Tuesday, July 21, 2009

welcome to san francisco - by b

welcome to san francisco
Originally uploaded by bkassar
we have been here a couple of days. this foto is after passport control, customs, etc. it's a very sterile foyer for this city. there have been more colorful moments since arriving. i went for a jog on sunday, ran into karen on castro street .... we talked for a few minutes and then heard some quite beautiful opera. a guy was walking down the hill with monstrous headphones and singing at the top of his lungs. and really nicely too. that's more like SF. I wish I'd had my phone to get some video of the guy. BTW, if you want to see some recent photos, many of which are not in this blog---and kind of fill in some of the blanks b/w postings, you can link over here .... just scroll back in time or click on individual sets.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

the jew's last sigh - by b

i could've stayed in andalucia for weeks ... but now i'm looking over a heathrow runway from a hotel room (it's not a bad sight, actually... lights, even some lightning.. )

this morning though, (when i wrote this) i had no desire to leave the heat, the wide openness, the slow and laziness of andalucia

perhaps the fact that we had no wifi where were staying was part of the magic. when we first arrived it felt like it was going to be a drag. it turned out to be a gift that internet was not easy or a given whenever we wanted it (e.g. i had to wait to post this post till now)

1492 is famous to americanos as the year columbus "sailed the ocean blue"
he left from upriver in andalucia

it's also the year the reyes catolicos booted the moros (moors) as well as the jews

the exiling of moro king boadbil is captured in salman rushdie's book "the moor's last sigh"

here in miguel's parents' condo there is a rather poetic Fodors from 1979. travel books don't seem this poetic anymore... (this one seems to be co-written by Eugene Fodor himself). fodor writes that when "When Boabdil, the last Moorish King of Granada, surrendered the city to Ferdinand and Isabela, he left his palace by the Puerto de los Siete Suelos and asked that this gate be sealed forever. His heart-broken sobs found a lasting echo in Arab hearts, for of all Spain the Moors deplored most the loss of [Andalucia], and mourn it still in their evening prayers"

over the last days as I felt the heat of the sun... as I watched arel and dorian run in the sea/ocean and giggle and scream in the sprinklers.... as we played our 100th game of bullshit or elferraus... as we discussed connections between shakespeare and mike meyers.... or on our last night in andalucia as kristin searched for the first star and the kids ran over the rocks and in the sea at 10:30 pm (and as later in the car kristin gave the kids the most heartbreakingly beautiful explanation of wishing on the first star in the night sky) ... i sighed... happily

work awaits, details await, real life awaits

but i'd like to seal the gate here a while longer

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

what we'll do for shoes! by k

one of the strangest, funniest and most rewarding experiences (a bit of an exaggeration on the last count) was searching out and eventually finding a shoe factory in portugal. karen and i both knew that many shoes are manufactured in portugal...in fact a brand we both like: fly london had a factory near where we were staying! we had to seek it out.

we got pretty vague directions from the woman who rented us our place. actually, she told nick, so we got his version of how to get there. off we headed on a sister outing...in search of shoes!

the basic directions were to head in the direction of a certain town. the factory would be halfway between that town and another town. we were off to a good start. after we passed the town we were supposed to look out for church on the right. shortly after that we would see an industrial complex thingy and in there would be the fly factory. first of all, there are more churches in portugal than i have seen anywhere else...way more than in spain. i think there were at least five between the two towns, and we didn’t see anything like an industrial complex anywhere.

we had seen a sign saying “zona industrial” at one point, and it was near a church on the left, so we decided to try that. we turned off and went a little bit into nowhere. after a few minutes we found what looked like some factory buildings, but none of them said fly! we laughed alot about how we could ask someone where to go. how should we pronounce “fly” in portuguese? how ridiculous we felt out there in the middle of nothing looking for stylin shoes from london.

but we couldn’t be deterred. we headed looked around some more to see if we could find more industrial buildings, but we came up empty. karen, i guess the more devoted shoe hound, said she would go into a cafe across from the “zona industrial” sign and ask. i waited in the car. after a few minutes karen came out of the cafe with a big smile on her face, giving me the thumbs up! success!

apparently she went into the cafe, full of only men (another phenomena we saw often). she asked someone if they spoke english. no. then she said “espanol?” and that got some recognition so she tried “zapatos” and that did the trick. we shouldn’t have been looking for a sign saying fly...it was something altogether different. and we had remembered seeing a sign with that name back where we had been before. we were getting warmer.

we got to a building with the right name, but i chickened out again and karen went and asked. wrong building. we were sent to one close by. we got there and all the doors were locked, but there was a sign saying “venta al publico” (sales to the public) so we guessed we had finally found the right place. after checking several doors we found a sign saying to ring the bell for access. i rang it once. nothing. karen rang it once. nothing. hummm, we weren’t sure what to do. so karen really pushed that bell for a few seconds and someone appeared!

we had been warned that the place closes in the middle of the day for lunch, and with all our searching we knew we were pushing that limit. the woman who opened the door let us in, but somehow made clear we didn’t have much time. we were led up some stairs and into a little locked room full of shoes. she stood there while we looked. we slowly figured out that what was out was what there was. no asking for different sizes or colors. all the women’s shoes were 30 euros a pair! that was good news because fly london shoes usually go for at least 100 euros a pair. i’d admit that for the next ten minutes or so we were like girls in a candy shop...or rather, women in a shoe shop! we tried on a bunch of pairs and lots of them fit and were really cute. but i felt the pressure of the woman watching us and not being able to talk with her. and the awkwardness of knowing that she doesn't get to travel and find shoe factories in her adventures.

