30 September, 2008

Bloody telefonica!!

Hy guys!
It's not that I'm too busy or in holidays. I'm not being able to write because the local monopolic phone company left us dry and hunging (or whatever the idiom is!!) and without a telephone line since mid-August!!

I'm unable to log in or even make a phone call since then and I'm force to go to the local cyber café round the corner. The place doubles as a long distance phone booth so is extremelly noisy, as I'm writing this I'm listening to a guy screaming his head off while talking with "babushka" back in Siberia or somewhere like it... I don't know if his conexion happened to be very bar or the old lady is deaft... In the next booth is a guy talking in rapid Latin American Spanish with his mother in Ecuador and that's even more distracting because he's telling her all sort of gossip about the family here and it's quite entertaining in a soap opera sort of way. (aparently his sister is going out with a -gasp- gipsy guy and all the family disaproved but there's nothing they can do really).
Nex to me where the computers are, sit two kids that should be in school as they're not older that 15, they're watching some video in youtube and beating the rythm on the table while singing badly out of tune (blame the headphones) in a phonetic English... that would be hillarious if it wasn't so annoying!

And last but not least all the keyboars are sticky and yucky and I'm tying as fast and lightly as i can in order of 1- not to get the muck in my fingers and 2. be able to get out asap.

Not nice.

Living in Spain is great fun most of the time but the services and the attention of clients is as bad as it can be in a third world backwater country.

With any luck we'll get phone line this month... or so they say in September.
Pray for me!

06 May, 2008

And my mother in law left

On the 5th of May "the husband" took her to the airport where she took a direct flight to Argentina.
To my, and her surprise, I cried in the morning!!
The thing was that I left very early, before she was awake, and when I returned home, at around 10am, I was expecting to find her busy finishing packing but she was not to be seen... The flat was completely empty and it was if like a frozen hand grabbed my heart. I make myself a cup of tea and then she arrived and when I saw her.... I just burst into tears!!
All of a sudden I felt very sad and terribly lonely.
For goodness sake!! What's wrong with me!! The lady was a pain the backside most of the time, she's demanding, doesn't help around the house, messed up my bookshelves and turned upside down our routine... I truly though that I was going to be totally relieve when she finally went home. But no, when the moment arrived I was crying and feeling terribly sad.

To her credit, I have to say that she was as shocked as I was and the only thing she managed to say was: -"I didn't have a clue that you liked me being here! That you feel like this". To which I answered, still in tears and with my arms wrapped around her neck: "I didn't know either!".

Go figure!

The flat is really empty since she's gone and I really miss to have somebody here, even though she was useless and we bickered almost all the time... well... I guess that I miss having family around. In Bristol we always had friends and they were (and are) very loyal and I knew that I could count on a number of them, phone them and they'd be with me if need be. While here I've been feeling really alone. Being in Bristol recently just serve to remained me how lonely I really feel and now even she was going.

Don't get me wrong, living here is good but all this experience's been harder that what I wanted to admit even to myself. I know it takes time to make new friends and I know that it¡s even harder the older you get and I know all the theory... but I feel I'm holding myself up by my own hair... like the Baron Munchausen in the old movie saving himself from drowning by pulling himself out of the water by the straps of his boots (or his own hair, don't really remember). It doesn't really work in real life... not even as metaphor.

05 May, 2008

International rugby

On the first of May P's club was invited to play in the local tournament in a town near Perpignan, in the south of France, a place that most people here consider as "north Catalunya" as the cultural links joining this regions are very ancient indeed. In fact the road signs in that area of France have the names of villages written both in French and Catalan and the local flag of Perpignan is the same as the Catalan flag, red and yellow.
So we woke up very early that day and drove all the way there in order to see our guys play.
Last year it was a bit of a traumatic experience for them as they were all under 10 years old and it was their first experience playing against children that live rugby since birth, as the game is particularly big in the region of a country of rugby lovers. By comparison rugby is an unknown and minority sport in Spain.
The French rules for kids playing are also slightly different and they're allow to kick the ball forward while that isn't allowed in Spain until they're older. On top of that they played rougher than Spanish kids and our guys were literally black and blue and that was also under their black and blue uniforms!! There were literally blood, sweat and tears (and almost a broken nose), all for us as we didn't win one match, I don't even think we managed a draw.
(you can check my entry here in my blog of when we went last year and our kids were trashed by the very good and tiny rugby players)

Anyway... probably because last year we had such trashing, most parents decided to stay at home to enjoy the fiesta day of Labour Day and when we arrived to the club we had just enough kids to form one team with one for changes. Hardly encouraging considering that most French teams have at least 2 full teams which give them plenty of fresh players.

