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.

Adulting at 27 in Barcelona

Living solo, in a foreign country, with a foreign language. I haven’t been doing this very long but I’ve also never done this before so the adulting process is in full swing.

Here are a few tips for other late bloomers:

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Get to know the neighborhood
After wandering around in circles enough times around your place, take a mental note of places you’ll need on a regular basis. Draw up a quick map of nearby pharmacies, supermarkets, and bakeries that are within 2-3 blocks of you. Keep the map on your fridge and take a photo so you have it as a reference. 

Never start doing laundry at 11:30 pm
Because then you’ll have to wait for the load to finish so you can hang the wet clothes to dry or transfer them to the dryer. Lesson learned. #rinsehold

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Don’t overbuy or overbaguette
It’s weird when you’re only buying groceries for one. Keep that in mind when purchasing perishables like fresh baguettes that taste stale after a day. Store brand items are fine for all the basics of the kitchen. Do not go cheap on the olive oil though. As someone from the Mediterranean, let me just say that this would be sacrilege. Extra virgin, light in color, and use it for everything. None of that aceite de girasol stuff. And feed the stale baguettes to the birdies in the park, they don’t care.

Invest in coconut oil and an aloe vera plant
Coconut oil is a natural SPF and moisturizer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal agent. It’s like Windex for skin. It’s a good staple to have at hand when you need it. It’s also used in cooking and is a tasty alternative for butter when making popcorn. The aloe vera plant is a source of pure gel which alleviates burns and blisters.

For BCN, Veritas is an organic supermarket chain that carries lots of specialty products. It’s got gluten free, organic, and all other dietary sensitivity stuffs. I got coconut oil and aloe vera gel from there for 10 Euros.

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Try not to get hit by a bus or a biker
And by “biker,” I mean people on bicycles. Like most of Europe, this city is very bike-friendly and the public transport system is actually reliable. Although Beirut is home to crazy drivers, it’s not the place for pedestrians. Here, I’ve been walking everywhere using the metro only once this week. The thing I did not account for is that the bike lanes cut through the streets and sidewalks. When walking, be aware of the riders that are zooming by. And when waiting for the green man to light at the crosswalk, stay about a foot away from the curb because those busses get tooclose.

And, when in doubt, just google everything. The struggle is real.