As many of my Facebook friends know already, on June 21st I began my journey to the beautiful city of Barcelona. Back in February I decided (somewhat out of the blue) that I wanted to Au pair, teach English, and immerse myself in the wonderful culture of Spain. While simultaneously passing on some of my own Irish charm of course😉🍀. Having spent a memorable semester abroad in Sweden I seem to have caught an insatiable travelling bug. From -16 degrees and 10+ inches of snow, to 32 degrees and plenty of sun, sea and sand it’s safe to say a new adventure is well and truly under way.
One of the first things I’ve come to notice about Spain is not only the warmth that radiates from the sun, but the warmth that radiates from the people. Don’t get me wrong, the swedes were friendly, welcoming and seriously efficient, but in two short weeks the Spanish have made me feel like family. I’m staying in an area just 10 minutes outside Barcelona called Sant Cugat De Valles with a family of four and I’m au pairing for their two girls, Sofia and Paula. The girls are incrediblely smart, caring and creative. They make me laugh every day and have already started treating me like a big sister, giving me this just two days into my stay:
On the Tuesday after I arrived it was a big festival in Spain known as St Joan ( pronounced like “juan”. Of course my bogger Irish accent was saying Joan). My host family explained that st Joan is basically a big celebration of the summer solstice – the shortest night of the year. Great emphasis is placed on it particularly in the Catalunya region. Basically it’s a night of fireworks, eating, drinking and celebrating. It kind of reminded me of paddys day over here. My host family had friends over and everyone was responsible for bringing a different dish. I ended up trying lots of authentic Spanish food, I even surprised myself by trying and liking what I called “this slimy fish looking thing”. I’m not one for sea food, but I was offered a piece of homemade toast with a sweet jam, and what looked like a worm on top of it. Not wanting to be rude and deciding to just be adventurous, I went for it, shcoked that I actually enjoyed it. I’ve already opened up my palette to trying lots of different foods which I’m pretty happy about. Considering lunch often features spinach , and dinner isn’t complete without a salad I’m hopeful I’ll be a “skinny mini” in no time 😂
What I really love about the Spanish lifestyle is that a huge emphasis is placed on sitting down and eating meals together. There’s something so lovely about that. We eat breakfast lunch and dinner together outside everyday. It’s a practice that’s largely lost in today’s society. Given busy schedules, families tend to eat separately. I’ve already learned so much from my host “mam and dad”, Silvia and Alfonso. They are constantly telling me about their lives and Spanish culture, asking me about Ireland, my life, and what I hope to do in the future.
As far as the city goes, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so strikingly beautiful before. Everything about the city just takes you in. The buildings, the people, the atmosphere, the restaurants. I haven’t gotten a chance to do anything too touristy yet, but I’m hoping I’ll get to do gaudi’s infamous Sagrada Familia sometime this week. I did get to see the camp nou football stadium though, and that was seriously impressive. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves on this note:
Even at that these snippets don’t do the city justice.
Moving on then to my “metro disaster”. It’s true no adventure in the life of Jessie Keogh is complete without some form of misfortune. I move to Sweden, I acquire a stalker ( legitimately) I move to Spain, I’m a victim of robbery. Below is a picture of the Spanish metro, it looks so pretty and quirky on the outside, but inside lurks some of the worlds most skilled pickpockets, and I of course found out the hard way. It’s funny actually, only a couple of days before it happened Silvia told me to be careful telling me their previous au pair was robbed of €250. I remember thinking “that will never happen to me”. I’m one of these people who constantly checks their bag and holds it close, I’m not careless in that regard which is why I was so shocked to find my iPhone and purse gone from my bag on Saturday night. I was on my way to one of the nightclubs with some fellow au pairs, having a great time, when all of a sudden I noticed my iPhone was just gone. In a split second. My purse was still there, but in the commotion of trying to find my phone that suddenly vanished too. I couldn’t believe it. In one instant my bankcard, drivers license and phone were just gone. Trying to get home that night having no means of contact or no access to money in a foreign country was frightening to say the least. But thanks to the amazing new friends around me and the kind strangers in the station thereafter, I managed.
Anyone who knows me will know that my iPhone was like my fifth limb. All day Sunday I was pretty devastated. I was angry, upset and bitter that this horrible thing happened to me so soon into my stay and when I was having a great time too. How was I going to take pictures? Document my time? Worse still how was I going to arrange to meet up with anyone? How was I going to get money? These were all questions swirling around in my head. Looking back now it seems so trivial. After I had cried it out of my system, I thought back to the Berkeley J1 tragedy from a few weeks ago and I suddenly felt so selfish. 6 people lost their lives on what should’ve been the summer of their lives, and here I was alive, still in a beautiful city, crying over material things that were utterly replaceable? It suddenly all seemed laughable. I then read the moving article by Injured Berkely victim Clodagh Cogley in which she said;
“Enjoy a good dance and the feeling of grass beneath your feet like it’s the last time, because in this crazy world you never know when it might be.”
Her words put everything into perspective for me. I may not have a phone, but I have two perfectly functioning legs. I have eyes to see, lungs to breathe and lips to taste. Things could’ve been so much worse and I thank my lucky stars they weren’t. In fact the 10days I’ve been phoneless have actually been a real eye opener for me. In order to meet up with people I’ve just had to agree on a time and place and stick to it rigidity. (How did people ever survive in the 90s?!😜) it’s funny though, I never realised how much the world is actually plugged into their devices. I was at the train station during the week on my way to meet some friends, and every single person on the platform had earphones in, or were glued to their phone. I was honestly the only person who wasn’t. It just struck me how we don’t see peoples faces anymore. We don’t look up to take in our surroundings, we are too preoccupied with what’s happening in the virtual world to appreciate the real world. Don’t get me wrong I know before I was definitely the guiltiest of all.
Anyway while I was having these wonderfully awe inspiring life affirmations, an elderly woman approached me on the platform. (Probably because I was the only one who looked alert). She asked me in Spanish “was this the right platform for plaza Catalunya” I replied using what little Spanish I have saying “yes it is” she smiled said “Gracias” and went on her way. I couldn’t help but wonder would this have happened if I was glued to my phone? She most likely wouldn’t have approached me, and I wouldn’t have gotten to practice my Spanish and help someone out in the process. So every cloud has a silver lining and all that 😊
In other news those wondering how my tan is coming along can see for yourselves:
It’s currently 39 degrees and I can promise you “factor 50 SPF” has been lying to us all. I’m hoping that lovely pink glow will turn a smooth caramel brown like my spaniard counterparts😂 I’m pretty sick of Paula and Sofia calling me “Leche” (which no prizes for guessing, means milk). They’re great little girls though. So caring, funny and affectionate. I already know I’m going to bawl leaving them!
Despite my first little hiccup, I’m looking forward to the next 5 weeks of antics Barcelona has to throw at me! And I can’t wait for more adventures with my other Aupair chicas💜