The next time I will be packing my suitcase will be to head back home to the United States. My trip to Sevilla, my penultimate trip, marked the last time I would pack just my backpack to go on a casual, fun trip.

For this particular post, I will need to introduce a couple of “typical espaneesh” vocabulary words:

6AM. Barcelona Sants. Once again. I dont know how many times I have written those two sentences, but all roads start from Barcelona Sants. This time I am not alone; I have Arane. After zombie-ing our way down to the train station, we took the Renfe out to the airport. Thankfully, everything went smoothly. We got to the train station early, the train came on time, and I was able to finesse the system, buying a one-zone train ticket instead of a three zone train ticket, saving a total of two and a half euros. The excitement of the upcoming trip kept us going until we got into our seats. I tried to read my book club book for a little, but after about 20 minutes a wave of drowsiness came over me, making it hard for me to keep my eyes open. The only thing able to wake me up was the pilot’s very poor landing, which felt more like a crash landing than anything else.

We hustled to the bus stop after sluggishly getting off the plane, getting there RIGHT as the bus was leaving. The bus dropped us off by the central train station, leaving us a 40 minute walk to our hotel. Before embarking on the trek, we stopped in a park to eat our pre-packed sandwiches and snacks where we encountered the only sketchy-looking person we were to find in Sevilla. The guy got really close to us and stared us down with a look that made me ready to hit him with my backpack. Luckily, we were in a park in broad daylight, so nothing would have happened. After this little interaction, the man went back to sitting as still as a rock in the grass, staring down into the depths of hell below him. I was still hungry after our sandwich picnic, so we stopped again at a little bar, where we met Diego. Diego was our very funny and super nice waiter. He lived and worked in the US for a little while, but left without paying his taxes, so he cannot go back without paying both the back-taxes and the fine on top of it. It’s funny to me that someone would go to the US and evade taxes, but then come to Spain and pay double the amount in taxes. When I did the typical go-to-the-bathroom-and-pay, he knew what I was doing and said “the girl is Spanish right? you have to let her pay”. Because he said that, I ceded and let Arane pay, only to find out that they don’t accept card, leaving me to pay in the end since I was the one with cash LOL.

After quickly dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we were back to business as usual, being out and about and exploring. We walked through the city, going from monument to monument taking in all the sights. Sevilla is such a beautiful city. The buildings are not super tall and perfectly planned like they are in Barcelona. The streets aren’t smoothly paved and don’t have wide pedestrian walkaways or bike lanes either. They are all made of stones, with old, sunset-colored buildings coming up on each side, with stone sidewalks that sometimes disappear all together. The bigger streets are all lined with orange trees, while the smaller alleys have terracing vines or flowers. Walking through the older parts of the city is definitely an intimate experience. You almost feel like you are gently held by the old streets. The squares have little carts of people selling flowers, books, olives, or whatever seasonal item. There is definitely a special charm that is present throughout the city.

We found ourselves in the central park of the city after about an hour of taking in the beauty of the city, where the famous Plaza de España resides. We ventured through the park, sitting to enjoy the serenity of the park under the climbing rose vines. Once we recuperated a little bit of energy, we went to Plaza de España. I am not sure exactly how to explain the grandeur of the plaza and the palace, but I will try. When you are standing in front of the plaza, you actually cannot see all of it in its entirety, because your peripheral vision physically does not go wide enough. When you step into the plaza, its sheer size makes you feel so tiny. In fact, if you were to put the hundreds of people in the plaza in a big group, we would still look tiny. It is no wonder that they have used it in Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and of course, my favorite movie, the Dictator! We stuck around the plaza for a couple of hours, admiring its mosaics, bridges, and maps of the different Spanish provinces, as well as taking a boat ride around the moat. There was a guy selling the touristic junk on a sheet that I started talking to. He was a really nice guy and I could tell that he was just trying to make a living by selling the items. After a while, he asked me if he could trust me to watch his inventory while he goes and gets food. Little did he know he picked the perfect guy for the job, because not only did I watch his stuff, I tried to sell it in his absence. Unfortunately I didn’t get any sales, but I had a good time and embarrassed Arane trying. She made a point to sit very far away and act like she didn’t know me LOL.

