The Spanish Kiss..

Since we’ve returned to the US.. I find myself kissing my friends on the cheeks.. before tennis, after tennis.. before walks, etc.  It hit me the other day when I was introduced to someone I didn’t know… when they stuck out their hand for me to shake it.  It was then that I realized.. I loved Spain for the quick kiss on either cheek when you meet someone and saying “encantada” meaning.. it’s nice to meet you.. Here, the outstretched hand, feels like it creates a barrier.  Kind of like, this is my space, you stay in yours and we will meet half way.

Somehow the small kiss on the cheek feels friendlier.. and takes the barrier feeling away.  And I especially loved it in Spain when the kids would do it.
Mauro, a friend of Owen’s, would always say hello, look at me and then give me a peck on each cheek… all with eye contact.  I was always so impressed.   Not sure what I’ll do here.. maybe just one peck on one cheek …  ;)

Kind of a fun blog here about it from someone else..

 

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Barcelona in 3 days..

Because Barcelona is home to many cruise ships.  And because Barcelona is, quite frankly, one of the best cities I’ve ever been to… It’s no surprise that we get the question on a rather regular basis about what we would recommend visitors do when they come to Barcelona.  Friends, friends of friends, family, etc.  Here are our suggestions!!

Day 1:

AM

La Sagrada Familia (get the audio guide too and order your tickets online beforehand (at least a day before) so you won’t have to wait in line.  Here’s a link to tickets.. if you have time purchase the audioguide and the tickets for the elevator up in to the tower.

Walk down Las Ramblas from Plaza Catalunya  to the Boqueria

Walk through the Boqueria

Have lunch at Bar Lobo (next to the Boqueria) or if you really love trying food at one of the stands in Boqueria.  Remember lunch is from 2-5 ish… or if you want a quicker lunch and LOVE burgers.. head to Bacoa on Ronda de la Universitat, 31.  Soo good!

PM

Wander around the Barri Gotic until you want to go back to your hotel.   (The Picasso Museum is here… and is pretty amazing.. especially if you have seen the painting “Las Meininas” at the Prado in Madrid.. as Picasso spent a lot of time creating his own interpretation of this painting and there’s a whole wing dedicated to this in BCN).  Here’s a link to tickets.

For dinner if you want to be on the water and have great paella.. head to Pez Vela (which is in the lower half of the W Hotel).. or have lunch at Agua again, make reservations if you can!

Day 2:

If you get up early… head up to Parc Guell (I’m talking like 8AM or so) and walk through the park with NO CROWDS… and lots of early morning views!  This used to be free, but you need to purchase tickets in advance now to avoid the lines.

Head to either La Pedrera or Casa Battlo… (it depends on how much Gaudi you want to see)…  go to both if you are crazy about Gaudi.. (Get your tickets online in advance to avoid lines.. La Pedrera tickets or Casa Battlo tickets. Also, notice you can see these amazing structures at night!!!  I haven’t done this… but highly recommend heading to the rooftop terrace at Hotel Omm.. to view the lights on La Pedrera at night!  Incredible!

Barcelona has gotten more sophisticated.  They are using the Disney “Fast Pass” approach at times.  Which means, not only can you skip lines, but you don’t have to pick specific times either.  If it’s available, spend a bit more for this luxury.  And, if you combine it with Bus Turistic (the red bus) you can hop on and off at your leisure.  BTW you can purchase tickets to the Bus Turistic at any Bus Turistic stop.  A 2-day pass is the way to go it’s like 10 euros more… and you’ll save money on cab fare.. and it’s a great way to see the city.

Have lunch at Cerveceria Catalana for some of the best Spanish tapas we’ve had.  It gets crowded so if you head to lunch at 1… or 1:30.. you may even beat the crowds.  It’s also near La Pedrera..

Hire Sarah Soler from Galaplacidiatours she will not only show you great historic places to shop, but walk you through the Gothic Quarter and give you a load of history about Barcelona!

Dinner at Isabella’s (make reservations!)… is one of our favorite restaurant in Barcelona.  And be sure and order the menu degustacion.  (The chef will deliver whatever he wants.. and it’s always amazing!)… And be sure and order the Ternera (steak) but the way they prepare it, it’s like CANDY!!!  Also get the croquetas with gorgonzola and the burrata… and tell Isabella I said hi!  If you head here, you are in my old stomping grounds for where we lived. :)

The other restaurant we are Crazy in love with is Boca Grande (make reservations or just go to the sister bar next door Boca Chica) be sure and head down to the co-ed bathroom afterwards for a DJ hosted party in the potty.  Not sure if the DJ is there every night.. but definitely on the weekends, you will enjoy the bathroom dance party with strobe lights, drinks, etc.  Here’s us partying in the potty…. a bit blurry..but you get the point..

