Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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Festa Major; big party it is!

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It won’t be a surprise if I say we love to see and experience other cultures. We’re so lucky we now live in a beautiful country with a rich history and an unbelievable grandness of culture. In these 2 months of time, we have witnessed so many things and those are just a small part of what this country has.

blog16The “Festa Major“, for example. It’s Catalan for “fiesta mayor/big party”. Celebrated once a year, but it seems like we could find one every weekend, haha…partly because every area in every city in Catalonia seems to have one and because it is summertime. There are festa major’s in the winter though, but mostly are held in the summer. We have been to two of them, one from our own city-part where we live and the other is from the neighbourhood next to ours.

Festa Major usually lasts for 3 or 4 days (up to one week, in Barcelona for example). And it’s full of music, dance, children’s amusement, food (eat together!), sport (bike together or color-run), sometimes a funny competition (who eats the most puddings) but can also be a “serious” one (who cooks the most delicious paella), and sometimes you can also witness Spanish magnificent heritage like the castell (human tower) or the gegantes (parade of giant costume figures). Here below some video’s and photo’s of our “Festa Major” experience:

It’s always started, and accompanied, by music. The opening of the Festa Major (it’s also like an announcement for the whole neighbourhood):

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The castell (human tower):

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The gegantes (it’s not a very big one, nevertheless a wonderful experience to see especially because it’s our first one! The two biggest gegantes and their ‘child – girl’ usually stand at the Monastery Museum of Sant Cugat. It’s great to recognize them on the street):

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Children are mostly entertained during the whole ‘party’:

Foam party:

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Water slide:

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Bubbles:

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A magician show:

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Zumba dancing (this is mostly for ladies):

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Remote-Controlled toy car race (and this one is mostly for big boys!):

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Eating super yummy paella with 180 other neighbours. The paella is cooked for hours in a giant paella-pan. A specialist paella catering made it (they are known for their world record in making the biggest and the smallest paella in the world!). They started early in the morning and finished at around 2 pm. Before that we had to buy tickets for a package of paella, salad, water and wine (per table), for a very small amount of money. It was finger-licking delicious…and so cozy!! A lady of the committee came specially to greet us, knowing we are not Spanish and very new in the neighbourhood. She welcomed us and said that everyone is part of the big family…so sweet! πŸ™‚

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This is just a small impression of the Festa Major happening. We can’t be in all places for all days, but I hope you get the idea. About how fun this festival is. About how people are coming together to celebrate, to eat and drink, to meet other neighbours, to entertain the kids, or just out of curiousity but were surprised by the hospitality… like us! πŸ™‚

learning language is fun(ny)

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blog1Yesterday was the last day of my Basic Catalans Course. 10 x 2 hours in 2,5 weeks. Learned basic conversations like how to introduce yourself, to ask and order something, to go to the doctor, and basic things likeΒ the numbers, colors, weather, food and drink… It was fun! The group was very diverse, but mostly come from South-America so already speak Spanish but want to learn Catalan. Only 3 people were still learning Spanish as well, and I was the most beginner one, haha… The whole course was done in Catalan (and some Spanish words if really needed), so I would not say I understood everything. But the teacher was just awesome. She made me feel comfortable and so I have taken the most advantages of the course. Too bad I can’t join the next level course because the timetable collides with my Spanish course, which has started last week. Two times a week, each 2 hours in the morning. Joop is also planning to follow a Spanish course, but the only institute which offers night classes has at the moment no night group for his level (A2), so he has to wait for a while. Oh, and yesterday we had a little “festa” (Catalans for fiesta/party) to end the course. Everyone has to bring l’entrepa (like tapas, small food) and we enjoyed them together. Yummm!!

Talking about language, we notice we make a progress. Sometimes we’re able to participate in an easy conversation. But it goes up and down…another time we’re just completely lost in translation, haha…. And we make mistakes, oh for sure, we make lotssss of them. But no learning without making mistakes, right? And some of those are really funny. Here are some I still remember:

