Fall/Winter in Barcelona

Alan is still wearing sandals. I’m ok in just a fleece sweater. Sounds like a cool summer day?

Nope, it’s November 29th!! And it was 22 C the other day!

After seven Canadian winters, this weather feels really weird. I can only imagine what it must feel for Alan, who has lived in Canada all his life. As for me, I’m pretty sure I’ll miss the snow. There’s nothing quite like waking up one day to find the world covered in white. That was always my favourite time in the winter. Early in the morning, before the snow-removal trucks came by to clear the streets. Sometimes all you could see was a lonely set of footprints crossing the street. And the silence. The snow works a bit like a sound muffler so it’s usually pretty quiet when it snows. It is so peaceful…

But that’s ok. If we miss snow too much, we can always catch a train north and be in the middle of a ski resort in a couple of hours. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to enjoy the unusual nice weather and feast on the fall products at the local markets and whatever hint of fall colours we can find (most trees are still green).

Squash at Vic Market

Maket at Vic

Mushroom season


Girona colous


Girona colous


Nov 25th: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Violence against women persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality. Such violence is unacceptable, whether perpetrated by the State and its agents or by family members or strangers, in the public or private sphere, in peacetime or in times of conflict. … [A]s long as violence against women continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace. —In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General, 2006

Yesterday was International Day for the Eliminatio of Violence Against Women and the beginning of a period of 16 days chosen by women of 130 countries around the world to bring out awareness of the issue. Why 16 days? Because the period between Nov 25th and Dec 10th is marked by several important events in this fight:

Nov 25th: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day was chosen because it was on this day in 1960 that the Mirabel sisters, three women who had the courage to oppose the dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republican, were murdered.

Dec 1st: World AIDS Day. Established by the World Health Organization in 1988 to focus attention on this world epidemic.

Dec 6th: École Polytechnique Massacre. On this day in 1989 a gunman breaks into an Engineering school in Montreal and kills 14 women before killing himself. The day became a hallmark for the fight against gender violence.

Dec 10th: International Human Rights Day. Celebrates the adoption by the UN in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in response to crimes committed by the Nazis against Jews, homosexuals, Roma, communists, etc and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US.

Denise Arcoverde, from the blog Sindrome de Estocolmo and creator of the NGO Grupo Origem, made a public plea that we all say something about it during the next 16 days to create, hopefully, a bit more awareness. I felt compelled to answer so expect a post on each of those dates during the next 16 days… It would help if any of you in the blogosphere remember those dates, even if it is just one post during the next couple of weeks.

Around the world, violence against women is a major cause of death and disability among women aged 16-44 years of age. As an UN report points out, it is as serious a factor as cancer and a greater cause than traffic accidents and malaria combined. Here in Spain the issue is in every major newspaper. Over 60 women have been killed by their partner or former partner this year alone. Many had restraining orders issued against their attacker.

The numbers probably pale in comparison with places like Brazil, where over 200 are killed in one city alone, but it is intolerable nonetheless. The positive side of all of this is that people are talking about it. It seems most people I talk to are aware and concerned about it. They seem to agree that as long as women are in an inferior position, things like this will go on. But judging from the cases mentioned in the newspapers, it seems to me that many cases of violence against women are caused not so much by the woman’s inferior position but by the inability of certain men to accept their wive’s equal position within society and their marriage. While women’s rights and position have improved by leaps and bounds during the past 50 years, much within our societies has still to catch up with this change. Most women’s work is still of the underpaid, undervalued category, and many men (and women) still see women as inferior and treat them accordingly.

I think the first phase of women’s rights’ movements across the world involved, to a large extent, convincing women themselves of their rights and their equality. I think our governments and society now need to convince the men of that fact. We also need to admit that women are not equal to men. We are different. We are equal as human beings. We are equal perhaps in terms of capabilities. But we are different. It’s not enough to guarantee access to jobs and schools.  We also need a flexible workplace  that allows women who have children to consiliate their roles as mothers with their jobs. We need accessible childcare services so that single women can manage a family on their own. We need our law-enforcement services to adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding violence against women. The list goes on. As the UN secretary-general said, our path towards peace, equality and development will be marred as long as violence against women persists. And violence against women will persist until our society fully embrace women’s rights and contributions.

Some sites on the issue:

Human Rights Watch: Women’s Rights – Latest news and campaigns regarding women’s rights around the world.

Instituto de la Mujer – Spanish government organ dealing with women’s issues. Provides many statistics regarding violence against women in Spain and the rest of Europe.

No más violencia contra las mujeres – Spanish site developed by Amnisty International.

