It is such a great feeling to have the ability to organize each and every day just the way I want it. This is such a gift and I am not, for a moment, taking it for granted. hmm maybe I’ll meditate at the beach today, done! What’s this cool building I just saw on a poster, I’ll go find it now! I’m even eating meals more or less when I feel like it. If I am out exploring, I do have to fall within the Barcelona eating schedule. Which to me, it seems breakfast is around 8 to noon. Mostly, people drink coffee and eat some form of delicious danish or pastry. Even ice cream and is common for breakfast! Unfortunately, after trying multiple times, I am not able to partake and just make something at home. After breakfast, many people gather again around noon, but not for food. Mostly beer and/or coffee. Actually, restaurants don’t even start serving food until after 1pm. I am usually the only one in the restaurant at that time 😀 By the time I leave around 2pm there are a couple more tables filled, however again, most of these people are just drinking more coffee! It isn’t until 3-4pm that I see tables with tapas and other mixed drinks. The energy is more upbeat and a bit louder than before. Here is when the crowds begin to split off. There are some groups that appear to be winding down and heading home. Maybe for a nap? Then there are the more boisterous crowds that continue drinking beer and wine until dinner. The later is much more fun to watch and observe. Sometimes kids are present during tapas as well. Lastly, dinner is very late! Most restaurants don’t open until 8 or 9pm. Right now, I can hear my hosts cooking something amazing in the kitchen. It is currently 9:15 on Sunday night. There is this supposedly an amazing Italian restaurant less than a block away from me, but I haven’t been able to partake yet because they open so late. Maybe eventually I will hit it before I leave. I feel I have to experience this atmosphere up closely at least once. Around 9:30 the crowds are now at their peak with music and entertainment, kids are always included in this part. They seems to run around and play together with the parents in tables on the periphery. This is when it becomes super loud! At first, I couldn’t believe the screaming, dogs barking, balls bouncing, constant intense sounds as I am reading before bed. Luckily, it didn’t take long to get used to the commotion as my bedroom window is just right outside a very lively and crucial square. I almost enjoy the sounds of excitement and frenzy. I’ve learned to not react to the small child screams that are ubiquitous throughout the evening until at least 11pm. I was just informed last night, that the square isn’t normally quite this chaotic. School starts the first week of September. Therefore, the kids and families are still enjoying their summer break. Too bad I won’t be here to witness the contrast.
Downtown Barcelona is also filled abundantly with exciting energy. I can say with confidence that I am navigating the city comfortably now. Well, if I am able to use my phone that is. It’s so fun to just keep walking and walking as there is always something new and beautiful to see. I’ve gotten semi-good at navigating the train systems. There are several different train lines which many of them are also different companies as well. Instead of holding just one train pass, I am currently holding 3. At least this isn’t as confusing as Norway. In Norway, the different trains all arrived at the same stations. So, not only did you need to know which train to get on, you also had to pay attention to the color of the train so you didn’t get on the wrong one! Overall, I would say that both Norway and Barcelona have fantastic public transportation. I haven’t even missed having a car here. Chewy is also welcome on the trains and I often bring him along on my adventures, sometimes to his chagrin. A couple of days ago we were touring the Catalonian Art Museum which is a really huge amazing building. Pictures are below. It was so hot and we were getting scorched by the sun. I quickly looked up a nearby beach and we hopped on a train. Little did he know, he was about to engage in his first time swimming in the surf. He was paddling furiously the entire time, while snorting and puffing his displeasure. But afterwards we were both so much cooler 😉 This is also when I decided to relive my teenage years by skinny dipping, except now it was on a very busy beach!! I wish I could say it was empowering and freeing, but honestly, I just felt awkward. It didn’t help that Chewy decided to run frantically to other people’s towels in order to dry off after we we got out. I’m chasing him through the crowded beach as I’m fighting to put my clothes back on and yelling at him as he shakes sand over the people peacefully enjoying the sun. Yes, there was laughter. Yes, I felt a bit ridiculous. Here is where I learned that maybe I don’t need to push myself ALL the time to feel new experiences! No need to do something, just to do it.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of my time in Barcelona is learning about my hosts who I now understand about 20% of what they say, then use google translate for the other random stuff I don’t understand. This is a huge improvement for me even though I know, they are speaking as slowly and simply as possible. They are both from Paraguay and have been in Barcelona for several years. Apparently, Paraguay has lots of rivers and lakes they use for their fresh water “beaches”. It sounds like a wonderful place. But mostly, I can’t believe how difficult it is for me to learn another language. I am a very slow learner! In the beginning, after I got more comfortable speaking Spanish to people, they would immediately reply so quickly and so differently than how my language app did. I just shut down and couldn’t hear anything after the first couple of words. It was like learning the Krebs cycle all over again. I didn’t really hear anything after Oxidative decarboxylation. Except this is happening right in front of me!! Fortunately, I have overcome this a small amount. I don’t freak out as much and I can usually pick a few words from each sentence which helps me surmise what they are asking or saying to me. I then give my one word response back to confirm I am understanding correctly. At this point, when I am not talking to my hosts, here is where the strangers have figured out I can’t really speak Spanish and I’m using google translate to say one short sentence at a time. Still, overall it is going much better. Consistent, daily practice is essential and feeling even a modicum amount of improvement feels marvelous.