Friday, June 4, 2010

You Know You've Lived in Barcelona When...

{{Es esta vida y funciona así: hoy aquí, mañana allí}}

  1. You more-or-less live in the metro and count on it to get you basically everywhere in the city. You have your home base metro stop; mine was Clot, with Line 1 (red) and Line 2 (violet) for all my transport needs
  2. You hate motos (motorcycles), both when you are driving and when you are walking. They weave in and out of every square milimeter of traffic like they had nine lives to spend. They also seem to go at least 10 km/hr faster than everyone else.
  3. Whether driving or walking, as soon as the other light turns red, you begin going. When a pedestrian, if the stop light is red, you start walking; when driving, if the pedestrian has a red "no walk" person, you're at least changing gear.
  4. While waiting to cross the street, you always stand part-way out into the street to see if there's a car coming or if you can cross now now now
  5. While on the metro, you start pressing the door button or open the door handle the second the train enters the station, even though it won't open until the train stops. You also feel a great anxiety to be the first to press the button, and you feel personally culpable if the doors don't open the second the train stops, like you didn't press it well enough
  6. You always say "Adéu" when you leave a locale, even if the entire time you were speaking in Spanish
  7. You find words of Catalan slipping into your everyday Spanish. Some of my main culprits: "mica"/"miqueta", "molt bé", "trucar"/"truca'm"/"trucada", "bon dia", "adéu", "sortir"/"sortida", "tornar", "arribar"/"arribada", "museu" (respectively "poco"/"poquito" (little), "muy bien" (very good), "llamar"/"llámame"/"llamada" (to call/call me/a call), "buenos días" (good day), "adios" (goodbye), "salir"/"salida" (to leave/the exit), "regresar" (to return), "llegar"/"llegada" (to arrive/the arrival), "museo" (museum)).
  8. You can easily sleep through the sounds of sirens, garbage trucks, yelling revelers, and constant road traffic no matter what the hour
  9. You own a black motorcycle-style jacket. Bonus points if you have more than one, and more bonus points if the others are in different colors as well
  10. You both love and hate Las Ramblas
  11. You use l'Fnac as a place to meet people so you can browse the books if they run late
  12. You love sitting in Plaça Catalunya and people-watching
  13. Even if you don't really follow football (aka. soccer), you love Barça matches and ruthlessly cheer on every goal against the opponent
  14. Dinner is way too early if it's before 10
  15. After every meal you drink a little coffee (tallat/cortado; small espresso with milk). You basically just drink coffee always, and you expect it to always be excellent, even from the little corner bar
  16. You know that if you want to do anything out in the evening, before 10 is too early
  17. Pa amb tomàquet is the perfect snack always.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Adéu, Barcelona

{{Y daría, tantas cosas daría, sólo por que este mundo no girara tan deprisa}}

That unfortunate time has come again where I have to say goodbye to an amazing place that has found a way into my heart and marked me after months of living in it, for tomorrow I leave Barcelona and return to the States. My time here since January has been amazing, full, flew way too fast, and helped me appreciate and become a part of yet another completely different culture. Barcelona is certainly not Urubamba, and neither one is Portland! But they all share small similarities that I delighted in finding as I make my way between the three cities that are now "mine". I met some truly amazing people here, people that I will be able to visit both in the States and abroad, and I was lucky to spend several quality months as part of Guillem's family, listening to them talk in Catalan amongst themselves (and learning their language myself), traveling with them to see other parts of Europe through their eyes, and learning how to make Barcelonan paella.

And I don't think I could have been luckier with my choice of city. Barcelona is incredibly beautiful, blessed with creative, modern architecture on every corner; I never tired of gazing up at the decorative iron railings and unique buildings everywhere I went (from simple touches to a grand madman's invention that is la Sagrada Família). I've fallen in love with the way Catalan and Spanish are both used here, in passing clumps of people speaking one or the other as I walk anywhere, and am proud that I now understand and can respond in kind. I'll miss the fantacism for Barça, the commentaries on TV3 that make fun of the politics of both Spain and Catalunya, being able to walk down to the beach whenever I want, then turn around and enter a free contemporary art exhibit at CaixaForum.

