Goodbye everyone! I’m settled in in Barcelona and I’m not coming back.
I mean, who would have thought running in circles around an artificial reservoir wouldn’t measure up to running along Mediterranean shore? There’s a wide path hugging the coast, sandwiched between the beach on one side and a string of outdoor cafés/restaurants on the other, that’s always packed (but not uncomfortably so) with runners, bikers, skaters, roller-bladers, dog walkers, and the occasional scuba diver. The police also drive their cars up and down the walkway, chatting with people sitting at the cafés. The first time I saw one, I thought they was carting away a criminal until I realized the guy in the back was actually a third cop—I guess he drew the short straw that morning. Here’s the route I’ve been using so far:
One thing I enjoy about visiting foreign countries is how little differences can make typically mundane things (at least temporarily) interesting. Case in point: grocery shopping. First, the balance of products is different. What is there more of? Fresh bread and pastries (seriously, don’t go shopping hungry). Whole fish (I wouldn’t even know where to begin cleaning/preparing these). Iberian ham (which hangs behind the meat counter as entire legs, hoof and all). Olive oil (one side of an entire aisle). What is there less of? Peanut butter (in a store bigger than any grocery store I’ve seen before, they have only two brands, neither of which look very good). Baby carrots (here “less of” really means “none of”—if you want carrots, you have to peel and cut them yourself). Hummus (where’s my giant tub of Sabra??). Greek yogurt (hasn’t caught on here yet, I guess). Next, here you weigh and tag your produce before you check out—I learned this the hard way when the cashier sent me sprinting back through the store to weigh my bananas. Finally, something we could stand to adopt in the U.S.: you’re charged for every bag you use at checkout. Funny how suddenly it’s not so hard to remember to bring your own bags…
While we’re at it, let’s play the “less of, more of” game outside the context of grocery stores, too. More of: coffee shops (but not like Starbucks—these are smaller, offering just enough room for you to go in, order your coffee, and then sit down outside. And the drinks themselves aren’t so large you need to worry about small children falling in and drowning.). Small, dedicated bakeries and produce shops. Smokers. Voltage (I fried a power strip that evidently wasn’t rated for 220V—at least I had the sense to test it by itself before I plugged my things into it. For the record, I was aware of the voltage difference and had checked the power supplies on all my electronics to make sure they could handle 220V, I just didn’t think to check the power strip.). Less of: microwaves (wait, you mean I have to cook my leftovers again? Screw it, they’re fine cold.). Dryers (but everyone here has a balcony, and it’s been consistently sunny, so hanging your clothes outside is pretty easy). Smartphones (in use on the street, at least—yeah, people actually watch where they’re going). Free water (I only recall seeing one drinking fountain in the past week, and if you ask for water at a restaurant, it’ll cost you). Netflix (at least Spotify still works here).
I have yet to completely adjust to the Spanish schedule. Everything here is later: the workday starts around 10AM, lunch happens anywhere between 1PM and 3PM, and dinner isn’t until 9PM or 10PM (I usually given in around 7 or 8). Interestingly, it turns out there may be a good reason for this: geographically, Spain is in the wrong time zone. In 1940, Franco dialed clocks an hour forward so Spain would share a time zone with Germany. So, as far as the sun is concerned, the workday runs 9AM – 5/6PM and lunch starts at noon. (In 2013, the idea of switching back to the “correct” time zone was floated, but the government has yet to decide.)
Finally, I’ll end with two things: first, an apology for the absence of pictures in this post; they’re coming soon, I promise. (In the meantime, you can check Flickr for a small selection of shots I haven’t had the chance to write about yet.) Second, a tip: you may be aware that Google lets you call U.S. phone numbers for free from their GChat service; what you might not realize (I didn’t) is that this service is free even if you yourself are not in the U.S. Super handy!