Love Cycle: Spinning classes in Barcelona and the work out that changed my life… kind of.

Photo Credit: LoveCycle website
Photo Credit: LoveCycle website

Having taken up Muay Thai, I had this completely misguided opinion that every other work out out there (with the exception of Cross fit/Circuit training because I have filed that under the self-inflected-torture category) is for sissies and therefore boring. But since I couldn’t afford 1 on 1 Muay Thai sessions anymore and group classes for martial arts are terrifying, I needed an alternative.

Then I heard about Spinning classes from friends and colleagues. I saw pictures posted on Instagram of people posing in their work out clothes looking beat but toned in their post-work out glow. So I researched. And the feedback I got were all encouraging.

You’ll come out of it a beast

Oh god, I couldn’t move for days after

I lost my bat wings (this!) 

Even a cross-fit addict guy at work was intimidated by spinning classes. Definitely not for sissies then. And then there was also this one comment that sealed the deal for me:

They have particular playlists for every class. Sometimes it’s a Britney Spears playlist!

I was sold.

So I tried to find Spinning classes here in Barcelona. There were 2 options.

  1. Get a gym membership and take Spinning classes there.
  2. Love Cycle – which is pretty much Soul Cycle but with a different name and is very much into hot pink.

I went with Love Cycle because their website was very convincing.

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Photo Credit: LoveCycle website

So I emailed Love Cycle, to ask if they have free classes for first timers (they do) and  if they have classes in English (they don’t). So after a lot of back and forth and coaxing from my boyfriend, I finally signed up.

The facility

As soon as I walked in their studio, the first thing I noticed was that it smelled super good! Like Lavander and soap. Quite surprising since the used shoes bin was near the entrance.

I also noted down a couple of really great things about the place:

  1. Facility is impeccable! – There’s just one room for the spinning class, so you can’t get lost in a maze of hallways and room names (which is usually what happens to me). Also have I mentioned that it smelled good?
  2. And everything is provided for. – The moment I walked in, I was asked for my shoe size. Water fountains are available. Clean towels were already draped over your bikes as soon as you walk into class.
  3. The locker rooms are your personal bathrooms – The lockers are equipped with automatic lock system so you don’t need a key. Take a free one, input your code, and viola you have one! They provide towels and toiletries. They even have hair dryers and earbuds.

I took a quick look around, put my shoes on and waited. I checked out the people waiting for the same class as I was and thoughts started racing through my brain.

Geezus! Look at their abs and toned arms. They look like they’ve been coming here for a while.

Oh god they’ve been coming here for a while. Look they’re even saying hi to each other. They know each other! They seem to be chummy even with the instructor.

At least I think he’s the instructor. Oh shit! They know the instructor. They know the playlist. Am I the only beginner here? Oh god, I’m going to suck so much.

And they’ll notice! Shit! This is going to embarrassing.

I almost ran out of there…

The actual work out

But the instructor started herding us into the classroom; and unfortunately for me, I was closest to the door so I couldn’t exactly make a discreet escape.

The lights were dim when the instructor got on his own bike. I was still trying to lock my cycling shoes into the pedal, bewildered and confused when the music started blaring. It sounded like it was Rihanna.

1 song down. 2 songs down.

Everybody was bobbing up and down according to the beat. My lack of sense of rhythm clearly obvious from my reflection who was cycling furiously right in front of me. I was standing on my bike, trying to understand how the other cyclers were both biking AND dancing all at the same time.

3 songs. 4 songs down. There was a total of 45 minutes to this torture.

I couldn’t even remain upright anymore. It was a good thing I was in the right most corner and only the cycler beside me can see that I was trying not to pass out. If she happened to glance at me at all. Everybody seemed to be concentrating on their own reflections in the mirror.

Somebody WOOHOOOed!

It was a war zone in there. 15 women and 1 man all pedaling to the beat. Cycling and push-ups were in the choreography. We were supposed to push forward twice followed by pushing back twice. I was lost. I sat down. I was out of breath and my sweat was sweating. I continued to pedal.

I had no idea what songs were included in the playlist. But I was pumped! Even if my slow pedaling and out of beat movements didn’t look like it.  The instructor was shouting at us, trying to keep us inspired, or motivated, or in my case: distracted (from all of the pain).

Pedal through your pain!

Pedal through your stress!

Leave all your worries behind and push!

In Spanish. He probably said something different, but that’s how I translated them in my head. I tried standing on my bike one more time while I tried to pedal to the beat. I tried pushing forward and pushing back. I tried my darndest even if there was a very loud voice in my head pretty much shouting at me to just get the fuck out of there and never come back!

And suddenly it was over. I heard clacks and people were unlocking their feet from the pedals and stretching out. I tried to do the same.

Unfortunately, my feet were stuck. I didn’t know how to unlock my shoes! I held on to the handlebars as I stopped myself from toppling over with my feet still attached to the pedal.

Oh well…

The aftermath

I asked another student to help me detach myself from my bike so I can I wobble back to the locker rooms, trying to keep my legs steady and willing myself to not to fall flat on my face.

In my head a decision was being made. On one hand, I was already planning to come back the week after. On the other, I vowed never to step foot in that class room again.

The locker room was jolted me out of my thoughts! People were stripped down to their skins as they jumped into the shower.

It was all casual. No big deal. Women were taking off their clothes, down to their underwear. Completely naked. Walking around the locker room as they get prepared to wash up. Nobody thought much of it. No shame. And it was awesome.

