Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Package From Home

Caution: This is a long post with lots of personal thoughts and observations.

I don't have class on Tuesday, so I decided to go to a cafe and then go shopping yesterday. I live by some of the best stores in the city, and I decided that I hadn't done enough damage to my bank account.

At the cafe, I ordered a cafe con leche (coffee with milk), a croissant with ham and cheese, and then had ice cream for dessert. I have been drinking coffee here and really enjoying it. I am usually very tired and cold at the same time, so coffee is the perfect pick-me-up. Also, I don't say this lightly because ice cream is my favorite food, but I had the best ice cream I have had in my life at the cafe. It was strawberry cheesecake flavored, and I really can't explain just how delicious it was. I will definitely be going back to that place often. I sat on the second floor, and looked out over Plaza Catalunya while I ate. I felt very comfortable just being in the moment, and realized that I am becoming very independent while I am living here. I enjoy being with my friends here very much, but I have also learned to cherish my solitude because it allows me to reflect on my adventure and fully take in my surroundings. I remember feeling so alone at the end of last year when Brian and Jeff passed away within the same month and my apartment always felt empty even though I lived with two other girls. It was one of the worst experiences of my life, and I remember often feeling helpless. I now see that I have grown from that experience and have learned to be grateful for alone time.

On to a lighter subject: my shopping spree. I spent quite a bit of money yesterday, but I am also very happy with everything that I bought. I got a pair of shoes from El Corte Ingles, and they are honestly the best pair of shoes that I have ever owned. They are flats and have a floral pattern with brown accents. They are so comfortable, and I absolutely love wearing them. I also bought a very cute, pink watch. I have an inexpensive one, but I wanted one that I could wear on a daily basis and that went with a lot of my clothes. I have had my eye on bigger watches for about a year now, so I was very happy about finding one that I like. After El Corte Ingles, I went to Zara and looked around for awhile. I wasn't seeming to find anything until I looked up and saw a gorgeous orange, spring coat. Yes, that now means that I have four coats here, but it was only fifteen euro, and it fit perfectly. I just couldn't pass it up. Last, I went to H&M because I wanted to find a pair of black pants. I ended up also finding a pair of tan pants and a cute striped shirt. Each item was under 10 euro, and they are things that I did not have. I wore the black pants out last night with the pink blazer I got from H&M a few weeks ago, the striped shirt, and my shoes from the Gap. I was a big fan of the outfit and so happy about my purchases.

Last night, Danni, Alejandra, and I went out to Temple Bar. I was looking forward to a relaxing night of just sitting with friends and drinking a beer, but it turned into a little bit of a mess. We were sitting on the second floor, drinking our beers and talking when all of a sudden a man came up and asked us where the bar was. It seemed like a strange question because the place is not very big at all, but we didn't think too much about it. Then, a few minutes after he had left, Danni realized that while the man was asking where the bar was, his friend was taking her purse from the small shelf it was laying on. We tried to go to the police office, but when we got there they told us that Danni needed her passport, which was safe in her apartment, to get help. We went back to our apartments, and Danni took care of everything this morning. The good news is that the man didn't get her passport and that she canceled all of her credit cards before the man could do anything with them. Also, we are all safe and have learned a lesson to be more careful.

I got back pretty late last night because of the circumstances, and I had to wake up at 8:00 this morning. Needless to say class was a little rough, but I needed to be there for Danni, and I do not regret staying. This semester is really different for me because, while I am not being lazy, I understand that school is only a part of this experience. Yes, I need to do my work, go to class, and do the best that I can, but studying abroad is about learning from experience. I don't want to pass up time with friends or time exploring the city just because of class. I am okay with being tired in the morning if it means that I will get to spend time with friends and experience something new. This trip has gone by so fast already, and I don't want to deny myself any unforgettable memories. Before I know it, I will be headed back to America to work in an office all summer. I will be saying goodbye to the people and city that I love so much and moving back to my life in Indiana.

Speaking about America, today I realized that I often feel more comfortable in Spain than I do in the United States. Prepare yourselves for what may sound pretentious, but I often feel more alienated in a group of all Americans that I do in a group of all Spaniards. At the Super Bowl Party, I spent most of the time feeling out of place and uncomfortable because I just realized people being extremely rude. For example, at one point a stool had been empty next to me for a half an hour and I asked if I could sit there until the person came back. The person I asked responded by saying "No, if you wanted to sit you could have gotten here earlier." It was just shocking to me that he wouldn't even let me sit down for one minute. It's true that these people are not a representation of the entire country, but they definitely are not helping to stop the stereotypes of Americans. Everywhere I go, people are shocked that I speak Spanish and that I know even just a little about the culture in Barcelona. It used to almost offend me when people would try to explain obvious things to me, such as the language in Catalonia is Catalan, and not Spanish, but now I understand why they have the perception of the uninformed American college student. I don't mean to say that if you don't know that Catalan is the language in Barcelona that you are like the people that I met at the bar. Bluntly, that information has little to no significance in Bloomington, Indiana. What I do mean is that I really wish that people who are studying abroad here looked at Barcelona as more than just a place to party because this city has so much to teach about life. Yes, going to the bars here is wonderful, and I have made many great memories during my nights out, but I don't think that my experience would be the same if I trapped myself in my American bubble. It isn't really studying abroad if you only surround yourself with familiar things. I am grateful for the differences in life here and can feel myself growing as a person the more I reach for the unfamiliar. This is one of the greatest learning experiences that I have ever had, and I am so grateful that I am here.

That being said, there are certainly things that I love dearly and miss in America. Today I got a package from my parents. There were valentines to pass out to my friends, friendship bracelet string, candy, bubbles, and letters from my parents and grandma. Can we be honest for a second? I have the best family in the entire world. I am so grateful for the way that I can tell they care about me so much, even though I am an entire ocean away. I still think about them all the time and look for places to take my parents when they come, and it is nice to know that they think about me just as much. I definitely would not be here if they had not encouraged me along the way. I haven't been able to talk to my sister, Jessica, very much yet, but she is just as much an influence as my parents and grandma are. She is the one that told me that I had to come to Barcelona, and because I admire her opinion so much (this is not sarcasm, my sister gives some of the best advice I've ever gotten), I decided to come. There was a point when I was terrified to leave home and almost didn't come because I was so scared I would get bad grades, but they encouraged me the entire time and showed me that they have faith in me. I am very grateful for my wonderful family.

I also miss my roommates and the IU swim club very much. They both helped make this past semester one of the best ones that I have had in Bloomington, and I can't wait to spend more time with all of them next year.

This is cliche, but, lastly, I am grateful for Jason, my boyfriend. I can't wait for my friends here to meet him because I know that they will all get along so well. Next year really is going to be the best year ever in Bloomington. I will be spending so much time with Jason, my friends from studying abroad, my roommates, and the IU swim club. I don't really think that I could ask for more.

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