A Travellerspoint blog



October 27, 2007 to … November 3, 2007

~Man, or as they say here, a lot, “Hombre”! I’m in the mood to write! Three and a half months into this venture and I’ve got the urge. 4 months generally seems to be my comfort mark in a new living situation. I’m ahead of schedule! My home and work are set up and I have routines now, thus, more free time and a clearer head. Clutter, especially of the brain, creates chaos! The simplicity of my world could present itself as boring to some. But for me, I have found a freedom from the weight of stress. The kind of stress associated with my living situation abroad is really different from yours, well, you’ve been reading all about my dilemmas. Very gentle really. I don’t lose sleep over lack of language or confusion of culture, these issues actually make me sleep better because I tend to be exhausted at the end of a day. It’s somehow more OK to make mistakes in another country than in your own, easier and funnier. The stresses in people with normal lives seem more serious. Really they’re not, they just feel that way. If only we could replicate the way of thinking of a traveller into a normal lifestyle, wouldn’t we all be much happier?

~Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are back on the menu again! Thanks for caring, Laureen and Joe of Thunder Bay, and for keeping me fixed! Evidently Rhonda’s parcel is taking the scenic route to Jaca, but the unplanned staggering of peanut butter packages is strategic. Prohibits me from overindulging!

~Carb and Gas received a taste of their heritage too! “There’s nothin’ like Temptations”, would say Gas if he could say! Carb will, and has been, eating anything, the pig, but Temptations make him DROOL, the pig!

~The neighbours, across the street, are actually my entire Gypsy neighbourhood! ... which assembles, nightly, in the vacant, dilapidated building directly across from my living room window, 2 metres across, where live, loud concerts are performed, 7 nights a week, more frequently on holidays! How lucky was I to move into the front row apartment of this nightly assembly!? Actually, it is loud but it’s quite cool! The music is traditional Spanish Flamenco, a very intense sound, and it religiously adjourns, by 9:30 PM. And I don’t have to pay to hear it! And should I decide not to want to hear it, I simply crank my music and turn on my “teacher ears”, which instinctively tune out any unwanted noise on demand!

~How apropos I should be living amongst the Gypsies (Dictionary definition: gyp . sy n somebody who has a nomadic or unconventional lifestyle.)! But these Gypsies have been described to me by Castellanos/Spaniards as a Tribe of people. They don’t live in stereotypic caravans, but in apartments, thus, are not nomads. And this adjacent building, as I just learned last night while out on the town (sorry to report, no good garbage), is actually their church! Seems their music has religious undertones which I somehow overlooked. So who needs to go to church when your neighbouring church is amplified through your living room window Monday through Sunday, twice on holidays!

~ I live on the most “happening” street of Jaca. The most interesting part about my neighbourhood is “the morning after”! Every morning is a “morning after” I have discovered! If I happen to venture out of my apartment before the street cleaners have done their daily deeds, I get to walk through a minefield of vomit and broken beer bottles! (The reason I remove my shoes inside my house, how unSpanish of me!) You see, half a block from my door are the best fiesta bars for Jaca’s youth, one place is fittingly named Obsession, another Amnesia! And this being a Spanish town, well, it’s OK to drink on the street and all the aftermath that goes with drinking. It was a little intimidating walking home at night through the entourage of dreadlocks and teenage hormones when I first moved in, but I’ve learned that these kids are quite friendly and harmless, just drunk. And the winds must be in my favour because when I’m home, I never hear any of their drinking noises (over the music blaring from the neighbourhood church)!

~OK, so I’ve made my living arrangements out to be a tad hideous, but they’re not really. I love where I live! It offers an excitement that Little Current did not, not even living at the Anchor was this exciting!

~Carb has now eaten a total of 5 doormats in 2 ½ months. For Christmas I think I’ll buy him wall to wall carpeting!

~Payday has a whole new meaning for me in Jaca. I actually really appreciate it and notice it! My trivial number of work hours pays for my monthly roof and the contents within, despite the quirks. Living simply is not expensive. I always have money to share vino y comidas with people or to travel and experience but besides these necessities I have no other needs! I don’t crave extravagance meaning “stuff” and my scant wardrobe is sufficient. I don’t need to keep up with the Martinez’. For example, yesterday I contemplated buying a 1 euro oven mitt, but concluded my non-water absorbent tea towel works well enough. I’d rather put that euro to better use. I can buy an avocado, a pound of coffee or take a bus to a hike-able mountain for one euro. 4 oven mitts will buy me a 26-er of Amaretto!

