Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hola Barcelona! : Paradisical City, Delicious Food, Spanish Slowness & Setting up My New Life

Hola, Barcelona!  It's been almost a month since Kiara and I left Oxford, England and made the move to Barcelona, Spain, so I can pursue my PhD here. Getting an internet connection in Spain is ridiculously slow (surprise...), so I'm living off the my generous neighbour's Wifi connection until Vodafone decides what day "mañana" actually is.

Remember my Hiya, Oxford! post from 2012? Here is the Barcelona version, in which I describe my first impressions, obstacles, and waves of culture shock arising from moving to a new country. Despite the fact that I'm incredibly grateful to call this city home, there have been quite a few challenges:
    Barceloneta Beach
  • Moving somewhere where you do not speak the language is an immense challenge. Thank goodness for intensive study abroad language schools! I've paid for 8 weeks of 20 hours a week of Spanish class. That should get me (supposedly) through the B1 level (lower intermediate). At the moment, although I can understand bits, once they start speaking at me rapidly, I'm just lost. Especially if they're speaking Catalan. I'm even going to put up mini sticky notes in my house labeling items in Spanish (and in French so I don't lose my vocabulary)
  • Misinformation is the norm.  This is my biggest annoyance here yet.  "Go to this office". "Fill in this form".  "Oh, wait, no, that one".  "Why did they tell you to come here? You should go there (all the way across town). Tomorrow. Because everything only opens between 10 am and 1pm." Even the information the consulate gave me in Toronto was not correct - To anyone getting their NIE card - go to the National Police (Comisario) and book your appointment online here. The other two police divisions (Guardia and Mossos d'Esquadra) will have no clue what you are talking about 
  • Slowness- It's not just a stereotype! The amount of time I have spend the last four weeks in government and university offices (and queues for the same) is ridiculous. Just on Monday, I waited 3 hours for my 1:30 "appointment" to hand in documents for my residency card. I pick that up in a month (at a different office).  I am not even officially enrolled in the university. The "doctoral stamp" just came on Friday, so now I have to have my supervisor fill out one more form. Applying for grants the last couple weeks has been quite a similar experience....*breathe*....

So, what about all the great stuff? 

  • Opening hours - Yes, most things close for siesta (2pm to 5pm), but that means they are open late! I live in a very safe neighbourhood and people are always up at 11pm or midnight.
  • The People! -  They are SO friendly. Even though I'm speaking a very beginner level of Spanish to them
  • The Food! Even as a vegetarian, I have been enjoying the tapas! Pimientos padron, tortillas (omelettes) and patatas bravas are a must try!
  • The Beach! - I live in a city with a beach!!!! 
  • The Second Language Acquisition environment!  (That's what I study in Applied linguistics, so it's amazing to me that I am here in that position myself)
  • My Home! I live very close to the part of the city (La Bordeta) that turns into suburbia (L'Hospitalet). This means that I'm 7 metro stops from the centre of the city, but also a 10 minute walk (the other direction) to a massive shopping mall and IKEA
  • Kiara will be allowed on the metro next week! (It's official .... Barcelona transport has decided dogs are allowed on metros from October 1st! Yay!!!!) They are not allowed on intercity trains though. Now, if only I can find a way to get here to Can Jan Resort's Aquapark with her!

Check out my slideshow of my lovely new apartment (all furnished and decorated when I arrived), and a couple snaps of the city. (Remember to click "Show Info" if you want to see the descriptions). Hola, Barcelona!!! I can't wait for our 3 year adventure together!

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