Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tracing My Grandmother's History in Mallorca

"Cam Bieli" - Little Gabriel's House
The house where my great grandmother Catalina was born.

The church where my grandmother was baptized and received her 1st Holy Communion. My great grandparents were also married in this church.

Francisca (84) & Juan (89). Francisca is my grandmother's only living 1st cousin. She has lived in Mallorca her entire life and has never left the island, but she made it a poin to tell me that she has visited all 49 cities/provinces. Her husband Juan fought in the Spanish Civil War. Their house is over 100 years old and it is the family home of Francisca's mother.

Hotel Villa-Real
Camp de Mar, Mallorca
This hotel was opened by Gabriel Covas - my grandmother's first cousin. It is still in the family and is run by Guillermo - one of his sons. We stayed here and had a beautiful view of the beach.

La Illeta - This unique restaurant is owned by Anita (the wife of my grandmother's first cousin Gabriel). It was opened by her father in the 1930's and is now owned by Anita. The restaurant is said to have the best paella in Mallorca. We had the paella yesterday. It was delicious! The picture doesn't do the restaurant justice. You have to walk on the bridge to get to the restaurant, then when you are there you are surrounded by the ocean and mountains. It is really breathtaking!

Exploring My Roots in Mallorca

My paternal grandmother died over 10 years ago and this week I get to fullfill a promise I made to her many years ago. Although my grandmother was a Cuban citizen and lived there since the age of 7, she was actually born in Mallorca, Spain. She was always very PROUD of her heritage and spoke fluent Mallorquin her whole life (she always spoke Mallorquin with her mother in Cuba). There weren’t many people she could speak the language calls to her family in Spain, I think she had one close friend from Mallorca living in Miami, and then there were the times we would ask her to say things in Mallorquin. Although she never had any practical use for the language she loved Mallorca and wanted to hold on to every little bit that she could.

My grandmother never missed an opportnity to tell us something about Mallorca and her family there. She made me promise that one day I would visit them and see where she was born. My grandmother was an only child, but she had a first cousin that she loved and adored like a brother – Gabriel Covas. Over the years our families have kept in touch and within the next couple of days I will meet all of her cousins in Mallorca. Gabriel has passed away, but his wife and four sons still live in Spain. They have a hotel in Camp de Mar and I always dreamed of coming to visit and meeting this Mallorcan family of mine. I was always very intrigued with the love affair that my grandmother had for this island.

So here is my checklist for Mallorca:

- Stay at the Hotel Villa Real (the hotel was opened my grandmother’s first cousin and has been run by the family for over 50 years.

- Visit the house where my grandmother was born

- Visit the church where my grandmother was baptized and had her first holy communion and where my great grandparents were married

- Meet my grandmother’s family

- Learn a little about Mallorca

Let’s see how I do...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Benthe & Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad

Photo: JJ & Luka in Mallorca

Happy Birthday Benthe! Today our niece Benthe turns 3 years old. We had a chance to have a quick visit with her at the start of our European road trip and I couldn’t believe how much she has grown. She is such a little lady and she talks up a storm. Last summer when Luka and her met for the first time they really didn’t know how to play together...or rather Luka didn’t know. But this time they saw eachother and started playing right away. I think Luka just had to catch up a little with Benthe.

Benthe, we are sorry we can’t be there with you today (we are in Mallorca), but I promise that we will have lots of playdates when we return to Holland in a few days. Luka can’t wait to play with his cousin. Oh, a little bird told us you got a bike for your birthday. Luka is very jealous and can’t wait to see your new set of wheels.

We wish you a very Happy Birthday and we will see you very soon!

PS Oh, I would also like to wish my Mom & Dad a Happy Anniversary. No, it is not thier wedding anniversary, but an imporant anniversary just the same. It was on May 30, 1972 that my mom and dad kissed for the first time....37 years ago if my date is correct. I know it is kind of cooky that my parents celebrate this date, but I think it is kind of cool and corny and I love it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

More in France...

Today there was no sign of “Snuffie” (Luka’s alter ego mentioned in my previous entry). We spent the day in Orange. Here is a self-portrait of Luka and I. I don’t know why but I love taking photos like that. Luka doesn’t look too amused...too busy gulping down his milk.

Orange is a very small town. There is an amazing ampitheatre that was builty by the Romans. It is one of three Roman ampitheatres in the world that is still used today. The accustics of this place were incredible. JJ walked all the way to the top and Luka and I were sitiing at the bottom. He called out for us and we could here him perfectly. These Romans really knew what they were doing.

From the ampitheatre we took a stroll through the city and found the local church. It was very unassuming from the outide, but inside it was beautiful. I really love the inside of old churches. It always makes me feel really calm and serene and I love to take my time and take it all favorite part is the way it smells. I don’t know if “holy” is a scent...but it smells really holy to me. It is kind of a cross between insence, mildew and my grandmother’s rosary (you know the kind that smell like roses).

After Orange we drove to Avingnon where we met up with Danielle – our friend from Maputo that now lives back in London. She came to stay with us for a couple of days in Provence.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Postcard from France

First thing is first....Happy Birthday Esther! Esther has been my friend since I was five years old. We are both Gemini (my birthday is next week) and we have been best friends for as long as I can remember. Even though we live miles and oceans apart we always seems to keep in touch and when we talk it is as if not a day has gone by. My friend, I want to wish you a Happy Birthday and send you a big “French” kiss from Provence....ha ha. I hope you have a great day!

So here we are in Provence...We woke up today and had breakfast outside on the terrace of overlooking a vineyard and then Luka went into the backyard with his Oma (Grandmother) and picked cherries from the garden. Yes, Luka picked cherries and he loved it. He was the perfect little helper. He also got bit ny a wasp, but luckily he isn’t allergic... we waited a few minutes to see if he had a reaction, but we were clear. The only side effect now is that he is scared of anything that flies for the fear of being bit again. He even runs aways from the poor butterflies. He is such a character, but I am sure this will pass in a day or day.

He is going through another, more annoying phase that has lasted over two weeks now. Let me paint you a picture. Here we are enjoying our day in Provence...having lunch in a small village at the most perfect little sidewalk cafe. The couple next to us have the most adorable little dog and to my surprise we also came with a little dog. Our dog is called “Snuffie” a.k.a Luka. Yes, my son thinks he is a dog when we go out in public. He takes his role very seriously. He mimicks other canines he sees. He responds to the name “Snuffie” and if you call him he comes over and licks your hand while he is on all fours. Sounds cute huh....NO, not very cute when you are in a restaurant and he is rolling around the floor pretending to have a conversation with the Scottish Terrier having lunch next to us. Do I go along with it or remind him that his name is Luka and he is a little boy? If I go along with it am I indulging his imagination or scarring him for life. I think I need to buy a book about they even sell one. I really HOPE this is a phase he is going through. The good thing is that he got so tired from a dog for the afternoon that he went straight into REM as we put him in the car seat and then straight to bed for a long nap.

Sorry I don’t have a picture of this, I will let you use your imagination. But above you can see Luka picking cherries with Oma and a photo of the Cafe where Luka hung out with Scooby and Benji. You can see more photos from our trip here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Off We Go...Europe by Car & Boat

(if you double-click on the map it will get better and you will be able to read it)

We will land in Holland and drive to Luxembourg to spend a night with friends. Then we are off to Provence to stay with JJ's mom for one week and our friend from London will also be paying us a visit. From Provence we drive to Barcelona and board a ferry (with the car) to Mallorca. I must admit I am most excited about this leg of the trip. My paternal grandmother is from Mallorca and I promised her that I would visit one day. That day is here and I am meeting cousins and aunts and taking a "Yeya Angelita" tour - visiting the house where she was born and other important sites. From Mallorca we will take the boat again back to Barcelona (2 days there). Then we are back on the road...making a pit stop somewhere in France to rest and then back to Luxembourg for another night with our friends. From there we will head to Holland and stay in a vacation home in Kootwijk (in the center of Holland) and then the final days of our trip will be in Bedum (near Groningen) at JJ's Dad's House and then in Amersfoort at Marielle's (JJ's Sister) house. Then after all that we take a long flight back home and collapse.

