Two weekends in a row I was in the downtown Barcelona. Here are ten pictures of the most touristy part of the city.
I had a chance to spend one hour at the school where my daughter goes. A month ago she told me that she saw two moms of her classmates eating at the school canteen. She learnt that parents can come to school to spend an hour eating the food the kids eat and evaluating the canteen services. It is called Rendez-vous á la cantine. It took me couple of weeks to set the date and prepare the visit together with the school administration. I have been given the rules to follow and a questionnaire to fill in after the visit. The rules were simple: not to disturb children’s routine, quietly observe the children and the school staff, not advise or help children or adults, and not to spend more than one hour on the school patio. The questionnaire was about the quality and quantity of the food, the attentiveness of the canteen staff, the presentation of the food, the state of the food facilities, and the daily habits of the children while eating.
The school where my children go accommodates 2,200 children. The catering service Serunion provides the food for all the children. Every day the children eat their lunch at school.
When I got to the canteen my daughter and her friends have just finished their lunch. She was happy jumping around me for 30 seconds, and then she told me to look for her in the patio after I am done with the food part. She also told me that I was lucky as today they had french fries and hamburger, which happens like once a month.
The canteen was large. One of the staff ladies showed me around and told me how I should proceed. The truth is that I have not been present to the school life since I finished high-school. We are talking about a 20 years gap. Things that are obvious to people working at schools appeared fresh and new to me. I took the tray as I have been told and got a fruit. Somehow the food line started with the dessert. The kids had to chose between an apple or a banana and between a greek yogurt or a cuajada (curdled milk). Then there were glasses for water, napkins, and silverware, including knifes. All kids got a fork, a spoon, and a knife. Next was the broccoli soup. The soup was served as the children arrived. Then there was hamburger (just the meat part, non the bread) and a choice of french fries or fried onions. I went for the onions. All the kids took the french fries. The last was salad, which included lettuce, tomatoes, hardboiled egg, lentils, carrots, and something else. The bottles of olive oil and vinegar were placed next to the salads. The kids helped themselves to pour those on their plates. The last were two choices of bread: white and wholewheat.
I looked around and found a table with some empty chairs. Each table sits twelve kids and as I have been told each class has two tables assigned to it. There is one canteen lady watching after each class. I was free to chose where to sit. I sat at a table with three kids on my left and two boys on my right. The kids on my left were finishing their food and talking. The boy had bread crumbs around his mouth and he was laughing and talking to the girls next to him. All of them were about six or seven years old. The amazing thing is that all the kids were happy. They laughed, talked, ate, made jokes, asked for more ketchup, and smiled non stop. I did not realize before how happy the kids are. The adults working with the kids seemed happy too. You can’t keep a tough face when kids are laughing and playing around you.
I did not notice how I ate my food. I enjoyed looking at the kids around me. They talked all the time. They were talking in French and making jokes. Probably around lunch time is when kids learn how to become social, how to eat and enjoy a conversation. None of the kids was screaming. Actually they mostly talked in normal voices and I could not always hear what the kids in front of me were saying. But when they laughed I inevitably smiled.
When I finished my lunch I went to the patio to look for my daughter, I knew what patio her class plays in. However, I could not see her there. I met couple of her friends and they all were happy to see me, but they could not tell me where Lorena, my daughter, was. I went inside the building and asked somebody from the school staff if they knew where she could be. I have to tell that around patio there was a lot of school stuff. All of the school staff wore green vests and were easy to recognize. I was not aware that so many people were involved in playing with the kids during the patio time. As soon as I have asked a lady in the green vest about my daughter a group of girls came running to us.
“Who are you looking for?” one of the girls asked.
“I am looking for Lorena. She is the one with two pony tails,” I said. “Do you know her?”
“No,” said one of the girls.
“Lorena Salvado?” said the other. “Yes, I know her. She is a friend of Aitana, right?”
“Yes,” I said.
“And she is a friend of Margot and Leocadie?” the girl asked again.
“Yes,” I answered. “Do you know where she is?”
“She is in the librbary. It is her library time. Do you want me to take you there?” the girl asked.
“Yes, please, ” I said. “What class are you from?”
“I am from CP 3, and she is from CP 4, and she is from CP 1,” she pointed to the other girls. “And Lorena is from CP 6, isn’t she?”
