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...