23 November 2010

Life Doesn't Settle Down

Routine is hopeless. Just as life is becoming less busy, it becomes more intense. My Spanish courses have ended, but my roommates decided it is time for me to learn Catalan and insist that I become accustomed to common phrases now to begin full immersion in January. Although I would like to understand Catalan and to have more exposure to specific Catalunyan traditions and history, I keep begging for more time to improve my Spanish. They argue it’s quite sufficient.

Of course, they’re right on both points, and the policy holds for all immigrants: Catalan helps integration and Spanish acquisition is nearly unavoidable given its omnipresence. I have some examples to illustrate these points. This weekend I returned to the Girona country villa where I was invited to celebrate Luz’s birthday, again with the group of friends who gathered for the cena two weeks ago. The ambiance had changed, as everyone had just seen each other recently, and perhaps my attitude had also changed. I was quicker to connect with individuals, who also made more efforts to address me directly in Spanish, and the topics of group conversation in Catalan seemed more accessible. I found I could get the gist, and I was more willing to interrupt to confirm and comment. We had a great time! I had read and worked all day in front of the woodstove and enjoyed relaxing in the evening in the amazing facilities Luz’s house affords: bar, group dining room, and dormitory with bunk beds. You can host great get-togethers when you live in a retreat center! The weather was beautiful, full moon included, and in the morning some people went mushroom hunting while others visited the horses…and of course we all cleaned up. I can’t overstate how nice it is to get out of the city.

Then yesterday I had occasion to prove my Spanish competence, despite ignorance of complicated grammar. I presented solo at the meeting of Rotary Club Barcelona Mar, which gathers every Monday in a beautiful hotel on La Rambla. Lunch was divine and the presentation was more an exchange that incited some interesting discussion about immigration, languages, politics, and economics. I was thrilled to connect so well with them, and they declared me a “guest of honor” and invited me to their Christmas dinner in a few weeks. Here is a photo of the cheery group:

As I mentioned at the beginning, routine is impossible. I finish two classes this week and enter into preparations for final projects, due in a few weeks. Most deal with designing studies or testing a certain instrument or method of analysis. In the meantime, I start a new class on content-integrated language teaching, for example teaching math in a foreign language. And also in the meantime, I’m using a long weekend to travel to France and visit old friends and old cities.

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