Monday, September 8, 2008

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!