Tuesday, December 30, 2008

...by a

:'(

what can you do? go on - by b

last night dorian really wanted to have dinner at home... and nobody was really arguing. so i went for take out to a humus place on our corner called Roni Ful

the woman at the counter spoke great english like so many people here (israel reminds me of the netherlands in this way... a lot of people speak great english. and this is helpful because my hebrew really isn't very good) and she gave me a good intro into the basics of humus ordering here

it's pretty funny because at home kristin makes humus a lot and i've never really been that into it (unlike arel and dorian) but here, i don't know, maybe it's more liquidy or something but i like it. i also like the atmosphere of it. the humus places remind me a lot of some taquerias in the mission in s.f.

anyway.. this woman and i got into a conversation in heblish (mostly english) ... here's how it went after i told her we were in the new building next door.

her: "are you new here?"

me: "no, we are just visiting"

her: "for how long?"

me: "for about 10 days"

her: (after a short pause): "bad weather, bad situation"

me: "yeah, well, what can you do?"

her: "nothing.. you go on"

so.. here goes.. i'm going to try to go on.. to enjoy my vacation here...

the trick (i'm learning) seems to be to not spend too much time on google news. because everywhere i look (beyond my laptop screen) people seem ok.. they are going on

and, btw, the weather is really quite nice

here are some of the things i've seen since we left barcelona.. in reverse chrono order:

a selection from last nite's dinner ---- take out from Roni Ful
from roni ful

Pom without the packaging.. getting some fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice from the flea market in jaffa yesterday afternoon
rimon juice

as we were leaving the old part of jaffa and heading to the flea market yesterday it rained kinda hard for a few minutes.. we ducked into a place for lemonade, mint tea and coffee (thick, sweet, arabstyle, really good).. i love how the boys shirts totally clash with the tablecloth and the bricks -- very "myspace"
plaid and stripes

arel above the sea wall in jaffa.. more on the big hebrew letters in a sec. jaffa is 4,000 years old plus/minus
funt

this is a longer shot of the letters on the sea wall. you see this phrase a lot here.. it says "na nach nachma nachman meuman" and it's basically a meditiation, a chant. ommmmmmmmm. it's been popularized by one of the hasidic sects and somehow crossed over a bit into popular culture. you can read all about it here if you like. this is one of the things i really like about this place.. there is the wildest mix of people all crossing with each other... like this morning i went to get some butter and eggs and walked past a religious jewish guy saying his morning prayers on the sidewalk outside his auto bodyshop (his prayershawl covering his head) and a couple blocks away i bought the groceries in a store run by an arab guy -- and he had the most beautiful arabic music playing.
na, nach, nachama, nachaman, meuman .. jaffa sea wall

we began yesterday with breakfast in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood.. at Cafe Nina on Shalom Shabazi street. this is actually one of the oldest neighborhoods in tel aviv.. and in recent year it has enjoyed a revival.. a kinda yuppiefication. there are lots of cute shops and places to eat and small houses and people walking around in the streets
shalom shabazi

the guys ordered chocolate milk and nutella... yum... here is some being prepared at the counter
nutella awaiting milk

at the ayala bar store across the street
ayala bar store

the night before we had dinner at a bar/restaurant that backs onto the garden of our building -- Norma Jean. It was the last night of chanukkah. here is the restaurant's menorah (called a chanukiah here). at some point the guys running the place lit the candles, sang the songs .. and the people in the restaurant who felt like it joined in (there weren't that many people in there..basically us and a table of young people including the first soldier i've seen here.. in the past i would see soldiers everywhere... it feels less militiarized than it used to)
duvel chanukiah

The beach.. where arel and dorian actually spent quite a bit of time in the water. when we were walking home several people were surprised that the guys had been in (arel wore his towel and no shirt home).. people pretended to shiver and smiled at him
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kristin read about Manta Ray.. a restaurant on the beach really near our place. this is from their menu.. i like the line drawings
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violinist graffiti on rothschild street... also near our place
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more art on the walls in neve tzedek
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more ... somebody simply pasted sheet music on a wall
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a reminder
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from our first day.. tavlin, a restaurant in the eshtaol forest west of jerusalem with danny and julie and their little ones. i've known danny since high school time. he and julie have been in the u.s. foreign service for a long time... when danny first joined the foreign service he and i were both in d.c. and hung out a lot. i had a dream that i'd go visit him in each of his postings.. the reality a lot of postings later is that i've only seen him abroad twice --- and both times were here in israel. and in between a bunch of times in the s.f. bay area.
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a chanukiah at a restaurant on our first night here --- "Florentine10"
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boarding our plane in barcelona
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Monday, December 29, 2008

first impressions of tel aviv by k

i have some trepidation writing about being in israel because i know it is a sensitive subject for many people, for many different reasons. my disclaimer is that i'm just writing my impressions of being here and not trying to make judgments. i have very little to go on...we've stayed almost exclusively in tel aviv until now. i'm writing about what i'm feeling and seeing and it's only that. and tomorrow i may have completely new feelings and impressions. this is just a snapshot.

here are some broad impressions.

i like the food! lots of salads, juice and fresh food...good breakfasts, which as i wrote when we were in munich, is not a strong suit in barcelona. i have to say i'm also a little surprised at how much non-kosher food is served in restaurants here...not pork, but lots of shellfish and cheeseburgers!

tel aviv is much more rundown than i expected. granted, i think we are in one of the more rundown, poorer parts, but when barak drove us around some of the chi chi neighborhoods, many of the buildings' exteriors are falling apart, sidewalks are cracked, lots of trash everywhere. feels a lot like mexico to me, which is what barak always says when we are in mexico, "feels very like tel aviv and israel." i'm sure there are still lots of parts of the city i haven't seen, but this is my impression so far.

this next statement is partly based on israelis i have met over the years, and the few i've come into contact with here. i like secular israelis. there is something direct and present and confident about them. no bullshit. maybe it's the fact that they all have to spend two years in the military. maybe it's the reality of living in the middle east. but i get a strong feeling these are people who are realistic about life and have not been sheltered...quite possibly an impossible task here. i'm looking forward to spending some time with barak's cousins over the next week.

as i walked on the beach yesterday while arel and dorian played in the water (way too cold for me!), i wondered what it must be like to come here as a jew. i'm sure there are as many answers to that question as there are jews, but i'm quite sure i'm not having that experience. i don't feel an ancestral tug, or relief at being in a jewish state. i imagine it must feel different to someone who is jewish. i know israel is also special for many christians and muslims, but i guess being non-religious, i'm not touched on that level. yes, there is history here...amazing history, but that's what it is for me.

and what will it be like for arel and dorian when they're older? israel has a lot of significance for barak...most of it complicated. i have not enjoyed him very much here. he is very tense and snappy. a lot of it is the news from the gaza strip; very upsetting to him. it's upsetting to me too, but in a different way. for barak is it very present in everything and he's angry. i understand, but it's hard to be around that anger because it really has no where to go.

we have pretty much kept the political situation in israel from arel and dorian. i think if they knew in detail what is going on here, they would also both be nervous and upset, and i don't want them to take only that from israel. barak started to explain some of the history to arel today, but i guess we still want to protect them from these tensions and realities. ironic that i like israelis because they are not sheltered and yet i want to shelter my kids. i guess i believe arel and dorian will slowly but surely learn all these facts as they are ready to absorb them. complicated.

we still have lots to see and experience. i'm looking forward to jerusalem, although i imagine it is a tenser and weightier feeling place. i'm afraid dorian is going to hate it because he is not fond of old places...he hates the gothic quarter in barcelona and when we tell him about all the history, his reply is "i couldn't give a crap!" a reactive 7-year-old who will some day appreciate the significance of all these places, but in the moment it can be hard.

