Two Months In Tidbits – My Life In Spain

SPAIN.
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I live here now, and despite what my empty blog implies, I have done so for the past two months. But here I am, ready to make up for my blog-neglect by mooshing 13 observations about my life here into one blog post. Enjoy!

Firstly, In Jaén, Spain…

Tapas are free! Tapas basically means any freshly prepared snack that you eat with your drink. Always different, always nommy, always free (with every drink). Most places keep track of how many drinks you have had, and number their tapas accordingly, so that you never get the same tapas twice.

Examples of what I have been given: Quail eggs, a piece of ham on bread, cheese platters with a side of potato chips, pickles, ham and bread, empanadas, chorizo, potato salad, fried seafood, and many, many types of indistinguishable cured meats.

Siestas are a thing! Now apparently this can be a little controversial, so I will say that this does not mean that every single Spanish woman man and child sleeps several hours during the day. But, every day at 1-2pm most shops close until 4-5pm (some stay closed until the next day). Younger kids here usually have a siesta during the day, and then stay awake until at least 10pm. At 10pm it is completely normal to see kids eating dinner/tapas out, or playing nearby while their parents dine.

I am famous! Ok, so this one is absolutely not true, but I have been interviewed for the paper and the radio, which is kind of cool.
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My University…

Smells like waffles. Seriously, it smells like waffles. As a habitual breakfast skipper, leaving my classes to the sweet smell of waffles is torturous. This smell was inexplicable, until a few weeks ago when another hungry classmate pointed out the delicious wafts were coming from a waffle factory.

Is Ugly. Ignore my instagram photos, they are almost exclusively in the old part of town (where this snob lives). The university is really modern and thus mostly consists of square grey building and grey paving. Boring and blerg.

Is inefficient. I feel a little traitorous writing this point because the university has been really good to me. Mostly this point comes down to culture, there is definitely a ‘everything will get done, tomorrow’ (mañana, mañana) attitude about issues small and large. It was incredibly frustrating when I first arrived, trying to figure out classes and enrollment when people kept telling me ‘don’t worry, just figure it out tomorrow’ (after classes had begun).

Is Flexible. After a while my naturally lazy nature has sunk right in and I am totally at home with getting things done, tomorrow. And by that I mean that I have become accustomed to the flexible (if a little inefficient) attitude, and I can see both the pros and cons of both approaches.

Has some amazing teachers. See how I ended it on a good one so I don’t look like an asshole? Yeah. But this is true. It took me a very long time to figure out my classes, but when I finally did I have landed myself some amazing, dedicated teachers. My classes are all in Spanish, but they are aimed at students with Spanish a a second language. This means that they take the time to make sure we all understand, but also always try to specifically engage us in topics and discussions.

Being an Exchange Student in Spain…

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Is Erasmus.Well, not really. Erasmus is a program organised by the European Union and member governments to encourage travel between European countries. 90% of the students here are travelling on this program (after being elected and paid a grant through their). Having said that, most people here just use ‘Erasmus’ as synonymous with ‘Exchange Student’, so I usually just use it that way too (sneakily).

Is membership to a unique culture.
I adore being a fake- Erasmus student, and a large part of that is because of the unique culture that comes with it. Generally exchange students are all equal parts nervous and excited, and this formula somehow makes us a near homogenous group of insta-friends (I haven’t quite got my head around the science yet). Fast-forwarding the natural friendship growth means that in a just two months I already feel like I have developed a group of close friends, good friends and outer acquaintances.

Makes travelling cheap (and fun!).
Several different for-profit and non-profiting organisations arrange bulk fares for trips with students. This makes traveling cheap and fun, and provides a great opportunity for bonding with your fellow exchange students.


Doing this all with my husband and children is:


By far the best bit.

Ugh, I love them so much is hurts, how could I not?
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It is so much fun being here with them, and sharing it all from four unique perspectives. I love watching Simon learn Spanish and make new friends. I adore how excited Hazel gets about the castles we see and the ancient places we go. I love that Doodie is an adventurous foodie.

