As I arrived in Barcelona after not sleeping for over 24 hours because of layovers and delays I am in a daze staring out the bus window at the foreign country. After a long night sleep I wake up to look out of the window greeted by a street filled with small cars, skinny streets with people laughing and chatting in bars and shops and a hotel filled with people I was eager to meet. I had not anticipated my excitement to be this high, I was supremely comfortable at first as we spent the first day guided around with English speakers and a hotel filled mostly with Americans. I was not fully immersed in the culture until the next day when we were dropped off at our apartment and left to fend for ourselves. Specifically it was my first interaction with a waiter at a restaurant who did not speak one word of English, this lead to a pointing of fingers and hand gestures trying to order food and then suddenly realizing I am truly not in America anymore. I was not immersed into the Spanish culture (I am still not) and I am not in America, I was officially in the liminoid state I was no longer here nor there.
The communitas or group of people sharing this experience together has bonded together and supported one another over this first week. This struggle to become part of the Spanish culture has crafted some beautiful friendships so far. I have grown closer than I could have imagined with some of the people that I have just met as we struggle through this rite of passage. I have made a lot of progress feeling “at home” although it isn’t home yet. I food shop every other day at the market next door, I am making a lot of progress learning Spanish, I have mastered the metro system and can order food seamlessly at a restaurant. As Slimbach said “Until we’re able to actually risk new ways of thinking and behaving, our general well-being and field learning are likely to hindered.” (Slimbach 160) I can specifically remember the first time I went on the metro by myself, the nervous feelings I had and the heightened sense of anxiety as I tried to figure out where I was. This risk taking has lead me to feel extremely comfortable alone in the city, asking for directions, or navigating the metro by myself. I have learned through this process that their culture is much slower than America, nobody is in a rush and people enjoy the smaller luxuries of life more. For example nobody eats alone, it is considered a social activity and a dinner lasts 2-3x as long as an American meal. Although it can be aggravating when you are in a rush I have slowly begun to learn to accept it and immerse myself in their culture and relax at a meal enjoying the time spent with friends, the food, and surroundings.
Slimbach explains a few examples that I have taken advantage of showing how one can “find imaginative ways to invite the unknown and cultivate a network of close-knit and supportive friends” (171 Slimbach) I have joined a local gym down the street which should help to cultivate some new and local friendships in addition to introducing myself to the owners of the markets that I frequently shop at. I have been looking for some sort of soccer club or perhaps a grappling gym that I can join which were activities I enjoyed back in the US, it should be interesting to see how they engage in these activities and what I could possibly bring to the table.
I chose a picture someone took of me and two friends wandering through Placa de Catalon on our first day. You can see how surrounded by people we are but yet how lost, amazed, and confused we were walking through this foreign city trying to navigate back to our hotel. I believe this picture captures how we felt during the first week, just a couple foreign kids lost in the amazement of this beautiful city and culture which will soon become out home.