Friday, February 29, 2008

I got me to a convent today

I went to visit the Museu-Monestir Pedralbes today in BCN...this is a seriously old monastery, part of the Benedictine order, but was in fact a in it was for Nuns not Monks. The monks move to more comfortable, and historically less important digs in the early eighties and the generalitat has been renovating and restoring since. Though it still belongs to the nuns. It is a lovely and peaceful place; I visited it last week when GM was here, but forgot the camera and the visit was a might hurried so I went back again today...the advantage of living in a place.

I love the expression on the face of the fellow above...he looks kind of bewildered doesn't he.

The women who were in this monastery, since the 1300's if I get my numbers correct, were all fairly well to do, and clearly had refined can see the feminine in this jug from their stores. I just love it.

The sweep of these fresco curtains painted onto the walls is also a lovely feminine touch...

also the general air of space and peace was delightful...

This chair, stored away in one of the cellars was a thing of simple beauty...

The cloister housed several ponds, this one was my clear and shrouded with trees. Unregimented.

A touching carving well in reality a tombstone, I like how even her pillow is dented where her head rests....I believe it reads 1365, so she has been comfy for a long time.

This however confused me....look at it closely...

OK, is it just me, see, I cannot quite make up my mind, if this looks more ovarian or more testicular....

I leave you with a self portrait.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

You've got to read this one...

OK, this tops an awful lot...

Apparently the police in Italy broke up a ring that was selling fake...get this....fake....


Can you imagine?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Did I say something about books?

Woo hoo! Jackpot today in the mail...I had ordered books from Amazon, not something I can afford to do to completely fulfill my compulsion, but some now and then. The books I got would seem to be boring books, but I am excited.

You see; I like fiction, some of it. All the literary snobs out there are going to jump down my virtual throat when I say this, but honestly, fiction is fine; I read lots of it, as it is mostly what falls into my hands, and mostly what the local library has, but I prefer books with more intellectual challenge. Yes, yes, I can hear you shrieking at me about my ignorant outlook on Liiitrachuuur, and yes, I know I know, it is full of tales for all humanity, good fiction is a discussion of the major problems of out time, of the nature of humanity, windows into the past and into the psyche. Yadda yadda yadda, I get it, I get it; I really do, but I also really like reading non-fiction, good non-fiction, and this rather maligned genre is excellent and there are some brilliant writers... there is brilliant writing coming out of some of the hard sciences fields, who do also discuss the state of the earth and potentials for humanity, while also bending my head open with new ideas, there are environmental writers who are enough to make you weep, and then get up and do something...there are some brilliant books out there, books that show you how the world is changing, the thinking of some of the greatest minds of our times and where they are leading us. The areas I like best fall under creative non-fiction and for-idiots-like-me science writing good. Mmmmmm.


I got two books about the construction and creative use of moodle, as well as a book put together by and for moodle users, a tip sheet so to speak, plus one about using blogs, wiki's and podcasts in classrooms....I am learning Catalan and Castillian isn't enough, I need more...

I will confess,

My name is Oreneta and I am a challenge addict.

This is gonna be so good,

gotta get me some reading now...


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

books books boooooookssss

My computer keeps freezing, my internet is manky, and it is midnight.

We'll see how this goes.

One of the challenges living here is simply finding books I really want to read. Few English language books go by in the first place. Fewer still are ones I am REALLY hungry for, some aren't to my taste, whatever, blah blah blah...but this is now the fifth year of finding it tough to get great books, we had the same problem on the boat...and it is bugging me a bit. When I am in Toronto and have the enormous resources of the phenomenal Toronto Public Library behind me, I have too much work. If anyone from TO wants to whine about the library system there; I ain't listening. It is simply world class. I miss it horribly; along with long (read reasonable and useful) opening hours, cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, whole grain bread and coleslaw, though I could make that.

That said, it isn't snowing here, I don't have to work too hard, we live near the sea and the mountains, and BCN, I don't have to drive or commute ( I am embarrassed to admit how long I listened to the traffic report after I started working at home...I just LOVED it that I wasn't in it), we're challenged and have too many things that we want to do, and we are all together for lunch every day.

All told, ignore the whine up top. I think it is part of why I read blogs (when my internet and computer aren't freaking out): the dearth of appealing reading material.

Monday, February 25, 2008

cheater cheater cheater


It is 11:15, my stupid internet is working intermittently and one of my students did a blatant wiki plagiarism. Note to others...if your going to plagiarize, go a little deeper down the list at google so it isn't quite so easy to discover, m'kay?

I was a little nasty. I dutifully marked it. Gave comments, then at the very bottom mentioned the close similarity between the piece and a wiki. Second note to potential cheaters...don't copy the photo as well, hmmm, all I had to do was click on the photo and the page came up. I never even had to do a google search.

I ask you, just how stupid does this student think I am?

You know I am a dumb *ss immigrant and all, and can't speak the freaking language well, but honest to god.

