22 April 2014

On my own, but never alone :)

If you missed the previous story, I invite you to read it: Final Boarding Call for Barcelona 2013

I went with the girls to the airport that Monday morning in October.  Feelings were so mixed.  It was dark and very early.  I needed to start the adventure again, only this time I'd be solo as I made my way back into the City.  I wanted to see them off, plus I thought it would be a good idea if I could detail exactly how to get from the Airport to my Flat for future guests.  Coffee, brushing teeth, grabbing last minute items, and then it was time. *sigh*  

Dragging luggage down three flights of stairs and then rolling them out onto the quiet one-way street, where there wasn't one person strolling this time of mid-night/morning and the buildings made the wheels on the pavement sound like thunder.  We rounded the corner, one street more and flagged for a taxi...talk about a quiet 25 minute drive.  Sure not one of us spoke more than 5 words the entire way ... how fast does two weeks go?  Hugs, high fives, HUGS again ... a few tears and I waved one final wave before they proceeded through security...

I turned, faced the exit door and smiled.  Not only do I have the best friends in the entire world, but these two special ones ensured I was well on my way to success before they departed (thank you) ... I smiled and proudly thought to myself "Heidi, you're living in Spain ... YOU ARE WAKING UP SPANISH" :)  I departed noting every sign, escalator, possible mistake a person could potentially make (you know, those ones that you encounter when you yourself take a wrong door or bus or whatever lol).  

On the way back to the city, I captured every monument, distance marker, landmark, bench, water fountain that I could, and soon the blue A1 bus arrived in Catalunya, city centre (the last stop).  I hopped off, looked both ways and decided to walk the 40 minutes toward Sagrada Familia, I needed the time to process everything that just did, was and would continue to happen.  Living a dream can often take a bit of time to seem real and there wasn't any doubt I was living my dream.  I opened the door, climbed the steps to my third floor flat, opened a few more doors and stood in the middle of my room.  It was so quiet, so very quiet, but I had that feeling; the one that assured me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

For the next few weeks I would spend time with my newest pals here in Spain. We'd set off to explore together, they'd take me to their favourite places, whether it'd be the most popular tourist attractions or something fun to do just off the paved path.  I would get lost on my own for hours and hours nearly every day (I mean literally lost. Yes, even with a map lol). I walked absolutely everywhere both day and night and started to compile a list that kept growing of all the places that I needed to visit during my time here.  

I visited tons of discos.  To be honest, I danced every night and all night (disco's don't start here until 1 a.m. and they don't close till 6 a.m. and some open at 8 a.m. and go all day ...CRAZY, all day). I love Salsa dancing, just sayin'!  You can take the metro again at 5 a.m., sometimes I shared my bench seat with folks on their way to work ... but more often than not, it was fellow dancing patrons making their way home just like me.  Barcelona never sleeps, well "never", except between 2 and 5 p.m. Monday - Saturday and  all day Sundays when most shops are closed, except for some specific markets. 

I attended tourist attractions, festivals, special and regular events; I met more people and explored more places.  I struggled with the language a lot at first, not being able to tell the difference between Catalan or Castellano (Castellano is what they call the Spanish language here).  

Oh before I proceed... the grocery store story.  HA!  

So, after the girls left, I visited the grocery store to test my ability for shopping for one, reading labels and seeing what foods might be similar to that of home (dishes to create that wouldn't require an oven, my flat didn't have one of those...I've since figured out that my microwave functions as both a microwave, defrost unit and as a convection oven, brilliant). 

Okay, okay...on this first shopping experience, I spent four hours shopping, using Google Translate to assist in my efforts (I had signed up with Vodafone here for less that 20 Euros a month 'unlimited' within Spain...cheaper than back home, which included data...made things like Google Translate a lot easier).  I was in the milk section...both milk and eggs are found on the shelves here (whereas I was used to finding such items in the refrigerated isles in the grocery store for all my life) and heads of animals appeared skinned and whole inside the glass staring at me as I kept trying to take my eyes off them.  I had been reviewing EVERY label throughout this entire process, so when I happened upon what I 'thought' was chocolate milk, I was averaging about a 80/20 % correct to my guesses and tossed the chocolate milk into my cart without Google's help. 

Hiked back to my home with a few bags (remembering to take the reusable ones as stores charge you here), thankful there were many benches and resting areas along the way (I am such a donkey sometimes haha, it would have been far easier to take a taxi; but unemployed, stubborn and trying to save my pennies, I made it home before it was completely dark and proud that I didn't require my map, not one time lol).  It was hours later and I thought 'mmm chocolate milk ... where is that'?!  

