Once again, the last handful of days have been this crazy, somewhat foggy whirlwind of a ride. It’s funny how this place has grasped (might be the first time I’ve ever used that word) both of us so firmly.
Before we came out to Barcelona, a friend of mine asked me a simple question, ‘can you tell me what is it about Barcelona that makes it such an amazing city for you?’ He had just come back from a Mediterranean cruise. I thought he was questioning my decision to pick Barcelona as our home for the coming years. What he was saying was that he simply couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was that made him feel so good about the place.
Since then, I have been constantly asking myself that question. It has really gotten in my head. He’s right, there is no one single thing, like the weather, or the food, or the beach, or the women. I have been wanting to say it’s all those things and a bunch more piled up into a ball. But it seems like more than that.
Halle has been making plenty of friends at school and seems a bit aloof about getting some of them together for social events. The, ‘I forgot to get her phone number!’ line has been spewing out of her mouth a lot. I think she has been used to me handling the initial contact in the past and now it’s all up to her. Spoon feeding the growing up process has turned to a fire hose around here. And despite regular miscues, she’s shoveling as much as she can in and asking for more. Despite having a few wonderful sets of friends back home, of which she had the opportunity to video chat with on Sunday, she is working on a great set here as well. It was just a matter of time.
I do think though that her positive exterior is showing a tiny bit of wear and that I would be lying if I didn’t think she missed things a bit. As I run around here, trying to build our life, seemingly ignoring her at every turn, I am constantly checking her for the slightest signs. It’s hard to tell whether she is just sometimes tired from the lack of sleep, or whether there is a bit of home sickness going on. Probably both, if I’m being honest.
But if I really put the thought to it, she is probably just a little sick of having to have a 45 year old dad as her almost sole interaction. Once she gets her friends cycling through her life and into her lifestyle, I will be long forgotten. Here’s to that day.
For me, every day is an adjustment towards the new way. I was running early in the morning a few days ago and realized the comment from a bunch of my friends that nobody wakes until 10AM around here was a blatant lie. This place is more like Vegas than Maui. This city never sleeps – and 8AM is no exception. From our location at the beach, I can beeline my way directly away from the beach and end up in the hills in about 5 miles. It is relatively flat and gradually increases to a steep trail climb. But, I have to get through traffic to get there, and I mean tons of it. There’s no sleeping with anyone. They are all up and either in their cars, scooters, or on foot, heading to wherever it is they seem to be going. Once again, with one real thing missing; anger. Just a million ants sent to task, each playing a part in a greater good, and determined to play their part without pissing anyone off.
Ohhh, and the cafes. Every third store is a cafe. Seriously. When people say the food is great, I have figured out why that is so. I have the answer. Ready? Competition. That’s it. There are so many damn people making food and drink, it has to be good if they want to stay in business. If not, I’ll simply go next door, or the next door, and the one after that. But, once again, most of the good cafes have one basic component, good people.
My real weakness in coming here had to be the language. I have always been weak in language. Somehow, through my travels, I have been able to get by without having to really sink my teeth into the language. That’s the primary reason we picked two years or more for our stay. No escaping it now.
I’ve figured out one thing in learning the language. People here to serve are really tolerant of my crappy mix of Spanish and Catalan. If you didn’t know, both Spanish and a freakish border hopping language called Catalan are spoken freely and exclusively around here. English is around, but more rare than you would think being such a large tourist spot. I’m not sure if this is a good thing, but as I am essentially learning both at the same time, I can’t really tell the difference. I have a feeling that when I come back…let me re-phrase that, IF I come back (sorry Cara), people are going to give me a dog’s twisted head look when I speak Spanish to them. And they’ll all say the same thing to themselves, ‘what the hell did he just say?’
Oh yeah, the people that are not here to serve (ie. government type folks, and those that couldn’t care less whether I exist or not) are NOT really tolerant of my language skills. As such, I have found the need for advisors, translators, and agents. I have found a couple of people that in and of themselves are wonderful people. But, as I have designated them with the sole purpose of helping me communicate, I am reserving more personal experiences for later, when I get a few things done.
