This weekend I took a long-needed trip to Madrid, back “home.” Madrid was decorated in its finest holiday clothes: Enormous lighted Christmas trees, streets with strings of fantastic lights in the shapes of cubes, snowflakes, and other random squiggles and swirls, the people bundled in large jackets and warm black scarves, the faces of stores painted in “Feliz Navidad” and lines after lines behind the stores selling either lottery tickets or roasted chestnuts. Just how Madrid is supposed to be at Christmas time.
Seeing my “family” (my friends) was of course splendid. I just took it easy, caught up with everyone I wanted to, partied every night, ate till I couldn’t walk, and lived the life I once had.
But even as nostalgia once again creeps up as I write this entry, I finally write with positivity. The moment I arrived in Madrid I felt the anxiousness of being back where I love, but I also felt a sense of wanting to go back to a place I’ve never really admitted was what I now consider it: Home. Barcelona is home now. That took a big step to admit and now I see it.
I saw Madrid as I always did, but now another entity of me lies in a different place. Maybe I wasn’t exactly ready to leave Madrid when I did, but now I’m here in Barcelona and considering it for what it is, it is pretty great. I admit I let the ideas of others convince me that Barcelona wasn’t as good as Madrid, and I know I did a little inner self-antagonizing as well, but after having lived here for several months and established my life, I now actually see it as that: established.
I left Catalonia and Barcelona excited, but at the same time, I said goodbye to this new home of mine wishing I were also here to spend the 4-day weekend with the new friends I’ve made in this new still-to-be-explored city. This is where my life is now: I have a “job” or internship, I have my Masters, and I have my new group of friends and life. This flat that I live in is now MY flat. It’s not just that flat in Barcelona. It’s now a home. And I’ve got three terrific roommates that I know are always there when I need them. It’s a different living situation, but being here in many ways is better than in Madrid because we’re older, more mature. I like that. I need that.
I do see Catalonia as it’s own country: and that’s cool. I’m coming to good terms with it. The people really are beautiful, and as I try to learn more and more of the language, and the longer I live here, the better it is. I am decidedly going to take advantage of living in such a beautiful place (they say it’s much more beautiful than Madrid) and take advantage of being able to go on bike everywhere or walk for a few minutes and arrive at the beach. And after this weekend, I thought of all these things and I wanted to get back to it all.
Because really, things here are much better than I previously let myself to believe.
My internship is more than fantastic. I love it. I love it. I love it. I have loved it since the first day. But the problem was always having to talk about Barcelona and to love Barcelona. And I’m getting to that point. I’m getting to know Barcelona and now I’m starting to feel much more pride for this place. Plus, the people I work with are some of the best people you could work with. My boss is great, hands down, but also the two Catalan girls I work with are the sweetest people ever and have really helped me in my transition, especially Laura. She’s been my sort of “Catalan tour guide.” I learn lots from her and from Elena, the other girl I work with.
Furthermore, I’ve got this great Masters going on and most of my friends come from there. And my friends are a rambunctious mix of people from all over the world. I feel like even when we are out partying I still feel like I’m learning from them and the conversations never run dry. I’ve been making what I know will be life-long friends.
This change in mentality came as a sudden realization. I thought I didn’t like it here that much, but now I realize I do because I missed the life I’ve created for myself here the second I got to Madrid. Of course it’s great being back there and seeing my friends and all, but it gave me some personal clarification that I’m now coming from a new place and that place is just as great. Barcelona has growing potential and since I’ll be here until at least July, I know that it’s only going to get better and better.
This came at a perfect time because we are starting to come to the end of the first semester here. That means I’ll be studying and writing a lot, but it also means that we are now saying goodbye to our American students at my internship. This week we have the farewell dinner and later our inner-office Christmas dinner. I realize that I’ve now become a part of an amazing team and we’ll be celebrating a Spanish (or Catalan) Christmas here. I’m actually sad to see our Americans leave because they’ve been a part of this experience for me too. It’s been wonderful getting to see them grow as people, learn a new culture and language, and just step out of their comfort levels. I say it like that because it’s been the same for me. And we’ve all made it.
Now I’ve got a long list of things that are approaching: a potential Christmas in Alicante, maybe New Years in Asturias, the arrival of a special Study Abroad course about food with my old colleagues in Denver, the arrival of next semester’s students, more responsibilities for me at my internship, next semester in school which will be all elective courses of my choosing, and then who knows. The not-knowing what will happen is just as exciting as thinking about the soon-to-take-place.
So this weekend when I came back from Madrid, I didn’t feel that saddened to leave a place I once called home. I was happy to be back home. In Barcelona. And here I stay.
Write more later,
PS This has been my 100th post. So enjoy my favorite Catalan song: