Saturday, May 13, 2017

Space Travel into the Divided States.

The Hand of Man is coming to Europe! To be more specific, Berlin!

With it's car crushing abilities and fun for everyone, we hope that it will be a smashing success here. Booking it was more stressful than usual, with several gigs falling through, but in the end we got it to come to Europe.
This was our one chance to get whatever we needed in the shipping container with the Hand. And so on a two day notice I flew back across the world to my favorite little place on the planet and helped load the Hand and a few other important items heading back here. It was a quick turnaround and it was especially exciting to note the things that are so different between the two places I call home now...
Loading the Hand into the shipping container was the usual creative  hodgepodge with our heavy equipment...and it worked out fine, with Shay as the expert forkie, Oswald and Aaron directing the load, and me, happily handling the HIAB levers of our awesome crane truck, Atlas.

I managed to squeeze in a walk to the gorge, a moment with my dogs, the mesa and the Mountain.
My thoughts on returning to America are focused in a sharp critical light. Taos, however, is always a refuge.

My exit port was Paris, pre election, which felt a bit on edge, and upon return and after Macron defeated fascist right wing nut-job LePen, it felt much more relaxed, maybe even jubilant. John Oliver did an excellent piece on Last Week Tonight about what this election means for France and Europe, as a whole. France luckily did not follow in Americas footsteps.

My American entry port was Chicago, which was very sobering.                                                                                    I had barely left the plane before being barked at by TSA worker. As if I had broken several laws before I even got to passport control. The general unfriendliness and lack of basic decency is impressive. The crew members from my flight, all of which were EU citizens, rolled their eyes as if this treatment was all too familiar.                                                   I did manage to go to the city to see the Chicago Art Museum, which has some great works, but I had to run into this building first, which made me laugh out loud. Was this tower of shame always there? Jeez. And I did note the state of disrepair the city was in. The adverts plastered in the subway show a stark picture..."Depression? Suicide? Join a paid clinical trial for new drugs", or "Cheap Breast Augmentation Procedures", or the "New Underwear that can soak up menstrual blood" 
I don't remember having been more excited to land in Albuquerque, ever. 
I took a deep breath of relief as I drove up onto to the Taos mesa, noting how good the air smelled. 

I have to admit it was heartening to see the familiar neon dissent signs still present as well. The days flew by and the container got loaded. I had great food and conversation with a few incredible friends. I even got a few scrapes, blisters and splinters! Next thing I know, I was back on a plane, hurtling through space at around 600 miles per hour, heading towards Barcelona.

...and my heart remains here.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Pascua de Resurrección!

No joke! Easter in the Catholic world is not about bunnies, eggs and kids. Nothing like seeing a truly serious and dark religious parade to make you stand up straight and appreciate the American easter bunny. We live about a block away from the Ramblas de Catalunya, historically famous epicenter of the old city. It splits the Raval from the Gotico and is one of the most crowded streets in the city. Almost every day there is some parade, or manifestation(protest) going on somewhere along the 1.2 kilometer street. Also famous for the swath of tourists which I wade through almost daily, it's home for many restaurants, kiosks, living sculptures(street performers), pickpockets and prostitutes.
And a macabre easter parade.... even the cops look down.

Of course there is a drum corp, and bagpipes, to add to the austerity of the experience. And yes, they are barefoot in chains. 

In the week that was known as Semana Santa, all schools were on holiday, and many shops were closed. 
Of course we took advantage of the time spent together and visited Tarragona's famous aqueduct (really impressive) as well as a boat trip, and spend some time in the nearby mountains.
We rented a tiny zip car, which is a great little treasure in Europe- it costs €3/per hour and you can pick it up next to your house. We drove it out of the city going towards France, into the mountains. There we found beautiful birch forests and thousands of other people with the same hiking itinerary as us. There is a stark difference in nature here, as almost every place has been touched and cultivated by humans. 

We hiked all day to find a few places where we managed to take a picture without people in the backround. Nevertheless it was very good for the family to get out and enjoy some fresh mountain air, and we had a great picnic as well. 

I admit that I am happier with more nature around me, ocean or wood. Luckily for me Barcelona has beautiful parks, mountains and a vast ocean all within reach. In the end I am clearly a country gal, nothing in the city can change that. 

