Day 1: Barcelona, ICN 2017

Thursday, 25 May 23:00

On my calculation, I’ve been in Barcelona for about 15 hours now. Minus the few winks I managed between backaches in my cramped coach class seat, I think I’ve been awake for going on 36. If that’s not any forwarning about the quality of this blog post, I’m not sure what to tell you.

All in all, I’m here, and had a great first day in this city that is new to me. I spent the day with nurse colleagues breakfasting on a rooftop overlooking the ocean, traipsing around tourist sites and hidden local shopping jems, drinking a glass of Cava, and talking nursing in preparation for the International Council of Nurses Congress, which starts Saturday. I’m here reporting for the American Journal of Nursing, and so far, I’m impressed with the city.

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Barcelona is clean, modern, accessible and easy to navigate. People are helpful and cordial, and the food is good. I have yet to encounter a Barcelonian who doesn’t speak English; I feel no shame (or impossibility) maneuvering my way through dinner-ordering and direction requests in my native tongue.

This Americentric mindset makes me reflect, always, when I travel in foreign lands. My recent international experience is mixed, albeit not that vast – in Brazil, the majority of people speak very litte or no English, and so speaking my preferred tongue is simply not an option. I must stumble through broken fragments of mispronunciations mixed with fervent body language. In contrast, when my husband and I visited Portugal last year, I was able to poke my way around in cautious, respectful English, for the most part. Here, there’s no hindrance, and I find myself not really even trying to inflect or attempt. The acceptance of English dominance is apparent, expected, perhaps even embraced, at this first glance.

It’s interesting, to start this week of covering an international meeting of nurses by thinking about the insecurities of inter-linguistic maneuverings. Should I assume, like I too often do with varying foreign language travel requirements, that my naturally dominant perspective is the best? The one to mimc? What can I learn from the culture here, the collective narrative of health? How is my own native perspective getting in the way? How can I, in preparation for talking with some of the most prominent and accomplished nursing leaders of the world, remove barriers to my own opennness and recognize the things I, as a member of a global community, need to start stretching myself to do and learn?

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