, this is simply my own theory, and I am sure that some will disagree with me strongly. I also want to point out for those of you who may not know the Spanish chronology, that one of the fascinating things about Spanish history is that the 'Moors' Arab nations ruled most of Spain for about 700 years, at which time Spain had one of the most uniquely tolerant and highly educated cultures in the world. It was only after the eviction of the Arabs, when the Catholic Church came to greater power that the Inquisition and it's almost never-ending atrocities began.
I almost certainly have some of these facts less than perfect, and I am sure that someone out there would be more than happy to correct me, but that is what I know so far, and I for one find it fascinating. The history behind what we eat, and what we as nations chose to eat, and speak and celebrate provides a depth and interest to the subject of a simple meal that amazes me.

FYI did you know that Chocolate first arrived in Europe in Barcelona?

The kids will be doing another field trip at the end of April, they will be for 3 days and 4 days respectively...the elder for longer. Wow, that should do their Catalan a world of good. They make perfume, and bread while they are Catalan is that! I never made perfume on a field trip.

This is getting so long....I have discovered that the local high school is taught at least 50% in Castillian. Since the eldest will be heading there the year after next if we are still here, there is a sudden compulsion to get her some Spanish lessons....the school isn't doing any. She attends the Castillian lessons with her class, but as they are all fluent, and they are essentially studying grammar structures, it is well beyond her. Hmmm. This will require some thinking. I can almost see her neurons straining. Poor thing.

I have an idea for getting lessons of a sort in Catalan for schedule is too erratic to take courses, and I work so many evenings that it I have not been able to take any and my Catalan is atrophying at a pathetically awful level. So you see, there is a young man at the language school who has passed all the exams for English, but who has not got a ton of practice actually speaking it, and I thought that maybe he would be willing to trade time practice oral English for him with Catalan lessons for me. Lets see if I can work out this barter, it would be great if I could. Cross your fingers for me.

I took the disposable camera in to be developed, and I think I asked for both prints and a CD. Everything I do here is edged around with, 'I think I asked him...'. I think that he told me that they would be ready today, in which case there may be some pictures in tomorrows post! Wooohoooo! Well, don't anyone get too excited. They may be ready next week, and that is a long long time to hold your breath.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Went for a walk today in an area I hadn't been in before, a little ridge that sticks out,in the neighbouring town. I was hoping that there would be some good views, but the rich folks that live there are greedy even of the view, and the fences were so high on every side that there was nothing to be seen. The recompense for this however was that as I came around and started down off the ridge, I heard a weird hissing noise in one of the gardens. Upon closer inspection, picture both Chuck and me with our faces jammed into a hedge and rears aimed at the road, I discovered what was making the noise. A great big EMU!!!! Go figure! Not only that, but there were a bunch of baby emus!!!!Well, I never expected that anyway. I'll be going back with the girls for sure. Here's a link to the Wiki page about emus, that has pictures of both adult and baby emus. Sorry still no camera.

Between that town and ours there is a large open area that was certainly a farm at one point and has the large masia - which is a fortified farmhouse - on the property, looking a little derelict. We always assumed it was private, but as I came to the end of the road on this ridge, I discovered a very well used path, hmmmm. I started along it, wondering if large wolfish dogs or men bearing arms would appear...sometimes there are advantages to being a woman. I am much less likely to get shot. Merely viewed as a stupid foreigner. It was lovely. A woman appeared, and I asked her if it was private and she assured me it was fine for me to go there. So gleefully I set off. There are trails all over the place, it will be such fun to explore. As well, while walking along, I was overwhelmed by the most beautiful scent. Have you ever been seized by a honeysuckle and found yourself wandering the road in search of the source of the lovely fragrance...well, it was just like that. It was this spindly big bush, with the occasional flower, I picked one and brought it to my nose. It is about the size of a buttercup, but shaped more like an iris or an orchid. Yellow. It has the most impossibly sweet and penetrating scent. It seems unreal, like the artificial scent in bubble gum sometimes. It has a touch of banana to it, but is heavenly, actually, almost too much. Quite amazing.

