Saturday, September 27, 2008


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.

life without a car - by b

Originally uploaded by bkassar
my favorite stretches in san francisco are those when there is no need to get into a car. and here we have none. sometimes the waiting for buses and trains is frustrating. but mostly i like it. here (and following) are some mini scenes -- videosnaps and fotosnaps of our modes of transport.

train station gate - by b

VID 00083
Originally uploaded by bkassar

on the 60 - by b

i'm not sure who took this but it was on the phone when i uploaded pix. the 60 is the bus we take to and from school

on the 60

bus stop... coming home from futbol - by b

arel has futbol on tue and thursdays after school. here we are headed home


17 - by b

you can't see her but kristin just got on this bus to head back up to our neighborhood


walking - by b

VID 00091
Originally uploaded by bkassar
walking is a key mode of transport for us. and mostly i love it. arel is improving on the mode here

down by the sea - b

one nice thing about going on administrative errands is getting to hang out and have coffees and lunches. i know i'll remember these much more than the frustrations of the bureaucracy that is (in)famous here. here's a view from a coffee when kristin and i first went down the police station for her to register as a resident in spain


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Espanyol vs. Barca!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!by A!


omg!!! today we bought tickets to a barca a game and not just a barca game.... its against city rivals espanyol!!!! anyway im soooooooooo excited!!!!!!!!!! the one disadvantage is that it starts at 10 pm . But who cares!!!!Its gonna be sooooooooo fun!!!!!!!! we could have gone to a game tonight but i decided to wait a week and see barca!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!
I'm gonna cheer for Espanyol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm sooooooooooooo excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
if you didnt realize the PSS earlier, your a lamo!!!!!!!!!!!!
i'm excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 19, 2008


School is overwhelming! u people are soooo lucky. plus it starts at 8:45 and ends at 16:00!!!

im making a video to put on youtube

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

advice from friends at home -- by b

A few weeks and many thousands of miles ago we had a going-away picnic in SF. It was sunny in Potrero del Sol park next to the kids' school. Kristin had wanted to bring a notebook and ask people to write some notes that we could read on the plane... In all the tumult we forgot to bring a notebook. But I had my phone so I asked people for advice for a good year away. In a bid to avoid some actual-work-work i need to do tonight, I edited the comments together ... it's a truly fine piece of filmmaking :-)

(I actually do quite like the superqueso ending). Moltes grĂ cies to "siuoo/Jackie" for the youtube footage from a 747 leaving SF (flying west not east... but you get the idea), Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe

Monday, September 15, 2008

ponderings by k

i feel like i could just write and write and write and write about all the things coming up in my mind. i'm surprised at how much this move has thrown so much up in the air. it really is like starting from scratch in a lot of ways. strange...i didn't expect it.

for those of you who were worried that poor arel would be ostracized for not having a ruler because i couldn't bring myself to spend 7 euros on a plastic one, you can relax! by chance i found a 1 euro store and was able to get the final school supplies for a bargain. what a relief! there are some cheap things here, you just have to know where to find them.

on friday we tried to open a bank account. i waited in line in one bank for about ten minutes while a lethargic young man attended to several people. he looked so bored and disaffected that i decided to walk out and try another bank.

good choice. at the next bank, a woman explained that we could have an account for foreigners, just using our passports. but with that account, you can't do anything fancy like money transfers, internet transactions, or anything. on the other hand, if we had a european resident card, we could open up a much better account. i told her i was going to look into making us legal residents and then she proceeded to make about 20 calls for me, trying to find out where we need to go and what we need to bring! i was quite amazed that she was so helpful. tomorrow we will tackle the bureaucracy and see if the information she got was right. i'm going into with the skeptical optimism. could it be as simple as bringing my german passport and saying we're living here now?

and finally, a question to ponder: why don't they sell yogurt in larger containers in spain? any insight would be appreciated.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dorian's before bed plan by k

After a grotesquely early dinner (7:00 p.m.) by Spanish standards, Barak asked Arel and Dorian what they wanted to do before going to bed. Here is Dorian's plan:

Watch Barak call United and make a plane reservation to go home.

Go for one last swim.

Pack and call a taxi to take us to the airport.

Get to the airport and watch Barak get us an upgrade to first class.

Fly home.

(I think he's actually happier than this might make him sound!)

