Archive for October, 2011



October 28, 2011

I know, by now you’re probably saying, “enough with those funny symbols, already!”. But this word (“lluvia”, the Spanish word for “rain”) is so fun to transcribe that I couldn’t help it!

So I said earlier that I wasn’t going to talk about the weather because it’s the “composition of lame conversation”… but hey, I’m a woman, and that was a couple days ago, so I’m allowed to change my mind.

When I was packing all of my things to come here, I read on the recommended packing list: rain boots and rain coat. And I thought… hey, I live most of the year on the North Shore, Massachusetts, I don’t need any of that. It doesn’t rain in Barcelona. And, for most of my first month or two here, my thoughts were correct. But, here, when it rains, it pours. Literally. The first time I encountered Barcelona rainfall was–unfortunately–during La Mercè. It rained off and on all day on Saturday, and then it poured Saturday night. That meant that they canceled a ton of stuff, and we got a bit wet. But it ended up working out okay… I borrowed a friend’s umbrella, the rain stopped after a couple of minutes, and we accidentally stumbled upon an awesome jazz concert!

The rain doesn’t always have such fortunate results, however. Take earlier this week for example.  My housemate Alain and I wanted to take a walk around the city, but it was POURING down rain. That didn’t stop us from taking a walk; we just got really wet. And then yesterday, after class, I thought, ‘Oh, it’s only a ten minute walk home, and I have an umbrella, so it’s unnecessary to take the metro two stops to avoid the rain.’ About a minute after that decision, I was soaking wet and regretting it.

But all unfortunate things can be positive if you put the right spin on them. I always like to look at negative situations as adventures. And yesterday, I enjoyed a delicious cup of tea after I dried off. I bought some Kusmi Tea when I was in Paris, and I needed a rainy day to try it out. So even unfortunate rainy events can be good things! 🙂

Mmmmm. 🙂

Although I hope there won’t be too many more rainy days here, I’ll take everything as it comes. I’m fortunate, however, that in general Barcelona has beautiful weather all year long.


La Vida en Bar-thay-lona, parte 2

October 26, 2011

Just because I’m a linguistic nerd and I’ve been doing lots of phonetic transcriptions recently, and since it makes a segway between last post and this one, here is the phonetic transcription of “Me encanta Barcelona” (I love Barcelona), in the peninsular dialect, of course: [meːŋˈkan̪t̪aβ̞aɾθeˈlona]. Don’t forget the “th” sound!

I’m sure you were dying to know how to phonetically transcribe “I love Barcelona”, and now your life is complete. You’ll thank me later. 😛

So apart from enjoying the fall weather, I’ve been spending a lot of time walking around the city with my housemate from Quebec, who is leaving in a little over a week! Therefore, I’ve gotten to know the city a little better (it used to be that I’d spend my time during the week after class doing homework in the library or in my room on facebook, so this is a much nicer alternative, although I have spent less time doing homework…). All that to say, my appreciation for this capital city of Catalonia, Spain is growing even fonder every day! 🙂 With that, here I will pick up where I left off on my Top 10 favorite aspects of Barcelonian life:

  1. Gaudí – Okay, so any list of great things about Barcelona has got to include its most famous resident, the innovative architect that is the face of the modernismemovement. Apart from the fact that his work is so innovative and important for students of art and architecture, even for the artistically-uninformed linguistics student that I am, I can appreciate that his works are really cool! I haven’t been to all of his famous houses yet (I still need to go to Casa Vicens and Calvet, and also the crypt of Colònia Güell before I can feel content with the amount of Gaudi that I’ve seen), but I’ve seen the main tourist attractions: Parc Güell, Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Casa Milà/La Pedrera. His work is overwhelming to see, and I highly recommend that anyone who admires art or nature visit Barcelona to see his works in person. The cool thing is that you can see famous Gaudí works of art just walking around the city–they’re right there in the middle of downtown!