The boat Kodiak and I went out on is a beautiful older sailboat, now done up as a pirate ship. It's a great way to get out of the city and on to the wide ocean, and does a loop between the the Port and one of the rivers that boarder Barcelona, the Besós river.
Kodiak on the Pirate Ship! 

Skepp Ahoj!(in Swedish)
We are all excited to go see our favorite musicians, Filastine & Nova play here in Barcelona, to kick off their 2017 tour of Drapetomania. They have been working very hard to make this album and it's so cool when your 6 year old notices familiar peeps on the poster bill tacked on a busy Barcelona wall! 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Springtime Hiccups

It's been a while since the last blog, and in part it's because I can't seem to un-busy myself. I'm like brand new fly paper- I just get covered (not in flies, per se, but in things to do)
Spanish class every day, applications for festivals, meeting people(which usually means a lengthy lunch meeting), cello class, and commuting to Kodiak's school somehow the days go by.
Springtime is always a bit bumpy for me emotionally and that is ringing true here as well. I fluctuate between being inspired to be here to feeling isolated and overwhelmed by the mass amount of people here at any given moment. It's fast paced, loud, obnoxious, dirty, smelly as all big cities are, and there is little room for being soft.
There is plenty of room however to get all minor health problems taken care of. We have very inexpensive health insurance here and I am taking full advantage of it! Just to compare, which is a bit depressing for people in the States, dental is included in our family plan, which costs us €90 /month. My $4000 implant procedure in the US will cost me less than a quarter of that in Spain. The difference is so stark, it's hard to understand. Repealing the ACA will put us back in the dark ages of healthcare. But I digress.

One of the hiccups has been some significant adjustment problems for Kodiak in school, (he is attending a tri-lingual school, with emphasis on English) which has made for an interesting observation. I initially thought that Language would be the most important component of being able to adjust within a school system- no matter how different the school system was. I now think that the System is of greater importance, and the language is secondary. From a tree hugging social emotional learning based school(Anansi) to a conservative authority driven school is quite a leap. My best example would be if I was dropped into a small village in Central Africa, where no one spoke my language, but I recognized the communal aspects of the village and the way in which people related to each other. How would I adapt to this situation versus for example being dropped into a Trump voting community in Oneida, Kentucky, where I would speak the language but not share any common values. I think I would be much better off in Africa.
I am going to tell the story of the past few months in pictures, as they often say more than words.

My friend Kath made sure I knew about a talk that was happening a block away from our apartment (everything is a block away from our apartment)- Brian Eno spoke with political master mind Evengy Morozov, and it was a memorable evening. This is when I loved the city. The access to brilliant minds and amazing art is of course very seductive.

Then we flew to Sweden for a very sweet and memorable life event, and here are two pictures from Christian's brother Cles of my favorite place in Sweden- by the cliffs where I used to hang out with my grandparents in the summertime. We went in February, when the brackish water is half frozen, but the  landscape is kind of timeless, as are we.

We had just been visiting the Vasa Museum, which houses a real salvaged 17th Century Galleon, and Kodiak was finishing his very Swedish lunch of meatballs and lingonberry juice...Cles captured his mood and I love this picture.

Then, once back in Barcelona, it was full making stuff mode, mainly for mackettes for submitting proposals to various festivals. Looks like we will have a busy Summer ahead!

Every day in Barcelona there seems to be a festivity of some sort, whether Barcelona's soccer team won over Madrid, which causes a major hoopla in the city- parties all night long to random parades taking place seemingly spontaniously anywhere in the city, to giant puppets parading in the streets or people climbing on top of eachother to create an impressive human pyramid...One day I walked out of the apartment to enjoy this on our street!

...and now we are almost caught up- We went to see another incredible circus/dance performance by some very talented new friends, Sarah and Adriá, and in the beautiful historic building that housed the performance was also a very punchy art exhibit... here is one of the pieces by artist David Pérez.

Springtime is also marked by our visiting friends. It's such a joy to share some of our favorite things with our old posse- so here's a few of Cedar. He is staring into the eyes of an old Roman guy, who was uncovered under the city at some point- in the incredible Museum of the History of Barcelona... a few blocks from our apartment. It shows the city as it was in the early centuries BCE.
Below, we are visiting for the (5th?6th?) time one of the most incredible science museums in the world- Cosmo Caixa. Oh, and that would be free entry for those who bank at Caixa, which the vast majority of Spanish do..for the others it's a entire €4....!

