Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Penny For Your Thoughts

The EU loves their change.  I'm not talking political change or lifestyle changes, I'm talking monetary change - like nickels and dimes and quarters kind of change.  And boy do we have a lot of it here. While in the US we have just 4 primary coins (since you rarely see a Susan B Anthony dollar these days) - penny, nickel, dime and quarter.  Here we have EIGHT, yes 8 coins.  One cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 euro and 2 euros.  Between the 1 and 2 euro coins alone, you could have 20 euros in your pocket and not even realize it!  Not to mention it weighs a ton!!



This stuff adds up.  We always had a change jar in Barcelona for the small coins.  By the time we were getting ready to leave Spain, we had 4 decent sized jars of these coins.  I made it my mission to get rid of all of them in the case that we were moving back to the States.  And even if we weren't moving home, there was no way I was having movers pack up 4 jars of coins.

And so every day I would take my little coin purse and use as many coins as I could.  I gave exact change whenever possible.  I used 5 cent coins for parking (one day using so many that the machine freaked out and then tried to spit them back out at me only there were so many it clogged the flap on the change part of the machine).  I actually used up just about every coin in those jars, ending up down to just one coin purse full of change before we left.

For the last few weeks, I have been just giving bills or using my debit card when paying for goods - I haven't bothered with exact change.  But in an attempt to not have a repeat of change jars, the other day I went to give exact change at the grocery store.  But when I gave her 2 - one cent coins, the cashier looked at me and said, "I'm sorry, I can't take this".  At first I thought, hmmmm maybe I gave her US change accidentally.  But then I realized that she was talking about the European 1 cent coins.

Since when are 1 cent coins not taken?  I mean, I was in the US for 5 weeks this summer.  Could something have happened while I was gone and just didn't realize?  Nope, not the case at all. Apparently, in the Netherlands, they don't take the 1 and 2 cent coins.  They round everything up and down to be either a 5 or a zero.  This must be fabulous for accountants countrywide as not everything ends up this way (obviously since my total the other day came to 0.42).  I can't imagine what their bookkeeping must be like.

I just gave her the necessary amount she requested and moved about my day.  But a few days later I was at the coffee place in the Vesting getting my license picture taken (because don't all cafes also do license pictures?) and I went to pay in exact amounts again and since there was no one behind me in line, I inquired a little further into this line of inquiry.

Apparently years ago, before becoming a part of the EU, the Dutch had found they had too much change.  And so like the US has said many times (but never actually followed through on), they decided to stop using some of the smaller change.  When they became a part of the EU, many were shocked by how much change they had in their pockets and after much debate, they decided they would no longer use these small coins.

But they are not banished completely.  Most places will not take them.  But the coffee guy says that the bank comes to collect money each day from him and often people leave the 1 and 2 cent coins in the tip jar and so if I want to bring any in, he's happy to convert them for me and hand over the 1 and 2 cents to the bank.  Super nice of him to do, but really, I don't have all that many to ask him to do it.  And, I can still use them in the majority of other countries here in the EU.

So nothing earth shattering in this entry, more just about the differences here are still different than what we had in both Spain and in the US.  And so I will start up my little change jar again and then just try to remember to bring all that little change with us when we go on vacation!!

Besos,
Julie

And Then Along Came Saturday...

It started off well enough.  The kids were up earlier than I liked for a Saturday (we need to close their curtains at night - total fail on our part) but everyone was in a pretty good mood.  The weather was nice and I went for a nice long run and was feeling like I could take on the world.  I wanted to spend some time with just Aidan (he doesn't get nearly enough one on one time) and knew he needed some stuff for his bike so asked him to go for a bike ride with me to get it.

It all started to fall apart at that moment.  You see, none of the Dutch kids here wear bike helmets. That's a whole separate entry just on biking and helmets.  But Aidan, at 10 years old, is at that age where he notices this stuff and gets upset when he's "different" than the others.  I say, it's safe.  Helmet rule is not being changed any time soon.  Sorry my friend.  He didn't take it well.

Commence tantrum.  Epic tantrum.  As we were riding bikes.  F-bombs being thrown from left to right, up and down.  Yes, he was.  He's a rather "vocal" child sometimes.  And not always in a good way. Always at my limit, I told him we were going home.  Long story short and deeply apologetic, we made our way on our errands.  But not all was forgotten.

Fast forward a few hours.  Liam has now thrown several tantrums for no particular reason.  And all three boys announce we are going to see the new TMNT movie.  No, I didn't want to see it (though will admit it was a good movie and glad I went).  But as Josh can't drive, I was really left with no choice.  So off we went.  And I childishly pouted the entire way.  And even more so when I realized that going to the movies is no longer an everyman's thing - it cost 64 euro for the 4 of us to go to the movies on a Saturday afternoon.  Ridiculous.

So the movie was good.  I can admit when I'm childish and wrong.  I'm glad I saw it.  It wouldn't have been my top choice had we not had kids but as far as kid movies go, it was good.  Feeling pretty good now, I suggested we grab dinner at one of the many restaurants nearby.  And let the meltdown begin. Yet another one from Aidan.  And then Josh yelled at him in public (not that I've never done it, I have, but this time it wasn't me!).  So I decided at that moment I was done...with all of them.

I'm not sure what it was about that moment that pushed me to the brink.  It's not like no one in my family ever throws tantrums (though you would think we'd be past this stage, wouldn't you?).  But it did.  Already in an emotional state these last three weeks, it didn't take much.  I turned around and stated I'd be going home... NOW.

Everyone followed knowing not to say a word.  They knew they'd pushed too hard.  And so off we went towards home.  Surprisingly we survived the drive as I was feeling my inner-Masshole shine through in a very aggressive manner.  Not pretty.

We arrived home and I went straight to my room and put on my pjs and went to bed.  At 6:45PM.  I don't think I've done that ever.  Unless I was sick.  My emotional state was so far beyond bad.  I just laid there.  I didn't read.  I didn't play on my ipad.  I just laid there in a fetal position just thinking. Thinking is not always a good thing.  I just wanted to walk away from it all.  It was such a desperate feeling of not wanting to be here with my family but to escape, go home to my mom and dad or just to leave here.  Let Josh take care of the kids and our lives.  I'm tired of playing second fiddle to everyone else.