My Catholic school upbringing taught me how to change clothes without exposing a nipple! And locker room life in Manila was pretty much women wrapped in towels. These women, having conversations with each other while boobs, nipples, and different shaped pubic hair were waving about in each other’s faces!

I considered for a bit to do the same. But I was too insecure to strip down and expose myself. Conservatism still strong. Envy at the confidence and nonchalance much stronger though.

So I walked out of the locker room unshowered, and probably smelling like sweaty socks.

Well, walked is a bit an overstatement. 90% of my brainpower went to willing my legs not to collapse from under me while I try to get myself home, while the remaining 10% tried to cross the streets without getting hit by a car. I lost my balance a couple of times because my knees gave. Minutes later I crash landed on my couch, wondering what in the world I got myself into.

In Conclusion

In that same evening, I purchased 2 more sessions. As of writing, I’ve been to my 2nd one last week and I’m planning to go tomorrow.

I changed instructors though. While my first teacher was kind of amazing and speaks English every now and then during class, the 2nd instructor, whose class I joined the 2nd time, made me feel more comfortable. The 1st teacher was all about PUSHING and POWERING THROUGH! But the 2nd instructor was more calm and encouraging – urging us do our best. Or at least that’s what I thought he said because it’s hard to translate Spanish in your head when you’re in the middle of trying not to kill yourself on that goddamn bike.

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even his instructor slogan is non-threatening.

So all in all, how was Spinning class or Love Cycle?

  1. It’s fun. And finding a work out that I actually enjoy and look forward to going to is an endeavor I thought I would never succeed at.
  2. It feels effective. My heart rate raced. I felt more energized afterwards despite being exhausted as hell. And I felt motivated to work out. Despite the thoughts and feelings I went through while I was mid-pedal.
  3. It’s simple. But not boring. I didn’t have to remember steps because the instructor shouted the choreography at us the entire session. I didn’t have to follow a workout plan or lift equipment and make sure was lifting correctly. I just needed to get on a bike, pedal like my life depended on it and get moving according to the music.
  4. It gets cheesy. Pop music, inspirational and motivational words being shouted at you every once in awhile can turn you into a shouting warrior in the middle of class. A single loud WOO can do wonders in bringing in that last surge of energy you desperately need to push through the last song in the playlist.
  5. It’s judgement free. My social anxiety was calmed down when I realize that nobody cares what you’re doing (apart from the instructor). Nobody cares if you make a mistake. Nobody cares if you can’t catch up. Everybody’s too busy looking at themselves to make sure they’re doing the choreography correctly to even spare a second to look at you.

Am I hooked? Too early to say. But I do plan on going as often as I can (or at least for as long as my budget will let me). Right now, I’m just really happy to have found a workout that works for me.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll see some results in the not so distant future too.

Monday face.

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Help! My ceiling is leaking and there is no hot water in the shower!

When I first moved to Barcelona, I had this image of myself sitting crosslegged in a park bench just 5m walk away from my kitschy apartment, with a bocadillo in one hand and my Kindle in another, ploughing through another book as I usually do on weekends. I had mistakenly thought that the expat life in the Iberian peninsula would be glamorous, exotic, and the biggest adventure of my life. While it is true that I am living the biggest adventure of my life, the only glamorous and exotic thing about being here is the way “Iberian peninsula” rolls off one’s tongue. And I definitely do not have a kitschy apartment. The rest…

There’s a leak in my kitchen ceiling. Every time I turn on the faucet and use hot water to wash my hands, or when I use the pre-sets in my washing machine, my kitchen turns into the Duoro river. I know I should get my landlord to take a look at it, but the last time I did that was when there was a pop in my circuit breaker, all the lights in my apartment went out, and I didn’t have power for 2 days. When the power was fixed, I didn’t have hot water in my shower. It was November, the middle of winter, and outside it was 5 degrees and freezing. I had to shell out 150Euros to get a new heater for my shower because I don’t have renter’s insurance and my landlord wanted to split the cost with me.

And that seems to be the trend lately!

Oops! 150EU for the heater in the bathroom.

Oops! Finance department made a mistake with your tax rate, you have to pay an extra 740EU when you file your taxes in a month.

Oops! Your electricity bill is 250EU because your apartment has thin walls, no proper heating and the only way to survive through winter is by turning on the electric heaters.

Meanwhile back home, there seems to be a popular notion that if you’re an expat, you must be raking in the money. Reality is, every month, while I plan my budget for the next 30 days, I put on my pessimistic hat and try to figure out the worst thing that could happen,how much will that cost me, and if I can still afford to feed myself through it all.

Ok, I’m exaggerating. I’m not exactly living the life of poverty but it does get frustrating sometimes whenever I have to face one reality check after another. The reality being: it’s not so easy being here. Rose-tinted glasses off, let me take my wallet out and count what’s remaining of my Euros. And then I launch into this lament in front of my mirror, a cigarette in one hand, and a glass of stale wine (might be more appropriate to call it tinted vinegar) in the other:

Had I stayed back home things will be 10x cheaper, my money will be worth more. And well I can pretty much just call my mother’s electrician/plumber/whathaveyou to get things done instead of having to struggle explaining to Xavier (my landlord’s caretaker who doesn’t speak a word of English) about my 10th problem with this apartment in my laughable Spanish.

