I won't be doing many more posts from Spain I suppose. I will miss the place. Run-down, chaotic, smelly and disorganised as I can be, Spain has suited me well. :)
Every time I look up something about Barcelona I end up at some sort of travelog type site which more often than not has complaints about the rudeness of hotel staff, the long waits at cafés, the way people walk into you in the streets, the strange odours wafting from every drain and subway, insanely dangerous building practices... the list goes on.
The very things that annoy everyone else about this place, I have come to love in a short time. Staff are not rude, they are just finishing something else. They'll come and treat you like they have time for no-one else and nothing else in a moment if you wait and smile when they approach. The long waits at cafés are to allow you to rest and bide your time. You're in a café! People walk into you because they are busy, the streets are bustling, and hey, if they bump into you, you get to talk to them AND have some physical contact. The smells from underground remind you that this place is evolving. In 20 years time it might be so sanitised that the character is washed away, like Milton Keynes or something. Sorry to the people of MK for this, but, really, what are you doing there? The only hope you have is to make your own smells to put the character back in.
The insanely dangerous building practices - when I first arrived I opened an account at Barclays Bank just off the Passeig de Gracia. The new office was opening later in the week, ON the Passeig de Gracia. You could see it being finished off. Later that week I had to go and collect my bank details, but no, the branch office was shut, so I went to the main office. Still being built, so where do I get my bank details? I have a job starting in a week! There was a guy hanging off a scaffold with a drill, bits of stone and sparks flying off it, right over the entrance. The scaffolding was teetering on a plank of uneven and recently rotted wood. The whole looked set to topple through the glass entrace to the bank at any moment. No-one in their right mind would have walked UNDER the scaffold.
I stood for a good 10 minutes watching, working out where the back entrance was, hoping for some clue as to how to get my bank details AND retain my life. Finally a man in a suit walked casually through the door without looking up, and continued on his way. A minute later, 2 others. These were clearly customers. I ventured inside, ducking low, and there was the lady who had served me previously, with my details ready.
For anyone who has thought "bloody Tony Blair/George Bush/Gordon Brown/Nanny State" in the past months/years (delete as appropriate), this is the kind of freedom we could be enjoying! Also consider that Spain has one of the highest death rates from car accidents in any given year however, and think where you would rather be on the curve. I'm in 2 minds. I've really enjoyed being in Spain, but I am in one of the major cities, which is supposedly quite sophisticated. I don't think I would want it less so however.
There are regular power cuts, my neighbours are loud and ignorant to our pleas of peace, parties go on around us until the small hours, and they don't bloody invite us. This is not something I could cope with permanently, and although it still feels like I am leaving somewhere I call home, it will be good to get back.