Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Barcelona Days - Chapter Two

For the most part, we are settling into life in Barcelona. We know where the nearest basketball hoop is and when it is most likely to be available but for the life of me I cannot get down when stores are open. Some are closed all day on Sunday, some on Monday and most close at some point in the afternoon and maybe they reopen early evening and maybe they don't.

After so many weeks on the road we both have our moments of restlessness and doubt- was five weeks too long to commit to Barcelona? Jacob starts looking into the costs of going to Morocco and I start fantasizing about house sitting for some French folks looking to have some
one take care of their sheep and chickens (this is unlikely as they are looking for someone for three full weeks and I don't want to leave Barcelona more than a week early). We're considering a camping trip in the Pyrenees.

About the only one fully settled in is Vaughn who is super happy with our routine of basketball in the morning, beach in the afternoon and maybe a Simpsons episode or two in between. Homeschooling has been a little tough at times. We have had our moments like the morning we broke into two teams (Jacob/Vaughn and me) to research:
  • Why thunder happens
  • What happened when the Pope was shot
  • How Roman aqueducts worked
  • Why the North Pole is magnetic
  • Information on Dr. J
  • The age of the earth
All these topics or questions were generated by Vaughn off of things we read or saw or just whatever popped into his head and neither Jacob nor I had sufficient responses (kudos to you if you do- you are very smart). We each had to come up with at least five facts on our subjects to present to the other group. This is how I had envisioned home schooling- creative, natural and student led. I firmly believe that all children have a natural curiosity and drive to learn that will present itself if coaxed out correctly in a way that works for the child. Sounds pretty idyllic right? The reality is that despite having hours with nothing to do, Vaughn is often resistant to the small, structured assignments we give him. A skilled manipulator, he will point out that it is still technically summer and has even gone so far as to suggest that despite what his teacher, report cards and our own instinct tell us, he is not at the 4th grade level and therefore all the assignments are too hard for him. Like the parent of a picky eater who has to sneak in vegetables, we have to slip leaning activities in a way that does not suggest that he is actually working.

I have made an unofficial friend though. The first day that we went to the park so that Vaughn and Jacob could play basketball I sat on one of the benches to read. Lost in thought, I was startled to find an elderly woman shuffling my backpack off to the side of the bench to make room for herself. Smiling at me with her three little remaining teeth, she began chattering away in Spanish. As my brain worked furiously to decipher what she was saying I casually scanned the park to try and figure out why she had not sat on any of the other 12 remaining benches. I explained to her that I was sorry but that I only spoke a little Spanish (This is really my only full phrase but I think I say it with enough confidence that it somehow suggests I speak more than I do. I need to learn a follow-up phrase like, "No really - I don't speak Spanish" and maybe a back up, "Please stop thinking I speak Spanish because I have no idea what you are saying"). She slowed down and we made it through a few phrases before other octogenarians showed up in what was clearly a daily ritually of gathering at the park for gossip and chit-chat and she moved over to a bench where she could say more than, "It is hot" and "Yes, is hot." Older folks are out and about here in a way that I've not witnessed back at home. They're always dressed up and cruising around with their canes and walkers and it's nice to see.

So I've seen her a few times and she really helped me out in a pinch by lending me her cane when Vaughn's ball got stuck in the net (repeatedly) one day but I'm always thankful when others are there to chat with her because, as mentioned, I really don't speak Spanish. Today she got sort of frustrated with me when I couldn't understand her and actually started poking me in the chest with her bony finger after each word, like maybe my translator was broken or something. A few of her friends were gathered around it made an already awkward situation more awkward and kinda painful. Finally she left me in peace and I decided at that point to reclaim my anonymity and start sitting on the other side of the park.

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