Madrid 🇪🇸

I don’t know how much I have to write about my time in Madrid. Yes, I’m having a bit of writer’s block, I’ve also been sick, but I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m starting to question why I’m doing this, why did I start this and should I even bother? I don’t have the answers to any of those right now. Disenchantment, that’s probably a good word for what I’m feeling, but enough of that right? Right. I don’t think that I want to talk about my first day there as well, I’ve told you. If I must be entirely honest, Madrid was a place that barely made the list. I only wanted to see it because of the Santiago Bernabeu. That’s the stadium that Real Madrid plays out of, I fucking hate them. I think they ruined football, but hey, their model of building teams is the way that everyone else does it, including Manchester United, the team I cheer for.

I’m not incredibly well versed in Spanish history either. Here’s what I know, they were at one point occupied by Muslims in 710 AD. Christians and Muslims fought for hundreds of years over Spain and the Iberian peninsula. The Spanish was a colonial power with a predominant religious and cultural influence that can still be seen today. For example, the Spanish colonised Cuba, the architecture in Old Havana and Madrid are similar. While on colonial missions, new lands were often conquered in the name of the Catholic Church. Most former Spanish colonies are still predominantly Catholic. They stayed out of the First World War and sold both sides ammunition. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Spain fought a civil war where Francisco Franco… I’m going to stop because maybe I know a little bit. All the buildings that I took pictures of I don’t know anything about them. I did have some friends from Madrid, so they told me what to visit. I’d say Madrid was definitely my vacation from my vacation. I spent a lot of time in my hostel reading and watching Netflix, so this won’t be as exciting as the other trips. Here’s a photo I took on the first night out, from on top of The Roof Bar. You can see pretty much everything from on top, and the food and alcohol is pretty cheap. I think my favourite thing about Madrid was how the streets were always full of people, there was still music, and most importantly there was always an abundance of food. I will, however, say that I never want to hear Feliz Navidad ever again. I enjoyed getting up late and being lazy in Madrid; I could stroll into the kitchen and get breakfast for three euros, pocket a bunch of things and just head up to my room and watch Netflix. Under the Arctic Sky, a film by Chris Burkard was one of those movies I watched. I do recommend it as it shows the outstanding views that Iceland has to offer in the winter. The film is about a group of surfers who were chasing an arctic storm in hopes of riding the swells. Yes, they surf in that cold ass water. It’s times like this where most people are like,

I did get to do a lot of sightseeing; it took a long time because I cannot make this up, at some points, there were so many people in the streets that emergency vehicles couldn’t get through. Christmas in Madrid is intense! I ended up at the Royal Palace of Madrid. It is quite the building and right next to it is the San Francisco el Grande, which I think is the royal basilica.

I’ll let you guess which one the church is. As cool as these buildings are nothing compares to the Bernabeu, but I wanted to save that for the last day. Back at my hostel, I ended up meeting this American kid who was also on his study abroad. Cool California kid who had the fattest passport I’d ever seen. This thing was loaded with visa stickers and packed full of stamps; I think he said he’d been to something like 79 countries. The kicker, he’s only 20! We ended up going to McDonald’s for dinner, and you can get a burger, wedges and a beer for like 4 euros. We talked about our travels and what was up next. He’d been in Europe for a year, so he was itching to go home, I’d been away for five months, and I was itching to come home. There’s something about home that calls to us all, I mean now that I’m home I’d rather be anywhere else in the fucking world. He told me about some cool places I should visit while I was in Madrid. With one day left that would be a bit of a stretch. The next day we said our goodbyes and I headed to the Bernabeu. I’m not giving a history or background; Real Madrid is the most successful football team in the world and the most popular. Don’t believe me? Well, they consistently dress one of the most expensive lineups and well there’s this,

Those are Champion’s League Trophy’s. A tournament that is widely considered a football tournament that’s better than the World Cup. Twelve times Real Madrid have been crowned champions, and they became the first team in the modern day format to win back to back championships. Impressive, as was this view

All I can say is that all the stadiums I saw or visited, I ended up being in awe of them. They’re nothing like we have in North America, let alone Toronto. Even though I despise Real Madrid, I think this is something you have to see to get the full experience of Madrid. You’ll see that there are a lot of people from all over the world, and it’ll show you how this spot is not only important but also a sort of pilgrimage for fans.