Once we felt sufficiently belittled by Plaza de España, we took a walk up the river to the Golden Tower and the old bullfighting ring. Unfortunately we got rained out and decided it to be a good time to head back to the hotel, since in all honesty we were exhausted. After hustling to the hotel in the cold rain, the bed was calling our name. We decided to sleep an hour and a half, but ended up sleeping three since my alarm never went off (or maybe it did?). Because now were behind on time, we hustled to get up and go see the Setas of Sevilla, which is a modern structure built over an old square, that has become one of the principal attractions for tourists as well as a hang-out spot for locals. Built on top of an archaeological site, the sinuous structure towers about 5 stories into the air, just above all of the surrounding buildings. During the day, it provides shade to the plaza below, which is necessary during the hot, Andalusian summers, and by night it lights up in all different colors, giving an elegant and intimate view of the city from the top. We were very lucky that the rain stopped just in time to give us a clear view of the entire city when we climbed the structure.

Before heading to eat, we went to the supermarket to buy some stuff for lunch the following day as well as some snacks and beer for the room after dinner. I REALLY wanted bread for no good reason, and for whatever reason, nowhere had bread. So we ended up going to like 4 different supermarkets before finding one that was about to close in 10 minutes that had ONE (very shitty) baguette left. After our wild goose chase for bread, we stopped at home, dropped off our food (putting the perishable items outside on the balcony), and headed to a highly-rated tapas joint. This place, occupying the very corner of a flatiron-building-shaped building, was smaller than my room in Las Vegas. There were enough seats for about 20 people to sit, and all of them were full except for 2 of them. Lucky us. In fact, as it got later, more and more people started pouring in, most of them literally standing and eating on what looked like tiny little shelves protruding from the walls. It may have only been a Tuesday night, but man, was this place poppin’. There were a group of 40-something French women, who went to every party in the bar with their pretty pink lipstick, drawing on people’s faces. When it became our turn, we reluctantly said yes, letting them paint some “eye shadow” on Arane, and a heart around my mouth. They were very drunk, but they made the restaurant very lively. Then the food came, and everything was 10/10. The food was delicious, the presentation was fantastic, the price was reasonable, and the portions were ample. It is a shame that we found the best place in Sevilla to eat on our first night, because the next day no other places would live up to it. We had four tapas, two beers, and a delicious tiramisu for dessert, all for 27 euros.

After sleeping only 5 hours or so, we woke up early to have breakfast at the hotel. When the one-star hotel promised a complimentary continental breakfast, I really wasn’t expecting that much, meaning that I was very surprised at the delicious breakfast buffet that we came down to. Stuffed full of food and ready to go, we checked out and headed to the Triana Bridge to take in the views of the Amsterdam-esque buildings along the river. I had Arane take a couple of pictures of me for the memory, when a guy come up to us, asking us if he could take some pictures of us. Turns out, this guy, Pablo, was a nomad photographer, who charges quite a pretty penny for his services. He was so nice and ended up taking some awesome pictures of us for free, and got my email to send them to me later. Definitely another “why always me?” moment, but this time is a good way.

We continued down the river, enjoying the sunny, warm Andalusian weather until we got to back to the central park. We spent some time walking through the opposite side of the park as the previous day until we settled down by the same pond as before to eat our snacks while watching the swans. One of the swans actually had the courage to get within a foot from me, which was intriguing yet terrifying. Recharged, we walked over to Plaza de España, where we sat and watched the flamenco dancers from a safe distance. By safe distance, I mean close enough to see the dancing and hear the music, but far enough to not have to pay the people after. On the way to the bus station where we would catch the bus back to the airport, we stopped at another tapas joint where, in comparison to the other place, we got tourist trapped. Similar prices, but with smaller portions, worse vibes, and shitty service. We thought we ordered a 5-euro tapa of calamari, but we ended up getting a 15-euro entire fried squid. Even though it was much more than we asked for, it was SO SO freaking good, with homemade batter and fresh squid.

