Monday, May 9, 2011

Brain in TRANSmode

The study phase of my time abroad is officially done. I am tested, evaluated, packed and moved out.  It feels good- it feels weird- but I guess it mostly feels good.  I'm ready to move on and explore elsewhere.  The memories I have made here feel like dreams.  There are no physical reminents, only hazy recollections that come and pass and get forgotten.  Travel feels a lot like death.  Like, each time you travel from place to place, you're experiencing a little, baby death.  Nothing serious-- NO, wait that sounds wrong!  When I say baby death, I am of course NOT referring to infant mortality.. Because that IS a very serious issue. I'm referring to the fact that when you travel away from a place that you've come to love, the heart is broken, but only lightly so.  But I guess that can be said about any sort of goodbye.  They all hurt and it's only the faith that there will be a future hello that makes the pain bearable, helps it to pass.

I mean, you leave a place and you're not sure when the next time you'll see it will be.  I look at Barcelona and I tell myself that I will see it again.

But will I?

Yes, I will.

Upcoming Adventures:
Tomorrow: Morocco
Next week:  WWOOFing in France, see link:
Month of June: I don't think that far ahead
July 7th:  Homecoming

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Palau Sensorium: Jose Gonzalez concert of April 3rd

Due to technical difficulties and my characteristic carelessness, the former part of this post has been deleted.  Fortunately, thanks to the resourcefulness of my most dedicated reader (Mommy), I was able to salvage the most important part.  Here it is, and with pictures, too! :

The concert was a constant influx of sensation- with the mesmerizing music, the magical room and the many people. There was so much life and energy for a single space. It was fantastic, the energy, and like nothing I've ever experienced really, at a concert or ever. There was this beautiful, palpable tempo of a synchronized human spirit. It was coursing throughout the room. When I looked around I could see a wave pulsing through the crowd. We were all moving and feeling and living at the same pace. Even if it was only for a few moments until the song ended, it was really one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. And this all perfectly culminated into his performance of 'Teardrops.' That's when I truly felt it and I started to cry. I don't know exactly what it was. First, it was the excitement of that song coming on. Then, naturally came bittersweet memories of Little Prince. And thoughts of my uncle after the show. And then my aunt. I started thinking about her. And then I remembered that it was her birthday. And when that clicked, tears just started rolling down my face. The thoughts evolved so seamlessly that it sort of caught me by surprise. I could feel that she was there. I felt this connection to her and my family celebrating her back home. I understood. I accepted. Because I could see the beauty of the cohesive synchronized human spirit. This is what life is about. This is what I believe in.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Carol! I love you.

Monday, February 28, 2011

I resent you for being so short - An Ode to February

I don't like that February only has 28 days-- it makes time go by even faster, if that's even possible.  I was just getting used to the idea of February and I think with 2 more days I might've had my fill.  Then, it would be permissible to change to March.  But now?? That's a bit too rash.  Fuck you, February, and your hastiness and your need to be all unique.  I don't like it.  Because that means I have less time to reach my 4 post-per-month goal this month.  Not like 2 more days would've really made a difference, I really should be more honest with myself, but February made for a good scapegoat.  Also, it made for an interesting apostrophe with which to open my post.  God, I'm such a NERD.  Shut up.

So, that was an obnoxious little rant... Wait, whaaa??  I haven't talked to you since Berlin??  Where the hell have I been?  That's a good question.  Well, let's see-- Number 1: I moved out of my original housing situation and in doing so, reclaimed my sanity.  Big changes going on here, folks.  Honestly, I think architects are gods because if you think about it, those fuckers are the ones responsible for shaping our worlds.  I'm sure this question's been asked before (probably by me) but how different would our lives be if the fundamental geometric shape in architectural design was the circle?  Can you imagine living in global buildings, in circle rooms, sleeping on an oval bed?  THAT WOULD REDEFINE THE ENTIRE HUMAN EXPERIENCE!!!  maybe......
How did I get to talking about this?  Oh, right-- well, all I'm saying is that those motherfuckers have a lot of power.  The assholes who designed that apartment on Castanyer, for example, have proved to play a key role in shaping the character of my month and a half in Barcelona. Granted, there were a bunch of other factors thrown into the mix (blah, blah, blah I don't really feel like getting into them right now).  So, let's just stick to placing the blame on the anonymous and the conceptual rather than the living and the breathing.  It's less messy that way.

