Saturday, September 29, 2007



I have found our dream flat.

It is in a classic 1940s building complete with shiny glass and wood elevator. The apartment is on the 5th floor and two of the rooms have an adjoining balcony overlooking a lovely avenue which has a large median lined with cafe seating and play parks every few 100 feet. Children play there all day and old people read newspapers. At the end of the avenue is Plaça Espanya, which is pretty, but more importantly, is where Oli can catch transport to all his classes. Beyond the plaza is Montjüic, a mini mountain that overlooks the sea and is covered in paths and pretty gardens, a palace and an olympic stadium.

The flat itself is huge, with 4 bedrooms and has light filtering in from all directions. It has classic Spanish tile and tall wood and glass doors. Lily could run around all day and in the winter and be a happy little camper. Best of all, the monthly rent is within our price range. Old people who own flats seem to have a thing for keeping rent low. We like this.

On Monday, after returning from Almería, I went back to the big administrador´s (like agents but different) website and did a big search for 3-bedroom flats. Then I looked up their locations on the city´s online map. I grouped apartments that I was interested in by their nearest metro stop. Then that night I walked for an hour and a half past the 8 flats that were near my friend´s place, deciding based on the look of each building and neighborhood if I wanted to call for an appointment to see them. I did the same in another area on Tuesday and that´s when I came upon Avenida Mistral, which I never knew existed. When I saw the building and the location, I knew instantly that I wanted my Lily to live there. I called and got an appointment for Thursday evening, only after they made sure it was clear that the flat was not for students, the elevator functions in a way such that it only takes people up, not down, and that up to a 9 month´s aval bancario (like a deposit, kind of) could be necessary. None of this bothered me because when you find the right place for your girl to live, you just do what you have to do.

When I approached the building on Thursday, I was bummed to see three people out front. Often when seeing places, the administrador will set up like 10 people to come see it at once, which is instantly depressing. But alas, these people were two old ladies representing the owner and a very nice middle-aged lady who was the agent. They were extremely sweet to me, and even though the place could absolutely sell itself, they kept pointing out things that were great or classic, trying to convince me.

All we have to do now is turn in all our proof of identity, income and savings so the little old man owner can decide if we´ll have to pay a 6 or 9 month aval bancario and then sign a contract, and then do all the other fun things like buying some appliances on Craigslist/Loquo (yeah, there´s no fridge and washing machine), getting some basic furniture, and transferring the utilities into our name. Whatever, I could care less as long as we have a home we´re happy in!

Oli and Lily are coming out to Barcelona on Sunday afternoon and we´ll be staying in a duplex near the beach for three weeks while we sort all this out. The duplex belongs to a Canadian girl who´s going home for a few weeks.

In other news, as a thanks, I took Timo, Eddie and Carla out for a huge Indian dinner and drinks last night after we watched England kill Tonga in the Rugby World Cup. I am now tired and must buy groceries because nothing is open on Sundays (tomorrow) and MY FAMILY is arriving then!!!

PS - I often only blog when good things happen. The last couple weeks have been a real shit most of the time, and I will detail some of the crappiest highlights for you later.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When the going gets tough, go to Almería

So we almost lost our nerve and just moved to London last week.
More on that later.

Over the weekend, Oli and I met up in the south of Spain and we went on a long-time-in-the-making holiday to Almería with the Milford Krü:

The Anadlucians were really wondering what we guiris were doing when orchestrating that beach photo.

We are rejuvenated and back at it, me in BCN, Ol and Lil in England...but they´ll be joining me in just a couple days.....and the flat prospects are looking good...again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy belated brithday, me

Thank you to all those of you who sent me birthday wishes by email yesterday. That was nice.

While I did spend the big 2-5 alone in Barcelona, it was not wholly bad. I finished sorting out our work schedules at Oxford House where if all continues as is, we will have a very nice non-overlapping schedule of classes. Everyone there has been lovely and helpful and I´m excited to get back into things there.

Housing may also be sorted, but still waiting to hear. We´ve decided to go with a flat that a course director from another company has available as he and his family are moving out to a bigger place. The only issue is that they´re still living there....thus the waiting game.

After dealing with all that, I planned to go shopping or to the beach, but the sky got overcast and I was tired, so I tried watching Lost in Translation and ended up feeling pretty cheated after watching the first third of the movie only to find that the DVD was scratched such that it wouldn´t function starting from the scene when Bill and Scarlett meet through the karaoke scene..... So I went out and bought Timo and his roommate Eddie some household supplies (dishsoap and toilet paper) and then went for a swim in their rooftop pool that overlooks the city. I finished the night with Eddie, who is quite fun, watching Real Madrid play in the Champion´s League. They won, though I don´t really care because I hate Real Madrid.

Today, I shop.

If we get a sense today of when we can move into that apartment, then Oli and I will be in Almeria this weekend with all the Milford friends on a camping expedition that has been months in the making. We will then move our operation, including Lily, to Barcelona next week (if we can´t move into the apartment at that time, we´ll be getting a vacation rental apartment until we can move in).

Yes, I still REALLY REALLY miss Oli and Lily. Yesterday Oli wrote me this:
´I have enjoyed my time with Lily and we had a good walk today and we learned about the sun and mushrooms and she kicked me in the face.´

How could I not miss being around THAT?! On Tuesday he sent me a short video over Facebook that showed Lily sleeping in his arms and I started crying in a locutorio (internet cafe). They called me yesterday and Lily said hi into the phone. I cried. Evidently she has been picking up the phone at random times saying ´Hi, Mommy´and when I was first gone, looking for me under the blankets in our bed. !!!

Anyway, we are nearing a finish to this drawn-out moving saga and will shortly be complaining about having too much work to do and how much we annoy each other. I can´t wait!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Back in the old world

I´m house hunting in Barcelona while Oli and Lily are back in England. Our old flatmate Timo has been kind enough to let me crash in his living room and it has been extremely good to catch up on all of the bizarre things happening in this city over the last two years.

Timo is doing well having stolen one of his former business English company´s clients, meaning he now teaches all the English classes in that client´s offices as a free-lance teacher and they pay him twice what his old company did because they´re not being gouged. Timo´s also got a flourishing free-lance art journalist career going, writing for magazines based in various European countries. Nice. His girlfriend Carla is Catalan and an interpreter for the police. She knows every pickpocket trick in the book as she translates for all the poor Americans and English who get whacked.

Work is sorting itself out. Teaching jobs are lining up and I´m meeting for coffee with a guy tomorrow who runs an English lesson website and develops bars. He´s looking for someone to help create English lessons with explanations in Spanish for his new Barcelona website that already has a thriving Madrid sister, a job I could do from home, and is thusly ideal.

House-hunting is full of ups and downs but my most recent up has been an 82-year-old man. I tend to really get on with the old Spanish men (recall my former student Juan and our gleeful shouting matches), I think perhaps because they talk a lot and don´t care if I respond or if what I respond with makes no sense. They also speak slowly, so I am actually able to understand them. What they say is often quite humorous as well, as they pontificate on everything from the horrors of discotecos to the importance of having a good doorman.

So, this Señor and his wife have two properties that they rent, former homes of theirs, and they rent them at cheap prices to people they deem trustworthy: families and couples. I was the first person to contact him and he shouted with glee when I told him we were a family. He said it usually takes him weeks to get through the phone calls from drunks and students replying to the ad for a three-bedroom apartment with a low rent. Anyway, the flat has three bedrooms, two baths, a giant living space, kitchen and two large balconies...and costs less than every other flat I´ve looked at...and is just off Passeig de Gracia and Diagonal, like living at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive for the Chicagoans out there.

So after listening to the gentleman for about 20 minutes, we arranged to meet tomorrow afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed that it´s not an apartment full of old people furniture.

I am missing my Lily and my Oliver VERY much. I can´t possibly come up with more words to express how much so let´s leave it at that.

But, I did take advantage of being single and was out on Friday night and in a bit of pain on Saturday as I generally don´t drink but was given many free that night. At the good old Black Horse pub we watched England lose big time to South Africa in the rugby world cup, moved on to a swanky bar with a mojito special, wolfed down kabaps (like gyros and the favorite food of drunk people) on the Ramblas like real tourists, moved on to an acquaintance´s bar where drinks were cheap for us, and then went home in a cab that saw Timo´s girlfriend puke out the window. I don´t think I´ll go out for another year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

more photos

Do you see what I have to put up with?

A photo stolen from Michael McAndrew's Facebook photo album showing the Seeley family in Hampstead Heath. Lily is sending the camera a very clear message.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Checking in

1. Got stung in the face by a bee two days ago, right under my eye, and it still looks like Oli beat me. I've been telling people that "I got chavved on the high street," which elicits an, "Oh my God, what did you say to them?!" each time. Should have taken a picture yesterday when it was at its worst - the part under my eye that is normally sunken was puffed up to the level of my cheek and beyond. If I took a picture of me today you'd be unimpressed with my predicament.

2. Lily has finally started pointing at things when we ask her where they are and we realize how many things she knew and was hiding from us for her own reasons.

3. Lily has also chilled out the tantruming quite a bit and become quite the little buddy. She gives me hugs all the time, chats it up quite a bit and actually listens to me when I ask her not to do things. Whoa. I have this whole philosophy of not shouting no at her except when she is on the verge of doing something that could instantly kill her. I figured she was too young to understand why I was telling her no and that shouting would just urge her to do the act in question even more. Anyone who knows Lily knows that she is willful and wiley. I figured she might ultimately understand my reason for saying no when her language abilities improved or that she would realize on her own why it was better not to do certain things. So I just gently say no without making a big fuss and then try to redirect, as when she sticks her hands in her milk at dinner, which generallly yields spilt milk. I figured this method of "the gentle no" would not yield immediate results, but would keep Lily from hating me and would get her to understand that I actually have good reason for saying no when I say it. And alas, I am finally reaping the fruit of my labor as she listens to my explanations of dangerous or naughty things and heeds my commands thereafter! For the time being I am feeling like super mom who is buddies with her toddler while successfully keeping her alive and well behaved. This will likely all change by next month when Lily next morphs, but for now, Oli and I are awesome parents.

4. Expecting to go to BCN later this week. Have an interview with OHC on Friday. Thinking to go for renting a house outside the city so Lil can have more room! Basically, work is our last priority behind finding the right place to live for Lil.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Barça recon

Oli and I are in Barcelona in Lawson´s bar (see below) doing recon without Lily for a few days. Flat hunting has gone poorly but all together we´ve been successful in that we´ve reconnected with old contacts and pals who seem to have the Barça thing down:

Former flatmate Lawson is living in a 3-storey house in Maresme outside Barcelona and running his own bar in port town Masnou. The bar, which is full of beautiful old carved furniture and Scottish parafrenalia (including a sporran that just arrived by mail on Tuesday), faces out on to the port of sailboats and yachts and looks great. Law has many bright ideas for keeping the place fun and profitable and is happy that it has improved his Spanish and Catalan. Oli´s hoping to take a weekly shift to help him in the same way.

Neal, a former course director of Oli´s, met with us in his new business´s office and we´re stopping by in the morning to see the lady in charge of hiring. Unsure how much business English teaching is in our futures as it can be tedious, but it´s important to check out all options....

Oxford House College is still where we left it in Oxford Press´ former BCN offices. Got some good flat hunting advice from one of the adminitrators and are hoping to get some work there as it is a social lively place with further training/certification options and use for my Spanish.

Friends Antony and Marta are finishing off their cafe which will open in just a few weeks. Very exciting stuff on which we will likely report more soon...

As for housing, we´re thinking we´ll do a short-term rental starting next week and ending at the end of the month so that we can continue the housing hunt and solidify some work options. A friend of Marta´s and the contact at Oxford House both turned us on to an administradors website that we have found to show waaay better apartments at waaaay cheaper prices. There are more terms and conditions because they want to rent to serious people, but we are serious people, so no trouble is forseen. In fact, many of the terms and conditions are quite good for us. I really want to have a terrace (BIG balconies that are generally walled in) so Lil has some outdoor space attached to our home, so I´m being pretty picky about the places we call on.

This post has gone all factual, so I´ll end it and go watch the boys play video soccer.