It’s Like I Never Left

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When I had friends visiting from their stints abroad during the summer or Christmas season, I couldn’t help feeling like they were in a state of growth & discovery while Lebanon, and I along with it, was frozen in an endless loop. Now that I’m the one coming back, I see that it wasn’t just an illusion.

I’ve been back for less than a week and it feels like I never left. Granted I’ve only been gone for 3 months and that’s not even long enough to digest a Thanksgiving dinner but not much has shifted. My cats are fatter (and thus, cuter) yet still unfriendly. Even my car’s side mirror is still faulty because it sat in my parking space collecting dust for 87 days. The most that’s changed is that my parents have become Beliebers because my sisters subjected them to so much One Direction in my absence. However, I’m not talking about my personal circle. Lebanon hasn’t moved a millimeter.

Perhaps that’s why those abroad love to come home: there are no surprises. You can lose a job in the middle of a divorce, pay a mortgage, get a 4th degree in Switzerland. But with all of that, when you come back home, you’ll still have unreliable utilities, corrupt politicians, and the best manoushe hot off the forn around the corner. Lebanon, in all her stunted glory, is the constant in their life of uncertainties and responsibilities. It’s comfort in the form of a country.

And what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong is that I’m not visiting. The level of comfort wears off when you’re not just passing through. I would’ve loved to come back to a solved garbage crisis, a president in office, and maybe even a feline who wants to cuddle.

Lebanon is the perfect home base in that you can go live another life elsewhere, return, and still find everything as you left it. There is no FOMO because you can always be there for the next cycle. It’s bittersweet but, isn’t that the case for all things Lebanese?

El-Tanein Diet Week #19

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Ah, my last week in Barcelona. I did my best to fit in as many leftover discoveries before I boarded my crack-of-dawn flight back to Beirut. Let’s see week #20 be filled with more fitness than food, inshallah.

Workout Tally

Walking everywhere for 7 days.

Outdoor Activity

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The entire weekend would suffice as my outdoor activity because I spent most of it hiking around the outskirts of Barcelona. Between Montjuic Cemetery, the Parc del Laberint d’Horta, and the Carmel Bunkers, I tried to take advantage of the sunny outdoors as much as possible.

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Fitbit Flex

I didn’t even wear it this week although now that I’m back in Beirut, I will have to since my activity will not be one that is iPhone friendly. Back to the gym!

Best Meal of the Week

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Lascar 74 is a “cevicheria” in Poblesec. It was my farewell dinner with the office and my first time having ceviche. I’m now a fan of Peruvian cuisine thanks to this dining experience. I recommend the guacamole (uchucuta) and the cheesecake de Lima. Not together, of course.

Other Highlights

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Xurreria Trebol: I had seen this spot’s churros behind the glass and made a mental note to go back at some point. All other churros tried in Barcelona were of the “tourist” flavor – too oily and stale. Trebol knows what they’re doing though. A little digging revealed that it’s one of the oldest xurrerias in the city and the only one that opens for 24 hours over the weekend. If you’re not a sweet-toothed person, they also make their own potato crisps. Otherwise, if you want beautiful churros served by a beautiful man, go here. Their churros are stuffed with dulce de leche, chocolate, or vanilla cream.

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Treated myself to a solo dinner at El Nacional on my last night: The plan was to just take a walk through the venue to see the setup because I’d heard good things about its interior design. But when I remembered I had tuna and brie left at the apartment, I figured I’d go all out on my last evening with some steak, cava, and lemon pie.

Workout Track of the Week

He needs to stop doing this. And by “this” I mean making this catchy music that you can’t help but sing along to. It’s too late to say sorry though because I’m hooked.

Cheese of the Week

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Cava, olives, and patacones with my book at La Xalada. What are patacones you ask? Homemade plantain chips with avocado, manchego cheese, and olive cream. That sums up what I’ll miss most about BCN.

Doing the Spanish Limbo

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Courtesy of Gratisography

The worst thing about temporarily setting up your life in a new city is that it’s temporary. I feel as though I’ve been suspended a foot over the asphalt for 3 months. I couldn’t get too comfortable because my  expiration date would soon come to pop the balloons overhead.

During this suspension, I’ve been partially living in Barcelona. Working as an intern, staying in an Airbnb apartment, and partying with visiting Lebanese friends. I’ve been floating just a few inches above the complete submersion into Catalonia. Teetering between tourist and expat is such a beautiful way to learn about the world but the allure can only last so long – especially for someone who doesn’t know how to live without a plan, to live without roots or some kind of routine.