The matchs were very short and there were one after the other, all morning and after an hour break for lunch they continued all afternoon. Our guys fought very bravely, as you can see in this close up with Patxi and Angel faces:
And I lost count of how many games we won as what counted was that they were giving the French teams a totally unexpected great run for their money!

Sant Cugat did'n win the tournament, nor was the last team; we finished somewhere in the middle which is a great improvement considering how strong the French teams are.

There was only one incident just before lunch time in which one of our best runner was badly hurt and we later learnt that he actually suffered a fracture on his left arm. But this was outside the field while Felipe was trying to show his dad how he tackle one of the big guys just minutes before, he went too far and tackle his unsuspecting dad, who promptly felt on top of him resulting in the fractured arm.
We then lost a player because he has to be taken to hospital by a French ambulance, luckily for the parents one of the drivers was local and spoke Catalan, because before the ambulance arrived I was translating to the doctor using my bad French and English.

That left our kids without a valuable player but also with no spares so by then end of the afternoon they were exhausted. Even then they really did it magnificently and actually won a cup to be kept at the club.

Here some more pictures:

The happiest coach in town Ricardo:

The hero of the day, Borja, the kid who scored most of our tries.

04 May, 2008

April (3)

On the 23th of April I flew to Bristol. The idea was to take a few days off from the family to enjoy myself. A well deserved break. Actually is the first time that I take time off the family for me, and after a month a half of taking care of everybody plus my mother in law... well... I totally deserve it!! Better still: I earned it!

On the day I worked like mad and at 5pm I picked up "the husband" and he drove me to Girona airport where my RyanAir flight was due to leave at 8pm. I was a bit apprehensive as I never travelled with them before and I bought my tickets 3 months in advance, really dirt cheap, and I even saved money by doing the check in on-line. until the last moment I thought that somebody will stop me to say that something was wrong and that in order to fix it I'd have to pay a fortune.
No. Everything went smoothly and the flight was great. As good as Easyjet and a bit cheaper if you buy well in advance. Good to know if you're planing to visit me!
I decided to rent a car in Bristol as public transport is expensive and this trip was all about having a great time and I was planing to visit a lot of people and going to the Mall and Malalan for a bit of shopping. I've a got a good deal with National car hire and they gave me their smaller car, a lovely Daewo Matiz like the one we used to have when we lived in Bristol but bright green, which was a blessing as I couldn't miss it when I parked in a crowded car park.
From Bristol airport I drove straight to Tesco to buy some bread and milk to take to my friend who doesn't eat wheat or digest lactose. To my delight, I found lactose free milk which is something that's impossible to buy here. With age I found out that I cannot digest milk as I could so I started drinking tea instead of café au lait, but I'm forever missing a glass of milk. Here is even hard to find fresh milk as most milk sold here are long life UHT which don't taste as good to me.
While I was there I also brought the biggest box I could find of PH Tips as normal good tea is hard to find (and also Earl Gray and Miss Grey tea from Twinings, awfully expensive here), and a couple of jars of Tiptree marmalade, their Orange and Tangerine is the best one that I've ever tasted... you can buy it at El corte inglés here but it cost more than 5€ each... I wonder if the people at Tiptree would send it to me if I order a big box or something... otherwise I'd have to start making my own marmalade as I cannot find one that is remotely as good.
While I was there I also bought a couple of baked beans tins for Patxi, as there's no better treat for him than baked beans on toast for breakfast. Crazy if you ask me, but there you go.
As a joke I also brought a small Marmite jar although we all totally hated it... I placed it in a shelf in my kitchen very much in sight, and it makes me smile every time I see it, there's few things that remained me more of England as much as Marmite does.

In Bristol I stayed with my friend and former neighbour Rossana. She lives just opposite the house were we used to live so it was a bit strange and sad to see our old house and the garden that I miss so much, still there and with the daffodils that I planted still in the front garden.
We stayed talking for a long time and it's so nice to talk with an old and trusted girlfriend!! This is what I miss the most.

