Santa Eulàlia Festival

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And just like that, when we were in Barcelona last weekend (without planning, just to spend a nice weekend day), we stumbled upon the “gigantes/gegants” (giants figures of several meters tall, with a painted paper maché head and arms, the rest of the body being covered in cloth and other clothing). Not only 3 or 4, like we have ever seen before….but about 50 of them!!! They were stalled in Plaça Reial, adjacent to La Rambla, at the heart of Barcelona.

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I asked a lady whether it was a festival day, and yes. Apparently every year around the 12th of February it’s the “Festes de Santa Eulàlia“, a festival to commemorate one of Barcelona’s patron saint, of which her name is also used for the Barcelona Cathedral.

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Animal and other creative figures

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The classical gigantes, usually a couple

At one point the gigantes started to walk towards La Rambla, and they danced and swirled to the music. Usually each regions or even neighbourhood in the city have their own gigantes and musicians walking behind them. Each with their own theme. And even animals (like the dragons, lions, and a mule which is typically used at Santa Eulàlia Festival). Some figures came closer to the public or shook children’s hands, there’re even figures who sprayed water to the public!

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There were ‘castelleres’ (human towers) too!

It was so fun. Sky didn’t want to leave at all and insisted that we stayed until the last gigantes passed by. 🙂

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Kids birthday party in Spain

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Yesterday, Sunday, we had a birthday party of one of Sky’s classmates. The Sunday before we also had a similar party, our first children party in Spain. 3 of Sky’s classmates celebrated their birthday together. Now we have experienced two parties, I can write something about it. Can’t avoid to compare it with what we are used to in the Netherlands (and although I have never been in a kids party in Indonesia myself, I will also tell about it a little, based on what my friends shared through social media’s).

Here in Spain, the whole class is invited. Not only the children, but also the parents, brothers and sisters. So if the whole class would come together with the families, there could be about 100 people in the party! Not that it was the case last Sundays. Not all children could come, and there were 40-60 people in each of both parties. That’s still a big number though! In the Netherlands, it’s normal that the birthday child may invite friends as many as her age to-be, or plus 1 or 2, but no more. For sure not the whole class. And the parents would drop the kids off and pick them up again. Usually the party will be held either at home (with some activites), or somewhere else like a playground, animal farm, zoo, museum, or other organized activites. Mostly are held on Wednesday afternoon because the school ends just before lunch, or otherwise after school on other days when the school ends at 3 p.m. This article describes the Dutch kids party really well, if you would like another read on this subject (it’s actually quite the opposite point of view as what I experienced here, because the author is a Mexican lady living in the Netherlands, and I have just moved from the Netherlands to Spain!).

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Since the school ends quite late here in Spain, the birthdays are normally celebrated in the weekends, usually on Sundays. The first birthday we had was held in a learning centre in the middle of our city. As I said, there were 3 children who had their birthday celebrated together because the dates are close to each other. The children were invited for a robot/programming/science workshop, which they were all beyond enthousiastic about. It’s a close workshop, which means the parents can just drop the children off and leave. But it didn’t happen. Noone left after dropping off. Instead we all went to a cafe nearby and got a cup of coffee. And talked, and socialized…until we could pick up the children again. Then we cut the birthday cakes, sang Happy Birthday and the kids opened their presents.

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There was a bit of commotion about the presents beforehands. A parent didn’t want the child to get too many gifts. An option was to donate or collect some money for the party givers. But finally it was “decided” (not sure how and by whom, it just happened) that noone should give money nor gifts, nothing. The parents of the birthday child will buy the gift themselves (only 1, as far as I can see). The idea behind this is that every child will eventually celebrate his or her birthday this year. So at the end it will come to an equality. The important thing is that everyone will have a good time, enjoy the parties and get to know each other better.

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There are some non-Spanish parents in the class and they just can’t understand this system. Well, I’m one of them of course, but I’d rather say I have some pro’s and con’s regarding this idea. It’s such a social and noble system. I observe such parties to be held also in Indonesia. Where the whole class is invited, often the parents too. With the intention to have a good time together. The difference is about the gifts, there a child would receive a huge pile of gifts from everyone, and often the party has a certain theme, where the decorations and the cakes and the treats will all be in style (if you have the money, of course…).

