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)

A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on

 

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

A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on

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.

A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on

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.

A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on

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…

A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on

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

A photo posted by K (@kalatkid) on