So from update Number 1 comes Number 2:  I moved in, to a new, happier, healthier home.  I'm living now with another girl from my program, Lorienne, and my host mom.  Her name is Mercedes and I love her.  She is so kind and calm, and patient and caring.  She's a really great cook-- I'd be so bold to say the BEST tortillas in Barcelona.  But that's because they're made with love.  That's what I had for dinner tonight, actually.  What it is, is just egg mixed with onion, potatoes, salt, and olive oil, and maybe some garlic, cooked up into this little pie that you slice into triangles.  Oooo I love it so much! With some pan con tomate, corn salad, and zucchini soup.  Mmmmm... What else does she make?  There's always a variety.  And always generous servings, and seconds if we want.  And then a fruit for dessert.  Dinners are also where I get a good part of my Spanish practice in.  We talk about lots of different things.  And she helps to fix my Spanish when I don't say things the right way.  In the helpful way, not the annoying way. I can notice myself improving a lot, which is exciting!

Speaking of exciting (that, my friends, was a segue)-- I joined the UPF choir.  I couldn't join the theatre because auditions are only held the first trimester.  So I joined the choir instead.  It's cool-- I mean I've only been to one rehearsal.  It only meets once a week for 3 hours, with a pausa in between.  Yea, so, I had my first rehearsal last Tuesday.  Everyone seemed really welcoming.  I came in with this really dramatic entrance.  I was all flustered and nervous because I thought I had to actually audition and shit.  So I come in late, apologizing and shaking and the directors just like, "It's cool.  Take some music.  Sit over there."  "Oh, so I'm in?  Kind of anticlimactic but sweet, I guess, thanks..", as I awkwardly take my seat in a room that sounds oddly quiet after filling it up with all my loud American gesturing and explaining.  Some people thought it was cool that I was American.  They liked my Doc Martins. :)  There was only one other American there, he's from my program. I'm not sure where the rest of the people come from-- if they're Catalan or if some of them are exchange students, as well... I'll find out more about them at rehearsal tomorrow, I guess. I'm actually really looking forward to it! It's the only opportunity I have to meet Spanish people and it seems like the people are really open and receptive to making new friends.  So we'll see what happens!  I'll keep you posted.

Alright, well, I at least got two post in for February.  I'm going to end this before it turns 12AM.  I should also go because I have a midterm to study for, for tomorrow.  My Spanish Golden Age literature class.  That should be interesting..  I don't know how much studying I'll get done tonight though.  I just ate three chocolate-covered digestive cookies and some fried nuts so I'm feeling a food coma coming on.  But I'll at least make an effort, put up a good fight until the salty-sweet-chocolately-sleepy goodness takes over me.  Good night.  Colorful dreams.  Take care.  Snore.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One Month Anniversary Post-- Sparkle, Sparkle

So reading through my last blog it seems I left you guys hanging in a pretty intense place.  I wish I could say that things have gotten better with the program and all, but they haven't.  Not really. No. This experience so far has proved to be challenging but in a way that I didn't anticipate.  I thought that my biggest obstacle would be the adapting to the culture thing but I've experienced very little of that thanks to IES.  The greater challenge has been finding my place amongst this insular group of Americans.  To be honest, it feels a lot like high school.  I fucking sucked at high school.  I couldn't play the game.  And I still can't.  I can't handle the bullshit.  But maybe that's just the nature of the corporative urban study abroad beast. It's loaded with bullshit.  I mean, it's not entirely bad, don't get me wrong.  They've organized a way to house me, to feed me, to educate me.  But with the important necessities comes a boatload of bullshit.  The experience I'm looking for can only be found independently.  What I'm looking for will always be outside of the institution.  I mean it makes sense.  I've always hated being guided my the hand, cudgeled, pampered and flattered. I mean seriously, what's this shit?  I'm an adult. I can go off on my own, discover things for myself.  Aha, revelation-- misery exists within the system.  I have get out and take control over my experience here.  I'm capable.  I'm a big girl.  Fuck this program.  It wasn't designed for me. I'm doing my own thing. So. there. Fuck. yea.

