It’s the último day of school for me, and after our final classes…which most other students have decided to skip, Valentina takes some selfies of us, making sure, as usual, to modify them so she looks pale and almost manga-cartoon-like (large eyes, small pointy nose). Pale skin is prized in far-eastern cultures (if you are dark, this indicates that you are poor and have to labour outside in the sun). Chinese women sometimes go to South Korea for plastic surgery for various modifications, including European-ising their eyes (i.e. making them look more deep-set, with a larger eye-lid). And enlarging their behinds and cinching their waists in a direct attempt to emulate Ms. Kardashian. I tell her she is beautiful as she is, and should leave her photos as they are. She touches my arm and says ‘Europeans are so encouraging’. Of all the 20-somethings I have met, I am greatly admiring of Valentina. It is no mean feat to leave all you know behind and come alone, to immerse yourself in a very unfamiliar culture, many miles from home, at 22. She has shown her mettle by winning a bureaucratic battle with the school; she has found out how the system works. We exchange a hug and say good-bye. She looks sad…I am her first friend at the escuela…and the students will change regularly while she is there.
On the previous weekend, in an over-whelmingly crowded, bustling Plaça de Catalunya, while on my way to peruse the famous department store, El Corte Ingles, I literally bump into Drew. What are the chances? I reminded him there is no school on Tuesday (he didn’t realise) and he says he might join us at the Picasso Museum but later sends a message to say that he has to pick up his new bike at the exact same time, so will give it a miss. We check out his new, brakeless/1 gear bike when next at the escuela and he tells me that mountain-climbing is his thing…we both like parkour (me only watching it, I’m afraid)…we agree that it’s all in the mind. I get a sweet goodbye message from him on my last day.
What do I take home from my time in Barcelona? Have I learnt anything…at all? I think so. My Spanish escuchar/listening skills have improved, …..and…it seems I can make friends with 20-somethings! Also…that they are lovely, daring and courageous, outward-looking…and I can learn from them.
One of the things I love about Spain is the cafe/tapas culture. In the apartments in the middle of town, you may have a balcony…but it is unlikely you will have a garden. If you want to be out, you have to go out..and if it’s warm (as it usually is)..you might as well have a drink/tapas/coffee and socialise, face to face, with your friends and family. And the coffee/beers are cheap!
Every block on every calle still has it’s own greengrocers (we can barely remember the word in the UK, having instead chosen to sell our souls to the heavily plastic-wrapped, sea-polluting supermarkets),…and that means if you want a snack in a Spanish town, it’s just as easy to grab from a pile of mouth-watering, loose fruit, as it is to buy a chocolate bar.
The day before my last day, I went home early to change…and found a plumber in the middle of ripping out the existing shower fitting (but not the drainage) from my baño and plumbing-in a brand-spanking new one. It worked great for that night and then..cold showers again. But, it’s my last day…and I don’t mind. So…Spanish plumbing isn’t great…but I really like Spain. And I’ll be back…even after I’m no longer European..in the EU sense of the word. We won’t mention Brexit. Oops…