The Ups and Downs of Life in Barcelona

It has been a very long time since I’ve written. This is probably the longest break I’ve taken from this blog. I have legitimate reasons for my long absence in the blogosphere. It’s this awful thing called Graduate School.

I came to Barcelona to pursue my career and to take off with an international career. So that’s what I’ve been doing. My studies have been very overwhelming and much more intense than I expected (having worked in the Spanish education realm for two years, I was expecting this to be a cake-walk…boy was I wrong!) But apart from the normal life of studying and taking exams and all of that stuff we hate, there are other elements of my life that are being severely impacted. Continue reading

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La Mercè

It’s the weekend of La Mercè here in Barcelona which is a three day holiday celebration to Our Lady of Mercy, an enormous festival consisting of papier mache giants, the Correfoc (fire parade), pyro-musicals (or insane fireworks show with music), Sardanas, an awkward Catalan dance (mostly done by all the old ya-ya’s as they call them), and everyone’s favorite, the Castells, or human towers.  At night, there are light shows, fountain shows, concerts, and other festivities all over the city. Continue reading

Life in another “country”

Life here is finally starting to be complete. I am no longer waiting for classes to start, waiting to hear back about English classes, waiting for information about my internship, it’s all over. Now, everything has begun. I’ve given my first private English lesson, I’ve started classes at the university, and my internship is going great.

Yet it’s living in a different “country” that seems to be the only thing that is difficult for me.
When you try your hardest for so long to become fluent and culturally acceptable in one place and you pick everything up to start anew in a different region of that same country, but suddenly everyone there hates where you come from, it’s a little difficult to feel like you’re at home. Continue reading

Barcelona: Week 1

I just finished my first successful week in Barna (street-name for Barcelona.) I have accomplished many of my short terms goals (and a few are still pending, like my visa renewal.) I have gotten one English class so far, but I’m pending on a few others, so that’s good that I’ve got that cog slowly in motion.  Also, I met up with two people to do a language exchange (half Spanish, half English), and they both went really well. In fact, last night, I caught the thirty-minute train from Barcelona center out to Cerdanyola del Valles to go to a house party of one of the girls I met doing the language exchange. She and her boyfriend threw a house party out on this amazing terrace that they have at their house. It’s up towards the mountains, it’s got a swimming pool, and the terrace was big enough to throw even a typical American kegger. Continue reading

American Me

Home: [hohm] homed, hom·ing. Noun: the place or region where something is native or most common.

The longest flight of my life is always the one returning home. Back to Denver, Colorado where I’ve got everything: best friends, family, amazing spicy food, and my life left behind.  I was picked up for the second year in a row by my best friends. Our first destination was Chipotle because it’s the one restaurant I crave for out here in Spain. Then straight to the drinking: whiskey shots and PBR beer. Continue reading

Moving on and moving forward

My last two blog posts were rushed and even a bit forced. I’ve looked back upon them and I’ll leave them as they stand, but they really represent a lack of thought and time. The reason for this is because I had been traveling a lot, the hot summer heat was taking it’s toll, and I was growing anxious about the future that I just couldn’t bring myself to concentrate. However, I’ll leave them there as some sort of testament to what was happening. I’ve also neglected to write about my trip to Barcelona and Italy, and now, it’s been several weeks, and I’ve returned to the United States that I see no point writing about them (at least in depth).

However, something needs to be said. I’ve left my blog inactive for too long.

First, I am all set up in Barcelona. I spent four days energetically searching for the best flat I could find for my new future there.  I stayed with my co-worker Sarah’s friend, Michelle, for the second time and she has been so much help I cannot let it go unmentioned. After seeing about fifteen different apartments, I had narrowed them all down to two (it was easy weeding out the rest, but I was really torn between two great places). But I know I made the right decision in the end: after calling up the guys that I’m going to be living with, I went over to my future home my last morning in Barcelona (10 am mind you) to pick up my contract and pay the rent, etc., I found the guys sitting in the living room already with beers cracked open.

This tells to me two things: 1) that it’s going to be impossible to study in my new house (but that’s alright because I never study at home anyway); and 2) that I have definitely made the right decision.

I’ll be living with three seemingly chill and fun guys from Alicante (Bachelor pad, anyone?!) and that makes me stoked: Barcelona is a very, very international city. And by that, I mean everywhere you go, English is spoken. It’s not like Madrid where even in the tourist areas, people speak to you first in Spanish, and then if they realize you don’t understand, they will hit you up in English. It’s not like that in Barcelona; they just immediately speak to you in English. That makes me nervous that I won’t be using my Spanish there. But now that I’ve got a flat with Spanish guys, I know that I’ll be surrounding myself in a Spanish community away from all the tourists.  Not to mention that I’m going to a Spanish school, so I’m sure to be completely immersed in Spanish and far from the language of the tourists.

I’m also afraid that I’m going to like Barcelona more than Madrid, which is difficult for me to even write because Madrid has been the center of my life since I can even remember. It’s always been Madrid, Madrid, Madrid. And now I’m a traitor. But Barcelona has so much to offer me, other than the school I have chosen because I think it’s the best option for me. The entire city is littered with skateboarders, there are skate-punk bars with old fish-tail skateboards hanging on the walls.  There is a beach. Oh goodness, there is a beach! I’ve never lived with the beach before and I will certainly be taking advantage of that as much as possible. Not to mention that Barcelona is absolutely stunning, especially with the Gaudí architecture that covers the city. To say the least, I can’t wait to get there and take the next step of my Spanish adventure.

Skateboarders in Barcelona

After my quick but productive trip to Barcelona, I flew out to Brescia, Italy for Carlo’s university graduation.

