Three Kings Day!

All I knew was that people were following the beats of the drums – somewhat reminiscent of the pied piper – children were holding lanterns and you could hear the festive excitement in the air. Everyone was following the parade and they were singing some song I did not understand. The girona – quiet, almost deserted Girona I thought I’d seen just afew hours ago was now so lively, so filled with some sort of magical hush of excitement.

A Girona tradition: collect all 3 stamps and the 3 kings will visit you!!!! :’)


And then there was this man dressed in red and children and adults had all these adorable handmade cards and they were surrounding him and giving him and slotting then into the mailbox he had slung around his shoulders

 letters to the kings :’) Their parents write it with them the night before so they can ‘mail’ it to the kings, and the kings would know what they want :’)

 handmade lanterns made of eggshell cartons and empty bottles

Spoke to a random man and he told me about the lanterns and the stamps – the lights from the lanterns as a form of welcome to the festival and the stamps to collect all 3 meant the kings would come to your house!! But you had to be on your best behavior throughout the year, of course

 Such tender kind eyes – if i were a kid I’d believe him too 😥

 ‘Have you been a good child this year?’

YAY!!!!!!!

It was an amazing day, it felt magical and I was incredibly excited and happy to have been here
I wished there was someone here with me to witness the festival, but I know this is a compromise in solo travel so I’ll keep these in my memories 🙂

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Girona!

Girona – another city I felt so readily acquainted with
and one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been
The day:
Bought a train ticket to girona, I had to wait for an hour and a half but I didn’t mind. I thought I’d walk around the streets for abit. Bought this horrid cup of sangria that was way too alcoholic for a morning and tasted nothing like the sangria I remembered, couldn’t finish that whole cup right there so I filled it in my bottle anyway. HAHA


Went to a tidbit shop because I love going to supermarkets of the sorts in other countries, just to see what kind of biscuits and candies they offered.
The man asked me what I wanted, and asked me where I’m from. Singapore, rich country, he nodded. I laughed and said the rich were rich but the poor can slip through the cracks. That was how we began.

It was one of those conversations that sent my heart pumping with excitement as I wanted to know everything, everything he thought because it was SO interesting. Some people are so intelligent and filled with such interesting and thought-provoking perspectives I hope he knows I meant that when I said that before I left. He was a political studies major in Pakistan before coming over to Spain (Catalonia) 25 years ago, he came without a word of Spanish but now he’s even more fluent than his own language. Urdu, English, Spanish, Catalonian and some Spanish dialect I cannot remember. He said he hasn’t spoken English for such a long, long long time now and he very clearly misses it. I asked him so many questions about Spain, this whole thing about the Catalonian identity and independence – language, problem resolutions and mindsets, cultures- Madrid. History of independence. World history, how we used to have only 50 countries and then with the world wars each split into more. Each country had their own reasons for desiring independence, be it religion, language, culture, problems, each country desired to be their own. It really blows me away to learn about THIS side of a country so touristic, to hear something so local. It just reminded me of Italy, how I had absolutely no idea of the whole north-south thing and suddenly I realised it’s like this in Spain as well. Apparently next year with voting Barcelona (Catalonia) wanted to not be a part of Spain. So strange to me, because Barcelona has always, always been “Spain” to me and yet to them they only saw themselves as Catalonian. Borders, countries, construction of political differences. It’s SO interesting I could spend the whole day just chatting with him about politics and political boundaries and “true histories” because he was clearly a knowledgable man (who under unfortunate circumstances, I felt, was now working in this minimart- I felt was a pity)

How colonial masters continue to control the colonized, “puppets” and “independence” and granted independence vs true independence

Unfortunately my train was due to arrive soon and I had to leave. I said a quick and reluctant goodbye because I knew I had so much more I could learn from him, and ran to the train station. So here I am, safely on the train now.

The thing is, this stranger is one of the reasons why my trip to Barcelona will be memorable. Strangers are mostly the reasons why my trips are memorable. What makes me happy is knowing that I made his day too, because I know this is probably the most English he’s spoken in years, having a conversation like that. The world is an amazing place filled with amazing people and amazing stories and I don’t want to forget that.

