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Catalan Book Review

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And then comes the moment that she brings a book from school to be read and reviewed…in Catalan language! Up till now she has done about 4 book reports on her previous class (1st grade) and 1 book in this new class, but all of them were in English. She doesn’t even get one in Spanish yet. So she’s quite nervous that she now has to read and review a book in Catalan. It’s not a very long and difficult book, but it does have quite some text to read.

14 months ago she only spoke a few words in English and zero Spanish except ‘hola’ and ‘adios’. Nowadays she speaks English quite well and also Spanish. According to herself her English is at this moment a bit better than her Spanish, but it’s absolutely amazing how quickly she masters these two languages. Saying so, learning Catalan is not her focus last year. She understands it a bit (much much more than we do!) but talking is difficult and reading also. Since Catalan’s writing is not phonetically spoken like Spanish. You read it differently than how you speak it. Maybe this year her teacher wants her to learn more Catalan, hence giving her a Catalan book to be reviewed. Maybe.

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Most people living in Catalonia are bilingual. They switch between Spanish and Catalan fluently, which is amazing. Well, good thing and bad thing. Because while they mostly don’t mind to speak only in Spanish when they find out we’re not speaking Catalan (yet), they still tend to use some Catalan words in their speaking. So it happened that we suddenly heard our doctor said something in Catalan, but also the neighbour, office colleague, and of course on the street where it’s all written and said in Catalan (about 70-80%). We had one funny experience when we bought Sky’s bike from a guy living in Vic, a city about one hour riding from our house. As usual, we started the conversation by apologizing for our very simple Spanish. His answer: “Well, it’s not my first language either (Catalan it is), so we are equal.” That was a genius statement!!

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For those who think that Spanish and Catalan are similar…no they are not. Well okay, the amount of similar vocabulary is significant and you will learn Catalan absolutely quicker when you already speak Spanish. When I read I can often guess the meaning of the text (based on my Spanish vocabulary). But when listening, depending on who’s speaking and the context, sometimes I understand completely zero and other times up to 40%. That’s it. I followed basic Catalan class last year, 20 hours in 2 weeks. All my classmates were South-American whose Spanish is their mother language. And they all need to learn Catalan from the basic. That shows how different those two languages are. I do not avoid to learn more Catalan, not at all. But at this point I think it’s wiser to strengthen my Spanish first. My plan is to continue learning Catalan next year. Poco a poco, they say. Poc a poc, in Catalan. Little by little.

Back to the book review. I promised Sky to read the book together with her, because we are learning together. I think that relieves her a bit, knowing that we are all in the same journey. That it’s not something scary we’re facing, but an interesting stuff for all of us. Learning language takes time, but it’s fun! 🙂

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Her Spanish comics

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Emigration Milestone

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Last week I felt that we have reached an important milestone regarding our emigration from the Netherlands to Spain, 14 months ago. I said “we”, but it’s actually Sky’s milestone. For the first time since our move she wanted to; and was able to; talk about our time in the Netherlands. Without crying or feeling homesick. Just talking. With the same emotion like when we talk about the dinosaurs. We were talking about her previous classmates and her friends, in which grade they are now. About how we used to walk to school (“that I still remember very well”, she said) and also to the grocery store (“I’m not sure I remember that”), and how the surroundings of our previous house have changed rapidly from what we heard from friends living nearby.

It sounds simple. But I believe it’s a huge milestone for her, and for us. I sensed how she feels more and more ‘home’ here in Spain. And by being able to talk about her previous life without feeling homesick, means she already feels comfortable with her new life, her new environment.

And she likes her school a lot. She missed school so much during the long summer holiday. Yesterday she told us: “I have so many friends here, sometimes I don’t know who I should play with!” Such a luxury! And an awesome news to hear for us, her parents! 🙂

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A little celebration last weekend because she turns 7,5 years old!

Our summer holiday

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This summer has been fabulous. We spent almost 3 weeks travelling around the Aragón region of Huesca province of Spain and a bit of the Basque Country of French. It was such a beautiful region. Rich of mountains, forests, nature, animal, but also culture and things-to-do. In August it’s literally a cool place to go since the temperature is a few grades lower than the rest of Spain (which is…hot).

Here’s a summary of our day-to-day holiday pictures (the same like I posted as ‘photo of the day’ in my Instagram: m_stella_n):

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El Salinar (salt mining) in Peralta de la Sal.

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Castle of Monzon, Huesca.

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Barranco (nature preserve) in Gabasa, Huesca, Aragon.

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Alquezar, one of the most beautiful village in Spain. We did the hike along the river Vero…amazing!

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Arrived in Tarnos, France. Sky took Lot for a stroll in the garden of our holiday house. Lot has been fantastic during the whole holiday!

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The beach of Tarnos, France.

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Visited a cute village La Bastide-Clairence and an amazing prehistoric cave Grottes d’Oxocelhaya et d’Isturits.

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Beautiful nature reserve park du Marais d’Orx. Spotting some beavers and turtles!

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Biarritz, France.

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Stand up peddle at Hossegor Lake, French.

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Bayonne, French.

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The backyard of our 3rd holiday house in Latré, Aragon, Spain.

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A ‘poza’ in the midst of beautiful greens, Huesca, Spain.

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Jaca, Aragon, Huesca.

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An ‘animated forest’, Parque Lacuniacha, Huesca.

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“Senda de Izarbe”, a walking trail with painted rocks on the route.

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Castillo de Loarre, one of the oldest in Spain and one of the best preserved Romanesque castle and abbey in Europe.

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“Fiesta de San Lorenzo” in Huesca.

summer holiday ‘casals’ in Spain

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We are now in our 4th week of in total 11 weeks of summer holiday. Eleven?? Yes, 11! While the summer school holiday in the Netherlands is 6 weeks, here in Spain the kids are roaming free in the summer for almost 3 months. I have to admit they have a reason for it, since the summer months are just too warm…we reached 40°C last week and the average is between 32-35°C. So it’s often too hot to do anything, especially in the midday hours (that’s why Spanish people are having ‘siesta‘ between 2 and 4pm, or simply stop working and having an extensive lunch). I think going to school with this temperature would not be such a good idea.

But 11 weeks…first time hearing it I had a shiver and inevitably came into my mind: What should we do in those weeks??
I know the summer break should be used to relax and recharge. I know that we should not entertain our kids too much. I know that being bored every now and then is good for our kids’ creativity. And in-between those long weeks we could also spend 2-3 weeks to have our family holiday. But still…11 weeks seem so endless!

Now, in our 4th week, I must say we are going good. Time flies indeed. And my girl has grown more like a friend rather than a child I should entertain all the time. She could create her own play or project and I feel like walking alongside instead of pulling or pushing her. We go out together and discover new places, but also stay at home having a chat or other cozy moments. That’s so nice! Still some long weeks to go, but I’m sure we will survive, haha!

For those who needs some activities for the kids, one thing I learned this summer in Spain is that there are lots and lots of summer courses organized in the summer months. It’s called “casal“, and you can find them in all sorts, activity types, prices etc. From sport to dance, from art to technics…in Spanish or English or Catalan (or mixed, like most)…only in the morning till lunch or the whole day…the offers are almost infinite. If both parents have to work (or the kids simply want to join the activities), it’s a perfect way to have fun. The signing up often starts months earlier and the popular casals get full very quickly. Almost all casals are held in June, July and the first week of September, but not in August. From what we experienced last year, in August the whole city seems to be asleep…

Since this is the first time for Sky to join a casal, we only chose two. She did an art casal two weeks ago and this week a theatre casal. And she loves them!! She even already said next year she wants to do these two again…at least, but probably more! And we even just prolonged the theatre casal because she’s just so curious what theme they will be doing next week and she asked me if she can come for another week. Of course!
I’m so happy to see that she enjoys the casals so much. At the beginning I was a bit worried about the language, since the official language is Catalans, and that’s her least strong language. But apparently it’s not a problem at all. When it’s needed they will talk in Spanish, and joining casals means her Catalans is improving a lot! A win-win situation to maintain her foreign languages during this long summer holiday.

So here are some photo’s of her casals results. The theme of the art casal is ‘journey to Paris’, so they made a 3D Louvre and Eiffel tower, sculpted a clay Gargoyle, painted themselves as Mona Lisa, drew like a Monet, painted Notre Dame, the Thalys high speed train and the tourists’ boat along the Seine river…

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And at the theatre casal the story goes about the wolf. But instead of being the big scary wolf like in the Red Riding Hood, the 3 little pigs and the seven little goats story, this wolf is lonely and wanted to make friends with all the characters in those stories. I really beam with pride watching the video of their performance. My girl really seems to have fun. She did a great job playing her role, and speaking her dialogue in a language she didn’t know at all one year ago!

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She is one of the 4 (instead of 7) little goats.

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The star of the end dance at the party of the wolf!

summer camp, end of school year

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blog4While I’m typing this, my daughter is in the summer camp. It’s the end of the school year here in Spain, and the school organizes a 3-days summer camp each year. Hundreds of children from all grades are having one of the most joyful days in their life. Each two grades share the same destination. Sky is in the first grade, and together with the second grade she is now staying in a ‘casa de colonias‘, a hotel-like building with many facilities indoor and outdoor where children or other big groups can enjoy their time together. I have received photo’s from her teacher yesterday and today and while I know that the hotel is in the midst of nature, I’m still impressed about how green and beautiful the surroundings are. I saw photo’s of my daughter and her friends nurturing vegetable gardens, playing games between the bushes, having their snacks under the shadow of the many big trees, a group photo in their dormitory with the many bunk beds… I think she is having a huge fun!

blog3But it was not easy, it is not. Because this is the very first time she is not sleeping with us at night. The first time she spends more than three quarter of a day without us, her parents. And that for 2 nights; 3 days! Of course we have prepared her (and the other way around) as best as we could. We had talks, she had tears and stomach ache. Woke up in the middle of the night. More talks, more tears. It’s all in the package. Sooner or later there will be the first time. And the time has come. She knows it really well, and however she’s quite scared of it, she was also very excited. Not once she said she didn’t want to go to the camp. I think she wanted to try and she knew she would have tons of fun. Only the first step is always a bit scary. For all of us!

