Alternative Creative Youth Home: Ronda de la Universitat 17, Barcelona, España

Alternative Creative Youth Home: Ronda de la Universitat 17, Barcelona, España

You want to stay at a hostel while in Barcelona? I did!

Try the Alternative Creative Youth Home.

Yes, the name of the hostel almost made me a little bit nervous. Does it make you nervous too?

Let’s be honest, the words “alternative and creative” mixed with “youth home” makes me think of 17 and 18 year olds partying. Plus, my sister who has never stayed at a hostel before was pretty sure we were staying at a center for troubled adolescents. Apparently we don’t get out much.

However, the price was right so I went on and read the reviews on Hostel World.

The reviews were phenomenal and the hostel lived up to the reviews.Let me share with you some highlights of the hostel.

It is very easy to find

We took the Aerobus from the airport to Plaza Catalunya (The last stop on the Aerobus). The bus dropped us off at the plaza and the street “Ronda Universitat” across the plaza to the right. Basically if you could walk through the two fountains from the bus you would arrive to Ronda Universitat. If you find yourself in the center of the plaza (because hey, you just arrived to Barcelona and Plaza Catalunya looks like a perfect photo op), situate yourself facing the two big fountains, with El Corte Ingles on the right, take a picture of your friend in front of the fountains and then go to the left towards La Caixa and you’ll find Ronda Universitat. Walk all the way down Ronda Universitat. Number 17 is on the right (its a huge door, is NOT labeled as hostel, you press the gold button to ring to the hostel).

Go left when facing these fountains to get to Ronda Universitat!
Go left when facing these fountains to get to Ronda Universitat!

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It is in a great location, here are some very accessible things:

1. Plaza Catlunya which includes Metro Catalunya (L3). The green line that Catalunya is on can take you to the funicular (to have a view of Barcelona from the sky), barrio Poble Sec (for some great tapas) and to the Magic Fountain (to see the light show.

2. Metro Universitat (L2). The purple line that leads to the Sagrada Familia. After the Sagrada Familia you can walk to Park Güell…good luck…it’s up…and up some more.

3. The famous “La Rambla”, obviously for taking pictures, browsing the trinkets and looking at the people who are dressed up. La Rambla also leads to the beach!

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The beds were comfortable with good blankets

I have slept on many uncomfortable beds while living in Europe and these beds turned out to be relatively great. I was surprised that I got a decent nights sleep. On the reviews on hostel world a few people did complain about the beds, maybe those people who thought these beds were bad have had great luck with hostel beds in the past, for me, these beds were great!

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Great WIFI & Apple computers

The WIFI has great signal and there are three FAST computers for communal use! I never had to wait for a computer and the computers had fast internet connection and they were just plain fast. I love updated technology! In reference to the WIFI, it could be that this hostel is kind of small, so the WIFI reaches everywhere, but I was very happy that my phone never had to search for the WIFI and it didn’t lose the signal either! **I wasn’t in the hostel often and didn’t use WIFI for long periods of time, so I am not sure how great it would be for long periods of use**

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It has a kitchen and a fridge!

Cook yourself some food!

BIGGEST ASSET:
Fabulous staff

The staff were very friendly and helpful. They have advice for just about anything you need. Plus I think about a million brochures and maps in the hostel to give you even more help. If you need anything from them, just ask.

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Now, I know I can’t always be positive so let me share some downfalls of the hostel.

No breakfast included
Rooms are cramped with no sunlight (even during the day)!
Bathrooms aren’t the cleanest, but I have seen way worse!
Lockers are outside of the room…the room is too small to have lockers inside!

BIGGEST DOWNFALL (for me):

Give up passport as collateral for the locker key. Yikes! I don’t stay at many hostels but this is the only place I have had to do this. Made me very uneasy.

These downfalls are honestly not that bad. Just somethings that I noticed, they didn’t bother me too much but still noticeable. It would have been nice to have even a basic breakfast, some sunlight in the room during the day (or just some fresh air), and I wouldn’t have minded locking up my own passport instead of trusting it with the staff.

Hope this review helps you when you are in search of a hostel in Barcelona!

Safe Travels,

Kate

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Pintan Tapas: Galileo 38, Madrid

Pintan Tapas: Galileo 38, Madrid

Come one, come all…

Welcome, welcome, to my first tapas bar review. I have been putting off bar reviews since I arrived in Spain. Before I get into my review, I want to talk about the basics of what makes a tapas bar great for me.

