April 28, 2016

Singing in Portomao

Portomao, March 2016

We visited Portugal in late March. We splashed in the sea and noticed yuccas. I sang many songs to the children when putting them to bed at night, where they slept easily, deeply and long, before getting up to eat sunnyside up eggs and fruit for slightly-high prices in the hotel dining room. Ada got the hang of eating with a knife and fork via a combination of sweet motherly persuasion and total war.

I made a list of all the songs I sing them (see at bottom), and it was portentous that I did so, because now they want to listen to audiobooks while they drift off instead of me. My glory has faded! Although, I still get requests from James for Baby Beluga, because singing it at least a thousand times already (I'm low-balling) isn't enough. I'm not actually sick of the song, despite my tone, which is alarming.

Jeff and I hiked in the foothills twice. Both times we heard a low humming akin to that of electrical wires, obviously easier to identify the second time around. We came up a rise and the noise was substantial. Bees. We worried about continuing on. Passing in front of us from right to left, from valley to summit, were thousands of bees. What the hell, we opted to keep going, slowly creeping through the bee-way. No stings. Around the side of an abandoned stone house, we saw a couple of dozen hives. 

Sitting a little ways away, we watched an ant slowly pull an inch-wide fuschia flower petal across the rocky path. Expecting a trudging odyssey, I was surprised it only took him a few minutes to go three feet. It's strange how much you can care about something so quickly, and for no reason. Jeff wanted to help, so he dropped a second petal for the ant. It was the wrong thing to do. Paralyzed by the choice, the ant scurried back and forth between his now-wilting treasure and the alien example of flowery perfection now lying close by. 

I at a lot of delicious fish in Portugal and bought a pair of deranged plastic sunglasses since I'd forgotten my own. If none of these items and experiences make much sense as a whole, it's deliberate. I don't know what the ant chose.

April 20, 2016

Commuting, now in Berlin

March 2016
Most days I eat lunch at a fabulous food court near my work, the "Mall of Berlin." Berliners, maybe Germans in general, sprinkle English liberally in brand names, slogans and all forms of advertising. Apparently most Germans, when asked, don't really correctly understand the ads, but this doesn't seem to be getting through to ad agencies yet.

In the food court, Mall of Berlin (January 2016)

So, advertising. My daily routine brings lots of these sorts of thoughts to mind each day. For my daily commute, I walk by a travel agency and a bank each day en route to the subway. Save your money, spend your money. One of my trains travels on an above-ground track, which makes me think of Chicago, though I've never been there. I go through the gay village on this train, and pass by a factory building that has folded up tarps next to each of its two or three dozen skylights. I always wonder what these tarps are for. Sunlight protection in summer? One large apartment has gigantic pictures on it - storeys high - of comic book faces.

Ada, sleeping at my side (April 2016)
If I drop off the kids, afterwards I walk through a sort of film and photography area before crossing a river (which has swans!). Then I pass the defense ministry and German resistance memorial museum. I don't like thinking about WWII every day.

I go wistfully then by the Kulturforum and painting gallery, which I have never visited. Then I go the edge of Tiergarten, a central park that just makes me yearn for real forests. I think, I constantly do, about Canada.

As a daily commute, I find it a bit heavy, really. I suppose as the years go by I will have time to mull over each topic. This city is very stimulating!

To dull down some of the upheaval, and to provide my kids a rhythm to our weeks, Saturdays I take my daughter to a cafe to do homework, draw or play games, and eat lunch. She is a whizz at playing Memory. I can beat her if I really concentrate.

She orders the same dish every time: eggs, bacon, fruit, bread, jam. I've started getting the pasta, after the time we saw the owner, Gina's, mom making it by hand in the back room where we like to sit. We stay for many hours. I drew the picture with the stars over several Saturdays.

Around 3 or so we go back home. I take James out for supper (it's olives, olive tapenade, olive oil with bread, and white-sauce pasta (they've never heard of Alfredo. Is that a North American thing?), bubbly juice, and a candy for this guy).

One waiter adores us, the other doesn't. He forgets to bring our olives, which everyone else gets as a matter of course. It's happened more than once, so now I just ask for them. I couldn't give a shit what anyone thinks anymore. After everything we have gone through as a family, all the pride that has been burned away - there's just dogged humility and survival left. My money's good; now please, bring my son, who is learning two languages like a boss, some bloody olives.