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learn and be proud

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School’s field trip to Maritime Museum Barcelona

We were walking to her school one morning when she asked me: “Mama, can I stay in this school for many years? Till what age can I stay at school actually?” I smiled at her and answered: “Till you’re 18 years old. And yes, you can stay as long as you like.”

And I really hope I didn’t make a false promise. She likes her school very much and we; all three of us; like to live here. So hopefully she can indeed stay for many years at her amazing school.

So many things happened in the past few months. Yesterday was the last day of my Spanish course this school year. In September I will start with the next level and I got more than enough exam-points for that. Our Spanish is getting better and better. I wouldn’t say we’re advanced, but we’ve got enough to communicate with people. Sky has just got her periodical eye-control and we bought new glasses for her (her right eye now has lower cylinder and the left one stays the same). And she has finished a set of dental treatments (6 visits were needed in total). And all of those were done fully in Spanish. We’re so proud of ourselves!

But the most amazing thing is of course to see how well Sky is developing in these 10 months we’re living in Spain. I see that she now feels confident to communicate in English and Spanish, and she understands Catalans much better than me. At the Jocs Florals (Sant Jordi) celebration at school 6 weeks ago, she was one of the winners of poetry-drawing competition…in the Spanish category!!! We were called secretly by her teacher a few weeks before to attend the ceremony, so to gave her a surprise that we were there. It was such a grand moment to watch her on the stage…so proud…❤️

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March is her special month

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The previous post is about us, and this one is for Sky. Because March is a special month for her, she turned 7 two weeks ago!!! And there are more awesome memories made as well.

It started late February, when all 4 the classes of her grade performed a small musical-theatre. Her class played a piece from the movie Lion King. We enjoyed all the performances, but the big surprise came at the final stage. When all children came into the stage and received our applause. Then two girls stepped forward…and the third one…was Sky!!! They thanked the audience for coming and hoped that we enjoy the show. Sky was the first one to get the microphone in her hand…she did really well, saying those sentences in English! The second girl in Catalan, and the third one in Spanish. Wowww, can you imagine how surprised and proud we are?! Later that day Sky told us it was quite a surprise for her as well, because the teacher just asked her in the morning to do that. Probably not to make her nervous before the big day, understandable.

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And then there’s the Carnival. While the essence is the same compared to the Netherlands: dress-up, party, having fun…but it feels like the Carnival here is more enjoyable. Could be because it’s our first one, haha! But it seems like the ambience is more friendly and as usual, more relaxed. There’s more culture involved (ball de gitanes the day before and the children dance and parade at the kids carnival), no drunk folks (well I know we live in a small city, it could be a different story in Barcelona), no hard music and screaming and overdosing… it’s just so nice and pleasurable.

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Carnival at her school. She dressed up as Anna…the climbing Princess 🙂

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Ball de Gitanes (Ball of Gypsies), a typical Catalans dance which is always held during or before the Carnival.

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Children Carnival

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Small parade in our neighbourhood

The big moment: her birthday party!!!
It is actually on the 28th of March. But since the class’ agreement is to celebrate once a month, so Sky celebrated her birthday together with a boy who’s also having his birthday in March. So the party is 11 days earlier than her real birthday, as a compromise.
The party was held at a science centre and the kids got two workshops: assembly a drawing robot and make slime (you know; that sticky rubber-y substance which we all prefer not to have at home, let alone to make at home!) 😀 They all enjoyed it, and we the parents also, as we got to know each other better with a cup of coffee in a nearby cafe.

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Blow the candle…7 years old!

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Slime

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Drawing robots

There are also two “first-time” moments this month:

We went to the dentist for the first time in Spain, all three of us. First for regular check-up, but it appears that Sky and Joop need some extra treatments. So in the coming weeks we will be busy with some more dentist visits. When everything is done I will write the story in a blog post.

And the second one was the least fun one: Sky was sick for the first time that we’re living here. Two days before her birthday she came home from school with fever, which continued the next day. Luckily no other symptoms, only high temperature. On her birthday she already felt much better, but we still kept her at home. We went to buy a small cake and celebrated a little at home.

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Some more fun photo’s from this month:

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Egg in vinegar experiment

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(learning to) skate 🙂

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And lotsssss of fun and play! 🙂