I am in Barcelona for at least a month, enrolled in the OxfordTESOL course, armed with an open heart, a willing soul, and a hunger to explore and understand.
The past weekend, I have walked like a bumbling traveller and a local, gotten some necessities, cleaned the apartment and unpacking meagre clothes. The sun here warms every bit within and outside me, in the morning with a coffee and quiet(er) heart (the apartment here is strangely colder than outside all the time, cold enough for me to wake with cramping muscles), and sets around 9-10pm, according to the summer schedule. Although the summer this year is uncommonly late, the sun here is far more reliable than the places traveled to in the past two weeks – Italy, Switzerland, France – and I am very thankful for it. Like how it was in Seattle; I wax and wane with the amount of sunshine pouring on me, following where it falls without shadows and soaking it in every chance possible into an irresistible smile playing on my lips.
My grocery shopping trip quadrupled in scheduled time when I walked into a Saturday market that sold fresh grilled food with sangria, cheeses and tapas along with wine, bakes, various crafts, services, clothes, motorbike helmets, even random toiletries. The market closed about five streets of traffic, and had free puppet shows ala Punch and Judy, activities for children, a train track with trains sturdy enough for kids to ride on, a vintage car show, a vintage photo booth, even a live ‘piano’ show that worked on mechanical scrolls and a fake professional pianist in a suit and bow tie. I was never happier to get ‘lost’, keeping in mind the general direction of my journey and knowing my destination will be reached in the end.
I also tripped into a fresh market selling meat, cheese, fruits, vegetables, flowers, fresh bakes and drinks, housed in a huge glass building. It also had a open library with books free for anyone to borrow and/or donate. I bought a variety of nuts from a family-run store whose owners had such crinkly kind eyes and big smiles.
Grocery shopping is usually done with a bag or trolley brought by the shopper, with plastic bags are available for an additional charge (about a few cents). Unlike in Seattle (we pushed the trolley up three streets to our apartment and back after emptying it) and in Singapore (car), I only had Jon’s trusty backpack that could fill so much, and emerged thankful for the fresh fruit and vegetable shop right opposite my apartment that was priced affordably. The particular supermarket I visited – Mercadona – was a 20-30 minute walk away.
Another jaunt to find the shop for a calling card brought me to the main shopping street of high-end brands and accents ranging from American to Singaporean. Along the way I revisit the memory of Casa Batallo, as vivid in my mind as two years ago, passed by the troupe of fans awaiting Rihanna’s arrival, and witnessed a motorbike accident. I returned with no calling card, a pair of cheap shoes for the exhausted feet, a full heart, and more knowledge of the neighbourhood’s treasures and turns.
And now, I am ready to be immersed in the rather crazy syllabus (teaching starts tomorrow. already!!!) with the other participants from Belgium, NZ, Aussie, America.
Ready to taste fresh figs and anchovies and the varying blocks of different cheeses my Italian roommate is introducing me to (she’s also spoiling me with Nespresso; I look at my budget Nescafe coffee powder with some embarrassment now).
Ready to savour the walk to school every day, taking different routes every morning and evening, through old couples and dog walkers and sun-soaked locals, finding new shops and playgrounds at every corner, looking at the distant frame of Sagrada Familia in the horizon.
It’s gonna be a fast and intensive month, and I don’t want to lose any moment.