Not bad for accessible science and culture.
And yes, that is Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein sitting contemplating in wax.

More soon!
Off to see a movie called Captain Fantastic, in it's original version(English) with Catalan subtitles. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Swedish Winter

Winter in Sweden is no joke. 
In Stockholm, during the darkest month of the year, the sky is light at 9:30am and the sun starts setting at 2:30pm. In those few hours of gray daylight, the temperatures are frigid. The Winter is long and if you are a Swede you go on with life in the dark. 

We traveled to Stockholm to check in with my parents and to take care of immigration related paperwork. I was born in Stockholm, and though my family traveled all over the world, I spent most of my childhood summers in the beautiful archipelago outside of Stockholm. I have a strong connection with Swedish custom and food, and am bizarrely familiar with the Swedish Way of things. 
Swedish cinema is good at depicting this cultural nuance. Some that come to mind are Let the Right One in, My life as a Dog, Bergman's Fanny and Alexander and of course the original mini series The Bridge. 

We boarded the 3.5 hour flight, which cost 34 Euros (one way) from a temperate climate to dead Winter. Stockholm is a bustle. Much faster bustle than Barcelona. The most notable trivial things where the speed at which people moved- much faster up North. They where also much more quiet and possibly quite grumpy in comparison to the Spanish. 

Christmas was upon us, and there were markets decorated with lights, saffron pastries, handmade toys, tree tchotchkes, and of course the iconic winter drink- Glögg, a hot spiced wine, infused with almonds and raisins. It's quite good in small doses.

This is in front of the Royal Castle in the Old City of Stockholm. The king still presides here, doing whatever modern Kings do. 
Kodiak secured a Swedish passport, which I believe is one of the best gifts I can give him- welcome to the European Union. This basically entitles him to work and live anywhere within the currently 27 countries in the EU (barring the UK now) I hope there will still be an EU when he is all grown up. 

I learned that back in the 1200's Swedes drank either beer or hot mulled wine(aka Glögg)because clean drinking water was a scarcity. The kids back then would eat a porridge made from beer. I imagine in the middle ages, the entire population was a bit tipsy giddy, and thus able to deal with Winters, "medicinal" blood letting practices, public tarring as punishment and the plague just fine. The Plagues, there were three of them, that wiped out about 50% of the population. I spent hours at the Stockholm Medieval Museum, which is fascinating.

One of the highlights was watching the Santa Lucia procession at the 13 century StorKyrkan (big church). The acoustics within those ancient walls was impressive, and the candles and singing together was timelessly beautiful. I love the many varied traditions around Christmas all over the world. The Taos Pueblo christmas eve procession (and fires) being one of my all time favorites. 

You can take the girl out of Sweden, but you can't take the Swede out of the girl.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Autonomous States

Autonomous States for the DisUnited States of America? It's a question I have been pondering for a long time, and now more than ever it seems like a relevant topic. I too, have been feeling overwhelmed by the supposed election results, with feelings delving into depression, fear, anger and despair. I know I am not alone, and I know it's normal, in light of the election and what it means for America. 
I can offer some perspective from Europe, based on what people are saying and what's covered in the news.  In Sweden, for example, todays newspaper is reporting that there is strong evidence pointing to Russia having influenced the US election in Trumps favor. That report is a front page item. It is clear, if the supposed election results stand unchallenged, that the time has come to resist in every way possible. If we all engage in resistance, in whatever way we can, we can demonstrate to our neighbours and the world that this unfortunate situation does not represent our values and beliefs. 

We are not powerless! The power of "we" is one of the reasons my family and I decided to move to Europe in the first place. It's an opportunity to show Kodiak a different way of operating in society- away from the "I" that is the foundation of the States and a chance to live within a "we" place. Both the "I" and the "We" have important attributes and this is not about putting one over the other, rather offering a different way of being.

A small but significant observation I have had in Barcelona is how much fear I carry. What streets are safe to walk on? Who should I avoid?  How late can I walk around? Am I safe alone in the subways at night? Basic concerns in America. I have repeatedly heard from friends living here, that one may get pick pocketed but they wont hurt you. You can walk anywhere, anytime as a woman. You can wear whatever you want.  Really? What? 
Oh right, I just came from a completely armed population, many of which are medicated and mentally ill. Anything can happen at any time. And terrible things do happen. 
Quite a stark contrast, non? And why is America armed again? So they can overthrow an oppressive government one day? Maybe that time is near? 