I have completely fallen in love with this city, and, compared to everywhere else that I visited in the south (all beautiful, with amazing history and people), it is still my home. I even breathed an internal sigh of relief as my train pulled close and I could see the Telefònica tower on Montjuïc that let me know I was close to home. I know I will be back soon and I can't wait to see what my next Barcelona adventures will be. But for now, it's time to start looking towards the college part and readjusting to living in the US (dinner at 7.....what?! I eat at 10:30...I can't even be hungry at 7!).

No et dic "adéu", Barcelona, però "fins aviat". Gràcies per a tot, guapa, m'he divertit molt molt molt. Ets boníssima i bonica, ho saps, no?

Doncs res, ens veiem, sip!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tancant el Capítol de l'UB

{{Tu de què vas}}

Last Friday we had the goodbye party for all the students of Estudios Hispánicos at the Universitat de Barcelona. I wasn't quite done with the UB yet--I still had a test for Cine Español that afternoon and one for Historia de Arte Monday afternoon--but it gave a great symbolic close to the four months I've spent studying there. Throughout my time in Barcelona, the UB has been the only constant in terms of my classes. Differing French and Catalan courses have come and gone, but I have always known that several times a week I would walk or metro my way over to Universitat to learn more about Spain's artistic culture. Several of my closest friends--Alli, Marine, Lauren--have come from my classes at the UB, and I always feel a sense of great pride as I walk towards the great front doors of the Universitat.

To celebrate the goodbye, we all grouped in the Panorifam, a special room in the University that is only used for thesis presentations and special evening concerts. I had gotten to visit this spectacular room once with my art history professor, but I was completely as wowed the second time by the complete decadence and art inside. My professor explained to all the gathered Estudios Hispánicos students about the importance of the room. The right and left walls are covered in a series of paintings that depict important events in the history of Spain, uniting Muslims and Christians and Jews, scholars and kings, merchants and sultans, bringing together all the different facets of what makes Spain today. The far wall has paintings of two women, one representing the arts, with names of famous painters, composers, architects, and writers, surrounding her, and the other representing the sciences, with the names of such as Gallileo and Newton surrounding her. The room is magnificent and was a fittingly solemn place to say our goodbyes to our university away from home. My art professor wore the traditional formal professors' robe, which has been in use since the 1500s, and talked about the importance of the room and Estudios Hispánicos from the pulpit where the student delivering his/her thesis would defend it against the "Devil's lawyer".

After the ceremony we were invited to mix and mingle over tasty bocadillos and sodas. It was a perfect way for me to enjoy some last moments talking with some of my fellow students from classes and enjoy the atmosphere of Estudios Hispánicos one last time. Plus get a bit of free energy before my test!!

But my ultimate goodbye to the UB actually came this past Thursday, when I spent my last day with Alli before she flew back to the US. We wanted to wander around the gardens one last time, and what did we find, but a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in Catalan, right in the middle of the gardens. The students were obviously rehearsing for a performance that night, still cleaning up a few entrances and lines, and unfortunately we arrived towards the end of the play. But that, however, didn't take away from the perfection of this particular play, in the language of Catalunya, for a final goodbye measure to our university. Only at l'UB would that happen, and only after living here would we be able to know which play it was after hearing only a few words in Catalan.

Adéu, l'Universitat de Barcelona, segura que ens veiem de nou algun dia. Només vull que no sigui molt temps!! Gràcies per a tot!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Flamenco in...Barcelona?! C'est la Feria d'Abril!

{{Yo nunca olvidaré el último vals}}

La Feria d'Abril is put on by the Federación de Entidades Culturales Andaluzas en Catalunya (Federacion of Andalusian Cultural Entities in Catalunya) to celebrate the annual Ferias that are held throughout Andalucia, the most famous being in Sevilla. In Andalucia, the ferias completely shut down the cities and turn everything in festivities, music, food, and good sherry, but here the Southern-style merriment was carried out only in the Parc del Fòrum by the Mediterranean shore.

