Another countdown is on…

by Evans Yonson

Barcelona – In June 2008, while I was busy assisting the enrollment of students for the first semester of said academic year, I received an email from the Spanish government informing me about my scholarship application. My proposal has been granted and that I have been advised to submit all the necessary documents to the Spanish Embassy in Manila for visa processing. Another taste of Europe the second time around.

I have just been given a full-time regular appointment at the university so it was just but fair to finish the first semester before flying back to Spain, this time to Barcelona.

Most friends would ask me, why Barcelona? My ready answer is the Mediterranean Sea. But seriously, I have always been fascinated by the city, its mystique, its architecture, its ambiance, its winter breeze, the people’s snobbishness, and many more.

I arrived in Barcelona on 6 November after a very long trip via Singapore. I had a 12-hour lay over in Singapore and the Changi International Airport has this promo for short-stay visitors -free city tour. I walked around the city/country island for almost eight hours. I even had the chance to visit the City Museum for two hours, see the Merlion, and many more.

I am not new to Barcelona, having lived here in 2006 till 2007. So, I didn’t have any entourage to welcome me back to the city of the Sagrada Familia. The scholarship that I got was for three years. Fortunately on my third year, the government decided to extend our grant for another year.

Here I am now on my last month of the four-year scholarship. Like what I have done with my first scholarship back in 2004-05, the succeeding posts will be a review of what I have done and achieved, the places that I have been to, and the people that I have met in long and wonderful journey in Southern Europe.

On the first weekend of December 08, I went to Athens, Greece with my good friend, Carmina. As luck would have it, the Greeks decided to have street rallies and demonstrations and work strikes the whole time we were there. I only got a glimpse of Acropolis and with enough shots to sum up my Greek adventure.

Christmas 2008 came and went and so did the Magi. The arrival of Three Kings is far more festive than the New Year here in Spain compared to the Philippines’ long Christmas celebration.

In January, I was finally accepted to the PhD program. I was advised to do complementary courses: a seminar class (in Spanish) and visual sociology (in English). Interesting classes but only a few students. The seminar class required lots of writing and research at the same time. The visual sociology class was also reading, film and photo viewing and lots of discussion. At the end of the semester, I came up with a 35-page autobiography entitled, One Hundred Years of Life (which eventually became a series in this blog), a hospital participant observation paper, an article about the Philippines and Davos, and two presentations on the photographer-as-a-subject and the Asian community in Barcelona.

It was during this time that I met someone very interesting from another continent. A guy that I have grown to be fond of but never fell in love with. This was just the beginning of a story that I thought would never end.

In April, I spent the Easter Week and Sant Jordi in Barcelona, my first ever. Barcelona, the city center that is, does not have the grandeur of Andalucia during the holy week of celebration. They just have enough to satisfy the locals who don’t leave town and the tourists.

I went to Madrid on the second week of May to claim my 2004-05 Masters diploma from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, which I requested in back in 2006. After two years, they told me to come back after six months as the university rector has not signed the document yet. To make my visit more productive, I decided to go on an adventure. I went to Segovia, which I didn’t have the chance to visit when I was doing my Masters then. A UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its famous aqueducts and walled city, Segovia also offers a unique cuisine that is truly Segovian, the cuchinillo -roasted suckling pig.

At the end of the semester (June 09), I received a grade of 10/10 (Matricula de Honor). Not bad for someone who came in to the program one semester late.

I know how excruciating summer would be in Barcelona, so I went home to Cagayan de Oro in June to be more productive. I taught a subject in the university – documentary filmmaking- for the two months that I was there. In July, I attended a module of the SouthEast Asian Rural Social Leadership Institute called sustainable agriculture.

I flew to Manila with my sister to visit the University of the Philippines-Diliman regarding my qualification for a PhD degree abroad. The University of Barcelona has a funny way of asking documents. I need to present to them a certificate stating that my masters degree from UP guarantees admission to any PhD program abroad. On the day we went to Diliman, it was a holiday. My sister and I had enough bonding time walking the cobblestone pedestrian lanes of the state university.

It was time to fly back to Barcelona. But I only stayed for four days as I was going to New York to visit my aunt and some very close friends. I saw some musicals in Broadway -The Lion King, Avenue Q, The Phantom of the Opera, and Mamma Mia (again!!!). I stayed with my cousin (upstate) the first few days and with Jing Valmorida (Manhattan) for the rest day of my vacation.

Now, I’m ready to go back to Barcelona for another academic year.

… to be continued.

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