17 October 2011

Travelogue: in Spain (again)

Spain: I specifically chose to fly into Barcelona on my way to Malta. I carried the intention to practice my Spanish, visit Montserrat, and simply be around the people with whom I share some cultural heritage. Whether my Filipina Spanish colonized grandmother, Mexican-Spanish grandfather, or Spanish (via New Mexico) grandmother, there’s a lot of that Spanish blood in me. I tend to think of it as my colonizer side, but I also cherish it. It’s my ticket into the European story. And, I like this European story. I’ve studied the West and their cannon for most of my life. Cervantes to Picasso to Dali (all these men!), I am interested in how the Spanish live and interact with each other as well as other countries.

Before I flew to Milan and then Malta, I spent a couple days in Barcelona mostly walking around the Sagrada Familia and hanging out with my fellow hostelers. Late nights in the discotecas, siestas, working through jetlag – it was a whirlwind couple days.

Now, returning to BCN has been a different experience. My traveling companion and I couchsurfed this first week here, and because of this, we’ve experieced a pretty Catalan life with Catalan food, some Catalan and Spanish language, and just overall a homier and local feel. The wine, the beer, the lamb, the cheese with honey and walnuts, the bread and Spanish omelette have been delicious! Our couch surfing friend lives near Gracies Station and a lovely little walk to the BCN beach, which we’ve visited a couple times. Somewhere in Crete, I lost my bathing suit bottoms, but I’ve been wearing some pretty chonies (underwear) and no one seems to care here. Altogether, my traveling friend and I agree that we are beach bums, and I like to think that this trip I’ve been chasing summer.

This week too I ventured out of the city to Montserrat. This beautiful mountain and the monastery and hikes and hermitages all up in it was stunning and perfect. I did a bit of a detox and made some veg soup. I took the time as a whole like a retreat. Wandering the mountain to the Santa Cova where the Black Madonna of Montserrat was hidden and wandering into the Basilica where another Black Madonna is held, I listened to the men’s choir, meditated a bit, and considered how I could along with the many pilgrims I saw there, seek healing from the Dark Mother.

I was asked a few times if I was religious, and my response was, no, probably more heretical. I just like the Dark Mother. Her story in part just really fascinates me. Some say she is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and some others say she is Mary Magdalene, mother of Sarah Tamar. I like thinking she’s both. Like the Virgin of Guadalupe who is also Tonantzin and the Dark Mother of the Americas, Mary of Montserrat is a mezcla and a mestiza like me!!!

A lot of my time this week, I’ve also practiced speaking a lot of Spanish with these couch surfing friends. One met me in Monsterrat and gave me a ride back to Barcelona where we made our way to the Beach again. He only spoke Spanish, and for me, it was particularly challenging. His accent and the speed in which he talked gave me a headache and made me really feel like a beginner. Nevertheless, by the end of the day, I understood more and could speak more freely. A lot of the challenge was for me giving up on this belief that I needed to completely understand. I felt like I was kind of starving or suffocating, but I realized that a better analogy is not feasting or breathing 100% oxygen. It was about letting go of the allusion that anyone and myself speaks the same language at all. I needed to let go of the old way of thinking that language and complete understanding go together.

I will say, that as my brother and mother have their birthday this mid month of October weekend, I’m beginning to desire Autumn and sweaters and warm drinks and pumpkins. I’m not sure how the Spanish do Autumn and Halloween or Dia de los Muertos, but I’m ready to paint my face and have some mulled wine.


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