Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cowboys and Carnaval

Helloooooooooo everyone. I have been such a horrible blogger, abandoning my updates for the more exciting world that Barcelona has to offer. Most of you will probably be surprised to hear that I´m actually leaving Barcelona in one week exactly. Don´t worry, it´s nothing personal between me and this wonderful place, more that I felt the need to go back to the more alternative and cheaper Berlin to be with all those I left behind in December.

I´m really not sure if I made the right decision, but to be honest, I don´t really think a right or wrong existed. I´ll probably be happy in either place, and at least I´m not sitting in Galesburg, Illinois, wishing the world around me weren´t so flat. Before heading off, I´ll be making a little journery around Spain and Portugal starting with Valencia, where they build huge straw dolls and burn them every year in the middle of the night. After that, off to Madrid to meet Robert, and then we´ll be driving to the south of Portugal and up to Lisbon and Porto (where they are supposed to have wonderfully cheap wineries. My first real wine tasting!). Then, back to Madrid and off to Berlin to start an internship that should last me into the summer.

Now that that´s all out on the table, I´ll do a little update on my time Catalonia. Last weekend was Carnaval, a CRAZY festival equivalent to New Orlean´s Mardi Gras. My friends and I hopped a train to the nearby beach town Sitges, also known as the gay capital of the area, where they have the third or fourth (it´s debatable, but I´ve heard both from many proud Spaniards) largest party in the world. It was like Halloween all over again, with people dressed as everything you could imagine, including post-it notes and giant babies. Everyone gathered around to watch the exravagent parade in which one float even sported sparkling eiffel tours on their heads and another sported practically nothing at all. Despite the fact that I lost my fake cowgirl gun and fell asleep on the train home, it was a definite success, and most definitely a cultural learning experience.

I went to a soccer game today, and surprisingly, I had an amazing time. We had incredible seats, right behind the goal, and the section next to us was filled with the most dedicated fans, all decked out in blue and white and singing songs in a mixture of Catalan and Spanish that I failed to understand but decided to sing along with anyway. And, of course, they won 2 to nothing, so that just made it all the more exciting.

BBBBBBBBBarcelona is getting warm! Despite one long day of rain during which there were train delays because the city is so used to perfect weather, today was gorgeous and showed me a hint of summer. If only I could stick around to spend hours on the beach catching some sol, but of course, I can´t really sit still for very long, can I?

Okay, time for fun facts:

1. Barcelona has a day of festival for no reason. Just because everyone deserved the day off I guess

2. It is totally acceptable here to yell every imaginable cuss word at the top of your lungs as long as you are at a soccer game.

3. It´s also totally acceptable to ask a stranger to marry you in the subway. That´s right folks, I´m apparently going to the Sagrada Familia

4. Never say yes to bread! They will charge you 7 extra euros for it.

5. Catalan phrase of the day: ets un entrepà molt maco!
(translation: you are a very handsome sandwich)

Toodle loooo!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chocolate con Churros might have to outdo schokocroissants any day of the week...

So, despite the fact that I accidentally abandoned this endeavor for the past month and a half, I am still alive and breathing and I am still in love with Europe, but that's right, I've relocated to the easy, breezy, beautiful Barcelona, España. It's winding streets and beautiful beaches should be enough to keep me here forever, but somehow, I miss the grit and grime of Berlin.

Where to begin and end is a question I can't even begin to answer, but basically, my world has been turned inside out since I arrived in this sunny city in Cataluña. I had to change languages, mentalities, wardrobes, and lifestyles, but after a month and a half, I would say I'm feeling right at home.

I live with a host family, a woman and her son, and Isabel (my host mom) cooks me every meal and cleans everything from my room to my clothes to my toilet. The woman is some sort of angel to be able to do everything she does with a smile on her face. Somehow, the house can never be clean enough because she is always running around with some sort of cleaning utensil in hand, trying to get the darkest corner of the darkest room spotless and shiny. Who will even look there anyway? She makes a mean Spanish omelette with potatoes (tortilla de patatas) and she smokes like a chimney. The woman's a saint, but honestly, I'd never want to live her life.

Like many of the women of her generation in Spain, she is a permanent house wife, cooking, cleaning, and doing the grocery shopping, and not because she made that decision freely, but because it's the standard for the women of the generation of Franco. One of the first shocks I received when arriving here is how everything seems just a bit behind the times. Most apartments don't have internet, the women in their 50s don't work, and the apartments are decorated with a linoleum floor that is reminiscent of the 1970s. Don't get me wrong, the younger generation is more or less living in the same world as me, especially in a big city like Barcelona, but the the lifestyle of my own parents in the U.S. and my host mom here is worlds apart. More than that, it is pretty normal for the children to live at home until they are 30. Example 1: my host brother is 26 and his mom still makes him a bocadillo (sandwich) everyday and takes him to and from work. In a way, it sounds like a breeze, but in another way, I miss my independence.

Barcelona, really aren't the city of my dreams, but man, are you something else. Full to the brim with tourists and pickpockets, it might drive me crazy if the only part I ever saw was the downtown center strip of La Rambla, filled with older men trying to sell you "sexy beer" and hand you flyers to their clubs. But no, this chosen vacation spot for more than half of Europe and the U.S. is more than just the surface tourism. It is filled with mysterious artwork and architecture, like Gaudi's dripping Sagrada Familia and Miro's modern sculptures. And with both mountains and the sea, I never feel too far from nature. Nevertheless, I think I've had my share of city life for an entire lifetime. I think I'm meant for that little cabin in the middle of the woods with a field of wildflowers in the backyard.

And in conclusion, ten fun facts about Bbbbbbarcelona:

1. The official language here is Catalan, not Spanish (always say Castellano and not Español when referring to Spanish. It's more culturally sensitive because spanish is not the only language of Spain).

2. It is illegal here to go around without a shirt or shoes, but no pants? No problem!

3. Flamenco and bullfighting are NOT part of Cataluñan culture. The two things actually come from Andalucia, which is a region in southern Spain that is also beautiful and amazing, but different.

4. Both Antoni Gaudi and Picasso made their homes in this city at some point in their life

5. The young people here (according to some sources) don't really have boyfriends/girlfriends until their late 20s. (I have to disagree, but whatever, it's been said)

6. The beer is quite the disappointment, especially after Germany, but they do make AMAZING wine.

7. If you order seafood, watch out, the brains and eyeballs will be included

8. Once again, the obsession with slippers. Also, its strange to sit/put your things on the floor/put your feet on furniture. Absolutely no bare feet allowed....

9. There is an amusement park on top of a mountain that is totally old school and awesome but a disappointment for thrill seekers.

10. It rarely rains and never gets colder than freezing (usually in the 60s...heaven...)

Well, off to European Governments in Spanish. Keep an eye out for new posts because i'm planning on a post a week or so. We'll see how that goes...