Then There Were Five

 

Meet the latest addition to the Spanish Apartment:

(drumroll)

Gerson
Such is my ignorance of Latin Americans that I thought his hair was not naturally curly.

Meet Gerson, a theatre graduate from Baranquilla, Colombia (the hometown of the magnificent Sofia Vergara and Shakira). He won a Young Talents Fellowship under ICETEX to take a diploma in Arts & Cultural Management at the International University of Catalonia. He has acted on the stage and on television, and plans to one day have his own TV show.

As a member of Fundación Doctora Clown (Clown Doctors), he dispenses the medicine of laughter to sick children in the hospital.

gerson3
Gerson (far left) dressed as his clown persona, Coco.

Unlike the rest of us who are doing the Masters Program, Gerson is taking the non-degree track of the program. He opted to take the course in English in order to improve his communication skills, instead of choosing the Spanish track. He really wanted to study drama or something related to performance art, he said, but he couldn’t find any courses within the fellowship’s budget in Spain. So now he is studying the legal aspects and tools of cultural management instead of acting or dance. It is twice the challenge for him.

So now we are five (at least until April, which is when Gerson finishes his studies).

He is a welcome addition to the flat first because now our individual rent payments go down. It is also good to have another Spanish speaker in the flat aside from Awat, so that we non-Spanish speakers have more opportunities to practice and learn Castellan, something I have not been doing as much as I should. Thirdly (pun intended), it is great to have another person from a developing country with whom I can share common experiences and traditions.

Moreover, another male in the flat is better than being the only thorn among the roses. Being surrounded by females both at school and at home–pleasant though it may seem–can get quite exhausting. Having relatives and friends who are gay, I’m accustomed to interacting with homosexuals, although it is the first time that I will be living with one. Most importantly, however, is that Gerson is a welcome addition to our home because he is a good person with a pleasant sense of humour.

It does not come without its drawbacks of course. Having more people in the flat means less space and as I’ve written about previously, getting along with three people is challenging enough for me as it is.

Only time will tell.

A Spaniard, a Russian, a Norwegian, a German, and a Filipino Walk Into an Ikea…

 

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.