Day 3: Books, Roses, and Ikea

23 Apr

We are completing our third day here in Barcelona and things are starting to come together.  Yesterday we got phone numbers, albeit temporary until we have a NIE for our mobile contract, and we have wifi in the apartment (halleluia!) after introducing ourselves to our neighbor who generously provided his password for us to use his until ours is installed on Friday or Saturday.

We spent a good part of the day today in Ikea playing out what will probably be a common scenario for those who have experienced cohabitation. Ikea is challenging enough in the U.S., especially when having to make joint decisions about decor and battling the temptation to buy things you don’t need.  It was even more challenging to do it in another language – most of the signage was in Catalán, with a little bit of Spanish if we were lucky.  Asking staff questions was not easy either – I usually was able to get my question across with a bit of awkward fumbling, but when they responded with rapid-fire I usually had to have them repeat their response or explain with different terms.  As we have no car, we paid for delivery service, and it included carrying our purchases through the miniature front door and upstairs to our 5th floor apartment, which we felt was totally worth the cost of €75.  We now have a real mattress to replace the small airbed we’ve used the last two nights, a guest bed, a table, two chairs, a few plates and cups and other miscellaneous items that will help us get by for the next month when the container arrives.

Today is a minor holiday, the day of St George in Castellano or St Jordi in Catalán.  It’s a day for lovers, similar to Valentine’s Day but not as commercialized or with suchSt Jordi's Day gifts a heavy emphasis on having a perfect date with your sweetheart.  The main focus is on sweethearts giving each other a small gift.  Women receive a single rose (often with a stem of wheat, I’m not sure why) and men receive books.  Catalonians seem to have added a regional flare as well; the roses are usually tied with red and yellow striped ribbon to match the pattern of the Catalán flag.  There were vendors on every corner selling books and/or roses, and many also had Catalán flags flying.  Lots of people were out and about just enjoying the spring weather and checking out the booths.  To add our own flare to this tradition, I asked Rob to give me a reusable rose – I am not a fan of growing and killing flowers to be enjoyed only for a short time.  With so many vendors selling roses, I thought it was likely to find some creative variation.  Sure enough, after walking two or three blocks, we ran across a vendor selling roses made of paper as well as rose jewelry.  The print of the paper is even visible underneath the paint, it’s very well done and appropriately eco-friendly.  Similarly, Rob reads his books in electronic format these days, so I got him an e-book for his Kindle.  Afterwards, we wandered our way through the crowded streets to have dinner our absolute favorite restaurant, which we had been looking forward to for months prior to our departure. We’re finally here!  Our favorite server there even invited us to dinner at his place next week.  It feels good to be planting some roots.


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