03 May 2011

A Few More Reasons About Why I'm Here

At times, when I happen upon an unplanned weekend, with no roommates in sight and no ideas in mind…I take it. Because even though it may seem dreary, at the ripe age of twenty-three, in the lively city where I live, to stay in Friday and Saturday night, I know it’s only a rest, and that I need it.

The call of schoolwork is relentless, that much you know. Now, as people inaugurate springtime and prepare for the end of classes, invitations come raining down as well. My Friday commitments included a Royal Wedding Brunch to celebrate the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Although I am not in the least a royalist, I played along with a classmate and wedding enthusiast who hosted the brunch. It gave me a good excuse to bake muffins and scones, sit around a pot of tea with friends, and toast mimosas. We were also accompanied by our token Brit, also a classmate, who added class and accent to our light-hearted gathering.

Saturday was a business day: I attended my host Rotaract’s meeting in the afternoon, which was followed by a short special-topics conference. The issue at hand was protocol and was lead by the president-elect of Rotary Condal, my host club this year. We covered scenarios from within Rotary, but mainly discussed points of business, international, and social protocol as a means of welcoming guests and making them feel comfortable. I can empathize with that: sometimes when I’ve arrived late to presentations because of my afternoon classes, I’m relieved to know that someone has already explained and apologized on my behalf. Some concepts were new, and overall the conference was a good refresher on what I can expect in my interactions and what others are expecting from me. Here, on the left is Luz, president of Rotaract Condal; and in the middle Señor Riquelme, president-elect of Rotary Condal.

Sunday was primarily dedicated to reading, but in the middle of the sunny afternoon, with hints of barbecue wafting up to my window, I gave in for a bike break. I just signed up for bicing, the municipal bike share program that complements bus and metro. It costs 35 euros for the year, and allows me to essentially rent a bike from point A to point B for free (for a half hour, but you can have it up to two hours total). It’s extremely easy to use: there is a bicing station just down the street from me, where I scan my card and pick up a bike. Then I ride down the bike line over to the beach, where I can pedal around for a few hours. Whenever my time is up, I return the bike to any of the numerous stations, sit on the beach for ten minutes, and return to check out another one. It is a nice escape from walking, which seems inefficient, and the metro, which can be very tiring.

In the evening I was invited to the Spring Festival of Hospitalet, one of the Barcelona bedroom communities, by one of my classmates who is from the area. We went to the tabalada, where groups of drum players march through the town square, and then watched the correfoc. The word means “the running of the fire” in Catalan and involves groups of people, dressed up as devils, lighting and spinning around with firecrackers. Kids, covered from head to toe with hats, hoods, scarves, and gloves, rush in and dance with the fire-devils, a bit like Fourth of July with devilry. The devils take off, group by group, to run through the center of town, and the drum players follow them. The whole scene is vivifying, and you can only imagine how it is for all the Catalan children that grow up dancing and running with fire.

This week I have an intensive course in Psycholinguistics taught by a visiting professor from Concordia University, Montreal. The class and his teaching have already proven excellent, and even though I’m not taking the course for credit, I’m glad to attend. What I find so inspiring about linguistics research is the continual discovery that every question I have ever pondered about language has actually been explored and expanded. Why don’t I remember things as well in Spanish? Why am I plagued by these weird switches between languages, when a French word will come out in the middle of a Spanish sentence, pronounced with a Spanish accent or formatted like a Spanish word? Why is it difficult to feel genuine in French when expressing emotions or opinions? Language is, in a phrase, so much more than a tool. Use it wisely and playfully!

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