Taking the glass from the shelf, opening the carton...oohhh the smell of that rich chocolate was irresistible...I turned it upside down. Wait, I turned it upside down... and waited...STILL NOTHING?!?  So I squeezed the carton and just as my thoughts were "WHAT THE ...what is this" a thick brown plop fell from 24 cm's above my glass, leaving my eyes bulged, my stomach a little tossed and as I stared at 'this', (whatever 'this' was), I realized that I had been cheated out of my chocolate milk! Now I needed to try what was in my cup, but not until first checking with my friend Google. Seems I would instead be settling for chocolate pudding ...yes, chocolate pudding. :)  I laughed...I honestly laughed really hard. I added milk to my pudding, stirred and enjoyed 2 full glasses before calling friends and family to share in my ridiculousness. 

It was during my chocolate pudding adventure that I decided that I needed to search, find and attend a language school, as soon as possible. Spanish classes would give me some structure in my days as I figured out the paperwork I needed to complete to live here and would assist in my qualifications as I continued my job search plus, this guessing might not always work out so well ;)  

Barcelona has many schools to choose from.  Some are more expensive than others, some offer group activities after hours, language exchanges, workshops and resources, some provide tutoring and private lessons.  I knew I needed something at least 5 days a week, small classes, homework would help me too.  On October 28 I started on 12 weeks of Spanish Lessons at Olé Languages.  

The class sizes were small, I met people and made friends of all ages from all over the world. Some would spend only a week or two studying there while they were here on holiday, others were studying for longer as they've taken up residence here.  The staff, all of them, were friendly and helpful.  

Dani was my professor for the first 10 weeks, and while the students changed, I was happy every Monday that it was still him guiding me through this challenge.  He was awesome; patient, kind and super helpful (and really great at explaining grammar).  My accent was so very English (I laugh as I recall the girls in the glass trying to help me ... even taking Beach Breaks with me and we'd work on my inability to roll my 'r's' in words as simple as Por Favor ...I'd say it as flat and boring with very little romance, which is what the Spanish language is and needs, it is a Rrr, romantica idiomas (romantic language).  Porrrrrr Favorrrrr  :)  I got it now, but for the first two weeks it was pretty rough.  

There was little to no English spoken in class unless it was between students trying to figure out instructions or making fun of each other (cautiously of course).  Lots of laughs.  I excelled at reading and writing but even by the time I finished the classes (in January), I couldn't seem to get myself to speak more than an odd word here or there.  Practice, it takes practice and not being afraid to make mistakes.  Almu was my professor for the final two weeks at Olé, she worked with me to help build my confidence.  Gracias to both Almu and Dani!!

If I had the funds and the time to commit to attend I would still be there studying.  They followed a text book, gave tests and exams and provided extra material and more if you asked.  Thank you Olé I tell everyone here in BCN (Barcelona), for any amount of time, that your services, complete with the extracurricular ones, are amazing and well worth it.

One of the greatest pleasures about attending classes was that I was able to meet fellow students who would be in Barcelona for a period of time, who had an interest in learning Spanish and who also enjoyed living and experiencing life here.  I have met several life long friends by my attendance there and hope for many future reunions (I won't mention names, but I look forward to spending time with all 10+ of you, hopefully 'con vino y tapas' in the nearest future).

As you can see I am "on my own, but never alone" :)  I am thankful for all my friends and encounters ... such wonderful memories being created whether it be in a parc, classroom, restaurant or on a dance floor.  Thank you!  And while you wait for the next post, maybe have yourself a glass of chocolate pudding :) But, if you do, please stir the mixture with milk and laugh out loud a little bit!  HAHA

To review all the stories, including this one related to Spain - An Extended Adventure (click here). For ALL the vicarious vacations shared so far, your Adventure Map awaits (click here). Please leave your comments, your stories, your travel advice etc. in the section below (comments or reaction section) and give your answer to the weekly survey (top right of the blog page). No sign up necessary, just a simple click :) A little shy?! Why not send me an email instead: holidayheidi@hotmail.ca

~ Holiday Heidi

1 comment:

  1. hehehehehehehee- loving the chocolate milk story :-) After reading this - it all seems like a dream!!!!! What a wonderful experience for you :-) Hoping for many more experiences for you in the coming months and years <3 xoox Stephanie :-) xoxo