Monday, July 30, 2012

Lleida to Iregua and Logroño, Spain; Vacation 2012 part 3

Though we had to move on, we decided Lleida was the kind of place we wouldn't mind visiting again.

Traveling with a 4 year old and a 7 month old can be, um, educational. If Elias hadn't been screaming in the car from Lleida to Logroño, we might not have learned an important traffic rule in Spain: he was crying and Ben was looking for a place to pull over and spied a quiet country lane on the left of the road. Alas, the line in the middle of the road was solid instead of striped, prohibiting us from making a left turn... or it might have had we known. The Spanish traffic cops were very insistent that this rule also exists in the U.S., and maybe it does, but I've never seen it enforced or taught. Thankfully after explaining this rule multiple times they let us go with a warning. Maybe the crying kid helped with that too. While we were pulled over I noticed a place where those market snails might've come from.

Driving to Ireguas, which is a small town outside of Logroño, we got to see where a lot of the fresh fruit in Spain comes from. We passed miles of peach and pear orchards, sunflower fields and many other crops. Talia liked running along the peach orchard to stretch her legs when we stopped for a break.

In Ireguas we spotted Elias' name on the water system when we were walking around trying to find something to eat. About this time we noticed a pattern with the food places: most of them don't cook. For breakfast they serve pastries or croissants. They'll serve sandwiches with salted ham and maybe some sort of potato side for lunch but nothing cooked and no fresh vegetables. Supper seemed to have vegetables, but I was feeling pretty overloaded on carbs and looking forward to finding a salad somewhere.

While it was a good between point and the hotel in Irreguas was better than average, we wouldn't want to go back.

Next stop, Lugo!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kids Unscripted; Chapter 5

Talia: (singing) "If you're happy and you know it, put lotion on your legs!
Talia: (singing) "5 little ostriches jumping on the bed, one fell off and bonked his head..."
Talia: "Elias doesn't poot, he smells like butterflies!"
Talia: (telling a story) "...and they walked through a big dessert, that's a lot bigger than a little bitty one."
Talia: (to Ben after sitting where he had recently vacated) "When you sit here it makes the chair nice and warm!"
Talia: (to Mommy) "Does your back hurt?"
Me: "Yes."
Talia: "If you poke yourself with a safety pin it won't feel better... it'll feel badder!"
Me: "Um, thanks!?!"
Talia: (about turning her dolls head) "it's a lot hard but a little bit easy."
Chel: "So what number is old?"
Talia: "15"
Chel: "So is your [8-year-old friend] old?"
Talia: "She's just a little bit old."
Talia: "Do you like it if I have toys?"
Ben: "Yes..."
Talia: "Why?"
Ben: "Because then you have something to play with?"
Talia: "Why does that mean I have something to play with?"
Ben: "This sounds like it's going to be a very circular conversation..."
Talia: "I have my own language. It's called 'Thé'. Do you want to learn some words in Thé?"
Me: "Sure, how do you say 'sun?'"
Talia: "pal-esal" and paper is "gam-estell-al"
Me: "Where does Thé come from?"
Talia: "It came from my voice..."
Me: "Talia, why are your dolls standing on their heads on the couch?"
Talia:"They just took a bath and now they need to be hung up to dry..."
Ben: "Talia, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
Talia: "A baby catcher, like [the midwife.]"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Barcelona to Lleida, Spain; Vacation 2012 part 2

Ben laughs at me because I think Spain is like a combination of all of the places we've been so far: palm trees like Abu Dhabi, pine trees like Texas, mountains and painted ads on walls like Mexico... and a few other details. It is wonderful to hear the Spanish language again!

After seven hours in the Istanbul airport, we were very glad to make it to Spain. Talia was so tired she fell asleep on the plane curled up in her seatbelt. Barcelona has the most tranquil airport I've ever visited! It wasn't that there weren't people, just that the same amount of people in any other airport I've been in would've made a lot more noise.

We rented a car in Barcelona and drove to Lleida, pronounced different ways: "yay-duh" or "yeh-di-duh." I found it interesting that stop signs in Spain say "Stop" instead of the Spanish equivalent.

