Monday, 17 October 2011

Spanish Tapas Moments

Counting Ibiza & Palma, driving across Spain and last year in Barcelona I have lived in Spain for about two months. The difference this time is that I won't be moving cities every couple of days, holidaying or living aboard a boat. I also shouldn't be drinking a mojito every day like I was in Ibiza. Spain remains nicely different and endlessly friendly. As always with a protracted amount of habitation it is the little things that stand out and not what you would automatically think. Fittingly I like to call these tapas moments. 


The people of Barcelona speak a dialect of Spanish called Catalans. I had a lengthy discussion with a French expat last weekend and she described Catalans as a sped up version of Spanish where words are truncated or just left out all together. To the untrained ear it sounds like everybody says mojito a lot. Maybe it is just our shipyard people. Maybe there is a guy there called mojito. Maybe hurry the hell up in Catalans is mojito?

Thanks to some networking I have the phone number of an American English teacher who teaches Spanish as well. What makes these language lessons very welcoming is that she likes to teach Spanish in bars. By ordering drinks from the bar tenders and interacting with the patrons one learns Espanol in a very relaxed setting. I will probably say mojito.

Robins Hood

Did you know Robin Hood was from Barcelona? He actually probably wasn't, but the relaxed apologetic attitude that Barcelonians have towards theft is quite strange. People will gladly tell you to move your bag closer, or keep your phone out of sight but the criminal element is very much tolerated. No one is telling the thieves to stop stealing. My new chief stewardess had her phone stolen out of her hand on Saturday night whilst she was talking on it. Surely there is CCTV here. Surely somebody cares! bicycle salesmen and phone shops do a roaring trade in the mean time.

Interesting design choices

Barcelona is famous for the stunning architecture but there are also small design choices that are unique. There seems to be a very accepting attitude to people sleeping in public over night. Park benches are comfortable looking. Subway vents heat cold spots. It even looks like stairwells going to underground car parks have been designed so you can have a windowed spot on the ground that sleeps two.

I joined a gym last week and the first thing that greeted me when entering was a large and prominent advertisement for a local beer. The interior of the gym was cavernous and vast sections overlook the Iberian sea. This is all quite distracting, thankfully there is a large cafe/restaurant which is just as busy as the gym and sells that beer they have on the door. I have seen a strange style of swimming here that has to have been designed. It requires lying on your back and kicking sporadically, as you start to sink to the bottom you should rotate both arms simultaneously in backwards circles. It looks incredibly difficult and counter intuitive but I shall try my best to replicate it as soon as I work out how to get to the pool. The final insult is that my gym also has an art gallery inside where you can buy art after you have had a few beers and almost drowned in the pool.

The Mexican Mafia 

I am working with a few Argentinian's who have been dubbed the Mexican Mafia. They are interesting fellows and once they have the measure of you show quite wicked flashes of humour. Naturally I find myself joking about with them a bit and here are some of our exchanges.

Sam: It is Sunday soon Hector will you be going to church?
Hector: No I do not believe in God
Me: Oh ok Hector (sensing it might be a sensitive subject)
Hector: I do not believe in God I believe in Maradona.

Mario is the second member of the Mexican Mafia. He was quite vocal in showing his displeasure at the way the All Blacks bundled the Argentinians out of the RWC. I felt remorse and consoled him telling him he should be proud of his countries achievement visualising him crying at home wracked with anguish after watching the game with his fellow country men. I should not have worried. Five minutes later a South African sat down beside us(South Africa were also put out)

Mario: hahahahaaha you lose!
SAFA: Shut up
Mario: hahahaah you loser
SAFA: We scored more points than you. Did you even watch and support your team?
Mario  No

Echoing my time starting out as a deckhand I have been largely working solo for the last two weeks. Whilst this is not ideal it is a good way to learn as you make plenty of silly mistakes and tend to make them only once. As a reward for my valiant efforts I was gifted the third member of the mexican mafia, Martin to work with. Martin is an endearingly cheeky young chap who speaks about three words of English. We have managed ok with a combination of hand signals, cowboy Italiano and shrugs. I naturally do not use ladders unless I really have to. I know Lungo is Long in Italian so with a bit of bartering I have been named El Largo Kiwi. Given some of the names given to other crew members by the Mexican Mafia I have done pretty well for myself.


Embarassingly and also quite sensibly I have eschewed almost all forms of the nightlife that Barcelona is renowned for. I did venture out for a crew dinner last Wednesday and was impressed by a few things. Firstly the restaurant we went to had people giving head and shoulder massages before and after your meal.