I am really am having my cake and eating it too and it tastes just as fantastic as I imagined.

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Half Way There

The flight here (KL) was 8 hours, the flight I am about to board will be 14. But half way, yep, I am calling it.

I tried to get out of this blog post the easy (way by filling it with photos), but the KLIA airport Internet says no to that.

Now I have conflicting feels. Part of me wants to abandon this blog post, and part of me wants to ramble. I think the former is caused by fear of the latter.

ANYWAY

I am tired. The kids are tired. (Cept Doodie, Doodie is passed out in my arms).

The journey so far has been way better than we hoped for. We managed to get amazing seats on the first flight, and I talked our way into getting better hours in our day stay hotel. Kids slept most of the flight, and most of the day.

Ok, Time to moosh this Doodie into a baby carrier and go to gate.

Doodie, Friend of the Dinosaur

The kids have been wild today, so I decided to try giving them some Stop, Drop and Read time (which I think will have to become a daily ritual). Story time with Doodie is always fun because she gets way too invested and involved with even the simplest of story lines. I told Doodie I would make her a story and unsurprisingly she requested a dinosaur story. I then lazily constructed a mediocre story about a Dinosaur and I am 99% sure Doodie is off nominating for a Pulitzer right now.

Me: There once was a dinosaur that didn’t have any friends.
Doodie: Me friend! I friend dinosaur!
Me: The dinosaur was very sad that he didn’t have anyone to play with.
Doodie: I play! I friend!
Me: The dinosaur sat on a rock by a river and wished for a friend.
Doodie: I friend! Him wish me, him like me!
Me:
When suddenly, a fairy appeared.
Doodie: I fairy, that me. I fairy! [because who wants to be a friend when you can a fairy, right?!]
Me: The fairy said she would grant his wish, he just had to be patient and always kind. Then the fairy disappeared.
Doodie: Me friend, me friend, I dinosaur friend.
Me: When the dinosaur turned around someone was there.
Doodie: (screaming) That me! That me! That Doodie friend!
Me: They had blue, blue eyes.
Doodie: I got blue eyes!!
Me: They had teeny tiny face freckles.
Doodie: I got freckle! You say that, you say I got freckle. That me!!
Me:They had curly yellow hair.
Doodie: That me, i got hair, that me!! That me, I got up-hair! I friend!
Me: Then the friend said “my name is…
Doodie: DOODIE!! DOODIE, HIM NAME DOODIE. THAT ME!!! THAT MEEEEE!
Me: Doodie”, and they were friends for ever.

So there. No punchline, just an (admittedly self obsessed) kid that gets heightened enjoyment out of so little. And, most importantly, is a kickass friend to dinosaurs everywhere.

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5 Ways to Suck at Being an Exchange Student

In 2006, a baby-faced Hannah went to Guatemala. It was life changing, breathtaking, amazing and wonderful.
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BUT (try to excuse the privilige/entitlement when I say this): It could have been better.

Here are the mistakes I made, here are the mistakes I desperately hope to have learned from:

1. Saying No
I understand how overdone this piece of advice is, but it is one to live by. If you say no to things, the big things and the little things will pass you by. It took me until 6 months into my exchange to realise how many things I had said no to, how many experiences I had lost, usually because I just didn’t feel like it at the time.

Instead: Say yes to everything you possibly can. No one wants to hear about the things you didn’t eat, the things you didn’t get involved in, the places you didn’t go. The last six months of my exchange is where almost every story I have told has come from because I tried to say yes to everything.

2. Trying to look good in photos.
This may sound insignificant, but hear me out. I have very, very precious few photos from my exchange, but with a few exceptions they all look identical. Me in some beautiful spot, pulling a face that I clearly thought was cool at a time (but will retrospectively be called douche-face).  Take it from me, you DO NOT want to look back on those times and think at best ‘gee whiz that face looks wicked cool’. Or in my case ‘why, WHY did a think doucheface was a good idea?!’’.

