The good thing about having your own blog, such as this one, is that all incidents of your life can be put down in random order ( I am discovering that I love self-contradictory phrases like 'random order')
Last night, unable to sleep, I somehow thought back to the year 2001. It was a significant year in my life, as it was the year that I first met my dear husband. But it was also a significant year because that's when I went to one of the most beautiful places I have been, to live and study for a period of three months on a student exchange program-Aah, Barcelona.
My institute, IIMB, had a tie up for exchange with many institutes across the world and for no particular reason, I found myself allocated to attend that glorious insitute ESADE (had never heard of it in my life) in Barcelona, for our fifth semester. It all sounded very exciting, and I was also pleased to note that the other person who would be travelling with me was a girl called Neha B. I didn't know her very well at the time, despite her also having been with me at SRCC for three years - but she did strike me as a vaguely pleasant sort. Of course, after a few days of living together, we were both ready to strike each other- but we sorted it all out eventually.
A Few Interesting things I learnt on the trip:
- Barcelona is a truly wonderful place, with lovely architecture, pleasant weather and nice, warm people - who rarely speak English, but go out of their way to help you anyway, using sound effects, mad gesturing and helpless smiles to communicate.
-It is not a good idea to go to a strange country, no matter how nice the place and people are, without having made any arrangements for your accommodation, breezily saying 'the college will take care of it' - this is more true when you are landing up on a weekend and the college is closed. Neha and I had to stay in a hotel and then in a 'pension' (motel type thing) for two sad weeks, during which we discovered the other to be the most feather brained, disorganized travel companion possible. This, we thought, would be an interesting trip at the least.
- Barcelona attracts interesting and diverse people with its myriad charms. We discovered this by observing our roommates in the nice apartment we finally found. A brief synopsis:
a. Fleur Vandennowland - a tall, beautiful, blonde Dutch girl with a sweet nature, but terrible luck in love. Her affairs were a constant source of interest and anguish for us. She was actually the only roommate that Neha and I considered a friend at the end of three months, but sadly got out of touch with her immediately after leaving the country.
b. Melanie - a short, rosy cheeked blonde from England, who worked in an English Pub. Melanie was a nice, friendly girl, but a bad housekeeper and was fascinated to see us washing our dishes after meals. She tried to contribute her own dishes towards this ritual once - but got the cold shoulder and didn't try it again.
c. Sparky - now, Sparky was the real amazing one. She was also blonde, but in a bright yellow way, anorexically skinny, fussy, fancied herself an opera singer and above all, was psychotic.
Bear with me, but Sparky deserves a bit more space here:
One time, Neha and I invited our new friends from college over for a home cooked Indian meal (also, the first meal either she and I had ever cooked). We surprised ourselves by making a succulent Zeera Aloo dish, and went out for a few minutes to fetch some drinks. When we came back, we were shocked to find the casserole almost empty, and Sparky bounding up to us cheerfully saying 'Gerlz! I Eet Yore Potatoes! Vass Deleecious'. All hell broke lose, and Sparky just couldn't see what all the fuss was about - she defended herself with a perfectly plausible explanation: the poor girl had thought we were going to throw the potatoes away ( Sure, Sparks! That's why they were in a casserole on the stove...you Batty Bulgarian Psycho!). Anyway, the dinner party was somehow salvaged and Sparky soon escaped the apartment (without paying her rent), to be replaced by...
d. Laura - half Spanish, half American, slim redhead, the product of a mixed marriage that ended in divorce, Laura spent half her time in the States and half in Spain, and unlike Sparky, was only half crazy. Apart from being somewhat lazy and selfish, Laura wasn't really a bad person but she just spent way too much time on her hair, and hogged the bathroom a lot.
It really was quite an experience living with these girls -of course, they each had their individual rooms but Neha and I were sharing a double - which was an experience by itself. Oh, we fought a lot but we had our moments.
Such as the one night when I had a terrible cold and was in a bit of a daze - actually, completely out of sorts. For some reason, I got out of my bed groggily at one a.m. and headed over to Neha's side of the room - perhaps I thought it would be more comfortable to lie down on top of her, and this is precisely what I tried to do. Now, granted that this was an unreasonable assumption on my part, but I feel that the blood curdling scream which she let out was a bit overly dramatic. Still half asleep, still feeling ill and now with a busted eardrum, I headed back to my bed. In the morning, I tentatively asked her if it had all been a dream, but she gave me a cold reply saying it had been only too real, and justified her screaming with the information that the expression on my face had been 'weird and horny'. It took her a few days to see the funny side of this, and I don't think she slept particularly well even after that.
