Nau Côclea Residency - Log 10

I spent my final day packing and trying to finish up Darker Side.  I cut it really close - the painting was wet most of the evening but finally around 9:00pm I was able to wrap it up to put in my suitcase.  That last night I woke up a number of times to blow my nose.

The next morning I took the train back into Barcelona and then switched to another train that took me to the airport, where I then had to find the bus to take me to Terminal 1 - the international departures terminal.  Due to the infrequent train schedule and my therefore early start, I thought I was going to have to wait at my gate for about two to three hours, but actually by the time I got through security and customs to my gate it was only about half an hour before boarding (though boarding was over an hour ahead of departure). 

I ended up getting stuck in a middle seat, which is particularly unpleasant on a ten hour flight.  Luckily, the woman next to me started trying to figure out how to sit next to her partner who was two rows back and after they asked some other guy who weirdly preferred his middle seat, I volunteered myself to switch with her partner who luckily was on an aisle.  Then the flight attendant saw me and since I was clearly willing to move, asked if I could move again to bring another family together.  She offered a window seat (no thanks - I like to be able to get up without asking someone else to move) but I countered with aisle and she made it happen.  As the flight started taking off, I realized that the stuffiness last night was because I was, in fact, getting a cold.  Honestly, while I'd have preferred no cold at all, it was better that it happened on a travel day and not during my last few days in Spain.  Getting the aisle seat was super helpful, though, as I made at least ten different visits to the bathroom for tissues.

That flight also had some of the most abundant food services I've ever encountered.  They had more than twice the amount of services that the initial flight had - we had a full pasta meal, then later they offered ice cream, then they offered pretzels, and then they brought another slightly smaller meal around.  This was all quite nice since the rest of my travel was uneventfully but tightly sequenced such that as soon as I landed in Charlotte and found my next gate I had less than ten minutes before boarding it so I wouldn't have had time to get more food if I had wanted any.

Finally I arrived in Kansas City, and though my bags were really slow to come out on the carousel, they appeared eventually and my wonderful colleague Susan was waiting to take me home.  It is so nice to have a trustworthy, friendly face to welcome you back after some time away.

Nau Côclea Residency - Log 6

On Saturday I went to Barcelona for the first time.  (Well, the first time was when I flew in, but I didn't see anything other than the train station, so I don't think that counts.)

The train ride is long: it's about two hours away.  Add to that the twenty minute walk and I got there around midday.  I decided to take one of the tourist buses as Barcelona is a sprawlingly large city and many reviews have noted that these tourist buses are actually decent methods of traversing it.  There are two different routes the buses take - I plan to go back another day to take the other route, but I started with the route that went by the Olympic arena because right nearby is the Barcelona Botanic Garden.  I stopped there first; the garden was worth the cost (1.9 euro) but was all open air/open climate so it wasn't as interesting as gardens that are able to create greenhouses with appropriate microclimates.  On the rest of that route, I saw the Arc de Triomf, the Passeig de Colom, the Poble Espanyol, Gaudi's La Pedrera/Casa Milà, and Gaudi's Casa Batlló.  I also stopped to get lunch in Plaza España and then walked up La Rambla back to the Passeig de Gracia where I caught the last train back home.

I painted the next day and most of the following day, with a break to go to the beach.  We went to a very pretty little beach about a fifteen minute drive away from Camallera near L'Escala.  I swam a little, but I don't like saltwater in my eyes and mouth so I mostly floated around, sat on the beach, investigated crabs in rocks with a small child with a stick (he didn't hurt them, just excavated them from their hidey-holes) and just enjoyed the Mediterranean atmosphere.

Then on Tuesday, the day of the summer solstice, I went back to Girona, as I wanted to make sure I felt like I had fully explored the town and I hadn't seen the cathedral, Arabic baths, or old monastery yet.  It rained a fair amount, though, so a good bit of time was spent sheltering in odd shops.  I had a funny conversation with one of the shopkeepers.  About half the people I meet in Spain compliment me effusively on my Spanish, and the other half clearly think I'm awful at it.  My skill entirely depends on the situational context - what I need to talk about, what else is going on, whether I'm stressed for time, etc. - but I'm aware that even at my best I am merely functional in the language.  I can only discuss superficial ideas and speak simply, but I do get by and I have a decent accent.  Anyway, I was talking with this shopkeeper about the weather, and the holiday, and my residency, and so on, and she complimented my Spanish.  I said it was a little ugly but functional, which is typically how I reply.  Her response to me, however, I found really funny: "What's really important is that you understand me, and this you clearly do quite well."  

The holiday we were discussing was the Saint John festival in honor of the solstice and we had a party to celebrate it that evening in my studio space.  A number of people came over, several of whom I had met previously (a Scottish immigrant artist named Amelia; Clara's sister; Jordi, the musician using the smaller studio attached to my house; Clara's boyfriend; and then a fair number of new people.  Amelia and a couple other guests played some lovely, old music that I half recognized on the violin and guitar and a potluck supper and drinks were available all night long.  Amelia had brought a young artist friend of hers along who's in his early twenties and just starting to figure out his skill set and artistic path.  Just as the fireworks came out and were starting to be set off, he asked me if I'd sit for a portrait.  I kind of wanted to watch the fireworks, but I acceded and let him draw me.  He kept bursting into laughter while drawing, which didn't seem like the best sign, but I think he was just insecure about what he was doing and the drawing was also veering into an overly solemn expression.  He said that he would really like to learn accurate illustration skills but that despite seeking them out, there weren't any well-taught courses on it.  After some time he finished and showed it to me - I thought he had a good hand but my face was a little vertically stretched.  Then I thought we were done, but he asked if I would draw a portrait of him.  This was quite clever of him, as I felt obligated since he'd done mine, so I did one in his sketchbook for him.  Clara told me I'm a "good drawer" and I garnered other praise from attendees, so that was nice.  The party as a whole was a really good time that felt very medieval what with the music and the summer solstice celebration and the general ambiance.

