Chapter 8: Insomnia, Balmy Beach Days and Discovering Vermouth

I shall begin my post- as I always do- with a quick update on major events in the past month of my life:

  • Ma and Pa visited. The sun shone all weekend, we ate wonderful Tapas, discovered an excellent ice cream parlour, my Dad found his dream bar, and we had a chance to spend quality time together. Also, their hotel was significantly better than the previous one, with a roof terrace and a pool.
  • I visited Tossa del Mar on the Costa Brava and it was bloody beautiful. The drive there and back, through the Catalan countryside and along the rocky coast was just as wonderful as the place itself.
  • I got my first flavour of Southern Spanish culture as I visited La Feria, and watched all the flamenco dancing. It’s something I can add to the list of things I can’t do: dance like the Spaniards.
  • I visited another two beautiful beaches: in Montgat and Badalona. It costs a euro to get there. I went yesterday and managed to sunburn my right armpit (only the right) and the inside of my belly button. Also, I finally embraced Spanish culture and went topless on the beach. It only took eight months of living here to reach this wonderful point. Felt surprisingly liberating to join the free the nipple brigade. I don’t know it the beaches of North Cornwall are quite ready to embrace this, however, so I will probably give topless-ness a miss in my August trip to Padstow.
  • I have discovered some wonderful new eateries and bars: namely last night I visited a place in El Gotico called Tasca el Corral. Surprisingly cheap and the vermouth is excellent. We ran into some English folk, one of whom had lived in Barcelona for two years then moved to London. His advice was to remain in Barcelona for as long as is humanly possible (i.e. before the damning consequences of Brexit really hit home).
  • I went for a wander two weekends ago and stumbled upon the Botanical Gardens on Montjuic. It is an absolute paradise and it’s free entry after five. Nice place to go if you like trees, views and good reading spots. Blissful.
  • I walked out of my first class since arriving in September. I was with the oldest and lowest level students- a group of lovely but not particularly well-behaved lads- and after 45 minutes of constant, perpetual chatter and fighting, I abandoned the classroom. Later that week I received a letter of apology, signed by the boys. The teachers hadn’t asked them to do it, which meant it was genuine. They are forgiven.
  • I got my haircut and twenty minutes later I was sat reading my book on a bench when a pigeon did a big poo in my new hair. I know it’s good luck and all but the pigeon could have timed it better.
  • Seven mates from England came to say (8 were meant to come but sadly Liam had to present for his masters course). We drank a lot of sangria and consumed a lot of complex and refined carbohydrates, which was as fantastic as it sounds. I haven’t belly laughed that much in a long time. I took everyone to see the classic tourist spots, and some lesser known ones too. We danced in La Fira, spent a balmy evening wondering around Parc Guell and ate ice cream in Barceloneta. The air bnb situation was quite dodgy as the chap who let me into the apartment got the wrong door twice. Nonetheless, it turned out fine. Funniest moment of the week goes to Dave. He was still drunk from the night before and forgot his swimming trunks for the beach. After a little encouragement from the rest of us- we are supportive people- he swam in the sea in the bottom half of his clothing. In the six hours which followed, walking and taking in the city, they did not dry. I was amused.

Without sounding like a complete moron, I will say that having friends visiting from home forces a certain level of self-reflection. It reminds you of how you were nine months ago. I haven’t felt as though I have progressed as much as I would have liked in many ways: linguistically, professionally, personally, etc. Nonetheless, I realised after seeing my friends that I have changed a little bit. I’m not a different person, by any means. I still have an addiction to harribo strawbs and activia yoghurts. I still lack common sense. I still make extremely poor life decisions. But I have certainly grown up a bit in the past eight months. And that can only be a good thing.

Of course, expat life is not always beers and sunshine. I have difficult days and weeks- and a fortnight ago, after my parents left I had a bit of a rough time due to my inability to sleep.

This time last year, I was living in a complete dive of a student house in Sheffield. When it rained- which it does quite a lot in Sheffield- the room took on the smell of flooded drains. When winter arrived, I slept in a hat, underneath four duvets. If I left shoes under my bed for over two weeks, mould would start to grow on them. On top of the damp and chilly climate of the room, it’s physical proximity to the kitchen also meant that every time someone cooked- be it fish, curry, you name it- the smell would waft right in, and cling to my clothes.

During the two years I lived in the aforementioned room, I struggled with sleep a lot. I immediately blamed my surroundings, as you can probably see why. It’s only now, after a month of seriously struggling with sleep I realise that it was not my room that was the problem (though it can’t of helped). The problem causing my lack of sleep, was in fact me.

I have insomnia which comes and goes- linked with anxiety- and I can tell you it is absolutely horrendous when it is there. It’s not the occasional sleepless night; it’s day after sodding day of lying on your back, staring at the ceiling and wondering why your brain doesn’t turn off. I tried every herbal remedy under the bloody sun. I stopped having coffee. I paid 15 euros for the first massage of my life (I’ve never felt more middle class than that). I also ran a lot to try and exhaust my body physically. Nothing seemed to help much.

Luckily it has passed now and I am a little more rested. I guess I’ve learnt more about myself through the process. For example, I have learnt that I don’t sleep until I’ve made an important decision. I’ve learnt that I need to plan where I will live at least six weeks in advance. I’ve also learnt that I am the least emotionally intelligent human being that I know, and that I fail to recognise any of my problems until it’s too late.

The sunshine here makes it impossible to linger in moments of negativity for too long, anyhow. The near future is looking rather exciting, and I have some good stuff planned:

My brother is coming to stay, and we are going to rent an air bnb near Sagrada Familia.

My favourite German is coming to stay.

I am flying home for a week, before jetting off to Bilbao, and then Tarazona for a month of working at an English camp.

The destination of my life next year remains partly uncertain. I have a job lined up in Madrid, but I’m in love with Barcelona and I have made a bit of life for myself here. It will be really difficult to let go of this city, and the people I have met, and if I can find work then there is still the option of remaining…

I have ten days left at my school, and feel very sad about that. It’s at this point, as my contract draws to a close, that I realise how truly blessed I have been this year.


For the penultimate time, adios xx






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