Hi all, this one is a big post.
(April’s 15th) I’m writing this as I take a beer on a street coffee right around the offices of Regus near the center of Barcelona. I will write about regus on the next post. I went there to see this business lounge but after being there a while and since it was sunny and I didn’t have to work more on the computer I went outside to enjoy the pleasant afternoon. I’ll be traveling to Lyon later today, at 11pm, through iDBus, which goes for 35€ and has wc, wifi and power sockets besides being more spacious than a regular bus. I found it a very cheap ride so I bought the ticket online instead of searching for trains or blablacar rides that would take me to France.
But this post is about Madrid, so let’s talk about it a bit. The only trip I had actually scheduled was the flight from Lisbon to Madrid in the past 8th of April. It was a very cheap flight with Iberia, about 55€ with all included, that took about 45min to 1h, so I guess it paid off very easily, because it took me about 3:30h to get from the house of my friend in Lisbon, embark to Madrid, arrive and be in the center of the city. I mean, it actually takes less than it did to go to my polytechnic in Tomar from my house in Ferreira do Alentejo on Sunday’s. Once there I took a coffee and smoke a cigarette while I was waiting for Marina to come pick me up.
I’ve met Marina while doing a Leonardo DaVinci at Padua, in Italy. I was working there in the studio of Luca Masará for about 3 months. She was doing an European Voluntary Service (EVS) there as well, but stayed quite longer than I. So when I started thinking about this trip I talked to her to see if there was a way for me to stay in Madrid. She’s 23 and lives with her father and younger sister but we stayed at her grandmas house, Fernanda. She comes to visit and stay with her sometimes so it was easier than staying at her place. She’s currently unemployed, pretty much as the generality of young people in Spain, but she does voluntary work with a Scouts association in Madrid, preparing activities and working as monitor on their camping trips, while taking courses and searching for things to do. She studied “Social Education”.
When I met her I’ve felt a great affinity and we spent some nice time in Padua, going out to some bars among other regular things total foreigners do when they meet and don’t know anyone else. We had a group of people, if we can say so, that went together sometimes, for dinner, exploring the city, traveling to other cities and enjoying the beautiful places you find in Padua. We now speak italian because I don’t speak proper spanish, although I understand it very easily if spoken at a slower pace (not slow to say so, but when spanish people talk with one another they can easily spew words quicker than a machine gun and for someone who doesn’t speak the language regularly it becomes hard to follow).
We went to her grandma’s house to leave my backpack, I was in need of a shower because I carried some weight with me to say the truth. We then had a great lunch, that her grandma had prepared, it was like a welcome treat, meatballs with pasta, a delicatessen made of a kind of paté wrapped by salmon, olives and salada. I have to say that after the lunch I was more into taking a nap than going for a walk – that’s how good it was – but we ended up deciding on spending the afternoon walking the city, because the weather was really sunny and warm.
We took the bus from the neighbourhood where the house was – La Elipa – to closer to the center, where we then walked to El Retiro, a beautiful and gigantic garden in the middle of Madrid. I have to tell you, Madrid is hot and a bit polluted. It’s not that you notice it right away but when you arrive closer to this garden, which is unfortunately the only one of this size there, you can actually feel the air become fresher and cleaner, that says a bit about Madrid and Marina complains about it, it was one of the things she mentioned right away. She says she wants to go live in the mountains in a near future, as soon as she is able to save some money, which is difficult due to the crisis and all the current unemployment there.
Of course we walked through El Retiro while keeping up with all the news in each other’s life because we didn’t really talked since being in Padua. You could see people with towels on the grass enjoying the sunny afternoon, jogging, doing skate, canoeing in the lake, walking their children, eating an ice-cream – just like we did – or doing exercise in the part of the garden that has equipment for it. El Retiro is the favourite place of Marina in Madrid and it was also one of the things I enjoyed more there.
We also saw Palacio de Cristal – Crystal Palace – an old greenhouse all made of glass set up on an iron structure. It has been remodelled and now hosts exhibitions, it keeps most of it’s original traits, while having been repurposed. The one we saw wasn’t very conceptual or such and I think it’s designed more to give an excuse for people to go there and enjoy the beautiful building – did I mentioned it’s hot as well? – we stayed there for a while and then continued to the city. We went through some parts of the historic center, smaller streets, we saw the vertical garden in Caixa Forum and then took the metro. Marina hates the metro and I can understand her, the air is a bit oppressing and once again a bit hot, when you get out you just feel the freshness. I have to say that to me the weather was almost as full blown summer in Lisbon, with the difference that it was early spring here. I don’t wanna go there during summer, that’s for sure.
Even though I feel the city is a bit polluted I enjoyed it, it felt familiar, not completely strange and it seems easy to move from one place to the other. I didn’t felt the metro and buses to be overcrowded and although the country is still in what we call a deep shit crisis, that the government tries to hide through statistically mathematics – counting people in precarious and small jobs as being fully employed – it still felt good. I’m not sure I would feel the same if not for Marina’s company and her grandma’s sympathy, but hey, what can I say, that’s how I felt, good.
