Thursday, September 19, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things

As my time in Barcelona is quickly coming to an end (honestly no idea how it has already been a WHOLE YEAR?!?!?!?) I decided I need to make sure to document some of my favorite things here that I know I will miss. From places to food items; there are quite a few things I know I am going to long for when I am finally back in the U S of A.  

Numero uno- The Boqueria
The very first time I went to this place I fell in love.  Honestly it is a little slice of heaven for me and I promise every single time I go I am just as exited as I was the first time.  It is a massive fresh market right in the smack dab center of the city right off the most famous road which you may have heard of ; Las Ramblas.  It is the perfect place to stop by (with coins in hand) and spend about 5-10 euros on freshly cut fruit, ham, fruit juices, freshly made tapas, piles and piles of sweets, lots of just caught fish, or honestly anything else you can imagine.  For a few months when I wasn't traveling much and stationed here in Barcelona it was a Saturday morning ritual to wake up (maybe feeling not really up to par from the previous nights festivities) and head to the Boqueria for a light snack/ meal/ juice/ whatever you fancy.  It is so refreshing and the atmosphere is one you cannot miss.  It is very touristy but also you can pick out the locals and see that it is truly a treasured place here in the city.  Before we moved into my place by the beach, we actually almost moved into an apartment about 2 minutes walking from the Boqueria and the first thing my roommate Lucy said was something like, "uh oh Jamie" I think it's probably a good thing for my wallet we finally settled on the flat by the sea :)

One story about the Boqueria that comes to mind that I must share is one that happened when my mom and grandma were visiting back in April.  As with all my visitors; one of our first stops is the Boqueria.. So of course I took my mom and grandma and of course they loved it.  Grandma was excited to "get fruit and save it for a snack later or the next morning" because I'm sure we had just ate before going.  Per her request we got some presliced mangos, strawberries, and who knows what else, bagged them up, set them on her lap (as she was being pushed around in a wheelchair by myself and mom; which is a whole different story to be explained at another time) and we were on our way to the next destination.. which was the mall.  As we were looking around in one of my favorite stores here we kept getting small whiffs of something not so nice.. But just figured it was a person who hadn't showered yet (which happens a lot over here) or something else of that nature.  As we are standing in line to check out we are all looking at each other and I can't quite remember but I'm sure it was grandma who said something along the lines of "what is that RANCID SMELL?" As we are all looking around for the culprit we shortly realize it is grandma herself and her bag of fruits that she thought she would be able to carry around for the afternoon without refrigerating them.  Mom stayed in line to get the purchases and I wheeled her out of the store as quick as possible to avoid getting dirty looks or stares as we smelled like a week old garage can that had been sitting out in the sun.  Needless to say we learned our lesson that we can not carry around already cut fruit for hours and we all got a good chuckle out of the scenario. :) 

During my last visit to the Boqueria I was the typical tourist stopping and taking pictures of every single little thing I could.. In hopes of taking you through a semi virtual tour of one of my favorite places in this glorious city! Enjoy!  

Número dos- durum de falafel 
Basically, I'm obsessed.  It is a wrap with falafel, lettuce, cheese, corn, tomatoes, other random veggies depending on the place, and the infamous white yogurt sauce and of course topped with picante (hot) sauce! There are little durum shops where you can get this very meal ALL OVER the city. Literally every corner.  However I actually have 2 favorites which me being the princess I sometimes am, will only eat at.  The first one I discovered is right next to the academy where I received my certification to teach English at and I actually (and kind of embarrassingly) ate this meal 5 days in a row on my lunch break.  I recently found another good one right by my house that is also very tasty.  You have to know which ones to go to however, because not all are good.  For example we heard about a famous durum place in Berlin called Mustafa's.  Let's just say we showed up it wasn't even a shop it was just like a little shop in a pop up building that you can pull with a trailer and the line was literally almost as long as a football field.  We opted out for paying a boy who was at the front to buy ours as well as pay for his so we didn't have to stand in line for 2 hours.  It was good but definitely not worth the wait.  If you are ever in Berlin though; I recommend going to try it out!  

Carlos makes fun of me though because he will be in the mood for a nice, sit down meal and ask me what I want and most of the time I would much rather prefer a 3 euro 50 cent falafel. :) 

Número tres- el mar
The sea.  I have never lived this close to an ocean in my entire life and it is glorious.  On an afternoon where I don't have class (English teachers' schedules are beyond whacky) its so nice to walk 5 minutes and have my toes in the Mediterranean.  Kind of like what I did yesterday :) 

Número cuatro- my job
I know I've said it before.. But I love my job.  I have had the opportunity to work for an AMAZING language academy outside of Barcelona called Manhatten. (Check out our website at the bottom of this page). They have treated me as one of their own, given me all the hours/classes they have available, allowed me to meet some AMAZING people (and children) that I will continue to keep in touch with even when I return to the states, and all in all given me the experience of a lifetime.  Literally.  I can't even explain how lucky I am to have landed this job (even before I was finished with my course to get certified) and also have hours and classes over the summer (to help pay for all my trips) when most other of the teachers were not offered this.  I make sure to put 110% into all of my classes and students whether they are a four year old little Catalan girl or a forty year old audio technician working for Catalunya's biggest private television company.. I alter and create lessons that are relevant and engaging for my students.  Some days we are looking at complicated topics such as the conditionals or when to use the present perfect versus the present perfect continuous where I am even stumped and have to really think about the "why's" and "when's" and give MILLIONS of examples.  Some days I am laughing so hard I'm crying (not at the student, with them of course!:)) and some days I'm pulling teeth trying to get a group of 17 year olds to say more than "yes" and "no" as I stand in front of them singing, dancing, basically looking like a freak trying to get them to enjoy and engage in the class.  Other days I sit with my students and we chat.  We chat about life.. We chat about their girlfriends/wives/husbands/sister-in-laws/children/bosses.. You name it.  But thats all we do; just talk.  Sometimes the entire class is based on me and I find myself speaking about my life, my views and opinions on specific topics, and who I am.  It is honestly amazing.  I don't think my students know but I learn just as much (or sometimes more I swear!) than them in a class.  Depending on if they are children or adults; I learn how to say words in Spanish (at least every day), I learn about typical traditions and cultural aspects of Cataluyna and of course Spain, I learn about the life of a Spanish mom and then compare it with and American mom.  I learn about the english language and why we use certain words when we do or what a phrasal verb is. I learn so very much.  And.... I LOVE IT.  Just the other day I was in class with my engineer who works for a big Catalan television channel and we were talking about the word "make" and ALL THE MILLLLIONNSSSS of different meanings, expressions, and ways you can use the word.  Now remember he is an engineer so he takes everything very literal and has to have a pattern or rule to follow for EVERYTHING.  I mentioned the phrase "that makes two of us" sounds easy right? No.  He replied, "wait so you are creating two people and then what.. I don't understand?" Taking the words for their exact meanings.  After I explained he understood and then taught me in Spanish it is "somos dos" which directly translates to "we are two".  So there you have it, me teaching him something and in return me learning in Spanish.  It's wonderful! I also love when I know I am actually teaching my students English and I know they are learning, retaining, and progressing.  It makes me happy when my students (who I helped revise their 50 page audio/sound thesis IN ENGLISH- for at least 4 months) come to me and say "I am so confident speaking in English now and know this 30 minute all in English presentation I have to give will go fine!" And then when they come back after the presentation and tell me they got an A plus plus (which I don't even know how that's possible) but needless to say it makes me feel like I'm doing a good job. Not only have I met some wonderful people but I have seen my adult students go from trying to get pregnant to getting pregnant (and me being the 2nd person she told!!) to watching her belly grow to now seeing pictures of the baby via email.  It has all together been such an amazing experience (every aspect of it as you can see) for me and I couldn't ask for anything better.  

Número cinco- the city, in general
I love this city and I have gotten very familiar with it the past 11 months and can kind of call it my home.  It was home to me as I packed my 2 giant bags and got on a plane by myself to go live and work (and keep my personal sanity being 4,000 miles away from all my family and friends) and I feel like I did it.  Of course I had obstacles, I had doubts, and I sometimes wanted to just be home but I stuck it out and here I am 11 months later.. now planning what I am going to be doing when I am home sweet home in just 35 days.  I am going to miss this city for obvious reasons (the beautiful weather, the beach, mountains, the great parties, the cool restaurants, etc) but I am also going to miss it because it reminds me and gives me the feeling of independence and strength.. the fact that I came all the way to Barcelona, Spain to live a year of my life in a whole different country by myself risking loosing relationships, missing big important family events (Christmas; which I have NEVER MISSED) or even smaller things like a day at the park with my niece and nephew, and being on the other side of the world makes me proud and happy to know that I did it well. And, without this city I wouldn't be the person I am right now, today.  I think I have grown, changed, learned, experienced, and realized SO MANY THINGS over the past year and I had this city to do it all in which I am so grateful for.

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