Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

The trouble with paradise

14 Aug

Fleas and Dogs on the road. Cambodia.

We lay on our beach towels dreaming under the sunlit trees. This was our recovery day, from discovering secluded beaches, hiking through tropical forests and snorkeling off tiny islands.

J: See that man.

I prop myself up on my towel. A European man, overweight with dark hair and in his late thirties is trudging by, dressed in a red T-shirt, shorts and baseball cap. Behind him walks a slight, young Cambodian boy, between 10-13 years old.

J: They’ve been together for the past two days,

Once you see them you can’t unsee them. It’s a small island and a smaller village. Invariably the quiet pair will materialize, laboriously walking through the sand, unnoticed by the young travelers playing in the sun. I point them out to another island friend, M.

M: Ahh that’s sick. Ah I hate seeing that stuff, or hearing about it. Man, I don’t want to think about it!

He storms off.

The one thing worse than being a pedophile in paradise is being a downer.

There is no police presence on the island. Guesthouses don’t ask to see any I.D. Local men lounge about in comfy chairs, bare bodied and bored, drinking or arm-wrestling while waiting for their next boat tour hire. Out-of-money travelers sleep on the pier undisturbed. Nobody forms an authority and everybody does what they want. This is the hidden utopia on the edge of civilization, with all its freedom and all its danger.

I go online and write down the hotline number for Child Safe Cambodia, but then don’t know what to tell them. There is a man on the island who I’m sure has hired a child prostitute for the week?

J: Let’s follow them. Maybe we can get a moment to talk to the boy, or even listen to them talk. If they both talk the same language, then maybe they are related.

Me: And maybe we can find the guesthouse they are staying at.

We try to follow them but lose them. Another day J sneaks up enough to overhear the boy speaking French.

Me: Okay, so maybe he is a child living in Europe. Right?

Neither of us looks convinced, but almost want to believe it in the face of our impotency to stop anything worse. From the moment J pointed them out we had taken to eyeballing the man. He knew we were watching.

Soon the day to leave arrived. I was preparing to get the ferry when they walked past. His eyes went to the backpack on my back. A look of relief crossed his face and perhaps even a little triumph.

In that moment I knew that all our speculations were real and yet none substantial. I still can’t pick up the phone and report a look of triumph on a no-name man at a no-name guesthouse on a tiny island in Cambodia.

Child safe Cambodia

How do you solve a problem like Abeya!

26 Jul

Fleas and Dogs on the road. Thailand.

I´d fled the seedy red light district and landed in a local young blood’s bar close to the backpacker street. I was finally making my way back to the guest house after the stools had been put up and the lights switched on.

I noticed a figure sprawled against the curb at an awkward angle. This didn’t look like a street sleeper, more like someone passed out. I went around to the other side of the body and saw a giant vomit trail.

Okay, first thing to do was check the breathing. Still breathing. She was a girl and a local by the looks of it.

I shook her gently, ‘Hey, hey, are you okay’. A wail was my answer.

‘Do you want a taxi?’

‘Waaaaa yesssss!!!’

‘Okay, do you remember where you live?’

‘waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa’

‘Okay, we´ll get you a taxi’.

There were no taxis on this street.

‘Look, I think we need to walk to the end of the street, there are lots of taxis there,’

‘waaaaaaa   noooo, I’m sorryyyyyy waaaaaaaa’

What’s your name?’

‘waaaaaa  Abeya….waaaaaaaa’

‘It’s fine sweetheart, you’re just a little drunk. Not a big deal. Just sit up, drink some water and we’ll get you in a taxi.’

‘waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa’

(Oh god please help me!)

‘C’mon, up you get, up up up, upsy daisy!’

‘waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa’

Another tourist stops: Is she a tourist?

‘No I think she’s local.’

He makes his apologies: Sorry I can’t really help you.

I let him go. No point in two of us being caught with the weeping mess.

I try to get the neighboring bar staff to help me. They give me the bright vacant smiles I’m coming to recognise in the hospitality industry here. It’s just as bad as the camarero scowl back home.

I heave her up in to a sitting position and prop her against my legs. As I try to hand her a bottle of water she retches a fresh batch and slumps to the ground.

‘Waaaaaaa I’m so sorrryyyy!’

‘It’s fine, you’re just drunk. Just try and sit up for god’s sake!’

(Finally, I can speak to the younger generation from a position of experience.)