After being coerced to have a couple of drinks on the way home I was loudly ushered into a taxi and went as far away from home as I have been in Barcelona. We ended up in the shot bar. The shot bar only serves shots which I think is a great idea. I have learned that drinking shots by themselves is not that dangerous. It is when you are also drinking rounds along with or between shots that it gets a bit skeweth. This bar handily had the entire menu painted on the wall in case you had momentary reading problems.

Finally turning in the right direction I started going home. We ended up in a rock bar which was very exciting. Spanish people love to grow a lot of hair and rock out at the drop of a guitar pick. This rock bar was decorated with well, take a look for yourself.


That is Barcelona so far. Despite myself I have been having quite an interesting time. It might be time to actually start looking for points of discussion. Till next time.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Back in Barcelona

Pretty much a year ago I began what was to be one of the hardest and most challenging periods of my working life. I actually have a large and exclamatory rant festering inside myself detailing the hardships and personalities I endured which was about to rupture last weekend. Thankfully things changed. What happened? Well I got back to Barcelona and started a new job. Not just any job mind you this is my dream job.

This new job is shrouded in secrecy. I have not writen much about my new job because,

A: I am not allowed to
B: I am not allowed to
C: I stil do not believe it is real

So given that this is probably a dream and not real I think I can write some thing about my new job and living in Barcelona. We arrived in Barcelona on Monday morning. We should have tied up my old boat at about 9:30am..... But the old girl in a show of mild protest decided to have a mechanical malfunction and we sat offshore for an hour or so pacing the decks and looking longingly at land. Thankfully after a show of engineering know how we got ourselves into port and I set about looking busy until I was given my passport and permission to leave.

I was quite anxious to see my new boat, in a show of niceness I had given about six weeks notice to my old boat and I knew my new boss had been struggling without me. After security fomaltities at the shipyard I called my new boss and we soon were aboard my new vessel. I am not allowed to show you any photos of the vessel but in a show of Spanish modesty the yard had draped this fitting drape of non non-disclosure over her.

As you can see it is quite a large Motor Yacht. I am not allowed to say how big but if you look closely you will see a small Lego man in the bottom left corner. My first impressions of my new place of work is that it is very large and there is a lot of things to be done before we leave in about five months.

I am an ETO(Electrical Technical Officer) on this boat which in addition to usual IT functions means quite a bit of electrical work. I have been wiring up plug points and fittings and although I do not have a background in this work I am very glad I spent hours racing radio controlled cars as a kid because I know my way around shrink tape and power blocks. That has not stopped me from stabbing myself with snips and screw drivers on a few occasions. To give you an idea of the amount of work we have going on. Our last estimate was we have 10 kilometers of new cabling to lay.

I may have taken a photo of some of this work strongly resembling mine.     

Obviously we have a lot of Spanish speaking workers on board and I have been learning some Espanol to add to my limited vocabulary. El Fuerte remains quite the gentlemen because these Spanish workers have all manner of inventive words which El Fuerte never taught us. It appears there will be enough interested crew to start some Spanish lessons soon. Bring it.

Other than that I have overalls to wear and it has to be said if you can not wear a man bag, wear overalls. Pockets for days Bro. My new crew is very nice and it is cool to be working with more Kiwis and some Irish. That being said if South Africa win the world cup I will probably quit.

One of my first tricks in Barcelona was to secure a bike. I payed for it at a sports store and went through a lengthy interrogation for a customer loyalty card. There are so many bikes stolen in Barcelona that shops know you will be back for another one. I enjoy riding around Barcelona, the city is made to roll upon and it seems easier to be on a bike than in a car or another motorized transport.

Please enjoy some very quick snaps I took on Saturday morning. This is some buildings on my ride to work.

My next foray into bicycle shooting will be mounting a tripod on my handlebars for video recording. Stay tuned. I might need to mount my GPS first. Much of Barcelona remains a mystery.

Thankfully my new Casa is fantastic. It is a large three bedroomed apartment in this very building.

Knowing I will have a home of sorts for a few months is very satisfying. We have a large sound system which has already been connected to the ironing board and although my room is quite small it is not a cabin! A nice surprise yesterday was finding out we have a rooftop complete with nice views, a small pool and jacuzzi.   

I have left out a section of the pool because it had two very topless women in it. Ah Spain.

Other than that I am very settled and I am proud to call Barcelona home for a while. I have plenty of things to write about and a nurturing workplace which should mean a bit more content for this very blog.  

Muchos Gracias!