Sevilla and Bull

Here I am in Seville, marveling at the Moor influenced architecture, hopping from one tapas bar to the next and touring the city by horse drawn carriage, with a glass of white wine in my hand.

My adventure seems to be never ending, which is a good thing, of course, because the idea of leaving Spain is quite daunting. I’m at the point where I prefer speaking Spanish over English, eating dinner any time before 10 p.m. seems odd and “vale,” the Spanish equivalent of “okay,” has become an integrated part of my vocabulary. I’m making the most of the time I have left in the land of red wine and siestas and exploring the rest of this spectacular country.

Sevilla is a special kind of city; it beats with passion, and breathes fire.

The former because it pulses with the sensual movements of flamenco, the strum of a Spanish guitar and the valor of a bullfighter. The latter, because it’s hot.

Real hot.

Today was about 106 degrees. That’s 41 degrees for any of my friends who don’t live in the five countries in this world that use Fahrenheit.

Regardless, my companions and I visited Plaza de Toro today, the oldest bullfighting ring in the world, where I discovered  the fascinating world of bullfighting.

Although controversial, bullfighting is an art form, as well as a magnificent display of Spanish culture.

Hemingway, my main man, once said, “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.”

You see, a bullfighter enters the ring fully knowing that they may die that day. They put their lives in the hand of fate and say a quick prayer, which I assume goes a little like, “Dear God, please just not a major artery today.”

All jokes aside, fear is a fascinating topic. Are these bullfighters fearless, or are they fully afraid? 

To be fully afraid and to go in the direction of your fear is a very brave thing to do. I believe that being fearless is easy; when we acknowledge our fears and charge towards them like a matador against a bull, that’s the moment we discover our true courage.

Maybe we should all be a little more like bullfighters.  

Colors of Sevilla, beautifully reflected in the ring
 

When People Visit

Visitors are exhausting.

You walk around all day, spend more money than you normally would on entrance fees and metro passes and you eat constantly, and I mean constantly, just so that they can have the best possible experience in Barcelona.

Over the last few weeks, I have had three visitors. I have re-visited all of Barcelona’s major sights, from Sagrada Familia to Park Güell, I can recite Antoni Gaudí’s life story by heart and I have perfected a Barcelona sightseeing itinerary, which I am more than happy to share. Also, I have been to Brunch & Cake, a local bistro, four times this week with my visitors. That means I have eaten brunch four times in a week.

That is not okay.

Well maybe it is okay, because as tiring as it’s been, I couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up my semester.

You see, visitors are actually the best.

They allow you to experience your city in a fresh way, as if you were discovering it for the first time.

Once you’ve been living somewhere awhile you tend to forget the city’s magic. You walk past the same things every day and they become mundane even if they are really special. Parisians walk past the Eiffel Tower daily, unfazed, and Romans apathetically speed past the Colosseum. And here I am, strolling down Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, absolutely oblivious to Gaudí’s Casa Batlló or Casa Milà because I see them practically every day.

The joy of  showing someone around is that you can actually look at what you’ve been seeing this whole time; you pause and you think,

“Whoa. How lucky am I to be surrounded by something this beautiful?”

Showing Kristi around Park Güell
Showing Kristi around Park Güell

Fútbol, Confetti and Tears- Visca el Barça!

Kristi, or KrIstanbul, whom I visited in Istanbul in March, came to visit this weekend and accompanied me to my first FC Barcelona game this past Saturday.

I had waited all semester to go to a game, and with only two weeks left in my stay, it was now or never.

FC Barcelona was playing Deportivo de La Coruña, and ended the game in a tie. However, it was an incredible game to attend because the club had just won the Spanish League Championship and was celebrating that win after this game. On top of that, FCB’s midfielder and captain, Xavi, was leaving the club after 17 seasons. The stadium was full of people paying homage to a man who spent 25 years in a Barça jersey.

FCB fans are truly something special. I was expecting rowdiness and chaos, drunkards and maybe a fight or two. Instead, I saw an entire stadium-full of people intently watching the game, and occasionally cheering. Old men speaking Catalan commented on every play, and kids sat with their families, chanting along with the crowd. You could see everyone was just keeping their eyes fixed on the players and truly relishing the sport, a huge contrast to American sporting events. In fact, the stadium doesn’t even sell alcoholic beverages, and not a single person was visibly intoxicated.