I pick up the Blackberry clutched in her soggy hand. There is no key pad lock. I wipe it clean and start dialing all her last dialed numbers, particularly the ones that say ‘fam’ as a prefix. God only knows what it really means in Thai.

One woman, called ‘fam:Jim’, finally answers.

‘Hello?’

‘Hi, do you know Abeya?’

‘Yes’

‘Can you come and get her?’

‘Er, no. No!’

‘Well can you contact her friends or family to get her please?’

‘Er, who is this?’

‘Look can you come and get her please?’

‘No’

‘She’s very drunk and in trouble. If you don’t come and get her, she’s going to sleep in the street  tonight.’

‘Oh my god!’

Suddenly a girl in a  red dress appears in front of me.

‘Oh my gawd, is she okay?’

‘Hey! Do you speak Thai? Speak to the lady on the phone please.’

‘I know her’, she says pointing at the prone figure of vomit soaked Abeya.

‘Great! Speak to the lady on the phone!’ I shove the phone in her hands.

‘It’s fine, I know where she lives’ she  gives me her assurance.

I turn around to find two local young men lounging against the barrier along with another young lady, looking down at Abeya in the peculiar disinterested interest only teens can summon.

One of the young men: ‘Oh my gawd, did you like, take care of her? Wow thaink you sooo much!’ (What is this? Thai hipster?)’

‘Well not really, …. (she’s still lying on the street in her own vomit), but here you can take care of her now’, I shove the packet of tissues into his hands, and the bottle of water into his companion’s. ‘I’m so f*****g glad you turned up!  Bye Abeya!’

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! I’m so sorrrryyyyyy!!!!!!!

 

p.s: Fleas and Dogs is on the road again.

 

filename-khaosan4-jpg

Reasons to love Barcelona: Bar loo surprises

25 Jun

Oh hello! Sorry about the wee!

2014-06-20 23.57.14

Sex, Drugs and Dodgy Accounting: Spain’s New Growth Strategy

23 Jun

Prithika:

I was going to write a piece about Spain’s new GDP accounting, but this guy says it better than I could.

At first I thought it was a great idea, but it turns out that although Spain is going to use the boost in figures from reporting prostitution and drugs in the GDP, they aren’t actually going to legalise any of it or give sex-workers any rights or protection.

This smacks of big boys playing little boy’s magic tricks again. “Where’s the coin? Is it in my hand, or behind your ear? Surprise! There were never two coins to begin with, I just moved one coin around so quickly it dazzled you!”

Woah! Bravo!

Didn’t we ban these magic tricks after they created the crisis?

 

prost bcn David Palacios

Originally posted on Raging Bull-shit:

Spain’s miraculous economic recovery is a mirage, a collective delusion concocted in the fevered but highly imaginative minds of government ministers, economists and accountants, and then projected on to the mass consciousness as official reality.

When it comes to creative accounting, few can hold a candle to the country’s finance minister Cristobal Montoro, who this week unveiled his latest scam scheme to “grow” the economy: namely to include prostitution and illegal drugs as part of its gross domestic product. This new accounting gimmick will add 20 billion fresh new euros to the country’s GDP — equivalent to a two percent boost. It will also automatically lower the ratio of public debt to GDP as well as the budget deficit, thus making it possible for Spain to “meet” the Troika’s deficit target of 6.5 percent.

The reason why this is necessary is that, despite brutal cost cutting, tax hikes and other forms of…

View original 1,167 more words

Return of the body snatchers

27 Mar

This isn’t about Barcelona, but it’s one of the most fascinating talks I’ve heard this year.

Watch it if you like zombie body guards and mind control. I particularly like the brain surgeon wasp who unchecks the ‘run away’ button. Horrific beauty and ghastly tales!

 

 

 

sticker,375x360.u2

Seeking a good-looking man in his 40s who rides a green Honda scoopy

1 Mar

HTC, the Taiwanese manufacturer of mobile phones and tablets is looking for a friendly local man who helped their CEO Peter Chou get to the Mobile World Congress on time.

On the 24th of February, Peter Chou jumped out of his taxi stuck in a traffic jam and asked the motorist zigzagging through the cars if he would take him to the conference. He very nicely agreed, and dropped the CEO off, refusing all offers of money and telling him he’d better run to catch his appointment.

It’s small. It’s trivial. Yet, it’s sweet. An act of kindness from a stranger.

If you are the motorist, or know someone who drives a green scoopy with a yellow licence plate, Peter Chou would really like you to get in touch. Email them at info@htc-one.es . 

 

scoopy_green

 

More on the story here.