First and most important criteria for a good bar is the bartender

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I need a friendly bartender. Don’t we all? Ok, I don’t need to pour out my deepest darkest secrets but I do need someone who will chat with me when there aren’t many customers. If my bartender isn’t friendly then when I come in for a caña…or five…on a lonley, cold winter evening, who will console me? (This is where people tell me that I need to make friends) This is all hypothetical, but you never know. I can’t set myself up with “favorite” bars where I can’t even have a nice conversation with the bartender.

Second and sort of third most important things are prices and food!

Well, a really really important part of a tapas bar are the tapas. Obviously. With that said, prices and food really have to be relative. i.e., a caña that is over €2,50, I am probably going to expect a pretty decent tapa to go along with it. No delicious tapa, no deal. Also, with that said for €1, I can deal with potato chips and green olives. However, if the bartender is so nice and the tapa isn’t that great, I probably won’t hate the place.

Third and last criteria for a good bar is location

Location? The thing is, if a bar is in a good location they will get constant foot traffic. I hate this because then they don’t have to have fabulous tapas or fabulous service because new people walk by daily and will walk in. Anyways, I have found that the bars that are the easiest to find, often don’t have great prices or great tapas. The best bars aren’t always the really busy ones on the busiest streets. Thus begins my search for lesser known bars in Madrid that live up to good food and good customer service!

Now, this officially brings me to my review of Pintan Tapas on Galileo 38, Madrid

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My roommate and I wanted to go to bar Sierra for lunch but it was closed. Bar Sierra is our “go to” bar even though the bartenders are what my roommate likes to call, “antipaticos”. So, we had to go in search of a different bar for lunch. We searched high and low, ok ok, we only went into two bars to read the menus before we came across Pintan Tapas.

First thoughts, “hamburguesa + patatas”, alright, I suppose we can give it a try. So we went inside and there was only one other customer there. Made me a little nervous because it was Spanish lunchtime and where were all the people? We checked out the menu a little closer, decided it looked good, sat down and then started chatting with the bartender.

Ahhhhh, he chats back. He is winning us over already.

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So, being that he was willing to chat with me, I had a few questions. I found out that he is left “sin vasos” (without cups) on any given weekend night and he told us that this bar just opened two months ago. Seems like they are doing pretty well for themselves. While chatting, I am checking the place out. Very green. I asked what color it was before, he said it was beige. Then he said something about green meaning nature and I threw in that green also means money. The other person who was in the bar added that she is going to paint her walls green, it was a joke. I hope. Either way, the green is cheery. I like it. pintantapas2

So, after a few minutes of chatting we ordered. The menu is written on various chalkboards throughout the bar and it changes whenever they change it.pintantapas4

The bartender also said that everything they make is fresh, nothing frozen, so they definitely don’t have a microwave! We ordered patatas bravas (homemade brava sauce), magro estofado (sort of italian beef) and a sandwich mixta con huevo (ham and cheese sandwich with egg).

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Patatas Bravas (Potatoes with Brava Sauce)
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Magro Estofado (Italian beef, sort of)
Sandwich mixta con huevo (Ham and cheese sandwich with an egg...egg in a basket?! awesome!)
Sandwich mixta con huevo (Ham and cheese sandwich with an egg…egg in a basket?! awesome!)

Everything we ordered was fabulous! The bartender also told us that “tapas caseras” (homemade tapas) come with all drinks! A caña in this bar is €2,20. While we were in the bar, a couple came in and ordered two glasses of wine. They each received a slice of tortilla de patata. The tapa wasn’t big. But here they are going for quality over quantity and it is definitely working for them!

At last, the bartender gave me the rest of my ragro estrofado in a “tupper” and we got the bill.

The total was €11,70.

Nice! For the potatoes, meat (with bread on the side), a sandwich and a coca-cola. I think that was a pretty fabulous price and to be honest, one of the best bars I have been to since I have been living in Madrid. I hope to return here very soon!

Have you been to Pintan Tapas? Did you have the same experience here? What do you think makes a good tapas bar? 

Cheers,
Kate

Holi Run Madrid

Holi Run Madrid

That fateful day

Holi Run Madrid

5 km de fiesta en los que disfrutar, correr, bailar y sobre todo empaparte del sentimiento Holi.