Another pro point: Because the parents stay at the party, it’s really an opportunity to meet and get along. After two parties I start to recognize some faces, and even be able to link them to their children! Not easy for an introvert like me, but I also managed to have a chit-chat, practice my basic Spanish, and even talk about many different things with some of the parents whom I normally wouldn’t be able to talk with.

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Now the con’s: The same social system can also put pressures on one’s shoulder. Although a mother assured me it’s absolutely okay not to follow this system, there will be for sure a pinch of guilty feeling if you decide, for example, not to invite the whole class. Because your daughter has been invited by everyone, and you don’t do the same!

And it’s well known here in Spain, to put families (in this case the class, or the class’ decision) way above your own sentiments. An example: the parents of the second birthday party actually would like to collect some money, but change their mind when the group decided not to do so. But these parents are “alone”, I mean it’s not a joined birthday party, which means they have to spend a lot of money and organize everything for the party themselves. It was a fun party by the way. We all had a train ride around the park and afterwards the children could play in the big playground while the parents gathered around the picnic table, or played with their kids.

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The social issue and follow-the-majority is not something I can judge. It’s highly cultural and country-related, I believe. Maybe I’ve been living too long in the Netherlands to find that having 100 people at a children party is just not so efficient. And that everyone should be free to choose what he wants and who he would like to invite. Some people think it’s so harsh to exclude some kids by not inviting them to your party. Other would say it’s like the life itself, you won’t always be invited to every occasion. That children should deal with disappointment. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. I never saw Sky being disappointed by not being invited. Maybe it’s in her character, but children are flexible and they can handle things and emotion more than what we’re thinking of.

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On the other hand, based on what I experienced so far, the parties here are way more relaxed and easy going. No excessive food nor gifts. No time limit when the party should end (sometimes even no exact time when to start…not always handy, but okay…). No pressure to talk with someone you don’t really match (although they do love to talk here! But it’s so different than when you have to sit in a circle in the livingroom like the usual Dutch birthday party). And the gifts part…I think it’s such a good idea! One ‘big’ gift only, from the parents. Not 25 ‘small’ ones you barely will use. We still keep Sky’s birthday gifts from last year. From the 5 gifts she received from her friends, 1 hasn’t been used at all, 2 are used only a little bit, 1 is given away (with her permission) and the last one is somewhere in her drawer.

So at the end…. I still don’t know. The pro’s and con’s will stay for a while, I suppose. Meanwhile we will observe and experience more. And for Sky’s birthday; we have told her that she may choose. If she chooses to have a Dutch party style by inviting only some kids she really loves to play with, it’s fine. But if she chooses to join the class and invites everyone, it’s also good (but then I would try to find some b-day partners, I think, haha…). We’ll see!!! 😉

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adjust, adapt and be positive

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Sky told me last week: “Mama, I think I like my current school better than my old school in the Netherlands.”

That one sentence really means a lot for me. To know that she is really happy and satisfied with her new environment, after only such a short period of time (4 months at school now) and with new languages she didn’t speak yet when she started… Of course I have noticed that she feels good by observing her behaviour. She hops happily from school everytime I pick her up and she tells me a lot about things she’s been doing at school. But to hear it coming out from her mouth, and to see that smile…it means the whole world!

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When I asked her why she likes her current school more, she replied: “Because this school has many fun activities, like art, sport, computer language, music, singing, swimming, online English learning…”
Well yes, I understand. I would love to redo my school time too!

At this very moment they are preparing a piece of theatre, based on the Lion King story. Each class picks a different movie. I believe they have evaluated the story, the roles and characters, and still learning about the costums (which they have to make themselves), the decor, the music and so on. All is done in 3 different languages, each language covers its own topics. Such a stimulating and fun process of learning!

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But I also believe that not only a good school is important when you’re going on a huge adventure like moving country, but also a positive attitude. We try to support each other as much as we can, and show that however it will not always be easy, there’s always things to be grateful for. Look at the bright side of life and enjoy, and you will make yourself easier in the process of adjusting and adapting.

