Barcelona, November 9th, 2011.
The sun is shining in through the various windows in this high-ceilinged café on the Rambla de Raval.
I just came from the second-hand-washing-machine-shop where I bought my beloved/veryhated washing machine when I moved into my apartment in July. It is certainly not my first visit back in the shop since I bought it, and most probably (but really hope not) not my last.
So the technician gave me a long lecture on washing machines. In the typical Barcelonian way...not unfriendly at all, but really, a no frills-approach to communication, devoid of all gentleness and politness, straight to the point. "I tell you how it is, and you listen, and then we continue with our lives".
It used to schock me a bit, this way of talking. I used to feel slightly stepped on, as if people were unfriendly to me. I even ended up crying at times for not feeling welcome here, feeling as if people were treating me like shit, like I was a stupid foreigner. (there is even a term for it, so it exists! they call us "guiris")
Well, they probably are thinking I'm a stupid guiri, and yes, they probably are less friendly to me than to their "own" people. Catalan people are not exactly known for their openness to other cultures. On the other hand, it's not like I'm a refugee who NEEDS to be here because I would be shot for my political opinions back home. Nope, quite the opposite. In Sweden I have a job, where I am appreciated and welcome, always and at all times. Actually, now that I think of it, I have two jobs, that I would probably be able to come back to in a second, if I wanted.
No, I don't NEED to be here. Nor do most of us foreigners here in Barcelona, Catalunya. It's a choice, and it's from a place of free will, a place of "I want" and "I desire". We followed a dream to come live in a more creative place, more cosmopolitan, and with a much nicer climate than the one we come from. (climate in this case I guess could be applied to all societal terms, such as geographical, political, social...)
Yes, tougher. Less naive?
Then there is the job-situation.
What the hell....?
Why are we here, we said?
For the art, culture, cosmopolitan, climate....UNEMPLOYMENT???
There are more than 20% unemployed people in Spain. Most of these people are young.
So why do we choose to come to a place where the options for work are so limited?
I guess we didn't come here for the money. We came here from a different kind of life, where we had money and security and central heating and all of that jazz, and we thought it is not "it". Life has so much "more" to offer, in terms of climate (sun), health (social life, beach, sea) and spiritual health (manana attitude, slower, no stress).
But the realisation I have had here is quite shocking, more so than the rudeness of the Catalan people.
I realised, that the worry of not knowing what is gonna pay the rent, how I'm gonna put food in my belly, and always feeling guilty when sending an SMS, tears me up a thousand times more, than being tired and stressed from working too much.
In fact, when I have no job, it's all I think about. The money.
This is something I always observed keenly in poor people (I'm talking REAL poor people, not just dream-tourists to Barcelona) in third world countries. They were so occupied, on a daily basis, with where the food and the survival would come from, that they had no time to think about social health, stress-free living and sunny days. They have no anorexia, detoxing, binge-drinking, mild depressions...etc.
When we are busy, each moment, with survival, there is no time for being bored or looking for "more" in life. Art, social life, beach, nice shoes...all of that becomes something unimportant. First of all, we need a job. We need to know where the money comes from. Second, we can look around us, and choose what makes us feel good in life.
I spent a few days looking at job-sites. I sent my CV and a photo and a personal letter to around 50 employers, looking for employees. All were unqualified jobs, fit for a guiri like me, such as hotel-cleaner, house-cleaner, office-cleaner, waitress, barwork, babysitter, personal assistant, and then I sent an email just for the hell of it to a photographer who wanted to take nude pictures.
From all of this, I recieved two (2) answers.
1. The photographer. He sent me a link to the work of an established photographer in Madrid, with an example of what he wanted to do. The link showed incredibly sexy women, bodies covered in oil, inside a small "cube" made of wood, in yoga-like positions. Naked, completely without body-hair (all of it) and in positions that were sort of like contortions. The photographer who wanted to do this work offered me up to €100 an hour. I googled his name and email address and could not find any info on him whatsoever.
