Due to an extremely unfortunate two-week internet outage in my apartment, I have not been able to upload this post from 10 October until now. Enjoy a little belated update:
Today it’s raining in Barcelona, the first time a shining blue sky has not greeted me. I’m ready to stay inside, though, since I have a lot of class reading to work on. My four classes for the next several weeks are Bilingualism and Multilingualism, Research Methods, Tools for Quantitative Analysis (statistics), and Crosslinguistic Influence. Most require me to read and comment on articles in the field of second language acquisition, and some will involve projects like reporting on the linguistic profile of my home country, designing a research project in bilingual studies, and using a data analysis program.
I also began Spanish classes on Wednesday, taking a forty-hour intensive that puts me with other international students. It’s a helpful forum for asking grammatical questions that bug me in my everyday speech, the equivalent of asking the difference between since and as. My Spanish is functional and even better sometimes, but the classes will help me with vocabulary, comprehension, and definitely the subjunctive verb tense. (In English this would be, “If I were you…” and in Spanish it’s rampant.)
Although I just began classes, this weekend is a welcome five-day breather. Tuesday is a national holiday celebrating Spanish culture, although it seems some nationalist groups abuse the day to downplay regional cultures, a very contentious issue here in Catalunya. Many of the customs we think of as Spanish, such as flamenco dancing, bull-fighting, and ¡Olé! in fact reference Madrid’s Aragón and southern Andalucia. They’re not indigenous to Catalunya, whose regional dance is called sardanas and involves circles of hand-holding jiggers. The Sunday I visited Park Güell, I met some on the Passeig de Sant Joan. Another Catalunyan tradition is castellers, or human pyramids, which I have yet to happen upon.
Speaking of traditions, the Rotary clubs in the Barcelona district have a spectacular fundraising tradition for Rotary’s campaign to eradicate polio worldwide. Every year, the clubs have a blind tasting of cava, Catalunyan sparkling wine. The winner boasts the Rotary symbol, and a euro from each bottle sold is donated to the campaign. Last year the district raised over 13,000 euros from sales, and this year’s winner was announced on Friday at the reception and check-presentation ceremony. We four scholars in the district were invited to attend and enjoyed cava, pan amb tomate (bread rubbed with tomato and salted, also a Catalunyan specialty), and smoked ham jamón serrano while meeting the district governor and young Rotarians.
And from today, 25 October:
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to go to Berlin for the wedding of Susi and Nathan, two dear friends of mine. Susi taught German last year in the same high school in Brittany where I worked. Nathan is originally from Virginia and writes, plays, produces and records music. He sang a song he wrote for Susi at the reception, then we danced the night away to the 80's music most Germans adore. Also during the weekend I visited the German History Museum and its new exhibit on Hitler and German society, which portrays the build-up of Hitler's persona as an expression of societal desires of the time. Sunday was a perfect fall day to spend in Berlin's largest park, visiting segments of the Berlin wall, and eating a warm and filling German dinner. And now, back to Barcelona.