Nickname

Sant Joan is an important saint over here. At least important enough to have a free day on June 24th. Combine this with the general strike last Thursday, and the result is that half of the country moves for five days to the beach.

Instead of the beach, MJ and I decided to move with our tent to a camping in the pre-pyrenees, next to a lake near Tremp.

As a result, this weekend we have done absolutely NOTHING. Every day we wake up quite early due to the heat in our tent, we ate some magdalenas with a coffee for breakfast, we took a bath in the lake, read a little bit in the sun, took another bath, etc…

After two days of sun it became clear again why they used to call me ‘zwarte’ (black).

37°

The summer has yet to start, and the temperature has risen up to 37 degrees. I’m so happy that last weekend the temperature was a lot more comfortable. Last weekend my parents visited me for the first time since I left Holland, and of course I wanted to show them around in Lleida.

We had a wonderful time together. We showed them the city, the place I work, the house we’re going to live in, the place we’re living right now. They also got to meet the parents of MJ and despite of the language problems they got along really well.

Ready for action

The biggest pieces of old furniture are now removed from our future house, the kitchen and the bathroom have been chosen, the measures have been taken…

This week it’s really going to start. First all windows will be replaced and when that’s finished the workers start removing a wall, making a new ceiling and changing the position of some doors. From then on we can start building our own little house, and with a little bit of luck we can live there after summer. There’s a lot to do, but we’re looking forward to do it!

International

I have been working now for four days in the international departement, and so far everything goes really well.

The first two days, my colleague explained me all the ins and outs of FrontRetail, one of ICG’s applications. And now I am working hard on the Dutch translation of this application.

Must be easy for me, not? Indeed, not! Translating is a lot more difficult than I expected. Partly because the structure of the two languages is different, partly because I started with a badly translated version, partly because some words have more meanings, but most of all because my lack of knowledge of accounting.

Furthermore things go great. The office is absolutely beautiful (I still have to try out the swimming pool in the garden), my colleagues are helping me a lot and I am helping them (being the only technician in the office). The small problems every new office have like the absence of a coffee machine and an airco that works as a freezer will be solved soon.

The next step

I have been working a little bit more than six months now for Ricomack. During this time I have got to know Ricomack and the mother company ICG. I also have been able to transform myself from AIX/UNIX oriented into a generalist, since I have been working with Windows 2000, Windows XP, RedHat Linux, routers, networking, Point-Of-Sale systems, printers, the ICG software, … I have to say that I really like my work, although sometimes the work is not exactly what I like to do (like repairing 10 year old PC’s). But anyway, I feel comfortable in this company.

But last Friday I got an offer I couldn’t resist. ICG wants me to be in their international ‘department’. At this moment this department is operated by only one colleague, who is responsible for both the international sales and support. And that combination sometimes is a problem, because it is hard to support other clients being on an international sales visit. So now I am going to help in the support.

This morning I packed my new PC and went off to the new office. Let’s see what we can do here…

Aplec del Caragol

That’s it, it is over now. The Aplec del Caragol has finished. The aplec is a big feast with ‘eating snails’ as a central theme. But in fact it is a lot more. It is about eating, drinking, culture, meeting old friends, music, …

On the applec groups of people (collas) spent one weekend together on the festival terrain. There are about 120 collas, with each 50–100 members. Members pay an amount of money, for which they can eat and drink during the whole weekend. Every colla has it’s own space on the terrain, provided with a small bar, tables and chairs, BBQ’s and usually also (live) music. Every member wears the shirt and the scarf of his colla.

Some numbers: besides the 12.000 members of the collas, another 200.000 people have visited the aplec. In all, 12 tons of snails have been consumed!!!

The family of MJ is a member of colla ‘Picarols’ and I was lucky enough to be able to join their colla. Also to my luck, this colla wears white shirts with a blue print as opposed to others which wear white shirts with pink dots, purple shirts with green print…

It was a great pleasure to pass all the collas and watch how every colla has it’s own way of passing the weekend. Another thing which I like a lot, is that it is an activity for everybody. Sometimes three generations of one family are present on one colla.

There is only one backdraw: I think that if your not within a colla, it might not be as much fun. But maybe the 200.000 visiters think different about it… I enjoyed it a lot at least.

Party time

This week we are in the middle of two major parties in Lleida.

Last weekend we celebrated the ‘Festa Major’, because the patron of Lleida, St. Anastasi has it’s day on May 11th. There were plenty of activities organised through the whole weekend. For MJ and I, the weekend was even more special, because we had some visitors from Holland to join us: Berry and Manon.

