Monday, March 14, 2016

The Final Post

Hey Blogspot,

How are you? Can you believe it’s been almost a month since we last spoke? What’s been going on since the last time I published a piece with you? Oh wow nice, I’m really glad to hear that everything has been going well. Things on this side of the computer are going pretty well too, thanks for asking.

Look, I know that it’s raining outside and that I have a warm cup of home-brewed coffee sitting next to me, which usually means that I am thinking of writing something with you. As these words flash in front of me on laptop screen I can remember the first post we finished together on August 3rd, 2012 called “Last Missoula Days.” I was 24 years old and you were only about 24 minutes old. On that day in Missoula, Montana I thought we were only about to have a small summer romance that wouldn’t last longer than the duration of a trip down to South America. However, when I returned to home to the Bay Area, it didn’t feel right to walk away from something that had only just started to blossom.

Now, after nearly 80 posts, we are sitting here together in what has been a four year relationship that has survived time and patches of severe writer’s block. It’s been an amazing journey. Honestly without you, and support of friends who have read you, I wouldn’t be the person I who am today. 

However, after having said all this, I have to tell you something that might make you upset. 

I’ve starting seeing someone else. 

Look, please don’t turn off and log me out of Blogger just yet. Before you say anything I want you to know that it’s not because you aren’t incredible or because I don’t love writing with you. I think you’re great. We have posted a lot of experiences together, and they are things that I will never forget. Each post that we have started and finished were important for the both of us, but inside I can sense that something is growing distant between us. I’m now almost 30 years old and not the same person who you met at an online chatroom back in Missoula.

I’ve changed since then, and I hate to say this but you haven’t at all. We don't connect as frequently as we used to, you give me a hard time whenever I try to ad some photos to our posts, and you never like it when I try to change your font. Sorry for venting, it’s just that I have to be honest. You have always been there as a writing companion, and for that reason it’s really hard to say these words to you. 

I truly will always love and care about you, but it’s time for something new. 

Who is my new writing companion? Well, this is a little awkward but she has the same name as you. Gosh I feel bad about that. Her name is So There I Was except that she is a Wordpress site. Look, please don't give me that look. She knows all about you and thinks that you are cool, so how about the three of us be friends? We can get a coffee together and reminisce of about the 70 something posts that we have accomplished in cafe’s, busses, planes, benches, and under the shade of ficus trees. 

You aren’t mad at me? Oh wow, ok well that is good news. Thank you for understanding. 

Well Blogspot, it’s been an wonderful four years. A winter breeze is telling me that it’s time to go. There’s a lot of world yet to be explored and lot of inspiration waiting to be discovered. I sincerely apologize that the next random passage of life wanderings won’t be written with you but we will always be together in spirit. Thank you for everything. You look just like you did when we first met, a little plain but still stunning. 

I’m just kidding, you aren’t plain. You’re perfect.

With all my love, 

Daniel B Catena

P.S. Just in case you want to send a postcard....Here is where you can say hello to me from time to time :)

Monday, February 15, 2016


As I walked in search of an Internet cafe two hours ago the sun began it's routine decent towards the visible horizon and eventually as I crossed between streets the only thing keeping me from complete darkness were overhead street lamps. The sky became completely black as I exited the building and paced alongside palm tree laced sidewalks towards the city center. 

Currently I find myself in Malaga, a medium sized Spanish city that hugs the often sunny Andalucian coastline. Famous for its beaches and as the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, I arrived here last night after a brief twenty four hour visit of Amsterdam. The daylight that escaped a few hours ago was the last sunset that I will see in Spain for possibly a long time because tomorrow morning before it rises again I will already be flying home. 

