After spending the vast majority of the past seven days in an exhausted daze, it is hard to believe that I have been in Barcelona for a week already. Throughout my stay so far, there have been ups and downs, but predominantly ups. I have consumed a lot of food I wouldn’t have touched with a stick before leaving England, including pig’s ear, rabbit and multiple varieties of shellfish. I have got extremely lost on several occasions. I accidentally left my personal bank details, important documents and new Spanish debit card on the counter of a busy shop in Sants (I am an idiot). Most importantly, I have met some lovely human beings, including my wonderful host family.
On the morning of my departure from England, I was relatively calm during the car journey to Bristol airport. Saying goodbye to family was pretty awful, as expected. Then, I stupidly decided to consume two large coffees in quick succession and proceeded to have nervous heart palpitations throughout the flight. It was a pretty nerve-wracking moment as I walked through the arrivals doors at BCN airport and attempted to spot my host family. Despite vigorous Facebook stalking attempts, I wasn’t completely sure what they looked like. When they finally spotted me, it all became fine again. They were so welcoming and chatty and just generally nice that I felt relaxed right away.
During my first week, I have had a brief but intense insight into family life in Catalonia (they’d be angry if I said Spain) and I think us English folk could probably learn a few things from them. First of all, they don’t watch much TV in the evenings. They actually speak to each other- amazing! Also, they spend an excessive amount of time eating really good food. There are no meal-deals in sight, no crisps, or unhealthy snacks, or ready-meals. Everything my host-family eats is sourced from the grandparent’s vegetable garden and cooked from scratch by my host-dad Raul (who is an exceptional chef, I must say). I have never consumed so much olive oil in my life. It is literally on/in everything. Also, there is a lot of Cava knocking about. And cheese, and cured meats, and bread. Sooo much bread. It’s safe to say I won’t be losing any weight here.
I am living in the Sants district of the city, on a really nice street, very near to the school I will be teaching at. It is beautiful and central and to be completely honest I can’t believe my luck. Besides spending the majority of my week in Barcelona, I also visited the grandparent’s house in Guissona (a pretty town in the North of the region) for a huge feast and their local festival. Whilst at the festival I watched the famous human towers –Castell– which I have only ever seen on TV. It was quite surreal, and makes you realise how weird the human race really is. I don’t know who came up with the idea of stacking humans for fun. Nonetheless, it was super-impressive. Also, words cannot describe how generous the family was! I was given the largest bedroom in the house to myself, and I have been invited to a wedding next weekend.
Besides getting to know the family, the other half of my week consisted of exploring various areas of the city I have never seen before, getting horrendously lost, visiting a super-cheap clothes market, finding some decent gin bars (there are many) and meeting other English teachers. My teaching program began on Friday, with a training day at UIC (Catalonia’s University in the beautiful Sarria district of the city). Most people on the program are American or British, though there are a few Aussie’s and couple of Germans. The training day was long but helpful and interesting. Also, they gave out beers with lunch (would not happen in England). I have met some people who will also be teaching in the city, and the American girl who will be at my school with me, who is lovely. It is nice to know that when my inevitable mid-year meltdown comes, someone will understand what I am saying in full.
On another note entirely, I have been out running in the intense heat, because I go insane if I don’t exercise, and it is a good way of seeing the city without paying for a metro ticket. I don’t really plan my routes, I just run down whichever street looks the nicest. This has been a successful method so far. On Saturday, for example, I ended up running up Montjuic, past the old Olympic park and Museum. The views are amazing, and next time I will take my camera to prove it. To be honest, I just feel like I am on holiday at the moment (technically I am because I am not yet registered with the police), and it hasn’t sunk in that I will be here for nine months. I have decided to join a local running club next week, so that I can see some more parts of the city and attempt to communicate with some more Spanish humans.
Understanding the language is pretty challenging, though that was par for the course. It is particularly difficult to distinguish words when people speak at 100mph. Also, it is hard to attempt to learn Spanish and Catalan simultaneously. The family have been really helpful and I keep forcing myself to try basic communication. I will join night-school classes soon so I can make some actual progress. I am also hoping to do some private English tutoring to make a little extra cash and fund some ski trips in the Pyrenees this winter.
Tomorrow is my first day at the school: meeting my students for the first time, having a grand tour of the buildings and teaching (a little). I have only been told to prepare six slides on myself and where I am from (I’m sure the kids will be completely enthralled by tales of my childhood in Yate). Besides that, I am very much in the dark. I have, however, been informed that the school chef is very good, and that I have two hour lunchbreaks. So that is something.
In the next post I write, I will attempt to be a little more coherent. I apologise that this post probably doesn’t make any sense, but my brain is like soup at the moment with so much change!