The second place that we stopped on the way to the bus station would be an American staple, McDonalds. I really regret to say that I have been to McDonalds so many times this trip, but there is no cheaper place to get coffee. Arane has the McDonalds app that gives her an offer for a big boy coffee with milk for one euro, which would cost me about three or four euros anywhere else. Unfortunately, it happened to be the first day of the girl making my coffee, and I got just milk LOL. What really sucks is that I didn’t realize until it was too last since I got a free ice cream cone that I had to eat first. But the universe made up for it, because once we arrived at the bus station after killing some time along the river on a dock, they were giving out free Coke Zeros, which I got to drink two of since Arane didn’t want hers. Apparently CocaCola tweaked the Coke Zero recipe to make it taste a little more like the real coke. I prefer Diet Coke because it tastes different from real Coke, so it wasn’t really anything that excited me.

We spent the whole bus ride back trying to think of beautiful men’s soccer players. We came to the conclusion that there really aren’t that many super good looking professional soccer players, but of course their girlfriends are all super hot. Fame, talent, and money must be the best combination ever. Anyways, we got to the airport super early and found these really comfortable couches tucked away in an empty gate to sit and eat our sandwiches on. We ended up getting seats right in front of each other, 30 and 31 C, and despite the captain telling people that it wasn’t allowed to change seats, we were able to convince the lady next to me to move so that we could sit together. We spent the entirety of the flight watching Shrek in English, which Arane enjoyed because she realized that in Spanish it loses the awesome voices of Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy, all the witty remarks, and most importantly all of the hidden adult humor.

Once we arrived in Barcelona, we headed straight to the train station, only to find that the train was broken down. In fact, the train worker guy told me that the train was “sick” LOL. Unfortunately our 17 minute train ride from the airport to Sants would turn into an hour ride on the metro, 40 cents more each for the ticket back, and a 25 minute walk in the cold. When we finally got home, we would drop our stuff off, change and turn around and meet the boys downstairs to go to 100MON (see the week 9 post). The only 100MON that stays open until 12 in Barcelona is the one in Raval, which is the sketchy neighborhood. I was very reluctant to bring two very white, very monolingual Americans to a ghetto neighborhood so late at night, so I made sure to train my boys before the trip. To my disappointment, Cole still went with his chain, cracking jokes in English about how much money he has on him. It’s a miracle that we didn’t get jumped.

At 100MON, We had many, many cheap, huge drink. 100MON never disappoints but it also never exceeds expectations. The one thing that it always promises is cheap drinks and drunk walks home. Me and Arane broke off in pursuit of the Christmas lights of the city, only to walk all the way to the center to find that they had shut off one hour previously at midnight. So since it was Sunday and the metro was closed, we had to walk all the way home in the cold. But the walk was super pleasant, because we had each other to talk to :)

We ended up getting home and sleeping for two hours before we had to go down to Sants ONCE AGAIN at 6AM for Arane’s train to Madrid. Once she got on the train, I went back to bed and slept all day. When I say I slept all day, I literally slept every daylight hour. I went to bed at 7AM, right before the sun came up, and woke up at 5PM, right before the went down. I ended up playing about an hour of pingpong with Cole until we could no longer see the ball and then went shopping to cook up a thanksgiving meal. We ended up getting stuff for mashed potatoes, two rotisserie chickens and some veggies. And, of course, beer. We picked out heinekens and put it below the weird, green half-cart things that they have at Mercadona. Since the beers were green and the carts were green, we actually forgot to put the pack of heinekens on the conveyor belt, we ended up getting a $free.99 discount on the beers. We took them home to Radek’s house and cooked up a thanksgiving dinner for the three of us plus Rosario. I think we were all a little melancholy about the dinner, so the mood wasn’t exactly that lively. I think we all really wanted to be home with our families, but were happy to have each other in the end.

The next morning I would have another date with Pedro. We met up at Plaza Catalunya and walked about 40 minutes to my old school, where we would walk around and talk to a bunch of his colleagues. He was really happy to see all of his people, and I was very happy to see my old stomping grounds. Pedro got a kick out of bragging about me and my accomplishments, and I got a kick out of bragging about what a menace I was when I was an exchange student. Out of all of the teachers that I had six years ago, only two remain. One was my catalan teacher, who remembered me fondly. She was happy to hear that I turned out to be such a good student. The other teacher that remained was the math teacher, who especially hated me. In fact, there were more than just a couple of incidents with her. Because of that history, I really wanted to see her, but unfortunately she was out with some of the younger students on an excursion the whole time we were there. After a couple of hours of talking to random professors and students, we had coffee and lunch at the school cafeteria. I was amazed at how cheap it was; for two sandwiches and two coffees, I paid less than I would have paid for one sandwich on the street. After our lunch, we walked back down to the center, where I met up with Radek.

