Smoke gets in your eyes

Greetings, All

It’s been over a month since my disastrous arrival in lovely Barcelona. The good news is that life has gotten much better.

My hand is still in a cast, which I hope will come off this Wednesday, when I see a hand specialist. MRIs of the hand and shoulder have shown no need for immediate surgery, so that I can wait until I return to California. The broken bone in my hand has mostly healed, but there is still a torn ligament. The bleeding in my shoulder has left a rather large bruise, but the bicep tendon was only partially torn.

I’ve explored Barcelona somewhat; but I’ve been working a lot of with my consulting client, since we have two projects due by April 30th. The people here have been much more gracious and welcoming than the Costa Ricans who hosted me during my time there.  Part of the reason is that, as we know, Europeans are more cosmopolitan and accustomed to other races and cultures; the other is that I don’t stand out here as obviously “other”. I no longer have to worry about unwittingly offending people every time I open my mouth. It’s much more relaxing.

The food is wonderful and wonderfully affordable. I can sit it a café and have a meal with wine and coffee (American) and pay under $20. (FYI: American coffee is espresso with twice the water and in a larger cup. Before I learned this, I was brewing and drinking large cups of espresso, the only coffee I could find, and giving myself stomach cramps.)  

Due to the language barrier between Spanish and Catalan, every time I order something, I get something quite different.  Those of you who know me know how conscious I am of what I eat; here, I treat each meal as a surprise and eat what I get. I’ve eaten more potatoes in the past month than I have in the past ten years. A tortilla is a large pile of potatoes; a French tortilla is an omelet, etc. etc.

Many years ago, I traveled extensively in Asia, where rice was the primary starch; in the US, it’s potatoes. So, in parts of Asia, potatoes were considered a treat. I bought a set of coffee mugs shaped like potatoes which said, “Happiness is a lot of potato.” I still have them and, during every meal here, I remind myself how happy I am.

My only serious complaint thus far is the cigarette smoke. Yes, smoking here is ubiquitous: young people, old people, rich people. It’s inescapable. I remember in the 70s that Europeans smoked, but I falsely assumed that they’d gone through the same transformation as Americans did over the past 50 years. Now there are laws that people can smoke only outside public places, which ironically gives them the best seats. The whole city is full of outdoor cafes, where one can sit and view the beautiful city and watch the people. However, it’s hard to enjoy this important ritual when the people on one’s left light up and blow smoke and then the people to the right do the same. I grudgingly go inside to eat, only to see an employee on his break standing in the doorway and blowing smoke into the interior. Walking to the supermarket, I can smell the smoke of the people walking in front of me or sitting to the side. It’s appalling. I guess that living so many years in mostly smoke-free environments has made me overly-sensitive. I’ve been congested for the whole month I’ve been here.

And let’s not forget that Barcelona is an urban environment with lots of traffic and pollution.

It’s sure is pretty, though. And affordable.

I was lucky to be invited to a fabulous restaurant with exquisite Catalan dishes, including some strange little pointed peas cooked in octopus ink. Yes, it was delicious. I owe my brother thanks for this, since he introduced me to a local lawyer who invited me to lunch.

I have a couple of friends here, connections from friends in Palm Springs, who have invited me out a couple of times. They recommended the area I’m in, and they were right. However, it’s hard to check out the rental market here, because, like most places since the pandemic, apartments have gotten more expensive and only last a couple of days on the market.

This week, I’ll be going on a couple of tours, one of the city and another of two nearby beach towns, which are also options for me. The air is bound to be cleaner, and they’re a 20-minute train-ride from Barcelona central. It’s amazing to see Roman ruins here, and one of the beach towns I’ll see on Thursday was a huge Roman city hundreds of years ago.

So, that’s a brief synopsis of what’s going on. I’ve gone native by hanging my laundry out to dry (in the hallway). As in Costa Rica, most people have washers, but dryers use a huge amount of electricity; so people have hanging racks. Because it’s winter here and the apartment is heated, everything dries quickly. For sheets and bigger items, I go to the local laundromat, where I look for a place to sit without choking on smoke. 

Did I mention that people here smoke?


At least there’s Amazon Spain.

Until next time.