Sergio has acted as my ‘oh shit! I can’t understand a word this guy’s saying! Quick! Call Sergio!’ guy. And he has taken to the role quite kindly. Despite being a super cool guy, I must admit, it’s all business right now.
Mireia is that wonderful lawyer I met recently who is helping, no, guiding me through the legal process around here. As I try to figure out how exactly to stay here, rent an apartment, buy a scooter, buy a car, etc, there are certain steps you must go through to have the necessary paperwork, ID numbers, official stamps, bar codes, and so on. I figured I was just a dumbass and didn’t read the instruction manual. It turns out, nobody has it. If fact, I don’t know that anyone has ever written one. But people like Mireia, and there are very few like her on this earth, instinctually know how to navigate their way through the constantly changing process. But she has one special quality that makes her better than anyone; she truly loves what she does – and it shows.
She is one of those people I want to just give a big hug to the second I see her. I figure I am just going to owe her one any minute now and that’s usually the case.
OK, so I’m the master, frugal, over-thinking, gotta get the best deal shopper around, right? Most know that. Imagine me starting over in a foreign country with all new stuff to buy. I left nearly everything behind. Liberating, but now time consuming. Ouch, the brain cramps I get these days are gnarly. Turns out, what I think is the best scooter for the price out there may be different from the next guy, but I’m happy. The Aprilia SportCity One 125. Italian made, not Japanese reliability, but style for days, a personality, and plenty of pony-like pep. The place I attempted to buy it from yesterday – they didn’t speak one DAMN word of English. Dude, not one. Pain and frustration was forced out and patience and effort was in if I wanted this ‘moto’ as they call it.
Cash always works too. There we were in a Mexican standoff. ‘OK,’ I say. ‘Me gusta, OK?’ ‘Si,’ he says. And we stare. I’m screaming to myself, ‘now what?!?’ He’s screaming to himself, ‘now what?!?’ I know, call Sergio. So I do. I fill Sergio in on my plight, he offers to help me close the deal over the phone. Trust me, the formalities and paperwork are going to be scary. Before Sergio gets to talk with him, the guy decides he’s given up and moves on to someone else. OK, patience. That’s what this experience has been all about. I decided to wait it out. I have no other choice. I headed to the bank and got CASH. Like I said, cash works. By the time I got back, I was armed with a cell phone of a Spanish/Catalan speaker in one hand, and a serious wad of cash in the other hand.
Done. I am the proud owner of a brand new Aprilia moto complete with two brand new helmets and a bunch of cool addons. Now the complication. He keeps barking about me needing an ‘oficial direccion’. WTF is that? Sergio doesn’t know either. Either way, it’s going to take a few days to get all the paperwork complete, so I have a day to figure it out. Hah! Mireia.
She just finished getting me my NIE today, and as I am walking out of the moto dealer, I get an email saying she just picked up my NIE and has it in her hand. By the way, that’s an ID card you need to buy anything of significance. Not so easy to come by if you are an English only gringo like myself. Unless you have Mireia in your corner. Then, instead of getting one (IF you get one) in 3-5 weeks, you get yours in THREE days. Yeah baby.
So, fresh off the NIE victory with her, I asked her about an ‘oficial direccion’. She says in an email, ‘meet me at the town hall’ at such ‘n such address tomorrow morning and ‘I will register your apartment with you so you are then officially registered with an address. That’s what he’s asking for,’ she claims. I guess I didn’t read that one in the manual either.
Either way, problem solved. Moto owned. Only with great, great people in my corner am I able to get this done. I am fortunate in that, without them, we would certainly have been sent packing. Instead, with my increased confidence, I am going to take on buying a car today. This place rules. By the time Halle’s mom and my buddies Jeff and Mike come next week, we’ll be completely hooked up. Yeehaw.
I have a million other things to talk about, but this has already gone on way too long. I got on a roll, sorry. Tonight maybe I’ll write more. There are more people to add to the list that are helping me through this maze; my next door neighbor Anna, the bar owners Dennis, Rimbo, and Eric, Halle’s busmate’s parents, and many more – each with great stories. Some other time.
Pictures next time. Sorry.