Should be interesting with a 2-year old!

Hopefully I will be able to update you with photos and/or interesting stories along the way.

Bon Voyage!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Infant Nutrition Program at Luka's Orphanage

A couple of months ago my nutritionist and I started an Infant Donation Program for Primeiro de Maio - the orphanage that Luka is from. Most of you know that when we adopted Luka he was 8 months and weighed only 3.2 kg and was VERY tiny. It always haunted me to think that all these little babies weren't really growing and developing. This is where Nadia comes in. She is my nutritionist and friend and she wanted to help. We started by visiting the orphanage to see what they needed and we found that the babies were not using diapers. This caused many infections and hygiene issues. We also noticed that some of the babies were lactose intolerant and they were giving them regular formula. The first month we donated diapers, soy formula and regular formula. Every month Nadia's practice donates money and fresh fruits and I try and collect from friends what I can.

To date we have donated thousands of diapers, over a hundred cans of soy and regular formula, sterilizers, baby bottles, electric razors to cut the babies' hair, wash cloths, blankets, baby nail clippers....basically anything that will help these people stay healthy and develop. Every month the list changes depending on what they need.

We have seen an improvement in the babies since December 2008 when we initiated this program.

The pictures you can see here are from our visit in April. This time my friend Salut went with me...she also adopted a little girl from the same orphanage. The pictures show the babies 0 - 24 months and the area they live in. During the day they do go out and play out in the sun, but this time we were there they were hanging out inside and singing songs. It gives you a little glimpse into the lives of these kids. Some of the photos may be difficult to look at, but remember this is Mozambique's flagship orphanage...believe it or not. This is a government orphanage and the best one in the country.

We visit every month to see what they need, then we stop one week later to deliver the donation and then sometimes Luka and I check up to see how they are doing.

The orphanage is very grateful and the staff always looks forward to the first week of the month  when we arrive with our donation and they also love to see Luka and how much he has grown. He is a little celebrity at his old stomping ground.

If you want to donate some money to our program please email me at We need all the help we can get.

To see more photos click here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Our Holiday is Almost Here

In less than 48 hours we will be on a plane for our holidays. It seems like yesterday that we still had a month to go. I still haven't packed....I am getting nervous. Europe here we come! How the heck to I pack for a 5.5 week vacation?!?!!? Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Luka & Mami on Mother's Day

Having fun with the Photo Booth application on our Mac. Luka really loves to see himself on the screen!

Our Mother's Day Card

Happy Mother's Day to Mami, Moqui, Yeya Nena, Ine, Tia Georgina and all my other mommies in Miami. In Holland we want to send a big Mother's Day Hug to Joke, Marielle, Oma Stolk & Coby. 

We love each and everyone of you and wish we could be there to celebrate this special day with you. 

Here is a special Mother's Day Card that Luka made in his toddler class.


Melissa, Jan Jelle & Luka

Saturday, May 09, 2009

My Saturday Morning

Most of my posts are about Luka, right? So today I will tell you about my glorious Saturday morning. JJ stayed home watching Luka and I went on a Saturday morning shopping trip. I didn't need anything specific. I just wanted to get out and enjoy Maputo a little on my own and I woke up with that itch to shop. With our trip to Holland approaching I wanted to buy some gifts for our family and also do a little shopping for me since Mother's Day is tomorrow.

My first stop was a yard sale. Yes, we have those in Maputo as well. Every time an expat family leaves they have a yard sale and you can find some really great things that you can't find in the stores here or in Nelspruit (our closest "shopping" city in South Africa). Well this was an American family with goal was books for Luka and possibly an exercise bike. I scored on the books for Luka, but no bike in site. Maybe next time....

