Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The past week Barcelona has celebrated Carnaval (the party before Lent, like Mardi Gras) and it has reminded me of why we live here.

Throughout the week I would see funny bits of clothing spotted among the people on the street. A funny hat on a lady going to work, a polka dot bow on the fruit and veg vendor.

A confusing thing to a person brought up Halloween is that there is no set day to wear costumes, although it seemed many people did on the Fri/Sat of the week. If you do something carnaval-y (attend a parade or party, or just want to have a fun day at work) then you have the option of wearing a costume, but there's no one time. Ultimately, this moved from confusing to enjoyable.

Each day leading up to Lily's school party day, the kids were told to bring or do something funny; they had to bring a yellow bow, wear a hat, wear mismatched socks, and bring a green balloon. The school carnaval theme was the jungle and woods. Each class was assigned a story related to forest theme and the kids chose characters from the story to dress up as for the party. Lily's class had Little Red Riding Hood (Caputxeta Vermella in Catalan) and they could choose to be her, the grandma (L'àvia), the wolf (en llop) or the hunter (el caçador). Lily chose the caçador, or rather, caçadora.

They also had to hunt for Sa Majesta Carnestoltes, the king of carnaval (the jester), who just so happened to be hanging out on the school patio in a work vest and boots (a stuffed scarecrow clown, which may sound like the scariest possible thing to leave around a school, but they somehow managed to make look kind and loveable). I didn't get a photo but will see if he's still hanging out tomorrow.

Another positive thing about carnaval was the fun of preparing and the homemade quality. The teachers emphasized just using what we had the house to put together the costumes, and the people I saw on the streets mostly just donned funny things they probably already owned. Teenage girls wore big cowboy boots and raggy old dress-up clothes and looked down-right dorky but it was cool because it was carnaval.

Of course, there is a drag-queen element to some parts of the celebration. Sitges, a nearby town with a gay citizenry is famous for its carnaval parties and parades.

One of my neighbors also explained that in the small towns carnaval is celebrated more than in Barcelona because there are more tight-knit communities and during Franco's time, such celebrations were suppressed in larger cities.

We went to Sitges on a day full of kid-friendly events when our friend Dan was visiting from Wales. We really enjoyed his company especially when he ran after us with a camera trying earnestly to snap a picture of Lily in front of her favorite float. For ages she made us follow a Star Wars float filled with young Jedi paduans led by Darth Vader. She loved him so much that the only way we could get her to let us stop following him was to promise we would have him over to our house. Luckily, Dan has Vader's mobile number. She also wants him at her birthday next year. Do I smell a party theme...?

Need to get photos from Dan.

The Sitges day ended with us meeting a bunch of friends on the beach, playing frisbee, dancing and playing monsters with Lily (who was dressed as a fairy princess) on an empty stage that had been erected in the sand. Dan, Mikey (our friend from New Zealand - the only thing we have in common is Flight of the Conchords), his lovely Italian friend Sara, and our roomie Matt came back to our place where we ate pizza and threw water balloons at people on the street.

The day of the party, the school was transformed into a jungle/forest:

Later that day, parents came for the big fiesta and there was cake, and a couple dressed up crazy playing guitar and singing all the songs the kids do at school. They were utterly impressive, as was the participation of parents in kids in silly dancing and general fun. Lil was a bit grumpy/sensitive and just wanted to sit and watch the "concert". That worked and eventually she went to chase some of her classmates and danced with me. I forgot my camera because when I went to call the elevator, my neighbor was there and we got talking, so I never went back in for it and my tutu :( Just imagine the images above filled with happy people enjoying themselves, and lots of cute kids in funny clothes.

I played Caputxeta Vermella to Lily's caçadora on the way to school that day.

I've cut my hair.

It was done by the man himself. An awesome experience. It seems like Europeans cleverly get nice hair cuts that work with their type of hair. As opposed to using a curling or flattening iron to make your hair do something it doesn't want to. I think Megan Edwards was enlightened to this phenomenal alternate approach to hair life while she lived in London. Love the hair, Meggers.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What we big people are up to

Incredibly, Oli and I sometimes do things without Lily.

Lately in addition to Oli teaching and me helping OH with their website and other technical needs, we've been putting together a 5-hour training on blended learning for a group of teachers coming in from another school. We're also doing another version for a 90-minute free training OH will be offering. We're being paid for our time and learning quite a bit in the process, so all-in-all a positive move. If things go well, we'll also be collaborating on OH's blended learning development and training the staff accordingly.

We're also trying to plan a trip to Madrid at the end of March to see Colin and Kristin, and a flight to the UK at the beginning of Holy Week in order to grab our VW and drive it back to BCN.

That's about it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Third birthday party, number three

We spent the last weekend in Milford and Godalming celebrating Lily's birthday, again.

Oli's dad rented the Masonic Hall for the party and his mum organized the cooking and transport of food and amenities for the guests. There was indoor jungle gym equipment and crash mats, Oli in a bear costume, and a bear hunt.

The party people who brought the equipment were a couple and they played with the kids on the equipment for the first hour of the party, which was great because I actually got to speak to the guests. This was also possible because Lisa handled all the food and beverages. Also helpful was the fantastic mood Lily was in all day. She's been a lot more relaxed and playful with other kids and adults lately and it showed in the good time she had at the party.

Young people without children. Very good sports.

We led the kids on a bear hunt using the equipment to recreate obstacles from the book We're Going on a Bear Hunt. At the end we draped a parachute over some ladders to make a cave where Oli hid in the bear costume. The kids were pretty thrilled with him, although there were two shock cases. After playing with the kids a few minutes, he led them out to another room where we had piled loads of teddy bears that Oli's mum had found on super offer at the supermarket.

I liked this party because it was fun planning it and working with Oli's family to make it happen. It was nice to have a party centered around a fun silly thing to do with your kid, friends and family. Lily seemed to love every moment of the party, from decorating the cake with Lisa, to helping us putting up decorations, to climbing on the equipment with her cousin and little friends, to giving everyone their party gifts as they left. Yeah.

Side note: Lately Lily shows everyone, including all kind-looking strangers on the street, her wounds. Before bedtime two nights in a row she walked Lisa through her roadmap of boo-boos. Here she is showing her cousin Baby Sam.

Lily and Hannah dancing in their dance class.

Also had a nice time seeing friends in Godalming. Thanks to James for cooking us a lovely meal, and to Cammie and Ben and Caroline for having us 'round, and to Verena, thanks for that midday, pre-flight beer.

The VW camper is ready to go. The plan is for us to fly to the UK at the beginning of Holy Week, which we have off work, and to then drive back to Spain in the VW, likely through France. More on this later.

Now comes to a close the Lily's-third-birthday-chapter of our lives.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Third birthday party, numbers one and two

We began the third celebration of Lily's birth, which will be a week-long event spanning two countries, on Sunday evening in Mantra, our friends Antony and Marta's tea house.

Bad weather made us call off the beach picnic we had originally planned, and illness and busy schedules kept the attendance small, but Lily had a very very good time, and looked nice, too.

It seemed like everyone enjoyed her antics ad playing with her. There was coloring in an anti-conformist-coloring-book that we found on the café game shelf, 

creating bases on a cushioned platform (the coolest feature of the tetería), 

decorating the house-shaped cake with raisin windows and doors, knocking Lily down and covering up with pillows, and so much more.

Good gifts were received: a piggy bank we can paint and necklaces, one of which is so cool that I want it.

Antony and Marta were so thoughtful, bringing us munchies, staying on top of the drink orders and serving Lily a Cacaolat that she was very pleased with.

We ended up singing Happy Birthday four times (English, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese) and each version received a big hooray from the hippies populating the café. (Note: the cake had a chimney, but Lily ate it just before we sang.)

Paulo was the one who introduced us to the Portuguese version, and man, it definitely beats all other birthday songs. Lots of increasingly loud chanting of the birthday person's name = good fun.

Things went so well, that Lily even put herself and her doll to bed at the end of the party.

All in all, a very good time, a party where I actually got to speak to everyone and felt like Lil had a great time.

This morning we awoke and Lily was very excited to wear a dress to school and bring a copy of one of her favorite songs "Aire de fiesta" to class for her party. On each child's birthday, his or her classroom photo goes on a big birthday poster, the class works together to decorate a paper crown and the child's dining chair, and there is singing, dancing and a balloon for each kid to take home. Although she looks a bit serious here,

she took off dancing as soon as the photo was over.

Side note: This morning after dropping Lily at school, the fog on Tibidabo was amazing:

When I got Lil from school, she was well happy, especially because of her paper crown and green balloon. She and I had a lovely afternoon together and when we got home,she got to open her presents from us (an elephant dining set), Matt (sticker book), and Oliver's Uncle Iain and Aunt Wendy (small squishy baby whose diaper you can change - a big plus in Lily's book).

After dinner, she, Oli and I meant to go on a bike ride, but the rain and a looooong game of Monster on the Bed held us up. To be honest, I think we all enjoyed that even more because it just sort of happened.

Thursday night we're off to the UK for the big Bear Hunt birthday party.