LASIK

I did it. I got LASIK, three weeks ago. It is a deeply uncomfortable but very fast process, if you don't count the four hours of consultation and waiting beforehand. The procedure took seven minutes for each eye during which the surgeon explained exactly what he was going to do and what was going to happen, but I was so overwhelmed with all this information that all I could really do was lie completely still and concentrate on the red and green lights in front of me. If I remember correctly, I was given a local anesthetic in my eyes and then they inserted a device to keep my eyelids open. At some point my vision blacked out (but I was warned about that). I also purposefully held my breath while the laser was on, because apparently you smell something burning and some people have told me it's the smell of burning flesh, and I did not want to have to deal with that at that moment.

Immediately afterwards, my vision was very blurry, like I was seeing underwater, and my eyes stung like I had been cutting onions. A friend (who had also had LASIK a few years ago) very kindly picked me up and dropped me home. The next day my vision was pretty damn good already, most things were clear and sharp, especially outdoors and in bright light. They said everything was healing well in my follow up appointment, and I'd continue to experience light sensitivity, blurriness and difficulty changing focus over the next few months. I feel like I'm making progress each passing day, and now the only symptom I have is light sensitivity at night time, especially from street lamps and traffic lights.

I was allowed to play badminton with safety glasses that weekend, but it was so annoying, especially with it fogging up and getting blurry after sweating, that I decided not to play until I didn't have to wear those glasses anymore. Other than that, all my regular activities - work, gym, hiking, biking - are all fine to do. I'm also using eyedrops to help with the healing process. All in all, my eyesight is pretty good for now (it's 20/15 vision now!) and...you could even say things are looking brighter each day.


The Aftermath

After arriving at Pearson, I took the UP Express and walked home from the station. It was about -8C but calm so not too unpleasant. The next day, Wednesday, I did my COVID test swab and arranged for Purolator to pick it up on Thursday. At 1pm, I duly put the package outside my door and by 2pm, it had been taken. Imagine my surprise and horror then, when a Purolator courier knocked on my door at 4pm to ask where the package for pickup was. Did they not already take it? Was it stolen from outside my door? Several calls to Purolator and the labs over the next two days were fruitless, and the lab ended up sending me a replacement kit. Who the hell steals a COVID test sample from someone's apartment?

By Friday, I had developed classic symptoms of omicron - headache, runny nose, sneezing and coughing. The weekend was the worst, with symptoms lingering onto Monday and Tuesday. The kit arrived on Tuesday and I took the test, again. This time I ordered an Uber driver to pick it up directly and place it into a Purolator dropbox. Surely that would ensure a timely delivery. I checked the shipping tracker on Purolator's website and began to fret when, by the evening, nothing had been updated. I did not want to have another sample lost to the abyss and I did not want to wait for a third kit.

After more calls and emails to Purolator, they assured me that it would have been picked up by 5pm on the same day, but there may have been delays because of the massive snowstorm that hit Toronto. There were no updates to the shipping tracker website because there's been "so many packages" that they just haven't had time to scan them in. The lab also said they had received my sample but again their website had no indication that they had. I just had to be patient.

By Wednesday, my symptoms had cleared up enough for me to be a functional human at work, and by Thursday I was pretty much over it. Thankfully I had no loss of smell or taste. Finally, late on Thursday afternoon, my result came through.

Positive.

Well, at least I have a definitive date of release now, and I don't need to do a third test.


Barcelona 2

I’m on my last leg of the trip back to Toronto. It was an early start this morning to Barcelona airport, then over to Schipol in Amsterdam and now Keflavik in Reykjavik. It’s 5pm but it’s dark and partially cloudy, but still warmer than Toronto.

The PCR test obviously came back negative for me to even be here. It went smoothly and I got my results back within six hours. I was supposed to go to a masia lunch but we ended up going up to Tibidabo for some views quite late. Monday was pretty chill as well, the weather was wet and I ended up just relaxing for most of the day. We went to this extremely well-rated tapas bar near but not too close to Sagrada Familia to round out a fantastic 17 days away.

I think I’m kinda ready to go home and get back into routine but I’m really not keen on the -20C weather and this stupid lockdown. It’ll be nice to cook my own food again and be in my own place but I’ll miss the wonderful sights of Barcelona and the generous hospitality of my friend Marc.


Barcelona 1

Barcelona is amazing, beautiful, quirky and delicious as I remember it from 2017. It helps that Toronto went back into lockdown this week, and that makes my gallivanting around these magnificent sights and restaurants that much sweeter. However, the looming deadline of having to return home to frigid no fun wasteland is fast approaching and is definitely unappealing.