~My dish rack. Put up your hand if YOUR dish rack is located INSIDE your kitchen cupboard! I have a built in model with a drip pan below! I only knew the function of this specialized cupboard because we had one in Madrid…otherwise I’d probably still be trying to figure out it’s purpose. This invention was one of a cat owner I’m sure. Carb can have total custody of my 2 square metres of counter space and my dishes are less hairy!

~I’ve just experienced Spanish Daylight Savings. So that means I only got 11 hours of sleep last night! But after the copious amounts of vino tinto we consumed last night, just might have to contemplate a siesta soon! Spain, siesta and sleep all start with the letter “S”!

~Things I’m most glad I brought:
~Carb and Gas (even if the feelings aren’t mutual)
~10 pair of underwear, now I can go 20 days without laundering
~my man Mac (Wow, I just found a Euro symbol € on Mac!)
~50 “I am Canadian” lighters
~my bank card
~my international electrical adapter/converter
~my Spanish dictionary

~Carb and I have just discovered he likes red peppers…we didn’t know that till just now! His head is in my salad bowl! He also likes cantaloupe. He’s one weird cat.

~Operating my shower is like driving a standard vehicle! The handle is even stick shift-like. You have to constantly change gears so-to-speak to keep the water temperature consistent. Probably has a lot to do with the small size of the hot water tank affixed to my kitchen ceiling. The tank, incidentally, has finally stopped dripping on my kitchen floor…Teflon tape is an international cure for most bad plumbing jobs. Teflon in Spanish is Teflon!

~It appears Gasoline grew his winter coat overnight…mine’s in the mail. I brush the guy daily…except days with hangovers because it hurts to bend over and put your head lower than your heart…he’s thicker today than he was yesterday!

~The Spanish equivalent to our Dollar Store is called the “Chinese” Store, all owned by Asians, and this is politically OK here. Where most cheap Canadian products are now made in China (used to be Tiwan), here they’re made in Changchun! I need an atlas. And Spanish Chinese food tastes just like Canadian Chinese food, the same greasy-doughed chicken balls with the same fluorescent/neon orange, glutinous, skin-staining sauce! I had to investigate.

~So I took the plunge, stood out like a sore thumb more than usual, and dressed up for Hallowe’en! My costume cost me 60 centimos (Euro cents), the cost of a black permanent marker. I scrounged a large box that had contained “fresh flowers” and dug out my Canadian flag packing tape and Spanish dictionary. Know what I was? I was the only walking Parcel from Canada in Jaca…perhaps the only one who dressed in a costume in Jaca! But my students loved it or maybe it was the Hallowe’en chocolates I gave them they loved. Kids are kids, everywhere!

~Guess what I found? Salt and Vinegar chips! Flavours have immigrated!

~Spanish holidays keep popping up unbeknownst to me! I hate showing up to teach in a closed school, or running out of coffee on a national holiday! But I like the mentality of the Spanish with regards to holidays. Holidays here generally and strategically fall on Thursdays so they can then also call Friday a holiday because, really, what’s the point of working one day in between two days off! Those Fridays have been given the official name of “Puente”, and that’s why I know how to say “bridge” in Spanish, in a landlocked Spanish town!

~Simon and Garfunkle are still alive and green! I can’t say that they’ve grown at all, but the haven’t died! Christmas is looking promising!

~Vale, estoy bebiendo mucho vino tinto y ya las palabras son muy borrosas! Less the accents that I haven’t been able to locate on Mac, I sincerely thought my Spanish was improving, evolving from a vocabulary of about 10 words (when I first landed in Madrid) that I learned from childhood cartoons like Speedy Gonzalos, to the ability of carrying on a half human conversation of multiple concepts beyond name, occupation, place of birth etc. Immersed in a new language can make one appear stupid! Even if one is not really that stupid in one’s first language. Learning a language means reverting to basic speech like that of a young child, although with less grace and receiving less empathy from one’s audience. Using simple vocabulary, creating choppy imperfect sentences, accentuating incorrect syllables, speaking at a snails pace, constantly asking for repetition and clarification, utilizing body language making oneself look “challenged” or Italian, etcetera! So the word that I innocently have been using for “straw”, in colloquial terms, actually means “masturbation”! I didn’t know!

~Gas has been burping a lot lately…and I didn’t even know a cat could burp!

