Barcelona – disgustingly beautiful

24 07 2005
After my little refection i went for a walk down to the barcelona beach. Two things really struck me. Firstly how homogenous it was. It was very very very similar to the beaches in thailand. All along the side of the road were people sitting on the ground with a groud sheet of goods, (fake gucci sunglasses, beads, jewlery and all kinds of crap that people don´t really need). They were exactly the same kind of goods in exactly the same style in thailand, the only difference was that instead of being served by a poor asian they were serviced by poor africans. Even when i wen´t down to the beach it was the same, african men walked between the european sun bakers yelling out "Beer, coke, fanta, ice cold!" exacltly the same as the Thai´s did on the resort beaches. I called over one of these men and asked him about his job, he worked 9 hours a day walking up and down the beaches in the 30 degree heat saying the same thing, and hoping that the weather would be hot so he could sell more beer, i asked him how much he made and he told me 20 euro´s. Ok can you support a family like that? "no not enough money for a family i live with other workers from the beach 3 in the same room". I decided to buy a drink, though i wasn´t thristy. The difference betwen thailand and spain is that i could live for a king on Aus $30 a day, whereas here in Spain i´m scrapping by on $90 a day (30-40 on accomadation). So in real living terms these people were very very poor. At least in thailand there was enough margin in sales for the workers to live, but in an expensive city like barcelona, these people would have been worse off than the Thai´s. So while the beutiful people (and i mean gorgeous) sun-baked these workers walked around serving their whim for a drink. Some of the sun bakers would make fun of the drink sellers, mimicing their broken english and accent.
The other thing that struck me was that i was more interested in thinking about this situation and reading my book on liberal economics than i was at looking around at all the beautiful topless women everywhere on the beach! (what the hell is wrong with me?).  Thats right, for those of you who don´t know in europe everyone sunbakes topless. But their were plenty of other guys doing just that. The whole scene struck me as gross – the men perving on the girls, while they drink beer from the poor beer sellers men, the rich girls lazing around naked getting massages from the poor massage-service women.
On the way back to the hostel i was walking past the rug sellers when a cop car was stopped at the lights, the cop decided to get out of the car and all of a sudden, all these africans had folded up their rugs of goods and were running for the hills. It took about 4 secounds and all of a sudden there were about 60 sellers, with gurs full of goods over their shoulders high tailing it! The cop walked after one but couldn´t be bothered running and got back in his car and drove off. Before he was even out of sight the rugs were back on the groud and the sellers were rearranging their goods. It was almost comic.
I walked around barcelona that night not out to have a good time but just observing the city.
I watched a bag snatchersitting in in an internet cafe (easy enough to spot as he was in front of a computer but was not logger on, I decided to observe him. I  watched him walk up to grab the bag (i then foiled him by yelling out) and he walked quickly out.
I watched two cops beat a man in front of a restaurant – you could see he wanted to hit the cop back but he was too afraid.
I was offered hash 6 times.
I watched as the drunken crowds did the universally ugly things that drunk people on the town do.
I watched the same poor pakistani´s now out at 1am in the morning trying to sell beer to the foreighners who they hoped would be drunk enough to buy it from them for slightly cheaper than in the club (these guys were everywhere)
I looked at the large number of dirty homeless people begging, or stoned out of their mind.
I talked to a man working in a shop that sold swords, and knives (open at 12pm on a saturday night in the middle of the city) he told me he worked a 14 hour day and made only 1 euro an hour. I was incredulous to this but i had enquired he hadn´t offeredit. I talked more to this man and he told me he works 14 hours a day so he can live. He says his boss makes him sign a sheet saying he payed a certain amount of money and then gives him much less. He has to stand most of the time he is working, because the security camera, is focused on the till. This is because it´s not checking for shoplifters, but so the owner of the store can check to make sure that the worker is standing up and serving people. He tells me he must stand for most of the day and shows me the injuries on his legs which hurt while he works. He lives with 3 other men in a bedroom and their is only enough room for the beds in the room, the are all working in similar conditions. He has been in spain 3.5 years and it has been like this, though he hopes it will change in a few months when he tries to change jobs. I ask him out the front of the store and once out of view of the camera offer him some money, he thanks me but refuses telling me that it is ok, and that he is living and that he can eat. (but he told me he can´t afford to eat after his 14 hour shift, only in the morning. Apparently it is not the same for all spanish workers, but for many imigrants it is like this.  
Barcelona is a beautiful city, filled with beautiful people (muscley bronzed men, and lithe spanish women) but scratch the surface and this beautiful city has an ugly underbelly. The different worlds of the rich and poor living in the same city is stark.
I will remember that night much better than if i had of gone to one of the kicking clubs in this paradoxical city…



One response

27 07 2005
How youuuu doing

I\’m proud of you. What you wrote was really beautiful and it\’s good to know that you can appreciate more than just beautiful topless women. I mean…who needs that right…

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