I chose to go on my walk alone. I’ve been surrounded by most of my friends for the majority of this trip and needed some alone time—I wanted to experience the city for myself. I left my apartment building and took a right towards the market. Already I could tell the difference from the first time I left the building until now. I walked a little more confidently, feeling like I fit in more. The market is covered in graffiti, something here that is viewed as beautiful and artistic rather than dirty. It’s an open-air market with nearly one hundred stalls of local vendors selling vegetables, cheeses, meats, wines and fish. I passed by the many locals, all of them shopping for this evening’s dinner. Everyone keeps their head down and doesn’t really make eye contact with anyone else. I turn right and enter the main square surrounding my neighborhood, Placa del Sol. Hoards of young people are sitting on the bare pavement, drinking beers casually and having a few laughs with their friends. Little kids are wandering around and playing on the little playground with parents and grandparents watching them while having coffee and tapas at the outdoor restaurant tables. No one is in any real rush. That’s what I love about this place. Citizens here don’t seem to have crazy busy lives like we do back home. They truly value the time with their family and friends, and will sit for hours to interact with one another. It was at that square that Slimbach’s idea that we “sensitize ourselves to the social spaces where local residents do life” (185) really resonated with me. There’s a large white tent with individuals handing out flyers and t-shirts and requesting signatures, all in efforts to help spread the word to support Catalonian secession. This has been a common theme since I’ve gotten here. The Catalonian flag hangs from nearly every residential balcony surrounding my apartment. Everyone here is so proud to be a part of his or her culture.
I headed down all the back alleyways to get to the metro. I wanted to see a new part of the city I hadn’t been before. I hopped on the yellow line and took it until I ended up at a stop that didn’t look familiar to me. After exiting the metro station I was met with the hustle and bustle of the city, much different from the small area that I live in. Trees arched over the streets, a green park area with fountains ran down the entire middle of the street. Again I see the locals going about their business without any particular look on their face—I started to notice that citizens don’t always jump up to start a conversation with others. After exploring the area and finding new shops to check out, I headed back to my apartment, but stopped at the local bakery to grab some bread for dinner. I’ve been buying bread from her almost every day here and she has been helping me with my Spanish each day (she’s bilingual). It’s been a cool experience so far in Spain, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. With each week I feel more and more comfortable with both the language and the culture!
I loved Slimbach’s quote “our actual entrance into the community requires that we venture out to observe everyday life, interact with strangers, and slowly absorb an alternative reality” (182). Leaving the security of my home and heading out into the world of the locals really is just so exhilarating. Seeing things in a new light and interacting with locals have helped me to slowly transition away from tourist status.
The travelogue I had chosen was called “A Million Steps” by Koontz. It followed his path as he completed the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. I really liked this book because it not only went on a fairly day by day basis of what he did, but he also went deep into detail as far as how he was feeling emotionally. He focused a lot on his interactions with the many he came across on his voyage. In his reflection chapter, Koontz discussed that he was “much more open to letting people into my life, and more importantly, to learning about their lives” (191). One moment in particular that stands out was when he met a Korean woman already completing the pilgrimage. While neither of them spoke a common language, they cooked food with each other and used hand signals, etc to communicate with one another. By the end of his time with the woman he felt a deep connection with her. I think this connects greatly with my time here abroad and hope I too will be able to have interactions like he did.
The picture I chose to depict my walk is a picture of proud Catalonian residents protesting this past week. Catalonia, a region within Spain (that includes Barcelona) is trying to secede from Spain. On their national holiday, thousands of people poured onto the streets of Barcelona wearing white t-shirts to display their support for this secession. It was pretty surreal to witness. I think this is a good representation of this walk because it showed me two things – that these locals are proud of their heritage and that I am starting to understand the culture more and feel more comfortable around the locals (I dressed up in a white t-shirt and stood with them in the crowd).