The husband had the big work sponsored check-up. They did it on site in a truck. Checked his sight with this glasses, he had a hearing test, and electrocardiogram, I think, anyway, he lay down and they glued things on his chest. They looked in his ears and nose and took his blood pressure, but the lady who does the blood tests wasn't there so no breakfast again in anticipation of the cholesterol test tomorrow. Interesting what they did and didn't do. I find the truck at work approach a neat one. Makes sure everyone gets a basic check-up anyway.

Worked this morning, and more work this afternoon and this evening. It is a beautiful day, and that little flower is scenting the apartment. We'll have to walk over and see the emus soon. Isn't that astonishing.

Oh, and it turns out that two houses were destroyed in the fire on the weekend. A shame.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Elbow-room, the fire update,

Well, I am a crabby girl today. Ah well. Short tempered maybe would be most accurate. I also had my first real bout of European claustrophobia. That is an exaggeration, but I have always eventually found the narrowness of the sidewalks and the streets and the number of people, and the walled yards lead me to feeling a little bit tied in, bound up, hemmed in, pick your cliche. Anyway, today was the day. Walking along with the kids and the man and the dog, I ended up feeling a very strong urge for more


It was better on the beach, but it was one of those days when both girls talked continuously and simultaneously to me, and held onto me or some part of me apparently all the time. Urgh. Lovely big open spaces of the beach and the sea, but still no elbow-room. Anyway, hopefully this will pass, it is one of the challenges I knew I would have to face here, and I am surprised it has taken this long to hit me.

I think it is something about a beach that does it to them. We would arrive on some deserted spectacular 3 mile long beach in the Bahamas, with not another soul for miles, and an uninterrupted view of the Atlantic, and the two of them would sit practically, if not actually, on top of me. After living with 4 people in a 27 foot boat, this was occasionally a touch frustrating. And hilarious.

Update on the local forest fire. They had emergency vehicles up there for most of the night, but it didn't flare up again. Looking at it today, I honestly cannot really tell that there was a fire. Very strange. I'm going to walk over on Tuesday with Chuck to check it out. It is presumably still off-limits to the public, and I have to work tomorrow morning, so I won't have enough time before the girls come back from lunch.

Oh, and on another note, wimpy dog redeemed himself today. He walked under the bridge on the way down with nothing more than an increased pace, as opposed to his previous extreme skittishness, and on the way back, walked through all by himself! Well, I had the lead, but I didn't have to carry him anyway. Thank goodness. He was a little hunkered down and moving fast, but he did it. It was very impressive in fact.

We had pancakes this morning, as we often do, and instead of my usual white flour pancakes, I made wonderful French buckwheat pancakes, that are supposed to be made with 1 egg, 1 cup of beer(!) 1 cup of milk and the flour. I skipped the beer. They were awesome. Thanks Nomad They had the most wonderful smokey taste, the kids thought they tasted a bit like bacon. I had not had pancakes like them before, although where we stay in the summers in Canada, the woman there makes some delicious flavourful interesting pancakes. The kids like to alternate those with my usual white flour pancakes though. Nothing quite like white flour and white sugar, eh? We do put some lemon juice with that to redeem it; and to make it taste better.

I misread my watch this evening and we ended up having dinner an hour earlier than usual, so the girls are happily drawing, the man is reading and I am blogging in the evening interval of peace and contentment.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

FIRE!!!!! - and theater camp for the summer.

The big excitement of the day was a forest fire on a ridge a couple of miles from us. 15 hectares burnt and 300 people were evacuated. They don't know the causes...the specific info is from the man who can listen to the local radio broadcasts.

We found it while walking Chuck, and touring some of the local buildings...there are some lovely ones that I have found on my ambles..and the man got a book out of the library with old pictures of the town, some of which featured these houses. While wandering along HUGE yellow brown clouds were floating by, which we quickly identified as smoke...we of course wandered over towards a vantage point and it was quite a sight. I for one had never before seen an actual forest was quite amazingly huge...assisted by the very high winds today...I could not guess on the Beaufort scale, but they were winds that set your hair streaming out directly behind you and knock you back a step every minute or two.

