Firsts and Seconds

Life is full of memorable first experiences: First drink, first kiss, first love.

But second experiences, while seemingly unoriginal, are unique. This can be especially true in traveling, in which a second visit can feel like a visit to a completely different city from the one in the memory bank.

Such was the case when I visited Barcelona, Spain for the second time. My first visit to beautiful Barca was about six months ago. It was a three day trip: two I spent traveling in and out of the city and one I spent mainly indoors for work. I stayed in a gorgeous luxurious hotel and got quick glimpses of the Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, and even watched a lively (albeit unimpressive) Flamenco show. It all went by in a flash, and I didn't even get to try any paella!

Sagrada Familia

Park Guell


My second time in Barcelona was about two weeks ago, when I visited the city to teach and judge for Urban Display 2015. Already in its 19th year, Urban Display began as Spain's first hip-hop dance competition and has since grown to be the nation's largest and most popular event of the year:



Packed audience

If you know me, you know that I tend not to feel anything before leaving for a big trip. I try not to project any expectations on how much or little fun I'll have. However, my emotions before this particular trip were all over the place.

On one hand, I was really excited to be teaching abroad for the very first time (here I must go on a slight tangent and give a huge thank you to Jillian Meyers for believing in me). On the other hand, I was very nervous by the fact that, unlike my friends Vinh, Mike, and Paul, I'm not well-known internationally. I was unsure if the students would like my choreography, or if they would even be able to pick it up. I figured the workshop would be mainly hip-hop dancers,  and decided to teach this Flume/Chet Faker piece (it's kind of hip-hoppy right?):



My worries weren't completely unfounded, but I did end up having a great time teaching. The language barrier was a problem only to the extent that many of the non-movement based lessons that I wanted to impart (those pertaining to trying new things and letting go of inhibitions) might've flown straight over the students' heads.

After our classes on the first day, we judged over 250 numbers over the next two days. The participants ranged from beginners at 6 years old, to professional dancers in their mid-20's, all the way up to parents and grandparents in their 60's! The dancers' passion and love for dance was insanely transparent. And I think it was this mutual love that bolstered the camaraderie between competing groups, despite it being a rigorous competition. Also surprising was how grateful the participants were for getting any place, whether it was 1, 2 or 3. Seeing their excitement and tears, I myself nearly cried a few times during the award ceremonies:





Aside from the work being different, there was something else about this Barcelona trip that made it unlike the first. I think that because I had already seen the touristy spots during my first visit, I had little desire to go out of my way to see them again. Additionally, because of our jam packed schedule, I spent about 90% of my time with my friends and the organizer, Sarah.

Sarah was like our tour guide sent from heaven during the trip. She took really good care of us, and made sure we experienced some wonderful local spots including VinitusWoki Organic Market, and Jamboree. I was really grateful to her for her hospitality and generosity throughout the trip:

Vinh, Mike, Sarah, myself, and Paul

My second visit to Barcelona couldn't have been more different from the first. The city and its people embraced me with a warmer hug, and even showed me a side of itself seldom shown to first time visitors. Barca had shed its flashy exterior, and treated me not as a stranger but as a returning friend.

Alas, I again failed to have authentic Spanish paella. But you know what they say, third times a charm.