Day Three in Barcelona. I like Spain. My second-grade Spanish is slowly coming out of the dark dusty corners of my brain. I like Spanish people– human interaction between strangers in Spain is not a matter of sugary sweet fake friendliness like in North America, or of gratuitous rudeness like in Russia or (from time to time) France. A polite ´Hello´or “Excuse me,” then food is ordered, things are bought or directions are given, then “Gracias” and that’s it. Also, stores stay open until reasonable hours– I was just in a mall, it was nearly ten when I left and it was still packed with shoppers gettig ready for Three Kings Day on January 6, the big gift-giving holiday here.
This morning and afternoon my mother and I saw a few things– namely a cathedral and some park pavillions– designed by the architect Antonio Gaudi, who lived and worked in Barcelona. Gaudi loved to work with nature and its forms and colours. The columns holding up the entranceway and the roof to his Cathedral of the Holy Family are, for example, suupposed to look like trees– the roof columns are tree trunks, the entranceway columns, done in sandstone like the whole building, are roots. Incredible carvings spill down the walls– lizards, snakes, skulls, fruits, saints, angels. The doors are done in clear glass to let in light– not in heavy wood like other churches. The stainglass windows are done in rainbows, shooting rainbows across the vast white interior, where the tree-trunk-like white columns shoot up to the roof, which has a skylight in the highest of the steeples. Mom was moved to tears by the inside.
One of the park pavilions looks like a giant cave with sandstone stalactites and stalagmites, others are full of sinuous curves covered in bright tile mosaics. The park where the pavilions are, Parc Guell, looks exactly like Le Plateau in Montreal with its panoramic views of the city– but why does Le Plateau have no colours?!
Went in an all-you-can-eat buffet between the two landmarks and saw a guy sitting across from me who could have been Antoine’s twin. I even went so far as to ask him if he was Burundian (he wasn’t). In the church I’d seen a young man who was the spitting image of Pierre– same height, same dark dark skin, same slimness and delicate features, same little goatee, looking around in amazed bewilderment. That made me wonder what Antoine, Pierre and company would think of Barcelona– not only the wild singularity of Gaudi but the vast amounts of food being eaten (and wasted) in that buffet. How would someone from a country where many people never eat their fill react to a seemingly infinite flow of food? The fact that quite a few people eat four or five plates filled with pasta, paella and salad? The fact that others waste much more than they eat? The ten-euro cost (17,000 francs) which is almost a week of Athanase’s teacher’s salary– but is considered low to moderate for a full meal in a restaurant? The rows and rows and rows of THINGS in the box store where we bought groceries after the trip to the park? Piles and piles of dolls, notebooks, beer, cheese, snack food…
Yes, it was nearly half a year ago that I came back from Burundi. But I still cannot get over the fact that we live on two different planets.