then the lunch bell rang. oh no, the pressure was really mounting! a bunch of women came into a big room with tables right next to the little room we were in. we didn’t want to make this woman miss her lunch. i was ready to buy a pair of shoes when i saw another pair that looked interesting. i thought, no, don’t try them, but then i did and they fit and i liked them. shit, i decided to get them too and paid my 60 euros cash. it felt a little like being on a game show were you won’t get anything if the buzzer goes off.

karen also settled on two pairs of shoes and we said muito obrigada (thank you very much) a bunch of times to the woman who had helped us and headed out. did i need two more pairs of shoes?! absolutely not. am i happy with my cool fly london shoes that i got in a factory in northern portugal...absolutely!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Homecoming A

In a few days we are flying back to San Francisco. I am really looking forward to it although I am a bit worried about seeing people. I really want to see all my friends im just scared that maybe it’ll be a bit awkward with them. After all I haven’t seen them for almost a whole year. My birthday is like two days after we arrive, so it won’t be the most active day, but I’ll still have my cousins and Omi over for dinner. Hopefully I will be able to have a party later in the summer. I REALLY missed all my friends and family in S.F, but something else I missed is the food. I can’t wait to stuff my face with Burritos, Muschu, and Thai noodles. Here in Spain, our food routine has been pretty much: Cereal, Sandwich, Pasta, Eggs, Sandwich, Pizza, Cereal, Sandwich, Salad…etc. I am going to the best camp in the world, Viking soccer camp the first week of august. It is always super fun, even if I hurt for like a week afterward. Sometime in the second week of august, my Dad, Dorian, and I are going to L.A. for a few days before San Diego. We’re going to hang with Yoni and Lori, go see their factory, maybe the beach…who knows? After that we are going to San Diego to see Safta and Zeide and go to Nicole’s wedding. I am going to have the coolest outfit in the whole wedding. After the wedding, we’re pretty much chilling by the pool for the rest of the summer, until we fly back to Barcelona. I’m really happy that we have only two days to recuperate from S.F. jetlag before school starts…pause…NOT!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

fotos to go along with kristin's post - by b

Yavanna (Insua)





Tuesday, July 7, 2009

portugal top to bottom by k

we have just arrived at the bottom of portugal. the algarve. we have literally been top to bottom in this country. we flew a little over a week ago to vigo, just across the border in spain. we picked up a rental car there and drove into northern portugal and the minho area, named for the minho river (miƱo river in spain). the river is the border between the two countries.

we stayed in an amazing place amongst grape vines, fruit trees and farmland for a week. it had two old houses...one used to house animals. our family stayed in that one, karen, nick, caio and senta stayed in the other. there was a very short walk from ours down to theirs. the property has another old house where the owners (a british couple, eunice and mark) live part of the year, and an amazing pottery studio where eunice works. in front of that is a huge lawn and patio-like place with a bbq (barak was happy) and a huge granite table with granite benches. and at the far end of the property was a lovely salt water swimming pool where many a game of marco polo was played over the week.

we went kayaking one day, which was very peaceful but became hard work as the tidal flow began to go against us. arel, caio and nick went water skiing one day, while karen and i explored a market, and barak kept dorian and senta company back at the house. i really loved it there. very green, very quiet (except for the dogs, roosters, and birds), very relaxed. a dream vacation.

from there we headed down to lisbon, with a lunch in coimbra on the way. an old city with an old university on the hill. we started seeing tourists...not common where we were before, and then down to lisbon.

we ended up staying in a very cool hostel...good night hostel. all of us in a big attic room. three bunk beds and three “private” little nooks. the whole place was done in a very cool way. a look at the past for us parents...a look at the future for our kids.

we did some walking and exploring is lisbon today. i remember really liking it when i was there years ago, and that is still true. still, the kids weren’t as interested in more city time, so this afternoon we left for the algarve, the coastal region at the bottom on portugal. we’re staying a sort of funky (in both the good and bad sense of the word) apartment hotel. a very different feeling to the north. very dry. tomorrow we’ll explore the coast a bit if we can pry dorian away...we may have to do shifts!

day after tomorrow it’s back to spain for us, and off to england for karen, nick, caio and senta.

i have really loved being here. the most frustrating thing is not speaking the language. when i open my mouth, spain or catalan or the little bit of french i have want to come out. i do know a little portuguese, but i have no sense at this point when i’m saying something right or just saying something with what i think is a portuguese accent.

crickets humming away....time to climb in bed and read for a while. hopefully barak will post some photos soon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Early Morning in Insua - by b

We've travelled a LOT this year... So, I've gotten to take some very different runs in the early mornings before the rest of the family wakes up. Thru snow in Munich. To the Hill of Evil Counsel in Jerusalem (it was much colder, but no snow). Thru Djemaa el Fna in Marakech. It's really cool to see places wake up. Right now we're in Insua in the north of Portugal, basically on the west coast of Europe (zoom out on the map to get a sense). I've been for two runs here so far.

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It's really peaceful here. Country roads and paths. Sheep. Cows. Water. Flowers. And, of course, Jesus. Portugal is SuperCatholic. Even though, like a lot of places, young people are abandoning the church, there are lots of churches around.. and little shrines too. Some early morning Insua scenes: