Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fire, sports and video clips

Kids fan the bonfire in the garden
We recently had 2 fires. One in our fireplace to heat up the house (it's starting to get cold here at night and this is our main source of heat) and another outside in the garden to burn down the stalks and stems from the previous harvest. Soon we will plant something new.

Cub Scouts
Big boulders that Opa would love
Nat recently helped put together this silly video clip for the Cub scout pack back home. CLICK HERE to see what the boys have been up to in Granada.

Los Cahorros
One of 5 suspension bridges
Boys scale the edge
We took a wonderful hike a a place very nearby Granada called Los Cahorros and it was a perfect walk for two energetic little boys as it included hanging suspension bridges, rock climbing, animal skeletons and fording rivers (if one so desired). We took a circular route that was about 8 kilometers and ended up passing by goats, chickens and horses on the return. A perfect Fall outing and especially pleasant to be enjoying such sunny weather in late October.

Tai-chi and yoga
I am trying to put myself out there in my Spanish learning so have signed up for a class at the local community center that is around the corner from us. Classes are quite affordable and there is a variety of activities including yoga, flamenco, painting, drawing, etc... By the time I learned about it many of the classes were already full and as Tai-chi was what was left and I figured I could follow along even though my Spanish is poor, I signed up. I am also taking yoga at a local studio . Although I know the moves from 10 years of practice, I am struggling with the humility of not knowing what to do next so watch the other students for clues.

Learning Spanish
Here is a cute game that someone taught the boys. Colin is holding up his fingers which are labeled with Q - U - E - S - O while saying "Que es eso? Eso es queso!" (Translation: What is this? This is cheese!)

Mountain biking
A remote, tiny church still in use

At an ancient monestary
Beautiful views
I joined a few menfolk for an amazing 3 hour mountain biking tour that we can do right from the house. Nat calls it "old man mountain biking" which I have to agree with as it wasn't too technical (a few wet stream crossings in the beginning as well as a few uphills that are very tricky) but for the most part the path is wide and the climbing and downhills manageable. My newly tuned bike's chain broke right before we started but Nat and Lassi (Icelandic neighbor) were right there with the tools and know-how to fix it and thankfully it held. The route is a figure eight through spectacular scenery in the surrounding hills and includes incredible views, a stop at the ruins on an ancient monestary and a very remote tiny church that is still used on occasion. The best part, of course, was the celebratory drinks and tapas after the ride at our favorite hangout, Bar Kiki. We hope to bring our favorite waiter along next time.

Here's another video of the boys testing out a new toy they built (with a little help from Dad):

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tarifa, NIE cards and more!

The white sand beaches of Tarifa (those
hills in the background are Morocco)

Nat shreds Tarifa (kids in foreground)
Surfin' Safari
Just back from our first official overnight road trip and would deem it a big success. First off, note that the location was chosen to appease both my husband and the boys. We went to Tarifa, windsurfing mecca on the southern coast of Spain, just across the straits of Gibralter from Morocco (about a 3 hour drive from Granada). Think white-sand beaches, palm trees, plenty of wind and best of all NO PEOPLE! We were there on the shoulder season so the crowds of summer had already started to disperse.

Digging in the sand
Some neighbors gave us some great recommendations on where to stay so we checked out 2 different locales. One had simple bungalows (think yurt) right near a hip, surfer hangout beach bar and the other was a wonderful beachside hotel with all the amenities.

If you haven't figured it out by now, tapas are a big deal here in Spain. Little plates of starters that often come free when you order a drink. One night at dinner we were served 4 slices of melon with little toothpicks in them along with a few small yellow squares with red sides which I assumed were slices of cheese. Unfortunately they turned out to be pats of butter (with paprika on the sides?) which I found out after stuffing one in my mouth, but thankfully the bread was close at hand.
Now where did I leave the boat keys?
Clark climbs a tree

Lifestyles of the rich and famous
Another friend told us to check out Sotogrande, a swanky golf community, on our drive down and recommended we have lunch at the Puerto (harbor) at the very fancy Ke Cafeteria which was a fascinating place. Apparently these are artificial islands where one can park their boat next to their townhome. We were definitely underdressed.  

The southern tip of Spain in Tarifa.
The Atlantic ocean is on one side
and the Mediterreanean the other
We're legal! (I think)
We got 4 letters via the post last week via certified mail (I had to sign for them), all official looking in Spanish legalese and requesting our presense at the local immigration office in a week's time. Worried that we had done something wrong (we still haven't heard back from the Spanish consulate in San Francisco), I nervously approached some neighbors for help translating and I was assured it was good news -- our temporary residancy has been approved. So off we went to the office, with another new friend along to help us with translation, and after less than a half hour wait, we were out the door with NIE cards (actually, they'll be ready in a month). These are basic ID cards used here but they also prove legal residancy so I am feeling a lot better about our status. Maybe all those hours of tracking down documents, fed ex fees and accumulating paperwork were indeed worth it?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Futbol, flat tires and fencing

View from nearby Sacromonte
Watch your vocabulary
I went to get my haircut and colored last week in a very trendy place called the Underground hair factory recommended by two of my friends. When talking to my new Portuguese hairdresser (very tatooed and nose-ringed I might add), I mentioned that one of the friends who recommended his place was now "peligroso" which I thought meant redhead. But apparently I got it wrong as "pelirroja" is redhead so I had actually described my friend as dangerous. Big difference.

Uncertified player
Now I'm sure folks who come to the US have these same challenges so I don't mean to criticize but we've been having some difficulties getting all our ducks in a row, particularly when it comes to documentation. (As I've mentioned, we're still waiting on our visa's which we applied for in June). Right now, it turns out Colin isn't yet certified to play on the "federated" futbol team we signed up for several weeks ago. Something to do with his residency status. We've turned in another copy of his passport and are hoping to streamline the process but I'm not holding my breathe.

Flat tire
These guys saved Nat's bacon (so to speak)
Nat went out on his mountian bike for the third time this week to practice the new route shown to him by Juan last weekend. Unfortunately he didn't have his backpack with him as he had accidentally left it locked in a storage locker at the futbol game the night before and 2/3 of the way through the ride he got his first flat tire. Big problem as his backpack contained all his bike tools, patch kit and extra innertubes. As he was pushing his bike back home, a gang of four Spanish cyclists stopped and actually patched his tire for him! Would that happen at home?

Clark's starts Fencing classes
Would you willingly give your 11 year old son a sword to play with? Thanks to the help of one of our neighbors, Clark is now (semi-happily) taking fencing classes at the local sports center twice a week. Don't try this at home! (particularly with your younger brother).

Spanish tortilla
We went for a hike from a small village in the nearby Lecrin Valley called Albunuelas (this is actually one of the places I considered living). It is a very small community and we defintitely felt like outsiders as we walked thru the streets trying to find our way and stopped for a drink at the town's only restaurant. We were hoping for a short loop hike but had trouble following the markers, part of which is for the G7 which runs across Spain (as well as some other countries in Europe). Frustrating as we never did find the correct path, but it was wonderful to be out in the countryside on such a lovely afternoon and the views were spectacular.

Monster butterfly likes green
Boys play their own version of chess
Back to the Parque de la Ciencias (science museum) on Sunday as it seems to be a favorite of the boys. This time we visited the butterfly house and the rest of the Escher exhibit. On the way home we happened upon a Medieval Festival where the boys sampled crepes Nat and I tried the suckling pig.

Escher exhibit in Granada

Suckling pig at Medieval fiesta

This weekend? We're heading further south, as far as we can go without crossing in to Africa. We're heading to the land of wind and sun and waves and the real reason I got Nat to sign on for a year abroad....

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Aniversarios y cumpleanos (anniversaries and birthdays)

15 happy years!
Nat and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary by going out to lunch at a local restaurant while the boys were at school. (We still haven't quite figured out how to pick them so it wasn't epic but we did get a free dessert). After school we took Colin to get passport photos (3 are needed) and new sports shoes for his futbol team (a different kind than he wears in the U.S.) These simple errands take much longer than at home as we have to figure out where to go, how to communicate with shopkeepers, etc... Then we had pizza and gelato at an outdoor cafe on the edge of Plaza Bib-Rambla which is a beautiful square downtown with the piped-in sounds of screetching birds (random). The kids are having a hard time right now so hard to celebrate in a big way. Perhaps in a few months....

Authentic Valencian Paella cooked by
our neighbor Jose Luis
Chef Jose Luis in his garden
We helped our neighbor José Luis celebrate his birthday this weekend but he did all the work. He cooked 15 of us an amazing, authentic Valencian paella in his beautiful garden (he's from Valencia where paella was born) that was not only unbelievably delicioso but a learning experience as well. Nat went early to be his "un pinche" (soux chef) and learned some new techniques. This was a traditional Valenciano recipe with chicken and rabbit (we didn't tell the kids) and Nat was surprised to learn that he used no onions or saffron in the dish (the onions get too soggy and saffron is nice but unnecessary). Uncle Ted would be so proud!

Nat's new mountain bike buddies:
Juan and Juan dos (2)
On Saturday morning Nat got up early to go mountain biking ride with a couple of local Spaniards (Juan and Juan 2) who showed him how it was done. They rode up the valley below Sacromonte and up in to the hills for some amazing views of the city and surrounding countryside. They only spoke in Spanish and he had a wonderful time seeing through the eyes of a local.
Overlooking the city

I must be starting to look like I know what I'm doing as two people have actually asked ME for directions (one tourist, one local!). Not that I was able to help, mind you.

Los ninos with their most relished Wii
After many years of trying to keep home entertainment systems at bay, we have finally broken down and bought a Wii for the boys. One was supposed to be included with the house when we arrived but it was miscommunicated and los ninos have been badgering us for one ever since. And as it was the only thing they were looking forward to about moving to Spain and as their birthdays are both this Fall, we decided to finally acquiesce. Nat had fun buying it in Spanish at the local department store and the shopkeeper even helped him get the best deal. We're really hoping it's worth the 4 years of begging we've put up with. Lord knows the boys don't need anymore screen time. We've given them 2 weeks to keep the menus in English.

Chocolate in flour
Wrap your buddy in TP!
So the "surprise" party for Clark at Parque  Huerta del Carlos turned out well, better than expected actually. Clark was truly surprised (although he knew something was going on) and about one third of his class made an appearance. We played some new games that I learned about through other parents (one involved unrolling toilet paper and another finding the chocolate in a pile of flour without using your hands -- see photos). And we were almost busted by the policia for serving alcohol (they arrived on horseback and gave us a warning). At least I think that's what happened....
Three-legged race
Policia on horseback
Lego Space Needle