Sunday afternoon in CosmoCaixa --- by b

There is a science museum --- Cosmo Caixa Barcelona ---- a short walk from our place. Arel, Dorian and I went down there this afternoon. Here are some snaps. Note the guy behind the ticket counter:

Moody - by b

Lightning out to sea last night.

Earlier in the evening.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A cartoon I made --- by D

my new room by A!

my new room is tiny! i really like it though. ive already put up lots of posters. a miracle happened yesterday. IGOT JEANS!!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Midnight Overlooking the Mediterranean --- by b

Last night it thundered, lightninged, and rained hard for a short while. This morning the slight haze that had been lingering in the sky above the city was washed away --- and the views from our place were beautiful. Now at midnight they still are.

I am not used to having a view like this.. I think I can get used to it! I really like the warmth here. And the sea. This place reminds me of Israel in ways I don't fully understand. I feel oddly at home here and I think these memories are part of it. I'll write more about that at some point.

Kristin is out to dinner with Miguel --- Pakistani food en El Raval. By the way, the image at the top of the blog is a giant cat sculpture in El Raval.

Today was a good day. We went down into town and walked around ... went window shopping at Vincon...

Here is a map of where our house is and where the school is and where the bus stops are. The blue markers have the info. Zooming in and out is easy for different perspectives.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A home on Tibidabo by k

Finally! We have a place to live. I realize that it has been less than two weeks, and that's really not bad for moving to a new city. But, in the thick of it, I felt so much frustration, desperation, sadness and a very strong longing to be settled. I guess I didn't realize how truly settled we are in SF...little bumps here and there, but settled. Looking back now I can almost (not quite yet) laugh at the drama of the past week and a half because we really have had it very good. Miguel's flat is beautiful and he has a roof terrace that looks over the city. Arel and Dorian enjoyed many afternoons/evenings up there naked and playing in the plastic kiddie pool, by themselves or with Maxim...less than a foot deep with a small slide going into it. So funny to see these big kids getting such a kick playing up there. But then at bedtime, "I want to go home! I will walk and swim all the way to San Francisco if I have to. I don't care if it takes the whole year to get there!" Arel has mostly stopped expressing a desire to go home. But Dorian is still very vocal about not wanting to be here. I think he likes school well enough and that mostly he just needs his own space, more sleep and some calm.

Our new home is on the slope of Tibidabo, the mountain that rises out of Barcelona. We are apparently just minutes from a bunch of hiking trails, which I'm looking forward to exploring. The place is like a townhouse, with lots of other similar apartments surrounding it. It has three levels and looks over the whole city and the Mediterranean. I think we'll be able to see the sunrise from our bedroom, but won't know that until tomorrow morning! The owners are an artist and a writer who live in New York during the school year, so the apartment has some interesting touches, despite being a relatively new building. Up the street a little bit is a nice community pool that also has an amazing view. I'm sure Arel and Dorian will want to swim this afternoon immediately after school...a nice little extra. On the middle floor is the kitchen, the living room and a couple terraces. Upstairs is the biggest bedroom, which will be Barak's and mine despite protests from the little ones. Next to it is a little room with closets...a dressing room of sorts. One of us might use it as an office, although Dorian has said he might want to claim it for himself. There is also a nice bathroom with blue tile. All the way downstairs, there is another bathroom and three little bedrooms. The plan for now is that Arel and Dorian will each have a room and that Barak will use the third as an office, which will double as a guest room. We'll have to see how it all plays out.

My only real hesitation with this place is that it's not in the think of things. We won't be able to send the kids to the grocery store alone, which at least Arel can do from Miguel's. We won't be able to pop down the the pizza restaurant on the corner. But the trade-off is calm. It's about a 10 minute walk downhill to get to where some action is. I don't know the neighborhood down there, so we'll have to explore and see what we can see. School is a walk down the hill to the bus stop and then a five minute bus ride. In theory that bus comes every 11-13 minutes, but it has been less than consistent so far. In any case, it's a lot closer to school and that will mean a little more sleep and a little less rushing.

Barak just got here from the new place where he figured out how to use the internet...yeah! So now time to pack up all our stuff...we never really unpacked, at least not in an organized manner (yeah, yeah, i know that is no surprise to most of you!). When the 5 suitcases are ready, we'll head down to the street to take a taxi to our new home!

