A Catalonian Frame of Reference: What People Worry About

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While being in Barcelona, I have done a lot of comparing with Beirut. It’s natural I guess, to compare your new relationship, flaws and all,  with the previous one that gripped your heart. Here I am, 8 weeks in, and the point that sticks out the most is how the typical Barcelona resident spends their energy and how it contrasts with a person living in Lebanon.

At first, I thought that residents here (and I say “residents” because not everyone who lives in Barcelona is Spanish) were blind to how good they had it. Oh, you poor thing, you’re not sure which bike rental service to sign up for. How hard life must be for you. It was resentment that was uncalled for. Their worries seemed so trivial and I thought that I was somehow better equipped for life’s curveballs because I came from a country that can’t get its act together. Sure, we are aces when it comes to back-up plans and sly maneuvering. The Lebanese know how to “bounce back and overcome adversity.” But then I realized something: you’re not supposed to spend so much of your own brainpower thinking about half the shit we think about back home and yet, we have to.

…or do we?

When I’m asked what I think about Barcelona so far, my automated response is, “It’s a lot like home except everything works.” I thought I was different from the Catalonian population because of what my daily life consists of in Beirut but, when having deeper conversations with people, I came to see that all of us have the same concerns, the same aspirations, and even the same confusion when it comes to romance and significant others. We may speak different languages but we’re not from different planets. It’s just that I come from a country that added a few rolls of parchment to my what to think about tonight while staring at my ceiling list. That does not mean that those who live here don’t have their own fair share of burdens, they just have the kind that is more of a DEFCON BEIGE than our constant VERMILLION.

This is why I left. I wanted to see how the other half lives, to see what’s missing at home as well as abroad, to see what would push me to emigrate elsewhere or make me stay. All I can say now is that being able to only think about things that are quintessentially important to my life, even something as basic as scheduling a tennis lesson before it rains, is refreshing. I wonder what it will be like to return to my scrolls of only-in-Lebanon problems.

Barcelona may not be my Beirut but, upon being away long enough to see it from a distance, I’m not sure what my Beirut has become either.

El-Tanein Diet Week #12, #13, and #14

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I think I need to come to accept that my workouts, while in Barcelona, are going to revolve around walking. I’m bunching the last THREE weeks in one post because I’m not sure how interesting things have been in terms of content for this series but I’m going to stick to the documentation. It took me so long to actually churn out weeks 12 and 13 that I might as well throw in 14 as a bonus. Hopefully, I’ll still try to get SOME form of conventional activity in before heading back to the gym…in Beirut.

Workout Tally

Walking everywhere for 21 days

Outdoor Activity

See above or below.

Fitbit Flex

Ironically enough, I’m paying attention to this wearable less and less even though it’s tracking the only activity I’m really sticking to. My steps have continued to drop though, probably due to my tourist drive starting to wane as I get more settled here as a “resident.” However, even with that, I’m still getting higher totals than I ever did in Lebanon. I keep forgetting to charge it and losing data of up to two days by the time I realize it’s dead. Why isn’t this charged via kinetic energy? Wouldn’t that make more sense?

Best Meals of the Weeks

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Week 12: Solo lunch at Tapas 24. I was done walking all over the city and very tempted to just head to McDonald’s but walked the extra 10 minutes to have a couple of tapas with a glass of cava. patatas bravas, bikini comerç, and a bomba de la Barceloneta.

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Week 13: Lemon tart from La Bascula in Born. Having the vegan in town meant discovering vegetarian Barcelona. La Bascula is a vegetarian co-op that’s housed in an old chocolate factory. It’s on Carrer de Flassaders, a little alley full of Spanish boutiques.