OR consider heading to Bar Mut Restaurant and then ask about the secret jazz club upstairs afterwards (we only learned about this the last year we lived in Barcelona).

Day 3

If you want to see the coast, take the train up to Sitges and enjoy a day at the beach.  You can do this by train at the Sants train station.   From here, you could even take the high speed train to Paris!!

The Palau de la Musica is amazing.. but I wouldn’t pay for their tour.  Instead, if there’s a show that looks interesting, it’s better to go to a show there.. here’s a link to upcoming shows..

Also, try and see the Castellers!  They now have a website dedicated to people like us!!

Also, if you happen to be lucky enough to be in town when Barca is playing… get tickets!!! Here’s their calendar.

There are a bunch of things we have yet to do, but are saving for when we have friends with smaller kids… they are as follows:

Tibidabo – an old amusement park that overlooks the city.

The Barcelona Zoo

We’ve visited the aquarium.. but didn’t much like it.  It’s hard to top the Newport Aquarium in Cincinnati.. :)

The Museum of Chocolate 

The Ice Bar (near the Arts Hotel on the water)

A bike tour.. Fat Tire Bike Tours

OR

Hike the Carretera de las Aguas…. this trail is on the side of the mountain that looks over Barcelona and the Sea… you would hop on the Metro (subway) to the Peu del Funicular stop… then hop on the funicular (your ticket is good for both) and head up the mountain.  Don’t get off at the top, but get off at the next stop as it’s heading back down.. and that’s the Carretera.  Walk in either direction.. it’s beautiful!  But if you plan a lunch up there, you can make reservas at Can Marti and have a very traditional meat heavy catalan lunch… from white beans, patatas, sausage, wine, etc.   It’s a fabulous experience.

We also get questions about HOTELS.  Here are some of our suggestions:

Le Meridien is right off of Las Ramblas

Hotel Majestic is right off of Passeig de Gracia

Casa Fuster  has a fabulous rooftop deck that has gorgeous views overlooking the Passeig de Gracia…

And the other view from the rooftop bar..

Hotel Arts (off the beaten path, but we hear it’s great).. BTW Hotel Arts has a Six Senses Spa that is awesome … the best in the city as voted by my body… and a fabulous view to boot!!  Here’s a view from one of the deck’s post treatment.. :)

Here’s a link to an apartment in our neighborhood.  A metro station away from Las Ramblas.  Or a quick 15 minute walk to Passieg de Gracia.

Several friends have also rented this Apartment on Arago and felt that it was perfect and close to everything… :)

There’s so much more.. so as we think about ideas, we will add more.  Here’s a link to the calendar of holidays here.. as there are many.. and most of them are really, really fun and interesting!

BTW, we haven’t spent much time in Montjuic but it too is a popular place to go with the Miro Museum and the National Museum of Art.. also the Magic Fountains at night and Poble Espana which was built for the World’s Fair and replicates architecture from all over Spain with little shops that sell things you would find made in Spain.  It’s kind of a working town if you will.

And.. thanks to a visitor that’s here now.. she’s introduced me to this… I haven’t done it.. but it looks like it might save you a bunch of money.  I’m not sure if it helps you skip some of the long lines though!  It’s an Articket

Ok and lastly, let’s talk SHOPPING… what to buy, what to buy… :)

If you are going for made in Spain stuff….

Definitely pop in to Zara and Mango.  Cheap, inexpensive clothes.  But totally hip and trendy!  Also Desigual is Barcelona made.. not as cheap!

Pretty Ballerina shoes and Espadrille Shoes or more Espadrilles here .

Loewe Bags or for less expensive bags Vaho (these are bags made from old recycled street banners)

There’s an unbelievable jewelry store.. from crazy costume jewelry to super cool expensive stuff (cool and different.. very artsy).. it’s called La Basilica Galeria and is on Sant Sever which if you face the Cathedral and walk up the right side of the Cathedral.. it’s a street off to your right.

Farga Chocolate be sure and get the chocolate balls that are milk chocolate powder on the outside with sugared almonds on the inside… they are called Catanas and are very common here..