In less than ten hours I will be on a Norweigan Airlines flight destined for Los Angeles and a second plane will eventually send me to San Francisco. A trip that started with wandering New York City with one of my best friends Jack Colombo is now coming to a close in Malaga, Spain. A lot of different feelings have arisen since saying goodbye to close friends and former co-workers in Murcia. Sadness, happiness, readiness, and curiousness are all ingredients of a current smoothie of change. I feel sad parting ways yet again with a life that was created last school year but at the same time I feel ready to start progressing towards a new set of goals that have blueprinted in my mind during the course of this trip. Inside I know it's time to come back, to be with family, to see friends from home, and also to start working again. A big thank you to my bosses Julie and Kamran at Cellar Door is necessary because they were generous in letting me keep my job for when I came back. 

After visiting Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles in El Esparragal one last time on Friday and saying "hasta pronto" to my friend/mentor Ascen, the students, and the rest of the teaching staff, a farewell dinner was hosted at Lola's house. Food, laughs, and goodbyes were shared between myself and some really great people. Early the next morning I left my set of house keys on Lola's, my host in Murcia, desk and walked with a full backpack to the cities' bus terminal. The sun was beginning to lift it's head above morning clouds as I headed via an ALSA bus to the Alicante airport and flew to Amsterdam. 

The reason for a single night in Amsterdam was to meet up with a longtime friend Jow Gallardo. We met when I was traveling in Quito, Ecuador over three years ago and the last time we hung out was during a night of dancing with Nick Holmberg at Bungalow 6 in March 2013. She currently is studying German in Düsseldorf and by luck we were able to arrange a time to see each other before both of our Europe experiences drew to a close. In spirit with us were Nick and John Beswick, the other two members of our "Wolfpack" who weren't able to make the journey. Jow, her friend Adriana, and myself met in the lobby of the Hans Brinker Hotel yesterday afternoon. From there we took advantage of our single day in the city by going to the Anne Frank House, the Sex Museum, Red Light District, Kebabs, dancing at the Remember Cafe, and more dancing at Smokey's Bar. After multiple attempts we were unable to get a DJ to play the original version of "Light it Up" by Mazor Lazor however we did hear a few interesting remixes.

After taking pictures on Sunday morning in front of the "I Amsterdam" sign it started to snow. This was a cold signal that it was time to leave the city, and a short while afterwards the three of us parted ways. It was truly great to see Jow again, and like I've written in previous posts I absolutely know that we will see each other again in someplace in the world. 

Jow and Adriana took a bus back to Düsseldorf as I boarded a plane to Malaga. The main reason for me coming here was to visit the small white painted Andalucian town of Ronda. I saw a picture this place for a brief instant last year in a magazine I can't remember and from that moment I wanted to witness it with my own eyes. With an unreal mountainous cliff passageway that guides visitors to a monumental stone bridge the town of Ronda has statues dedicated to Orson Wells and my personal favorite Ernest Hemingway. The views of Ronda are hard to capture with words but as I crossed Puente Nuevo which was constructed in the 1700's inside it felt fitting to have waited to see this place during my last day of the journey. 

It's been nearly seven weeks since seeing family and good friends in the United States. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to do this trip, and I feel equally fortunate to have people like you to share it with. Writing about things like this are for me a way to remember because my memory is mediocre at best, but also because even though traveling is a major passion of mine, maintaining bonds with people who are important to me is also a life passion. Thank you for reading, for being my friend, and for being truly awesome. 

Tomorrow I'll be home in California. As one journey ends another one continues where it was last put on temporary pause. 

This isn't goodbye, Spain. After leaving and coming back I know that will share a tapa together again. Take care of yourself and save a seat at the dinner table because you will see me again soon :)

This isn't goodbye, 
this is Aloha.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Best House in Limerick

Today is Thursday and currently I am drinking a Roobois tea in Cafe Haskell, my favorite cafe in Murcia. With 80's music playing from a white ceiling speaker this Italian owned hangout is half full with university students and families chatting about things I can't understand. 

It's been a while since writing and the past two weeks have been mainly filled with sharing time between visiting my old primary schools from last year, Vicente Medina in Azarbe and Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles in El Esparragal. Despite a seven month gap since last working as an English Language Assistent the friendships and bonds created between myself and the people in those schools haven't felt the strain of long distance. It's been uplifting to be back in the classroom, and after only revisiting each primary school a handful of times during this vacation a strong desire to return to Murcia has started to circulate in my mind. Seeing kids wanting to learn English and more importantly being excited to have their old teacher back has given me inspiration to pursue this route further. 

