It wasn’t until mid-March that I began walking to the bus stop in the morning without my mittens. Whoever told me the weather here is like L.A. has either never been to Barcelona or never been to L.A. Anyway, as the season changes, I am hoping so do the zorro boots. If I come home with a pair you can shoot me. But this is one Barcelona fashion I don’t get (over the knee in front, flaps in the back.)
Today I took and passed my written exam for a Spanish driver’s license! On my first attempt. This is a minor miracle in that I picked up my books two weeks ago, skipped the 16 hour training course and basically memorized 158 pages of 9 point typed information. On this test you not only answer questions about driving a car, but about driving a motorcycle, riding a bike, driving a tractor, detailed first aid, automobile maintenance, pollution, every side effect of every drug recreational or otherwise and all kinds of other gobble-di-gook. On top of that, when taking the test in English you must also learn the Spanish driving authority’s bad translations so that you have a chance to understand what they are asking you about. I’m guessing that the only reason I passed this test is that I got into a big fat fight (in Spanish...you know I don’t speak Spanish yet, right?) with the two exam supervisors about a question on my test that had absolutely no correct answers. After 10 minutes of discussion during a 30 minute test, they cross-checked the Spanish version of the question, then disappeared into the back room. Reappearing to say, you are correct, please choose this wrong answer on your test so that you get it marked right. Since I did not know the answers to five other questions, and you are only allowed to miss three, it seems like I passed to prevent any further trouble from the American lady.
When we moved here, we had lots of warnings from friends, travel books, co-workers that the tourist areas are rife with pickpockets. I had been told not to worry ...that the aim is to steal your money, never to physically harm the person who gets robbed. Spain has the highest unemployment in Europe and people are desperate. Recently, I had been newly warned to not only use a purse with a long cross body strap, but also to wear it under my coat (what about summer?).
Yesterday as I was leaving my house, I noticed that my next door neighbor’s girlfriend had left her purse on the ground in front of the door. And wide open with the wallet right on top. I guess, needing two hands to operate the lock, and in a rush to get inside (think...get to the toilet!), she forgot she put it down. We live in a nice neighborhood, but I was very worried for her that even a few minutes outside might not be safe. I rang the bell, I knocked, I rang the bell again. Nothing. So I took it inside and called my neighbor at work. Oh, no way it’s hers, more like someone just got theirs ripped off. You see, here in Spain, we have a custom that after the money has been taken, the purse is abandoned somewhere very visible, where it will be safely found so that all the personal items can be returned to the owner!
Well, we have been here four months! After a little bit of living, I can tell you that the only thing that is cheaper here than in Portland is a loaf of artisan bread! For one Euro you can buy a handmade baguette from a family run bakery. Every thing else cost more, more and more, more, more.
By Maia Pay Ozguc
Barcelona Impressions. Be curious. Be present. Be Barcelona!