Selfish I know.  And the selfish feelings only made me feel worse.  I'm so tired of having to prioritize myself after everyone else.  But last Saturday, I did - too bad I was feeling like shit and didn't want to see or speak to anyone.  The kids attempted to come in my room but were immediately dismissed away. But I couldn't attempt to socialize.  I was angry. I was sad.  I was upset about everything and nothing.  I just couldn't shake the feelings of sadness.  And I had no idea what would make me happy again.

Finally sleep came and I woke up on Sunday morning only to find that I felt no better.  That has never happened before.  I always, always try to start every morning fresh no matter how badly the day before had gone.  And yet, I could not pull myself out of bed.  It was a beautiful morning and yet, I didn't want to go running.  Knowing that there are only so many sunny days here, I knew I should go, but I couldn't.  My body just felt heavy is the only way I could describe it and not in a flu-like way.

Eventually I realized that the kids were both having their first playdates and while nothing felt worthwhile or important to me at that moment, I was determined to pull myself together to at least be presentable to their new friends.  Because nothing says "hello new family and welcome to our home" than a crazy mom who hasn't showered or gotten out of her pjs by 1PM.  And so I pulled from whatever strength I could muster, showered and got myself together.  I felt slightly better which at least was a good sign.

In the end, Liam's friend's mom hung out for the afternoon and it's amazing what a little social activity can do to your mood.  I felt infinitely better after they left, having put all my negative thoughts aside while they were here and found that when they left, most of those thoughts had dissipated.  Not 100% back to normal, but progressing in the right direction.

A week later, I'm feeling significantly better. In fact both Saturday and Sunday I woke up to snuggles from my favorite boys and felt that life cannot get much better.  I still don't know why I'm having such issues since I feel like we are acclimating better here than we did in Spain but for now I'm just rolling with the punches and letting my moods strike as needed rather than keeping them bottled up.  I know that this phase too, shall pass.  And it will.  We've been here before but perhaps in a different capacity. I won't let it get me down and recognize that where I was last week is not a place I have any desire to go back to.

Today marks four weeks in the Netherlands.  I've managed to have at least one breakdown each of those weeks.  And yet, I feel more at home here than I did in Spain.  Here's hoping week 5 is much better!!  Lots of positive entries on their way - between work, trying to get everyone settled with sports and activities and just trying to take everything in, there hasn't been a whole lot of time for writing but I'm catching up slowly but surely....

Besos,
Julie

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Progress - Poco a Poco

If there is anything I learned by 4 1/2 years in Barcelona, it's to take life poco a poco - little by little. And it's that life lesson that I'm doing my best to apply here in the Netherlands - take things slowly and they will eventually all come together.

As we wind up week three, I feel like things are, in fact, falling into place.  Admittedly this week didn't start off all that great and looking back it feels like months ago and not days ago.  I had a huge meltdown on Monday, our anniversary.  Not great timing.  But since then I've been doing my best to take the bull by the horns and let the "Netherlands" know that I am in charge of things here - I will not let this new country, new culture and new everything get me down.  Realistically I know that wasn't my last meltdown, but for now, all is good in the world and I'm doing my best to embrace this opportunity to experience yet another culture and country and for our kids to really become third culture kids.

This week was full of settling down kinds of stuff.  Our BSN numbers (like social security) arrived yesterday so now we officially can have insurance, I can change over my drivers' license, we can sign the kids up for sports, finish paperwork for school, get officially signed up at the doctor's office, etc etc. It's our ticket to everything.  So all of that will be tackled next week... like I said, poco a poco.  But at least we've got the numbers and can start moving forward.

After Monday's meltdown, I was determined to make Tuesday better.  The sun was shining and I decided it would be the day I would sign the kids up for sports.  Ideally tennis and soccer.  And I was going to buy a Dutch bike the same day.  I had seen the sports club while riding my bike to the grocery store on Monday - while a huge complex, it was semi hidden by trees and had I not been on my bike, would likely have missed it many times driving by.

I went to what I thought was the main entrance of the sports club only to find it was a swimming pool. Score!  Kids need mandatory swim lessons (it's law with so much water around here) that they pass a swim exam.  Neither are thrilled to have to take lessons but I see too much benefit from it to even attempt to skip this one.  Anyways, I didn't realize there was a pool here so not only killing two birds with one stone but THREE!

If only it were that easy.  I've been spoiled thus far with so many people speaking English.  I didn't have that in Spain and it's just been so lovely to have people understand me.  Until I got to the pool. The woman who I think runs the swim classes didn't speak much English and what English she did know was mixed in with Dutch - she was acting as though she were speaking English but in fact was speaking kind of Dut-lish???  I got about every 4th word.  In the end, what I did understand is that we would do a swim assessment next Wednesday to see what level they both would start in.  Then we will figure out lessons.  I thought I understood 4 hrs per day each Sunday for 14 weeks but I'm really really hoping that was a misinterpretation.  Really.

I left there feeling a little defeated that I didn't know anything about the cost of classes, what day they would be (hoping they aren't Sun afternoons for the 4 hrs) and if they would be at the same time or different times and days.  My hope is that when we show up next Wednesday that there will be lots of English speaking people since it's a popular sports day as it's a half day in Dutch schools (and in our school).

Behind the pool area were the tennis courts so I headed that way.  I was surprised that there were no indoor courts given the horrendous weather.  I figured odds are they would play in a short season unlike in Barcelona where they played outside every weekend from October til June.  I approached the small clubhouse which didn't have a main desk and asked about lessons.  The woman running the bar area didn't know but gave me some papers and said to call the number and speak to Peter.  Again, I left there feeling like I hadn't garnered much but at least it was a start.  I'd contact Peter via email when I got home.

I continued walking as I saw a soccer field further ahead.  This place is HUGE!  But wait, there's another tennis club next to the first one???  This is all in the same sports complex so I thought that was weird.  Though I did remember my landlord saying there were two across the street from the grocery store (which is where I was) but I guess I thought there would be more than a 4 foot wire fence separating the two clubs.  I figured I might as well check this one out too.  My understanding is this one is more elite than the other.  Not necessarily our cup of tea but if I can get information here that I couldn't get next door, then I don't really care.  But no, this one had even less information and weren't very friendly, so they are now officially off my list.

I finally made it down to the soccer field.  There was a building at the end that looked like the main office for soccer.  I walked all around it.  There seemed to be no one there.  I saw a person nearby and asked her.  She had no idea where anyone was (yet she had a key to one of the supply doors so obviously worked there or something.  There was a poster on the door with information so I took a picture and figured once again I would email to get more info.

