How can two places be so similar, yet so different? I asked myself this as I walked through “mi barrio” or my neighborhood on the first night I arrived in Barc
elona. At first glance, the street I live on in Barcelona looks like it could be found in any major U.S. city. It wasn’t until I looked more closely and explored more of Barcelona city streets to find just how astonishingly different this Spanish city is from American cities. For instance, there are many of the same exact stores within walking distance of each other. Sure, in New York you may find two McDonald’s within blocks of each other, but in Barcelona you can spot five H&M clothing stores if you stand in one spot on the sidewalk. When I notice differences such as this, I can tell that I am in the liminality stage. I compare the noticeable differences, but I’m not leaning towards the American customs nor the Barcelona customs. In this way, I am caught in between. Like Slimbach said, “moving from one place to another helps create a space where we can bump up against strangeness and reexamine some of the settled assumptions we hold” (Slimbach, p. 5). At this point I haven’t decided which Spanish customs or ways I find to be better than American ones, but as Slimbach said, traveling to Barcelona gives me the opportunity to do so.
I can certainly see why Slimbach described communitas as double-edged. Communitas can be positive in the sense that these are people you can find support in because they fully understand your struggles. Since they are people going through the same situation, they can tackle challenges with you. The negative aspect of the communitas is that one may completely rely on communitas. While I wouldn’t say I completely rely on my communitas, I definitely use my communitas as a bit of a crutch. My weakness is that I stick to what I know. I am fortunate enough to be studying and traveling with my boyfriend and a friend. The downside is that in some situations when I should be meeting new people, or just venturing out on my own, I stick with them. This was a challenge of communitas that I was expecting prior to coming to Barcelona. I see other people expanding their communitas by introducing themselves to classmates or people studying nearby. My goal is to make my interaction with communitas more positive by following their example.
So far, the biggest challenge I’ve faced has been sleeping. At home, I’m typically a horrible sleeper, so it is no surprise to me that I have trouble sleeping here. However, the extreme lack of sleeping has been quite difficult. I am having a hard time adjusting to the different time zone, so I end up getting only a few hours of sleep each night. This tends to put a damper on each day because I have very little energy to enjoy what Barcelona has to offer. I’ve learned that I am pretty resilient. The lack of sleep tries to knock me down, but I am still determined to make the most out of each day abroad.
It may seem like a silly strategy, but one way I am inviting the unknown things and people of Barcelona into my life is by taking pictures of it all. All tourists take pictures, but I feel as though I give more value to my pictures than many others. I take thousands of photos a month because I really enjoy looking back at my experiences this way. I know that years from now, or even just tomorrow, I will look at these pictures frequently. This is one way I have to keep my emotions alive when I return back home because the photographs will incite the same emotions I felt about the subject in current time. I chose one of the first photographs I took when I arrived here to share for this travel log. It is through my bedroom window, into the inside, yet outdoors, area of the apartment building. I took this picture because the scene was so foreign to me. The new Spanish custom I learned was that nearly no one owns a drying machine; so all clothes are hung to dry. I think the picture itself also represents my journey abroad. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, or in this instance at the top of the building. While I may be bogged down by challenges of being in a new country right now, I know that I will work to overcome these challenges to reach a happier state.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.