After leaving my suitcases in the flat, I changed into my shorts, because it was still warm outside. The flat had a tiny balcony, which had a great vantage point onto the street below. As I opened the balcony door, I was immediately hit by a profusion of sight & sound. It was just another balmy evening in Barcelona's tourist district. But, to me, it was like a totally new world. All my senses were in overdrive. I should have felt exhausted, but instead, I had an urge to go outside.
Stepping onto the pavement, I was immediately struck by the amount of activity at this time in the evening. The street provided a snapshot of the cultural diversity, Barcelona is famous for. Some of the men were dressed in the Shalwar Kameez and others were clearly holiday makers. On either side, shops had been carved out of the historic brick work. The shopkeepers stood outside, chatting & smoking tobacco. The smell of Mediterranean food & strong coffee, wafted through the air. Although, I could not understand what people were saying, it was clear that a busy night lay ahead. What I would find out later, is that in Barcelona, during the Summer months, the work day is split into 2 sections. The morning section from 10AM until 3PM, and then the evening section from 7PM until midnight. This system is used to try and combat the oppressive heat of midday.
My first task was to buy some food. I never eat out because my diet is quite complicated. And although it was late, the last thing I wanted was to have a bad stomach for the 4 days, before I started work. I managed to find a well stocked convenience store run by a South Asian couple. The range of fresh food was impressive, although this didn't come as a surprise. During the month before my arrival, I had done some research on the Catalan region. It is known as the 'bread basket' of Spain and produces some 90,000 tons of vegetables, each year. This was a good omen, because good food is the foundation of good health.
Using some very broken Spanish, I managed to pay for my shopping. The girl at the cash till, although impatient, had a reassuring smile.
Once I had returned to the flat, I cooked some mushroom rice. I then made a cup of mint tea and rolled myself a cigarette. Sitting, hunched on the balcony, with the sights and sounds of Barcelona whirling around my head, I felt like I was in a dream. As, I watched my tobacco smoke drift lazily into the warm, clear night sky, I wondered if I was really here, at last.
The first lesson, I had learnt that night, was most of the concerns I had had, in the month preceding my departure from the UK, were unfounded. Taking a leap of faith is a complicated business, but the interesting part is to see where it leads you.
At that moment, I felt grateful to have made it this far. Overcoming one obstacle, makes the next, a little easier to handle. Taking one step at a time and focusing on that one thing alone, was a strategy I would need to hold onto, as my stay in Spain, progressed. What I didn't realize at the time, was that my mind had subconsciously started to build a coping mechanism. Meanwhile the conscious part of my brain, had surrendered itself to a multitude of new sensations. After years of monotonous routine, the unknown felt liberating. Not knowing what lay ahead felt perversely reassuring.