Quite a bit has happened since I last wrote in March. I turned 23, for one thing, my first birthday in another country. I've started work on my dissertation and passed the six-month mark of my program, something that makes me and every fellow student I know make wide, slightly frightened eyes at one another whenever it's mentioned. I feel as though I've lived in London for a total of eight minutes, not since late September.
On April 11, I also attended my first concert in years. I don't usually spend money on concerts; I have to really like someone before I lay down all that cash. Moreover, it was a Harry Styles concert. I literally haven't thought of that guy in years, but accidentally saw footage of his latest tour on social media. Now, I used to want to date this man. I had a poster of him; I thought he was so cool. All of the sudden he was playing his solo concert at the O2 in a week, and tickets in the nosebleeds were affordable, so I thought--why not? A friend and I had to wait almost three hours since the doors opened before he came out, but he was charming and doofy and his new music is that kind of coffee shop acoustic that really resonates, and all these memories from teenage me came flooding back and I forgot how much I admired him. Plus, running for the Tube with literally thousands of other people was some sort of movie experience I'll not soon forget.
I also just came back from Barcelona(!). I'd never been to Spain, and two nights before the concert my flatmate proposed a five-day trip, with hostel and round-trip flight for a song. I'd just dropped money on the concert and wasn't sure, but it was so cheap we all agreed. This past Tuesday we took the Tube to Blackfriars, a train to Gatwick (airports are way more fun when you're not travelling all by your lonesome), flew to El Prat in Barcelona, then took an Aerobus to one of the main plazas in the city and hauled our bursting backpacks (biiiiiig mistake) all the way to our hostel on the Cerrer del Freser, extremely close to the Sagrada Familia.
The hostel had our own room with bunks and shared bathrooms, living room, and balcony(!), and for the next five days we worked our way with what Spanish we knew and stared at things written in Catalan. I turned scarlet at the beach where people sold alcohol and beach blankets, got dress coded by a cathedral (I'd heard of that getting done in Italy, but not Spain. No bare shoulders!), and walked until my hips and bottoms of my feet ached and turned numb. We were constantly dehydrated and starving, and drank lots of espresso. The first night we ate paella, but the following nights we ate lomo salteado (Peruvian), japchae (Korean), and pabellón criollo (Venezuelan). We raided a local supermercat and a fruit stand almost every night for strawberries, cakes, sangria and Estrella Damm. All the pasta, churros, starches and meat were really heavy; my one flatmate joked back on the Tube on our way back that he was going on a juice cleanse. The food made me really sick the last night (sitting on the tiled floor by the toilet at 2AM was a solid hint that it was time to go), but that's on me, not Spain.
We saw Gaudi's Casa Batlló, smelled the orange blossoms as we wandered the Hospital de Sant Pau, and explored Park Güell just after the sun rose. We ate coconut macaroons and discussed metaphysics and ghost stories past midnight. Barcelona was warm and vibrant and people were extremely kind when as we haltingly flexed whatever Spanish education we had, which was about none for two of the four of us.
Last night we got back, after taking a bus to an aerobus to a plane to a train to the Tube and then walking into our flat to realize our fridge was so over-iced that we had to thaw it out or risk a fire hazard. For the next hour we scooped out the snow with heated spoons, smacking at it with knives and a spatula until we got all of it out. Our fridge looks brand new and we have so much space now, but that was definitely not what we imagined we'd do once we returned. London also grew significantly warmer since we left, and trees are blooming everywhere. I need to find a summer wardrobe ASAP, and plan to exchange my leftover euros back into pounds so I can buy some shorts that are work appropriate.
I also agreed to join a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, something I'd never considered doing before and probably never would've done when I was younger. I've started reading the manual and it's way more complex than Stranger Things made it seem, but I'm up to the task! It's also like a cool thing to do now? I dunno, but I'm already planning my character's shifty backstory.
So, in short, London is hot, I had a blast in Barcelona and have never been so bilingual in my life, a lot of the time people assumed I was Spanish until I'd spoke for about twenty seconds, I taught my friend the 'squad' pose and she liked it so much we took a lot of photos like that at historic sites, I missed non-espresso-based coffee like it was a great love of my life, and I have a very soft spot for Harry Styles again.
♡ Official website of Rachael Kosinski, 23.