    The view from Parc Güell - including the Sagrada Familia: center/left on the horizon

  2. Nature. Speaking of parks and horizons… Barcelona has such an incredible mix of magnificent natural scenery. From the sands of the Villa Olympica or Barceloneta, the grassy, tree-covered terrain of the many municipal parks, to the mountain of Montjüic, Barcelona has much more than just man-made art and architecture to offer; it also has the beauty of nature!

    Palm trees in Parc Guell!

  3. Català. Em dic Kristen. Visc a Barcelona. Parlo una mica de català. (Tr. My name is Kristen. I live in Barcelona. I speak a little bit of Catalan.) Okay, so you thought I had moved on from linguistics for this blog entry. False! It all comes back to language. Part of the reason why I chose to go to Barcelona was because they speak Catalan. It’s fascinating to hear and see the interplay of the two languages here. Nearly all official postings or safety warnings are written in Catalan first, then Castellano, then English. But sometimes they leave off either Castellano or English (it’s always funny to see something written first in Catalan and then in English, as if all the Spanish-speakers who don’t know Catalan or English aren’t welcome here). It’s perfectly normal here to hold a conversation where one person speaks Catalan and the other understands, but responds in Castellano. A large part of the Catalonian identity is tied up in their ability to speak their own language, and they aren’t happy when the government tries to take this away from them (as did Franco). For me, this city is sociolinguistically, psycholinguistically, and phonologically provocative, so it’s pretty much a linguistics nerd fest every day.
  4. Sangría. It’s true. Sangria is delicious. I would drink it everyday if it weren’t so expensive. Picture this: real fruit juice, cut-up fruit soaked inside, wine, sugar, fanta, and a bit of liquor. Result=pure paradise for your tastebuds. 🙂 Now imagine trying to NOT drink this every chance you get. Every restaurant in Barcelona sells it, and no two sangrias ever taste exactly the same, so it’s necessary to try it as often as possible, right?

    mmmmm... 🙂

  5. Anti-Rush. The people take their time here. You literally never see a native Spaniard walking down the street, a cellphone in one hand and a coffee or half-eaten sandwich in the other. In contrast, that is the definition of the majority of people walking around in cities in the US. (perhaps a minor exaggeration, but you get my point.) Here, most businesses close for several hours in the middle of the day so people can enjoy a nice midday meal and a siesta. Going out to have coffee with someone usually means staying and talking for hours. It’s very important to really enjoy good food and good company. I like that. In America, it’s too easy to make hurriedness and busyness a priority, when that’s not really what matters. It’s better to just sit back and relax a bit, take time to enjoy yourself, and really invest in the place you are at the moment, not worrying about what’s next.
Well, there you have it. I could probably easily pick another ten, but these are some things that really stick out to me and warm my heart to this beautiful city.

La vida en Bar-thay-lona, parte 1

October 22, 2011

So since I haven’t written in a while, there are a majority of topics I could cover. I could talk about the change of weather. But really, that’s the composition of lame, dry conversations, so I won’t go there. I could talk about what it was like to have a clash of two worlds when my parents came to visit me. But I’m not in the mood for that. I could actually cover some of my recent(ish) excursions, like when I went to Paris, Tarragona, Madrid (again), or my excursion today to Besalú and Figueras. But that just makes me sound like a tourist.

But today marks the two-month anniversary of my arrival here, and I think that deserves something more pertinent to my actual life here. Not that fun excursions or weather changes or parents coming aren’t part of my life, but they’re just fun blips. What I’m talking about here is my day-to-day, mundane (although I’d hardly call it that!), typical routine here. I love Barcelona in a way that I can’t fully explain, but I’m going to try to scratch the surface.

So, without further ado, I will commence with the rather cliche top 10 list: My top 10 favorite aspects of Barcelonian life (in no particular order).

