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. 3 🇫🇷

My last full day in Paris I wanted to do all the lame tourist things. So the Louvre, Cathedral of Norte Dame, the Grande Palace, the Pantheon, the Sacre-Coeur, Tuileries Garden, Laduree, and the Catacombs of Paris. If you’re reading that list and you’re rolling your eyes, I walked to all of these, so I’m sure I saw a lot more. I think Christmas in Paris is just … let’s go with, Magical. During the day there are all the decorations and festive vibe that overcomes the city and during the night everything gets lite up and the city sparkles.

My last day I woke up super early so I could get to the Louvre. Naturally, I wanted to see the Mona Lisa. I’ll save you some time, go to google and google, “Mona Lisa Louvre” Go ahead, do that now. Looks chaotic right? Well, I got lucky because I have a European student card which means I get in for free. Almost every person there that morning was there to see the Mona Lisa, all the other cool things inside kind of get cast aside. Now I did get to see it because I was a least a foot taller than anyone else in there. The Mona Lisa is small; it’s protected by bulletproof glass and there is a perimeter set up so people can’t get to close. To me, definitely not worth. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the Louvre, but it is a cool place. It’s beautiful inside and out. There’s a little high-end shopping centre attached to the Louvre where you can get overpriced coffee from Starbucks (I went and bought a mug) When I got outside you can see everything that Paris has to offer. I apologise for the photos because the weather was less than cooperative.

Again I had one of those moments where I couldn’t believe where I was. The Tuileries Garden is right in front of the Louvre, it isn’t in bloom, but nevertheless, it’s beautiful. My next stop after the Louvre and Garden was to head to the second most iconic place in Paris, The Cathedral of Notre Dame. Yes, as a kid I watched Disney movies almost religiously. Anything new that came out on VHS I had to get. Mom and I had a bet, if I did well in school (which I did when I wasn’t busy being a badass) I’d either get McDonald’s or if I did really well, I’d get one of those Disney VHS and pretty much spend the weekend making sure I knew the movie inside and out. One of the first ones I got was The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you’ve been following the blog from the beginning it is evident that I’m a nerd so this shouldn’t surprise you, I’ve read the book by Victor Hugo.

Pretty cool eh? I stood outside for a long time taking in the sights. Perhaps I stood out there too long as I kept getting approached people to take pictures of them in front of the Cathedral and tree. Going inside was surreal, again with it being Christmas time there were decorations and people everywhere. Inside you’ll find the history of the Cathedral and a line that if you follow it takes you right up and through to the catwalk overlooking Paris. I’m a little afraid of heights, and it is a tight squeeze, so I decided against it. From here I decided to go to one of a few Canadian bars in Paris, again at this point, I was just missing home. I don’t remember the name of the bar, but it’s super close to the cathedral. When I went in, I was surprised to find that the bartenders where expats and we chatted a little about Canada and how great Canada is, and how beautiful Canada is and how Canada is the best and Canada has the… We both missed home. The other bartender however was not as friendly. The one I was talking to said: “She’s been here so long she thinks she’s a Parisian.” I chuckled and then paid my tab and left. Let’s just say there is a difference between being French and being a Parisian.

I decided that I’d pass on going to the catacombs, just in case I had another panic attack (Haven’t had one since Rome.) So I went to indulge my massive sweet tooth and headed for Laduree. Now I’ve written about some real personal things on here, and I’m about to share something once again. Firstly, on my way there I swear to god I’ve never needed to pee so badly in my entire life. I couldn’t find a bathroom to save my life so I ended up taking a leak on someone’s boat. Not like going inside and using the bathroom, but like against their docked boat. I’m a terrible person I know. I was also heading to Laduree because, this is hard to admit but a lot of what I did in Paris sort of kind of reminded me of my ex and I knew that Laduree would be one of the things, had she been there, that she’d want to see. I have her gift wrapped in the bag I got from there. I don’t think she reads this anymore so like I won’t be ruining the “surprise.” I got there in record time and didn’t wet myself, so I deserved something, that something turned out to be four overpriced macaroons and an eclair. No, they did not make it back to the hostel.

I want to say this, the building looks pink, that’s because I spent some time editing the photo. It was raining, and the building looked like a shittier version of Ollivander’s wand shop from Harry Potter. Yes, I made that reference. When I got back to my room I took the best nap I’ve had in a long time, and I managed to get another blanket and just burrito myself in the corner. When I got up, I went for Chinese food again and hoped on the metro for one last glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and check out the Sacre-Coeur, which was bhind my Hostle. Here’s what I want to say about Paris before I post the next photos, its a great city with a lot of culture. I had a lot of “Wow” Moments, moments where I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. That being said, I don’t know if I’d recommend it if you’re travelling alone. It’s not exactly the most welcoming place. If you are keen on going alone, I’d suggest downloading “Couchsurfing” It’s an app that allows you to connect with people in your area and if you’re desperate for a place to stay some of the people can help you out and offer up their spare room or couch. I enjoyed my time there because I got to explore, I just got to be alone and be free, and I had a blast.

Just breathtaking and then theres this outstanding building. Sorry the photos not better, my phone died. Next post is on the way and just writing about it brings back this horrendous smell. Oh well stay tuned and thanks for reading.

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.

Finland Pt. 4 🇫🇮

December 1st and I’ll be done with school. That means exams and final assignments. I’ll have my internship event on December 8th. There is going to be a game here in Jyväskylä between two-second division teams. Jyväskylä is home to JYP of the SM Liiga or the Finnish first division. This makes generating interest pretty tricky, it also means the event might be a huge letdown. Most of the exchange students will be in Lapland (Northern Finland), so there goes some of the possible spectators. We have a solid plan, we know how we’ll execute it, planned the events on game day but I’m still stressed out about it. Now I know how my bosses back home feel, but I wonder if they also feel the sense of excitement that I’m feeling? Who knows.