~I have a dead banana lying on my kitchen counter calling to me! Better go and make a cake! Adios mis amigos hasta la proxima carta, Dana and soon-to-be-on-a-diet cats (My Ecuadorian upstairs neighbours with the scrawny cat keep asking me what I feed Carb and Gas…wait till they meet my kid…she’s 2 Ecuadorians in height!) xoxo

Posted by hiitsdana 09:45 Archived in Spain Comments (0)



10 Feet in the Pyrenees with a dusting of snow October 20, 2007 to …October 27, 2007

~I used to hate walking, says the woman who used to drive daily the 2 blocks to work! But hiking in the mountains isn’t really walking, is it? It’s more like doing stairs, meaningful exercise in disguise and if you can take your eyes off the path long enough to suck up the vistas, you forget about the blisters, sweat, weight on your back and distance remaining till the peak. Of course, like anyone with still functional knees, I much prefer the return trip, downhill and usually a cerveza or 2 as a reward!

~When…who knows when WHEN will be…I return home, I will have compiled a collection of WAY too many digital mountain photos, but I promise, in advance, that no one will be introduced to the Pyrenees peaks one by one! I still have 400 photos to prove I was at my first bullfight in Madrid 3 years ago…thus, on October 12, 2007, my second and probably last corrida de toros (the bull never wins), I have saved 10 photos worth viewing.

~Teaching is teaching, I have learned. And kids are kids, everywhere, I have learned. I still love teaching, as long as I’m rested ‘cause they’re a tough species!

~I am back to being my own Spanish teacher! I have 2 new books to work with. My fees are cheap (free) and I never assign homework (to myself)! It takes self-discipline, but I am dedicated and like learning at my own pace. I have concluded I will never be fluent in Spanish, but who cares! It’s all about survival and the challenge of learning and growth. Although I would never push my lifestyle on anyone, I do recommend learning and growth to everyone! It’s really stimulating!

~We’ve been receiving visitors in the middle of the night as of recent! Spanish architecture is such that the roofs all connect at different angles and levels, a stray cat labyrinth! And as Jaca is a smallish town, word’s out that there are “dos gatos canadiense living at number 9 Calle Del Barco and follow me I’ll show you a shortcut”! But angled clay tiled roofs are slippery, I’m suspecting, as frequently a stray or two slides and plops into our terraza during the wee hours making a lot of noise en route. And then how does one help these wild, undomesticated and scared critters to escape, after one puts some clothes on. One guy cleared a stonewall in one leap that I can’t even reach fully extended on a chair! I named him Supercat! Then of course Carb must investigate and “mark” every centimetre of territory which has been contaminated by stray paws! Oh how I love the smell of baked pee in the hot summer sun of the next day! It’s hard to get a consecutive 12 hours of sleep around here!

~I love my toilet! Can you say the same? It has two special separate buttons for “BIG flush” or “LITTLE flush” (no, they are not labelled). All you have to do is decide what’s what!

~Let’s return to the concept of clothes dryers, or lack of, for a moment. I used to believe people were simply being tight by not drying towels and I realize these are big consumers of energy. The exfoliating quality of a stiff towel is quite satisfying after a hot shower. But sometimes I miss fluffy! Especially in my clothes which can stand up by themselves after coming in off a clothesline in brisk temperatures. And I always counted on my dryer to get what the washer missed, i.e. cat hairs. And I refuse to “do” the ironing thing. So I’m one crisp and hairy looking Canadian broad walking these Jacian streets.

~I have learned how to use Jaca not just as a proper noun (Jaca, Spain) but also as an adjective (a jacian day), adverb (he spoke jacianly) and verb (to jaca or not to jaca). I have also used it as both a gerund (jacaing) and past participle (jacaed). It’s not legitimate vocab, but it works…and where else could I ever use it?

~Halloween is a North American word. I’ve seen only 2 stores in Jaca pretending to know what it’s about. Commercialism at it’s best. It’s one of my favourite celebrations and I will miss it this year. I admit I love it for the candy, although I ALMOST gave up trick or treating when Kraft stopped making caramels, almost! (Can’t remember what year it was…but not that many ago.) I think it’s one of the reasons I became a primary school teacher and a parent, an excuse to dress up retardedly justifiably. Still deciding if I just go for it and freak out the locals, or hold back and pretend there are only 30 days in October. I have such a limited supply of costume-producing-stuff in my apartment, but then I know the best creativity always comes from less. But I don’t want to get arrested and some costumes just don’t translate well or are not culturally correct. Contemplated dressing up as a bowl of Paella-too messy. If I lived in Italy I could do the spaghetti and meatballs one again-I could move. I’ll let you know my final decision.