onward...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

tit for tat- by b

it is saturday night in our apartment in tel aviv.. and arel and dorian are excitedly playing "pet society" with each other thru facebook on two laptops... In "pet society" you have a character.. a pet... and you try to build the best life you can for it.

the thing that strikes me the most about this part of the world is how hard people are just trying to build good lives for themselves... and how the situation here holds many back...

it makes me sad and angry

and i'm trying to have a good time here.. but i have to admit that i am struggling at the moment

peace here would do so much good for everybody. but as it stands, the argument over land, power, pride, symbolism, history just $%@#!s it up for everybody instead.

israel could be and have so much more. and palestine could, well, exist (for starters) and build into its own country like israel did .. it'll likely be a humble one just like israel (my relatives here keep referring to this place as humble, and it is. and it's also beautiful -- to me at least)

earlier in the week, just before we arrived, palestinians launched rocket after rocket after rocket into southern israel. (can you imagine being in a border town in southern israel right now.. walking down your street and and suddenly a rocket is hurtling towards you or your kids?)

and today.. while we enjoyed a tasty brunch with friends in the eshtaol forrest west of jerusalem , israel, responded. with great force. (can you imagine being crammed into gaza right now????)

and this tit for tat is not just two incidents.. it goes back and back and back...
this place reminds me of when arel and dorian are NOT playing with each other... and are fighting like brothers do. one says one thing, then the other, then the other... and it escalates.

sitting on the outside it seems to easy to say "just one of you, drop it.. don't make your next move about escalation but about listening". but for the two caught in the moment it is impossible to try to understand the other person

i know a thing or two about fighting and understanding. dorian and i were walking on 24th street in san francisco a few weeks before we left and he asked me my favorite place on the shop-lined street. i didn't have to think long.. i told him it was the office of anette the couples counselor that kristin and i went to for years and years. where we learned to stop fighting and to listen to the other person... and to better express our own needs at the same time. when the two of us first started going to anette the fifty minutes we were with her were really the only fifty minutes during the week we would talk to each other (besides dealing with the most basic logistical matters). and over time we learned to understand each other, the different cultural backgrounds we come from, the different expectations and desires we have.. and the various annexations and fights for land and power that are there in a marriage too..

and we built a really nice life for ourselves.

but we are just two people.... we actually did have the power to shut out the extremist voices that told us we could not live in peace.. and to coopt the moderates and make them supporters by showing them that a nice life is possible. this is not to say we don't fight .. but we get over it.. and we have learned to de-escalate.

here it is just so complicated... no two people have power over these two peoples... and the tit for tat goes on and on and on and on.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

el al- by d


when we were flying to tel aviv we went on a new airline for me called el al. surprisingly there was actually sort of good food. there was an egg omelette which was pretty good. there was cottage cheese. and some fruit. there were a few movies during the flight but i didn't watch.. i was busy listening to my ipod.  the flight was about four and a half hours long.  did it have to be that long? but overall the flight was much better than united.

in bad mood by Arel...


im in a horrible mood right now

®eally a ©rappy mood 
™(totally mad)
ßuper horible
åpaulling mood really
under the covers with tha macbook™

im in a £¢∞§¶•ªº–≠œ∑´®†¥¨ˆøπåß∂ƒ©˙∆˚¬Ω≈ç√∫˜µ mood
;(

Friday, December 26, 2008

tel aviv - by b

we arrived after a pretty smooth and quick flite from barcelona... (4.5 hrs or so.. i think it was actually shorter)
we are staying in the southern end of the city ... we will soon go out to eat a few blocks away in the Florentine neighborhood.. choosing between humus or sushi or pizza might be tough...
here is some graffiti from the neighborhood




Thursday, December 25, 2008

navidad en barcelona by k

it's christmas day in barcelona and the four of us are hanging around home. just started to prepare some food to bring to an early dinner we're going to later today, and packing for our trip to israel...we leave early tomorrow morning.

instead of a tree (which we never have in s.f. either) we decorated a flower arrangement some friends brought the other evening with homemade things...arel made several bayern munich soccer decorations, i hung my key ring from san francisco, some channukah gelt, a beer can for barak, a big snowflake made by arel, a plastic fly sent by sven for halloween...it was random and improvised and nice. this picture doesn't really do justice, but here it is.

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in the evening we went down to the old gothic quarter to have dinner with a family from school. after a delicious dinner with lots of cava and wine we walked around the old town looking at the all the lights strung up on the streets of barcelona this time of year. lots of people out and about, but dorian put his foot down and said it was time to go home. i fondly remember this time from when i lived here before. the difference is that now all the lights are eco-friendly and they only turn them on from 6 to 9.

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we came home from our outing and exchanged gifts and opened packages sent from my sister karen and my mom. opening packages from abroad brought back the many years one of my german grandmothers used to send our family a big box shipped from germany, full of chocolate and cookies. this time we got some great books and maple syrup from karen and family, with cards from caio and senta, a funny dental floss holder, and a hat and calendar for barak. my mom sent us a propaganda package, full of "i love s.f." t-shirts and hats, and an obama t-shirt for barak...very funny!

tomorrow a new adventure to the land of barak's birth. i'm looking forward to finally getting to know this place, both from the family perspective, but also because of all the history there. i wrote to a cousin of my dad's that we were going and he said israel, out of all the places he has been, has made the most impression on him.

time to cut apples for apple crisp and then head off to hang out with the jamaicans in our life!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

huelga! by k

it had to happen sooner or later. huelga/strike! dorian and i were hit by one today...buses. when our little neighborhood bus didn't arrive, we kept trying to figure out why it didn't come. we waited and waited, but it didn't occur to me that it might be a strike. after about 20 minutes, we simply decided to walk down the hill and do our errands and then take the bus up the hill on the way home. i'm not sure why i thought the bus would magically appear when we needed it to go home, but that's how the mind works.

we did our errands, and checked when the bus was supposed to arrive. an old woman with a cane came up to the stop so i offered her my seat. we chatted for a few minutes and then she and another woman at the stop asked me if i knew the buses were on strike. ah, yes, a dawning of reality. that's why our bus hadn't come and that's why we had seen almost no buses on the street. up the hill we would have to trudge. i was just happy i had decided not to buy wine and champagne, on top of the sweet potatoes, apples, ginger, pizza, etc. etc.

this happened to me twice before in spain...many years ago. the first time, i went with a friend to the main train station to go backpacking in the pyreenes. we stood out like sore thumbs with our big packs on our backs as we headed into the mostly empty train station. when we got to the ticket counter, the guy looked at us blankly and said "no hay. hay huelga." just like that. "no tickets. there's a strike." no energy, no outrage, no more information, no nothing. just a fact to be lived with.

the other time was when my mother, gisela, was visiting me in spain. we took the train to the south for christmas and had decided to treat ourselves to a flight back from granada. well, that was not meant to be. we got to the airport and got the same thing: "no hay vuelos. hay huelga." "no flights, there's a strike." again, no emotion, no sorry for the inconvenience, no answer to a question about whether there would be flights the next day. we were stuck.

we decided to take the train back, which led to another legendary tale of screwed up travel, but i won't go there now.

back to today. dorian was none too happy about this news...he hates walking up our hill. so i said i would buy him a treat on the way. we stopped at a bar/restaurant, and got tortilla de patatas (which he loves)and a fanta. that gave him the energy to get up the hill.

for all of you who know dorian well, you won't be surprised to hear that he asked me all about strikes. i explained what a strike is and he wanted to know why the bus drivers had gone on strike. i told him i wasn't sure, and then we talked about what some reasons might be. of course, dorian being the kid he is, said with a big grin on his face "maybe i'll strike from taking the 60 bus to school!" the funny thing is, as i was explaining why workers strike to him, i had thought, oh no, he may use this technique! and not two minutes later...

on another note, two amusing sights today:
the first was after i had walked arel over to a friend's house. i was going home on a dirt path that goes by a monastery. there was a nun in full dress talking to someone in a car on the side of the mountain. i don't know why this struck me as funny, but it was.

the second was as i was crossing the final street to get to our house, a mercedes was coming toward me. as it got closer, i realized that a garbage bag and big empty water bottle were on the hood of the car...an old man at the wheel. he was headed to the garbage can i was standing next to. it struck me as funny and i smiled at the man and what was most likely his wife in the passenger seat. all i got back was blank stares. maybe they've been driving their garbage 50 feet on the hood of their mercedes for years and no longer see the humor in the situation, but it just felt like grumpy catalans to me!

