It strikes me that I would not have been able to do the same for her if she had just arrived in Singapore – the origins and changes of a country younger than my parents.
The town is quieter and smells more homely in comparison to the heart of Barcelona. Being a Sunday and also lunch time, the streets are resting, shops shuttered closed, families and friends at the beach. The buildings and roads are a mix of shapes and styles, guided by the influences of the indigenous families that settled nearer to the coast after the capture of pirates who used to terrorise the town.
We walk uphill towards where the fishermen of Masnou used to stay, past basketball courts with gangly teenagers playing a game, past a bakery displaying pastries for the San Juan festival, past the walls of different homes and courtyards. Her parents and grandma have been waiting for us in their backyard entrance, and greet us with kisses.
But here comes the paella…
It was kind of embarrassing to take photographs of it ala Singaporean-with-food style, but it was too epic not to – a beautifully prepared dish, chockfull of crayfish, mussels, gigantic prawns, chicken and rabbit meat, nestled deep in grains that had absorbed all the flavours of the seafood and meat and herbs. The bottle of Rose goes well with it, and conversation in Catalan, Spanish and English goes round the table with translating help from Anna and her brother.
By the end of the meal, it was 6pm, and I was too stuffed from second helpings to even have dessert – fresh strawberries with chantilly cream. With the help of espressos, we got past the siesta stage, heavily induced by the food coma and wine.
Josef shows me a little around their house, which is still recovering and renovating from a fire that had destroyed the first floor a few months ago. Their basement is full of DIY furniture and artefacts; her father constructs and builds sturdy tables and wardrobes whilst her mother breathes new life into abandoned furniture and crafts with her beautiful art and patterns. They have another garden starting to bloom, and the apricot tree from next door hangs fruit over the fence.
After saying goodbyes, we walk towards Mongat between the coastline and train tracks, past yachts (many for sale now). The city of Barcelona is spread ahead of us with Sagrada Familia and her soldiers of construction crane always and still recognisable. Unfortunately, the phallic symbol dome from Glories now joins beside…
It is really hard hard to put into words the warmth, the magic of connections exchanging between languages and culture, the hospitality I received from Anna and her family despite only having met through mutual friends. It was a window in the Spanish/Catalan life, the proper Sunday for quality time for loved ones. Technology plays no part here during gatherings; conversation is real, honest, respectful. Not knowing their language allowed me to focus on the non-verbal language used as they spoke to each other, and the magic of translation is such that there is less chance for ‘short-cuts’ in communicating which often lessens the meaning of what is being communicated.