I nodded. CP is the first grade. There are six first-grade classes in the school. The girls took me to the library and showed me where to find Lorena. Once inside I saw her sitting with Aitana and reading books. I told her “Hi” and she run to me, gave me a kiss, and told me, “You did not search for me, right?”. I could feel that she was feeling a little bit awkward seeing me in her world. Thus, I just looked at her for a second, touched her pony tails, smiled, and told her I was going home, and that I loved eating at her canteen and visiting her school. Later in the evening Lorena told me she was nervous seeing me, because she knew she did not want me to leave the school and her heart beat twice as fast the moment she saw me.
Walking back home I thought that I loved her school because the kids were so amazing. They were open, helpful, happy, trustful. They played, talked, smiled, and learnt a great deal of social skills. I did not feel like an intruder, I felt like a guest. And I kept on smiling long after I have crossed the school gate.
I did not take any pictures, the ones I’ve posted here are from LFB website.
There are two moments of the day that I treasure. First is in the morning when I take my children to school. The second is in the afternoon when I pick them up.
At 7:50am I walk my daughter to the Bonanova church where the school bus picks her up at 8am. She goes to the Pedralbes campus. She is the last kid to enter the bus as we live not far away from the school. Marisol, the woman responsible for the children in the bus smiles cheerfully, calls Lorena “corazon”, and wishes me a great day. The bus driver salutes us and the bus takes off.
At 8:45am my son and me get out of our building and walk to school. Fifteen minutes of jumping, running, hiding, talking, and laughing. Closer to the school gate my son recognizes his friends and sometimes runs to them. The school director greets all the parents at the gate. Once inside the school patio we go to the classroom door, and Carole, my son’s teacher, says, “Bonjour Miro” and “Ça va?”. “Ça va bien,” replies my son.
As a grown-up I have an impression that time runs differently inside the school walls. Like if the care of the teachers, the love of the school personnel, the attention of the bus drivers, the lettuce and strawberry planted by the children, the running little feet, and the children’s smiles made it magical. Every minute has a different purpose. Every word weights differently. Every hand is helping, strong, and kind. Every interaction leaves an impression.
Sometimes when I walk out of the school gate in the morning I feel a little bit silly, like if I was about to cry. Because I see the children’s growth; Because I have the full trust that they are transforming into real people. And this experience, this touch of magic and future, is transforming me too.
I love picking up the kids from school. 4:25pm every day, 3:25pm on Fridays.
Our routine changes depending on the place we live in. As we have been moving a lot, our routine consequently changed every year. I remember I read a blog entry by my brother’s friend. She wrote about her routine as a tourist in a new place. The post was a great read. And it made me think that unless I write it down while I am living it, in couple of years from now I will not remember what our routine in Barcelona used to be.
Sunday morning in Barcelona:
9am – The kids wake up and play some noisy game. Today they are playing with their dolls and teddy bears. All the toys fight between them and make a lot of noise. My four-year-old says he is going to put the teddy bears into a prison for making all that noise. Then my six-year-old tries to figure out where he heard the word “prison”. “You have not heard it from me. How do you know it then?” she asks.
9:15am – I get dressed and start making our breakfast while the kids are trying to kill their pajamas, fighting them with their wooden swords. Then we have our breakfast, Russian “oladushki” (pancakes) and some bread with olive oil and tomato (my Catalan upbringing). And coffee.
9:45am – While I hang the freshly washed clothes on the back balcony the kids are getting ready for the bike ride. Every Saturday and Sunday I take them for an hour bike ride in the neighborhood. This is the part of our day I really enjoy.
10am – We are out of the door of our apartment building on the cross of Muntaner Street.