Monday, December 22, 2008

happy holidays.. happy new year - by k, b, a, d

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Friday, December 19, 2008

i finally fixed the fotos - by b

most of the pictures and some of the videos on this blog come from my account at flickr. i changed some setting there awhile ago which meant that quite a few of the photos here (especially the older ones) were showing up as "unavailable". I finally had time to fix this... and the cool thing is i came across this nice set of pix from when my parents visited us in october. i somehow never put them up here. my favorites are the 3-in-a-row (it's almost a little animation) of dorian and my dad. they're towards the end.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

little treats- by b

this city has many little treats that present themselves.. they make me smile

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the joy of walking around with a camera in your pocket - by b

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

FIFA World Leagues Predictor - by a

The Federacion Internacional de Futbol Associaion (FIFA) World Leagues Predictor is this thing on fifa.com where you predict the outcme of soccer games from all over the world. i do this and its really fun and also super nerveracking




This is where i am ranked worldwide (38 out of like ALOT)(above)
This is where i am ranked in the USA (5 out of like 4,000) (below)
MY SCREEN NAME IS ARELEPHANT!!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

chanukah early - by b

chanukkah doesn't start for a few days.. but a few evenings ago we were invited to an early channukah celebration with some people we met thru school. it was a potluck...

being in spain, i searched for a sephardi chanukkah dish

i found a pretty easy (not quick.. but easy) recipe for keftes de espinaca or spinach patties. i used this recipe from epicurious... and they turned out tasty.... they're the same BASIC idea as ashkenazi potato latkes (the more known chanukkah food in the U.S.) but these are a lot lighter and far less annoying and stinky to make.

spinach, onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, nutmeg....
spinach, onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, nutmeg

double d stealing breadcrumbs
dorian stealing breadcrumbs

nutmeg
nutmeg

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into the frying pan

cava
cava

transporting cava
on the train i held the kefte espinacas... kristin held the cava and lemons

lighting
lighting candles... an isreali family that just moved to barcelona from mumbai (that's another story) coordinated this aspect

spin
spinning dreidels .. arel can now do it upside down

and going home in the taxi, that other festival of lights
and going home in the taxi.. that other festival of lights

barak's birthday by k



today is barak's birthday. it's cold and rainy, but we went out for a nice lunch with a few other couples...all americans. these four guys are part of group that barak has been going out to lunch with once a month...the so-called slackers' lunch. a splinter group decided to host a one-time, "slackers wives, forks and knives" lunch for the holidays. to my great chagrin (and barak's also, i think), they sang happy birthday to barak, loudly, in the middle of the restaurant. but we had cava, white wine, red wine, barak has his beer and we ate delicious food. funny thing is, at the end when we split the bill, the men all pondered the fact that the meal was half as much for the eight of us, as it was the last time 8 men went to the same restaurant. maybe they should change the name to the overeaters' and drinkers' lunch!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

feeling like an idiot by k

yesterday i had another moment when i felt like an idiot. they seem to happen a lot more over here. is it being in a new place, is it the language, or is it plain old incompetence? i'm not sure anymore. yesterday's moment came when dorian and i went downtown to go to an opera for kids at the liceu, barcelona's opera house. they have a program called the petit liceu and dorian was excited when i bought tickets for three shows. the first was "the four musicians from bremen."

we walked down to the metro, right as we got to the bottom of the stairs a train came. less than 15 minutes later we were across the street from the liceu. we had some time to kill. we were going to go to the cafe de la opera, a place i used to love going when i was 20, but after walking in dorian said no way because it was too smokey. i'm so used to smoke free everything in california that it still strikes me every time i enter a smokey place. dorian just can't fathom it, never having lived somewhere with smokey restaurants/cafes. (this is still not the idiot part.)

on las ramblas there are not many places that aren't touristy, so i suggested (yes, i can't believe it either!) dunkin donuts, which is called dunkin coffee here. arel had mentioned craving donuts that morning, so i had donuts on my mind. dorian was into it, especially since he thought it would make arel jealous, so we got him a donut and drink and sat in a smoke-free environment while he ate. yes, i stooped to going to a dunkin donuts, but i didn't get anything for myself, although my friend penny claims they have great coffee!

from there we headed the half block back to the liceu where i asked a couple people where the children's programs are shown. they weren't sure. i knew it wasn't in the main hall. we found a really nice little opera shop with stuff for kids in it, we found the larger opera shop and a cafe. when i finally found someone who knew something...it's 11:50 now, program starts at 12:00, we were told that this performance was at an auditorium outside the city! this is when i felt like an idiot. why did i assume it would be in or near the liceu? would i have made similar assumptions in s.f.? dorian cried and said, forget it! i felt bad. the women who broke the news to us told us to take a taxi there.

stingy me cringed at the taxi option, but i thought i needed to save the day and that was the way. thanks to gps, the driver got us to the auditori de cornella just a few minutes late...18 euros poorer. we walked in just as they were dimming the lights, found our seats...good ones, and i thought, this is all going to work out. music played, people danced and then the narration started in catalan! i knew this was a possibility, but i figured in opera language doesn't matter and i had read dorian the story ahead of time. but no, it did matter to dorian and he wanted nothing to do with my translations.

at least, i assured myself and him, the part when the animals scare the robbers will be funny, but that was precisely the part that this production decided to leave out. and because he couldn't understand the narration, he didn't even get that until i told him at the end. it was a nice production and if dorian had understood what they were saying, maybe he would have liked it. i did notice that he tapped his foot and clapped his hands in certain parts despite himself! but i still felt like an idiot! for not making sure i knew where the production was, for not double checking about the language, and for just thinking that it would be a really nice experience.

isolated this would have just been a little blip, but the feeling i had when the woman told me the performance wasn't there is very familiar these days. i'm in the wrong place, i made the wrong assumption, i don't understand the process, it's not done that way here...these moments come more often than i like. they're especially painful when they impact arel and dorian, although i think on some level it's good for them to see me struggle and not have all the answers.

how does feeling like an idiot serve me? it reminds me that i am only human (even if that's hard to accept!). it reminds me that none of these things are a matter of life and death. it reminds me that people all over the world struggle with these same things under much more difficult circumstances and keep going. it reminds me how lucky we are. and still, it would be nice not to feel like an idiot so often!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Little Red Car - by b

Our neighbor very very generously lent us her car for this past long weekend --- while she and her daughters were out of town. We drove up to Empurias (about 40 km from the French border) where there is a beautiful beach, Greek ruins and YUMMMY LUNCH. Some snaps:

being far away is helping me let go - by b

One of the really positive aspects of this time here for me has been a somewhat changed relationship with my work. I'm not working less... but I am working differently. The distance is forcing me to delegate more ... which allows me to focus on higher-order tasks and responsibilities. Here is a link to a story from my daily work blog that is a snapshot of the letting go process. It's about how last Saturday night here I felt I had to help on a video shoot from 6,000 miles away. I set myself up for a night of heavy work.. and quickly realized it wasn't necessary. I learned that I didn't really need to be on the video shoot for say more than the first half hour. I COULD have gone to hear classical spanish guitar at a friend's house after all (it being Saturday NIGHT!)

