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Anti-eviction activist becomes Barcelona’s mayor

25 May

Anti-eviction activist – feminist – socialist. Hooray! Hooray!

It’s not often that one wakes up to good news after an election but Barcelona has pulled it off by electing Ada Colau from the party Barcelona en Comú as mayor of the city.

The party’s election promises were crowd-sourced and include a commitment to citizen involvement, a cap on the mayor’s salary (2,200 Euros per month), the elimination of expenses and official vehicles for officials to attend meetings. They’ve also declared a commitment to more social housing and the sensitizing of tourism in the city to make sure the tourist industry doesn’t grow at the expense of residents. Could this mean less homelessness and poverty, and more people able to live in dignity? Less retired and vulnerable families thrown out on the streets? I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

The indignados movement has moved from the street into the offices of government, and Partido Popular and their lazy, racist politics have thankfully been given a thrashing. To everyone who took to the streets over the last years to protest and sleep in the squares, bravo! Change comes slowly but it comes.

Ada Colau

A fine example of Partido Popular’s idea of an election campaign below. It reads: The Raval cannot become a muslim ghetto. Vote for some unimaginative hate monger.

Partido Popular racist campaign

Swing around the Earth Fair tomorrow

24 Apr

Have you said hello to the park this year?

I haven’t, and it’s April already. If parc de la Ciutadella was a lover, she’d have left me by now. Luckily she’s a busy lady and keeps herself entertained with ducks and jugglers and slack liners when we’re away.

However, now the sun is out Ciutadella is getting her groove on with Earth Day. Get down there this weekend to top up on sunshine, food and hippies. There’ll be massages, alternative therapies, food from around the world, hula hoops, acrobats, music, kids running about with faces painted like tigers, and blissful people handing out hugs. Not a bad way to while away a Saturday or Sunday. Oh and monkeys. I heard they’ll be monkeys. That last one may be a lie, but my desire makes me gullible.

Maybe this year I’ll get my ass out of the trees and onto a slack line.

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Monkey models: Amelia and Prithika

Make a Christmas Bag for a homeless man or woman this weekend

10 Dec

Esperanca are going to be distributing Christmas bags to our friends who sleep out in the cold every night.

Maybe you’d like to put a little bag together or donate some of the things which go in bags. It could be a fun thing to do with kids, or just a little feel-good number on your Christmas shopping list this weekend.

What goes in a Christmas Bag?

  1. Toothbrush
  2. Toothpaste
  3. Soap/Shower gel (small)
  4. Wet wipes
  5. Roll on deodorant
  6. Razors
  7. Shaving cream/gel
  8. Gloves
  9. Woolen Hat
  10. Scarf
  11. Men’s underwear/women’s underwear
  12. Socks
  13. Chocolates/turron/sweets (something small)
  14. A bag to put it all in

Go to the Facebook page to find out where you can drop of your Christmas present: Esperanca Barcelona

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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.

 

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Reasons to love Barcelona: Bar loo surprises

25 Jun

Oh hello! Sorry about the wee!

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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!

 

 

 

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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 . 

 

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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.

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

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