Date: October 19, 2013
Start time: 11:00…ish
Location: Parque Juan Carlos I…but not really
Distance: 5k…+ however far it was from the metro (REALLY far)

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So, I first will tell you I have no idea what or why it’s called the Holi Run because first, no one ran and second, I don’t know what “Holi” means. However, it was amazing! People everywhere, dancing, walking, throwing color, tutus, wigs, rainbows…if I had to imagine what a rainbow would look like in human form, this was it. Rainbow people. Done.

Let’s take a second to talk about the location part of the Holi Run

Parque Juan Carlos I? Not so much. The actual location was about a 25 minute walk from the closest metro and from the park itself. It may have been faster without the herd of people, who knows.

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Walking from the Metro to the race.
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The distance to and from the Metro was longer than the race itself.

Finally, we made it to the start, let the fun and games begin!

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Finally made it!
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Ready to race!

People were everywhere. Covered in color dust. Taking photos, throwing color dust, chanting things in Spanish that I couldn’t understand…amazing!

Let’s talk about the “run” part of the Holi Run

It could be that all the actual runners started at 11:00 (the start time of the race) and my friends and I, along with thousands of others were still walking in the direction of the race when the clock hit 11:00 am. However, did anyone care that they were still a 25 minute walk from the starting point when the race was supposed to start? No, not at all. For those of use that were walking from the metro around 11, our race started at 11:30 or was it 12:00…either way. We didn’t run and neither did anyone else for that matter and it was great! We just wandered from color station to color station, chatting, taking photos and admiring the interesting outfits!

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Color stations, who hates neon colors? Nobody, that’s who.

Green

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Green Station
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Ana

Yellow

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Orange

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Blue

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…in the midst of all the chaos…a little girl playing in the blue dust

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…and some guys who liked to yell “foto! foto!”…

Foto! Foto!

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Pink

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No color run is complete without guys in tutus

At last, we made it to the finish line…not that I saw an actual finish line, but it’s cool…it’s not like I was hoping that somehow we miraculously finished this 5k in record time #imlying #iwantedamedal.

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So, we made it. Through the rainbow of people and to the finish. It only took about two and a half hours, but we made it! What an experience! I would definitely do it again! 

Did you do the Holi Run in Madrid? How does it compare to color runs in the US? Also, if you are in any group photos, contact me and I will send you the unedited original of the photo!

Katelan

“Rules” of the Metro

“Rules” of the Metro

The Metro

In general, public transport frightens me and being that I am new to public transport, I like to observe everyone around me and everything that they do. Let me introduce you to the people of the metro, first of all, there are loads of them and all of them are gross. Including me most days. They smell like sweat or cigarettes, they cough into their hands and then touch the poles you are supposed to hold on to, sometimes they even cough on you. Not to mention they are overall just loud; they talk to each other, they talk on the phone, they listen to music that you can hear from their headphones. Then they bump into you, step on your toes or just sit really close to you.

You will be sure to see some stereotypical people while on the metro, there’s always “the couple in love”, “the guy who’s late to work”, “the reader”, “the starer” (lots of those), “the candy crush player”, and many more. Not to mention, depending what line you get on, there are people begging for money. They will give you a whole life story and then try to sell you tissues or just ask for money. Good luck.

Now that I have introduced you to the people you may or may not be riding on the metro with, let me tell you a bunch of rules they all abide by with or without knowing it.

1. If you hear or see the train coming, you must run to it.

This is the only time you will see Spaniards in a hurry, I promise. If there is no way of knowing whether the train is coming then a slow stroll is all that is necessary. So, if you are like me and want to walk fast between trains, in case the train may be close, you need to find a way to get ahead of these slow walking Spaniards, this leads me to rule number two.

2. If you are smart, you wait at the correct part of the train to exit at the appropriate door.

Now, this is not as easy as it seems. It takes practice remembering which door to be at and it changes for every stop in every direction, sometimes you have to be in the middle, sometimes all the way to the left other times all the way to the right. The people who have mastered this are your “guys who are late to work”. These are the Spaniards who have to be to work on time and they are not fucking around. Maybe they aren’t late but they just know that they want to save themselves commute time. I completely agree with them. They have calculated exactly which door to stand at and probably will catch their next train in the last second, that you will miss because you didn’t wait at the right door and then will arrive to work about ten minutes earlier than if they had been at the wrong end of the train. Added bonus, if you do this, it gets you ahead of the game and you don’t have to fight the crowd that is squishing onto the escalator. Squishing onto the escalator can add about five minutes onto your commute time, imagine if you have to take three or four escalators like at La Latina or Avenida de La Ilustracion. You better get yourself to the right door!