What a beautiful concept. People at a sporting event actually watching the sport.

After the game, all of the players accompanied by their adorable children made a lap around the field with the Spanish League Championship trophy. At the end, Xavi took a solo victory lap through clouds of confetti, and made everyone cry with his final speech.

I had never seen so much confetti and so many tears in one place, it was an honor to attend.

Visca el Barça!

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Steps away from the Barça babes
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Barça players and their young ones

Conversations with Strangers: Pabloski from Wrocław

About him:  Paul, who goes by Pabloski because he is half Mexican and half Polish (Pablo-ski get it?), manages Funky Cycle, a rickshaw business in Barcelona. He has been living in Spain for about 16 years now, and his hidden talent is guessing what country people are from.

How we met: My friend, Kristi, is visiting from Istanbul and after a whole day of walking we decided to treat ourselves to a rickshaw ride. I came up to a group of rickshaw bikers and began fiercely negotiating when Pabloski approached me and began arguing with me about prices. Then, through a hot mess of English, Spanish and Polish we somehow ended up on his bike bonding and having a great time.

Coolest experience: The coolest thing Paul has ever done was move to Barcelona. He loves the people, the atmosphere, the climate and his lifestyle in general. But, can you blame him?

Life dream: Pabloski’s big dream is bike around the world. Aside from biking people around all day on rickshaws, he bikes competitively, so I think he could totally do it.

Just riding around with Pabloski
Just riding around with Pabloski

 

Lessons from Jellyfish and Deserts

Today I got stung by a jellyfish for the third time in my life. Once was in Belize, once in Honduras and now here on the beach near Barcelona. I didn’t even know they had jellyfish here this time of year.

I limped out of the water, slightly annoyed thinking, “just my luck,” and also annoyed because I knew that someone would offer to pee on me, which is absolutely unnecessary.

Then, I started laughing to myself, because no matter how unfortunate it was to be stung by a jellyfish again, I was still a happy little lady.

It was last weekend, watching the sun set over the Sahara desert, that I came to a very important conclusion: Life is good. Being abroad and traveling has taught me to be mindful about each moment and to be grateful for this beautiful life. After all, nice things are happening every day.

I slept outside, under the stars, in the desert that weekend. With no cities, houses or lights for miles,I saw more stars than ever before. There are about 5,000 stars visible to the naked eye, isn’t that incredible? Whether it’s the beauty of a sky full of stars or the sting of a jellyfish, life is full of tiny delights and surprises that remind you how good it is to be alive.

I really don’t mean to get all “one love” and “namaste” on everyone, but I implore all of you take a moment of each day to pause and feel grateful for our beautiful lives, because in the wise words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Have a lovely day, all.

Somewhere in the Sahara, watching the sunset.
Somewhere in the Sahara, watching the sunset.

Adéu

Adéu. It means goodbye here in Barcelona. And the goodbyes have begun.

I had my first round of goodbyes this past weekend, with friends that were also studying abroad and had finished their program midway through April.

I didn’t imagine it would be this difficult to say goodbye to people I had known for such a short period of time. But, I believe that everything in life happens for a reason, and that each person we meet has a purpose in our lives.

That’s why it’s hard to say goodbye to such beautifully kind souls, who were placed into your life for some reason that you’ll never know, to in some small way, somehow make you better. Maybe they made you more kind, made you smile just a little more, or taught you a new joke. Some of them you wish you had known longer and deeper, and you wonder why you never asked about their goals, or their mothers, or the places they’ve been and the places they’ve wanted to go. Some of them will let you crash on their couch if one day if you find yourself in their hometown, and others will forever remain in your iPhone’s contacts under some silly nickname.

This entire month will be full of goodbyes. The kind that leave you with a dreadful ache in your chest, like a weight has been physically placed there. But I suppose that’s a good feeling, because it reminds you how lucky you are to be alive and how lucky you are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

I think of each goodbye as a”see you later,” and have faith that God will allow our paths to cross again, whether it’s months from now, or years.

And even if they don’t, well shit. At least it was fun.