Next on my itinerary was the Saturday Craft Market in town. It is true that amongst friends sometimes the things you buy there are referred to as "Africrap." I think it is because some items you really get tired of seeing and it doesn't seem different anymore, but I must admit that I love to go to the market and find new things that I haven't seen before. I probably go about once every two months and I always find something new. Today I found this great totes. They fold up so that you can stick them in your purse and then they open up into a decent sized tote for shopping or anything else. They are made from capulanas (very Mozambique). I think JJ's sisters might get these unless I decide to keep them, which I am always tempted to do with bags. I really have too many bags, but really can a girl have too many bags?

I also bought a cover for my cellphone made out of capulana...also something new I hadn't seen before. I guess this was more of an impulse buy, but my scratched up cell phone needed some TLC and it looked so darn cute.

Then I bought an oldie but goodie - a capulana shoulder bag. I must have about 5 of them now. And I have probably bought about 10 for presents since I have moved here. I just love them. There always seems to be a new pattern for sale and these bags are so practical. I just love them....I said that already didn't I? I haven't decided what to do with this one yet....present, me...present, me. The jury is still out on this one.

Oh, and I made a stop at the local office supply store where I bought a mechanical pencil (I am such a sucker for pens and pencils) and some mickey mouse notebooks and crayons for Luka. He is really into Mickey Mouse Clubhouse these days and I thought they would keep him busy on our long trip to Europe.

So let's calculate the damage:

Books for Luka $12
Tote Bags (2) $8
Cell Phone Cover $1
Capulana Bag $6
Office Supplies $7

Pretty cool...not much for a Saturday morning shopping trip. I just love Saturdays!

Okay, now do you see why I rather tell you about Luka...this was such a silly post. But that is my life in Mozambique. Pretty normal, huh.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Mother's Day is Almost Here

As my second Mother's Day approaches I am feeling lucky, happy, nostalgic, homesick and a little sad all wrapped into one. Here is how that makes sense....

I really hit the jackpot with JJ and Luka...what mom wouldn't be lucky to have those two guys in her life. Everyday I wake up and I think, man my life is really great. Who knew that living in Mozambique would bring so many blessings and happiness to my life. Here I have been able to explore my creative side, be a mother, make wonderful friends and travel to places I never thought I would go. I am in a point in my life where I am truly happy. 

But then I start to think about my family and the life I left behind in Miami and I get a little nostalgic and homesick. There is not a day goes by that I don't think about them and pretend what it would be like for Luka to grow up with his grandparents, tias, tios and Maxwell...and I have to admit that I miss silly things like cafe con leche and tostadas at "La Carreta" or watching American Idol with Monica and Wole. Sis, isn't this season great?

But I guess the trade off is the fact that I am really happy and I know my family knows that. But when that homesick bug bites I have my own "home" remedies: looking at photos, watching episodes of Que Pasa USA or a call on Skype always does the trick.

This Mother's Day is particularly tough. So much is going on in abuela is in the hospital. My sister is going to be a mommy again soon and I wish I could see that baby belly of hers. My mom has lost like 20 pounds and I want to be there to congratulate her and give her a big hug. Mami, keep it up...I am so proud of you! 

I leave you with some photos that I was admiring today:

Aren't my boys cute...this was taken when Luka was 13 he is 26 months!

This is me being silly with my sister's first belly! She was so cute all preggo...although she begs to differ, but then again I wasn't carrying around that big belly!

Does my mom look great? This must have been around 1978 or so...

Mother's Day 2005. I think this is my favorite current family photo (pre Maxwell & Luka). Weren't we all photogenic that day?

Yeya Nena (my grandmother)...doesn't she look a little bit like Julia Roberts!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Luka Loves Yogurt

Yogurt is one of those things that Luka will eat at any time during the day and asks for it all the time. It is also the first thing with a spoon that he can eat all on his own with no supervision from mommy. Well, he can get a bit messy but that is part of the fun right?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Life in Maputo...

I have been so busy lately with Luka and trying to get back into shape (more on that project later). I haven't really had time to update the blog. I will find time this week to share some news and photos with you, but for now I leave you with this photo I took about 3 weeks ago on my way to a birthday party with Luka. I don't know why I like it so much...I just do. To me it really depicts life on Maputo streets...on a Sunday when the streets are quiet.