Another week down, I’m now more than half way through my course, which seems ridiculous, because I only just started! We’re having a change of class this coming week, so for the rest of our time we’ll be teaching upper-intermediate students instead of lower intermediates. Will be fun to get to know a new group of learners and try out some new stuff with them.
I recently realised a grave error made by Kate, Simon and myself. Having neglected to get our drink on together early on in the course, we have doomed ourselves to eternal polite-classmate-ship. I understand Simon’s hesitancy to spend time with Kate and I outside of class time – after all, he’s more than twice our age, and he’s a reserved and very Britishly polite guy, so he’d probably think it was inappropriate, but let’s be honest, there are three of us on the course, we’re all going through the same thing, it makes sense for us to be friends, right? I’ve been known to voice my opinions on old people in the past, and I’m clearly not a fan, but ‘old’ in my book doesn’t include people who travel the world and learn new things and are generally self-sufficient. It’s the feeble old snails-pacers who do nothing but complain all day and judge young people and create a burden on society who I don’t like. There’s a difference.
Of course, it didn’t have to be alcohol that theoretically could have brought the three of us together, either, although that is the best icebreaker I know of. There just seemed to be a reluctance right from the start to bond on a personal level, spend any time together outside of class, or even share jokes. The three of us seem to be quiet keep-to-ourselvesers. I’ve made efforts, but to little effect.
Yesterday, however, Kate and I spent 13 hours together, and it was a good day. We’re still not close friends or anything (there’s a reserved politeness between us – she keeps apologising for wanting to do things. Um… you’re out of your home country for the first time in your life: you can do anything you want!) Maybe it’s me, I’m beginning to wonder – do I keep people away? I like to think I’m approachable and non judgmental (okay, except when it comes to annoying old people). Maybe not. Oh well.
We arranged to meet at 8.45 at Granollers Centre train station. I didn’t leave the house until 8.11, so had to half run to get there in time (oops), but we left for Barcelona on schedule. Now, anyone who has travelled with me before will know I’m the type of person who likes to know where I am on the map, and what direction I should go in next at all times. I’m the organised one, the one who shows others where to go and how to do things. Not yesterday. Kate had done all the online research and I followed like a lost puppy as she led me off the train at the right time and onto the correct platform to wait for the next one. It was quite relaxing, although she does tend to worry too much. I guess that’s why I usually like to do that stuff, then I know I’m the only one who’s worrying (if I am, which, to be honest, isn’t actually all that often, and probably should be more often, considering the amount of times I travel alone). I don’t like other people being stressed when I’m trying to enjoy myself. If I’ve organized everything, then I can reassure people there’s nothing to worry about. Of course, I constantly try to reassure Kate that there’s nothing to worry about – for example when she’s apologising for the train being late, or going crazy thinking about a class she thinks she messed up when clearly it was a very good class and she has nothing to be concerned about – but it never seems to do any good. Some people like to worry, I guess.
So it was without any unexpected even that we arrived at Montserrat, a monastery in the hills about an hour and half from Barcelona. The rock formations in the hills are strangely fascinating, and I kept expecting to see faces looking down at me from them. For some reason, the first thing I thought of when we got off the train was Mount Rushmore. Having never been in the U.S.A, I’ve never actually seen Mt Rushmore, so I only have vague memories from pictures and films to go by.
The train ride to Monistrol was long and uneventful. Kate and I kept setting each other off with yawns – a contagious cycle. The last ten minutes or so was nice, though, as we got well out of the city and into the green country, where grey rocks jut into the sky. At Monistrol, we changed to the cremallera (track train – although I’m not sure why it needs to be specified as a track train, as I’m pretty sure other trains use tracks, too) to get up the hill. With the scenery, this was a far more interesting ride, and we arrived at the top full of expectations for a day of exploring.
We first headed to the Basilica and wondered at the long line that extended out the door to the right hand side. Inside, we realised the queue was for a close encounter with the virgin statue, famous for some reason or other, that was high above the altar at the front of the room. The stained glass windows were pretty and it was pleasant inside, which is basically my impression of every church or basilica or similar building I’ve ever been in as a tourist. I just can’t bring myself to get more interested than that. Although I did notice the pipe organ looked cool, and there were stands in the alcoves of the upper floor that looked like they were sniper rifles pointed at various places throughout the place. If they’d been manned I would have been a bit freaked out. I people watched for a short time – the most fascinating thing to do nearly anywhere, but particularly in a church – then left. Wandering through a side door, we discovered rows of prayer candles and a cute statue of I-don’t-quite-know-what, but that reminded me of the Peter Pan statue in the Dunedin Botanical Gardens.
Kate wanted to see the virgin statue out of artistic curiosity (one of the things she kept apologising for, and I kept assuring her was quite alright), but we decided the line was too long and headed off to explore the area. We deftly avoided the audio visual complex, although we’d paid for it in our combination ticket, and found somewhere to buy sunscreen and refill our water bottles. It was a beautiful day and if I hadn’t bought that sunscreen I would now be in a considerable amount of pain. We took a path that said “Via Crusis” and was supposed to be a 20 minute walk. I got distracted and took us up a steep, rubbly forest path past rock climbers that eventually ended in a dead-end, at which point I cheerily turned around and walked back. I don’t think Kate was quite as chuffed with me as I was with myself. It’s nice to be the fit one for once. The track was shaded and birds sang, but I suspect Kate missed some of its beauty for all the worrying she was doing.
We stopped for lunch in the dappled half-shade of a tree, where I took photos of a monument through the tree, which puzzled me when I looked at them today: it looks like part of a branch is invisible and you can see the monument behind it.
Or maybe it’s just my overactive imagination.
After lunch we took the funicular up above the main monastery and from there took another enjoyable jaunt around the hills, for magnificent views good exercise and just generally exploring. We accidentally interrupted a couple of guys getting stoned on the very edge of a terrifyingly steep drop-off, sat in the sun, and found some goat droppings. Again, I don’t think Kate garnered quite as much amusement from the detour as I did.
When we got back to the bottom of the funicular, it was ice-block time (although Americans get strange mental images of people carrying massive blocks of ice on their backs when you call them that instead of popsicles). I sat in the sun and read Bill Bryson’s entertaining Notes from a Small Island while Kate got in line to see the virgin. By the time she came out, clouds had covered the sun and we took another short walk for more views before heading back down the mountain. It got quite blustery, although not quite chilly just before we caught the cremallera.
The train back to Barcelona was again uneventful; we had dinner (Paella, chicken and chips and custard and strawberries for dessert!) near Espanya metro station, and got on the unusually crowded train back to Granollers. We arrived at 9.45 and both felt good after a nice day out sightseeing. Kate lives in Granollers, so probably got home around 10. It took me 45 minutes to walk back to the empty house (Raquel and Guillem are away for the weekend), and when I got there I was exhausted. The dogs greeted me happily and I gave them some food before intentionally hitting my pillows with my face.
Writing? I’ve been doing a lot of character development lately, building up more solid ideas of characters I want to work with in the future, but don’t have stories for just yet. Also finished my second assignment for CELTA and have been kept busy with lesson planning.
Am enjoying the twice weekly markets and the sunshine and the teaching and the learning. Miss the friends and whanau at home. Generally enjoying myself.