~My fridge has lost the battle, given up…it works now, finally, without beeping! It’s been beeping since the day I moved in, August 1st, 2007. For 2 ½ months it’s been playing head games with me. It only stopped beeping because the Spanish fridge repair guy, Jose Miguel, had been notified, so it was the phone call that stopped it from beeping! Kind of like going to the doctor when you’re sick but you feel great when you get to his/her office! I have absolutely no idea what changed it’s mind to stop beeping, but it did. It stopped. Now every day I wake up and pat it…good fridge…Buena nevera…it’s a bilingual fridge.

~I’ve decorated my apartment in Early…how would one label it…Garbage! Every time I go out for the evening, usually in pursuit of beer and tapas, I spy with my little eye some good garbage! This one Beautician store is always throwing out the coolest of glossy billboards advertising make-up or skin care products. Of course, I then drag these monstrous sized advertisement boards into the bars with me…creates for good conversation amongst the patrons, I’m sure. Lauren would be soooo embarrassed! They now hang where there were once the tackiest of wall-sized paint-by-numberish paintings, the Spanish version of velvet Elvis’. I kept one 18 x 24 inch framed photo hanging in the kitchen, circa 1950’s, featuring hunks of raw meat, tomatoes, a decanter of oil (I suspect it’s olive oil), and a chunk of half eaten bread. It’s a keeper! And so many walls, so many maps! I’ve also kept almost every bottle of wine I’ve consumed since my arrival. I’ve clear-cut a few fields of wild dry flowers, stuffed my bottles and they garnish every household surface…when they collect too much dust, I’ll chuck them and harvest more, but I’ll buy work gloves before I cut any more teasels. My windows and sofas have been draped in sarongs and my bookshelves are stacked full of cool rocks and stuff-of-nature collected on hikes. A touch of incense, candles and recessed spot lighting and I have the funkiest digs in all of Jaca! When visitors enter they always gasp and say, “Que (with an accent) precioso!” Which means lovely, beautiful…I looked it up just in case!

~Bleach/lejia is a worldwide clothes wrecker! Just lost a pair of pants, or as the British would say-trousers, to the wretched stuff. I’m now down to 4 pair, makes for an even duller wardrobe. The problem is the washer…blame it on the washer. All front loaders here, which makes you dependent on that little drawer to distribute the toxic liquid evenly…guess what, it didn’t…guess what, won’t use it again! They were cream colour and now they have psychedelic splotches…do I detect a potential Halloween costume here?!

~OK, something’s up here…I most definitely have possessed appliances…just after I wrote of my haunted (pardon my language, mind-fucking) fridge, I discovered my non-sucking vacuum suddenly sucks! Like magic! Was cleaning the clumping littered cat box, for the tenth time today, and I always use the vacuum-like appliance to SLOWLY remove the sand that never made it into a clump from the carpet I have strategically placed at the end of the box, like I’m going to teach these cats to wipe their feet after pooping…Gas, is the typical guy cat slob who scatters the gravel absolutely everywhere, digs like he’s headed to China. So it’s like God has answered my prayers and has pumped more voltage through my electrical sockets or something! OK, so now I believe there is a God!

~Ever tried talking on the phone in another language? You’re at a great disadvantage without the assistance of sherades or lip reading and you can’t pretend you know what’s being said because usually, as in most conversations, you’re expected to say something intelligible back! Almost as difficult is watching a dubbed movie with no subtitles, but at least here you have moving pictures to help you guess the main ideas and you don’t have to respond! No, most definitely foreign phonecalls are my biggest nightmare! That and forgetting where I live.

~The Weather! Let’s talk about it? I try to avoid this topic for 2 reasons, 1. I don’t want the majority of my readers to be envious and 2. It’s such a typical Canadian thing to do, talk about the weather. I’m not sure when it happened, a couple of weeks ago maybe, but the weather changed. Mostly, it’s still sunny, blue skied and warm during the days, but nighttime lows are gradually dropping. We’ve had some rainy and grey days, a nice reprieve, but that’s what makes this area green as opposed to all but the northern regions of Spain. It’s Halloween and the leaves are still on the trees (I don’t mean the conifers)! See, talking about weather is dull, another reason to avoid this discussion…there’s just nothing funny about it. No mistakes or oddities about it.

~Just made Rice Pudding Soup! Made it just as I would at “home”, measured carefully, and I’m a measurer…and I got soup! Ingredients are simply different. It generally takes me 2 or 3 attempts to make most things right here. So by Christmas I’ll be able to eat my pudding with a fork!

~I have discovered, while watching the street cleaners (I watch everyone) that there is a secret foot pedal on the garbage dumpsters…I no longer have to open the dumpster by hand, yay for foot pedals!

~You know you’re getting old when…the hot flashes begin! A few times during my precious sleep, I’ve awoken in a serious sweat…unless it’s erotic dreams I’m having and just can’t remember them…memory loss is also a sign of aging…darn!

~#1 reason to shave your armpits…according to Gas, it’s where the fur mats most!

Muchos besos y abrazos (that’s many kisses and hugs in your language) xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo dana y gasolina y carburador

Posted by hiitsdana 09:37 Archived in Spain Comments (0)



sunny 18 °C

September 10, 2007 to …today, October 20, 2007...no news is great news!

~As of September 16, 2007, I’ve been in Spain for two months. Two of these days produced a little rain…the other 59 have been sunny and blue skied. It’s because I brought an umbrella. If you have an oily complexion, this is a great country in which to dry out!

~Of course, the day I wrote the above entry we had a wild thunderstorm in the middle of the night. Living in a valley amongst mountains creates an amplified sound effect. Carb who is a “scaredy cat” in the normalest of storm conditions…well, I don’t know the technical term for “fear of thunderstorms” or “fear of loud noises like vacuum cleaners”. Gas, on the other hand, suffers from “fear of plastic shopping bags”.

~Carb has taken to liking showers…we have no bathtub here. He also likes to be vacuumed with the quiet, hardly-sucking, low wattage vacuum like appliance.

~Good news…I found part-time (7 hours/week-he he he) TESL work (Teaching English as a Second Language) and Baking Soda (in the soft drink section of the remaining grocery store to be explored in Jaca)! Finding work and cooking/baking are truly like a scavenger hunt here!

~Clay floors are wonderfully easy to keep clean…if you can tell they are dirty in the first place! My floors are a mottled terracotta colour, the same colour tone as regurgitated dry cat food, that’s no longer dry. Gotta watch where you’re stepping amongst two hairball-proned cats though! Clay is slippery when wet!

~Haven’t had to buy a can opener yet…not because I can’t say it in Spanish (abrelatas), but because most canned goods here have the pull-off lids! How cool is that!

~So Mac, my buddy, accepts Spanish formatted DVDs. I’ve now memorized the 1st three Harry Potter movies in both Spanish and English. Words like witch, spells and magic are practical when you live in the heart of a Gypsy neighbourhood. I don’t know about my control of the Spanish language…but my British accent is certainly improving!

~One of my greatest adult desired goals in life has been to be or become wise! My mom was probably the wisest woman/person I have ever known. I know wisdom does not arise from formal education, but from practicing life, picking up common sense and the ability to rationalize. Experiencing various lives by changing its familiar patterns, taking calculated risks, and making mistakes make one wise. Being observant through all the senses, an efficient listener being utmost. I have been called a “wise woman”, and this is the most distinguished compliment I could ever hope to receive…but I know I still have a lot more experiencing to do before I feel I have truly achieved my goal. Part of the reason why I’m here!

~I have no real “To Do” list here this year. I’m not accustomed to wandering aimlessly…but I like it!

~I love countries that promote Siestas!

~Canadians take note…the Spanish have designed a plastic grocery bag that can successfully later be used for a garbage bag! (No holes!)

~Towels hung to dry on a clothesline are excellent defoliators!

~If you’re not “on” Facebook (www.facebook.com) and you don’t want to be…then you can read both Lauren and my Blogs or updates on www.travellerspoint.com. This is a very cool information sharing utility for anyone who likes or wants to travel anywhere, anyhow, anytime. Even if it’s simply a 2 week holiday somewhere, just put it “out there” and you’ll receive oodles of feedback of great places to eat, stay and/or visit. Fellow travellers will share their experiences, the good, the bad and the funny. You’ll discover the stuff not found in travel books. Lauren doesn’t email her updates so Facebook or Travellerspoint are your route of reading about her journey! She also bought herself a cell phone: +44 799 090 31 54 and her email address is: lauren__mccormick@hotmail.com (2 underscores).

~Have you ever played the memory game? You know, the one where a bunch of objects are placed on a table, something is removed, then you have to guess which object isn’t there…well, a friend just asked me for a list of grocery items that I can’t purchase here, things she could possibly send me…and now I’m trying to remember what’s missing in this country’s grocery stores!