Alright, that's enough shit talk.  Let's discuss happy things now, shall we.  Like how beautiful this city is.  Like how I discover new places everyday.  Like how even the extremest of weathers the temperature comfortably fluctuates between the realm of a New York fall and that of a New York spring.  Or how about my super cool language exchange partner, Lídia, whom I met for the first time last week, talking Spanish over coffee and exploring the uncharted nooks of the city. Or what about my trip to Berlin where I met up with the Chelak sisters amd lived under the generous, cozy, and loving hospitality Jamila's super cool parents. Berlin is another great city. An incredible contrast to Barcelona.  When I was there, it was cold and rainy and raw.  So much of it was still deconstructed, or under construction, as a result of what occasionally appeared to be remaining vestiges from the war.  But from the destruction there has evolved so much life.  So much art.  Art that springs from the streets. From discarded scrap metal and other left over waste, the entrails of urban devastation.  Artist turn waste and ruin into beauty and life and meaning.  It's such an emblematic example of the transformative and regenerative potential of art and the artist.  I found something so uniquely and secretly beautiful about Berlin. It's not beautiful like Paris which is all about the pristine aesthetic form and layout of the city.  Nor is it like Barcelona which has la playa and the mountains and beautiful weather all year round.  The beauty of Berlin is found in it's ability to survive. 

Well, I have class soon so I should head on over and get my ass on the metro.  I miss you and I'll talk to you soon!  Take care!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Three: (B)orientation is over. Ok, so when do we get to speak Spanish?? (Parental and Familial Advisory/Explicit Content)

Hiya!  I'm already slacking. I suck, sorry.

So I've been trying the whole shut-your-mouth-and-open-your-eyes approach.  Hence the whole not writing thing.  I was getting the sense that maybe I was over-thinking things about the program and that was why I was becoming frustrated.  Therefore, I decided that I needed to stop analyzing and to just appreciate the novelty.  It hasn't really helped and I think my original instincts were spot on.  IES orientation blows. Well, it blew-- it's finally over, yaaay!!  I felt like they were sucking the excitement and adventure out of everything.  (Buncha wet blankets, those fuckers.)  I have to say it is a STRUGGLE trying to maintain the same thrill and desire for adventure that I felt so strongly coming into the trip.  The program is organized in a way to make everything feel so safe and cozy- close to home.  I came here to get away from home!!  I feel like they've put me in this Americanized bubble.  The orientation process has succeeded only in giving me an outsider's perspective of the city, as the passive viewer of a culture and not the active participator.  Can you believe that I've actually caught myself getting bored with this city ?? convincing myself that I've seen all there is to see??  Such nonsensical, unjustly jaded thoughts-- this is ridiculous!  How could I possibly be bored so soon??  It's only been a week, you idiot!  I have to constantly remind myself that it's not the city I'm bored of-- it's the IES hyper-simplified version of Barcelona that's making me feel this way.

Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed with the orientation.  IES needs to step up it's game, that's all I'm saying.  Thanks to IES, I effectively know what the city looks like.  Awesome.  I can identify a few key landmarks on a map and tie them to a few random, shallow historical blurs.  Woopdie doo.  So this was orientation in a nutshell:  lots so walking/feet dragging, lots of beautiful buildings, lots of random facts, lots of casual conversation (so what's your name again?  Cool, I'm Kaitlin... yea...), lots guided tours led by some IES fucker who doesn't even bother to introduce him/herself. Suddenly he/she will start speaking and I'm like, wait, who the fuck are you? since when were you with us? This whole time I've been clutching my purse for dear life thinking you were some persistent pick-pocketer.