On another note, I will be getting out the new seasonal cookbook my sister got me for Xmas before heading to the market this week...some goodies are in season, and now that I have a couple of nights a week when I don't have to work.....

Cheers folks, and DON'T CHEAT!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

To be cool, or not to be

I have gotten a couple of awards in the past little while, and I have been either too tired, or too busy to post there they are...altogether, I guess I am a sassy mama of the world!

Dawn from Colours of Dawn out in the prairies in Canada sent me the woman of the world, and thank you very much....I guess I have been around a few different parts of the globe at this point. These are always kinda fun...and then Theresa from the Rain in Spain sent me the sassy mama blog award...I think I probably am sassy...if you read it as opinionated, volatile and mouthy...and I am most definitely a Mama..and I've got a I guess I rate!

Now then, in the spirit of the high school paper, I will provide a definition of the hard to nail down adjective, sassy...I have discussed the woman of the world issue in a previous post, but sassy is a new topic for this humble blog. The Urban Dictionary defines sassy as, "Possessing the attitude of someone endowed with an ungodly amount of cool." You will notice that it does not state whether said person DOES possess an ungodly amount of cool, merely the ATTITUDE of someone possessing all that coolness. A rather ambivalent definition.

Cool has always been a tough one with me. You see, I was academically successful, and not into team sports, I didn't give much of a hoot about what I wore, but was happy, had a group of friends and I was as content as most anyone is in High School, which as far as memory serves, is not very content at all, but you have forgotten that there is better. The summers in fact were always better, so was university; much better. (The people who made it were mostly not those obnoxious ones who defined who was and wasn't cool, strange that, wonder what all those uber cool high school kids are doing now. Not.)

I digress.

I was a nerd. Albeit I never played dungeons and dragons, I am too old for computers to have played a part, never wore glasses held together with tape...but I was not cool. I seem to have achieved a level of coolness later in life, as in now I sport a fair amount of attitude. My sister said to me once, in a hilariously questionable compliment, that I was the coolest nerd she knew. Hmmm, would that be like the tallest short person? The skinniest obese person? Anyway, she meant it as a compliment, and I took it that way...'cause I think it is true.

My kids vacillate between thinking I am horrifically nerdy and embarrassing and astonishingly cool. They even maintain that I am one of the two coolest Mom's at their school. The other cool Mom has hair dyed in two different colours and sports several facial piercings. The problem is, as always, a question of what and who defines cool.

I don't think I want to go there, it is too late at night; so to sidestep that tricky existential question here is a brief survey, conducted on the spot, by yours truly: the Man thinks I am cool (smart cookie, what other answer could he give), Eldest said she thinks that sometimes I am cool, and sometimes a nerd. Eldest elaborated for your edification...I am a nerd because I wear weird clothing, kiss the man in public, also sing in public and laugh too loudly in public. I am cool because I am not uptight about cleaning and junk like that, I am fun and interesting and don't teach the same way, and I don't care what other people think. Youngest is asleep and did not answer the survey question; nor did Chuck, but he loves me senselessly so his vote wouldn't count anyway.

So there you have it, I'm a sometimes sassy, always mama, ditto woman, sometimes worldly frequent blogging type.

Crystal clear.

Thank you both so very who to tag...I think I'll tag every Mama out there whose getting by with good a sense of humour.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


HEY! I'm on line! It keeps coming and going so I will post while I can, I may not be able to visit though....

We went to MNAC, the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya....what a fantastic place! I got an annual membership for fourteen Euros!!!! That is the main hall you can see at the top there...

You're going to be hearing a whole lot more about that place! Wow! We saw a fair amount of medieval church art, but also some others which were frankly fascinating, I want to go back and check out the more modern works, they have a permanent photo section and there is also an exhibition of the drawings by Rusiñol..a Catalan artist, who truly isn't that much of a giant, but is highly influential here, so interesting. The main hall of the building is amazing...

This is a photo youngest took of the organ, a close up so to speak....can you imagine the sound of that when it really gets going in that space! Gotta hear that one day.

Finally, here's another reminder of spring. The almonds are done, and we are on to cherries and oranges, need I mention just how amazing orange flowers smell?

Happy weekend.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Involuntary break from blogging

Thanks to telefonica, I am on an involuntary blogging internet service at home, and as this is Friday....I may not be back on air for a sorry.

We´ll see what happens, I´m at work now, but I have to get going home right about now.

Have a great weekend,


hee hee hee, I just hit spellchecker, and almost every word was highlighted...took a moment to realise that it is looking for Spanish words. Apparently I am a disaster that way.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Think bigger picture....

Well, at the risk of boring you, though lovely Nomad maintains that I cannot....(am I the only one who's readership varies between 150 to 20 from one day to the next? Maybe I am boring, or bi-polar or, or, or...)


Getting back to the topic, I will continue on yesterday's theme, even if I do bore you.