Carlo graduating!

It was my last weekend in Europe before flying home and then making my new move to Barcelona and it was incredible. I spent it with my best friends (even Chloé flew out from Brussels for it!), Carlo, and his friends and family. Again, I owe his family everything for their incredible hospitality. We spent the days eating and relaxing and riding bikes through the Italian countryside; and we spent our nights out on the town.

Chloé, going for a ride in Carlo’s sweet luxury car

I quickly realized that Italian is similar enough to Spanish, and after having lived with Carlo for the past year and a half, I quickly picked up on Italian. It makes me a bit disappointed that I didn’t choose to study that this year instead of French, because I can make out almost every word spoken in Italy (whether I understand the words meaning is another issue), but in French, all I hear is an unintelligible chain of vous-vous’s and je-je’s.  So naturally, I’m now highly inclined to learning Italian since after only four short days, I was picking up verbs and expressions and it felt invigorating communicating in a third language, basing it off of my second. I’m not saying I can really speak Italian, but it’s pretty easy to start to see the differences and similarities between Spanish and Italian.  Anyway, at the end of the trip, we all returned to Madrid for one last night. I said my goodbyes to Julian, Beltran, Carlo, and La Martola, and the following morning, I caught my flight back to the good old US of A.

Being home has certainly been interesting. At first it’s been pretty difficult to manage my world once again in English. Now I’ve got the flow back, but maybe I’m losing my Spanish as my natural English flow returns to me. Nah! I have met several Spaniards here (go figure!) and I definitely still got it. Being at home is really great seeing my friends and of course my family, but I miss Europe already.

Here’s why I have to go back:

The environment, my world: There I speak several languages. I know people from all over the world. I have places to stay in about 10 different countries. The countries themselves are so close and travel is so easy and cheap that I just can’t give it up. I love travelling around and visiting friends. I miss going to see Chloé in Brussels and drinking Belgium’s amazing beers. I miss Italy and Carlo’s mother’s kitchen that seems to always be active making incredible Italian dishes that still make me salivate just thinking about them. I miss all the guys in Madrid and eating Shawarma kebabs from the Lebanese guy’s bar right next to my old flat with Marta. I miss all the botellones (plaza parties), all the Chinese people wandering the streets selling us 1-euro beers, I miss the jamones, I miss the buildings and the streets and the history. I miss being a foreigner; it’s difficult, especially in Spain with their massive amounts of impossible and frustrating red tape, but it’s worth it.

If I go home now, it’s almost as if it was all for nothing. That’s really unfair for me to say because it has certainly not been for nothing, but now I’ve got Europe figured out and I speak two (and a little more) languages and if I go home, that’s all going to be lost. So I am returning. And it’s to make myself a marketable international citizen. I’m going to school to learn all the things I need to know to start my career there or wherever, but it’s going get me somewhere where I can use all these new skills I have acquired living in Madrid for two years. It’s not going to be easy (especially considering I still have no job in Barcelona), but I can’t wait to close my eyes, jump in head first and when I come up, see what it’s like on the other side.

Write more later,

Graham

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Spain: World Champions EuroCup 2012

Spain is good at two things: Partying and football (soccer). And both came in to play as soon as I stepped off the plane from my trip to Brussels.

Upon my arrival to Madrid from Brussels, I barely even got a moment to breathe. I went straight to my flat to drop off my bag and then I went directly to the Bernabéu Stadium (where Real Madrid plays). As I was entering the Metro, you could already see all the people painted red and gold: It was the EuroCup championship and Spain was in the finals. People were screaming, blowing horns, and of course wearing flags, jerseys and t-shirts all decorated in the colors of the Spanish flag.

I finally got to the stadium that was jam-packed with people cheering. I was trying to meet up with Angel, but I’d have to wait until half-time to find him because there were just too many people. They set up three enormous television screens where viewers could watch the match.

Spain versus Italy.

I’d like to say I was a bit torn as to who I was going to root for because I have so many friends from both countries.  But the choice was pretty clear. It had to be Spain, despite all the groans and complaints from my Italian friends.

Within just a few minutes of me arriving at Bernabeu, Spain scored its first goal. The crowd went berserk: People jumping, screaming, blowing horns and whistles, climbing each other, complete and utter chaos.

We’d see this madness repeat three more times. The environment was incredible; you could smell the excitement of victory in the air. Not even the stench of beer and tinto de verano spilling on the streets could over-empower the emotion that flooded the air.  When the match ended, with Italy in silence, and Spain in what seemed like revolution, the people took to the streets. We marched with them as cars flew by honking their horns, people screaming, and police trying to maintain control but there was no hope. The fans stopped every car to yell their excitement at its driver, bus windows were broken in the frenzy of excitement, and of course more and more alcohol was drunk.

Everyone was heading in the same direction: Cibeles, the main glorieta in Madrid, right in front of the town hall.  There we found a chaotic stampede of people drinking and screaming.  Even the police were relaxing and enjoying the victory of their country. Seeing the joy turned chaos in Spain, I can’t even imagine how Spain must have been when the Franco regime collapsed: Every street was chalk-full of people, no one was left indoors, everyone came out to celebrate their success.

It was like war; the noise could silence a bombing.

I flew home Sunday morning from Brussels just to see the party when Spain won and that’s what I got. It’s too bad I was still so exhausted from the long weekend away that I ended up retreating home around two in the morning. But even that was difficult as I had to dodge all of the people running down the streets and sidewalks. Eventually I made it home, safe, sound.  And as the entire country erupted in mass-fiesta, I finally fell asleep dreaming about how no one would give a darn if the United States ever won anything soccer related.

Write more later,

Graham

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