It is a sad fact that I wrote this post almost exactly one year ago, but never found the time to post it. So here is the post as it was originally written, last November.
What is it about a new city that brings everything into focus?
I had the chance to wander around alone and learn my way by experience. I had, nerd that I am, studied maps ahead of time so I could walk with confidence. (holla to Google maps for the street views!) I found the architecture beautiful
and intricate. Check out the GMP building: in America, it would probably be in an aging concrete block.
I was surprised to find that most people, even in touristy areas, did not speak English. I tried not to be an ugly American and demand that they speak English. My sister made me a Spanish guide and I did my best to speak what little pidgin I could. My attempts fell into two categories: either the person had no clue what I meant, or they understood me and then started speaking muy rapido en español, at which point I had to nod and pretend I understood. I would often think of the right thing to say about 30 seconds after the exchange ended.
Just as all of Oz’s characters end up with a quasi-Gaelic brogue, all of my foreign languages are thrown into one dusty, underused corner of my brain. I rolled through saying merci, gracias, thanks, even a grazie. Wth? I seriously question if I have the ability to absorb any language well, other than English.
That said, I found a chocolatier and had Spanish chocolat con churros, ordering and paying with no problems. I was grateful for the stop because the wind was coldly cutting through my scarf.
The chocolat was syrupy but thankfully less sweet than expected, and was delicious when I dipped and ate the churros.
Sipping it on its own, it was a bit flat and could have benefited from a touch of hot pepper.
Significantly warmer, I wandered back onto the streets and did some shopping.
I stopped to watch several street musicians including a non-sequitur Mariachi band. Isn’t that Mexican?
I saw a sign for a vegetarian restaurant and, even though it was falafel, I felt ever-so-cosmopolitan ordering and being understood. Note the burger joint in the picture.
Take that, big box chain!
The museums were closed so I had little choice but to go back to my hotel for a much-needed nap. I felt like I was missing a bit of Spain; however, jet lag was colliding with my usual lack of sleep for a dangerous possibility of a migraine.
So I mentioned that a new city can lend focus. Basically I was thrown completely out of my comfort zone and into a new situation. Doing so caused me to reflect on my life and the way I am running things. I committed to a few new things and recommitted to one old thing: I need to take better care of myself. Doing so is the key to everything else.
Every commitment I wanted to make relies on my being at my best. For example, I want to do a better job at work. My biggest barrier is when I’m too tired to focus well and the day is spent answering emails and fetching more coffee.
I think my mode has been to burn hard and fast and try to do everything. I was only allowed to stop when I became physically ill from the stress. It’s hard to justify resting when there is so much else to be done. I’m starting to realize that getting that rest can actually help me to be better at my tasks.
So why am I like a four-year-old who won’t go to bed on time??