~I’ve got to stop cooking and especially baking so much…my clothes are starting to fit again!

~As I age, I find if I don’t wear my glasses when I clean mi casa, then I don’t have to clean as hard!

~Carb has a new cat toy…it’s a rug. It’s quite pathetic to watch actually. He sits on his mat and flicks up the edges with his paw…for hours on end! It cost me 60 centimos…cheaper than those fake furry mice that accumulate under the sofa that I’m forever having to move in order to retrieve them. Gas’ favourite pastime is jumping out of my bedroom window, in the middle of the night. He can’t reverse the jump, as the terraza is substantially lower than my bedroom…so he meows at the backdoor until he disturbs my sleep. He likes this game! As screens don’t exist in windows here, my choices are few. So, the first night I closed the window, I awoke to the sound of Gas’ head reverberating off the window pane! He only played that game once! His other favourite pastime is sitting in the bathroom and staring at the ceiling which is mirrored, and meowing at his reflection. It’s apparent they are quite missing the freedom of the great outdoors…and that they are quite psychotic!

Besos y abrazos xoxo Dana

Posted by hiitsdana 13:48 Archived in Spain Comments (0)



sunny 30 °C

~Back to normalcy, although we never quite found normalcy before taking in our 4 temporary house guests. 8 paws and two human feet now reside in our home, making our home, home! It is phenomenally beautiful and cosy. Spaghetti brewing on the “induccion” ceramic stove top as I write, sipping some inexpensive but yummy Rioja vino tinto, listening to the soundtrack of “Chocolat”…one of my favourite movies, utilizing the portable speakers I brought! And I’m happily unemployed! I’m enjoying time…enjoying life!

~So, translating domestic duties have presented a FEW challenges…I think the expression “trial and error” must have originated in Spanish! (She says as her 1st attempt of a banana loaf made in Spain bakes weirdly in an ever-so-different Celcius oven-like appliance.)

~1st the purchase of cooking/baking utensils and equipment. I bought one mixing bowl and one measuring cup…that’s all the store had, one of each, lucky me, an electric handheld mixer/cutter sort of gadget, forget measuring spoons and rubber spatulas-they don’t exist, and loaf pans here must be metric or something ‘cause they’re sure a strange size and shape…but “improvising” and “making do” are the name of the game of living life abroad…and should have scouted for oven mitts because I just burnt my hand using a non-water-absorbent but obviously heat-absorbent tea towel I purchased. People here use aluminium foil the way I use plastic wrap.
(This is my favourite line, and my new philosophy this year!)

~The banana bread tastes great, not quite the same as Canadian banana bread, but it’s stomach-friendly! It baked in record time…I’m beginning to suspect this ain’t no normal oven I have here. Took me a week to figure out the stove’s funky touch-top keypad “induccion” elements. This figuring out was with the assistance of the landlord…seems you have to have a pot/pan ON the element before it will work…who’da thunk! Thus, the word induction…so, I’m not a genius! It’s just all so overwhelming that sometimes thinking is tough! This oven-like appliance with the multiple dials with funny little pictures on them MAY just be some kind of “bake-it-faster confusion convection contraption”! I’ll have ‘er all figured out in another 11 months.

~You don’t want to know what I’m storing my baked goods in…no, you just don’t want to know! You’ve got to walk in my stinky shoes to know where I’m coming from…remember what I said, “Improvising and making do” are 2 important survival techniques. I’m still alive to tell you about it! That’s all that matters! Good loaf.

~Now, back to the purchasing of ingredients. Cancel vanilla flavouring, and it’s make-your-own chocolate chips with a knife and a semi-sweet dark chocolate bar I found by accident, flour has the consistency of cornstarch…sold in 1 kg. bags…I’m going to wear a path to the grocery store this year. Then the bananas I bought…you know, the yellow ones that really look like bananas…well, they were bendable-couldn’t-even-break-them-in-half impostors…but once I put my handy-dandy chopper to them, they actually tasted like mushed bananas. And then the oil. There is an entire aisle in every grocery store dedicated to olive oil…but where’s the normal vegetable oil? Found 2 lonely bottles of sunflower oil, glad I took my portable pocket dictionary shopping, tucked up and back on a shelf where no Spaniard could ever reach, so I bought them both. And eggs aren’t refrigerated in stores here…why are North Americans so paranoid? No first aid aisle in this grocery store, therefore no baking soda, so had to ask about baking powder…my pocket dictionary was simply too compact. Pardon my Spanish…described, “white powder to put in cakes to make it rise”…I thought I was doing a fine job with my description…and what a confused looking shelf-stocker. So then I added some body language…tricky miming baking powder…should have guessed it was called levandura en polvo…next time I’ll be ready with the language! So, baking one loaf of banana bread has been a day’s adventure! And what did you do today!

