I don’t think I’ve ever written a “life update” blog post before, even though that was originally the premise of writing a blog in the first place. My blogging has more of a purpose than boring you with my own 1st world problems, but, I know that it’s important for readers to get to know the person behind the blog.
I’ve used my YouTube channel to make relatively interesting announcements before, some about me moving abroad and the like, but this would be a very long video if I did it in that format! Plus, as I’ll explain in a future video or blog post, I’ve had skin issues recently that are putting me off making videos. Boo..
Please let me know in the comments section if you actually like hearing about my life, or, if I’m being a boring Betsy.
First I need to give a full and detailed version of what I witnessed -or didn’t witness- during the Barcelona terror attack.
What did I see and experience during the Barcelona terror attack?
Because I live in Barcelona, and have some friends and acquaintances working in various media outlets in Donegal, I was asked a few questions about what I had witnessed during the Barcelona terror attack. It quickly grew wings of its own and I couldn’t keep track of the headlines or the phone calls I was getting. I did not expect one quick phone call to a friend of my father’s to turn in to dodging phone calls from radio and media outlets north and south. I didn’t want to take a lot of it on so I’ll document here what I saw. Some of the headlines that were used may have made it seem as if I was in the midst of danger when really I was quite safe. Headlines do get the clicks I suppose…!
I work on the 3rd floor of the building above H&M on Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona. When I say 3rd floor, really it’s the 5th floor because there are 2 floors between the ground floor and the 1st floor (Catalán buildings are strange like that). We work in a large open office with big windows looking down to Passeig de Gracia which is the main road that starts at Plaça Catalunya. On the other end of Plaça Catalunya, sits the Canaletes fountain and there begins La Rambla, a long stretch of road with a pedestrianised centre that leads to the sea.
On Thursday afternoon it was business as usual, with everyone working away on projects on their computer. I sit very close to the window, not close enough to see down to the road, but close enough to hear any cars, rif raff or sirens outside. Suddenly, out of the blue, I heard a crowd of people roaring and screaming. It didn’t last long but I looked up with a confused look on my face and caught the girl in front of my doing the same. We very slowly turned to look at each other and made our way to the window without trying to make a scene. One or two others must have heard the racket too as there were a few of us at the window looking out. Everything looked normal except for a few people running away from Plaça Catalunya. No-one had any clue as to why they were all running, so we sat back down confused, but trying to ignore it.
Then the sirens started. We often hear sirens but this was a lot more than normal so there was a definite suspicion that something wasn’t right. Then came the second roar. To me it didn’t sound like high-pitched screaming but more like a universal panic with roars, shouts, screams and shouting all mixed together. Then we all got up and went to the window. That’s when it got scary. Huge crowds were running up Passeig de Gracia from Plaça Catalunya, clearly running away from something. The whole office was in a nervous state from then on and no-one could concentrate, even though we continued to pretend we were while sitting at our computers. Soon the links to news stories started being shared in the group chats. The first one came so quick after the attack happened that there wasn’t even text with the story, just the headline reading “Atentado en La Rambla” (Attack on La Rambla).
Now we knew why everyone was running away from that direction! I immediately texted mum and dad just incase they saw the headlines before hearing from me. I think everyone in the office probably did the same. The rest of the day was spent trying to get work done, going to the window every so often, reading the updates on the online newspapers, and checking the emails from the company receptionist keeping us informed on what to do. She had contacted the emergency services to find out if there was a danger and we were ordered to stay in the building. The sirens and the helicopters were constant. They shut down the whole of the inner city, including the first 100 metres of Passeig de Gracia which is where our office is situated. We had been trying to keep up to date with the events and were under the impression that the attackers had fled the scene.
It was coming up to 7 o’clock (hometime) and we were still under strict orders to stay in the building. Many who finish at 6 had to just wait around looking out the window before being able to go home. Then suddenly they decided to tell us we all had to evacuate the building. The only day they ever close our office is Christmas Day and New Years Day so some workaholic team leads were caught slightly off guard at being told to leave the office. The main entrance doors had to be opened to let us out on to the empty street. To the left was a crowd of people on the other side of police tape with the local police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, patrolling the line. It was only about 10 metres to get to the other side of the tape but it definitely felt safer there!
Apparently all metro stations were closed which made me panick slightly. I didn’t want to be out on the streets walking, but that said, I wasn’t too confident about going into the metro station either. We knew at this stage people were dead and there was a distinct air of fear and anxiety outside in the streets. I just wanted to get home as quickly as possible. I did eventually, after getting on the wrong bus, then walking about 2km through an area I didn’t know, and then finding the only open Metro station. Thankfully the gates were all open to assist anyone like myself struggling to get home.
I was safe up in my office and I got home relatively easily but other people went home without a loved one, or spent the night in a hospital bed. My heart goes out to all those actually affected by the attack. Thoughts and prayers are with the dead and I wish nothing but karma on the perpetrators.
Barcelona is a magical place full of culture and diversity and love – and she will not let this act of madness tame her.
What has my life been like since moving to Barcelona?
When I first arrived in Barcelona I had my entire life with me packed into boxes, suitcases and bags. I hauled it from the car that brought me there into my first Air B’n’B. Then after 2 nights I hauled it down the road into the host’s friend’s flat, another Air B’n’B (but not a nice one).
Living behind a curtain…
At this stage I was obviously desperate for somewhere more permanent to live, so, after finding a big, beautiful flat right smack bang in the city centre and finding out the owner was vegan: I paid him there and then (I need to learn how to stop doing that). The only problem was, the room was a make shift room that he created himself, with a white curtain. He had cordoned off a tiny corner of the living room and separated it from the rest of the room with a white curtain. This was his method of making the most of the unique flat.
