Spanish or Catalan – what do you speak?

I arrived in Barcelona totally ignorant about the language situation in Catalunya.  I didn’t even ask myself if I should learn Spanish or Catalan – I assumed that Spanish was enough.

I thought I was coming to a famous Spanish city where I could learn and practise Spanish.  I had been studying it and was excited and eager to get going.

I enrolled in a course and started reading local newspapers and watching  TV in Spanish.

But it slowly dawned on me that things were not as simple as I thought.  Here is what happened to me. Continue reading

Overnight in Trippy Square

I arrived in Barcelona around 4pm and immediately realised I was wearing too many clothes.
It is that Spring-time feeling!

Barcelona streets were full of people in shorts and teeshirts. I was wearing boots, a jumper and my black winter coat. I wondered why I had thought it OK to leave the house wearing so much black? Gradually I realised that most if not all of the summery people were tourists. You don’t get so many of them in Granollers!

First stop was the Venus cafe in Carrer Avinyo in the Barrio Gotico

Very nice waitress gave me a menu in English but then spoke in Castellano.  Saturday is one of my Spanish days and I needed to practise before going to the tango workshop.  I try to speak Catalan on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Castellano on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays.  It is hard and it does confuse me but I can’t see any other way to keep both languages on the go. And people here are adept at switching mid conversation so I also need the skill of making rapid changes.

The tango workshop was good.   It was wonderful to dance again after a year.  When I was learning Lindy Hop I found it frustrating how little attention was given to making the ‘connection’ between leader and follower.  They do talk about it but you need a tango class to really go in depth into how this communication is central to the dance, and to life.
Gisela and Alejandro in Sala Arditi ….. lovely teachers

In between classes we went to a little bar called Bodega La Palma, near my first flat in Barcelona

We got back to my friends flat around 3am – very late for me these days. She lives in the famous Plaça de George Orwell otherwise known as Plaça del Trippi or Trippy Square. It is very noisy and the mixture of drunk tourists and out of their heads locals make this a difficult place for people to live.   I read that this is now on the tourist map as somewhere exciting to visit but coming home everyday to screaming groups of half naked teenagers, red-eyed staggering zombies and having to step over vomit and piss as you open your door is no fun for locals. There are police cameras and the odd police van but nothing really has changed the atmosphere in the years I have known the place. The shouting and screeching went on till nearly dawn but I slept through it, tired by city energy.

Only a few streets away it is quieter and calmer

I have favourite places in this barrio of Barcelona and they always draw me with magnetic force even when I don’t intend to visit them.
One of these is the Church of Sant Just i Pastor

Today when I went in there was a Sunday service taking place. I stood at the back and listened to the priest speaking in Catalan.  I understood much of it and noticed for the first time how similar it is to Latin.  For a few moments I could imagine how it might be to be in Rome and hear Latin spoken as a living language all around me

I am not part of any Christian religion but I love this church and often came here seeking peace when I first was staying here.
It is very rare for me to visit this part of Barcelona and not come into the church.
The square outside is very pretty too

Walking up to Placa Catalunya there were human castles rising and falling – not literally falling, fortunately I have never seen one collapse although I know it happens and I can’t watch without worrying that this will be the day. One of the towers wobbled a lot but remained strong

‘Born to make a pine-cone’  It means lots of people coming together to make something strong. When some human castles are created, the surrounding people will all form a pinya to help support the structure.  I’ve never seen one that big but I’ve heard they can fill a square.

Last goodbye to the Barcelona skyline just before I go down into the station

On Sunday there are fewer trains going to our nearby station so I had to get off at Granollers Centre and walk home, carrying again my hot coat and jumper. but at least it meant I could stop off for a cooling drink of Orxata with a dollop of coconut icecream. The first of the season

Sign seen at the rail station in Passeig de Gracia.
This is the sort of confusion my brain has to deal with!

Watching TV

Watching television can be stressful in a multi-cultural home.
Many people argue about what channel to watch or whether a certain programme is enjoyable or rubbish. But if you add in different languages and cultural differences it gets more complicated.
I actually feel guilty for watching British TV.
I tend to switch it on when there is no-one else at home. I don’t like to impose it on others but on top of that I have my own judgements about watching English language programmes when I ‘should’ be improving my Catalan or Spanish.

If I am tired or stressed then it is such a huge comfort to watch something like Downton Abbey, or Have I Got News for You? or even Antiques Road Show.  But I notice a tendency to apologise if someone else comes into the room and catches me at it.

It is one of the things that I wouldn’t experience if I was living in the UK.  Perhaps if I lived here with another native English speaker it would be a shared guilty pleasure?  Or if I lived here alone I might still feel a bit embarassed with a slight sense of failure that I hadn’t adapted properly.  But I would still do it.

I do watch Catalan TV and late at night there are often good documentaries and films. But I have never discovered any programmes like for example, Last Tango in Halifax which was on a couple of nights ago.  I put it on after a friend alerted me by text and then had to grit my teeth and ignore sighs of incomprehension from the other end of the sofa.  Humour is the worst problem….it is so hard to shift it across cultural lines and so when I laugh, I often laugh alone. I notice that the longer I am away from Britain, the better I think the programmes are.  Is this some kind of exiled delusion?