In the end, I spent about an hour and a half at this complex.  I didn't get anyone signed up for lessons. This is the learning curve I was talking about and trying to be patient.  It's a simple task and yet it's so difficult that I wanted to just go home and hang my head in defeat because the one task I wanted to complete was not.  Just one task.

So I decided to press on and go buy my bike.  I'd been riding my hybrid mountain bike around town and little grandmas are cruising past me at warp speed (I hear those bikes are electric so perhaps that's why but they were pedaling too!).  So I decided to bite the bullet and get myself a Dutch bike.  More on the bike itself later (that's a whole other post).  But let me tell you about Harry, the owner.  He was awesome.  All those feelings of defeat - he made me feel better.  Like a big teddy bear, he just made me laugh and smile and feel good about the world again.  It turns out he lives in our neighborhood and his sister lives here as well and he knows everyone and has assured me he's going to introduce me.

I bought a bike and Harry promised to deliver it the next day.  I left the shop feeling really good about the day despite the earlier shortcomings.  It's amazing how one good thing or one bad thing can really change the perspective of your day.

The following day was Wednesday, here that means half day school.  EVERY WEEK.  Yes, it's killer.
But I'm determined to make the best of it and spend some quality time with the boys.  While work is very important to me, I've been realizing that I have not been good about prioritizing the kids the last several months over work and moving and right now they need this time with me.  Though I will admit, it's often painful.  Ok, it's really really good and then there is that one moment where they start to fight and it all goes to shit.  But overall, good times.

But before I could spend the afternoon with them, I had a coffee morning with the moms at the school. I'd met a handful along the way the last few weeks but was looking forward to hopefully connecting with more.  It was not all I had hoped it would be.  Essentially the women I had already connected with are likely the ones that I will remain connected with and the rest, well, the rest didn't impress me upon this first meeting.  They were all nice enough but I wasn't drawn to them to pursue more than a passing hello kind of relationship.  You never know though.

And during this first meeting, which apparently was not just a typical coffee morning but also complete with agenda to discuss things like the Christmas party (already - I mean it's barely after the 1st of Sept!) but "best" of all was talk about the bathrooms.  A solid hour about the bathrooms and how they are not being properly cleaned and so some parents have taken on cleaning it and would like volunteers to help.  Ok, this is going to sound snobby but I'm saying it anyways.  I don't even clean my own bathrooms - that's why a cleaning lady comes every 2 weeks.  Much less am I going to clean a school bathroom.  And never ever ever in my life have I heard of parents having to clean a bathroom in ANY school... ever.  But they've obviously set a precedent here.  Coming from Barcelona where the bathrooms are immaculate, I was curious about the disaster I heard about so I asked Aidan later that day - his response... they are fine.  So there was a solid hour wasted of my morning hearing about what a mess these bathrooms are.  Yes, this is my introduction to the mom's coffee morning.  I think I'm one and done on the big group one.  Yup.

And so being Wednesday, I stuck around the (painful) coffee morning until it was time to pick up the kids at 12 and we went into Almere (which is the town where their school is) to the shopping area.  I needed a new vacuum, a slow cooker and an iron.  I know, super exciting right.  But I promised to take them out to lunch and then to the toy store too.

But first and foremost was lunch.  We haven't eaten out beyond take out pizza since we've arrived.  I don't "speak" Dutch menu yet.  But thanks to google translate and the fact that written Dutch is not all that bad to interpret (at least from a menu perspective) we were able to figure out what it was that we wanted.  While I can't pronounce any of it, I can figure out bits and pieces.  It's a start.  Poco a poco, right?  We each got a burger and (fabulous) fries at this great little place in the shopping area - definitely will return at some point.

The toy store was bigger than we had in Barcelona and was complete with a wall full of legos.  My kids' dream, right?  Liam got a set but Aidan decided to hold on to his money for a particular set he saw at a different toy store the weekend before.  After that is was off to Media Mart for my new vacuum. When did I get to that point in life where a new vacuum excites me?  It's sad.  But it did put a smile on my face.  No slow cookers there though so still on the hunt and not finding what I want on any of the Amazon European sites.

That evening, Harry arrived with my new bike.  Another thing I was way more excited than probably it warranted.  But whatever it takes to make me feel good about life here, I will take.  We chatted outside for a little bit and lo and behold his sister showed up at home, turns out she lives literally 2 doors down from me.  Both absolutely lovely people and felt connected right away.  His sister told me to come by any time for coffee or tea as she works from home as well.  I haven't been able to bring myself to just pop over yet but perhaps this week will be the week I manage to do just that.  After all, it's all about taking chances, if we want to make changes in our lives.  But leaving to get Josh that evening, I felt good, really good about how our day had gone and the fact that not only did we get some things done, but I managed to take the kids to lunch by myself (I remember that first lunch with Liam in Barcelona and how much it stressed me out) and that I met some new people.  Successful day.  Check!

Thursday was no school... seriously.  Wednesdays are half days because the teachers have continuing education in the afternoons.  Yet, Thursday was a study day so the teachers could have continuing ed. Don't get me wrong, I want the teachers learning but what are they not covering EVERY SINGLE WEDNESDAY that they need a full Thursday off too????  And in the third week of school? Anyways, I told the kids I had to work in the morning but then we'd go to a different toy store (with more legos) so they could spend their money on what they wanted as they didn't see much the day before.  And then we would come home and go for a bike ride with my new bike.

With the toy store done and even a little grocery shopping (painful with both kids as per usual), we came home and got ready for our bike ride.  It did not start out well.  At all.  Aidan flipped out because I made him wear a helmet.  Now mind you, Aidan has worn a bike helmet his ENTIRE LIFE when riding a bike, rollerblading or skateboarding.  So why he thinks that he can now stop just because Dutch kids don't wear them is beyond me.  And to any Dutch people I know, I mean no offense when I say it's stupid that your kids don't wear helmets.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not wearing a helmet (also likely stupid but I'm an adult capable of making these decisions for myself), but to not have your kid wear one when riding a bike among traffic is just dumb.  These bikers remind me of the motos in Barcelona - arrogant and entitled and less protected than those moto drivers were in Barcelona.  And I'm fearful that I will accidentally take one out at some point.  So you can bet my kid is wearing a helmet.

Anyways, tantrum ensued but we pressed on.  There was a whole lot of swearing on his end. Eventually we made it to the Vesting and along the path is a small petting zoo that also sells ice cream / popsicle bars.  So we stopped for a short break.  The kids got popsicles and fed the animals and all was good in the world.  And the teenagers that ran the place took pride in teaching the kids a few words in Dutch (not the choice words most teenagers would go with but names of the animals).


We continued on and Aidan's tantrum was now long forgotten.  We rode a total of 4 1/2 scenic miles. We rode entirely around the moat bypassing one side for the fields below.  While riding along the fields, we passed by tons of corn fields.  Admittedly, Aidan pilfered 2 pieces.  Turns out they are likely for feed only or else just not ripe - they cooked up bright orange instead of yellow (yet were yellow when picked and raw) and were hard, not soft like usual cooked corn.  It was an adventure for him though and yes, I did have the talk with him that stealing is not right and that the farmer wouldn't appreciate it.  It was a gorgeous ride and a total of 4 1/2 miles where they didn't stop except for the petting zoo.  Given that just one week previous, Liam stopped every 10 feet, this was a huge step in the right direction with our riding.

You're probably getting bored by now hearing about our little adventures, successes and failures during week three but I'm almost there, I promise.  Friday the kids were back to school and I had another coffee morning, this time just the moms in Aidan's class.  He's in a class of 14 kids (that's his entire grade mind you) so given that not all the moms can/want to attend, there were maybe 6 of us.  It was great.  I felt much more connected with this group than with the bigger group on Wednesday.  Between the few in Liam's class that I'm getting friendly with and this group, hopefully all will be ok socially at some point but it's still early to tell.

I went home and got some work done before leaving again to pick up the kids.  I chatted with some of the moms from the morning for about 40 minutes before we managed to leave school.  It felt good to connect at any level and just comfortable.  Hopefully there are more afternoons like this to come.

Overall it was a good week. It was a rough start, a few bumps along the way, but a good end... then along came Saturday...

Besos,
Julie

Friday, September 5, 2014

Learning Curve

As with anything new, there is a learning curve.  When you move to a new country that learning curve takes on a whole new meaning.  It takes time to acclimate, to get used to a new way of doing things and a new language that you need to interpret, to find where the grocery store is or the dry cleaners and even things as simple as getting a routine established to get to and from school.

I remember arriving in Barcelona and thinking that it wouldn't be so bad.  And that I would be up to speed in a matter of days.  Oh how wrong I was.  And it was like a slap in the face when reality hit.  As a result, I broke down.  I cried every day for months.  I functioned, don't get me wrong - I had no choice but to get things done that needed to get done.  But when I was alone (which was a lot) or had just a few minutes too long to think, I would break down.

Because it was hard.  It was so much harder than I ever imagined.  Not only was everything in a foreign language, it wasn't one I was even remotely familiar with.  It was all in Catalan which is a completely different language than Spanish (it is not a dialect as many assume).  At least I had high school level Spanish which I had hoped would at least get me started.  And it did.  Most everyone spoke Spanish, but most everything was written in Catalan.

It took time, a lot of time, to acclimate.  I don't know why I thought it would be easy initially. Establishing new routines.  Going from suburban life to city life.  Living without a car.  Learning how to shop for our food in several stores rather than at just the one big grocery store and let's not get started with having to interpret the food (yes, I know some things are easy to figure out but you tell me the difference between the 4 different types of meat that all have a cow picture but a different description when you don't speak the language). Finding doctors, communicating with doctors.  Getting the kids enrolled in sports that were run by the city and not the school.  There were so many factors that were new and different in addition to the language.  And each one presented us with a challenge that was needed to overcome.

Making connections was the biggest and toughest part of acclimating.  Think about it, if you have lived in any given place for a period of time, you have a circle of friends.  People come and go from that circle, but you always have a core group.  If you've moved any kind of distance, even if it's within your home country, you have to start over from scratch.  Totally and completely from scratch.  Now do it in a country where you don't speak the language and try to make those connections.  I work from home so I don't have an office to go to.  Parents of kids at the boys' school and co-workers of Josh's tend to be where I at least start to meet new people but those relationships still take time.

In time, things began to take on a sense of normalcy.  They were never 100% normal but pretty close given the challenges that life abroad constantly throws at you.  The rewards were amazing trips that we took - a lot.  Thank you Spain for your practically monthly long weekends.  And so we pressed forward always having a trip to look forward to down the line - motivation to push through.  Not to mention the experience we were able to give our kids, a once in a lifetime opportunity to live a life that not many people get the opportunity to enjoy.

After all we went through in Spain, I thought I would be (older and) wiser this time around.  But what I didn't realize is that it's not necessarily easier, I've just learned to accept that certain things are going to take more time initially and that hopefully, over time, those things will get easier.  And I've found that with certain things, I'm able to fast track the learning curve because I know what to expect and can head those things off.

Like those 4 different kinds of meat.  The first time I google translated every time to figure out which one I wanted.  My time in the grocery store (which was much bigger than the one I had in Barcelona) was probably close to 2 hours. The second time, I had a vague idea where the meat section was but still had to scroll down to recently translated items to refresh my memory on what I bought the last time.  Still spent well over an hour because I didn't know the layout of the store as well as I'd hoped.  By the third time, I was feeling much more confident and got out of there in less than 45 minutes.  In Spain my grocery store would take me 10 minutes, if that.  I'll get there again and I recognize that this is all a part of the learning curve.

But what I find interesting about the learning curve this time around is my ability to jump in without fear.  I remember it took me about a year before I was ready to get Aidan involved in sports again because I just wasn't sure how to go about doing it in Spain.  And yet, in our third week, while they aren't signed up yet, I've at least got the information I need for most of the sports they want to do.  I'm not afraid to figure it out.  And that is helping the learning curve exponentially.  It will also help us to integrate better.  Not to mention, once they are involved in sports, they'll be getting regular Dutch which will be good since all they get at school is considered "survival Dutch".

Fear seems to be the key trigger here.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear that someone won't understand me or that I won't understand them.  And fear of not being able to figure "xyz" out.  And you know what, this time I'm determined not to let the fear slow our integration down, though admittedly it helps that most people also speak English.  While there are going to be many bumps along this road, no doubt, it's how we handle them that shows how well we are progressing here.

And I think tackling fears is the only way to kick that learning curve's ass to the curb.  Yes, there is going to be a learning curve when getting to know a new culture, but it's how we handle it and approach it.  I'm doing my best to be patient and know that in time, things will seem like old hat like they eventually did in Barcelona.  Already we're getting to know our way around and to do things that I definitely wasn't ready to do in week 3 in Barcelona.  And I think the kids are feeding off my desire to do more and so they are being a little more adventurous as well as a result.

So I think that while the learning curve is definitely going to blindside us occasionally along the way with things we just didn't expect, it's how we handle those bumps in the road that will be integral to us progressing in an upward trajectory.  We know that it's not an easy road ahead, but that's by choice. Why take the easy road when we can take the one less traveled and truly experience life along the way. It will take some time, but hey, we're not going anywhere (or as we've learned along the way.... for now).

Besos,
Julie

Monday, September 1, 2014

State of Mind

So here we are, just 2 weeks into our new lives in the Netherlands.  I have to say, we're overall doing better than expected and definitely doing better than we did when we arrived in Spain.  That's not to say there aren't bumps in the road or bad days, because we most definitely do, but in the scheme of things, we're doing pretty good.

The kids are starting to make some friends.  Liam seems to be struggling a little more than Aidan but still seems to be hanging on and creating his new little pod.  Tonight as we were sitting around, one of the neighbor kids came over (with his mom because he didn't speak English) to see if Liam could come out to play.  I think it made his day to have a little buddy on our street.  And with play being universal, I don't see the language being a problem for him for long.

Aidan is basing his relationships on how long people will be here and where they will be going to school next year.  He's not sold on anyone in the neighborhood yet.  He met some kids at the neighborhood block party this weekend but they were a little older than him and he's still a bit guarded which is typical of him.  He doesn't let people in very easily but when he does, it's for life.

They met some kids at the block party but not all were nice to them.  Kids are not always kind unfortunately and with 2 foreign kids, they are "unique" which makes them a target for teasing.  But they both handled themselves well, though Liam did resort to his fists which I didn't like - however it was against a kid who was easily 15 so I admire the fact that he wasn't scared by his tormentor.

But while the kids are doing well overall, that doesn't mean we haven't had our fair share of tantrums. Given that I'm struggling on my own to "survive", dealing with their struggles is only making things more difficult for me.  Though at the same time, it's a welcome distraction from how I'm feeling about everything.

As always, Josh is fine.  It's annoying.  Like in Spain, he's had what appears to be zero learning curve and just takes to any new culture like it's normal life.  I'm envious of his ability to do this.  I also hate him a little bit because of it too.

For me, well, it depends on the day.  Today was not a good one.  Let's call it a bad Netherlands day. Yesterday was a good Netherlands day.  There have been pros and cons to each day and some times there are just too many cons.  I know it's early.  I know this is all to be expected.  But it's frustrating when all you want to do when you get up in the morning is go back to bed and wish that you were somewhere else, anywhere else, but here.  However, this is me we are talking about and while I want to go back to bed each morning, I push through and move on because it's all I can do.  If I slow down that is when I will break down.  And quite honestly, I have way too much on my plate to just go back to bed, the thoughts of what needs to be done would just stress me out more.

So each morning for the last 10 days I've been running again (with the weekend off).  I had stopped when the kids finished school in June and so need to work my time and distance back up but it's helping to clear my mind again.  And I need to clear my mind because it has not been in a good place.

I feel incredibly alone here.  It's reminiscent of Barcelona.  Only when I got to Barcelona, I already had one connection before I arrived and made another the day that I arrived.  Here, I have no one.  I've met a few people, maybe eventually they will become friends, who knows.  But as of now, they are people I've met and perhaps chatted with a bit - it's too early to define anyone as a friend.  But no one that I would call to ask if they can grab my kids because I have an emergency or to take the boys home with them because I need to get Josh to the doctor's for an appointment.  Zero support system.

I know it's early.  Like I said, it's only been 2 weeks.  But that's 2 long weeks when you are alone.  I focus on our daily needs.  Getting the house together.  Work (much needed to do!).  Errands to get things situated in the house - small appliances we didn't have, trying to plan sports for the kids, etc. Those things keep me focused on the here and now rather than on the fact that I'm feeling very isolated and alone.

The weather does not help.  In a word, it sucks.  It sucks bad.  It rains EVERY SINGLE DAY so far. It doesn't rain all day but it rains at least once every day from what I can tell and somedays it rains many times (I counted 10 times one day).  We're already in jeans and long sleeves, though I hear we may actually get short sleeve weather this week.

It's been nice weather for biking, that's a positive at least.  I've been trying to get out on my bike more since walking isn't as much an option here since things are more spread out.  And I have to say, there are bike paths EVERYWHERE.  I think you could actually bike the entire country.  And they are all well maintained that I've seen thus far.  I need to do some upgrades to my current bike or else get a "dutch" bike but I feel like I'm getting on the right track with it.  Plus I'm sick of being in the car.  I need to get out.

I'm chauffeuring the kids and Josh everywhere and that doesn't help.  Unfortunately, this is one thing I can't really do anything about.  In the city, I would walk around.  Here in the suburbs, there has just been no reason to do that.  So I will do my best to remain active - running and biking...and driving :(

The learning curve has been easier than the last time.  There will be more on that later.  And so as a result, I'm feeling better than I expected only 2 weeks in.  But I'm not happy.  Not by a long stretch. I'm angry.  I'm resentful.  I'm sad.  I'm depressed.  And then I look around where we are living and I feel guilty because it has to be one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen and we are so lucky to be here.  How can I have these feelings of sadness and depression when I'm somewhere so lovely and filled with people who are equally lovely so far.

Because I would give anything to be home right now.  But wait, I don't even know what or where home is any more.  I think it's a typical expat feeling of constantly being in limbo.  Of never feeling like you truly belong somewhere but no longer feeling like you belong home either.  I say I want to be back home in the US, but I don't necessarily know I want that either.  I feel like Jekyll and Hyde - constantly swinging on a pendulum of emotions.  Where do I belong?

I miss our lives in Spain.  I miss our friends.  But at the same time, we never fully integrated there either.  But it was the known - at least for the last 4 1/2 years.  It wasn't always that way, but at the end it was just where we lived and it was home for the time being.  I didn't cry when I left.  I cried when I left the US 4 1/2 years ago.  Does that mean something?  I don't know.