I’m being a spoiled baby, I know. But most of us Filipinos who grew up in at least a middle-class household are. We’ve been surrounded by maids/nannies for most of our lives, and if not, there’s always somebody who will do your cleaning and laundry for you. Our parents drove us everywhere. And everybody pretty much knows a somebody who can help fix your problem with at least a 10% discount. And I’m only realizing now how easy my life has been back home.

At 32, I’ve only started to understand what being independent and self-reliant really means. It means being resourceful and finding your own solutions. It means exhausting your very limited Spanish vocabulary and successfully explaining to Xavier that si uso agua caliente en mi grifo para lavamanos , el agua cae desde el techo. Not exactly Cervantes, but it did its job. It means knowing how to stretch my salary to pay my bills, send money to my mom, set some aside for emergency and savings, and yet not have to spend the next 4 weeks until the next payday huddled under my blanket and eating nothing but ramen. It also means dragging my ass off my bed despite a burning fever so I can make myself some soup and tea and not die of hunger.  And well… the list goes on.

I guess you can say that I’m a late bloomer: Learning these things that most people my age have been doing for the last 15 years. And it’s a bit embarrassing, having to admit that I don’t have basic home tools in my apartment apart from my swiss knife. That I have the worst tummy ache in the world because I didn’t realize that the left overs I had for dinner the night before, has gone bad. That I haven’t gone to get waxed because I’m afraid my lack of vocabulary will get my skin torn off.

It’s not all nightmares and tears for me, don’t get me wrong. Far from it! It just seems like when something bad happens, it’s always the mothereffin apocalypse. It’s never just a slight cold, or a faucet that needs tightening. It’s always 500x of that. And I could also be just exaggerating — I do enjoy a good drama, every now and then.

Truth be told, life is finally starting to become normal, even with an incident here and there.

  • I’ve finally started going to private Spanish lessons. I started in January as my new year’s resolution, and it’s been 5 months of going once nearly every week ever since. Maybe after 2 months, I can finally go to the doctor and be given a once over.
  • I’ve managed to sign up for Spinning classes. Because somehow that’s a lot cheaper than going to the gym. And I really need to have a healthy activity in my life. Not to mention social (outside of the office environment).
  • I’m in the hunt for a new apartment. I love my apartment for all of its faults, but when I moved in, I knew that this was just a transition apartment. It’s time to move now to a life is here now apartment.
  • Every once in a while I get to venture out of the city and travel. It also helps that I snagged myself a pretty great boyfriend somewhere along the way and that got me an amazing travel buddy for free.
  • And my fridge is a fridge my mother would be proud of. Fish and meat in my freezer, and vegetables and fruits in my crisper. All bought from the supermarket instead of a real market, of course. But baby steps.

And I’m writing this just after I’ve come home, not from an afternoon of reading and bocadillos in the park. But more like an afternoon of walking by the beach (which is just 6 metro stops from my house), enjoying the now more regular 20 degrees and climbing weather we’ve been having lately.

There goes another perfect weekend. Just 5 more days til the next one.

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People are strange

Every morning I half-walk half-run up my street to get to the metro, 90% of the time, running late for work. 2 corners from my street, a woman, probably a head shorter than I am and with short hair peppered with grey, fills an old liquid detergent container with water from the public fountain that’s scattered all over the neighborhood. After a few weeks of seeing her do the same thing every morning, I’ve come to the realization that the old liquid detergent container also has soap in it, apart from the water. She pours the concoction on a block-worth of street, an effort to rid the cement of left over dog-poop that dog owners leave behind when they pick up after their pets, and the scent of pee. She makes up to 3 rounds, walking up and down the block, making a couple of meters of Barcelona cleaner and pee-scent free.

On the days that I am miraculously not running late, I make a quick stop at the Tobaco store almost right outside of my apartment building. “Bon Dia!” the woman who runs the store greets me in Catalan. When I first started going there a year ago, she greeted me without even looking up from what she was doing. Now, she looks me in the eye and flashes a smile. She knows what I’m ordering so she usually just hands me a pack while I leave my change on the counter. I exit the store to run to the Metro, “Buenos Dias” and “Hasta Luego” hastily said over my shoulder. Now she speaks to me in Spanish and skips the Catalan.

Beside the Tabaco store, the man who runs the Xarcuteria beside it sweeps the front of his store, the “Tancat” sign still up. They won’t open until an hour later, but he likes to prepare early. He would look up from his sweeping to spend 3 seconds looking at my face – a flash of familiarity would cross his face. He knows I used to stop by his store a lot the year before, to stock up on wine, beer, and olives. I don’t go to his store anymore. I’ve found out that buying these things in the grocery would cost me much less. I always feel like I’ve betrayed him.

Right outside the metro, a homeless person sits outside of a bank, smoking a cigarette. A bottle of water at his feet. Inside the ATM booths, just by the door, a duffel bag is half-unzipped, socks spilling out. A winter blanket is folded up right beside it, and another pile of clothes, jackets, pillows, and other unidentifiable things sit with it. He just sits there, every morning, his head swinging from left to right as he watches the people who walk past him.

I could talk about the Pakistani owner of the grocery at the ground floor of my building who thought it was a good idea to ask me out on a date. Or the other Pakistani who owns the fruit store that I pass on my way home who helps me pick out the best Papaya to purchase. There’s also the waiter who works in my usual lunch place who always knows what dessert I’ll be having after my meal.

I guess when you can count the number of friends you have in one hand, every living, breathing person in the city ends up as being interesting.