I took in a few art museums, saw the other Mona Lisa. Um, nothing new to report, less of a line, that’s it. The museums in Madrid are cool because they celebrate Spanish culture and it is definitely something I don’t know way to much about. I ended up walking to the Temple of Debod. I have no idea of it’s significance but it’s one of the few pieces of Egyptian works that can be found outside of Egypt.

It is pretty cool. From here I headed back to the hostel and checked out, I spent the next couple hours watching crap on Netflix until I decided to go to the airport. My flight was at 8am and once again I decided to spend the night in the airport. Worst idea ever as Madrid’s airport was under construction. Also pro tip, there is a shuttle to the airport that costs five euros, if you want to take it the stop for it is NOT where all the bus shelters are, it’s right next to the Cybele Palace.

That’s the palace and where that blue light is coming from, that’s the side where you get the bus. Also if you look closely you’ll see a, “Refugees Welcome” banner hanging from the top, I thought that was pretty cool given the recent negative feelings directed towards refugees and immigrants in general. I know I kind of just threw this post together and my trip got off to a rough start AND at points I’ll admit it sounds like I’m shitting on Spain, I’m not, but I’d have to say that Madrid was probably one of my favourite spots. The food was great, the sangria … I’ve decided to stop drinking, but sangria I think I’ll miss the most and it was so cheap and so good in Madrid, and I want to say this, the people in Madrid were incredibly friendly. They were always smiling, dancing, singing, and always willing to lend a hand. I find myself thinking back and really wishing I’d done a little more while there, one day. Thank you for reading, I might do a little post about my last days of my trip and after that, I guess back to the scheduled programming. I start classes on Monday and then my internship, but lets face it adulting and being a student comes with procrastination!

Paris Pt. 2🇫🇷

My second day in France I had to wake up early, and take a train to Northern France. One of the cool things about Paris is that all long-distance trains make a stop or go through Paris. When I found out that I’d be going to Europe for the semester, I made a point to make sure I visited Vimy Ridge in Arras, France. I felt it was important for me as a Canadian to visit Vimy Ridge in Arras. The battle of Vimy Ridge was the first major battle that the Canadian army won. From April 9th to 12th of 1917 the ridge was fought over. The objective was for the Canadians to take the high ground from the Germans who were entrenched there. Whoever held the hill held the surrounding area. The French had tried to take back the ridge multiple times and failed, losing more than 150,000 soldiers in the process. I always think about that number, and it wasn’t until I visited Vimy that I finally understood.

World War 1 was fought mostly in trenches, they’d stretch for kilometres and would often become filled with human waste, dead soldiers and water. I find this terrifying but they were also apparently homes to rats the size of cats. That’s a big no for me. Soldiers fighting in the trenches suffered trench foot which is rather gross. It comes from a prolonged exposure to damp conditions, it would lead to open sores which would then lead to infections; obviously it wouldn’t adequately get treated, and the soldiers would be prone to gangrene which lead to amputations. There are still trenches at Vimy, and you can walk around in them, getting a feel for what it might have been like for a soldier. There are places between the trenches are sectioned off because there are undetonated mines. The site was covered with a fresh layer of snow, which added to the experience. I also met another Canadian on the site, and we realised that we were both Canadian because we were wearing flannel. I’ve had some really Canadian experiences abroad, and this was definitely one of them.

I walked around to the two cemeteries at the site, I’ve never seen something like that. Around Arras and the surrounding countryside there’s a lot of graves, each one seems like its bigger than the last one. A picture doesn’t encapsulate it, nor does it do it justice. I think what shocked me the most was the number of graves. Some of the cemetaries at Vimy held a few hundred, the ones in the surrounding areas had thousands of graves. The town of Arras and its neighbours share an incredible history, with outstanding views and I’ll never forget it.

