Category: Everyday (Page 3 of 5)

Christmas Program

All the last week at school the girls have different activities going on in celebration of Christmas.  I received a Circular Navidad outlining the week.  Lavender had a Christmas program on Monday.  They sang songs to the parents that they had been practicing.  It was really cute.  It’s interesting in that I thought Lavender would just absorb the Spanish language and come home speaking it effortlessly.  I thought she would be the first in the family to learn.  Her teacher and nearly all the teachers of the 3,4 & 5 year olds speak Spanish exclusively.  It really hasn’t been the case.   I think she knows the least amount of Spanish of any of us.

October had her program for the parents on Wednesday and Scarlett on Thursday.  Both were very brief but fun to see.  I nearly broke out in tears before October’s performance.  “I’ll be Home for Christmas” was playing as an interlude between classes.

On Wednesday, there was a storyteller coming to all the lower grades.  On Thursday, the kids went to sing Christmas Carols at the nursing home in town.  And then on Friday, each grade performed their Christmas song to the rest of the school and they had a visit from…well, I’m not really sure…it’s not Santa…the translator app says it’s a visit from “The Royal Pages”.  I think maybe it was the three wise men.

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There are more dogs than kids in Seattle and I’m pretty sure there are more kids than dogs here in Buitrago.  But there is definitely more shit here in Buitrago than I have ever seen in Seattle…or it’s suburbs for that matter.  I have seen exactly one, ONE dog owner here in town that had a little plastic bag of dog dukie tied to it’s dog’s collar.  There are no little doggie poop bags provided at parks.  I’ve seen but one owner have a bag with them.  I can tell you there are party hats EVErYWHeRe.  It’s disgusting.  It’s gross. It’s on the middle of the sidewalks.  It’s in the middle of the playground.  It’s on your front steps.  It’s really quite outrageous.  Here’s our front door yesterday.  This isn’t out of the ordinary.  It’s…have I mentioned…absolutely disgusting!


The Name Change

Shortly after we arrived and the girls began school, Scarlett was very excited to learn her name in Spanish is Scarletta.  And since then she has been signing her name as such and asking her classmates and her family to call her Scarletta.  I guess I can be glad it’s not a completely different name. Although it’s  pretty much the same I seem to butcher the correct “espanol” pronunciation…every….time.  I simply say “Vi-O-let-A”  but according to the small people inhabiting my home it should be: “BEE-O-let-AH”.  Maybe I’ll get it right for the plane ride home.

School papers from Halloween

School papers from Halloween


While you’re waiting for me to write a more interesting post.  I thought I’d share some photo’s of the topography of where we live.  We live in a valley in the Sierra Norte area of Madrid.  There are mountains surrounding us and I would describe the landscape as mostly desert-like.  It reminds me a lot of the eastern slopes of the Washington cascades and some parts of western Montana.  We drove to Burgos (200 km north) and there were parts that looked like the badlands of South Dakota and then the rolling hill farmlands of Nebraska and then more forest area’s of mid-Michigan.  Here are some photo’s of the drive from Madrid to Buitrago.

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Museo Reina Sofia

I’ve been to one art museum before.  It was nice.  I saw a Van Gough exhibition in Seattle.  And while I don’t remember the exact painting I do remember being impressed by seeing the actual brush strokes and the amount of paint on the canvas.  Lonely Planet has informed me that Madrid is home to three world-class museums and I figured I should check at least one out.  I choose Museo Reina Sofia based on a recommendation from a friend in Washington.  It’s a commitment to get there.  A nearly two hour bus ride followed by a 17-station stop Metro ride (which for awhile we were packed liked sardines)  Truthfully though, I’ve been itching to get out of Buitrago.  So even after we missed the first bus out of town.  Yes, we were not up and ready to go in time to make the 10 am bus, I still wanted to head out.  I knew either way (or at least I guessed that either way) an art museum was not going to be long-lived with three children.  And I was right.  They did enjoy looking at the art and showing there enthusiasm with vigorous pointing which made the museum attendants quite nervous which in turn made my experience less enjoyable.  We made it through 2 of 4 floors.  The kids said their favorite art was Guenica by Pablo Picasso. And it was fun looking through the painting and talking with the kids about what they saw in the painting.  It was the last painting we saw before we left so we did hang around extra long to enjoy it.

IMG_1544 IMG_1545 IMG_1555 IMG_1552 IMG_1559After leaving the museum we headed back toward the metro station (which was really close) and heard drumming and chanting.  Lavender excitedly pronounced it was a parade.  It was instead a protest rally of some sort.  And from my limited ability to understand the news I have gathered that protests in Mardrid are a rather frequent event.  We then left and got on a very crowded metro train.  Standing room only doesn’t even describe it.  But press on we did as our bus only runs every 1.5 hours and I didn’t want to be stuck waiting for the next one.   I enjoyed going into Madrid, eating lunch out and visiting the museum.  Yes, I needed to blow this Popsicle stand.


