The message in our lift: "No es permet fumar
Generalitat de Catalunya
Departament d`Industria i Energia Ordre de 30 de novembre de 1984"
Today I am in sky-blue socks, orange shorts (you know them) and bright yellow tshirt. Its because the house is like that! I would guess it has to go with the image of Barcelona (the interiors of Almodovar, you see), but in fact it is all Ikea. Anyway - I like colors so I like the appartement. It has one long corridor which connects a dark room of double-levelled beds on the inside of the building with another very bright and bigger room which has one more bed like this and is also a cross of a living room and a kitchen. It is on the block corner and has several large windows, in fact - doors - leading to the typical barcelonian parapets, balconies with zero-depth. (which is quite nice!)
The view all around is absolutely mirracullouous!
The appartement is in the Raval which contains poorer traditional local people (well, coming from England I need to outline this, since, there the traditional and ghettoish neighbourhoods are of foreigners), at the same time somehow mixed with gypsies and immigrants. The american girls were reading the other day in their "Europe - A Guidebook" that it is a neighbourhood one should avoid later at night and should be alert during the day. I dont know if it meant exactly that but indeed in a period of 20 minutes I was almost ran over by a bicyclist, a motorcyclist and a skateboardist - all of them driving well over the city speed limit in a busy "pedestrian-only" street. I also came across the gypsy trash-market and the prostitute street where intensive eye-catching, eye-winking and eye-popping goes on!
On the wall of the next house:
"No mear, vivimos aqui!"
"La impieza es siñal de civilización
The streets are tiny. When you come out on the "balconette" the house against is standing only 3 meters away. And it is like an entire new universe in front of you! The typical heights are 5 or 6 floors, we live on the 4th. Sometimes there are two-three more floors on the tops of the buildings withdrawn away from the street, like towers built additionally. They look as if there live the poorest who never go down to the streets and have their own little town up there.
That universe is one of tons of washing hanging off the balconettes, dark holes of open doors luring the eye, and patchy movements of people crossing inside that you cannot see. Most doors are open but have very long blinds reminding me of oriental rugs (черги) thrown over the parapets to let the wind in but stop the light. The still air is layered by an undiscernible mixture of cooking smells that probably has ancient origins - the oldest ingredients might have been aging here for hundreds of years undisturbed by wind!
"No mear, gracias. Don`t pee on the wall.
"Esto no es un wc No mees en la calle!! Gracias"
The street down below is filled with a happening. During the baking hours of the day children are noisily playing and adults are moving around with small shopping nets. In the early evening as the light grows grayish and the temperature pleasant, the activity below becomes more sedentary. People sit down on cafe tables or simply on the pavement edges chatting, the dogs are fighting despite the shouts of their masters having beer nearby, the women constantly fretting and adjusting the washing, now linger for a bit longer on the balconies. The clamour is enormous and comes from all directions. Tonight the street children got a pack of bombs - it is impossible to stay in the kitchen or one will get deaf. The people below do not seem bothered by the explosions - the jazz tunes continue from one of the block entrances with occasional sessions of clapping by the public compressed in and around the entrance.
The bedroom, on the other hand, had only two very small fogged windows which open to "inner yards" inside the buildings, or rather shafts. The smell is of a seaport, and indeed one of the shafts has a meter of water at the bottom. I was thinking these manmade crevices might be something used only seasonally - maybe the smell disappears during the winter for example - however many windows were open even now! A young spanish woman was washing the dishes in the window frame just across me.
Later I began sleeping on the coach in the kitchen-living room with all four balkonette doors open. I felt the same freedom as when sleeping in the fields! But this time sleep was interrupted by human noises rather than wind and rain. At 5 in the morning a car was loading bread from the downstairs bakery.
I was afraid I might get addicted to coffee as it was my only means to stay alert at the lectures after a series of nights with meagre sleep. The course was scheduled impossibly early - at 9oc which meant I had to get up at 7:30 to have the first cup of coffeein a proper fashion (so that the owners dont look down on me) in the cafe on the boulevard corner and then get to the university which was quite far from the city center. And I never got to bed before 3-4oc. The first night we just excitedly talked in the beds with the two american roommates, english teachers in high school, 25.
I must say the few americans I have met so far contradict entirely the established image in Europe! They all have been very intelligent and very widely educated people that was very interesting to talk to! or, since many of them were older and of higher status than me, professors, etc. - mostly - to listen to. :)
The next three nights felt strange put next to each other - the first we went out with the american girls and another very cool housemate, he was from Marseille and was looking for a job here. The second night - with him and three italian girls from the appartement downstairs who were looking first and foremost for some sexual adventures, and the third night - with the professors from my course. I am afraid I enjoyed the last the most. :O (am I getting old too?). We had a locals-led tapas tour, basque cidra, and lots of interesting stories, bits and traditions about Spain, Catalunya and Barcelona! Lots of delicious food and interesting alcohol in a succession of very colourite places! The guy who organised the workshop was really great, unfortunately he was just about the only local who took care to entertain the foreigners (we were only three students + the two lecturers) - the spanish students always quickly switched to spanish language and effectively isolated us from any conversation. This seems to be a general feature since similar situations repeated when I was later in Madrid. In the hostel environment also we always learnt more about other foreigners than about the country we were in...
Hopefully, next time I will know enough spanish to take part in the local party, and not only copy the messages on the wall, he-he. ; )