How to spend Christmas alone Part 1

Christmas is still 71 sleeps away but I’m already dreading it.

I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong. I think Christmas is the 2nd most important day of the year (1st would be my birthday, of course).

For me, Christmas is a huge production number I spend weeks preparing for. I love to buy Christmas presents for everybody — customized, specific to the person the present is for. Christmas dinner is planned, what to cook (well what to ask the mother to cook, or in the recent years — what to order from a catering service my mom’s friend owns), very carefully. All time favourites are requested and served. On the morning of Christmas eve, the Christmas cake we ordered will be picked up and taken home. The 24th is always a rush of pots, pans, phone calls, and unexpected visitors. And eggnogs. Eggnogs all day and drunk by midnight just in time for midnight mass. And then there’s the Christmas dinner. With the family. Although, Christmas dinners have been a lot less fun since my dad died – a full table, all dressed up (sometimes), and for a good number of hours, family drama is packed away and set aside for next time. At 2am, I take out the car and go see some friends for more food but with proper alcohol now and pop music until the sun rises. And then there’s December 26. Doctor Who Christmas episode at Jen’s. More eggnog while having a rom-com movie marathon in my pajamas until December 27. And then there are the days leading up to New Year’s eve and then the few days after that until it’s time to go back to work… but that’s another story.

I love Christmas. Christmas is awesome. Except for this year’s.

Apparently I’m spending Christmas by myself this year. No family flying in. No friends either. My sister is staying in Canada with her in-laws because well, she thought it was for the best. While my mother is staying in Manila because anything below 25 degrees is freezing for her. And it’s quite depressing. Nobody’s supposed to spend Christmas alone. And why am I not flying out instead? Because Canada uninvited me. And tickets to Manila are ridiculously expensive (Also you wouldn’t want to be in Manila in the middle of the Christmas crazy unless you’re ok to be stuck at home for 2 weeks straight because the alternative is to be stuck in the roads for 6 hours because traffic is not moving. And no I’m not exaggerating).

I’ll probably still call Jen at 3am so we can watch the Doctor Who Christmas episode “together” (via Skype). I’ll still watch Love Actually, A Lot Like Love, and the usual suspects in my pajamas while I sip eggnogs — scratch that. Forget about eggnogs. I’ll probably be drinking wine straight from the bottle. Wine. Wine will help me survive this major disaster. No use making (or buying) a huge Christmas dinner spread if I’m the only person on the table. So I’ll spend my food money on wine instead.

On the bright side, I don’t have to go to midnight mass this year.

I’m very upset though. For being uninvited from the white Christmas in Canada I was looking forward to. For being afraid of spending Christmas alone. And for being determined to hate this year’s Christmas because it’s not going the way I planned it to be.

The thing is, I don’t know how to feel not upset. And I fear that this feeling will just get worse the closer we get to D-Day. While I’m ok to be alone 90% of the time, there are just days that I don’t want to be. Days like Christmas — days that are meant to be spent with people who mean the most to you. Like  family. Like friends. The people you love. And instead, I’ll be looking forward to spending Christmas this year, in bed, with 300 bottles of wine, and a long list of movies I intend to watch until it’s time to go back to work and time to stop feeling sorry for myself. Hopefully I’ll be numbed out by the alcohol to notice that I’m upset.

It can be worse. Maybe. But right now, this already feels like the worst thing that can ever happen to me.

Tune in for more “I’m dreading the holidays” drama. For sure, there will be more. Afterwards, there’s also New Year’s Eve and the “I’ve only ever wanted 1 thing for NYE for the past 15 years and it’s 2017 and I still haven’t gotten it. Universe why won’t you give it to me?” drama to talk about.

Mine. My own. My precious. (The only way I can survive the holidays lols)

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If Barcelona was a man, he’d be speaking Catalan.

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.

I’ve been asked how I ended up here in Barcelona in many different ways and words by both strangers and friends. Halfway across the world, Barcelona isn’t exactly the most popular destination for young professionals wanting to get out of Manila. Singapore, US, HongKong, London — any place where they speak English is usually the destination of choice.

Do I speak Spanish? Nope. Catalan? Forget about it.

So why Barcelona then?

Got an early birthday present. Barcelona for hipsters. Hahaha

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Short version: An opportunity presented itself and it was too good to refuse.

Long version: Let me start with my long withstanding obsession with living abroad and my many attempts to actually make it happen.

University. Foreign language classes. Sophomore year and 2 semesters of French and of my Professor regaling us with stories of croissants for breakfast and baguettes by the Left Bank. My “Amelie” obsessed heart was smitten. Then came my last free elective, Senior year, and I decided to take Portuguese class. I must have been doing pretty well in that class (or there was just a shortage of students) for my professor to tell me about a summer program in Macau for an intensive course in Portuguese. And scholarships are up for grabs. I just need to fill up an application form, write an essay and then the professor would send it to the Fundação along with his recommendation. 1 week after I (along with a couple more students from the same class) sent in my application, the scholarship was scrapped. Oh well.

I guess pretty much after that, I just sought out every opportunity that can maybe bring me to different places. All of my previous employments had “travel opportunities” – i.e. they all had offices or clients abroad. Sadly, I never got to take advantage of those travel opportunities until the job I had prior to my current one.

Got another package.

