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.

Back Home: On the Outside, Looking in

Courtesy of Tom Eversley

Courtesy of Tom Eversly

It’s odd having to think about cooking my dinners, doing my laundry & dishes, and what streets to walk through in the morning. It’s been odd not thinking about electricity, road rage, and garbage. It’s been odd putting all my energy into myself. It’s been odd being able to think about the bigger things. Like where I want my life to be in the next few months, what I need to improve on when it comes to my career and personal development, and even what books I want to read.

I can hardly see you underneath all that guck. Right now, I’m removed enough that I do not incessantly worry about you and where you’re heading but still within the same hemisphere so I’m not that far behind. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about you Lebanon; it’s the distance between us. This LDR is going to take work and you’re going to have to make an effort so I have something to come home to.

But hey, let’s not get melodramatic here, it’s been 9 days since I left.

Guys, there are 4 main happenings back home that I need y’all to take part in. I would like to live vicariously through my peoples because, for once, I understand what it’s like to be living far away from my beloved Beirut and seeing it from the outside. It’s a mix of FOMO and WTF.

Horsh Beirut on Saturdays
It’ll be open every Saturday for Phase 1 of the park’s opening to the public. Phase 2 is all weekend, Phase 3 is daily. If we prove that we can take care of it and we are in need of public green spaces, it may encourage municipalities to fund more spaces/renovation of existing ones. It’s wishful thinking but let’s make sure we show them how much we want and RESPECT public space.

Wickerpark Festival – Sept 13, 2015
Great fun in Batroun with Lebanese bands performing outdoors at sunset. It’s chilled vibes with local Colonel beer. Bring a blanket or cushion to sit on if you go early.

Sursock Museum – Oct 9, 2015
Opening on a Friday, the perfect new activity to start off the weekend with. What were you going to do? Movies? Mar Mikhael? Stay home to catch up on [insert Netflix series here] and order ZwZ? Haven’t you always wanted to go inside the beautiful palace anyway? Now you can. Entrance is for free, just saying.

And while these are all happy events, this is the one that needs the most attention:

#Youstink Protest Tomorrow Afternoon
We need a solution to the garbage crisis before the rain hits. Forget about all other concerns and demands. This crisis affects our health (and that of future generations) and living environment. Even if you don’t support the movement or the ousting of the MPs, we need to be down there asking for a PLAN OF ACTION before more damage is done.

Yalla!