Wow – it’s been one month already!! Time flies, except in Spain…

It’s been a few days since I last wrote and I have to say, not a whole lot happening. After my trip to Parc Guell, our playdate and dinner out with Josh I just felt horribly run down for a few days and was just out of commission. Not sure if it was a bug or just all this running around finally catching up with me. Regardless I’m feeling on the mend now and today ventured out more than I have since mid last week which was nice. I was starting to get a little stir crazy. Josh also has been out and about with work friends and taking his Spanish class (he really should do some updates on here – hint hint Josh!). He actually went to a very cool festival over the weekend that was in honor of St. Anthony who I guess is the patron saint of animals. There were bonfires and fireworks and from what he told me lots of food that you would put on a skewer and just stick in the bonfire. All in the streets of Gracia, a neighborhood near ours (in case I had mentioned it before, its similar to Boston with Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Financial District, North End, etc – we are in Eixample and Gracia is the next one to ours).

During the day on Saturday we finally got both boys down to the beach.  The lesson we learned is that we should feed them early here and then that way they may someday actually enjoy some Spanish tapas food when we go out in the afternoon.  Most places do not open til 1 or 2 for lunch and my kids just can’t handle that, but if we’d fed them at 10:30 or 11 they would have.  Regardless, they enjoyed riding their motorcycle/scooter along the water and watching the people playing volleyball on the beach.  Both Aidan and I noticed that for some reason many of the volleyball players were wearing socks in the sand – not sure of why????  Wouldn’t that be uncomfortable and wouldn’t you want to feel the sand in between your toes?  Maybe not?  We did find a decent place for lunch and Aidan enjoyed a huge bowl of mussels while Liam and I had chicken and Josh had paella. Aidan did like the big shrimp-y type of thing that Josh had in his paella too!

Liam is eating part of the tree!

                                        Playing volleyball with socks on!
Liam claims to have been taking a nappy on his “motorcar”.

So it’s hard to believe that this week marks one month that we have lived in Barcelona. The time I have to say, has flown by. Part of me feels like I’ve already wasted one of my 24 months here – that I’ve taken so much time to adjust that I haven’t stopped to smell the roses and see what’s out there. The other part of me realizes that I’m on information overload and that I have been picking up many of these details but just know there is still so much to see that I need to cut myself some slack. Not sure which side is winning. All I know is that I need to take more advantage of what’s around me in the next month.

This month was filled with many good days followed by many bad days and some days are a mix of the two. Depends on the moment. We’re all adjusting at different rates. Liam seems to be the one who’s adjusted the quickest – he’s just not fazed by any of it. He’s even pointing out where the metro stations are these days, apparently becoming a city boy already! Aidan is struggling and I’ll go into more of that soon. Josh is like a pro – he belongs here. Other than his lack of sense of direction (remember the part where he told Aidan the sea was actually where the mountains are?), he’s just flourishing here. He has yet to complain about anything and makes me feel like a bit of a slacker at moments. Though he’s been my biggest supporter when I accomplish even the smallest of things (he loved the guacamole I made last night – finally something I can make from scratch!). And myself – like I said, good days and bad days. Today is a good day so hopefully that will show in my update.

Having now been here a month I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned and just interesting facts that I have learned about Barcelona in my short time here. I’m sure there are many many more to be learned but this is a start. Not all of them apply to just Barcelona as a city but about our life here as well.

• I can expect the power to go out in our flat at least once a day. I cannot run more than one appliance at once or we will short a circuit. I’ve learned this lesson several times and yet seem to keep doing it.

• Spain is on it’s own time – nothing is a rush here. I’ve been waiting a month to get our heat fixed and this is not abnormal here. Everything moves at a slower pace.

• Keeping on this theme expect whatever you are doing to take much longer than normal. A quick trip to the grocery store means walking 4 blocks, shopping, walking back 4 blocks. And probably a trip to the local market needs to be done in addition to this. If you needed something non grocery you’ll need to go somewhere else and walk there as well. I’m normally so stressed at home because I need to get back for work that it’s not bothering me so much to have to take my time here – none of my clients are even online til 2PM my time here!

• The Spanish take their siesta very seriously. EVERYTHING closes down from approximately 2 (or in military time 1400) to around 5ish (1700). Only major stores are open during this time and even that is not guaranteed. It is at their discretion daily.

• The Spanish also take their holidays very seriously and there seems to be one every other week or something!

• NOTHING is open on Sunday. Do all of your shopping before 1400 on Sat (like my use of military time?) because you won’t see even the grocery store or corner market open again til Mon at 10AM. Oh and nothing opens here before 10AM – I stood in a line today to go into the grocery store and it didn’t open til 10:05. The streets are completely desolate. Imagine walking around the center of Boston and not seeing a single person – that is what it is like here.

• The people here are truly kind to children. Often when we go to a bakery, the baker will give Liam a breadstick just because. Or when we are going up the metro stairs and I’m carrying the stroller, someone will either pick up Liam (you’d never ever see someone dare to do that at home) and carry him up or try to guide him up the stairs (not realizing he’s perfectly capable, but it’s the kind gesture I appreciate). On the flip side, apparently it is ok to also reprimand someone else’s child who is misbehaving (mine would NEVER misbehave in public!!)… thankfully my kids don’t understand Spanish yet and just nod their heads.

• The people here are very patient. They are not arrogant. They understand if you are new here and at least appreciate an attempt at the language. They take more offense if you just automatically speak English but if you at least attempt Spanish they WILL help you. We should learn a lesson about that in the US.

• On the flip side, while the people are patient, the drivers are NOT. Do not dare cross a street outside of a crosswalk with a green guy. You take your life in your own hands if you cross on a blinking green or on a red. I crossed on a blinking green the other day and literally had to grab Liam by the arm and swing him up onto the sidewalk as the cars started to zoom by immediately!

• It is possible to live and survive without a car (and with the driving here, I don’t dare drive in this city). I feel better physically than I have in years and I’m sure I can attribute that to the fact that I now walk miles every day and don’t sit on my butt in the car. Of course, I also haven’t left the confines of the city which if I had a car, could easily do.

• Living with less stuff feels good. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a shopper. Aside from the fact that I have been quite intimidated by the shops up til now (I’m feeling a bit more confident this week), I haven’t had a desire to shop anywhere other than for groceries. This could change but honestly you’ve likely seen the pictures of our flat – we have no closest or storage – where would I put what I buy? Not to mention I have to carry whatever I buy back to our flat.

• Speaking of groceries, I’ve been on this unrealistic mission to find an American grocery store. Supposedly there is a store that does sell American brands up near Aidan’s school. But my mission has not been to go there but to “believe” that one of these stores I go into may in fact be a Stop N Shop in disguise. I don’t think it’s going to happen and I probably should just appreciate the few brands I do recognize and learn to adjust.

• That in order to find what you are looking for you most likely have to go to several groceries stores and perhaps even your local market. I don’t think more than a day goes by where I do not buy food somewhere. Also, that anywhere that sells food sells nothing else. Good luck finding a nightlight, construction paper or anything non food related at the grocery store (ok, other than cleaning supplies like dishwasher detergent).

• Technology – We love skype and facebook. We wish all of you would download Skype and call us. It’s free!! And even better if you get a webcam and then we can see all your pretty/handsome faces when we talk to you too. I don’t know how expats did this type of trip in the days before Skype and the internet. We’ve been able to keep everyone up to date and stay in touch easily. It’s made being away from home much easier.

• We’ve been lucky so far and are starting to make some expat friends who are helping us (and vice versa) thru this transition to Spanish life.

• Barcelona is supposed to be a fashion mecca. It could be perhaps that since becoming a mom my fashion hasn’t extended much beyond jeans and a tee or sweater. But in my opinion, the fashion in Barcelona looks like the 80s threw up. It’s such an odd mix and every day I see someone who’s fashion sense blows my mind. The other day I saw a girl in daisy duke shorts with black torn nylons. A good look??? Uhhhh no… I also have seen an amazing amount of fur, especially on older women. Apparently PETA doesn’t have a presence over here! However, I have yet to see anyone walking the streets in sweats or anything like them. You get dressed to leave the house – there is no running to the store in your sweatpants here!!! It has made me more aware of what I’m wearing and I have yet to wear just a tee shirt here – I actually look at my ensemble of clothing before I leave the house. A fashion icon in the making??? We shall see!

• The public transit system here overall is very easy to use. I only wish they had a map where they would overlay the color lines (similar to boston they have red, green, yellow, etc) to where they go. Instead, my maps all show where the stops are but not which line they are. That would be my only complaint. But the trains are VERY clean and people are very courteous. No pushing, shoving, etc. As a matter of fact I have had a ton of people, including elderly, offer up their seats since I have a small child with me. I have yet to take anyone up on their offer, but they are kind nonetheless.