I’ll be honest, living behind the curtain was not the worst living situation I’ve experienced. The bathroom in that flat was the most stunning I’d ever been in, with a big cathedral-like stained glass window, a bath and loads of space. I shared with 2 other girls who didn’t bother me at all. We had a long balcony that looked down over Flax & Kale (amazing health food restaurant in Barcelona).
The only problem here was that I couldn’t properly unpack, or record videos, or write blog posts. There was feck-all cooking equipment in the kitchen (excuse my french) so I couldn’t create any recipes. And added to that it was too dark to take nice photos.
So, I kept looking, and my impatience did not serve me well. I agreed to go €80 over my budget and rent a room in a flat with a “vegan” friend of an acquaintence. It appealed to me because I wanted to live with another vegan. The thought of someone cooking meat in the kitchen and having raw meat in the fridge repulsed me so I that’s the main reason I thought this was a good idea. Plus location was excellent and I was getting 2 rooms, one small box room, and a longer room with a tiny balcony. Sounds reasonable right?
Turns out the guy wasn’t vegan. He was vegetarian. Big difference! But, at least there’d be no dead flesh in the fridge.
He was a yogi, and when I say yogi, I mean like he dedicated his life to the yogic lifestyle. No alcohol (I wasn’t even allowed keep any beer or wine in the fridge), no meat (good), morning meditiation and ceremony, silence all the time, that sort of thing. I expected a lot of deep and interesting conversations from this cohabitation, but no. All I got was quietness, having to turn off my radio, not being allowed use the oven, having lights turned off on me while I was in the room…using the light! It was as if the agreement was that my bills were included in the price as long as I didn’t use any electricity.
When he told me that I’d have to pay more at the end of the month if I wanted to use the oven I said: thanks, but no thanks…I’ve had enough laddy! We agreed that I’d leave at the end of August, giving him time to find a replacement and me time to find another place to live.
It was an extremely uncomfortable environment. I couldn’t make noise, have the gas on for longer than 5 minutes, wash my hands without having to wipe down the sink with a special cloth, listen to music, buy furniture for the hall to store my food and kitchen stuff (which I wanted because I got about 30cm of cupboard space for my things), the list goes on. Things escalated when he dissappeared for 2 weeks. He told me the day after he went on holidays that he had left for holidays, and wouldn’t tell me when he was coming back, leaving me alone in the flat… but I wasn’t going to complain about that!
The ceiling collapsed…
When I got home from work one evening, I made my dinner and made my way to one of my rooms to eat my dinner (the main dining-living room was basically the entrance hall and had no windows, not ideal for enjoying a meal). I felt some dust or sand under my feet and immediately thought “oh no did I open my beach towel here and not clean it up?” On the way back to the kitchen I felt it again under my feet and went to get the sweeping brush. When I started to clean it up I noticed it was far bigger than sand, it was like stones! I freaked out and looked up. And lo and behold, the ceiling which was made from wooden planks, was hanging off at one corner of the mini hallway between the big entrance hall and the bedrooms.
I freaked out and took a picture to send the yogi immediately, hoping he would tell me what to do or give me the number of the landlord. He didn’t do either, all he did was tell me he didn’t think it’d fall and that I’d be grand.
Stupidly, I believed him, and cautiously went back into my little room. Halfway through writing an email I heard a creak, and then a crack, and then a loud banging and crashing. I grabbed my laptop and jumped out to the balcony afraid that the ceiling of the whole house was going to fall down. I stood there shaking for at least 10 minutes absolutely petrified of what I’d find on the other side of the door.
Eventually I looked and yep, the bloody ceiling had fallen down. It was just that small hallway but my bedroom was right beside the part that fell in. How was I to be sure that the rest of the ceiling wasn’t going to fall? It was all made from those same old slats of wood. And that was that. I was far too scared to sleep under that roof one more night. Mum and dad offered to pay for me to spend the night in a hotel but I reluctantly declined because it was so late at night. I pulled another mattress of mine that I used as a sofa in the room beside the balcony and slept in there. Not one bit of help or advice did I get from the “yogi”. Not a thing. So I thought: that’s it. I don’t feel safe or comfortable here and the next day I packed up all my things after work, hauled them down the 4 floors (no lift) and moved in with a very generous friend.
In the yogi house I took advantage of my room that had the balcony to make videos. It was extremely loud though so I only managed a couple.
The food videos just weren’t possible. The kitchen was an abomination: it was tiny and old-fashioned, I wasn’t allowed use the oven, it was desperately in need of a renovation, and as dark as be damned. That’s why the video production rate has slowed down a good bit since the move to Barcelona.
At the moment I’m living temporarily with my good friend Dominique. The kitchen is an absolute God send! It’s big bright and recently refurbished. Unfortunately I was too late to claim a room of my own in this flat so I’ll be sharing a room with Dominique for 2 months – how she’s going to put up with me I don’t know! I’ll have my own room mid-October though. Can’t wait for that 🙂
I hope, that beginning November, my life will begin to settle down and I’ll get back into the swing of regular videos and blog posts. I’m so looking forward to it! I really feel anxious and irritated with myself when I don’t create something for my followers. This vegan movement is gaining so much momentum and I want to be there for those who don’t know their courgettes from their cucumbers! I want to be a source of information, advice and inspiration for those bravely dipping their toes into this lifestyle for the first time.
Please leave your comments and suggestions down below, I’d love to hear from my regular followers, and anyone new to the Green Leafy lifestyle 🙂 Is there anything you’d like to know about veganism? About Barcelona, cruelty-free brands, natural beauty hacks? Let me know down below!