You guys will not believe how many drafts I have for this blog at the moment. I know it seems like I have forgotten everything but no. I stumbled upon a few difficulties and I don't know how to bounce back from it and continue writing my Chapter 21 series. I just need to settle a lot of things that's going on at the moment and I will refine and publish those drafts. I am quite demotivated because the memories are not that fresh and my feelings and thoughts might not be as raw as my previous posts. I also have trouble putting it into words and into this blog. So it sometimes needs me to be in the right mood for it. Another problem I might encounter is when I am in the mood, I might choose to write my book instead of my blog. So that would delay the whole blog post publishing as well.

Plus, Chapter 21 has not ended yet. I have so many more to say about my journey into being 21 and I am still experiencing it, writing my own path and what not. It is on going. With that, I might be publishing things out of order though the archive would still be in order depending on when it happened and when I started writing them. So ya da ya da ya da. I don't know why I am explaining this to you. Maybe I am so frustrated seeing all these drafts and this long hiatus is KILLING me.

I don't know, I am sure I will get all of this arranged. It's so hard to maintain and commit to something, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chapter 21 : Hoping for A Beautiful Closure


It's not all fun.

Because running away is never the solution.

As much as I hate seeing the time ticks down to my inevitable day of departure from Madrid back to Malaysia, I am also glad to see the time moves forward to open up new days and more adventures for me here. Right now I am in a room which was once so foreign to me but now feels like home, all wrapped up under a blanket and a comforter, something I have never done before until I experience for myself what they meant by 'winter'. Long nights means more hours of being lonely on my cold bed. The impulse of going out at night is always extinguished by unfamiliarity and lack of companionship. The bubbly personality is starting to shy down after so many attempts of grabbing attention and fail. Even though physically it looks like I am giving up, virtually I am still trying through apps, hoping someone would come along and make my final days here exciting.

Before destiny decides for me, I mold my own and start planning and making plans with people I already know. A possible hang out, a conversation, a short trip. Anything to fill in this unexplained emptiness. Most times I find joy in strolling on a familiar but missed streets with a lump in my throat while basking in the view I know will give me saudade when I am stress under the warmth of Malaysian weather. Did I say joy? The lump in my throat couldn't be easily described by one simple emotion. It is definitely a stir of so many that even I can't name... any of them. My attempt of recording what I witness with my phone for future me is definitely a fail. Trying to capture them in my mind hoping the memory won't fail me.

On the side note, money in my bank account is decreasing every single day and I am getting more and more creative creating delicious dishes out of limited ingredients and I am not complaining at all. Truth is I am trying to get through November as calmly as I can because I am looking forward to a hopefully beautiful and adventurous December. Reality might be catching up but I need to convince myself that I'll cross the bridge when I get there. I have booked so many trips to quench my wanderlust and I am getting excited to see what else Europe has in store for me. I have fallen for Spain as it is and I don't know if my heart will be able to contain the surrealism I will be experiencing. I am hoping to close 2016 with a smile and start 2017 with nothing but positive energy. Plus, this is the first time I get to really see the hype of Christmas building up as the day gets closer. Decorations, music and even the weather are contributing to the kind of Christmas I was fed by my telly since forever. With that being said...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chapter 21 : Chasing The Sun!

The north hemisphere is going through autumn at the moment. While many countries north Spain are freezing, Madrid is starting to get cold especially in the morning and at night. The sun grace us with its warmth in the afternoon but you can't really feel its heat. It's just enough to shake away the chills the autumn wind brings. Many start wearing coats now and I follow suit. I even put gloves on in the morning but I take them and my coat off in the afternoon because it's just the right kind of coldness! So this is the perfect time to run away and head south where it is a little bit warmer. I booked two weekend trips with BeMadrid, both about 3 weeks apart, to cities in Andalusia.

