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
281220082480


kristin read about Manta Ray.. a restaurant on the beach really near our place. this is from their menu.. i like the line drawings
281220082459

violinist graffiti on rothschild street... also near our place
271220082447


more art on the walls in neve tzedek
271220082421

more ... somebody simply pasted sheet music on a wall
271220082418

a reminder
271220082411

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.
271220082375

271220082376


271220082385

271220082384


a chanukiah at a restaurant on our first night here --- "Florentine10"
261220082368


boarding our plane in barcelona
261220082336

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.

241220082275

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.

241220082255

241220082242

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

this might take a sec or two to load...

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

181220082109

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

141220081977
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...