Monday, September 8, 2008

dorian going shopping --- by d and b

going to the market near miguel's in eixemple to stock up


2nd week of school by k

it has been a very rough last week. even though i know things move more slowly in spain, when you are anxious to get settled and find an apartment, it is frustrating to hear "manana" so often. arel and dorian started school last wednesday. it is very different from buena vista for a lot of reasons. one of the first things that strikes me every time i go there is how much english is spoken and that it is the default language. at buena vista, even though a lot of parents only spoke english, everyone uses the spanish greeting. here the language of greeting teachers and administrators is english and it feels weird. there are a lot of local families, and you do hear a lot of spanish and catalan being spoken, but it somehow feels different. kids call teachers mr/ms/miss/mrs and their name. i much prefer the buena vista way of first names! dorian says they even call the kids mr and miss, but i'm not sure that's always true.

dorian has two teachers for 19 kids, which is definitely a change. i don't really have a sense of them yet because i haven't spent any time in class, but i can only imagine that it is much easier for the teaches having someone else around. (once apartment hunting is over, i will volunteer in class to see what it's really like.) dorian seems to like it enough, but still complains that it is too easy. after 3 days we can't really judge yet. we signed both arel and dorian up for school lunch, thinking it would be nice not to have to worry about packing lunches for a year. after the first day they both said, yuck!, and now it's back to making lunch (one of my least favorite tasks!).

we visited the school one day before it started and from that point arel was looking forward to going. he seems pretty happy, but the day is longer than we're used to and with an almost hour-long commute on top of that, arel and dorian have been very tired. school starts at 8:45. you're not tardy until 9. but it goes until 4. of course, the lunch break is an hour, but both kids said they are so used to rushing lunch at buena vista that they don't know what to do for a whole half hour before they go out for recess.

while the kidlets are in school, barak and i have been rushing around the city looking at apartments and houses. super depressing. i have learned that pictures lie! there are a lot of places that look great and spacious on the internet and then when you see them, you want to cry. i know things are smaller here, and that is fine. but so much is small and dark and depressing. and then it is more expensive than i thought to get something decent. there are zillions of places available, but a lot are through and agency, and they charge a fee for doing very little. a lot of places are unfurnished and we've been resigned to making a large ikea run if we find the right place. and then some places don't even have refrigerators. i draw the line there. i will not purchase a major appliance in spain!

by last friday, arel and dorian we're exhausted from school, and barak and i were exhausted from all the looking and not finding. we had a good family cry on friday evening and then tried really hard to relax and not do much over the weekend. arel and i went shopping for school supplies on saturday. where is target when you need it? we ended up shopping at the corte ingles, which is the largest department store in spain. but unlike our department stores, they also have a supermarket, book section, school supplies, etc. etc. we found most of what he needs, but some things were surprising. a plastic ruler costs 6.50 euros! i kept trying to figure out where the hidden treasure was or what else came with it, but no, 6.50 for a plastic ruler. those of you who know me well won't be surprised to hear that i skipped that purchase. there must be a cheaper ruler out there! it's frustrating because we have lots of rulers at home in san francisco, and lots of calculators (he also needs that) and other stuff. alas, we'll just buy it all again.

today we had a major apartment breakthrough. ironically, it is one of the first places i looked at on the internet months ago. i emailed with the owner and with the family that lived there last year. i decided that it was a bit isolated and from the pictures i couldn't tell if we'd like it, so i left it. but i kept seeing it still posted and finally decided it would be worth looking at since desperation was setting in. turns out that this is the only place where the pictures do not do justice to the place! it is up the mountain a bit and about 15 minutes to an urban feeling area with cafes and stores, but that feels good now. barcelona is a very intense, very urban place and i'm starting to think being on the edge would be good for all of us. it's about a 15 minute walk to the bus and then a 5 minute bus ride to the school. that will really cut down on the current commute, which is two buses and a metro. the owners spend the school year in new york (a writer and artist, i think) and so a friend of theirs showed it to us. tomorrow we'll meet with a lawyer (i think the owner's brother) to draw up a contract and then hopefully we can move in! barak and i both feel good about it. it's plenty big...on three levels. two terraces and a view over barcelona and the mediterranean. there is also a community pool, which i'm sure arel and dorian will love! since the owners are artists the place is interesting even though it is in a very standard, relatively new building.

i'm really hoping this place comes through. i think once we have our own space, are closer to school and can get arel and dorian to bed a bit earlier, things will smooth out. keeping fingers crossed!

Monday, September 1, 2008

in the olympic pool on montjuic - by b

it was superhot our first days.. this pool was very nice