Congratulations to Barclays Bank and the Mossos of Barcelona

20 Feb

Starting at 12:00 yesterday around 25 vans full of riot police (reports put the number of police at around 300) with the help of an extremely-cheap-to-fly helicopter invaded the squat and social center La Otra Carboneria and evicted its residents. The operation went on into the night with small groups of residents putting up resistance where they could and hundreds of protesters gathering outside the building.

It’s a relief that the operation was finally completed successfully and Barcelona will never again have to deal with an iconic landmark of community spirit and art. We don’t have to be shamed by the availability of free workshops on skills such as drawing and tailoring, educational talks and debates, space to hold dance and music classes, and even free food. This was a serious problem for the city, and frankly the city had supported it by doing nothing, for far too long. We are talking  about people living under shelter, being independent, holding their heads high and doing things for free because they believed society should be more human and giving. It’s enough to make your stomach turn.

The building had been occupied by La Otra Carboneria after it was abandoned by the estate agent FBEX Promo Inmobiliaria which went bankrupt. Since then the space has shown alarming signs of thriving and engaging local residents. The vice president of the neighborhood association of Sant Antoni, Toni Sanchez, had the gall to say that he actually liked the squat which provided an important free and open community space. Clearly a man of low principles and poor judgement.

A spokesperson from Barclays said, “What this beautiful city needs is more buildings with bricks in the doorways and more hollow-eyed people sleeping in those doorways. Barclays has always felt deep concern for homeless people, and we provide luxury sleeping accommodation for them by leaving our ATM booths unlocked during the night. This is provided absolutely free of cost by Barclays.”

Some misguided people who object to this eviction and destruction will be gathering to demonstrate at Placa Universidad tonight at 20:30. I may be there. 

My intelligence was a bit off, the demonstration in Placa Universidad happened yesterday but the usual Thursday community dinner is happening tonight outside the building.

1970378_10153846085835046_932426410_n

Residents suspended themselves from the roof of the building to protest their eviction. Photo courtesy of Thomas Tully.

A perfect bed #100happydays

23 Jan

It’s not very profound, but my happy today was waking up in a perfect bed. The warmth, the clean sheets under my shoulder blades, the cool of the flipped over pillow, the hot water bottle at my feet.

De-licious!

A perfectly warmed bed

Monday 20/01/2014. Pretty darn pleased with the bed.

A morning jog in Barceloneta

15 Jan

Golden blue on the horizon
Golden blue on my eyes
Sublime sunrise on the beach
lights on swimmers and bums alike

Young and shiny and blonde
Old and grimy and grey
Sleep misted, rolling smokes
Share a bench and papers

Past the enticing bakery
sidestepping the gesticulating grocer
Too late to spot the dropped calamari
I land squidgily on my ass.

barceloneta-beach at dawn

Sunday afternoon on a Barcelona rooftop

29 Sep rooftop sunset barcelona

An afternoon spent on a salvaged chair up on the rooftops of Barcelona. Music jarring out through hopelessly inadequate speakers. Last dregs of the vodka washed down with a dubious yellow coloured fruit juice and stolen ice cubes.

Before me, the sun furls and unfurls itself across this blue sky. After the grey concrete framed window of my internal bedroom, this expanse of sky seems obscene in it’s flagrant undulating beauty. As I watch, the quality of light changes from forceful afternoon fire, beaming out in a sanctifying halo from behind pure white clouds, to the the orange, edgy, defiant predecessor of the dark. A dying spirit but a strong one. A fitting one to herald the night in a city like this.

Over the rooftops of unfinished concrete sheds and half-hearted renovations, the love-children of so many heedless cowboy builders, the strains of Madonna’s thrusting music reaches me. Somewhere, a party is created. Maybe even a legendary one. Meanwhile on stranded terraces around, silent, solitary figures move about their business. Tidying. Tending. Furtive members of a private club I’ve discovered too late on the second last day of September. Teetering on the brink of a winter I thought I welcomed, I suddenly rediscover passion for my old lover the sun.

I remember with nostalgia.

Skin, ripened and warm and smelling of sunlight. Sand clinging in tolerated intimacy. Hair stiff with memories of the sea. Muffled chatter and the ocean roaring under a soft evening light. The unthinking way in which I loved and forgot. Recklessly sure of its constant presence. Mistakenly sure. A faint hint of charred meat on the wind.

Endless days are numbered too.

This is the last perfect afternoon of the summer.

rooftop sunset barcelona

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 616 other followers