I have never been one to really go out and do things on my own, but I always envied those who did. I feel like I need to have a purpose to go somewhere alone, such as going to the grocery store for food or grabbing a coffee and then heading home. Doing something without a purpose gave me anxiety.
Moving to Barcelona on my own was a big step. What was my purpose? To travel and get paid to do it. However, this whole idea of exploring on my own was a little difficult to grasp. Ideally I would have met a bunch of friends by now who would explore with me, but friends don’t just appear out of thin air. It was my fifth day in Barcelona and I could either stay home or go out to explore by myself… I obviously chose the latter, if for nothing else to avoid the guilt I would give myself for not taking advantage of my time here.
I was to meet my tutor, Roser, for lunch in Badalona and so I decided to walk around my new hometown. I felt comfortable in knowing that I couldn’t really get lost; as long as I knew where the ocean was, I knew how to get home.
It was a lot warmer out than I expected, so after wandering around a bit I found myself quickly tired and sweaty. I walked into the first cafe I found and asked (in broken Spanish) for a cold water and a cappucino. I am still uncomfortable conversing in Spanish (or I guess I should begin referring to it as Castellano), and always feel bad when a shopkeeper says something to me and I just respond with a blank stare. Sometimes I am so stumped trying to figure out what they are saying that I forget to politely apologize that I don’t speak much castellano. So hopefully they recognize that I’m a tourist… otherwise I just look like an awkwardly rude girl.
Cappucinos never fail to put a smile on my face and make me feel content. I slowly sipped on my cappucino and downed my water to help me cool down as I people watched and read my book, “Eat, Pray, Love.” At one point, a classic American song came on (for the life of me I now can’t remember which) and I started smiling and swaying to the music. For a moment I was transported back to America; then I realized no one else in that coffee shop understood what the song was saying. I have had this experience many times since; songs in English are extremely popular here and give me a sense that perhaps I’m not so far away from home after all.
I continued walking around the streets, peering into the little shops curiously. It really is the small things that fascinate me. The butcher shops all have large, full legs of various animals on display: thigh, knee, calf, hoof and all. They shave off pieces of the meat for customers and package it up which is something so simple yet so unheard of in America, or at least the suburbs of southern California. We Americans dont’t want to see where our meat comes from; just package it prettily for us and we will be on our way.
I passed by another grocery store that had a closed basket full of snails on display. Real, live, slimy snails. Crawling all over each other and on the sides of the basket. I could not imagine someone walking up, opening the basket, and choosing snails for dinner later that night. How do you choose them? “Oh, that one looks extra slimy, I must have that one” or “I like the colors on this one’s shell, it probably tastes delicious.” Unfortunately, I did not see anyone open up the snail baskets so I couldn’t witness how they chose which lucky snails to take home. Maybe next time.
The smells walking around the city are amazing. You walk down one street and smell some pretty flowers, then down the next and a whiff of sewage and dog shit offends your nose. Then down the next you smell some freshly baked bread or brewed coffee, then a staleness, and then perhaps a hint of saltwater. Never before has my nose been blessed with so many olfactory experiences.
As I was walking down one street, there was a young man passing in the other direction. He made eye contact with me and gave the hint of a smile, but I quickly averted my gaze. Why do I do that? How can I ever expect to meet people if I’m constantly coming across this way? I came all the way across the world for new experiences and also to improve myself, and I vow to myself that I will become much more outwardly friendly and extraverted in my time here. Here’s to hoping.
Around lunchtime, I met with my tutor and her family for lunch. We went to a small Italian restaurant and had the menu del dia, which is a prefixed menu for a cheap and affordable price. I got the caprese salad and a proscuitto and mushroom pizza; it was delicious! Unfortunately Roser’s husband and son do not speak much English. However, it was a fun challenge trying to understand the other’s language as Roser hurriedly tried to translate everything that is being said.
After lunch I ventured into Barcelona on my own. Maria had recommended I visit La Padrera so I took the metro in that direction. When I arrived, there was an extremely long line and my neck was hurting a bit, so I decided just to walk around the area instead. Something about waiting in a line alone also scared me.
Using the Trip Advisor app, I found my way around Paseig de Gracia and found some of the lesser known buildings designed by Gaudi. I stopped inside a cafe for my first sangria in Barcelona and was surprised to find that their booths inside were all covered in beautiful mosaics in the likeness of Gaudi’s patio areas.
After walking around some more I found my way back to the metro and navigated myself back home. I was super proud of myself for taking that step toward independence and found that I was happy every step of the way. Being happy without having someone there to appreciate the experience was a huge leap for me.
That night, I met the father of the family, Paco. He did not speak nearly as much English as Maria, but it was an interesting experience trying to communicate through gestures (along with a dictionary and the help of little Francesca). I hope that as the weeks pass the two of us become closer and have an easier time communicating with each other.