When a stranger talks to me in Spanish and I don’t understand at all, I can still be grateful for the friendliness people seem to have here towards strangers. When we can only borrow very simple children books from the library with minimal or even no text at all, I’m still grateful they have those books in the library and Sky is now focused on the illustration and it makes her try different types of drawing, which is very fun. And when we are often so frustrated with the “relaxed” way people dealing with rules here, it can also works on my benefit, like yesterday. I borrowed some extra books from the library but apparently I would have in total one book too many. The maximum allowed is 15 and I have got 16. But the friendly librarian gave me a big wink and said: “It doesn’t matter, just one book too many. And besides, your daughter loves the books so much, right?” 🙂

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About last Saturday, ear piercing and Xmas concert

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I forgot my key this morning. As usually we went out of the house together and Joop dropped Sky and I off nearby the school, on the way to his work. After making sure Sky was in her classroom I went home by train, and just in front of the gate of our house I realized I did not have my key with me.

So here I am, sipping a cup of ‘cafe con leche‘ at a cafe at the commercial centre, about 20 minutes walking from our home. Waiting for Joop to ride home during his lunch break to lend me his key. Writing a blog post to kill the time, about our weekend. Because last Saturday was one exciting day for Sky.

She had her ears pierced!!!

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She was never as sure as now. In the Netherlands she was one of the last girls in the class without earrings. One by one her girlfriends got theirs, but Sky wasn’t really eager to get one. Interested in, yes, but it’s not before we’re in Spain that she mentioned her will to get pierced. We waited till the approaching Christmas holiday. Because she won’t be allowed to swim for 3-4 weeks. Next week she will have to miss one swimming lesson at school, then followed by 2 weeks holiday. So in the new year everything will be just healed and well.

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Actually it goes really well already. She has got almost no pain. We could clean the ears, drip a bit of alcohol and turn the earrings around without any significant problems. And her excitement…it’s so amazing to see. How happy and proud she is. Beaming and glowing like a grown-up girl. And she is! Those small shiny things in her ears make her suddenly looks more mature…. Oh my mother’s heart…. ❤️

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Where in the Netherlands it’s usually the jewellery stores that do ears piercing, in Spain you will have to go to a Farmacia (a pharmacy/drugstore). We went to a big Farmacia nearby our house on Friday, but were asked to come back on Saturday morning, because the lady specialized in piercing children’s ears will be available by then. So we did, and we were very satisfied with the unbelievably proffesional and super friendly service.

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Sky was asked to choose which earrings she liked most; pink flowers it is. The lady drew two black dots on her earlobes and before we knew it she already punched one ear. One minute later the other one. So quick, and almost painless (according to Sky)! Mission completed and another milestone achieved!

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But the Saturday was not over yet. While Sky was still hyper-enthousiast about her new look, at 4 she had to be at school, wearing her full uniforms. For the grand rehearsal of the yearly Christmas concert! At 6 we, the parents and other guests, were welcomed at the school’s Auditorium. After some instrumental performances by senior students and music teachers, all the first grade students (well, not all, about two third of all students because participation is not obligatory), wearing Santa hats (so cute!) came onto the stage and performed the Christmas songs. 2 English songs, 2 in Spanish and 2 in Catalan. It was so entertaining. We had such a fun and memorable night.

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Watching her singing those songs, in 3 languages she barely knew 4 months ago… I was so moved. This whole adventure, we can’t be sure of anything. But one thing I’m sure of: it will bring many more beautiful moments like this in our path. 🙂

my e-bike is stolen :(

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It’s not always sunshine and roses (or palm trees) here in Spain. My e-bike is stolen last week. My beloved bike, just bought it almost 2 months ago because of the challenging hilly streets in this country. I parked it outside the train station (FGC) nearby our house in the morning, brought my daughter to school, me myself to the Spanish course, and when I got back to the station it was gone. Later (of course, it’s always later…) I regretted not to park the bike inside the station, where they at least have a camera above the vending machines. And I heard many stories about this kinds of bike theft in our city Sant Cugat. Mostly from public places, and usually when the thief has lurked for some days to know your habit; the days and time you usually park the bike.

