Barcelona is NOT a war zone

In about two weeks, Alan and I will be going back to Barcelona for a month. Of course, for us, visiting Barcelona is not quite living any other foreign destination – we lived there and Alan still fondly refers to it as “home”. But still, I like roaming through travel forums to read about other people’s recent trips, what they saw, what they did. Inevitably, they share their impressions and these can be either positive or negative. While I enjoy reading about other people’s experiences, I also get very frustrated with human beings’ (natural?) propensity to generalize, essentialize, and misunderstand a culture not their own. We have all heard of Parisian waiters’ fame for being surly and rude, which is nothing but a stereotype. In forums about Barcelona, people tend to focus on two issues: crime in Barcelona and the rudeness of the Catalan people.  Because I got tired of trying to dispel some of these notions, or at least to put them in perspective, in the sites I belong to, I decided it was about time I got it out of my system here.
Continue reading “Barcelona is NOT a war zone”

Quick lunch

Inspired by a Chucrute com salsicha, a food blog by a Brazilian living in California, I came up with this quick and nutritious spring meal:

Couscous

The recipe is quite simple:

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and a bit of butter and sautée half a cup of chopped red onions. Once the onions are soft, add a 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika (aka pimentón de la vera), salt & pepper to taste and after frying the spice for a few seconds, add 3/4 cup of chopped cherry tomatoes, and, after a minute or so, 1/4 pound of fresh spinach (something like 4 cups). Once the spinach has wilted, add 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and raise the heat the medium-high. Adjust the seasoning after the stock starts boiling and mix in 1 cup of couscous. Blend it in well, close the lid and remove the pot from the heat. After 5 minutes, remove the lid, fluff the couscous and add some fresh herbs if you have (I added about 3 tbsp of chives) and 1/4 cup of pine nuts. It was very yummy and light.

Blog’s Birthday

In the midst of preparing papers for conferences, sitting in various committees, doing Iter work, and attempting to write my thesis, I completely forgot to mark this blog’s second birthday. Its aim was rather simple, as the very first post indicates:

On 22 March 2006 hubby and I will be moving all our belongings into storage and making our way first to Montreal, then to Paris and finally to Barcelona where we will be living for a year. This blog is meant to document our trip(s) and allow us to keep in touch with friends and family in Canada, US, Brazil, and around the world. I’m looking forward to sharing all our photos, reviews of restaurants and bars, and remarks of the many places we’ll visit.

Slowly it grew as I started reading other blogs and became encouraged by them to talk about more than just the places I visited. The more politically-engaged blogs, such as Sindrome de Estocolmo or, to some extent, 42 and Bumblebee & Sweet Potato, led me to talk a bit more about issues that matter to me such as immigration, cross-cultural relations, health care and the environment. The numerous blogs written by people living in adopted countries, such as that of a Catalan in Austria or the US, Americans in Germany, Spain, or even Brazil, the numerous Brazilians in Canada, US, Spain, France, has made me fascinated by the experiences of people across cultures. It is hard to articulate exactly what it is about the process of moving to a new country that fascinates me. Perhaps the mix of wonder, surprise and recognition as people start building bridges between their culture and the culture they have chosen to inhabit. The recognition that the other is not so foreign after all.

Of course, the blogs I read are particularly open-minded and positive, not surprisingly reflecting the tone of my own ramblings here, and thus not necessarily representative of most immigrant or expat experience. But this blog may be many things but it doesn’t claim or wishes to be anything too structured, serious, academic, or scientific. It is basically the space where I can leave the depths of my academic life and be light, often airy, and simply engage in conversation with the many wonderful people I have met here. It is also a space where I can share my passion for people, photography and food. That people I have never met have found it worth reading and some have even found it worthy of awards, is a never-ending source of surprise and delight. Thank you all so much for reading, sharing your thoughts, and allowing me into your lives.

There are many other blogs I read that I haven’t cited, I hope you don’t mind. I’ll be updating the list of links on the side bar shortly to reflect more accurately what is on my bloglines rss-reader.