Lleida is a small but busy little town. It has some interesting sculptures and lots of little shops. A huge church in the Plaza de San Joan is opposite the hotel: Hostal Mundial, which was simple but with very nice people. We ended up buying a kettle, (I guess you call it. You pour water in it and turn it on and it boils in less than a minute for the amount we need.) It's cheaper to make our own coffee than to buy the amount we would consume. (By "we" I mean Ben!)

The fruit here is amazing! We bought fresh peaches, pears, strawberries and apples at the shop down the road and they disappeared very quickly!

Some interesting things for sale at the market included snails, rows of cured ham hocks, and a frozen fruit with cream in it that I couldn't figure out the fruit. There was also an interesting Spanish chess set with campesinos for pawns, bulls for knights and other things.

Our next stop on the way to Portugal will be in Iregua, close to Logroño.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Istanbul, Turkey; Vacation 2012 part 1

Abu Dhabi Airport Security

For us it has always been cheaper to go back to the States for vacation, but since we've only been in Abu Dhabi for a little over 2 months (except Ben) and it's very expensive to get everyone back we decided to go to Spain and Portugal. It sounds weird to us when we say it's cheaper to go to Spain than back to the States; we've never been able to say that before.

Apart from price, we also wanted to reinforce Talia's Spanish since she's been away from a Spanish-speaking country for a year.

The trip started with a 4-5 hour flight from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul... where we had a seven hour layover. Ben chuckled at the Abu Dhabi security driving BMW's.

Pide with Turkish Sausage

During the layover we got to try "Pide" which is like the Turkish version of pizza, and strong Turkish tea. 

A guy in a chef's hat with a huge metal crushing tool was smashing pistachios to make a special kind of Turkish ice cream. I didn't try it, but it looked interesting. The store also had a lot of pistachios and hazelnuts for sale.

Strong Turkish Tea
We saw lots of beautiful tapestries, glass work and things for sale in the "bazaar." I wondered if the peacock had some sort of significance because many things in the bazaar were decorated with peacock feather designs and colors. These are some of the pretty colored glass lanterns:
I was a little confused when I saw a group of older men all dressed in what looked to me like white bath towels until I figured out it was some sort of of cultural or religious group... But when I saw the first one out of context it was really confusing.
Colored Glass Lanterns in the Bazaar
Getting to experience a small part of Turkey was a nice, unexpected start to this trip.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Learning About Ramadan

Moving to an Islamic country when I've had almost no contact with the Islamic culture before arriving here has been interesting. There are so many new things to learn! Alphabet, numbers, clothing, foods and holidays to name a few. One of the most important Islamic holidays is Ramadan, which is approaching very quickly. Since I don't know much about it, I've been  trying to learn more. Wikipedia says:

"Ramadan is also a time when Muslims are to slow down from worldly affairs and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment; this is to establish a link between themselves and God through prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others."

It goes on to explain how during Ramadan Muslims fast from sun up to sun down for the duration of the lunar month. Fasting includes drinking water or chewing gum. However, once the sun goes down, the fast is broken many times with the ceremonial 3 dates and a banquet. The city is decorated with lights and the whole town comes alive after dark, many times with people out in the streets and shops until the early morning hours. Many shops adjust their hours to accommodate, I'm told, by friends who have lived and worked here for several years.

What do you know about Ramadan?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Sea of Wax

Talia really likes playing with colors and making things, as I'm sure every kid does, so when we saw an idea to use old crayons and melt them through a glue gun to create a unique work of art, she was very interested. Every time we went to the store she would remind us that we needed to get a glue gun! Ben finally went to a cheap store by the apartment and bought us one so that we could get to work.
A friend of ours came over to make a piece for her daughter's room as well. We explained how to be careful with a glue gun and showed Talia how to hold it properly and she got started. The old crayons we were using took a little while to melt, but when they did, they poured out rather quickly... which created some interesting textures.
I thought the "A" used for our little friend's room turned out nicely. It's almost like wax splatter/drip art!
Earlier this month, we went to the beach and had gotten some shells that Talia was anticipating using. She used browns to make the beach (but it seriously looks like chocolate) and lots of blues and a green to make the water and then glued the shells in the middle.
She was very excited with the finished result. Now the only problem is figuring out which way to stand it up since every way seems to work.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know I use the word "art" rather loosely!)