Thursday, February 06, 2014

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. I'M NOW IN SPAIN!

February 5, 2014
Barcelona, Spain!  I adore this city.  I love it so much more than Paris.  The people seem so much nicer, and maybe it’s because no one is stressed.  No one!  No honking horns.  No fast walking like in New York City.  I find that only half of the people you speak with know any English, so I’m speaking either French or broken Spanish with people.

I parked the car okay and found a great garage where I can come and go as I please for 4 days for 50 euro.  I probably won’t use the car at all, which is fine.  It’s just nice to know that the car is safe and I don’t have to constantly find a parking spot for it.

The hostel is wonderful too.  Mediterranean Youth Hostel.  I love the atmosphere, and I already met a bunch of people.  I met a novelist from Sweden (Stephan), a surfer from Japan (Yosuke), and two university students from Belgium (Hanne and Lore).  Stephan, Yosuke, and I went food shopping together, and we all cooked dinners back here at the hostel.  Yosuke and I ate with Hanne and Lore at the communal tables.   So fun: speaking Swedish with Stephan; Japanese with Yosuke; and Dutch with Hanne & Lore.  Oh, I also met Elena, from Venezuela, and we spoke Spanish.  She might join me tomorrow on the free walking tour at 10:30am. 
The drive here was tough.  Long and sad drive, particularly because it reminded me of the drive from Altenholz, Germany to Frankfurt, Germany back in 2012 after Louisa broke up with me.  That miserable 6 hour drive that I will never ever forget. 

But upon arriving in Barcelona, wow, I saw lines and lines of palm trees along the highway.  And in town, even more.  And just being in a big city, driving, felt so great!  I felt like I was back in New York City, and I just felt and feel even now totally at home.  I love this place!  I love it here even more than France.  I don’t know what it is, but everything just feels so comfortable here. 
At the border, the French border agent must have seen that it was a rental car, because none of the other cars were stopped.  Mine was.  And he was rather suspicious about why I was going across the border.  A good five-minute interrogation.  My being American relaxed him a bit, but mentioning that I was going to China after tightened him up again.  But I finally made it through.  I then expected to stop at the Spanish border, but there was no border guards.  It finally dawned on me afterwards that it’s the EU: there’s no need for two border crossings anymore.  But if that’s the case, why is there even any border guards?  What are they checking for?  Who knows.
Alas, I’m here.  In Barcelona.  And very content and smiling right now. 

Oh, and I brought my guitar.  My Spanish guitar.  And earlier today, I played some Spanish guitar for Stephan and Yosuke.  It felt good to play Spanish guitar here in Spain.  Where it all began. J
In other news, I bought my plane tickets from Paris to Rome, and from Rome to Oslo.  Only $100 from P to R; and only $75 from R to O.  Pretty awesome.  And my eurorail pass is already set.  I’ve made some plans to see Roberto and Helen in Rome; and some others in Munich maybe.  And definitely Lugano.  They say it’s freezing in Oslo and Stockholm.  Below zero.  Joy, haha.  But frigid is better than the lukewarm temperatures in Castres for sure. 

I’m super nervous about China.  Not super nervous, but nervous enough.  It’s going to be such a culture shock, I’m sure.  But once I land, the one-year clock begins, and after a month there, I am sure I will get used to things.
Oh: shipping!  France has a 7KG flat rate shipping box to anywhere worldwide for $60.  Pretty awesome!  I bought four of them for $240, which is SO much less expensive than it was in the US.  And packed up books, clothing, etc.  But alas, NO ADDRESS!  Mandarin House won’t let me send any more packages in their care, and I don’t have any address for my WSE location yet.  So I’m just leaving the packages in France with my French family, and once I arrive in China and get an apartment, I will send my address to them, and they will address the packages and pop them in the mail for me.  So it works out okay.

Okay, I’m exhausted.  It’s 11:45pm and I’m gonna head up to bed.  I posted a goodbye message in French to all the French students at the school and I’m touched: I got over 80 likes and over 30 messages and comments from the students.  It makes me feel like I really had an impact on them, and that puts a smile on my face.  I was going to say ‘happy’, but I don’t even know what that word means anymore, to tell you the truth.  Happy isn’t an emotion, really.  And too often people say happy when they mean content, or satisfied, or non depressed, etc.  And the Buddha says that Unhappiness, i.e. suffering, is our base and natural state, i.e. that all life is suffering and to try to totally escape it is a fruitless quest.  So what is happiness?  Again, I don't know.
Why am I still typing?  BYE!!!!

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