My first day here was on Tuesday, and in the morning I went up to the bunkers and Parc Guell. The view from the bunkers was stunning, but in the morning, the sun is right in your eyes so I vowed to come back another afternoon. Parc Guell was smaller than I thought it was, but still incredibly interesting. Even though it’s quiet season, there were still quite a few Instagrammers posing for that perfect picture, so I didn’t stay too long. I spent the afternoon walking around Montjuic, then saw the Christmas lights around the Gothic Quarter and Passeig de Gracia with Marc. We finished up at Sagrada Familia, which has had a new star addition since 2017, and then a big tapas meal to end the night.

On Wednesday, I met up with Kevin who took me to some of his favourite places while he was living here. We ended up back at the bunkers and just chilled out for a while, admiring the view in the perfect weather. We parted ways at Sagrada Familia, and I went to - of all things - a Malaysian restaurant for dinner, at the recommendation of Owen. Not bad at all, and better than most of the places in Toronto!

Thursday was a public holiday and absolutely perfect weather, so Marc took me to Montserrat, where we hiked around the gorgeous rock formations for four hours, going to Sant Jeroni, Creu de Sant Miquel and of course, the monastery. The last time I was there, I was very strapped for time as I was part of a bus tour, so it was awesome to explore the mountain a bit more and see the most beautiful lookout points around. For dinner, we went to an excellent Italian place close to Marc’s home back in Barcelona.

On Friday, I took it easy. I had a bad blister from all walking I’d done in the week so I tried to walk less. I ended up down by the beach and had lunch at Barceloneta. In the afternoon, I went looking for Amorino, my favourite gelato chain which crafts their ice creams into the shape of a rose. That took me to Plaça de Catalunya, and it was a quick subway ride home for some very average takeout pizza. It was a snap decision, but we ended up driving to Marc’s home town of Manresa to see if we could head up to Mont Rebei Gorge the next day, pending the state of my blister. We had several options based on whether I’d be able to hike or not, but I really wanted to make the gorge happen, the tourism pictures looked stunning.

The next day, we were up as early as we could be. My toe was feeling really good and the weather forecast looked equally as good, so we did the two hour drive to the gorge. Straddling the border between Aragon and Catalonia, the Mont Rebei Gorge is a massive canyon with a vibrant green river running through some massive rock formations. The scenery was hands down the most beautiful I’d seen on this trip, and everything was absolutely perfect about the day. The first section of the hike led us through some frosty landscapes, the area still sheltered from the sun by the rock mountains. After crossing the first suspension bridge, the path continues onto the cliff side, carved into the side of the mountain, and no barrier to prevent you from falling into the river below. After crossing the second suspension bridge, the path continues up a rock hill until you reach the most precarious wooden stairs leading straight down the vertical cliff face. Truly one of the most exciting hikes I’ve ever been on, and unparalleled views. We ended up near the carpark with some super cute, friendly Catalan donkeys!

With only a couple of days left, I’m cramming in some last moment sightseeing and eating. Hopefully the PCR test comes back negative, but honestly, staying here for another few days wouldn’t be that bad.


Costa Brava 3

After a “wild” New Years celebration, we had a late start on Saturday. The weather was pretty decent and we went to Tossa de Mar, another beautiful coastal town with a fort overlooking some stunning aquamarine waters. I wanted to check out Far Sant Sebastia, a lighthouse with Catalonia’s best view of the sunset, but a heavy fog had come in so we just went home. It was very cold the next day, even with my winter jacket that I had brought from Canada. We explored the village at Beçalu before going for a traditional Catalan meal at a “mas”, a restaurant operating out of a Catalan house. The meal was fantastic, but as the sun began to disappear behind the clouds, the temperature suddenly dropped and I began to shiver. We quickly paid and headed off to Empuries, where they have Greek ruins. I was still a bit woozy from all the sangria over lunch, and it was still cold and foggy, so we called it a night.

Today I wandered around the beach of the town we’ve been staying at, L’Estartit. The northern end has a large rock with a view of the Illes Medes (Medes Islands) and I was really tempted to climb past the rope barrier to get to the top, but halfway up I decided to abandon the idea in case I dislodged a boulder and caused an international diplomatic incident.

I also hiked up to Castella del Montgri, an unfinished castle overlooking the area. It was a quick 35 minute walk over rocky terrain, and I enjoyed the panoramic views from the turrets of the castle. While I was standing on the wall, a German lady on the ground called to me and took a picture of me, saying she’d send me the picture on Facebook, but then promptly left the area before I could get down to ground level. I still had a lot of time to spare, so I tried to follow the group and ended up catching up to them where she airdropped the photo to me. Danke!

We had lunch at another Catalonian mas, and then caught the sunset at Far Sant Sebastia, finally. We’ll be heading back to Barcelona tonight. Costa Brava has been absolutely stunning in terms of food and scenery and I’m super lucky to have made it out here, right as Ontario has banned indoor dining and sports for at least three weeks. Must make the most of it!!