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Greetings from Barcelona! - Lindsey Kuper [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Lindsey Kuper

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Greetings from Barcelona! [Mar. 4th, 2011|11:04 pm]
Lindsey Kuper
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03/04/2011: Alex and Graham on the Metro

Alex oniugnip and I arrived this morning after a remarkably easy trip: no stops between Atlanta and here. After my only other international travel experience, in which Alex and I were fingerprinted and questioned at Narita, I was impressed by how easy it was to get through customs at the airport. There was just one form to fill out, which a customs official barely glanced at before waving us on through. Graham cola_fan met us and shepherded us onto a bus, then the metro, and finally to his lovely apartment right along Avinguda Diagonal.

Since this is my first time in Europe, Alex asked me to keep a list of things that are surprising. Aside from customs being easy, the one thing I was utterly unprepared for was cheek kissing. I stiffened up when the first guy that Graham introduced me to -- the friendly doorman in his building -- pulled me toward him, and it was still kind of awkward when Graham's lovely girlfriend, Xana, did the same when I met her a little later. I feel maladroit and uncosmopolitan for having allowed myself to be surprised by this. On the other hand, it feels weird that I'm receiving these kisses and Alex isn't; the gender binary that that implies is not something I particularly want to feel comfortable with.

I'm also having some language awkwardness. I studied Spanish in high school for four years, but with three different teachers during that time, all of whom more or less started my class over at the beginning, I really didn't get very far. (Not to solely blame the teachers; I could have pushed myself to learn more and didn't.) So my Spanish is nearly non-existent. Still, this is a lot easier than the first day in Japan was: I'm catching spoken words here and there, and I can more or less read things like maps and menus. Actually synthesizing any Spanish (much less any Catalan) is still too much for me. I clammed up completely when we went out for breakfast with Graham and Xana, and I still haven't made it much past "Hola". Luckily, Alex's Spanish is quite good, and he can cover for us both.

03/04/2011: Graham demos a Tenori-on

After breakfast, Alex and I had a long nap and a shower, and in the afternoon we meandered over to Graham's university to meet his colleagues in the Music Technology Group and see demos of some cool gadgets. After that, Graham had to review some conference papers, so we headed back to the apartment on the metro; I was proud of our navigational skills. Graham joined us back here a little while ago, and now we're having tea and contemplating going out to a bar. It's really great to be here. Graham's European colleagues think it's crazy that we're only staying for five days; to them, a proper vacation should last about four or five times that long. I think we could stand to learn from them!

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[User Picture]From: mindstalk
2011-03-05 01:24 am (UTC)
Seems like Xana should have 'kissed' Alex, though the doorman shouldn't have, by usual custom. When I stayed in an apartment in Madrid I got a bunch of cheek kisses from women I was just meeting. And yeah, disconcerting.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2011-03-05 05:10 pm (UTC)
Alex says that women have motioned as if he's about to cheek-kiss them and then stopped when they see that he isn't. He says that he's not against it, per se, but doesn't feel particularly comfortable doing it. Somehow I feel like it's less of a choice for me -- I suppose because the guy is the one to initiate the exchange.

I also noticed that the guys in Graham's office -- all his colleagues that I met were guys -- didn't do it. Maybe that's the way of things with young, geeky men, or maybe they were particularly conscious that we Weren't From Around Here. Or maybe they just didn't feel like standing up.

Edited at 2011-03-05 05:12 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: _tove
2011-03-05 02:33 am (UTC)
The cheek-kissing does not surprise me, because my European friends-of-the-family do it, but it does mildly freak me out. Part of it is the gender differentiation, as you mention (and the sort of meta-level gender policy that I shouldn't mind being touched by other people, and if I don't enjoy it, I should suck it up to be polite), and the other part is that I get really squicked by stuff on my face [trigger warning for, um, compulsions about stuff on faces]. I barely tolerate the saliva of people I actually want to have that close to me, and when you factor in the creams and powders and glosses that other people put on their faces and especially lips, well, I just don't want that on my cheek, blech.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2011-03-05 04:05 pm (UTC)
In my experience so far, it's more like our cheeks brush each other but at no point do anyone's lips actually come in contact with anyone else's lips. And the cheek-brushing doesn't bother me; in fact, I think it's a nice custom. It just feels uncomfortable that out of Alex and me, I seem to be singled out for it because I'm a woman. It implies that here, when you meet someone new, the very first thing you need to do is sort them into male or female. I'd rather just, you know, shake someone's hand and do the sorting on an as-needed basis or not at all.
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From: sherwooddotnu
2011-03-05 04:36 am (UTC)
Sounds very cool!
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[User Picture]From: sonetka
2011-03-05 07:35 am (UTC)
I could never get comfortable with the kissing (or with conversations held where the other person was about 1 1/2 inches away from my face). I tell myself that it's not being uncosmopolitan, it's just part of my cultural heritage and is thus to be respected :). I hope you're starting another equally fantastic day as I write this - looking forward to more pictures! I'm another one who's heard that Barcelona is gorgeous and am hoping to see visual evidence of that :).
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From: wjl
2011-03-05 03:50 pm (UTC)
woo, Barcelona! be sure to visit la manzana de discordia.

oh, and i wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Alex falls in love with Spanish coffee :D
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From: neelk
2011-03-05 05:32 pm (UTC)
Make sure to see some Gaudi buildings. I've only seen them in pictures, but they are really beautiful.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2011-03-06 02:26 pm (UTC)
The marathon course went right by Casa Batlló! It was awesome.
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