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Week 14: Tickets Bar. I’m not ashamed to admit that I booked a table at this place in AUGUST. I’d read about it during my Barcelona research and it was listed as a must. They open one day two months prior every day at midnight. I was so intrigued by this but I’m not one for fine dining. However, I decided that this would be my only expensive dinner out for my entire 3 months here and it turned out to be a very laid back environment. And OMG THE FOOD. I’ll let the pictures tell you. They’re vertical because Snapchat is more forgiving on my poor phone memory.
(Add me: ferroberro)

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Other Highlights

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Them body issues tho.

Having Museum Days: Sundays in Barcelona are like Beirut in that they’re labeled “family days,” everything closes, and the only thing left to do is eat and be a tourist. I’ve been spending mine in museums or random art shows since most restaurants save their tables for parties of ANYTHING MORE THAN ONE.

Bought a Polaroid Cube: Instead of splurging on a GoPro before knowing whether or not I’d really use it, I opted for the more affordable yet lower quality Polaroid Cube. Let’s see if some Bambi vlogs get made with this new toy.

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Having a Roommate: My friend has moved in with me for the month. I officially have my first roommate.

Human+: This is a new exhibition at the CCCB that’s about humans, tech, and where we’re going as a species. Very interestingly creepy.

Workout Track(s) of the Weeks


Because I’m not running, running, running. I’ve really got to though.


Because Jonas. Don’t judge.

Cheese(s) of the Weeks

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Receiving a bunch of jars of labneh from dad. Mom and vegan visited during week 13 and brought 3 kinds of goat’s labneh, marouk bread, and a couple of bags of pita. This is how Arab parents show they love you. Can someone send me tabbouli?

Here’s a dose of inspirational queso for you as well:

Exit through the Gift Shop, Go Home Broke

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These museum and attraction gift shops are going to be the end of me, especially the ones at the MACBA and CaixaForum. Not only are their interiors very purchase-inducing, but they’ve got a lovely selection of books, gadgets, and postcards. You all know how much I love postcards.

When exploring Barcelona, try to put a limit on your museum gift shop receipts. Consider this a friendly warning. I mean, I got a Tim Burton deck of cards.

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And it doesn’t end there. Inspired Gallery is another wallet trap for me that I discovered while wandering through the Gothic Quarter a few weekends back. It’s on Carrer Regomir. Yes, they have postcards too.

Happy shopping!

Barcelona, You’re Not My Beirut

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Still from Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I was told that, upon visiting Barcelona, I won’t want to come back to Beirut. I was told that I would fall in love with the city and Lebanon, with its garbage and unending toddler tantrum of a system, would not even compare to Catalonia and evening walks by Santa Maria. I will say it’s been an adventure every weekend; I’ve been investigating alleyways and losing myself in museums full of posters and sculptures I studied a few years ago. To be able to use my legs for more than just walking to my car has shown me how much I despise being at a desk for too long. It’s been enriching to be in an environment where you learn something new everyday. That, for a nerd like me, is always good. But the difference between here and Beirut? This is not home.

All people want is to find the place where they feel embedded. Maybe this feeling develops with time once you’ve created roots, once you’ve let your feet sink into the sand. Or maybe it’s already there because it’s where your parents grew up, met, and formed the life that led to you.

While binge-watching Netflix’s latest hit, Narcos, I found that not only was I improving my Spanish but I was also relating to a coke king’s link to his Colombia.  While hiding out in Panama, even though he’s got so much money he could bathe in liquid gold, the prospect of returning home is more important than all of his wealth and possible incarceration. I am aware that that is a romanticized depiction of a drug-lord but I can appreciate the sentiment.

It may be too soon to make such a declaration but I don’t feel a connection in Barcelona. Besides the professional lessons, I am grateful that it has given me the distance needed to get some focused perspective without my thoughts being punctuated with worry or distress that comes from a typical day in Lebanon. But it’s also shown me what it’s like to live in a city that is not my own, that I have no national ties to. I look for my own culture within the one that already exists here so that I can feel a sense of belonging but, even when found, I am just a visitor here.

I’ve said this before but it seems, no matter where I go, I am always looking for you, Beirut.