First of all, elPadawan mentioned the problem of ensuring that you make it through the curriculum over the course of the year, and in fact in his question lies the answer, and it is need to look at larger chunks of time, for instance in some of the classes I teach I have, say twelve units I have to cover over the year, and three terms in which to do it...that breaks down to an average of four units a term, which averages ABOUT three weeks each, this is quite approximate as the terms vary considerably in length....

So, you then go and look at the material that you want to cover over that is often surprisingly short. A typical unit for an English class, may cover: past simple, as in, 'I walked. Did I walk? I did not walk', also countable and uncountable nouns for example, rice is uncountable, you cannot say, "Hand me a rice". You must use 'some', or a quantified, such 'as a cup of' finally there will be some vocabulary.

That is all the grammatical and lexical list for an individual unit...they need to do some reading and you need to ensure that they understood it, so some comprehension work of some form. They need to do some writing work (see writing work is uncountable so I used some!) and some practice listening to the language and speaking it. If you are not tied and bound to the exercise book it can provide good feedback and opportunities for practice and winnowing out the problem, but beyond that, you are pretty much free to do whatever dance around those subjects you think will engage the kids. I currently feel overly bound to the exercises in the book

I prefer to have a single well done piece of work to show at the end of it, for instance a letter, or a journal entry, or an advertising or a song that the students have written and which encompasses all of these grammatical and lexical items in some way. This would be in lieu of a test, which simply rams factoids into short term memory, where they are shortly forgotten. The test also serves to cover the teacher's butt should there be a dispute with the parents about the child's education or abilities. The larger work gives them the review factor in an organic way if it is worked with meaningfully. At the two week mark, you had better be finishing up this work, and the final week is polishing up whatever they want to make, whether it is boring or simple or fascinating and complex like a group music video...

Then you have to only keep track of the weeks, and you are freed up to follow the children's lead from day to day...though sometimes you need to fire them up so that they will take the lead...there in is the rub and the work of a good teacher.

OK...that said, we went into BCN today and visited a working monastery, though in fact it is for nuns, not monks, so I am not sure that monastery is the correct name. I am going to have to go back again, I failed to bring my camera, as it looked so very rainy out and I didn't want to damage to come. It is a lovely spot...I may even pull off a feminist rant before I am done with that topic.

One last thing, is it just me, or is this shaping up to being the single most interesting Presidential races you've ever seen?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I opened my big mouth

One of the ladies I work with had, without my knowing it, done an observation on my classroom to see how it was all going. Fine fine fine...indeed she picked a great day and a great class, they were very focused and interested...

That said.

Her final comment was that I should have been timing some of the activities in the classroom more closely so that they didn't run on too long.

Here we came to a final and absolute divide in teaching practices; some of which are cultural and some of which come from my training and some of which are personal.

Let me just state here up front that I would never, ever, ever in a million years interrupt an entire class that is completely focused on an activity in order to move onto another activity that I had planned.

I kind of jumped down her throat when she suggested that.

I almost feel bad.

But...the difficulty is one of outlook, and I am not referring to her particularily, rather to a systemic difference.

The idea that you time activities and have a pre-packaged plan speaks much more to the teachers desires as an authoritarian figure who maintains ownership of the task of ramming X, Y and Z facts into the receptacle commonly referred to as the students brains, VS...the idea that the teacher is a guide who assists the students in their process of creating knowledge through interaction with the materials, each other, the facts that are being handled and the teacher.

It is a fundamental question of ownership. Who's work is this. Let me tell you here, it is the student's, every single solitary time.

Of course, we can force anyone to memorise a set group of facts, and they will forget them as fast, but true learning is a creative process of being and changing, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with memorising the periodic table of elements, or the conjugation of the verb to be in the past simple.

You must use the facts and integrate them into your neurological framework as a creative process. Let me emphasis that it is physiologically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually a creative process. It is not a process wherein a teacher stands up with a proverbial hammer and drives a proverbial nail into your head, then issuing a test to ensure that it is lodged there, at least for now.

What that means is that we don't stop them when they are focused. It means that we provide only enough information and material to inspire them. It means that we have to follow them, not lead. It means that we are not omnipotent (thank god, pun intended).

It is a different way of looking at education altogether, and one that is totally alien here, which I foresee myself struggling with as long as my kids are students in this system.

It is a different way of looking at the process of learning. Our job is to assist and guide. It is also to inspire, because not every person before us is going to be interested, or even faintly inspired to pick up ownership of the process and that is where our real work comes in. There is information that we wish to share and impart, and which we are paid by the parents/government to share and impart, and the onus is on us to discover a route through which we can connect this in a meaningful way to the students beings, to give them a sense that this is worth doing, to get them engaged.

They must be engaged to learn, and that is the challenge for the teacher. The hardest challenge.

I have been asked to give a meeting/lecture about this. I can reel this off for hours with back-up information and neurological diagrams, the trick is to deliver it in a way that is meaningful and useful within the framework of what we do and have to do every day; within the framework of my employer's expectations and the parent's expectations and the limitations of what the other teachers will be willing to do, and the freedom I will be granted to adapt on a moment to moment basis in the class to the particular needs of a particular group at a particular moment. The essence of good teaching.