Truth is, I started packing 9 days ahead of my flight (also to see if a pair of classic black & white  Superstars could be shoved into my second suitcase) and I’m ready to hit the ground running. I want to go sit in Urbanista for 6 hours drinking cappuccinos and planning AIGA ME events. I want to see the Sursock Museum and spend a Saturday in Horsh Beirut. I want to make some money and build my empire. I want to go to AUB to hang out with some affectionate cats while eating Kababji tabbouli on the Green Oval. I don’t want to be surrounded by garbage, deal with a shitty internet connection, or count how many weeks we’ve gone without a president. But I do want to start making my next move. I want to get back to my life. Real life.

Beirut, even if Putin is hijacking our airspace, I’m coming for you.

El-Tanein Diet Week #18

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As promised, I’m posting about ONE week again. I’m a few days late but I’ll get back into the swing of things. It’s going to be so nice focusing on one week in detail again and by week #20, I should be back at the gym in Beirut! I’m a little scared my muscles have atrophied.

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Workout Tally

Walking everywhere for 7 days.

Outdoor Activity

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CaixaForum Madrid

Walking around Retiro Park in Madrid. I spent week #18’s weekend in Spain’s capital via high-speed train. Although I didn’t have enough time to hit the big museums, I passed through CaixaForum, downtown, and Retiro. What a fantastic place to see during a sunny autumn day.

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Fitbit Flex

No comment. I’ve about had it to HERE with this thing. Apple Health said I walked 19.6K steps on Sunday so I’m still hitting the highs on weekends.

Best Meal of the Week

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If I were to pick a restaurant’s meal for this week, it would go to Toyo because that was the only time I really ate out. They have all-you-can-eat sushi for 10 Euros (lunch) and 15 Euros (dinner). It’s good stuff and the manager is very attentive. Only complaint: too much rice and mayo. That’s where they get you full. If you’re going to go, you’ve got to get there early because the line starts before the doors even open (1pm for lunch and 8:30 for dinner).

With that said, although I don’t have a photo of it, having homemade Lebanese food while in Madrid wins over all 7 days. Ain’t nothing like tabbouli and kibbeh bil forn with laban w’khiyar.

Other Highlights

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Bombings in Beirut and Paris: Too many tragedies all over the world in November. I, along with many other bloggers and journalists, have said enough on this topic. I’m glad people listened. Here’s to hoping that refugees remain welcome in cities all over.

Flamenco in Madrid is better than Barcelona: That’s a big statement to make but, from what I saw, the Spaniards have more on-stage pizzazz than the Catalonians. Olé snap. Watch here.

Workout Track of the Week

It’s not perfect for working out but I was just told about this band and I saw it necessary to share. Listen to this too. McLovin!!

Cheese of the Week

More cheeseducation.

Bambi Recommends: Human+ at the CCCB

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The Contemporary Culture Center of Barcelona (CCCB) currently has an exhibition going on until April titled Human+ and, if you have even the slightest interest in humanity’s future, you should go check it out.

Human+ focuses on the technological advances of humankind and projects where we may be going as a species that manipulates our natural environment. From DNA compatibility tests to genetically modified mosquitoes made to fight malaria, the exhibition walks you through the  modern day advances as well as the upcoming conceptual inventions that are right around the corner. One part focused on the idea of the “New City” and how our current consumer culture has turned the entire globe into an enormous assembly line of production, humans being just another cog in the machine.

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In terms of exhibition design, I appreciated the ominous questions and thought-provoking quotes sprawled across the walls. They are the kinds of things you ask yourself after watching any sci-fi thriller or movie about artificial intelligence. “Would you upload your brain to the internet?” Paging Johnny Depp.

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Another shocking display was the euthanasia roller coaster. Using G force and the adrenaline rush effect of a roller coaster, this structure is engineered to humanely kill its passengers by literally giving them the thrill of their lives. The G force is so intense that they pass out due to cerebral hypoxia. Sure, some say it’s an art piece but it’s a bit disturbing that this would be in an exhibition about the advancement of the species and it makes you wonder if someone out there is willing to fund its construction…or already has. This is the video that was shown alongside the model:

I’d recommend going to Dressing the Body first and then Human+ just to continue along the same theme of how we have progressed in modifying our bodies and our surroundings. The exhibition also has a series of talks and debates going on (this one seems like a winner). Check the website for more details. Don’t forget to pick up a brochure on the way out. The back of the Spanish edition doubles as a poster of this image which is now hanging on my fridge. The English version has this creepier Matrix-esque visual because anglophones be freaks yo.

Entrance is 6 Euros or free admission on Sundays from 3-8pm!

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.