  1. Pan con tomate. (Bread with tomato) Ok, those of you who haven’t been to Cataluña may think that it’s silly to include a simple food item like this in my top ten list, but really. It’s such a staple here. And so delicious. All you do is put spread some garlic (directly from the clove) on some baked bread, cut up a tomato and spread its juice around on the bread, drizzle some olive oil, and sprinkle some salt (and a lot of times they don’t use the garlic, but for me, that’s what makes or breaks it). Apart from this being a side dish to almost all meals, they also use the same recipe (without the garlic) to put on sandwiches made with baguettes. This moistens the bread and brings out the flavor of the meat or cheese! 🙂

    Pan con tomate. Mmmmm

  2. The independent mindset of the Catalan people. Okay, so I’m going to try to not make gross over-generalizations, but forgive me in advance if I approach this the wrong way. To state it briefly, Cataluña (an autonomous community of Spain, which used to be its own nation prior to September 11, 1714) has its own culture, its own language, its own unique gastronomy, and many other unique aspects, and a lot of people here have strong opinions about being separate from the overarching culture of Spain.  Although I myself don’t associate politically with any Catalan or Spanish party, I find it incredibly interesting to observe. There’s a strong cultural bond here.

    They write it in English so the tourists understand. And of course this is supposed to say "not".

  3. El Barrio Gótico. I said this from almost the beginning of my trip here, and it’s still true. I love the gothic area of the city. It feels like it’s the beating heart of the city. And it’s also just so beautiful and full of surprises around every corner. This weekend they’re having a food and wine festival, and there’s an open market in the plaza in front of the Cathedral. During the Mercè, there were a lot of great events there, and there is always some sort of cultural activity or at least a couple street performers hanging out in various places around the area. Apart from that, it’s a remnant of a former time–there are buildings and walls that are very old, much older than the US, and I like the atmosphere that it gives the area.

    Part of the Roman Wall from ancient Barcelona, in the Plaza de Ramon Berenguer.

  4. [θ]. Alright, so allow me to nerd out here for a minute. The dialect of Spanish here is very different from that spoken in Latin America. One of the most obvious differences, apart from the use of “vosotros” and words and phrases that are different, is the “th” sound (phonetically represented as [θ]) for the letters “z” and sometimes “c”. Since I’m taking phonetics and phonology of Spanish here, I am constantly reminded of this change of pronunciation. I know, I’m a linguistics nerd for allowing dialects of Spanish fascinate me so much, but that’s how it is.
  5. Balconies. When you walk down a street in Barcelona, if you take a minute to stop and look, you will see balconies and terraces and flower pots on all of the apartment buildings overlooking the street. That, mixed with the stone that is typical for almost all the buildings in the city, gives it a look that is very distinct from cities in the US, which are normally built with a lot less focus on aesthetic value. They have this in lots of European cities, and it always makes me happy. It feels like I’ve been transported to another world.

    See this? Isn't it pretty? Now imagine this on every street in the city. 😀

This is taking longer than expected (it always does, I suppose), so I’ll leave the list here for now. Stay tuned for the next five, hopefully coming soon!

America in Spain?

October 10, 2011

Last night after dinner (and after my blog post, of course–for which I must apologize, since it contained far too many exclamation points and far too few insightful comments… but I was tired and out of practice with writing in English), I decided to watch Grease with my Canadian housemate. Believe it or not, before last night, I had not seen this American classic. It got me thinking. What other distinctly American things have I done since I’ve come to Spain?

American Classic. First viewing: in Spain. Something smells fishy...

As much as I want to be someone who is engaged in the culture (just see this silly pre-Spain blog post from ages ago), it’s a simple fact that I’m going to bring American-isms with me, and I’m going to do American things while I’m here. But the funny thing about me is that most of my early years were lived inside the bubble of a Christian home, so a lot of classic American music, movies, TV shows, activities, and pop culture in general are outside my knowledge or experience. And it just so happens that I’m learning about them and experiencing them for the first time with my American friends in Spain. Exhibit 1: Grease. Which is even more ridiculous because I saw it with my French Canadian housemate who had only seen the movie in French before.