Our arrival in the Netherlands came at a good time, yet a bad time.  Good because the kids didn't have time to think before they jumped into our new lives here.  We arrived and they started school the following day.  But just 2 weeks in, Josh and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary.  And to put it simply, I don't care.  That sounds horrible, I know.  And I feel horrible thinking it.  This is a man I've spent the last 20 years with, have shared my heart and soul with... and I just don't give a shit about our anniversary.

There was no time for me to plan anything and I feel caught off guard that way.  I found some cards at a market the other day but didn't have the heart to write anything in them.  Primarily because I have nothing nice to say.  Yes, I love Josh.  But I'm not liking him right now.  None of this is his fault - directly.  But someone has to take the blame for us being here.  And it's him.  We've been through it before when we got to Barcelona.  And eventually things went back to normal and I'm confident that they will again - we've been thru the ringer and this is just a small bump along the way.  But here we are at 10PM on our anniversary and I can't stop crying about the fact that I ruined our anniversary because of my anger that we have moved... again.  When I barely acknowledged his existence today and when I did, it was with short, curt words and an evil look in my eye.  When I don't even know what I want in the first place.

If anything, Josh has gone above and beyond this year trying to keep our family together.  And yet, I feel so much anger and resentment, I don't know what to do with myself.  It's not where I want to be - emotionally and physically.  I don't know where I want to physically be - I don't know that I would be happy in the US.  I think we were ready to leave Spain.  And I am not happy here.  I'm sure I will be given time, but at this moment in time, I'm not.

I'm exhausted.  I'm tired of living in another language. I feel weak just admitting that.  And I'm lucky that here many speak English but nothing else is in English - not the food, not a menu, not an item in a store, not the doctor's office website or voice mail, not the road signs, not the radio, not the sports, not even the school website.  I'm tired of the constant roller coaster of emotions, breakdowns, etc.  I'm tired of crying.  I'm tired of feeling alone.  I'm tired of being isolated.  Hell, I'm tired of not having a dryer for my clothes.

It feels selfish to say all of this because I know how lucky we are to have this opportunity and that I need to open my mind to the adventures ahead of us.  Especially for the kids and what all of this means for them.  And I have no regrets about any of this journey.  But I'm fucking exhausted.  I'm done. I'm toast.  And I'm angry that my wedding anniversary was tainted by this anger and frustration.

Like anything in life, I know that this too shall pass.  It happened when we moved to Barcelona and like anything in life, time heals all wounds.  Or at the very least, time covers the pain.  At some point, I will have less breakdowns.  I will have the realization that I can either wallow in my sorrow or put on my big girl panties and take charge of this life, no matter where we are located.  I know it will be the latter but for today, just for today, I need to let myself take the low road and cry it out.

Tomorrow is a new day... I hear there may be sun...

Besos,
Julie

Monday, August 25, 2014

Day 2... Dial 112 for Emergency

Day 2 started off pretty well, at least much better than day 1 went.  We went to get our BSN numbers in the center of town which is a super cute area - those are our social security numbers.  Josh already has his but the kids and I needed ours.  We can't get health insurance or even a cell phone without one.  So we filled out all the forms and Josh updated his number to reflect our new address.  In a few weeks we'll be official residents of the Netherlands.

I dropped off Josh at the train (since he obviously didn't have his bike which he takes every day to/from the train - yes, he's now Dutch Josh... bye bye Spanish Josh) and the kids at school.  My mission was to find a hardware store looking for ceiling anchors.  But instead I found a huge grocery store.  They even had crescent rolls (they aren't Pillsbury, but I'll take them!)!  Yay!!  There was also a small electronics store so I got a new phone so that I could get our Vonage VOIP up and running again.  I can't find my drill but I did end up finding a commercial hardware store (on my list is to find the every day hardware store but that's for another day).  All in good time I suppose!

Overall, the day went well though.  I've learned to recognize that things take longer when you first move to a new country.  All things you know you have to relearn.  It's all for another entry - I'll get to it.  But let me tell you how our day ended instead.

Day 2 in the Netherlands ended with a call to 112 (Europe's answer to 911).  Yes, I had to call the ambulance, for the first time in my life.  And as luck would have it, I had to do it while living abroad. Yeah this is not how I expected day 2 to end, with a trip to the emergency room.

What happened?  Well most probably know at this point from our Facebook updates, but here's the long story.

Since this was a week of moving, the whole house has been a disaster.  Boxes everywhere.  Toys everywhere and the room that was the biggest disaster was Liam's.  This is partially my fault.  I was trying to get Aidan's room taken care of so that I could slowly move some things back into it but needed space to work.  I had the boys put everything in Liam's room as a holding "tank".  We had cleared some of it up, but Liam was enjoying the idea of having ALL the toys in his room and had taken out EVERY SINGLE TOY and they were on his floor.  It's a novelty as in our past 2 apartments we had playrooms so that there were very few toys in the bedrooms - primarily because the bedrooms were so small.

But in this house there is no playroom or extra bedroom.  The majority of toys will eventually reside in the kids' rooms once we get all our furniture from the US.  Anyways, I was yelling at Liam to clean things up and Josh intervened.  I wasn't in the room but I heard Liam upset and Josh getting upset as well (which is very rare for Josh).  Then I heard a scream and it wasn't from Liam.  It was from Josh.

It wasn't a scream of anger.  It was a scream of pain.  I ran to Liam's room and saw Josh laying on the floor in agony.  I could tell immediately something was wrong.  I asked him if he needed an ambulance. I honestly don't know why I asked this question - I've never asked it before.  But something about the way he was laying on the floor and the look on his face told me something was really wrong.  He said he did and that he thought that there was a bone protruding from his leg.

That was enough for me.  I'm not my mother's daughter for sure - things like this make me nauseous, even in an emergency situation.  I'm not proud of it.  The kids were screaming, beyond hysterical. They knew something was terribly wrong.  In order to stay focused I ran outside and called 112.  I'm beyond thankful that they spoke English.  While I could have navigated this in Spanish, I'm so thankful I did not have to do it.  It took a minute or two to be transferred to the right town and right emergency venue (fire, ambulance, police) and to take the information but finally they were on their way.

In the meantime, I had to take care of the kids... and Josh.  And to take care of Josh, I needed to remove the hysterical children from the scene.  Let me remind you, we've lived here for TWO DAYS.  We know NO ONE.  I met the next door neighbor briefly yesterday and he seemed like a nice guy.  So I crossed my fingers, grabbed the kids and ran next door.  His wife answered and went to introduce herself - barely giving her a moment to speak I said "my husband has fallen and thinks he has a bone protruding from his leg.  I've called an ambulance but I can't let the kids see what might happen next. Can I please leave them with you until I can better assess the situation?"  And I shoved the kids at her.