I feel like travel is about meeting beautiful people and carrying their stories with me back home.


Mondo nuovo
Museu del cinema


Second favourite museum to date, after Utrecht’s


Barcelona / Touristy / Picture-spam

I thought I had enough of cathedrals but this, this really blew me away. Architectural ingenuity of Gaudi
I loved the integration of nature (advent of modernism as I later found)

dude tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to take a picture of him
Oversized macaronis – part of the Kings Day decor – I would have walked by without a second glance
Thursday, January 9, 2014 

My time with Paco taught me SO much, about modernism and Gaudi and even how to appreciate art. Romanic styles, Gothic and neo-classic – how to identify the buildings associated with it. We walked around the city and looked at the Roman remains of the old city walls, and for the first time I kind of realized the historical importance of these structures…? And could picture it – the colonization, the old city gate, the expansion of the city thereafter, and that’s why the streets are different in different parts of the city. Some narrow, some broad. This side of the buildings dull and sooty (remnants from the train), the other brightly colored.

I must say that this was one of the BEST and most meaningful CS experiences for me because I truly, truly learnt and truly got a very local perspective and guide and FOOD and cultural view. I had my reservations initially, and I don’t deny I was apprehensive and slightly worried. But I had 2 options – pick a hostel and probably roam around touristy places alone, or stay with a local and guarantee minimal interaction. None of the girls / students of Barcelona accepted 😥 (impending exams, i think) and I got an offer, so I went ahead despite that weighing apprehension.

I think one of the things I seek to do this year is to not see age as a barrier / border / restriction in any way. Age can create a distance (understandably) in friendships but at the same time why should it? I’ve always found it hard to befriend people who have a distinct age gap from myself but I feel like age shouldn’t be a constraint anymore. Think Harold and Maude, my favorite film! All the more reasons for this. I feel a little awkward initially but I’m working on this – age should NOT be a barrier to friendship and I hope I keep that in my mind.

Catalonian independence movement. I did notice the flag earlier, but now I know why there’s a blue star, and then I start seeing it everywhere. The ‘independence’ banner I saw at Girona now makes more sense. The graffitti.
It just stuns me that I have, with ALL my life associated Barcelona with Spain, and it never occurred to me otherwise – that they might not like it (??)
I could sense the strong Catalonian identity that emerges from Paco’s words, the ‘us’ vs ‘them’, and I wonder where / how they got this sense of identity. Nationhood, borders and constructed boundaries. How interesting, how fascinating!
What makes one feel so strongly as ‘one’???
What makes a nation a nation, what makes them want independence and how do they see themselves as ‘different’?

Hinda was a Somalian in Canada – talked about… guns (heh), TIPPING CULTURE (dude, 50% tip is craaaazy to me….), US vs Canada, crazy -40 degrees weather (because of the wind), Montreal’s first language as French (never knew!!), edu/healthcare, the whole notion of sexual relations, global warming (!!),

Hola Barcelona!

I can feel the memory slipping by, and that rawness – freshness(?) of emotions that I felt at that point in time slipping from my grip. That makes me a little sad, but I can also feel myself desperately clinging on to that bit of emotion in its raw state.


(There is a name for that flag of unity, which Laura told me, but I forgot)

This is by far my most favourite picture of a city – i might even daresay this is my favourite picture of my whole trip. Each time I look at it it stirs in me a particular fondness of sorts.
I came to Barcelona not quite noticing this flag, and I feel that when I left Barcelona this flag and its brightly pointed star held so much meaning; therein lay so much history, so much strength and so much I didn’t know and understand. Not that I completely do now (because every representation is a mis-representation, and every argument has a counter-argument, as I am aware), but I look at this flag so much more differently from before.

I took this picture on the last day, and when I did, I took it with an understanding that I didn’t have before. I guess that’s why I like it – it makes me feel like I took something away with me beyond mere images and sceneries, and that’s fulfilling in its ways.



Last Ryanair flight in a long, long while now. 
Not a bad thing, considering that sense of trepidation I get everytime I get close to the boarding gate. And those hell-annoying security checks. Ugh. Just ONE last one at Heathrow, and then.. it’ll be a long long while.

I’ve been away from Loughborough for a month now, and I must say I do miss going back ‘home’ to my comfortable bed. My bed at Loughborough is more comfortable than the one back home 😥 That precious duvet. SIGH

I have been traveling quite abit, but I must say that I’ve learnt ALOT in this one month. They say the world is an open book – I really feel so, I feel like I’ve learnt so much in days about the countries more than I’ve ever known. 

I had 4 meaningful, fulfilling encounters with strangers in Spain, which has been the most number in a single trip thus far. I feel like conversations come so readily now it doesn’t surprise me anymore, which is nice because it makes me feel like I have grown a little to be less reserved now. 
Australian lady, Pakistani man, Paco and Hinda from Somalia


4Jan 2014, 850am:
Meant to sleep over at the Barcelona airport while hunting for my name amongst the seats – treasure hunt set up by a certain childish individual – but found myself in a 5 star hotel, sleeping on the same bed as an Australian lady. Life works in mysterious ways. The thing is, I’m not even all that surprised anymore; unexpected things keep happening to me when I travel alone, and I feel like a part of me was waiting for just that to happen.


i forced her for a picture

Lee: Erm, I don’t usually do this…. like… sleep with strangers.

LOL

At one point, she did push-ups on the ground and made me watch her do it. HAHAHAH

I’m so lucky. 🙂


When I arrived in Barcelona the skies were so blue and it was sunny and it was such a huge contrast to the gloomy, rainy, literally mood-dampening weather that I immediately +500 points to this city

5jan: Barcelona is so beautiful that as the tram passes y the city I can’t help but smile at the blue(!!!!!) skies and beautiful architecture and it makes me want to capture every moment

Mood-lifting, feel-good factor
Sunshine Barcelona- another city so easy to fall in love with 🙂


I spy quirky architecture from a distance


soooo preeettyyyyy so many buildings in Barcelona had these amazing intricate details I’d walk on the streets and gape at them for abit.


Paco pointed out this sculpture to me, which was apparently titled ‘Cloud and Chair’ at the Antoni Tapies Foundation

Honestly, Paco was one of the BEST hosts ever and I can sincerely recommend him to ANYONE out there who wants to walk out filled with much knowledge. He knows SO much it’s amazing and it was precisely what I wanted – to understand the place, to look at it in a different light, and I really did, I really did.
When I walked along the streets of Barcelona on the third day I started to see so many tiny little details that Paco was pointing out to me the day before. I had so much to gain from him, and he had so much to give. It’s a pity it was only afew days, for I knew he was someone I could bombard all my questions with and he’d be happy to answer – and his answers would be exactly what I needed to feel a swell of fulfilment. Not like a one-liner, a brief polite statement for fear of boring the other – which I understand, really – but a rich detail of everything. Some might find it too ‘heavy’ listening to him the whole day, and admittedly at the end of the day I was pretty brain-saturated but I felt so fulfilled.  Like I’ve learnt so much. Which was exactly what I was looking for in a host.

And it’s one of these moments that I think – I could have missed out on all these. I could have come to Barcelona alone, visited the sights, and then left… and it would have been.. another city, and I would have walked away with so much less.
I was slightly skeptical and afraid, I mean I was a solo female traveller in Barcelona for the first time and staying in a male stranger’s apartment’s definitely worth questioning a little bit. But I chose this option rather than the other and everything turned out so wonderful and memorable for me, you know? And it’s such times that strengthens my belief in the goodness of people, of humanity. I just think that believing in the goodness of people goes a really long way, and trusting strangers can turn out so amazing. You never know, yes, but choosing to take the chance is tremendously, tremendously rewarding.

In this way, I think the lack of a paranoid, wary-bone in me is a blessing of sorts that’s drawn me to such opportunities.

That said, I have been immensely lucky, and it’s been one huge blessing that I have not gotten myself into any real trouble. I’m really lucky, and I’m really thankful for the experiences.