The other thing that stands out in my memory is our use of the underground trains. There is nothing as simple and uncomplicated as the use of this wonderful network of trains that connects every part of the city - so naturally, Neha and I kept bungling on this as well. One morning, well into the semester, we were headed to the University, and for this, we had to change trains at a particular stop - so, as per our now familiar routine, we got off our first train when it reached its last stop, scampered out hurriedly, climbed up a long flight of stairs, climbed back down another and clambered into the other train. However, due to the fact that all this while, I had been busy with my new CD player and Neha was cutting her nails (now really, who does that on the commute!), we soon discovered that we had inadvertently entered, from the other side of the platform, the same train we had been riding on - and as a consequence, we were now speeding back towards our home.
Anyway, it was wonderful. Stationed in Barcelona, we went to various places within Spain, whose names I now sadly forget - we also went on a car trip to the South of France - and finally, a trip to Amsterdam, and onwards to Paris.
This last one involved our good friend 'Ganju', who was on exchange in Rotterdam at the time, and the three of us spent a glorious thirteen hours walking around the beautiful city of Paris, taking in all the marvellous sights, and enjoying the most delicious chocolate waffles, crepes and hot cocoas.
I am tempted to hurriedly pass over the fact that Neha and I were not talking to each other for twelve of the thirteen hours. This was because I was a tad upset that KLM had lost my luggage on the way to Paris; and she had mockingly remarked, most inappopriately, that since she was 'not feeling fresh after the journey, was planning to change into a set of clothes', and followed this up with a catty 'How about you, Yashodhara? Ha ha ha...'. I can clearly recall how, later that day, as the three of us looked out serenely over Paris, from the very top of the Eiffel Tower -all I could think of was throwing Neha to the ground, just to see how high she would bounce.
As I write this, I am amazed to realize how much I have grown since those days. If this kind of incident were to happen today, I would just gracefully laugh it off ( dream on, Y) - but that particular day in Paris, it was Ganju who was stuck between me and her, passing on our cold messages to each other. However, as always, we did eventually make up and headed back to Barcelona after a great trip. And KLM recovered my luggage, too.
I have now also realized that this is one post that could go on and on and on, because there were just so many great things and people and experiences on the trip - but it's taking too long to put it all down and this will become a book instead of a post - I will need to stop now - So I can't write about our interesting friend Alex, the fiery little Greek who was an expert in martial arts, and who nearly broke my back with his final goodbye hug - about our only fun class, in Basic Spanish with our sweet, goodnatured teacher Anna, who gave me top marks in the class (90% - what a geeky show-off I am) - about our car trip to Cannes, Monte Carlo and Nice, where we saw the most beautiful sights, and predictably, got badly lost - about the beautiful Church near our apartment, outside which we would enjoy a hot coffee on many evenings, and curiously watch a bunch of really old, white-haired folks dance around merrily in a circle - about how I actually went ahead and got my tattoo that I love, a treble clef sign on my left shoulder, how it took fifteen minutes, how it didn't hurt at all, how I didn't get AIDS and how I'm still alive - about the pleasure of walking along the famous street Las Ramblas (the Place to Gather) and seeing the numerous freaky and colorful performances and articles that people of strange talents put up there - about encountering Americans for the first time in the ESADE Classrooms, and noticing how incredibly and irrationally overconfident they are - about our psychotic landlord Miguel who didn't allow us to have guests over at the apartment (like it stopped us!) and extorted extra money from us for the 'unusually large water bill' ( probably thanks to Laura washing her hair six times a day) - about how every week was an adventure and how unimportant academics actually were that semester ( we had a strange finance professor who gave out the exam question papers along with his suggested answers, with only minor changes in the figures, a day before each exam!)- about how we never went for a bullfight because we learned how cruel it was and how they apparently stab and kill the bull at the end - about how we had to learn to cook and feed ourselves for the first time ever, and how I repeatedly made omlettes, day after day, so that even now, I shudder at the thought of eating an omlette made by my own hands- about how great it felt to chance upon the occasional Indian restaurant even though the food would be sure to turn out both over-pricey and over-spicey - about how Neha and I fought like two cats throughout but were always there for each other in a pinch, and probably wouldn't change a thing about it now - and about how everything in those three months was in beautiful, vivid technicolor - at least in my memory now. These are only a few of the many, many things I can't write about. See how difficult it would be?
And also, I don't have the time to write about, how despite all of this, when at the end of the three months, someone realized that they had gotten a raw deal on our exchange, and decided it was time to send us back - how indescribably wonderful it felt to come back home.
And finally, I must add (hang on, hang on, the end is nigh) - the one single thing that fills me with bitter disappointment about the whole trip is that I never heard a single Spaniard use the term 'Olé!'
...and that's the other good thing about having your own blog...I hereby end this 'book post' with one word...Olé!
(All right, all right -I've stopped now, haven't I?)