For high end (and expensive) shopping try Jofre in our neighborhood or hit Passeig de Gracia and visit Santa Eulalia along with Hoss.

And of course Barca jersey’s are always a great gift item..they also sell cool Barca shopper totes… so you think of this amazing city as your shop the markets back in the US.

On another note, I just got back from a great lunch and shopping in San Cugat!  Wow!!  What a beautiful village!!!  And you can take the Metro there!  There are a bunch of fabulous shops that I wanted to dip in to.. but I landed in one in particular that I  LOVED!   It’s called Julia Koo.  The owner is from Vancouver.. lived in Shanghai which is where she has all of her clothes made (for women) and they are the most beautiful fabrics… silk and bamboo (which feels like cashmere) and so stylishly beautiful!!!  This, for me, truly is the first time in BCN I have walked in to a store and wanted almost everything!!

Here’s a recent link to an article featured on CNN about Barcelona with some tips too!  Enjoy!!

Remember.. get your tickets to the museums ahead of time.. to skip lines.. and make your dinner reservations (and lunch too) to ensure you get in!  :)  And if none of the above suits your fancy and you just want something extra special.. or are organizing groups and want something incredible, call Christian at Barcelona’s Guest… if he made the Pope happy with his trip here to consecrate La Sagrada Familia, I’m sure he can make you happy!! :)  He’s a total CAN DO guy!  And one of our favorite people here in BCN.. xo

 

 

 

 

 

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Grass Roots…

The tear rain streaked window was fitting as we pulled in to the town of Khayelitsha near Cape Town.  We had three hours before we needed to head to the airport for our trip back to Barcelona and Rob wanted to show us one of their Grassroots facilities.  He and Lauren talked about grabbing lunch in Khayelitsha as well.  I expected the town to be much like Hout Bay where Charlie had played soccer last year and where “Patty”, a sweet little boy the Adams’ have taken under their wing, lives.  I had no idea.

As we pulled in to Khayeltisha with Lauren driving and Emma and Caroline in the back seat, I put my camera down.  Torn between capturing what I was seeing and simply being afraid of being seen, I slowly removed my wedding ring and my necklace and placed them in the inside pocket of my well known “diaper bag”.  I regretted wearing the white linen pants and cashmere sweater (which was to be my travel attire for the day).  We were following Rob, Doug and the boys in a car in front of us, but I felt vulnerable.  I felt that feeling you get in the gut of your stomach that says, this isn’t right.  We shouldn’t be here.   The voice your mother has always told you to listen to.

As we drove, Lauren pointed out, to our left where we would have had lunch.  It was a few stands or stalls that sell low cost meat cooked on rusty grills around which groups of people stand devouring it with bare hands.  Much like what we saw in Morocco, the meat comes from a variety of mysterious sources.  To me it looked like a very dirty, grimy, abandoned gas station.  As Rob shared, however, his local team are regulars at “braai” (grill) #17 and consider it a special occasion – no surprise among a local population that lives on a diet of largely corn meal.  Lauren had advised Rob that our eating there might not be the best choice since we were heading to the airport and might not do so well should a “luxury” meal like this not sit well for a 12 hour flight…

We turned left to see rows upon rows of shipping containers- basically the township version of a strip mall.  One was a beauty salon… with a slogan on the front saying “Same day!”.. which made us chuckle.  Others sold old, used clothes or  tires or TV sets or couches (the kind you see discarded on the streets) or fruit.  And to our right was row after row of tin shacks.  MILLIONS of them.  And a line of port o lets lining one side.

Khayelitsha is a township in what are called the Cape Flats ,about a 30 minute drive from central Cape Town.  Created by the Group Areas Act during the Apartheid era that forced black (African) and coloured (Malaysian, Indian or Indonesian) out of the most appealing areas Cape Town, Khayelitsha is the 2nd largest township in South Africa behind Johannesburg’s Soweto, and currently has a population of between 500,000 and 2 million… but no one is sure… and when you visit, you can see why.  As a side note, only about 8% of the population in South Africa is white but they control  about 95% of the country’s wealth.