On Friday night we started calmly. After having supper in a restaurant we went to the Camps Elisis. There was a big festival terrain with some big bars outside, a luna park and a hall for concerts. OK, I have to admit that the concerts were not so good, but maybe that’s only because I’m not a big fan of Boney M.

On Saturday we did some sightseeing (La Seu Vella) and saw the children in traditional clothes offer flowers to St. Anastasi. In the evening we went to see the ‘correfoc’ (difficult to explain, but it has to do with jumping and a lot of fireworks).

Sunday we saw the ‘Moros I Cristianos’. First the presentation in the streets of Lleida and later the show at La Seu Vella. Their clothes were really incredible.

The coming weekend there is another party, the ‘Aplec de caragols’. If I have time I will write about is next week…

Paperwork

One thing I noticed over here is that there is more paperwork. Maybe I only have this impression because I am an immigrant, but I think that in general people use more forms and official papers.

I am living in Catalunya for half a year now (yes, time flies) and today I received a notice that my request for a residence card is honoured. can you imagine: 6 months for reading a request, finding out that I’m from the EU and approving it!!

The letter which told me all this was completely unreadable, because all the references to the different laws involved. Anyway, I am ready to collect my residence card.

All I have to do (if I understand it right) is take the blue form (type XXX, model XXX, approved by XXX and of course with four copies), go to the bank, pay 5,06 euros, take the signed blue form, the yellow form (type YYY, model YYY, approved by YYY, signed by my boss and of course with four copies), 3 foto’s and the unreadable letter (number ZZZ, approved by ZZZ, and hey, without copies?) and bring it during working hours to their office.

Luckily MJ knows the procedure, and also knows that the address on the letter is not the right one. I love paperwork!!!!!!

Ah, and the best of all: after a procedure of 6 months I will receive a card that is valid for 4 months. In other words: I should have asked the next card in February!

Sant Jordi

Today is a special day. Not only because Barcelona is playing against Madrid, but also because today is Sant Jordi (you know, they guy who killed the dragon).

In Catalunya this day is celebrated by giving each other presents. The boys give a rose to the girls, and in return they receive a book. For me this looks like a good deal, since the average book costs four times the price of a rose.

So after work I went to town to buy a rose. This was not very difficult, since there were roses for sale on almost every corner and at every traffic light. Also books were available in plenty; Maria José bought a book of Alberto Vasquez for me.

On the news they showed the numbers of this day of books and roses (besides lot’s of pictures of books and roses. Today the Catalan people bought 5,5 million roses (there are 6 million Catalans!) and 10% of the yearly volume of books was sold today!!!! Very impressive…

Calçots

Sunday I wanted to write about the calçots. But after the calçots, I was too tired to write. And the days after I was luckily enough to have to work out of town, so I missed my 30 minutes of internet before lunch.

Anyway, three days ago was the day we had calçots; after all, it is the season for calçots.

The week before we (or better MJ) was arranging all the things and inviting our friends. The Saturday afternoon we spent cleaning the garage, so we could put there some big tables to eat on. When everybody arrived on Sunday, we first drunk a vermouth with some chips, mussels, olives, cheese…

Then the father of MJ arrived with the calçots. Calçot is family of the onion (I think it is leek / prei in Dutch), and over here prepared in a fire, so they are all black. You remove the black part, put the calçot through some special sauce and eat it like the Dutch eat herring. Delicious!

After the calçots we put some meat on the fire, and we finished with a big pie. To finish the activity good, MJ’s sister Cristine and her boyfriend Pere told us that they had bought an apartment here in Alpicat.

A short holiday

Easter time is always a good period to have a short vacation. Usually the weather is getting better, and after the first busy months of the year, I really need a break.

This year was no exception, especially with the work we have for our new house. Therefore we decided to book a flight and rest. We didn’t have to think long for our destination; we were looking for a beautiful country with nice weather and nice people. Yes, Holland!

With a little bit of phoning (only one call!) we found a nice hostel which fitted our needs perfectly: Hotel Sangers in Harmelen. It’s really cheap and has big comfortable rooms which look just like somebody has been living there until not so long ago. A perfect place to relax some days.

On Friday night I explored the local night life. There is an amazingly big offer of activities in Harmelen. I decided to have a sportive evening, and went to watch the Crespon darts tournament, organised by Darts club Pirates.

Saturday after we woke up (quite late of course) we went shopping. First to the supermarket to buy all thing we cannot buy in Lleida like dropjes (zacht zoet), tijgernootjes, sup-a-soup tomato and cheese. Then we went to Utrecht to look for things for our house. We found a couple from Spain doing the same thing, but unbelievable for us they decided to buy paper serviets!!! Like we don’t have paper towels over here!!!!

What can Catalan tourists do on an average Easter day? Since the shops were closed, we decided to go for some sight seeing. Our target was the river ‘Lek’ and the city Culemborg.

After getting the so-called fresh nose, we headed to Haarzuilens for a typical Easter custom: palm pasen. I can assure that the Palm beer tasted really good! That evening we enjoyed another typical Dutch custom: gourmetten. And we were not the only ones leaving palm pasen for this wonderful experience. In short: gourmetten is a way to invite friends for dinner without actually having to cook! No wonder it’s popular in Holland…

Of course we have bought a set for gourmet. After all, we want our Dutch visitors to feel at home when they come to Lleida.

I like chocolate

It is almost easter, and easter is a wonderful time for chocolate lovers like me. I always eat a lot of these small chocolate easter eggs. Also here in Lleida they know the tradition of chocolate. Besides the traditional eggs, small sculptures are very popular. The most popular at this moment is Harry Potter, completely with a castle.

But the biggest sculpture is the one of Prats. Prats is local patisseria and chocolate maker, who creates every year a life size statue of a famous Catalan person out of chocolate. This year, Pau Gasol has the honor. Pau Gasol????? I have to admit that I don’t know him well, but sport-lovers might know this famous basket player of the Memphis Grizzly’s.

By the way, for people wondering what I am doing at my work, the web site of Prats is hosted on our servers and created by us…

The sun is shining, the living is easy

I have to admit it: the main reason to move to the south is the weather! And last week I got what I wanted. The sky was clear blue and the temperature went up far into the twenties. On Thursday the thermometer reached even up to 31°C!!!

And did I take profit of it? Well… not really. When I finish work, the sun has long gone. And we have to use the weekends to visit shops, because it is about time that we select our new kitchen, bathroom and floor.

OK, Saturday we took some time to drink a beer on a terras.

Sants

Yesterday was the day of Saint Joseph. Normally I wouldn’t have noticed this, but the fact is that my girlfriend is called MJ; and thus is named after Saint Joseph.

Here in Spain, people celebrate their saint as a second birthday, with a nice meal and presents from their family and friends.

Unfortunately, a lot of people name their children after the saint of the day the baby was born, thus denying their child an extra wonderfull day with presents and attention!

One of this victims is MJ. Though her birthday was last Friday, it was close enough to her saint to celebrate it all together. Poor girl…

And even worse, her boyfriend didn’t give her any present at all!

Anyway, for all the people who missed my birthday: my saint will be on September 30. So if you want a small party…

Party

Yesterday I was talking with my father. He was standing outside a barn at 5°C, I was outside on the balcony with 21°C. Even though the weather here was better, my father was the one in the best situation, and I really wished that I could be there too.

Today my father turned 65, and therefore my sister and my mother had organised a surprise party in this barn. Everybody was there, his family, his friends, the neighbours… everybody except for his son.

I really like living here, but sometimes I wish I could be in Holland.

The sun is shining

This weekend I planned to do a lot of thing with my little computer. Work on the Fimcap site, install freeBSD, find myself a new internet provider… But when I woke up this morning I realised that I would have to change my plans. You simply can’t spend the day behind the computer when the sky is blue, the first trees blossom in beautiful pink and it’s 18 degrees outside!

This morning we visited our future house again, trying to decide how we are going to reconstruct it. And every time we talk with somebody else, we are changing our plans again. Sometimes a little big frustrating, but I am sure that in the end we’l get there.

And because we were thinking about our house anyway, we decided to continue this afternoon. So we walked through the streets of Lleida, visiting every kitchen and bathroom shop we found. And we realized that there are a thousand more decisions to be made…

E-mail problems

Due to problems at my provider, I am not able to send e-mail at this moment.

However, I am still able to read mail sent to me (they only have problems with their SMTP server).

At this moment I am looking for other providers, and maybe I am going to have to pay for an account. Because you can’t complain about the things you get for free, isn’t it?

On the long term I will be running my own mail server over xDSL, but to accomplish that I first need to finish our new house.

Anyway, I hope to write you soon again.