Instead: SMILE, LAUGH, and EXPERIENCE. I promise you this: even when you hate a smiling or candid photo at the time, within a few years you will look at it and only see the moment.

3. Caring what people think about you
When I was on exchange I was so worried about how I appeared to other people. When I spoke Spanish people would laugh about the way I pronounced things, or tease me about my grammar. Instead of taking this (completely non-malicious) part of the culture on the chin and try-trying again, this made me close off. I spoke English where I could, and I mumbled and gestured else where.  Because of this, I learned far less Spanish than the rest of the exchange students up to that point, and distanced myself from many experiences.

Instead: Towards the end of my exchange I was on an NYE mini break at the beach with a traveller friend and she was wearing nothing but a bikini (as it was revoltingly hot for mid-winter). I commented that I wished I too could wear just my bikini, but I have large breasts and didn’t want to look silly (people hate boobs, right?).  She replied ‘Who cares, who here are you ever going to see again?’. THAT is how to live. I’d take it one step further and say do it even if you’ll see ’em again. Life is so much better that way.

4. Being a Victim of Culture Clash
‘Culture Clash’, this is how I explained most unpleasant interactions I had with people in Guatemala. This made it easiest to stop trying, so I did. And so I became the ‘victim’ of many experiences (in my own head).  It took me years to realise that generally I was the one causing the clash because I was the competing culture.

Instead: Don’t give up, give in. Compromise where ever you can, and just plain give in the rest of the time. That little bit of sacrifice will not be as hard as you think, but it will make such a huge difference for you and them.

5. Being Too Brave
When I went on exchange, I was called brave, inspiring, adventurous. I wanted to be those things, but I mostly wanted people, the people I loved, to think those things of me.  So when things got tough (and they got really, really tough) I wouldn’t call home, or talk to a friend. I would sometimes write in my diary, I would lots of times cry, but I would never reach out.  I bottled my emotions so heavily that I missed addressable issues until they were irreparable.

Instead: Call home! ‘It isn’t worth writing home about’ is bullshit. Write home. Write and call and skype and message home as often as you like. It’s a shocker, but the people that you love love you back. They are not waiting for you to fail, they are waiting to help you succeed.

Fin

To reward you for getting this far, here are some Douche Faces:
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Remember the Love

So posting the highlight photo montage last night reminded me that this has been a huge year for us. It also reminded me that I love Rent the Musical and all of the lessons it has to teach me (mostly that HIV/AIDS is awful and love is great). On that theme, minus the virus, I have made this little summary of the year for Hazel and Doodie, remembering the love.

DOODIE:

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Memory of love:

What do you remember of love this year, Doodie?
I made Hazel happy, again.
Yeah, how did you do that?
I say sorry.
Oh, why did you say sorry?
Cause me love him.

Highlights:

  • This year has seen her speech and thus her communication expand greatly (with active effort from all of us, and more than a little guidance from a speech therapist). We have long anticipated seeing more of what is going on in that kooky little brain of hers (no surprises, it is all a thousand shades of awesome).
  • She has also become exceptionally socially skilled. From sitting at the sidelines and observing, she is now able to watch and gauge her interactions with kids and effortlessly make friends wherever she goes.
  • Because of her speech and confidence boost, she has been able to make new friends, and deepen older relationships. It warms my heart to see all of the engagement and love she has been able to share with my family.

Anecdote:
My Doodie anecdote of the year is pretty simple. Doodie was a bit unwell, and woke with a fever in the night. Instead of crying or calling for me, she reached out, found my hand and said:
Mum, I love you. So much.
Aaaaand then I cried with joy. Now that she is speaking so much, I can barely remember the strength of how amazing those preciously rare spontaneous words were.

HAZEL:

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Memory of Love:
I remember one, I haven’t told you in a thousand years, I think. It was the one where Doodie would fall asleep when she was supposed to be watching a show I would run away and come back with a pillow and a wrippy. I would put the pillow under her head and the wrippy over her body.

