“Tu Spanglish es muy bueno” my Spanish teacher Carmen said to me today. Translation: “I can understand you, but you are making up some sort of weird Spanish/English grammar”. It seems that taking a seven year break from learning and speaking a language (one I barely mastered the first time) has done me NO favours whatsoever.
I am trying hard to speak only Spanish, but when I start to get a little over-confident and string a few sentences together in a restaurant or shop, I am inevitably answered by someone speaking fluently at their normal pace (i.e. incredibly fast). At that point, I unconsciously revert to my ‘stunned mullet’ look and they revert to speaking English. (Non-Australians - you will have to Google ‘stunned mullet’). I am hopeful that two weeks of language classes will do something positive for my memory cells.
After just over a week, I have not yet tired of exploring this gorgeous city under clear, Mediterranean skies. Although there are plenty of cities in Europe that have castles, beaches, beautiful architecture, parks and art, Barcelona is different. It’s more than just a city - it’s a place that lives life and welcomes you into its fold. It’s a feeling and it’s a vibe that is hard to capture in images but is shared by all those who visit. It’s a feeling that is expressed through music - from street buskers to professional musicians and it’s everywhere. It’s a feeling that I had tenfold when I was lucky enough to see a world-acclaimed Spanish classical guitarist performainside a small chapel in a century-old Basicila.
A few days ago I was taking an unconventional route to Park Guell and was a bit disoriented after exiting the train station. While standing there (again with the ‘stunned mullet’ look), I was immediately approached by a lady asking if she could help. Without hesitation, she left her friends and walked with me until we got to a street where it would be less confusing to navigate from. After not more than five minutes chatting in Spanglish, we were parting ways with a European double-kiss and a hug.
Today, using my ‘stunned mullet’/smile combination, the assistant at an information booth started smiling and laughing when he saw me approach. When I looked confused, he said (in English) - “sorry, you have such a beautiful smile”.
I love that total strangers in Spain can make me feel like I am instantly among friends.
So Barcelona, you might just be another city, the same as many others, but you are so very, very different.