~Next, spaghetti sauce. Are you tiring of this yet…’cause I’ve only just begun! Tomato paste doesn’t translate, so Dana buys one of every tomato product in a can to take home and investigate. My tomato vocabulary has expanded ten-fold. I can now say cut-up, ground, peeled and fried tomatoes. How can fried tomatoes come in a can? I think I added tomato soup to my sauce. The outcome was a successful flavour despite the lack of paste and language. Every grocery store sells only the same 6 spices…buy them all and get creative.

~Last cooking complaint for the day. I’m living in a grape infested country, you know, Spain, wine making capital…well, do you think I can find raisins anywhere? Where there are grapes…there have got to be raisins! So, I finally found a store that sells them…in 125 gram packages! Is there no justice in this world?

~Okay, so next domestic duty that’s non-translatable…the cleaning! As soon as a vacuum is measured in Watts as opposed to Amps, one should become suspicious! My blow dryer at home has more oomph than the vac I just bought. Anything heavier than a cat hair MAY suck half way up the hose and then if you hold the hose above your head and vertical, the pieces will fall due to gravity into the canister bag! Glad I also bought a broom. Sponge mops don’t exist in Jaca and I refuse to use a string mop…they just seem to dilute the dirt and spread it around, sloppily! Exposed stone walls are beautiful, but I think they are forever shedders of grit…the price one has to pay for beauty! Something like cats. Buying a cleaner. Go with what you know! Don Limpio…this one I could translate all on my own AND I recognized the picture of “Mr. Clean” himself, dressed in white of course, smiling his obsessive compulsive smile. And he smells good!

~On to other things. I must have a sign attached to my back, on which is written, “Please ask ME for street directions in Spanish” (as opposed to every other Spaniard walking around/near/beside me)! Not only am I new to Jaca, but also slightly unfamiliar to the country (and the language). And I seem to get targeted every time I venture out of my safe haven. Is it that non-English speaking tourists can guess that I carry a map with me at all times-biggest fear, not being able to find your way home! But I love getting Spanish directions. There’s not a Spaniard who won’t give them to you if you ask. They may not be correct directions but they’ll always be considerate and point you in a direction. I’ve learned to ask 3, then average out the results before moving on.

~Let’s see, what other mistakes can I report on! Well, I accepted an ESL teaching position in a little village called Benasque, a couple of valleys away, toward Andorra and the Med. Spent a week immersion teaching and hiking/exploring the mountains and towns surrounding the village. What appeared to be employment served on a silver platter was not cat conducive…so had to give it up! Will find something more local!

~Just bought 2 teenager-aged evergreens. Named them Simon and Garfunkle. Will see which one survives to serve as my Christmas tree…only 106 shopping days remaining. (Peanut butter…Temptation cat treats!!!)

~Requests for a Lauren update! 3 days till departure date! She flies to Amsterdam on Sept. 12 to begin her journey of independence. She has my address and phone number, so I anticipate a visit when she needs a breather from travelling…or money! I am soooooooooooo excited for her. It’s taken years of brainwashing and training her for this year abroad pre-University. Her acceptance to Queen’s has been deferred for a year, so I think she’s set for life…or at least a year or two. As a parent, it’s a nice place to be…I can sit back, relax a little and watch her life unfold…and wait for the phone calls! I envy her adventures because I still value and view my post high school travels with care and clarity, like the learning was yesterday, but I seem to be in the midst of my own adventures today! But it’s different now…I’m different…I’m old(er). I don’t really want to sleep under bridges with rats swimming at my feet, or feed on canned lentils for consecutive days, or have to call collect…I’d much prefer struggling with foreign language-ed appliances and having to carry Spanish kitty litter home without a vehicle.

So enough idiosyncratic rambling from me. Ew, just found a spider the size of Gas’ head! Cats refused to kill it. Looked (simple past tense) like a daddy long legs that had been eating my levandura en polvo!