More and more thinking about learning coming up. I'll try not to bore you.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Chuck is strange

We have a friend staying, GM, she comments sometimes...

Chuck decided this evening that he wanted to spend a solid five minutes or more licking her slippers; with her feet in them. She said she didn't mind, but when he moved to her sock I distracted him.

What the heck was that all about????

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I have been reading quite a bit about Moodle lately, it is free down loadable software for running a virtual classroom, and seems to be incredibly cool, though it will take some time to learn how to use it. I am excited about the prospect. I have tried twice to integrate blogging into educational settings, neither time with much success. How I formulated it clearly didn't click with the student's needs, requirements and hopes. I would like to integrate it more strongly in the future, not just blogging, but a virtual classroom experience as a whole.

I am excited by this possibility on a number of levels, first of all, since I believe that so many of us re-train over the course of our working careers, there is a desire out there for information and training that does not entail enormous life sacrifices and changes. On-line courses can serve this; also it is fascinating in our increasingly global world to enroll in courses with people from all over the place. I also think that if technology continues to change at the pace it has been, the world our kids inhabit will be very different from ours, assuming we don't melt the d*mn thing first, and will change several times over their lifetimes. I think virtual classrooms, and virtual connectivity will play a vital role these changes both as tools, and as the catalyst for these changes.

Also, if I get into the field, there are greater possibilities for me to be able to work on-line, which means that I am not tied to my crappy Catalan skills for work, and wherever I live, as long as I have good internet access, I could work more broadly. (My boss, accurately, assessed my Catalan level as a bare minimum necessary for getting by, and she is right.)

Overall rather exciting (though not the Catalan part).

I also started a new painting today, but the Man in napping in the room with it, so I can't post a photo, sorry...and I studied Spanish as well. Such virtue. Did you realise that the word for married in Spanish and Catalan has the same root as house? So you aren't really married so much as housed. It raises interesting questions on a number of levels. Where does it leave the homeless for instance?

Saturday, February 16, 2008


My feet ache clear up to my hips.

Birthday parties. I am almost outgrown having to go to them, but this one was in a neighbouring town, and was in one of those excruciating party play house Disney things. My lift there, who are a lovely couple, wanted to stay, and I could hardly ditch them and take off to sit in a cafe in the sun away from the shrill squeal of gleeful children...

Then we had a party here too, quite successful, I might add...

Between my feet from standing and walking all day, and my head from the volume of Catalan, four hours constant yesterday and about seven today...

I am wilting...

By the same token we are finding a space here, we got two invitations to peoples houses today, which Catalan's don't really do that much, we walked another friend's dog, another woman took care of youngest yesterday, while a third offered to watch her, and my boss took four hours out of her day to schlep round the medical centers, and intends to do it again for the specialist! Still another woman offered to come with us to whichever doctor as well.

It feels nice.

AND -----

The man got a CD from the library, London Calling by the CLASH,

Is that every a great album...

Jimmy Jazz!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Doctors and Hospitals

After today I can vouch for the fact that the medical system here and in Canada are pretty darned similar. You wait. A lot. There is a certain amount of disorganisation. It is free if you've got the card. The machines all look the same, so do the uniforms.

My fantastic boss took us, and dealt with everything. She is caring, tough, forceful and lovely. What a gift that was. A friend here took Youngest home from school with her and kept her till seven and lent us a car seat, and the school itself fed Youngest lunch as well; reportedly very tasty. Another Mom will be coming by to give youngest and me a lift to a birthday party tomorrow, and is bringing stuff to help decorate for the party we will be giving immediately afterwards for the same group of kids. Don't ask. She offered to help set up as well, but as I gazed around at the dog hair tumble-weed, I thought of the work I'd have to do BEFORE she came, and thanking her graciously, said no. We seem to be getting to know a nice group of people here.

Differences in the medical system? Blue walls, a surprisingly dark blue. The examination rooms were larger, and some had two beds.

One great difference, we got to see the same Doctor over and over again. He saw us, sent us for a test, back to him, sent for another. He was a good Doctor. Concerned, careful and diligent.

Despite this, when we left he gave us the same response as the other six doctors who have seen Eldest so far.

"I don't know what's wrong."

Then we came home.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I went to a pretty small high school, and it had some unusual traditions. One of these was an unscheduled somewhat spontaneous holiday once a year.

We'd arrive at school ready for classes and everyone would be assembled. The vice principle then told us a story, about how once long ago a possibly rabid animal had wandered into the school, and all the students had been forced - oh so reluctantly - to leave for the day. At this point, we to were then released and sent home. It usually happened in February, or some other equally dingy time when everyone was down, blue and empty-headed.

The girls had that today.

Both of them stayed home this morning, listening to the sound track of the Rocky Horror, and watching four complete CDs of the Pink Panther videos.

