La Extranjera

Just finished my first full week here in Spain and oh, what a week it’s been! After dropping the girls off at school in the morning, I have ventured into Barcelona everyday, exploring the winding city streets of La Rambla, laying on the beaches (I have never seen so many topless women in my life!), looking at the Cathedrals and Roman ruins (which are holding strong against the commercialism and industry built up all around them). Like a kid in a candy store, everyday I purposely get lost in the back streets, people-watching, eating 2 EURO bocadillos and gelato, soaking in the reality that I actually live here. Like many people told me before I left, there is every-walk-of-life here in Barcelona – French, Russian, German, Italian, Indian, Asian and the list goes on. I would play a game of standing in one spot for 5 minutes and listening to the languages around me, at one point I counted four as I listened to people pass by.

However, although Barcelona has been a marvelous city to explore, there is no doubt that I am definitely an extranjera. I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed as EVERYTHING is new to me, from the minute I wake up, to the moment I fall asleep – the language, the food, the train system, the city, the money, even the car I get to drive (I have been learning how to drive a manual for the first time in my life). Yesterday was the worst of all. I was attempting to go to the police station to get my official identification card to be in the country (they require us to go the “regional” police station which is way on the other side of Barcelona, so I had to navigate through a variety of metro stations). When I finally arrived at the police station, they told me I was too late and had to come back next week to get the identification card. Feeling defeated, I sulked back through the metro stations and at the very last station, my ticket get spitting back out of the machine. I went to the help desk and was questioned by “el policía del tren” because apparently I didn’t stamp my ticket correctly, and thus didn’t pay for one of the rides. I apologized and explained, in my best Spanish, that I was an American student, and it was my first week in Spain, and I was still learning the train system, and that I didn’t purposely not pay for one of the rides etc. I asked if I could pay the difference and the police officer starts writing me a ticket, he says “25 EUROS.” Feeling helpless and overwhelmed that I couldn’t explain what I wanted to say in proper Spanish, tears just started pouring down my face. I started to open up my wallet, which only had 10 EUROs in it anyways, which probably looked even more pathetic. The man looks at me and you can see the guilt all over his face, and after a little while, he opens the gate to get out of the ticket area and says, “Oh, está bien. No te preocupes. Tienes un buen dia.” I guess a young, cute girl crying is a universal sign for, “have a heart and cut me some slack,” no matter what language you speak.

So, needless to say I have been feeling a bit stressed out and rather exhausted – physically and emotionally. I had a bout of homesickness mid-week, missing friends, family, but mostly just familiarity. But, this is all part of the cycle of emotions when one decides to fully immerse themselves into a new culture. It’s new, and different, and scary at times, but I am doing my best to push through this “fight or flight” response…because I know it’s just a matter of time before I acclimate myself, make some friends, start speaking and understanding Spanish, and feeling more confident about myself. (I am reading Paulo Coelho’s, “The Pilgrimage” right now and he said it the best in the excerpt I posted yesterday. I love how he compares traveling to an act of “re-birth”….that is exactly what I am experiencing).  Moving forward, there is a lot I have to look forward to this week: school starts on Monday (4 straight hours of Spanish, Mon-Thurs everyday for a year…wow), I am joining the local volleyball team and have practice on Monday and Wednesday nights (they are super hard-core too, reminds me of high school, hopefully I will get my butt back into shape), I have joined a local group of ladies who take flamenco lessons on Fridays, and best of all, I will be dancing salsa for the first time in BCN esta noche! (finally)

Y la vida en España empieza….

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