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. πŸ™‚

Estela

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My name is Stella, but here in Spain everyone calls me Estela. Out of curiousity, I once asked a Spanish lady why she keeps calling me Estela, while she knows my name is actually Stella. Well, she said, Estela is just much easier to pronounce. Before making the sound “s” she would produce an “e” first, anyway. Not quite a surprise, when you think how many words in Spanish start with “e” (or other vowels). And the double ‘l’s in Spanish is spoken out as ‘y’, that’s why people will write my name with one ‘l’. Because otherwise they would read it as “Esteya”. Just like the word “Estrella” (= star, the original meaning of my name), is pronounced as “Estreya“. People usually think it’s amusing when they realize that my name and my daughter’s name is like the Star and the Sky. πŸ™‚

Screenshot_20181119-144255_WhatsAppAnd then, the funny thing is…I get used to it! Lately I caught myself saying my name as Estela, when a lady at the shop asked me because she needed to put it on the receipt. Ha! Talking about blending in… πŸ˜€

how quickly children learn (languages)

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There are 4 non-Spanish children in Sky’s class. Two of them instantly become her best friends and both girls speak English (one also speaks Spanish as her second language and the other Catalans). Such a lucky situation, because their friendship improves Sky’s English (a lot!) and helps her through learning some Spanish and Catalans words. The teacher affirms that, and I notice it in many ways. Some days when she comes home from school she even answers me with “yes/no” or “si/no”, and I notice a slightly different “r”-sound in her pronounciation. Very English! Her Spanish also goes rapidly forward. Because I think she constantly hears (and uses) it at school. The other 22 children in her class speak Spanish, of course! Plus she gets extra Spanish lessons at school, together with other children from all classes who do not speak Spanish yet. I can’t measure it, but I think she actually understands a lot of Spanish (and Catalans) words now. Which is amazing!!!

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Three weeks ago one of the girls was celebrating her birthday. So we spent one lovely Sunday afternoon on a horse riding school, because both the girl and her mom ride horses. That was actually the first time I could “observe” Sky, how she behaved and talked with her friends. And wow!!! I can hardly put it in words, how amazed, proud, happy, moved I was…to hear her talking in English, just like that! She can do it, she does it, she has no problem with it…and she seems happy with all that. πŸ™‚

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And when she doesn’t know how to say a word, she uses other words she knows or even mixes it up with Dutch, which is completely perfect. For example I heard her saying to her friend, pointing to the back of her helmet: “You have a ‘strik‘ on your ‘helm‘” (strik = Dutch for a bow). And the friend would reach to her helmet and felt the ‘strik‘, and she knew what that was, and they laughed together. So…so lovely…how children create their world without having to speak a certain language. Without expectation and prejudice… πŸ™‚

Oh, and the horse riding itself was also very fun. The instructions were in Spanish, but once again the children were all okay with that (fun learning!). At the photo below Sky was making a pirouette on the back of the horse! And the parents and friends came from all over the world, we had a truly international table, which made me so thankful to be part of it. Blessed!

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Halloween and short holiday to Besalu

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Last week we had an exciting week. It started on Wednesday, 31 October, withΒ the celebration of Halloween and CastaΓ±ada at school.

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I noticed a lot of shops were decorated with Halloween stuff. It seems like this festivity is getting more popular here in Spain. Sky’s school is also fully decorated, both in the Halloween and in the autumn style. Because “CastaΓ±ada” is a kind of chestnut party (castaΓ±a = chestnut), to mark the end of summer and the start of the dark months. Some will relate it to the day after (1 November, the all saints day), to commemorate the death.

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So at that day, the kids were allowed to wear something on their heads or something to cover their faces. And parents were asked to donate a cake, which was sold at the celebration and all the money would be donated to a charity organisation.

