Movement

The only thing that’s permanent is change.

 

It’s been 4 months since I’ve moved to Barcelona.
Since then I’ve had the privilege to have visited sixteen museums and heritage sites (pictures coming soon):

 

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC, the National Museum of Art of Catalonia)
Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB, the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona)
Museu Maritim (Maritime Museum)
Casa Batllo
Palau Guell
Monestir de Pedralbes
Museu del Modernisme
Museu del Disseny
Fabrica del Sol
Museum of Jewish History
Museu del Art Girona

 

…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).

Although I thought I cleaned out my former room pretty well, I forgot to sweep the floor and wipe the table.
Although I thought I cleaned out my former room pretty well, I forgot to sweep the floor and wipe the table.
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.

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 9.42.47 AM
FB is not a total waste of time after all

 

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.
image
Rockafort

 

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.

Learning To Live With Others

 

It’s been sixteen days so far–two weeks–and just yesterday I’ve already pissed off one of my flatmates. Twice.

Here’s how it went:

There wasn’t anything incriminating in the photos. But I understood (now more than ever before) how photographs are personal property, and are extremely private. We have since made up and things were cool between us. For a few days.

The second incident happened a few days later at the university.

Hobgoblin font by David Kherkoff (hanodedfonts.com).

On both instances I had crossed an invisible line, one that many people can see, and which I, for some reason, am at times, painfully blind to. On both instances, I had invaded Masha’s right to privacy. First, by looking through her photos, and second, by looking through her bag. She was right to be pissed off at me.

I’ve made it up to her since then (a story for another day), but the two incidents made me think about how my notions regarding privacy and boundaries are not only woefully inadequate, not to mention very different from others, but also how growing up, the right to privacy was not something that was fiercely upheld in my home. It’s no secret among my friends back home that I tend to disregard other people’s property, especially when it comes to food.

In the Spanish Apartment–as I’ve taken to calling our flat–it’s more than just ownership. It’s about trust. And it is essential if we are to survive the next nine months. There are no locks on any of the doors for one thing. Not even the bathrooms. But this doesn’t seem to concern any of my flatmates, who have clear notions about privacy. I actually made signs for the bathroom doors–but for the most part, we haven’t really needed them.

My cardboard bed came in handy
Yes, I made them in Spanish, but believe me, my Spanish sucks.

As reality TV has so gleefully proven, bringing complete strangers under one roof for an extended period of time oftentimes results in conflict. In my case, not only am I living with four other people whom I’ve never met before, they are from different cultures and backgrounds as well.

For this reason, I thought it would be good to write down some guidelines on Living With Others (Harmoniously).

Go to page 2 to continue reading.