I arrived today, jetlagged and nervous, in Barcelona, Spain. I had no idea what to expect regarding customs or culture, and I do not speak a words of Spanish. It feels different. It looks different. It smells different. Everything is different.
In the taxi from the Airport to Sant Cugat, Catalonia this morning I saw the strangest thing over the Mediterranean Sea. It was a wall of clouds filled with lightning and very self-contained and right along the shore line. The day was otherwise nice all around it as the sun came up and nobody seemed to notice. Had I known a word of Spanish (or Catalan) I would have shouted “STOP” and grabbed my camera. And the cab driver would have heard me because there was no Plexiglas between us. I’ll be better prepared the next time. Strolling through the Placa, graffiti and arched windows with beautiful flowers boxes seem to coexist nicely here but I did need to be cautious as I was admiring them because people randomly drive on the sidewalk. And, again, nobody seems to notice. Women, such as me, who are beautiful in our own 40-something way with extra curves in the right places are not ridiculed for wearing leggings, boots and a short sweater. We are not made to feel fat or embarrassed. In fact, we are invited to dress this way. The men hiss at me rather than whistle which takes a bit of getting used to. The women, on the other hand, shout at me for no apparent reason. Coke comes in a tiny glass bottles and don’t taste like it does in the States. It’s the good stuff for sure and one is plenty. There is no peep hole in the hotel door and you actually have to trust that there is a decent person standing on the other side when you open it. Restaurants close at 2pm and re-open at 8:30pm which is considered Spanish dinner hour and is allowing me time to write this after all. I still don’t understand the bidet in my hotel bath. It frightens me. But at least I won’t lose my room key as it is required to rest in a slot by the door in order for the lights to work. Bakeries are the loveliest thing I have ever seen or smelled but I haven’t found the courage to go in and order yet. The menus are strictly in Spanish and do not make allowances for English-speaking people as we might in reverse. This is Spain, after all. Men stroll with their babies during the resting hours of the afternoon when everything else is still. Nobody is hurried. People make eye contact. They greet with a smile. And they say goodbye with eyes closed and a hug that lasts a full five seconds longer than any I have received recently. And lovers. Well, that’s just something I never imagined. They are truly and dearly thrilled to embrace as if they genuinely love. And it makes me giggle like I’m getting away with something just watching them. Everything is different. And it gives me hope for my own future to find a peaceful place like this to live.
As I sat in in the Placa Octavia near the Reial Monsestir de Sant Cugat listening to the rich monestary bells which are hundreds of years old, this reality struck me. Everything is different here but the pigeons. They are about the only constant I can see. They still strut about the square just as they do in London…and Paris…and Turino…and New York…and Chicago…and, and, and. But here they travel in smaller groups, at a slower pace, without as much angst somehow knowing that there is an abundance of breadcrumbs from a lovely bakery just waiting for them ~ when they get around to collecting them. Just as these lovely people do.