Thankfully she took them, asked their names and said to go take care of what I needed to take care of and she would watch them.  I'm forever in her debt on this one.  And what a way to meet the neighbor. First her husband when I couldn't open the front door yesterday and now this.  Welcome to the neighborhood, right???

I ran upstairs to check on Josh.  He was gray and he was cold.  He's never ever ever cold.  Ever.  That alone scared me.  I had texted my mom, a nurse, on my way up the stairs, to find out what I needed to do while I waited for the EMTs to arrive.  Admittedly, I felt nauseous when I was with Josh.  The ambulance couldn't get there soon enough.  The idea that he had a bone sticking out of his leg (I did not look close enough to confirm and he often wears baggy jeans so I couldn't see anything) was enough to make me want to pass out alongside him and then the EMTs would have their hands full.

Josh was in pain like nothing I had ever seen before.  I felt helpless.  I didn't know what to do.  So I just tried to calm him down.  I kept telling him it would be ok.  It reminded me of when I was having Aidan and he kept telling me the same thing over and over and over again - to the point of annoyance. Looking back, he was probably in the same boat, not knowing what to say or how to handle the situation.

The ambulance took forever.  I'm going to say it was at least 10 minutes before it got here.  Too long in my book.  If he'd had a heart attack he would have been dead.  He was likely going into shock right before the EMTs got here based on how I described him to my mom when I eventually spoke with her. That's not a good thing.

When the EMTs arrived, I have to say, they were amazing.  They were calming and even humorous at times.  They explained every single detail to me as they were working on Josh.  I went downstairs to not just give them room to work (Liam's room is not that big) but also because I couldn't stomach what they needed to do.  Again, feeling like I let Josh down in his time of need.  I could hear him screaming upstairs when they touched his leg.

I did what I do best.  I organized.  Stupid and silly I know.  But I needed to do something.  I grabbed all the ipads and jackets.  I grabbed some new pants for Josh (they cut his jeans off) as well as some sneakers.  I knew we were going to the hospital from here and I knew that it was going to be a late night for the kids.  I put everything in the car so we would be ready to go as soon as I knew what the situation was.  It was busy work, but it kept me going.

Eventually the EMT came downstairs and told me that there was not a bone protruding from his leg, but instead, he had dislocated his kneecap and they were going to relocate it before going to the hospital.  They were going to give Josh a sedative, essentially a horse tranquilizer, and some meds that were going to give him amnesia.  They said he was going to scream when they relocated it but that he would not remember it.  Just thinking back to this moment makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

And scream his did. A gut wrenching scream.  It brought tears to my eyes knowing he was in so much pain.  I'm so glad the kids were not here to witness any of this.  Eventually the EMT came downstairs and told me it was ok to be with Josh and that they were waiting on another EMT and police to come in order to help get Josh down the stairs to go to the hospital.  As is typical in the Netherlands, the staircases is incredibly steep, almost vertical and just two guys were not going to be able to get Josh on a stretcher down them.

I went to Josh and he was in tears.  He was drugged.  Oh was he drugged.  And as promised, he didn't remember any of what had just happened.  But he was so worried... about our anniversary.  Yes, that was at the forefront of his mind.  Not his knee or the kids or the move.  Our anniversary.  Even in sickness, he's still the most selfless person I know.  And I promised him I don't care about our anniversary, just him getting better (which is still the case).  I layed next to him and just held his hand as we waited for the police to come.

Our next door neighbor arrived to let us know that the kids were doing well and to check on Josh. She seems pretty easy going and very likable. I think we will get along great with them once we get ourselves situated.  She offered to hold on to the kids while Josh and I went to the hospital but I felt like we had asked enough of her.

Josh left for the hospital and seemed to be in much better spirits (thank you horse tranqs) which made me feel better.  And while I knew this likely wasn't over, I felt good knowing that there was no bone protruding from his leg and that his knee had been relocated.  The only thing we ha to hope for was that there were no broken bones.

The kids and I followed shortly thereafter.  Thankfully the EMT gave me good directions for once we arrived at the hospital, telling me to head towards the forest when I arrived and that was where the emergency room was.  This is where my lack of Dutch is really bad - in Spain, emergency is emergencia. Pretty easy to figure out.  In Dutch, it's noodgevallen.  Yeah, I would never have gotten that but he was right about the forest.

We made it into the hospital and we must have been the only Americans that night because they immediately knew who we belonged with and said Josh was out getting an x-ray and would be back shortly.  The kids were tired and impatient.  I can't blame them.  But they also needed to learn to buck up in an emergency and rise to the occasion when someone needs us.  The doctor came in to talk to us and said that based on the x-ray they saw a small fracture behind his knee and would need to do a CT scan to see in more detail how bad the damage was.

We didn't have to wait long, thankfully, and Josh was off for his scan.  We wouldn't get the results until Monday when he saw the orthopedist but at least we were able to complete more of the process of our end goal of getting Josh better.  He was given a soft cast / brace that goes the entire length of his leg and we were sent home.  The whole thing from start to finish was about 3 hours but I think it was one of the longest nights' of our lives.



Today Josh and I went to the orthopedist to get his results and long term prognosis.  Unfortunately it looks like there are bone fragments floating around behind his knee, the knee wasn't perfectly re-aligned and the tendons, as a result, are also not aligned.  So it looks like surgery is in his future.  Likely in the next few weeks.  He's to keep the brace on and limit his movements.

Of course, this wasn't the news we were hoping to hear.  But in the end, all that matters is that he's going to be ok.  It's going to take some time for his recovery and it certainly isn't the way we were hoping to start off our new lives in the Netherlands.  However, looking to the silver lining (and really, what else can we do), we've at least learned how to navigate the medical system here a whole lot earlier than we planned.

There will be more to come on this as we get closer to Josh's surgery.  But for now, all is ok and a week later, he's doing pretty well considering.  He's mobile though in spurts and he went back to work after taking just one day off to recover so I'd say he's feeling better.  I know he's bummed out about the surgery and I'm going to say there won't be any ski vacation this year (yay for me as I don't like to ski), but he is looking forward to just getting back on track again.  The selfish part of me looks forward to when he can put on his own socks, jeans and sneakers and can get himself to work on his own.  But to know he's going to be ok, I'd put his socks on him for the rest of his life - I'm just so thankful that it wasn't worse than what it could have been.

