A walk down the streets of Barcelona is a walk to remember. No matter where you are in the city, so much culture is awaiting you with every step you take. The first thing I did after settling my suitcases and belongings into my apartment upon arrival was to take a walk around the neighborhood. Since then it seems as if I’ve taken enough steps in Barcelona to beat anyone’s Fitbit record, and I’m learning more and more. In the directions for the orientation exercises in chapter 7, Slimbach says “As you begin to walk and talk, don’t worry too much about getting lost” (Slimbach Loc 3542 of 4428). Not only should you not worry about it, you should allow it to happen. Wondering the streets, somewhat lost, led me to discover things I never would have ventured to.
Like most people prefer, I’ll start with the bad and end with the good. There is an abundance of homeless people in Barcelona. Most are accompanied by at least one homeless dog. While it’s heartbreaking for me as a sentimentalist and dog-lover, it seems to not phase the locals one bit. Without even a glance they stroll past the men and women, many of whom are disabled, that are hunkered on the ground with solemn faces. With all the homeless dogs, as well as cared for ones, there is no lack of doggie business on the sidewalks. While many people may not care much about this, it’s not my cup of tea. Like all cities, Barcelona comes with a full arrangement of bad smells. Just like in New York City, I’ll be overwhelmed by the smell of sewage every once in awhile. In the metro, I find myself holding my breath to keep out the unpleasant smells wafting through the air. What may surprise some people is that the smell isn’t the subway cars themselves, but the people. I’ve been told that the Spanish people are much less conscious of their own smell than Americans are. The smells I am greeted with on the metro seem to verify this idea.
Living in a local neighborhood, it’s easy to see how the Spaniards go about their days. The local streets are somewhat quiet. For a bustling city, you don’t hear many car horns sounding. The loudest sounds coming from the traffic are the motorbikes, which many people use to travel around Barcelona. On almost every corner there is a bakery or café. I observe lots of people entering to get cappuccinos, espressos, and coffees, but unlike in the U.S., no one takes their coffee to go. Getting a coffee in Spain is a sit down event, never something like picking up a Starbucks to go. Locals often get one of the very many, super fresh pastries to accompany their coffee. Like the concept of sitting down for your coffee, the locals of Spain are slow moving. Typically, people don’t seem to be in a rush. You can see this in restaurants as well. Outdoor seating can be found on many street corners and pedestrian streets. You can catch the same couple or group of people conversing over a meal for two or more hours. The Spaniards value their meals as a time to relax and engage in conversations with their friends.
For my travelogue, I chose to read Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Spain by Christ Stewart. The novel was about how Stewart and his wife Ana used a small amount of money to buy a remote farm in the Alpujarras of Andalucía, Spain while leaving behind their lives in England. The couple faces an array of challenges, such as the lack of running water at their farm. Despite the difficulties, Stewart establishes a home out of the run down farm and builds relationships with locals in his new town by using the optimism bubbling inside of him. Like everyone going through a right of passage, the Stewarts experience challenges during the liminality stage. Stewart gave some great advice that could be useful for my liminality stage studying abroad. He described that the best way to fit in is to not try to fit in, but to embrace being a foreigner. This doesn’t mean to stop trying to learn the culture, but to not worry so much about looking and being like a Spaniard. I find this to be a good method because no matter how you dress or how you act, the moment you walk into a store here in Barcelona, they know that you are American. Once you can stop worrying about trying to appear European, you can lend all your attention to observing your surroundings and learning from it.
This is a picture I took on the first week I was in Barcelona. Between my classes I decided to walk around the city to explore the unknown area. I found this beautiful passageway and building when I got lost on small pedestrian streets. This ancient building was tucked behind modern city buildings, and I never would have discovered it if I hadn’t let myself just walk and take in my surroundings. I also chose this picture because it may seem like a simple passageway, but there are so many small, beautiful details in the architecture if you take the time to look. The benefits of walking rather than taking a taxi or train give you the chance to notice these details.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub. LLC., 2010. Kindle.