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Week 6 - Facing the music

Week Six

Cliffhanger: Will Mark get fed up with his lack of knowledge of Spanish and learn something or will he just give up and continue to wing it?

September 25, 2007.  They put me in the lowest Spanish class yet, and I understand why.  I am illiterate and speak poorly.  Otherwise though, I've got the language under control.  It's a drag because before the classes were fun and the people in them could spit out a sentence.  Now it's just a bunch of beginners who can't put three words together.  It makes me want to give up, but I guess I'll tough it out for the week and decide how to proceed.  I want to learn the language but am not sure this is the way to do it.  Then lunch with Dan and Amy and off to pick up David from school (Anne picked up Joshua) and shuttle him to soccer practice.  This is an hour deal with heavy traffic in very public transportation.  Then watch David at practice with a bunch of kids who are older than he is.  I ended up sitting with a Spanish mom who spoke zero English which gave me the opportunity to stumble over the few words I've got wrong.  I'm certain I didn't say even one thing correctly.  Then David had to pick up his uniform, then more public transportation to get home at 8:00 p.m.  Tomorrow is David's birthday -- he'll be nine!!!  What a great kid he is (and of course Joshua is) to put up with our moving him to a foreign place -- it's a lot harder here to just deal with the daily routine, certainly as compared with Aspen.

September 26, 2007, David's ninth birthday.  Anne dropped David and Joshua at the bus this morning for the longish ride to school.  They are dropped at 7:45 and arrive at school in time for a 8:45 start.  It's probably just over a mile and a half. 

Off to class we went.  This week's class is composed of a bunch of slightly overweight young women, an absurdly obnoxious swiss guy and Thomas, a French guy who was kicked out of my very first class close to a month ago.  In other words, I'm going backwords.  I've now covered the same material three times.  Thomas and I are joking about it and we make fun of the Swiss guy.  The Swiss guy is a "dirty old man" at age 45 and hits on all the overweight girls.  One of the girls is from Turkey and has the most striking features you can imagine, and is a fashion designer.  If she lost 25 a few pounds, she could model.  

There is a large German girl who seems to think smoking should be equated with freedom.  Nice.  Of course, I think I managed to insult her after she complained about how it's not as "free" in the US at school, referring to smoking.  Great future -- all that freedom and an early death!  The Swiss/English girl in my class is the only non-smoker, apparently, and she's nice and easy to deal with.  Thomas, the French guy, is chamingly low key and predicably has all the women greeting him, kissing him and who knows what else.  The Swiss German 45-year-old must be wondering where he's going wrong.  More as the world turns.

After class lunch with Dan and Amy and quickly to school via our apartment to have David's in-class birthday.  When we got back, the fuse had blown, for about the third time, and I got the guy on the floor above doing a one-man renovation to replace it.  The wiring here is a joke.  We rushed to David's school by taxi with muffins for the entire class which is entirely too large (24 I think).  Then the teacher and Anne left me with all 24 of them while they went out searching for fire for the candles.  The kids all claimed to be David's best friend which led to some fist fights in the class.

Otherwise, it was easy but there were a few minutes of tension as I starred down 24 third graders.  When Anne and the teacher came back what seemed like hours later, no children were crying. 

We took David's school bus home, which was so comfortable and I was so tired I almost feel asleap.  Then I went around looking for more fuses, and David and Joshua built David's birthday Star Wars present.  Anne rushed off to Ikea to get our last items; a bed for David, who has been sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

September 27, 2007.  Off to another day of class and I'm still trying to catch up with sleep from last week.  After class, Anne and I did some shopping and I got a hair cut.  The barber was real old style and obviously inherited the trade from his father.  Super nice guy who told me the goal in Cataluna is to speak three language, Catalan, Spanish and English.  It's clear that English is being pushed here.  Anyway, I got a free Spanish lesson and told him I'd be back monthly so he can monitor my progress (not that articulately though).  I then took David to soccer practice where the 9 and 10 year olds are playing at an advanced middle school level in the US.  I got to do a short 40 minute run and went through one of the barrios here, Sarria.  It was very cute, small streets lined with shops of all sorts.  I got into a square and with the light and the people around I could have been on a movie set; I really felt like I was walking through the set for La Dolce Vita -- without the Dolce.  Kids were playing, people were sitting around, dogs, birds, noise, incredible lighting, quiet on the set, action.

September 28, 2007.  Rocket got here this morning.  Anne had to take a day off Spanish to get him which worked remarkably smoothly given he’s flying internationally via Germany into Spain.  He’s jet-lagged but otherwise all right.  Thanks goes to Shelly at for taking such good care of him.

Now Anne can join all the uniformed maids every morning walking dogs but it's a good chance to practice her Tagalog.


Rocket should feel right at home given that we now have construction on two sides.  The entire facade of the building contiguous to ours is covered with scaffolding and the unit upstairs is being slowly remodeled.  Hey, it’s just like Aspen -- we can’t get away from construction. 


September 29, 2007.  Today was David’s official birthday celebration and a chance to shake down the locals for gifts.  We got some good stuff too, but I’ll let David tell you all about it.  Anywho, the birthday celebration involved six kids at the local bowling alley.  Now I realize why I’ve always loved bowling so much.  The sights, the sounds, the shoes, the ambiance, etc...


One kid was so stressed about it, every time he bowled he threw a fit, ran out and had to be consoled.  Time to break out the anti depressants or talk therapy. 


Back at the piso, we celebrated with food (peaches are now out of season, I learned), and some birthday song singing in both Spanish and English. 


Then I went on a longish run over to Parc Gůell via another park that wasn’t as well known but seems to have better views and fewer people called Jardins de Turó dél Putxet.  There were tons of steps and hills, some nice views and notwithstanding the stops and starts, it was a good work-out. The hills are really nice and some streets have escalators on them (up only).  The run, through the cities streets reminded me of what urban running is all about -- the smell of urine permeated the fall air. 


We all went to a street fair in the Barrio called Sarrià near our house.  It was a sort of make-up for not attending last Saturday’s bigger festivities in Barcelona.  It included some of the famous local traditions like the “Gigantes” who are the giants who protect the city and come out and dance “Sardanas” which is a Catalan dance.  Also involved are devils, mules, eagles, etc...  We walked home to further stress Rocket out since the dogs here aren’t neutered and every dog tries to hump him.


October 1, 2007.  Back to Spanish class for week four and one thing is clear--it doesn't come easily.  My class has dwindled down to five people plus myself.  It's basically me with the four 18 to 20-year-old girls and Helmut, the dirty old man who is 45 and looks 60 and acts -- I don't know what.  He bought one girl a croissant for breakfast and calls the pretty ones "guapa" to their face. "Emma and Turget are very guapa." At the break the girls and I enjoyed a cigarette and coffee and the girls tore into the teacher who I thought was fine, not great not terrible.  They all think Helmut is a jerk so it's fun to make fun of him.


Then picked up David from school at 5:00 and brought him to soccer where I sat next to Juan who was there to watch his newphew and spoke no English or didn't try.  It could be because he was retarded (no really) so he let me speak Spanish.  That appears to be the level my Spanish is on, on a good day.  I know it's not politally correct, but no one should say who or whon't I should speak with. 


Anne is enjoying the dog since it creates opportunites for conversation, as in "please get your dog off mine." 


October 2, 2007.  Another day of trying to understand Spanish.  I went for a long run on trails above the kids’ school that are great and long without interruptions – problem is that getting there takes 20 to 30 minutes by foot.  There should be a book “The Barcelona Diet” which would consist of walking/almost running a huge amount in hot weather, always being late to where you are going, and eating drawn out meals at ridiculous times.  You rarely see anyone very much overweight here and now I see why.


For more, see week seven.