Orientation effectively made me feel MORE like tourist than less like one.  Maybe it's all that walking around in big groups shit. It's really strange: I still don't feel like know this city and yet I catch myself thinking that I do.  Does that make sense?  I feel like a dumb-ass, cultureless, ignorant American floating around outside the borderlines of this rich, fascinating Spanish culture.  I'm looking in on a city and defining the general culture based on only the exteriority.  I haven't found a way to scratch the surface yet, to get to know the people.  So all I have to base my impressions on is what the city looks like.  I'm characterizing the culture based solely on the exteriority of the city.  Barcelona is so cosmopolitan and the commercial culture is very similar to that of New York that to simply look at it and walk the streets, I won't learn anything about it's culture.  I might as well be walking around Disney World.

 I need to talk to the people.  And I'm growing impatient.  Yes, IES, the architecture is striking.  That's why my mouth is gaping and I'm taking pictures like a frantic, tourist moron.  CLICK.  Ok, can we move on now?  Maybe go inside the building??  Maybe talk to the people who are working/eating/breathing inside the beautiful building???  I don't know, maybe SPEAK SPANISH WITH THEM?????  No, no, wait, I'm sorry, that's just going too far... Chriiiist.. I'm being a bit rash and impatient, I know.  I need to give it time.  Things won't be like this forever.  I will meet non-Americans soon, I know this.  But I'm tired of waiting because the more I wait, the more I think it will not come.

I want to immerse myself in this city and drown happily in Spanish culture.  This is the whole fucking reason why I'm here.  I didn't come here to replicate abroad an experience I could have easily had domestically.  If I'm going to live in this city, I'm going to live, eat, drink, dance, talk this city.  Fuck this IES Americanized snuggly wuggly safety nest bullshit.  I came here because I was TIRED of America.  I came here because I didn't want to do something safe.  I came here to be fucking challenged.  I came here to fall on my ass.  To cry.  To fuck up.  To find out how my pwetty little sheltered white girl brain adapts to jarring and challenging circumstances.  Get the FUCK out of the way IES.  And as for you, Spain-- BRING. IT. ON.

And now, after that fairly intense rant, your moment of zen.

 Whoops, wrong photo..

There you go..

I'll try not to be so impassioned and vulgar next post.  I understand it might become a bit exhausting. I'm not making any promises though.
Bye for now.  Love and happiness.  Butterflies and unicorns.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Post Number Dos: La Vie à Barcelonie

Hello again!!  I didn´t post yesterday.  And technically I didn't post today because it's now FOUR IN THE MORNING !!  My sleep schedule is all fucked up (This vulgar phrase deserves a foot note-- unfortunately, blogspot is not sophisticated enough for such accessories but alas..  Anyways, I apologize for the delicate ears.  I must say, you're going to have to just get used to this foul vocabulary if you wish to read further.  Because THIS BE MY BLOG and I won't be censoring myself for nobody. Pssshh, censorship, particularly self-censorship, can shove it :) )

Anyway... so, what was I saying?  Oh yea, my sleep schedule's fucked up.  I'm going to tell you why by recounting these past few undocumented days.  Let's see, so I left you off on January 10th.  Oh geez, there's soo much to say, where do I begin?  Chokay. So. Time travel to yesterday (Jan. 11).  It was a good day.  My first day of exploration.  I spent the first half, the morning half, trying to find a place to get my SIM card.  Correction: trying to find the Movistar store, in order to get my SIM card... We, and by we I mean my roommate Tiffany and one of the kids from a floor below, Collan (also IES).  The deal with him is that he's a student housing with my host mom's son, Miguel.  So, he and his roommate Zach have dinner with us every night because apparently Miguel can't/doesn't want to cook. ANYWAY, so the three of us had been walking around the neighborhood the night before like sketchy, insomniac Americans and we came across the Movistar cell phone store. I made a mental note to come back to it tomorrow. Check.  I didn't make the mental note of where exactly the store was.  No check.  For the life of me, the following morning, I could not remember where the stupid store was.  So, of course, instead of doing the rational thing and retracing our steps from the night before, I decided to just take a random direction and start wandering, under the assumption that I would come upon the store eventually. Stupid. Well, about 2 hours later, I found myself lost and sweaty with no Movistar store in sight, with a substantial hill standing between me and home.  But I got some nice pictures out of it.  I came upon the Jardins de Turo del Putget from whose hills, I had a great view of the city.