Now Radek’s metro pass, for whatever reason decided to stop working on his way down to meet me, so he ended up following behind an “outstanding” family who used two metro for 6 people. Radek figured that a seventh wouldn’t hurt. When he got down to the city center, I ended up getting both of our nasty metro passes reprinted. Radek may have needed the new metro pass because it physically did not work anymore, but I also needed a new metro pass, because mine was a discolored, disfigured, and eroded piece of paper after two and a half months.

With fresh metro passes, we headed down to the center to do some Black Friday shopping. When I say that I did some Black Friday shopping, I really mean to say that I walked around a ton of stores and didn’t buy anything, because I’m a cheap ass and I couldn’t get myself to spend 30 euros on a 60 euro jacket. Once we started getting hungry, we headed to McDonalds to grab a one euro coffee thanks to Arane’s McDonalds app. She sent me a screenshot of her app, allowing me to save a euro and thirty cents on a big boy coffee. While waiting for our drinks, we started talking to an American from Chicago, who happened to also be NORMAL like us. By normal, I of course mean republicans. We had some really good laughs at the expense of the idiotic left in the US and the predominant political philosophies here in Spain.

I all of a sudden remembered that I wanted to buy some fake Jordans to take home with me to skate in. Normally, I wouldn’t buy fake Jordans, not because I care whether or not they are real, but because they are usually of really poor quality and uncomfortable. BUT, since I am going to be using them for skating, they will get wrecked anyway. So I ended up going for a wild goose chase, looking for the illegal black guys from Africa that sell the fake Jordans on the street. I went from shady character to shady character, asking them to point me in the right direction of fake Jordans. We walked all the way down Las Ramblas until we got to the port, where we finally found our African friends. They were selling all kinds of things, but the guy that sells the Jordans wasn’t there :(. They told me to come back in an hour and a half, but I didn’t want to sit around and kill time after waking up early and walking around all day. So I ended up going home with no reward.

Once I got home, I had about 30 minutes before having to leave to go to my soccer game, which I spent writing this very blog. When it was time to go to the game, my fans (Cole and Radek) and I took the bus up to the field. Because I was so tired from being out all day, I thought it would be a good idea to drink a free rockstar that I was given a week or so ago. But it ended up making me hyperactive to the point that my friends thought I was all cracked out LOL. Good thing I was ready to play a soccer game. In the first ten minutes of the game, the other team scored two goals on us. We didn’t score until the second half, where we got a lucky touch off of a long kick and saw the ball go into the back of the net. So it was now 2-1, and for whatever reason, Victor, the captain of the team, decided to put me as the sole center midfielder. Now, I have spent most of my life playing center midfield, but I never played it in Spain, because I couldn’t compete with the super good kids here. Usually, I play on the wing, where I benefit from my speed, my ability to beat players one on one, and my shot across the goal to the far post. But Victor had faith in me. I ended up slotting a perfect pass through a few defenders, leaving my teammate one-on-one with the keeper before slotting the ball into the corner. Then, with 2 minutes left on the clock, I got the ball, beat a player, cut in, and took a shot at the near post. I shot the ball hard and low, timing the shot so that the ball would go through the defender’s legs in front of me. The ball ended up skimming the inside of the post. I had scored the winning goal, my teammates went crazy, lifting me up, my friends on the sideline went crazy, singing the American national anthem, and I felt like a king.

After the game, we took the party to the local bar, where I would try a Hawaiian doner kebab (aka a kebab with pineapple). It was very delicious, and this time the hot sauce didn’t scald my mouth. After dinner, we stuck around for a copeo, where everyone kept buying me drink after drink. I ended up drinking three beers and a couple of gin and tonics. I ended up getting so drunk that I didn’t even mind walking home in 40-degree weather in athletic shorts. In fact, I happily ran the thirty minutes home, even after playing a game and having a long day LOL.