Highlights:
This year was a huge one for Hazel. For her much of it has been her awakening thirst for knowledge. She is constantly asking me to teach her things, or telling me fascinating knew things she has picked up (today she realised that if she didn’t have a tongue, she probably wouldn’t be able to taste things).  In short, 2013 for Hazel:

  • Started School.
  • Finished School .
  • Discovered her love for maths. Did *a lot* of maths.
  • Started writing and is at the beginning stages of reading.
  • Continued to expand her drawing skills.
  • Fell in love with Matilda (the character, book, movie and musical).
  • Stayed as extraordinarily kind, gentle and loving as she has always been but added passion and fire to balance it all out.

Anecdote:
My favourite Hazel anecdote comes from the first few weeks of 2013 when she was attending kindy. She told me about ‘The Boy Who Doesn’t Know’ in reference to a child who had been bothering her and a few of the other children at her school. When asked to explain why he was The Boy Who Didn’t Know she explained that he did things that weren’t ok, and that meant that he didn’t know some things (that people’s bodies get to be safe). Empathy 101.

2am on NYE/2013 in Pictures.

So it is New Years Eve. It is also well passed my bed time. Living in urbania as I do means that this time of night is seldom quiet. As I write this a man is running down the street screaming ‘ooobeegoobeeoobeeooooo’. Direct quote.

But I digress, it occurred to me that I have not been blogging and NYE is a culturally appropriate time to change that. Inspired by insomnia I decided to log on and write breathtakingly beautiful things immediately. Unfortunately midnight memory did not allow me to login and so I settled on making a thing instead, a 2013 in photos kinda thing. It actually turned out ridiculously luffly, luffly enough to remind me of my password and bring me back here.

So that is a very long winded way of saying: I made a thing, watch it.

Click Here For Quality Watchings

And THAT is Why People Hate Going to the Dentist

Why I Entered the House that Toothpaste Built

I went to the dentist for the first time in about ten years. My absence from the world of dentistry was not because of dentist hate/fear. The reasons can roughly be summarised as:

a)I am piss poor and dentists cost people-money; and

b)inexplicable (alright, explicable) tooth shame.

 
So yes, I went to the dentist, it cost far more than I thought (surprise!) and I was told I needed to return for two fillings. Crap. Ok.

 

The Return
Yesterday I arrived at the dentist full of fear and excitement. I know not where the excitement came from; I look back on it with patronising scorn. The fear can be attributed to the fact that while almost everyone I know has had a filling, nobody really articulated exactly what happens. Variations of “there are drills”, “you get a droopy face”, “just try not to think about what is happening” were all I could moosh out of people. Basically I expected my dentist trip to look a something like this:
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How Wrong I Was
As you have probably gathered from above, I really wanted to know what was going to happen. I cleverly realised the way I could get this information; I asked my dentist. The dentist told me the three major steps to filling (he learned them in Tooth School, you see):

1) [Dentist] will numb [the] teeth;

2) [Patient] will feel buzzing; and

3) [Dentist] will do [Patient’s] filling.

 
Well, that clears things up. My pivotal role in the procedure was to ‘feel buzzing’. When asked to clarify whether the ‘buzzing’ was the elusive drill, my dentist replied ‘yes, that will be a small drill’.

From this interaction I learned nothing about the procedure, and everything about the dentist’s guess at my IQ level. Because I am a ‘good girl’ I took this explanation, opened my mouth, and waited for the fun to begin.

Your Mouth is my Playground
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My first experience of dentist-hate is aimed at a dentist’s favourite pass-time: treating people’s mouth like a playground. All of that relentless, uninvited prodding can surely not be explained in any other way.

In theory, I understand that a dentist is going to get all up in my mouth’s business. In practice, I really just want to be able to consent to each entry. What are they doing in there? Every break inbetween I go to close my mouth when lo and behold, another finger needs to play on the swing, go around the round-about or cross the climbing frame (I know these things don’t exist in my mouth, my dentist does not).

