Sunday, January 31, 2010

29 January 2010 – Gracia

It’s hard to believe that I can’t speak the language of my city. I never really thought about this until today. For five months I’ve been living naturally in Cataluña, feeling comfortable and adjusted. Aside from some place names and a few key words (thank you, please, exit, enlargement), I know nothing of the Catalan language. It makes me wonder, is language really that important?

When I walk the streets of Gracia, browse the aisles of Condi’s, or ride the metro to class, I don’t speak, and no one speaks to me. I kindly acknowledge my fellow denizens, and they accept me as part of the community—albeit an unusual looking member of the community. Rarely, someone does talk to me. I don’t understand a word, but I can normally guess their intentions and respond with a nod or a shrug of the shoulders. If I have completely no idea why the person is talking to me, I just smile and look interested. This appeases my neighbors, and we all walk off with a smile.

When I first moved here, I planned on learning the language. How could I live somewhere for two years without speaking the language? I borrowed some Catalan textbooks from a friend and eagerly read the introduction, the history of the Catalan language. Once I got to the real page one, I lost all ambition and decided to let the books collect dust until my friend demanded their return. Perhaps I could have benefited from a few hours of learning the basics of the language. It could have been beneficial for when I read my utility bill, when I order a drink at the bar, or when a cute girl strikes up a conversation.

Language is insignificant in communication. We all share something more than a comprehension of some pattern sounds. Language is so irrelevant that it took me five months to fully realize that I don’t speak the language of my city, despite being fully adapted.

1 January 2010 – Barcelona, my apartment

The clock just struck midnight. It has been midnight for less than fifteen minutes, and I am blown away by the excitement of my neighbors. I always thought that I lived in an enthused neighborhood, but never have I witnessed such pandemonium. Everyone is out in the streets, lighting firecrackers, and reveling in the New Year. But why? What does it matter?

New Years is just some arbitrary date. We needed to have some date to start a new year, so somebody years ago picked today. I don’t see why it is so important, worthy of not just a rare day-off but of a night of debauchery. There is no significance to this date. I find it difficult to celebrate. As a matter of fact, I will be cursing it for weeks as I try to remember that we are now in 2010 and that when I sign any dates, I need to write 2010, not 2009. I’d rather celebrate just about any other night…and I do.

I suppose I could use the day as a point of reflection. It does represent one rotation around the sun. I have only experienced 25 of those in my life. It is a good unit of measurement. In this year, I have experienced a number of changes. Not only did I partake in my most influential event of my life, but I also saw myself relocating to a new continent. It was an important year. It is amazing to think how differently I thought just 365 revolutions ago. I would have never been able to predict what I am doing now. I’m not sure if 2010 will be more transformational. I plan on staying put in this country as I work on my MBA. Nevertheless, who knows what experiences will change me? Who will enter into my life? How much will I change?
Two thousand ten: be more than just some arbitrary date.