Monday, December 8, 2008

ironies of life by k

we just had pizza...again. premade fresh pizza is a staple for us since we've been here. it's not bad and oh so easy. a couple pizzas, a cabbage salad and we're set.

but, it does get old sometimes. even for pizza-loving kids. tonight arel really wanted to get chinese take-out. sounds easy, but actually isn't. there's no eric's (chinese in s.f.) down the street. all the chinese i've had here has been terrible, and take-out is not really a concept that has taken off here as it has in the u.s.

so, the irony is that after pizza dinner, i went online to search recipes for arel and dorian's favorite noodle dish at a thai restaurant near our house in s.f. as i said to myself, "something that tastes like home," it struck me as sort of funny that a taste of home for us is thai food. of course, there are lots of other tastes from home, but thai food and asian food in general is definitely a staple for us, and not easily found here. makes me wonder how charlotte, marc, eliana and miranda are enjoying the abundance of asian food in laos this year!

some time this week, i'll head down to a great asian market near the university and buy ingredients for pad see eeuw, and see what i can do. while i'm there, i'll pick up a couple other tastes of home...fresh flour tortillas and polenta, available in an asian market...go figure.

some suprising similarities


there are a few surprising similarities between barcelona and san francisco...things i hadn't known about or realized before. one (and granted it wasn't around when i was here 20 years ago) are the little flocks of parakeets that fly around screeching. you see them sometimes in san francisco, and they frequent a few palm trees on dolores street. you know they're in there if you walk by because they make a racket! when we first moved into our place here, i saw some little flocks of birds from far away and thought i heard that distinct parakeet screech, but it wasn't until barak and dorian reported that there were bright green birds on a plaza near arel's soccer practice that i began to wonder. when i finally saw them close up, i saw it is parakeets, and there are a lot here! the funny thing is that here they mingle with the pigeons some times, pecking at the ground. i've never seen one not in flight in san francisco. i asked a friend about them and she said that supposedly they came off a ship at some point and are spreading like wildfire.

not a similarity, but speaking of birds, i saw a funny thing the other day as i rode the bus home. there were some pigeons in a real live tree, eating berries off the tree! i found it very bizarre because i don't think i've ever seen a pigeon acting so much like a bird. i still hate pigeons, but it makes me believe that maybe at some point they weren't so rat-like and ground-dwelling.

the other funny san francisco thing that's a couple blocks from where we live is the tranvia blau. looks just like a san francisco cable car, but it's bright blue! we haven't taken it because it only goes a few blocks right near here, and just like cable cars it's absurdly pricey!

the last thing we're reminded of every day is the hills of san francisco. barcelona only has water on one side and pretty much starts sloping up from there until makes it all the way up to tibidabo which is at our back. there are a few random lumps along the way, but right before you get to our house, things start to get really steep. and that's what we walk up pretty much every day, much to arel and dorian's dismay! it makes the hill up to our house in san francisco from church street seem very easy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

thanksgiving delayed by k

thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite holidays...it's all about the food and simply being with friends/family. this year, the actual thursday came and went without much fanfare. regular school day, regular soccer practice for arel. it was strange to think about everyone back home immersed in the holiday because it really felt far away from here.

our thanksgiving came yesterday and it was worth the wait. we invited what i was calling a strange mix of people, but we decided to go with it and see what happened. the obvious invitees were miguel and his son maxim, and my friend anna. both people i met over twenty years ago when i lived here. i actually shared a thanksgiving with anna my second year in barcelona, so it was nice to repeat that with her.

to them we added a jamaican mother from school and her son. she is part of a package deal, which includes her best friend, her best friend's husband and their two-year-old twin daughters. we met them a while ago and really liked them too, so having the whole package over was a pleasure, although we didn't get to talk to either of them much...each one was constantly chasing a two-year-old around!



and finally we invited some neighbors. the funny thing about them is that, for all our grumbling about the 60 bus we take to and from school, that's where we met these people. one is marta, who takes her 3-year-old son pere to school twice a week on that bus. she is a professor of american literature and has spent some time in the united states. her husband is a history professor. and then there's clara. a 14-year-old barak hit on one day...i mean asked to babysit. she grew up in berlin until two years ago, when her parents split. her mother is catalan, father german. anyway, she has babysat a couple times and we invited her mother and sister along to thanksgiving as well.

it was a first thanksgiving for a few people, a second for others, and for the rest of us a twist on our own traditions. barak was in charge of the turkey. he ordered one at a market not far from arel and dorian's school and went to pick it up on saturday. he brined it overnight and it turned out really well. there was some question as to whether it was done, but once everyone had gathered round the table to weigh in, miguel declared it cooked enough (well, if the doctor says so...) and we ate. i made stuffing for the first time...usually karen volunteers to make the stuffing. i looked up recipes on epicurious and sort of combined several to fit the ingredients i had on hand. everyone raved about the stuffing, but of course they have nothing to compare it with. arel said he's had better stuffing!

baked butternut squash with spices was also on the menu, along with sauteed chard with raisins and pinenuts in the catalan tradition. the jamaicans brought salad and delicious scalloped potatoes...dorian asked for the secret recipe. the only thing really missing was cranberry sauce, which one can find here, but was too much of a bother.

dessert was apple crisp (no pumpkin pie...too ambitious here), marta brought a huge ensaimada (pastry) and miguel brought ice cream. this being spain, there was also lots of wine and cava at hand, and everyone left stuffed to the gills. the strange mix mixed very well...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Alles für diesen Moment - by b

Alles für diesen Moment

Here is an image from our last hour or two in Munich. It's a large billboard at the airport... we saw it from the train as we were leaving town.

Kristin generally doesn't notice billboards ... (billboards are supposedly my domain while she is much more versed in the things I tend to miss --- e.g. the inner emotional lives of people). This time, though, she pointed out the tag line: Alles für diesen Moment (All for this Moment).

Living for the moment is something I have been working on for some time ... with a lot of help from Kristin. It's one reason we are in Spain.

Living for the moment is not always an easy thing for me. I made myself a reminder, a sweatshirt that says "Hineni" which means "I Am Here" in Hebrew. Here is one interpretation:

"Presence. Full attention, in present time, to whom you're with, and to what you're doing, answering call of the moment. Distracting thoughts of past and future are momentarily lost in the strength and clarity of light of the present."

It is meant to help me focus on the present... this can mean everyday things like focusing on my kids and not my email. Or being fully engaged in the conversation i am having now and not answering my phone for another. It can mean having confidence that i will remember an amazing moment and not interrupt it by taking a photo. It can mean not dwelling on the past at the expense of this moment and not fretting so much about the future at the expense of now (which enables such things as going to live in another country for a year). Some of these things are easier for me than others... I am working at it.

Germany seems to struggle with this as well. It is a country where the past lingers. While Kristin's funny and very warm cousin Frank drove us around Munich he asked if we would to go to Dachau which is nearby. Every kid after they turn 11 or 12 should go he said. We decided that this will be better on a future trip.

Dachau, along with Germany's many other museums and memorials to a monstrous atrocity are only part of the story. War itself, and its aftermath, were hell. The country (the cities) were bombed mercilessly from the air --- as can be seen driving and walking around. WWI was a nightmare for soldiers. WWII for soldiers and civilians. Kristin's mom, as a young girl about the age our kids are now, was bombed where she was living. She managed to escape falling, burning beams of wood.