Home. Today I woke up and these were the first words out of my mouth, “Finland, you win.” Lack of sunlight, constant rain and the repetition of tasks has taken its toll. I’m ready to come back home. I’ve done what I set out to do, and now I’m looking forward to being an intern, an employee, a gym rat, gamer, bookworm, volunteer, most importantly, being busy. Now I know there will be days where I’ll miss it here, I know that’ll come. In the last Finland post, I touched on not being happy. I’m not happy with the weather, it does take a serious toll on the mind and body. I hope I can word this properly, there is a constant feeling of “Ending.” You wake up, and it’s dark, at 1:30 it starts getting dark, at 3:00/3:15 the sun is almost gone, by 3:45 it’s dark. Dark as in street lights are on, and cars have their lights on. I’ve been talking to some of the other exchange students, and they feel the same. I know, I’m Canadian I should be used to the darkness, I am just not when it happens this early. Another thing it never really feels dark in Toronto.

Having said this, I’d say its probably the only downside of being here. I’ve said there’s nothing to do here, there is just a lot of it is repetitive. Going to the pub and the club, then McDonald’s. When I’m at home I don’t go out a lot, especially drinking, the fear is I won’t know how to get home (irrational fear) or I’ll get lost (I have a phone), or in most cases, I’ll have to dish out money for a cab. I don’t mind if I’m in a group but a lot of time I want to sleep at home not on a floor or couch, so I have to take a cab home. That’s on me, and I accept it so most of the time I either don’t drink so I can drive or I don’t go. However, since I’ve been here I’ve gone out a lot, now I can refuse or just go to the pub and not the club but then I’d either have to walk or take a cab alone. A taxi from the city centre to home is 17 Euros. Let me put that in perspective, I’m on a budget, and a bus from Helsinki to Jyväskylä costs 8-15 Euros, that’s a 3.5-hour drive. It’s a 10-minute drive from the centre to my flat.

I’ve never been a person to go to clubs, I’m not a good dancer, I don’t like crowds I feel very anxious in them, and the only way to compensate for it is to drink a lot. That is a significant problem because what it’s done or what it’s doing is it’s forging this relationship that whenever I’m uncomfortable, I should drink. I have no problem going to the pub and getting hammered but that happens over the course of a few hours, and there’s usually a bunch of great conversations, some games, pool, and maybe even sports. It is a relaxed environment, and it’s what I go for.

I am ready to come home that much I know, but I cannot have asked for a better 4 months. I’ve learned a lot, a ridiculous amount, academically, and personally. The very first post I wrote for this blog makes reference to the little things and how they add up. When I came here I was in a different mindset, I’ve made mistakes out here that will and do have very real consequences, I’ve proven a lot to myself, impressed myself, haven’t hit anyo… we’ll work on that (Sorry Shawn). Finland “beat” me, but I’m walking away …. running away with a lot of things to build off of. So I think I have officially 17 days left here, I’ll be heading to Paris, Arras, Madrid and possibly Barcelona on the 10th-18th then I’ll come back to Helsinki for a few days and then Toronto. If you’re looking for the Billiards post I’ve taken it down, I’m happy with it but I don’t think it’s ready to be finished yet. It’s meant to be a bigger project, one that I’ll have to do research on. So Stay tunned for pictures and posts about France and Spain!

Lakes Galore 

Orientation was … well it was more of an informational session. We learned about a lot of things including how to pay for rent, that stressed me out. I transferred the money to a friend and she’ll do the rest. So in about a week we’ll find out. 
Tonight there’s a party that we’ll be attending. I’m looking forward to it because it’ll be nice to meet some people. It’ll be nice to socialize rather than being couped up inside watching movies. It’ll be nice to forget that I’m sad. Externally, I look happy, smiling, joking, and laughing. Internally I sorta miss home, well the routine of it. It’s another language, culture, country, it’s all different. I can easily keep in touch with my friends which has been nice.

I’m sad now because I’m scared that I’m going to lose my best friend. Not like she’s going to die (she very well could) I don’t know, nor can I control it so I don’t really worry about that. But lose her in the sense that when I get home she won’t want to be friends anymore, she’ll have moved on with someone new and forget me. Again not something I can control. So why am I scared? I can’t control anything she does, right? Right. 
I started this blog because I wanted to document the restructure of my life. I look back and I can say that I’m surprised and happy with the progress. Sure a lot of my writing/documentation is about this girl that I dated. A girl that I love, a girl… is this blog about her? No, it’s about my life and I’m looking back and It makes me sad because I can see how much of a part of me she is. So by that I guess you can say the blog makes me both happy and sad. More happy than sad but not by a large margin. 
I do miss my best friend. By last nights conversation I can tell … okay last nights and the other nights conversation I know she misses me. What I didn’t tell her was that I’m sorry. Sorry that I fell apart, sorry that we’re apart right now, sorry that I didn’t just tell her I needed her. What I didn’t tell her was that I didn’t want to let go of her when we last saw one another that I wanted to kiss her. I wouldn’t take another path because I know that this is the path I’m supposed to be on. 
I wish she was here, I’d share this small shitty bed, keep her warm and share the adventure. Those aren’t the cards I was dealt though. All I want is her but right now that’s not something I can have. It may never be that way again… so I hope she’s happy. I hope she’s safe. Sounds like I’m unselfish huh? No but what the fuck else can I say? It’s about to get cold in Finland. So I’ll just focus on staying warm.