Squad going up…on a Tuesday

We Get Around

My friend Francie and I decided to go to Formentera, a small island just off Ibiza, for a relaxing weekend retreat. Formentera was one of the filming locations for my favorite Spanish movie, Lucía y el Sexo, and it’s been a dream of mine to see it. Also, I justify everything in April as being “for my birthday,” so this vacation from my semester-long vacation was absolutely reasonable.

Upon reaching our destination and seeing just how wonderfully secluded our little home was, we realized we would need some way of moving around the island.

It was settled. We would rent scooters.

We confidently went over to the rental shops in town ready to ride some Vespas. We quickly learned that no one wanted to rent any type of motorcycle to two 20 year old girls in sun-dressses who have never ridden one before.

We thought that was fair so we pushed for an ATV instead, figuring four wheels was safer than two. But again, they decided it would be too much horsepower for two little ladies. We then asked about a car. In Spain, you have to be 25 years old to rent a car, but we had convinced the guy that we had our licenses for a while now. Well, mine was lost when I lost my wallet but, Francie still had hers. We were set to rent a car, when the man informed us that all they had was vehicles with manual transmissions.

I had once learned how to drive a stick shift, thanks to a polish ex-boyfriend, of course. But that was three years ago, and I knew trying now would leave me stalled in the middle of an uphill street.

And that is how Francie and I ended up leaving the rental shop on two mountain bikes.

We spent the next two days biking around the island, happy with our transport. I am a big supporter of anything that does my body good and my thighs were sure getting a workout.

By Saturday morning our legs couldn’t pedal any further, so we swung by a rental shop in a different town and inquired about renting an automatic car. Turns out, they had one. Upon learning we were only 20, the renters hesitated, but after convincing them we had licenses for over three years now, they decided to make an exception for “two pretty girls.”

You see, when everyone is saying, “no,” you just have to keep trying until someone, somewhere finally says, “yes.”

And that is how we spent the next two days cruising around an island with the top down in a convertible Smartcar.

Two pretty girls and some wind-blown hair.
Two pretty girls and some wind-blown hair.

About a Wallet

On Sunday, while heading to the beach for lunch to celebrate a gorgeous day and running a 10k, I left my wallet in a taxi.

Yes. All of the nights that I have been out at clubs and bars, and of all the pickpockets on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, the metro in Paris and the trains in Italy, this is how my wallet met its demise.

It all seems very anticlimactic. I felt that if I were missing all my credit cards and IDs, then I at least deserved a story to tell.

But I suppose this is the story: I lost my wallet and everything was okay. My cards hadn’t been used, and I was able to order new ones immediately. I had emergency cash and secondary IDs back at my apartment. I still had my passports. The sun was out, and I had just ran a 10k.

With wallet or without, it was still a great day to be alive.

Incidents like that are a lesson in being grateful for what you have and not sweating the small stuff, because every situation has a silver lining. We are human, and sometimes shit happens.

The other lesson, of course, was to not leave my wallet in cabs.

A beautiful day in the neighborhood.
A beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Wild Saturday Night in Barcelona

That title is a complete lie.

It’s Saturday night and I should be celebrating my arrival to Barcelona by getting white-girl wasted on sangria, screaming “WOOO BARCELONA!” and making out with overly perfumed Spanish men.

But honestly, I am so tired that if I went out and someone tried to speak to me, drunk me would probably punch them in the face and demand to be taken home. My decision to stay in is really a public service to the people of Spain.

Instead, I am on Craigslist. And not the fun kind of late night Craigslist browsing where you read through the personals section because nothing is funnier than posts like, “Jewish, let’s text (33)” and “LOOKING FOR POLISH WOMAN FOR FOOT WORSHIP – m4w (61)”. No friends, none of that. Tonight, I am apartment hunting.

I’m currently living with a host family, and have two weeks to find my own apartment. Which wouldn’t be difficult if I weren’t such a damn brat.

I am looking for a one bedroom apartment in the city center, within walking distance to the University, with lots of natural sunlight and a balcony, and I want it all for under $500 (bills and WiFi included). I might as well ask that Cristiano Ronaldo and a pony come included with the apartment, because either way it’s just not happening.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post titled, “Homeless in Barcelona: At Least it’s Warm”

In the meantime, here's the view of Barcelona I saw today from Tibidabo, the mountain which overlooks the city.
In the meantime, here’s the view of Barcelona I saw today from Tibidabo, the mountain which overlooks the city.