Barcelona is WAY bigger than I thought it would be.  It takes a while to walk places that seem fairly close on the map.  It has to do with the hills, I think.  The incline of the streets changes constantly and dramatically.  The hills here are steep and last forever.  Hence, the sweatiness..  I'm not sure if the rest of the city is like that.  The main area downtown I believe to be mostly flat.  Don't quote me on that.

I needed to get lost.  It helped me to become more familiar with the neighborhood I'll be living in.  However, I still have NO idea where I am in respects to the entire city.  Hopefully, that will change somewhat tomorrow (today) if I have a chance to explore some more after orientation.  I still haven't seen the sea yet.

Orientation officially started today (yesterday).  I liked it alright.  It seemed a bit pointless.  But then again, I was running on my lowly single hour sleep from the night before.  I don't think I'm going to sleep this semester.  I don't know how I dragged my zombie self to orientation this morning.  Out of sheer will (and a strong stomach) I got up and out of bed.  It's about a 20 minute subway ride to la Placa de Catalunya and then it's supposed to be no more than a 5 minute walk to the IES building.  But I got lost ('course) and only after 30 minutes of wandering did I finally reach the building.  I completely walked past the fucker and kept on walking down La Ronda de Sant Pere until I realized, ohhh, dees aderesses be goin' up, durrr.. ABOUT FACE.  I was pissed and tired and pissed tired.  But I made it.  Walked into class 15 minutes late and my Spanish teacher shot me a look (I don't even know her name. I should get on that.) and I'm feeling super about the awesome first impression I just made.  Two thumbs up, Kaitlin, two, thumbs, up.

I met some nice people in my Spanish class though.  They seem more grounded and interesting than the majority of the people in the program. I'd say the majority of the people don't know Spanish at all.  Nor do I think they came here with the intention of learning it.  They come from the Liberal Arts and Business sector of IES.  A lot of people I spoke to came here mainly in the interest in partying. I'm glad I chose Advanced Studies path. 'Course.. don't get me wrong.  I like a good party (why else do you think I got 1 hour sleep the night before? ) But it's upsetting that this is the America that the IES program is presenting to the people of Spain.  I'm not surprised that we have a terrible reputation in other countries.  To be honest, I think the IES program or at least this part of the program presents an unfavorable image of Americans to the people of Spain. I'm talking about the idea that Americans are a people who will not budge, but instead expect the world to change for us. Seeing this, I wish I had chosen a program that puts more of a priority on cultural immersion and one that incorporates community involvement and service.  AH, but here I go again.  Making these bold, definitive statements and it's only the first day of orientation.  Calm down, Kaitlin.  Cheer up, Nancy Negative.  Who knows what will happen with time.  Especially with taking classes at UPF.

Did I mention that as well as taking classes at the IES center, I'm taking several classes at the local public university, Universitat Pompeu Fabra? Yes, I just checked, I did mention that.  Well, the UPF orientation was also today.  The main building of the campus is BEAUTIFUL.  I'm falling in love with Spanish architecture.  It's so refreshing and enlivening.  I walked in and I was dumbstruck-- I, go, here??  Sweeeet.  All my classes are in Spanish.  I also have the opportunity to become involved in clubs and sports on campus.  Imma look into the theatre program, fo' sho'.... among other things, of course.  But I'm excited!!  I was concerned about my access to involvement in extracurricular activities which I saw as a good way to meet the locals.  They also offer what they call linguistic exchange programs between foreign and local students.  I really want to learn Catalan and I think this would be like the perfect way to do that.  Again, it'd be a good way to meet the locals.  Ahhh, I'm really looking forward to starting classes there!!!  They won't start until the 30th but I'll keep y'all posted.