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I went to the police the next day (Mossos, it’s Catalonian police) to make a Denuncia (a form where all data about the theft is recorded). Luckily a very nice Spanish lady, my conversation partner I knew from my Spanish course, was able and willing to accompany me to the Mossos. Because all was done in Spanish and Catalan. It made things just much easier, especially when your head was not fully aware yet of the matter. Based on police’s advice, I went to some bike store and secondhand shop in the city to report my case (where the people were really helpful and nice), and mailed many similar shops in regio Barcelona. I got many supportive responses and that soothes the pain a bit. Plus I look at the secondhand websites almost everyday. Just in case. And to give myself the feeling that I am doing at least something…

So here’s the bike, in case someone sees it on the street or somewhere else. A white foldable electric bike Nilox X1, with serial number ends on 769. At that moment it had a foldable Bobike Junior children seat at the back, but it’s demountable for sure.

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At last we asked the police if they had some advices for the future. Very short answer: “No.” Very discouraging. It seems like there is no safe place for bikes anymore. Especially the pricy ones. No matter what kind of lock or chain you use. If they want it they will get it. For now I’m back to my trusty friend, my old bike I brought over from the Netherlands. This bike has stayed overnight for many times outside the supermarkt and the same station, and survived. I think the thief doesn’t think it’s worthed to steal it. :))

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books without words

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Some of you might know that we are big fans of the library. Any kinds of library; big or small, with or without building… like this one, where we found a bilingual Pocahontas comic (English and Catalan). So cool!

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In the Netherlands we would visit the library at least once a week, often more. Somewhere last February we were featured in the library’s newsletter because Sky has borrowed (and read!) 1000 books, in her almost 6 years of age.

You would understand that now we moved to Spain, we are eager to continue this “hobby”. Last month we went to the Central Library (there are 3 in our city) and applied for a library card for Sky.

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She digged in the books immediately, and found some nice ones. But…our Spanish and Catalan are still so minimum, even the easiest children books cause us trouble to read. Not that we don’t try to, that’s for sure a fun way to learn new languages. But to have to look at the dictionary or do Google-translate on almost every sentence is a bit depressing. Bilingual books are a bliss. We borrowed some, and also English children books and fun dictionaries. And then, I noticed the section “comics”. Browsing through the colorful pictures, I got an idea. Let’s start from the very beginning again. From the love of books. Without languages, without words, without pressure. Try to make it super fun again. And it works, Sky grabs these books often and has pleasure “reading” them. I found a great serie of “el Petit Pelut” (originally Petit Poilu in French or Stoppeltje in Belgium), and then we found more fun books, without words.

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Trying to make library visit fun also includes joining the activities they organize. We attended a children theatre performance, by coincidence it’s in English! And will of course try to attend more in the future.

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The libraries in our city are not as big and sophisticated like we used to have in the Netherlands. But it’s also because we live in a smaller city. I think the libraries in Barcelona and other big cities would be wonderful too. Would love to visit them in the near future. One difference I noticed immediately is the children section. Our libraries have spaces dedicated for children books, of course. But while in the Netherlands it’s more or less allowed to “make noise” in the children section (well, children are children…), here it’s all quiet. We were really asked to lower our voice down. But once again, it’s maybe because the building is not that big. Noises will be heard across the whole library and would possibly disturb visitors in other sections too.

Above photo’s are from the Central Library, and below is a photo of the nearest library to our home, it’s quite pretty actually. Only the opening hours are a bit tricky. They only open for 3 mornings in a week, each for 3 hours. And 5 times a week at night.

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Well, we might not visit the libraries as much as we used to do, but it won’t slow us down in reading books. We access the Dutch children books through the library app (because Sky will still be a Dutch library member till she is 18, which also means she is allowed to use the app everywhere around the world). Sometimes we borrow books from our Dutch friends. And when our Spanish and Catalan are improved, we hope to be able to start reading local books too. Step by step. Poco a poco. A poc a poc. 🙂