The next day I just went walking down Gloucester road, from Horfield to the Arches. The weather was fantastic, sunny and warm, Bristol at is best. Purely by chance I meet a few people who didn't even know that I was in town so, it took me 5 hours to walk a couple of miles as when I met somebody we had to go for a coffee and a chat to catch up.
Down in Gloucester road I found a great place were they sell t-shits with Bristolian speech written on them and I bought a couple for my guys back home. They loved it. Now I wish I've bought one for my self as they're the cutest things ever.

The other things that I've bought were books, new and second-hand and trousers. Trousers are ok here in Spain as you find a wide range of styles, materials and, of course, prices. However in Matalan (and most other shops in the UK anyway!) they have 3 different leg lengths and I know that my perfect fit is size 12, standard legs. Here in Spain, all trousers have extremely long legs that don't fit anybody and you're supposed to trim it at home. A total waste of time. And, of course, books in English are hard to come by and very expensive and I've only found one second-hand book shop in the neighbourhood of Gracia in Barcelona. Too far away from me to bother.

The shopping was great and I returned with 2 big bags to Spain full of goodies and pretty things. However, nothing is more important than the fact that most of my friends still live in Bristol and that I miss them very much indeed. After all most of my adult life took place in that city and forever will be part of me.
It was great to meet all the people that I miss. great to talk a lot, to catch up and laugh with my mates.

Specially lovely was to have lunch at Glynnis and meet all the ladies from the library. It reminded me of how fun it was to work there. We were all a bunch of crazy forty something chicks, except for Francis who was the self-appointed proper middle-aged lady, which only added to the spice of the place. We could (and should) write a sitcom based on our experience and I'm sure it can have people in stitches.
I'm still remember the time when somebody asked me very politely (sic): "can I borrow your prick stick, please". At the time I knew what a stick was and I thought I knew what a prick was but I couldn't put those together in the context of a lady with some paper on her hands asking me for one. So I say: "wait a minute, please" and turn to face Glynnis with the question: "what's a prick stick?". To her credit, she kept a straight face and only after she served the costumer she turn to me to show me.... a Pritt stick!!
Live and learn.

03 May, 2008

April (2)

Sant Cugat rugby club, Patxi's club, was invited to play in the local tournament in mid-April so we all went to support him. My mother in law got bored after a while, poor thing, as she's not a sporty person, plus she's quite shy so she doesn't talk with anybody. But the rest of us had a great time. The weather was fantastic, very sunny but a bit chilly, and I forgot to bring sun cream protection or a hat so I ended with my face all red.
The kids played really well and I think they finished in the third place of all Catalunya, which is great.
After the tournament was over we decided to go with another families to have lunch by the sea in the nearby Costa Brava. The grown ups went to a restaurant overlooking the beach while the kids went on to play... cricket!!
Is funny that Patxi never played cricket while we were living in Bristol, (I don't even understand the rules!). But here with the other ex-pats kids he was just at home doing it. He's such a Brit! (not a brat!!).
This is really worlds apart form our life in Bristol, there I used to take Patxi to play rugby in the pouring rain while it was close to freezing and we were lucky if we could go after the match to get some hot chocolate to try to combat the frostbite! Here... well... just look at the pictures!! We were pleased enough but the British parents were positively glowing with glee as they drink nice wine while the kids run around in the sun.

30 April, 2008

April (1)

April came and went so fast that it felt like the proverbial blink and and you miss it . Is it totally true that the older you get the faster times seems to pass. Although my dad tells me that it feels slow again once you pass your 70's. Wait and see. I just hope I'll still be bloggin by then...

I've been very busy in April. There's the usual stuff such as working, taxiing Patxi to his rugby practices and games, keeping the house going and so on and there was also some extra and very good things. All in all, a very good month. Few pictures, though, pity but I keep forgetting the camera even though I love to post pictures here.
Let's see...

I have to start writing about my students, sometime they say the funniest thing or use the cutest turn of phrases and we're really have a good time in class... at least I have a good time. From now on I'll start writing things down to bring here. I promise. No names of course.