Rob works for Grassroot Soccer.  GRS was founded by a friend who played soccer with Rob at Dartmouth, Tommy Clark, who went on to play professionally in Zimbabwe.  Tommy witnessed first hand both the devastation of HIV and the fanatical popularity of soccer in Africa.  A number of Tommy’s Zimbabwe teammates died of AIDS and in response, he and 3 teammates started Grassroots Soccer use the power of the game to educate and inspire young people to lead healthy lives and avoid HIV.  In the last year GRS graduated 97,000 young people – and 700,000 in the last decade – through its programs in 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa – home of the vast majority of global HIV prevalence.  GRS has found that soccer IS “the hook” for young people – it captures their imagination, the message breaks through, and behavior changes.

In conjunction with the World Cup in 2010, FIFA built 20 “Football For Hope” facilities throughout Africa in the heart of neighborhoods who most needed it.  These fields have become “safe places” for people within the communities and are used as a tool for social and human development in the areas of peace building, children’s rights and education…   Grassroot Soccer manages 3 of these centers in South Africa and Zimbabwe, including the Khayetlisha site we visited.

It is here that local GRS-trained coaches (18-25 year old young leaders from the neighborhood) and US college graduate interns, like 23 year old Eric Barthold from Dartmouth who is spending a year in Khayelitsha with GRS, work with kids from 13 to to 18 years old.  As a side note, an estimated 6.1 million people were living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa in 2012 (17.9% of 15-49 year olds),  the highest volume of infected people in any country.   HIV prevalence in women is also 3 times higher than men, due in part to incredibly high rates of gender violence.  And, as we witnessed last year, when we visited a village in Zambia, HIV and AIDS has a devastating effect on children.  There are more than 1.9 million children orphaned by AIDS.  Around 30% of pregnant women in South Africa’s 2009 Survey were HIV positive.  I highlight this, because for many of us, HIV and AIDS isn’t even on our radar… but if you visit Africa… the devastation in families and communities is unavoidable.

When we were in Zambia last year, we learned that HIV and AIDS are rapidly spreading along the border between Zambia and Botswana because there isn’t a bridge that connects the two countries.  It sounds odd, but the reality is, there’s a ferry that takes the trucks from one side to the other (and I’m guessing the Zambezi river at that point is maybe the length of a football field).  The ferry can only handle one truck at a time, so truckers generally have to wait TEN days to cross the river!  TEN days of idle time and prostitution all right there.  As odd as it sounds, building a bridge would be one way to reduce the spread of AIDS.

I met a woman in Cape Town this past trip, Julia, who cleans houses.  She has never been to Khayelitsha and would never go… she’s too scared.  She is black.  Last year, she hitchhiked from Cape Town back to Zimbabwe to see her mother.  She didn’t have enough money for a bus ticket.  On part of her journey, she paid the driver some money and they drove off.  After a while, the driver told her he needed more money from her.  She told him she didn’t have any more.  So he proceeded to tell her how he was going to rape her, kill her and leave her by the side of the road.  Julia said she prayed and prayed and thankfully God listened.  The man, instead, just dropped her off.  What Julia also said is that in South Africa witchdoctors will use body parts in their potions and many believe that such a potion will cure you of HIV and AIDS… they also believe raping young children or virgins will cure you as well.

I highlight all of these things, because outside of Africa you don’t see them or, like me, you wouldn’t believe them!

Yet, the soccer field in Khayelitsha felt like a safe haven and with Grassroots there, Rob and his colleagues are able to reach out to the people in this depressed community daily and try to make a difference.

As we drove away, the dance of the wipers was faster and all of the “shops” had closed.  We quickly drove on to the N2 to head back toward the vineyards of Constantia and Rob’s home to collect our things before heading on to the airport.

To get a sense for Grassroot Soccer’s work, check out this inspiring video filmed in another one of their sites in Lusaka, Zambia.  Click here.

And if you want to make a difference and help Grassroot Soccer, you can do so here.  I am so proud of Rob and his family and for all of the Grassroot Soccer people who are making a difference in the lives of kids!

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My favorites for those living in BCN..

When you move to a new area, I think the #1 thing you are most in search of is your posse of favorites.  Your favorite hair salon, pediatricians, dentists, doctors, etc.  Having lived in BCN for three years I have somewhat of  list and here it is…I’ll keep adding to it as I learn more..

