Musings, writing

Little pieces

I’m riding a train this morning to work. Not the subway but an actual train from Philadelphia to NYC. It brings back potent nostalgia for Barcelona.‬

When I was a teacher I would take a regional train from BCN to Molins del Rei. I didn’t mind the commute, in fact I got excited every time I got on the train. I got excited because I was SO new that I could feel myself getting better every class I taught.‬

I also loved the small amount of money. I can’t remember but I think it was about €60. I got paid daily, in cash. The day that it was enough to cover rent that month, felt like such an accomplishment: one more month I could make it as an immigrant.

In the United States right now that can be a heavy word, immigrant, but to clarify my circumstance: I moved to Barcelona with two suitcases of clothes, a good amount of savings and a plan to support myself teaching English. I used my savings, taught English, but was unable to secure a visa. So, being undocumented really limited my travel. I couldn’t hop around Europe as I hoped, but Catalunya was enough for me. I also couldn’t go back to the USA until I was comfortable with the possibility I’d be barred from coming back to my new home in Barcelona.

When I filled my envelope under the mattress markered with RENT, the rest was mine. Each day I went to work was another 40 to 60 euros for cheap beer, jamón serrano, galletas Principe, wine, subway tickets, pay-as-you-go cell phone “top ups.” They had ATM style kiosks around shopping centers where you type in your phone number, insert the cash, and then your available balance on the phone gets updated. Wow.

So, each time I got on a train I would look out the window and soak up the sequence of quotidian landscapes. I didn’t know how long I would be there. Each day was an exciting step and I just wanted to keep going.

I can’t help comparing this feeling to present day. Now I ride a train and feel that nostalgia, but rarely look forward to work. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the daily reward and the Pavlovian effect has worn off. I definitely need work to pay the bills, but it’s no longer a day-to-day survival. I also don’t feel that daily progression that I did with being a new teacher. Now I work with a big company that only dares take incremental steps toward some undefined goal of “generate more money/customers.” Most employees aren’t needed for a specific day like a teacher is required each day for a class to happen. My work is spread out over the course of weeks, months, and then I don’t see a final result sometimes for a year.

There isn’t an inherent negative to taking the long view. In fact sometimes it is most valuable. [The Long Now Foundation] I also recall feeling a little lost in Barcelona, taking life in little pieces, with no idea how they added up to a big piece or what the next big piece should be. I’m sitting here on the train again, no longer at a loss for the big pieces, but missing the delight of the little ones.

Perhaps writing is one way to get them. Actually writing this very message feels like mixing the pallet of big and little, but to get meta about it, the act of writing is small in itself. I like that.


An expensive taste of Barcelona! Worth it. I loved how everything was in Catalan!


El Born



Girona is a beautiful, ancient city just a short train ride (about 60 miles northeast) from Barcelona. One of the major Catalan cities, its quiet demeanor and graceful structures make it feel like a small, quaint town. I’ve visited a couple of times, and after going to the Cloisters Museum in New York, the parallels of art and architecture reminded of Girona. A snippet of history and wiki link follows the gallery.

Here is a sizable gallery of photos I dug up from my trips in 2008 and 2009 — 

A brief history
The first historical inhabitants in the region were Iberians; Girona is the ancient Gerunda, a city of the Ausetani. Later, the Romans built a citadel there, which was given the name of Gerunda. The Visigoths ruled in Girona until it was conquered by the Moors. Finally, Charlemagne reconquered it in 785 and made it one of the fourteen original countships of Catalonia. Thus it was wrested temporarily from the Moors, who were driven out finally in 1015. Wilfred the Hairy incorporated Girona into the countship of Barcelona in 878. Alfonso I of Aragón declared Girona to be a city in the 11th century.


Punt de reflexió

What are you missing? What can you spare?
Barcelona, Spain

Musings, Photography

Point of Reflection


Unemployment in Spain / El paro en España

An animated infographic about unemployment in Spain. The narration is in Spanish, so I apologize if you’re missing out. If you ask nicely, I suppose I can update this post with a translation of the author’s description or narration.

Description: El paro en España es un drama que ha conseguido colocar el desempleo en niveles récords en términos absolutos. Datos tan demoledores como una de cada tres personas está sin trabajo en el sur de España o las preferencias de movilidad geográfica entre unas zonas u otras, crean un mercado laboral muy peculiar.

El volumen de ofertas de trabajo presenta cifras muy dispares de unas zonas a otras, al igual que también existen determinados puestos de trabajo con capacidades de contratación muy altas, sobre todo en técnologías de la información, telecomunicaciones y comerciales.

El vídeo que hemos preparado en Actibva ha sido realizado por Vostok; un maravillosos estudio de estrategia y diseño de productos digitales con sede en Madrid y Tokio.