After I came back to town, I had a few hours left before my train departed; naturally I explored around the town. It’s a tourist town, lots of small boutiques and restaurants. They even have poutine joint! Now I hate poutine, and if you don’t know what it is it’s fries, cheese curds and gravy, you can also get meat on it if you wanted. I opted for classic poutine with some chicken, I even got lucky and had a Canadian beer with it. I guess its safe to say by this point I was missing home. Now that I’ve been back for a while I can see that I’m coming off the high. I miss my friends, and I miss being able to hop from country to country. Arras was terrific, Vimy was incredible, and I’m so lucky that I got to see it. I can see it on tv, or it can come up in conversation, and I can say I went there. There were very few places that I went to in Europe that made me stop and take in what I was looking at. Vimy was one of them.

The next post is coming soon, I’m a tad bit busy, but I hope to get back on a regular schedule! Thank you for reading and for following.

Finland Pt. 6 🇫🇮

As mentioned in the previous post, my laptop was stolen, along with some other things. I’m at home in Toronto, showered in a proper shower, slept in my big ass bed and played video games… sort of. I’ve been busy since I came home. Below you’ll find what I had written and saved; you’ll also see the rest of the post. I’d like to wish all the readers and followers a very Merry Christmas, and a joyous holiday season.

QWhile this post is entitled, “Finland Pt. 6” I thought about calling it “Comin’ Home.” Every time I came back home from university, I’d play “Comin’ Home” It’s a song by one of my favourite artist, City and Colour or Dallas Green. I saw him in concert a few summers ago, sang along to every song, and swayed to every slow song. I’ve been a huge fan of his for a long time, and I encourage you to youtube some of his music. In the song ‘Comin Home” he sings about coming home, about being on tour, knowing that it’s a cycle, but he misses home. The song also mentions a girl and the hardship of long-distance dating.  I’d play this song when I came home because it was aptly named and I liked to lean my head against the window and daydream out the window. Now I could relate to the song because long-distance dating is taxing. But now I think I can connect to it even more.

I came to Finland with a plan. Be a better Adel, do well in school, and get the girl. I’ve written about my ex on numerous occasions. A lot of the poetry and early writing is about her. I cannot express it in words but not only did she have a profound effect on me and push me to be better, but I’ve never loved someone more in my life. Even though it’s been a long time since our break up, I think about her, and I still do love and care for her. I needed this adventure more than I let on, not because of my break up, but because I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life. I kept looking ahead, I’d propose to my girlfriend most romantically, we’d move in together, I’d get a career job, we’d live in the city blah blah blah kids, taxes and death. There is nothing wrong with trying to map out your life, but when you set it in stone, the chances of you becoming obsessed with it are pretty good. That’s where I was, and it’s why this break up has been hard for me. I’m not saying it was easy for her, breakups suck.

My plan for being out here went out the window because I hated it. Planning has its perks, but going with the flow and following your gut is pretty good too. I knew this experience would change me, not because everyone told me but because the signs are in a different fucking language! Something was going to change, and I was going to pick up words and customs. I like learning about different cultures and people, and I knew I’d try to learn as much as I could about Finns and Finland. I did that because it’s who I am. I’m a nerd, and I had a list of all these things I needed to see. I knocked down most of them, I saw Old Trafford, I visited the Guinness Brewery, I went to the cliffs of Moher and peered over the edge, I went to Rome alone and saw the Colosseum, I went to Paris apart and saw the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, and I went to Madrid and saw the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The last three might sound insignificant, but I did those alone. I do come off as confident, but I struggle with it all the time. But the amount of travelling I did alone just showed me that I need to take those risks. It also helped me reclaim my ability to be independant. It stopped being about someone else and just became about me. I didn’t forget, I could never, it just became more imprtant to look after myself. It’s what I’ve taken back from Finland. Personal growth is always something I can be proud of and nothing about the last 5 months have been easy.

