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.

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What to Pack for a Design Internship Abroad

Besides the standard toothbrush and lots of undies, here’s a list of the top 15 things I’m bringing so I can let the art director in me go crazy in my new Mediterranean city that I shall call home for 3 months. Let me know if I’ve left anything out, I feel like I’ll be packing until midnight.

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A Medium Sized Notebook
I’m a fan of the ~A5 size because it fits in your purse and is good enough for notes, doodles and random thought bubbles. If the heavy duty Moleskines are too pricey for your taste (and frequent use of journals), Paper Concept is an affordable alternative that I’ve come to love. Their products are made in Lebanon. They’re pretty malleable too so they can handle being transported daily, getting soaked in coffee, or just beat up by life. I plan on covering this baby in Spain stickers.

3 A4 Sketchbooks
As a creative who’s on the job, you’re going to need to put your ideas somewhere. I prefer using the tangible approach: on paper. Going straight to the computer is restrictive when you want to let your mind go and allow your hands to take charge of the creative flow. Moleskine sells a pack of 3 skinny lightweight A4 notebooks (lined and blank) that are perfect for this purpose and they’re not too expensive considering what the brand’s usual price tags say. There are packs of solid or mixed colors for 27,000 LL (18 USD). I like that the covers are cardboard so it’s easy to personalize them. And once your internship is over, you have a hardcopy record of all the eggs you laid there, rotten or not.

Agenda
I ordered the I AM VERY BUSY 17-month agenda above from Paper Source. It’s imperative that you stay organized as a creative since most of your work, if not all, is deadline-based. It can be used to keep track of your multiple to-do lists, events coming up, groceries that need to be bought, and even when to do laundry. It also doubles as another record of everything you did on your trip and where you went.

Drawing Pencils, Winsor & Newton Watercolors Travel SetWashi Tapes, Glue, and Mini Scissors
Basically, you need supplies. It may be wishful thinking but it’s still a good idea to pack your preferred tools. Tape and glue are for the snippings, business cards, and other paper souvenirs that you’ll be sticking in your notebooks. Some will be for the memory of it and others will be for the design; either way, they could be references for inspiration at some point. Not included in the picture above is my collection of pens and colored pencils but just assume that I’m addicted to Sharpies. Btw, that UFO glue is a knock-off UHU from Karout.

Appropriate Literature
Since my internship is with a skilled typographer, I bought Type Matters! to use as a guide for my work and the Fodor’s Barcelona guidebook to use as my guide to the city. I’m also reading Cathedral of the Sea, a historical novel about Barcelona.

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Business Cards
You never know who you’ll meet abroad and you have to be prepared to network at all times. Nowadays, when people can work remotely, there are no borders to opportunities. I hope everyone likes receiving free olive oil soap!

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iPhone and Power Bank, Macbook Pro and Wacom Tablet, Laptop Bag
No explanation necessary for these. I mean really.

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Headphones, Earphones, DSLR Camera
The headphones will come in handy on your flights and while you’re working at home or in the office. The earphones have a different purpose: they’re useful for creating a protective forcefield when you’re using public transport. I don’t know if Barcelona’s metro is anything like NYC’s but I shy away from making friends on the subway. The camera is when you want to get artsy and take some decent shots that can be blown up into posters and other graphic artwork once you return.

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Cross-body Bag, Whistle Necklace, and Something That Reminds You of Home

Barcelona is famous for pickpockets so make sure your bag has a zipper that remains shut. This one is a leather purse that’s pretty sturdy despite the gnawed tears from my fiesty cat, Katniss. I don’t mind its weathered appearance since it’s got Mary Poppins magic: it’s a bottomless pit with multiple pockets. It may be left behind once I find a good Spanish leather replacement.

As a paranoid female traveling solo, I feel the need to equip myself with some form of security. I saw Tiffany & Co release a whistle necklace and thought that would be a great accessory that had a bonus protective function. I opted for the cheaper, less fashionable version.

DON’T FORGET: Something that reminds you of home. I chose the cedar keychain I got 3 years ago from Bcharre.