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Even while employed, I still looked for my chance to be somewhere else. Mostly on a whim. Sometimes serious. I won a scholarship for an MA program in San Francisco. But that was shortly after my dad died so circumstances weren’t too friendly. I would get calls from employers in Singapore or HongKong, but nothing really happened with any of them. Then I found employer prior to current one. I think that job set everything in motion for me. EPTCO (employer prior to current one) gave my passport all the stamping love it needed. The number of times they’ve shoved me in a plane in the 2 years I was with them was the most I’ve travelled outside of Philippines my entire life! Then the company shut down (not because they were spending so much money on traveling!).

But my passport’s call for stamps prevailed.

After EPTCO closed, I figured, if I really wanted to be somewhere else, somewhere outside of the country, I have to treat this search as a full time job. So I did. I refined my LinkedIn and Google+ profiles. I opened a “professional” twitter account. I became active in forums. I networked like hell. I sat in front of my computer 8 hours a day just writing cover letters, exploratory emails, sending out resumes, and researching every city that was in my radar. And the floodgates opened. I got a couple of positive feedback that eventually ended up as job offers!

Funny enough, I ended up signing a contract with EPTCO’s former parent company and now here I am in Barcelona in one of our hubs.

Home.

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I remember an old boss telling me “Kax, I think you’re made for Barcelona” a couple of years back. Prophecy came true.

Right. I still haven’t answered the “WHY”.

Honestly, I’m not sure. There are a lot of reasons really. My parents having their “living abroad” stint is a good one. My sister’s move to Canada is another good reason too.

I’ve been haunted by the siren song of living abroad for as long as I can remember. I don’t know why but I do know its effect:

An alarmingly strong feeling that something’s just not right. Like something is missing. A gaping hole at the pit of my stomach that I can’t seem to fill. I’ve attributed it to many things – a lack of fulfillment in a job, relationship woes, things I’ve started that never got past planning, etc. I was feeling the walls of Manila closing in on me.

Maybe I was made for somewhere else. Maybe.

Maybe I just need to be away for awhile to appreciate how good Manila really is. Maybe.

There were a lot of maybes.

I was just sure of one thing: that I needed to be somewhere else, otherwise I was going to explode. I just needed to know what else is out there, outside of friends, family, and comfort zone.

So now, Barcelona. A place both strange and yet familiar at the same time. The food here  tastes nearly the same but it’s made with Olive oil instead of Minola. Nobody says “teh” but the people kiss you on each cheek when they say Hi. An invasion of personal space I have surprisingly gotten used to and quite expect now from everybody. The churches are empty on Sundays, but everybody’s crowding in the plazas instead, having beer. “Una caña” because there is no Red Horse here and their San Miguel tastes like shit compared to the one I grew up with.

I had a dream

Ok well that’s just me being overly-dramatic (as usual). But pretty much the truth too. I’ve always wanted to be somewhere else. And I acted upon it. I found an opportunity and I took it. It didn’t just fall into my lap; but I guess all of my decisions and actions pretty much paved the way for this to happen. I think it was Aristotle who said (if not, my 3rd year Philo teacher will shoot me) that all of the decisions we make, we make them because we think that it will lead us to happiness. And I couldn’t agree more.

When the toilet tries to give you words of wisdom…

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So here I am, in Barcelona. A little bit more than a year in. Life’s not a peach, that’s for sure. I rack up the electricity bills when it’s cold because I have not learned how to use the heater moderately. And I still haven’t learned to budget efficiently to save my life (or my wallet). My savings also need some love. And speaking of love, I’ve tried to raise 3 plants but all of them died.

But I’m in the middle of an adventure. I’m learning a new language. I’m loving my job. I’m making new friends. And I’m learning what it means to be independent.

Life is not perfect. But life is good. And I’m making the most out of it.

I guess that’s correct answer to the question “How and why did I end up in Barcelona?” that I have been looking for:

Because I just wanted to make the most out of my life. So I did.

 

Adult-ing.

This blog is more or less 4 years old. And it also reads like one – prone to temper tantrums, random bursts of feelings, and word vomit. Content? What’s that? Forget about making sense too!

I’ve been over-sharing on the internet since I was 15. At 31, I am nowhere near stopping. But I would like to think that my stories are no longer just about my breakups, my rants about my parents or bosses or this week’s favourite authority figure whose main purpose in life is to ruin mine. Ladies and gentlemen (i.e. the 5 people who bother to read what I’ve been writing), I am finally entering adulthood (a bit late to the game, maybe), so I figured my blog should too.

And by adulthood, I mean, let me tell you stories about my breakups, my favourite authority figures and also stories about my feng-shui obsession, my understanding of feminism, my attempts at losing weight and about how I’m starting a new life in a city halfway across the world — just with more words and less swearing.

So same stories and then some more — but just with better words. I hope.

Obligatory blog post picture insert.

Mid-talk

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The One With The Ways To Make Life More Interesting

I am both bored and have become absolutely boring.

This is my normal week:

Monday-Friday: Wake up in panic because I’m late for work – Work for the next 8-9 hours – Walk home and try not to buy anything useless while on my usual route (fail miserably) – Figure dinner out(Cook? Leftovers from the previous night? Takeout? Is there a friend who will rescue me from this decision-making exercise and just drag me out to have dinner, instead? Yogurt? Ooh! A banana!) – Stare at the ceiling until I fall asleep.

Friday-Sunday: Drink until I give up – Wake up with a hangover – Spend the rest of the weekend in bed hating myself for my bad decision making skills – Maybe hit the beach and nurse my hangover there while I bake under the sun.