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Jean jacket guy, with his hand on the button, ready to dip the fuck out.

3. You must be occupied

There’s no such thing as day dreaming in the metro. If you are not with friends, you must be doing something solitary. This includes but is not limited to doing things on your phone such as texting, playing candy crush or talking to someone. Reading anything, a book, magazine or “20 minutos” which is the metros newspaper. Finally, if you aren’t using your phone or reading, just plain staring at someone will suffice. Seriously though, these are the only things you are allowed to be doing on the metro, end of story.

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4. You must avoid sitting by people at all costs

The minute someone sitting next to you leaves, you must scoot over to the corner seat.

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5. You must not be happy

If you are alone in the metro you are unhappy. That is the rule. When you are with friends you may laugh and chatter and have a ball, but when you are by yourself you have to hate your life, even if you don’t hate your life, you have to appear to hate your life.

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6. Your feet cannot stick out

Simple. Your feet have to be in! People are constantly getting on and off the metro, so watch out!

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For now, these are the rules that I have noticed in the metro. Have you noticed anything else? Have you noticed any of these things?

Katelan

Festival de las Naciones

Festival de las Naciones

Festival of Nations

Sevilla, Spain: 19 Sept 2013- 3 Nov 2013

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If you are planning on taking a trip to Sevilla sometime soon, I suggest checking out the Festival de las Naciones!

Upon arrival we saw a blow up slide in the shape of the sinking Titanic as well as a bouncy house. When anything includes a blow up slide in the shape of the sinking Titanic, I really think that nothing will go wrong.

Titanic in Sevilla?
Titanic in Sevilla?

The festival wasn’t very big but it did have trinkets from all over the “world”.

Ok, I hate to be a skeptic (no I don’t) but these truly were just Spaniards selling trinkets that were probably made in China…or wherever Spain gets its mass produced trinkets. Maybe the guy selling the Moroccan things was actually from Morocco but he may be the only guy selling things that were actually produced in the country they claim. However, let’s be honest, I don’t care where the trinkets came from because, hey, bitches love trinkets.

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Morrocco

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In addition to trinkets, there was food. What do bitches love more than trinkets? Food.

There was a Musical creperie…the crepes were fantastic but I think it was just because the workers were so happy to be making crepes.

French Crepes
French Crepes
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Crepe makers
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Creperie Menu
At last, a delicious chocolate crepe
At last, a delicious chocolate crepe

We also got some Russian beer! Amazing.

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Not to mention there was some U.S.A stereotyping thrown in, which is always fun. ‘merica.

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BBQ, hamburgers, chicken nuggets and french fries? Hell yeah. I had already had a crepe so I didn’t get to sample the American meal. They had a BBQ cooking, no, it didn’t smell like a real BBQ or look that great but they tried and that’s all that matters, so I’ll take it.
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All in all, this festival was really cool and it was so fun wandering the world in search of different foods and trinkets! If you get to Sevilla in the next couple weeks, you will have to do this and let me know if you try the “American” food!

Katelan

Everyday challenges that I face in Spain

Everyday challenges that I face in Spain

Simple things somehow have become complicated tasks

Let me take you through the challenges that this little American girl faces on a normal day in Spain.

First things first, how do I get into my building/my apartment?

You must enter your building, good luck figuring which key to use and you better make sure that you are in the right building (I swear all the buildings and doors look the same, Mariclare agrees, click here to read about her experience looking for her apartment in Sevilla). Anyways, once you are in your building you may get stared down by your portero, that’s normal, just say “hola!” and continue on your way. Then go the right way down the hall way, find the elevator and choose the correct floor!

Left or right?
Left or right?

Then find your door, mine is floor five door two right, what does that even mean?! It’s whatever, but I definitely couldn’t tell you how to write my address on a piece of paper. You found your door but the trick now is to get it open. If you choose the right key to open your door and you are golden! Otherwise you may be at the door a while testing keys, move around a bit so that the motion sensor light doesn’t go off. Also, don’t accidentally ring someone’s doorbell to turn the light back on. Last but not least, turning a door handle to open the door is not an option. It’s just not.

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You have to open the door, without turning the handle?

Why can’t I make the shower the perfect temperature?