End of October, I went to Seville not knowing much to expect when I booked the trip. A few days before the day, my supervisor was telling me that Seville is very beautiful and some places were sets in films and TV shows (Star Wars and The Game of Thrones). By the time I was in the bus, I was already excited. This is my first time going alone without a friend but I know that I was going to make friends on the bus and the whole time during the trip so it was not a big deal. I met many people from the States and central America. My roommate was from North Carolina and she came alone too. I swear to god, there are so many independent young ladies on this trip I have never felt more empowered. Guys that go on these trip are never alone. They are either with their girlfriends or their friends. I mean it's not a big deal but it kind of give me a different perspective to my expectation the next time I am going anywhere around here. I know I will end up showing my sisters a good time because a chance that a guy would choose to hang out with me is very very slim considering the circumstances.

Plaza de EspaƱa, Seville

I had a good time during that two day trip considering that I get to talk to most people. I tagged along when they hang out at the bar and just talk and get to know each other. Where we come from, how our country is like, how our life is like back home and our dreams and goals for the future. I am a very talkative person and I love conversations. I would listen to whatever it is that you have to tell me, I will not go silent on you. But to have other people just opening up like that as well, it gets the conversation going and I didn't think I wanted to stop! I don't know if it was the alcohol that made most of them loosen up a bit or I just have not met this many people who can hold up great  conversations at one time like this. And everyone likes being liked. So to have people that give this vibe that they enjoy your company, it just makes you happy. Plus Seville is by far my favorite city in Spain.

People keep asking me if I was going to Granada and Cordoba. So you can just imagine my anticipation for the trip on November. On this trip, an Indonesian lady reached out to me before we met because she was relieved to know there was another Muslim. We were roommates and basically we spent a lot of time together. It's always refreshing to hang out with someone from a different age group. She was almost my mom's age but she was definitely young at heart... just like my mom. So it was nothing weird or awkward for me. I also met someone from Dominican Republic and it was kind of amusing because she has this personality like the fun Latina you always see in movies by the way she talks and make jokes. Sure, stereotypes are unfair but they all have to come from somewhere!

View of Alhambra from the city

Granada was amazing, full of history and culture. Of course I visited the famous Alhambra but I was so disappointed that we had so limited time there with no guide. So I learned nothing out of the visit. But I have learned before that when you go somewhere with these agencies, you only get either one; you learn something or you get a lot of good pictures. You rarely get both. So, even though I didn't get what I wanted out of my visit to Alhambra, at least I got amazing pictures. However, the guided tour that we got around the new and old city of Granada was very very informative. The tour guide was also very passionate about the city so he did not hesitate to tell and show us what he knows. I love seeing people that are able to retell history as if it was a story they have seen before their own eyes. People always relate history to being boring but these kind of people prove that to be wrong.

The night in Granada was very very different for me. On this trip, most of them are native Spanish speakers and even if they are not, they still can carry a full conversation in Spanish. When I tagged along that night, I didn't understand half of what was going on and having a conversation was hard! But it was definitely exciting because this is why I came to Spain for. The language. And I did learn a lot though I was confused most times. This was also a reason why I did not really feel attached with any of them because I didn't get to know most of them very well due to the language barrier but hey, you win some you lose some. At least this experience was very new and not many can say they have been in my situation!

Teteria in Granada

I have to admit I didn't know anything about Malaga so everything I learnt there was an 'ohhh' moment for me. Being a city in the south, near the Alboran Sea, of course it had many history from how people settled there for its resources to all the empires that conquered it in the past. I didn't do much in Malaga other than taking pictures and go for the guided tour. I wanted us to go to Cordoba sooner because I wanted to see a lot of places in Cordoba and I knew it would be raining. But I did try to go to all the nearby tourist attraction for pictures.

Teatro Romano and Alcazaba in Malaga has their own stories

I was physically ready to run everywhere and see everything in Cordoba but the rain was really slowing me down. And no, 3 hours is not enough to do everything. At least I did enter the most important place I needed to see, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. The fact that it was a mosque before it became a cathedral did not upset me as many Muslims claim to feel. I would have felt worse if it was torn down. At least this way, some of the aesthetic elements of the original mosque was kept and we are able to see that and admire the architecture. What I felt was mostly embarrassment of how lightly most Muslims take Islam (including me) and that was why the kingdom fall in the first place. That was how we got weak. Islam is complete and cherry picking it is just making holes in something that is already a whole. This was definitely more of a moment of realization for me.