So the past is inextricably woven into the present in Germany. For me, especially the first few times I visited, enjoying the present was not easy. The most simple, innocuous images, scenes and objects transported me to a very different time. A train was not just a train, a pillow was not just a pillow, a walk in the woods was not just a walk in the woods.

Each trip I make to germany, it is easier for me to just be. This is in part because I am simply getting better at living in the moment. And also because I know Germany much better now than when I first visited as an 18-year-old with my cousin Don. It's no longer an idea and collection of symbols--- but a place and collection of real people.

This trip was filled with many moments that I really loved being part of. If you regularly read this blog you have already seen the gleeful look of the kids throwing snowballs, and the relaxed look on Kristin's face in the mountains at Neuschwanstein (she always gets like that in the mountains). I have no image to share of running alone (in my Hineni sweatshirt) in the pre-dawn light and snow next to the Isar River (that'll have to be my own memory). But here is something I did snap: Frank with one of his daughters. Alles für diesen Moment

Alles für diesen Moment

school by k

last night dorian was telling me some of the things he hates here, like riding the 60 (our bus to school) and walking up the hill to our house. i said, but you like school, right? his reply: i love school! i would hug it if i could.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

snowy munich by k

sunday morning and it's snowing outside...munich is slowly turning white. arel and dorian are loving grabbing handfuls of snow and throwing them at each other and us! even though it's bitterly cold, there is something magical about snow and i'm glad we've come in november. snow is much better than rain. on friday we got completely and totally drenched at one point by freezing horizontal rain running to my cousin frank's car.

since i only brought one pair on pants, i was worried about what to wear that evening to my other cousin's place. dorian and i went in search of dryers in the basement of the building we're staying in, while arel and barak went to a tour of the allianz arena. i had seen someone coming up in the elevator with a laundry basket, so we headed down. at the end of a dark hallway was a room that said washing! inside were washing machines and dryers and a complicated set of lists where it appeared that one needed to sign up. i also found some "cages" with clothes lines where people hang their clothes to dry. someone came in and told me that you only need to sign up for the washers, not the dryers. i think it's because washers take a super long time here, about an hour and a half (not sure why) and there is not a tradition of using dryers, so they are probably not as much in demand.

i had a phone hour long phone call i first needed to make, so i just put pants and socks on the radiator in the apartment and miraculously they were dry in about an hour. no need for a return trip to the basement!

it has really hit me how much more culinarily aligned i am to germany than to spain. and it's not the wurst and sauerkraut! i love all the different breads and pastries and fruit and wish i could just eat eat eat without stopping, but only so much fits in my stomach. i have felt full pretty much the whole time since we've gotten here because i start with a breakfast of eggs and bread and stay full from there. i haven't even had apfelkuchen (like apple pie) and it's one of my favorites! i saw someone eating it yesterday at a bookstore cafe, but i think i would have exploded had i ordered a piece! i think in the end, the food here is more like what i eat in california, and then there are those few other special things that i love from here.

we had dinner both friday and saturday nights at my cousin boris's place. he has two kids, 11 and 13, and arel and dorian got along with them splendidly. they speak some english and were really nice and made a great effort to entertain their cousins from san francisco. the made it possible for barak and me to hang out with boris and his wife, anke.

in about twenty minutes we'll head to the subway to take a train out to my uncle and aunt's for the afternoon. both boris and frank will come with their families. frank has three little girls, between 2 and 5. my father's other brother, wolfram, will also join us, so it will be a mini family reunion. they live outside the city, so i think arel and dorian will have lots of time to play outside in the snow.

tomorrow we take an 11:24 train to the airport and head back to barcelona. tuesday arel and dorian go back to school!

Munich - by b

Friday, November 21, 2008

munich 2 by k

yummy breakfast, scheiss wetter!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

munich by k

the bells are chiming at some church here in munich...it's 7:54 a.m. dorian is still sleeping, arel is is the bathtub...no water but two comforters, reading his book. barak is out with his computer having some coffee and here i am at this little table writing and looking forward to a good german breakfast!

we rented a tiny studio apartment in the "in" neighborhood of munich. it's only one room with a sleeper couch and a single bed, with an extra matress for the floor. all very comfortable foam with nice white duvets and pillows. there's a tiny kitchen and a bathroom with a huge tub. all for 50 euros a night...and free internet!

breakfast, yes, germans do like a good breakfast! spaniards don't have a breakfast tradition at all...just some white bread or mediocre croissant and coffee. but the germans, ah, it's a thing of beauty! we went out yesterday morning and dorian got pancakes with bananas and chocolate sauce, which he then traded for nutella. arel got the standard breakfast...a basket of bread, a plate with coldcuts and cheese, and two poached eggs. barak got an omelete and i got muesli. we were even able to make two sandwiches with arel's leftovers for our outing...how german and thrifty is that?! it's funny how food can make one so happy...just having all these yummy things to choose from was a good start to the day.

after breakfast, we took a metro to the hauptbahnhof...the main train station where we started our journey to see one of the world's most famous castles, neuschwanstein. we bought a "bayern ticket" for 27 euros, which allows up to five people ride on trains within bavaria from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 a.m. the next day! another bargain to caress my german soul.

the ride was about two hours and as we got closer there were amazing views of the alps. we really lucked out on the weather...it didn't rain all day and the sun even came out. lots of green countryside rolling by, lots of little towns and the snow covered alps in the distance for much of the trip. our destination was right at the edge of the alps...very beautiful!

from the train we took a bus closer to the castles and then walked up the hill...only a little bit of grumling from dorian. i visited this castle when i was seven, dorian's age, but really only remember that we visited and what the postcard i bought looked like, so i wasn't sure what to expect.

the castle (on which walt disney based his magic kingdom castle) is in a truly spectacular landscape...the edge of the alps with lots of granite rock and forest all around. one other thing i remember from childhood is that the king who built it was "crazy." what became clear to me, based on the very little that i know, is that king ludwig was not crazy. he had a great imagination and was very creative and playful, which i imagine in the 1800s in germany gets you the classification of "crazy." our tour guide said that ludwig's death at 41 is still a mystery and hinted that some think he wasn't crazy at all.

this castle of his creation is beautiful...not every part to my taste, but some mosaics and painted arches that are just amazing. the floor in one room is a mosaic made up of two and a half million pieces, and took over two years to lay. it's very playful with pictures of animals all around. lots of color everywhere! i really loved it.

then back to munich, where we found that to pee in the train station you have to pay 1,10 to use a toilet and ,60 to use a urinal! i wonder if women are allowed to choose the urinal. there are even little turnstiles to get into each section. i snuck dorian in on my 1,10.

from there barak headed back to the apartment to get ready for a work call. arel, dorian and i went in search of a place to buy tickets for a bayern munich soccer game...an exercise in frustration! these european futbol clubs are hard to navigate, and when we finally found a fan shop, they told us the game is sold out! now i find it hard to believe that the allianz arena , which fits 69,000 people is going to be full on a day with snow and/or heavy rain in the forecast and bayern play a mediocre team. but, no, i can't satisfy my child's dream of seeing his favorite team play! frustrating! arel is very disappointed, but we'll take him for a stadium tour today to the mega fan shop, so all will be well.

off to breakfast now, then my cousin frank will pick us up to spend the day with him. this evening it's dinner at my cousin boris's. tschuess!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

sad news by k

why is it that when i'm out and about in the world, i always have a million things i want to blog about, and then when i finally logon, it can't think of any of them?! i guess that right now my mind is too full of some news i got last friday. one of my cousins committed suicide. he was exactly my age, and i lived with his family for six months when i was 17. we were never particularly close, but it has really given me pause.

