Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pastries for Breakfast

Strong coffee and a pastry. That’s the typical breakfast, with a side serving of chocolate. Sigh.

In Australia we eat cereal, or yogurt and muesli, or tea and toast with vegemite.

In Norway it’s as slice of bread with brown cheese.

In Japan it’s miso soup with a bowl of rice.

And here!? Deliciousness that has you feeling full and slightly sick even before 9 am. From there, its only down hill into olives, wine and oil dripped on white bread for lunch and on and on. And lashings of cheese.

I know what you’re thinking. But it sounds wonderful! And it is. For a holiday. My life is a holiday here in Spain. Its obviously something I need to embrace, since, as you know, I’ve been such a stoic puritan all of these years.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I'm a bee gus - or otherwise entitled 'Pronunciation Problems'

Sometimes, they are hilarious and other times, just plain irritating. I admit, before you point the finger at me, that I am the last person with perfect Catalan accent – but let’s push that aside for just a little bit and have a good laugh at Albert – no, no, I mean, at some random Catalan person.

‘I’m a bee gus.’ He said, looking pleased with himself.

‘What?’ (I forgo the correct ‘pardon’ when speaking with Albert. He responds faster to a more direct language.)

‘I’m a bee gus. You know, you can’t pin me down. I might, and I might not.’

I hit my head on the table and muttered to myself ‘Ambiguous.’

‘Yes, am bee gus.’

This is not the first time, I’ve written about pronunciation problems. I wrote about the big braun in Byron Bay too, way back in march 08.

I guess the most irritating problem is the G that is placed at the front of W’s for some reason. The people say ‘gwhat’, instead of what. I totally accept the heavy h’s, and I understand missing the final letter of words like ‘tent’, but my ears have a problem with the Gwat. I even accept the Alvert Bila B/V mix ups. But the Gwat… is a hard one.

I must admit I have trouble saying just about everything in Catalan, so you can laugh at me as much as you want.

Photo credit - Thanks to Ana and Tania for the photo of Albert.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Learning Catalan III

My progress is quite pathetic. I understand more and more, but I don’t say anything because I can’t get the sentences to come together. (I did say 'que vulls' once to Toni and Oscar - but I don't think they appreciated my effort.)

I thought I’d try to get some help, and I asked if Montse (Albert’s mummy) could spend some time with me speaking Catalan. She said yes, and now I have someone to help monitor my progress. It kind of like inviting someone to your house so that you get motivated to clean it. Thanks Montse!

And guess what! I’ve signed up for an intensive course throughout August. Three hours every morning.

My aim is to be able to speak a basic every day conversation by Christmas. Good luck to me! And more importantly – study!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Africans in Granollers

There are quite a lot of African people here. It’s a strange thing, but I’ve never really seen a Spanish person talking to any of them. The African’s hang out with the Africans, and there doesn’t seem to be any integration at all.

Today we were at a high school band competition. There were many young people hanging around. There was a mixture of Spanish, South American and Catalan people sitting and watching. Also, one group of about 6 African girls. However, they never actually sat down to watch the bands. They stood, a bit apart from the group, and watched and fidgeted about like typical teenagers. A group of light coloured local girls greeted them and there was a series of hasty air kisses exchanged and then they separated.

That’s it.

I’ve spoken to a few people about it, but it seems the typical response is ‘well, we Catalans are still having trouble with the Spanish people being here.’ (If you’re not sure, Catalonia suffered a cultural repression during the Franco years where Catalan was not allowed to be spoken, there was forced immigration from other areas of Spain to Catalonia, and a general diffusing of all things Catalan.) If you're interested, take a look at the PDF The Social Structure of Catalonia.

It seems the arrivals of Africans only really started about 20 years ago, and people here are still adapting to new colours, customs and cultures.

You know, there was one time when African people mixed happily with locals. And that was when Barca was playing Madrid. Again, I didn’t see any cross cultural interaction going on, but there was total and accepted group support for Barca. I guess that’s something.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Buttocks in Bookstores

To have buttocks in bookstores, or not. That is the question.

Today we bought a book in the local bookstore. As we were leaving the store, I paused to contemplate some posters of teenager nymphs with perfect silicone implants and body piercings.

I began to walk down the stairs only to be confronted with the shop assistant’s buttocks, facing the glorious air and Albert and Jett.

I stopped in my tracks. My mouth dropped. Albert, knowing better, was obviously looking the other way. Jett was too little to see behind the counter.

I continued down the stairs, and joined my family. The shop assistant (did you picture a man or woman?) turned her blank stare towards me with such a display of in your-face-rudeness my head nearly popped off.

There is, in my opinion, a time and a place for buttock displaying – and a book store is not one of them. Unless its adult books you are searching for.

Yes. I do think there should be some basic dress code for retail shops. I think, considering the issue further, that I understand displaying the buttocks in a shop selling fashion. But I do draw the line at the bookstore. Indeed I do.

Granollers is looking for a tourist trap. How about ‘behind every great reader is a great bottom – buttocks and books in Granollers’.

I think that’s rather catchy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

English in Granollers

I met some men in a bar (that’s as exciting as this blog entry gets) who spoke English. They happened to be teachers at the local Cambridge English School. I gave them my card, hoping they’d contact me, but I haven’t heard from either of them. (I refuse to ponder the reason why. Futile as this kind of thinking is.)

Thus I decided to create my very own English Group. It is called ‘English Speakers in Granollers’ and it’s a facebook group. If you happen to stumble across this blog post, and you want English too, then join the group and contact me!

Monday, June 1, 2009

La Claraboia, La Garriga

We went to a charming little restaurant called La Claraboia’ in a village ten minutes from Granollers, La Garriga. (Claraboia translates as ‘skylight’ by the way, thanks for pointing that out Joan!)

While we were sipping house wine (better than a $20 bottle back home in Aus), our ears were accosted by the charming voice of a pretty girl accompanied by a solo guitarist. L’Aleix i la Carol. Atmospheric and intimate, and well worth dropping in for.

And such a surprise for such a little town. (Pay no attention to the little boy reading the comic in the photo. Everyone one knows children are not to be trusted in matters of style and taste.)

Thanks to La Garriga.

Oh, did I mention the food was nothing to sneeze at either!

Hot Chocolate - No, REAL hot chocolate!

You can tell by the way I’m smiling, that something good is happening here. Yes, its chocolate.

It seems that the Catalans (Spanish in general?) have hot chocolate – and its more like melted eating chocolate, that can be used as a dipping sauce for a healthy snack like deep fried donuts, or these churro things they eat. I did say, it ‘can be used’ as a dipping sauce, didn’t I.

I drank it. Ugggghhhhhhhh. Smile. Spain. Gotta love it.

The Guilt of Cooking with Oil

I feel it. I don’t dribble oil, like I used to, I pour oil. And I have the sensation of being harshly judged somewhere. I see little droplets of unused oil on our plates, and understand why the people here (in Catalonia) clean it up with bread. It’s a shocking sight. Oil, oil, oil.

And yet I love it. Its what we (foreigners to Spain) love about Mediterranean cultures in general. The indulgence of oil and pastries and wine and some sort of gluttony over our food.

I wonder if we all secretly love the tinge of guilt of eating and cooking with more salt, more oil, more sugar.

Did you know they eat chocolate for breakfast!? No, its true! Part of me is horrified and part of me is delighted that I’ve finally found a place I can be the real chocoholic I’ve always been in the secret recesses of my kitchen, or my ‘private’ draw. You all thought I had something wicked in there. It was just mars bars.

It seems everyone is out of the cupboard here.