Outside of school I've been reconnecting with friends from last year. Going on a "Ruta de Tapa," having coffee at Ficciones, catching a show at Revolver, walks along the Segura River, and trying out previously unfrequented bars like Tremolo, Cafe Zalacaín, and El Ahorcado Feliz have been some of the activities undertaken since coming back to Murcia. A large number of English teacher friends from last year didn't come back for a second contract in Murcia. Despite a lack of familiar faces, some really great people are still here and it's been truly great to spend at least a little bit of time with them again. More friends gained through intercambios are still either in Murcia or in El Esparragal which has been nice as well. Lieven and Claudia, Lola, Jesus, Lorena, Laura, Zaimi, Charo, David, Sarah, Gretchen and Lindsey are a few close friends who are fortunately still here and I feel very luckily to have seen them.

One of the biggest highlights of this trip was a reunion of what a select few used to call "The Best House in Murcia." This group consisted of Lola, myself, and our friend Lucia who is currently working in Limerick, Ireland. The three of us lived together most of last year and we hadn't been in the same place since parting ways at a bus station in June. We gave our house that unofficial title and maintained contact through a whatsapp group with the same name. Last weekend Lola, her friend Manuela, and myself booked a plane to Dublin, Ireland then rented a car to go visit Lucia in Limerick. 

The time together was for only three days, however we managed to visit some really interesting places like the Cliffs of Moher, Lahinch Beach, Galway's Latin Quarter for seafood, Gleudalough, a roadside cabin-style restaurant for Irish Coffees, listened to Celtic music at pubs while have some necessary Guinness', and exploring Limerick's dance scene at Nancy's during a causally rain soaked evening. 

It was great to see Lucia and having "The Best House" together in a different place outside of Murcia was special. This world we live in is huge, yet at the same time it can feel ever so small. I don't know when we will all be together again, perhaps in Lola's house or maybe in a pub drinking a dark tinted beer at a still completely unknown location. I'm not worried about it because deep down I know we will meet again, someway and somewhere. 

This blog post started with tea at Haskell and it's about to end with an Alhambra beer at Cafe Ficciones. In a few minutes I'm about to meet up with some friends to get tapas in a nearby plaza, chat in English, then give a round of hugs...of farewell. 

In two days I'm leaving Murcia and in less than a week I'll be back home. The trip that started on December 29th, 2015 is about be given a toast of completion on February 16th, 2016. I'm grateful for this experience but equally as excited to be making a return to the Bay Area. To anyone from home who is reading this we should definitely make plans to hang out!

More updates are coming soon, enjoy your day and more importantly enjoy being you. 


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lost & Found in Girona

Today is Saturday and in this moment I am drinking an afternoon black coffee, eating "un trozo de pulpo" aka a piece of cooked squid, and slowly waking up for the start of the weekend. I'm seated at the bar of a cafeteria style restaurant called Confiteria which is  a neighborhood eating spot for Murcian locals who live in the area of Vista Alegre. Vista Alegre is where my friend Lola's house is located and this has been my temporary residence since coming back to Murcia. 

Over a week ago I was watching the sunrise in an ALSA bus, writing in this blog, preparing to meet up with a waiting BlaBla driver in Alicante, then share a ride up along the coast. Originally the idea was to head north and spend two nights in Girona, a couple more in Barcelona, and a few days reserved for a flight to Portugal with Lisbon being the destination. Upon returning back to Murcia this past Wednesday I ended up spending an extra day in both Girona and Barcelona, then electing to come back early in order to spend time at the elementary school Vicente Medina instead of visiting Portugal. Vicente Medina was a second school where I worked last year and it was the first time seeing everyone there in over seven months. 