Truth be told I miss Finland, I miss being on my own. It truly was the adventure of a lifetime and one that I’ll never forget. That there is the final photo I took in Helsinki. It is at the Christmas Market and I think its where I left my Christmas spirit.

Coming Soon 📆

I’m writing this post on my iPad. Not something I like to do but I’ll have to use this for the foreseeable future. My first night in Madrid I had my laptop stolen. I was watching highlights at 9:30 in the morning, dozed off right in my bed, on the top bunk, with my computer right in front of me. I felt my laptop brush against my back, but I thought I was dreaming. When I woke up, it was gone, along with a phone that belongs to one of the guys in the room. I took all the precautions when it comes to locking it and double locking it, went to the police everything, I’ve even got a replacement one in mind. I was able to find some of my files in the cloud (Thank God), but my laptop is my life. I have countless projects, posts and stories on there that I might never get back. I know it’s just a laptop and I’ll get another one. I’ll have to work hard, but hard work never scared me. This whole ordeal could’ve been way worse; I could’ve had my passport taken… Madrid would be an excellent place to live. Anyway, I apologise for the delay in posts. I hope to have the next one up soonish! And…. 5. More. Days.

nähdään pian!/See You Soon 🇫🇮

I was sitting in a sushi restaurant in Hamilton Ontario on July 21st, celebrating my friend Arthur’s graduation from a Master’s program at McMaster University. The two of us were roommates in my final year and became pretty good friends. Come to think of it, all three of us became very good friends. I lived in the basement, Arthur, Alex and Taylor lived on the main floor. We try to get together every year, but this year we managed to get that twice. They were asking about Finland, and I told them that I was scared. It definitely took me a long time to make friends in university, and I was afraid the same would happen here.

Taylor, Arthur’s girlfriend, told me something I don’t think I will ever forget, “You have that personality. The one where people are attracted to you. You’ll be fine.” We all have our insecurities and that is definitely, or it was definitely one of mine. I’ll come back to this later. I have just one full day left here in Jyväskylä, and I’m going to miss it. Today after months of planning I completed my final assignment for school. As part of my internship, I had to take part in planning an event with my team. KeuPa HT a hockey team based out of Keuruu which is about 45 minutes outside of Jyväskylä, wanted to play a game in Jyväskylä. Aside from the distance factor, KeuPa is second division hockey. It’s like having the Grey Cup Champion (Canadian Superbowl) Toronto Argonauts play at AT&T Stadium. The potential for it going sideways was a genuine threat. We set a goal of 1000 people. The KeuPa HT management said they’d shuttle their fans in from Keuruu which would probably give us 450 fans. My team and I decided to make this a student event with student-friendly prices and a certain amount of free tickets. We’d also have networking events where there would be a chance to connect with a variety of Finnish companies. We’d even plan the in-game entertainment.

Well, things didn’t go to plan. It’s not that there was a language barrier. At the onset of this project, I was told that Finnish companies don’t like to receive advice. Outside help is also something that they don’t always think they need. This is particularly true of hockey teams. Because it’s such a popular sport, teams figure they people will be interested, so the marketing effort is lacking. A lot of the plans and timelines I’d set were ignored and discarded. Despite this, we managed to exceed our goal of having 1000 people at the game. We managed to raise a good amount of money for junior hockey players, and people had fun. I even had a chance to get on the ice after the puck throwing contest. Today was an eye-opener to what my potential career could look like, it was nice, stressful but nice.

After the game, I went to a party where I’d have an opportunity to say goodbye to some of the friends I’ve made here. When you meet people, I don’t believe that you think about saying goodbye to them. Even though I knew I’d be leaving in four months, I never thought about today. I want to come home, I miss home, my things blah blah blah but I’m going to miss the people here. I’ve shared in adventures with them and naturally, I’ve learned so much about them and their cultures. It’s hard to say goodbye especially if you don’t know if you’ll ever see these people again. I dished out my fair share of hugs and handshakes tonight. I cannot believe that in less than two weeks I’ll be home.