• With the exception of the occasional call at midnight (6PM at home), working virtually from here has been a piece of cake. The toughest challenge I’ve had is that when I send an email out at 9AM (3AM your time), it frustrates me to not get a quick response. So I tend to send out all my emails early, go out for a bit with Little Kid and all my responses start filtering in while he naps. So far, that’s our system and it seems to be working.

• That is ok to applaud myself for the things I would find a joke at home – you know like locating a dry cleaner (and communicating with said dry cleaner). Here it’s an accomplishment and I must look at it as one.

• That I must find some friends for the kids in our area or I may go crazy… or they may go crazy. Regardless, must find friends. Oh and a tennis court for Aidan (they all seem to require memberships which is rather annoying). This is my one area I feel like I’m failing – kids and tennis. It’s all they want and I haven’t been able to provide it in a month. Hopefully month 2 goes better in this area.

• There are tons of expats here if you just look. I joined several websites that are for expats and they have meet up groups all the time. Now I just need to find some childfree time to take advantage of that.

• That I am unlikely to find daycare for Liam before he starts school in Sept and that I need to come to terms that he may be with me every day til Sept. I know I should appreciate that but for those of you with 2 year olds you’ll know that he and I may hurt each other if this is the case. I’m doing my best though and that’s all I can do. I will say that I enjoy the time with him immensely and getting some quality time with him alone that I hadn’t had before since up til fall it was both he and Aidan home with me. He’s just exhausting!!!

• Nude people are not just for the beach. Apparently if you have a permit you can be naked anywhere in this city. Should make for some interesting sightseeing this summer!!

• With practice and a lot of patience I may come home to the States with a new found ability to cook (I know, amazing isn’t it?). I’m doing my best to learn at least some basic things.

• Most importantly, it’s ok to take a leap of faith and just do something new.

On Tuesday I was starting to feel better and took a schmooze with Liam. We first hit another grocery store (I know, I’m obsessed) and then walked thru the Born / Gottica area a little bit. I would like to first point out that the Bagel place, the one bagel place, has closed. I had hoped against all hope that the rumor was not true but not only was it closed but they were already tearing out the inside as I walked by. Good bye bagel shop. Your bagels were a bit bland but they were a taste from home and I thank you for that.

After walking past the bagel place we came across a café that advertised xurros amb xocolata calenta (churros with chocolate but in catalan, at least that’s what I was hoping it said since I don’t read catalan as well as I do Spanish). Now I had been told that I NEED to get churros with chocolate and should go into any place that has them. So taking that leap of faith, I walked into a café with Liam and ordered them – I totally butchered the pronunciation (the x in catalan is kind of like a ch like in champagne) but she got the picture and had me sit down to wait with Liam. They were delicious and Liam especially enjoyed the chocolate which he just continued to suck off his churro and redip. Yes folks, he is a double, triple, quadruple and more dipper… he’s probably the reason I’m sick. He caught an elderly gentleman’s attention who was kind and gave him a piece of candy and said something to him I don’t understand. Now while I’ve said before that I’m all for the kindness of strangers here, he still was a stranger so while I let Liam hold the candy, by no means was he allowed to eat that candy. But it was still a very nice gesture.
Done with our churros and chocolate, we headed back for home. Nothing eventful for the afternoon as we were getting ready for our big mission of the day – haircuts for the boys! I know, I know, how hard could it be? But from what I can tell there is no snip-it’s here or Kidz Adventure Cuts. So what shall I do? Do I assume we can walk in? I can’t call to make an appt because they won’t understand me and vice versa. I can look in the windows to see what looks like a decent place and hope for the best. I went with the final option.
Aidan got off the bus and off we went in search of a hair salon. A barber shop would have been great and I’ve seen them around but can’t remember any in our area. Now I like my kids hair to be a little longish – not super long, but I don’t like a wiffle/close cut either. They both have bangs and I like that. We’ve had some bad haircuts at home so I honestly can’t complain too much because it’s just a matter of finding the right person and salon. They were both very well behaved and we made it thru without a communication issue. She definitely chopped their bangs a little short and they currently look like a younger version of Dumb and Dumber but it will grow out. The only complaint I have is I don’t think this woman has ever cut layers before and so their hair looks a bit flat with no life. I know, I know..they are boys. But boys need style too!!!
Julie

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