Laura was the main reason for me making the trip to Girona because she is a good friend from Couchsurfing. This was the first time that we had actually "met" each other because we had for the past few years only been long distance language exchange pen-pals. She is currently studying abroad in Girona and this was the only window of free time that she had from studying to meet up. It was great seeing her and she did an awesome job of playing the role of tour guide. 

Girona is a small city that sits about an hour north of Barcelona. The primary language spoken there is Catalan and the only time I heard people speaking Spanish was when they were directly speaking to me or Laura. Catalan is the first language spoken for people of Cataluña, the autonomous region in Spain where Girona is located. It is famous for their heavy desire to gain independence from the rest of the country. Red, yellow and blue banners hung from countless narrow balconies in support of their region and people greeted each other with "Bon Dia" or "Merci."  

Despite bring considerably smaller than Murcia, Girona boasts some spectacular views and offers a great deal of sites for travelers to visit. I stayed at Room in Girona Backpackers which sits along the waterfront of the Oñar River. The historical part of the city is disected by the Oñar and some beautiful pictures can be taken along any of the numerous bridges that serve as walkways for a consistent flow of foot traffic. Two bridges that are really interesting are Stone Bridge (Puente de Piedra) and Eiffel Bridge (Puente de Hierro) which was built by the same company that constructed Paris' Eiffel Tower. Girona also has a very beautiful cathedral, gardens, lion monuments, restaurant scene around Plaza de la Libertad, and a fortified wall passageway along it's Barri Vell also known as historical district. Girona doesn't have as active a nightlife as Murcia, however a few places like Solero or König are good for a evening out in the town. Girona is also nice due to its easy access to small yet very interesting cities such as Figueras or Besalú. 

I didn't expect to have such a good time in Girona, and I also didn't expect to lose my travel journal during the journey north before arriving there. Somewhere between Alicante and Barcelona a thin grey journal is resting in peace, possibly at a gas station or in the beak of a majestic Spanish seagull as it soars through the sky. One month of writing, lists of places, and lists of names from experiences in New York, Barcelona, and Murcia has been lost due to personal clumsiness. Recounting and relogging them in my backup journal has been like retracing phases of life after waking up from a coma. Names of some people or places have now been rewritten based on the details I remember. Waspy guy, New York jazz bar,  tall black French girl, French 75 bar owner, booger girl, BlaBla guy,  language exchange Barcelonan, and Chinese exchange student are some of the titles that have taken the place of actual names. These people and places have all played a role in this trip, so not remembering names makes me feel like a jerk. Hopefully they will pop back up into the leaky balloon of my mind during a spontaneous moment in the future. Luckily pictures have been backed up so not everything has been erased. 

After filling a handful of pages in my new journal about Girona I returned to Barcelona for a second time during this trip. The majority of time spent there was dedicated towards hanging out with friends from Hostel One Backpackers, drinking Nømad coffee, having Chen Ji Chinese food, El Dorado Chicken for a second time, hanging out in a couple plazas, and seeing a few people who were met during the first trip a few weeks ago. A separate blog post about Barcelona will be coming at some point in the future :)

Due to an extended stay in Girona and Barcelona, Portugal for the time being will continue to sit in an internal travel "to-do" list. Inside it feels ok to have not gone there this time around, and it will be simply serve as another excuse to come back to Europe sometime in the not so distant future :)

This blog post is once again very lengthy so I think you deserve to treat yourself to a beer or chilled non alcholihic beverage if you have made it this far! More updates are coming soon and I hope that you are having a wonderful day or evening.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Girona vía Murcia

Typing on white and off grey smartphone keyboard the humming of a speeding ALSA bus engine is the only thing I can hear. It's about seven in the morning and looking out the window of this moving vehicle I can only see blackness and an occasional white freckle of unnamed stars in a predawn sky. 

Having just left Murcia in a transit bus I am making my way towards neighboring city Alicante and from there I will connect with a BlaBla car that is destined for Barcelona. From Barcelona I will take a train or bus to Girona, which is about an hour northeast. Today is the the beginning of what will be about an eight day mini trip consisting of two days in Girona, about three more in Barcelona, and probably three nights in Lisbon, Portugal. 

