Thursday, October 10, 2013

Final Thoughts on Barcelona, Part I (Spain)

This week marks 3 months since Rich turned in the keys to our Barcelona apartment. With some time and distance between us and the city, it's a fitting moment for us to reflect on our grand adventure there.

I had originally intended to blog about many aspects of settling into our lives there. But I held my tongue for a variety of reasons. It was really hard, especially that first year. Pinching our pennies  because we had grossly underestimated the cost of living. Sending out hundreds of resumes, and yes, pounding the pavement old school, searching for employment in the midst of the world's worst economic crisis in one of the hardest hit countries. Struggling with the languages, spending a fortune on Spanish classes, and ever struggling in Catalan. Knowing our families - and particularly my immigrant parents - would be our main and possibly only audience for the blog, I didn't want to worry them even more. And we were exhausted. Battling all day with a foreign bureaucracy (I'm pointing a finger at you, too, British consulate!) or bank or service provider, you come home confused, humbled, shaken, and possibly crying. Sometimes it was all we could do to muster our energies and try again the next day. So forgive the blog for only accentuating the positive.

As time went on, our situation improved, and we also just got the hang of things... It's ok if we forget to write our meter reading down on the sheet appearing on the front door to the building (or, as in one case, if I accidentally write down a number several orders of magnitude different!)... This is the corner shop that doesn't overcharge for fresh milk (since most people seem to prefer the horrific UHT milk)... Being able to sleep through the hourly ringing of the bells from the 4 surrounding churches, the relentless clanging call of the butano men one must hail to deliver orange gas tanks to your door (we dodged a bullet renting a place with piped gas), or worse, the drunk French tourists on the balcony of the illegal vacation apartment just outside our bedroom window... There were other aspects of everyday life I could have commented on. But Barcelona seems like the world's most popular place for attracting expats and there are even more Catalans. To presume my foreigner's observations would contribute anything different smacked a little of implied judgement of local norms or conceit, which, as an American abroad, I am conscious of the stereotype. So I stuck to a mostly tourist's perspective.

My further reflections will continue in the next post...

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