Notes from Barcelona

This is an actual thing that I saw!

So, Barcelona? Was kind of excellent. Both for reasons I expected (it’s Europe), and reasons I didn’t (I really liked not being the translator anymore). Because I’m terrible at keeping track of things in a linear fashion (particularly when on enough Senegalese sudafed to take down a small horse, because—of course—I’m sick again), here is a set of things that I remember from the trip, in no order except for the one my brain tosses them out in.

The last night we got dinner, we went to a tapas sports bar, which combined two of my favorite things—tiny food and cute waiters—into one. The tapas were served in what is apparently a standard fashion there. Partially to make things easier for the bartender and partially to make it so that the drunk people/me eat lots of tiny things, all of the tapas are the same price. You grab as many as you want and when you pay, the waiter counts the number of toothpicks on your plate. Clever! Delicious! One of the tapas available at this particular bar was basically two inches of cream cheese with jam and toast, which is in no way authentic but is in all ways delicious. So that was awesome.

On the cute waiter front, the guy who took our drink orders was a) maybe 19 and b) learning job-specific English in an excellent fashion. He, like everyone in the Barcelonan service industry, as far as I can tell, spoke perfectly good English. However, he had apparently not heard many people order “cider” in English (I’m better at consuming fermented juice than I am at learning Spanish), and so as he wandered away he was muttering “cider” to himself in order to memorize the English pronunciation, as far as I can tell. Adorable? Adorable.

Because I did not inherit the “appreciate all the art” gene from either side of my family, I had no idea that Barcelona was home to Gaudi. For those of a similarly plebeian bent, let me show you his things. Now remember, this guy was operational in the late 1800s/early 1900s. His buildings look crazy today, but they must of looked like something out of an acid trip then. We visited several, including Sagrada Familia, his cathedral. It’s still being built—they’ve been building for over 100 years. They hope to finish by 2025. Sagrada Familia is a great representation of the kind of Christianity that I do like—it’s less “sit down and suffer” than the medieval cathedrals, and more “Look, guys! Look at all the stuff God made! Isn’t it great?” There’s something nice about being in such an enthusiastic building.

Dakar rubbed off on my mother. When attempting to buy a FC Barcelona shirt from the souvenir guy, she had an exchange that went like this:

Mom: How much does this cost?

Guy: [Too many euros.]

Mom: Would you take less?

Guy: … Okay.

She bargained a souvenir guy down. This was not even a thing I knew you could do!

Our last night in town, we stumbled into a public square where elderly Spaniards were dancing folk dances with a full band playing them on. Behind them was a cathedral that is older than my country by a good 500 years, which—as an aside—has people of “distinguished guilds” buried in its floors. It was a weirdly excellent way to end the trip in a way that made me question whether the whole thing was an elaborate flash mob dedicated to making me really bummed out to be going back to Dakar.

Which I was, for a little bit, when I got on the plane. I teared up, totally weirding out the burly Senegalese dude sitting next to me. But I got over myself pretty quickly, and the adjustment has been fine, minus my cold, my weird hot flashes that I really hope don’t represent malaria, and my irritation and coming back to the land of Dirty Feet, All the Time. I haven’t even gotten that many warnings from the state department about my presence here for the week! Things are looking up.

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