At 11pm I can catch the news at 10 on the BBC.  Then we switch back to the Catalan news which seems to be all about politicians or Barça football matches.  No-one gets challenged or pressed for answers and I don’t hear the journalists making dry comments in their introductions or analysis.
TV3 is funded by the government so I suppose it is true that he who pays the piper calls the tune. 
It is really difficult when you live in another country to stop yourself making comparisons. Have I turned into one of those people who just gripes about things being better at home?
It is hard to know if I am just influenced by a love of the familiar or if I am really making a detached comparison.  Perhaps the answer is to have two televisions and for me to just enjoy watching what I want without apology?  And then I could enjoy the Catalan and Spanish programmes too.
I try to straddle two worlds trying to feel at home in both yet sometimes ending up comfortable in neither.
After thought
Perhaps I would find it easier if the ‘other’ language wasn’t Catalan. It is so easy to feel sensitive about silencing this language, even if only by switching the TV to satellite and the BBC.

Voices and Accents

Hello faithful readers!
Long time no post. There are reasons for that but I will explain another time.

So here I am travelling again for the summer holidays. It got very hot in Granollers and that always makes me want very much to get back to the UK.  Bonnie also struggles a bit with the heat – even walks that start at 8am seem to end with a panting scurry home in the shady streets between our home and the park.

We drove through France, came through the Tunnel, visited family along the way and now are in Cambridge at my sisters house, preparing to leave tomorrow for Scotland.
We are covering miles and miles this summer. So far just over 1000!

Tonight in the local Coop supermarket I heard voices speaking Catalan. A child was asking for something and my finely tuned ears pricked up. “Això Mama. Vull Això!”

Suddenly I found myself talking to them. I wonder why I do this?  I just can’t seem to stop myself when I hear someone talking in Catalan in another country. I did it last year in Italy as well. And in London. And at  Avebury stone circle.   It seemed an amazing coincidence that they were there in the Coop at the same time as me.  I have that tendency to approach people with Scottish accents as well – not when I’m in Scotland of course.  But I would never strike up a conversation with someone in Granollers just because they were speaking English. Somehow that seems different.

I wonder what it’s all about? Is it something tribal?

Keeping Promises

As we approach the summer solstice I am reviewing some of the promises I made in January.
It’s interesting to see how many are still central to my daily life. I wonder if this is the first time I have ever managed to keep going with resolutions made at the New Year?
I did a review in February and so I’ll have a look at those first and add on the new ones.

Yes this has been a very happy change. I feel happier with my diet now even though I allow myself the occasional ‘blip’.  If I want fish then I have it. And there was one day when I craved chicken in a stir fry so I had that too. No regrets. I am trusting my body.
The funny thing is that I have also changed Bonnie’s diet and she is having a mostly raw meat regime. This means that I now go scouring the butchers for animal parts which I then freeze in little manageable bags. Chicken heads and wings, livers and hearts, I am getting more used to dealing with it all!

I have not smoked at all since October 2012 and never want to. I hope my lungs forgive me for not doing this earlier.

Coke and Tescos
Not one drop has passed my lips. Tescos will be a challenge only when I get back to Cornwall.

Oooooooffff!  This one has been harder. I’ve been speaking mainly English at home and stopped going to my Catalan classes. I need a whole post to describe why I suddenly got resistant. I do speak it of course and can carry on conversations no problem. But I am keen to get back to studying Castellano and when I start that – I get confused and end up talking in a horrible  confused mixture.

Forgiveness and Sending Love
This has been a very helpful practice. I do it every day with the Resident Adolescent as the central pivot. I think it has improved our relationship hugely. I include other people according to which hurts and resentments are uppermost in my mind and at least it makes me feel I am doing something positive rather than turning myself into a bitter twisted old lady. There is still one person who I find it almost impossible to forgive which surprises me as I haven’t seen her for years and I never knew her well anyway. She’s my ‘bete noire’ and perhaps I should just accept it.

Kitchen Sink
This has been one of the best things I ever did. And it has grown into much more than just the sink. I am organising home with the help of the Fly Lady and it is wonderful. If you are a naturally ordered person perhaps you don’t need her but if like me things like cleaning pile up and never get done then this system is wonderful.

New Promises
These mainly come from the Fly Lady schedules so I won’t go into detail here. If you are interested in making order out of chaos take a look at her site and start with the Baby Steps.

At the moment I have started a daily routine of doing Salute to the Sun and some sit ups every morning. And I am wheat and caffeine free for a few weeks. I started at the beginning of June thinking to do a week but it’s feeling good so I have kept going.
I feel there is change in the air and somehow it is easier than ever to make decisions and stick to them.  And it seems the more little adjustments I make, the stronger is my resolve. I know I won’t give up wheat and coffee forever. It is just too much of a pleasure to go out here to a cafe and sit in the sun having a cafe amb llet and a donut. But it’s almost just as lovely to know I can stop for a while.
Lastly…. I have started drawing again. The ipad makes it so easy and opens up new possibilities.