The last blog post was written in Babelia Books & Coffee, a very relaxed place to drink a caffeinated beverage in Barcelona. Upon walking out of the coffee shop that day I spent the majority of The next handful of days walking around, drinking more coffee at a whim, and taking in the atmosphere of various neighborhoods in this very explore friendly city. Since I came to Barcelona alone I decided to not be a loner the entire time and attended various language exchange Meetups at different bars where I was fortunate in meeting some really cool people from different parts of the world. I didn't visit La Sagrada familia but some of my favorite places in Barcelona included parts of Park Güel, the neighborhood La Gracia, Mirador de Midgita, and Gypsy Lou's for nightlife. The Sunday before leaving I was able to meet up with a girl named Jessica who is a former neighbor of my good buddy Sebastian and her expat lifestyle left me inspired to follow in her footsteps. A failed BlaBla car attempt the following day had me spending an extra night in the city and by coincidence I found myself staying at an unmarked residential hostel that turned out to be Hostel One Backpackers in upper La Gracia. Some really nice people were met there and I might be booking a few nights again this weekend when I revisit the city. 

Barcelona might be my favorite city and having an opportunity to come back this weekend makes me feel very lucky. 

A second and this time successful BalBla car attempt had me sharing a ride with a couple Catalonians, Jaime and his wife/girlfriend Pilar, down to the city where last year I taught English: Murcia. 

For the past eight days I have been crashing at my friend and former landlord Lola's house. We made a deal where this time she should wouldn't charge rent in exchange for me painting various rooms in her house. It's been great staying there again and the only part missing is Lucia, who is currently working in Ireland. 

Coming back to Murcia has been overwhelming and nothing less than joyful. The majority of the last eight days since coming back has been spent reconnecting with some close friends from last school year and also volunteering at the primary school Nuestra Señora de los Angeles where I once was an English language assistant. 

This current bus ride where the sky is starting to turn orange and red along the horizon will serve as the opening page of a temporary break from seeing friends in Murcia because next weekend I'll be returning to Lola's. 

I plan on visiting in Girona my friend Laura who I met through a Couchsurfing language exchange three years ago. We have only been friends via Skype so it should be fun meeting her in person for the first time. In Barcelona no plans have been made except for a cup of coffee, and in Lisbon no plans have been made except for a day trip to a small Portguese city called Cascais. Cascais is a sister city to my hometown, Sausalito in California, and I am going to see if the government there will give me some free stuff :)

This blog post is overdue and over filled with words. I hope that whoever is reading this is having a great day and is happy. I can't see you but I think you're beautiful.

Updates are coming soon :)


Daniel Catena 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

When in San Antoni

I can hear mid conversations of people from unseen tables behind me as I sit with a gradually sipped cup of espresso and water. I find myself starting the day at Babelia Books & Coffee and glancing at a food menu that is typed in Spanish, Catalan, and English. This is my second time coming here in as many days because its laid back atmosphere and rows of used books lining one of its peach colored walls gives me a false sense of productivity. For the last four days I've been in Barcelona, currently winning the race as my favorite city in Spain.

The last time I wrote in this blog I was waiting to leave the Bay Area with one of my best friends Jack Colombo. This was about twelve days ago and our destination in that moment was New York City. Jack hosted me at his Williamserg apartment and did a really good job of making me want to move East sometime maybe in the forseable future. The main plan for NYC was to see one of our favorite French DJ duos Justice do a New Years Eve show in Red Hook which was really fun. We also tapped into the cities' pizza scene by trying Joe's and NY Pizza Suprema. These places mixed with Paris style jazz bars, ice-less whiskey with a waspy Vail guy, a Halal Guys recovery day, Kava buzzes, double dipping on juice, Momofuku ramen, Caracus Arepas with friends Josh & Danielle, Ippudo noodles with our buddy Mike, catching a Cate Blanchet lesbian movie at Nitehawk, and a reunion with former Missoula roommate Mark Balcerak, made this trip one that I am truly fortunate to have experienced. It was great reconnecting with long time friends and look forward to the next get together. 