A lot of my American friends really like nineties music. And sure, I’ve heard a lot of it, just from growing up in the nineties and having two older brothers. But most of it is unfamiliar to me. During the nights of the merced, when we were all kind of chill, my friends and I spent a couple hours sitting on the grass in a park, listening to American nineties music on portable speakers. So I got to know more of the music of my era in my country. While I was in a country halfway around the world. It was kind of surreal.

Also, while we’re on the topic of music, I’m going to my first real American concert (that weren’t free tickets): Red Hot Chili Peppers! They’re playing in freaking Barcelona, man! It’s gonna be awesome. I started getting into them this past summer, and a bunch of my friends like them a lot, so we’re going together.

Red Hot Chili Peppers!

I also speak English more than I wish that I did, considering I’m here to speak Spanish. Yesterday I spoke practically only Spanish all day until about 5:30 PM, and it was very difficult. I found myself missing English. I realized that I speak more English than that during a normal day, which is kind of sad.

I could go on about this subject, but I don’t have much time, so I’ll leave it there. ¡Hasta luego!


I miss blogging!

October 9, 2011

Hello, blogging world. I have not forsaken you. I have just been up to a lot, and had little time with internet access. I don’t really like to sit in my room and use the computer, since the weather is always so nice, and there are cool places to see and interesting people to watch.

But I should blog more because I love it!

It feels like ages ago that I went to the Merced. Two weeks ago. (And so sad because now 6 weeks have passed in Barcelona, and that means I have 6 fewer weeks here!!) Since then, my classes have really started to kick in, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research for them, a little bit of homework, and some interacting with classmates. It’s hard to learn new things when the entire lecture is in Spanish–taking notes is so much harder when it’s not in English! But I think I’m getting the gist of what is going on. Or at least I hope so. I don’t think I will take enough tests to know how I am doing in the middle of my classes (only 1-3 tests per class!), so I’ll just have to hope that I do well on the tests, because that’s the only determiner of the grades!

So last weekend I went to Paris! I went with 5 friends, and we were only there 1 1/2 days, which was kind of a bummer, but a good thing for our wallets because I seriously spent SOO much money when I was there! We also went to Tarragona afterwards, which was beautiful and really cool! But we were so tired from walking around all of Paris that we didn’t see much. Luckily, I’m going back there in a couple days so I can see the rest of it.

And then, this past Friday, my parents arrived to visit me! We went to Montserrat together yesterday! They really enjoyed it, but they were VERY tired by the end. Afterwards, my host parents invited my real parents to dinner at their house. It was strange to see how they interacted–the intersection of my two worlds. I feel like I am made up of two different people: the person I am in Spain and the person I am in the US, and since my parents have arrived, I have a weird internal reunion of the two. It’s very strange.

But now my parents are in Paris, the city of love, being romantic and–hopefully–having fun, despite how tired they probably are, since they went right after climbing the mountains of Montserrat (perhaps that was bad planning on my part…). They come back in a couple days, and we’ll have to hit up all the touristy spots of the city. I get to be a pseudo tour guide, which is fun but somewhat humiliating because I realize that I’ve been here 6 weeks but still don’t know much of anything about the city, apart from how to get from one place that I frequently visit to another.

Today was the first Sunday that I didn’t have a big cultural event or a trip planned for the day, so I decided to go to church. It was a small CMA church close to my house, and I enjoyed it a lot. The people were very welcoming and friendly, and after church a bunch of us went to a Brazilian restaurant. It was insane. You paid one price for all-you-can-eat of Brazilian meat. The waiters came around with these giant metal sticks of meat towers that they shaved off onto your plate. It was delicious, but very filling. I was about to burst afterwards, and I was still full when I got to dinner tonight. I enjoyed getting to know some new people, and I hope I can go back a couple more Sundays before I leave Spain.

Well, that’s all I have time for right now. Maybe I will put up some pictures or make a more detailed blog entry, but I say that all the time and it usually doesn’t happen. So we’ll see.

%d bloggers like this: