Love in the Time of Political Strife

Posted by on September 21, 2017


Welcome to the second installment of the eternal quest for WiFi. Obviously I’ve done a lot more than just search the city for free WiFi, but considering my homestay WiFi went out three times in the past ten minutes, it seemed like a relevant struggle to point out.

My life is so full of events that I honestly couldn’t accurately summarize the whirlwind of experiences I’ve had if I tried. I feel like I live a decade every day, and every minute I’m just jamming more visual stimulus, information, language, and maps (so many maps) into my skull. I’ve never been more profoundly mentally exhausted, and that’s just in an hour.

I wouldn’t say I’m settled in yet, because that would mean I can say more than four words to my host family and that I don’t still embarrass myself ordering anything more complicated than café con leche. So for accuracy’s sake, I’d say I’m getting used to life abroad. I know my way around, thanks to Google and an extensive amount of solo walks, and I figured out public transportation.

One day I just went for it and took the Metro home, all by myself, and even though that doesn’t seem like a big deal – I was proud. We don’t even have a subway in South Carolina and I figured it out with no help from anyone. I even went to Las Ramblas alone and survived unscathed, though I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to be roped into multiple conversations with some deeply shady “salesmen.”

I feel like I get to have an even more interesting perspective on this experience because I’m taking a psychology course called Self and Identity (which sounds very pretentious, but go with me on this). I expected the class to be a huge waste of time, but I think two weeks have given me more personal insight and insight into my peers than two years at Wofford. On the first day I found myself being vulnerable with strangers and considering how I was going to let fear impact my decisions, and that was after one class! If you’re going to Barcelona through IES, please take this class, it’s life altering. And I usually only say that about food and cat memes.

And amidst all the regular tumult of being an American student abroad, I’ve managed to land myself in the middle of an intense political uprising. I, who probably couldn’t have pointed to Catalonia on a map before coming here, now have a front row seat to the Catalan Independence movement. My host parents are very active in the movement and I highly recommend Googling it because my base and uneducated explanations will not suffice. Basically the region of Catalonia, which contains Barcelona, is seeking independence from Spain for reasons ranging from unfair taxation to pure cultural difference. Fun fact: Catalan and Spanish are not the same language, I feel stupid having to say that out loud, but just in case it wasn’t clear that the cultures are very different, they don’t even speak the same language. There’s a million other reasons and I’m sure a timeline would be helpful, but I’ve barely grasped the gist of it myself. It’s fun to be here when this is happening and be a part of Spanish history, because people are starting to get pretty heated about the whole ordeal.

September 11th was the National Day of Catalonia and people came out in droves, dressed in Catalan flags and marching in the streets. I don’t think I’ve ever been around that many people at once, and all of them there for the same purpose. It felt very off to see such a celebration on 9/11 but that just goes to show how far removed a city like Barcelona can be from the United States, and how important this day is in Catalan culture. Since then it’s only gotten more out of hand. People have started demonstrations in the streets and every night at 10 PM for the last two nights the citizens of Barcelona (including my host mother) have gone out on their balconies to bang pots and pans. It’s an amazing display of unity, though loud and confusing if you don’t know what it’s for. It reminds me of Occupy Wall Street, on a much larger and organized scale.

I tend to have a pretty hesitant view of Independence movements (because being from the state that started the American Civil War has it’s baggage) but seeing people united and so passionate about something political is inspiring, even if I still don’t really know what’s going on half the time. Today I’m an American college student, but tomorrow maybe I’ll march in the streets with a Catalan flag and be a part of something, who knows.

– Buenas noches

(If anyone gets the reference in the title, you get a round of applause all the way from Spain)

5 Responses to Love in the Time of Political Strife

  1. Mom

    Stay away from those shady “salesmen” and continue to have a fabulous time!!

  2. Katie Herzog

    I learned something new today and I thank you for that wonderful history lesson.

  3. Your 2nd pretend mom

    Love this!

  4. Suzanne

    So are you learning Spanish or Catalan?
    Better politics than cholera 😉