Beber, Fomar, Follar: The Barcelona Language Exchange

“Got any plans for the day?” Justin, my hostel bunkmate asked, as I unloaded my bag. “Not at all.” I said. “Well I’m headed out to explore the city, want to join?” He followed. “Absolutely.” I agreed. After three weeks in rural France, I was itching to immerse myself in a social scene.

Through the alleyways and parks of notoriously sunny Barcelona Spain, it began to rain. We sought refuge in a café. Inexperienced with tapas, I let Justin do the ordering. Un plato con papas. One of various slices of bread with mysterious toppings. Another, with some sort of fish. After dos cervesas y un mas tapas plato de poblanos, we took the check. 44 euro. A tourist trap. Beware.

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Back at the hostel, the food sat heavy. I attempted to nap, but the noise and steam which seeped from the streets won out. I took a cold shower instead. I was back.

I sipped my San Miguel, a local brew, while lining up the winning shot. It sunk, to no applause. I’d expected the hostel life to be lively, but that Friday night at Bed and Bike, was silent.

Justin and I had signed up for “free pasta night”, but the quiet vibe of the place seemed increasingly bleak. On Meetup, I discovered the language exchange.

We were a few minutes late, but it wasn't a problem. At the door of the train terminal bar, we exchanged three euro for a nametag and a drink token. "Tyler" "Learning: Spanish" "Speaks: English" mine read. From the bar, with our beers, we scanned. Only a handful of people occupied the vast airy room.

“Shit, there’s no-one here” Justin said. Then, at an otherwise empty table, I spotted them.

I don't remember the intro, but before I knew it, the conversation was flowing. Mainly English, with small bits of Español, the more I talked to Yolanda, the more I wanted to know. Her fair skin, and big white smile, brown eyes, and lush blonde hair. She was intoxicating, but also welcoming, in a uniquely "maestra" way.

Music, movies, activities, travel. We covered a plethora of topics. My Spanish was awful, but it was fun to try. I had a lot thrown at me, so I told her I'd remember three things of her choosing. On a piece of paper, she wrote the terms. I read them aloud:

“BEBER (TO DRINK)

FUMAR (TO SMOKE)

FOLLAR” (TO FUCK)

The table erupted with laughter.

“Thank you all for coming. We hope to see you next week!” the organizer announced. Somehow three hours had past. Joined by Justin and her friend, Yolanda and I emerged into the night. “Let’s get food.” she suggested. I agreed.

At an Italian restaurant across the street, we ordered pizza and again chatted freely.

She told me that she models, and that she’d do a shoot with me. Under a light rain, we did the hug and kiss thing. There was an undeniable connection as her cheek rubbed mine.

In the excitement of the night, the idea of exchanging contact information never even crossed my mind. With her friend, I watched her disappeared forever under the yellow street lights. We never did meet again, and my Spanish is still hopeless, except of course “Beber, Fomar, and Follar”, which I’ll never forget.