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There was also hot chocolate and roasted chestnut, of course!
By the way, the hot choco drink was quite different than what I used to drink in the Netherlands. Here it’s not chocolate milk, but apparently melted choco. Luckily not so sweet, but it was so thick! If you turn the glass upside down the choco won’t come out. Well veryyy slowly it will drip…but you get the idea. They also gave a piece of cake to accompany the choco, it was meant to dip on it, and so slowly you can scoop out the “drink”.

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The day after Halloween is the All Saints Day. A national holiday in Spain. Because it’s on a Thursday this year, the Friday after was also declared as a holiday. Making it an extra long weekend.
We took the opportunity to have a short leave. Rented a holiday house near Sant Mori for 2 nights. It was such a lovely house, the only house on the street. In the midst of forests and greens. There were 3 dogs and Sky loved them so much. The big garden, the surrounding, the place, the house…she had to shed tears when we had to leave. πŸ™‚

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We visited Besalu, a town nearby. I’ve read that it’s one of the most beautiful village in Catalonia. And it really was! The whole village breaths the reminiscence of medieval ages, with traces of Jewish heritage.

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Besalu also owns a miniature museum. It was small, but fantastic! There were 3 rooms. In the first one you can admire everything with bare eyes (lots of boxes,Β doll house sizes with small dolls and furnitures in it, many different themes and great details).

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In the second room every object is placed under a magnifying glass. Not without reasons, of course…

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And in the third, last room…there you’ll find the unbelievables… With the help of microscopes, objects you absolutely won’t be able to see with bare eyes, come alive. Many are placed on or next to a real object like an insect wing, a nutshell, or a needle, to give you the sense of scale. The most famous one is how to fit 12 camels and some people in the eye of a needle. This is how (photo from Google, since I didn’t manage to fit my camera lens above the microscope lens):

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And also how the whole Pinocchio scene fits inside a pistache shell:

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A little bit outside Besalu we found a local lunchroom. Where the local people will come from 1 to 2 p.m. to have their ‘menu del dia’. So good!
With full tummy, we rode about 5 km to the West, towards Argelaguer. There, in the middle of the road, there is a place calledΒ Parc del Garrell (or Cabanes d’Argelaguer). It’s a bit difficult to explain what it actually is. A guy named Josep Pujiula built the whole site during 4 decades of his life. You can just feel his obsession and love in the entire site. An eccentric place full of statues, stairs, tunnels, towers…all made from natural and leftover materials. Very interesting and full of details you can observe. Only it’s not very well preserved and surely not accessible for people who can’t climb or walk on small, slippery surfaces without something to hold on.

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On the way home to our holiday house, when we drove into the village Sant Mori, we saw a spectacular view coming towards us. We had to stop the car… because hundreds of sheep (okay, it’s maybe only slightly above one hundred, but still!), lead by a shepherd and two guardian dogs were on the road, going from one place to another, I guess. So fun! The owner of our holiday house told us that 20 years ago it was quite a common happening, but nowadays it doesn’t happen a lot anymore. How lucky we are!

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On the last day, before going home, we asked our holiday house owner whether she has tips about a nice beach to spend an hour or two along the route to our home (so somewhere along Costa Brava). This is what she adviced us, the Sa Tuna beach. Small but beautiful!

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animal-insect stories around our house

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When we were searching for a house or appartment here in Spain, I always say I wanted one with a garden, no matter how small it maybe is. It was not an easy search, since our city is a popular place, especially for young families. And 80% of the houses are appartments, which lower the possibility to have a garden. The rent price of a house is far above our budget, which is already higher than we had in the Netherlands. That means we had to look for a ground appartment. And the luck is on our side. We found one, and we fell in love with it, till today.

Sky says often how grateful she is with the garden we have now, which is wayyy much bigger than the one in the Netherlands. With real grass and real trees. And a lot of small animals and insects. Oh she loves them so much. This post is a collection of our ‘animal stories’ so far.

We had a visit from a hummingbird moth (colibri butterfly) and a red dragonfly (sorry for the picture quality, the moth’s wings moved really fast and the dragonfly was a bit too far):

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After rain, which we have a lot these past few days, Sky would go to the backyard, walked very carefully around the terrace, and collected these snails before we step on them. She would then throw them back to the grass.