So that's day 2... I'm curious to see what the future holds here, hopefully all positives from here on out as I think we've already paid our dues!!!

Besos,
Julie

Day 1...Into the Fire (Immersion 101)

As I mentioned in my last post, Josh went to work on day 1.  I could have killed him - angry doesn't even come close on that one.  I felt incredibly alone and abandoned.  There is nothing like being thrown into the fire and start our new lives by myself.  What could I do?  I couldn't stay home.  The kids had to go to school and I had to figure out how to function. And I had to unpack and get back to work.

Josh left at 7:15 - the kids and I didn't need to leave until after 8.  I suppose on a positive note, we get an extra 30 minutes in the morning that we didn't have in Barcelona.  It was raining off and on again like it did when we arrived.  An hour of sun, an hour of rain, an hour of sun, an hour of rain.  It goes on and on like that.  It's sunny one moment and pouring the next.

Aidan woke up and said we need to turn the heat on.  In August.  I can't say that I totally disagree (sadly it has since been turned on... in August I must reiterate).  Barcelona this is not.  Unfortunately I didn't anticipate it to be this cold in August and so hadn't located their cold weather clothes yet and shipped anything I had purchased.  In Barcelona they are normally in shorts until November.  Even in Boston, they would have been in them at least til mid September!

Breakfast in our new kitchen

In front of our house ready to go - notice the raincoats - good investment!

In front of their new school

Aidan's new classroom

Liam in his new class

Regardless, I had to send them to school in shorts.  Driving wasn't a big deal thanks to my GPS. Thankfully Josh had pre programmed pretty much anywhere I would need to go for the foreseeable future into it, including school.  Unfortunately the GPS got the school address wrong (the school was on the right and it told me to turn left - but at least it was the same street, though we were lost for a few minutes trying to figure it out) but thankfully had built in a few extra minutes into our trip to school not knowing what traffic would be like, etc.

I can honestly say that right off the bat, I felt better about getting the kids to school than I did in Barcelona.  I remember clearly the desperate feeling of not knowing how to navigate the public transportation to get Aidan to school his first day in Barcelona (the school had recommended he not take the bus the first few days but for me to bring him and pick him up).  In the end in Barcelona, I took a taxi.  On Monday, I drove and I felt pretty good about it.  We were there in 15 minutes even with getting lost.

Knowing that their school is also a Dutch school, I wasn't sure where we had to enter or where to go. We never received information on what to do upon arrival.  The good news is that it's a small school, only grades pre-k through grade 5 and only one section per grade.  So we couldn't get too lost.  But they had everything under control and very easily corralled all the new students into a lobby area - we must have all had that lost look on our faces.  Liam looked incredibly nervous and I don't blame him - this is his first new school.  Aidan looked in control, typical of him and maybe it's because it's the second time around he feels like he can handle it.  They then brought everyone upstairs to their classrooms where the other students and teachers were waiting.  Parents were allowed to go up with the kids - a challenge for me with 2 kids and only one of me.

There are 14 kids in Aidan's class, a switch from last year where he had around 20.  Liam, on the other hand, who had always been in the small class (last year was 14) was now the opposite, with the largest class in school of 20 kids.  And I thought Benjamin Franklin was small in Barcelona!  So there are 14 kids in grade 5 (year 7 at this school) and 20 kids in grade 2 (year 4).  That's it.  I'm going to say we will get to know everyone really well here.  The school doesn't feel like BFIS did but it's only day 1 so we'll give it time.  Apparently they have a ton of after school activities so that would be different from their old school in a positive way.

I met a very nice couple who had also just moved here as we were getting ready to leave.  Their son is in Liam's class and they have been living abroad for a while as well.  I chatted with them for about 45 minutes.  Lovely people and hopefully a connection made already.  It felt really good to meet people off the bat as I don't feel quite as alone and it's only day 1.

I was feeling pretty good considering the circumstances and the day before knowing that I successfully dropped off the kids to school and met a new family.  So far so good.  Then I got home.  And I couldn't open the front door.  Induce meltdown in 5, 4, 3...

I called Josh freaking out.  He offered to come home.  I told him I didn't want to see him now or any time soon.  I think he realized that he should not have gone to work on our first day.  He admitted as much.  Didn't make me any less angry though.  I spent a good 10 minutes trying to open the front door, practically in tears.  And of course, it was raining out.

Finally, I gave up trying to open the door and went next door hoping perhaps someone would be home that could help me.  I figured maybe there was something different about these Dutch doors as compared to any other door I've ever used?????  The benefit of being in a country where many people speak English is that I suspected that my neighbor would speak it and in fact, he did.  And coincidentally, he had also lived in Spain with his wife for 6 years and had just returned back about a year ago.

He helped me with the door - turns out that something is weird with our lock and you have to pull it towards you as you unlock it and then push it in.  Very strange but now I get it.  It seems that the door automatically locks when you close it too so I need to be conscious of making sure I always have a key when I leave the house.

I chatted with my neighbor for a bit.  Really nice guy and felt like perhaps I made a second connection for the day.  All in all, not bad for day 1.  But by now it's 10:30 and I had to leave at 11:30 to pick up the kids at noon since the first day was a half day.  I accomplished basically nothing on day 1.

I picked up the kids and they had a great first day, a huge relief for me.  I'm not sure what I would have done if they'd had a bad day though.  And don't get me wrong, we've still been having meltdowns about how sad they are that we are no longer in Barcelona - it's all a part of the grieving process for each of us.  And we went through the same thing when we left the US years ago as well.

I'm still not feeling great about everything but much better than I did yesterday.  I feel like we made a lot of progress in just one day and we're already more immersed than we were in Barcelona at this point.  It feels less scary than Barcelona did early on and so I need to take that as a positive.  There are still many things left on our to do list such as BSN numbers (social security), getting signed up for sports, converting my license, etc etc and so I don't think we will really feel settled for several more weeks but we are making progress.

On a random note, I found out that while some stores are open on Sundays here (nothing in Barcelona was open on Sunday other than restaurants), most places don't open til 1PM on Monday, everything closes by 6PM during the week except Thursday where they are open later.  So we'll have some new schedules to get used to here as well on top of everything else!  But on a positive note, I won't have siesta to contend with!!

Besos,
Julie