Just trying to live in the moment

September 10, 2013

Ever since I started studying at the University of Antwerp – and, consequently, couldn’t make a far-away Christmas-trip to the sun with my dad and brother anymore – I have learned to appreciate every single sunbeam. What does this mean? Well, as soon as the sun warms up my grandparents’ terrace, that’s where I’ll be. To study, of course. I call it pairing business with pleasure. Anyways, that’s what I’ve been doing here lately as well. Just not last Friday, the last dry day before a weekend of rain.

On Thursday night, I went to bed late again. Nevertheless, I woke up at eight the next morning. Nausea, heath, headache, dizziness… O no, the flue! I thought. But then I remembered the day before: during the hottest part of the day, I had been tanning on the beach. I had put on sunblock, of course, but I might not have been drinking as much water as I should have. My suspicions coincided with what I found on the internet: I showed some symptoms of a mild sunstroke. There has to be a first time for everything right? I felt bad all morning and part of the afternoon, so I canceled the picnic in Parque de la Ciudadela I had planned with Miriam – a Mexican girl I’d met at the CS-meeting. I watched a movie and Skyped a little instead. By three or four o’clock, I finally started feeling better. I went out to buy a bocadillo, which I ate in the shade of a nearby park.

Paddling in the kiddie pool

Paddling in the kiddie pool

After that, I shuffled back to my room, not being able to stand the heat for a long time just yet, and worked on my bachelor thesis. That evening, I was still running a little fever, but I felt well enough to go to another CS-meeting that’s being held every Friday night: the Mojito Party. I met some new people, I enjoyed myself and only drank sangria (at a mojito party, and I don’t even like sangria for Christ sake! But, you know, it was for free.)

People from all over the world drinking sangria together

People from all over the world drinking sangria together

The next day, I slept until 10am. It was raining, so I took the opportunity to work on my thesis some more. But first – there’s always a “but first” – I watched a movie and Skyped a little while. The weather really sucked, by the way. Every other minute it started pouring again, sometimes accompanied by some lightning and thunder.

IMG_1280

 

But even when it’s raining, the temperature is a steady 25°C. You know when in Belgium the heat kind of gets really heavy and moist after a few really warm days and it feels like a thunderstorm can break loose at any moment? This was kind of the same thing, but worse.

By Sunday, I was flue-symptom-free. For lunch I grabbed another one of those delicious bocadillos up the street again. This time I ate it over there, though, because they heated it up. Of course, I ordered a café con leche with it. Gotta have my coffee!

Bocadillo con queso y jamon y cafe con leche

Bocadillo con queso y jamon y cafe con leche

Anyhow, I did go for a stroll by Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, which, you have to admit, is totally on the same level as Paris’s, right? More or less? Or maybe, that’s just my opinion… But I’m sure you’ll admit it sure is prettier than the Arc on Place de la Defense?

From there, I decided to walk through Parque de la Ciudadela to find the nearest subway station. I had never been in this park before – although I had heard a lot about it – and I had only gotten a glimpse of the Arc a few years before. At the time, it had been raining cats and dogs and the streets were flooded up to my ankles due to a heavy rain shower. It’s true the park is a perfect place for a picnic, though. Maybe Miriam and I can plan another one soon. It was a lovely Sunday in the park, with families enjoying a day off, playing with their children, people lying on their backs and reading books, youngsters were skateboarding or rollerblading, some were throwing a Frisbee… I was one of a few tourists who were just walking about and taking it all in. At some point, though, the sky rapidly turned into a dark grey, so I went to look for the subway again.

Throwing shoes into lampposts - it also happens in Barcelona!

Throwing shoes into lampposts – it also happens in Barcelona!

Following my instinct, I guess, I continued in a certain direction and ended up on a deserted road. I didn’t panic. I was worried about the imminent storm that seemed to be rapidly approaching, you know, while ‘I was lost’. I refused to use my GPS, because I wanted to ‘update’ my sense of coordination (or something). After half an hour, I reached Port Olimpic and from there, I knew where to go.

In the meantime, you may have been wondering how things are going with my new roommates. Actually, I only see them at dinner, really. Their classes have already started and they go on excursions with their school during the weekend, like Sitges last weekend and Valencia and Ibiza the next. Anjelica, the petite, dark-skinned girl, and Shannon, the tall, blonde girl are both in this business program for which they had to go abroad at some point. Anjelica has some Spanish speaking family, so that’s why she understands a lot of the language already. I hope Shannon, who doesn’t know any Spanish yet, picks it up real fast, because it does come in quite handy.

So, Anjelica is the one going to Valencia this weekend. By bus, I must add. Since I am part of the ‘You have a no, you can get a yes’ kind of people, of course I asked if I could tag along. Because of insurance and what not, I wasn’t allowed to go on the bus with them, though. O well, it was worth a shot.