i feel incredibly sad for his family who will now have to live with this for the rest of their lives. apparently he didn't leave anything written behind, so they will always be left to wonder what happened for him, what pushed him to this final act. i honestly would never have guessed that this particular cousin would have done such a thing, and so i am reminded that everyone has a life deep inside that is theirs alone, full of feelings they can't or don't know how to express. for some it simply becomes too painful, too desperate. it reminds me of a story that karen told me from a documentary about people who have jumped off the golden gate bridge. if i remember correctly, one man said that he would walk to the bridge and if one person smiled at him he wouldn't jump. no one smiled at him.

i challenge everyone who reads this to smile at one person today.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

TMB by A

i really truly hate riding the bus. it always takes forever to come and when i come home by myself in the eveing after soccer i have to take at least 2 buses and its soooooo cold when im at the STUPID bus stops freezing my ass off




please excuse me for my language

Barca

i saw barca vs Basel at camp nou with my friend Samuel and we sat in the 6th row!!!!! it was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cool! the on thing is that it was a tie but we saw messi and xavi and eto'o warming up righ in front of us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

what a relief by k

HURRAY!!!!!!!! i feel a great weight lifted off my shoulders!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

election day by k

it's a big day! i'm on pins and needles, but i have to say that i can't imagine barack obama not winning. it simply can't happen. still, i will feel a lot calmer when the official word is in and we can be sure that republican shenanigans won't derail this victory.

i am not in love with obama. (there's only one barak for me!). he's not a savior and he's definitely not perfect, but he's smart and that's huge. i still have a bitter taste in my mouth from the misogynist sentiments that reared their ugly heads when hillary clinton was still in the race. it made clear to me how far we still have to go for people to accept a woman as leader in the u.s. i don't blame obama for that...it's just a fact that became very clear again, and it makes me sad.

but i am very excited by this historic election. hopefully the country will begin down a new path, will clean up its act internationally, and mccain supporters will see that obama is not the antichrist. (a lot to ask, i know.)

it will be hard to go to sleep tonight knowing all the activity that will be going on at home. i tried to get us into a democrats abroad election night party, but it is sold out. i even tried to use barak's name to get us higher on the waiting list, but that didn't work. instead, we'll wake up tomorrow and hopefully have the answer. barak will probably get up at some point in the middle of the night, check the internet and then whisper the result to me. i can still remember clearly that we were in poland in 1992, in the small town where my father was born. in the middle of the night we heard on a short wave radio that clinton had won...it was such a relief! and this time it will be an even bigger relief. i literally want to cry for happiness when i think of an end to the bush/republican insanity...please let it be so.

Friday, October 31, 2008

happy halloween by k


where does the time go? i have almost posted a few times, but something always seems to come up. i told a friend here the other day that i feel like i am always running around and she said, "congratulations, now you are catalan!" i've been trying to figure out why i always feel pressed for time, and the only really concrete thing i can think of is the time we spend on public transportation and walking. and it does add up. the other less tangible thing is the learning curve; figuring out where and how and what to do adds a lot of time to things. and now i add to that the start of my coaching certification program and my head is absolutely spinning, but in a good way!

today is halloween and i have to say i like the fact that it is low-key here. there was supposed to be a party at school tonight, but it was postponed because of rain. kids dressed up at school (dorian was a businessman...very apropos) and there were small class parties in the lower grades, but arel went as himself and was perfectly happy.

i'm feeling quite anxious about the election and will be very relieved when it's over. i was watching a little bit of "the daily show" on my computer today, and even that i found upsetting. they were showing clips of mccain/palin supporters talking about how scared they are that obama will win...terrifying! i can't believe i live in the same country as them! has it always been this polarized?

barak's parents, barry and avra, arrived in barcelona on wednesday on a cruise from rome. we had a nice dinner with them on their ship that evening, and they came here for dinner last night. they're both relaxed and barry seems to be doing well after completing his chemo in august. they're here for three more days, but unfortunately it is supposed to rain all weekend, so i'm not sure exactly what we're going to do. the kids may have a sleepover in their hotel room one night, but i'm coming down with something, so i'm not sure i'll be up for a crazy spanish night out with barak.

we also got to have lunch with ian williams on monday...crazy betsy's husband. he brought us maple syrup and vanilla extract, which i had requested. not impossible to get here, but so insanely expensive that i would never shell out the euros. we had delicious french toast the next morning! funny the things one misses.

that's it for now, or arel and dorian will tell me my post is too long again! love to all.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

16-0

omg! i played my first game of the season and we lost 16-0 it was futsal whih i guess makes a little better but it was still really bad. im gonna be the captain next game and hopefully i can pshyck us up a little so we can lay alot better

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

likes and dislikes by k

here's a snaphot of where i am with stuff right now. as you'll notice, some things fall under both likes and dislikes...how conflicted am i? things change every day, sometimes by the hour.

likes

  • always people of all ages out and about, in cafes, on benches, walking around...feels fundamentally different from home in this respect
  • having a view from home
  • being able to travel: plans for munich in november, israel in december
  • not having a car
  • small school with small classes, arel and dorian are happy with it
  • having a pool at our disposal
  • walking amidst beautiful architecture
  • sense of history in the old parts of the city
  • getting perspective on our life in s.f. (we have it pretty damn good over there!)
  • hearing spanish all the time
  • diverse community at school...people literally from everywhere
  • being able to give arel more freedom
  • not worrying about gun violence
  • jogging to get arel and dorian at school
  • meeting new people all the time (inspiring to hear about other people's lives and imagine possibilities)
dislikes
  • bureaucracy! (see previous blog post)
  • not having a car: makes certain things much more difficult, like food shopping and playdates
  • grocery shopping: expensive, often can't find what i want, pain to get stuff home
  • not feeling totally in control
  • not enough spanish at school (it is every day for at least an hour so i should just calm down)
  • muggy, dirty air (depends on the day, obviously)
  • jogging to get arel and dorian at school
  • spiders biting dorian and giving him huge welts
  • overthinking the future (probably i'd be doing that anywhere, but because of changes it seems to be happening more than ever!)
  • meeting new people all the time (it's exhausting at times to put myself out there)
  • i miss people from home

Monday, October 6, 2008

today totally sucked, until i remembered yesterday - by b


lindy al parc
Originally uploaded by bkassar
i don't know why.. a bunch of reasons.. but today was just lame!!! and i wondered what the hell we were doing here. the cost in time to get certain things sorted out is just plain high. and today the benefit seemed low. when my agitation got the better of me i tried to remember just one day ago--yesterday---which was so nice and was FILLED with reasons for being here. one of which was a picnic we were invited to by some jamaicans.. a mom and her kid who are in our school, her best friend, her best friend's husband, her best friends mom, her best friends mom's best friends, and so on. it was very warm and friendly and plain comfortable. and while i was off to buy some wine and chips and the like to bring to the picnic i ran across these people just dancing next to the park. i tried to remember them today...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

La Merce - by b

here are some recently uploaded pix from our day a couple of weeks ago when the boys had no school for La Merce (see next post for more on La Merce). The slide show plays backwards.. we're coming home first, going there last.

piromusica - by b

we've seen some beautiful lightning storms from our house.. and also fireworks during the recent La Merce festival here. La Merce is the patron saint of the city and her festival marks the end of summer. the city of barcelona website has a make-your-own-fireworks-music page.. not my forte.. but you can try your hand yourself. here's mine

here is the history of La Merce herself with a reference to her first appearance in 1218 during what the website says "was the time of the wars of religion" (does anything really change!?!)