One of the things I really think the spanish do more and better than the portuguese is self organisation, they have much more anarchic and left-wing movements. These take street action seriously and organise from strikes, to occupations to marches and street demonstrations. Police brutality in Spain is quite serious when compared to countries like Portugal, where we are much more calm (and I don’t say it in a good sense, it’s almost as if we are much more inert than our spanish and catalan counterparts). I think it’s a remnant from Franco’s dictatorship – there’s a tendency to authoritarian government from a big part of the population but as so there’s also the inverse – They call freaks, rastas and the such as Perroflautas (which means dogs and flutes – it’s funny somehow ‘though). One would think that Spain being right next to Portugal and both making up the Iberian Peninsula, that we would have more connection than we actually do, but to speak the truth it’s not so.
For instance when large sects of spanish population were fiercely demonstrating on the streets of Madrid and being repressed quite brutally by the police force, we didn’t see a new at all in our national Tv. Which I find is amusing because when a few demonstrate in Venezuela it fills our broadcast waves throughly. We also don’t hear talking about lack of democracy when it’s that situation even though I somehow think that this kind of repression is quite more anti-democratic than what we actually see in Venezuela for instance.
I can understand it of course, it’s simple in a sense. They talk about austerity and the over-spending of the southern countries, which is true, because our political bodies have actually over-spent the money that have been given but also, the spirit of entrepreneurship is different in these catholic countries than in the protestant ones for instance. I know many examples of badly spent money back in Portugal and the ease with which this money was given but not applied where it should. And when we talk about corruption in the latin countries we have to take that into account, many times corruption is not only the direct stealing of public money by the political actors, many times, since the money that comes directly from the European Union has to be distributed through projects and such to the ones that will use it, and since the decision of who gets the money is done by political bodies (or bodies of decision than can be easily manipulated) the money goes to many projects that really don’t have much reason to exist.
Many times the way to get financing is so overshadowed by bureaucratic smothering, that you really have to have the money to start a project, pay counselling or know someone in the “business”/“system” to get yours through and ahead. It’s the same with the system of Public Private partnerships in Portugal, where the State (that our so called-liberals attack so vehemently) assures the private investment in case of failure, missing of deadlines, extrapolation of budgets and so on, taking all the risks (many times it’s not risks at all it’s just agreements between influential actors in both sides of the partnership) and the private sector puts on it’s money and efforts without risking anything at all, because they are guaranteed by the oh-so-bad social welfare state. And it’s this hypocrisy that really pisses me off. This is not entrepreneurship, this is not the private sector risking and creating richness by taking risks (which I think is quite a fair deal – if you take the risks to make an idea happen then you should be rewarded economically when you have success).
But enough of rambling about politics and economics for now.
I slept very well while I was there. We went out at night two times, we had dinner in a great spot in the center of Madrid in La Latina neighbourhood, where Maria (a friend of Marina) joined us later on. She’s very funny and speaks a lot (in a good sense). She has also been in some occupied houses in Madrid but after being expelled from the last one she went back to her parents house for a while. We talked about that and many other things between sips of red wine. For dinner I had a mizu soup with tofu and a potato tortilla, that was just delicious. Really, I thought I had eaten great tortillas before, but this one was just yummyyyy.
On another day we went to see Lavapies, which is a very heterogeneous and multicultural neighbourhood in Madrid. You see a lot of foreigners, africans, muslims, south-americans, indians and so on. I liked the aura around the neighbourhood, I never felt unsafe, there was a lot of people on the streets, there were a lot of cheap places to eat foreign food but since we had lunch already we just went to an italian gelatteria – although the owner is an Italian as Marina told me – and the ice-cream was very good compared to regular ones, it was still not the same as in Italy – believe me, if you like ice-creams you have to go to Italy, they’re worth the trip alone ahahah. I ended up not eating much of it, because when we sat at a square two small kids came to us and asked for a bit, which I gave to each one, mouth-fed with my spoon and then they came back for more. I forgot to take a picture of them.
In Lavapies there’s also an occupied house in front of which we were for a while but we didn’t enter. I guess I have to start being more intrusive when I’m visiting. It’s been changing in the meanwhile though. You’ll see in the future posts.
I think it’s enough for today. I think Marina is also writing something for me to publish, accompanying other photographs I’ve made.
I can tell you I’m loving the full manual work with my d600! It starts to feel much more natural and I think my subjects are converging in a sense. In the end it seems photo-journalism is something I like. While I was taking my 3 year degree on Photography I never liked photo-journalism (doing it not that I don’t like seeing it), I always went for the conceptual part of photography, thinking about creating the frames which I would later capture but I’m enjoying it a lot now!
For you to know where I am right now, I’m currently finishing writing this post while traveling by bus from Lyon to Paris. It went like this, 3 nights in Lisbon, fly to Madrid, 3 nights in Madrid, blablacar ride to Barcelona, 4 nights in Barcelona, bus travel in idBus from Barcelona to Lyon and 3 nights in Lyon (ps: but as of now, I’m already in Paris after being in Lyon).
Keep tuned in ! Smile and go for it, whatever it may be that occupies your mind, it will go just fine in the end.