I’ve made a lot of plans, which I know are dangerous. But in May I think I’d like to come back to Europe, head to Amsterdam, Harlem and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Then back to Stockholm, hit up Norway Germany and Denmark, go back to Italy and visit Milan, Naples and Sicily. Finally, I’d conclude my trip by visiting Nashville for CMA Fest. Lofty plans with absolutely zero dollars in the bank. I also want to go shark cage diving in South Africa … So we’ll see. Might need to get me myself a sugar momma or rob a bank.

Tomorrow is my final day, I leave for Paris on Monday morning but will spend a day in Helsinki (Sunday) So there will be a final dinner tomorrow where I can say goodbye to the group. I can’t believe it’s over already but I said that at the end of the summer. One adventure ends, another begins.

Finland Pt. 5 🇫🇮

December 3rd, 2017. I leave December 21st! Naturally, I’ve got another adventure planned, France and Spain. This week will mark my final week here in Jyväskylä. It’s a city of 137,000 people, and 47,000 of them are students. So it indeed is a student town. It also happens to be the “Sports City” of Finland, it is home to the Neste rally and JYP of SMLiiga (Finnish Elite League Hockey.) It is home to 450 sporting venues, and the hometown of NBA Star Lauri Markkanen and NHL stars Sami Vatanen and Olli Määttä. Next year in February it’ll be host to the Red Bull Crashed Ice event. So you can see that the love for sport in this city is a real thing.

While in previous posts I’ve said that there isn’t much to do here it doesn’t mean that I don’t like it here. There are obvious drawbacks like the dark and damp that even the Fins complain about. And the fact that the city isn’t all that big, so there isn’t much to do. Let me put this in context, in Toronto there always seems to be something going on. Food festivals, beer festivals, concerts, and sometimes there are movies shown outside at Trinity Bellwoods Park. Jyväskylä is a small city, but it’s a beautiful city. There are a lot of pubs and bars, some restaurants, some shopping malls, this fucking bad ass bakery, Wilhelmiinan Konditoria that has the best Carrot cake in the world. There are things to do here, just a lot of the same things.

Jyväskylä has to be however the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited. There are trees everywhere. During the summer months, or at least August and September, everything is green. I know I’ve posted this photo before, but I think it’s the one that perfectly depicts how beautiful it is here. I think I love it here because of how quiet it gets. Don’t get me wrong I do miss the planes and sirens because it can get hauntingly quiet. There are so many paths and trails to take, I like going out and getting lost. It gives me time to think, or it just gives me time to be alone. There are so many lakes, so many trees, and so many fucking hills. It gives you a sense of peace and that’s what I’ll miss the most about Jyväskylä.  Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

I think about leaving, and it’s not the happiest feeling. On the one hand, I’m excited to get home and see and do all the things that being at home entails. On the other, I’ve made a lot of friends out here. I’ve got a certain level of freedom here that I don’t have back home, and well I guess this relates to the second point but I’m in Europe, travelling here is cheap, and every city has an outstanding amount of history.
When I come back from Madrid, I’ll be coming back to Finland, but I’ll spend about 3 days in Helsinki before coming back to Toronto. I’ll finally get to properly explore Helsinki and on my own terms. It’s not like Jyväskylä, it’s a city, with trams, buses and tourist. A Finnish friend of mine told me that every stereotype of Fins can and will be found in Jyväskylä. I agree. The quietness, awkwardness, Will-not-engage-in-small-talk,  personal space seeking, sauna loving, coffee addicted, hockey-crazed, and most importantly heavy metal loving will be found here in Jyväskylä. Fin’s are boastful about it, they joke and embrace the stereotypes. It’s what I can say I’ll miss about the people, their ability to laugh at themselves and their honesty.
Currently, I’m once again avoiding homework and writing instead. It always amazes me that my entire life can fit into a backpack, duffle bag and a suitcase. I’ve begun packing, and frankly, it is a little sad.

