Water water everywhere...

It is rumored that I have a house jinx. At first people thought it was the "house from hell" that we first lived in, with it's many electrical, heating and hot water issues. But from the first day we moved into our second house we've had problems as well. It's also common for other renters to have issues with houses. But, for our family, we seem to have more than most.

We moved in last May on probably the rainiest week in a while. And with the rain, water poured into areas of the house that it should not have been. In the past 10 months they've been in to fix a majority of the problem which had been that the roof terrace wasn't sealed correctly. However, we've had a persistent problem by a set of windows that spans the entire height of the house on one side. The past Saturday once again with heavy rain we had water down in the bottom stair well. These are tiled staircases and are quite slippery when wet. So far we've been very lucky and no one has slipped. This particular window has been re-sealed from the inside and out, three times...and still water is dripping in. I had begun to suspect a few months ago that it was the window above perhaps that was letting the rain in... but there was no obvious point of entry there for water, nothing dripping...although there was some paint discoloration, it never seemed wet.

This morning as I was waiting for another call from the landlord to discuss the weekends events I was gathering laundry and was on my way up to Joseph's room, which is on the top floor...and I noticed a section of the wall near that window, (the third on top of the one that was dripping) was missing. When I touched it, I noticed it was damp. And there is a terrace wall that ends right there. I think I have found the source of the leak!!

The landlord and maintenance man are on their way over now. I feel a bit like I've solved a giant mystery...which ok, is a bit of a stretch. But it's a small victory. Now if we could just figure out where the rest of it is coming from. We'll be right as rain....or something like that.


Driver's License...part 1

When we first arrived in Spain and everything was new and overwhelming, the idea of getting a driver's license seemed as attainable as touching the stars from the top of Tibidabo; a lovely notion but no real chance of it happening. There were two basic reasons for this. First, even though the test was translated into English, EVERYONE said it was impossible, that the English translations were incredibly difficult to follow. Second, and most important, everyone said that the driving portion had to be done on a stick shift. I don't drive a stick shift. Once upon a time, in a kingdom far far away, (we'll call Freehold) I wanted to learn stick...turns out though, that the combined frustrations of my parents and myself was a nearly lethal combination so Automatic it was and ever shall be never having given a thought to possibly ending up in Europe where automatic transmissions are less economical since they use more gas, and no one drives them. Here it is, let's say, "some" years later and I no longer wished to learn how to drive a stick shift, especially on the hills here...in Spanish. So, it looked as if there would be no driver's license for me.

As it turns out though, Everyone, as is often the case, was wrong. You could take the test in a car with an Automatic transmission, apparently they stick an A on your license so you don't go about willy nilly renting and driving a stick shift. That is fine with me, Officer, I will be oh so proud of my A...since I have no intention of trying to drive a stick shift...did I mention the hills. (shudder) Armed with this new found determination to be a law abiding citizen I signed up for a class on how to pass the exam in English. The class is supposed to be two full weekends, the first being instruction and the second taking practice tests over and over again. And so began the comedy of errors that turned a two week endeavor into two months.
Our first Saturday, Eduardo, the instructor was sick with a stomach flu. That put us a day behind. No worries though, we could push the exam back a week and get an extra week of studying in before the exam. The class was a straight forward review of what we needed to know and then it was just practicing the tests to get used to the English that they used.
I was first scheduled to take the exam on February 1st. The day before I got a text saying they wouldn't let me take the test because my DNI was expired. (A DNI is like a residency card...our's expired last January, as in over a year ago, as in Spanish Bureaucracy is mind boggling in it's inefficiency) We gathered all the documents that stated we had reapplied and done all that we should and the instructor pulled strings and got me re-scheduled for February 2nd. So I resumed studying. Well, I tried but wasn't feeling well. Nerves, I thought...until about 11 pm Tuesday night when it became apparent that fever had set in that I had caught a stomach bug. There was no way I was taking the test the next morning. I had to get a doctor's note so they would reschedule me...and the earliest I could get in was February 14th. Happy Valentine's day to me.
The morning before I was scheduled to take the test, as before, I went to the school to take some practice exams where I learned once again, I was not on the list to take the exam. This was getting old, but it was what it was and there was little I could do about it but wait for Eduardo to figure out the problem and fix it. It turned out that when they initially refused my application because of the expired DNI, they created a duplicate folder of me as a favor to allow me to take the test on Wednesday. When I didn't show up, they then had two folders on me in the system...so they couldn't schedule me until they removed one. Eduardo removed the duplicate and I was rescheduled for Tuesday, March 1st.
On Monday I went for the third time into the school to study the day before the exam. This time I really was scheduled for the exam the next day at noon. Suddenly I had an image of myself walking down a deserted ghost town at high noon, spurs jingling with each foot fall....cue the western shootout music. Armed with only a pen and all my ID's, (I wasn't taking a chance they'd find a reason to kick me out) I sat down with my 30 questions...of which I could only get 3 wrong and still pass...and began. 30 minutes later, I emerged, unsure of 4 of my answers. The English translations were not that difficult. Eduardo assured me that 3 of the 4 were correct...(I decided to stop when I came across a man in a crosswalk with a green light instead of you know...killing him.) Eduardo said, "You Americans...slow down but keep going. You have the right of way, he'll get out of the way...or not." Later I received a text saying I passed!! I was so excited. I only had one wrong...so now I know...hit the pedestrian. OK, not really, I was supposed to slow down and take precautions....but without stopping.
Now all I have to do is convince a very nice Spanish man with a clipboard that I can drive...after a few more classes behind the wheel. But, I'm half way there. I'm half way to the stars.