and even cooler (for me at least) is this collection of La Merce posters going back a few years. i like this one from 2005. too bad it only goes back to 1992.. and not further back to when kristin was living here.. i'd like to see that poster.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

fútbol, bureaucracies and school by k

fútbol
i’ll start there while the memory of my trip with arel to our first european soccer match is still relatively fresh. arel has been dying to go to a professional game, but like most things since coming here, figuring out how to get tickets seemed very confusing; do you buy them online, what if you’re not a member of the club, how much are tickets, are the games sold-out, and on and on. so, a couple weeks ago, we were meeting some people near the olympic stadium, current home field of barcelona’s “other” fútbol team, espanyol. (who knew that barcelona has two top-tier teams?) i knew there was a game that night, so barak and arel went to the ticket window at the stadium to see if there were tickets. we also knew that there was a game the next saturday between the two barcelona teams. in the end, barak and arel opted for the “more exciting” game between these two rival teams...a “derby,” which is what they call it when two rival teams play each other.

we figured, yes tickets are twice as much (60 euros each!), but this way arel gets to see both local teams play at once. and he has been patient waiting for us to get our shit together to buy tickets. needless to say, arel was very excited all week...total anticipation. he kept saying it was the longest week of his life. when would saturday arrive, etc. etc.

well, saturday finally arrived, but there was the whole day to get through. kick-off was scheduled for 22:00, a relatively normal start time here! arel and i left our apartment at 8:40 to take a bus, then the metro and then a funicular up the final hill. arel couldn’t stop smiling the whole way. as we neared the destination on the metro, more and more fans climbed aboard. happiness was pouring from arel. really, he couldn’t hold back his beaming smile and he skipped along on our way to the stadium.

as we neared the stadium (built for the 1992 olympics), more and more people headed the same direction. we could hear some chanting already from the inside. police were everywhere directing traffic. hundreds of people milling around, all in a very festive mood. i was struck by what a range of people were going to the game. more women than i’d expected, and also older couples dressed up for a night on the town. still, inside the stadium you could see that the majority of people were young men and middle-aged men. lots wearing the espanyol jersey or scarf. many holding banners. already bouncing around and singing before the game even started. there was a lot of energy in the air.

arel and i finally found the gate through which we were supposed to enter, made our way to the right section and then found seats. he told me about the different players on both teams, gave me his prediction for the game (1-1) and kept on beaming. it felt like a very rich experience for both of us, but i did look around at all the die-hard fans and wonder about the people for whom this is religion; those who go to every game, take results very seriously and have few other interests, if any. do i want my son to be one of those people? could he become one of those people? when does it go too far?

for full disclosure, i was excited for the game too. not as much as arel, but still excited. both barak and i wanted to go, but since dorian has zero interest in fútbol, or any other sport for that matter, only one of us would be able to go with arel. being the sportier of the two of us, having played soccer as a kid, having watched a lot of world cup soccer, i pulled rank and went with arel. we decided barak would go to the next game. i wondered if this would be a different experience from the major league soccer game i went to in california (not very spirited). or the one baseball game and one football game i’ve ever been to. part of me thought this would be a lot cooler and more interesting because it was happening in europe. soccer is a world sport, unlike those american games, so i expected this would be better somehow. i already felt a tinge of jealousy that barak would get to go to the next game at camp nou, home to barça.

shortly into the first half, i realized there would be no jealousy. i would not feel driven to be a regular at these games. it was an interesting experience on a sociological level (yes, i know that sounds snobby!). i watched it all from a remove, finding it interesting to observe the whole spectacle, but not on the same wave length as the others, even arel. (and that was before the shit hit the fan.) i liked the lit up stadium at ten at night, full of people. i liked the idea of fans chanting together and the total involvement. but i didn’t really like a lot of what they were saying or, ultimately, the energy there.

arel and i realized pretty quickly how big the rivalry was between these two teams. most of the spectators were for espanyol. the few barça fans were no where near us. arel and i both liked the idea of rooting for the underdog, espanyol. but i started to feel a little uncomfortable when all these thousands of people were shouting “puta barça, puta barça!” over and over and over. and just because a barça player did a good thing or even came on the field. for those of you who don’t speak spanish, “puta barça” translates literally to “barça whore.” (don’t even get me started on the misogyny here!) there were also chants of “fuera!”, or “get out.” the one chant i did quite like was after the referee made a questionable call, a chant of thousands sang, “arbitro, qué malo eres” to a familiar tune, although i can’t put my finger on it. there seemed to be a tinge of humor to that one, and not as much anger.

barça totally dominated at the beginning of the game, but espanyol was the first team to score. arel and i were both relieved because we didn’t want to see the fans get angrier! then came half-time. the image that sticks out in my mind of half-time (and this is sort of bizarre) is of a bunch of young men (20s, maybe 30s) pulling out their tin-foil-covered bocadillo, or sandwich. i don’t know why this struck me so much. it just seemed so quintessentially spanish to me. one, the bocadillo. always a baguette with one thing on it; ham or cheese or salami or tortilla, but nothing else. and then i could just see these guy’s mothers making them the sandwiches and sending them off to the game. with each guy i looked at, i was convinced his mother had made the sandwich, and i bet she did! again, my critical voice. how can these people be so angry about a game played by other people when their mommy still makes their sandwiches!

okay, so now is where it really got interesting. second half starts and still no one has scored when all of a sudden, to our right, maybe 100 meters away, there are some big flashes of light and a lot of smoke. i stood up and looked over and it was clear that someone had thrown something into the crowd and it wasn’t just a small firecracker. arel asked me what was happening and i said from what i could see someone had thrown these things into the crowd and people were mad. he said, “couldn’t someone get hurt from those?” the answer, of course, was yes, but i tried to play it down.

then the game came to a halt and some chaos broke out down on the field... police running to the side with the fires. the game halted. i asked our neighbor what was going on. he said some barça fans had thrown flares onto espanyol fans, and that the crowd was pissed off and people were hurt! spectators were screaming “puta barça, puta barça!!!” in the paper the next day, i learned that some of the people who were trying to get away from the smoke and flames went onto the field, which is what triggered the chaos down there. arel thought the game was being called off. i wasn’t sure.

by this point, arel was on the verge of a panic attack. he said very clearly, “i want to leave now.” this after all the build-up to the game, all the excitement made me really sad. i told him i wanted to wait a few minutes for the whole situation to calm down a bit. i said we were safe, which i really believe we were. two minutes later we headed out of the stadium into the night.

we learned the next day that there are many angles to the rivalry between the two teams, not the least of which is that barça is associated with being catalan and espanyol is more nationalist, geared toward spain. barça has more money, better players and is known around the world. the people who threw the flares, a faction of extreme barça fans, were arrested and could face jail time. the press took it all seriously, but there was no mention of the chanting, which i guess in normal here. i just can’t imagine it not being front page news if u.s. fans chanted similar things. but maybe they do and i just don’t know it! i feel like a prude saying this. oh, those nasty spanish fans using bad words! but the anger behind them and, yes, the misogyny of the words chosen, do make me mad and i think they’re inappropriate.

i’m glad barak is going to the next game...

bureaucracies
i had been hoping to avoid most bureaucracies when we came here, but it seems that for each thing you want to do, there is at least one other thing you have to do before you do the one you want! the first domino to fall came after i tried to open a bank account. (i think i’ve written about this, so i’ll keep it brief.) at the bank i learned that i would indeed need a n.i.e. (número de identidad de extranjero), foreigner number. getting that took two visits. one to find out exactly what we needed to bring, and also to find out that to get a n.i.e. for barak would be a totally separate process. the second visit (just me), i waited in line for about an hour before getting to the front. there, a completely passive and checked-out employee took my paperwork and slowly entered all the information into her database. fortunately, i had everything in order, except that in the place i was supposed to put my father’s name, i put w.c. wiederholt. duh! i wasn’t supposed to put his last name, just his first names. no matter that he’s dead. it still says on my certificate that i am the daughter of wigbert christian and gisela maria. fortunately that was not a problem. she gave me my paperwork and told me to go to the bank, pay the fee and come back and wait in the other line to get my actual n.i.e.