Here’s to IT being September and ME not having to plan for a year of teaching! Salud!

dana, carb and gas xox

Posted by hiitsdana 09:22 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

18 FEET IN THE PIRINEOS! august 2007


sunny 35 °C

~Carb and Gas are so happy with their brand new, blue, normal size, Spanish kitty litter box. They like blue. It also matches their brand new Spanish kitty litter. No scoopable stuff to be had in Jaca, so opted for the clear crystal stuff with the blue flecks. It's Martha Stuart beautiful! But of course, they won't use it...it's just different. So I awoke last night, with a start, to the sound of a china cabinet crashing to the floor shattering it's entire contents of crystal and glass! NOT...one of the cats decided to test drive the cat box. Noisiest cat litter on the market!
~In my Hostal, the only one in Jaca that accepts cats, I found a bathtub. As I know bathtubs are a rare commodity when living in small apartamentos, I have taken advantage of my full size tub. Gas has developed severe twitches and itches so am finally bathing him in shampoo far more expensive than mine, Selsen Blue, as had been prescribed by our Canadian vet for his dandruff disabilities, which combined with a bad hair could have been diagnosed as mange (sp?) which would just not have been a good thing at customs entering Spain. Too late, customs just didn't notice. Anyway...Carb gets the same shampoo treatment...just because!
~Another note of coincidence between Susana and I, her mother and I share the exact same birth date, March 10, 1961!
~I am officially a resident of Jaca, Spain, as I now have a library card! There exists one bookshelf containing 5 shelves of books en ingles! Of course, they are not necessarily national best sellers or even published in the recent century...and I may have to re-read Anne of Green Gables (the one token piece of Canadian literature), but I am just sooooooo happy! And so is the librarian as I donated 2 English books I brought and have read...I think she likes Canadians now too!
~Visited the local Friday market in Jaca. It is not the Rastro of Madrid, but should I need to purchase a thong during my stay here...I know where to shop!
~Yes, if only these cats could speak...FUCK, would probably be the first word out of their mouths (and they are neutered, so now you have context)!
~So I now have an address...send peanut butter (for me) and Temptations Cat Treats (for Carb and Gas) please!
Dana Biernacki
Calle del Barco, 9 (bajo)
22700 Jaca Huesca
~So, my new piso has 2 bedrooms, 4 beds...come visit! It's newly renovated with clay floors, exposed stone walls, exposed beamed ceilings and a terraza (terrace). It's amazing. Beautiful. Home for a year!
~Had to clean a lot of renovation dust, but alas, a few days with a borrowed vacuum and we're down to clay and stone...let the shedding begin Carb and Gas!
~Have been hiking and trekking a mountain a week, day hikes...takes me a week to recuperate! So we're talking 8 to 10 hour continuous, mostly uphill,ventures. This, combined with my involuntary diet (my stove/oven is due to be installed this week, so have become an accidental vegetarian!) has loosened my clothes. Peculiar how the skin doesn't retract so well at age 46! But, I feel so good, emotionally, physically and spiritually!
~As in any new place, new world, I am learning it's ways...for instance, I have just learned of the short cut to the first mountain I hiked...could have cut 5 km off my 30 km day hike!
~Setting up and operating new appliances with Spanish manuals has been quite a task. The washer: looks foreign, sounds foreign, but 2 loads later and I think I've got it figured out...one load, however, takes and hour and a half! The dryer: is even slower...I strung a clothes line! But simple to operate. The fridge: now this is an ongoing challenge. One minute we're friends and the next, it's beeping and flashing lights at me, and really, there are only 2 possible buttons to push (unlike the washer), so how complicated should a fridge be?! And the manual is as thick as the latest Harry Potter book, which incidentally, I still haven't got (Spanish book store guy assures me in September)! Wait...I now have it...and feel privileged that I have taken time away from Harry et al to write to you!
~Carb and Gas have made a Spanish amigo...se llama Diesel! Yes, we have adopted boarders, temporarily. My friends Susana (Poland) and Antonio (Madrid) and Diesel have moved in. They needed a room, and I happened to have one...and I accept cats! Diesel is young and follows Carb everywhere, to Carb's dismay, and Gas just observes from beneath protective furniture and growls! Carb is much more tolerant in a good-thing-for-Diesel-that-I-just-had-my-claws-clipped kind of way. Perhaps it is a language barrier issue. A great opportunity for an inter-cambio language exchange as Carb and Gas now reside in Spanish territory and Diesel, awaiting a visa, is Canada-bound. How coincidental! I just love how lives interconnect amongst opposite destinations!
~And now the brother of Susana visits from Poland, so we are an international full house! I'm loving it all!
Hasta luego mis amigos,
dana and fur

Posted by hiitsdana 09:07 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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