Numb-Numbs
After the dentist got bored of playing in my mouth, he decided to attack it with needles. No warning, just many seemingly random punctures in my cheek. Ok, this must be when I go numb-numbs.

Let the Buzzing Begin
Then the ‘buzzing’ starts (I knowed it was the buzzing on account of the brrr brrr sounds).

 MOTHER FUCKER!

 I gasped, and the dentist decided the numb-numbs didn’t work. Never mind, more local and we should be good to go.

 FUCKING CUNTING CRAP

 Yep, still didn’t work. Repeat the above steps several more times and I have a very droopy numb face and a lot of adrenaline.

 Uncooperative Face
It was around this point that my eye decided it was really keen to see what was happening, so keen, infact, that it would not close. My other eye, ever the helpful fellow, decided to make up for his brother’s short comings by repeatedly, rapidly closing and opening.

 

The muscles in the left of my mouth had enough of their tom foolery, and chose to go on a brief holiday. Giving me a sexy one-sided dribble-droop.

 

The whole picture allowed me a look only paralleled by noughties teen-idol, Amanda Bynes.
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Rapid Deterioration of My Imagined Worst Case Scenario
Now, I am no statistician, but I am willing to bet that when people are having work done on their teeth and their EYES start fucking up, 97.3% of them would freak the fuck out.

The dentist spoke with me (he spoke, I slurred) about the issue, and decided to sticky tape gauze over my will-not-close-eye. I quickly embraced my new, sassy, slack-jawed super-villian look.

Instead of using my new found powers for evil, I started thinking about the news headlines my area could expect after the undiagnosed-allergic-reaction killed me (It seemed reasonably likely that my ‘dentist’ was just some bloke that got bored of trolling the comment section of Teh Internet and decided instead to play dentist-for-the-day).

 I settled on:

MOTHER OF TWO DIES TRAGICALLY: PIRATE CORPSE IS ALL THAT REMAINS

 

I then spent the remainder of the buzzing time crying (my creep eye was weeping) and repeating the mantra:

If I survive I will NEVER return. If I survive I will ALWAYS floss.

 
Fin
And so ends my saga. I went home many hundreds of dollars lighter, and oh so much wiser. I slept off the face, but the terror remains.

I finally understand people that hate going to the dentist.

 It is the worst.

 Never again.

 Never.

 

Well Hello There

This is mostly a tester, so I can check my privacy settings. But hey, it also counts as my first post. So I shall say first post things:

Hello!

I am not fully sure where this blog is going, or how I am going to wrangle the privacy settings. I am hoping to keep the blog private, and share the password with friends/family. As far as I can tell, this means y’all are going to have to put in a password before reading each post. I imagine I will keep it easy have the same password for most of my posts.

EDIT: I decided to try not being a privacy nerd for a while, so this is now open. Let’s see how this pans out (31/12/13)

Vaguely what I am hoping the blog will cover:

Family
Yup, that means more of these pretty people.

Hazel Htst

Which will also stretch to parenting. It is plausible the parenting, birth and boobs are going to come up in here.

History
Our family’s history, that is.

I am planning to use this space to share old scraps and tid-bits from our past lives. Important family events, like our wedding and the kid’s childhood thus far. I’d also like to share some of our (combined and separate) travel history, including my experiences in Guatemala.

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Travel

SPAIN! I mean, well, we are moving to Spain in a few months, so that could possibly feature some.

Have you met Jaen?
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Law

I procrastinate when I am thinky, so law will probably seep into the blog here and there. Besides, I am sure everyone is keen to keep up with the growth of my mahogany law baby. No?

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Feminism
Because I keep making girl-babies. And reasons.

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And That is a Wrap

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See what I did there?

So hurrah, first blog post done.

Remember, comment if you read this so I know who is getting here.