1) Dentist (Adults) – Ernest Mallat i Callis – 932.174.057

2) Dentist (Kids) – Ana Ma Garcia Valoria – 932.181.982

3) Orthodontist – Dra. Marta Serra-Serrat – 93.200.20.92

4) Facials – Dra. Mercedes Quintilla Bresco – 93.241.77.13

5) Hair Salon – Philippe Venoux  - 934 144 484

6) Caterer – Leticia Soler – 673.575.537

7) Homeopathic Doctor – Dra. Bridgitte Bache – 932.802.121

8) Dog Training -Canino Fed – Ingrid Ramon - 644.520.052

9) The GO TO GUY for ANYTHNG!!!!  - Barcelona’s Guest – Christian – 935.396.106

10) Acupuncture – Joachim Fouret – 635.973.807 (I haven’t been to him, but he was referred by someone I trust!)

11) Private Spanish Lessons – Alejandra – 639.355.968 or Dime Barcelona (which is another company).. LOVE LOVE LOVE Jorge!!

12) Tennis for your kids – Club Laieta – Jaume is awesome he organizes everything and.. is related to Christian the GO TO GUY for ANYTHING!  It runs in the family.. their greatness..

13) Surf or Skateboard/Scooter Lessons in Sitges – Sitges Surf Club – 628.126.272

14) Ob/Gyn – Leilha Onbargi (Teknon) 93 393 3161 (I have not been to her, but she came recommended from someone).  :)

15)  Pediatric Doctor – Dr. Thorsten Faust – 933.933.150 – I have heard he speaks perfect English (and is German)

16)  Not that we ever had it.. wink, wink… there is a company that can rid you of lice.. we didn’t use them.. but a parent recommended them.. Happy Heads

17)Dog grooming… and the most forward thinking business in Barcelona.. Roquichic…  They have 3 locations and the owner is AWESOME!  They will deliver dog food to you.. they have a facebook page and feature your doggies.. I am seriously impressed!!

18)  Photo Lab – Amazing quality and quick!!!  Fuji presses.. the color is spot on.. am so so so so pleased.. the company is called prints&friends.. c/ Calaf 24 – 08021 calaf@printsandfriends.com .. 932 003 404

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Happiest Place in the World

Copenhagen, Denmark.  We had a long weekend at the end of September, so we took the opportunity to visit a cold country with lots of happy people.. when there was still light and a little bit of warmth.  Sadly, the kids are tired of sightseeing, so we tried to focus on things they would like, which pretty much focused on the one big thing in Copenhagen.. Tivoli Gardens.  We stayed at the Tivoli Hotel which was a mile walk away from town (a bit farther than we would have liked).  The first night we had dinner at Nimb which is in the Nimb Hotel.. the only hotel incorporated in to Tivoli Gardens.  The meal was delicious and we had window access to all that was going on inside of the park.. which included a rock concert.  I will say, however, our meal was a good $400 for us.. which was a bit of a surprise.. so buyer be warned… Copenhagen isn’t cheap!

We spent the first full day in Copenhagen walking down the main street.. past all of the shops.. and finally ending in Nyhaven which is where the picture above was taken.  The kids were bored and I jokingly suggested that they should make adult strollers for us to push them around in.. to alleviate the complaining.  And to that, Owen said he’d love it if it had wi-fi…

Once we got to Nyhaven we sat and people watched…

There was the hat lady..

Love…

Musicians..

And the next day, we headed to the long awaited.. Tivoli Gardens..

The kids loved it… Doug loved it.. I, like always was a bit nervous.. especially as we rode a manually controlled roller coaster!  It required an attendant to personally slow the coaster down on turns and to stop…

A bit too creepy for me..  But all in all, we had a great time.  There’s still so much I’d love to see and do in Cophenhagen… someday I’ll head back… but this trip was for the kids.. :)

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The Spanish Economy from my limited perspective..

We are now headed in to our third year here in Barcelona, and people often ask, how are things.. economically speaking.  While I am so far from understanding the economics or the governmental aspects of Spain, I can tell you what I see as I walk the dogs.

Last year I saw a lot of organized “strikes” in the street.  People with whistles, holding signs and banging pots and pans.  I met people in the park.. doctors, economists, well educated people who were and still are trying to get out of Spain because they have no jobs and/or aren’t being paid for their jobs.  One woman, a doctor, eventually made her way to the Canary Islands with her golden retriver.. another man I know is trying to move to the US.  He speaks fluent English, has written numerous books, has a radio show and articles in the newspaper and teaches at the University, but has yet to be paid.

