Reading Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart actually, has helped me in my transition in Barcelona. At first, I was a little annoyed that we had to read an extra book for the QU 301 class but I actually took a lot from it. The specifics of the novel didn’t really pertain to me as much since it doesn’t take place specifically in Barcelona and each region of Spain is very unique. I saw some similarities, however, what really helped was seeing the absolute optimistic view Chris kept throughout his whole book; it isn’t subtitled An Optimist in Spain for no reason. When Chris was in his liminal phase or facing issues with his culture shock he faced them head one which is what I became more inspired to do. I am doing as many things as I can in Spanish. The other day I went to a laundromat and asked for help in Spanish and was able to converse back and forth with a woman there in order to get the specifics, this was really rewarding for me.
What I found most helpful from the activities in the Slimbach text were the last two. Public transit is really the heart of Barcelona. It keeps everyone extremely mobile and I think it plays into the overall safety and lack of segregation of certain socio-economic classes of people. If you look at a map of the city compared to a map of the metro it reaches just about everywhere, and if the metro can’t get you there a bus can. In order to more fully see the bounds of the metro, I picked the most remote line which is only 4 stops tacked onto the end of another line. Each of its stops are in a semi-outdoor station, unlike the other stops which are underground. I took it to its second to last stop and upon getting out of the station and checking Google Maps to reorient myself in Barcelona I realized I was so far from the city center that a mountain was blocking my view of the entire city. The metro truly covers the full reach of the city and that is why it is so widely used.
In the last activity I tried to focus most on these questions: ““What common courtesies and formalities do local people appreciate? Which behaviors tend to annoy, confuse, or offend” (Slimbach 528)? Most of the answer that I got revolved around social settings but also use of space. The seemingly college-age man, David, I was talking to told me that most social activity revolves around food. He explained that since lunch is the main meal people will go out for drinks and tapas (small plates) for dinner. At the same time, however, people get together for lunch, he said it is rare to see someone eating lunch or dinner out eating alone. David did say that many times when people eat dinner at home they eat alone, especially if they have a family as people have different activities that coincide with times one would have dinner. What David explained with going out to eat was that people really stay within their own groups. Essentially no one is eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation. This made a lot of sense to me as I have been noticing that unless I am in a large group it seems like other patrons of restaurants barely realize there are any other people in the room they are dining in.
He also talked about how much Barcelonians value public space as it had been under heavy surveillance during the Franco dictatorship. I noticed this a lot during my walk. I walked for longer than was necessary so I ended up going for a good few miles and walked through a vast amount of parks or squares which are very more ample than in cities in the US. Even during the day on a Wednesday people were using them. Whether it be friends hanging out, elderly people just sitting or kids playing. Each park or square I passed had a decent amount of people in it and walking around at any day this really holds true. So I guess study abroad may just be a walk through a few parks.