Welcome to the one where Spain is Barcelona, but Barcelona is not Spain! A bit of complex politics to start us off today, but there is a lot of tension about whether or not the autonomous region of Catalonia — of which Barcelona is the capital — should become its own country. Mainly because many Catalonians believe that due to their different language (Catalán), perceived own history, and separate and unique culture, they deserve to be their own nationality. So rule #1 of being in Barcelona: don’t mention that you’re in Spain!
I’ve been here for about two and a half weeks now, with the end of the program coming up fast. I absolutely adore Barcelona. Coming from Southern California, a region colonized by the Spanish, the architecture and vibes are so similar that I feel like I’m home. It also helps that we’re on the coast, so there’s easy access to the ocean and a constant sound of seagulls all over the city. When we first arrived from Malawi, we crashed at a hostel, and I was able to walk around for a day. I love how old everything is here and how much history is infused into absolutely everything. I was able to visit lots of monuments and landmarks, including La Sagrada Familia, Torre Glòries, L’Arc de Triomf, and several of the main plazas. Barcelona is very easy to navigate due to great city planning, so that’s helpful. I even got to tie my travels back to Georgia and visit my second Olympic site! The Barcelona 1992 Summer Games facilities are all still here and have beautiful views overlooking the rest of the city.
I did have a bit of a side quest, with a weekend trip to Madrid — love me some high-speed trains! I was there primarily for the Rock’n’Roll Half-Marathon that some of my classmates were running, but managed to get a bunch of exploring in too. I got to see lots of landmarks; went to the Museo del Prado and saw Las Meninas by David Velazquez without anyone else in the room; and ate some really really good Italian food.
But back to the main trip, the best Barcelona experience so far has been getting to see an FC Barcelona game! As a huge fan of the sport, this was super amazing to be at the Camp Nou in person and be a part of the atmosphere. I got to see Robert Lewandowski play, Barça won 4-0, and they even debuted the youngest player ever to play in La Liga history at 15 years 290 days old!! Geeking out over hevre.
For school, we had a week or so of introduction to the city and how the food systems work together to feed a densely packed urban area. One standout day trip was to the port to talk with the fishermen’s union about their struggles in the face of not just industrialization and climate change, but an alienation of the city from local fish and local industry. We were treated to a lunch with some of these local fish and shark varieties which was interesting — I have only just started to come around to the idea of eating fish, so this was a bit much, but the lesson was still super interesting.
For our second week, we went out to Olot, an agricultural city right next to La Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park. There, we stayed at a house that has existed since at least 1270. Despite the stink bug infestation, I had so much fun. Using the old villa in the countryside as our base, we went on trips to cooperative grocery stores, social project bakeries, and alternative food networks with alternative forms of money. The most interesting project we visited was called La Fageda. It is a dairy farm that is not for profit, and provides employment for persons with mental disabilities. It was started by a psychologist who wanted to change the condition of living for persons with these disabilities. Back in the 70s and 80s, asylums were where people were sent for treatment and care for mental disabilities, but the conditions were horrible. So La Fageda was created in order to provide an alternative — one where nobody was pushed to the outskirts of society, but rather given the chance to have social interaction, purpose and direction, and pride in their work. We got to try some of their products too, and they were delicious! If you are ever in Catalonia, I would highly recommend checking them out.
Now we are back in the city, and focusing on system planning. I am very excited for what is to come, but also cannot believe that we are almost done! There are now thirteen days left, I think, and then that’s it! Crazy how much time flies.
Until next time 🙂