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Those snails are called ‘Rumina Decollata‘. If you have many of them in your garden, like ours, then you probably won’t see the “normal” snails around (like the next pictures which I took outside our house), because Rumina is a predatore to other types of snails and their eggs.

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One day, I was cleaning up a bit in the garden and I wanted to empty a bucket from the rain water. Then I saw an animal inside the bucket….a little gecko! He fell into the bucket and couldn’t climb up. Luckily there was not much water inside, otherwise he might have drowned. We have these kind of gecko’s a lot in our neighbourhood, but they’re very shy and quick so we never have the chance to look at them closely.

I saved the little gecko and put it in a plastic box with holes. When Sky came home from school we observed the gecko together, and then we released it at a nice place outside with lots of grass and trees.

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We have a backyard and terrace adjacent to the livingroom and also a side terrace adjacent to the kitchen. It’s a “dry” one, with no grass nor ground. So when I found this grasshopper one day there, I know I have to bring it somewhere else. Just like the little gecko, I put it first in a glass bottle for Sky to observe. She is so fascinated with all these animals (“The grasshopper has a yellow belly!”). When we opened the bottle in the backyard, the grasshopper hesitated for a while, and then it jumped…right into Sky’s hair! I put it on my finger, and it just sat there for a very long time. Walking from my finger to Sky’s hand, then back. Sky got really attached to it and when it finally decided to jump away, she had to shed some tears…

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Ants are also very interesting to watch at. Sky can investigate them for hours. Especially the bigger ones, who seem to be able to carry just everything. This picture is also taken outside the house:

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Because you really don’t want to have them inside the house! We had lots of problem with ants the first months living here. They just entered the house from every possible holes and they could find every single food in the house. We had to empty our cat’s food plate and the bin every night, otherwise we will wake up to this:

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Talking about another insect we also have problems with: mosquitoes! Now the weather is getting colder at night their number has decreases, not completely gone though! But in the summer months…oh my, you just can’t sit for a minute outside without being bitten, abundantly! We bought an electric racket and we carried it everywhere around the house. I think it has killed more than 3-400 mosquitoes ever since, in 2 months time. Inside the house we have a net over Sky’s bed, a mosquito lamp and an electromagnetic pest repeller. You see, it’s a serious war….

To close the post, here is one who is happy with all types of insects, our Venus Flytrap:

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lost first baby tooth, yayyy!!!

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Yesterday was a special day. Not just because we had another “Paella Popular” (a part of the Festa Major, see my previous post. The Paella was cooked in a huge pan and we ate this yumminess together with around 200 other people). But mostly because the long awaited day has come for Sky: She lost her first baby tooth!!!
I said ‘long awaited’, because in her previous class in the Netherlands, all children have lost one or more teeth (and many started very early), only Sky didn’t. But actually, here in Spain, some children in her current class haven’t lost their teeth also. Genetic factor plays a role, maybe?

So the tooth has wiggled for about 4 days. During the lunch yesterday Sky said: “And now I will bite in this cucumber, maybe the tooth will then break.” She took a deep bite, and Joop saw (and heard) it all happening! First she ate the piece of cucumber she had in her mouth, then she spitted the tooth out.

We let her gargle with lots of water to rinse her gums, then I washed the tooth and we put it in her tooth box. She doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy anyway, she’s not going to put the tooth under her pillow, so we just gave her a coin for her piggy bank, haha!

Nice detail: I searched in this blog (lucky to have all memories written down here!) for her ‘first tooth’. It appears to be on October 11th, and the second one on October 31st. So exactly 6 years ago! And by the way that second tooth has started to wiggle too this morning. These are the first and the last pictures of her lovely little tooth:

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Additional story: Immediately after this, the second tooth next to it also started to wiggle. And only 12 days after the first lost, she lost her second baby tooth also! πŸ™‚ Here’s the picture:

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