Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Life's Little Lessons
These first few days in Barcelona have been something of a baptism of fire. They have also taught me several valuable lessons, which wil stay with me for the rest of my life. Firstly, NEVER try to outdrink an Australian, and NEVER EVER try to outdrink two Australians. The €2 vodka shots bar, where everything comes with a slight taste of lighter fluid because they like setting things on fire and chucking cinnamon into the flames over here, taught me this lesson the hard way last night. With 500 different flavours to choose from, we were rather spoilt for choice. We opted for such classic shots as the "Bin Laden", the "Golum" and the "Teletubbie" (which resulted in one of the Aussies yelling "I went to Barcelona and I did a Teletubbie!" at random points during the night), and then made the mistake of asking the bartender to "surprise us". I dread to think what was actually in that shot glass, but from what I could make out, it was whisky, tequila and the tears of a thousand orphans. Still, with the drinks prices in the next bar as high as they were (€5 for a beer? A terrible, Budweiser-in-a-tiny-bottle beer? I think not), we were glad to be able to save some money in there. It seems that Spanish DJs have some deep-rooted objection to putting one song on and leaving it to play all the way through. So, about 30 seconds into Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (we were busting some serious moves to this as well), we went, less than seamlessly, into some Pendulum. We grew tired of elbowing fat Brazilians in the ribcage (Barcelona is apparently the European city most like Brazil, so the Brazilian presence here is massive) and stumbled back around the corner to the hostel. My second life lesson is te one which has caused me perhaps the most problems when trying to get my uni registration and accommodation sorted out: Barcelona shuts at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. No official buildings are open, most of the shops are closed (although some do reopen at 5, for all of two hours) and you find yourself wondering what the people of Barcelona (and indeed Spain in general, this is by no means a local phenomenon) need three hours every afternoon for? If people actually worked for these three hours, maybe Spain's economy wouldn't be in quite as much of a state as it is. Apparently though, doing very little all morning (I was in a faculty office this morning, where instead of helping students, staff were sat staring at monitors for computers that weren't even turned on) is so tiring that they need a rest in the afternoon. Aww, bless. In practical terms, this means that one is obliged to get up ridiculously early (not easy in a hostel where you can't get to sleep until gone midnight), do everything you need to do in the morning (again, difficult when you have to walk across the city, stand in a queue, only to be told you're in the wrong queue in the wrong department, and that the department you want is back where you just came from) and then be bored out of your mind for the afternoon. I have taken to just wandering aimlessly around the streets in the afternoons, working on the theory that the infamous Barcelona pickpockets will have exhausted themselves by picking one person's pocket in the morning that they feel they need the afternoon off to recover, ahead of another hard morning's pickpocketing the next day, thus allowing me to get totally lost without having to worry about mysteriously losing the contents of my pocket at the same time. I have yet to see most of Barcelona's more famous sites, however I am now very well acquainted with the port area (absolutely nothing of interest here, but I took plenty of photos of that nothingness just to make sure). I plan to rectify this by doing one landmark for every month that I'm here, in order to spread things out a little bit and keep it interesting. Either that, or I'll do some of the paid ones when people come out to visit (for they WILL visit), and we can go and see stuff together-these things are much more fun with other people, much like drinking and pretty much everything else under the sun. Incidentally, the sun has made a welcome return to the sky today, after the horrendous thunderstorms which came along while I was busily buying beer and bread (I can tell that these two things will be my staple diet). Running from doorway to doorway in soaking wet clothes, carrying a bag that was more full of water than shopping, all while wearing slippery flip-flops and lamenting not even having packed an umbrella is not an experience I would recommend. And there is life lesson number three: no matter what the guidebooks say about its consistently good weather, Spain is like the rest of the world-it can absolutely heave it down with no forewarning whatsoever, and it will always happen when you are least well equipped for it. And I shall leave you with that deep and meaningful insight.