So, yea, that was my day.  The UPF orientation didn't end until 6:30pm.  I didn't get home until 7pm.  When I finally did get home, I collapsed, woke up for dinner, and then collapsed again.  And then woke up at 4am fully rested.  Hence, the reason why I'm awake blogging at this ungodly hour.  But now, I'm getting sleepy again.  I should probably sleep for the remaining 2 hours I have before I have to get up again. (Clock check: 7am)  So, buenas noches!! 

*Please note that I apologize for the possible incoherence of the post.  Due to my sleepiness, I failed to reread/edit it.  But, I hope that regardless that this post entertains!

Thu-thu-thu-thu-thu-thu-thu-that's all folks!!  At least for tonight.  Good night!

Monday, January 10, 2011

I have arrived!!! (finally)

This here blog-- this is where I'll (try to) document all the stupendous happenings, discoveries and experiences during my four-- count 'em-- FOUR months studying, living, breathing, eating, drinking, dancing in BARCELONA.  Follow along and join me as I embark on an adventure of a lifetime-- how's that for a cliché, huh?

So I'm writing now from my new home.  It's a really nice place, located in the financial district of the city, a bit north of the central area of Placa de Catalunya.  The apartment is pretty ornate for such a small space but still tastefully decorated.  I have two other 2 other American girls living with me in the homestay, both from the same study abroad program.  I got the double (whomp..) but I'm still waiting for my roommate to arrive.  So for now I have the 100 square feet to myself-- awesome.  I did some yoga.  I'm feel a bit encased- I can't imagine what it will be like with another person in the room.  But it's okay, I'll get used to it.  After all, I have no choice.

The flight wiped me out, man, phew.  I slept a lot, more than I thought I would being cramped in a tight space like I was.  But I managed.  I slept for a good 4 hours until the flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I wanted breakfast.  I wiped the drool off my chin and told him sure.  He handed me a mysterious looking packaged bun.  I wasn't sure if that was egg in there, or cheese.  I didn't eat it so it just sat on my fold-out tray, sweating as it started to cool.  Dinner was a bit better though.  A nice array of individually packaged items.  I'm not going to lie,  I enjoyed it.  Mostly because I thought the miniaturized variety condiments were, adorable.

The hours I didn't spend sleeping I was pretty much talking to people.  Almost the entire flight was part of the same study abroad program, which was at once reassuring and kind of frightening.  I was like, shit, how big IS this program?  I had no idea there would be so many people, and all coming from the same place.  But the people I talked to were cool and came from all over the US.  They were super friendly and supportive and just as scared and excited as I was (am).

I'm pooped- my exhaustion has put a damper on my roaring exciting.  Imma sleep so hard tonight, it's gonna be great (like that's not what I did all ALL winter break..).  Then, I'm gonna wake up tomorrow, have a nice Spanish breakfast, and then I'm going to get my phone all set up, and then I'm going to go downtown and do some sight-seein' and then I'm gonna have lunch and then I'm gonna do some more sight-seein'.  It's gonna be great.  Pretty soon, I'm going to own this city.  Right now, this is not mine.   But by a few weeks, Barcelona will start to become a seamless part of me.  It will start to become a part of me, recognizable and familiar and Spanish will become second-nature, roll effortlessly off the tongue.  I'm really looking forward to that moment.  I feel like it might come quicker than I expect.  The city seems a bit familiar already.  I feel like I've been here before.  There was not the initial shock that experienced while visiting Paris.  I don't know why that is.  Maybe I just haven't seen enough of the city yet.  Actually, no, what am I talking about-- I've been almost completely surrounded by Americans all day, durr..  The shock of difference won't hit me until I finally go to the university, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, and take classes with native students. Speaking of which, classes start this week!!  Ooof, the idea of going back to school, regardless of where this said school is located, quiero vomitar...

Anyway, that's it for now.  I'll be posting more soon.  Along with some photos.  Stay tuned.

Love ya!  Hasta luego!