Nau Côclea Residency - Log 5

Saturday was one of those days of small amounts of repeated bad luck.  First, as I was packing myself up to head out for Girona again to take in the art festival, I realized that I had no idea where my non-prescription sunglasses were.  Obviously not as bad as losing the very costly prescription ones, but still.  I liked those sunglasses!  I resolved to buy some new ones in Girona.  Then I set off for the train.  As I waited at the stop for what felt like too long... it was too long.  I had accidentally loaded a train schedule for the wrong day and weekend trains are more infrequent, so I had slightly over an hour to wait for the next train.  The walk to or from Nau Côclea is about twenty minutes, so burning forty minutes just walking back and forth didn't make any sense.  I decided to see if I could find sunglasses in Camallera.  I did (though they were quite overpriced) and also bought a clementine and some water to help with the wait.

Once I got to Girona, I walked as quickly as possible to the arts festival, but I arrived just before 2pm due to the mistake in train timing.  I had been told to aim to arrive more at 1pm as at 2pm everyone goes off to eat lunch for a couple hours.  I did get to briefly say hello to the  director of the Bòlit. Centre and she introduced me to a few of the artists.  Due in part to my timing but I think mostly due to the newness of the festival, it was pretty underwhelming. There were four artists painting large murals, which were really cool, but apart from that there were just a few scattered stands selling relatively expensive jewelry and art.

I ended up staying at the festival for a pretty short amount of time and then just started to walk around and explore Girona again.  I stopped for lunch (paella vegetal) and then saw that I had just enough time if I hurried to catch a train back.  So I hurried... and got to the train station literally thirty seconds too late.  And again, on the weekends the schedule is more infrequent and I'd have to wait two hours for the next train.  The train station is moderately far from the heart of the city, so I grumpily started walking back into the city and bought a few groceries before catching the next train.  Some dude tried to gently take my backpack from me (not to steal, I don't think - at least not immediately - but to test my boundaries and if he had succeeded to make it harder for me to want to walk away) and other weird behaviors in the train station again, but I managed to distance myself without issue.  These are the times, though, that are frustrating traveling as a single woman.

The next day I worked in the studio.  The following day I also mostly painted, but additionally had an excursion to a small rocky beach with Clara and a friend of hers in the evening.  It was actually so nice and cool outside that evening that it was a little too cold for me to want to swim, but Clara promised many future opportunities. 

The next day was once again devoted to studio work.

Then I got sick.  This isn't a huge surprise; I actually don't think I get sick that often when I'm at home, but when I'm traveling I'm always being exposed to new viruses and bacteria.  This time it wasn't a head cold like in Peru or Iceland - it was a stomach bug.  Clara, in fact, thinks it may have been caused by drinking the potable but high in nitrates tap water, but I suspect that would have been a more immediate issue if it were the real problem.

I was sick for two days, which was both annoying from a productivity stance and also because we were supposed to go to Barcelona the second day that I was sick but I obviously wasn't up to it.  Clara was super sweet and made me a soup and rice and bought me a big bottle of purified water.

After those two days, I felt pretty much okay the next day and painted again.

Nau Côclea Residency - Log 2

After all the flights, I had to take the train from Barcelona to Camallera.  I was a bit nervous about this, since I didn't actually know which trains went to Camallera (only the regional trains do, but telling a regional from a non-regional is more difficult than it would first appear).  I also hadn't slept other than a 10-minute nap in Charlotte, NC, and the flights together were about 16 hours long.  First I had to find the train station (not too bad), and then buy a ticket.  It transpired that there were actually two stations I had to visit; at the second, at first it looked like I was in for a 2 1/2 hour to get on a regional train but then somehow a completely different train was found that would go to Camallera in the next four minutes.  I scrambled to get on that one, and did.  Then I spent the next couple hours of transit time falling asleep on the train, waking up, hoping I hadn't passed Camallera but also thinking that it was a ways away so I should be fine but not even being entirely sure this train actually did go to Camallera, and so on.  As I got more and more uncertain, I finally found a list of the stops of the train on my smartphone, and then in six more stops, I was in Camallera!

The residency is about a 20-minute walk away from the station, but the day I arrived my host and the art director of Nau Côclea, Clara, was there to pick me up (no one wants to drag their luggage 20 minutes when sleep-deprived and uncertain of end destination).  The residency itself is a small grouping of buildings in the midst of hay fields on the outskirts of Camallera.  The town is inhabited by only about 500 people, but the train station means it actually has a fair amount of services for such a small town.  It also means that travel to nearby towns is pretty easy.

I have my own small house to myself and it's kind of a hybrid between the Peruvian housing situation and a more Western one.  The kitchen is reminiscent of the one in Peru - a stovetop range fueled by a gas canister, a fridge, and a sink.  Unlike in Peru, though, the water is safe to drink right out the tap and the bathroom has a water-based toilet and a shower - and all the water can be heated.  However, the rooms have no air conditioning and rely on windows and airflow from outside to cool them off, so just like in Peru, the insects come in with the breeze.  I acquired about seven new mosquito bites in the first day before I remembered to start applying mosquito repellent every eight hours or so.

The first day I had a tour of the land, a snack, took a long nap, and then ate dinner with Clara while getting acquainted with her.  I'm the only resident here at this time, so she's going to be inviting me along to some of her social/arts events so that I don't get too isolated.