  • One day we went to a cafe and I tried to order some drinks. I knew the word for ‘drinks’ is ‘bebidas‘, but somehow out of my mouth came the wordΒ ‘huevos‘, which is ‘eggs’. Can you imagine the looks of the waitress when I ordered some ‘huevos’? πŸ˜€
    Vector cartoon non alcoholic drinks
  • Joop and Sky were at the supermarket. They asked some people whether they have ‘pre-baked bread’ (bread that you still have to put for a short time in the oven). Using two keywords: ‘bread’ and ‘oven’. Well, yes, they have. And they shown Joop a shelf full of…bread flour!! πŸ˜€
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  • blog6One of my Catalan classmates asked me if I am “casada” (= married). What I heard is “cansada” (= tired). No, of course I’m not tired, what makes you think of that! πŸ˜€
  • We had an issue with electricity shut-down when it rains. So after calling the landlord, he made an appointment with the building maintenance and the guy came to check everything. He asked me if I have “papel de cocina” (literally: paper of the kitchen). I do, so I went to the kitchen to get the parchment paper. He laughed when he saw that, showed his dirty hands and said: ‘No, not that. I need something to clean my hands’. Aha! ‘Paper of the kitchen’ simply means kitchen rolls/paper towels. Sounds logical afterwards! πŸ˜€
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  • blog2This one happened quite a while ago, when Joop was alone in Spain before we came together. He had finished his dinner and the waitress came to ask what he wanted for desserts. Out of all options that she mentioned, Joop could only catch the words ‘kiwi‘ and ‘balls‘. So he thought that might be ‘kiwi ice cream’ and he ordered ‘two small balls of it’. And there came his desserts: two real kiwi’s served with a small knife and a spoon. πŸ˜€

And how about Sky? Well, I think she is absorbing, a LOT. From 8.30 to 16.30, 5 days a week, she’s surrounded by either English, Spanish or Catalans (plus half an hour Chinese). And she is okay with it. With the fact that she doesn’t need to understand it all. Maybe we have given her a good example. She sees how we try to speak those new languages, with ups and downs, with funny mistakes and frowned eyebrows. And that’s all right. Of course she is also progressing, but firstly it’s important that she feels comfortable. Everyday she says she has a good day, with many stories to tell. I notice that when I pick her up, she sometimes still answers me with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (instead of ‘ja’ or ‘nee’). So fun to hear! πŸ™‚

This sentence I will always remember. She made it just after we moved here. It contains such a brilliant language twist I couldn’t even make myself:
“Die jas draag ik elke dag”
English translation: “That coat, I wear everyday”.
“Die jas” sounds like “dias”, which means “days” (in Dutch: “dag”).

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how our first work/study week went

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So we survived another week…a very important week it was!

Joop has (officially) worked for 2 weeks at his new office, Sky has finished her very first week at her new Spanish/Catalans international school, and I have completed 2 (out of 10) days of basic Catalans course. Oh woww…sounds impressive right?!

The week went well. Of course, all of us have some ups and downs moments, but so far so good. Joop has tried his best only to speak Spanish at work, and he feels he is progressing. More vocabulary learnt and if the context is right he can quite follow the big line of the conversation (I’m trying to be very careful here…because just don’t think we can have a great conversation. Only the basic things so far!) πŸ˜€

And miraculously I could also quite follow my Catalans lessons, with my very little knowledge of Spanish! The teacher is just great, she speaks very slowly and tries her best to help all of us (no Spanish nationality in the class, almost all come from Latin America). Concerning the Catalans language, I will only follow the 10-days basic course. Simply because my Spanish course will also start next week (2 days a week), and it collides with the next level of Catalans course. Pity!

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And how about Sky… Well, she is fine!!! She liked her first week at school, much to our delight!! If you remember my post a few weeks ago about how much my worry is…none of them turns real, because she comes home everyday full of stories to tell and she really seems to enjoy it all. I asked her if she could understand when the teachers speak in English (one third of the time). She could a bit, and mostly it’s enough. The lessons spoken in Spanish (sport and math) and Catalans (music) luckily contain many universal words. But, she also recognized that she could hardly speak back, even worse if she wanted to explain things. It’s frustrating. We all know that feeling!

The funny thing is about the lunch and the afternoon snack. We know Sky loves food. And it’s also the first thing we discuss everytime I pick her up at school. I can access the monthly menu at the school internal website so I know what she got or will get, but she just loves to explain what she has eaten, and that she always finishes them all… Well that’s at least one less issue for us. πŸ˜€ She also doesn’t have issues having lunch an hour later than what we do at home. Again, my worry just disappears in the air….

So once again, so far so good. We are getting into our daily rhythm and doing things we are planning to do. Everyone is healthy and happy… and this adventure has started to get its shape.Β  πŸ™‚

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