The shops, from year to year, close.  There are more for sale signs each year.. or going out of business signs.  And just today I read and had heard, that many pharmacists are likely going to have to close their stores because social security isn’t paying the pharmacies for the prescriptions they’ve been filling!  Here’s a link about it! … Then you have laws here about hiring.  If you lay someone off, you pay 45 days of indemnization for each year that the employee worked for you.   Firing is slightly different if you have “sufficient” cause.  Sufficient is the key word here though.. and I don’t know what it covers..

Employees can only work a 40-hour work week and they get 23 days of vacation for each full year worked.  And somewhere I heard that someone can take a leave of absence after being at the company a year, and can take it from 4 months up to 5 years and still be guaranteed their job back!  And companies have to pay to 32% of the gross paycheck to social security!

So with that said, in a country where the economy is suffering, many businesses can’t afford to lay off their employees to keep the business running so they are simply closing OR they aren’t paying their employees!  And the employees keep working for “free” in hopes that someday they will get paid.  And if they quit, they lose access to the money they would otherwise have gotten if they were laid off.  It’s terribly sad.   According to this website, the unemployment rate for all people in Spain is at 26%.  The unemployment rate for people under the age of 25 is 57% as shown here! … Many people are being paid under the table because companies can’t afford to hire an employee… and many are sitting on street corners asking for money… it’s heart breaking… Here’s another link to yet another story

The one positive thing I will say, is that while things are dreary for the economy in Spain, the people continue to be heartwarmingly lovely…

 

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A Perfect Day..

Yesterday, for me, was a pretty perfect Barcelona day.  It was a holiday in Barcelona, so the kids had a day off from school.  We had no lessons, no activities, no nothing… so we headed to Sitges (a coastal town outside of Barcelona).  A quick 30 minute drive at most.  Anyway, in an effort to come up with things the kids will do WITH me that aren’t always amusement parks.. I booked surfing lessons at Surf Club Sitges.  For 30 Euros per person the kids got a two hour lesson, all of the equipment (the wet suit and surf board) and a beautiful day!  And well.. we also got the super cute surfer dude as a teacher.  :) It was amazing!!  As a side note, if you choose to use Surf Club Sitges.. their office is at Carrer d’Enric Morera 2-10, 08870 Sitges.  It’s not on the beach but two blocks off of the beach.  They suit you up there and then you walk with your boards to the beach…

The surf was probably perfect if not a bit non-exitent at times… for learning.  And the bonus of the day is that at Surf Club Sitges also offers skateboard or scooter lessons at a nearby skate park!  The boys were PSYCHED so I definitely know we will be back!  It’s so crazy that we live so close to the beach, yet never go!  When you don’t live on the beach you tend to live in your domestic world… the kids’ school, tennis club, gym, etc. for me… 

We went with two other incredible families.  One from Toronto, the other from Venezuela.  So while the kids surfed, the adults hung out on the beach.  And of course, afterwards, we, in true Spanish style, headed to Cal Pinxo for lunch!  It was amazing..

I am so grateful for some of the amazing friendships we have formed here in Barcelona… :)

 

 

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Dear Emma and Owen,

 

Today I watched a man be buried.  There were 15 or so people at the burial.  Two of them were his “primas” (cousins) the rest were from a non-profit organization who help hungry and homeless people.  You see 15 years ago Paco, our portero, lived on the streets of Barcelona.  Somehow he was able to get a job as the portero for our apartment building. He worked here for 15 years.  He spent his money on treats for Boo and Kate.  And according to one of the ladies I met today, he was particular about which treats.. because he knew which treats Boo and Kate liked most.  The people today knew all about our puppies because Paco had told them.

Today all 15 of us watched as his casket was removed from the hearse and loaded on to a lift before it was slid in it’s cubby.  We watched as the man closed the cubby and cemented it shut.  Paco is number 4158.  Before they closed the door, I gave Paco the smiling picture of Boo and Kate on the front of the boat in Canada.  I’m only sorry I didn’t give it to him sooner.  Others had brought flowers and one man brought a newspaper giving Paco the Barca update.. as he was a huge fan of Barca.

There was no priest at the burial.  Just two cousins and the the rest of us, who were there to say, “your life mattered”.  A beautiful Italian poem was read that (I think) said as much.  Paco will be in this cubby for two years and then they will remove him and take him elsewhere with others like Paco who have no family or money.  Once a year a bigger ceremony is done for those who have passed in that year.

I guess what I want you to know Emma and Owen, is that you matter.  I love you.  I will always love you… I will never stop loving you.  And even though Paco was a small part of our lives, he was a part of our life!  His kindness and generosity with our dogs will never be forgotten.  No act of kindness is too small… and you never know what kind of impact you will have on others!

