Continuing my recount of my summer in Barcelona….
Once the plane landed in Barcelona, I had no time for fear or nerves. I was on a mission: find luggage, find my program counselors and get to my apartment.
I found my luggage without a problem but trying to find my way to the pick up area was an ordeal. I realized that a lot of the signs were in multiple languages (I expected that) but most of them were in Catalan. I didn’t know an ounce of Catalan. Catalan is the regional language in this part of Spain, and is a mixture of like French, Spanish, and Latin. But it looks hella similar to written Spanish. So getting the two confused at times, it probably took me 20 minutes to find my way to the pick up area.
Once there, I saw signs for CEA students (that’s the program I went through). I was relieved to find them and not be the last one there. The CEA representatives were shocked to see me in a cast (I had broken my hand three weeks before). We chatted while we waited for four more students.
Then, when everyone was there, they broke us up into groups. Barcelona is broken up into neighborhoods similar to suburbs here, but its all in one city. Our groups were determined by who lived where.
In my group, I would be living in the Sagarda Familia neighborhood and would be the last one to be dropped off. So the other three girls in my group were in adjacent neighborhoods to mine. The representatives then gave us an envelope of money for the cab (they also explained that you don’t tip them. The tip was already included in the meter reading – strange but good to know) and our addresses and apartment numbers. They said another representative will be waiting for each of us at our new homes.
My group was shuffled out of the airport and we crammed into the first cab in a cab line. The representative, in very fast and perfect Spanish explained to the cab driver what was going on and in what order to drop off us in. Then we were off.
I was jammed in the middle of the backseat of my first cab, watching this new world speed past me. We weaved in and out of traffic like cars do in spy movies.
The girl in the front seat was speaking with the cab driver. “Where are the best bars?”
“Near the beach, why?”
“I need another drink.”
The girl next to me whispered in my ear, “She was on my plane here, she has been drunk the entire time.”
I listened to the drunken nonsense pouring out of this girls mouth. The cab driver just nodded his head and fiddled with the radio every now and then. I saw building whirl by and morph into a downtown feeling of building pressed up against each other and green trees trying to breath in the metropolitan air.
Then all of a sudden, we stopped.
We released the drunk girl from the cab and sped away.
We all seemed to sigh with gratitude.
Soon, everyone was gone but me.
The cab driver asked how I broke my hand. I smiled and said I got in a bar fight with a crazy woman. The cab driver nodded and laughed, not sure if I was tying the truth or not. I wasn’t….
Then, finally, we pulled up to a squared off block. I asked my driver why all the blocks had this funny corners. He said it was to make it safer to be on the sidewalks.
He helped me unload my bags and I gave him the money. I saw my CEA representative waiting in front of the door and greeted him. My apartment was on the 4th floor which was really the 5th floor. They number there floor different here. So the first floor was like Floor Zero or ground level, then the next floor up would be the 1st floor, not the 2nd. Thankfully, we had an elevator in our building. My representative and I squeezed into the small lift and on way up, he explained that this building is filled with local families and is another way to just drop us into the culture. I was also the first to arrive.
He showed me around the small three bedroom apartment. Since I was first, I had dibs on rooms. I chose the first room which was closest to the door. Down the hall, from the door and my room, was a small kitchen off the right, it had a small stove/oven, sink, fridge, washing machine, and that was pretty much it. Then there was a large living room with a balcony with the most amazing view! The couch doubled as a futon for guests. We had a small dining table. Then off that was our small bathroom and two other rooms. The room next to the bathroom was a single room and the other had two twin beds.
I then found out my roommates were all girls. I bulked inside a little. I didn’t like living with all girls. Girls are mean and bitchy and high maintenance (I should know). But I smiled and said okay. One of my roomies would arrive around 5pm and the other two would arrive the next day.
Then he left me to sleep
I was grateful. I sent up my computer and used Skype to call home. My parents were relieved I made it in one piece and then I slept after being awake for over 24 hours.
I woke up when I heard the door open.
And then I met my first roommate, Bri. She was a petite girl with the most beautiful features I have ever seen. She had beautiful olive skin and dark hair. The photographer in me instantly wanted to ask her to model. But thinking that would be weird, I said hello instead.
I helped her with her three suitcases (yes three – I only had a carry on bag and a rolling duffel….). She was from LA and she was Jewish. She picked the other single room next to the bathroom (it had the larger closet) and I let her get settled in.
Once she was good to go, we decided to venture out into the neighborhood to get some dinner… at 7pm. Well us being Americans and unfamiliar with different food customs, walked all the way to the Sagrada Familia church before finding a place open for dinner. I kid you not. Eating at 7pm for dinner in Spain was equivalent to eating dinner here in America at like 4pm. We ordered Sangria (because I had never had it before) and the Seafood Paella. This is where we made another mistake. We didn’t asked for our seafood to be peeled…So when our dinner came out, it was staring at us.
The look on our faces at the faces in the paella made our waitress laugh. So if you are in Spain and get the seafood paella, asked for it peeled.
We talked and got to know each other. I think I bombarded her with questions about being Jewish and living in LA, mainly because I was genuinely curious – c’mon I’m from Wisconsin and am Catholic. Of course I’m going to be curious! She was surprised that my house had a basement and asked about my hand. I told her I broke it in a freak art room accident.
As it got darker, we ventured back to our apartment. The next day we were going to meet our other roomies and then the next day, our classes would begin.
The next day, I ventured out to get some groceries. I knew it would be cheaper for me to make food than to buy it and I had to watch my money. I was already in the role of poor art student, but when the exchange rant is 1 euro to also a $1.50, money will just fly.
As soon as I walked out of my apartment and turned left, I was inside a fresh fruit market. I bought a crap ton of fruit and vegetables. Most of them I knew, but there were a few I didn’t, including a white plum type of fruit. It became my favorite snack of my time there. They were a pale yellow color, their “meat” was white and sweet. they were the size of a grape, but had the consistency of a tomato. And it had a pit. But they were amazing!
When I asked about a grocery store, the lady smiled and gave me simple direction in slow speed Spanish. Thank god she knew I was a foreigner! I found my way to the store and bought bread, some lunch meat and pasta. I looked everywhere for milk and butter and eggs. I found eggs and milk, but they weren’t refrigerated. That terrified me. Why wouldn’t you keep eggs and milk cold?! I was too afraid to buy them, so I continued to search for butter. And failed.
By the time I got home, my other roommates had arrived. Ro was from Texas and was Indian, both of her parents were originally from India, and was trilingual. I marveled over her dark skin and hair. She was very pretty. Kylie was from Arizona was tall and thin and beautiful. We bonded over being sorority girls. She also was pretty. We all seemed to bond and it was a great start.
That night, after going to bed, I had this awful feeling in my stomach and equally awful thoughts floating around in my brain. I had this feeling like I’ll be the fat friend of the group, the tag-along annoying kid… Then I thought, What if I don’t make friends here?
I’ve always been the type of person to make friends easily. I’m fairly social, awkward and nerdy, but social. What if that worked against me – being nerdy. I already didn’t look like these girls. And I had a broken hand. I tried to shallow my fear, but it was hard. I reasoned with myself, if I didn’t make friends, at least I wasn’t afraid to be by myself. Then I got mad at myself, why should I let anyone rain on this adventure of mine! I’d be fine by myself! I could explore and take pictures and just be me and fuck the rest of ’em.
With that resolution, I went to sleep – fuck the rest of ’em.