You can't accuse us of skipping the important elements of their education.

Eldest was much the same, though more cheerful for the break.

That counts.

They couldn't push me out the door fast enough this morning when I went off to work.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Today has been a struggle, to be frank. I woke up squashed flat, weighed down and blue about what I have to try and accomplish and how annoying so much of it is.

I think, or like to think, that I am a basically optimistic person, so that passed; but this day. OMG. I feel like an elastic band. One that is resting peacefully and contentedly between a couple of pegs, and someone keeps coming along, stretching me down down down, then I boing back up again, wobble around uncertainly for a while, and return.

Then someone rolls along and stretches me way up, and I am happy as all get out,(for instance I will not have to teach that extra course starting fairly soon!!!) then I snap back, wobble around uncertainly again till I regain my equilibrium, my balance.

That has been my day.


It is worse for Eldest though, her stomach ache is back and is quite painful. What I would give to make it go away. We have an appointment with a specialist for next week. That is a week of real pain for her before we can make the next move.

So depressing. The poor thing is a really good sport, and handles the pain very well. She has excellent coping mechanisms for this, but it is not something you want your child to learn. I also wonder what the longer-term effects will be. She has lost her trust in her body to some extent, and at times really dislikes it, not on an aesthetic level, rather in the sense that it betrays her. This I find almost more sad than the actual pain; though that is not much fun either.


So now, I am sitting up late, waiting for the pain medication to kick in for Eldest so she can go to sleep.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

La vida dolç

One of the fascinating things about year two here, especially with my burgeoning language skills, is the opportunity to look deeper into the culture. There are surprising similarities with idioms, and set sayings, the Catalans have a phrase virtually identical to 'I'll give you a hand' for instance. There are also things that impress me deeply about the culture. There are the semi-clichéd elements of Mediterranean culture, which are true in many ways: the importance of family, and food, of working to live rather than living to work.

One thing that has really impressed me though is that, so far, I have seen no sign of left over rage from the Civil War. The grandparents put it behind them, almost every last one of them. They do not incite rage or hatred in their children or grandchildren. They don't teach them whose Grandfather was an anarchist, and whose a fascist; whose grandfather killed whose grandmother. They just don't teach this. It is as if the culture as a whole decided to move on. As of yet, I do not think that this was done naively; they are nationalistic, they distrust Madrid, they feel the Spanish strongly dislike them, the grandparents feel this even more than the younger generations.

They have not, however, allowed hatred and rage to taint the generations that have come after them. Friends here tell me that there is never ever any discussion among the children of whose uncle was fascist, or communist, or anarchist, or a just doesn't happen.

Part of this is, of course, because the fighting divided families, literally. One brother would be a communist and another a francoist, and they would be in opposite trenches, fighting, within the towns. Dredging too much of this up is risky, on a very personal level. It also brings it clear that these were all individuals, people you love, who are loved by your neighbours, so it becomes impossible to dehumanize them, as is typical in situations like these.

Whatever the reason though, the hatred and rage has not been passed down.

I think this is a very good thing; and a very culturally mature thing to have achieved. Maybe it comes from that laisé-faire attitude that attitude that life is for living and living beautifully, not for stewing over old hatreds; if so, more power to them.

But don't get me started on the school system here, m'kay?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Got me some delivery!!!

Now this I love.

My language skills are improving for sure, I finally figured out how the delivery system works at the local grocery store. Here's the deal, you buy 75 Euros worth of groceries and they deliver it FREE!!!


I was getting some sick and tired of hauling groceries five days a week. On the boat, we used to do a major shop every now and then. I mean MAJOR, like nothing I've ever seen before. We'd have to buy perishables more often, but on the boat we would have enough food to last us at least a month comfortably, and three months eating beans and rice.

In TO, all that long time ago, we also had a large stock of beans and rice, and some canned goods; we did a major shop on the weekend, and stopped in for fruit or veg in the middle of the week.

Today, I bought 100 Euros worth of food. Twelve liters of long life milk, 8 cans of olives, I don't know how many cans of tuna, etc etc, etc....

The weird part was spending all that money and then going out the door empty-handed. They'll deliver around one, about when the man and the kids will all be home so hop-along gimpy-hip here will not even have to haul it up the stairs. I figure I can get them to deliver every other week, and we just have to buy bread, fruit and veg in between...and more easily too as we won't have to haul all that heavy stuff along with it.

How great is that.

I LOVE delivery.


Sunday, February 10, 2008


Wouldn't it be lovely if there were a simple rule book for tough ethical decision, one that covered most eventualities?

For ethical reasons I cannot go into any details here in this public forum, but I find myself in a bind. I have been asked for advice in a situation in which I feel unsure about my right to advise. When should we not feel unsure about our right to advise....maybe, carefully, as a parent....sometimes as a spouse, occasionally, very occasionally, as a friend.

In fact we are given any number of guides; from that simple golden rule on up to the prayers and writings of any religion you care to name.