The event was amazingly fun, even though it rained the entire evening I was there. The entire fairgrounds of the Fòrum is covered in small tents selling traditional Andalusian cheeses, sausages, succulent Pernil ham, fresh-distilled olive oils, sherry, and beautiful red wines. Some even gave away samples! (I had quite a bit at one cheese sellers' stall....but it was too good to just have one little piece!). There were also stalls selling traditional flamenco outfits, churro carts (though none will ever have a place in my heart like churro man in Urubamba!), mini-restaurants with absolutely amazing cheap food (octopus! paella! patatas bravas! ham! calamaris! roasted sausages!), and a memorable tent filled with herbs and spices to cure different ailments and make you feel better (I saw at least 5 different products advertising how to stop you from smoking, which are desperately needed here in Spain).

But the most important stalls were the larger tents with wooden floors that were specifically set up for flamenco dancers. In some, everyone sat back and enjoyed Andalusian specialty dishes while groups of professional flamenco dancers performed for them; in others, everyone, from smiling grandmas to energetic little kids excited to be up past bedtime, danced together in the middle, stopping every once and a while to refresh themselves with tapas or a glass of wine. The excited, festive spirit was contagious and I couldn't help but smile as I watched all the different couples dancing, celebrating their native heritage here in Catalunya. The dance is instilled into them from when they are young; it is so much a part of their culture that it is not a thing to be forgotten, but something that a moment inspires, gathering people together in a circle as they clap for a couple in the center, strangers before made compatriots by the rhythm and their dance.

If I couldn't be in Sevilla this year to celebrate the biggest Feria in Andalucia, I'm glad I got to enjoy a taste of the South here in my city! And soon I'll get to see just what Andalucia is like when Mom and I depart Barcelona for our Spain vacation next Friday.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Inside an Obra Maestra

Karen came and visited me last weekend and, with her urging, I finally entered one of my favorite—and most well-known—landmarks of Barcelona: la Sagrada Família. I had always been told that, because it’s currently a “work in progress” until we don’t really know when (current prediction is 15 years, but it looks like it will take longer, just like all architecture projects…), it wasn’t worth the 10 euros to enter. I even had heard a few “It’s just like any other church”-es. But I can definitely say, without a doubt, that all of those people are quite wrong

La Sagrada Família is an absolutely astounding architectural marvel inside, even though it is under construction, and you learn all about the historical and physical process of creating this obra maestra when you go inside. Yes, the fact that there is scaffolding everywhere inside and the noise and dust of construction is bothersome, but, a) I have yet to see a church in Europe that’s not currently en obras, and b) that in no way detracts from the masterful architecture that is to be seen inside the church. In fact, seeing what has already been done, what parts of Gaudí’s dream temple have already been completed, almost made me excited to see the scaffolding because I cannot wait to see what will come in the future years as they continue the work.

The thing I find the most interesting about the continual construction of la Sagrada Família is that now any architect who takes up the mantle of continuing to direct the project must be brave enough to attempt to insert himself or herself in Gaudí’s mind and try and understand the way this architectural genius worked. It is, in part, because of this that the project is continuing at such a slow rate, even though we do have so many more advanced architecture techniques than during Gaudí’s time. Many of Gaudí’s plans and maquetas for la Sagrada Família were burned or destroyed during the Spanish Civil War when the anarchists broke into his study on the grounds of la Sagrada Família. Fortunately they didn’t attempt to destroy la Sagrada Família itself because, as the story goes, one of them realized that Gaudí had died poor like them and therefore his church shouldn’t be destroyed. Because Gaudí was such an experimentalist with his architecture, he tried every technique that he used in la Sagrada Família in smaller forms in his other works. He often said he never would have dared to do the things he did in la Sagrada Família on such a large scale if he hadn’t first attempted them in various aspects of his buildings. We don’t know what other experiments he may have done if he hadn’t been struck down by a streetcar. La Sagrada Família could have a very different structure than the one we know today. It could be exactly the same. He could have completely new ideas for how to construct the remaining façades. Since la Sagrada Família was his grand masterpiece, the culmination of all of his work, he used his best and most inventive techniques in it. But, no architect today can say that he or she has the mind and exact thinking pattern as Gaudí to be able to recreate his ideas and extrapolate from there to form new ones to reshape the plans for today’s Sagrada Família. No one dares put their name and stamp on Gaudí’s masterpiece, and I doubt that if I were an architect I would have the guts to do it either! Working on the temple so changed one master sculptor that he became an extremely devout Catholic, just as Gaudí was.