You could actually see the flames shooting up as the trees flared up...they were probably rising 40 feet! Fortunately for us anyway, they were not aimed towards our town, but the hill behind the house we rented in the fall was well aflame, and some of the fires were quite near some of the upper houses.... the smoke was going directly over the house from the fall.

It was all very dramatic. We could actually see the fire from our porch as well, and it burned for several hours. I was keeping an eye on it while talking on the phones with three amazing friends from Canada.

It is looking like we are going to be setting up our own camp for the kids. The chief impetus behind this camp are two incredibly talented theatre people, they both have their own theatre companies, they are also lucky enough to together have an absolutely fantastic little boy. Needless to say they have a million contacts. It is looking like the kids will have theater and movement training, improvisational theater training, puppeteering and set-design, art work, afro-cuban dance, and I feel like I am missing someone, which is awful. We are searching for a music person, hopefully voice. Their lunch will possibly be made by a wonderful woman who is an amazing cook, specializing in Guatemalan cuisine, who will also spend a day with them each week, and they love her so much! All of this done in a group of wonderful loving people. Now how good is that! Lets hope we pull it off! The basic the moment anyway, is that the adults will provide a basic framework, and structure, a good deal of skill development, and focus for all aspects of the creation, acting/dancing, as well as the post-production work (is that the right term?) of finding the venue, ticketing, advertising, and then finally...the show! Woohoo. This looks incredibly exciting, and I am sure you will hear more as time passes.

The kids are also signed up for two weeks of sailing camp in August...they are eager to show off their skills...I mostly want them to have some fun.

I guess I had better get going on the plane tickets hadn't I.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Mish Mash

Well everyone, I am sorry I didn't post yesterday, I was embroiled in a massive catch up. I felt kind of down about Nomad leaving, and had stuff to do that I had not even thought about while they were here, and I was just plum tired. She must be more wrecked, they had to take three different trains to get home. Glurg.

Hope you made it OK Nomad...

Here's a question I am putting out to all of Mom sent me a reference to this outfit that offers on-line writing classes. Do any of you know of another crowd that does these? Or do you know anything about them? Have you ever done a course like this and how was it? Insanely I am toying with the idea of trying something like this. I know I said that I would never complain about not having enough time in the you can all just shout me down now, but honestly...I cannot get to everything I want to and need to do in a day. Maybe my ambitions just exceed my time. Then again, Putin doesn't have to do dishes or laundry. *grouse grouse grouse* Yes Nomad, I'm missing you. Blech.

Seriously though, I also find that my rather rigid priorities on some things limit my time available for others. When my kids and husband are around, that is what I want to be doing. not studying or blogging or writing. Then there is walking the dog, and teaching, and the everyday garbage like cleaning and groceries. At this point I cannot remember when I last picked up a paintbrush. I am out of practice at handling these issues. I will have to gouge out time as dedicated and refuse to budge from it. Urgh.

I cannot even find time to do Catalan classes, although that has more to do with my erratic schedule, and the -shall we say challenging - Catalan schedule of eating.

In the bakeries now there are bunyols de quaresme (SP?????) These are Lenten desserts. I know isn't that a bit of a contradiction in terms? Anyway, my local backer has three types. One looks like deep fried donut holes rolled so heavily in sugar that the outside is all but invisible. The next is basically the same, but sliced open with cream. The third is bigger and looks for all the world like a deep fried croissant, again HEAVILY sugared. Now doesn't that get you hungry. I am pretty sure from what she said that the big one has either cream or custardy stuff inside it. The weird thing is that they are only made on certain days. Of course only over the Lenten period, but here's the catch. The two first ones, the smaller, are only made on Tuesdays and Fridays. The big ones only on Fridays. WHY? I have no idea. My Catalan doesn't stretch that far, and I suspect that the answer will simply be, "it's traditional." There is also a crema de Saint Josep that they are making around now which sounds a bit like a stove top lemon custard, but I haven't had a chance to try it.