Repeat. Every once in a while, chores happen: like grocery shopping, laundry, vacuuming.

My go-to, honest-to-goodness answer to the question “What are your plans this weekend?”: LAUNDRY OR NETFLIX. And it’s almost always true.

The most exciting thing I have on my calendar all week:

The most exciting thing I have on my calendar all week:

A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on


When I get asked “What are you into?” The answer is BEER (because I’m trying to be funny and also because it’s true).

I AM BORED AND BORING and it’s making me dark and stormy.

Which is making me want to pull my hair out because I didn’t use to be like this. I used to do a lot of things! I went to BINGO on weekends (like a proper Tita). I went out for long drives with the windows down and Katy Perry on the radio. I made friendship bracelets because those things are not just for 12 year olds! I kicked ass at Monopoly. I consumed books weekly and I used to harbor dreams that I will write the next Kafka on the Shore when I’m 40. I pretended to go to the gym and I tried to learn new languages because somebody said once that learning new languages and exercise can help make you smarter. I constantly tried to be smarter. I flew out regularly to try to see more of the world!

And now? Aside from work – it’s been MEH. Productivity and learning has gone down the drain. Personal improvement? What’s that? 

So along comes August with the promise of a lot of alone time that comes along with having most of my friends flying out of the city for vacation and me stuck here. So I decided to put my foot and my forkful of fried rice down and shake my fist at my boredom! Enough is enough! It’s time to get off my ass and make life exciting (or at the very least, less boring than it is now) and productive (that is the hope) and conducive to positive energy (because I read The Secret and while it sounds all mumbo jumbo — I don’t see anything wrong in having positive-energy-influenced life).

And that super long introduction was just to set the tone while I segue into my real topic here: My August Challenge! 

So I made a list (to make it look more serious and official-y) of things that I want to accomplish by end of the month. It’s a pretty abstract list so the solutions can be a bit more experimental (like the true PM that I am *cough*). And of course, I’m sharing that list with you, dear readers (of which I have 0). As well as the things I’ve tried so far or am trying now to accomplish My August Challenge (insert drum roll please).

1. Do something that makes me feel uncomfortable

A lot of things make me feel uncomfortable. Talking to people makes me feel uncomfortable. Everytime I step out of my apartment, I’m flung out of my comfort zone. So this one should be easy right? Well choosing the right “uncomfortable thing” isn’t so easy when there’s a lot to choose from. But steps have been taken. I’ve finally said “yes” to a friend of mine who has been asking me for the longest time to try out “Swing-dance”. Going to a free class before the end of the month is definitely on my to-do list now.

2. Make healthier choices 

So I’m not going to quit smoking or drinking anytime soon, I’m sorry to say (but that’s in my longer-term to do list). But I shouldn’t compliment my already horrible choices in health with 7 nights/week takeout food, 0 exercise, and not getting any sunlight. I’m not too keen on increasing the already high probability of cancer or heart attack at 40.

So far, I’m doing pretty well in this, to my surprise and to my mother’s delight. I’ve signed up for Muay Thai Classes. I’ve only been to one class but 1 is better than none. I’m starting to walk home again (all 5km of it). I’ve been cooking more times a week and I try to reserve my eating out cards for the weekends. More sleep is also being clocked in (although 2am-9am is not exactly conducive to making it to work on time so I need to work more on that). And I’m slowly (very very very slowly) starting to give up dairy. Hey-yo! Self-five!

3. Have a creative outlet

I am a very emotional person (hohoho!) and I feel many feelings all the time. Keeping them all in, nursed with a bottle of wine, a pack of cigarettes, and whatever show/movie I can find on Netflix that will compliment current feelings — I’m almost always reduced to a bawling mess. And crying is only just one side-effect! Knee-jerk reaction when I’m overwhelmed with feelings is to be reclusive, cold, and on rare occasions (I say rare but some friends would say it’s a lot more frequent than I would care to admit) lash out on friends. And obviously, that’s not good.

Talking about shit helps. A lot. That’s why I didn’t have this problem back in Manila. But ever since I moved to Barcelona, I’ve been pretty short on shoulders to cry on. So I figured maybe channeling my feelings into something more creative can help. Not only am I letting things out, I’m also being productive. Big fan of killing many birds with whatever stone is in reach, I am.

So far, I’m also doing pretty well on this. I have started a Doodle-project: which forces me to draw something everyday. It’s quite meditative actually + focusing all of my energy on trying to create something takes away the bad vibes from my head. I’m trying to write more: on paper, here. Brain dump and word vomit clears my head. I’ve found that the practice of putting things into words is equivalent to the physical relief of taking off your bra at the end of a long day = best feeling in the world. Once on paper, I feel like I don’t have to care about these feelings that much anymore. They feel more trivial and less worrying. Well sometimes. 

4. Become smarter

Brain atrophy is real. Also the need to communicate in a different language so I can buy soy sauce is quite urgent. I still believe that my inner genius will appear sooner or later. And that I will become the next Marissa Mayer (sans the Yahoo drama).

So I’ve been reading more. My pile of unread books by my bed is no longer feeling neglected! I’m actually taking my Spanish lessons more seriously now. And since it’s summer and classes are out until September — I’m trying to learn on my own: by watching shows with Spanish subtitles, by reading books in Spanish (very x100 slowly, but I am making progress and I have actually gotten past page 1!), and by writing daily logs in English and translating them to Spanish. My grammar is atrocious and my vocabulary is hardly useable for the real world, but I am not discouraged! Now if I can only get over my anxiety and actually try to have a conversation with real people that go beyond just having answers for questions: Hello, how are you? Where are you from? How long have you been living here? Do you work or study? 

