Thursday, February 23, 2012

Routine and Transit

Every day of the week I pass by this magnificent structure known as an Arc of Triumph (Arc de triomf). It is incredible how quickly something, that on first glance is so aw-inspiring, can become mundane.

The first week of classes, as I passed it, I wondered how long it took to carve the beautiful figures that adorn it. Now, so many weeks into my program, I am unable to ignite that same wonder and curiosity.
As one settles into a study abroad, or other adventure distant from their home, there is a period of difficulty. Homesickness sets in, and you begin wanting to talk to friends and family back home. You start missing little things about your home, and wonder why you can't do them or have them in your host home.
My favorite candy bar is a Snickers. Which, thanks to globalization, is available in Spain. It is quite common place in the convenience stores and vending machines. When I'm feeling particularly down, that is one little piece of my normal routine I can enjoy.
At home, when I'm feeling lonely or upset, petting a dog is something that cheers me up very quickly. But here, although there are dogs everywhere, on leashes of joggers and so forth, I feel unable to have that sort of canine comfort. Instead I have had to learn to be comforted by the cat at my homestay rubbing against my ankles.

At my home university, a half hour public transit commute was the norm. This is one thing that has remained virtually the same for me.
 I suppose metro systems are generally the same in every large city. All of Barcelona is connected underground with this multi-lined subway system. It is so well connected that there is quite nearly a stop within five blocks of every point in downtown. It is a relatively clean metro system, although not necessarily safe. There are a lot of pickpockets that filter through the trains. I've never heard of someone being violently robbed, but there are a lot of reports of wallets and phones going missing. To be safe, I always keep one hand on my purse. Paranoia is now my constant traveling companion.
 Another common way of transportation in Spain is on two wheels. This company, Bicing, provides bicycles to residents. With thousands of locations throughout the city, all they have to do is insert their card, take a bike, ride where they need to go, and return it at the next nearest bike hitch.
 A less active mode of transit, though equally as popular as manual bicycles, are the countless motorbikes and scooters seen on every road and street corner. Where there aren't parking spaces, many motorists park directly on the sidewalk.
Overall, getting around in Barcelona is easy, so long as you can figure out that the street signs are on the buildings, and that the easiest way to get directions is with landmarks.
One thing is for certain, I walk a lot more here, but I also stop to look at things a lot more. There's nothing that even comes close to the arc de triomf in my city.

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