We reach Plaza Bonanova and turn onto Passeig Bonanova. I love this street to go cycling with the kids. On Sunday mornings it is peaceful and quiet. We pass in front of La Salle school where one of my son’s friends go. The school gate is closed.We get to a small ramp that my son uses to zip down to the sidewalk. He does it every day with his scooter when I pick him up from his school. His school is just around the corner.We reach the newspaper stand called Zurich. The kids get down from their bikes and cling to the ball machine. Each ball costs 1 Euro and this time I tell them “no”. Sometimes though they do get a ball each. They call them magic balls.10:20am – We continue our way to Plaza Sarria. We are more than half way there now. There is a gate in the white wall. My kids always stop there. The train (FFCC) line gets out of the tunnel there and if you stay long enough you get to see a train passing by. Today when the kids stopped at the gate, a nun that was next to them stopped too. She asked them if they were waiting for a train to pass by. My kids nodded. The nun smiled and waited a little bit with us.10:30am – We stop at the cafe 5 Pino. It is nice and shady there. There is a small kiddy park where the kids play. There are eight pine trees next to the cafe. I think those are the only pine trees in this area.Sometimes we get a kids’ magazine to read together, and some coffee and croissants.11am – We head to Plaza Sarria, which is just five minutes away. Actually the Sarria church is visible from the cafe. Today at 11:15am we heard the church bells ring for over three minutes. They were announcing the Sunday mass. We stop at the red light in front of Room Service cafe. This cafe has the weirdest opening hours ever. You never know if it is opened or closed. This is Plaza Sarria. Kids bike around it while we watch how the nearby restaurant, Santana, starts setting its tables outside.11:45 – We head back to Passeig Bonanova and towards Plaza Bonanova. The Sarria Church is in the background. We pass by an organic grocery store. Surprisingly it is opened on Sunday. It always has some wonderful basket with seasonal vegetables next to its door. We bike by the shade of the fence of the Mexican consulate. It is almost noon when we turn right on Mandri Street and go one block down. We pass Doctor Coffee (closed), Cafe Mandri (closed), and another bar that is open, but I do not remember its name. It has a large TV outside and people come there to watch football games each night.12 (noon) – We reach Plaza Bonanova and go to Fornet to get some fresh bread. We can hear the bells of the Bonanova church while we wait in line to buy the bread.12:05pm – We get the fresh bread and go home. Here it is looking back at the church from the corner of our apartment building. End of our morning trip 🙂
It was a perfect day today.
While unhappiness is complicated, happiness is very simple. It is visual, it is physical, and it consists of small acts that make us happy. I am talking about things like walking down the street, having a coffee with a friend, working on an interesting project, looking at the flowers in the flower-shop window, and talking to new people.
The day started simple, I walked down the Muntaner street all the way to Diagonal. It was sunny. I got a coffee at Le Crusto and walked with the coffee. Walking in Barcelona is a blast. It is one of my favorite cities to live in.
The streets look beautiful. I love the trees in bloom and the flower shops. And I like people who like flowers and flower shops.
I turned down on Passeig de Gracia and walked two blocks against the light. I stopped at a small store to get the rubber bands that my daughter is crazy about. It seems to be a fad in her school and in the whole city. All the moms, teachers, grandmas, dads, brothers wear those handmade colorful rubber bracelets.
I turned at the corner of La Pedrera and reached Pau Claris street. There was the cafe, Jaime Beriestain, where we held our focus group. The place was full of green sofas and flowers. The meeting was a good one, I learnt a lot, specially, I got a lot of insight on how to run a better focus group next time. When the coffee is good and you get to learn things that interest you, you are happy. At least I was.
Once done with the meeting I headed to Valencia street, where my favorite bookstore is located. Jaimes, the French bookstore. And I stood there and read the titles in the children section and held the colorful books in my hands. I got some books for my kids. The Barbapapa for my daughter and Boucle d’Or et les Trois Ours (The Three Bears) for my son. He studied this tale in detail during the first term in his school. This book will be full of great memories for him.
Things are not always smooth in life. In the past years I realized how difficult the things can be. I went (still going through) the separation process with my husband. It is not a fun thing, and those who have lived it, know it. However, through all the pain we were able to stay friends and make it the best for the kids and us. Every day I realize how grateful I am for having him as a friend and as a father of my children. I also appreciate the patience and ability we both put in to make our relationship during and after the separation better and not worse.
From where I am right now, I see that pain and unhappiness are small tunnels in our souls, that we dig ourselves. We are alone in those tunnels, we are the only ones digging them. And happiness is like sunlight. It is very simple, very generous and we want to share it with others. Happiness is walking down the street and stopping to look at the flower-shop window, and some times making a self portrait to make it more fun. Happiness is to just live and to enjoy small things. Like the fact that in ten minutes I will see my kids; and that my son got a haircut yesterday and I will probably almost not recognize him.
So, today is the mother’s day here in Europe. I completely forgot about it. This morning I woke up at 9:44am, which is unusual, as normally 7am would sound about right. Kids are at my parent’s place today! Great! This does not happen very often, thus I appreciate the silence in the morning.
I woke up and read my ipad and stumbled upon a post in a blog I like and it was about a mom, sort of a mother’s day gift. The post was great and then I realized that I have not congratulated my mom at all. How come I always forget about these things? Then, it got to me that I am also a mom. I never think of myself as one.