Semana Blanca in Southern France

Each year the kids have a week off of school for Semana Blanca, which translates to white week...which is really a week for everyone to go skiing. (grin) This year for Semana Blanca we were originally planning to have some visitors stay with us, but that fell through. And so it was a bit last minute that we ended up at a quaint little ski village in the South of France called Font Romeu. It's located in the Pyranees mountains. It is also Catalan, which is something I never realized before. The country that was Catalunya extended into France. Friends of ours were letting their reservation on a chalet go, and it seemed easy enough to step in and enjoy. The chalet was a bit further than we would have liked from the town...and it was on the small side but we all fit in...even the puppies, who you can see if you look really hard in the photo below. They are playing in the meadow across the street from our chalet.

The chalet from the outside....

inside...with no internet and only French tv, the kids resorted to making their own movies on Andrea's Macbook.
Joe taking the dogs for a walk.
The puppies...I have no idea why they never look at me when I'm taking a picture.
Alexa on our second day of skiing. The first day there wasn't a lot of snow but it was ok on the trails. That night it snowed all night and throughout most of the morning. It's still falling in this picture.
Joe was posing with his board when I started to take this picture...it fell. (grin)oops.
Day three skiing, the sun was back out and it was really nice skiing. The lovely thing about this particular mountain is that it was very family oriented. Lots of kids and families everywhere. It reminded me a lot of Smuggler's Notch.(if you ever want an a.maz.ing ski vacation with young kids go there) Here is the family at the top of the mountain...
and me too!! and what I loved most about the mountain is that the greens are really green! I didn't fall once.
Another fabulous thing about the mountain was that our friends were there. The Khan family who helped us with the Chalet stayed a few towns away as well and we met up to ski with them. We also ran into Anner, Aline and Susanne, friends of ours who live around the corner. (we didn't get to see Bente because she was confined to her chalet with the stomach flu...and Stieneke, her Mom was there with her.We did run into Stieneke in town right before we left though...it felt like our own home town, friendly faces everywhere!)
Chillin' in the lodge

Our last night we went out to dinner with the Khans. They have three kids...so you can imagine the group we were at the restaurant. It was a fabulous little place that served amazing food. They first handed us our menus in French. Sadly, our French has not progressed since our trip to Paris. She apologized for not having a menu in English..when Joe asked for one in Spanish her face lit up. We found there weren't a lot of people who spoke English but we were able to speak to them in Spanish to get our wishes across.
trying to get a group picture after dinner was madness so we gave up.
Here is the main street in Font Romeu at night
Our last morning after checking out of the hotel we went back to the town to stock up on French pastries. Mmm that is good stuff, and we found some blueberry jam that was heavenly. Nick too the pups up a staircase for no particular reason...it seems like a good picture place though.
Our final shot of Font Romeu...it won't be our last though. The kids were asking about going again even before we left. They had a great time skiing/snowboarding.
I'm certain we'll be back. It's always nice to leave a place wanting a little bit more of it.