20.07.2013 - 21.07.2013 30 °C
Back again after a long absence! One major reason for that is I haven't been taking as many trips recently, instead opting for getting to know friends in Barcelona better, and enjoying the fact that I live in a place where many people come for their summer vacations! But now I find myself again with potential blog posts piling up, so hopefully I will provide a couple in the next few days!
What exactly does summer in Barcelona mean? For many people that means posh dinners and nightclubs, other beach every day. For me, it means an absurd amount of beach volleyball. Shortly after arriving in Barcelona last year, right about the time I was getting fed up with finding a place to live, I went to the beach with the express interest in finding a group to play volleyball with. And I did-- every single weekend and many odd days during the evenings in the week someone in the group is at the beach playing.
The group itself is made up almost entirely by people from outside barcelona: the woman who owns the net is Czech, and there are Italians, Peruvians, Brazilians, Polish... and one American. Luckily, though, everyone speaks Spanish, so interestingly enough much of the vocabulary I feel most comfortable with is the things I need to play volleyball: dentro (in), afuera (out), sacar (serve) and linea (line).
Even after spending the vast majority of my weekend days on the beach, I remain easily the whitest person there, giving my friends endless amusement. Although, they do recognize that I am the easiest person to spot among all of the super- tan bodies lounging around!
Usually, though, by the end of each day of playing, I have become quite brown, due to the fact that the sand on the beaches in Barcelona is somewhere between real sand and dirt. The reason for this is that originally, there were no beaches close to the center of the city, but with the Olympics coming in 1992, the goverment shipped in sand to make these beaches. The controversy (which only exists in my head, I think) regards exactly where this sand came from. A tour guide once explained that the sand was shipped in from Egypt, while a friend insists that's silly and thinks that it was dredged up from the Mediterranean just off the coast of Barcelona. Regardless where it came from, though, it is quite dirty, and I always have to fight in the shower to get it all off!
A couple of weeks back, I had the opportunity to go scuba diving! Scuba diving has long been on my bucket list, and never at the absolute top but of course when a coworker and some friends of hers invited me one weekend to travel north of the city to a town called l'Escala to do a 'Suba diving baptism' course, I jumped on it! No experience was required, as I had an instructor right by my side the whole time, which reminded me of skydiving, without the super-intimate straps connecting student and instructor.
After a short course on how the scuba equipment works, we hopped in the boat and traveled the ten minutes to the dive site, accompanied by the mascot of the boat: a big chocolate lab who eagerly looked on as people prepared and splashed into the water. When we finally arrived, the scenery in the small inlets and caves tucked into the shore were spectacular, hinting at even better things under the water!
In the most northern part of the Mediterranean in the early summer, the water is actually not so warm, so we were issued full wetsuits, including hoods and booties for our dive. Goggles, lead weights, and flippers went on the top, middle and bottom respectively, and then the backpack goes over all of that. One thing that surprised me greatly was the weight of the backpack, and my first thought is wait, if I wear this in the water I'll sink like a rock! But I realized that indeed that is the idea with scuba diving: controlled sinking.
For those who have never come in contact with a dive pack, it's a pretty cool gadget: it has the tank attached to the back, connected via tubing to the regulator, through which one breathes. There is another tube, which leads to two air pouches in the backpack. At the beginning, I didn't use them to my advantage and in what must have been quite amusing to my instructor, was battling with fins and hands to not just sink directly to the bottom. When I was reminded of the air pouches, things got much easier as I could manually adjust my buoyancy. After swimming a bit around the bottom, we embarked on an adventure around the vicinity that was one of the coolest experiences of my life! Diving is absolutely like weightlessness. As you get deeper, the surface, although always present, seems too far in the distance to be relevant, and new realms of movement are possible. I had an absolute blast exploring the nooks and crannies around the caves, and got to hold a sea urchin, bugged a big octopus, and scared a rock lobster almost as bad as it scared me!
A really incredible experience, made even better by the fact on the way back our guides quelled our hunger with a small tortilla and a refreshments! It was a great adventure and not something I am likely to run across again soon, so it was the perfect way to spend a Saturday! Cheers to Summer! Hope yours is going well too, and I look forward to talking to you again soon!