Will I ever post about something other than food?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Well, it was the Chocolate museum today. Unfortunately their website is not very good, but here's the link anyway. There is another link here that is about life on a cocoa plantation and how it is grown that frankly looked interesting.

The chocolate museum smelled divine. Duh. There were student pastisseriers at work across the courtyard, man that could make you hungry. Nomad was fascinated by the process, and she is a reasonably educated audience. I mostly felt hungry. It was fascinating to watch, and to see the different skill level of the various students. They were making triple layer chocolate sandwich-style bonbons, about 1 inch square, a thin wafer of white chocolate sprinkled with cocoa powder, then a layer of softer dark chocolate, then another wafer of white chocolate, then gooey choc, then more white, a drop of gooey on the roof with a chocolate fan on top. Looked pretty darned good. Nomad took pictures.

The statues that they had made were astonishing if a touch freakish..but the museum could have been much better. There were no English labels on many things, which is fine, there is no law requiring this, but the displays were not particularily brilliant, nor extensive, and the English translation they had were APPALLING. Aside from the multitude of grammatical errors, there were some words that were simply wrong. They used ailments instead of elements, when they really ment ingredients. "The ailments that make up chocolate..." I had to read the Catalan to figure out what the heck they meant. At first I was reading it something like this...."chocolate is made of a bad back, trick knees and a stomach ulcer...."

I would go again, no question, but it certainly was not as good as it could have been.

Anyway, we had a lot of fun, the kids drew again, Nomad's littlest producing a particularily amazing piece.

The smell of the chocolate was worth the admission. Got the kids some chocolate goodies, they opted for cones, with dark hard chocolate on top, then a layer of lightly sugared roasted almonds, then a layer of lighter chocolate with embedded almonds and almond flavour. Gonna have to go back and get me some. They also had bars of chili chocolate and ginger chocolate which I wanted, but the bank ran dry, I'll have to go back. mmmmm. Maybe I'll get one of those cones too.

Nomad goes tomorrow. So sad. We have had such a marvelous time. Back to real life again. She is just so amazing.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


The big event of the day was a trip to the Joan Miro exhibit, that I also went to with my folks a few weeks ago. I posted about it, but it is too late and I am too tired to give you a link, just go back a bit and there are all sorts of goodies.

We brought the kids drawing stuff, and they had a grand time sketching some of his work. They were most interested in the sculptures, which surprised me, because they seem harder to draw. It was wonderful though because they were so engaged with the work and with Miro's art, in such a focused way. They did drawings from different sides of the sculpture, and I have to say that ALL of them produced impressive work. Nomad's youngest's was faintly Picasso-esque as she is a little young to have an accurate grasp of how to place the various features in relation to each other, but it was recognisable. I was truly surprised and impressed by the quality of some of the work they were making. Miro of course was fantastic. The temporary exhibit that was on when I last went was unfortunately closed, but there was still plenty to see.

I overheard an interesting conversation today while the kids were sitting on the floor drawing. A woman came in, she was probably in her later 50's and very elegantly dressed, blonde and she looked pleasant and basically cheerful. With her was a dark haired, intense looking younger woman. The blonde came up and was looking at the children drawing and looking at their work, smiling and she looked delighted, but did not interrupt them at all. She tried to engage her companion in conversation about the kids several time, but the younger woman was intent on giving her opinion and history of the art and what Miro had been attempting to accomplish. An art history lecture of sorts. After several tries, mentioning that the kids were drawing, and that it was pretty good, she gave up. Ironically what the younger woman was so intent on, and so unwilling to be deflected from, to the point of rudeness and complete unawareness of the world around her, was the fact that her 'lecture' at this point was about Miro's emphasis on seeing through a child's eyes, and that he was determined to get the child's perspective on the world.

I suspect that the older blonde has more hope of understanding what Miro was all about.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Friends, food and fun.

Teach, eat, beach, eat, teach, eat. Yuuuummmmmm Nomad cooked, heavenly risotto, and clams that were decadently yummy, and sausages, and olives and tomatoes, and strawberries. We are in the strawberry growing capital of Spain....mmmmmmm.

