Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obama Effect?

So, I'm in this old taxi in Barcelona and on the radio they're talking football (as they're wont to do) and explaining some old feud between the two big Catalan teams: F.C. Barcelona and F.C. Espanyol... I couldn't quite get it all, but I guess it's been three years since they haven't talked to each other and one of them recently invited the management of the other to a big dinner and the other declined...

So one of the radio people says, maybe they should take the lead from Obama, and instead of going back and forth with the same petty arguments, rise above the fray, overlook their differences, and work on finding a peaceful resolution.

Honestly, I can't remember the last time the US came up in a debate on the radio in which we were looked up to as an example to follow. What a difference!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


We've been studying Catalan History and since King Jaume I invaded and conquered Mallorca in 1229, I decided we should go there. I did so with some trepidation since the last time I was there, in 1987, I had gone to the town of Alcúdia (with 10 high school students under my care) thinking that the farther from the big city we were, the more peaceful it would be. Only huge hotels and British pubs greeted me in that town.

So this time, I was pleasantly surprised. After an insanely cheap flight from Barcelona (20 euros! = about $25), we rented an incredibly cheap car (7 euros/day) to an amazingly small town with a single narrow windy street (both from curves and wind) on the northwest coast, called Banyalbufar. Our hotel (which was neither insanely nor incredibly cheap) had a beautiful view of the terraced hillside, full of orange and lemon trees and sheep, all the way down to the coast.

Banyalbufar, Mallorca

You could hear the sheep before you saw them... they all wore cow bells (sheep bells?) that made a lovely tinkling noise

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Facebook, Barcelona, and Old Friends

It feels like forever ago since I got this link and read the article but it turns out it was only a few days. It's been on my mind. Every time we come to Barcelona (ok, and when we're in the US too, but perhaps less, because it feels slightly less intentional) I have to figure out what we're doing here. I mean, mostly I know this. We come to see friends, to surround the kids with cousins and Catalan, but above all, we come to maintain the connection with the people here we love. It's both exciting and exhausting to plan these full weekends of concentrated conversations that usually happen only once a year.

And it makes me wish they were all on Facebook so that I could have a little more of the boring middle time with them.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Candles and History

The Candle Store, est. 1761

So, around 1991, my parents and sisters came to visit me for Christmas, and they were still there for Three Kings Day which happens to be my sister's birthday. In Barcelona, the Kings actually arrive on a boat (from the Orient, of course) at the harbor on January 5th and then travel through the city (in an amazing parade) so that their royal couriers can collect the "please, can I have a ..." letters from the children along the way. The Kings' retinue is not limited to fancy mailmen, however. They have loads of servants and courtesans and a huge throne and jugglers and at the very end, there are real trucks full of real coal.

Which is all purely incidental to my story... but it turns out we were all in the center of the city watching the Three Kings Parade and realized that we should get some candles for my

Getting acclimated

We're not quite sure what to do yet, besides sleep at weird times of day. But flights to everywhere are incredible cheap (40 euros round trip to Mallorca!) so we may just decide to make it to that island conquered by Jaume I a thousand years ago after all. I'm off to the library to look up info...

Meanwhile, yesterday we wandered about a bit. While dh went off to play capoeira and soccer, the kids and I went shoe shopping (one pair of ripped snow boots just isn't enough). Unsuccessful, we ducked into a little cafe that I used to love that was recently reviewed by the New York Times, called Viena. It has pretty much turned into a slightly expensive Subway, but it was a welcome respite from the shoes. The

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How to cure a ham

We got to Barcelona this morning about noon. Our flight rather left New York about 3 hours late which made it pleasantly easy to fall asleep. I have never felt so rested, never been able to resist going to sleep during the day, but it is 11pm and I'm still pretty wide awake, though fading.

About 5 in the afternoon we went out for a snack and some emergency shopping (croquetas and olive oil to fry them in for dinner, nocilla (the Spanish version of Nutella) and cookies for breakfast, and fresh milk from the neighborhood dairy that had actual cows as recently as 1985. But first stop was the bakery/cafe where we got chocolate croissants and coffee... yum!

First Snack - Coffee and a chocolate croissant

Next to the market, mostly for the croquetas, but we were completely sucked in by the gargantuan fresh peas at one

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Mary Ann

My Mary Ann died last weekend. She was my father's wife, my stepmother for most of my life. But those labels don't do it for me. For me, she was my Mary Ann.

I didn't want to speak at her Celebration Service. I hate speaking in front of a lot of people and I knew I wouldn't be able to do it without crying. But after my sisters got up, I realized I wanted to say something too. I sputtered a bit, both with words and tears, and afterwards I kept thinking of more things I wanted to say. Here's my chance.

What I did say was that Mary Ann taught me a lot about not following rules and conventions. She never followed them. It's

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