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba

There is this part of me that want to book a train to go to Cordoba one more time and see the rest of the city but I have to consider a lot of things because there are many more other places I have not seen. Plus I got to fulfill my best friend's wish as her birthday gift, took a picture with her name at a beautiful view in Cordoba. That's when I realize how much I miss her and how I wish I was with her on this trip instead. So I think my time here is done.

The Roman Bridge of Cordoba

This trip taught me two things. First of all, as much as it is fun to go and meet new people every time I go on these trips, I still want to be with familiar faces most times because some amazing things are best shared with people you care deeply about. And secondly, as much as I LOVE the cold, I do miss the sun because the second we got to Madrid again, I needed to remind myself there's no escaping this weather and it is just going to get colder too, until I get back to Malaysia though I will start complaining on how hot it will be.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Chapter 21 : Who You Gonna Call?

Being in a new city means new everything. New routines, new discovery, new culture, new timing. All these will shape a new kind of normal which at a point becomes just normal. I adjusted well the first few weeks but since I don't go to classes and the people in my lab are older, I wasn't making friends. Trust me, if you know me, you know it is not because I don't want to. I just couldn't. And by the third week, I was so desperate. I was downloading apps after apps to try make friends near me and Facebook had been helpful too, keeps suggesting me apps to try. And that was exactly how I met my first friend in Madrid.

I was looking for something to do with other people my age. I accidentally downloaded an app from one of the exchange student community here, BeMadrid. That's how I discovered there were free walking tours. When I went there, a girl from the app noticed me and came up to me. We started talking and we went on the tour together. And the next day, Shams and I went to Toledo together. Toledo is an old city near Madrid (a day trip is sufficient) with beautiful views and historical buildings that marked how harmonious Christians, Jews and Muslims use to live together. I am not a history buff but I love stories.

The cathedral in Toledo

Since then, we started planning tonnes of trips or even just a simple weekend together. Each time I see a trip coming up soon, we'd discuss if we'd like to go. Our first long distance trip was with Smart Insiders to Barcelona and Zaragoza on the weekends. And this was how Shams made friends with Josie. They say three is a crowd but I have always been in groups of three so I am used to it. And three is also a perfect number to start doing batshit crazy stuff. We will always remember Barcelona. Well, yes, it is pretty, iconic, historic and all but that's not why.

The Sangrada Familia designed by the famous architect, Gaudi

I have to admit I wish I had more time in Barcelona because there are some things I wanted to do and see but wasn't able to. It just means I'll be here again in the future so I don't mind. Zaragoza was more like a day trip to us. It is in our way from Barcelona to Madrid and we spent half a day there. Plus it was the Pillar Festival during that time so there were many tourists around. I really like the Aljaferia and spent quite some time in there listening to the history behind that castle.

Overlooking the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady Pillar, Zaragoza

By the end of that weekend, I now have friends to keep me company every other weekends or anytime anyone is free. We went to Segovia together, once. It was the first time we tried the fast train and our first time seeing the city without a tour guide. It was kind of cool that we get to do our own thing and just winging it.

The Aqueduct is more impressive in person than in this picture, for real

Coming from different countries, different ages and different backgrounds, I definitely learned a lot. One most important lesson for me was definitely tolerance. Being different is great but tolerance keeps things in check and balance. I love having people of the same mind as me, I admit that. But people of different mindsets open you up to different perspectives and different kinds of normal. You empathize better too and you learn when to say something and when to keep quite. Most importantly, you don't judge because you understand. It is always a safe space with these two and it takes two (or in this case, three) to tango. I have to be what I want this friendship to be too. One thing I appreciate is that there is so much respect and opening up in this friendship, I feel blessed. It convince me that yes, I do have to change the way I interact sometimes because I admit I can be distant at one point of a friendship either due to lack of trust or just being busy, but I also can't blame myself all the time when I am not comfortable being friends with someone. It might be that I don't feel safe in the first place. But I can't change other people to suit my need. I only have control of how I feel and deal with things and it is good enough that I realize all these now.

So here is to us. From that crazy night in Barcelona, our first teatro, our sleepovers, our high-class cooking, rides and roller coasters to perhaps future adventures in different countries (because how else are we going to meet again?). I am so glad we met!