Monday, 6 September 2010

First Days in Barcelona

So, I've finally moved into the late 90's and started a blog. As mentioned, the idea is to sort of splurge everything I experience on my year abroad onto this blog, and then you good folk can read it or ignore it. It would of course have made sense to start this before I left, to chronicle my mounting sense of dread and impending doom, but I'd never manage such a feat of forward planning. As it was, it was very hard to leave, especially knowing that I only had 5 days' worth of accommodation at the other end, not to mention that I wouldn't be seeing my girlfriend for 3 months. Still, I got here eventually (plane delayed for the best part of an hour for no discernable reason whatsoever). I came out of the pleasantly air-conditioned airport to be greeted by the most stifling heat I've felt in years-compared to the rain I left behind in the UK, 27 degrees was positively tropical. By some amazing stroke of luck, I happened to choose the exact bus stop I needed from the dozen on offer, and for a modest fee, I was whisked into the centre of Barcelona. Here, my sense of direction and my reading skills failed me, and I did two full circuits of the Plaza de Catalunya looking for a street that doesn't exist. Reading the paperwork again, I managed to stagger (up a street that did exist) in the direction of the hostel, which was much more of a walk than I was expecting, although I couldn't say why. Hostel found, bags dropped and shower had (taking at least two showers a day is apparently quite normal here), I took a short walk around the corner (amazing how much easier things are to find when you have a map) to a burger bar. It took an eternity to get seated, and then several more to get served. I wouldn't care, but they were hardly rushed off their feet in there, 20 covers max. I couldn't help but feel like I stood out, just for eating alone. Having had enough of my own company, I went back and started to get ready for the night of dreadful karaoke, expensive drinks and weird live club music (I never knew you could buy electric steel drums, but you learn something new every day) ahead, which I'd been persuaded into by two of the others in my dorm at the hostel. In this case, I'm glad I went, as it afforded me the chance to break out all the slurred and drunken German I've not had the chance to use since Berlin at Easter (dorm-mate turned out to be from Hamburg). In fact, up until the Orange shop this morning, I'd probably spoken more German than Spanish. After that late night, and in light of the fact that my phone decided to die on me just after I got out of the airport, I was expecting to wake up at some point in the afternoon with a splitting headache. Thankfully, I was wrong on both counts, and managed to have bought breakfast, eaten breakfast and showered before 11. Because I was still labouring under the illusion that I'd forgotten my phone charger (it turned up a couple of hours ago in a pocket in my rucksack I hadn't ever seen before), I had to wait in the stupidly long queue at the Orange shop, watching spotty teenagers and sweaty middle-aged taxi drivers buying iPhones. My turn came around (after at least 45 minutes of standing around), and I was immediately confronted with a hail of unintelligible babbling which I'm told they call "Spanish" in these parts. It took the salesman a surprisingly long time to cotton on to the fact that I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. I didn't realise until it came to paying for my new phone (irritatingly, it's a better handset than my UK one) that you still have to sign for card transactions in Spain. I thought the UK got the whole Chip'n'Pin thing from continental Europe? I then set out to try and find my University department. True to form, instead of being with the main university buildings in the conveniently labelled Plaza de l'Universitat, the faculty I needed happens to be across town. By the time I got there, having had to look up the address several times, I arrived to find the office shut and all the lights off. Typical. Mentally drained, I returned to the hostel for the second shower of the day. First though, I needed some food to create the greatest culinary feat since beans on toast-chorizo on pasta. This I accomplished for the princely sum of €2,48. And I still have some chorizo left. Last night is catching up with me now, so I shall post this before I fall asleep on the keyboard.

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