Archive | Daily Life

My neighborhood music

Posted on 14 July 2010 by American expat!

 

On any given day in the summer, I am treated to a cacophony of street sounds.

I live directly above a narrow passageway (it’s actually a street, and small cars do go down it, but not often. The street was built centuries ago so it’s quite narrow and twisty in places). My building is 6 stories and each floor has two apartments, except the top floor, which is part roof terrace for the whole building.

Sounds from the neighbors echo against the buildings as do noises from the park just around the corner, which is more like a dirt plaza surrounded by apartment buildings hundreds of years old. Some of the more common sounds I enjoy (or not) daily are as follows:

Toothless crazy lady

TCL lives across the street and up a few doors, one floor lower than mine, standing at her balcony squawking obscenities at the Pakistani owners of the corner shop and all who go in and out.  Her rude, grating voice carries as if it were amplified –  she yells from her diaphragm yet still is able to project the volume through her nasal passages.  This begins at 11am, will break for a few hours around siesta and dinner time, and continues on until 2 or 3am. Nightly.

Firecrackers at all hours of the day and night.

They are enjoyed and set off by tiny children to adults. The number and frequency increase depending on which of the hundreds of festivals are in effect, or how FC Barcelona is doing in a futbol match. If FC Barça are doing particularly well, firecrackers are not only set off en mass in the streets and plazas, they are throw out of windows at passers by.

Note: if a Futbol match is indeed in progress, The neighbor man across the street punctuates the plays with a stings of praise or criticism at the top of his voice. If Barca scores a goal, he will run out onto his balcony (occasionally in his underwear if it is hot) and jump up and down with arms raised high.

Children play heated matches of futbol in the park weekday mornings (which is why it is a dirt plaza. No watering system means no grass.) It’s not as bad as it sounds, I think the kids are a bit older so there isn’t the usual shrieking that accompanies young children getting excited and/or upset. The layered shouts and calls of the match echo off the walls and drift over to my open bedroom doors. This, with the rising heat of the day, makes for a pleasant waking in the summertime.

The guy next door neighbor singing loudly in English. Fortunately, his voice isn’t too bad. Unfortunately, the songs are usually horrible 80s pop tunes. This usually happens late night for my evening entertainment.

Parades

Any given parade could be happening at any time, on any day of the week. For example, the other Thursday evening, around 5pm, GP and I were returning from a bike jaunt in the mountains in his van. (He keeps his van across town in a narrow parking garage under an apartment building my friend lives in – but that is another story). The main road to my place was closed because there was a pirate parade (Yes. As in the “Arrrrrr” kind of pirates).

Another ridiculous example: I heard a drum-line heading down the street a random Tuesday afternoon a few weeks ago. As joined the other neighbors looking off their balconies to watch, several Gigantes (giant paper-mache people) appeared in my street. Shortly, two Gigantes were positioned to face each other while people milled around and the drums continued. Then a couple of men popped out from under the robes of the giants and milled around as well. Finally, the men climbed back under their giant’s big skirts, hoisted them onto their shoulders (presumably), and left the street while my neighbors looked confusedly at each other.

Giants are under my balcony!

And lastly, bands playing in front of the Santa Caterina Mercat, 3 mins from my place. Outdoor are stages set up in any given plaza, park, or square in Barcelona for free, public music performances. These continue until late into the night, 1am during the week and until 3am on weekends.

Let me epilogue this post with this: I love that I can walk down my building’s stairs and instantly be in the middle of everything – the old and new mix together in a wonderful sensory experience that is difficult to capture in words, but I am attempting to capture some of it here, little by little. Where I live sounds like a noisy place, and it is. But it is full of life and excitement and new discoveries every day.

And if it gets too noisy, I can close the hundred year old wooden and shuttered glass doors to my brick and mortar flat and the outside world fades away.

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A Tip for Your Next Move

Posted on 28 April 2010 by American expat!

Should you find yourself moving across town, here is a helpful tip:

Try to hire a car that is NOT the smallest in the world. Say, one that fits more than a bag and a pair of sneakers in it.

This will save much driving back and forth between residences and avoid the multiple frustrations of one way streets and incomprehensible traffic signs that flow traffic in ever tighter circles around your destination, but that never lead to your destination.

It will also save 100 bicycle trips across town for the person who does not fit in the car.