When we went inside la Sagrada Família we got to not only see a little bit about the process of the construction and walk inside the spectacular forest-like congregation, but were able to go up the main towers to look out over Barcelona. Because of the construction, you can only go up the towers in elevator (and pay 2 euros more, but oh well, it means that I’ll get to see the finished Sagrada Família 2 euros faster!), but we were able to descend them by foot, exploring the connecting spiral towers along the way. It was absolutely magnificent, looking out over Barcelona from the birds’-eye view behind the dove-studded tree on the old façade. Knowing that I was inside one of those iconic towers and seeing how high I was, comparing that to how much even higher the central tower will be, looking down upon the continuing construction project, examining up close and personal the parts of the church that I had only ever seen from the ground, far away with my neck craned and eyes squinted to focus it better, was all astounding. In total we spent almost 4 spectacular hours exploring all the nooks and crannies we could of la Sagrada Família, and I would call them four very well spent hours with 12 well-spent euros to attempt to get inside the head of this masterful architect and come to a more personal understanding of his most personally valued project.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Roses, Books, and Catalanisme: La Diada de Sant Jordi

{{Por eso esperaba, con la carita empapada, a que llegaras con rosas, con mil rosas para mi}}

Friday, April 23, was the Diada de Sant Jordi, or Saint George's Day in English, one of the most important holidays in Catalunya. Sant Jordi is the patron saint of Catalunya, and they go truly all-out to celebrate his day. According to the legend, there was once a town that a dragon descended upon and began to ravish. To placate the dragon, the inhabitants agreed to hold a lottery to sacrifice a person to the dragon each day. One day the name of the princess, who was loved by all the inhabitants, was called, and because the king was a just man and the princess brave, they refused to let another be sacrificed in her place. But as she stood waiting for the dragon to come and take her away, Sant Jordi arrived on a white horse to fight off the dragon (some say the dragon first carried away the princess and Sant Jordi rescued her from its cave). When Sant Jordi slayed the dragon, the most beautiful rosebush ever grew from its blood, and Sant Jordi gave the princess a rose before riding away. For this reason, one of the traditions of la Diada de Sant Jordi is for all men to give women a rose (mainly for couples, but good friends do this as well).

The tradition of giving books arose as an idea of a bookseller in the 1930s, who promoted this as a special day to sell books because both Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the 23rd of April. Traditionally women give men books, but that has also changed, with people buying books for their loved ones in general, or for themselves. The great majority of Catalunya's book sales occur the 23rd and the days before Sant Jordi. Stalls selling books and roses are set up all across the city, with the highest density (and prices) concentrated on Las Ramblas, authors sign books at all the major bookstores, and everyone gets into the spirit of reading and giving.

One reason that Sant Jordi is such an important figure for Catalunya is that he, in a way, represents the fight of Catalunya against Spain itself, in terms of preserving its culture, traditions, language, and national pride. Sant Jordi represents Catalanisme, the struggle of the small power against the large.