The temperature in New York got progressively colder and by the time it was time for me to pack my things it was hard to stand outside without fantasizing about the next time you'll be warm. After some goodbyes I took a couple trains to JFK airport. From New York I hopped a flight to Stockholm where I had a layover for a few hours the boarded a last plane down to Barcelona. Arriving into this coastal Catalonian capital I reserved two nights at the Be Mar Hostel located in El Raval, a neighborhood that borders the bohemian city center. After two nights with Chilean bunk mates I decided to change living arrangements and now find myself staying in an AirBnb in the neighborhood of San Antoni. 

There is very little that I don't want to say about Barcelona. Since arriving here I've been intentionally trying to get myself lost, whether it be in some narrow alley, staring at a piece of curious urban art, in the reflection of a beautifully dark cup of coffee, or in conversation with someone who has enough patience to listen to my gringo Spanish. 

I'll be wandering here until Tuesday and from there I will book a bus or a BlaBla car down to a place that I used to call home, Murcia. 

More updates are coming soon ;)

If you're reading this far, once again thank you! Take good care of yourself, brush your teeth before bedtime, and Happy New Year. I feel honored to be a part of your life, even if it just started at the top if this page and only lasts until this unavoidable yet necessary final period mark.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Spanish Handshakes

In this exact instant I find myself in the center seat of the 23rd row of a Virgin America airplane. Besides the constant humming of jet engine combined with random soft jolts of slight turbulence the cabin is completely silent. Takeoff was only thirty minutes ago and as music is  playing in my white earbuds my good friend Jack Colombo is in the chair next to me. 

It's been six months since riding in an airplane and despite the limited leg space and lack of free movies it feels good to be on the move towards somewhere again. The last time I looked out the window of a moving plane it was to return home from teaching English in Murcia, Spain at the beginning of the summer. Our landing destination will be New York, Jack's current stomping grounds. The plan is to celebrate New Years in Brooklyn this upcoming Thursday, mix in some random exploring around the Big Apple, hopefully catch up with a few other longtime friends who are living in this part of the East Coast, then leaving the city on January 4th.

Upon arriving home last June I didn't know what the future would look like. I didn't know that I'd be going to New York for New Years. It was vastly uncertain if I'd be teaching English in Spain for a consecutive school year. It was unknown that I'd land a pretty fun wine bar job in San Francisco and meet a lot of interesting people there. I didn't know how fortunate I'd be to have reconnected with close friends and family since coming back to the Bay Area.

I also didn't know that on January 4th, 2016 I would book a one way ticket back to Spain.

After hanging out with Jack in New York the plane that will send me away from the city won't travel back towards California, it will head accross the Atlantic for a layover in Copenhagen then finally touching ground in Barcelona. 

In this exact moment there isn't a single day of accommodation booked, nor is there an official itinerary once in Spain. The first goal for this trip is first take some time to simply "be" in Barcelona, to drink a black coffee in an open plaza somewhere or possibly try to learn some Catalan words in dim lit bar. The most important and possibly only "real" reason for being back in Spain is to return to Murcia to see my former housemates, English teacher friends, the staff of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles and Vicente Medina, and to see the kids who I once helped teach last school year. 

Being home has been great but I really miss the people who were an important part of the experience that was living in Murcia. Seeing some of them again will be a blessing and I'm not sure how it will feel beyond absolute joy. 

After revisiting, sharing hugs and then handshakes with friends of last year the rest of this trip will be guided by chance and a desire to let Spanish breeze decide.

I don't know how long this will all last, maybe a few weeks or possibly a couple months. I don't know where buses and BlaBla cars will end up taking me. Sunrises and sunsets are the only things I know will happen once Jack and I starting walking towards the exit of the New York airport.

The other only thing I do know is that I'm sitting in an airplane, the leg room is ample, and there is a smile on my face. It's time to enjoy the ride. 

If you've read this far, thank you! Have a great New Year and keep doing what makes you happy :)