I don’t know Paco’s story and I can proudly say that all of the above information I gathered speaking only Spanish.. but I was so proud of the other people who were at his burial.  Most of these people dedicate their time and lives to helping others.. to show them that “they matter”!  Isn’t that what we all want?  To know that we matter to someone?  That we somehow have a made a difference in someone else’s life?

 

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He sat on the corner of Calvet in front of Caprabo

Every time I walked past him, I’d give him money.  I wish I could tell you his name, but I can’t remember it.  It’s unfamiliar to me and complicated and I need to have him write it down.  He has a dog… Moreno is his name.  The two travel together throughout the day from park bench to coffee shop (where Moreno waits outside while his person sits at the counter drinking his morning latte)… then they head to their spot on the corner.  During the winter they sleep in the ATM space of the bank.  I get the sense that the neighborhood takes care of them.  They are often seen talking to people and unlike others who put cups out for money, he happily sits there smiling and looks.. I guess.. less desperate.  Nonetheless, the two, Moreno and his person, have a soft spot in my heart.  And when we returned from summer break, I couldn’t find them.

Before we’d left for the break I had asked Moreno’s dad if I could get anything for him in the US.. his only request was a lighter that had US war ships on it.  And by God I found it!  I also managed to find him a baseball cap with the Cincinnati Reds on it too! :)  Well, today I found the duo!!!  They had been away for 3 months along the coast.  And now that my Spanish is better, I got a bit more of their story.  Moreno is 8 and his person is 52.  He’s from outside of Barcelona and has a sister who works at “Mercadona”.. a grocery store.   She’s “40 or 50 he says”.  I’m guessing that she’s the one who provides him with the cell phone that he pulled out to show me what his two passions were.. UFO’s and “fantasmas” or ghosts.  And together we watched youtube videos of both. :)  Moreno’s dad is hoping to fly to Central America in February to start a hot dog business.  He wants to have a stand from which to sell hot dogs.  He loves traveling but hasn’t had the opportunity to go to the US yet.   He loves writing poetry, but doesn’t have his papers with him.  He has a friend who keeps them for him.

I’d love to know his story.. and I think I will, little by little.  As I’m guessing he’s choosing to live like this..

 

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The sign in the elevator

Every building in our neighborhood, for the most part, has “porteros” or doormen.  They work from 9AM-8PM daily except for that 2PM-5PM siesta time period.  And if you are lucky, you have a portero with whom you can practice your spanish, with whom you can leave your house keys for your kids when they have forgotten theirs.  Your portero may celebrate your foot coming out of the walking boot, or race down the sidewalk when he sees you struggling with your cart full of groceries.  If you are lucky your portero may help you double lock and hang your bike in the tiny space you have in the parking garage.  He may even help you get propane for your grill (because here it’s impossible to get propane without ordering it through the gas company, filling out loads of papers, going to multiple offices, etc.)   Let’s just say we are very, very lucky.

During the week, Juan is our guy and he does all of the above things and more.  He’s awesome.  On the weekends, we have Paco as our portero.  Paco is quiet.  He sits at the desk in the lobby and mostly reads.  I don’t practice much spanish with Paco because he doesn’t much talk.  But what he does do is love Boo and Kate.  Every single time I take the dogs out for a walk, Paco gives me a package of treats.. not one treat.. but a brand new bag!  And after that walk, Paco gives me another.  I don’t know why.  And it certainly must be expensive.. which is why I’ve written thank you notes to him and slipped in a little bit of cash.  While Paco liked the notes, he wasn’t thrilled about the cash.. almost offended really.

Today in the elevator I saw this.

 

On La Merce (last Tuesday which was the La Merce holiday), Paco passed away.  I knew he’d been sick, but didn’t know how sick.  So I asked Juan what happened.  From what I could decipher (as Juan speaks Spanish.. and fast), Paco died from alcoholism.  He had no family.  He had no kids.  And I think he looked to Juan as being his only friend.  Juan showed me a letter Paco gave him on September 11 (written in beautiful penmanship and in Spanish) telling Juan he was certain he was going to die.

Monday is Paco’s funeral.  I think I am going to go with Juan to it.  It makes me sad.  I may also donate money to a shelter here in honor of Paco, the dog loving Spaniard.  Thanks for loving Boo and Kate Paco!!  Rest in peace… xo

 

 

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