I am still wary of the bind I face between my reaction as a human and my responsibilities.

This is turning into a tough post to write, one I may delete at the end, or one that I may alter beyond recognition before I hit that little red 'publish post' button.

I am a Bahá'í and that provides guidance.

I am a human, and know in my heart what I should do.

I am also a outside of the situation, and there is the nub, which hat fits on top? Which tips the balance of a decision.

It would be so neat if we could weave together the hats we wear, parent, human, spouse, professional, friend, trusted acquaintance; like the Egyptian gods of old with their crown of upper and lower Egypt, and their God stature, and mace of power.

It is not that simple.

I have yet to work out how to handle the situation. I am always uneasy when asked what I would do, when asked what someone else should do. I prefer to be a sounding board where they can bounce ideas, where people can begin to formulate in their own minds what they need to is their decision, not mine.

This one seems cut and dried, to me, the only question is whether I can or should say what I believe.

If you wanted, I would be interested to hear from anyone else out there faced with a tough ethical decision, and what they did.

Can't say it would change what I will do, but I would be interested to hear.

This one will take some thinking, and some gnawing over. We'll see, though I may not be able to let you know a whole lot.

It's never dull.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ice Queen?

My daughter is disturbed because I went to bed with three cuttlefish.

I am disturbed that they didn't defrost.

If you recall that bursitis thing, I have to ice it now and then, and you know, ice is so boring once it's melted; so the man went around the our seven-eleven, and picked up some frozen cuttlefish and peas.

I was a wee bit tired after the sleep-over party last night and the subsequent clean up - read destroyed - so icing my hip while sleeping seemed like an excellent idea. I got myself all laid out, ice balanced and napped for a lovely long time.

Later when I came to make the paella for dinner I was surprised to discover that the sepia was still cold like a rock.

What does that say about me????

Friday, February 8, 2008

Two things....

Almond blossoms, near town....

I don't think I've mentioned it, but I have been hobbling around lately. Yesterday I stopped hobbling and started staggering around like a little old lady after a long ride on a scooter.

My hip hurts.

Going uphill, and sometimes down hill, and now, as of yesterday, when I go upstairs too.

I went to the medical center today.


It sounds positively medieval. I now have a little regime of pills to take every day, and instructions not to overdo it. That probably excludes the walks in the mountain I take most days.


However, this isn't serious, rest, ice - oh that's funny too, we don't have a fridge, so obviously not a freezer everyday we will have to go round to my local corner store and decide if we will have squid, or snails, or octopus, or mussels for dinner. I will kindly defrost them on my hip, and then we're paella bound!

If all this fails, they'll inject some wonder drug into the depths of my hip an prest-o bang-0 all should be well, forever!

The second thing? Eldest is having her sleepover birthday party tonight. Should be long, loud and tiring....though it turns out that four of the girls can't come, so there will only be 9 people here.

Not so bad.

Oh..sorry there's a third.

Youngest came home from school today, "Mommy, I had to draw you in class today. You know? You're really hard to draw."

Then brightening, "It turned out really well; though I didn't get all the wrinkles in."


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dental...oh my what a drag...

I finally *blush* made an appointment with a dentist here. You see I am having so much fun with the bureaucracy here, I thought I would improve things and get some dental work done too! It is such a relief after some of the other hurdles we are trying to leap.

You see, as an expat, these things take on a different set of problems. On the boat, we had a choice: dubious but cheap dental care in the islands, or probably good but ghastly expensive dental care in Toronto...I generally went for the latter, but the kids got the lion's share of it, cause that's just the way it was.

I knew I needed to get some more work done here, but it is tricky. Most of the local dentists were trained in South America, and speak no Catalan, leaving me incommunicado....and they are very expensive. There is another dentist, who has been recommended, but his office is ummmm, dingy, and the state of the teeth of those recommending him didn't do him a lot of credit. He seemed to favour pulling teeth as a solution to most problems.

I mean this in the nicest possible way, but the state of peoples teeth here is pretty awful; some horrifyingly so.

A new dentist opened up in town, and I went into see her today; after admittedly putting it off for quite a while out of sheer shudder factor. She had a new clean open office, and a Catalan name so there was some hope I would understand her.

I went in to ask about prices.

Very reasonable, mostly because she is just starting out I would say, and hasn't many clients, so is keeping the price low to get bodies in the door. She is young and friendly, I can communicate with her, she tells me they don't use the amalgam, only the white enamel more mercury!!! The kids should like her, as much as anyone likes a dentist. My only worry is that she looks like the ink hasn't dried on her diploma yet.

What to do, an up to date well-trained (can I ask her what her grades were?) dentist who I can talk to, or someone who looks dubious, has patients with horrendous teeth and I can kind of talk to, or a herd of folks with dubious training, patients with horrendous teeth, more experience, and I cannot talk to them at all.

Such a simple choice.

I figure she's better than no dentist, and did make an appointment for the three of us, the Man to follow....and I can talk to her, which is comforting.

One telling thing about the state of dental hygiene in this chocolate-at-three-to-four-meals-a-day-for-most-children country...

When she asked the age of my kids, 12 and 9, she then asked if they had ever been to the dentist; and was delighted that they had! She then asked when the last visit was. I admitted, with a shame filled face, that it was over a year ago. She was delighted! Unlike the usual scolding you get in Canada if it has been more than 6months and a day. I always feel like they are debating calling Children's Aid. No wonder I hesitate before going to the dentist. Not only is it a drag in and of itself, but they make me feel so bad and nasty; incompetent and negligent.

Here she was delighted, and felt that more than a year between appointments was just fine!

I'll let you know what happens. Though in my experience it is hard to tell if a dentist is good or not for at least a year afterwards.....

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A room with a view...

Lulu from Lulu's Bay in Cairo is posting a picture of what she can see out of her kitchen window...seems like fun to me, so here's the view...we have an entertaining time comparing the various undergarments on the line....

So in this first earth-shakingly fascinating photo we have the view of my little porch of the back of my kitchen, which doesn't have a window, but rather a door, which most of the time I can see my pot of herbs out the back there...
also my neighbours laundry, which I may have mentioned is something of a conversational fall back around here. If you look closely there are I believe at least two thongs out there, clipped in with some boxers...

This second photo is a clearer view of the laundry, plus water tanks, a touch of sky, and if you only knew, through the bushes on the left is a real live ancient year old castle, complete with an obnoxious royal type. I have nothing against monarchy per say, but ours does seem to be a jerk.

This final shot is looking down into the outdoor area of the people below us, one of the guys is a gardener. They used to have a most impressive growth of 'weed' if you catch my meaning, but have become more conventional at this point.

So there it is.

The view from my kitchen.

If you would like to, feel free to join has all the joy of being a peeping Tom with none of the guilt.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I was nasty today, very politely.

One thing that alarms me is the idea of identity theft. Been there, had that done to me, never got a d*mn t-shirt.

I find it more alarming when it involves my kids.

That's why I was nasty today. Very politely.

Ya see....we have to get official papers translated to get through the red splattered streams of bureaucracy we are being bombarded by. For a translation one must, of course, hand over papers like birth certificates and marriage certificates to complete strangers who are not government employees.

Granted, these were copies, but nonetheless....

When, after four weeks, sending it twice, phoning once and e-mailing twice more, I still hadn't gotten any sort of response, let alone a quote, I began to wonder if they were running a counterfeit passport gig, a translation office, eh...great front, no? And you know it seems to me that a Canadian passport would be a valuable kind of document, and between the birth certificates and the marriage certificates it seemed quite enough info to cook something up.

I got ticked.


I have been kind of riding side saddle on rage today, all ready to hop off and rope someone....

This company got roped.

I was very nice. Aren't I always?


Such hypocrisy we must display sometimes as adults.

Anyway, I was very nice, and in a very nice tone of voice, when they suggested I send the info again, I informed them that I had no confidence in their company and if I did not receive a response by phone or e-mail within 24 hours, I would be phoning both my consulate and the police, accusing them of soliciting information for fraudulent purposes.

Remember, the police here were trained by Franco.

They called.

I still have to find a different company and start all over again. Such a drag.

Monday, February 4, 2008

High School!!! OMG

I had, yet another, meeting with Eldest's teacher, poor man. Though he said I could meet with him anytime and reassured me that he wanted me to come to him with any questions or concerns. (Better than nattering with the parents outside.)

This meeting was about next year at the new school. The system here is that after grade six they move into high school.

Parents panic.

I cannot say I am panicking, Eldest is very intelligent, if I do say so myself, and has a strong sense of herself, is confident and very capable. I cannot say it will be smooth or easy, but I am not ultimately too worried. However, I had some concerns when the teacher told me about the curriculum design. All the students study Math, Catalan, Castillian, and English all year. These are mandatory. The students have social science, physical science, art, music and gym; each for two out of the three trimesters. Not great, but manageable because they have two optional credits so they can do more of a subject they like.

This is all OK...

But.... he said that they have to use their optional credits for subjects that are difficult for them. For Eldest, that would be Catalan and Castillian.

Her schedule for next year could consist of two Catalan, two Castillian, Math and English, the part time extras and no optionals.

Not a happy set-up. A little narrow, no? Training for a polyglot with nothing inside to say.


I wanted to see if we could drop English, have her sit an exam, get a grade and use that time for extra studies in Catalan and Castillian and have both of her optionals for a wider education. I would rather she wasn't doomed to a horrifically boring and narrow education from the start.

The teacher - who is fantastic - said he doubts there will be any problem at all with that plan...even if the school chooses not to mention it to the inspector...

He also said, interestingly, that the principal and the head of studies are both young, and therefore open, creative and reasonable. He actually said that the older teachers are a problem. They came in as Francoists, and it is still reflected in their attitudes and behaviour; seems once a tyrant, always a tyrant. There are still some of those teachers there, whom Eldest will simply have to put up with, but the department heads are more open.

The challenges never end.

My other goal for the meeting was also achieved, he said that he arrange for her to get more help with Castillian this year.

N.B. This just failed Catalan speaker conducted the entire meeting, relatively easily, in Catalan.

So there.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Look what we had for lunch today...

We visited a couple of local museums, and on the way back we went to our local 7/11.

It isn't much like the ones at home. The Man got a bottle of Jerez sherry for six Euros. and we debated what else to get. There were several frontrunners: the sepia with peas, the favas in sauce, the roasted rabbit, snails in sofreigit...but in the end we got these...

Those were snails cooked with olive oil and garlic, and we got a little pot of aiolli to dip them in. Aiolli, if you don't know, is garlic and olive oil pounded together until if forms an emulsion. Sort of like unbelievably delicious garlicy mayo...

Then we had these....

These are stuffed squids. Oh my they were good.

Then we started cooking our calçots.

We have a little fireplace in the kitchen, so we started up the coals. You are supposed to cook calçots over a hot flaming fire of olive wood. Hmmm. We went with coals which provided a nice even heat, then fed it continuously with paper while the outside of the calçots burned.

I could only cook six or so at a time so I had to work in they were completed we wrapped them in newspaper so they could steam and soften a bit more.

You eat them with a romesco sauce for calçots, which our neighbour had also made. Oh my goodness, it was delicious.

If you want to read more about this delicious tradition, click here for the last calçotada we went on, a much more greedy and authentic affair, complete with an olive wood fire, which we gathered ourselves.

As a surreal ending to the day, there was a commotion in the street, and like all good nosy folks, I went out on the balcony to see what was up. A guy and a woman were picking up large garbage from next to the bins on our street. That was the noise, then when I looked closely I realised that the guy was sporting a shotgun, or rifle, whatever. He was also blocking the road, so that when our neighbours appeared he started moving his truck around...nearly hitting the neighbour. Armed bumper cars for goodness sakes. No one seemed the least bit phased by the weaponry.

My question is this: Had he brought the gun with him, and if so why, or was it in the garbage, and if so, who on earth would put it there, and why?

All this is going on to the repeated soundtrack of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a gift to Youngest which I am beginning to regret.

Off to paint.

Lets do the time warp again!!!!

Meal times

I would just like to point out that both of the girls went to birthday parties last night, both from about 5:30 till 9pm. One was for a group grade threes, the other group is in grade six.

Neither of the children were given dinner.

It was fully assumed that they would eat dinner when they got home, like when we have a party in NA that ends at 4:30 or 5pm.

We're not in Kansas anymore Toto.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

BCN and Birthdays.

Oh my goodness me.

Oh my goodness gracious me.

Oh my goodness gracious blessed me.

I am tired.

We went into BCN today to get birthday gifts for three of the kids' friends, who were having parties, plus the Man wanted some pants...Youngest wanted to wear her roller blades, which got heavy about half way through when she got tired of wearing them, along with the wrist pads, knee pads, elbow pads and helmet. Oof.

The girls went off the their parties, the Man and I went out and watched the parade in town...which was pretty cool. One of the nice things about a small town parade is also seeing all the people you know. About half of the kids I teach were there for instance. It is 10:20 and the band in the plaça is just starting up again....not a quiet night.

It is also funny hearing all the Spanish remixes of English songs, we heard "achey-breaky heart" in Spanish...and there is a woman singing "It's fun to stay at the YMCA" slower and with a kind of romantic tone. Very odd. I don't want to go there.

I also got a jacket for myself....

I love is fuzzy-furry on the outside like a plush stuffed toy...I am now the world's largest, and bony-est, ambulating gund. It also has lots of big pockets tucked neatly in the right places, and is cut slim so I don't look like the Michelin man! Woo hoo....

So cozy.

What's the last thing you bought for yourself? Hope it was something good.

OH! You know what else? Our neighbour, bless his darling Catalan soul, gave us 12 CALCOTS!!!! And the handy-dandy ever-yummy dipping sauce! We'll be cooking that up in our little in kitchen fireplace grill tomorrow!

I'll post pics.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Market surprises.

I saw the Pope in the grocery store today. He was sorting the frozen fish while talking on his cell phone.

A Spanish Cardinal came in while I was in the check-out, maybe they had an important clandestine meeting. If so, the screaming cowgirl who was riding grocery carts up and down the isles may have been a spy.

The streets were filled with mosquitoes, snails, bees, mushrooms, rainbows, butterflies, and strangely snowmen and Christmas trees as well!

It is Carnival and so the school had a parade. The theme was the seasons...each grade dressed as a different season related creature or plant. They made the costumes at school, thank goodness.

Here's a few photos...

Some very grim mosquitoes,

Ambulating Christmas trees,

Stunningly swift snails...

Wooohoooooo! Carnival!