 

5. Make the universe deliver only good things

Idleness is negativity’s playground (I’m sure the saying is very different but it delivers the same message). And so is clutter. When you’re living in an apartment that has empty water bottles lined up along the corridor, clothes on the floor, couch, every chair in the dining area, and the foot of your bed  – and devoid of any signs of life apart from yourself when you can be bothered to crack open the curtains to let some sunshine in, it’s easier to just notice the bad things going on in your life and forget to acknowledge the good stuff (much less just focus on just the good stuff!).

So I’m starting to transform myself into a positive ray of sunshine! Organizing my apartment makes me feel like I’m having a handle on my life. Letting more light into the apartment (both natural and artificial) scares the ghosts away too (both the supernatural and the feelings kind). And spending half an hour to sit down and write down the good things that have happened during the day makes me revert my focus and realize that while there are shitty things that pop up every once in a while, there are more good things to be grateful for. And being grateful makes me a better vessel for more blessings, really (I’m not really sure about the rational behind this but I read this somewhere and I’m just going with it because again, there’s nothing to lose from believing in this).

And to be honest, I think I’m starting to see the effects. Maybe they’re coincidental. Maybe not. Maybe good things are happening in the same amount as they used to and it only feels like there are more because I’m choosing to only focus on them? Maybe. But I’m feeling bright and shiny. And one good thing is happening after another. And that’s all that matters.

Disclaimer: I’m not saying to completely ignore the bad things. For me, that’s impossible. All I’m saying is to acknowledge, learn, and move on. Don’t dwell and wallow for the next 3 weeks and refuse to see anything else. 

So far:

I’m on the 16th day of trying to do all the things I’ve listed above. Just trying to figure out how to complete these challenges is already fun enough. I’ve already learned that while I suck at drawing, I do have the potential to get better. I’ve learned that I’m pretty creative at cooking (hah!) and that I really like punching things. My flat is more or less organized (one room has been transformed into a makeshift walk-in closet while the other has been transformed into a reading space). And that being bright and shiny has more rewards than being dark and stormy. I haven’t been bored since August 1. And I have more answers now for when people ask me what my plans are for the weekend.

But I think the most important result for me is that: Loneliness is starting to become a forgotten feeling. Just starting.

Captain’s Log: One Year In

“It was a year of great adventure

… And I suspect that in the months to come, there will be more.”

If I were to summarize the year since I moved here, in just 2 sentences.

A year!

June last year, I was running back and forth government offices, the Spanish embassy, doctor appointments to complete requirements and get permits, and squeezing in seeing friends and family for one last dinner or lunch before I leave. All these in between the packing and selling things I wouldn’t be able to take with me. 30 days seems so long if there’s nothing to look forward to (or dread — depends on how you look at it). But last year, 30 days flew by so fast.

Goodbyes are never easy. In all contexts, and no matter whose decision it was to leave. And last year, I said goodbye to 30 years of my life.

A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on

 

The last 12 months has been 12 months of extremes. Extreme happiness. Extreme sadness. Extreme anxiety. Extreme loneliness. Extreme excitement. Extreme panic. Extreme hunger. Name it, I’ve probably felt it 10x more than I normally would.

Work.

Work’s been good. Better than I ever expected.

I work with 9 boys (+ 4 more who are plugged into the team doing other functions), and it feels like being a mother sometimes. I think this team is making me want a puppy more than eventually wanting a child. Work is not easy. Far from it. On most days it gives me the same feeling I used to get before going to Calculus class back in University. Fear. Dread. Diarrhea. Mostly because there is an awareness that I am not as good as any of the other PMs here. Compared to these guys, I’m super junior (not the Korean boy band). And my profile no longer fits the profile they’re looking for in their recruitment process. I’m kind of lucky I got here early before they upped their standards — because no way in hell would I pass this current hiring requirement. 

If I asked Susan Miller what the hell is going on and why am I stressed out all the time, she’s going to put a positive spin into this and tell me that Saturn is just in my solar 10th house of honors until December 2017 and Mars is in retrograde and has been in retrograde since forever. Of course I’m not really sure what that means, but I’m just going to take it as now I’m immersed in a really intense Product Managers’ boot camp which is both stressful and rewarding. It’s great, really. I can’t believe I’m working on one of the most important projects in the company right now and the work that I’m doing will be available in all of our marketplaces (that is the ambition, at least). Having a great team that has really good disposition and attitude towards all of the things being thrown our direction is like being in a Wolf Pack. And my alpha is my boss who’s got my back. This is a pretty solid environment that I am glad I am part of.

Sure, there is always drama. And every now and then, the drama gets to me and I go home wanting to punch things (mostly faces) or I wake up in the morning not wanting to leave my bed. But that doesn’t usually last for more than 2 hours. It’s not perfect, is what I’m saying.

If I were to share my feelings about work 6 months ago, I would’ve just burst into tears and ate ice cream in response. The state of my temporary contract and the absence of a boss made me break out into anxiety hives and I had insomnia for weeks. I was also stress eating so I blew up like a balloon. It was horrible 6 months ago. But now things are good. Great, even. “It’s just Saturn doing his work on me, but at the end of the day, I’m going to come out of this a super PM (har!)”  — is what I just choose to think everytime I feel like I am going to pass out from the information overload or from the feeling that I’m stretched into 10M different directions.    