On Monday, I eventually went to Sitges. By now, I am completely attuned to the Spanish rhythm. This means, I go to bed at 3am. Still, I programmed my alarm clock at 9am, just in case it would be sunny the next day. I was going to try for the second time to find the way to the little coastal town. According to the weather app on my iPhone, the weather would even be better in Sitges then in Barcelona, so I jumped out of bed to get ready.

By 11am, I had finally found the right train. Really, it was so complicated. First, for you to understand all of this, I will have to explain Barcelona’s public transport system a little bit. In Barcelona there are four different companies: TMB (regular subway), FGC (the subway that goes to the suburbs), Renfe (high-speed train) and Rodalies (regional train). Got it? Okay, so I had to search for the R2 Sud-train in the Passeig de Gracia station. I bumped into some technician guy who was fixing a ticket machine whom I could ask for directions. The staff they pay to help lost foreigners like me wasn’t around, so there really wasn’t anyone else to ask. He went all the way up to the street with me – he probably thought this was necessary, me being blonde and all – and pointed me to the right direction. Apparently, there is another station called Gracia and that’s where I needed to be. Pretty soon, I had found the place where the entrance to that station used to be, but due to construction works, it had moved to somewhere else. The arrows that were supposed to help me get to the entrance were… unclear. As always, I did eventually find the ticket office. Being a modern girl, I wanted to buy my train ticket at one of those machines, but there are so many choices and I didn’t know which kind of ticket would benefit me most. This time, there was a guy that is being paid to help people like me, only he turned out to be a real pain in the ass. So I stood in line to buy a €7.6 return ticket to Sitges at the ticket office. During the 35min. ride, the skies cleared up, as did my mood.

Sitges

 

A cool breeze was blowing when I got off the train, but it quickly disappeared. Sitges has these cute, little streets and gorgeous coastline, which I love. The town – which is surprisingly big for a town, by the way – is situated about 30km to the southwest of Barcelona. The beaches are not as crowded as in Barcelona, although I don’t know about the weekends (which I am advised to avoid), and the water is a lot cleaner. I gotta say, I enjoyed this trip a lot – even more when later finding out that it had been raining all day in Barcelona. I know it’s not nice, but it really perked me up!

Sitges

Sitges coastline

 

Sitges

Port of Sitges

 

Trusting my non-existent sense of coordination, I wanted to find my way back to the train station without any external means of help. To no avail. I got lost again. I ended up GPS-ing the station on my iPhone. Fortunately, I looked up from the screen just in time to see the train tracks right in front of (and above) me. So I didn’t have to continue going straight ahead as my GPS was telling me. Just to be sure, I asked someone where the train station was (yes, grandpa, in Spanish) and I was right. I had to go right! See, I am getting better at this coordination-thing. Twenty minutes later, I was on my way back home. I went to bed early that night, before 1am. I was tired of all the walking and getting lost in the warm weather.

This morning, I didn’t get up too late either. I wanted to take my time to go to my new school to tie up the last few ends of my Learning Agreement. There was no line at all when I arrived at eleven o’clock. I handed over the document with the courses I’d like to follow to my Erasmus-coordinator and everything was taken care of within 10 minutes. I could follow all my desired courses at my desired times. I organized my schedule in such a way that I had long weekends off to make a trip once in a while. I started on Mondays in the afternoon and ended on Thursday at lunch. With airplane tickets being cheaper on weekdays, this was just perfect! I am really happy I arranged it this way.

Plaza de la Universidad

Plaza de la Universidad

Seeing that everything went so smoothly, I took this chance to walk around in the neighborhood a bit. I walked about in this direction and that, wherever it seemed the most interesting. When I was positive that I didn’t know where I was anymore, I allowed myself to start looking for metro stations again. First, I had been around lots of stations, but now it took a really long time before I saw one again. I’d been walking around for 6km before I found the Tarragona station. The good thing about getting lost, is that you end up in streets you normally wouldn’t end up in. In this way, I discovered that Avinguda de Roma is a cosy, car-free lane with playgrounds in the middle for children. During my walk, I saw some interesting buildings as well. (To be completely honest, my little plan didn’t really work out the way I thought it would. I’d been hoping to walk towards Plaza España, but in hindsight I realized I had been walking too much towards the West.)

Having arrived back at El Putxet, I popped into the supermarket to get some food and drinks. I’d forgotten to bring a bottle of water – I always take some water wherever I go, winter or summer – so I was extremely thristy! In the afternoon I started writing this blog post. They were expecting another storm around 3pm, but it is still nice out. Anyways, I’m not going to do anything special anymore today. Otherwise, you’ll read about it next time. I’m just trying to live in the moment. It’s hard, but I’m not trying to plan my weeks or even days to much. So far, it has turned out quite well.

I know this has been a long post, but you know me! When I start writing, it’s hard to stop. Next week my classes start and my semester abroad will officially begin!

Talk to you soon!

Renfe

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