Here are the police following the protesters along, as well as the street sweepers. The protesters are off to the left. And yes, I was that tourist that pulled out my camera and took pictures.


Happy smiles once the metro train cleared out and they got a seat. You couldn’t even see the floor or the walls 3 stops ago.



Walking around town isn’t so bad.  It’s pretty small.  I can walk from far end to far end in 20 minutes.  I can walk to any shop I need within 7 minutes.  But I do find it a bit confining.  I’d like a car.  I’d like to buy things that aren’t available here in a small town.  Like peanut butter.  Here’s October’s thought on not having car.







The Holiday Season

The holiday season is quickly approaching. The calendar says Thanksgiving is this week. As in two days. But it’s not Thanksgiving here. Nor are the kids studying it for English class. And there are no black Friday ads. Actually, it was the black Friday ads filling my facebook posts that first alertedly me to the approaching holiday. The deals, the discussion of holiday creep and the morality of retail stores open on Thanksgiving. I enjoy scouring the ads. Although, I’ve rarely ventured out at the crack of dawn (once for diapers at Babies R US, once for a Zune, neither of which I was early enough for).  Before we had kids, we used to go to Target and fill our cart with all the things on sale we’d like to buy.  In the end we’d sigh and go home with a couple of DVDs.  There are no turkeys in the stores (at least not in our town) and certainly no promotions of getting a free turkey when you spend $150.  But, there are whole, skinned rabbits in the store.  Turkey substitute?

We decided on a modified Thanksgiving menu.  Baked beans, squash, green been casserole (complete with dried onions), scalloped potatoes with ham and an apple pie.  I gathered YouTube videos on the history of Thanksgiving for the girls and we made our Thankful Turkey craft.  Both the YouTube video and craft, Jeff will be using in one of his classes tomorrow as well — English Language Learning.  And you know what, it did put me in the holiday mood.  Maybe, tomorrow I’ll put a bunch of stuff I don’t need and won’t actually buy in my shopping cart in honor of Black Friday (i.e. Black week??)


Scarlett:s Thanksgiving Turkey. She is thankful for Days off of school [to spend with her family], life, food, the world, her family and love.


Lavender’s Turkey. She is thankful Scarlett and October, Mommy, Grandma’s, Castles, food and family movies.


October’s Turkey. She is thankful for life, family, sisters, peace, grandma and food.

Mirror, Mirror

All of the mirrors in our house are up high.  Basically, I have only seen myself from the neck up since we arrived.  Not that I am one to be standing in front of my full-length mirror gazing at my reflection.  It’s just odd to get dressed everyday without looking in a mirror on how your outfit looks.  Maybe that’s just me.  It’s a different perspective when you are looking down at your outfit vs in a mirror.  And I might even venture to say, you (okay maybe just me) always think you look GGOOOOODDDDD from this perspective.  That is until you hit that full-length mirror and realize you have mismatched clothes and somehow it seems your shirt shrank since the last time you wore it.

We also have no dryer or scale in our home.  Which also means no shrinkage on my jeans and I have no idea which is winning.  The walking everywhere or the eating & drinking.  So basically, I am walking around thinking I’m loosing weight in my unshrunk jeans and that I look mighty GGOOOOOODDDDDD.  In the five shirts and two pair pants I rotate through.

Large Family Card

Did you know that the “Terminal” with Tom Hanks was based on a person’s real-life experience?  And no, not mine but you can read about it.   Many days I am reminded of this movie.

I recently learned of the “Tarjeta de Familia Numerosa” — it’s a card for large families to which having three children qualifies and gives significant discounts on museum passes, train tickets, etc.  I decided I would try to sign up for it.  I was feeling bold last week.  I found the right office after finding the wrong two to begin with.  I wasn’t really sure if we qualified for it as we are not permanent residents of Spain but I decided I’d try anyways.  And with all things, the language barrier was difficult.  She spoke no English.  I spoke no Spanish.  She was at least tolerant to me using Bing Translate on my phone and reading what I wanted to say.  After finding the right office, I had to make an appointment to return in a week for my paperwork to be reviewed. Okay.  Sure.  I’m learning the pattern here.  And maybe it’s the same pattern for someone moving to the U.S. as well.  I just never had to go through that process.  I had my meeting (with itchy, Scarlet fever Lavender with me) and I’m pretty sure I still don’t qualify but the woman took my paperwork, was friendly and I think I am suppose to return once I get mine and the girls official papers to be here (an NIE number).  Or maybe even then we still don’t qualify.  I’m not so sure I will return.

