Endless Surprises

Written by Valerie

I have postcards from Paris, metro stubs from Barcelona, and a museum ticket from Germany. I have gone to all of these locations yet, every destination I visit surprises me. I came to this continent with an idea of what every culture would be like and how I would feel about them. It was all the contrary. For example, when I got to Barcelona, Spain, I was so relieved because I thought, “Finally, a country where I can speak the language.” However, when I got there, I realized that Barcelona is a part of the Catalunya region of Spain, where they speak Catalan. Thankfully, the vast majority of the people spoke Castellano, which is what they call Spanish. As a native Spanish speaker, this was a matter of joy for me. However, a grand portion of the signage for storefronts, products, and restaurant menus was in Catalan, which I could definitely not understand no matter how related it is to Spanish and the other Romance languages.

This unexpected difference created a sense of intrigue. It made me want to get to know more about Barcelona and all her history. That is the interesting thing about a country, it is like the layers of the Earth. There is the surface with its beauty you can see with the naked eye, where the people lie and the music plays, but under that layer is the crust. This is where the recent history lies, where you can see the cracks and imperfections of the past the land has endured like natural disasters, wars, and discrimination. Even further down, you get to the mantle. Here is where you begin to understand why the culture has formed the way it has. Former colonizers and rulers can explain why the Spanish have the ceceo, which is the formal name for the lisp, or why in certain regions of Spain there is Mozarabic architecture. Cultural pillars like language, religion, and architecture are expressions of the past that tell the story of what that land has lived through. Lastly, you reach the core. This layer is the foundation. The geography of a nation ultimately is what sets the stage for what it will become in the future. Nearby bodies of water that stir up fights or mountain regions that create natural separations all influence the formation of a nation.

This being said, I encourage all future travelers to seek out the history of the area you are visiting so you can understand the differences you are seeing. This will create a bond between you and the culture of the country that will make it feel like it is welcoming you with open arms. It wants to be understood, just like you and I.