Stop violence against women – Also by Amnisty International. Dedicated to the 16 days of activism to stop domestic violence.

Women’s Human Rights Resources Programme –  Located at the University of Toronto, Canada. Contains a database of legal resources related to international women’s rights as well as specific Canadian cases.

Not a minute more – Site devoted to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women created by UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women).

A Casa Portuguesa: Is the luso-hispanic divide breaking down?

Despite sharing a border and being ruled once by the same king for nearly a hundred years, Portugal and Spain have always kept each other at arms’ length. The two countries have much in common but numerous wars over the centuries led to a relationship that at times have been marked by open mistrust and antagonism. For long they simply ignored the other’s existence; Portugal turned towards alliances with England while Spain looked up at France. The opening of a little Portuguese haven in Gracia shows that this distance is beginning to shorten.

One of the great advantages of the development of our global village, the advent of mass tourism, the Internet, and the breaking of barriers brought forth by the EU is that old rivalries slowly fade as people discover that the country next door is actually a nice place to visit. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I’ve met a lot of people here who has lived in Lisbon or other parts of Portugal. They have encouraged Alan and I to visit and in a few weeks we’ll be setting out to Lisbon.

Last night we discovered a wine bar/delicatessen/bakery specialized in Portuguese products. It’s up in Gracia, on calle Verdi, past the cinema. Called A Casa Portuguesa, they have wonderful pastéis de nata and while having one with a nice cortado I struk conversation with the outgoing girl behind the bar. She thought I was German at first but that’s another story. Anyways, they have been open only two months and are doing well. The owners are Portuguese and soon realized there were no Portuguese shops in Barcelona (!). They decided not only to fill that void and provide the Portuguese community with a shopping spot but also to educate the locals on things Portuguese. As soon as we mentioned we would be visiting Lisbon in a few weeks, the Portuguese girl behind the bar pulled out all kinds of guide books and starting writing down recommendations of places we should visit. She was so nice!! If that’s the way people are in Lisbon, this promises to be a memorable trip!!

As for the long-held rivalry between Spain and Portugal, the girls assure me they have never once experienced it here in Barcelona. They mostly get surprise and interest from locals as they discover the rich culture of the little country on the other side of the peninsula. One young guy exclaimed “wow! they make wine in Portugal??” The girls just smile incredulous and without missing a beat go on to introduce the poor soul into the richness of the Portuguese wine industry.

With a space so inviting and warm, there’s no way the rivalry could last ;) These are the pictures of last night’s port wine tasting event:

Portuguese goodies

hmmm, those jams and fruits look wonderful…


Clever way of displaying bottles of vinegar

serving port Cash

A Casa Portuguesa is on C/ Verdi 58, Gracia, Barcelona. Check out their website on www.acasaportuguesa.com . Don’t miss the Ginginha de Óbidos (sweet cherry liquor) served in chocolate cups. The Pasteis de Belem are also very good.

Besalú – possible world heritage sight

Studying Christian-Jewish relations I couldn´t ignore the existence of this beautiful little town. Besalú is located north of Girona between the planes of the Empordà and Garrotxa mountains. Much of its medieval heritage – when it was the capital of a wealthy county and bishopric – is still intact but it is its Jewish heritage that has spurred the town´s recent bid for world heritage status.

In the Middle Ages, Besalú had an important Jewish community and the survival of a 12th-century mikvah (a ritual bath) and a synagogue testify to this heritage. The mikvah is one of only three in Spain and one of the few in Europe. Today, Besalú has about 2,000 inhabitants and on Dec 3 they are having a festival. Can´t wait to check it out!!


It’s Friday!!

I came across this list on this site. Since we all know I like a good self-discovering list, here it goes. Feel free to post your answers in the comments!

1. What time did you get up this morning?
7:15 am – or at least that’s when I started pushing “snooze”

2. Diamonds or pearls?

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
Copying Beethoven – the story itself isn’t that special but has superb acting by Ed Harris and it also features Phyllida Law, one of my favourite british actresses.

4. What is your favorite TV show?
at the moment, Lost and Everwood.

5. What did you have for breakfast?
hmmm, cheese sandwich (very tasty baguette bread with tomato) and an espresso at the bar. I know, not that best, but I’m afraid I pushed the snooze button one too many times to have time to prepare my own breakfast.

6. What is your middle name?

7. Favorite cuisine?
not the kind of question to ask a foodie. it changes every month anyways. Right now I’m discovering Indian cuisine
8. What foods do you dislike?
can’t eat meat fat. i’m always closely inspecting my steaks and cleaning even the tiniest bit of fat away. i guess that’s not really a dislike, my body just rejects it right away. i also tried snails (escargot) and didn’t like it. cannot make myself eat brains.