Sir, ​You’ve Been… 🤷🏽‍♂️

There is no doubt that I’ve been travelling a lot. It’s something I’ve never really done until now, and I can honestly say that I love it. But this post is not going to be about the adventures I’ve had nor the adventures I’m about to begin. Traveling for me has been a method of therapy. What you see is the photo’s and the stories but what you don’t see is the stress and to a certain level, fear, that goes into booking a ticket. That is what I’m going to share with you.

I was born Adel Narinesingh, that was my dad’s last name. I changed it to Mohammed because for whatever reason I liked it better. It made me proud, it was a name that had a lot of meaning behind it. Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him, is the prophet founder of Islam. He was Allah’s (God) messenger on earth and the last prophet. My last name isn’t spelt the same, but it still holds the “power.” I’m very proud of it, and yes I make jokes about it because as of right now it’s the only thing I can do. This is the first time I’m going to admit this, but I think I need to say it. Right after the elections in the US, I changed my Facebook profile name to “Adel Darwish.” I told people it was so future employers couldn’t find me… I share dog videos and music. There is nothing all that incriminating on that profile. I changed it because for the first time in my life I feel like I need to keep that information to myself.

During the summer I was out to lunch, I was sitting on a patio enjoying sangria. I got a phone call and when I answered it my friend greeted me in Arabic, and my response was “wa-Alaikumussalam” Which means, “May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be upon you.” A woman passing by yelled at me to go back to “My Sand Hut.” I thought it was hilarious and I got a free meal out of it. I don’t want to get into politics, but I’m not exactly happy about where we are as people. I don’t just mean Canadians, I mean globally. I think there is a lot of fear and hate. I believe that some of our elected leaders are misguided and misinformed. I think there is a lot of division. That same hate and fear is being preached by the people who are supposed to preach reason.

I’m in Finland, but when I was leaving Canada, I was randomly selected for further screening. Not the first time it’s happened. I’m usually really friendly because I have nothing to hide. Since I’ve been in Finland, I’ve taken little trips to places I’ve only dreamed about, like England. In the Manchester Airport, I was given the third degree by one of their customs officers. Manchester’s been through a lot in the last little while. So again I just stood there, smiling and answering questions. Last week, however, I think everything came to a head.  I commented on something online about ‘The Muslim Threat” Within a few hours I had a bunch of hate mail in my DM’s. Some of them were pretty funny but at some point, you can see that these people really believe this. At some point, it stops being about learning what other people think and it just becomes demoralizing. I said learning because learning what people think who don’t share your belief is the best way to get the whole picture.

Every time I book a ticket to go somewhere this is in the back of my mind, “Will I be hassled at the airport?” or “Will someone scream when I begin to pray before taking off?”  They sound foolish, don’t they? What are the chances of that happening? A lot greater than you think. These are the things I think about when I decide I’ve had enough of Finland and would like to see somewhere else. I do not accept the hate nor do not condone it. My faith has been associated with a lot of terror and wrongdoing, that I can not deny. My faith has been said to mistreat women, hate homosexuality, hate the non-believers. My faith plain and simple has been typecasted. We’re a threat, and we need to be stopped. I will not discuss things about other religions because that would be throwing them under the bus. I will say this, there are a billion Muslims in the world if they were all terrorists, homophobes, sexist, jihadist extremest, why haven’t they won? It’s not because they’re in impoverished countries, it’s because they’re not the majority. They’re just the loudest.

I’m not preaching peace and love, I’m telling you to pick up a fucking book and learn. Fear and hate is definitely not the way forward. Education and reason are. If you pick up the Quran and read it, there definitely is a lot of things in there that are just insane, but there is also a lot of good. That’s what religion is, isn’t it? Contradictory. Hate and fear just happen to be an easy path. As I’m concluding this post I can’t help but notice that I can remove “Muslim and Islam” and replace it with, “Minority” so people of African descent, women, people in the LGBTQ community, and immigrants and it wouldn’t change much. If this costs me followers so be it. Once again thank you for reading.