This was written a few weeks ago in preparation for my trip to Boston, where I am at this very moment ringing in the new year while being terribly, terribly cold. Enjoy!
In the shower today, I was thinking about this past year. There are some years where you can’t really remember what happened in them–they’re a pretty standard accumulation of the component parts that make up most of your life. This was not one of those.
This time last year, I was preparing to go to Dakar. I spent January through May of 2012 in West Africa, with a stopover in Barcelona and Paris. I had never been out of the country for that long, and I had never been to Africa or to Europe.
While in Dakar, I got used to taking cold showers and malaria pills. I sweated a lot. I drank in parks and was mopey and climbed inside a baobab tree and on a termite mound. I learned how to carry money, ID, and my phone tucked away in my bra after I had my phone stolen on my birthday. I was homesick. My dog died.
So, Barcelona? Was kind of excellent. Both for reasons I expected (it’s Europe), and reasons I didn’t (I really liked not being the translator anymore). Because I’m terrible at keeping track of things in a linear fashion (particularly when on enough Senegalese sudafed to take down a small horse, because—of course—I’m sick again), here is a set of things that I remember from the trip, in no order except for the one my brain tosses them out in.
The last night we got dinner, we went to a tapas sports bar, which combined two of my favorite things—tiny food and cute waiters—into one. The tapas were served in what is apparently a standard fashion there. Partially to make things easier for the bartender and partially to make it so that the drunk people/me eat lots of tiny things, all of the tapas are the same price. You grab as many as you want and when you pay, the waiter counts the number of toothpicks on your plate. Clever! Delicious! One of the tapas available at this particular bar was basically two inches of cream cheese with jam and toast, which is in no way authentic but is in all ways delicious. So that was awesome.
On the cute waiter front, the guy who took our drink orders was a) maybe 19 and b) learning job-specific English in an excellent fashion. He, like everyone in the Barcelonan service industry, as far as I can tell, spoke perfectly good English. However, he had apparently not heard many people order “cider” in English (I’m better at consuming fermented juice than I am at learning Spanish), and so as he wandered away he was muttering “cider” to himself in order to memorize the English pronunciation, as far as I can tell. Adorable? Adorable.
You guys, I have a new theory: the ratio of happiness gained per dollar spent? (The mo’ money, no problems quotient, as it were.) It is far and away highest in the airport.
You laugh*, but it’s totally true. Take, for example, my trip through Dakar via Paris. Because I was scared that my debit card wouldn’t be approved in a foreign country/I wanted to save money, I refused to buy wireless coverage, real honest-to-god restaurant food, or booze. I wound up sweaty, exhausted, and near tears in the airport bathroom, ready to keel over from exhaustion. Continue reading →