Showering used to be so simple. I used to turn on the water and the water stayed the same temperature until I changed it. Now, I have two knobs and I have to turn them both and it’s just not that easy. To me it seems logical that if you turn the red knob a little and the blue knob a little they will make the perfect temperature. False. The hot water fights with the cold water ensuring that the water changes temperature while I am showering. Lovely. One day I will get it right.

My shower
My shower

All I want to do is charge my phone!

Plugging things in. You can’t just plug in American things. Did you remember to bring all of your adapters and converters? I did!  Why can’t everything just go straight into the outlet?

Plugs and adapters.
Plugs and adapters.

Then I need to wash my clothes (That is a weekly task here in Spain)

At home, I do the laundry once every three weeks or so. Here in Spain I don’t have enough clothes to last me that long so I do laundry weekly. This part of the week is time consuming, however, at least I now know how to use the washing machine. Detergent, laundry softener, in the metal thing, close it, turn the knob, press the button. Similar to washing machines in the USA but the set up of the machine is just…different.

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My clothes go in there?
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How do I start this machine?

My clothes are clean but how the hell do I dry them?

Oh yeah, I have to tender my ropa. That means you have to hang it on the clothes line (outside) to dry. Cross your fingers that it isn’t going to rain soon! Also, find someone to show you how to do this the right way. Apparently you have to put the clothes pins on the ends of the blankets so they don’t slip down…duh…?

Tender la ropa? What?
Tender la ropa? What?

P.S. have you bought sheets in Spain?

For some reason decently priced sheets feel like sandpaper. By decently priced I mean anything under 30 euros. What ever happened to great sheets from T.J. Maxx for cheap prices? Not an option! At least not that I found! Also, if your bed sucks and you want a mattress pad that will cost you too. Maybe if you get a really comfy pillow and a down comforter it will make up for your crappy mattress and the springs going into your back.

My new comforter and sheets!
My new comforter and sheets!

All of those challenges were just inside of my own apartment…then I have to go out into the world (There are always always a lot of people out there too)

Back to the basics, How do I get out of my building/apartment?

Uhm, hi? Where’s the door handle?

Leaving my house
Leaving my house

Where is the metro?

If you make it out of your building, you probably want to go somewhere. Probably you want to go there by metro because it’s most economical and relatively fast. By relatively I mean it’s faster than walking…Find your metro and choose where you want to go!

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But how do I even know where I want to go?

You have to look at a map…weiiiirdddd. No, no, this is not like a car. Once you get on you are committed to that direction. Choose wisely.

In this direction??
In this direction??

How do I get out of the metro station?

When you first leave the train you can follow all the people. They all know where they are going and no they don’t have to read the signs to know. They just know. For the rest of us, maybe just me, we look at the running man. He leaves all metro stations so that you know how to get out. However, in many metro stations there are multiple exits, so at last you will see a sign pointing left or right. How do you know where you want to go? Sometimes it’s easy because the street you want will be on the sign. Most of the time it’s not that easy. Not to mention, I am sure you didn’t look ahead of time to see which metro station exit would be most beneficial to you. So really, just exit to whichever exit sounds nice and then you can ask someone where to go once you make it to the street.

Follow the green running man to exit!
Follow the green running man to exit!

So, you have ventured though the metro. Maybe now you want to go to the grocery store?

Which cheese is the one that I like?

Semi-curado, curado, oveja, cabra? I just want some mother fucking Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese and maybe some cheese curds from Culver’s. Done and done.

Cheese selection
Cheese selection

Why do I have to weigh my own produce?

Which fruit is this? Am I allowed to lie and say that my peaches are actually oranges so they can cost less? is this an honor system?

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Why aren’t the eggs in the fridge? or the milk for that matter?

My Grandma would not approve of this.

Eggs, not in the fridge?
Eggs, not in the fridge?
Milk, just on a shelf?
Milk, just on a shelf?

Then I want to use basic functions on my phone…

iMessages cost extra?

That’s dumb.

extra charge?
extra charge?

Saldo? What the fuck is that?

You can’t just call people without paying per minute? That’s also dumb.

Wait, wait, my phone died and now I need a PIN code to access my SIM Card?

Life sucks.

SIM Locked?
SIM Locked?

Do you face any problems like this on a daily basis? I wish you all the best with your daily struggles. I will just be here trying to figure out my life. Thanks world for hating me.

Katelan