Las Ramblas was the most crowded I have ever seen it, a complete flood of people holding roses and browsing booksellers, music, smiles, and festivities. Even though Sant Jordi is not technically a holiday day and people still have to work, most still find a way to escape from their jobs at least for a bit and enjoy the festive atmosphere. I enjoyed some of the famous pan de Sant Jordi, which is a small loaf bread made with stripes of cheese bread and bread with some sort of pepper, so that, if you cut it properly, it has yellow and red stripes like the Catalan flag. Mine was perfect because it had just come out of the oven when I bought it and was perfectly warm and soft inside with a lovely crunch on the crust. I wish they made it the rest of the year too!

For la Diada de Sant Jordi, the government of Catalunya opens two major government buildings--La Palau de la Generalitat and the building of the Ajuntament--to the public to walk through and gain a better understanding of what is behind the walls of their government buildings. I went in both of them and they were absolutely stunning. The Ajuntament, where the offices of the governor of Barcelona are located, along with other official offices, was an absolutely stunning building; ornate, richly decorated, with priceless art covering the walls, beautiful painted scenes depicting the history of Catalunya or anecdotes about justice and truth. The Palau de la Generalitat was less impressive at first (more technical spaces with places for the press and for meetings of the Generalitat de Catalunya), but as we wandered further we discovered great rooms with statues and paintings and carvings of Sant Jordi (I found 15, and I'm sure there are more), and then later a gigantic chapel with magnificent paintings of monumental moments in the history of Spain and Catalunya (such as Columbus' reception by Ferdinand and Isabella after discovering the Americas).

I had a great day wandering and enjoying the spirit of la Diada de Sant Jordi all day Friday. There were readings of Don Quixote in cafes, spirited dances of the Sardana in plazas throughout the city, and general celebrations of love, reading, and all that makes Catalunya its own special nation with a pride and heritage of its own.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cubism's Creator

Image from:

Image from:

{{Porque su mundo es diferente}}

Last Friday I didn't have film class, so I decided it was time to pay the Museu Picasso a visit. The Museu Picasso of Barcelona deals mostly with the artist's young life and his development as an artist that led him to become more or less the founder and most well-known artist of Cubism. Picasso lived in Barcelona for much of his youth, and was a part of the "artists' gang" of Els Quatre Gats, a bar that was frequented by Rusiñol, Casas, and other modernist artists, poets, and thinkers of the late 1800s and early 1900s. He later moved to Paris, where he further developed his style and started branching into a completely new way of seeing that would become cubism.

The Museu Picasso was really interesting and a great way to spend an afternoon. The way that Picasso completely changed his style of painting is absolutely astounding; it's almost impossible to believe that his early paintings and his Cubism paintings came from the same person! He had an amazing creative talent and eye, even turning later to sculpture and ceramic work to branch out on his artistic efforts.

Everyone thought that the young Picasso would grow up to be an excellent landscape painter, but nothing else. But as he started to spend more time with the gang at Els Quatre Gats, they encouraged him to focus more on the human form, and as he began to explore it, he began to play with it as well, to play with perspective and lighting, deconstructing the form into its geometric parts. While beforehand the great search of art had been to perfect the placement of lighting, to make the art look as real as possible, almost as if it could move (like Velázquez's "Las Meninas"), Picasso did away with lighting and perspective, painting a face both in profile and from the front at the same time, turning the curves of a human shape into their basic geometric parts, expressing his view of the modern world with different colors for different moods.

One really interesting part was a movie and then several gallery rooms dedicated to Picasso's reinterpretation of "Las Meninas". He counted Velázquez as one of his great artistic masters, and decided to do a reinterpretation of "Las Meninas" for the current time. The painting of the 17th century was from a world completely different from the world of the mid-50s when Picasso created the series. He painted a total of 58 different paintings expounding upon "Las Meninas", including studies of different characters within the painting, in different colors, with different forms, some in black and white, some more geometric, some less, some more realistic, some less. It's an absolutely astounding body of work and pays a great honor to one of Spain's masters of art.

The Museu Picasso was a great stop on my Barcelona museum list and left me very amazed at what a truly revolutionary and talented artist Picasso was.