I didn’t wake up until the afternoon on Saturday. The long day and drunken night really took a toll on me. I think I slept a total of 12 hours. I spent pretty much the whole day on Saturday writing the blog, because I had two weeks worth of material to catch up on #lazy. The only thing that stopped me from writing was the Barcelona game, which I watched at home with Didi, Gabriel, Radek, Cole, and Marcelo. Once the game was over, I got ready for the club and headed out. I ended up getting to the meet-up point super early, since I had to take the last Renfe in order to get to Clot, which arrived 30 minutes before we were supposed to meet. Once my friends got there, we all hopped on the train and started the pregame. With rum and coke flowing from the bottles to the cups and from the cups to our mouths, we were all pretty drunk by the time we got out to Badalona for the real pregame. A friend of ours drove up in car so we used his car to do a parkingeo as the official pregame for the club.

At this point, we are all perfectly rowdy and drunk enough to go into the club, so we lined up in the freezing cold. When we got to the front of the line, the bouncer told us that we couldn’t get in because we weren’t dressed correctly. Apparently you need a collared shirt and cannot wear white sneakers. Luckily for me, I was last in line, and so after the bouncer kicked all of my Spaniard friends I just kinda kept standing there, playing the typical stupid American. “You! What are you doing?”, the bouncer demanded. To which I responded “NO ENTIENDO… friends inside” (in broken, heavily-accented Spanish). He basically pushed me in, cursing “stupid guiri” under his breath. The NO ENTIENDO always works, I swear. Then, when I went up to the cashier inside to pay my entrance, I noticed that there was a big group giving them a hassle, so I just put my head down and walked right in. The only problem is that when you entered, they stamped your hand, so I had to find a way to get the stamp. I ended up making some random friends in the club, who let me stick my hand against theirs to get the stamp. BOOM, the perfect sinpa was complete.

We proceeded to dance the whole night to only the best reggaeton songs. I surprised my friends over and over again with my knowledge of all of the lyrics to the majority of the songs that they played. They played my two favorite songs at the moment, “Ateo” and “Mon Amour”. They also played “Contando Lunares”, a very special song to me, and a song that I haven’t heard in any of the clubs or bars that I have been to. At about 5AM, they started playing a whacky combination of techno and 80s music, so I went outside to “smoke” (aka blow bubbles). We ended up leaving at 6:30 after making the bone-chilling walk to the train station. All of us literally huddled together on the train station bench for warmth. I guess that gave us enough rest, because when we got on the train, the hooligan shenanigans started. My friends started screaming all kinds of soccer chants, banging on the roof panels and seat head rests to mark the rhythm. Did I feel bad for the normal people on the train? Absolutely. But this time, it wasn’t stupid Americans doing it outside of their country, so it was okay with me. I didn’t end up getting home until 8AM, right as the sun was coming up. Once again, I would sleep every daylight hour, not waking up from my slumber until 5:30PM.

I had to scramble for Sunday’s book club meeting. I woke up at 5:30PM after a long night of clubbing, meaning that I would have to scramble to shower, cook something substantial, and finish the last 7 percent of my book. I wouldn’t say that I procrastinated reading the book, but I strategically left the last part to read before the meeting, even allotting 20 minutes to do so. Good thing I am getting better and better at speed reading LOL. Right at 6:30 when I was leaving to get to the meeting, we realized that the place that we were supposed to meet at was closed. Damn Catalans don’t ever work on the weekends. It was really cool to see how flexible everyone was willing to be. It really seemed like everyone was as excited for the meeting as I was, and that was a cool feeling. Passion is one of those things that transcends cultural differences.

Once we all got downtown and found an alternative restaurant, we got the beer flowing and talked about the book. This month’s book was called “Klara and the Sun”, which is written from a robot helper’s perspective. I don’t really want to go into too much detail, but we had deep discussions about immortality, man vs. machine, ethics, machine learning, the essence of a human, the soul, the human heart, etc. In all honesty, it was one of the most interesting and stimulating conversations I have had since the last book club book. Plus, since 4 of the people out of the seven of us were math/stats nerds, we all knew a lot of the nitty-gritty technical stuff about artificial intelligence, machine learning, image processing, etc. So it was extra special to be able to talk about the book from that angle too. Once the bar we were at closed, we migrated to another bar, where we switched to wine and let the topics of conversation go wild. We all had a great time, talking, joking, and laughing until about 11PM. I think that none of us wanted to leave, but everyone had work the next morning. I think my bookclub might one of the things that I will miss the most about Barcelona.