On April I started going to yoga. There's a place just on the corner of my block, literally a few steps from my home and I was meaning to start going there since we moved here but for one reason or another I never did. Then "the husband" noticed a sign saying that they have a special offer and they were not charging joining fees for April so I had to join them. No more excuses.
There's a selection of classes doing different things and so far I've only doing Hatha yoga, twice a week and I'm really enjoying it. I don't even break a sweat but my abdominals and the muscles in my upper arms were hurting after a class or two so is not hard to figure it out that this is somehow working. Is also very relaxing and I appreciate that as I don't really know how to unwind and every little thing in life affect me a lot. Everybody have to wear white clothes in the class, which I though was a bit weird, but it does look really peaceful.
I discovered that I'm actually quite flexible and I'm no trouble crossing my legs with my knees on the floor and stuff like that, but, to my surprise, I've got no sense of balance whatsoever. I cannot even stand still in my two feet with my eyes close without swerving badly. And I'm not talking about wild strange yogi posture, no sir; while everybody in the class can stay peacefully still in one leg as in the picture, you can see me wobbling with my face contorted in concentration, tongue out and all, trying hard not to fall and failing miserably time after time.

I'm really going to try keep going as I can see yoga working just right for me.

We also went to the cinema in April, something unusual as movies are dubbed and we don't like that. We went to see Persepolis, and I mention it here because I know is on the Arnolfini in Bristol right now, so please go and watch it as is a gem. Is mostly a black and white animation of the story of an Iranian girl growing out in the 70's and during all the downs and downs that Iran has being through. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, is a great inside into the culture and also a great entertainment. We loved it. "the husband" then downloaded the comic book in which the movie is based by Marjane Satrapi and I'm thinking of buying it as is comic as its best, with a real and moving story.

On the 19th and 20 of April there was a Fair of the earth in one park in Barcelona and as it's a annual event, I wanted to go and check it out to see if we may do some advertising of the local Freecycle group that I opened. Definitely next year I'm going to try and do some advertising of freecycle as the fair is all about recycling and green issues.
The fair was the usual mix of long-haired people badly playing drums, green activists, save-whatever stands and lovely hand made crafts for sale, plus great ethnic food from all over the world (including Argentinean barbecues!). What really surprise me was a solar oven that people can build by themselves with scrap of mirrors or polished metal. It looks like a parabolic dish and it work by concentrating sunlight into a point and thus heating whatever you need to cook (see picture with the cook and the oven which looks like a box of mirrors). this is great for those part of the world where people need cheap reliable energy to cook, usually people cook making fires with wood that people (mostly women) have to walk for miles to collect or by cutting trees and the deforestation takes place. (In refugees camps women are particularly vulnerable to attacks when they have to leave the camp looking for wood to light a fire)
Then I learned that a German guy created a blueprint to make affordable and cheap cookers and donated its copyright to humanity, so poor people can build a cheap solar cooker or over.
I think that this could work beautifully in sunny poor places like where I'm from in Argentina. Well... thinking about it, I'll love to have one here in very sunny Sabadell... maybe I can build one and use it on the terrace at the top of my building to barbecue... Oh, how I miss having a garden!!

By the way the freecycle Barcelona group is growing and working really nicely, and we've got more than 500 members so far and people are exchanging things and keeping them out of the landfills. To find a group in your area, please check here:

31 March, 2008


Castellets season started on the last Sunday here in Sabadell. This is a very ancient tradition here in Catalonia and one that I really appreciate and like.

A group of people of both sexes and all ages (really, from very old folks to kids as young as 5 years old) will form a sort of very high human tower, crowned by a small child (usually a girl) standing on the very top. There's also a small band playing traditional music with a couple of drums and some small flutes with a very piercing sound.

Each town and village in Catalonia has its castellers and our town, Sabadell, wears the green shirt.
In this day, 2 other towns were invited to participate with their castells, the one form Granollers were wearing the maroon shirt and, sorry, I forgot the name of the other town, in pink.
In the last picture you can see the the three groups together in their final salute, with Sabadell in the centre.
After the final salute, all the three bands play together and everybody gathers to dance a sort of lively traditional dance, something looking as a square dancing with couples joining hands and jumping a lot, and I mean everybody joins, castellers and public alike. Its lovely to see old ladies dancing with their grandchildren, parents or friends and having a great time.

We went to the central square with my mother in law and some other friends. We didn't tell her what we were about to see and she was truly amazed and mesmerised with both the skills and the tradition. Our friends from Japan were also in awe and taking pictures like... well... Japanese tourists!!

Of course there are some castells done in down town Barcelona, and if you ever come here this is one of the must see turistic event. Here it was the Real McCoy, just the locals and we were the only weird people taking pictures!

As you can see, the weather was changing from sunny to cloudy and still is a bit chilly, but when the sun shines it gets lovely.