Paris 🇫🇷 to Madrid 🇪🇸,

So this is my documentation of the longest 38 hours of my life. It involves delays, deceit, anger, a terrible amount of B/O, free beer, theft and the most refreshing shower I’ve ever had. I’ll say that this day was quite possibly the most stressful day of my year, but there was a lot of laughs that day. So like every day when I was in Paris, I had to get up super early, this time it was so I could catch my flight to Madrid. Getting to the airport was super easy because there’s a bus that goes directly to Orly airport. This is the end of “running smoothly” for the day. I flew with Transavia; I was forced to check in my duffle bag as I wasn’t allowed to bring two bags onto the plane. Finding the place where I needed to check that bag was painstaking, and no one wanted to help me.

Next up, after paying 45 Euros to check the bag, I went to the assigned gate. To my surprise I was not selected for further screening, the woman with the hijab in front of me was. Okay, I’m almost 100% that happened because she had a small child with her and a stroller. I apologise for the cynicism. When I got to the gate, I noticed it had been changed, and I’d have to go downstairs. Once there we were shuttled to another part of the airport, from there we waited about an hour and then began to board the plane. There was PLENTY of room for everyone to bring two bags, but its a budget airline to they have to make money somehow. Here’s where all hell breaks loose, we had to wait an extra 45 minutes for 13 passengers to arrive as they’d missed the shuttle. There were some moaning and groaning but nothing bad. When all passengers were accounted for we began the safety checks and demonstrations. As we were backing up and the engines were about to get going, we lost all power, and the plane stopped, and the lights turned off. It’s only after that I realised that we could’ve been in the air and fell out of the sky. We waited another 45 minutes while they tried to fix it, they couldn’t.

Back to the terminal where we were told to wait until 3:30, I was on holiday so whatever, I could expect. 3:30 comes, we’re told we’ll be fed and taken back to the main terminal, and we’d await further instructions. We were not fed well, and there was a PlayStation in the terminal that I didn’t see, so I sat there like a shmuck reading. By the time we’d gotten fed and were waiting in the terminal, it was already 5 pm. People were pissed off, and some had even left to take the train or book another flight. Around 5:30 I received an email saying they’ve put us all on another plane and it was leaving at 7. When we got to the gate they’d changed that time to 7:45, sorry, “Around 7:45 pm.” I sat there talking to some people, angrily tweeting as I’d begun to … let’s say, expire. I was also a little concerned my hostel wouldn’t hold my reservation, but an email fixed that. When 8:30 there were legitimate yelling fits, and some people had to be held back, there was also no plane in the dock. I had no choice but to sit there and watch Donald Trump videos; it’s a hobby of mine. The guy is such a dumbass; it’s almost hard to believe.

At 9:30 we boarded the plane, so it’s all good right? Wrong. The plane was a lot bigger than the one we were supposed to take, so there were no people in the back. This would affect the way the plane took off, it was to front heavy, and that was dangerous. So began the task to move people around, this caused another delay and some more yelling. I felt horrible for the flight attendants who were just doing their jobs, and I’ll admit they did a great job. At 10:48 we finally left Paris and were treated to complimentary food and drink. The flight attendant gave me five beers, one I drank and 4 I gave to random drunk people on the metro. At the airport I met an older Aussie gentleman named Peter, he was in Madrid for, and I’m quoting him here, “Why the fuck not?” This dude was pretty old, so good for him. I ended up meeting someone else on the metro, and he helped me get to the hostel. We got off at the stop, Sol which is the central hub. There were people everywhere, drinking, dancing and enjoying one another’s company. Madrid, after being there for about an hour I could tell that it was a party town. When I got to the hostel, I smelled like crap and just wanted to shower, that’s exactly what I did. When I woke up I tried to watch the highlights of the Habs game, they suck. I ended falling asleep in front of my laptop, and that’s when someone stole my MacBook. I was on the top bunk, asleep in in front of it and was out for about half an hour and gone! I couldn’t believe it, but hey what can I do? I filed a report and went on my first day in Madrid a little disappointed, but I could’ve had my passport or wallet taken.

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. 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.