I took this picture because it reminded me of Italy, of its yellow walls and I think that’s one of the things my dream city should have. Coloured walls.

Doors of Spain (Catalonia)


My absolute favourite. It’s a tie between this one and the Freiburg door.

Tiny detail on the floor that reminded me of what Paco said about Modernism / Nature / Elements inspired within the city

I really loved walking around the cities of Barcelona and Girona because there were all these beautiful architecture just demanding me to stare at them, and it makes me feel like there’s so much in this city I haven’t seen – maybe if I just turn this corner I’d see another beautiful door. I think Girona’s my favourite city after Utrecht, because of all of its beauty. Wait, there’s Krakow. And Riga. And Barcelona’s special too…

NYE / NYD / Brick Lane

It annoys me that many of my posts are filled only with pictures – like an substandard descriptive post with a lack of content. and thought. 
But I really want to store these somewhere, so…
Right now I’m less than a week to home. School has already started, this feels all too surreal. 
I NEED to put everything up – all the way to Spain – I MUST, I HAVE TO, because I know, I know I know I know if I don’t 
and if I tell myself ‘later’ ‘next time’
they will for(a very long time) be lost in that vast sea of digital images
and I want them to be here, 
on this space
because these memories are SPECIAL
and these memories I want to remember and reminisce
when i scroll back upon my years.
so I WILL PERSIST, AND I WILL MAKE SURE THEY ARE UP BEFORE I LEAVE
in a few days
Looking back NYE was hilarious (i keep wanting to use that crying-laughing emoji to express myself but i cant use it here hahhaa)
i finally went to this BRIXTON i kept hearing about all semester from Helen and I got to see her again and as usual it was funnyyyyy and unexpected and strange things happen like strange people talking to us and inviting us to their house HAHAHA
this time we did not accept
we got tipsy, we kept laughing
but she stayed with me till 7am and we left Brixton because of all the crazy people
and the tube was free
and I slept a little in the bathroom thereafter
In the early days of the New Year I got to meet CHELLY WOOHOO 
Matilda plan failed, but I’m glad we both got to catch it nonetheless

Brick Lane has beautiful graffiti walls, so I’m spamming them below:

I caught Woman in Black, it was… pretty… scary… but I guess the expectations dampened it a little for me. People kept saying it’s TERRIFYING, SCARIEST PLAY EVER, etc etc and it WAS frightening at parts and it’s really, really good for a 2-man show, but well, expectations, expectations
i went in telling myself not to expect anything, but when you have that idea planted in your head you can’t just not expect anything – you can’t help it – just because you tell yourself not to
that’s something i realised i suppose

I think I’ve spent so much on musical / play tickets I don’t quite dare to count
So far I’ve caught – Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Wicked, Woman in Black, Matilda, and the last one before I leave will be Curious Incident – I guess when you compare it to the prices back home it’s alright, and I did enjoy every single one of them, but tabulated altogether I still feel guilty about the $$$

Matilda had an amazing set and I loved the details and the deliberate effort at placing alphabets together along those building blocks that formed a word – like “noisy”, “dream”, I remember spotting them and feeling thrilled
I came back from Spain that morning – actually, I slept over at the Stansted airport and had arrived in Central London that morning. I decided to take the chance to queue and it was 9.47am by the time I reached that long line. I waited for 13 more minutes for the booth to open, and I was surprised to still get the 5 pounds ticket. I think I was really lucky.

Hostels – a congregation of different nationalities, even those I’ve barely heard of. Canary Islands, Cape Verde, the man who wanted to marry me.

Sitting amongst these people it occurred to me that I was incredibly young. I was only 21, and that was so young (yet so old) at the same time. So young, really, I was only so young.

“I don’t have a dream,” I decided as I crouched under the warm water running from the showerhead. The glass door was starting to mist up, forming a translucent layer that gently concealed whatever it held behind. “I don’t have a dream, and that’s not a bad thing.”

An empty canvas, which meant that whatever colours I eventually chance upon to throw onto my masterpiece, I’d be happy with it.

Do you think we put other things down to make justifications for ourselves