I promise I will not be blogging about the sad state of American politics again. I was inspired to design a new flag- for the Autonomous States, a symbol of resistance perhaps. I was directly inspired by the flag of Catalonia- a very independent, autonomous region- always fighting for self determination to be recognized by Spain. The Catalonian flag can be seen hanging from many balconies all over the city. 
Legend has it that the four red bars are symbolic of King Charles(the bald) bloody fingers running down the shield of the Count of Barcelona, Wilfred I (the Hairy) as he was dying during the siege of Barcelona in 897. The blood was that of the dying Count and that image was transcribed onto the flag. I have compiled a few of my favorite pictures of the Catalonian independence flag below.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

El Raval

There are many neighbourhoods, or Barrios in Barcelona. Each famous for one thing or another. We ended up renting an apartment in El Raval, in the Ciutat Vella, where buildings and people are in dense proximity. The Raval, famous for its vibrant nightlife, immigrant community and supposedly prostitution is also the home of the Boqueria, Barcelona's largest food market. It's border is La Rambla where it turns into the labyrinth of the Barrio Gotico. 

Considering our place is a 5 minute walk to a sewing co-op, playgrounds, language schools, clandestine puppet theaters, the Museum of Modern Art, the library, a woman run smithy, the Opera, hardware stores, art supplies, the metro and bus lines, clothing shops, some of our favorite expat friends, and a host of excellent restaurants and bars as well as the Boqueria, it really is unbeatable. It has just the right amount of grit as well, which I appreciate. 
Our Barrios landmark, the Raval Cat by Fernando Botero.

Kodiak is impressed with his balls. Indeed spaying and neutering animals here seems unusual, and most dogs I have seen are fully intact. Not that there is an overpopulation of dogs though..

A note on children in Barcelona. There are a lot of them! And there are playgrounds seemingly on every corner. And the playgrounds are not some old rusty swingsets, rather an array of modern wood style contraptions in various shapes and colors. They are incredible. And the kids here are out and about all day and night. It is clear that children are revered here and it is common to find a playground next to a tapas bar, where the parents are sharing an afternoon Vermut while the kids are monkeying around on high tech playground engineering. So civilized.

The elaborate entrance to the Boqueria, in November, ie. not the high tourist season. I brace myself for the amount of people this city will hold in the Summer. 

Newly dead fowl, and fresh rabbit, ready for cooking. 

...and of course fish and octopus....

El Raval is also conveniently close to the Ocean. A walk to the beach is about 25 minutes. We walk a lot every day and after a few weeks of serious shin splints, I have noticed that we are joining the ranks of Catalans with calves of steel. 

The Ocean is such a welcome respite from the hustle and the bustle of the big metropolis. 

Every morning before day break, when Barcelona actually sleeps, I can hear the squawking cries of the seagulls, I take a breath and I remember where I am.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

We arrived in Barcelona, Spain from Taos, New Mexico. The contrast of the two places is stark, and it would take anyone a little time to adjust to the change. 
We landed in a ikea furnished Airbnb on a small street with constant scooter and car traffic. Airbnb's are more and more rare in this city as they are driving the housing market up through the roof and pissed off the Hoteliers. And in Barcelona, if something is unpopular and not working for the good of the people, they take measures to deal with it-there are steep fines for those who run unregulated Airbnb's.
The noise pollution was the first thing I had to work around, with a good set of earplugs to wear at night. The city really picks up after 6PM and it goes seemingly all night long, my country living sleep schedule needed some tuning as well. 
The sheer volume of humans in this City is impressive. With over 1.5 Million within the City and almost 5 Million people around the "suburbs"; that made Taos, with it's 6000 people, smaller than a tiny section of a Barcelona Barrio. OOUF. 
To live here one has to grow a thicker outer layer of proverbial skin. 
One month has passed and I'm well into reading George Orwell's"Homage to Catalonia", and slowly soaking up the complex historical essence of this amazing place. 

This web-log will serve as my journal as an expatriate, living and creating abroad, and hopefully, keep my friends close as we stumble gracefully into the future together.