okay. i walked to a bank a few doors down. the tellers looked at me and said, hurry, at 10:00 we stop! stop what, i thought. but i hurried and paid my 6,40 euros. a minute later, people who had been just behind me in the other line walked in and were told, no, we’re not taking payments anymore. just like that. i asked the guard at the police station what the bank tellers were talking about, and from what he told me, i gather that banks simply decide when they will and won’t take payments.

back to the other line. at this point i was feeling quite cheery because there weren’t many people ahead of me. i was still in the outside line, but after only about ten minutes i was brought inside where there were two lines. the guard told me to go into the one on the right. the person working there finished a couple people and i was next. he didn’t look up, but just walked out of the room. hum, i thought. wonder where he’s going. probably just to the bathroom. so i waited. the people in the other line were getting their n.i.e.s one after another and i contemplated switching lines. but surely this guy would come back. i asked the other clerk if the señor was coming back soon. she said, what señor? i pointed to the empty stop next to her. she said, oh my compañero, yes, he’ll be back. señor, compañero, who else would i be talking about? but did the compañero return? NO! i finally gave up and switched lines. i was a little surprised that none of the people in the other line said, you go ahead, you’ve been here much longer than i have. no, there was a sort of smugness about being ahead of me. there was one last hold-out in my line, but then the guard came and told her to switch lines because mr. compañero had gone out to get a bite to eat.

n.i.e. in hand, i went back to the bank the next day, proud of being official. ah yes, you can open an account. la la la. let’s just fill this in. hummmmm, why does your n.i.e. start with a y? they usually start with x. after many calls, they said they’d need to send the paperwork to madrid. bbva’s it systems couldn’t accept a y. it should be ready in a few days. a few days later they told me i couldn’t open an account until they redo their system. i went to a bank down the block and opened my account!

next bureaucracy, barak’s status. go to the office for foreigners across the city only to be told we need to have an appointment. can we make an appointment here? no, you need to call or send an email. can you tell us what documentation we’ll need for the appointment? no. can you tell us about barak’s status if we can’t get an appointment quickly? no.

got home and sent the email requesting an appointment. that felt as useful as putting the request in a bottle and throwing it into the mediterranean. needless to say, haven’t heard back on the email. but barak managed to get through on the phone after constant redialing, only to be told we’ll need one more thing, and if we don’t have it yet, they won’t make the appointment. we need to have our marriage license “legalized” by germany, since that is my citizenship. we already had it apostilled in san francisco...we’ll also need an “offical” translation to spanish, 70 euros, thank you very much.

one thing at a time. i went to the german consulate today to ask about getting our license legalized. i gave the clerk what she needed and then she asked for the “other” thing! that illusive “other” thing. first we have to register with the local (our neighborhood) governing body to say we’re living here. with that, i’ll be able to get the marriage license legalized on the spot for 20 euros. so, tomorrow it’s to the local government office to try to register both of us. i have checked what we need to bring, and i think we have it all, but i wouldn’t be surprised to find out there’s something else. then we wait eight days to get our certificate in the mail. then back to the german consulate and then maybe, oh, maybe we’ll be able to finalize this process! painful!

tidbits from school
heard what i thought was a very funny, “we’re not in the u.s. anymore” story today. the whole high school left for madrid today for two nights on a cultural fieldtrip. i spoke with some parents after dropoff and they told me that when the initial information about the madrid trip was sent out, they and their daughter had to sign a sheet saying there would be no drinking or smoking on the trip. apparently, there was a sort of rebellion (i’m guessing by locals and people who have been here a long time) and only about a third of the kids signed up for the trip. last week, a new sheet went home saying that parents understand that alcohol will be allowed on the trip! in moderation, of course. the parents also told me their daughter got a call from some classmates at 11:00 last night (before a 6:00 departure from the train station) asking her to go out. it is truly a different world over here in some ways.

the whole middle school left today too on their own cultural fieldtrip. a couple nights on the costa brava and fortunately, drinking was not an issue. arel was very excited and dreading and looking forward to a dance tomorrow night!

dorian is starting to talk about some kids he has played with, so that’s a good sign. as always, he’s happy while in class. it’s playground life that is a bit more tricky.

overall, we’re slowly but surely settling in here. i’m more happy than not to be away from the chaos, political and economic, going on in the u.s. right now!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

STUPID BARCA FANS!!!!! By A

The stupid barca fans had to ruin the game for me in the early 2nd half. it was all going well although all the espanyol fans have all these chants about like, get out of our town!!! or barca are *******! any wayespanyol had scored in the first half when suddenly some stupid barca fans threw flares down to the level below. luckily we were very far away from the barca fans but still, i got scared. we ended up going home early. i can only imagine the yelling and the chants when barca scred 2 last miniute goals.I think espanyol definetly deserved to win with those stupid flares that ended the game for 10 minutes. ive mde up my mind: there is noooo WAY that i'm going to support barca now. what party poopers!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

wild pigs by k

no, i'm not talking about spanish men! i'm talking about wild pigs...jabali. i had an encounter with several the other day and, for a brief moment, i imagined headlines saying "san francisco woman attacked by pack of wild pigs in barcelona." not quite how i imagined it would all end, especially here in this very urban city! so, how did i happen to come across a pack of wild pigs?



a couple days ago i decided that after i took arel and dorian to school, i would make my way up tibidabo to a trail called the carretera de les aigues. it is a wide dirt trail, a lot like the fire trail in berkeley, that snakes along tibidabo for miles. a lot of barcelonans go up there to walk, ride mountain bikes and jog. my plan was to get to the trail from school and then jog home because we live only a couple hundred meters below the trail. my challenge was to find a quicker way to get up to the trail than the way i had come down a couple days earlier. after hitting several dead ends, i saw some movement in the distance and thought there were sheep in front of me, but on closer examination, i saw a group of very large jabali with one youngster! several people had told me i might see them on tibidabo, but they are bigger than I thought. the biggest ones definitely weigh more than me...and that's big! I decided to go up a different road, but when I looked back they were following me. Since I'm not well versed on the habits of wild pigs, I got a bit nervous and thought through what I would do if they charged. My plan was to pick up rocks and throw them at them. Not sure if that would be the correct course of action, but that was my plan.

Anyway, I got to another dead end road and started to wonder whether I was ever going to find my shortcut when I saw a man looking at me from in front of his house. He probably thought I was a crazy foreigner in my running shoes and shorts. Not wanting him to be suspicious of me, I asked whether he could tell me how to get up to the Carretera de les Aigues. With a definite smirk on his face he told me which way I could try. He said there was a very bad trail that had been mostly destroyed by the jabali, but that I looked like a sporty chica and could probably make it. As I headed to the stairs he told me to go down, the pigs were back. I asked the man whether they were dangerous. He laughed and said they only wanted to be fed! That calmed me a little bit, but it was very disconcerting when I was hiking through the brush, on a trail that was barely a trail...totally destroyed as the man told me, to hear these large creature walking around near me where I couldn't see them. I'm not sure what jabali like to eat, but I hope it's not people! I cursed the Spaniards for not maintaining their trails, I cursed the pigs for wanting food, and I cursed myself for needing to take a shortcut!

I did end up finding a slightly larger trail and did get where I wanted to go, but it was definitely a lot more work that going the slightly longer way.

Besides dealing with wild pigs, the biggest challenge has been dealing with the bureaucracy...many tales of red tape to be told! But not now, dinner must be served.