Yesterday, I went to the post office to pick up a package.  But I was told to put my name on my mailbox and return tomorrow to pick it up.  I did and it was worth the wait!  Thank you Danielle!

Jeff spent two days with a gentleman from his school’s International department going to Madrid to find the correct office to receive his “student id”.  Our passports are student visa’s (which are only valid for 90 days) that say we have to go to the official police station within 30 days of our arrival for a student id card.  I tried the local police department but it wasn’t the right office.  Jeff talked to the International department several times as they discussed if this card was needed.  Several folks weighed in on where we should go.  Some suggested the American Embassy. Others suggested we just ignore it.  I know that someone at the consulate’s office in San Francisco took the time staple this paper to my visa so I’m inclined to actually get a student id card.  Finally, Jeff and this gentleman went to Madrid in search of the right office.  Half a day and a parking ticket later they had not found it.  But they did learn that Jeff was in “the system” but no record of me or my student visa or the kids’ student visas were found.  I like to joke that may make me an illegal alien but I’m not really sure it doesn’t.  I know, “The Terminal” right?  After a series of calls and in-person questioning, the International Office managed to set up an appointment for Jeff to complete his paperwork; which included another set of fingerprints.  But first he had to go to City Hall in Buitrago to register with the town that we indeed live here.  This involved two trips.  The girls and I are still waiting to hear when our appointment is.  And after which, maybe I’ll qualify for a Large Family Card?  I should probably just give up hope on that one.

I went to City Hall to sign up the girls for Rhythmic Gymnastics.   On my first visit, I was told the registrar was out and to come back Monday.  Can you see the pattern?  When I returned I was told the registrar had to check with the instructor and then she would get back with me.  And by told, I mean spoke to several times in Spanish before I got the general idea and they found someone in the building with basic English skills (yeah!).  This was October.  And the thing is, I’ve been a registrar.  Isn’t it part of the job to know what’s available?  I returned last week to follow-up as I never heard back.  Then again, I might not have called the woman back that I knew spoke no Spanish either.  The registrar was very pleased to let me know there was indeed space!  I then got  the paperwork to fill out – which included copies of the kid’s passports and submiting their photographs.  Oh, and I needed to go the bank to deposit the tuition into  the city’s bank account and bring the receipt to city hall to finalize signing them up.  Okay.  The bank representative simply yelled louder at me in hopes I would miraculously understand her.  A gentleman three people behind me began yelling the translation to us.  Argh.  And lucky for me, I get to do this same process every month to keep them enrolled.  But they are now signed up for the class, twice a week for $15 euro’s each a month.

And why was getting the internet so difficult?  First off, the language barrier.  But the internet/phone company that services our area does have an English department.  Please think of “English” department loosely.  I had my order in once before.  I couldn’t use a credit card to secure the order.  And while I indicated I planned to pay my monthly bill at the post office (which at that point I hadn’t found yet) I needed a Spanish bank account number to finalize the order.  It took me weeks to gather my courage to go into a bank and open an account.  The first one I went in looked at me like I had two heads when I clumsily stated in Spanish I wanted to open an account and did anyone speak English.  I left in near tears but determined to get internet.  I went to the next bank and the youngish, gentleman spoke some English and did lots of clicks on the computer, copied my passport several times, printed lots of stuff off and in the end gave me a bank account number.  Just a number.  No requirement to have money in the account (although I’m not holding my breath on this one).  Just a basic account.  I went home and called the internet company back.  Actually, I called them 9 times before I actually was connected to the English department.  You see, they have an English department but all the auto-prompts are in Spanish so I would just randomly hit numbers in hopes of getting a live person so I could blurt out “Department de Ingles, por favor.”  Once I finally spoke with a representative, they indicated that another person would call me to go over the details (again, the pattern is repeated) but this person thought they no longer accepted post office payment.  The next representative called me back, confirmed I could pay at the post office, I tried to convey that yes I have a bank account but there was no money in it.  He told me to call back in a week to change my billing method from bank to post office.  Okay.  But we now have internet!

This is not to mention all the paperwork that was submitted to get to Spain.  And the cost.  Our passports and Visa’s arrived 2 days before we got on the plane.  It took twice as long as expected.  And unbeknownst to us we had to include a self-addressed express envelope for the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco to mail our passports and visa’s to us.  No mention of this was in the paperwork.  Our Spanish consulate contact did not mention this.  It was however “our fault” and he passed long the $135 fed-ex air bill to us — which he collected when he visited the school in Buitrago last month.

Some days, the slow pattern of multiple trips, visits or calls is just about the last straw.  Other days, I smile and have a glass of wine before heading off to the next appointment and pretend this is what it must have been like before the internet.   Maybe, even before the telephone.  And certainly before credit cards!


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