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An open letter to Spain about winter

Posted on 18 March 2010 by American expat!

Dear Spain,

Would you stop with the winter already?  There is a reason I did not move to Austria or say, Finland. And you know what that is? I HATE BEING COLD. I hate it so much, that after skiing my entire life and 20 years of snowboarding, I’m now OK if I never touch snow again. Seriously.

Spain, you are not equipped for cold weather. There just isn’t the space or ventilation for it. The bars are too small and there are no smoking restrictions so when 300 people are jammed into a place with a capacity of 40, and 299 of them are smoking, it makes breathing a little difficult.

What I find especially spiteful is how you tease us with a day of sun or two, that has us sweating in the park while playing ping pong  (and ping pong isn’t exactly anaerobic), only to lure us down to la playa along with the 700 thousand other people who have been absolutely pining for Spring, and then commence in blowing arctic wind across the sand and boardwalks and blast it in our hopeful faces. I can hear you laughing, Spain. It’s not cool, not cool at all.

But what I really want to kill you for, the absolute icing on the cake, was what you did two days later after one said day of sun! Friggin snow. For the first time in what, 40 years there was snow on the ground? Seriously.

See this photo here. This here is my sun terrace. For sun. Not for collecting snow.

And this here? Is the park. The one we were sweating in two days earlier. Oh, and in the distance is the SEA. But you cannot SEE it in this photo because of all the SNOW falling.

So here’s the deal, Spain. Get your act together or I swear to god I am moving back to Hawaii where I will never have to wear pants again. And the day I get there I will strip naked and frolic in the 88 degree weather in FEBRUARY (hopefully without getting arrested) and then I will eat a mango and pass out on the beach.

I’m leaving for Italy until you warm up a little, then we can discuss your decision.

Me

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Moving around

Posted on 07 March 2010 by American expat!

 

I have to move again.  No, I’m not moving back to Italy, I’m just moving house.

I am leaving a great place, right next to the Parc de la Cuitadella, 5 minutes walk to the beach and 5 minutes on a bicycle to the center. It also has the best views in Barcelona, being on the top floor (or Sobre Atico, which means like top penthouse). I share it with three other people but have my own bathroom – very rare – and very appreciated since two flatmates are boys.

This room was sublet to me, and now my friend who owns the lease on the flat has moved back to Spain. It was his room I rented, so I have to go – that was the deal. (Though we never thought he would be back this soon).  He is now staying in the living room, waiting for me to leave. I kind of want to make him live in the living room for as long as possible – months even – for kicking me out. But his crap is all over the place and I have to walk through it to get to the kitchen (which, while working, is often) or leave the house (sadly, not as often because work is very busy and intense lately and I must feed my brain plenty of sugar, coffee, tea, crackers and yogurts to keep it happy).

Here are the grand views I have had for 5 months:

Sunset from my terrace

My terrace

View around the rterrace corner

View from my bedroom

My flatmates have an even more amazing view from their terrace:

Parc de la Cuitadella

You cannot appreciate views like this until you have seen (and especially if you’ve lived in) one of the dark, sometimes windowless (or interior windowed, meaning your windows open into the staircase, elevator shaft or onto a dark airshaft) flats of which there are many. It’s too bad- I only had this place for the fall and winter, and it’s a VERY cold room in the winter. There is no central heating in any of these old buildings, no insulation, no seals on the windows…so you buy an electric heater and sit in front of it to stay warm. Having a shower is a pretty cold affair, especially since sometimes the hot water only lasts for 4 minutes. (I have been showering at the gym all winter, where it is warm).

But I am not complaining at all, this was a great place to live and with great flatmates for the most part. Oh there is always the trash and dishes that pile up and the usual annoyances that come with living with other people. And the occasional “who used the last of my milk?!”  But mostly it has been fun and interesting.

 

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Dog friendly Spain

Posted on 04 November 2009 by American expat!

Spain is ultra dog friendly – dogs join people eating outside at restaurants, in supermarkets, on the beach, and walking around town – and 50 percent of the time they are not on leashes. They are well behaves poochies and they are clearly well loved.

At my new gym yesterday, which is in a larger complex with a cinema, I found this sign:

This makes me love Spain even more. Anywhere that has a hitchin’ post for dogs is a place for me.

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