9. What is your favorite crisp (potato chip) flavor?
I have to agree with the lady that did this before me: “like plain Spanish chips, which are done in olive oil.” Very yummy.

10. What is your favorite CD at the moment?
hmm, don’t have a favourite cd at the moment but my iTunes has been playing a lot of Legião Urbana (Brazilian rock), Ramones, The Donnas, and Jesse Cook.

11. What kind of car?
a white and yellow mini cooper

12. Favorite sandwich?
again, hard to pick a favourite food thing. I have been eating a lot of “bodadillos de tortilla francesa”, which are omelette sandwiches served in a baguette bread rubbed with tomato & olive oil.
13. What characteristic do you despise?
nothing bothers me more than people who have no respect for others and people who discriminate against others based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, you name it.

14. Favorite item of clothing?
at the moment, my camper shoes…

15. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation
where would you go?
right now? New Zealand… It’s been 10 years now since I wrote to a park in the South Island and started dreaming about hiking there. On another note, India has been growing on me since I met my friend J. and got interested in photography.

16. What color is your bathroom?
it’s sort of mismatched tones of blue. nothing to do with me, I swear!

17. Favorite brand of clothing?
anything that fits properly. i have a non-standard body in a world that only makes clothes for standard people. i really hate shopping for clothes; it’s very depressing. I see lots of really nice clothes, get all excited, select dozens of them only to come out of the dressing room all depressed because nothing fit… ARGH
18. Where would you retire to?
don’t really know. actually, i don’t even know where I want to live before i retire!!

19. Favorite time of the day?
sunrise and sunset. it’s just magical.
20. What was your most memorable birthday?
16… I made it really memorable for all my friends in high school. I reminded them daily of the event for 45 days prior to the date. I recently ran into one of my high school friends on the internet; she still remembered my birthday ;) That one was most memorable for others. For me, I guess it was when I turned 20. I loved getting out of the teens.
21. Where were you born?
Resende, a town by the mountains, 170 km from Rio de Janeiro.

22. Favorite sport to watch?
Football (soccer for those of you in North America). Dont miss a Barça game.

23. What fabric detergent do you use?
no idea. Alan does the washing.
24. Are you a morning person or a night person?
I’m a morning person who has a hard time getting up in the morning. Does that make sense?
25. What is your shoe size?
7.5 US/38 Euro

26. Do you have any pets?
not anymore.
27. Any new and exciting news you’d like to share with
friends and family?
It’s Friday!!

28. What did you want to be when you were little?
I think I wanted to be a veterinarian (what child doesn’t?) but then I saw a Miss Universe competition where the winner won all sorts of awards (a house, a car, tons of clothes & jewelry…) so I decided I was going to be Miss Universe. Later on I decided I wanted to be a diplomat.

Alan’s birthday

Yesterday we celebrated Alan’s birthday at Wushu. We invited Joy and Jesús, whom we hadn’t seen in weeks, and went out for an early dinner (7:30 pm). Paula and Bradley were in fine form. The salmon tataki was made with salmon caught in the ocean rather than river salmon and although it lacked the bright salmon colour, it was a bit “gamier” than regular farmed salmon. I had curry rojo con gambas (Malaysia), Alan had curry curray (Japan) con ternera, Jesús had lo-men con gambas (China), and Joy had Laksa con gambas (Malaysia). We all tried each other’s food but my favourite was the curry rojo. I love the mix of chili with coconut milk. We enjoyed it all with two bottles of cava, the spanish champagne. Bradley then treated us to a two-course dessert: mango lassi followed by chocolate brownie served with vanilla ice cream & fried bananas.

Wushu continues to be a great deal. Amazing service, fresh & well-prepared meals, nice ambiance. We had two appetizers, four main courses with extra rice, two bottles of cava, coffees for 74 euros. Great meal.

Busy weekend ahead

Tonight we went to the movies with Jackie, Sebastian, Francisca,Isa & Jordi to see Copying Beethoven. Tomorrow we’ll go to Vic, a town between Barcelona and the Pyrenees, and sunday we’ll go hiking in the morning and maybe lunch at Jackie’s. Wow, I think going to the archives on monday will feel like a break…

Anyways, I’ll be posting the details of the weekend early next week. I’ll leave you with a nice dark ale I found in a little side cafe near the Rambla del Poblenou. They are hard to find in Barcelona. I was very happy ;)

Nice dark ale