She made crepes as well, which we had with sugar and lemon juice from the lemon trees of one of my co-workers. Lovely and fragrant and flavourful. Mmmmm.

Ate dark chocolate on the beach too. Mmmmmm

The kids swam in the water. Now I'll let you know that it was a lovely warm day but that water was COLD. Not freezing, no where near it, and you don't even instantly develop aches up and down your legs, but C.O.L.D. Cold. Kids went in for full body wading, and came out bright pink all over. Brrr.


Teach, beach teach. Not only was it fun, but it rhymes!

Sat down to the 'puter at midnight so, ....bonna nit.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Day one with Nomad...Barcelona. Oooops, should have posted this last night.

It is very very late, predictably we have stayed up late talking, and it is midnight.

Sagrada Familia today The official website is the pits, but if you google images Sagrada Familia, the images that come up are really good. It was stunning and amazing to go around with kids, who by their very nature lead you to look more closely at details and aspects of the design. It is also fairly neat that it is still under construction because as you walk around the pieces of masonry waiting to be mounted are sitting right there, and some of the molds, and little piles of tile....amazing

A huge, delicious tapas fest for lunch, the crowning piece of which was a sepia..cuttle fish, cooked whole delicately in oil and herbs and garlic. So good. I may go back there and order ONLY that and some bread. Absolute heaven and the texture was absolutely perfect. Mmmmm. It is past midnight, so I am not going to go into too succulent details... lets just say that we ate for three hours straight, and at midnight we all still feel full. Oh my. More later.

Stayed up talking and are skipping school tomorrow, and it is looking like a beach day. Oh it is all so good.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Friends, and more friends.

In my language class yesterday I learned that Vladimir Putin, you know the President of Russia, has an English language lesson every morning. Well, next time I am complaining about being too busy, or not having time to get something done, just remind me of that OK? I am not trying to run Russia for crying out loud, and I still sometimes feel like I cannot get it all done.

Had a headache all afternoon yesterday, I finally came to the conclusion that it may have had to do with the liter of tea, which is my normal morning intake, PLUS the espresso...Caffeine and dehydration.

Here's the most important thing though....NOMAD"S HERE!!!! YEAH. They got here just after lunchtime, shortly before breakfast if you are Catalan. That's not fair, I exaggerate, shortly after breakfast. She brought whole grain food goodies, they must have cursed that bag, it weighed a TON, and BOOKS!!!! YIPEEEE, and I have some to trade with her too....but most importantly they all are here, and we are all quite excited. The kids were trembling with glee, and well, lets just say we talked a lot. And walked and the kids played, and we ate, and we talked, and watched the town go by and it was generally very nice. We're going to see if the market is open in the morning, and then it looks like Barcelona tomorrow. So good. It is so nice having friends here.

Her kids are bigger, and the little one had a 'map' that she was carrying in her purse on our walk to ensure we didn't get lost, and we would all stop to check it regularly so that she could tell us exactly where we were. Nomad's eldest child and my youngest carried half a forest through most of our walk, and were intent on digging a man trap by the side of the road, and covering it with the branches. They were convinced to build it off road at a later time. They were, in the course of one short afternoon, pirates and spies, they played with geometric tiles, and Polly Pockets, and well, lets just say they had a very good time, and a very giggly time. Nomad's kids were pretty tired from their disturbed night, they had to get on the train at about 1 am, but were absolutely delightful despite this.

Lovely lovely lovely.

On top of that we got to have a phone call with friends from Canada as well, and my daughters talked long and happily with their son, who is practically their brother they have known each other so long and so well...they were very happy. We'll have to call them more often. We will be seeing them in the summer and they have some very cool ideas for things for the kids to do...lots of interesting conversations coming up there as well.

For now, life is excellent. The house is packed and we're all delighted.


I would like to point out that there are kids out playing in the street, and it is 11pm.

Also, Nomad brought her digital, but unfortunately her card doesn't talk to my computer. Hmmm. Didn't know that could be a problem. Ah well. Eventually we'll get some photos posted.