KelsieGleason's Travel Journals

KelsieGleason Kelsie Gleason

  • 27 years old
  • From Illinois, United States
  • Currently in Barcelona, Spain

Visions and Revisions: Discovering the Culture of Barcelona

This journal will serve as a collection of my experiences, observations, and reflections over the next four months of cultural immersion in Barcelona.

First Impressions

Spain Barcelona, Spain  |  Jan 12, 2011
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            Today is the third day here in Barcelona. The flight was fairly comfortable and went by surprisingly fast. It was 15 hours long in total—8 hours from Chicago to Paris, a 5 hour layover in Paris, and 2 hours from Paris to Barcelona. We were completely exhausted when we finally arrived around noon, but we jumped right into activities and didn’t go to sleep until about 11:00 that night. I think getting on a schedule right away was the best thing we could have done though, because I didn’t experience any jet lag. I slept through the night and woke up ready to go the next morning.

            My host family is amazing! I know I’m biased, but I think we got the best homestay! I have a mother, Carmen, a 16 year-old sister, María, a 20 year-old brother, Hector, a dog named Tano, a grandmother, and various uncles, aunts and cousins that visit almost daily. There is always something going on, and I never have to look far to find someone to practice Spanish with. Tonight Hillary, Nikki, and I watched a soccer game with Hector. He’s pretty quiet but I want to get to know him better. I’ve never met a more polite 20 year-old boy, or one who smiles so much. He leaves the house early in the morning and works until 10 or 11 at night, but he never complains and his happiness is contagious.  I haven’t talked with María very much, but she seems pretty similar to 16 year-old girls in the US—fighting with her mother, going out with boys, complaining about school, etc.

            My first impressions of the city are that it is pretty friendly. I see a lot of strangers just stopping to talk to each other on the streets or to give directions. People seem very laid back and calm here, and you can tell who the tourists are pretty easily—the ones tightly clutching their purses to the front of their bodies. The biggest difference from the US so far seems to be that laid back attitude. I’m so used to everything being fast-paced and to operating under the idea that “time is money,” but I don’t feel the same sense of urgency here. The people walk more slowly, chat more, and just sit on park benches and enjoy life. They have long meals and sit and drink coffee together. Starbucks to-go is a foreign concept here.

            So far my biggest difficulties have been managing to eat so much food! We have huge lunches and equally large portions at dinner. The food is delicious, but I’m used to eating small meals and snacking throughout the day, so I just have to get used to the meal schedule here. It has also been pretty hard to find my way around. I at least know how to get to the metro station by our apartment, but beyond that I am lost. Hillary, Nikki, and I got lost for 2.5 hours last night trying to get home because we couldn’t figure out the bus system. We got on the same bus we had taken to Pl. Catalunya earlier in the day, assuming that it would make a full loop of town and drop us back off at our home stop. Little did we know, it drove us about 30 minutes away and then stopped. The driver parked the bus, told us the route was finished, and got up and left. From there we wandered for a while before finally finding another bus. That bus took us closer to our apartment, but still about 20 minutes away, so we found a metro station and 2 transfers later we made it home. It was a frustrating to be lost in a brand new city at night, but we got a lot of exploring done. Now we know a lot more of the city, so the adventure was worth it.

            Another big problem we’ve had has been fitting in. It’s pretty obvious that we’re tourists. The fashion is different here, the way people walk is different, and, obviously, the language is a big difference. My goals for the next week are to speak a lot more Spanish than I have so far and, hopefully, to figure out how to use public transportation to get to and from tours, school, and home without getting completely lost. Hopefully then I won't stick out so much.

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