The first of July caught me unawares, so today I decided to count the days.
It turns out five and a half weeks have passed, meaning 38 days, meaning only 24 days are left. Time is so slippery. At the beginning of the summer two months sounded like a pretty long time, and nine weeks sounded longer, but it turns out it's just 62 days and that's way too short of a time for a city like Barcelona. Now I am searching for ways to slow down time. Staying up later and later and sleeping less. Trying to be present on my walks to and from the dance studios. Reminding myself to leave the house as much as I can. Trying hard to avoid the internet, even though the news from home these past few weeks has been captivating.
Here are some of the ways I have been losing track of time, these last 38 days.
1. Learning Català
The Spain Study Abroad Program includes intensive language classes in Spanish or Catalan for two weeks. I decided to study Catalan, even though as a non-native Spanish speaker, I was advised against it (outside of Catalonia the language has little practical application and so most interns study Spanish). But I loved studying Catalan. It taught me more about the history and culture of Catalonia and helped me connect to Barcelona natives who feel strongly that “Catalonia is not Spain!” It’s also immensely helpful at Varium, where almost everyone speaks in Catalan when they have the choice. Even if I can’t participate in the conversations, at least now I can grasp what is going on. Also, I'm getting to know some Catalonian bands.
2. Basking in Barcelona. For FREE.
Barcelona is FULL of museums, and many of the museums have “free days”. Thanks to Barcelona, I am fully recovered from a bitter childhood aversion to museums. My favorite experience so far has been exploring a network of Roman ruins, literally buried under the city, at the MUHBA Museu Historia de Barcelona. It smells dim and dark and ancient, and my imagination was hard at work reconstructing buildings and listening to voices whispering from the 1st century, B.C.
From musicians on the metro to drum circles in parks to a free concert by the Barcelona Symphony orchestra on the beach at sunset.
Free green spaces
There are parks everywhere. Parc de la Ciutadella and a beautiful rose garden in my neighborhood are my favorites so far.
Is otherwise known as people-watching, and is my favorite way to pass the time.
Just going for a walk I am guaranteed to come across something gorgeous. Thanks, Modernisme.
I went to an exhibition of circus arts in a park one day. I walked on stilts, climbed aerial silks, watched graffiti artists at work, swung on a trapeze, and made friends with the inventor of the DapoStar, a whimsical fabric toy that looks like a star-shaped handkerchief and whirls like a flying saucer.
Here is a random collection of all these things and more.
4. Visiting Morocco
Last week, I went to Morocco. It’s so close to Spain but feels like a different world. I visited the coastal city of Tangier and then the blue oasis of Chefchaouen. I had my skin scrubbed off at a local hammam, a traditional Moroccan bathhouse. I fell victim to classic tourist blunders and paid too much for a shoddy “tour” of the Tangier medina upon arrival. I listened to the call to prayer, and the signal to break the Ramadan fast, resounding from the mosques of Chefchaouen while watching the sun go down.
I also learned a LOT more about Ramadan and marveled at the way entire cities can be on the same gruelingly disciplined regimine and still function. I tried two days of fasting, but couldn’t make it through to the end of either day without giving up and having some water. Needless to say, my compassion for the irate taxi driver on the last day was much higher than it would have been on a full stomach! I was most fascinated by the collective nature of religion in Morocco. I have never been in a place where religious practice—disciplined religious practice—was so definitively mainstream. I was in awe, even a little frightened, by the power of religion to shape the rhythms of the city, and the punishing self-discipline of the body. I wish I had more time in Morocco to meet real people and try to understand better. Being a tourist is a frustratingly superficial experience.
So, now what?
Now that I’m back from Morocco, I will be spending the last month here with heightened focus and intention. I want to dance more, and I want to see more dance. I want to talk to more people. And I want to spend more time on the beach.
My schedule is a little more fixed for this month, and the structure it brings is nice. I will help with the children’s camps at Varium every day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. In the evenings, from 8-10 p.m. I can take more dance classes at Varium: contemporary and hip hop with a variety of teachers. In between, I will cook food to save money, write, and brave the sticky heat to explore more corners of the city. On weekends, I think I will stay in Barcelona, continuing to absorb. I thought about making trips to other parts of Spain, but I can’t get enough of this particular city, and I don't want to leave!
Also, this month is the Grec Festival, a huge arts festival of theatre, dance, and music. I’m going to take in as much of it as I can afford, and then share some of it here with you.