Yesterday I was taking my kids to the park and while I was buttoning my suit style jacket my daughter told me, “You do not look like a mom”. I turned to her and asked her how I looked. And she said, “Just like some other girl”. Whatever this means, I took it as a compliment. There we were walking barefoot with my kids in the park…
I went to the café for breakfast. I am here right now typing all this while finishing my first coffee. I looked at the café’s cakes offering (see the picture below) and it reassured me that it must be a mother’s day here today. I wanted to ask the girl who made my coffee if it was really a mother’s day, but could not pronounce anything intelligible. I had no voice. Still could whisper. Yesterday I went to the café for dinner and to read the book I just got, and when I was walking home it started to rain heavily. I got totally wet and lost my voice, it happens. After hearing myself at the cafe this morning, I think this is probably my most attractive voice ever.
Yes, it is the mother’s day here in Europe! I checked my email, and I got couple of “happy mother’s day” messages from friends. I also got two awesome emails at my work email, no, not about mother’s day, just about work, straight to the point! Those made my day!
So, today is a great day! After I drink two or three more coffees and read for an hour or so I will go home and work. Because this is what I really want to do. Working makes me think and makes me excited. It feels like I am actually making some difference, creating something from nothings, moving somewhere. Even if we are failing now, we will make it because we are persistent and feel the purpose. We will make it because I can tell people what to do and they will do it. This is a gift I truly value. I have been told that I should go out and enjoy myself, the truth is I hate losing my time at dinners, lunches, having conventional conversations, talking about other people and things, discussing news, etc. It bores me to death. My work is what really makes me excited.
Happy mother’s day to all moms! Do the things you truly love and are passionate about, today and the rest of the days to come! It really does not matter what those things are, as long as you feel it from your heart. And it must be something with purpose.
Those are the ship pictures at El Fornet cafe, right in front of my table. I like to sit at this corner table and to glance from time to time, blindly, at the ships while I work. I can see the rest of the cafe from my place too. As a kid, I was excited about ships and learnt to draw them in detail from a technical guide and blueprints. I was preparing myself to build a ship!
Yesterday was a very beautiful holiday here in Barcelona: Sant Jordi. It goes back to the legend of the cavalier Jordi that slaughtered a dragon to save a princess. From the dragon’s blood red roses grew and Jordi gave one to the princess. Since then on the April 23rd all men give roses to women. And women give men a book, to never forget the history and the legend.
Since I was a teen I found this holiday wonderful. The city is full of flowers and bookstands, everybody is cheerful, you give and receive roses. Somehow people are very happy. It is spring and there is no better way to feel it than seeing so many smiles and flowers around.
Downtown Barcelona is decorated and beautiful on that day. We did not have a chance to go to the downtown this year. We were busy with the kids, taking them to their Sant Jordi activities. However, we were glad to see that our part of Barcelona was beautiful and full of flowers too. Kids were dressed as princesses and cavaliers on that day, there were theater plays in their respective schools. My son’s daycare held hot chocolate and coca (Catalonia cake with sugar and pine nuts) for the kids and their families. And at our daughter’s art school they had an open-door day, inviting all the families to participate in making roses and decorating the walls with paintings. Here are some pictures from yesterday. It is Sarria / Sant Gervasi area of Barcelona.
This was one beautiful day of spring! And the festivities are going on for the rest of the week. It feels like every day is a holiday in Barcelona.
Seeing the world in black & white today. When you do not have colors, you see the details. Made me think about business. In any given company absolutely everything valuable should be in black and white: the structure, the information, functioning, navigation. Color should not contain any information within the text, on the website, in the ad, in the store. All information should be in black and white, and color should be added as an emotional layer later on.
I like the world in black and white. Do we dream in color? I think not. I can’t remember colors from my past night’s dream. Maybe we dream in concepts.
The spring began today. For me, that is. Today was the first day I saw the sharp shadows on the plaza. Yesterday I spent six hours working inside a cafe, because it was cold and raining, and I did not have an umbrella with me to walk home.
Today I noticed it was spring. This afternoon the sky was blue, the houses looked bright, and I sat with my laptop outside, getting tanned for the first time this year. Sunshine! I know it is spring when the shadows become sharp. I first see the shadow and then realize what object it belongs to. Living in terms of the spring shadows. Living outside.
Barcelona, March 25th 2013