…all of which–with the exception of La Fabrica del Sol which was under renovation–I would recommend if you are traveling to Barcelona.
Moreover, I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled to six cities (Sant Pol del Mar, Sitges, La Palma, Andorra, La Molina, Girona), strolled through four parks (Parc Guell, Parc Citudella, Parc Pedralbes, Parc de Montjuic), attended four musical performances, one stand up comedy show, one stage performance, three lectures related to cultural management, visited one printing press, shifted out of the Master’s Degree to the Postgraduate Diploma in Arts & Cultural Management (a story for another post), signed up for two dance classes which I did not go to, worked three part-time jobs, moved flats once, met loads of people from all over the world, and have learned quite a bit about European culture and this wonderful city called Barcelona.
All these novel experiences are just the beginning and have of course, irrevocably changed me. My philosophy is that novel experiences are by default, positive. So whenever I have to make a decision, I usually try to go for the one that has some degree of uncertainty, but always, always, I choose to act, as opposed to inaction. In this way, the change is encouraged, if not welcomed, and sometimes, the change can happen on my terms, as opposed to the common condition where change is seen as an unavoidable imposition.
Moving to the Spanish Apartment, as well as the new flat (which I have dubbed Rockafort–as that is more or less the name of the street) was surprisingly simple, although the circumstances around it were anything but.
When I was moving to Barcelona, I sent an email to everyone in the university’s Master’s program, asking if anyone was looking to share a flat. I got a few responses, and the result was that I had a place to stay–paid for in advance–even before I had set foot in Barcelona.
The rent of the flat was divided by everyone, and a month later, the occupants had risen from four to five, reducing our individual shares. However, this would only be until April, by which time the rent would go back up again. This, including the fact that one flatmate–who shall remain anonymous–and I were basically getting on like a house drenched in ice-cold water, made me decide it was time to make a change.
So I began asking around, and it so happened that Lena, one of my classmates, had just moved into a flat with a room available. Upon visiting the flat and meeting the other occupants, I decided that I could live here. I contacted the landlord, made the reservation and started moving my things that same day. Being the cheapskate that I am, I tried to move everything on foot: a twenty-minute walk at night in the winter. Only in Barcelona can someone get away with this.
I had to find someone to take my old room, however, as we had agreed prior to my moving in that should I leave before the end of the contract, then I had to find a replacement. Equally important was finding a good person to move in, someone who wouldn’t flip out or make the others feel unsafe (as I mentioned, there are no locks on any of the doors in the flat—not even the bathrooms).
Surprisingly, this again proved to be easier than I expected. Minutes after posting a notice of the room in various fb groups for Erasmus students and others related to housing in Barcelona, I already had several offers and had scheduled visits that same afternoon. In the end, I decided on a French Erasmus student taking up a Masters in Economics at the University of Barcelona. Three days later I had handed her the keys to the flat and had already spent one night at Rockafort.
The change of flat included having new flatmates: three Spanish guys–Adria, Alvaro, and Ricardo, Anna, a Korean, Lena from Hamburg whom I go to school with, and a wonderful pug named Fiji, who is clearly everyone’s favourite occupant.
Other changes include a considerably smaller and colder flat, room, kitchen, bath and toilet to share, less amenities (no lift or dishwasher), slower wifi, and hot water that disappeared while you were showering when any other faucet was switched on. On the brighter side, cheaper rent and cool flatmates all of whom—with the exception of Fiji–are professionals who preferred to speak Spanish, giving me the chance to practice my castellan.
Below is Adria, who isn’t in the above photo because he works crazy hours:
I will be writing a bit more about my new flatmates in a future post, but basically, a lot has changed over the last 120 or so days, and unavoidably, I have changed with my circumstances. The frequency and intensity of these shifts, being compressed in a small amount of time has also accelerated my growth as a person. Having only a few people to call upon in an emergency–all of whom I’ve known less than half a year–taught me to be truly independent and self reliant. Also, it taught me to do something I have not done before: How to develop close friendships in a short amount of time. It means I have become better–not the best, obviously–at relating with others, an invaluable life skill regardless of who you are and where you’re from.
For this alone, all other benefits of studying and working abroad notwithstanding, makes the entire experience of putting oneself out of one’s comfort zone absolutely worth the price of admission.
Several years ago, my French friend Dominique lent me a film L’Auberge Espagnole (in English, The Spanish Apartment). It is about six Erasmus students who share an apartment in Barcelona.
Today, I find myself living in an flat, in Barcelona, together with three other students from different parts of the world. Uncanny how life imitates art.
I believe that commercial air travel is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Thanks to it, there is nowhere in the world that one cannot be in in less than 22 hours. The world has seemingly shrunk, and one can meet up with friends in London, do business in China, and order shoes from the US (again via China).
As I walked into the Swedish furniture complex in Barcelona after having ridden over in a German automobile with a Spaniard at the wheel, a Russian, two Germans, and a Norwegian, I felt the full impact of the much-bandied about word globalisation.
Meet my flatmates (click the image):
All three women are incredibly well-traveled and very independent. Coming from the Philippines where we rarely have the opportunity to be alone, not to mention to travel solo, and where women still play traditional roles, they are all quite exceptional. Although I am accustomed to being the only thorn among the roses–I was the only male teacher when I worked in Mindanao, and the only male reading teacher when I worked in a clinic for children with learning difficulties–this is an entirely new experience, given the variety of backgrounds, cultures, and personalities.
It will be interesting to see how things develop in the next few months. I am certain there will be challenges. For one, I am an introvert who is used to living alone, so there will have to be some adjustment on my part.
Also, coming from a developing country, I will also be faced with a lifestyle that I consider–simply because I come from the Philippines–to be well above my means. As fortunate as we are to have found a beautiful, spacious flat in the suburbs of Les Corts in Barcelona, furnished with appliances, cutlery, dishes, brand-new IKEA furniture, I would still need to be able to find work to support myself while I am here.
The IKEA furniture-shopping expedition culminated with a meal in the cafeteria. Whereas my flatmates bought curtains, frames, carpets, bookends, lamps, and other embellishments with which to beautify their rooms, I had bought a trash bin.