October 24, 2007. Anne and I attended the Board Meeting of the kids' school where we were presented with what was basically the precurser to a fund-raising request. Given it's less than steller academics, the fact that we are essentially paying a premium, and that the education is inferior to their public school in Aspen, I'm not too impressed. I was impressed though by the individuals that make up the board -- some pretty heavy hitters; although most seem unemployed like me. I was on my bike in order to move from one place to another, which makes things fast. I'm like a bike messenger (and see a few around here and there). Not too many other commuters on Colnagos. Then Spanish class for three hours.
October 25, 2007. Spanish first thing this morning, then lunch with Amy and Dan. Since everyone likes to join clubs, I've decided to form the International House Alumni Club. The four of us are the inaugural members. This may seem redundant with the Barcelona Weekly Paella Eating Club (I found out that Thursday is Paella day so we sought some out). It was good, very rich though. I'm putting together my application for German citizenship and am off to Germany on Sunday for a Monday morning meeting, then will come back on Monday afternoon for a less than 24 hour trip to Cologne. I had to run to the FedEx contractor's office at the airport, an hour plus taxi ride, to retrieve the documents they claimed to have tried to deliver (that seemed unlikely since both the Porter and Anne were in when they "tried"). That brings me to another facet of life here in Barcelona (and Spain), it's very cumbersome to get things done. It takes a lot of time, documentation, and effort which would take about 1/3 of each in the US. It's almost like the government's effort to assure full employment for a litany of bureaucrats, lawyers, "notaries", and more. The friction in this system is then added onto the attitude "it is what it is." There are no easy work-around (in fact, there are no work-arounds) and everything is by the book. It is very frustrating for me!
October 26, 2007. Rocket’s first birthday was today. A great time was had by all, especially Rocket who needed some new toys as the old ones were worn out. He doesn’t treat them with great respect, biting them and so forth, but that’s a dog’s life. He is definitely Anne’s dog, and she takes him out at least three or four times a day to have play dates, which appear to occur spontaneously in Turo Parc in front of our apartment.
October 27, 2007. We tried to shop a bit today and found a great art supply store and book store not too far away. It also had toys so David got his birthday gift (Lego – no surprise). We also tried to find some soccer shoes for David that work for the hard surface “Campos” (playing fields) here. We ran into a friend, Victor, whose son also plays soccer, which proves that even Barcelona is a small town. I rode up to the top of Tibidabo then to another town off to the left about 12 kilometers away for a nice ride – it was around 60 degrees, no wind, cool on the downhills and nice for the uphills.
I’ve started to notice that Joshua’s Spanish pronunciation is perfect. If he gets the speaking part, he’ll speak with a Spanish accent.
October 28, 2007. We went to the Miro museum today, which was great. We already had tickets but mistakenly waited in line, thereby killing about a half an hour of time that probably could have been better spent in the museum. When we got home, we did some quick touch up of documents I need to go to Germany. Then off to Germany (I’m writing this from Cologne) on German Wings Airlines. Everyone lines up to get a seat (no preassigned seats) and then of course some people crowd the line. I was tempted to yell at them, but didn’t want security to drag me off for acting crazy. Everyone at airports are skittish enough, as we know. The lining up for seats reminded me of Southwest Airlines when I flew them well nigh 25 years ago. German Wings is like Southwest but without the love.
This airline, by far, has the least leg room of anything I’ve ever seen. It’s an absolute joke. My knees were hitting the seat in front of me and I’m 5’8”. As the large Spanish guy who sat next to me (in the middle seat) said, the seats are really close and the Germans are big people. Anyhow, they seem to deal with it.
Jahudi and his wife Iris picked me up from the airport. Jahudi and I talked well into the night like old friends, which was nice in a way. Don’t we all have just too few friends? Tomorrow I’m off to meet with the German bureaucrat to push for a German passport for myself and the boys (Anne apparently gets a resident card). We thought it would be nice to have an EC passport here.
October 29, 2007. I went to the office (picture below) where they give out German passports to people like me who, for reasons related to Nazi Germany, were denied German citizenship. I went with Stefanie who is employed by Jahudi, my friend. While I brought a suit with me, it was lucky that Jahudi convinced me to leave it and just weat some nice pants -- everyone was dressed in blue jeans; so much for my image of overly formal Germans. Stephanie was extremely helpful, translating all the documents I produced plus getting approvals from the church of the translations. Then translating a one and a half hour meeting with Schultz, a very animated, seemly very caring bureaucrat who processes these applications.
Because I had filled out the forms truthfully, it caused a bit of a problem (having lived in Germany for a short time as a child) but one that can be overcome. In any case, he hoped he could provide the documents I need in order to obtain German passports within the next three months. In the meeting he had access to family documents including information on my grandparents and aunt.
The Cathedral in Cologne is pretty spectacular. They started building it in 1265 and finished sometime a few weeks ago, or so. It contains over 7,000 square meters of face time, which is big. It's the main attraction of Cologne and a must see in my 20-hour trip so off I went with Stefanie, who was my translator. One window (well lots of windows were replaced recently (photo) and there is some controversy. After a nice heavy German lunch, Jahudi took me to his office for a few minutes before we went to the office. Jahudi has a number of things he does, including selling all sorts of potions and premiums. In fact, on the way out of his office, he asked me “How are your stools?” I said “what?” Jahudi: “You know, your stools?” I thought, wow do I look that constipated, or whatever. "Oh, fine," I lied.
In any case, I’m writing this as I’m waiting in line (kind of) for the sure to be overcrowded and cramped flight back to Barcelona. [Later] I beat the system by lining up, crowding people out, running up the airplane stairs like I’m racing for the finish line on Aspen Mountain, and getting an exit row. Only to realize it was better equipment with more leg room (but only slightly).
October 30, 2007. The dog got his hairs pulled out and looks very nice. He also had his anal glands evacuated (nice information everyone should know) -- apparently it was needed. I know the feeling. Joshua was sick with vomit and diarrea through the night so we didn't sleep much and hopefully we're off the England on Thursday.