 

  So this is what it feels like to have kids…   A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on

 

Friends.

Being the socially awkward person that I am, my circle of friends is pretty small. The number of friends I have here, you can count in both hands. The number of REAL friends I have here — you know the kind you’d be comfortable to call in the middle of the night because you need to whine and wine? Or you forgot your keys. Or you’re out of milk. Or…  You get what I mean.  Well that one I can count in a single hand. 1. Well 2, if I count the person who moved back to Zurich. And the one I have left here, while I know I can count on him to pick up his phone, I think I would get butterflies of embarrassment dancing in my stomach first before eventually dialing his number (or well, I have him on speed dial now so that’s a huge step).

It’s not easy to be away from your friends. Specially when you have 1M things you want to dissect with them.

Parking lot conversations with bottles of wine and packs of cigarettes over big life decisions. 6am emergency heart break sessions. And unannounced refrigerator and alcohol stash raids. I took all these things for granted back home. And now that I don’t have them anymore, is a heart break I still quite haven’t moved on from. And I suspect I never will.

But it’s not all that bad really (I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot). I have people I go out on Fridays with to have beer and tapas and gripe about life. People I can drag to walk 26km with me so I can win a bet, or have Ramen for dinner in the middle of the week because I’m having a bad day. People who celebrate my little things and commiserate with me on the shitty ones. These guys have seen me go apeshit about losing my bag or have an anxiety attack because my contract is about to be reviewed. They’ve put away keyboards so they could have 10 minute of fresh air with me (which just means “please stop working I need to rant for 10 minutes. see you downstairs”). They’ve stopped me from punching people in the face because I was having a bad day and they’ve bought rounds of shots for other people to celebrate the fact that I was finally having a great day. And they have spent countless Friday and Saturday evenings dancing to every 90s pop song ever written with me because girls (and boys) just want to have fun. They have certainly made my stay here a lot less lonely than I thought it would be.

It can take awhile for me to be comfortable enough to spill out my guts to the people I’ve made friends with here. I had my entire life to be friends with the people I was friends with back home. Some took 2 years of drinking at Ponti every evening after work, some took all of highschool and some years of college. Most of the people I’m friends here I’ve only known half a year. So I’m not in a rush. The important thing is that I know who I can call if I need a beer on a Monday night because Mondays just generally suck or if I need a couch to crash on because I lost my house keys (again) — both of which have already happened. And maybe a few months from now, I’ll be able to call them in the middle of the night too just crying because I lost a toe nail. Maybe.

 

 

I just wish more of my friends from back home will come and visit me more often. :)

Life

When you grew up with somebody doing laundry for you, you end up not knowing how to operate the washing machine. True story.    

 

Things I am never ever going to be ok with: 1. Mondays 2. Mornings 3. Monday mornings A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on


I’ve surprised myself a lot of times the past 12 months. From doing the laundry, managing to keep my flat spic and span, to being able to cook a dinner for two without killing the other person! My apartment is decent. My clothes are clean. And my fridge is a fridge my mother would approve of.

I have dead lights in the hallway and in the toilet. My microwave needs some disinfecting. And my extra room houses all of my junk that I don’t want to keep in the living room. I never said I was doing things perfectly. And I fight with my landlord everytime it’s time to pay the electricity bill.

But my point is, I’m managing. I’m trying to keep two plants alive. And I’m paying my bills on time. Budgeting is still a pain in the ass that I haven’t mastered yet — but I manage to survive month to month, and still able to go out for food and drinks and buy myself the occasional dress too. I think, as long as I’m able to sit on my balcony by the end of the day, with a glass of wine (or a cup of tea), look up at the sky and heave a huge sigh of relief for not being homeless— then I think everything’s good.

Now I just need to stop defaulting on calling for pizza for dinner because I’m too lazy to cook.

Feelings

Well the start of the year wasn’t really good for matters of the heart; but as months progressed, that department has undergone some improvements too.

I don’t want to put this into words just yet because I don’t want to jinx it. The important thing is that I think I have the happies. But I will say this:

Cheers to the guy who walked all those Sundays with me when I was trying to win a bet. Who was game to go along with my stupidest plans like Sundays at the zoo. Who made sure I had a great birthday week. Who has my back all the time, even at work. Who’s made it not too dreadful to go to work on Monday. Who lets me talk 100M words a minute. To the guy who’s put an idiotic grin on my face that I can’t seem to wipe off.

I can only hope that I’m giving him the happies too, even just a little.

Heart on my sleeve, My heart is full and he’s my good thing.

 

Margot and Richie breaking hearts since 2001.

A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on

In Conclusion

I have gained a lot of weight in the past 12 months. I have known what it feels like to be alone… and lonely. And now, I think I’m really independent. I have lost. But at the same time, I think I’ve gained more in return. I have gotten to know myself better than I have the last 30 years – what I can do, what I can’t do, but more importantly that I while I have my limits — I can also surpass them. The past 12 months are easily the best 12 months I’ve ever had because I can say that I’ve really learned these several things:

  1. That it’s ok to be alone
  2. That it’s ok to ask for help
  3. That it’s ok to not know things
  4. Because the figuring out part is the best part
  5. Because while things are difficult, they are most certainly not impossible

So here’s to my first year in Barcelona! I’m pretty sure there will be more.

Mid-talk

A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on