Thursday, April 18, 2013

Three Years Later...

I've been having a recurring dream of sitting at the terrace of a cutre bar with no name on the corner of Via Laietana and Plaça Urquinaona. I drink a beer and people watch with the cast of characters I met living there as time passes slowly.

Then I wake up at five am, until last week, go out in the snow flurries and ride a train for forty minutes to work at a nonprofit dedicated to youth, student & educational travel, WYSE Travel Confederation. In the streets of Amsterdam, I hear more Spanish than Dutch, loudly cursing the long winter that ices canals. ¡Joder! ¡Qué frio, coño!

Most Spaniards seem to be recent university graduates looking for work. Some are street performers with long, dreaded mullets and their pack of mangy mutts, wagging their tails, happy, at roaming a new territory. In my office we've had three Spanish interns, two returned to Barcelona. They reported the experience helped them buck the odds and get decent jobs back home. The other, a Basque girl, stayed. She tells of the large Spanish speaking community in Amsterdam, many engineers waiting tables at the litany of Tapas Bars. She says, those who lack the English skills, look more and more to Latin and South America for an opportunity. None imagine going home anytime soon.

The city where I live, Alkmaar, also celebrates a siege, every October 8th, when, in 1573, the city beat back the attacking Spanish forces, making the turning point in the 80 Years War. Victory is in the city´s motto, the name of its park. There is no national holiday or flag waving, just a fair with a carousel. The end of Nazi occupation is a day off every four years. I might be wrong. It might be five. My three floor townhouse sits where foreign invaders once camped, bogged down in the land flooded by Dutch Rebels. People in coffeeshops say you can hear the lispy ghosts of Spanish soldiers on a North Sea wind. Barça shirts decorate the bedroom windows of blond kids around me, along with wooden models of Dutch clipper ships.

The second edition of the book is generating some positive reviews, (here, here & here about midway down). The general consensus seems to be that the stories show the dark side of Barcelona. I dunno. I'd say more gray. It's available on Amazon, but support independent sellers and visit Sant Jordi is just around the corner after all. 

The sun is out for the first time in three days, the rays feeding the grass, currant bushes and flowers in the small back garden. I'm home on short vacation, my wife an daughter dancing the night away at La Feria in Sevilla until Saturday, as I recover from a bout of strep throat. Our cat, Rembrandt, soaks in the warmth near the patio door after a night spent carousing the hood. The big question today, just after the third anniversary of leaving Barcelona, is whether to ride my bike into Alkmaar and get a caganer tattoo on my left shoulder from an artist, hailing from Santa Coloma.

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