2. The personal assistant job. A woman who wanted me to be her personal office assistant. She could never meet me, because she was out of town all the time. She "owes" an art gallery in Australia and one in the US and she sells art online. I only had to recieve and send packages until the 30th November when she would return to Germany. Would this be OK? Then, when she returned to Spain on the 30th of November, we could possibly meet. I would not have to take any money from my pocket, she would provide me with everything, and detailed lists of what to do. She offers me 450 dollars a week for this. "Not a bad offer, is it?"
Am I being overly suspicious if I think that number 1 wants to fuck me and number 2 wants me to smuggle drugs?!? Somehow, I don't think so. I think I am completely right.
Conclusion? Well, it is hard to get a job, indeed. Criminal activity is easier to get into. Selling sex is the world's oldest profession.
I think it makes me tougher, being here. I don't cry anymore when a Catalan person treats me like shit. They actually don't, now that I look at it with a few more months' experience. They only tell it like it is. They say it, no frills, no polite bullshit. I talk, you listen.
I also think it makes me more aware of the complexity of this world.
The development and evolution that happens inside a person, in a society, and in a country, with the varying levels of money and economy.
This weird thing called money.
How much it affects the psychology of man.
How incredibly weird, this thing called money.
I love the Indian saying that talks about when all the natural resources are gone, we realise, we cannot eat money.
A "developing country", struggling to get to where the "industrial" countries are. Kept alive by an illusion that "everything's fine over there".
An "industrial" country, trying to get out of the stress, dreaming of manana attitude, beaches, sunny afternoon and una cerveza, por favor.
It's like a cycle, going round and round. When we don't have it, it occupies every moment, even our dreams. We struggle to get it, and to know it will come from a safe source. Once we have it, like for example in Sweden, it takes us a few years, or maybe a few generations, to realise it does not make us happy, and so we go look for other kinds of happiness.
There is always a disbalance in each human being regarding this struggle. The problem is not the unemplyment or the stressed typical western person's life- the problem is much larger. It's the fact that there is money. That we are not using our indisvidual resources as the exchanging mechanism. That we do not want to share the resources of this planet (which indeed has more than plenty to go around for us all)
It's a fucked up world, I tell ya. And in Barcelona the fuckeupness becomes really clear.
On the surface, a beautiful city, absolutely perfect for tourists, especially those from a colder, more orderly organized, more centrally heated culture- where they can enjoy the manana, the sun, the una cerveza por favor, culture/art/bla bla. Gaudí, wow. Beaches, wow. Architecture, art, tapas, wine...wow.
On the other hand, a city built on dreams. People from all over the world, coming here for different reasons. People from really poor places such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and several West and North African countries; in many cases having arrived on a boat, in search of a better life, consisting of food in the belly and a place to live, and hopefully money to send home to the family.
And then the people from the really rich countries (in comparison) such as the US, the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Holland, Germany etc etc, landing en masse in the El Prat Airport, in search of a life more filled with social fun, art, sun, relaxation, and in "search for themselves".
Only to find ourselves in this place, sharing the space. Realising that to barely make enough money to just pay the rent and put food in our bellies, might not be worth it. We miss our families and friends. We feel outside of this Catalan society. We have to create our own groups to belong to.
Most of us just keep on doing it. That's how life is, right. We gotta keep on moving. And we move in circles, according to our socioeconomical conditioning. In a fuckedupworld, where some of us are starving for food, and some of us for sun and sleep.
How incredibly fucked up, when there actually is enough of it all, for all of us. Because after all, man created all of this. Thanks to nature. To our innovativness (is that a word?)
Thanks to cooperation, to friendship, to imagination and ideas. WE did it.
Money didn't do it.
Money was and is an illusion, the illusion on which we have built out lives.
Some would say we wouldn't work hard if there was no money, that society wouldn't work if there was no money. I say there must be another way. We must be more evolved than this. We are, already.
Barcelona is the proof.
City of dreams, city of fun, city of sun. City of poverty, longing, outsideness.
Barcelona, on a sunny day in November, Raval.